As you may have heard, University of California, Berkeley is being sued by three of its former students for failure to adequately respond to them being sexually assaulted on campus and as part of school functions – such as by expelling the people who assaulted them. As you also may have heard, UC-Berkeley has filed a motion to dismiss their suit, claiming that the school isn’t liable because the students only got sexually assaulted once apiece – despite UC-Berkeley doing nothing to remedy the issue of the assaults, nor even claiming to.
Yes, the school’s defense is “our students didn’t get raped enough for it to become our problem.” They’re saying there’s a legal limit to how much violation its students have to endure before the school can be expected to do anything about it. The plaintiffs’ suit claims that the school told them that “students experience a minimum amount of sexual violence” at UC-Berkeley. School Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks and his pals apparently decided that “a minimum amount of sexual violence” means “one reported sexual assault, and as many unreported sexual assaults as the rapists feel like.” One known sexual assault per student is all right with Dirks; that’s the least sexual violence that he would expect on his campus. Any other human being might suggest that a minimum of sexual violence would be none at all.
The school’s defense seems to be that because no second assault was reported by these three individuals, the university must have addressed the issue. However, nowhere in their motion to dismiss does it make any such claim, and UC-Berkeley’s history is one of failing to take action to prevent sexual assault. The three men who assaulted the students bringing the suit were allowed to continue attending UC-Berkeley while their victims could have seen them and been assaulted again at any time. A well-known professor named Geoff Macy had seven different incidences of sexual assault reported against him by four different women between 2001-2010, and he was allowed to continue teaching until this year. With a track record like that and with their attackers still on campus with them, how could the three plaintiffs in this case possibly feel like the school wasn’t responsive to their initial reports?
The message UC-Berkeley is sending to its on-campus rapists with its inaction and this motion to dismiss is that if a student hasn’t been raped yet, he or she is fair game and the rapist won’t have any repercussions. The message to the non-rapists at the school is that Berkeley doesn’t care if or when you get raped, and that if you try to make them care, the authorities will do everything they can to actively turn their backs on you. It all makes me very confident that the school would come rushing to help if a student did report being assaulted a second time.
The funny part – if there is one – is that the school’s defense states that under Title IX, the legislation under which the three plaintiffs are suing, the students haven’t “pleaded sufficient facts to show deliberate indifference.”
Basically, “You can’t prove that we were dismissive enough of the fact that you were sexually assaulted.” The school demonstrates its “deliberate indifference” to the students’ assaults and their trauma right there in its own legal document. Instead of trying to help, UC-Berkeley is looking for loopholes to actively avoid doing so – and it’s claiming that its indifference isn’t showing.
It says a lot about UC-Berkeley that this is where its leaders’ priorities are. They had to know they would get bad press for handling the case this way, and they still thought it was more acceptable than taking responsibility and doing anything to prevent further sexual assaults on campus. Even if the courts eventually rule in UC-Berkeley’s favor and find no wrongdoing in its negligence, the message will still be clear: when students are raped and sexually assaulted, you can count on Nicholas B. Dirks and his colleagues to say, “We’re can’t be held responsible for this, right?” instead of “We care about our students.”
© 2015 – Todd Veros