Students protesting a lecture on sexual assault and due process have elicited a viral response from supporters and critics of F–kRapeCulture, an activist group on campus.
KC Johnson’s Monday night lecture, titled “Abandoning Due Process: Campus Sexual Assault and Presumptions of Guilt,” was protested by a group of about 20 Ohio University students, who called Johnson a “rape apologist,” among other terms.
“It was perfectly appropriate for opponents of campus due process to come and ask questions, as they did,” Johnson said in an email. “I tried to answer their questions as completely as I could.”
Claire Chadwick, a member of F–kRapeCulture who protested Johnson’s lecture, said the response to the protests is more than the group expected.
“We were exercising our right of free speech,” said Chadwick, a senior studying gender and social justice. “I think that KC Johnson denied there being a rape culture at OU. I am proud that there was such an activist presence at the meeting.”
Johnson countered the claim that OU has a rape culture, based on the definition of the term “culture.”
“If we’re going to talk about a culture, it seems to me that the definition of that term must mean something that would refer to sentiments commonly held by a significant portion of the campus, and that’s not something that I see here,” he said at the lecture.
Johnson said it seemed unlikely that the student protesters had read any of his due process literature before the event and that the protesters expected him to argue topics he didn’t discuss, according to a Washington Examiner article on Wednesday.
“I’ve certainly given addresses at places where people disagreed with me,” Johnson said in an email. “I’ve never had a talk where protesters stood and turned their back on a clip from President Obama –– who was, after all, basically agreeing with their position––but I assume they had a tactical reason for doing so.”
The students stood up as Johnson played a clip of Obama, before Johnson began speaking. It wasn’t clear what the clip showed.
Robert Ingram, director of the George Washington Forum, which sponsored the lecture, said he’s received some criticism for inviting Johnson to the university.
“Much of the criticism I’ve seen is made in an argumentative mode that, as an academic, I find completely alien,” Ingram said in an email.
But he doesn’t regret the forum’s decision to invite Johnson.
“I’m proud to have invited KC Johnson to speak at the (forum),” Ingram said. “The dangers of being a free speech and due process zealot seem infinitely less than the dangers of curtailing speech and abandoning due process.
“I admire Professor Johnson because he’s willing politely, but resolutely, to defend both free speech and due process,” he added.
Past and present students voiced their opinions on the issue since the event.
Vice President for Student Affairs Ryan Lombardi said a public university should be a place where the “free exchange of ideas” occurs.
“It doesn’t mean that everybody needs to agree with the ideals,” Lombardi said. “It doesn’t mean the university agrees with the ideals, but we, as a public institution, should provide that forum and be committed to providing that forum.”
Despite the tension, Johnson said he respects the students’ right to speak out on the issue.
“My sense is that the approach they took to the talk –– turning their backs on the Obama clip, asking questions that often seemed tangential to the actual argument presented –– suggested a lack of confidence that their perspective on due process could prevail in an open exchange of ideas.”
This story also appears on The Post