Rape of Civil Liberties

Norah Vincent's column criticizing Columbia University's Sexual Misconduct Policy was a breath of fresh air, particularly coming from a newspaper on the liberal end of the political spectrum ["The Accused," October 31].

As a lifelong liberal and civil libertarian, I've become dismayed at the extent to which those on the left have begun to conclude that, when it comes to redressing historic wrongs, ends justify means. Columbia's stripping away of due-process rights in cases where sexual assault is alleged is the latest and most prominent example.

This kind of thinking dominates student disciplinary processes and campus "hate speech" codes at the overwhelming majority of college campuses today. The left will, I fear, have hell to pay when the other side of the political spectrum is once again in charge. That is why neutral civil liberties principles protecting due process and free speech should be supported by all—but especially by those who are in the minority in society at large.

Harvey A. Silverglate
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Due Protection

It is disheartening that Norah Vincent so misunderstands the debate surrounding Columbia University's new Sexual Misconduct Policy. I am a Columbia student who counts among my friends rape activists, men concerned with due process under the policy, and members of the administrative body that wrote it.

We may disagree about where rape victims' rights and due process concerns overlap, but all of us know what Vincent apparently does not—that rape-awareness movements on campus cannot be dismissed as puritanical hysteria. Nowhere is this mistake more dismaying than in Vincent's derision of the Take Back the Night rallies, which she calls "self-aggrandizing confession rituals." At these speak-outs, I have seen women overcome fear and self-hatred through the simple act of speaking their stories, and I can vouch for the transformative effect they have on women and men.

Columbia's Sexual Misconduct Policy provides thorough protection for the rights of students accused of sexual violence. As with all academic discipline, it stops short of providing every safeguard found in criminal court. Such limits may bear debating, but they rest on decades of successful and fair implementation of discipline, not on irrationality.

Columbia's policy was forged out of the need for safety—for an academic environment free from sexual violence and for the protection of the rights of the accused. When Vincent reduces the crisis of campus rape to getting "a little too frisky with your roommate or, for that matter, her boyfriend" and calls activists "zealous," she mocks the hard work of synthesizing these needs into a viable and fair policy.

Ben Wheeler

F Train

Twice I boarded Robert Christgau's rambling Subway Series train of thought entitled "Timo's Dance, Roger's Trance" [October 31], and wondered . . . Where is he going with this? On and on Christgau went, one freight-train sentence after another, some 15 lines long.

Your Jockbeat column had it right in the same issue, and, mercifully, said it in fewer words.

Contrary to Christgau's analysis, Roger Clemens is not some excusable, out of control "alien," and he's Marty McSorley-range dangerous, no matter what Christgau "sussed" in his bohemian baseball rhapsody.

I've read Roger Kahn, and Christgau's no Roger Kahn.

Geoff Burt


Loved Tom Smucker's review of Merle Haggard's recent appearance in New York City ["His Own Kind of Guilt," October 24].

I've always enjoyed Haggard, having first heard him during basic training at Fort Ord, California, in 1971. A few years later, while stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, I worked the graveyard shift on Friday and Saturday nights at a local country and western station. I loved playing Haggard's songs, and it was during that time that Merle came out with his best album, Sidewalks of Chicago.

Sadly, it's never been released on CD, and the title cut doesn't appear on any of his many "best of" or "greatest hits" collections.

Since 1979, I've lived in Israel. To the best of my knowledge, Merle has never scheduled an appearance over here. I'd love to hear him sing "Sidewalks of Chicago" one more time.

Jonathan B. Horen
Tel Aviv, Israel

Stock Devaluation

In Erik Baard's article "You've Got Porn!" [October 24], he writes: "Flush with $245 billion in market value, the swelling empire of AOL Time Warner might feel confident enough to take what was once a too-risky plunge into porn." Well, based on Friday closing prices on the New York Stock Exchange, they haven't been worth $245 billion, with the exception of one week, since September 1. On October 23, their combined market cap was down to $207 billion.

Will AOL's acquisition of Time Warner ever take place? Maybe they will have to go to porn to get to the combined market cap of $350 billion, which Jerry Levin and Steve Case said they were worth as a combined corporation.

Joe L. Miller
Jacksonville, Florida

Erik Baard replies: The capital valuation of the proposed merger is by no means central to the piece, but the numbers were provided by a Merrill Lynch analyst on October 13. Of course, stock prices fluctuate.


Patti Smith did a great job tracking down the 19th-century poet Rimbaud ["The Legend of Arthur," VLS, October 31]. Please do more of the same. Thanks to all involved in the idea and its realization at the Voice.

Cindy McKee
Millington, New Jersey


Due to an editing error, the last sentence of a Short List item by Gary Giddins about Cecil Taylor & Tony Oxley Duo in last week's issue was misstated. It should have read: "Consider it providence that Sam Rivers and Leroy Jenkins are also concertizing this week, and no one's calling it a festival."

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