Monday, October 28, 2013

Accountability and Pre-Exising Biases

The other day, I came across an item in my Twitter feed from Salon’s Soraya Chemaly. The article, entitled 5 Ways Sexual Assault Is Really About Entitlement, contained this remarkable assertion about due process and false accusations: “the likelihood of being falsely accused of rape are [sic] no different from that of being falsely accused of any other crime. And women are far more likely to be raped than men are to be falsely accused. The insistence on treating the two as equally prevalent issues is ….an entitlement.”

This sort of extreme victims’ rights rhetoric was associated in the early 1990s with the far right, and is almost never (and for very good reason) seen coming from mainstream liberals, much less from an activist publication such as Salon. Imagine the (appropriate) outrage if a left-of-center publication published something along the lines of the following: “The likelihood of being falsely accused of robbery in urban areas is no different from that of being falsely accused of any other crime. And accusers are far more likely to be robbed than urban African-Americans are to be falsely accused.”

The piece focused, however, on the college environment. Regarding male Division I athletes, Chemaly wrote, with an embedded link, that “while male student athletes make up 3.3% of the U.S. college population, they are responsible for 19% percent of sexual assaults and 37% of domestic violence cases on college campuses.” Note that the sentence was delivered in the present tense (“make,” “are”).

It turns out, however, that Chemaly misrepresented her source, a 2012 Dartmouth Law Journal article by Edward Sansone. Here’s how Sansone described the study [my emphases added]: “A study of sexual assaults at thirty major Division I universities over a three-year period in the early 1990’s came to the conclusion that male student-athletes, compared to the rest of the male population, are responsible for a significantly higher percentage of sexual assaults reported to judicial affairs on the campuses of Division I universities. The survey found that while male student-athletes make up only 3.3 percent of the college population at the surveyed institutions, they were responsible for 19 percent of sexual assault cases and 37 percent of domestic violence cases.”

Chemaly basically copied Sansone’s second sentence (without including quotation marks), but adjusted it in two ways. She changed Sansone’s “were” to “are,” and changed Sansone’s “college population at the surveyed institutions” to “U.S. college population.” Copying word-for-word might have been dismissed as incidental plagiarism, perhaps forgivable because Chemaly included a link. But Chemaly—a self-described “activist and writer of feministy things”—didn’t simply copy Sansone’s words. Instead, she copied most of them but then altered a few of them to make it appear that the survey was current (instead of 20 years old) and comprehensive (instead of only 30 institutions). That sort of behavior is unethical.

What of the survey that Sansone cited? Given that his piece (which calls for using Title IX to crack down on what he sees as disproportionate sexual misconduct by male student-athletes) appeared in a law journal article rather than in Salon, it might be assumed that higher editorial standards would apply. Yet Sansone’s sole source for his claim is an organization called the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes. The group’s website contains the following line, which formed the basis of Sansone’s claim: “A 3 year study shows that while male student-athletes comprise 3.3% of the population, they represent 19% of sexual assault perpetrators and 35% of domestic violence perpetrators.” Yet the website doesn’t contain the actual (20-year-old) study itself. And the group’s assertion that the highly-regarded Northeastern University Center for the Study of Sport and Society “refused to publish these statistics” doesn’t exactly provide reassurance about the quality of the data.

To review: a one-sentence summary of a study on an activist group’s website was then picked up in a law journal article (whose author, at least according to his footnotes, does not appear to have examined the study itself). The law journal article’s item was then picked up by Salon, which altered its meaning to make it seem as if the study was new rather than 20 years old.

Sansone’s article, it turns out, had another item directly connecting to the topic of this blog. Here’s his lede sentence—opening the article’s second paragraph after a first-paragraph vignette. “The dark secret that many male college athletes carry is that they are one of the main perpetrators of domestic violence and sexual assault on college campuses.”

For this extraordinary claim, Sansone (in an article published out of an Ivy League college) cited a grand total of one source, a 2006 article by Jake Tapper and AudreyTaylor. (While Tapper is now a reliable barometer of conventional wisdom in Washington, he worked at Salon before moving on to ABC.) Here’s how Tapper and Taylor opened their piece, entitled “Is Jock Culture a Training Ground for Crime?”:
A year before Duke University’s lacrosse team became the center of scandal, administrators and the school's athletic director were warned that the players had demonstrated "boorish" behavior.
According to news reports, 15 of the team’s 47 players have court records for drunken and disorderly behavior. [The ABC duo was writing before “news reports” revealed the Duke-Durham agreement to maximize charges against all Duke students who engaged in underage drinking or the type of disorderly behavior that likely wouldn’t result in an arrest of an NCCU student.] Two were arrested today on charges of raping and kidnapping a 27-year-old woman at an off-campus party.
The alleged incident may be part of a larger problem, experts said, of athletes whose attitude includes a sense of entitlement that manifests itself in crude and even lawless behavior.
Tapper and Taylor then went on to cite . . . the very same study used by Sansone and misrepresented by Chemaly.

But, of course, the “alleged incident” that Tapper and Taylor speculated “may be part of a larger problem” never occurred. Yet rather than Crystal Mangum’s false charges and Mike Nifong’s unethical behavior discrediting Tapper and Taylor’s article, Sansone had no problem citing it—and citing it for his law journal article’s key claim—as if Tapper and Taylor’s piece provided some sort of special insight. And the journal’s editors had no problem in clearing the article and the citation.

How can a crime that never happened be used to demonstrate a “larger problem” whose relevance to the case would make sense only if the crime had actually occurred? For true believers, it seems, there’s no reason to come to grips with how the initial rush to judgment in the lacrosse case requires some reconsideration of the broader assumptions about due process in campus sexual assault cases embedded in both the Sansone and the Chemaly items.


skwilli said...

How can this happen? I suppose that question can be asked about almost anything going on in our country today. The Press no longer reports news in our society, they try to create news and shape the future. God help us if they continue to succeed.

Anonymous said...

"Given that his piece . . . appeared in a law journal article rather than in Salon, it might be assumed that higher editorial standards would apply."

No reason to assume that. Law journals are student-run publications with no professional editorial standards at all. And Dartmouth doesn't even have a law school, so this journal is run by undergraduates rather than law students.

Anonymous said...

It would seem that it was a setup from the beginning - prepping and grooming the durham/duke judicial system in readiness of a false-flag get out the black vote for Obama by using the lacrosse team as scrape-goats in any suitable white on black crime drama that can be created or 'just happens'.

Knowing this extra bit - that they were being charged beyond normal for little things as a method of 'ethical' duke judicial practice - and considering that there was actually a book that predicted the duke lacrosse team would encounter such an outrageous event before it even happened from what i've read - have not read the book though - all these things point to this conclusion.

What do the settlement agreements say about that aspect of the case - if anything - that the whole thing was a set up - duke was more than prepared to make 'it' happen when the conditions were right before it even happened.

jim2 said...

Good grief!

Have the named authors been challenged with this work? Asked to offered any defense? Have they declined to respond??

Good work, KC!

Anonymous said...

When do liberals and Democrats say that they are wrong, much less sorry? They just ignore the accusations and keep on trucking. To paraphrase Hillary: "Can't we move on? This happened so long ago."

Big Al

A Duke Dad said...

How can a crime that never happened be used to demonstrate a “larger problem” whose relevance to the case would make sense only if the crime had actually occurred?

Here is the answer:

In the USSR, the two leading newspapers were :
Pravda (Truth)
Izvestia (News)

Russians said, "There is no Pravda in Izvestia, and there is no Izvestia in Pravda"

Anonymous said...

Duke uses the tactics of chaos, lies, deceit, crazy-making, false accusations, framing, ignoring completely logic, reason or science if it fits their political agenda, destroying and building up people at whim and fancy, and they make their 'winning' more important than all else - including every living person whom they deem expendable or 'not worthy'.

They thing they can get away with it because they have for so long in the same harmful manners - because there is no one with the power to stop them who will because all those positions of power and counter balance are already corrupted or fear mongered politically by them.

They play games of feigning victim to make the 'other' look quilty or stupid or discredited or uneducated or poor or sick, etc. to use like a nazi type legal crazy making brainwash 'game' of the 'system' and all those who blindly follow the 'system' without question nor insight into the realities of what duke is and what they are trying to achieve in the nature of harm to many while faking or demanding the opposite from themselves and all others.

They have hyprocricy down to a science - but are now just trying the direct we know its evil but so are we route - because 'they can' - and if they can't - they change the laws or rules and control the media and politics and government and the minds, wallets, services, and treatment of many until they can. Amazing to watch.

Anonymous said...

Dartmouth has no law school. The Dartmouth Law Journal is edited by UNDERGRADUATE students at Dartmouth. Not the most authoritative source of information on legal issues.

Anonymous said...

"Dartmouth has no law school. The Dartmouth Law Journal is edited by UNDERGRADUATE students at Dartmouth. Not the most authoritative source of information on legal issues"

And Duke has an authoritative law school? (One that can't comment on a repeat of Scottsboro happening right in their own front yard, to Duke's own students?)

Anonymous said...

Why would they do that since they made it happen in the first place probably?

They instead tried (try) to act like they were (are) being victimized by other than themselves didn't (don't) they?

They have harmed (harm) many, including themselves. Why is that?

Everyone has wondered about duke's grip on their own evil reality ever since probably.

Jim In San Diego said...

Wow, what an impressive analysis of the shoddy research underpinning the "facts" alleged in the Salon article.

This, and other gems which KC has exposed over the past seven years, should be published in a book.

Such a book could then itself become a reference source for those fighting to defend due process for our (male) children and grandchildren.

Thank you again, KC

Jim Peterson

Jim In San Diego said...

The tumble through the Looking Glass goes even deeper.

The original "study" of 30 college campuses does not seem to be available anywhere I can find.

Who conducted the "study"? What was its research protocol? Was the "study" reviewed in any way for bias, or skew by anomalous data? What, exactly, was the data used?

Moreover, what was used as the definition of "sexual assault"? -- for example, was there any formal procedure to determine the facts (convictions, or at least findings of fact by an unbiased third party?). Or, was the study based solely on accusations?

What other words or modifiers or conditions or limitations have been intentionally excluded from those relying upon this "study"?

Etc, etc.

Again, what a wonderful piece of research unearthing the mechanism of how urban legend can become a widely accepted academic conclusion.

Jim Peterson

Mike Lee said...

It's fairly evident that the truth has become a relative concept in America today.

How many elected leaders, respected writers, academics, and other prominent people have made excuses for the current President's outright falsehoods?

If you're curious as to how things like this can happen, take a look at our leaders and our politics today. You'll get all the answers you need.

Anonymous said...

It will get worse with the new obama 'insider threat' rules that have been inacted in the federal workforce - making having normal human problems (re: stressors) a 'crime' in the federal workplace and possessing the traits like honesty and having a moral conscious something that is reason not to be hired in the federal work place for fear of the possibility of future whistle blowing. Wonder what the federal government is so worried about being leaked to the public, and what type of zombie non-humans will be able to be employed there?

Kristie said...

The media/news only reports on things that will get better viewing; even if those things a majorly skewed from the truth. Real news

Anonymous said...

Is Soraya Chemaly a Communist?

Anonymous said...

I recently stumbled across an article written by a Class-Gender-Race, uh, professor, who claimed (without one shred of supporting evidence) that women NEVER lie about being raped! According to the rabid professor, even if a female "victim" were not actually penetrated or even touched by her "perp, the psychological damage of even "fantasizing the LIE" would be just as devastating to the LIAR as would an actual criminal rape. You cannot make this stuff up, folks. So, apparently us female types can just conjure up rape and mayhem whenever we feel like it. Look out, guys, don't piss me off....I might finger you!
An utterly disgusted non-rape-non-victim.....

Anonymous said...

Professor, just in case you missed it.......and on an admittedly off-thread note......
Sidney Harr posted actual photos of Reginald Daye on his web site.......physically on his death bed in the ICU, up close, and worse, far worse, a screen-wide head shot of Daye after he had expired. He claims he got the photos through Mangum. It is reprehensible behavior and, to most people with even a shred of common decency, a horrible violation of the Daye family privacy.

Anonymous said...

A bit of hope

Anonymous said...

Judge Arthur Spatt takes a limited view of prosecutorial immunity

If only Duke and Durham could be brought before his bench.

From the article in Newsday

"In this suit, she accused former Assistant District Attorney Leonard Lato of taking over the case against her after two other prosecutors in the office determined there was no crime. She included Spota in the suit because she said he knew what Lato was doing and did nothing about it.

U.S. District Judge Arthur Spatt ruled last week that the suit, which seeks $5 million, can go forward and that neither Lato nor Spota are protected by prosecutorial immunity.

Prosecutors cannot normally be sued for what they do in court, but Spatt wrote "that absolute immunity does not attach simply because the defendants were prosecutors."

Lato's presence for the search of Kanciper's barn was in an investigative role and is therefore not covered by prosecutorial immunity, Spatt wrote. Likewise, Spatt said the claim against Spota concerns his administrative duties and can't be covered by prosecutorial immunity."

Anonymous said...

Justice, sort of.

Kevin M-R

Anonymous said...

Despite the best efforts by Brodhead and the Trustees, what took the stand is *the face* of Duke University. Duke better own it as simply wishing it weren't so won't fly.