Mob Justice at Providence College

I wrote the following several weeks ago, and decided to wait on it. Meanwhile, something has happened to the young man in question, something worse by far than what I have described here. So here goes:

I have just learned that the Women’s Studies Program at my old school, Providence College, does not take rape seriously. Or at least not as seriously as they take a plastic water bottle.

Here is the back story.

Two years ago, some male students were having a noisy party at their house off campus. They had already gotten into trouble over partying, and they saw a patrol car outside, so they began to quiet things down and turn people away whom they did not know or who did not belong to the house.

 

While this was going on, late at night, some young women from Providence College showed up and asked to be allowed in. The young man at the door politely refused, as is plain from a video taken at the time. The leader of the young women, who had been drinking, saw some white people entering, so she began to accuse the doorkeeper of racism. “You don’t believe I’m a student here!” she hollered.

“I do believe that you’re a student,” he said, “but you’re not getting in.”

She and her friends got angry, and she started yelling vulgar names at him, daring him to come out and fight. He held his ground. Then somebody from inside the house tossed a half empty plastic water bottle out from the balcony. Nobody knows who threw it, and nobody knows whether it was thrown with any intent.

The police were called, and the newspapers reported the next day that some kids had allegedly had an “all white” party, that the girls were turned aside because they were not white, that they had been the victims of racial epithets, and that bottles were thrown at them.

If the accusations had been true, it would have been by far the worst racial incident the campus had suffered in my twenty-seven years of experience there. The administration was right to investigate. The conduct of the investigation was a different matter.

But what the rest of the campus did was not right. A large group of professors, not one of whom had been anywhere near the incident, immediately signed a statement expressing support for “our women” and demanding that the administration take action against the malefactors. This is what is known as prejudice, a rush to judgment before you know what you are judging. One professor said in the local newspaper that Providence College was characterized by “systemic racism,” while another said that the Western Civilization program—the school’s signature educational offering—was an apology for “genocide” and racism. There was a march in support of the girls. Those professors, some of whom I consider friends, made themselves into a mob, and regardless of the virtues or the intentions of its individual members, a mob is always a bad thing. Mobs are cruel, irrational, vindictive, and cowardly.
A few days later, a group of students that included at least one of the accusers occupied the president’s office for thirteen hours. They came with a petition drawn up by the Black Lives Matter movement, called “The Demands,” calling for radical changes in the school’s policies for hiring, recruiting of students, and curriculum. The president treated them kindly, had pizza delivered to the office, and ended, some months later, by conceding some of the points—to students who, outside of his office, repaid him with contempt.

Meanwhile a hostile investigation went on, with three boys under the gun. They were allowed only a single sympathetic faculty member to be with them. It took the whole semester. By their testimony, it ruined their experience of the college. So said one of them afterward. They asked him if he had any final comments for the investigators. “Yeah,” he said. “I hate PC.”

Here is what they found. Except for the one plastic bottle, which wasn’t in the possession of the doorkeeper, not one of the accusations was true. The party had not in fact been all white. The girls had brought up the business about race. There were no racial epithets. Had it not been for the accident of that video, the boys would have been roasted on a spit.

Let us step back from the heat and think about what a party with alcohol and college students is like. And then let us ask what gives anybody the right to demand entrance to a private residence. Isn’t that already an aggressive act? Yes, it is, and par for the course, for students drinking. One way to investigate the incident would have been to bring the principals together, male and female, find out who did what, knock their heads, and have them know they’d better not cause any more trouble. But not one of the investigators seems to have questioned the credibility of people who were, on the face of it, not being reasonable.

So, after three months, and after the incident had been used for political purposes, the boys were exonerated of all charges, period. At that time I said that I was sure we’d all breathe a sigh of relief, because nobody wants really to believe the worst of others. A friend of mine went after the self-righteous professors who, without a shred of evidence, had leaped to condemn the boys, and thus had helped to make their lives miserable. He urged them to issue a public apology, to atone for their hasty condemnation.

No apology.

Nor any apology or embarrassment from the administration. The faculty member allowed to advise the boys asked the dean to give them “time served,” after the dreadful months, so that they would not be punished to boot for having the party. No deal.

Now we come to the latest fiasco. Imagine, says he, that a young woman from Mexico has put up a Dreamer poster, and somebody on the other side of that high-strung issue has torn it down. Imagine then that somebody has placed, on the mirror of the girl’s bathroom, a cartoon of her being raped.
What would happen?

“The school would be on lock-down,” he says, and justly so. That is sexual assault. It is a crime.

Now imagine that the girl takes down the cartoon, and the perp slips a note under her door a couple of days later, saying, “Why did you take down my meme?”

Imagine that fellow RA’s on the other side of the political issue congregate outside of the girl’s dormitory room after hours—after midnight, when males are not allowed in the building. Imagine that she has to walk the gauntlet to go brush her teeth a couple of nights in a row. Imagine that campus security offers to take her from her room for her safety.

Imagine that the RA’s incensed by her poster demand that the girl be fired. Imagine that the RA’s all get together, more than seventy, to heap public abuse on her. Imagine that, after the threat of rape is known to the public, the men of some conservative group on campus sponsor a march against amnesty for undocumented aliens.

Imagine that the president of the college refuses to meet with her parents.
Can you imagine that? I can’t, either.

That is because, as our readers may know, it wasn’t a young woman, and it wasn’t a Dreamer poster. It was a young man, and it was a couple of cards on a bulletin board, defending the Catholic and natural understanding of marriage, that which prevailed all over the world until three minutes ago. It was wholly affirmative. It mentioned no sin. It made no condemnation. It quoted Pope Francis, as saying that “we should affirm the right of all children to grow up in a family with a mother and a father.” It was posted in a dormitory that is, in part, sponsored by the chaplaincy, so that the RA in question, a faithful Catholic, felt that he was doing his job. His poster was partly in response to a pro-lesbian poster—one that was filled with angry insinuations of homophobia against people who oppose the new orthodoxy—that another RA had hung up in a hall for a whole month.

So the Women’s Studies Program, whose members encouraged their students to march in support of Sexuality Whatever, do not care that they are heaping abuse on someone who is the object of a rape threat. Nor did the members of the administration who encouraged the march. Nor do the students who congregated in the young man’s hallway. At least some of them, I must believe, had to have seen the cartoon. What did they do? Laugh about it? Really? Some students must know who made the threat. What are they doing? Laughing too?

Laugh about rape? Rape is a felony crime. A threat of a felony is also a serious crime, whether or not you intend to carry it out.

But we know what the difference is, between my hypothetical case and what has actually happened. It can be explained briefly. The last time anybody in that college’s administration gave a passing thought to the welfare of boys as specifically masculine beings who are striving to become men was—was—I don’t know. The chaplains certainly do, but they aren’t in the administration.

Rape, shmape.

If there were justice here, any RA who knew about that cartoon and still acted to intimidate or humiliate the young man would be suspended. Any professor who encouraged such action should be reprimanded. The professors who piled on should hang their heads in shame. Such behavior is disgraceful and cowardly. You don’t gang up on someone who has been isolated. But who cares? He’s got the wrong politics, and he’s a he.

One last note. Some people say that Providence College is a lost cause. That is far from the truth. It can yet be recovered. Were it not so, I wouldn’t bother with it. I have many better and more cheerful things to write about. The Dominicans of the eastern province may have some ideas about what is to be done, and it is their job, not mine, to do it.

That was what I wrote. Stay tuned. More to come right away.

Anthony Esolen

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Professor Esolen is a teaching fellow and writer in residence at Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts, in Merrimack, New Hampshire. Dr. Esolen is a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine and the author of many books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery Press, 2008); Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Books, 2010) and Reflections on the Christian Life (Sophia Institute Press, 2013). His most recent books are Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching (Sophia Institute Press, 2014); Defending Marriage (Tan Books, 2014); Life Under Compulsion (ISI Books, 2015); Real Music: A Guide to the Timeless Hymns of the Church (Tan Books, 2016); Out of the Ashes (Regnery, 2017); and Nostalgia (Regnery, 2018).

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