The Hunting Ground and UNC

Any fair-minded observer would already have recognized The Hunting Ground (broadcast tonight on CNN, the “most trusted” name in news) as propaganda. Emily Yoffe’s Slate investigation exposed the film’s extraordinarily misleading treatment of a case at Harvard Law. Stuart Taylor did the same for how the film discussed a case at Florida State. Ashe Schow caught a staffer affiliated with the film doctoring film-related Wikipedia entries. And an e-mail from one of the film’s producers, Amy Herdy, featured Herdy confessing, “We don’t operate the same way as journalists — this is a film project very much in the corner of advocacy for victims, so there would be no insensitive questions or the need to get the perpetrator’s side.”

From the standpoint of someone like Herdy, the story told by another Hunting Ground protagonist, former UNC student Andrea Pino, is ideal. Because Pino never reported her alleged assault to police, and identified neither her alleged assaulter nor anyone else in her story, the UNC accuser’s narrative is unfalsifiable. And she clearly is a believer in the film’s storyline: in her telling, nearly 50 percent of the women in her dorm were sexually assaulted in either their first or second year at school, a rate that far exceeds even the Obama administration’s wild claims.

Pino says that in 2012, she was violently raped—leaving her bloodied—at an off-campus party by another student, whose identity she didn’t know and who she never saw again. (How, therefore, she knew that her alleged attacker was a UNC student remains unclear.) Even though she was allegedly left bloodied by her attack, no one else at the party seems to have noticed what happened to her. (Note the similarity to the bloodied “Jackie” in Rolling Stone, whose wounds party attendees and friends likewise failed to notice.) Pino reported her attack neither to the Chapel Hill Police nor to UNC (the latter at least in part because friends discouraged her from doing so), though since she couldn’t identify her attacker, who might not have even been a UNC student, it’s not clear how UNC could have adjudicated the case anyway.

Pino’s story is one of several campus rape narratives targeting institutions like Yale and Amherst and Occidental, produced by a loosely connected network of activists first identified (ironically, given its generally terrible coverage of this issue) by the New York Times. These narratives differ in specifics and location, but have basic similarities: the attacker is not identified, the attack itself is often oddly incidental to the narrative, and the focus is on other parties—one or more employees of the institution, sometimes along with the accuser’s friends—who behaved in an unfathomably horrific fashion.

The villain of Pino’s campus rape narrative is an unidentified UNC academic, who allegedly told her that she was “lazy” in a discussion after the alleged assault. But the specifics of who made the “lazy” comment, and under what circumstances, have varied widely.

Here’s how she portrayed it in an essay for the Huffington Post:

I went to Academic Advising to ask about dropping a class and told the advisor that I didn’t need the course and was dealing with a difficult personal trauma.

“It’s just a ten-page paper. You’re just lazy, aren’t you?”
“I’m going through a lot.” (I was raped, please let me tell you.)
“It’s March — everyone is going through ‘a lot.’ If you can’t handle Carolina, then say it.”

Yet here is the same vignette, as paraphrased by the pro-accuser reporter Allie Grasgreen in Inside Higher Ed:

After being raped at an off-campus party in March 2012, Pino felt let down by the people and policies that were supposed to protect her (an academic adviser told her she was lazy when her experience impacted her performance in the classroom; other students told her reporting the rape wouldn’t do any good; her resident assistant wasn’t supportive).

In this version, the academic administrator who offered the “lazy” comment seems to have known of her rape allegation. The portrayal by pro-accuser Katie Baker of BuzzFeed is similar: “an academic advisor had called her ‘lazy’ for seeking medical withdrawal from classes due to assault-related post-traumatic stress disorder.”

And here’s Pino, in her own words, offering a completely different rendition of the “lazy” comment, to ESPNW in a column labeling her one of two “heroes”:

When I went public, I was told I was creating a hostile environment at UNC. When I explained to a professor what was happening and how it was affecting my grades, I was told I was lazy, and it was suggested that maybe I couldn’t handle Carolina. I dropped that class. Then I dropped 11 more classes after that. I’m still not an official graduate.

So here, the “lazy” comment came from a “professor,” not an academic administrator, and this professor not only was aware that Pino’s claimed victim status, but was aware of her campus activism. The dropping of 12 classes, moreover, would suggest a span of either two or three terms in which every course was dropped.

To the best of my knowledge, no reporter who has written about Andrea Pino’s tale has ever asked her to identify the unnamed academic administrator/professor who told her she was lazy after hearing of her unidentified trauma/rape/anti-rape campus activism.

Perhaps there is an unnamed UNC academic administrator/professor who’s as callous as Pino has portrayed him or her. That said: any academic administrator or professor calling a student “lazy” to her face at a politically correct institution such as UNC stretches believability. But given how extraordinary this alleged behavior was—a “lazy” charge in response to a rape claim or clear emotional trauma—wouldn’t at least one reporter have wanted to get the other side of the story? None, to date, have done so—and it’s no surprise that The Hunting Ground filmmakers demonstrated scant interest in checking into Pino’s tale.

Unlike the film’s Harvard Law or FSU protagonists, Pino’s story, again, can’t be falsified. But her inability to offer a consistent portrayal of her central vignette—coupled with the filmmakers’ clear bias—should raise grave doubts about her credibility.

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