A walkout and protest at Princeton University's well-known alumni weekend served as a stark reminder that advocates for sexual assault victims care little for the due process concerns of anyone they accuse of sexual misconduct.
Princeton Alumni Weekend's Title IX Program Deteriorates in Walkout
Princeton University's alumni weekend festivities and programs are renowned for their keynote speakers, largely drawn from alumni, and school camaraderie. On a typical annual reunion, more than 25,000 alumni return to the campus to meet fellow classmates.
Central to this event is the alumni-faculty forums that delve into contemporary issues.
For the 2019 edition of Princeton's alumni weekend, which was held on the first weekend in June, one of those forums dealt with the #MeToo Movement and the procedures used to investigate and hear sexual harassment allegations.
On the panel were three Princeton alumni:
- Kellen Heniford, a Columbia University doctoral student
- Rachael Wong, the founder of the Hawaii nonprofit One Shared Future
- Beth Wilkinson, one of the founding partners of the Washington, D.C. law firm Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz
Ms. Heniford is a survivor of sexual violence.
Ms. Wilkinson is the attorney who defended Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax against allegations of sexual misconduct.
Ms. Heniford, rather than participate in the panel, read from a prepared statement to decry the decision to include Ms. Wilkinson in the discussion, saying, “I did not anticipate that the Alumni Affairs Office's version of ‘both sides' on the #MeToo issue would look like this — survivors and their defenders somehow pitted against a prominent defender of a prominent man accused of abuse.”
She then walked away from the panel, with several other attendees in tow.
The panel's discussion continued without them.
The One-Sided Reality of the #MeToo Movement
The incident, and particularly Ms. Heniford's quote, highlights how advocates for alleged victims of sexual abuse and harassment seem to think that they are entitled to a world that abides by their ideals, rather than an opportunity to have a meaningful dialogue that could shed light on the real problems of sexual assault and provide practical solutions.
Ms. Heniford had a written statement already prepared for the beginning of the panel – a statement that admitted that she knew the panel was supposed to be a discussion with people from “both sides” of the debate, and that she rejected it outright precisely because it would not be a rally by and for victim advocates like herself. This attitude – that dialogue is not worth having, and that outright capitulation to the demands of victim advocates is the only possible outcome – is at the heart of the problems with Title IX law. Due process concerns are irrelevant to them because they have bypassed the possibility that sexual misconduct allegations could possibly be vindictive and that the accused could actually be innocent.
National Title IX Advisor Joseph D. Lento
Joseph D. Lento is a national Title IX advisor who aims to fight that destructive attitude by being an advocate for those who have been accused of sexual misconduct and who are facing Title IX action. Contact him online or call his law office at (888) 535-3686.