The president of Lincoln University on Tuesday issued an apology for remarks he made in September at an all-women's convocation that some interpreted as blaming women for sexual assault.
"My message was intended to emphasize personal responsibility and mutual respect," Lincoln president Robert R. Jennings wrote to the student body. "I apologize for my choice of words. I certainly did not intend to hurt or offend anyone."
His comments come two days after The Inquirer reported that Jennings had told an auditorium full of female students: "We have, we had, on this campus last semester three cases of young women who after having done whatever they did with young men and then it didn't turn out the way they wanted it to turn out, guess what they did? They went to Public Safety and said, 'He raped me.' "
Jennings, 63, who has led the historically black university in Chester County since January 2012, warned that such allegations can ruin a young man's life: "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."
During his address he also told female students how men can deceive and exploit women and how women have to protect themselves.
"Men treat you, treat women, the way women allow us to treat them. . . . We will use you up if you allow us to use you up," he told the young women.
Then men, he continued, will "marry the girl with the long dress on."
His remarks - a portion of which was posted on YouTube - drew criticism from parents who said he appeared to be blaming women for sexual assault.
Sharon Roseboro, mother of a Lincoln University sophomore from Southampton, N.J., wasn't impressed with Jennings' apology.
"I think it was the political thing to do," said Roseboro, who said her daughter and other female students were upset by the president's remarks. "If it didn't run in The Philadelphia Inquirer, I'm not sure that apology would have been written."
The president never should have addressed the students on that topic, she said. A counselor should have done that job, she added.
In an interview with The Inquirer last week, Jennings said his remarks were taken out of context in the YouTube clip, which shows four minutes of his 26-minute talk. He said he was referring to three cases in which women falsely reported rapes as revenge against men who had been unfaithful.
All three cases were investigated by the university and reported to authorities, the university said. But Michael Noone, first assistant district attorney in Chester County, said he has no reports of rapes at Lincoln from last semester. There was one allegation of attempted sexual assault, but the case was dropped, he said, because it could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt - not because the woman recanted.
Robert Langley, a chemistry professor and president of the faculty union, said he disagreed with Jennings' statements at the convocation, but found his apology to be sincere.
"Women are not partly responsible for rape," Langley said. "They're not."
A student leader at Lincoln who asked not to be identified said Jennings never should have spoken at an all-women's convocation; female students should have heard from women. But she said she doesn't believe that Jennings actually meant to blame women for sexual assault.
"I think it was a miscommunication. It just came out wrong," she said. "I guess he learned from his mistakes."
Jennings in recent months has been the subject of no-confidence votes by both the faculty and alumni over concerns about falling enrollment, high turnover in administrative positions, and changes on campus.
In his letter to students, Jennings said the university would hold additional sessions on sexual misconduct "to reinforce our commitment to your safety and to answer any questions you may have."
Sexual misconduct, he wrote, will not be tolerated. He also said he has learned from "this process."
"I will choose my words more carefully," he said.