Those who jump to conclusions jump off a cliff

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By John Cusumano

In last week’s The DePauw, Professor Douglas Harms wrote an article entitled “‘House of Scaife’ Podcast Can Change DePauw’s Date Rape Culture for the Better.”  The title was hardly, if at all, representative of its content.  Rather, with zero basis in fact, Professor Harms irresponsibly and incomprehensibly labeled me, the host of “The House of Scaife” (hereinafter “host” and “hosts”), as a rapist and rape advocate. Now, I respond.  

Professor Harms set the tone in the first two sentences of his article by quoting from Keith Edwards, a sexual violence prevention educator: “We really want to believe that rapists are deviant people in our normal culture.  But what if … most rapists are actually normal people in our deviant culture.”  He spends the next six paragraphs jumping to the irrational conclusion that the hosts advocate for nonconsensual sex and a rape culture.  

Then, later in the article, Professor Harms revisits Edwards’s quote. Except this time, without any basis in fact, he replaces the word “rapists” with “the hosts.” In a nauseating attempt to personify Edwards’s quote and purport a real life example of rapists to the readers, Professor Harms states, “Are the hosts of this podcast deviants in our normal culture, or are they normal in our deviant culture?”  

Rape is horrible, but it’s also disgusting to be labeled a rapist and rape advocate in a newspaper when I never have remotely done such things.  If Professor Harms finds my podcast to be in poor taste, that’s one thing, but extrapolating that discomfort into false claims that I am a rapist and support nonconsensual sex is indefensible.

In the final paragraphs, Professor Harms attempts to couch this false smear in happy-go-lucky language suggesting that I can be rehabilitated and the sex culture on campus can change for the better.  Showing how tone-deaf he is on this subject, he advises that people can “help [the hosts] realize how their attitudes towards sex are harmful and hurtful, and their actions (read: rape and sexual assault) are potentially illegal.” Memo to Professor Harms—rape and sexual assault are not potentially illegal, they are always illegal.

These are the kinds of assumptions that lead to horrific situations, for example, the Duke Lacrosse scandal. The published articles that perpetuated that scandal were eerily similar to Professor Harms’s article. Both made extreme and false allegations without facts, evidence or data to support them. This was a scandal where completely innocent people lost jobs, scholarships, educational opportunities, and their reputations.

Professor Harms made irrational assumptions without doing his homework. He never spoke to the hosts before publishing.  After he published the article, he admitted that he had only listened to two podcast episodes.  Yet he was still willing to boldly write that there is “no mention or concern regarding consent” in the entire podcast.  He let the negative noise influence him to make false speculation.  He drank the kool-aid—just like many of those writers who covered the Duke Lacrosse scandal.

Doug was unaware that girls have been on the show. He was unaware that there are counter interpretations of the word “scaife,” which ultimately discredits connecting this podcast to rape culture.

What kind of message is Professor Harms sending? Falsely accusing people of rape and advocating for nonconsensual sex creates an unwarranted hostile environment on campus—just like the hostile nature of this article provoked. If he really wanted to create dialogue or have discussions, he should have come to me to fully understand this podcast, but his actions in publishing his article defied any and all notions of fundamental fairness.

Professor Harms explicitly says exactly what this podcast is: “healthy and consensual sexual practices… openly and actively discussed.”  I will add “in a satirical fashion” to the end of that.