The destruction of people’s professional prospects, by the discretionary actions of P.C.-police functionaries plugged into both government agencies and non-government organizations, is Stalinism.
There don’t have to be show trials, gulags, and summary executions for Stalinism to be occurring. The fact that people are being adversely and materially affected by Stalinist methods means, however, that those more visible forms of Stalinism will ultimately be easier to implement. The rule of law is being actively undermined already.
Here’s the case. A male student at Brandeis was in a same-sex relationship with another student (hence his privileged-minority status). The relationship ended; then, several months afterward, the student’s former boyfriend (identified only by the initials J.C.) alleged sexual assault against him.
The accused (his identity is withheld in public reporting) was punished by Brandeis. As The Weekly Standard and New Boston Post suggest, the evidence appears somewhat flimsy.
This John Doe has sued Brandeis, however, because he claims the “special examiner” who gathered evidence on his case for the university leaked information about it to third parties:
The John Doe bringing the lawsuit claims the “special examiner” Brandeis used to gather information about the accusations against him leaked the confidential findings, causing John Doe to lose an internship with a “high-ranking public official” and that he’s had other job offers withdrawn as a result of this leak.
The Brandeis special examiner is one Elizabeth Sanghavi, an attorney who lists as one of her big professional credits her joint authorship of a paper urging universities to adopt the Title IX sexual assault policies outlined in the U.S. Education Department’s famous “Dear Colleague” letter from 2011.
LU’s Hans Bader has written about the Dear Colleague letter before: a letter sent by the DOE’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) urging universities to use a lower, “preponderance of evidence” standard in administering their policies for identifying and punishing sexual assault. (See here, here, and here as well.) Sanghavi worked at the OCR before becoming Brandeis’s special examiner, a post she fills as an attorney with a Brookline law firm.
Hans makes a powerful case that the Dear Colleague letter, which is being treated as if it were a formal regulation (although it isn’t one), is actively undermining the constitutional rights of university students. I strongly recommend reading his posts to gain an understanding of the whole issue.
But what I want to highlight here is the literally Stalinist character of the developments that appear to have led to John Doe losing his professional prospects.
I stress that a court will have to find whether Elizabeth Sanghavi did leak information about John Doe to prospective employers.
But the Stalinism lies in the fact that she was in a position to do it.
Here are the key elements of Stalinism in the case:
1. A form of life-altering culpability that has been defined vaguely, based on a political theme whipped up by propaganda. (Although there’s no doubt that sexual assault happens on college campuses, and it should certainly be investigated and prosecuted, it is wildly overestimated by activists and the media.)
2. Administration of a separate, unaccountable trial-and-punishment system – in effect, university-run tribunals that are much like those set up by the Soviet Communist Party to process “political” crimes – in which defendants do not receive the protections of the U.S. Constitution.
3. The ability of this separate trial-and-punishment system to impose adverse material outcomes on individuals; e.g., interfere with their schooling, end their academic careers, ruin their reputations with prospective employers.
4. Bureaucrats who function as zampolits – “political officers” investigating and enforcing local compliance – with direct connections to the central political apparatus that set up the unaccountable system.
Regardless of whether she leaked anything or not, Sanghavi was formerly employed by the DOE Office for Civil Rights, and publishes the fact that she advocated for the Dear Colleague letter. That means, at a minimum, that she knows a lot of people in the OCR, and is a true believer in the “Dear Colleague” principle that sexual assault defendants should be condemned on a lower standard of proof. (It would be hard to make a case that she was not hired by Brandeis to demonstrate compliance with the spirit of the Dear Colleague letter. As Hans Bader’s posts indicate, a number of universities aren’t eagerly volunteering to demonstrate compliance; they’re having to be extorted into it.)
If this sounds to you like a normal kind of revolving-door employment path, that’s only because it hasn’t resulted in a life-altering accusation against you yet. This is, in fact, Stalinism, as Stalinism functions, set up for us by a little scooting around on the margins of the laws of the United States.
(TWS’s Mark Hemingway refers to the Brandeis tribunal as a star chamber, but that’s not really correct. A star chamber, per se, is about going after the powerful who might be able to intimidate the regular courts. Just as importantly, the Stalinism aspect is about organized persecution to secure politically favored outcomes, regardless of the facts. It’s about making examples (in this case) of disfavored male students, and looking tough on an artificially inflated — or wholly falsified — “cause.” Too many younger people today don’t understand that that is the baseline profile of Stalinism. They also don’t know that it’s Stalin’s henchmen whom the Nazis learned it from.)
Our laws set up the DOE bureaucracy. The Obama administration took it over, and started using that existing bureaucracy’s power over universities to implement a Stalinist P.C.-police methodology.
We can be thankful that a federal judge has “lambasted” Brandeis for the process by which it punished John Doe – and refused to throw the John Doe suit out:
Brandeis tried to get John Doe’s case thrown out, but instead U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV lambasted the school for throwing the due process baby out with the Title IX bathwater.
But being able to sue your Stalinist punisher is not even close to the same thing as having prior constitutional protections against Stalinist processes. John Doe’s life has still been adversely altered without due process.
A people that aspires to rule itself must understand the difference.
There can never be anything non-dangerous about letting this kind of government-enforced function be created. Once you have a central government agency that can punish universities – or any other organization – in the wallet, and with lawsuits, and once that agency has become so big and filled with arcane functions that Congress has lost control of it, it’s only a matter of time until the agency starts violating the people’s constitutional rights.
Stalinism is how that’s done. It’s no less Stalinism just because the enabling apparatus was set up by a well-meaning public, and it took longer for it to be turned to Stalinist purposes.
And congratulations, folks: it’s already here.