“Potter”, schools, and corrupt administration
I’ve been seeing a lot in the news lately about investigations at public colleges involving Title IX violations. I’ve been following these stories for my own reasons, but while doing so I’ve found it really interesting to read about the lesser known violation of “retaliation.” Most Title IX cases that make it into the news are about sexual assault, but lumped in with this issue is often the cover up by the university that a complaint has been filed at. Schools are getting caught more now then ever before for the mishandling of Title IX issues.
Of course, you are probably wondering what this has to do with Harry Potter. For me, it’s in the way Umbridge tries to run Hogwarts in book 5 and how Fudge tries to convince the wizarding world that Harry is making up stories, that the comparison can be drawn.
J.K. Rowling paints a picture of a romanticized English public boarding school in the first two books, but by the third, we are starting to see that governments can be meddling, and by the fifth book, we see that school administration can be downright corrupt.
Umbridge is an example of trying to cover up anything that is happening and create her own perfect little empire. She wants people to believe that Voldemort isn’t back and will do whatever it takes to maintain that. She turns Fudge’s picture over so that he can’t see her using the Unforgiveable Curses, claiming that what “he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.”
This whole scenario is very similar to what happens on college campuses. A complaint is brought forward, an administrator is assigned to handle the case, they do so in an inappropriate manor and in a sense try to silence the complainant the best they can so that the news doesn’t get out. For universities, it’s a lot of times about saving face. Administrators want to convince people that nothing bad or unsafe could ever happen on their campus, but what is starting to happen now is that disregard for the procedures that Title IX lays out for them to handle complaints of discrimination and sexual assault is bringing them much more unwanted attention then a correctly handled complaint would have done.
In book 5, we see the Ministry and Fudge starting to turn on Harry. We see Fudge trying to discredit his character and make him look delusional so that he himself won’t be seen as incompetent. In a lot of school situations, this is known as retaliation against the complainant. In a few cases in North Carolina, tactics like these were used to discredit students and minimize the legitimate complaints that they brought forward about harassment and assault.
Of course, it’s not just in educational institutions that things like this happen, but as I’ve been watching events unfold at my own school this year and reading about these other cases in the newspaper, I couldn’t help but think of the similarities between real life administrative corruption and that which we see in the ‘Potter’ books.