Victim-blaming, student-shaming

 Illustrated by Nate Mulroy

Illustrated by Nate Mulroy

On Aug. 25, newly inaugurated Orange Chief of Police Tom Kisela spoke to a crowd of freshmen during orientation about the new noise ordinance and alcohol safety. During his speech, Kisela made comments regarding women at parties that have sparked outrage among members of the student body.

“For the ladies, please be careful about drinking,” Kisela said a few minutes into his speech. “Many of you haven’t (been) drunk before. You can drink too much, you’ll be unable to control yourself.”

Some students took issue with Kisela’s comments, noting how he only advised female students to be careful when drinking, but said nothing about male student conduct at parties.

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

This is victim-blaming. You cannot single out women who drink and leave out the fact that it is often drunk men who cause the kinds of problems he is talking about: rape and sexual assault.

Kisela missed a perfect opportunity to talk to students about “Yes Means Yes” consent laws and bystander awareness. As an authority figure speaking to potentially impressionable freshmen, Kisela completely misrepresented the message that the university and Healthy Panther have been trying to teach about safe drinking habits.

We think the offended Chapman students were spot-on in criticizing this portion of Kisela’s speech, and we would like to point out a few other flaws as well, starting with his perspective on how the noise ordinance is interpreted by police officers.

Kisela advised the freshmen that a gathering doesn’t need to be “a rager” to warrant a ticket from police. The ordinance states that anything above 65 decibels – the loudness of a normal conversation – could warrant a citation.

“Just having these loud conversations can reverberate into the (neighboring) house and when you’re trying to get your kids to sleep … or you have to get up and go to work,” Kisela said.

So forget cracking down on out-of-control ragers – you better not raise your voice above the level of an average conversation or you may be out $800 like the two students who started a GoFundMe page to pay off their citation so that their “dreams of having nice toilet paper and not living off ramen this year can come true.”

We’ve already talked about how this ordinance infringes on students’ constitutional right to assemble. Judging by Kisela’s comments, it is also infringing on our right to free speech. If criminalizing backyard conversations isn’t an attack on the First Amendment, then we’re not sure what is.

Then Kisela warned that Orange police officers “will be out in force” next week during the city’s annual street fair, a time during which he said sees a spike in Chapman parties.

Hold up. Isn’t the Orange International Street Fair one of the most celebratory events in the city? We polled the newsroom and the majority of our Orange neighbors throw their own parties on Labor Day weekend. Yet Kisela said that the police are out looking hard for parties this weekend. Are they really going to shut down resident celebrations? We doubt it.

The Police Code of Ethics states “I will never act officiously or permit personal feelings, prejudices, animosities or friendships to influence my decisions.” So, police officers definitely shouldn’t be patrolling the streets looking to shut down one kind of party and not the other.

Kisela represents the Orange police as a whole. When he publicly makes unconstitutional, discriminating and victim-blaming statements, the intent of his message gets lost — especially during a time when orientation leaders and Rape Crisis Counselor Dani Smith are trying to teach freshmen about attending parties safely.

Education during Orientation Week should be about not using alcohol as an excuse to sexually assault others. It should be about bystander intervention and taking care of yourself at parties. It should not be about measuring your decibel level.

Watch the the video of Kisela’s speech here.

Read Kisela’s response column here.

Read a guest column about Kisela’s speech from a male perspective here.

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