Robert R. Jennings, the president of Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, suggested in a speech to female students this fall that several women on campus had made false rape charges the previous semester and that they were responsible for putting themselves in those situations.
Jennings made his remarks during the university's annual women-only convocation on Sept. 16 at the main campus near Oxford, Pennsylvania. A four-minute video clip was uploaded to YouTube on Nov. 1. The video begins with Jennings declaring that if women don't respect themselves, men won't either.
"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."
"You know I'm right about it," he said before discussing several allegedly false rape accusations.
"We have, 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?" he said. "They went to [the university's Department of] Public Safety and said, 'He raped me.'
"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.
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."
In a statement, Lincoln University said that Jennings' talk with female students addressed "making informed decisions about dating, in an effort to protect them from some males who may mislead them. He holds the same kind of conversation with male students in their convocation."
According to the university, during the all-male convocation Jennings emphasized that "No means No and that even if it is consensual, one should [refrain] from engaging in something that could alter their future."
The school noted that "more than 50 percent of our students are the first in their families to attend college and more than 50 percent come from single, mostly-female headed households."
The university stood by the president's allegation that three women at Lincoln had recently lied about rape, although it said that Jennings had misspoken regarding the time period of those cases -- two of them were reported in the prior semester. Michael Noone, first assistant district attorney in Chester County, had told The Philadelphia Inquirer and confirmed to The Huffington Post that his office "did not receive any reports of rape where the alleged victims recanted or lied to authorities" at Lincoln University last semester.
The best available evidence suggests that false rape reports are rare. One 10-year study of sexual assault allegations at a Northeastern university found the share of false claims to be 5.9 percent, and a 2010 report on that study and related literature concluded that the overall rate of false rape claims was between 2 and 10 percent.
Jennings emphasized that a sexual assault charge was a serious matter because perpetrators are likely to be expelled with the charge appearing on their academic transcript, which would prevent them from transferring to another school.
In fact, a HuffPost analysis this year showed that students found responsible for sexual assault by their colleges are expelled less than one-third of the time. Moreover, many do not have anything placed on their transcript detailing such charges.
"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," Jennings told his young female audience in September.
Between Jennings' remarks in September and the uploading of the video this month, he was the subject of a "no confidence" vote by the faculty union due in part to declining enrollment and poor fundraising. Jennings became Lincoln's president at the beginning of 2012. Lincoln is the country's first degree-granting historically black university.
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."
How to vote
Vote-by-mail ballot request deadline: Varies by state
For the Nov 3 election: States are making it easier for citizens to vote absentee by mail this year due to the coronavirus. Each state has its own rules for mail-in absentee voting. Visit your state election office website to find out if you can vote by mail.Get more information
In-person early voting dates: Varies by state
Sometimes circumstances make it hard or impossible for you to vote on Election Day. But your state may let you vote during a designated early voting period. You don't need an excuse to vote early. Visit your state election office website to find out whether they offer early voting.My Election Office
General Election: Nov 3, 2020
Polling hours on Election Day: Varies by state/localityMy Polling Place