On Yale, Sexual Assault, and College Hearings

The New York Times is up with a story about Patrick Witt, the Yale Quarterback that famously chose to play against Harvard instead of attending his Rhodes Interview in Atlanta.
But Witt was no longer a contender for the Rhodes, a rare honor reserved for those who excel in academics, activities and character. Several days earlier, according to people involved on both sides of the process, the Rhodes Trust had learned through unofficial channels that a fellow student had accused Witt of sexual assault. The Rhodes Trust informed Yale and Witt that his candidacy was suspended unless the university decided to re-endorse it.
Witt’s accuser has not gone to the police, nor filed what Yale considers a formal complaint. The New York Times has not spoken with her and does not know her name.
This is one subject with which I am entirely acquainted, with over three years of membership in Williams's student-led Rape And Sexual Assault Network (RASAN) and four years on Williams's Honor and Discipline committees. I know enough about Yale, as well, to claim some familiarity with its campus culture, which resembled Williams in many ways.

I have nothing but condemnation for whoever leaked that story to the Times.

Sexual assault is an incredibly fraught subject at colleges - alcohol and hormones often lead to decisions that one or both parties regret. In some of these cases, explicit consent is never given, and while legal line is clear (no consent = rape), the moral line is much less so, especially when memories are blurred and intentions are misunderstood. Yet while this is true, it is also true that many, many sexual assaults on college campuses (and beyond them, in the real world) are never reported - the perpetrator is generally someone well known to the victim, unlike "stranger rape" scenarios of dark alleys, self-defense classes, and pepper spray.

But such accusations are violent to the social fabric of a campus, and for this reason often remain only as rumor, hearsay, or unproven allegations. And even if brought up: what proof can be found to differentiate between a sexual act with consent and a sexual act without it, save physical bruises? Anyone who reacts by "playing dead" in the situation has no recourse, and is faced with a variety of obstacles in the form of "friends" who would never believe that anyone would do something so horrible.

This is a recipe for all kinds of problems, because in this environment, survivors are silenced even as the forces that seek to aid them can cause miscarriages of justice in the other direction. But in my experience, the former is much more true than the latter.

We don't know what happened with Patrick Witt and the unnamed female - alcohol could make both of them unsure. But now, because of the rush to raise him up as the best example of us, the media will tear him down via an allegation that Yale MUST keep private. I have been on the inside of these sorts of discussions and conversation; what is known publicly can often vary radically from the truth - students who say they want to "take time off" but are actually suspended, for example.

All we know is that the accusation made its way to the Rhodes folks, and that they wanted a re-endorsement. We know also that Witt withdrew his application. That's all.

I can make bets, based on my own experience, about what actually happened. But that's irresponsible in a public forum. Instead, I just hope that Yale's internal processes provided justice to both parties, whatever that was in this case, and that this incident does not dissuade other survivors from coming forward.

Egyptians gather in Tahrir Square to mark anniversary of uprising

Egyptians gather in Tahrir Square to mark anniversary of uprising:
Tens of thousands of Egyptians gathered in Tahrir Square in Cairo today to mark the anniversary of the uprising that eventually led to the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak. Political divides are still in force with liberals and Islamists differing on their visions for the future of the country. Mubarak is now on trial for complicity in the deaths of protesters. The uprising in Egypt last year was one of the initial protests of what is called the Arab Spring, which has included the slaying of Libyan leader Moammar Khadafy and the ongoing protests in Syria. -- Lloyd Young (31 photos total)

Egyptians gather in their thousands in Tahrir Square to mark the one year anniversary of the revolution on Jan. 25, 2012 in Cairo Egypt. Tens of thousands have gathered in the square on the first anniversary of the Arab uprising which toppled President Hosni Mubarak. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)


April Fool's Day 1974: The Eruption of Mount Edgecumbe: Residents of Sitka, Alaska were alarmed when the long-dormant volcano neighboring them, Mount Edgecumbe, suddenly began to belch out billows of black smoke. Did this mean that the volcano was active again and would soon erupt? Terrified residents spilled out of their homes onto the streets to gaze up at the volcano, and calls poured into the local authorities. Luckily it turned out that man, not nature, was responsible for the smoke. A local prankster named Porky Bickar had flown hundreds of old tires into the volcano's crater and then lit them on fire, all in a (successful) attempt to fool the city dwellers into believing that the volcano was stirring to life.


The State of the Union is a long speech, and a chance to talk directly to Americans.

But when I don't remember anything an hour later except the slogan "Built to last," there's a problem. This speech didn't bypass the media filter - it requires it, and takes advantage of populism to get applause that's not deserved. I wanted a smart speech. What I got, for the most part, was a cynical one.

Texas UAV Enthusiast Uses Pilotless Aircraft to Uncover River Contamination | Security Management

Texas UAV Enthusiast Uses Pilotless Aircraft to Uncover River Contamination | Security Management: Pig blood had been flowing from the packing plant into the creek from an underground pipe near the back of the facility, according to Dallas County Health and Human Services and the search warrant. There is an active criminal investigation into the discharge, said Andrea Morrow from the TCEQ press office.

Columbia Packing Company issued a statement Wednesday saying that it was “surprised by the allegations raised last week and was previously unaware of any such concerns.”

“A good news drone story for a change. Every environmental department really ought to have one,” Mortimer wrote.

On Epic

Wisconsin State Journal:

The company has 5,225 employees and will likely add 1,000 this year.
Between 33 percent and 44 percent of the U.S. population is served by hospitals and clinics using Epic's software systems, which track about 100,000 data elements involved in health care.
The company started with an $80,000 loan "to buy our first computer," Dickmann said. Since then, Epic has turned a profit every year but one and expects to show 2011 revenues of $1.2 billion.
Fifty-five percent of the employees install the software systems or handle technical support. "We have 600 to 700 people breaking for the airport on Monday afternoon," Dickmann said. Epic has only five sales people.