Friday, February 6, 2015

Five male university students accused of sexual assault are suing the school -- and you will enjoy the school's response

You will want to read this one to the end -- it is jaw-dropping.

Last week, we reported that a grand jury declined to indict five male students of William Paterson University who were arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a woman in a residence hall in late November of last year.

At the time the men were arrested, University President Kathleen Waldron issued a statement circulated to students and faculty that rushed to judgment and called the incident a "crime" and a "criminal act." She added: "No expression of anger or sadness on my part can alleviate the harm done to the victim and my heart goes out to her and her family.” (Read her statement here.)

This blog pointed out that President Waldron's rush to judgment in assuming that a rape had occurred not only unfairly tainted the five young minority men arrested for the alleged crime but was a chilling echo of sentiments all too frequently expressed under the hanging trees of the Old South, where due process was deemed a luxury women could not afford when it came to black men accused of rape.

Now, two of the students are suing the school, its president, and other officials for wrongdoing in connection with the incident. Among other things, the suit claims that University officials made public statements about the case "defaming the character and reputation," of the two students. "As a result of the defamatory statements . . ., claimant has suffered and continues to suffer significant damage to his reputation, emotional injuries, economic losses, has had his Constitutional and civil rights violated, and has sustained various other expenses and damages," the claim said.

How is the school responding to this?

"A William Paterson spokeswoman said the school does not comment on legal issues."

Read that again, because in the context of this case, the irony and the hypocrisy of this response is breathtaking: "The school does not comment on legal issues."

Excuse me -- but back in November, the school's president was more than happy to "comment on legal issues." In fact, she gratuitously injected herself into the matter and declared the incident a "criminal act."

What the University spokeswoman obviously meant to say was that the school does not comment on "legal issues" when it is being accused of wrongdoing -- but it has no such hesitation when five of its minority male students are accused of wrongdoing.

Or the University could put it this way: it won't comment on legal issues caused by its own comment on legal issues.