A student holding a sign that read “You deserve rape” ignited outrage across campus Tuesday, on the same day of a sexual assault awareness event, but administrators declined requests to remove him or his sign.
Dean Saxton — also known as Brother Dean Samuel — regularly preaches on the UA Mall in front of Heritage Hill and the Administration building. On Tuesday, his sermon drew the attention of onlookers, several of whom either personally confronted him or complained to the Dean of Students Office.
The Dean of Students Office received stacks of written complaints, emails and multiple phone calls regarding Saxton’s sermon about women, said Kendal Washington White, interim dean of students.
Saxton has never directly threatened anyone in particular, and his language has been general enough that he isn’t targeting a particular person, White said. However, a university attorney was contacted to discuss the situation.
“We find it to be vulgar and vile,” White said. “However, it is protected speech. He has yet to, at this point, violate the student code of conduct.”
Saxton, a junior studying classics and religious studies, said his sermon was meant to convey that “if you dress like a whore, act like a whore, you’re probably going to get raped.”
“I think that girls that dress and act like it,” Saxton said, “they should realize that they do have partial responsibility, because I believe that they’re pretty much asking for it.”
Saxton’s sermon came ahead of the “Take Back the Night” event held Tuesday night, which aims to unite people against sexual violence. He said his decision to create the sign and display it was tied to the event and to the fact that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
“[Saxton] is part of a larger societal culture that tolerates rape, and that’s exactly what the Oasis Program Against Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence is here to counteract,” said Megan McKendry, a violence prevention specialist with Oasis, a program out of Campus Health Service. “His message is an awful one that we condemn. No one deserves to be raped.”
University of Arizona Police Department officers also received multiple calls about an incident that took place around 12:40 p.m. involving Saxton, said Joe Bermudez, a spokesman for UAPD. The incident involved a student who tried to pull down Saxton’s sign.
Bermudez would not elaborate on the assault because the investigation is ongoing.
“I think if he’s trying to, you know, get people to know God, I think he’s just doing it wrong,” said Paola Gonzalez, a pre-pharmacy sophomore. “It is free speech, but I still disagree that he should be able to call other people names and we can’t call him names. He shouldn’t be able to call us names, either.”
— Alison Dorf contributed to this article.
Editor’s note: For related coverage, see the editorial about the Wildcat’s decision to report this story.