Daniel Drezner ’90 had an interesting entry on his blog earlier this week, commenting on an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune by Anne Henderschott that discussed the rising tide of hate-crime and sexual assault hoaxes on college campuses.

The truly troubling thing about this is that despite the legal reality of innocence until guilt is proven, accusations of these sorts can often ruin the reputation of the accused. If these accusations turn out to be a fabrication there NEEDS to be a very serious punishment, to deter these sorts of libelous accusations that often have no negative consequence to the frequently anonymous accuser.

Williams hasn’t been immune from these problems, despite its bucolic locale.

– The entirely fabricated incident in October 2001 later turned out to be a vindictive revenge ploy by a jilted female student, who actually went through the trouble of stabbing herself in the thigh to lend creedence to her lie. While it’s clear that she had psychological issues that were part of the problem, her false statements were only treated as a psychological issue, with no regard to the harm that her spurious accusations caused both to the community at large and to the reputation of her ex-boyfriend.

– And in terms of political hoaxes and hate crimes, we have the time when students from the BSU placed racist flyers around campus (in response to black history month, or a specific event… I’m not really sure, as it was before my time) and attributing the statements to the Williams Free Press. Naturally, this fit in with many on campus’ conception of something conservatives would do, so the Free Press didn’t have many believers when they asserted that they had nothing to do with it. Of course, when the truth was revealed, I’ve heard that the perpetrators received at most a slap on the wrist… but since I wasn’t there, somebody should please correct me if I’m wrong.

Anyway, I just wanted to raise the issue, since I recall a few similar incidents at Williams and Drezner brought it up… any ideas on how to fix the situation?

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