When American University's student paper, The Eagle, published a column arguing that drunk women solicit sexual assault, it sparked a firestorm of controversy on campus -- enough to move 50 students to gather and discuss the column and others to remove hundreds of issues from newspaper stands in protest.
In the column, sophomore Alex Knepper expressed his controversial views on rape and feminism, among other things. Knepper wrote:
For my pro-sex views, I am variously called a misogynist, a rape apologist and -- my personal favorite -- a "pro-date rape protofascist."
Let's get this straight: any woman who heads to an EI party as an anonymous onlooker, drinks five cups of the jungle juice, and walks back to a boy's room with him is indicating that she wants sex, OK?
Knepper clarified his argument to the Washington Post.
In an interview Monday he [Knepper] said that "real rape," which occurs when a stranger "thrusts sex into a non-sexual situation," is a heinous crime and rapists should be severely punished.
"I have a fun time stirring the pot," Knepper said. "I don't mind being hated for my views."
By publishing this piece, we were not trying to display our tacit support of Knepper's views. However, as journalists, we are not in the business of censorship. As an editor, I would not feel right to fire or censor a writer who has offended people, because I believe that he has raised questions that warrant discussion.
The Eagle published a letter yesterday from American's provost and vice president of campus life in response to the column. It reads:
Our campus community has been stunned and mobilized by opinions expressed about date rape by an Eagle columnist in this week's paper. The emotion provoked by the column and the seriousness of the subject make this a powerful learning opportunity for our community and a moment for us to affirm our values as an educational institution.
AU is committed to a safe environment for all and does not tolerate rape in any form or under any circumstances.
The letter goes on to state that an enhanced version of the school's sexual misconduct policy will be printed in an upcoming issue of the Eagle.
This morning, Knepper went on CBS's The Early Show to defend his work. "Men cannot know what women do not tell them," he said, adding that "there are so many men out there whose lives have been devastated by false claims of rape."
American student Carmen Ríos appeared on the show as well, and criticized the university's response to sexual assault. "Our institution has taken a very hands-off approach to sexual assault," she said, "And is trying very hard to make it just go away."