The president of the country’s oldest degree-granting historically black college tumbled from power this week, brought low after remarks when public in which he questioned the motives of college students making rape allegations.
Robert Jennings, the president of Lincoln University in Oxford, Pennsylvania, resigned from his post late Monday. In the past two weeks, he had drawn negative attention around the country after a video surfaced of a speech he gave last September to a women-only audience at the school. In the speech, Jennings said that three women at Lincoln had made rape allegations after they had “done whatever they did with young men and then it didn’t turn out the way they wanted it to turn out.” Jennings also offended some men by suggesting that men were inherently predatory on women, saying “we will use you up if you allow us to use you up.”
The leaked video of Jennings ended with him telling female students “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,” a suggestion many interpreted as victim-blaming.
After weeks of building pressure against the president, Jennings finally yielded and resigned, likely to keep himself from being fired instead.
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The comments would have been controversial enough on their own, but were spectacularly ill-timed after a year of steadily growing national attention on the issue of campus sexual assault. Activists claim that as many as one in five college-age women are sexually assaulted (though that number is hotly disputed), and many claim that few assaults are reported because of the dismissive attitude of administrators. In the week leading up to Jennings’ resignation, the University of Virginia was rocked by its own scandal after a Rolling Stone article argued that the school’s administration has been lackadaisical in responding to alleged rapes committed at campus fraternities.
Jennings has made controversial remarks in the past. In 2012, he told a group of male students that men possessed a criminal nature and could be advantaged by being raised by single mothers.
These latest comments proved to be the last straw, however, especially when combined with other maligned administrative decisions. For example, Jennings recently instituted without warning an “80-20 rule” requiring students to pay 80 percent of their tuition up-front at the beginning of term. Critics say that policy and others have contributed to steadily declining enrollment at the college.
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