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I’m almost hesitant to share this piece from The Atlantic because I don’t want to send the wrong message. Sexual assault is a huge problem on college and university campuses, and in general I’m strongly in favour of policies designed to believe victims when they come forward and to stamp out assault and toxic rape culture.

But… even an accusation of assault can ruin someone’s life. And sacrificing due process on an altar of doing the right thing isn’t the answer, either.

On too many campuses, a new attitude about due process—and the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty—has taken hold, one that echoes the infamous logic of Edwin Meese, who served in the Reagan administration as attorney general, in his argument against the Miranda warning. “The thing is,” Meese said, “you don’t have many suspects who are innocent of a crime. That’s contradictory. If a person is innocent of a crime, then he is not a suspect.”

Let me be clear: In the overwhelming majority of cases of campus sexual assault, the problem is that the victim is dismissed, disparaged or just plain not believed. Far, far, far too many assailants still get off scot-free or with a slap on the wrist. This is especially (though not exclusively) true when the assailant is a white male and/or the victim is a female person of colour.

Still, the Atlantic has done a good job with this series so far of delving into how complicated these cases can be. So I’m posting this, because I do think it’s a balanced, nuanced article that is worth a read. In our social media era, someone’s reputation can be thoroughly destroyed even before they are proven guilty of any crime, and that’s a big problem.

In an ideal world, the justice system would function much better for sexual assault victims, and there wouldn’t be any need for these sorts of campus policies. But we don’t live in that world. So some of these policies — separating a victim from their alleged assailant, not forcing them to attend classes or live in dorms or attend social events together, not allowing accused assailants to attack their victims’ sexual histories or reputations — exist for very good reasons.

Still, though, in a just and moral society, the idea that a few innocent people would be acceptable collateral damage of a policy designed for the greater good is a profoundly troubling one.

There aren’t any easy answers here. But there are some good questions that we should all be asking ourselves.


The Gazette’s Allison Hanes weighs in on the Andrew Potter debate:

We live in the age of the digital lynch mob, where our slightest missteps get magnified, stupid remarks snowball and ill-considered words live on in infamy. Potter is not the first to be scorched by the blowback from this vicious cycle.

[ . . . ]

The modern tools that are supposed to foster societal discussion have a tendency to drown out dissenting views and become echo chambers of outrage. It is regrettable there can no longer be criticism without consequences, that ideas can no longer be challenged without resulting in a chill effect.

I agree. I also thought Andrew Potter’s column was ill-researched, ill-advised and lame. But I don’t think he deserved to lose his job over it. Everyone — academics especially — should have freedom of speech, which includes the freedom to sometimes be wrong. And if you’re wrong, people can call you out for it. And you can admit you’re wrong and learn from it. That’s how we all get smarter. But to silence voices just because we don’t like what they say? That hurts all of us.

I’m not so concerned with Potter in particular. By most accounts, the guy is a jerk. But in what happens the next time a professor says something that people don’t like?

The “pile-on effect” is one of those unfortunate consequences of social media that is hard to keep in check.


Concordia Netanyahu riot: 10 years later


Ten years ago today, this was the scene at Concordia University: The riot was a culmination of more than five years of tensions at Concordia between the radical left-wing CSU groups, which were dominated by members of the pro-Palestinian group SPHR, and pro-Israel groups like Hillel. Concordia Hillel had invited Benjamin Netanyahu, who at the […]

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The Virginia Tech shooting


The gunman who opened fire at Virginia Tech in a massacre that killed 32 people, including Montrealer Jocelyne Couture-Nowak, has been identified as 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui. Dawson College and other schools across Montreal lowered their flags to half-mast today in solidarity. Of course, this has been the headline news of the last couple of days, […]

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Concordia’s up to its old tricks again


It’s been nearly five years since I graduated, and since then, it appears that CSU politics at Concordia haven’t improved by much: For the second year running, copies of Concordia University’s student newspaper, The Link, vanished overnight at the height of the campaign for a new student government. And while editor-in-chief Misha Warbanski doesn’t know […]

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“I don’t like Wednesdays”


I’ve had this song stuck in my head all day.

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Of all the descriptions I’ve seen of Kimveer Gill, the asshole who shot up Dawson College yesterday, the most concise and to-the-point comes courtesy of Wikipedia. Here’s a screen shot of the page, because I suspect it won’t be like this for long: And that pretty much says it all. Update – 3:45pm: It’s gone […]

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Dawson tragedy: Overnight update


By now, most people will have heard the latest developments. The young woman who succumbed to her injuries has been identified as Anastasia DeSousa. She was only 18 years old. Six more people are still in critical condition this morning, and hospital sources say that two of them are still “fighting for their lives”. My […]

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Dawson shooting summary


If you’ve arrived here via Instapundit, looking for info about the school shootings in Montreal, welcome, and scroll down to here for the live-blogging coverage from this afternoon. But I must say I’m a little uncomfortable with the trauma-induced traffic spike thing. I know it’s a fact of life on the blogosphere, but I sort […]

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To the speculators, politicizers and agenda-pushers


I’ve been surfing some of the other blogs to see what’s up there about today’s shootings at Dawson, and the comments sections are making my head spin. I realize some of you may be first-time visitors, and I’m sorry for doing this, but I need to rant: To everyone out there trying to use today’s […]

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