I don’t know how we missed this one a few days ago, when Katherine Timpf highlighted it at NRO.
The story involves a student at an unnamed liberal arts college in Oregon. Lest you suppose that the judgment pronounced against him was more for show than anything else, be assured that he really was ordered to stay away from whole areas of the campus where the one-time rape victim spent her time. Be assured also that the male student was entirely unconnected with that rape. He had absolutely nothing to do with it; it didn’t even happen at the school, or in the same state. What got him banned from proximity to the rape victim was his physical resemblance to her rapist — even after it was established that there was no link whatsoever between him and the crime. He was banned from being where she might have to see him.
Professor Janet Halley wrote in a piece for Harvard Law Review that she had “recently assisted” a student who had been “ordered to stay away from a fellow student (cutting him off from his housing, his campus job, and educational opportunity) — all because he reminded her of the man who had raped her months before and thousands of miles away.”
The accused also had to endure a “month-long investigation into all his campus relationships, seeking information about his possible sexual misconduct in them,” which she called an “immense invasion of his and his friends’ privacy.”
According to Halley (bold emphasis added):
He was found to be completely innocent of any sexual misconduct and was informed of the basis of the complaint against him only by accident and off-hand. But the stay-away order remained in place, and was so broadly drawn up that he was at constant risk of violating it and coming under discipline for that.
Timpf comments even-handedly:
It’s devastating to think of a student being unable to walk around campus without having to risk being traumatized by reminders of her rape. But restricting a totally innocent student from walking around campus because he looks like the person who raped her is obviously unacceptable.
And it is understandable that the rape victim would find the situation very difficult. But the world she will spend the rest of her life in is going to be full of men who look like her rapist. It isn’t even kind to her, much less fair to the innocent man, for the school to impose restrictions on him in a vain effort to wrap her in an unrealistic cocoon. She needs support and recovery help, not an artificial bubble-world that can never be sustainable.
To me, the most troubling thing here is the reflexive framework in which the school’s leadership acted. Instead of seeing the rape victim as a hurting student in need of strengthening and empowerment, the administrators saw both students as sub-moral actors — pawns, basically — in need of physical management. The school chose to use power instead of imparting it, or encouraging its growth in a student who needs to be infused with it. It treated its students like lab subjects, and not like fellow human beings.
If that’s the ruling mindset in college administration today, it certainly puts in perspective a related development noted by LU this week, at the University of Minnesota. Sure, it’s basically crazy to not list a suspect’s race in a campus security alert. But whether people aren’t to be given any clues about a predator’s appearance, or some random innocent dude is banned because of the wholly arbitrary impact his appearance has on one person, the irrationality, and lack of accountability and constructive purpose, are the same. Communal life doesn’t seem to have to meet any standard of logic or larger purposefulness on a college campus anymore. The fleeting power of being on the popular political side of the moment trumps everything else.