Bettina Arndt: Shameful star chambers

In a recent judgement about a sexual misconduct case at Cornell University the judge compared the campus disciplinary committees to the infamous English Star Chambers. He warned that “these threats to due process and academic freedom are matters of life and death for our great universities.”  

We too should be regarding what’s happening at our universities with utmost seriousness. Our universities have wrongly taken it upon themselves to set aside our criminal law system and put in its place their own star chambers where administrators make life-changing decisions about accused young men, derailing their education and publicly shaming them.

This is happening every week in Australia simply because our lily-livered universities are too afraid to stand up to the feminist bullies demanding action in response to the fake campaign claiming a rape culture on campus.

For two years now I have been helping a young man being persecuted by a NSW regional university. I’ll call him “Andrew” to protect his privacy – critical now that he has finally received his degree and with great relief left the university to start a new job and a new life. He’s made a podcast with me, bravely deciding to tell his story as a cautionary tale to male students, warning of dangers awaiting them at our universities. Having witnessed the ruthless behaviour of our universities I regretfully decided to delete the name of this institution from the podcast rather than hold back on my commentary for fear of legal attack. Please listen to this important podcast and help me circulate it.

For Andrew it all started one night in March 2020, when he was a 22-year-old final year pharmacy student. It was a typical student gathering involved a bunch of kids, including other pharmacy students, happily drinking together. But one female student whom I will call “Fran” went overboard and ended up vomiting and needing help to get back to her room at the college. A few students went with her, got her settled in bed and then asked Andrew to keep an eye on her.

Andrew’s version of events, accepted by the court, was that when they were left alone, Fran suddenly became amorous, kissing Andrew, taking her pants off and trying to undress him. He protested, telling her he had a girlfriend, but she persisted in pulling his pants down. That’s when the other students walked in on them. Fran’s friends quickly took control, demanding Andrew leave, despite Fran’s protest that he hadn’t done anything wrong and there was no need for him to go.

Despite this abrupt end to the evening initially there seemed no negative repercussions, with Andrew having friendly social media exchanges with Fran where she showed no sign of any concern. What Andrew didn’t know was that Fran’s friends were at work, rewriting the history of the evening, and persuading Fran to make a complaint to the head of the college.

That happened and the university leapt into action and started conducting its own investigation. Think about that. Here we have administration people, not legally trained, blundering around, encouraging the young women to come up with their own versions of events that evening. Suddenly there was the suggestion that Fran’s drink might have been spiked and that she was in and out of consciousness. Unsurprisingly, the whole scandal took on a life of its own and by the time the police were involved and sworn witness statements taken, these colourful additions were part of the story.  

It doesn’t take a lawyer to understand how that compromises the basic principles of police investigation. But that was just the beginning.

Banned from the university

Andrew knew nothing about what was going on until two months later when he suddenly received a call from university administration telling him he was excluded from the college and university campus until what was now a criminal matter was determined.

Andrew was no ordinary student but a hard-working kid on a scholarship, doing honours in the final year of his pharmacy course. He was a resident fellow at the college, elected to the SRC, and a shining sports star. He was captain of various sporting teams, and had numerous leadership roles… all positions which he had to abandon when charged with a criminal offence.

When the shattered Andrew first contacted me, he was facing the frightening prospect of a criminal trial and the humiliation of finding excuses to withdraw from his numerous university positions, against the backdrop of malicious rumours about the allegations he was facing.

It was a tough year as we found local lawyers willing to represent him in the criminal case and bringing in others to jump through the ludicrous hoops being erected by the university administrators. Boy, were these bureaucrats relishing in their power to torment this young man.

Although Andrew could study online during the early months of 2020 during Covid lockdowns, he needed to get back on campus for a few days in October to attend an intensive practical course to complete his degree. Naturally the university’s petty tyrants said no.

Lawyers’ letters flew back and forth and then we had a breakthrough. A friend at the university dug out a regulation stating that the “university must take steps to ensure students are not academically disadvantaged while a matter is being determined.” Whoopee! That was inserted into the next lawyer’s letter and finally did the trick. Andrew was allowed to complete his course work – but the university still decided to withhold his degree, awaiting the decision from the magistrate’s court.

University withholds degree

Convicted felons are allowed to study at our universities. What gives any university the right to steal a student’s degree, an asset towards which he has devoted years of effort and spent tens of thousands of dollars? Our laws say nothing about withholding degrees as punishment for sex crimes. The universities have made this stuff up – with no proper authority.

So here we have the university telling this hard-working student that they were withholding his degree, refusing to allow him to take his rightful place as a qualified pharmacist, they were derailing his pharmacy internship, costing him between $30-60,000 in earnings that year. Leaving him in limbo for half a year until a local magistrate could make a decision, and then another eight months while their star chamber swung into action.

In June 2021, the case was heard and the magistrate very quickly dismissed the single charge of “sexual touching” that Andrew was facing, saying Andrew’s version of events “may well be true.” Fran repeated in court that she did not feel Andrew had done anything wrong at the time, and confirmed that she had objected to her friends making Andrew go, asking “why does he have to leave?”  

So that was it. Smooth sailing after that, you might imagine. Not with this university in charge. We had an amusing moment late last year when Andrew received an email congratulating him on his degree and inviting him to apply to have his degree sent to him.  He quickly filled in the right form and hoped for the best.  Sadly, no degree arrived through the post. The invitation turned out to be a mistake. The bumbling administration then announced there was still a misconduct charge to be determined and the university planned its own investigation.

One final chance to do him over

Here we have our justice system deciding a young man was innocent but that’s not good enough for this great university. They chose to have another go, conducting their own investigation and decision-making process. The reason?  This university, as is true of all similar institutions, have decided they are entitled to their own star chamber determining these matters using a lower standard of proof. So, if he gets off in the criminal system there remains another, easier way to nail him.

Sure enough, after months of delay whilst everyone awaited the transcript of the magistrate’s written judgment, the university set up its own investigation and re-examined all the evidence which the magistrate had used to determine Andrew completely innocent. They then grilled Andrew – denying him any legal support in the process.

Eventually they found him guilty of “behavioural misconduct” because he should have somehow resisted any contact with the drunk girl. That’s very different from the original “sexual touching” charge where he was wrongly alleged to have done something wrong, behaving inappropriately towards the girl. The university decided he was guilty of not doing something, failing to resist or retreat quickly enough from a girl’s amorous advances.

Not only are males now to be held responsible for taking advantage of drunk women, they are in trouble for letting such a woman near them.

Andrew was officially reprimanded, and told he wasn’t allowed back on campus for three years. The decision was issued by a brand-new Vice Chancellor no doubt keen to throw a bone to the feminists who control the university, as they do in all such institutions. Andrew was naturally upset by this decision but the punishment hardly mattered. He has no intention of going near this dastardly institution ever again.   

Meanwhile in the United States

This week Joe Biden’s government announced new regulations to wind back the meagre reforms to the American campus star chambers which the Trump administration had managed to push through. The Wall Street Journal pointed out that Biden’s new regulations will eliminate or weaken basic procedural protections for students accused of sexual misconduct:

“The right to a live hearing? Erased. Cross-examination? Unrecognizable. The standard of proof to determine guilt? Weakened,” sums up the correspondent, adding that this sets the Education Department on a collision course with the courts. As he explains, over the past decade in America, judges nationwide have issued more than 200 rulings favourable to students accused of sexual misconduct, chastising universities for “rushing to judgment in rigged proceedings designed to appease the federal government.”

Our Aussie rigged proceedings were designed by our universities not to appease the government, but to kowtow to the feminist mob. That’s why they attract absolutely no scrutiny from our legacy media which serves precisely the same master. How else can we explain why journalists happily bang on about trans athletes – an issue which impacts tiny numbers in our community – whilst ignoring the huge population of families whose sons are at risk of injustice at our universities?

Our society’s indifference to what’s happening here is a national disgrace.


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