Is Franciscan University Scared of Speaking Plainly About Sexual Harassment?

Is Franciscan University Scared of Speaking Plainly About Sexual Harassment? January 6, 2018

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Yesterday, the Franciscan University of Steubenville Facebook page shared an article from the aptly named Crisis magazine, penned by FUS Professor Stephen Kranson, wherein he provided a shocking apologia for rape culture and blamed sexual harassment on immodesty and the sexual revolution. I won’t directly engage the scandalous article here, but Rebecca Bratten Weiss provides an excellent rebuttal.

The sharing of this article received such a severe backlash that FUS took it down and posted an apology claiming they didn’t really read it. In the comment section under their apology, former students expressed their dismay and one student described her alleged sexual harassment and intimidation by another Franciscan University professor. Having learned nothing about how important it is to listen to women speaking about sexual harassment, despite what had just transpired moments ago, the facebook page deleted these comments. Fortunately, screenshots were taken and shared publicly by an alumna named Annie Marie Snoddy, who stated that “this is a public post so feel free to share.” Here they are:

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I am appalled. Lord knows I’ve had my share of disagreements with Franciscan University on a myriad of topics. It’s not a school I would have contemplated sending my child to in the first place. But I was never sexually harassed there even once. I would have liked to believe they were far better than this.

Especially when one considers that FUS fired my friend Rebecca Bratten Weiss  just months ago, for teaching college-level literature in college and for daring to ask the socioeconomic reasons why women might seek abortion, it seems beyond belief that they would tolerate a professor writing that Crisis article in the first place. And I hope they would take allegations of sexual misconduct extremely seriously, not delete them as if they were terrified to consider that such an incedent could happen.

If the allegations of sexual harassment described by the former student are true, I don’t think they’re in any way unique to Franciscan University. I believe that most college campuses, no matter what their professed political or moral views, are places where sexual harassment occasionally happens. I went to Otterbein University, the ideological polar opposite of Franciscan, for undergraduate, and experienced a sexual harassment incident there. It was very quickly and professionally addressed by the authorities and I was not bothered again, so I’m not ragging on my alma mater. No one in that school’s administration did anything unethical there that I’m aware of.

And that illustrates my point: sexual harassment, assault and abuse ought never to happen. It is a tragedy that they happen. But the first step to preventing such things is to be completely frank that they do happen, with alarming frequency, all over this world, and that they are intolerable. They can happen to you whether you’re a radical feminist or someone who is radically anti-feminist. They happen to chaste girls in long skirts as well as to sexual libertines.  Sometimes the perpetrators are foolish, horny students and sometimes they’re professors. Sometimes they’re liberal and sometimes conservative. Sometimes, tragically, they’re Catholic. Being a Catholic school with a conservative reputation in no way makes an institution immune to sexual abuse. However, denying that sexual abuse is a problem and silencing those who come forward to report it is an excellent way to ensure that your institution becomes a hotbed of abuse, whatever you claim to profess.

I am at a loss to express how alarming it is that a college professor of any stripe wrote that Crisis rant in the first place. College professors are in a position of authority. They ought to know far better. I am equally shocked that the Franciscan University Facebook page decided to promote it. And I don’t think that the post having been “not fully vetted” makes it any less appalling.

The first step toward preventing sexual abuse is to be honest about it, and as far as I can tell, yesterday Franciscan University failed at that twice over.

(First image via Pixabay) 

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