Occidental College President Jonathan Veitch must resign

Occidental College is a small school in northeastern Los Angeles. It’s got about 2,000 students at any one time. And it’s got a huge sexual assault problem: yesterday, 38 students and alumnae of Occidental filed a Title IX complaint with the Federal Department of Education claiming that the college violated civil rights law in its handling of reports of sexual assaults and rapes — which seem to happen on the Oxy campus with terrifying frequency.

Survivors of rape and sexual assault at Occidental report that administrators threatened them with unpleasant consequences when they enquired about the process of reporting a sexual assault. Survivors were warned that the hearings process was “long and arduous.” One survivor was told she’d be the one switching dorms rather than her assailant. When men were found in the course of college hearings to have indeed committed rapes of their fellow students, they were often merely suspended temporarily — and in at least two cases, those suspensions were lifted on appeal and the rapists “sentenced” to writing book reports instead.

Gloria Allred, who is providing the 38 plaintiffs with representation in their Title IX complaint, reports in the video embedded below that when Occidental President Jonathan Veitch was informed that an accused rapist was on the guest list for a social event at Veitch’s home, he responded by issuing a dis-invitation … to two members of the school’s sexual assault task force.

Here Allred speaks, along with several remarkably brave survivors and supportive faculty member Caroline Heldman, the school’s Politics Department chair.

What’s been the response of Occidental College president Jonathan Veitch to the issue? Browbeating sexual assault survivors in the campus press when they dare suggest he’s sitting with his thumbs up his ass:

I’m dismayed that having agreed to that conversation, a number of well-intentioned people have chosen to cast our motives into doubt; vilify dedicated, hard-working members of Student Affairs; question the sincerity of our response; and actively sought to embarrass the College on the evening news. That is their choice, and there is very little I can do about it. I can say that it reflects poorly on their commitment to this conversation and to the broader education that must take place if we are to change a culture we all find repugnant. The repugnance of sexual assault is not open to question; but the policies and procedures that guide our response to those incidents is something about which reasonable people can disagree. I’m sure there are those who feel that confrontation is necessary to exert pressure on the College to do the right thing. But there is a point where confrontation becomes an end in itself—satisfying, no doubt, but counter-productive with regard to our shared aims. When it crosses that threshold and descends into name-calling, vilification and misrepresentation, it undermines the trust and good will of everyone involved. And worst of all, it does not lead to progress on this important issue.

That letter to the campus paper was published March 5. Veitch has since walked it back some, saying that his letter may have “alienated people who care about sexual assault” and clarifying that his intent was to object to “the implication–reported in the media — that the College is not serious about the issue of sexual assault. We are very serious.”

Serious enough to have brought in, just this week, experienced sexual assault prosecutors as consultants to help the school assess and overhaul its enforcement policy. That’s a smart and sensible move.

It’s just too bad that Veitch waited until campus anti-rape activists lit a bonfire under his doubly enthumbed ass, complete with an appeal to the Department of Education to lift the school’s federal funding, before taking a step he should have taken on Day One. Veitch has been president at Occidental since 2009. That means all the students in the video linked above were raped on Veitch’s watch. All the administrative obstacles to survivors reporting assaults against them mentioned here happened on Veitch’s watch. All the stories relayed in the video above: On Veitch’s watch. All the assigned book reports and community service sentences for acts that should have brought jail time and sex offender registry? On Veitch’s watch.

Not that Veitch’s resigning would fix Occidental College’s rape problem: it sounds as though there are a few other administrators with serious culpability who ought to be examined as well.

But it would be a good start.

I know almost nothing about Jackiesue

I only just learned she even exists a few minutes ago. She calls herself “a pagan and a left wing democrat” in the tagline of her blog “Yellowdog Granny,” where she also says “I got older but I never grew up.” She’s a friend of someone I’ve known online for a few years. She’s in her late 60s.  She lives in Texas.

Oh, and I know that she works a day or two a month in the West Rest Haven, a nursing home in her town. And I also know how she spent her Wednesday evening, as recounted in her blog:

[S]he told me the fertilizer plant had blown up and that the nursing home had been damaged I said I’m going. She said not to go that the other one could blow at any time. I said “I’m going.” I drove straight down Reagan Street and passed a house on fire and then on the right I could see the Jr. High School was on fire and then I could see the apts which are directly across the street from the nursing home and it was almost a shell. I parked in my usual place and got my flashlight and leaving my keys in truck and purse too and went inside. I along with a bunch of other people were taking residents out in wheel chairs… water every where, the ceiling had falling, beeping alarms, insulation knee deep in places. I was soaked from head to toe. water leaking from the sprinklers and plaster all over the place. Each room with windows caved in, furniture upside down, beds turned over. The dining room was a jumble of chairs and tables. One of the nurses said the building just imploded. the roof went up and then came down and the windows blew in at the same time.…

The amount of immediate help was wonderful to see. They got all the residents to the senior center for emergency help. We went through the building about 4-5 times to make sure we got everyone.

I know I’m not the only person who’s commented on the people who’ve run towards the horror to see what they can do to help in the last few days.

But it’s been the kind of week where the more stories I hear about people trying to make the world better right now, the better I can make it through the rest of the week. Maybe you’re feeling that way too.

Like I said, I don’t really know much about Jackiesue. Except that I know yesterday she ran toward the horror to help people she cared about. That makes my world a little better right now.

Thank you, crowepps

Bad news: I’m informed offline by Mattir that fellow hordeling crowepps has passed away, not particularly expectedly.

She wasn’t the most loquacious commenter here, and I didn’t know her at all aside from reading what she wrote here. But I always liked what she had to say.

She was funny:

I am boggled by the lack of logic behind “Make me a sammich.” Seriously, so you don’t want to listen to someone’s opinion, you want to treat them as having no more value than a household appliance, so you send them into the kitchen, where all the *poisons* are, to prepare food? Want a side of Valium overdose with that, or just a garnish of the traditional rat poison?

I didn’t know her well enough to say with certainty that she made the world a better place — those who knew her can weigh in on that — but she definitely made Pharyngula a smarter place. Thanks for that, crowepps.


New Rule

You’ve all seen it, the increasingly common inept attempt people make to defuse valid criticism of their untenable positions. Most recent sighting for me was this comment at The Mary Sue, which consisted mainly of the commenter saying that no way would any man have pulled the “fake geek girl” routine on Rae Johnston and even if they did no way could she have been clever and snarky enough to leave him in the funniest smoking crater of all time, and then said commenter ended with:

Let the bashing commence I guess.

You’ve seen variations on this trope. “Flame away,” “I’ll get flamed for this,”  references to asbestos undergarments and SPF 400 flameblock.

And there’s a commonality among the people who use that trope, generally having to do with shitty argumentation. As Sally Strange said here last week,

Has there EVER been a time when someone preemptively complained about flaming, when the content of their post was NOT eminently flame-worthy? Not in my experience.

Sally’s correct, and there’s a reason for that. Well, two reasons.

  1. Sally is smart;
  2. The reason people adopt the “I am Daniel and you are Teh Lionz” approach is because they’re feeling defensive about their arguments, and seeking to defuse the rhetorical spanking they fear they’re gotten themselves into by way of the deft use of our old friend passive aggression.

Frankly, if even the execrable H*go Schw*zer has seen through this particular pathetic trope, it’s time to stop it. As that post with its triggering comments (and OP) points out, trolls use this trope because it works.

So I’m calling this a New Rule. It covers my posts here, and it should cover every other person’s posts everywhere else online as well. If you tell people to “flame away,” you will not be taken seriously. Because as any well-read atheist knows, the lions took no interest in Daniel whatsoever when he was thrown into their den. They didn’t kill him, they didn’t bat him around; they just sat in a comfortable corner of their den and rolled their eyes at him every now and then as he made a spectacle of himself praying not to be eaten. And afterwards he became the topic of a number of lion in-jokes. Or so I’m guessing. The story may be apocryphal.

This is just disgusting and wrong

This cocktail, called “The Kraken” by its purveyors at the Whitehouse-Crawford restaurant in Walla Walla, WA, is one of the worst abominations I’ve ever seen.

The Kraken

Here’s the description by the restaurateurs:

spicy, dirty vodka martini with tentacles

In other words, they take an innocent little cephalopod and mercilessly plunk it into a so-called “martini” made with [shudder] vodka, instead of with gin as is right and proper.

Truly these are dark times in which we live. I weep for our species. With dry, delicious, juniper-scented tears.

Sent along by a regular whose name I won’t share because of the whole “outing by locality” issue. (But thanks, and feel free to ‘fess up in comments if you like.)

Relax, everyone. It’s only a metaphor.

The Telegraph’s environment denier James Delingpole wants us to know he really doesn’t think environmental scientists and journalists should be executed:

Should Michael Mann be given the electric chair for having concocted arguably the most risibly inept, misleading, cherry-picking, worthless and mendacious graph – the Hockey Stick – in the history of junk science?

Should George Monbiot be hanged by the neck for his decade or so’s hysterical promulgation of the great climate change scam and other idiocies too numerous to mention?

Should Tim Flannery be fed to the crocodiles for the role he has played in the fleecing of the Australian taxpayer and the diversion of scarce resources into pointless projects like all the eyewateringly expensive desalination plants built as a result of his doomy prognostications about water shortages caused by catastrophic anthropogenic global warming?

It ought to go without saying that my answer to all these questions is – *regretful sigh* – no. First, as anyone remotely familiar with the zillion words I write every year on this blog and elsewhere, extreme authoritarianism and capital penalties just aren’t my bag. Second, and perhaps more importantly, it would be counterproductive, ugly, excessive and deeply unsatisfying.

So why does he bring it up?

Indeed, it would be nice to think one day that there would be a Climate Nuremberg. But please note, all you slower trolls beneath the bridge, that when I say Climate Nuremberg I use the phrase metaphorically.

A metaphor, let me explain – I can because I read English at Oxford, dontcha know – is like a simile but stronger.

There’s something that tickles the back of my brain about him using a simile to explain a metaphor by comparison to a simile. Why not go the whole way, and say something like “a metaphor is like a simile because each is analogous to an allegory”?

Anyway, Delingpole was engaging in hyperbole in response to criticism of a paywalled piece of his in The Australian, in which he said:

The climate alarmist industry has some very tough questions to answer: preferably in the defendant’s dock in a court of law, before a judge wearing a black cap.

For those of you not well familiar with the intersection of fashion and British jurisprudence, the black cap is a black square of fabric worn by a judge when ordering an execution. (Which hasn’t happened since 1973.)

I almost certainly need not explain what’s completely criminal about Delingpole’s disingenuous hate speech, whether or not he appends the condescending Oxford grad equivalent of a winking emoticon at the end. Technically speaking, Hutu “journalists” referring to Tutsi people as “cockroaches” was also just a metaphor.

It’s hate speech, plain and simple, uttered with the express intent of riling those who agree with Delingpole to suppress science.

Delingpole should be careful what he pretends he isn’t really wishing for. Life on this planet is likely to get very nasty for a large number of people in the next decades. At some point, as Britain suffers the third or fourth or fifth triple digit summer in as many years, and crops fail and people go hungry and the urban aged drop dead when the power goes out, there may well be calls for a “Climate Nuremberg” — and it’s doubtful that prominent denialist writers who call metaphorically for executing scientists and climate change activists will go unsummoned.

A note to my friends, family, colleagues and readers of color

Joan Walsh doesn’t speak for me.

I mean, I get her. I get the fear, the desire not to be lumped in with those bad other people who do the bad things. I get the desire to continue to enjoy the privilege of not having to think about my race day to day. I’ve been a straight person in the group of LGBT folks, the man in the group of feminist women, the cis guy talking to transfolk. Hell, I’ve been the only white person at the dinner table more often than I can count. I get that desire to start out each interaction with a pat on the back to assure me that I’m “one of the good ones.”

Don’t do me that favor.

I’ve been exceedingly fortunate in this life to have met people who have been willing to school me when I get something wrong, when I make assumptions about people’s lives based on my own experience. I’ve been fortunate to have people willing to instruct me out of my ignorance about the world outside my skin, and to do so mostly patiently, but not always. Sometimes that instruction came with justifiable peeve, or even anger.

And like Walsh, I’ve occasionally wanted to wave my lefty bonafides in front of my critic of the moment to defuse the topic, to make it more academic and a bit less uncomfortably about me. I’ve protested that just because I’m white doesn’t mean I’m conservative, or rich, or racist — and if I am racist, it’s at least not the kind that prompts me to drag people behind my truck. Like Walsh does somewhat academically in her essay, I have protested that far from being a racist, I am in fact a Nice White Guy.

But I’m learning that that criticism, as has been said here before in other contexts, is a gift. That the person taking the time to engage with me is, to appropriate a phrase from this important 2007 essay by the blogger Nanette, giving me the benefit of the doubt.

Like I said, I get Walsh’s desire to protest that we’re not all bad. I suppose I’m kind of doing it myself with this post, making my views distinct from her seeming ignorance of race privilege. Except that my goal here isn’t to separate myself from Walsh the way she wants you to separate her from the Klan. She and I are basically the same, after all, with our defensivenesses and privileges worn slightly differently.

Rather, my intent here is to thank you for the hard work you’ve put in to change the whole conversation, which you continue despite prominent people like Walsh telling you you’re doing it wrong. In ways incremental and massive; whether you were a one-time commenter on my blog with a sharp word or, well, my ex-wife who offered me two decades of private instruction in precisely where my white privilege lay; whether we’ve spoken directly at all or you’ve dissected a post of mine on your Tumblr or I’ve read something you wrote about something else and didn’t weigh in…

Well, I’m weighing in now. Thank you. You’re making the world a better place by speaking your mind candidly. Eventually, more of us will listen more of the time.

And don’t be too unnerved by Walsh’s admonition that whites need to be insulated from the scorn of people of color because “Democrats still need white support.” It’s an ugly threat on her part, but it’s an idle threat. Some of us don’t change our basic sense of ethics just because someone called us a name. I’m pretty sure Walsh is one of us, deep down. Yesterday’s essay just wasn’t some of her best work.

A way to strike against denial of abortion rights in Kentucky

PatrickG posted this deep in the Lounge, where only the bravest, thickest-skinned hordelings venture. So I’m amplifying his signal.

my partner is relentless. She keeps saying things like “you always talk about this site and how they’re so supportive of abortion rights, HIT THEM UP!”. And by hit you up, I mean it’s Abortion Access Bowl-a-Thon time! Technically, has been for some time. :)

So! If you’re interested in funding abortion rights in Kentucky, specifically through the Kentucky Support Network, consider wandering over here and chipping in a few dollars. Our team is aiming to raise a measly $500, and we’re almost there. :)

Abortion access in Kentucky is a particular issue for me — we’ve got a part-time clinic in Lexington, a full-time clinic in Louisville… and that’s pretty much IT. Louisville has a hospital under siege by Catholics (gubernatorial action was necessary to prevent the latest merger attempt), and there’s basically nothing in northern/eastern Kentucky. They all have to travel. Added bonus (bleh): the Louisville site is heckled by protesters non-stop. In short, we might not be Mississippi or North Dakota, but we’re getting there.

All the funds raised for KSN go directly to transportation, housing, and medical expenses. Administrative funds are raised strictly through grants.

If you’d prefer to chaff my hide, consider donating to my partner’s page here**. She’d be thrilled to receive donations instead of me — my own father donated in her name instead of mine! But wherever you donate, it goes to the same place – the Kentucky Support Network.

You know what to do.