Northwestern prof: Sorry you're stupid

Mollie mentioned last week the human sexuality class at Northwestern University that watched a live sex act after class, and at the sanctioning of their professor. Now we get a report of that professor "apologizing" -- for doing, as he sees it, absolutely nothing wrong at all. The AP reports:

A Northwestern University professor apologized Saturday for letting a couple demonstrate the use of a sex toy after one of his classes, but he said he still sees "absolutely no harm" in what happened.

Psychology professor J. Michael Bailey said he regrets hurting Northwestern's reputation and "upsetting so many people in this particular manner. I apologize."

See, he said. Happy now? Except Bailey then proceeded to justify a woman being penetrated by a sex toy in front of a 100-student class.

"During a time of financial crisis, war, and global warming, this story has been a top news story for more than two days," Bailey said. "That this is so reveals a stark difference of opinion between people like me, who see absolutely no harm in what happened, and those who believe that it was profoundly wrong."

In other words, Bailey thinks he did nothing wrong and it's everyone else who has their principles all screwed up.

I don't really care either way, though I attended a supposedly liberal public institution and I certainly would have been surprised by such a post-class class activity.

Is there a journalism angle to all of this?

There is. What I am offended by is the lede to this story. Bailey says he is apologizing -- fine, quoting him saying that. But the first line of this story, before Bailey is quoted says "A Northwestern University professor apologized," and yet I don't know a single person who would consider Bailey's response a apology.

Bailey apologized not for doing something wrong but for being ignorant to the delicate sensibilities of those offended by things he finds proper. That's not an "apology," and even children know that you're not actually sorry when you say, "I'm sorry but ..."?

To be sure, the story sort of hangs Bailey on his own petard. And maybe I'm being a bit too nit-picky here. After all, the non-apology apology is as much a stock damage-control response as the troubled celebrity finding Jesus and blaming God for their mistakes. But I still think the reporter could have chosen a different term -- "regretted," "downplayed," "blamed others" -- that better captured what Bailey had said rather than just borrowing the word "apologize" from Bailey's statement.

If you disagree, well, I'm sorry.

IMAGE: Get the shirt on Zazzle

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