University of North Dakota leaders, and some members of the media, may have egg on their faces after a rush to judgment in an alleged beating of a homosexual man at the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity there. Because it’s sure starting to look like the alleged victim’s version of events isn’t standing up to scrutiny.
Student leaders I’ve spoken to at UND have told me that the administration was too quick to condemn the incident, not waiting to see whether or not the facts substantiated the allegations.
“I’m disappointed by [UND] President [Robert] Kelley’s rush to convict students in the court of public opinion without allowing due process to take its course,” former UND Student Body President Nick Creamer, who is in his last year at the school, told me last month. “At this point, local authorities have not issued any sort of statement granting credibility to the allegations that have been made.”
Current President Matthew Kopp echoed those sentiments to me. “There is an active police investigation taking place as we speak and we need to wait until the full results of the investigation are available before any judgments can be appropriately made,” he said. “We live in a country where you are innocent until proven guilty, and that applies to the individuals involved in this matter as well.”
In a campus wide email, Kelley acknowledged that the incident is under investigation but didn’t shy away from characterizing it as something motivated by the alleged victim’s sexual orientation.
“This incident is even more disconcerting given that it followed the recent Grand Forks celebration of LGBT Pride,” Kelley said in the email. How can Kelley say that the incident was disconcerting in the context of the LGBT pride event unless he already concluded that the incident was motivated by animus towards gays?
Now, more than a month later, it doesn’t seem clear that anyone is even going to get arrested for the incident. According to the Grand Forks Herald – which refers to this as a “gay man beating case” in its headline, no “alleged” in sight – notes that law enforcement officials investigating the incident seem to be finding the evidence they’ve gathered inconclusive at best:
UND Police Sgt. Danny Weigel has not given a clear answer on whether police identified a suspect over the course of their investigation, instead saying it was “tough to tell.”
Per the article, the accusation being leveled at the fraternity members (or, you know, whoever, more on that in a moment) is that the alleged victim was stripped and beaten while his attackers shouted homosexual slurs. If that really happened at a crowded fraternity party, where are the witnesses coming forward to confirm it?
Keep in mind, too, that this fraternity has elected an advisor who is homosexual and who has vouched for the fraternity members. So it’s a little hard to believe that this fraternity is a den of anti-homosexual bigotry where a gay man could be stripped and beaten and nobody tells law enforcement about it.
Also problematic is that the alleged victim – Haakon Gisvold – can’t seem to identify who beat him. “The victim did not know who had assaulted him nor whether they belonged to the fraternity,” reports the Herald.
You’ve got to think that law enforcement has by now shown the alleged victim photos of the fraternity members and other party attendees so that he can try and identify his assailants. If neither Gisvold nor any other witnesses to the alleged incident can identify the assailants, you have to wonder if this really happened the way Gisvold says it did.
Law enforcement is taking their time on this case, which is currently with the prosecutors who are considering what charges if any will be filed. That’s good, especially when the allegations are as politically charged as these.
But I’m beginning to think that, at worst, what happened at the fraternity that night was the sort of alcohol-fueled tussle that happens routinely at party when one party or another gets out of hand, and it had nothing to do with Gisvold’s sexuality at all.
If that turns out to be the case, I hope the media and UND administrators and activists who blew this up from a minor altercation at a party into a seeming hate crime are ready to apologize.