The Hyde Park List

~~~~~Trigger/Cover Warnings: This post is concerned with the Hyde Park List Tumblr, and general topics of rape and sexual assault. There are no graphic scenes described or depicted. However, some of the studies go into a little more detail with what constitutes what and where. So if descriptions trigger you, please please please be careful with the links~~~~~

Sometime between September 20th and 21st, a list went live within the University of Chicago. This list contained the names of six students, whose graduation years ranged from 2012 to 2017, and was hosted both on a Tumblr site and physical copies of the list distributed around campus. The list was entitled The Hyde Park List and purported to name individuals who had, according to their knowledge, directly participated in the culture of sexual harassment by engaging in some form of harassment, assault or even rape. While people will be hastening to compare it to the lists released by Brown in 1990, and Columbia in 2014, this particular list had a slightly different aim. Rather than focusing on “rape”, the list used two tiers to color individuals: orange meant less severe, while red meant more. In later addendums by the Tumblr creators, they noted several things. First, this was not meant to be a rape list, nor a list of students who had committed rape on campus. Second, the list had no correlation with the legal process, as it was created directly against the inability of the university to do anything about sexual assault on campuses. Third, that this was intended exclusively for the University community, and that they had not anticipated such a response from national and regional news outlets. Finally, that this list was not to be interpreted as a form of guilt or innocence; one should rather look at the list as one that the creators would use to warn their friends about individuals, the colors signifying how much of a warning they would give.

Of course, one might imagine that responses and reactions via the internet on a variety of Facebook groups and threads was immediate. Students ranged from full support to complete dissociation. It is difficult to categorize every particular objection in regards to this event, so I will not attempt it. Suffice it to say that the critiques ranged from the statistical evidence of the campus rape epidemic to the particulars of the way this list was disseminated with complete lack of context and information. Throughout the process of this list developing, there has been continual feedback between the UChicago communities and the creators. The latest development will allegedly include a Google document in which people’s names will appear with the allegations made against them. The Tumblr creator also mentioned that perpetrators will have a chance to respond to allegations so long as they choose to do so using their .uchicago account.

It is difficult to imagine this situation with much precedence. Initially, people wrote this off as a form of vigilante justice meant to defame and do irreparable harm to the individuals named. I think that these later amendments to the list have made clear this is not the case. Indeed, I have had a number of mixed feelings about this list, but ultimately I feel a need to support its implementation. This feeling is derived both from the context in which this list appears, and the apparent lack of concern from the administration insofar as their students are concerned. While I still wish I knew how the color codes were being developed, I think at this point that I would trust the creators of the list over presuming to know more than them about what is or is not a correct thing to do. After all, I am a cishet male, and I’ve never had to seriously grapple with sexual assault directly. Way too many friends, moreover, have dealt with this issue directly for me to leave this group of survivors hanging.

1. The reality of the situation

One of the large bodies of critique about this particular list and lists in the past is its complete lack of engagement with the legal context in which these sorts of situations are often sorted out. Even while fifty five schools are being investigated for Title IX violations in regards to sexual assault there is a tendency to believe that the authoritative order of the world is a beneficial thing. This is often rooted in a fundamental belief in concepts like “Innocent until proven guilty” and “Freedom of speech, except in clear cases of libel and slander.” Even if the legal system isn’t perfect, it is a form of official discourse and dialogue through which we may ascertain some form of the truth. This seems usually to be the argument against “vigilantism” in whose tradition this list is engaged.

The problem with this analogy and assessment is that the legal system on a whole is not simply flawed, it’s systemically biased. That is to say, when we talk about the legal system being imperfect, we consider it in an abstraction where the flaws impact everyone equivalently. “This rape case may have been dismissed,” one might think to themselves, “but I am sure there are others in which false convictions occurred.” The problem, however, lies in the role of rape within the legal system.

There have been countless anecdotes about the humiliation faced by survivors when attempting to report their cases. These humiliations can range from police second guessing their stories, the process of undergoing a rape kit, (Not to mention the huge backlog of them never tested) and the need to continually rehash sometimes violent, traumatic experiences. This process has deterred many a person from reporting their assault. This is what is often referred to as the underreporting of rape, and is often estimated by attempting to figure out the number of people who have been assaulted compared to the number of court cases held. But we’ll get to the statistics later.

For those who are brave enough to report their cases, there is still no guarantee of justice. There have been a number of instances in which Deans at Universities decide whether cases are worth taking on as sexual assault cases. This was taken within the context of the University, but one can imagine that these cases happen outside of the University context. Thus, a defense in which one argues that Universities ought not to be investigating is invalid for discussing this particular detail.

Finally, even where there is evidence, and the survivor gets to trial, the odds are not particularly high for a serious conviction. Only 30% of suspects are convicted, and those are considered the slam-dunk cases. Additionally, this includes the specification, “Probability of being convicted and sentenced to incarceration for felony defendants.” So this isn’t flat-out convictions, but it does contain the number of people who received some jail time.

Of course, maybe jail isn’t necessarily the best option. As someone who understands the problems of the penitentiary system too well, I get that. But it is normally in cases of rape in which we are most dismissive about the charges and the context. It’s gotten to the point where politicians now feel comfortable discerning between legitimate and illegitimate forms of rape. Illegitimate rape tends to focus on forms of rape in which violence is not the principle form of coercion. In this regard, abuse by one’s superiors, verbal coercion, and of course, drinking are all forms of rape that are not considered legitimate by members of our legislative branch. This is a nice way of wrapping up the fact that the judicial system often has few answers for the survivor of sexual assault.

 2. The numbers

Warning: I am not a psychologist, nor a sociologist. I’m a student of history who has learned to read studies for a variety of reasons. I spent some time in political science, and other time in sociology. I am not the best person to summarize this section. The data is dated. This is because the point is to assess the ideological validity behind the data as well as the validity of the data themselves. Also, these studies suck at inclusivity, and explicitly deal in gender binary. Blah.

(I also owe an amazing amount to the literature review found here: https://www.ncjrs.gov/criminal_justice2000/vol_4/04g.pdf . Please, if you’re unconvinced by what’s laid out here, check this link out.)

              “1 in 4 women attending college will experience rape while on campus.”
This is a number that will often shock people. In fact, it has been the subject of heated debate over the past twenty or so years. This debate, however, has focused less on the numbers themselves, and more on what specifically counts as rape. The point of this section is to convince you that, regardless of how one cuts it, the numbers are based on a series of studies that have evolved from the late twentieth century, and do not evolve from forms of ideological basis insofar as the questions are asked. The surveys considered here include the National Crime Victimization Survey, Koss’ famous Sexual Experiences Survey (henceforth SES) and the later studies that sought to find common ground between the two (namely the National Violence Against Women study (NVAW) and the National Violence Against College Women study (NVACW)).
The National Crime Victimization Survey (henceforth, NCVS), is the major United States survey about crime. It was re-developed during the 80s and 90s to become more flexible in terms of not underreporting rape, whose availability begins in 1993. The NCVS is a rigorous, two-step survey. The first is asking a series of questions about an individual’s experience with crime. These questions operate as “gatekeepers” to the incident report. In order for a crime to count for the NCVS, it must get to the incident report. So, theoretically, if one of the gatekeeping questions does not cue the subject about sexual assault, her rape would go unreported. This was one of the major problems with the survey prior to its reformation in 1993. The reformation also included another cue: whether or not the crime was done by someone the survivor knew. The two questions that specifically were geared to cover sexual assault were as follows:

42a. People often don’t think of incidents committed by someone they know. (Other than any incidents already mentioned,) did you have something stolen from you OR were you attacked or threatened by (exclude telephone threats)—(a) Someone at work or school—(b) A neighbor or friend—(c) A relative or family member—(d) Any other person you’ve known?
43a. Incidents involving forced or unwanted sexual acts are often difficult to talk about. (Other than any incidents already mentioned,) have you been forced or coerced to engage in unwanted sexual activity by—(a) Someone you didn’t know before—(b) A casual acquaintance—OR (c) Someone you know well?

One of the main critiques about this survey question was that it did not indicate a distinction between verbal and physical coercion. That is to say, someone threatened verbally may not have considered that as something that counted. As it is, there was a huge jump in the NCVS numbers between 1992 and 1993—Fisher suggests the jump to be 323 percent for completed rape, and 96 percent higher for attempted rape (page 334). For the record, the overall increase of victimization for the NCVS data was 40 percent (also page 334). The study for 1993 can be found here (1992 is here, but it’s also an ASCII file lawl.) The relevant tables can be found in the beginning of the report, around pages 10-12. What is interesting to note is that while the overall report of rape is 2.3 per 1000 households, the rate jumps to 22 per 1000 households when looking at females aged 16 to 24, and 31 per 1000 for females 12 to 24. And while this is larger extrapolation, if taken over four years, the number would look something like 88 per thousand, or 8.8%.

Okay good, that’s a start. But, a few caveats: first, we might expect that the college campus, based on proximity and density of students, that all crime rates would be higher. Additionally, the NCVS was never meant to study rape explicitly—it was interested in the general phenomenon of violent crime. Thus, it would be difficult for the interviewers to focus specifically on rape itself. Further, as we already have seen earlier, and will continue to see later, rape is specifically a crime that suffers from underreporting merely from its nature. Thus, we might expect this 8.8% to be a pretty conservative number. How do we move from here?

One study explicitly focused on college-age women. Mary Koss, Christine Gidycz and Nadine Wisniewski published a paper entitled “The Scope of Rape: Incidence and Prevalence of Sexual Aggression and Victimization in a National Sample of Higher Education Students,” in 1987, for the Journal of Consulting and Criminal Psychology. While it did not quite have as large a sample size as the NCVS, it represented over 30 institutes of higher education, running the spectra from community college to Ivy leagues and included 2,972 men and 3,187 women whose demographics (unfortunately) largely reflected the reality of higher education at the time.

In order to understand the SES’s innovation, lets take Koss at her words: “Imagine yourself questioning an alcoholic: Do you have more than six alcoholic drinks in one sitting several times a week? Yes. Do you often wake up with such a hangover that you can’t go to work? Yes. Have friends and family members repeatedly tried to help you stop drinking? Yes. Do you suffer from withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking? Yes. Are you an alcoholic? No.”

It sought to see what happened when a survey asked about the behavior of rape without using the word. The idea was that women would be more willing to admit that they had been in situations that would qualify as rape under Ohio legal statute (The faculty were from Kent State University) if rape was not used as a word. Thus, the study used ten questions to ascertain whether women had faced any forms of sexual harassment, and if so, to what degree.

The results showed that 53% of women had been victimized in some form. They also showed that 27% of women had experienced attempted rape, or rape. This form of survey, known as the Sexual Experience Survey (henceforth SES) had been tested for reliability on smaller populations, but had yet to be attempted nationally. It was the researchers’ belief that the earlier flaws in methodology had been underreporting rape by either asking about it directly, or using national crime statistics, which for reasons above, were flawed before analysis began.

27% has been a lightning rod for critique of all sorts. There is some fundamental cognitive dissonance around this issue, but here is the basic conclusion: 27% of women, according to Ohio Law (although it is noted that the Ohio law does not differ significantly from most other states), were in situations qualified as rape. I was intending to demonstrate how explicitly Ohio law falls in line with the national average, but this post might be long enough already. Further, if one reads the study, this gem pops out:

“The groups labeled ‘rape’ (yes responses to Items 8, 9 or 10 and any lower numbered items) and ‘attempted rape’ (yes responses to Items 4 or 5, but not to any higher numbered items) included individuals whose experiences met legal definitions of these crimes.”

If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering “Well gee, where did question 6 and 7 go?” Let’s read them:
7. “Have you given in to sexual intercourse when you didn’t want to because you were overwhelmed by a man’s continual arguments and pressure?”

8. “Have you had sexual intercourse when you didn’t want to because a man used his position of authority (boss, teacher, camp counselor, supervisor) to make you?”

In other words, the 27% stat does not take “yes” to forms of verbal coercion into account, unless accompanied by inebriation, or violence. This was a particular point of contention for a number of people and ill-read critics, but reading this study suggests that the answer is irrelevant.

One weak point is question 8. It reads: “Have you had sexual intercourse when you didn’t want to because a man gave you alcohol or drugs?” (important to note: according to the 1987 study, this only accounted for 8% of the 25%, so even if every member of this group had misunderstood the context of the question, the rate would fall to 17%, closer to 1 in 5 women.)

Fortunately, researchers are often good at pointing towards these holes, and a subsequent study followed up, specifically looking at that question. In this study, Martin Schwartz and Molly Leggett substituted the question for “Have you engaged in sexual intercourse when you didn’t want to, but were so intoxicated under the influence of alcohol or drugs that you could not stop it or object?” In 1999, this study found a number that was basically equivalent to that of Koss’, admittedly with a much smaller sample size. The most important findings of Koss’ study on a whole, which have been replicated time (NIJ: 18% of women will experience a rape or attempted rape in their lifetime) and (NWS: only 22% of rape is committed by strangers) time again have yielded similar results in terms of several things: rape is underreported to authorities, rape is more often than not someone familiar to the victim and that 10-15% of women are raped within their lifetimes.

Unfortunately, the innovation of Koss was also her biggest weakness. A number of scholars asked the normal question: Did the women Koss survey think themselves as having been raped? In one study, 73% of women in Koss’ survey did not categorize themselves as having been raped, and 40% of them had continual sexual relations with the individual identified as a rapist. The second statistic has been treated as important for some reason I cannot understand. I guess the idea is that if one had not enjoyed their sexual relation with someone, they would not continue engaging in it, but such a model seems an incredibly poor one with which to correlate reality. There are all sorts of reasons why an individual might stay with another individual, even if it is within the context of an abusive relationship. I will address the issue of self-victimization vs. not in just a minute.

The most current set of data probably comes from the NVAW, which was aggregated for women on a whole rather than college and violence on a whole, rather than just rape. The methodology stemmed from a variety of considerations about cueing, trauma and victimization, all of which can be traced from methods drawn from the NVCS, Koss’ SES, the critiques of other scholars like Gilbert, and adjusted for regional considerations (for example, Koss’ study used Ohio legal codes, whereas not all states follow the same statutes.) The result? 17.6 percent of women surveyed had either been complete (14.8) or attempted rape (2.8) during their lives. This was a survey that took over 8,000 English and Spanish speaking women over the age of 18. I will not go into drastic detail about the methods used in in this survey, but it was also controlled for the following sets of methodological problems:

Whether respondents responded to behavioral, or verbal cues about rape in            a more accurate sense.

Whether respondents were confused by the nature of a question by providing definitions for actions.

Whether the definition meets legal criteria for rape (obviously one cannot meet all criteria for all states, but the survey used the legal definition for many States.)

Whether one ought to count incidents (i.e. legal reports) or response to screen           questions.

The study that immediately followed this one focused, again on college women and found numbers roughly comparable to that of Koss’ original study. Bonnie Fisher’s most recent study in 2004 found that 2.24 to 3.5% of women experienced a complete rape or attempted rate over the course of 6.9 months. Projecting is a little silly without serious reasons for rates in other parts of the year, but if one were to do it, it would be a rate of just over 5% in a year, which would yield about 21% over the course of four years. Closer to 1 in 5, but perhaps more accurate.

This still takes the question of self-victimization and deems it irrelevant to the conversation, and this has been the place in which people claim “feminist ideology” (*cough cough* Neil Gilbert) rather than good social science have leaked into the studies. In my uninitiated mind, these positions are a tad bit silly. Since the studies focused on legal definitions, the question of whether a woman identified herself as having been raped was a nonissue—one might think about how the state issues all sorts of control over what we can or cannot do with our bodies, suicide being the most prominent example. Thus, there is precedence for such a coding that does not require “feminist ideology.” Nevertheless, it is a pressing thorn in the side of such studies. For example, the study done in 2000 (page 369) found this to be a major issue, as roughly half of the population experiencing completed rape identified themselves as having been raped, while only 2% of the attempted rape population identified it as an attempted rape. Thus, if you insist on sticking to the idea that “it is not rape without people considering it such” that is indeed pretty damaging to the studies.

How might we gap this bridge? No data really exist for it. The best I could find was the NVAW study, on page 5, which asserts that 60% of women who had been raped within five years were somewhat or extremely concerned about their name being made public, whereas for all women, the number went to 50%. It’s not a huge dip, but it is evidence that time plays a factor in whether people are willing to associate their name with what happened. Additionally, 68% of all survivors and 61% within five years were concerned about others knowing, 71% and 66% with family knowing, and 69% and 66% about being blamed by others. Add these together, and you get a serious re-evaluation about whether anyone would consider themselves the survivor of a rape, even if it were blatantly obvious that such an event occurred.

If there are any aspiring sociologists out there, maybe create a survey in which you look at the rate of change in women’s identification as having been or not been raped. This may seem silly, but anecdotally speaking, this is a phenomenon that has been documented. The past couple of years, the University of Chicago has hosted its own form of the Clothesline Project, inclusive of individuals beyond the binary gender system, which is awesome, but also makes a direct comparison difficult, since all these surveys suck at dealing with the question of gender as a spectrum. Fortunately, this is an anecdote! A number of shirts had mentioned “hiding” the fact that they had been assaulted from themselves. I don’t want to bring attention to survivors who don’t want it, so I will simply close by mentioning that this is something that happens. The pathology of being a survivor of rape is so powerful, that sometimes individuals themselves will pretend like it doesn’t happen. If this is true on a national scale, we might imagine how this could distort the data.

I began this section with a warning: I am not a psychologist, nor am I a sociologist. I had to learn my social science paradigms in high school, and spent some time working with SPSS for Columbia over the course of a summer. I believe I can read social science studies, and somewhat understand the context of their research. I do not claim that my readings are 100% accurate. Nor did I consider the more technical aspects of experiments and social science methodology. First, because we can be here all day rehashing numbers. Second, because the more specific aspects of data cleaning and collection were never brought up as a serious area for error in the samplings. Third, because I am not the best person to engage in this arena. My strengths are focused on ideas and grander narratives, and if we are to believe Durkheim, then there is some value in what I’ve chosen to specialize. If you are interested in more rigorous assessments, the paper trail is in these links, and I tried my hardest to use numbers that would make the case weaker. In this instance, however, I do believe 1 in 5 is still an absurdly high number.

3. Lists
By now, we’re either in agreement that sexual assault is a problem on campus, or you’re still reading those surveys trying to figure out some loophole in which I’m wrong. Take your time, I’ll have a beer.

Anyway, there is one concern: the Hyde Park List is a self-report. That is to say, it is compiled by people who’ve had enough warning signs to submit names to the List. So it’s unlikely that these are the people who would shirk away from the label of “survivor”. In this light, it seems like the more relevant body of data would be somewhere between 8 and 27—maybe 12 or so. In my mind, this is still absurdly high, but okay, this is definitely a point to consider.

The best I can do in response is consider the general construction of the list. Lists are interesting things. On one hand, we all initially interpreted this to have some sort of connection to cases the University failed to prosecute, or otherwise evidence of serious sexual misconduct. It was to this end that the code colors were incredibly confused and people found names that had been guilty by the University as “orange” and people who were seemingly innocent as “red”. This was not an unfair assumption, as previous lists engaged with similar themes. While the Tumblr is once again down, the creators made their intent clear with the last set of edits: the list is not about rape, it is about warning individuals who otherwise would be unaware of a person’s pattern of behavior.

What I found most interesting about this particular list is the given assumptions that it was explicitly for potential victims. That is to say, the relationship of legality assumed, it was meant to keep innocents away from the guilty. However, the fact that there was no connection to a legal system seems to suggest to me, at least, that this list could serve the purpose of warning potential victims, but also potential attackers. Say what you want about the system—it’s imperfect, they aren’t being transparent, they don’t tell us what they mean by the colors—and I will probably agree with you. I will also state that I fundamentally believe the people who listed individuals here did so for a reason.

“Well gee, Marley, what is that belief founded upon?” Mostly the fact that I don’t think people make themselves or their allies potential targets for no good reason. Whoever created this list, despite their assurances to the contrary, had to be aware that the fallout would be negative, even within the University Community itself. When Politically Incorrect Maroon Confessions hit, even without the media, it was a huge problem within the University community. The same sorts of Facebook threads and comments were offered, with all sorts of ugliness leaking from every angle. It is possible that whoever created this list was not around for that particular episode, but it hardly stands alone (also does not seem likely with a name from 2012.) Remember when there were 100 boxes delivered to Phi Delt from the mysterious “reggin toggaf”? Remember when the Federal Investigations first opened up? Remember that UChicago Secret about the guy proudly waving a Confederate Flag where OMSA students could see it? These aren’t isolated outbursts of individual behavior, it’s a continual process in which minority groups across the spectrum are expected to engage with their oppressors benignly –there is honestly, no kinder way to put it. Thus, I believe the creators risked themselves and their friends for a reason, and that reason was to open up a channel in which dialogue might be had. Even their later plans for a Google document and allegations seems to indicate conversation and reconciliation rather than straightforward shunning. I believe that this list was not made from a place seeking to isolate and reject the names, but making sure that whatever actions they may have done in order to earn themselves a spot on a list don’t happen again.

There has been a large number of complaints about the role of methodology as seeming like a giant rumor mill, and that this ought to disqualify such a list all together. Rumors, oral testimony, and gossip on a whole have usually been dismissed in favor of more authoritative texts and records. However, pointing to the issues within the court system, I think we have poked enough holes in whether a legal evaluation is good enough to determine whether such behavior is detrimental. Even if we don’t trust ourselves to make that determination, the fact that many of the scholars listed in the second section of this post have moved past the criminal statistics makes it clear that their utility is short-lived, even when discussing rape. Their utility seems to only deteriorate when we move from rape to sexual harassment on a whole.

Further, we no longer live in the 20th century. By this, I mean to suggest that many disciplines have actually moved past the traditional bias against rumor as a source of logical and useful information. A number of historians have focused on the value that oral testimony has, not only when it is the exclusive form of transmission, but also when it survives alongside with texts (this is taken from a book published in 2000, entitled Speaking With Vampires, chapter 2 “Historicizing Gossip and Rumor.) These modes of transmission often operated subversively—communicating by mouth means there is no paper trail to follow—and often risked little in whatever given context they took place. Yet, even as we live in a world in which gag-rules can be uttered to protect the reputation of bonafide rapists, uttering a name as a whisper one might hear in the hall can become a powerful act of resistance. One risks much by such communication, sometimes receiving harsher sentences than the criminal acts themselves, but I won’t grandstand too much on this front. I will say that, in an era where anonymity is continuing to be the norm, it seems hardly productive in regards to moving forward. Let us keep the list going, not so that we may cast individuals out, but that they might learn from their mistakes and acknowledge what they’ve done.

This brings us to one last issue: that of collateral damage. Whether there is some concern about an individual on a list, and the context in which he came to be there. Maybe it’s a total mistake! Maybe the dude was mistaken for his twin brother! I think there was one telling point in the re-vamping of the Tumblr site, and that was the fact that the creators pointed out people are hurt all the time. I don’t think they were attempting to dismiss the damage that could be done by the list. Rather, they were pointing out the simple fact that people have suffered on the grounds of their identities for a very long time. This seems like “an eye for an eye” kind of logic, but I question whether viewing it as such is appropriate. To suggest “an eye for an eye” seems to imply, at least to me, some kind of equivalency. This is not equivalency. Generally speaking, one side has been transgressed physically, emotionally and academically. On the other, a name is posted on a Tumblr. This is not an insignificant posting, but to suggest that it is equivalent to the amount of suffering on the other side, I think, is quite a large step. The reality of this situation is that viewing the naming of individuals as an action equal to the long-term suppression of autonomous being is something only tenable within patriarchy.

4. Conclusion and Support

I’ve been saving this question for last (hint: we’re nearly done! YAY!). It’s a question that’s been rather dear to me of late. One of the most common things I’ve heard from what I think I can call allies is a form a qualified support that expresses disappointment. This list could have been perfect. It could have implemented a variety of things that would have made it a good thing. It had potential, but now it’s lost any minute amount of credibility it might have had.

Potential is an incredibly difficult thing to judge, and I hardly think it is fair to hold support back based on what seems like poor implementation. My reasoning for this can be found by a piece on Medium about Michael Brown. The whole thing feels so relevant to this section, but I will settle to quote the part of central concern:

“Maybe what we need is a 5’8, light-skinned, Harvard-bound star tennis player/violinist/poet that volunteers at the local pet shelter, bakes amazing blueberry muffins, speaks with a mid-Atlantic accent, has a white name, who has never taken a photo with anything other than a thumbs up and a smile, and just recently published a groundbreaking cure for cancer in Science.

And we need him to die. Someone needs to find this boy, and kill him in public. It’s our only hope.”

In context, the piece is seeking to make a point about the expectations we set up for those who challenge the status quo, intentionally or otherwise. So often we expect perfection, because we know in order for the status quo to change perfection is necessary. If we ever find our perfect case by which everyone will come to perfect agreement, either on statistics, anecdotes or the significance of being marginalized, it will be in the form of a god. Humans, as they exist, have faults. They make mistakes and (in our cases) have little world experience behind which they can support themselves.

The people who published this list were human. They were hurt, or knew others who were hurt enough to risk everything on this list. If we continue looking for the perfect pitch, it may never end up coming. Because ultimately, we raise each of these issues to a double standard that no human can possibly maintain. If there was a sense that sexual harassment was something for which people were accountable, then this list would not exist. If there was a society in which all people were given treatment like human beings, then this list would not exist. It is flawed, but so is every other response, institutional and personal, to this crisis.

This extends beyond simply the list. We can pretend all we like that the statistics don’t add up, that merit is maintaining wealth in families. We can act as though survivors deserve what they got in a plethora of ways. But the reality is that if we want to care about the end results of these situations, then perhaps we should stop only voicing our indignation when things like the list appear. “Think of their futures!” Exclaimed the CNN Reporters covering Steubenville. “Keep silent, or spend 180 days in jail!” The judge told Savannah Dietrich. It is ridiculous that we have begun to condemn people at their most desperate moments, rather than question how we allowed this to happen, and what we can do to change it.

Perhaps the reason why I feel so strongly about this list is I understand, on some base level, the exhaustion that its creators must be feeling. There has been such a complete lack of concern for the issues both within the University and in the general context of the New World Order. And here are many of us, divided based on whether we think such lists are appropriate to support because they seem ill-conceived.

Could this have been done better? Yes. But to be honest, I doubt any one in their positions would have done particularly better. Anyone who believes these names will be defamed for the rest of their lives is living in a land of delusion. And the fallout that continued, right on schedule, attacking individuals not because of their involvement with this list but because of their outspoken determination for something approaching equality is further evidence about the magnitude of this problem. I’m done expecting perfection from my peers, riding in boats similar to mine. Let’s see what we can actually contribute.

Violence Against Women-1999-SCHWARTZ-251-71 The Report in which Question 8 was reviewed by another study group, with a much smaller sample size, but consistent results.
Koss Report The report by Koss, Gidycz and Wisniewski

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4 thoughts on “The Hyde Park List

  1. Thanks for giving this such a thorough treatment here. A lot of people have raised issues of libel/slander, but one also has to wonder… is a list shared amongst friends and peers a “published” document? And even if it is, the Southern Poverty Law Center publishes lists of hate groups. Are they guilty of libel? Or are they justified watchdogs? #totallyrhetoricalquestion

  2. Hi mvlindsey. I want to ask you several questions that could suggest directions in which you might want to take your research.

    “There has been such a complete lack of concern for the issues both within the University and in the general context of the New World Order. And here are many of us, divided based on whether we think such lists are appropriate to support because they seem ill-conceived.” — I don’t think it is. I think the essence of the conversation about this list is simply: should we publish names or not? Yes, illuminaughtyboutique, this is a *published* list, the idea that the information would never get out of the community is childish. In fact, I think the comparison to “gossip” is inadequate and here’s why: gossip is spread through a chain of acquaintances . Person A holds a piece of information and tells Person B about it, in the circumstance in which A and B actually know each other. Gossip is not spread from one stranger to the next, at least it is not modeled as such by social network theory. What we have here is more of a “broadcast”, in which person A disseminates information to everyone in the vicinity (I consider the idea that we are all friends at UofC to be silly). The whole point of gossip is that the information is sensitive and you *don’t* want everyone to find out that it’s been leaked, only some people who you consider should be aware of it and in whose confidence you believe. Broadcasting on the other hand, has no such standards: the information is free for everyone. So back to the original question, the direct effect of this list is the publication of some names. Do you think the university should publish such names themselves? That might be a change worth fighting for.

    The second question is related to what intent we associate to the creators of the list. You mainly mention frustration with the current state of the legal system. So this does have to do with ensuring justice is delivered. Furthermore, what you seem to be implying is that this list is supposed to do what officials aren’t doing. (as they say in their own motto) Then I have to ask: is publishing the names of offenders really the best way to keep them from doing it again? You mention: ” Let us keep the list going, not so that we may cast individuals out, but that they might learn from their mistakes and acknowledge what they’ve done.” What exactly do you expect to happen to these individuals and furthermore, in what ways do you think this list has already affected them? Can it be that this list is supposed to punish them for their actions? Bear in mind that you are essentially using legal notions of them being re-educated (” learn from their mistakes”) and confessing to their crime (“acknowledge what they’ve done”). So in terms of intent, to me it sounds like they are taking justice into their own hands. And in that case, publishing a list of names is by no means the most effective way to do it, imo. There is also this notion that the intended effect is to prevent this from happening again and that is to be applauded. But I am afraid the gesture itself does not achieve it. There are several attempts at making this sort of prevention easier: http://www.npr.org/2014/08/13/339888170/smartphone-apps-help-to-battle-campus-sexual-assaults and I would have appreciated more a public campaign encouraging UofC students to participate in them, rather than a list whose mechanisms I am not clear about.

    And that brings me to my final questions: the creators themselves. While I have complete sympathy for them, I am not sure that they are the best people to be involved in delivering *justice*. I welcome and encourage their thoughts on how these awful experiences can be managed on the victim’s side, we must heal together. But from that to them taking action in handling their abusers’ social standing is a bit too much imo. The appropriate research question then becomes: what should the involvement of the victim be in the attempt to deliver justice? There is something very powerful and meaningful in being able to name your aggressor and that is why I would ask of the university to publicize the names of the accused and the outcome of their findings. But what I am not clear about is what would be the appropriate medium in which this should happen. The *lack* of involvement from the university is not a reason for me to think that we should try and recreate an alternative legal system based on the further active involvement of the victims (but I await studies that point to this generally being beneficial).

    On the more human side, I understand their frustration and encourage the creators of the list to keep fighting and help others heal. But precisely because I think they are fighting to good fight, I hold them to a higher standard. Godspeed!

    1. Hi! These questions are all fantastic, and I’ll do my best to engage with them fully.

      In regards to the question about gossip, I do think you have a point when it comes to gossip as it spreads from one person to another, but what about the central authority of gossip itself? That is to say, when Person A speaks to Person B, they make be speaking from experience, but they may also be speaking from the experience of Person Z, who asked Person A to keep the information on the down low, but Person A saw Person B in danger of the same experience. I think the point still holds that gossip is more controlled than a full broadcast, but it isn’t as closed as a two person circuit. And I think this is borne out more anecdotally by the less formal channel of “girl room talk” that I have been fortunate to hear about from people who engage with it. Again, my experience in such channels is extraordinarily limited, but we work with what we can. While this information normally does not reach those with whom it is concerned, if one’s role is not simply to warn, but to alert the source of such problems, then a new system is needed.

      Further, I think what differentiates broadcast from gossip is the shift from speech to writing. In fact, several of the same friends who likened this to “girl room talk” also said this seemed to be the radical step of writing down that which was already said. So many people have written about this question in so many different angles, so it’d be difficult to attempt a synthesis, but I think I’d take the cue from Derrida (feel free to punch me now, but I think it’s an important point!) When we speak about gossip, the source is suspect to (friendly?) interrogation. We know the person, how they act and what they mean. Even when they say a name we can kinda discern from their tone to what extent their emotion is one of warning or desire.

      We’re robbed of this with text. Text has a name, and we’re expected to draw our own conclusions from it. And I think this is the problem the list had to address and (I think we’re all in agreement here) messed up in the beginning. In this sense, I would completely agree with your assessment that pushing the university for published names would be a good step, since it would give some of this much-needed context, and maybe even subtext. I think the new aims of the Hyde Park List seem to imply that they’d like a further engagement than simply the delineation between “illegal and able to prosecute” and “legal and/or unable to prosecute”, the university’s publication would be an important first step for all their goals.

      Second, you are right that these are concepts employed by our legal system, but I am unsure if that makes them “legal” concepts. Learning from mistakes is something I would do in chess, or Phelps would do in swimming. Acknowledging what someone has done could equally apply to bad things (robbery, sexual assault, and so on) and good things (Yitang Zhang and twin prime conjectures!). I would rather state that these are concepts we use in order that we may continue becoming better people towards the things we value. Morality, and learning boundaries ought to be among those things. If we accept this, then I don’t think it’s necessarily taking justice (in a legal sense, mind you, I’m not trying to jump back to the Republic or something) in their own hands. One of the most difficult questions I think this whole deal unearthed for me is whether sexual harassment and/or assault necessarily makes one a bad, or at least irredeemable person. And to tie this in with the other part of this question (“What exactly do you expect to happen to these individuals and furthermore, in what ways do you think this list has already affected them? ) I will use an example of one name on the list. He is a friend of mine, and I am willing to bet a number of people would say “his name must be a mistake, he’s so funny/cool/considerate/awesome” etc. His response was to write a full out Facebook post, informing everyone on his list that this was a thing that happened, that he was named, and that if whoever named him would like to discuss it, he would like to find out why they thought he had assaulted them (this was before it was clear that the names were not simply about rape/attempted rape). If I was being a perfectionist, I might say the entirety of the tone was not gaslight-free, for example, but it was definitely an engagement in which he seemed willing to discuss what had happened to lead to his name being there. Are these difficult? Definitely. But can they lead to results in which survivors might find peace and assailants change their behavior? Maybe, but compared to the endless rounds of litigation required to move legal standards forwards, who knows?

      I found the NPR piece fascinating too, and definitely these could be useful in preventing assaults in the future. But they seem to operate under the same guise as gossip. Namely, maintaining tact at the cost of not addressing the root of the problem: Is there a miscommunication? Does the person in question simply not care about consent? I’m wondering if this is what the list wanted to bridge.

      Finally the last questions really do require a legal engagement, I think, to consider them in the vein that you proposed. So I will try my best, but I do think that it isn’t the best way to consider this a “legal” system in a traditional sense. It appears meant to be subversive to the legal realm, which allows the list access to a larger set of methodologies and ideas, while having fewer ramifications (indeed, I’m not sure that they have the access to names’ social status as you imply. Or at least, not nearly the reach people are giving them–any employer may find the list, sure. But then, they would also find the lack of methodology, the number of colors, and the whole whirlwind of doubt surrounding the list on a whole. Maybe it doesn’t so much matter in this economy, but tangent over.)

      Ultimately, I don’t think there would be much separation from your point that a legal engagement within the courts would perhaps be ideal. But if the first part of this is to be believed, then we have to understand that such an engagement does not often turn out well for victims. What then? Do we continue insisting that they move forward through a system, even as we know that they will likely never find a result that could bring closure? I think you and I both would say this is not the way to go, hence your suggestion about the University publishing names. And as I mentioned earlier, I would also agree this would be a positive step.

      The problem is, such pressure requires mobilization. It requires feeling like your community will support you, and understands the core of your experience (again, not speaking as a survivor, but I have had similar engagements with this university on other issues, such as racially suspect police interactions.) And I think part of the reaction to this list has pointed that there are a large number of individuals who become concerned when survivors begin implementing their own forms of justice in the absence of official forms, but that these individuals are not concerned when official justice has abandoned survivors. I’ve mentioned this in other areas, but the University of Chicago’s survivors (the ones I know, anyway) and their allies have hosted so many events, offered so many resources, given so many discussions about what they want, how to deal with sexual assault and a plethora of other topics. These events are normally attended by the same twenty people. Are survivors such a clique that people seem intimidated to join? I doubt it. At the heart of this approach is a call for help to the community, and I would genuinely like to see more people move towards it.

      I hope I reached everything, thanks for the civility! I thought comment sections were supposed to be downright unpleasant.

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