New Trier High School screens discredited doc on college campus sexual assault to “educate” seniors
Critics on the right and left shredded the 2015 documentary film The Hunting Ground for its one-sided, inaccurate illustration of sexual assault on college campuses. Yet for the second year in a row New Trier High School screened the movie for seniors.
“The purpose [of screening] The Hunting Ground is to help educate students about sexual assault on campuses before they go off to college,” Assistant Superintendent Tim Hayes was quoted as saying in the May 3 edition of a student publication, the NT Examiner.
A community group, New Trier Neighbors, is fuming over the screening of the movie, the slant in the write-up of the screening in the NT Examiner, and other articles in the paper similarly loaded with a progressive bias: “How Do We Define Toxic Masculinity?” and “Roe v. Wade Under Siege Post-Kennedy.”
“Sexual assault is a serious issue deserving of a thoughtful and robust discussion,” a post on the group’s website said. “Unfortunately, New Trier teachers and administrators overseeing the NT Examiner failed their students by allowing one-sided, ideological views of complicated issues to be the lone voices covered by the paper’s contributors.”
Director of the movie Kirby Dick and its producer, Amy Ziering, said in interviews after the release of the film that they were advocates and not journalists. It shows.
A December 2015 NPR report cited writer Emily Yoffee’s criticism of the film; Yoffe is a contributing editor for The Atlantic, and has written extensively about campus rape.
“The director’s reliance on studies that suggest one in five women on campus will be raped or sexually assaulted creates an unwarranted sense of panic,” Yoffe told NPR. “… those studies conflate far less serious and murkier interactions between young adults, often inebriated, with starker and rarer cases of assault and rape.”
And in a June 2015 article for Slate Magazine, Yoffee wrote that she investigated one of the assault cases recounted in the movie, and arrived at a completely different assessment from the movie's version of what actually happened.
“I looked into the case of Kamilah Willingham whose allegations generated a voluminous record,” she wrote. “What the evidence (including Willingham’s own testimony) shows is often dramatically at odds with the account presented in the film.”
An article published October 2017 by the free-market group Reason said that “several assaults that anchor the film are heavily disputed.”
“Its central thesis—that college is a place where serial sexual predators are free to prey on women—is based on junk science. The film just isn't an accurate portrayal of the phenomenon it's trying to explain.”
The movie also failed to show instances where allegations of assaults were found to be groundless, or complete fabrications. In 2014, Rolling Stone published “A Rape on Campus,” a story that recounted a woman’s claim of being gang raped at a fraternity party at the University of Virginia. It was later discovered that the entire story was based on a lie. The magazine paid the fraternity $1.65 million as part of a settlement agreement.
College investigations, moreover, into allegations of assault often ignore due process, angling the investigation against the accused -- something the film fails to note.
“Many observers agree that this situation infantilizes women and that without respect for the rule of law, women will be left more vulnerable, not more empowered,” the New Trier Neighbors said. “Also, parents of young sons on campus have much to fear if their sons can be expelled simply on one person's uncorroborated statement.”