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.