LINCOLN UNIVERSITY, Pa.—On Tuesday, Nov. 11, The Lincoln
University made national news headlines, including local news coverage, after a video was released via YouTube of the university’s president discussing how women should conduct themselves on campus.
In September of this year, Robert R. Jennings, President of The Lincoln University, held an all-female convocation with its female faculty, staff and students, a tradition he’s continued since he began his term as university president in January of 2012.
In the 4-minute clip of his alleged 20-plus-minute speech, issued under the YouTube account “Fire Jennings,” the 63-year-old president is heard advising female students to not put themselves “in a situation that would cause [them] to be trying to explain something that really needs no explanation had [they] not put themselves in that situation.”
“If women don’t respect themselves, men won’t either,” Jennings states. “We will use you up, if you allow us to use you up.”
During his remarks, Jennings also made allegations that three female students at the university had lied about being raped on campus.
In a statement issued by the university to the Huffington Post on Tuesday, Jennings’ statements during the convocation were intended to give advice to its female students, not degrade them.
“[He advised them] to make informed decisions about dating, in an effort to protect them from males who may mislead them,” the statement claimed. “He holds the same kind of conversation with male students in their convocation.”
According to the university in a statement made to Philly.com, Jennings urged the men of the campus to understand that “No means No…and even if it is consensual, one should [refrain] from engaging in something that could alter their future.”
In response to the video, outraged university alumni and allies issued a petition via change.org, an online petitioning platform proposing the university fire the president.
In the petition, university alumni and allies argued that the university president’s remarks “promoted and maintained the dominant rape culture of the United States through the spreading of victim-blaming rhetoric.” The petition also stated that Jennings’ statement demonstrated “a flagrant disregard for the historical and contemporary forms of sexual violence that Black women are targeted for because of white supremacy and misogyny.”
A petition supporter, Neil Becker, argued that men need to “be taught that respect first.”
“No woman should be forced to do anything against her will,” Becker wrote on the petition’s page.
Another change.org site visitor, Cleave Frink, suggested that colleges and universities not get involved in these kinds of investigations.
“Yet another example of why colleges and universities should not be investigating anything at all,” Frink wrote under the petition. “Provide services, education and structure for students. Report crimes to police for investigation. People are innocent until proven guilty.”
According to change.org, university alumni and allies are calling for “immediate removal and dismissal” of Jennings and that “any new President of The Lincoln University must…demonstrate record of a strong commitment to gender and sexual equity.”
In 2010, The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey reported:
- 22% of Black women have experienced rape at some point in their life.
- 41% of all Back women have experienced some form of sexual violence other than rape at some point in their life.
- Approximately 4 in 10 Black women have experience rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point during their life.
- Approximately 44.6% of all women have experienced some form of sexual violence other than rape at some point during their life.
- In one study on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), 14.2% of Black women enrolled reported a completed or attempted rape (Krebs, Lindquist & Barrick, 2011).
According to the university’s Department of Public Safety Crime Statistics, there was a report of 1 forcible sex offense in 2011 and 2012 and a reported 3 in 2013, 2 of those cases taking place within a campus residence hall.
Later Tuesday morning after the video made headlines, Jennings sent out a university-wide email to students apologizing for his “choice of words.”
“My message was intended to emphasize personal responsibility and mutual respect,” the president wrote in the email. “I apologize for my choice of words. I certainly did not mean to hurt or offend anyone.”
Jennings’ also stated that the university will not tolerate sexual misconduct, strongly suggesting that students report “any concerns of sexual misconduct to University Police.”
Recent news coverage surrounding the university comes a month after its faculty members made headlines, after issuing a Vote of No-Confidence petition against Jennings.
Last month, 58 out of 64 eligible faculty members expressed that they held no confidence in the president’s leadership, after observing his slow urgency to raise $10 million through the Student’s First Campaign, supported by Bill Cosby, faculty turnovers, and a host of other concerns.
Board of Trustees Chairwoman, Kimberly Lloyd, stated to the Philadelphia Inquirer in response that the board had not been “formally notified” at the time that the articles had been published and therefore would not comment regarding the faculty vote. She did state that the board was “unable to consider the action due to a number of unanswered questions regarding the legality of its motion, including evidence to substantiate a quorum and a formal vote count, which were requested, but not provided by the association.”
Jennings’ contract runs through December of 2016. There is a set Board of Trustees meeting to be held this Saturday, Nov. 15 at 9am in the university’s International Cultural Center.