Good to see Williams taking a lead on sexual assault prevention. Read the whole article. I was especially pleased with this portion.

College sexual assault is a serious problem, both at Williams and across the country. Although the oft-cited statistic of 1 in 5 women being sexually assaulted during their college years is highly misleading (c.f., Emily Yoffe’s reporting in Slate), even a single rape is one too many.

Good stuff! No one denies that sexual assault is a problem. But it is nice to see Williams avoid the inaccurate statistics and out-of-control moral panic that is all too common on other campuses. Yoffe (a liberal reported writing in a liberal news outlet) provides an excellent overview of the issue. Kudos to the Alumni Review for framing the problem correctly.

Much more commentary below . . .

April Fools!

You didn’t really think that Williams was immune to the latest PC fad sweeping elite college campuses, did you? Silly reader!

Here is the actual quote from the Williams article.

One in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted during college, according to the National Justice Institute. And between 80 percent and 95 percent of these assaults are never reported to police or campus officials.

The statistics reflect a reality from which Williams is not immune. And they underlie the decision years ago by Williams President Adam Falk and Dean of the College Sarah Bolton to make addressing sexual assault a top priority.

Embarrassing! It is not certain if we should blame the author (Caroline Rothstein), the editor (Amy Lovett) or even Bolton/Falk for this absurdity.

1) The “National Justice Institute” does not exist. Rothstein means the National Institute of Justice (NIJ).

2) The NIJ makes no claims about the number of college women sexually assaulted each year. It is a funding agency. The researchers it funds write articles in which various, often conflicting (!), estimates are provided. But reporting the 1-in-5 statistic as being “according” to NIJ is like reporting that a claim in an academic article by a Williams professor is “according to Williams College.” (This is a bit of a simplification since NIJ (and Williams) will occasionally author reports that can fairly be interpreted as official pronouncements and, therefore, merit “according.” But the 1-in-5 estimate came from outside researchers.)

3) The 1-in-5 estimate has been disavowed by its creators! Yoffee reports:

There are approximately 12 million female college students in the U.S. (There are about 9 million males.) I asked the lead author of the study, Christopher Krebs, whether the CSA represents the experience of those millions of female students. His answer was unequivocal: “We don’t think one in five is a nationally representative statistic.” It couldn’t be, he said, because his team sampled only two schools. “In no way does that make our results nationally representative,” Krebs said. And yet President Obama used this number to make the case for his sweeping changes in national policy.

And so does Williams College. Former Williams faculty member KC Johnson writes:

[A]ctivists and politicians alike have speculated that one in five women are sexually assaulted while at college, thereby requiring new procedures to ensure that a higher percentage of what allegedly are tens or hundreds of thousands of campus rapists are found culpable.

As Slate’s Emily Yoffe has pointed out, this rate of rape does exist — in war-torn areas of Africa. In terms of dangers to women, few would confuse Columbia for the Congo.

Moreover, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey, the rate of rape for female college students significantly declined between 1997 and 2013 — while a higher likelihood of sexual assault applies to non-students, a finding wholly inconsistent with the rhetoric of colleges as uniquely threatening to young women.

If the Alumni Review and/or Williams College and/or Falk/Bolton are going to get such a basic fact so wrong, how are we to trust them about anything else related to this important topic?

In fact, who is the fool on this, the first day of April?

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