Our nation’s campuses are at a crossroads – and this time has less to do with the courses that are taught and more to do with the jumble of mixed messages that confront students – particularly male students – who face four or more years living in a situation where almost every move they make with the opposite sex could later become the cause of a sexual harassment suit.
As noted by National Association of Scholars president Peter Wood on Minding the Campus, the normal urges of young adult males must be kept in check while at the same time many faculty members “extol the pleasures of promiscuity, pornography and license.”
Wood cites the infamous letter from Russlynn Ali, the Department of Education’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, as raising alarm bells with its message that the new standard, “preponderance of the evidence,” means that the complainant wins when the university judges that 50.01 percent of the evidence supports the allegation.”
This message even raised the hackles of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), whose membership sent two letters in opposition to the new rule.
As evidence of the new cautionary measures enacted on college campuses, Hamilton College in upstate New York included a mandatory lecture for male freshmen in its orientation program last fall (2010) titled “She Fears You.” This was designed as an “emotional and cognitive intervention” to counter the young males’ predisposition to a rape mentality. However, when students gathered for the program, they discovered it was optional and many of them left.
Judging from what’s happening on the Hamilton campus, it would appear that confusion reigns about what constitutes a “rape culture.” This fall, “it has appointed Alessandro Porco to a visiting position in the department of English. Mr. Porco is the author of The Jill Kelly Poems (2005), a tribute to a porn star known as ‘the Anal Queen.’”
That hiring decision alone does not appear to coincide with the need to provide instruction to male freshmen about how their behavior is perceived by female students, and none of it appears to square with the intent of the letter by Russlynn Ali about sexual harassment.
However, in a story that sends this discussion spiraling out of control, former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, a frequent headliner during her service to the Clinton administration, was recently “appointed Chair in Sexual Health Education at the University of Minnesota Medical School, with the help of $50,000 from Adam and Eve, a North Carolina-based ‘sex toy company.’”
Dr. Elders commented during a 1994 UN conference on AIDS that children should be taught masturbation, adding that “I think that it is part of human sexuality, and perhaps it should be taught.”
These days, our nation’s campuses are torn between “viewing all males as rapists-in-waiting” and viewing the English Department as “the right place to install a fun-loving celebrant of porn stars and erotic fantasies.” Meanwhile, the U.S. Office of Civil Rights has decreed that the bar should be lowered for determining punishment for males accused of sexual harassment.
This is just one more reason why reality always trumps fiction.