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Yale punished male student for writing essay that said rape is an ‘irrational act,’ lawsuit says

Violates the university’s Woodward Report

Yale is being sued for violating the Title IX rights of a male student accused of rape because it first punished him for writing an essay that called rape “an irrational act.”

Doe v. Yale alleges that the pseudonymous male student became a “person of interest to Yale’s sexual misconduct apparatus” in 2013 for a philosophy class assignment he turned in:

The [female teaching assistant] reported John to Yale upon receiving academic papers from John in which he referenced (and denounced) the crime of rape and rapists to illustrate Plato’s ideas of justice in the Republic. John was also required to take sensitivity training …

The amended complaint was filed in February but it’s getting attention now because Peter Berkowitz, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and one recipient of this year’s Bradley Prize, wrote about the case for The Wall Street Journal.

In violation of Yale’s Woodward Report, which says the university upholds the right to “discuss the unmentionable,” Doe became a target precisely because of “Yale’s draconian regulation of his speech” in the philosophy paper, Berkowitz writes:

In the context of Socrates’ account in Plato’s “Republic” of the tripartite soul, the paper argued that rape was an irrational act in which the soul’s appetitive and spirited parts overwhelm reason, which by right rules.

According to the lawsuit, Pamela Schirmeister, Title IX coordinator and an associate dean in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, summoned Doe to her office and told him his rape example was “unnecessarily provocative.” She ordered him to have no contact with the teaching assistant and directed him to attend sensitivity training at the university’s mental-health center. She also informed him that he had become a “person of interest” to Yale, which meant that the university had to intervene to ensure he “was not a perpetrator himself,” in the lawsuit’s words. A few months later, the same Title IX office initiated the sexual-assault investigation against him.

Doe goes on to argue the Department of Education’s infamous 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter, which forced colleges to lower the evidence standard in sexual misconduct investigations and strip accused students of procedural protections, turned Yale into a “state agent.”

MORE: Yale puts student comfort over learning, new documentary says

As Berkowitz writes:

The novel legal theory flows out of a reading of “state action” doctrine developed by Jed Rubenfeld of Yale Law School, who served as Doe’s faculty adviser during the university’s sexual-assault proceedings. Doe argues that through the “Dear Colleague” letter, the Education Department conscripted Yale to enforce criminal law—thereby transforming the private university into an agent of the government.

That would subject the university to constitutional limitations. Thus Doe alleges Yale violated his 14th Amendment rights to due process and equal protection of the law.

Because Yale punished Doe even after the allegations against him collapsed, the university discriminated against him because of his sex in violation of Title IX, he argues.

Berkowitz says Yale has “reached a new low in the annals of campus policing of speech” if Doe’s claims are accurate:

Surely no female student would incur criticism, much less censorship or punishment, for providing weighty philosophical authority in support of the proposition that rape is wrong.

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.

Read the lawsuit and Berkowitz op-ed.

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” Previously he led media and public relations at Seattle’s Discovery Institute, a free-market think tank. Greg is developing a Web series about a college newspaper, COPY, whose pilot episode was a semifinalist in the TV category for the Scriptapalooza competition in 2012. He graduated in 2001 with a B.A. from Seattle Pacific University, where he co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon.

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