UCI’s Conservative Student Union hosted recent UCSB graduate Andrew Cavarno as a guest speaker last Thursday. During his talk, “Campus Rape Hysteria: False Statistics and the Assault on Due Process,” Cavarno disputed the popular claim that one in five women are sexually assaulted during their time in college, explaining that this claim derives from studies which, in addition to other flaws, utilize excessively broad and ambiguous definitions of “sexual assault.” Widespread uncritical acceptance of this claim, he argued, has produced a toxic environment in which students accused of sexual assault on campus are systematically denied due process and not afforded a meaningful opportunity to defend themselves. Ultimately, Cavarno argued that allegations as serious as sexual assault should be handled by trained professionals in our legal system, not by university employees.
The lead up to this event caused some confusion and controversy around campus. Posters advertising the event were routinely ripped, torn down, and defaced with crude language. Some students, in an attempt to discredit the event, taped quotes from popular “one in five” studies on and next to our posters, apparently unaware that a sizeable portion of the talk would be spent critically analyzing these exact studies.
In response to the vandalism, we posted signs encouraging our detractors to come talk to us to clear up any misconceptions they had about our event, and further assuring them that people of all opinions and experiences would be welcomed and treated respectfully (a point which we echo here to any of those individuals reading this article). These signs were also torn down.
Many seemed to take issue with Cavarno’s use of the term “rape hysteria” which, as Cavarno emphasized in his talk, was used to describe the climate of politically motivated fanaticism that currently dominates discussions of sexual violence on campus. The term did not imply, as some have suggested, that the genuine and strong feelings of pain, injustice, and violation experienced by individual victims of rape or sexual assault are exaggerated or that these crimes do not occur with sufficient frequency to demand serious attention — points which were repeatedly articulated both in the event’s description and throughout the presentation.
We initially tried to organize our event as a roundtable discussion or debate, but were unable to find anyone willing to present an alternative viewpoint on the relevant issues. To this end, we were surprised by the Feminist Illuminati’s open letter submission which appeared online last week in the New University. They chastised us for, among other things, hosting our event as a “one sided” talk rather than a debate, apparently unaware that multiple invitations for such a debate had previously been offered and declined.
Most notably, the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity (UC Irvine’s Title IX office which investigates and adjudicates allegations of sexual assault on campus) refused to participate to defend their claim that they conduct fair and impartial investigations, affording proper due process protections to all students.
Similarly, the Campus Assault and Resource Education office declined to represent the claim of their director Mandy Mount that “20 to 25 percent of females will be the victims of rape or attempted rape on campus [nationwide] each year,” a notable embellishment to the typical “one in five” claim.
Both offices, however, agreed to participate in a panel discussion following a screening of “The Hunting Ground” put on by ASUCI earlier this year.
We agree that this ongoing discussion would benefit greatly from having additional perspectives represented. We would like to extend an open invitation to any students, groups, faculty or staff members who are willing to participate in a respectful conversation or debate (either formally or informally) about sexual assault and how universities should respond to allegations of this crime on campus.
The Conservative Student Union at UCI is a new club dedicated to spawning intellectual discourse on underrepresented ideas, policies, and national affairs on campus. The CSU can be reached via Facebook or at firstname.lastname@example.org.