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College student banished from class for his views on rape?

College student banished from class for his views on rape?

Looks like there’s more to this story…

Yesterday, BuzzFeed News published a story about a freshman at Reed College, a small liberal arts school in Portland, Oregon.

Nineteen-year-old Jeremiah True told BuzzFeed News he received a letter from his freshman humanities professor, Pancho Savery, banning him from the discussion portion of the class for the rest of the semester.

Katie J.M. Baker reported for BuzzFeed News:

…“Please know that this was a difficult decision for me to make and one that I have never made before; nevertheless, in light of the serious stress you have caused your classmates, I feel that I have no other choice,” Savery wrote in the email, obtained by BuzzFeed News.

…True said he sparred with classmates over discussion topics related to ancient Greece and Rome, such as the “patriarchal” belief that logic is more important than emotion and his analysis of Lucretia’s rape. But it was his questioning of the widely shared and often debated statistic that 1 in 5 women in college are sexually assaulted — it doesn’t serve “actual rape victims” to “overinflate” numbers, he said — and his rejection of the term “rape culture” that led to him being banned, he said.

“I am critical of the idea of a rape culture because it does not exist,” he wrote in a lengthy email to Savery explaining his perspectives that he has also posted online. “We live in a society that hates rape, but also hasn’t optimized the best way to handle rape. Changing the legal definition of rape is a slippery slope. If sexual assault becomes qualified as rape, what happens next? What else can we legally redefine to become rape? Why would we want to inflate the numbers of rape in our society?”

Today, new information revealed in an article published by Inside Higher Ed suggests BuzzFeed didn’t get the whole story. Though it should be noted Professor Savery declined to provide comment to BuzzFeed, but was willing to discuss the matter with Insider Higher Ed.

Kaitlin Mulhere of Inside Higher Ed writes:

The professor, Pancho Savery, described a different scenario. True was not banned from the class for what he said, but rather as a result of a series of disruptive behaviors, Savery said. He declined to elaborate on the behaviors.

True declined to be interviewed Thursday. When contacted via e-mail, he responded that he would only answer questions if the first word in the article was “nigger.” Inside Higher Ed refused to make such a commitment, and he then declined to talk.

True’s odd request was also one made of Reason when Robby Soave contacted True for comment.

Professor Savery is known for being an outspoken advocate for free speech:

BuzzFeed’s account suggests True was banned from discussion based on an isolated incident. BuzzFeed also indicated it was too late for True to transfer to a different class section. The article by IHE contradicts both assertions.

Multiple students approached both Professor Savery indicating True’s behavior made them uncomfortable. As both Buzzfeed and IHE point out, numerous students personally appealed to True after class, sharing their personal stories with the hope True would understand why his remarks made them uncomfortable. There also appears to have been ongoing correspondence between True and Savery prior to Savery’s decision to remove True from the discussion portion of the class. In a letter he wrote to Reed faculty members, True appears to have been aware that his actions were disruptive as he was, “trying to monitor his behavior in class.”

On the matter of repeated attempts to curb True’s behavior

…True described himself in the letter to faculty members as quite vocal in class and as someone who’s not afraid to share his opinion. He wrote that he tried to monitor his behavior in class — and thought he was doing so successfully — after being told by Savery that other classmates felt he was making sexist comments.

But last week, Savery held a class meeting at which True wasn’t present. The rest of the students talked about the classroom environment.

More than one student in the class had told Savery that they’d been sexually assaulted, and both male and female students complained about True’s behavior.

“You have made them extremely uncomfortable with what they see as not only your undermining incidents of rape, but of also placing too much emphasis on men being unfairly charged with rape,” Savery wrote to True.
The exchange comes from a series of e-mails that True copied into his letter to faculty. Only the text of the e-mails is visible and not the addresses, dates or times.

Savery told True that he had to do what was best for the well-being of the class, and so True was banned from the discussion section.

On the matter of transferring to another class section

…True was offered the option to transfer into a different section, and he also was offered the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Savery, said Kevin Myers, director of strategic communications. He declined both of those offers.

While some accounts of the story have described True’s sexual assault comment as a onetime occurrence, Myers stressed that it was a continual issue in the course. True was removed not for the content of his speech but because of the context, he said.

While it’s very rare, faculty members have the right to remove anyone whose behavior is interrupting the abilities of other people to learn, he said.

“When a student’s behavior disrupts that environment substantially, then we have an obligation to act,” Myers said.

A spokesman for Reed College says they’re working to find a remedy suitable for everyone involved.

Myers, the Reed spokesman, said the college was working to find a solution that satisfies everyone. True is an intelligent student who has strong ideas and isn’t afraid to question things, he said.

“There’s room for that at a place like Reed College — to have an opinion even when it’s uncomfortable,” he said. “But you also have to have respect for your fellow students and share those opinions at a time that’s appropriate.”

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Via a link from Powerline Blog there may be more to this story…

    This professor probably has an extremely broad definition of what constitutes “disruptive behavior” in class. I imagine the voicing of a political opinion deemed to be part of “the other” is considered disruptive in his class.

      Ragspierre in reply to JBourque. | March 20, 2015 at 12:15 pm

      Maybe, but if you read up on this flap, it doesn’t sound like that’s a good position to jump to.

      It certainly happens, but so does it happen that someone can be a jerk in class.

nordic_prince | March 20, 2015 at 11:44 am

God forbid these “adults” should go to college and have their statements & beliefs challenged. Welcome to the “marketplace of ideas,” cupcakes.

Oh wait – I forgot that line is strictly reserved for use on conservatives ~

    healthguyfsu in reply to nordic_prince. | March 21, 2015 at 1:00 am

    Cupcakes are made in batches. We in the industry prefer to refer to those grown up children we “serve” as the precious little snowflakes. That way, we can remember that each one is unique and precious and must be treated gently or they will melt and disappear.


    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to nordic_prince. | March 21, 2015 at 4:11 am

    The students are supposed to be there to learn and think critically and analytically, not spout whatever dogma passes as true wisdom in their opinions. True may have a point about the jumping to rape accusations, but if a white kid insisted on being addressed as “honkey” or “cracka”, he’d be expelled.

“There’s room for that at a place like Reed College — to have an opinion even when it’s uncomfortable,” he said.

Thank you, Reed College!

True strikes me as another one of those people angling for their fifteen minutes of fame.

The first time I read it I kinda wondered if perhaps the “student” was a nutter. Sounds like my “mom-o-meter” was working.

“There’s room for that at a place like Reed College — to have an opinion even when it’s uncomfortable,” [Reed spox Myers] said. “But you also have to have respect for your fellow students and share those opinions at a time that’s appropriate.”

I believe they call those “appropriate” times and places “First Amendment Zones” and “Free Speech Areas”. They’re usually out-of-sight and/or out-of-earshot, and often controversial and/or abused. And some court decisions explicitly say that all public areas on campus are for public use, including for free speech, assembly, and protest; a school can designate additional areas, but cannot restrict access or use of existing public areas.

    Ragspierre in reply to Archer. | March 20, 2015 at 2:03 pm


    Other times, a disruptive jerk is just a disruptive jerk, and NO professor worth the pay is going to turn over their class to that.

    Damn sure wouldn’t fly with me.

    Also, try “free speeching” in a court during business. Or a government hearing at any level of government. See, some things require decorum, and that isn’t the same as denying free expression of ideas. It SURE DOES mean you get to do it according to Hoyle, as you might say.

      Quite right on the disruptive jerk being a disruptive jerk. Decorum is important, as is the context of what’s being said, in addition to the content.

      As to court proceedings and government hearings, and I’ll concede classrooms (albeit to a lesser extent): they have the power to limit “free speeching” to the business at hand and throw out the “crazies” on either side, but none of those can reasonably be considered “public venues” the same way, say, a park or sidewalk can.

      I’ll say classrooms to a lesser extent because it’s inappropriate to limit speech to what’s “comfortable”. There will always be someone (“that guy/girl”) who’s “not comfortable” with the content or direction of a discussion, but that doesn’t mean the discussion can’t or shouldn’t be had, or that others aren’t learning from it. Indeed, (gently) pushing past the “comfort zone” is where real learning takes place, and is the only way to truly broaden a person’s view.

        Ragspierre in reply to Archer. | March 20, 2015 at 2:59 pm

        I learned a LOT from my drills, and they were not gentle in the least.

        Oxford will make you or break you, and it doesn’t much care which.

        I think a good professor SHOULD expose you to sharp discomfort in many instances.

    randian in reply to Archer. | March 20, 2015 at 3:55 pm

    I’m fairly sure the only time that would be deemed appropriate would be “never”.

rancidpoodle | March 20, 2015 at 2:16 pm

Trolling is trolling. It can be verbal in the classroom (which I suspect this was) or it can be online.
If indeed the kid was trolling (being as asshole for the sake of being an a*hole) in class the professor did the right thing in tossing his ass.

MouseTheLuckyDog | March 20, 2015 at 3:39 pm

It’s hard to say one way or another. Could be a turd of a teacher or a turd of a student. What is really needed is testimony from the other students. Especially the ones who don’t use terms like “rape culture”.

True wasn’t told not to attend the conference portion of this class because of the content of his speech, but because of the context of his speech.

The main disruptive behavior was True continually bringing up and trying to discuss his provocative views (his Facebook pages proclaims that he’s studying “How to Annoy People”) on campus rape culture, the holocaust, racism, etc in a Humanities class about ancient Greece and Rome. Those might be interesting conversations, but they’re inappropriate to bring up in a discussion about The Aeneid, Nicomachean Ethics, or the Gospel of Matthew. Hum 110 conference is a place to discuss the writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans, not to hear Mr. True rant about his thoughts on campus rape and the Holocaust.

    randian in reply to billjones. | March 20, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    I might agree with that but for the fact that the professor is allowing the other students to bring up “rape culture” in a study of ancient Greece. True is responding to their statements, not bringing up “rape culture” just for the hell of it. If the other students don’t want True to discuss “rape culture” they shouldn’t be talking about “rape culture”.

      billjones in reply to randian. | March 20, 2015 at 4:27 pm

      Where are you getting the “fact” that the “professor is allowing the other students to bring up ‘rape culture'” from?

        randian in reply to billjones. | March 20, 2015 at 6:10 pm

        So you think True is bringing up rape culture of his own accord? Doubtful in my opinion. Either the other students did or the professor specifically asked for discussion on the topic. Either way “allow” is an apt description.

Richard Aubrey | March 20, 2015 at 4:28 pm

Rape culture in classical times. Sure. Dollars to donuts we’d hear, “Just like now,”
From the context of the prof’s excuses, it appears that if a woman isn’t a “survivor”, she can’t get into Reed, and if she’s not a special snowflake, she can’t stay.
Plus, women should be in the Infantry.

Didn’t some tell True the truth? If you don’t grovel before SJC PC, you don’t graduate. I don’t go to college, but I certainly hear about it every week from people who do. It’s no wonder that men are making college obsolete.