Students more ‘cautious’ after Kavanaugh hearing

The allegations against newly appointed Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh have made some Chapman students more “cautious” of their behavior in college.

Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s controversial Supreme Court justice, was officially confirmed, 50-48, to the Supreme Court on Saturday Oct. 7 after facing sexual assault allegations brought against him by Christine Blasey Ford who claims he sexually assaulted her at a high school party in the early 1980s. Two other women have made allegations against Kavanaugh, claiming that he exposed himself to women and participated in sexually aggressive behavior while attending Yale University. Kavanaugh has denied all allegations brought against him.

After learning that Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court, Claire Norman, junior political science and peace studies double major, said she was heartbroken, and joked that she almost accidentally crashed her car when she heard the news.

“I think it’s an indication that partisan loyalties are considered to be more important than citizens, especially those who have so bravely spoken up about their trauma,” Norman said. “I think it will have a chilling effect on survivors everywhere, but more importantly, I believe it shows men everywhere that their behavior, especially their violence toward women, will have little to no consequences.”

The sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh are making some students rethink how their actions in college could affect them later in life.

Male students have to be “extra cautious” now, because anything could come up from students’ college years, said Ryan Marhoefer, a junior business administration major and external ambassador for the College Republicans at Chapman.

“If you live your life with integrity, then you have nothing to worry about,” Marhoefer said. “It’s making those without integrity act in a better manner.”

Marhoefer said he knows men who have said they would rather be accused of murder than sexual assault.

“At least murder is black and white. Did you kill someone or not? Is there a body or not? With an accusation of sexual assault, there’s so much of a gray area, and it’s so hard to disprove,” he said. “No matter the outcome, no matter how innocent you turn out to be, there’s still going to be that reputation of someone who is accused of that … Both (Ford’s and Kavanaugh’s) lives, without them wanting it to be, were affected for the negative.”

Norman said that “stuff (sexual assault) definitely happens at Chapman,” and that female students are also becoming more cautious with their actions in college.

She also said she thinks Chapman’s fraternities, along with other fraternities nationally, are trying to change their culture. Chapman doesn’t have a Greek row, which Norman said she thinks is a huge factor in perpetuating sexual assault culture at other colleges and universities, but “it doesn’t have to be in a Greek house to happen.”

Norman said she thinks people don’t take into account how Kavanaugh’s hearing affects women.

“People have been saying ‘Oh but his career, his family, it’s being threatened,’ but you have these women whose lives have been permanently changed by his actions,” Norman said.

Norman, who hopes one day to become a judge, said that the way Kavanaugh handled himself during the hearing was a poor reflection of how a judge should act.

“With judges in general, being overly emotional is just not allowed,” she said. “It’s not part of the job.”

Stephen Ragsdale, a junior news and documentary major and vice president of College Republicans at Chapman, described the hearings as a “circus.”

“It’s been completely crazy from every angle … I’m frustrated at quite a few things,” Ragsdale said. “Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony has a lot of holes in it that are being overlooked. I don’t know why her statement is being elevated as gospel truth.”

Ragsdale also said he is frustrated with the lack of presumption of innocence for Kavanaugh.

“I recognize that there’s a distinction between the criminal court and the court of public opinion,” he said. “What I’ve been seeing a lot is a focus on more social justice rather than individual justice. We should only really be analyzing whether the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh are credible, not the history of gender wars.”

Skepticism is always healthy, Marhoefer said, but right now it’s hard to justify labeling Kavanaugh as a potentially guilty man.

“I would really like (the holes in Ford’s testimony) to be filled before we started calling Kavanaugh a rapist and whatnot,” Marhoefer said. “Innocent until proven guilty. That’s what makes America great.”

When an event like the confirmation of Kavanaugh is given so much attention, Marhoefer said, there is a division of opinion that creates two sides.

“No matter what the outcome is, one side is going to be so happy and one side is going to be so sad just because there was so much work up toward it,” Marhoefer said. “There was so much drama, so much demonizing, such heavy accusals. Honestly, I feel like Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford will be victims for the rest of their lives because of this.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story said Norman hoped to become a Supreme Court justice, which was incorrect. The information has been corrected.