UConn pays up in suit, but what has changed?

For $1.2 million, the University of Connecticut has settled the lawsuit brought by five women who charged that the university mishandled their complaints of being sexually assaulted by fellow students.

The university denies any wrongdoing and none of the men accused by the plaintiffs was ever charged criminally. But the university and the plaintiffs have agreed that UConn is improving its handling of sexual assault complaints and that the settlement will let all involved move on - maybe UConn most of all.

For while four of the five plaintiffs received what may have been only the nuisance value of their claims - payments from $25,000 to $125,000 - one received $900,000, signifying that UConn perceived substantial liability, perceived that someone at the university had done something at least questionable.

So who was it and what was it and was anyone ever held accountable for it? UConn will say only that no one was disciplined for anything related to the lawsuit. Yes, it's time to move along - there's nothing to see here, just another big bill for taxpayers to pay.

Sexual assault and sex generally are such difficult issues for colleges that they cannot even be acknowledged as such.

Women want to be able to make accusations anonymously and to be believed without investigation, while college administrators, police, and prosecutors want to seem sympathetic and politically correct without getting stuck with cases that have little evidence, just contradictory stories from accuser and accused.

Neither can it be acknowledged that the underlying problem is only human nature. Young men can be predatory, exploitive, arrogant, and boorish. Young women can be naive to the point of stupidity, jealous, vengeful, and contriving. Add alcohol and other intoxicants and the inexperience of youth, the failure to appreciate that you risk more than your dignity if you go into a closed room alone with someone stronger, and you've got trouble forever.

So now, at UConn, also probably forever, you've got a new assistant dean of students for support services for crime victims. There will be more hand holding if not more criminal prosecutions.

False erudition

Elsewhere in education in the state, another school administrator has been exposed by the Hartford Courant for pretending to have a doctoral degree. First it was a charter school administrator in Hartford. Now it's the guy who was about to be appointed superintendent in New London.

The personal circumstances are pathetic but then the credentialism of public education is more so, since it sometimes exceeds the credentialism of medicine and astrophysics, as if education and public administration are brain surgery or rocket science.

They're not. To the contrary, among professional skills those of education and public administration are simple, requiring good sense rather than vast knowledge or mastery of complex formulas. Educational credentialism is mainly just a barrier to entry, every profession being, as George Bernard Shaw wrote, a conspiracy against the laity - education perhaps the biggest conspiracy.

That's why so many school administrators, titling themselves "Doctor," are incomprehensible. Their inability to make themselves understood or even to mean anything at all is mistaken for erudition.

Connecticut's late Bob Steele, who in his seven decades of radio broadcasting acquired knowledge worth a dozen doctorates, gently mocked such professional pretensions. He sometimes would introduce himself as "Bob Steele, H.S.G." - for high school graduate.

But the tide of credentialism is probably too high to be turned back even by mockery, since the laity now are too intimidated and ignorant themselves.

These days an applicant for a job in school administration might put the abbreviation "R.S.O." after his name and be thought some sort of social worker rather than a registered sex offender.

Would Hartford's, New London's, or any school board get the joke?


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