The New York Times ran another front-page exposé this weekend of a college’s alleged indifference to rape. Its target this time was Hobart and William Smith Colleges, following a similar treatment of Columbia University in May. Hobart had acquitted three football players of raping a first-year student last year after she had drunk herself blotto at a frat party.
By now, the template for such reporting is familiar: The reporter picks at various lines of questioning by the campus assault tribunal, trying to show that the questioners were insensitive or incompetent. Innocuous changes of topic by the tribunal are seized upon as evidence of malfeasance. Inquiry into the details of the various sex acts that were performed by the accused and accuser is presented as bumbling and grotesquely intrusive, since the alleged victim deserves an almost indefeasible presumption of credibility. (In fact, the reported transcript shows the questioners making an almost painfully concerted effort to be sensitive, however awkward and inappropriate their role may be.) And of course, the acquittal itself is prima facie, if not conclusive, evidence of a campus administration’s indifference to females. Other colleges be forewarned: Any acquittal in a campus rape proceeding risks a visit from the New York Times.
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