Book Exclusive: "The Campus Rape Frenzy"
As their provocative new book arrives in stores, KC Johnson and Stuart Taylor Jr. have provided RealClearInvestigations with this original introduction and an exclusive excerpt. Their book is “The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America's Universities.”
In the name of protecting college women from sexual violence -- a noble cause, if done properly -- the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has forced thousands of higher education institutions to revolutionize their disciplinary processes for alleged sexual assaults.
The federally mandated changes have demolished due process protections for the many innocent (as well as guilty) accused students. The financial costs of this regime to the universities alone probably approach or exceed $1 billion.
Our new book, The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America's Universities, describes how and why the Obama Administration joined forces with feminist activists and leftist academics who have for decades been claiming that America's universities are mired in a "rape culture," creating a deeply wrongheaded and costly regime of federally directed regulation of university discipline for sexual assault.
We argue that the Obama Administration's illegal (in our view, and that of many scholars) bureaucratic intervention in this realm was driven by politics as well as ideology. It began after the President, seeking to recover politically from congressional Democrats' disastrous defeat in the 2010 elections, decided on a series of aggressive executive actions designed to fire up his most passionate supporters. These included both feminists and campus activists.
The opening salvo was the April 4, 2011 "Dear Colleague Letter" to more than 7,000 federally funded higher education institutions. While technically offering mere “guidance” to schools, this letter effectively ordered them to make vast changes in their disciplinary processes to find more students guilty of sexual assault.
Among other things, it told the schools to lower the standard of proof in such (noncriminal) cases to a mere "preponderance" of the evidence, meaning a 50.01 percent probability of guilt -- almost a tossup. And, in an especially crippling blow to fairness, the Dear Colleague letter strongly discouraged campus authorities from allowing cross-examination of accusers.
President Obama and others justified the Administration's extraordinary adventure in bureaucratic legislation by spreading the claim – which, we show, is not only false but absurd – that 1 in 5 college women is sexually assaulted while enrolled. In fact, the best Justice Department statistics suggest something closer to 1 in 40 – still far too many, but an order of magnitude fewer.
Clamor from accusers’ rights groups and biased, often inaccurate media coverage have intensified the Obama-driven pressure to increase guilty findings.
Our new book, The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America's Universities, details dozens of cases in which young men were stripped of their basic rights in the name, ironically, of justice. The case detailed in the following except will strike many readers as outrageous. Sadly, it is also typical.
The Case of Dez Wells,
From “The Campus Rape Frenzy”
Division I intercollegiate athletics often feature preferential treatment, from admitting athletes with poor academic records to relaxing requirements for retention and graduation—especially in the big-money sports, football and men’s basketball. Star athletes in the Power Five conferences who are plausibly accused of rape have received unfair support from their colleges. But even some privileged athletes are not immune from being expelled based on dubious allegations.
In 2012, Cincinnati’s Xavier University expelled basketball star Dez Wells for, in its view, sexually assaulting a fellow student; yet a contemporaneous criminal investigation convinced the county prosecutor that the allegation was false and Xavier’s disciplinary process “fundamentally unfair.”
Xavier has one of the nation’s top mid-major men’s basketball programs. In 2010, the school scored a recruiting coup by signing Wells. He became the first Xavier freshman to start every game in more than a decade. Named conference freshman of the year, he helped lead Xavier to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen in March 2012. College athletic stardom was a heady experience for Wells, who had been raised with his two sisters in modest circumstances by a single mother in Raleigh, North Carolina.
On June 6, 2012, Wells took part in a game of truth or dare with other students, including Mary Grimes (not her real name), a resident advisor, in his dorm room. Alcohol flowed, and the game turned raunchy. On a dare, Grimes gave Wells a lap dance. The two also made out in front of the others, which is considered unprofessional behavior for a resident advisor.
As the game ended, Grimes invited Wells to her dorm room, and they had sexual intercourse. They returned to his room around 5:15 a.m. to retrieve her cell phone. None of the other students who still were hanging around his room reported any problems. A few hours later, Grimes went to campus police and claimed that Wells had raped her. Though a medical exam revealed no evidence of trauma, the campus police contacted the Cincinnati police, who referred the case to the office of Hamilton County prosecuting attorney Joseph Deters.
“I had two very veteran investigators and the chief of my criminal division interview her,” recalled Deters in a phone interview with Stuart Taylor. “They came to me and said emphatically that there is no way this happened the way she said. They reported to me that she was not credible.”
Stressing that the sentence for forcible rape in Ohio is nine years in prison, Deters—who became chief prosecuting attorney in 2004, after 22 years as a prosecutor—said the accuser had been so incredible that “there was . . . discussion of charging her with a crime.” He and his staff decided against that option.
Deters reserved his harshest condemnation for the federal government. “Dez had never been in trouble in his life,” the prosecutor told us. “What happened [at Xavier] in this case is a complete indictment of what the Department of Education has been doing . . . they are putting a gun to the universities’ heads and demanding what amounts to a feminist agenda in which the accuser is always right and the accused is always guilty. . . . The accused are not allowed to be represented by lawyers. All the protections we have in the criminal process they get rid of. Even minimal levels of due process are out the window.” Added Deters: “I am not a defense lawyer. I have gone after bad guys my entire life, and if Dez did rape someone, we would be all over him.
"But my job is to seek justice. What these people are doing is incredible. They have a hearing and they tell the accused, ‘You can’t have a lawyer.’ How can this happen in America? It’s disgusting.”
Deters was also frustrated that Xavier’s president, Father Michael Graham, would not talk to him about the case; university lawyers feared that the Office for Civil Rights might accuse Xavier of “collusion” with law enforcement. Stressing that he did not blame Father Graham, who “felt that his hands were tied by the Department of Education,” Deters said: “This is ridiculous bullshit. I’m the prosecuting attorney, and I can’t talk to the president of the university about a law enforcement matter?”
When he finally did get to discuss the case with the university president, Deters recalled, “Father Graham said to me, ‘We have to protect our students.’ I said to him, ‘Dez Wells is a student too.’ ” Since then, Deters said, Xavier and other nearby schools have agreed to “call us first” before starting the disciplinary process over allegations of rape or other serious crimes on campus.
But in 2012, when Deters asked Xavier to defer action against Wells until his office could complete its inquiry, Xavier refused. The people making the decisions were less concerned with doing justice, Deters said, than with appeasing the federal government, which was bearing down on the school over an unrelated case.
That unrelated case was Xavier’s negotiation with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) to resolve a Title IX complaint: When two female students accused a student named Sean Marron of sexual assaults in 2008 and 2009, an administrator suggested that, to spare all concerned the trouble of going through a hearing, Marron be given the option to simply leave the university. The accusers refused to allow it. In the hearing, Xavier found Marron culpable, and Marron was expelled in 2010. The accusers then complained to OCR about the administrator’s suggestion.
Marron’s case was ambiguous. The accusers had gone to the police as well as Xavier’s Title IX office, but in October 2011 Marron was found not guilty of any crime by a county judge, who cited inconsistencies in the accusers’ stories, lack of evidence, and the long delay in the decision to come forward. Despite the outcome of the criminal trial, OCR agreed with the accusers—as it generally does. It presented Xavier with a resolution letter stressing that OCR would not “close the monitoring of this agreement until the university . . . is in compliance with Title IX.” The school signed the letter on July 23, 2012, while the Wells case was pending.
Xavier apparently feared that the federal officials would object if the school took the time necessary to treat Wells fairly, as the county prosecutor had requested. The school rushed ahead with a disciplinary proceeding against the basketball star.
So it was that in August 2012, Wells found himself with his future on the line, facing a five-member, faculty-student University Conduct Board. As in other cases, whether the accused was guilty or innocent, the rules made it hard for him to defend himself. He was not allowed to be represented by anyone with a law degree or even “specialized legal training.” The rules also prohibited Wells from cross-examining Grimes.
There was no physical or medical evidence to corroborate Grimes’ claim of rape. Xavier’s Title IX coordinator, who presented the charges against Wells, told the board that she was “not trained to evaluate” how much doubt the lack of medical evidence might cast on the accuser’s story. The hearing transcript shows that “these kids [on the conduct board] are looking at the rape kit and saying, ‘I don’t know what I’m looking at,’” prosecutor Deters told us with incredulity.
With nothing to go on but the accuser’s word, and without even asking to see the evidence that had convinced Deters of Wells’ innocence, the board found it more likely than not that Grimes was telling the truth and Wells was “responsible for rape.” Xavier denied his appeal and announced publicly that the board had found Wells “responsible for a serious violation of the Code of Student Conduct.” Everyone at Xavier, and far beyond, knew what that meant.
A few days after Xavier acted, and after hearing all of Deters’ evidence, a grand jury found that there was no probable cause to believe that Wells had committed any crime. Deters then made public his personal view that Wells was not guilty. In a highly unusual move, since prosecutors rarely stand up for people accused of serious crimes, he also stated that Xavier had employed a “fundamentally unfair” procedure to expel Wells, and he urged the school to reconsider. With continued federal oversight looming, the university refused, saying that its disciplinary panel had “heard evidence that may or may not have been heard by the Grand Jury.” But Xavier never identified any relevant evidence that Deters had not already considered.
Deters also spoke to the NCAA, prompting it to allow Wells to play immediately after he moved to the University of Maryland. This move was an unprecedented, if implicit, indictment of the unfairness of Xavier’s actions. The NCAA habitually defers to colleges’ disciplinary actions, and it requires Division I athletes who transfer to wait a year before playing for their new school.
Wells’ exoneration by the criminal prosecutor and his vindication by the NCAA could not erase the stain of Xavier’s actions. Opposing fans taunted him during road games. When Maryland played at Duke, fans chanted “no means no!” every time Wells touched the basketball.
Still, it was fortunate for Wells that Xavier, unlike most colleges, had referred the accusation against him to law enforcement. His exoneration by Deters—like the 2007 exonerations of the Duke lacrosse players by North Carolina Attorney General [and now Governor] Roy Cooper—cleared his name in a way that would otherwise have been impossible. He graduated from Maryland in 2015 and played basketball professionally for parts of the next two seasons.