We are left with one central question: Why, exactly, did John Doe make his report? It is possible, of course, that he legitimately felt himself to have been violated by a sexual predator. Alternatively, he may have been motivated either by self-preservation or revenge. Whatever inspired him, one thing is clear: The system as it currently exists has burrowed itself so deeply into the private sexual behavior of adult students that it stands as a hovering third party to every intimate act, a monitoring, prurient, vengeful force.
A half-century ago a group of American college students realized that the American university had assumed a role in their lives that was fundamentally at odds with their constitutional right to live in freedom. They wanted personal freedom, political freedom, sexual freedom. They wanted to take their chances in life and be answerable only to the law and to their own consciences, not to the politically narrow and sexually repressive standards of a committee of campus bureaucrats. They wanted the university out of their private lives. For young women in particular—their virginity endlessly protected and fetishized by institutional protocols that included curfews, parietals, chaperones, dress codes, and letters to Mother sent by concerned deans of women—sexual freedom, with all of the excitement and danger and pleasure and deep risk that is attendant to it, could only be theirs if the university got out of their bedrooms and let them make the sexual lives they wanted.
Now, in many regards, universities monitor the sexuality of their students more intrusively than in the 1950s. There are fulltime employees of American universities whose job is to sit young people down and interrogate them about when and where and how they touched another person sexually, and how it felt, and what signs and sounds and words and gestures made them believe that consent had been granted. This was how homosexuals used to be thrown out of schools and sports teams and the military; this is how young women were punished for acting on their sexual impulses by a wide variety of American institutions in the past. This is beyond the overreach of the modern university; this is an affront to the most essential and irreducible of all of the American ideas: the freedom of the individual.
A long time ago, Mario Savio stood on the steps of Berkeley’s Sproul Hall, his audience a crowd of kids who were in many regards conservative; some had crew cuts and curfews, many others shared an unexamined faith in the political promises of Barry Goldwater, but all of them had this in common: a gathering awareness that the university assumed a role in their life that was oppressive and fundamentally anti-democratic. Savio’s famous words are the stuff of street poetry: “There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part! You can't even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the levers and upon all of the apparatus—you’ve got to make it stop!”