Vigilante mob publishes every name accused of sexual assault, too
All-male Morehouse College and all-female Spelman College are sibling schools under the historically black Atlanta University Center Consortium, along with Clark Atlanta University.
They are also the joint subject of a two-year-old Title IX investigation at the U.S. Department of Education, initiated by a Spelman student who said a Morehouse student sexually assaulted her.
The complainant said many other students were subject to a “sexually hostile environment” because of the two colleges’ indifference toward “reports and/or incidents of sexual violence of which [they] had notice.”
This is the correct way to deal with alleged violations of Title IX. But some students have given up on using the rule of law, instead descending into vigilante mobs.
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that signs were posted last week on both campuses that accused specific male students of rape and officials of protecting rapists. A day later, Morehouse’s chapel – named after Martin Luther King Jr. – was defaced with spraypaint.
It read “Practice what you preach Morehouse + end rape culture.” Campus police removed the vigilante signs and “covered the graffiti with a brown tarp.”
The attempt to anonymously intimidate and defame people continued (where else?) on social media, where vigilantes shared names or even entire lists of anonymously accused Morehouse students using the hashtag #WeKnowWhatYouDid.
One Twitter account was set up specifically to anonymously identify specific students as rapists, with not even the least shred of evidence.
It explicitly asks visitors to send in “name and info” of students, and it will publish them, no questions asked. This account is in blatant violation of Twitter’s rules against targeted harassment and intimidation, yet has not been removed by Twitter.
For the respect and safety of survivors we are not releasing the information of who reported these names. This is about holding perpetrators accountable. All submissions are anonymous.
— #WeKnowWhatYouDid (@WeKnowWhatYou) November 9, 2017
Leaders at Morehouse and Spellman could have responded to this brazen vandalism and mixed-media witch hunt – against people who have not been accused through proper channels, school-specific or legal – by promising an investigation and sanctions against the vandals and witch-hunters.
These students used methods of intimidation and destruction, and they should fear punishment. You’d think students at historically black colleges would be familiar with the sordid history of false allegations against black men in the name of protecting women.
Relax: We’re not punishing anyone
Instead, administrators coddled these reckless rumormongers and vandals.
Morehouse President Harold Martin made a weak pass at defending the presumption of innocence for accused students in the face of reckless and unsupported claims when he spoke to students last week.
In a short address, he made abundantly clear he will favor (non-Morehouse) accusers over (Morehouse) accused, and that he views his own students as brutes.
“Underlying that hashtag is clearly a belief that there’s a population that does not feel heard,” Martin said, excusing them from the burden of actually filing a formal complaint. Indeed, he said no one has come to his office to make a report.
He said he’s read “every single tweet” and he’ll hold every perpetrator accountable. Martin also said with no evidence that “sexual violence and sexual harassment continue to be rampant” on campuses including Morehouse (only if you ignore non-college reported rapes).
In his lone reference to due process, Martin said he’ll show accused students “the due respect and compassion of not jumping to judgment and fully investigating and not making any decisions before I had all the facts.”
But the bulk of his remarks were telling accusers they were sitting ducks for latent rapists on campus.
“We will take seriously our commitment to educate the young men on our campus about sexual harassment, sexual violence and consent.”
As if that hasn’t been drilled into every college for the past six years, since the Obama administration declared open season on colleges that don’t preemptively judge accused students (disproportionately students of color) guilty. Indeed, the nation’s most-loved groper visited campus in 2015 to push these presumed-guilty rules.
Morehouse will “encourage and protect people who feel that they have been violated” to make formal allegations. Of course – you’ve already told them your campus is full of latent rapists.
Then he promised the chapel vandals they have nothing to fear. It’s “gonna be the last time that anybody defaces the chapel on our campus … Is that clear?”
Hear that, students? You can vandalize any space on campus once with no punishment, even one dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr.
The president of Spelman, Mary Schmidt Campbell, practically guaranteed her female population the least credible accusations will be taken as gospel:
She wrote that her institution has “a zero-tolerance policy for any type of violence, harassment, or unwanted contact” and detailed the campus resources available for students who have experienced sexual violence.
Here’s a better idea for those who are concerned about how Morehouse and Spelman are handling reported sexual misconduct: Whip out the #DearBetsy hashtag and pressure the secretary of education to conclude its investigation and open the files.
IMAGE: Orhan Cam/Shutterstock