UR students protest over professor's controversial blog comments

Posted at: 04/08/2013 5:16 PM
Updated at: 04/08/2013 5:59 PM
By: Christine VanTimmeren

Students at the University of Rochester say more needs to be done about a professor's controversial rape comments and on Monday, they protested.

Many of those protesters were graduate students who believe U of R professor Steven Landsburg's comments do not create a safe learning environment. And while undergraduates aren't happy about the comments either, they don't believe a protest asking for the professor to be fired is the answer.

The campus is a bit torn about how to handle the comments by Professor Landsburg, although everyone is in agreement that they were inappropriate and offensive.

But to have him fired because of it? Many undergrads say they don't think so and the protest isn't how they want to respond.

Twenty to thirty people were a part of the protest outside of the building where Landsburg was holding class Monday. They say while they believe Landsburg didn't intend to advocate for rape, he did open up questions that students can interpret as justification for rape. Protesters wanted those walking by to understand that rape is never okay and that standing up for what you believe in needs to be encouraged.
But many students say Landsburg shouldn't be fired because of his comments.
They believe the university should censure him and let him know his words were inappropriate.

Julia Perucchio, senior, said, “Landsburg is not a professor that should be removed from the university community. Any professor has the right to speak. We uphold academic freedom at this university.”

Amy Negley, graduate student, said, “There are times when I don't think he should be associated with this university. I believe as a professor he has a right to freedom of speech and a right to academic freedom but with the rights of a professor come responsibilities.”

A sophomore student said she believes professors are there to provide guidance and answers and should be allowed to speak freely. But if Professor Landsburg continues to make similar comments, something should be done.

U of R Statement

Many members of the University community have been offended by Professor Steven Landsburg's March 20 blog post that poses hypothetical questions about the rights of an unconscious rape victim. They maintain that his questions can be read as condoning the rape of unconscious victims.

On April 5, Professor Landsburg released a statement saying in part, "I am both sad and sorry that my recent blog post has distressed so many people so deeply, both on campus and off. I am particularly sad because many readers got the impression that I was endorsing rape, while my intent was to say exactly the opposite-namely that the horror of rape is so great that we should rethink accepted principles of policy analysis that might sometimes minimize that horror."

Professor Landsburg made his post on his personal blog. It has no direct connection to the University. His views are his own; he does not speak for the University. The University disagrees with the content, which does not reflect its views or values.

In his remarks to the conference "Survivor to Thriver: Confronting Sexual Assault on Campus," on April 3, President Seligman talked about the horror of cases in which unconscious victims are exploited. "The trauma that rape victims feel can affect their lives for decades in ways that can be emotionally devastating not only to the victim but to those who love her or him."

Bill Murphy
Vice President for Communications