Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Twenty Seventh Amendment

"No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened."

Now that I have been elected senator, I hereby set my salary at $25,000,000 per year! This amendment protects against this very issue.

DeMint tries to ban 'permanent politicians'

Sen. Jim DeMint says Washington politicians are like fruit on the vine: the longer they hang around, the more rotten they get.

The South Carolina Republican - hearkening back to the days of the party's "Contract with America" - on Tuesday offered a fix to the corrupting influence of "permanent politicians," introducing an amendment to the Constitution that would limit Senate members to three six-year terms and House members to three two-year terms.

"As long as members have the chance to spend their lives in Washington, their interests will always skew toward spending taxpayer dollars to buy off special interests, covering over corruption in the bureaucracy, fundraising, relationship building among lobbyists, and trading favors for pork - in short, amassing their own power," said Mr. DeMint, who is running for a second term next year.

Senate leaders and longtime Washington watchdogs said Mr. DeMint's bill had a zero chance of becoming law, mostly because of a general lack of interest and the high hurdles to amending the Constitution.

"It's a great issue to talk about, but it's not going to happen," said Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the Democratic majority's second-highest ranking leader.

Mr. Durbin said he didn't know whether the bill would even get a vote.

Term limits have not been a cause celebre on Capitol Hill since the issue featured prominently in the "Contract with America" that helped the Republican Party win control of Congress in 1994. House Republicans brought three versions of constitutional amendments for term limits to the floor in 1995 and each failed to win the two-thirds majority needed to pass.

Melanie Sloan, executive director of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), disagrees with Mr. DeMint's premise that politicians get more corrupt the longer they serve.

"There are plenty of bad members who have been there a short time and plenty of bad members who have been there a long time," she said. "Length of service just isn't telling enough. It doesn't make a great member or a terrible member."

Mrs. Sloan said the amendment appeared to be more about Mr. DeMint making a statement than about changing the Constitution.

DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton said the bill will succeed if the American public get behind it and force lawmakers to put it to a vote.

It takes a two-thirds vote of approval in both chambers to pass a constitutional amendment and then it must be ratified by three-fourths of the states. The last one to succeed - the 27th Amendment that delays pay raises for members of Congress until after the next election - was proposed in 1789 as part of the Bill of Rights but was not ratified by the states until 1992.

Despite the long odds, Mr. DeMint's bill picked up two Republican cosponsors: Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who is running for a second term next year and has pledged to not seek a third, and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas, who is in her third full term but next year is running for governor.

This amendment is important for obvious reasons. It would be a huge conflict of interest if congress could set their own salaries.

Twenty Sixth Amendment

Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Okay they can vote, they can fight for our country, but they cannot consume alcohol? This is a controversial subject. I am 22, and could care less if 18 year old's can drink, but when I was 18 I certainly had a different point of view...

Guest Commentary
By Abby Goldstein (Posted first at neontommy.com)

Last week, the University of California Board of Regents voted to increase student tuition by 32 percent to help close the system's $535 million budget gap. The ensuing protests and demonstrations have been some of the most heated since the Vietnam War. As a current student of a private university in Southern California whose epic tuition continues to trudge upward each year, I initially viewed the change in circumstances of the school to our west with cynicism and doubt.
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I still find it unfortunate that for those students who do not qualify for Cal Grants and financial aid, or those who do not have enough money to cover the new increases. This money will come directly from the savings and loans of those students and their families.

But as an unaffected party, I can't help but wonder: might this be a good thing?

During one of the sit-in demonstrations, perhaps the demonized administrative officials should begin by encouraging indignant students to simply pick up a newspaper.

Newspapers which show the overcrowding of state prisons, the ever-depleting credit ratings of California bonds, dangerous pension liabilities for state employees, and that special gift that will be passed on to California's Generation Y: terrifying levels of state debt.

The 32% tuition hike at UC campuses is just a preview of what's to come in the next 40 years for those of us born after 1980.

So perhaps this will be the wake up call we politically active Gen Y'ers have been waiting for. Only about one in four eligible California voters under the age of thirty voted in the 2006 midterm elections.

In 2010, another midterm election year, we'll be electing a new Governor, Senator, and a host of statewide legislators. There has never been a more crucial time for UC students to make their voices heard.

The tuition hike will drive out many working class families from being able to afford the quality public education that was promised to California. This is a serious problem for current and future students from working and middle class backgrounds. But in the grand scheme of public decisions on who is to carry the state's debt, this was probably Plan Z.

Some advice to my fellow sufferers of student debt: protests get you nowhere. Civic participation - in large numbers - is the only way the state will take you seriously. Outbursts get you tasered; it's votes that get your money back.

The 26th Amendment was designed for just this purpose - allowing college-aged students to vote their way out of Vietnam. In November 2010, prove to the state that you're worthy of your already underpriced education and your right to vote at age 18.

Tell the state to pick on someone its own size, and to leave them kids alone.

It is unfair that at one time, 18 year old's had to fight in our country's wars but could not vote. This amendment certainly helped Obama into office.

Twenty Fifth Amendment

Section 1. In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.
Section 2. Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.
Section 3. Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.
Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

This man certainly shares my point of view about Mrs. Pelosi. It would be a catastrophe if she was ever let into the oval office. Praise the 25th!!

The point has been made several times in recent months that Nancy Pelosi is third in line to become president. If something should happen to both President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, Mrs. Pelosi would become president, a prospect some find dismaying, not to mention the end of civilization as we know it.

The worriers need not head for the hills. The 25th Amendment almost guarantees that Mrs. Pelosi will never make it to the White House as chief tenant.

The Constitution states that if the president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, “the same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by law, provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Disability, both of the President and Vice President …” But, despite several close calls down the years, including two protracted cases of severe presidential disability, Congress was laggard in filling in the details.

James Madison, fourth president, was the first to have a vice president die in office. In fact, Mr. Madison had two vice presidents die on his watch. George Clinton died during the first Madison term, and Elbridge Gerry during the second. That has happened to no other president. Mr. Madison served almost half his eight years in office without a vice president. Had he died in office, Congress would have had to fill the vacancy. It might have been a contentious business.

The first president to die in office was old William Henry Harrison in 1841, only a few weeks after his inauguration. He was succeeded by John Tyler, who immediately got into a controversy about whether he was actually president or merely an acting president. The Constitution is not clear on the point, but Mr. Tyler insisted that he was president, no ifs, ands or buts, and so things have stood ever since. He finished out the term without a vice president.

In fact the country has sometimes functioned for years without a vice president. James Madison, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester Arthur, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson all had to serve without vice presidents after they succeeded men who had died in office. So, briefly, did Ulysses Grant, after Henry Wilson died at his desk toward the end of Mr. Grant’s second term.

Congress at various times specified who should succeed to the presidential office should both president and vice president be unable to serve. But the problem of an incapacitated president was never addressed head-on, despite two scary episodes. On July 2, 1881, President James Garfield was shot and lingered on, incapacitated, for more than two months. He finally died on Sept. 18, and was succeeded by Vice President Chester Arthur. But during those two months, the nation was essentially without a president. Although he may have signed a few documents, Mr. Garfield was obviously unable to function properly as the chief executive of the nation. When Attorney General James G. Blaine suggested that the Cabinet declare Mr. Arthur president, everyone, including Mr. Arthur, opposed the idea.

Even worse was what happened on Oct. 2, 1919. President Woodrow Wilson, just back from Europe and the peace negotiations at Versailles, was barnstorming across America trying to win support for his League of Nations. Exhausted, he had just returned to Washington when, according to one account: “On the morning of Oct. 2, Mrs. Wilson found her husband unconscious on the bathroom floor of their private White House quarters bleeding from a cut on his head. Wilson had suffered a stroke — a massive attack that left his left side paralyzed and impaired his vision. … For seventeen months the enfeebled President lay on his bed on the brink of death, barely able to write his own name.”

For the next year and a half, Mrs. Wilson controlled access to the ailing president. The press and the Congress could find out almost nothing beyond the occasional reassurance that the president was improving. He did improve slightly, but he never fully recovered. People began to call Mrs. Wilson the first woman president.

Still, nothing was done. Twenty-five years later, Congress listened to President Franklin Roosevelt on his return from the Yalta conference. He was wan and gaunt, obviously near the end. A few weeks later he suffered the stroke that killed him. He died within hours, but he might have lingered on, comatose, for weeks or months. He was succeeded by Harry Truman, who finished out the term without a vice president.

Finally, 22 years after the death of FDR, the 25th Amendment became part of the Constitution. It covers several contingencies, notably that if the vice president dies in office, the president shall nominate someone to fill the vacancy, that person to take the office after being confirmed by a majority vote in both houses of Congress.

That provision has been used only twice, under somewhat bizarre circumstances. In October 1973, Vice President Spiro Agnew, under indictment for corruption, resigned his office. President Richard Nixon replaced him with Gerald Ford. The following year, Mr. Nixon, under the threat of impeachment, resigned the presidency. Mr. Ford succeeded him and selected Nelson Rockefeller to be vice president. It is hard to imagine how that messy series of events would have been dealt with had the 25th Amendment not been in place.

One hundred and eighty years after the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia, a weakness in the Constitution was rectified. We should be thankful.

One of my favorite actors of all time, the man, the myth, the legend... Alec Baldwin. No one could do it better.

Twenty Fourth Amendment

Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.
Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

This amendment outlaws poll taxes. Good, the last thing we need is more taxes...

Claiming health care bill "is unconstitutional," Huckabee compares individual mandate to poll tax

December 03, 2009 12:13 pm ET by Media Matters staff

From Mike Huckabee's December 2 Q&A with Christianity Today:

Would you vote for the health-care bill if the Stupak amendment [that bans funding for abortion] was retained in the final version?

Absolutely not. First of all, I don't have any confidence that the Democrats in the House plan to honor that in the long term, and secondly, if abortion wasn't even a part, it's still going to create huge deficits. It's a job-killing bill. It intrudes into an area of people's responsibilities and rights as citizens. I think the bill on its face is unconstitutional, in that it requires the purchase of a product for a person to exercise his or her rights as a citizen. We already decided that's unconstitutional when we outlawed the poll tax that required people to pay money in order to vote, because the Supreme Court declared that you can't make people pay money in order to enjoy the rights and benefits of citizenship. That's exactly what this bill does, and I think it's an outrage and an insult to the Constitution and to the citizens of the United States.

This is a frightening video, but I think they get their point across. Poll taxes are unfair and now... unconstitutional.

Twenty Third Amendment

Section 1. The District constituting the seat of Government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as the Congress may direct:
A number of electors of President and Vice President equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a State, but in no event more than the least populous State; they shall be in addition to those appointed by the States, but they shall be considered, for the purposes of the election of President and Vice President, to be electors appointed by a State; and they shall meet in the District and perform such duties as provided by the twelfth article of amendment.
Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article using appropriate legislation.

This amendment gives residents of our nations capital the right to vote and to be represented.

Tom Braslavsky: Representation or revolvers

by Tom Braslavsky
Hatchet Columnist

Congressional representation seems to be a debate on gun rights. The D.C. Voting Rights Act, which would give our city an official representative in the House, has stalled for the past nine months. In February, it passed in the Senate - but only after being stamped with additional language that would abolish many of Washington's already depleted gun laws. The House seems unsure of what to do, with an influential pro-gun lobby splitting the Democrats while D.C. residents wait. Thank you for helping the nation's capital, National Rifle Association.

The past week has been replete with news about deadly shootings around the country. There was last Thursday's tragic Fort Hood, Texas massacre, in which an Army psychiatrist killed 13 people and wounded 30. The next morning, a disgruntled and schizophrenic Orlando man shot up his old office, killing one and injuring five. A Tuesday shooting in Walterboro, S.C. killed three - including a one-year-old baby - and injured five. There's more where that came from.

Maybe you support the vague constitutional "right to bear arms" as a cause for liberty. I know there are varying interpretations of the second amendment, and various readings of its reference to a "well-regulated Militia."

But don't you think there's something wrong when a man like Maj. Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood suspect, can go into a Texas gun shop and easily buy a semi-automatic FN Herstal pistol recommended for combat use by NATO? What if he then uses it to massacre unsuspecting soldiers at an Army base?

The perpetrator of the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, who had a history of troubling mental health issues, was able to buy a Glock and a Walther handgun, one in a Virginia gun shop and the other online. All he did was sign a couple of forms and show his ID. He was then given the weapons to use at his discretion. In his case, this meant murdering 32 people, injuring 23 and then turning the gun on himself.

But no, you say, "Guns don't kill people; people kill people." So let me ask you another question: How many massacres have been committed in our country using other tools? What is a crazed, bloodthirsty individual to do? Obviously, guns are murderers' tools of choice. And for one simple reason: they were created with the purpose of killing.

I have long been fascinated by the gun rights movement. How ridiculous is it that there is a vast movement in our country for the "right" to own deadly weapons? It just doesn't add up. We do live in an enlightened society, I try to tell myself; but where is our common sense?

Here's some common sense: According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's statistics for 2006, the latest year available, firearms were used in a total of 12,791 homicides and 16,883 suicides. That makes guns culpable in almost 30,000 violence-related deaths. That's equivalent to the 9/11 tragedy 10 times over.

If laws cannot stop deranged individuals from buying deadly weapons, how can groups like the NRA argue for even laxer gun regulations? D.C.'s ban on handguns was overturned last year, yet D.C. residents are still prohibited from carrying open or concealed weapons. Some interest groups want those rules, as well as others still in place, to go.

Right now, we may have to choose between representation in Congress and the peace of mind of walking down a safe street without worrying about every second person carrying a gun. If that is the case, it looks like "taxation without representation" should remain our motto for some time longer.

Amendment 23 is pretty straight forward and uncontroversial. I will let this dweeb explain it for me...

Twenty Second Amendment

Section 1. No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. But this article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President when this article was proposed by the Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.
Section 2. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission to the States by the Congress.

To bad Reagan couldn't have just held office until he died. There should be exceptions...

Clinton: Library Meant To Teach Lesson On Action

By John Lyon
Arkansas News Bureau • jlyon@arkansasnews.com

Friday, November 20, 2009 10:00 AM CST
LITTLE ROCK — Former President Bill Clinton said Wednesday he intended for his presidential library to teach the lesson that taking action can change the world — a lesson he said is important as the nation debates issues like health-care reform and global warming.

“I wanted people to come to this library and leave and ... I wanted them to believe that decisions have consequences in real people’s lives, and therefore that we should all care about the political system,” Clinton said at a luncheon celebrating the fifth anniversary of the library’s opening.

Other Stories Of Interest

In a 35-minute speech on the library’s lawn, Clinton said he sometimes worries that people may not understand the imperative to change, or believe that change is possible.

“One thing I know for sure, it’s not poverty that breaks people. It’s the conviction that you can’t make tomorrow different from yesterday that breaks them,” he told an audience of about 1,000 people that included Hollywood actress Mary Steenburgen.

Health care and energy are two areas where change is necessary, Clinton said.

“We’ve got to get our heads out of the sand,” he said. “The average difference of what we spend (on health care) and our wealthiest competitors is a little over 6 percent of our income. You add 6.5 percent of $14.7 trillion, I think it’s about $900 billion a year.”

Clinton asked the audience to imagine what would happen if he were to ask the American people to overturn the 22nd Amendment and elect him president for a third term, with the promise that if elected he would put a $900 billion tax on the people and then burn the money.

“How many votes do you think I’d get?” he asked. “If you don’t want anything done about health care, that’s your position.”

Clinton also said the nation can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create jobs through energy efficiency. Only 5 percent of scientists dispute that global warming is a reality, he said.

“I’m not going to put my daughter and the grandchildren I hope to have, their future, in the hands of the 5 percent when the 95 percent are advocating something that we can do and create jobs and bring America’s economy back,” he said.

The Clinton Library was the first federally maintained building to receive a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, rating for environmentally sustainable construction.

Clinton called the presidential library “light and airy and happy” and said he is pleased that 1.6 million people have visited it, but it is time to think of ways to improve it.

“I want to know what you think we can do to be a better neighbor, to be a better partner, to be a better educator, to do this job better. I want you to send your suggestions to us at the library, and I promise you they will all be taken very seriously,” he said.

Clinton also announced that the long-awaited renovation of the Rock Island railroad bridge near the library as a pedestrian and bicycle bridge will begin in 2010, though he did not offer a date. Some funds still need to be raised, he said.

Clinton Foundation spokesman Jordan Johnson said later about $7.5 million has been secured for the $10.5 million renovation project. Of that amount, $4 million will come from the Clinton Foundation, $2.5 million from the state and $1 million from the city of Little Rock.

The weather was cloudy but dry in Little Rock on Wednesday, in sharp contrast to the heavy rains that fell during the library’s dedication ceremony five years ago. Taking no chances this time, organizers arranged for the anniversary luncheon to take place inside a covered pavilion.

Because of its rectangular shape, the library has been compared to a trailer home, but at the 2004 dedication ceremony, “I wished it looked like Noah’s ark,” Clinton joked Wednesday.

Looks like President Obama might need to do a little research. He also better hope things turn around or its going to be a quick four years!

Twenty First Amendment

Section 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
Section 2. The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.
Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.

Cheers!! What a terrible amendment in the first place.

Anthony Gregory: Enduring Legacy of Prohibition

Guest columnists

Rarely in modern times does Washington withdraw from an area of domestic affairs. December 5 marks the seventy-sixth anniversary of the 21st Amendment, repealing alcohol prohibition.

One of the most energetic political causes in the late 19th and early 20th century was the “temperance” movement, which aimed to ban liquor. The movement comprised religious conservatives, nativists who wanted to crack down on immigrants and minorities, and progressives, who defined their era by their dedication to preemptive justice and their ambitious goal to create a new, refined American man through the force of central planning and federal government power.

The progressive and prohibitionist movements culminated after World War I, when anti-German propaganda contributed to an American taboo against beer and when the spectacle of drunken debauchery of U.S. soldiers on military bases provided the last excuse needed to attempt the “Noble Experiment” of prohibition.

In 1919, the 18th Amendment and Volstead Act nationally outlawed alcohol, a drug used by civilizations for millennia. Liquor violations quickly dominated the criminal justice system. By 1924, the population of federal prisons had almost doubled. A 1923 congressional study found that state attorneys spent about 44 percent of their time on prohibition cases. Corruption consumed the legal system. Prohibition chief Lincoln C. Andrews testified in 1926 that 875 Prohibition Bureau officials had been dismissed for corruption, bribery and misconduct.

Criminal gangs controlled the illegal booze market. Five thousand speakeasies were operating in Chicago alone. Violent crime infested the cities. By the onset of the Great Depression the experiment had been such a failure that even many of its most vocal proponents had turned against it. When prohibition ended in 1933, the violent gangs closed their operations and, despite the increasing poverty of the Depression era, rates of homicide and other crimes plummeted.

Today, as tens of millions of Americans drink in moderation, we can hardly imagine that such behavior was federally verboten not too long ago. When we see the remaining problems associated with alcohol, we must fight the urge to relive the social experiment of prohibition that turned our institutions completely rotten and plagued our streets with bootleggers and shootouts.

Yet much of the prohibitionist legacy remains. Four years after the 21st amendment, Franklin Roosevelt signed the Marihuana Tax Act into law, prohibiting the drug. Whereas politicians had once respected the Constitution enough to recognize that it must be legally amended to federally ban alcohol, the war on other drugs continues without any constitutional justification.

Today's drug war is much worse than alcohol prohibition was. We have half a million people in prison, an overwhelmed judicial system, militarized enforcement, assaults on civil liberties, a foreign policy distorted by drug-war goals and, according to many economists, about twice as many homicides as we would expect if drugs were legal.

All the problems with alcohol prohibition persist in relation to today's illicit drugs, except on a larger scale.

The puritanical mindset behind alcohol prohibition persists. Drinking ages, open-container laws, state-level alcohol distribution regulations and DUI laws have become ever more draconian, leading to overcrowding jails, erosion of individual liberties, cruel disruption of the lives of the peaceful, and dubious results in actually making our roads and cities safer. Alcoholic drinks with caffeine may soon be outlawed by the FDA. Meanwhile, cigarette smokers are being targeted on the margins. Politicians threaten legislation against transfats and other allegedly unhealthy foods.

It was a great day when alcohol prohibition was lifted and the liberty to drink was restored to the American republic. But the people never fully grasped the significance of prohibition as a governmental usurpation of individual choice and family and community life. Alcohol prohibition is over, thank goodness. But the heavy-handedness of the progressives' greatest social experiment continues today under the banner of other crusades – with the same predictable results.

Anthony Gregory is a research analyst at The Independent Institute, Oakland, Cal.

Ok, after watching this..maybe we spoke to soon. This guy needs a little 18th in his life.

Twentieth Amendment

Section 1. The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.
Section 2. The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall begin at noon on the 3d day of January, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.
Section 3. If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified; and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.
Section 4. The Congress may by law provide for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the House of Representatives may choose a President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them, and for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the Senate may choose a Vice President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them.
Section 5. Sections 1 and 2 shall take effect on the 15th day of October following the ratification of this article.
Section 6. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission.

This amendment seeks to smooth out the transition between elected officials. Boring... but important.


Party crashing is nothing new

News_Steve Popp_Columnist_head shot_THIS
By Steve Popp
December 01, 2009 at 10:00 AM

Perhaps Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson inspired you, and in a fit of impulsiveness you crashed a wedding reception.

Or possibly you just couldn’t resist the tempting lunch buffet for conventioneers at the hotel you were staying and sampled some food not meant for you.

Hypothetically speaking, of course.

Regardless of the event or venue, the odds are pretty good that here in Houston’s vibrant social scene there is at least some party-crashing going on every night of the week.

But crashing a Presidential State dinner? Now that’s brazen.

In case you missed it over the Thanksgiving holidays, the Washington D.C. beltway “punditocracy” was abuzz after a Virginia couple crashed President Obama’s first state dinner. The dinner honored Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gusharan Kaur. The event was filled with glitz and glamour, but also rather serious protocol. As First Lady Michele Obama explained, the dinner is a “really important part of our nation’s diplomacy.”

President Ulysses S. Grant held the first formal state dinner in 1874 for King Kalakaua of Hawaii, and since then, Presidents have used the event to highlight diplomatic relations and stress international goodwill. Obama viewed this dinner as an opportunity for the United States and India to “realize all the triumphs and achievements that await us.”

I don’t think headlines about party-crashing reality TV aspirants were what the White House had in mind for their first event.

The Party Crashers

Michaele and Tareq Salahi, apparent hopefuls for the Bravo series The Real Housewives of Washington, rolled up to the formal diplomatic event with cameras in tow. Despite not being on the list of the 300 or more guests, they cleared the first round of security screening and made it in the event. To the embarrassment of the Secret Service, they then strode across the red carpet and rubbed elbows with all sorts of politicians and celebrities. They were not seated for dinner. They did, however, get some nice party pics.

These reality stunts never seem to end up too well (Balloon Boy anyone?). Yet in my book, the Salahi’s stunt is not the most spectacular story of White House party crashing.

The Real Party Crashers of Washington D.C.

Andrew Jackson’s Inaugural ceremony in 1829 set the bar for party crashing. Jackson, who we all know from the twenty-dollar bill, became the seventh President championing the slogan “let the people rule”.

And that’s exactly what happened at the post-inauguration bash at the White House on March 4, 1829. It was balmy and 57 degrees. We don’t really have many balmy inauguration days any more thanks to the 20th Amendment. Ratified in 1933, the amendment moved the Inauguration ceremony from March to January 20th to cut back on the lame duck period between Election Day in November and the day the President took the oath of office.

But it was at the White House post-party where things started to go bad. Washington D.C. resident Margaret Bayard Smith, eyewitness to the inaugural bash, recounted the litany of social horrors: among them, tracking mud all over the carpets. She also surmised “cut glass and china to the amount of several thousand dollars had been broken in the struggle to get the refreshments.”

“Ladies fainted,” she continued, “men were seen with bloody noses and such a scene of confusion took place as is impossible to describe.” President Jackson had to escape to avoid being “suffocated and torn to pieces by the people.”

And this is my favorite part: During the melee, quick thinking Presidential aides lured the unruly crowd outside with tantalizing washtubs filled to the brim with the 19th century version of trashcan punch--whiskey and orange juice. Now that’s a party!


When the Salahi’s got within inches of President Obama, many were rightfully aghast. But at least there was security at the state dinner. In 1829, the Secret Service didn’t exist.

The agency was created 36 years later in 1865, but only maintained a part time responsibility for protecting the President. However, after the assassinations of three sitting Presidents in 30 years, that changed, and the Secret Service became full time guardians of the President. (As an aside, the assassination of Robert Kennedy in 1968 prompted Congress to order security protection for Presidential candidates. In May 2007, Obama started receiving Secret Service protection, earlier than any other Presidential candidate.)

So with tubs filled full of whiskey and no Secret Service to be found, the inauguration of Andrew Jackson set the standard for Washington party crashing.

And Jackson’s inauguration party was a hard act to follow. For his second inaugural, they gave it their all by bringing in a 1400-pound block of cheddar cheese in 1835. Cheddar in lieu of whiskey certainly kept the crazies at bay.

Let’s not be surprised if a block of cheddar is brought in for Obama's next state dinner.

Allow this guy to explain the 20th to you. He uses the most technologically advanced equipment. This amendment happened in 1947.

Nineteenth Amendment

"The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

This amendment is important because it gives our women a say in our government.

College Victims of Sexual Assault victimized again

Monday, December 07, 2009

by Kristen Lombardi

Three hours into deliberations by the University of Virginia’s Sexual Assault Board, UVA junior Kathryn Russell sat with her mother in a closet-like room in sprawling Peabody Hall. Down the corridor, two professors and two students were deciding her fate. Russell was replaying in her mind, endlessly, details of her allegations of rape when, she remembers, Shamim Sisson, the board chair, stepped into the room and delivered the order: You can’t talk about the verdict to anyone.

That stern admonition was a reminder of the silence Russell had been keeping since, she says, she struggled to break free from a fellow student’s grip in her dorm. That’s the account she gave local authorities, who declined to prosecute. And that’s what, in May 2004, she told the UVA Sexual Assault Board, whose decision she’d considered “my last resort.”

Russell stands among the tiny minority of students who have pursued rape complaints in the college judicial system — 33 at UVA, a school of 21,057 students, since 1998. She became well-versed in the confidential nature of the process as described in the school’s 2004 written procedures. Deans repeated the blanket stipulation to her “ad nauseam,” she says, throughout her three-month proceeding. The school later defended its mandatory confidentiality policy before the U.S. Department of Education even while softening the language.

Relating the gag order back in the room, Sisson, Russell says, provided a strong incentive to keep quiet: If you talk of the verdict, you’ll face disciplinary charges.
At the time, the exchange didn’t faze Russell, who says she did as told in an effort to get justice. But five years later, she’s come to see the school’s old confidentiality policy as emblematic of just how far colleges and universities will go to keep secret cases of alleged sexual assault. And a recent ruling by the Education Department against UVA for a policy “inconsistent with the letter and spirit” of the law has resulted in significant changes there.

But an array of controversial practices at UVA and college campuses elsewhere continues to shroud the college judicial system in controversy. Indeed, a nine-month investigation has found that a thick blanket of secrecy still envelops cases involving allegations of sexual assault on campus. One national study reports that roughly one in five women who attend college will become the victim of a rape or an attempted rape by the time she graduates. But while the vast majority of students who are sexually assaulted remain silent — just over 95 percent, according to a study funded by the research arm of the U.S. Justice Department — those who come forward can encounter mystifying disciplinary proceedings, secretive school administrations, and off-the-record negotiations. At times, policies lead to dropped complaints and, in cases like Russell’s, gag orders later found to be illegal. Many college administrators believe the existing processes provide a fair and effective way to deal with ultra-sensitive allegations, but alleged victims say these processes leave them feeling like victims a second time.

Interviews with some 48 experts familiar with the disciplinary process — student affairs administrators, conduct hearing officers, assault services directors, victim advocates — as well as 33 female students who have reported being raped by other students. The inquiry has included a review of records in select cases, and examinations of 10 years worth of complaints filed against institutions with the U.S. Education Department under Title IX and the Clery Act — two laws requiring schools to respond to assault claims and to offer key rights to alleged victims. In addition, 152 crisis-services programs and clinics on or near college campuses nationwide over the past year were surveyed.

Just over half the students interviewed have reported they unsuccessfully sought criminal charges and instead had to seek justice in closed, school-run administrative proceedings that led either to academic penalties or no punishment at all for their alleged assailants, leaving them feeling betrayed by a process they say has little transparency or accountability. Some of those students, including Russell, said they were ordered to keep quiet about the proceedings and threatened with punishment if they did not. Still other students said administrators discouraged them from pursuing rape complaints. Survey respondents indicated similar problems with the closed procedures on campuses.

Undoubtedly, another law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, complicates the issue. FERPA forbids schools from divulging students’ educational records, including disciplinary records. Administrators believe it binds them to silence on case details, but others aren’t so sure. Under FERPA, colleges can release names of students found “responsible” for committing violent acts. But “we don’t,” concedes Rick Olshak, associate dean of students at Illinois State University, “and I don’t know anyone who does, frankly.” Victim advocates contend that colleges use the law as a smokescreen to cover up campus crimes.

“Most institutions have a strong interest in keeping sexual assaults as quiet as possible,” says David Lisak, an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts- Boston, who has trained college administrators on combating sexual violence. Typically, Lisak notes, administrators view campus sexual assault as “a very negative piece of publicity,” tarnishing institutional reputations, and heightening fears among tuition-paying parents and students for whom colleges are aggressively competing.

College administrators bristle at the idea they’re shielding rapes. But they admit they’ve wrestled with confidentiality in campus assault proceedings because of FERPA and the Clery Act. Confusion over the laws has reinforced what critics see as a culture of silence that casts doubt on the credibility of the process. “People will think we’re running star chambers,” says Don Gehring, founder of the Association for Student Conduct Administration, referring to secret, arbitrary courts in old England. “And that’s what’s happening now.”

Kathryn Russell’s Allegations

Russell first approached the UVA administration in February 2004. UVA is required by Title IX regulations to respond “promptly and equitably” when a student alleges sexual assault — investigating the claim and taking action to eliminate harm. Most institutions, including UVA, list “sexual assault” or “sexual misconduct” as prohibited acts in their official standards of conduct — allegations of which automatically trigger internal disciplinary processes.

A petite, perky student who counted herself “a nerd,” Russell reported that she had been raped on February 13 by a fellow junior whom she’d gotten to know through a class and a club the year before. On a campus prone to what UVA assault-services director Claire Kaplan calls “a culture of silence around sexual assault,” administrators say they have strived to encourage reporting. “We try to make it clear that UVA … has zero tolerance for sexual offenders,” says Patricia Lampkin, vice president for student affairs, “and that students need to report all assaults.” In 2004, Russell became one of eight to recount an alleged rape in a UVA dorm.

Eight days after filing an incident report; after telling UVA police she had “unwanted sexual contact”; after informing UVA doctors of “worsening pain” from allegedly forced sex , Russell found herself repeating the story to Penny Rue, then dean of students. The dean gave Russell a 12-page document, entitled “UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA PROCEDURES FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT CASES,” which outlined options for adjudicating complaints. It included this language:

Confidentiality of the hearings process is of great importance to all involved. Identity of the reporting or accused student and any formal discipline resulting from the hearing may not be publicly disclosed….

Rue didn’t dwell on the policy at first. Instead, Russell remembers the dean doing what many victim advocates say is common: discouraging her from pursuing a hearing. Rue, Russell charges, recommended mediation — an equally shrouded process in which, according to the UVA procedures, “all verbal statements … must remain confidential,” including “offers of apologies and concessions.”

“I didn’t want to talk to him,” recalls Russell, of her alleged assailant, so mediation seemed out of the question. She would later initiate her complaint in a March 19 e-mail to Rue.

In ensuing days, the dean would informally “confront” Russell’s alleged assailant, who claimed he’d had consensual sex with Russell. In his March 30, 2004, statement to UVA administrators, the accused student portrayed Russell as a willing flirt at a bar who turned sexual aggressor in her dorm, and who repeatedly “grabbed my genitals and wanted me not to leave.” The individual in question did not respond to multiple calls, e-mails, and letters seeking comment.

Rue now works as vice chancellor of student affairs at the University of California, San Diego. In an August 2005 letter addressed to UVA’s associate general counsel, Rue confirmed meeting Russell and handing her the school’s written procedures. The dean said she’d been careful to lay out all the options. “I let her know that it was her decision whether to pursue charges,” Rue wrote in the letter, “and that the University would support her either way.” Rue declined to discuss Russell’s case, as did other former and current UVA officials familiar with it, despite a waiver from Russell granting permission for them to do so.

Informal Proceedings Common

Days before filing her complaint, Russell learned that the local district attorney wouldn’t press criminal charges — a typical outcome. Experts say the reasons are simple: Most cases involving campus rape allegations come down to he-said-she-said accounts of sexual acts that clearly occurred; they lack independent corroboration like physical evidence or eyewitness testimony. At times, alcohol and drugs play such a central role, students can’t remember details. Given all this, says Gary Pavela, who ran judicial programs at the University of Maryland, College Park, “A prosecutor says, ‘I’m not going to take this to a jury.’” Often, the only venues in which to resolve these cases are on campus.

Internal disciplinary panels, like the UVA Sexual Assault Board, exist in various forms on most campuses. But they’re not the only way schools handle rape allegations. For decades, informal proceedings run by an administrator have represented the most common method to adjudicate disciplinary matters. Typically, an administrator meets with both students, separately, in an attempt to resolve a complaint. Occasionally, they “mediate” the incident. Officials find such adjudication appealing in uncontested situations. If a dean elicits a confession, says Olshak, of Illinois State, who headed the student conduct association in 2001, “We’ll be able to resolve the complaint quickly, easily, and without the confrontation of a judicial hearing.” Resolution, as in formal hearings, can mean expulsion, suspension, probation, or another academic penalty, like an assigned research paper. By all accounts, informal processes take place almost as frequently as formal ones ; at UVA, for example, the administration has held 16 hearings since 1998, as compared to 10 informal meetings.

And these proceedings can turn out positively for student victims. In January 2005, Carrie Ressler, then a junior at Concordia University, near Chicago, reported being raped by a football player after attending a party in his dorm. On January 19, within hours of the alleged assault, the police arrested the student athlete; by October, he’d pled guilty to battery for “knowingly [making] physical contact of an insulting nature,” court records show.

At Concordia, Ressler’s report landed on the desk of Dean of Students Jeffrey Hynes. The morning of the arrest, the dean summoned her to his office. “He told me he’d be telling the perpetrator he needed to leave by choice,” she remembers Hynes saying. “If not, he’d be expelled.” Within days, the athlete had left Concordia. Hynes declined to comment on Ressler’s case.

“The dean acted in my interests,” Ressler says. She recognizes, though, that the informal adjudication served the university’s interests, too. “I got the sense from the dean that the school wanted to keep this case hush-hush.”

Many victim advocates share Ressler’s opinion on this. Often, these victim advocates charge, informal proceedings serve to sweep campus assaults under the rug. Both the Justice Department and the Education Department explicitly say in guidance documents that schools should not encourage mediation in sexual assault cases. Yet Katherine Lawson, an attorney at the Victim Rights Law Center, in Boston, says she’s heard one local administrator boast they haven’t held a full sexual assault hearing in years. “This meant to us that they had managed to pressure students to drop a complaint, mediate, or take some lesser administrative route,” she explains, which kept cases quiet. At times, these proceedings even leave the victim advocates in the dark. Says one crisis-services coordinator at a Massachusetts university, “I don’t have any idea what goes on in those little [deans’] meetings.”

College Hearings: Little Transparency

More formal proceedings are sometimes no less shrouded. College disciplinary hearings, unlike courts, lack the trappings of transparency — campus spectators. Advocates can’t attend unless serving as “advisers” to students. Only integral participants like board members or administrators have any clue when a hearing occurs. “They’re secret because they’re closed,” says S. Daniel Carter, of Security on Campus Inc., a watchdog group.

Administrators see it differently, arguing that there are important distinctions between “secrecy” and “privacy.” They can’t open up internal proceedings — formal or informal — because that would amount to granting access to private educational records, which FERPA prohibits, they say. But that doesn’t mean they’re operating in secret. “Not providing private information to the rest of the world is respecting confidentiality and respecting FERPA as a law,” says Mary Beth Mackin, assistant dean of student life at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. And while proceedings remain hidden to outsiders, administrators maintain they’re conducted so students feel they’re as open as possible.

Lisa Simpson would probably disagree. Her allegations of rape at the University of Colorado at Boulder blew open a scandal of sexual assault allegations against football players and recruits in 2004; three years later, her Title IX lawsuit brought against CU ended in a $2.85 million settlement in her favor. Yet she found CU’s judicial process a mystery. In December 2001, Simpson, then a CU sophomore, alleged she was raped by five football players and recruits during a beer-soaked party. They claimed she was a willing participant. Within days, Simpson’s rape report made its way to CU’s judicial affairs director, Matthew Lopez-Phillips. During a meeting in his office, she recalls him relaying how a panel of students, faculty, and staff would adjudicate. At the time, CU’s official conduct code stated that alleged victims would generally be expected to participate in the process by “providing testimony at the formal hearing of the accused,” among other things.

But Simpson never appeared before a panel. No panelist interviewed her about the report, or the victim impact statement she filed. Even after her five-year legal battle against CU over its response to her case — a battle that sparked a broader investigation, as well as systematic reform — she has no idea what transpired before the panel, or if it actually even existed. CU documents show one accused student underwent a formal hearing as a result of Simpson’s report; three others had informal, administrative proceedings. But some CU documents on the panel remain sealed by protective order, and only one includes a list of 17 possible panelists. Court records have revealed the identity of only one panelist. “For all I know,” Simpson says, “it could have been a panel of athletic coaches.”

Lopez-Phillips, who now works at Sonoma State University, did not respond to several calls and e-mails. Meanwhile, the sole panelist named in court records, Carlos Garcia, who directs CU’s student center, declined to comment, citing “confidential” board sessions.

Adjudicating the Russell Case

Russell’s proceedings before the UVA Sexual Assault Board commenced on May 10, 2004. According to the hearing transcript, Sisson, the board chair and senior associate dean, said: “All parties are reminded these proceedings are confidential …”

It had become a familiar refrain for Russell. Before Russell filed her complaint, UVA deans spelled out the policy. In a March 1 e-mail, Rue told Russell:

It is perfectly okay to discuss the events that occurred with anyone you trust, but the fact that they are subject to a judicial proceeding through the university must be kept entirely confidential.
Reminders followed — in e-mails and letters stamped “CONFIDENTIAL.”

By the time the hearing occurred, Russell had heard the stipulation so often she refused to share documents with her mother. Over nine hours, as family and friends waited outside, the four-member board sat in a secured conference room, listening to testimony. Russell and the alleged assailant agreed on initial details — they ran into each other at a bar; he ended up at her dorm; she offered him an air mattress to sleep. But they painted different pictures of what transpired next. The man, Russell said, grabbed her from behind, ignored her pleas to stop, and “used [me] for his sexual need.” Russell, the man countered, “tacitly agreed to have sex,” demanding a condom, and never saying no. “Not all my actions would in a day-to-day situation be considered kosher,” he wrote in his April 23, 2004 defense. “But none of my actions broached or even swept near the arena of rape.”

Sisson repeated the confidentiality admonition 11 times during the hearing, according to the transcript. By its end, she relayed a directive that would wipe away much of the hearing record. “Leave all of your materials,” she told participants, “so these materials are shredded.”

Russell’s mother, Susan, who had created a website criticizing UVA’s response to campus rape allegations, claims Sisson admonished her, too, threatening to bring Kathryn up on disciplinary charges if the hearing verdict was posted on the site.

In a brief phone call, Sisson, now retired, described the proceedings as “entirely confidential at the time,” and “a complicated set of circumstances.” She said, “I approached my work and every one of these cases with the greatest professional integrity.” Asked if she warned Russell not to talk or threatened disciplinary charges, she replied, “I cannot comment on specifics.”

Going after Gag Orders

UVA administrators insist the confidentiality policy laid out in the school’s 2004 written procedures was never meant to muzzle students, although they recognize students could “over interpret” its language. Nor was it official practice to warn them to keep quiet — or else. “There was no quid pro quo here that I know,” says Nicole Eramo, current chair of the UVA Sexual Assault Board. “That was just not part of our policy.” The actual written policy suggests otherwise — both old and new procedures state punishable actions “may include … violations of the rules of confidentiality.” But administrators stress students have never gotten in trouble for telling their stories.

Instead, they blame their former policy on a longstanding confusion within higher education over the scope of FERPA in sexual assault proceedings. For decades, college administrators had operated under the assumption that FERPA protects all disciplinary proceedings — until the Clery Act passed in 1992. The Clery Act makes it mandatory for schools to notify alleged victims of hearing results. Understanding how FERPA intersects with Clery — two laws seemingly at odds—has been, in Eramo’s words, “difficult for administrators.”

That confusion, according to Carter, who heads public policy at Security on Campus Inc. has caused a proliferation of disturbing practices. Some schools have threatened alleged victims with expulsion for disclosing verdicts. Others have barred them from viewing their proceeding records. Still others have required confidentiality pacts — all citing FERPA. The Education Department found that institutions had even kept alleged victims in the dark. In September 2005, the department fined Miami University of Ohio $27,500 for breaking a promise to regulators to provide accurate written information about hearing results to student victims, as it had done to accused students. Earlier that year, in June, the department determined that California State University, East Bay, had violated Title IX by not notifying alleged victims of the outcomes of sexual harassment investigations — requiring the school fix its policy under a resolution agreement.

By October 2002, Carter had petitioned the Department of Education about these sorts of practices. Alleged victims should be allowed to disclose not just the hearing results, he said, but also names of accused students and any sanctions. In March 2003, he filed a separate complaint against Georgetown University, which had been using gag orders in its proceedings. Like UVA, the Georgetown administration restricted students from divulging outcomes. Unlike UVA, it refused to release those outcomes unless students signed confidentiality agreements. Carter saw the pacts as clear violations of the Clery Act, which provides that “both the accuser and the accused shall be informed of the outcome of any campus disciplinary proceeding brought alleging a sexual assault.”

In July 2004, the department agreed, issuing a ruling against Georgetown for its “impermissible non-disclosure agreement for Clery Act purposes.” It ruled that Clery grants alleged victims a right to their proceeding outcomes, without restrictions, despite FERPA. Its final determination letter, dated July 16, required Georgetown to “discontinue its use of non-disclosure agreements.”

Carter then went after illegal gag orders elsewhere — like one presented to Alphia Morin at the University of Central Florida. Now a former student, Morin found the school’s process “very hidden to me” after filing a rape complaint against a scholarship athlete. In January 2005, the then-freshman learned she could only participate in the hearing before UCF’s Student Conduct Board as a “witness” to her alleged assault. Save for her 20-minute testimony, the board banned her from the room. Later, she learned she could only receive the verdict by signing a confidentiality agreement.

Morin went public with her predicament in the campus newspaper, prompting Carter of Security on Campus Inc. to send a cautionary e-mail to UCF President John Hitt, warning that UCF’s policy sounded illegal. Four days later, UCF sent Morin a copy of the verdict, with no written pacts attached. Carter managed to nullify verbal gag orders at schools including the College of William and Mary, among others, though he and administrators agree that written gag orders have always been pretty rare.

A Ruling against UVA

Kathryn Russell didn’t think much about her school’s policy until things went badly. At the hearing, board members asked questions making her wonder about their training — “Did it occur to you to perhaps leave the room?” “Why not just shut the door [on him]?” Sources familiar with the UVA board’s training describe it as extensive; in 2004, the school required members to undergo a day of preparation featuring a videotape and reading materials, as well as sessions with outside experts on campus sexual assault. One previous board member describes Russell’s panelists as open-minded and thoughtful. But the panel also judged her complaint using a “clear and convincing” evidence standard, which the Education Department ruled, in one 2004 case, is higher than Title IX authorizes — and which victim advocates argue is illegal.

In the end, the student Russell accused was found “not responsible” for sexual assault. The board instead slapped him with a verbal reprimand. “We … believe that you used very bad judgment,” Sisson declared. The case resulted in one of nine “not-responsible” verdicts the UVA board has handed down over the past decade, as compared to seven responsible ones.

“You can have a bad sexual experience but not be sexually assaulted under the university’s definition and standard of evidence,” says the prior UVA board member.

Russell saw it differently. “It was just a charade,” she said.

In light of all those warnings about confidentiality, Russell thought she could tell no one what happened. But in November 2004, her mother filed a complaint against UVA with the Education Department, alleging violations under the Clery Act. It centered on the verbal threats of punishment, as did a second complaint filed on behalf of another former UVA student, Annie Hylton. Hylton stated that she had feared repercussions from UVA for going public in the local press that same month, even though her hearing dated to 2002.
“That’s one reason I decided to go public,” she relays. “If they were keeping me quiet, who else were they trying to keep quiet?”

In its official response, according to case records and a written statement from the Education Department, UVA argued it wasn’t violating Clery so much as upholding FERPA and limiting what it termed “improper re-disclosures.” Officials contended they could enforce the confidentiality policy through “pre-conditions” like a verbal commitment. While defending its policy, UVA was also reviewing the 2004 procedures. By March 2005, UVA administrators had submitted to the department a revamped policy that would soften the language and eliminate specific secrecy requirements. The new policy says the university “neither encourages nor discourages further disclosure.”

In November 2008, however, the Education Department determined the school had violated the Clery Act. In a letter to UVA President John Casteen, it stated “the University cannot require an accuser to agree to abide by its non-disclosure policy, in writing or otherwise.” The November 3, 2008 letter added:

It is … clear that several UVA students were persuaded that failure to adhere to the confidentiality policy could have resulted in serious consequences ranging from disciplinary action to not being granted a hearing before the Sexual Assault Board in the first place.

The department’s UVA decision has made it clear that alleged student victims are no longer required to keep quiet about their hearing results. This year, in fact, the Education Department has amended its FERPA regulations to specify as much. The new regulations have thus effectively ended confidentiality requirements for hearing results on college campuses. But they have left open questions about broader secrecy requirements to participate in the college judicial process — even on the UVA campus.

Discretion or Lack of Accountability?

Inside the stately, red-brick Rotunda at UVA, administrators say the Education Department’s decision represents the byproduct of a confused legal environment. And they assert that the school had already changed its confidentiality policy by the time the department issued its ruling. Unlike before, they say, the school’s current procedures make plain that students can divulge their proceeding results, including accused students’ names and any sanctions. The school has also taken steps to improve the process: it has bolstered investigations of rape allegations; improved training for the assault board; and added a lesser charge of “sexual misconduct” to its standards of conduct. Susan Davis, assistant vice president for student affairs, says UVA has “struck a good balance now.” Indeed, deans elsewhere have touted the current UVA procedures as a national model.

But procedures at many schools, including UVA, still stipulate a confidential process — in formal hearings, and in informal mediations. For instance, UVA administrators still caution students not to discuss their proceedings during the process. Today’s written procedures still specify that all proceeding “documents, testimony, or other evidence … may not be disclosed.” Read the actual policy, and the only confidentiality language that has changed is the stipulation that students can divulge their proceeding results. But even that comes with a warning to, as the procedures state, “consult with legal counsel before doing so.” To critics, the silencing effect of the old confidentiality rules still holds. But to UVA deans — and their colleagues elsewhere — there is legitimacy to ensuring a closed process as it unfolds. Some officials, such as UVA’s Lampkin, insist a confidential procedure encourages reluctant alleged victims to come forward in the first place — a sentiment reinforced by some survey respondents. Others consider it crucial to ensure rights of accused students. Still others argue there is no need for outsiders to know details of campus rape proceedings because schools are deciding if a student’s conduct violated institutional rules — not criminal laws.

“I’ve yet to hear students say they want a public process,” says Davis.
“It’s a balance between figuring out how to give students a safe space,” Lampkin adds, “and having an environment where both the accuser and accused will come forward.”

But critics say that attitude fails to acknowledge a fundamental flaw in the college judicial system: Without outside scrutiny, it lacks accountability. “The reason for disclosure and public oversight is that we can’t allow educational institutions to police themselves,” observes Mark Goodman, former head of the Student Press Law Center, which has pushed for more transparency. He, like many critics, believes the institutional reliance on confidentiality does more to protect the image of colleges than the anonymity of students. “I have a fundamental disagreement with schools over the notion that justice can be reached in secrecy,” he says.

Controversy over Mediation

Not without unintended consequences, at least. In November 2003, Mallory Shear-Heyman, then a sophomore at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, underwent a confidential mediation after reporting being raped in her dorm by a fellow student. Mediations became popular in disciplinary matters involving sexual assault earlier in the decade, and remain common today — despite controversy. In 2001, the Education Department deemed mediations improper partly because they carry no punishment. And while mediation is generally considered effective for resolving interpersonal conflicts, the department — and many critics — argue that it falls short in instances of sexual violence. The reason: an intimidating element exists between victims and their assailants because, like other serious assault, sexual assault is a violent act “In some cases,” the department states in its guidance document, referring to sexual assault cases, “mediation will not be appropriate even on a voluntary basis.”

But Bucknell administrators defend their use of the practice, which they now call “voluntary facilitated dialogue,” precisely because it only occurs at the request of an accusing student, with the willing participation of an accused student. Any power imbalance, they argue, is evened out by the presence of two administrators — one male, one female — guiding the conversation and assuring a comfortable setting. “Our students have really been key spokespeople for indicating they want some sort of option to have this dialogue,” says Kari Conrad, judicial administrator for sexual misconduct. “We feel confident in keeping this process as a responsible response.”

Shear-Heyman remembers Bucknell officials portraying the off-the-record session as an attractive way to confront the accused student, “as if it were the best option ever.” Confidentiality, they relayed, would allow for more open and honest discussion. She was presented with a waiver, which specified that “information first disclosed during mediation may not be used in any subsequent internal University proceeding.”
But Shear-Heyman wouldn’t grasp the waiver’s implications until the accused student, she says, implicated himself. Bucknell records show the student apologized to her in instant messages, admitting “b/c you got hurt, yes,” what had occurred was rape. She says he repeated the admissions before the two deans who participated in the mediation — Gerald Commerford and Amy Badal. The waiver did not prevent Shear-Heyman from pursuing outside remedies. But the deans, she says, gave her the strong impression that she couldn’t use what had occurred in the session — on or off campus. When she later considered pursuing criminal charges, she says, the deans claimed not to remember the accused student’s alleged admissions.
Both Commerford and Badal stated they don’t remember details from Shear-Heyman’s mediation, including possible incriminating statements. And they claim not to recall her later asking them to corroborate such statements. “I don’t recall any such scenario,” says Badal.

Bucknell administrators insist it is standard practice to inform participants verbally and in writing that pursuing mediation won’t preclude them from filing charges — on or off campus. Commerford describes himself and Badal as “sticklers about following the protocol.” “I cannot speak for Mallory and her interpretations,” he adds, “but I can tell you that we followed the protocol to a T.”

One former Bucknell employee familiar with Shear-Heyman’s mediation finds the practice “a problem because alleged assailants can say whatever they want without any repercussions” — a criticism voiced by many victim advocates. Bucknell University officials confirm that they wouldn’t take action against an accused student who apologizes or confesses in mediation unless the victim were to file charges first — something that Shear-Heyman found pretty pointless. “After I’d realized how much I got screwed with the confidentiality,” she says, “I didn’t want to pursue anything further with the university.” The former employee adds, “I absolutely think the practice serves the interest of the university, not the victims.”

As for Russell, her life unraveled in the years after her proceeding at UVA. She lost weight, moved home, and divorced herself from friends. For years, she would find herself replaying in her mind, endlessly, details of her proceeding. She’s long struggled to reconcile the fact that what she endured in pursuing a complaint had been for naught. Nothing had happened to her alleged assailant. “He was barely inconvenienced by having to attend the hearing,” she says. Three years ago, Russell filed a civil lawsuit against him in Circuit Court for the City of Charlottesville, laying out her story in a complaint. The suit was never served on the man and eventually was dismissed at Russell’s request, because, she says, she could not afford an attorney. The injustice of seeing her alleged assailant go unpunished has been, in her words, “the worst thing imaginable.”

More recently, Russell discovered that the same student faced a second rape complaint at UVA. In April 2005, nearly a year after Russell’s hearing, Rebekah Hay, then a UVA junior, filed that complaint, which ended up before two assault boards because the accused appealed — the first board returned a verdict against him; the second did not. Hay remembers Dean Rue addressing the suspect’s history when she had filed her complaint. “She said to me, ‘I’m sorry to see this name come up again,’” Hay recalls.

UVA administrators — and the alleged assailant — have stayed silent on the specifics of this complaint. Hay has never spoken publicly about her UVA case — until now. After all, the confidentiality of those proceedings was emphasized at UVA, she says, “and repeated and repeated and repeated again.”

It is amazing that women are still be treated unfairly today, but women now hold some of the highest political ranks our country has to offer. Which is good news. Enjoy this funny video...