Corrections have been made to this article on April 9, 2021.
Two Wheaton College students, Yawanathan Joseph ‘22 and Onyx Mussa ‘22, recently asserted that women should be able to provide “sex, sandwiches, and silence,” when required, during the tenth episode of their podcast, the Simone Francis Podcast. During their interview with a third student, Lydia Alberts ‘22, they discussed abortion, with Joseph saying, “Abortion is murder, plain and simple. It’s violent.” Joseph also said, “A woman can be CIA [confident, intelligent, assertive] in the corporate world but NOT in my household.” Mussa claimed that, as men, they were “literally suppressed.”
In response, several Wheaton students began to denounce the opinions expressed. Several students, including Abby Cook ‘22 and Mikaela Savarese ‘22, publicly encouraged others to file a Bias Incident Report, as they had, to push Wheaton administration to review the statements made by the students.
Others took to social media to express their opinions, with Ophelia McGrail ‘23 saying, “The podcast hosts made sweeping opinionated statements. They said things like “scientifically proven” without any data or studies to back up their opinions. and if they did have data/studies, we need to take a hard look at how data was collected, how the study was carried out and by who, and if there is any bias present in the data. Their statements are also rampant with errors in reasoning and logical fallacies.”
“I’m tired, so f*cking tired of men thinking that I only exist to please them and to be who they want me to be. I am tired of my confidence and strength being something that they can deem unwanted. I am mostly tired of them thinking my existence is up for comment from them. This is my body, my decisions, MY LIFE,” said Katie Hubbard ’24
A couple of students who asked to remain anonymous also shared their thoughts.
“This man’s peers have clearly failed him by letting him talk that way, as well as Wheaton is more interested in symbolic interaction than praxis,” said one.
“I’m lost for words and as a guy this behavior is so unacceptable to me,” said another.
“This outlook isn’t too great considering the fact that it doesn’t physically affect them,” said a third.
Another said, simply, “I’m scared.”
Caroline Moholland, Bias Incident Response Officer, sent an email Tuesday that stated that the college was aware of the concerns related to this podcast and had begun taking immediate steps to “appropriately address the information that has been received.”
Several student-run groups took steps to establish their position on the issue. Ohm Initiative, a residential community on campus that works to, “change the face of excellence through inclusivity,” released a statement Monday, prior to the email from Moholland, that announced that they had chosen to end all affiliation with Joseph, a former resident. Tulip House, another residential community, released a statement denouncing the values, along with a list of alternative podcasts that they said described women’s rights with respect and love. The Sexual Health Advocacy Group held an event Tuesday that discussed the controversy around abortion rights and abortion access in the United States. The Wheaton College Radio Station, WCCS, announced that they had no affiliation with the podcast that was posted.
Corrections have been made to the below paragraph (4/9/21)
The incident was determined to be motivated by bias, and the Bias Incident Prevention and Response Team promptly met to discuss the impact it was having along with next steps for the Wheaton Community. The Student Government Association then passed a resolution to send a letter, authored by Accessibility Chair Mikaela Savarese ‘22 and Abby Cook ’22 on behalf of the Senate, to multiple members of Wheaton College administration.
The letter said, “These claims are not relating to different lived experiences or world views. These statements are not political. They are discriminatory and degrading.” It continued, saying that the Senate had formed the impression that, “freedom of speech seems to trump the consideration of immense harm done to our community in the student conduct process,” and asked that the administration re-examine the threshold for what the Bias Incident Team considered a “hostile environment.”
“I hope that this letter sends a message to our administration that students truly feel unsafe and pushes them to re-examine their definition of hostile,” said Savarese.
Joseph and Mussa have taken down all of the videos with the podcast on their YouTube channel and all posts on social media promoting the podcast. Joseph said, “Due to this heightened environment, I believe it to be most productive to listen and learn during this teachable moment, for myself and the community.” Mussa and Alberts declined to comment.