Hunting Ground documentary in crosshairs of history

The San Francisco Chronicle published my op-ed article about women finding their voices to speak out against sexual assault and harassment on campuses. It’s online now; look for it in print on Thursday, Nov. 19.

This Sunday, Nov. 22, CNN will televise the documentary The Hunting Ground about the handling of sexual assaults at colleges and universities. You can watch or record it at 5 p.m. Pacific time (8 p.m. Eastern), followed by a discussion panel featuring the filmmakers and others.

Some Harvard professors have challenged the accuracy of "The Hunting Ground."

Some Harvard professors have challenged the accuracy of “The Hunting Ground.” (Photo by Sherry Boschert)

Director Kirby Dick and Producer Amy Ziering (creators of the Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated documentary The Invisible War) took some heat this past week when 18 Harvard Law School professors challenged the film’s accuracy, in the process delivering loads of attention to the film through stories in the New York Times and elsewhere. Watch the film, read the details of the criticisms and the filmmakers’ rebuttals, and draw your own conclusions.

In the bigger picture, though, the cases profiled in The Hunting Ground undoubtedly are part of the unfinished business of Title IX. Readers of this blog know that Title IX grew out of frustration with discrimination in hiring, promotion, and salaries for female academics. A lot has changed since then, and yet – only 23% of Harvard Law School’s full-time faculty are women. The letter attacking The Hunting Ground drew signers from only 14% of the full-time faculty. As has been the case for decades at many colleges, women are better represented among the school’s lower-paid lecturers (48% of 77), and only one of those signed the letter, while another spoke up in support of the film.

Title IX went on to be best known for changing athletics, and women have used it since at least 1977 to challenge sexual assaults and harassment on campuses. But my daily Google Alert results from Internet searches for “Title IX” show that all of these very much are works in progress, with a steady stream of complaints about noncompliance with Title IX, various incarnations of political backlash against Title IX, ongoing federal investigations, and plenty of lawsuits.

All because uppity women are willing to raise their voices to demand their civil rights, and because those civil rights still are being violated.

Update: The timing of the CNN broadcast of “The Hunting Ground” was updated to Sunday, Nov. 22 at 5 p.m. Pacific time.


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