Fire Robert Jennings from his position as Lincoln University President
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This petition is to call for the Board of Trustees at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania to relieve President, Robert Jennings of his duties. The University needs to take this action to send a strong message that it does stand behind students who have been sexually assaulted and show that they do not support recent remarks by the president that clearly discourage students from reporting campus assault.
At a recent convocation for female students (see video), Jennings let women know exactly how he sees the issue of on-campus sexual assault – It’s their problem and their responsibility. One student, upset about the remarks, taped and posted the video online.
Please use the hashtag #JenningsMustGo to spread the word about this issue.
Here is a rundown of his various comments that blame victims, perpetuate rape culture and discourage students from reporting rape.
"Men treat you—treat women—the way women allow us to treat them," he explains "And let me let you in on another little secret. We will use you up, if you allow us to use you up," Jennings said. "Well, guess what? When it comes time for us to make that final decision, we're going to go down the hall and marry that girl with the long dress on. That's one we're going to take home to mama. Because there’s something about the way you carry yourself and respect yourself that commands demands respect from us. That’s the way it works."
Jennings clearly blames women for being treated badly. If women are being abused, it’s their fault – they let it happen. Here, Jennings also lets students know that they will not be respected by men unless they cover themselves up. Slut-shaming like this reduces a woman's worth to what clothing she decides to wear. Furthermore, it says that the way you dress or “carry yourself” decides whether or not you are worthy of respect.
He goes on to tell the women in the room that “brothers” sweet talk women while they are having sex with other women at the same time. Painting black men with a single brush.
"And let me tell you why I know I'm right about it," Jennings continued. "I'm right about it because we had on this campus last semester, three cases of young women who, after having done whatever they did with the young men, and then it didn't turn out the way they wanted it to turn out, guess what they did? They then went to Public Safety and said, 'He raped me.' So then we have to do an investigation.”
Even after Jennings apologized for his comments (see below), he stands by his statement that 3 students falsely accused other students of rape last year. According to the university, all three cases were investigated by the university and reported to authorities, the university said. But Michael Noone, first assistant district attorney in Chester County, said he has no reports of rapes at Lincoln from last semester in which women lied or recanted their stories. There was one allegation of attempted sexual assault, but the case was dropped, he said, because it could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt - not because the woman recanted. He goes on from this comment to talk about the burden on the school.
"So then we have to do an investigation. We have to start pulling back the layers and asking all kinds of questions, and when we start trying to collect the data and ask the questions -- and why do we do that? Because we know that possibly somebody's life is getting ready to change for the rest of their life," Jennings said, “Because there’s not more serious accusation.”
Again, Jennings shows that his first thought during a sexual assault investigation is the perpetrator and how the accusation will affect that person’s life. What about the lives of students who have been assaulted?
"When you allege that somebody did something of that nature to you, they go to jail. I don't care how close they are to finishing the degree, their whole life changes overnight," he said. "Why am I saying all this, ladies? I'm saying this because, first and foremost, don't put yourself in a situation that would cause you to be trying to explain something that really needs no explanation had you not put yourself in that situation."
Here Jennings underlines how horrible rape allegations are for the perpetrator. We can think of someone else who suffers the long lasting effects of sexual assault – the victim/survivor. Women don’t need reminders that sexual assault is a serious accusation. They are discouraged left and right from reporting in the first place which is why rape is largely unreported by all genders. Any comments to further discourage reporting are unnecessary and HARMFUL.
The last part of this quote roughly translates to: If you get raped it’s your fault because you put yourself in that situation and by the way – it wasn’t really rape anyway.
Jennings apologized for his words on November 11th:
"It is obvious that I did not clearly communicate during a portion of September's All Women's Convocation," Jennings said in a letter to the Lincoln community. "My message was intended to emphasize personal responsibility and mutual respect. I apologize for my choice of words. I certainly did not intend to hurt or offend anyone."
Jennings remarks did a lot more than “offend.” They discouraged an auditorium full of women to report sexual assault the school. It’s clear that Jennings does not quite get the impact of his words and the fact that women not understanding the seriousness of rape allegations is not part of the epidemic of on-campus sexual assault. It also leaves the question in many minds: How does Jennings understand the meaning of sexual assault? Because his comments and this apology are making us think that perhaps he only understands sexual assault in specific terms (legitimate rape anyone?).
Educators and Community Leaders have spoken out about these comments:
Marybeth Gasman, an education professor at the University of Pennsylvania and expert on historically black colleges reportedly called Jennings comments “disturbing, offensive and sexist in nature.”
“The president blames young women for being raped by saying that when they have sex with someone and regret that act, they then create a story [of rape] to explain it,” added Gasman.
The district attorney for Chester County, which includes Lincoln University, was critical of Jennings' remarks.
"His comments sound like that of a criminal defense lawyer from about 1850," District Attorney Tom Hogan told The Huffington Post on Monday. "First, he blames the victim. Second, he asks victims not to report. And third, he sings a sad song about the defendants."
"Overall," said Robert Ingram, president of the 700-member alumni association, "there's a loss of confidence in his ability to lead the university at a very critical time for colleges and universities in America" - especially historically black colleges and universities.
Robert Langley, head of the faculty union at Lincoln, said he strongly disagreed with the notion that a woman is "somehow responsible (even partially) for being raped."
"Sometimes a woman will become intoxicated at a party and/or dress provocatively," Langley said in an email. "However, that does not entitle a man to their body without their consent. It does not. No means no."
The Rev. James Thomas, whose son is a junior at Lincoln University, didn't agree with Jennings' claims and called his remarks "frightening."
"There had to have been at least one young lady in that room who had been the victim of sexual assault who had not reported it, and there was nothing that was said by the president that would have given any comfort," Thomas told the newspaper.
In addition to the actual video, information taken from the following articles:
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