In a recent judgment in a sexual misconduct case at Cornell University in New York, the judge compared campus disciplinary committees to the infamous English Star Chambers (pdf). He warned that “these threats to due process and academic freedom are matters of life and death for our great universities.”
We, too, should take what is happening in our universities seriously. Our universities have mistakenly taken it upon themselves to set aside our criminal law system and put in its place their own star chambers where administrators make decisions that change the lives of accused young men, derail their education and publicly humiliate them. .
For two years now, I have been helping a young man being persecuted by a regional university in New South Wales, Australia. I will call him “Andrew” to protect his privacy, which is essential now that he has finally graduated and left college to start a new job and a new life. He did a podcast with me, bravely deciding to tell his story as a cautionary tale to male college students.
For Andrew, it all started one night in March 2020, when he was a 22-year-old senior pharmacy student. It was a typical student gathering involving a group of children happily drinking together. But one student I’ll call “Fran” ended up throwing up and needed help getting back to her college room. A few students came with her, put her in her bed and then asked Andrew to watch her.
Andrew’s version of events, accepted by the court, was that when they were left alone, Fran suddenly fell in love, kissing Andrew, taking off his pants, and trying to undress him. He protested, telling her he had a girlfriend, but she persisted in pulling her pants down.
Then the other students joined them. Fran’s friends quickly took control, demanding Andrew leave, despite Fran’s protest that he had done nothing wrong and there was no need for him to leave.
Despite this abrupt end to the evening, there initially appeared to be no negative repercussions, with Andrew having friendly exchanges on social media with Fran where she showed no signs of concern. What Andrew didn’t know was that Fran’s friends were at work, persuading Fran to file a complaint with the college principal.
This happened and the university sprang into action and began to conduct its own investigation. Here we have people from the administration, with no legal training, goofing off, encouraging young women to come up with their own version of events that night, undermining the basic tenets of the police investigation. But that was just the beginning.
Struggle to complete your studies
Andrew knew nothing of what was going on until two months later when he suddenly received a call from university administrators telling him he was being barred from campus until what was now a criminal case be determined.
Andrew was no ordinary student, but a hard-working kid on a scholarship, doing the honors in the final year of his pharmacy course. He was a college resident, a brilliant sports star, and held many leadership roles – all positions he had to give up when charged with a criminal offense.
A broken Andrew asked for help as he faced the frightening prospect of a criminal trial. It was a difficult year as we found lawyers to represent him in the criminal case and deal with the university. And damn it, those bureaucrats relished their power to torment this young man.
Although Andrew was able to study online for the first few months of 2020 during the COVID shutdowns, he had to return to campus for an intensive practical course to complete his degree. Of course, the college bullies said no.
Letters from lawyers flew back and forth, and then we had a breakthrough. We found a rule stating that “the university shall take steps to ensure that students are not at an academic disadvantage while a matter is being decided.” Whoops ! This was inserted into the next attorney’s letter and eventually did the trick.
The court’s decision is not good enough for the university
Andrew was allowed to complete his classes, but the university still decided to deny him his degree, pending the decision of the trial court.
Here, the university tells this hard-working student that it was withholding his degree, derailing his pharmacy internship, costing him A$30-60,000 (US$20-40,000) in earnings that year , until a local magistrate can make a decision, and then another eight months while their star chamber goes into action.
In June 2021, the case was heard and the magistrate very quickly dismissed the single charge of ‘sexual touching’ Andrew was facing, saying his version of events ‘may well be true’. Fran repeated in court that she didn’t think Andrew had done anything wrong at the time.
So that was it. Smooth sailing after that, you can imagine. Not with this university in charge.
We had a funny moment late last year when Andrew received an email congratulating him on his graduation and inviting him to apply to have his degree sent to him, but sadly it turned out be a mistake.
The clumsy administration then discovered that there was still one misconduct charge to be determined and announced that the university was still planning its own investigation.
Here, our justice system decides that a young man is innocent, but that’s not good enough for this great university. They chose to make another attempt, conducting their own investigation and decision-making process.
The reason? This university, as is the case with all similar institutions, has decided that it is entitled to its own star chamber to determine these matters using a lower standard of proof. So if he falls into the penal system, there’s still another easier way to catch him.
Andrew was eventually found guilty
Sure enough, after months of delay while everyone waited for the transcript of the magistrate’s judgment, the university opened its own investigation and re-examined all the evidence. They then grilled Andrew, denying him legal support in the process.
Eventually, they convicted him of “misconduct” because he should have somehow resisted contact with the drunk girl. Not only do men now have to be held accountable for taking advantage of drunk women, but they also get in trouble for letting such a woman around.
Andrew was formally reprimanded and told he was not allowed back on campus for three years. He was understandably upset by this decision, but the punishment didn’t matter since he had no intention of ever approaching this dastardly institution again.
The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Epoch Times.