WATCH – The Truth About Sex & College, airing Saturday (12/12) and Sunday (12/13) at 8 pm ET on
It was a “he said, she said.
Hanging out in the dorm after hours of drinking at a college party, a boy and girl started kissing. The girl’s friends saw how drunk she was and did the right thing: They pulled the plug and got her back to her room.
But as soon as she got there, she and he started texting. They wanted to get together and have sex. He was sure he could keep his roommate at bay for a while. She wanted to know if he had a condom. She promised to be there as soon as she could shake off her friends. She vomited in the hallway on the way to his room, but she kept on going. The couple followed through on their plan.
The next day, she texted to ask if she could come pick up her belt and earrings. They talked for a while. Had they had sex? she asked. Yes, he was pretty sure they did. They had both been too drunk to remember any details. They agreed they went too fast and promised to remain friends.
But 10 days later, he got a fateful email. He was being hauled before the school’s judicial council, charged with sexual assault for what happened that night. He was floored. He reported for his hearing, where he was not allowed to have a lawyer present or to introduce a police investigation that found there had been no assault. In the end, the campus court found him “responsible,” and that was that. It was over. He was expelled.
His accuser had been told by the campus adviser that the accused – who was smart and an athlete – fit the profile of a campus rapist.
The college and the student's accuser did not want to comment on the case.
This is just one story, but it’s one of many. In this case, he was a stellar high school student attending his dream school, Occidental College. His grandparents went to college there. So did the president of the United States.
We’ve all heard about the “rape crisis” on our college campuses. We’ve heard that one in five young women are assaulted during their college years. It’s a staggering number, one that hits home for parents of college-age kids. I was about to send a daughter off to school when I heard that statistic. I was horrified.
But other studies contradict that finding and claim the real number is far lower. No one really knows for sure. Another study claims that young women who do not attend college are more likely to be raped than those who do.
Still, many assaults go unreported, and – of course – one rape or sexual assault on any campus is too many. No one thinks this is not a serious issue. No one wants any college student to be assaulted or raped on campus.
But neither does anyone want a college student to be falsely accused in an effort to help the school look like it’s taking the issue seriously. Lives are being ruined. Something must be done.
This weekend we will examine this case and more like it on a special report: Fox News Reporting – The Truth About Sex & College, airing Saturday and Sunday at 8 pm ET on the Fox News Channel.
This all began several years ago with the study that presented the “1 in 5” statistic. The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) went to work. They used Title IX law – which forbids discrimination on the basis of sex. They argued that harassment, assault, rape, rob a student of their right to their education.
President Obama and Vice President Biden decried the “rape crisis” on our nation’s campuses, and the OCR issued its “Dear Colleague” letter, which directed college administrations to take the issue on forcefully – and prove they were doing so – or risk losing their federal funding.
In just over 12 months there has been a more than 100 percent jump in the number of colleges and universities being investigated by the DOE for being lax in pursuing this problem. There currently are about 125 colleges under the DOE’s microscope, and no college administration or board of trustees wants to join them. It’s bad for admissions and reputation, and it can be costly.
Colleges must demonstrate their commitment by instituting a “campus court” and by making it work. They need only find the accused to be “responsible” by a “preponderance of evidence,” or basically agree that it’s “more likely than not” that he committed the assault or rape. There is no need to find the accused guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” – even though the charge is extremely serious – because the worst that can happen is that the accused will be tossed out of school.
But try getting on with your life after you’ve been kicked out of college for rape.
Our young man from Occidental tried. He was assured that, since he had an appeal pending, his transcript would be clean for the time being. Accepted to a college in the Midwest, he packed up and headed there to start over. But minutes into unpacking in his dorm room, he got a call. It was his new dean. He’d just received an anonymous email that said the student had been found “responsible” for a sexual assault on his prior campus. And that was that. You can’t blame them, given the environment.
This is a very sad and complicated story. There are no winners. It’s reflective of so many problems on campus today. A “PC culture” that bends over backwards to create safe zones for accusers and make life hell for the accused even before the case is heard.
Often, even before the case is heard, the accused is isolated in a new dorm room, away from his friends, and he is hammered in social media. Everyone knows what he’s been charged with, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to stick up for himself in that environment.
The government has put colleges in an ugly political and economic bind, one that schools are ill equipped to manage. And the victims are many: Some are young women with legitimate grievances; some are young women who wish they could change the choices they made; some are young men who did nothing wrong. Many are two young people who were so drunk they don’t know what happened.
This is a story that needs to be told. It’s a story of rushing to fix a problem and demonstrate concern – and leaving lives in tatters in the process.
If you have a daughter – or a son – you need to pay attention. This could happen to anyone.
Martha MacCallum currently serves as the co-anchor of "America's Newsroom" alongside Bill Hemmer (Weekdays 9-11AM/ET).