An article in the Yale Alumni Magazine by Nicole Allan, a recent alumna and an associate editor of Atlantic, explains that sixteen Yale students and graduates are bringing a suit against their educational institution for sexual discrimination. According to Allan, this suit runs parallel to other suits being brought by other prestigious universities under Title IX of the expanded Civil Rights Act, passed in 1972. According to Title IX, it is illegal to practice discrimination on the basis of gender “for any educational program receiving financial assistance.” This addendum to the 1964 Civil Rights Act has been a gold mine for trial lawyers and for women’s groups looking for actionable evidence of discriminatory treatment.
By now, as Ms. Allan suggests, the law has been expanded to cover the failure of universities to provide female students with enough emotional support. Title IX has also been invoked to punish institutions that fail to move quickly enough to address harassing speech. Since both of our national parties support such practices, it is unlikely this problem will go away in the near future.
The Yale case is for me particularly interesting since it deals with my alma mater, which is becoming the very embodiment of PC. From Allan’s account, Yale offers non-stop service for every kind of female complaint, from committees to deal with insensitive speech to a SHARE Center, which responds to accusations of sexual assault. But one should never be overly confident when talking about the sensitivities of protected minorities. “In late May the Department of Education cited Yale for underreporting sex offenses in 2001 and 2002, after an investigation sparked by a 2004 article in this magazine.” It’s gratifying to know that a throw-away magazine that I receive for my annual donation is blowing the whistle on sexist administrators.
The present Yale case has the makings of a South Park episode. About two years ago a pseudonymic coed Alison went on a date and allowed the chap with whom “she danced and made out” to escort her back to her room. Although not much occurred while saying good-bye, Alison recalled afterwards that the beau had tried to kiss her and that she was “terrified by the violence he was willing to use.” On the basis of her “alcohol-muddled memory,” Alison decided that “sexual assault” had taken place. She finally brought her grievance to the appropriate agency, but felt isolated and confused when she did so.
Allan insists it is incorrect “that Yale does not take sexual harassment seriously.” The university has created agencies to deal with this problem and its record is perhaps better than that of other, comparable institutions, for example, Princeton, Duke, and Harvard Law School, all of which are entangled in similar suits. Nonetheless, Allan is happy that Yale is being sued. It may generate a women-friendly environment, as opposed to one “in which victims don’t feel comfortable coming forward.” Furthermore, the suit “will be productive because if nothing else, it’s made girls feel that they’re not the only ones.”
My feelings about this case are rather mixed. The suit is downright outrageous. Why should universities have to create multiple social psychology agencies for minorities to avoid being sued? Why are they expected to deal with girls who don’t like their dates and who then decide to go ballistic because of their “alcohol-muddled memory” or because of some boy’s defective good-night kiss? And why are universities required to pump young women for this information in order not to be in violation of some intrusive government directive?
I am also profoundly skeptical when in the same issue, we learn that Yale has always refused to “suppress or punish speech.” The fear of engaging in harassing speech that might offend women, blacks, and gays has had the effect of suppressing intellectual discourse. Institutions become subject to government suits by permitting minority-“hostile environments” to develop on their premises. Although the offending individual may not be sued or investigated, the employing institution is more likely to suffer that fate.
Despite my distaste for the indulgence of young women who expect universities, upon pain of government punishment, to meet all their emotional needs, I do not feel the slightest sympathy for the intended targets. Our universities and law schools have been among the loudest advocates of government-enforced Political Correctness. They have introduced their own restraints on speech and thought when the government has not moved fast enough to do so. Having spent the last forty years observing these tiresome ideologues, I am now experiencing what the Germans call “Schadenfreude,” pleasure at watching busybodies hoist on their petard. I’m delighted that the troublemakers are coming under friendly fire.