Romancing Hoover’s Last Erection

1) In Soviet times, historians often used their studies as an allegorical means of exploring topics that were otherwise taboo for political reasons. It’s unsettling, then, to see this style of historiography possibly being used at Stanford University, nominally a premier American school:

In debates that echo today’s conflicts over undocumented immigrants from Latin America, labor leaders in the 1870s blamed an influx of Asian immigration for lower wage levels. In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited immigration of Chinese workers. In the early 1900s, efforts against Japanese immigration were gaining similar momentum.

Far be it from good Palo Altans to respond to the multiple substantive, cogent arguments that other Californians going back at least to Cesar Chavez have been making about the threats of rampant illegal immigration from Latin America. There’s definitely something mealymouthed about this paragraph. It probably has something to do with a desire to avoid admitting that maybe the nativists have a point.

The earlier debates in question involved a young Stanford economics professor named Edward Alsworth Ross, who was fired, as far as anyone can really tell, for crossing Jane Stanford by making political statements that angered her:

The professor’s beliefs contrasted sharply with her own, and questioned the legitimacy of her husband’s legacy. Ross reportedly once commented in his classroom that “a railroad deal is a railroad steal,” a statement that could not have pleased Mrs. Stanford. And after Ross gave a speech on public utilities, noting that American cities might benefit from a period of municipal ownership of street railroads, she reaffirmed her strong opposition. “Professor Ross cannot be trusted and he should go,” she wrote to Jordan. “This is the third outburst of partisanship and cannot be overlooked. He is a dangerous man.”

It’s reasonable to assume that Mrs. Stanford would not have been so upset by an “outburst of partisanship” against public utilities or in support of private railroads.

On the evening of May 7, 1900, Ross gave a speech at a meeting of organized labor, providing what he called “a scholar’s view.” Recounting the speech for the San Francisco newspapers, Ross said, “I tried to show that owing to its high Malthusian birth rate the Orient is the land of ‘cheap men,’ and that the coolie, though he cannot outdo the American, can under live him. I took the ground that the high standard of living that restrains multiplication in America will be imperiled if Orientals are allowed to pour into this country in great numbers before they have raised their standards of living and lowered their birth rate.” Today, Ross’s “scholarly” view would be ridiculed as ignorant, racist and xenophobic. (Nearly a century later, Stanford’s Donald Kennedy noted in his book Academic Duty that Ross’s assertions would now qualify as hate speech.) Ross did not help his image with one sentence in particular, which quickly found its way back to Jane Stanford: “Should the worst come to the worst, it would be better for us to turn our guns upon every vessel bringing Japanese to our shores than permit them to land,” Ross said.

Ignorant? Of what? Certainly not of economics. Quite gallingly, we’re to believe that Ross was an exceptional threat to the welfare of Japanese people on account of his advocating the bombardment of incoming ships carrying Japanese immigrants as a last resort, even though during his own lifetime his own country’s officials orchestrated the mass internment of Japanese-American civilians, burned tens of thousands of Japanese civilians to death by firebombing Tokyo, and fatally nuked another quarter million-odd in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, not so much because Japan retained the military capacity to hold the home islands against an allied invasion as because our boys wanted to go home and pork some American broads. If we’re retroactively minded enough to note that Ross’s comments “would now qualify as hate speech,” we’d be shitheads or idiots not to also note that they would qualify as protected free speech under Brandenburg v. Ohio. Ross was arguing that it might be necessary to bombard immigrant ships in extremis. This was not, not, NOT an imminent threat of violence against anyone.

He was not really a bigot, either. A real bigot in his day would have been all ching-chong chinee slap the Jap the goddamn Chinaman. There was some ugly anti-Oriental rhetoric out in the open back then of a sort that can only be found today by going to obscure, eccentric corners of the internet. Ross wasn’t calling the Chinese or the Japanese slit-eyes or some shit. He was arguing that their demographics were incompatible with American demographics at the moment and their immigration a threat to the United States for the time being, and he explicitly left open the option to liberalize immigration from China and Japan once these countries got their own demographic and economic houses in order.

The pot shots (putting “scholarly” in scare quotes) and cheap appeals to authority (“would be ridiculed,” “Stanford’s own Donald Kennedy”) in this article would be an embarrassment to any self-respecting scholar of anything. By the way, what I mean by scholar in this case is anyone who is halfway intelligent, intellectually curious and honest, and interested in some style of debate that isn’t a blatant affront to critical thinking or common decency. “Would be ridiculed”? Who, pray tell, shall do the ridiculing? There’s no way that taking a national sense of the meeting would return a verdict that Edward Ross was a ridiculous racist shitbird. Brian Eule conflates the sensibilities of modern university faculties with those of the country as a whole, or something; it’s impossible to say exactly what because he’s so fucking vague.

This is why students are often told (say, by Karl Qualls) not to use the passive voice in their research papers. This always annoyed me because it’s a stylistically deadly stricture, but Eule’s writing is so unpolished that there’s no style to be salvaged. It’s not like he’s Tom Wolfe. He’s some dipshit flunky writing for an alumni magazine and tarnishing the name of his alma mater in the eyes of anyone who isn’t a fucking narcotized idiot.

Let’s do a quick intellectual exercise: “As Stanford’s own Joseph Lonsdale wrote in his novel A Romp in Rome, ‘I was thinking, damn girl, those are some great tits, I hope she isn’t too put off by my weird facial tic to let me nibble on dem nipples.'” Of course this hasn’t been published in Stanford Magazine; it’s garbage that I wrote at three in the morning. Even if Lonsdale had published it, it would be, shall we say, ridiculed as seriously fucked up dork porn.

My application for undergraduate admission to Stanford was rejected. I assumed that it was because I had failed to meet Stanford’s academic and intellectual standards for admission and that the slot I would have taken had been given to one of my academic betters instead. It seemed reasonable and acceptable enough. Now I learn that at the very time I toured campus and submitted my application, Stanford was harboring an undergraduate who is today, in his mid-thirties, unable to properly use “ignorant” in a sentence.

It could be a worse school; for example, its student athletes really are students, not academically unqualified cryptomercenaries who routinely say shit at news conferences that is totally fucking retarded. But what does it say about a university if its athletic program manages to intellectually redeem its history program? Good grief. #Lifehack: if you’re using Orwellian language earnestly, you’ve wasted your education. Consider taking your studies at Foothill in your next life.

This mental garbage is coming out of a university that is allegedly world-class, but I can’t see a reason to show it any respect when it can’t be bothered to be respectable in its own fucking alumni magazine.

2) Brian Eule should be the low-water mark for Stanford letters. He isn’t:

LIKE A LONG-SIMMERING POT coming to a boil, the hot topic on U.S. college campuses today is sexual assault.

The fuck? This is the kind of overwrought fluff that undergraduates stuff into their research papers because they were too lazy to do their homework when they could instead be doing coke and reefer all the live-long day. Does anyone edit this shit? It isn’t even sophomoric. There’s better writing in the Register-Guard. 

Across the country, students are joining forces to demand that their schools mete out harsher penalties for offenders and provide better support for victims. Activism against rape and other sexual violence is nothing new: At Stanford, students began to press for educational and prevention programs in the late 1970s. But now as never before, legislators, federal agencies and the White House have stepped up to hold all campus administrations strictly accountable for student safety, while showing students how to put the law—especially Title IX—to work for them. As a result, schools, including Stanford, are hurrying to bolster preventive measures and counseling resources, improve their response to victims and revise disciplinary policies. That in turn is stoking debate throughout academia and well beyond, thanks to national media scrutiny and an echo effect from sexual assault scandals roiling professional sports, the military and other arenas

…. Mechanisms put in place for dealing with sexual assault claims vary from school to school, but such cases have one thing in common: They are inherently vexing. Often, both the alleged perpetrator and the alleged victim were under the influence of alcohol or drugs, which can lead to hazy or confused recollection of events later. Physical evidence is often unavailable. In the absence of witnesses or evidence beyond “he said/she said,” it’s difficult to determine what actually happened.

There are significant differences between campus and criminal justice processes. First, whereas a prosecutor must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal matter, all universities are now legally required to use a lower evidentiary standard, “preponderance of evidence.” This means a campus judicial board can ascribe responsibility if it’s “more likely than not” that an assault took place. The government asserts that setting this lower threshold will encourage more victims to come forward and act as a greater deterrent against sexual violence on college campuses. Also, campus judicial boards do not have the same legal tools available that lawyers would have in a court proceeding. For example, they cannot subpoena witnesses or cross-examine testimony. In theory, the fact that judicial panels use the “preponderance of evidence” standard of proof makes it easier for them to find offenders responsible. Even so, say critics, the sanctions that panels impose are too lenient: Expulsions are rare, so most perpetrators ultimately remain part of their community. Nationally, measures to combat sexual violence have fallen short, critics add, because of lack of support for victims, inconsistent or ineffectual efforts to change campus cultures, and judicial procedures that can be as confusing and emotionally damaging as the offenses they seek to remedy.

It takes a ballbusting GPA and genius-level LSAT score to get into Stanford Law, and somehow no is around to keep the publishers of a university-wide magazine from discussing the impossibility of cross-examining testimony. Also, the legal thinking throughout this article sucks. Not that this distinguishes Stanford from Boalt Hall, which employs John Yoo, but still.

GIVEN THE THICKET of constraints, legal and otherwise, confronting campus judicial boards everywhere, how do they approach their roles? Jasmaine Williams, a fifth-year PhD student who serves on Stanford judicial panels, says, “It’s important to remember that the Stanford judicial system isn’t about law, it’s about what kind of a community we want.” In other words, the criminal justice system judges whether an act is criminal; Stanford judges whether the Fundamental Standard—its own criterion for community citizenship—has been breached.

Oh fuck yes it’s about law. If I ride through the streets on a camelback, Tahrir Square-style, horsewhipping women for being dressed immodestly because that’s not the kind of community I want, my subsequent incarceration is about the law because I just went around assaulting strangers like a mukhabarat thug. American universities have been instructed, based on an administrative interpretation of a baroque equal protection law, to deny due process to men accused of sexual assault. They’re running kangaroo courts to internally adjudicate violent felony complaints. They’re heading for a vigorous benchslapping. One of them will fuck over the wrong young man and find itself a defendant in a federal test case. The internal disciplinary processes are a joke, but a joke that has dire consequences for the wrongly convicted. The US Constitution is squarely on the side of the accused in these cases.

That criterion was the basis for a claim at Stanford last June that galvanized debate about adjudication matters. Senior Leah Francis went public to decry the way the university had handled her rape complaint, made against a former boyfriend who she said had assaulted her at his home in Alaska during a college break. The fact that the incident in question happened off campus was irrelevant, according to the Office of Civil Rights’ interpretation of Title IX: since both people involved were Stanford students, the university is required to respond. (The accused man was found responsible and punished; Francis protested that his punishment should have been expulsion.)

Holy shit. These two were out of state under private auspices, and the ex-boyfriend is subject to a private trial for sexual assault under an evidentiary standard that would never fly in an American court of law merely because he and his accuser met each other through their university. This is really Kafkaesque, both for the accused, who gets dragged into a bullshit private trial, and for the university, which is exposed to liability for private off-campus behavior of its students that has nothing to do with its institutional operations.

This is, again, the result of an administrative interpretation of statute, not a judicial interpretation. The Office of Civil Rights is not the final arbiter in this matter, and thank God it is not, because its interpretation is fucking insane. It gives universities extraterritorial jurisdiction over sexual assault claims and allows victims to venue-shop instead of seeking relief in a proper venue.

There have been “good, respectful” responses from fraternities in discussions of sexual assault, Boardman says, and considerable soul-searching. “Some fraternities are coming forward and saying, ‘We’re seriously considering that we’ll no longer have open parties. Do we want to take ownership of what happens when all those people we don’t know come to our house?'” Maybe that’s a great idea, says Boardman, but the downside is that they’d risk confirming an elitist stereotype. And one potential unintended consequence could be a diminishment of campus social life overall. As an educator, the vice provost says, he finds the students’ struggle to figure these things out a healthy one.

That’s too much stupid to unpack. There are reasons to abolish Greek life, notably including its intractable elitism, but this is absolutely the wrong process. Fraternities are heavily lawyered; please to enjoy their lawsuits against their host institutions.

Preoccupation with sexual assault will only intensify at Stanford as the year progresses.

Freudian slip much? This moral panic over campus sexual assault is exactly that: a preoccupation in the psychiatric sense. Emma Sulkowicz was mentioned in the article, but earnestly, as an example of a sexual assault victim, not a crank who is getting academic credit for walking around with a mattress.

The end game of this madness looks like the reestablishment of parietal rules. Maybe they’ll govern the men instead this time. Already parents are beseeching their sons to watch out lest they be accused of sexual assault, and it can’t be because very many of them suspect their sons of actually being sexually predatory or violent. It’s because the regime governing sexual behavior on campus, or in Alaska, is increasingly prone to abuse by unstable or downright evil people claiming to be victims.

This is a good time to invest in a Mid-Peninsula prostitution business. Shit, it’s a good time to invest in prostitution anywhere in the vicinity of deranged amateur chicks and the guys who are afraid to fuck them. I’m not kidding. Prostitutes and their clients may be the only people with a snowball’s chance in hell of rescuing the country from this nuttery, at least until the courts put an end to the due process violations underpinning this quasicarceral regime. Everyone else is way too into the rapey shit.


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