Some students upset at perceived ‘victim-blaming’ speech given by Orange police chief

Tom Kisela, the Orange police chief, spoke at the annual “We Are Chapman” orientation event Aug. 25. His comments about inebriated women are at 4:15. Footage courtesy of Panther Productions.

Orientation may have not been as welcoming for freshmen as some would have hoped following an incendiary speech given by newly inaugurated Chief Tom Kisela of the Orange Police Department at the annual “We Are Chapman” orientation event Aug. 25.

“The other thing – for the ladies, please be careful about drinking,” Kisela said toward the end of his speech. “Many of you haven’t drunk before, you can drink too much – you’ll be unable to control yourself.”

Kisela went on to describe an event he had witnessed that had taken place a few days prior involving inebriated women.

“We have a bunch of girls walking, they’re giddy. And you are giddy – especially when you drink,” Kisela told the female portion of the audience.

Kisela also detailed the reactions of older male students upon seeing inebriated freshman girls.

“Think about it – new girls on campus, the older guys on campus are gonna teach you about college life,” Kisela said.

Rafaela Bassili, a sophomore screenwriting major, expressed her disappointment at how common occurrences of “victim blaming” – a type of rhetoric in which the victim is blamed for their behavior during an event – have become.  

“It is outrageous that those patriarchal values are still being preached,” Bassili said. “I think the university owes at least an apology to the freshman girls who attended the meeting and should come out with a statement that reminds students that sexual abuse is absolutely never the (fault) of the victim.”

Dave Sundby, director of residence life and first year experience, said that Kisela was not scripted, nor did he provide extensive information as to what he would be speaking about prior to the event.

Sundby also emphasized that Kisela’s views do not represent the university as a whole.

“Every day we meet as an orientation group. (The speech) was absolutely part of our conversation this morning,” Sundby said. “I think that a lot of our students are going through Healthy Panther today and I think Dr. Dani Smith’s message is what I understand we value as a university. That’s the message that we want to send as a university.”

Jerry Price, vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of students, had not heard the portion of the speech in question. He is aware that some students have come forward to express their concern regarding how Kisela’s message was articulated, but Price also understands Kisela’s perspective.

“I can tell you, from my own research and experience, at a college party, women are more at risk to injury, assault, negative things,” Price said. “Whenever there’s drinking, women are more at risk of negative consequences, even if the women aren’t drinking. If things go wrong, it’s just in (our) culture – women are more likely to be the victims.”

However, Price empathizes with students’ concern that the message was gender-specific.  

“There are people who get frustrated that suggesting women change their behavior in order to keep safe is somehow giving the people who should be admonished about not harming others a pass,” Price said. “Some would say that’s victim blaming if you’re saying (victims) need to change their behavior.”

Regarding Kisela’s intent, Price said that the university strives to impart a broader message to its students regarding the definitions of consent and incapacitation.

“Understanding the definitions of consent and incapacitation, that’s a tough message, it’s not one that you could probably convey in a 10-15 minute talk,” Price said. “Our educational efforts are understandably broader than that and (we are) trying to help students, especially men, understand their responsibility in this.”

Bassili worries that the speech will have the opposite effect on students.

“Guys in (fraternities) just were reminded that in the sick world we live in today, what lives on are misogynistic, absurd values that are enforced by people who should be protecting us,” Bassili said.

Jamie Altman contributed to this report.

Read The Panther’s editorial on Kisela’s speech here.

Read a guest column about the speech from a male perspective here.

12 Comments

  • Miss Basilli sounds like a misguided, super-sensitive ,radical feminist. This poor woman got her panties in a bunch over a supposed ” Patriarchal ” police officer who she blamed for victim-blaming.

    This was a nice guy who pointed out the reality of college life. Older college guys have too often taken advantage of young freshmen girls who got really drunk. What a nice guy , who obviously has a daughter himself, who was trying to protect women. Yet radical miss Basilli, sees a plot to undermine feminism and women behind every badge. How misguided , and silly to make a big deal out of nothing. Miss Basilli you have learned very well from Women’s Studies classes, about playing the perpetual victim card and falsely building this straw man, called the Patriarchy. What utter nonsense ! You give real feminism a bad name.

    • I’m so glad this man decided to gallop in on his white horse and tell all us silly girls what feminism is. Thanks so much. That really reinforces what a stand-up dude you are that you’d defend a man in power over a woman expressing her opinion.
      Yikes. That was sarcasm.
      Buddy, learn how to listen to women and their experiences. That’s what feminism is about–and yes, patriarchy is real and it (big surprise!) leaves a trail of victims. Nobody actively wants to be a victim, you do get that, right? We would all rather be studying at college (and we study things other than women’s studies–we study rhetoric and the sciences and everything in between. Did you know women can have varied interests?) than be complaining about stuff online? This isn’t fun for me. I know you imagine some stereotype of a feminist behind a computer having the time of her life, but hearing victim-blaming statements hurts us and we’re expressing that hurt.
      What year is it again?

      • Man in power? I would say that was a man & a Father trying to help out young women, so they do not end up putting themselves in harm’s way. Do you realize what police officers deal with? They see the ugly side of life.

        He seemed relaxed in giving a speech with great intentions and you have to turn that into XX vs XY. Really sad that you can’t see him as a Dad more than a person of “power”.

    • What the officer descriibes is a rampant rape culture at Chapman. Why aren these “older boys taking advantage of young girls” affiliated with the school?! Isn’t knowing not to rape somene part of being a “global citizen?”

      The Dean of the school admits in this article that Chapman is not capable of teaching basic consent. Consent is not complicated and takes fifteen seconds to teach. Yes means yes. This is terrifying.

    • Dan Jones, can’t you see the problem though? This is an authority figure in our community saying that young freshman girls are responsible for the actions of older college guys.
      By focusing squarely on the ‘ladies’, Kisela presented these older college guys as an immutable force of nature – a force that cannot be changed, so everyone else needs to change in order to accommodate it.
      And that’s something that CAN be changed, if we actually tried to change it!
      Why is the message, ‘Ladies, watch out for the older college guys,’ and not ‘Guys, don’t ever take advantage of girls’ ?

      • Mitchell, such spin and such a jump to a conclusion. No he didn’t say that. No that’s just your interpretation. Don’t make yourself a target by drinking too much. Can it be said any clearer. How many times do we have to read the same story over and over about the college girl going to the frat party, getting drunk, getting raped? Of course it is the rapist that is doing wrong but why make it any easier for him? Keep your sense about you at all times and stay sober.
        As for the police officer, shame on anyone for spinning this out of control. You have to wonder why anyone would ever want to be a cop these days and that’s really sad when what we need is 10 times more police than we have today.

    • Dear Dan Jones,
      You are as tone deaf as Brock Turner’s dad.
      I have a son, a senior at Chapman. He knows that NO MEANS NO.
      Yes, I am a Feminist. I had no idea that word was a “dirty” word.
      Heaven forbid that we, as women, stand up to the Good Ol’Boys Club of
      “Let Boys be Boys.” Not all “Boys” are wolves.
      I appauld Miss Basilli for her editorial.

      • Melissa, a real choir boy eh? weren’t we all?

        What is your definition of a feminist? Seems like I would have to say a feminist seems to be a woman who has a chip on her shoulder and hunts for reasons to try to take any man down. I feel sorry for you then.

        I agree with the comment, what year is it? Wow must we really make it man vs woman? It just seems so silly. The police officer’s intentions and speech was from a caring angle and you attack? really really sad.

  • So if women are more likely to be the “victims,” who are more likely to be the “offenders”? Men? If so, what is the school doing to address the fact that they have a large segment of their population that will victimize its students and put them at risk for injury, assault, and negative things??

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