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02 February 2017

Holy Shit, Do I Agree with Jerry Falwell, Jr.?

Well, the hits just keep on coming:
Evangelical Christian leader Jerry Falwell Jr. will head an education reform task force under U.S. President Donald Trump and is keen to cut university regulations, including rules on dealing with campus sexual assault, the school he heads said.
The Liberty University head believes on-campus sexual assault investigations are best left to police and prosecutors, Stevens said (source).
While I'm certain that our motivations are far, far different, I hesitantly find myself agreeing with Falwell that on-campus sexual assault is indeed best left to professional, municipal police departments and district attorneys. (Darren Sherkat has an, as always, interesting take.) To summarize the issue, we need to recognize three interconnected things:
  1. Because they are increasingly forced to market themselves like ordinary service providers in a private marketplace, there is a perverse incentive for college and university administrators to portray their campuses as safe, even if they may not be. Mommy and Daddy are not going to pay the soaring sticker prices to send Little Suzy to a place where she is likely to get raped.
  2. On-campus law enforcement is by definition hamstrung. They are generally understaffed, under-experienced, and under-funded, even if well-motivated and -intentioned.
  3. Administration is held hostage by the very institutions that perpetuate rape culture (e.g. fraternities and athletics), as well as the alumni and booster organizations that shield them, via their social capital and potential for generating revenue.
These three things together are a recipe for disaster. By returning jurisdiction for all crimes, including sexual assault, to the independent law enforcement best equipped to deal with it, suddenly, the individuals and social structures that hold up the very circumstances that are actually making women (and men and gender-queer folks) less safe can be challenged and dismantled. (OK, that may be a bit of an overstatement, but it would certainly be better than the status quo.) After all, why on earth would we undo the division of labor that more efficiently allows education to educate and the criminal justice system to enact criminal justice?

I'm hesitant about all this and fear that I may be overlooking something given that I find myself in league with the devil. 

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