The War on College Men at Saint Louis University

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]n college campuses across the United Statesa war is being waged on male students. Earlier this year, the US Department of Education issued a “Dear Colleague” letter requiring universities, under Title 9, to render findings in all allegations of sexual misconduct according to a “preponderance of evidence” rather than “clear and convincing” or “beyond reasonable doubt.”

A preponderance of evidence is anything over 50%, meaning that if it is more than likely than not that an incident occurred, the accused must be found guilty and is subject to disciplinary action. This means that a male student’s reputation, life, and future career may be ruined based on an otherwise unprovable allegation where the only evidence is the word of the accuser.

This was already the case at Saint Louis Universitywhere in the fall of 2010, four male basketball players were suspended from the university after a female student accused them of rape. According to news accounts of the police report and interviews with one of the accused, a female student, known to one of the basketball players returned to the house of one of the men and went directly into the man’s bedroom where she and that man proceeded to have sex. Afterwards, another of the group entered the bedroom and attempted to have sex with the woman. The other two men were aware of, and/or watched, some of the sexual activity. While the men’s stories varied slightly, all of the men stated that they believed the sex was consensual.

Not so according to the woman.

Her version is that some of what occurred was consensual, but at some point she stopped consenting. This is where it gets fuzzy. That’s because while she objected the first time he attempted to undress her, after a discussion, she felt more comfortable and remained in bed while he got up and got undressed. She consented to this act and of him returning to the bed. She did not object to, nor communicate any withdrawal of consent when he then removed her pants and underwear. She even helped him put on a condom. However, she states she did not consent to these actions. She merely wanted to be somewhere else and wished it to be over.

Her account of the second man was that she objected several times, but he exposed his penis and inserted it into her mouth. As she did in the first instance, she assisted the man in putting on a condom. She then states that the other two men entered the room and asked for sex, but she declined, dressed, and left.

[quote style=”boxed” float=”left”]Saint Louis University went overboard in its reaction.[/quote]  This is a classic case of “he said – she said” with apparently no physical evidence to support or refute her version of the events. Even under the preponderance of evidence standard, this could account for no more than 50% of the evidence and therefore should not have resulted in disciplinary action against the men. Even moreso this should have been decided in the men’s favor as there were four men stating that she provide consent and only her stating that she had not (80% of the eyewitnesses denied it was rape). The police closed the case and no charges were filed, but the university suspended the four men.

Two of those men were suspended for not intervening to prevent the rape from occurring. But if they believed the sex was consensual, why would they intervene. The woman gave no indication to anyone that she was being raped, did not cry out, and did not ask for help. How were those two men to know? Unless they were mind readers, there was no way to know.

Saint Louis University went overboard in its reaction. Not just in regards to this one incident, but in changing its policy on sexual assault. This policy now states “It is the responsibility of the person initiating the sexual activity to obtain the affirmative consent of the other party throughout the duration of said activity.” However, the policy does not state how to identify “the person initiating the sexual activity.” Nor does it state what constitutes “affirmative consent” or how to prove it was given. Further, it does not clarify how frequently it must be obtained. In other words, the policy is too vague to be practical. The only possible purpose for instituting such a policy is to allow the university to punish as many men as possible (since women are typically the ones who file such complaints).

Under this policy, and many others like it across the country, a man accused of sexual assault stands no chance of being found not guilty. No man enrolled in college should feel safe. Even if he is not sexually active, he can still be accused and found guilty when the word of an accusing woman is given more consideration than that of four accused men. Given the falling percentage of male enrollment in colleges and universities, these institutions should be concerned with becoming more male-friendly. Not running down a path of increasing hostility towards the men they claim to want to educate.

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