It certainly appears as if U.S. higher education is sailing toward the shoals of ethics bankruptcy, full speed ahead. It also appears that Yale, although it’s part of a tightly bunched armada, is leading the way.
A law suit called Doe v. Yale tells a jaw-dropping tale that once would have been unbelievable, “once” meaning “before a large segment of the culture accepted the proposition that free expression and thought were undesirable unless they met certain lockstep requirements that will ease the way to a progressive utopia.” The plaintiff, a male student, claims that Yale punished him for the offense of writing a class essay that offended a female teaching assistant.
According to his lawsuit, in late 2013 a philosophy teaching assistant filed a complaint with the university’s Title IX office, complaining about a short paper “Doe” had written in the class she was helping to teach. The essay discussed Socrates’ discussion, recounted in Plato’s “Republic,” of the three divisions of the soul and their relationship to justice. It applied the Greek philosopher’s ideas to rape, arguing that the crime was also an irrational act in which the soul’s appetites and spirited components overwhelm its reason, which must have primacy for mankind to be moral and just.
The Title IX coordinator, an associate dean in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences named Pamela Schirmeister, told Doe that his essay was “unnecessarily provocative.” By daring to discuss rape, he had committed an offense against the teaching assistant. He was told to have no contact with the teaching assistant, and ordered to attend sensitivity training at the university’s mental-health center—re-education and indoctrination, in other words. “Doe” was now, he was told, a “person of interest” to Yale, meaning that that the college was now going to be watching him with a grounded suspicion that he was a potential danger to the campus.
What followed, a few months later, were two dubious accusations of sexual assault by female students, both handled with the slanted, pro-accuser, due process-avoiding approach that has become epidemic on campuses since President Obama’s Dept of Education issued its infamous “Dear Colleague” letter in April of 2011. Ethics Alarms has discussed some of these cases and the letter, but that is not the topic before us today.
Today the topic is the suppression of free speech, thought, and expression on college campuses. If the facts as described in the law suit are accurate, Doe was punished for the content of his essay, because one instructor found his topic, his arguments, his words—you know, it really doesn’t matter what she found offensive—personally upsetting, and filed a complaint against him because of what he wrote in an assigned essay. If the essay was not directed at her personally, and it wasn’t, the proper response by Yale would have been to give the teaching assistant a strong lecture on academic freedom, the importance of freedom of expression, and what education means. I would add that her credentials as a teaching assistant should have been reviewed, since the complaint created a prima facie case that she was an incompetent and ideologically-addled menace. Instead, the student —he was male, after all—was treated as if he was in the wrong, because he wrote an essay on the “wrong” topic. Taboo. Politically incorrect. Something. It upset a woman, anyway, and apparently that can’t be permitted at Old Eli.
Writes Peter Berkowitz of Stanford’s Hoover Institute—you remember Stanford: that’s the school where just writing “Black Lives Matters” as an essay enhances an applicant’s admission chances:
If Doe’s story is true, Yale is no longer satisfied in enforcing correct opinions. To utter the correct opinion, Yale also demands that you be the correct sex. Far from protecting the right to “discuss the unmentionable” …Yale is stretching the boundaries of censorship by abridging the right to discuss even the uncontroversial.
For one of the nation’s most prestigious colleges to take this tragic turn should have red lights flashing and sirens wailing. Has the mainstream news media reported the episode at all? I’m sure readers are tired of me harping on this, but no, of course not. Ethics Alarms will continue to point out this kind of biased and ideological embargo of important stories until the news media bias deniers (they are also news media bias enablers) write to me en masse saying, “ALL RIGHT! ALL RIGHT! We admit it! The news media is not only partisan, but selects, slants and distorts the news to tilt public opinion positively toward a progressive agenda!”
Pretending news that has happened hasn’t is also a form of fake news.
Amusingly, if by amusingly one means “this is so hypocritical it makes me want to plotz,” Yale’s president, Peter Salovey, wrote last year that Yale and its leadership “adhere to exceptionally strong principles of free expression,” and reaffirmed Yale’s much-praised Woodward Report, which declared that the university’s educational mission is inextricably bound up with “the right to think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable.”
Pointer: Advice Goddess Blog
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