George Leef: 28 Harvard Professors Can’t All Be Wrong!

Feb 5, 2015 by

An Interview with George Leef: 28 Harvard Professors Can’t All Be Wrong!

Michael F Shaughnessy

Rick Hughes

  1. George, recently you had a piece in Forbes about 28 Harvard Law Professors concerned about sex crimes, rape etc. on college campuses. Could you briefly summarize the situation for us?

Over the last couple of years, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has been insisting that colleges and universities abide by its regulations on how they will handle cases where a student has been accused of sexual harassment or assault. Quite a few legal commentators denounced the OCR rules as incompatible with due process of law because they so stacked the deck against the defendant.

Perhaps surprisingly, a group of 28 professors at Harvard Law School (HLS) made that argument in a letter published last fall. They managed to get the OCR to agree to a different, more even-handed set of rules for HLS. I wrote about that remarkable circumstance in an article I posted on Forbes: Harvard Law Fights Awful Ed Department Rules.

  1. What gives the Department of Education the authority to dictate such rules to a college or university?

Legally, it has no such authority; this is just an arrogation of power derived from the way the Education Department can withhold money from schools if they don’t obey its dictates. The U.S. Constitution does not give any branch of the federal government authority over education. But once the feds (unconstitutionally, in my view) got into the business of funding students, any school that took their grant or loan money was hooked – it had to obey any and all federal regulations or else the supply of money would be shut off. That is what gives the Education Department the leverage to insist that colleges obey its rules on this and other things.

  1. Is there an epidemic or significant increase in sexual assault cases?

No, there isn’t. A lot of unreliable if not utterly bogus statistics have been used to concoct that idea. Professor Christina Hoff Sommers debunks the hysteria in this short video. And even if there were an increase in sexual assault on campus, that would not justify the use of unfair procedures in such cases.

  1. What is the agenda of the “feminist left” in connection with this action?

Admittedly, this is speculation on my part, but I think that the feminist left is always hunting around for new “issues” that will keep up the appearance that the country is a horribly male-dominated society. As long as that impression stays alive, the feminists have a soapbox to orate about the nation’s ills and leverage to demand what they think are pro-women policies.

  1. I would think that most colleges and universities ARE taking preventative action to prevent sexual assault. Is there any major clearinghouse keeping data?

Colleges and universities have very strong incentives to do all they can to prevent all kinds of crime, including sexual assault. The best data on this are those of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which show a decrease in sexual assaults since the 1990s for both women students and non-students. The idea that colleges must take emergency measures to fight a big increase in these crimes is completely unfounded.

6) What exactly does the D.O.E. have to gain by pursuing this action?

Again, this is speculation, but I think that the Department is largely filled with authoritarians who love to throw their weight around. Pursing a chimerical epidemic of sexual assault by demanding that schools handle allegations in the manner they insist upon makes them feel important.

7) What should colleges and universities do to reduce these cases?

It seems to me that the only intelligent policy is to promptly expel a student who is found guilty in a court of law. Schools should not handle criminal cases. Beyond expulsion of the guilty, efforts at preventing these crimes are apt to interfere with peaceful actions that men and women students want to engage in.

8) What actions should colleges/universities take to reduce the number of sexual assault cases?

If the Department actually had any sensible ways for colleges to stop sexual assault, rare as it really is, it certainly would be preferable to suggest their adoption instead of its heavy-handed approach of “obey us or you lose your money.” I strongly doubt that it has any worthwhile suggestions since that would call for intimate familiarity with campus conditions. The DoE bureaucrats have no such familiarity.

9) Shouldn’t the D.O.E. provide the ways and means to increase prevention of sexual assault cases rather than threatening the supply of federal funding?

I do not think there is anything that the Department of Education can do to improve colleges’ ability to deal with campus crime. Nor do I think it can do anything useful to improve education at all. The Department has been a useless money sink ever since Jimmy Carter created it (with congressional complicity) back in 1979. It ought to be abolished.

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