A female student complained to campus police on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving that five 18-year-old freshman men barricaded her in one of their dorm rooms and raped her in various ways.
According to her account, one of the men told her that if she wanted to have sex with him, she would have to have sex with three others. When a fifth man happened along and found out what was happening, he is reported to have said, "Oh word, can I jump on that?" Things proceeded from there.
The five men were jailed on $200,000 bail each. Today they were back in court with more than a dozen supporters, including a tutor who had worked with them during a summer program.
The tutor said, "These are good boys. Go onto campus and ask students. You can ask anyone."
The judge reduced bail to $50,000 for each of the young men. All have pleaded not guilty.
I have no idea what happened here, but, whatever happened, somebody is lying and the situation is ugly.
This sort of thing is coming up a lot on campuses lately.
A recent Rolling Stone article seems to establish conclusively that members of a fraternity at the University of Virginia drugged female guests into unconsciousness and then raped them.
A female student at Columbia has been carting a mattress to classes for months now to protest what she says is the university's failure to prosecute a man who raped her. She shows up fairly regularly in the news these days.
It also works the other way. A stripper in 2006 charged that she had been raped by a number of Duke lacrosse players at a team party. Much of the university and the local community took the woman at her word and, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, the charged players were not exonerated for more than a year.
Unlike what Whoopi Goldberg might call "rape rape," these cases mostly seem to involve people who know each other. Also a lot of binge drinking.
Women pressing rape claims say that colleges have shushed them up, not wanting to ruffle the feathers of parents and alumni. Men complain that they are being denied due process and found guilty without a chance to defend themselves.
There's a lot of he said/she said. A lot more heat than light.
Years ago -- many years ago -- college students' activities were more regulated. Colleges were assumed to act in loco parentis, as parent figures for young people moving for the first time out of their family homes.
There were women's dorms and men's dorms, and students of opposite sexes met in dorm lounges during prescribed visiting hours. Probably there were campus sock hops and student group meetings. Fraternities and sororities were overseen by house mothers. No doubt clever young people found ways to meet up in the back seats of cars, but it took more planning and care.
Sometime around 1960, colleges began to experiment with coed dorms. The first of these generally had separate floors for men and women, but then dorm floors were integrated, men and women. Now many colleges allow men and women who are friends to share double rooms.
Also during the 60s, Baby Boomer college students decided they didn't want their colleges to act as surrogate mommies and daddies. Students wanted to use birth control pills and smoke marijuana. They were no longer interested in being told they couldn't have sex or drink at parties or use drugs, and they acted on these impulses.
None of these actions is the source of the current problems exactly, but the relaxation of rules and enforcement loosened things up. I found a newspaper article from 1996 that discussed students being displaced from their dorm rooms when their roommates had overnight guests of the opposite sex. A co-ed at a major college explained: "My RAs (resident assistants) are not going to go around knocking significant others out of the rooms of college freshmen. I can't imagine trying to enforce something like that in the '90s."
By 2011, with co-ed dorms making up 90 percent of all dormitories in colleges, the president of Catholic University had had enough. He wrote an opinion piece noting snippets of research:
-- Alcohol-related accidents were the leading cause of death for people aged 17-24.
-- Binge-drinking students were more likely to fall behind in schoolwork, engage in
unplanned sexual activity and get in trouble with the law.
-- Between 40 and 64 percent of students reported having hook-up sex; the women were
more likely to be clinically depressed, and the men to earn worse grades than their peers.
The school president said such problems were worse in co-ed dorms and announced the campus would shift to single-sex dorms the next year.
For this he was ridiculed in various newspapers and internet forums. Here is a typical comment I found:
"I cannot wait for the day when the puritanical psychological issues/'morality' this country has passed down through the generations is finally out! Newsflash America: males and females have sex! So long as it's consenting adults and not hurting anyone, get over it already!"
Clearly the genie is out of the bottle. Nobody, particularly no college student, wants to be told what to do or how to comport himself.
Back to William Paterson University. Those five 18-year-old men and one 18-year-old woman are still very young. Each in his or her own way lacked the internal resources -- self-respect, mainly, and discipline -- to protect themselves. All of them will suffer consequences they never anticipated.