President has since clarified the

response in his accidental reply-all

Wyatt Smith

News Editor

On Dec. 4, a day before its Passion Party, the student-group VOX received an email from College President Grant Cornwell that seemingly criticized the event and demeaned VOX. On Jan. 17, Cornwell met with members of the VOX leadership, assuring them that he meant no disrespect.

VOX is a newly formed, Planned Parenthood-affiliated student group that advocates for comprehensive sex education. The group’s Passion Party, held on Dec. 5, gave students the opportunity to buy sex toys.

Cornwell’s email was in response to Ruth Haynes, former chemistry professor LeRoy Haynes’ wife, who criticized the Passion Party as appealing to base instincts and not worth the College’s time. Her email was sent to Cornwell, Coordinator of the Wooster Parents and Family Association Peg Cornwell and D.J. Bell ’14, vice president of VOX.

Cornwell wrote that he agreed with Haynes and that, “alas, college students are college students; their judgment often trails their enthusiasm.” He then accidentally hit ‘reply all.’

“I thought I’d say back to her, ‘Well, yes, absolutely. I wish our students were passionate about their studies,’” Cornwell later explained. “That’s what I meant by it.”

“One of the things I was trying to tell her is ‘Ya’know, Ruth, they’re college students,’” he continued. “‘This is a totally normal thing for college students to do.’”

Without Cornwell’s clarification, VOX’s leadership found his email insulting.

“We received it as very condescending to our group and to college students in general,” said Spencer Zeigler ’16, PR Chair of VOX.

On the evening of Dec. 4, members of VOX crafted a response to Cornwell, asking to meet with him so they could explain their rationale for the Passion Party. Cornwell’s busy travel schedule pushed the meeting back until after winter break.

Not meaning to offend, Cornwell was surprised by the reaction to his email.

“I don’t even get who’s upset by it,” Cornwell said, prior to his meeting with VOX. “I have a meeting with somebody in the next couple days, because they really persisted in being upset about it. I have to find out what they’re upset about.”

VOX’s meeting with Cornwell was less dramatic than they expected.

“We were super prepared to really defend ourselves,” said Tori Horvath ’16, secretary of VOX, “but then he was like ‘no, no, we support you.’”

“Insofar as I understand VOX’s mission, I really endorse it,” said Cornwell. “If they’re trying to in some sense both demystify sex and endorse healthy sexual relationships, I am completely behind what they are trying to do.”

VOX’s Passion Party was a branded event put on by an outside organization. Passion Parties is a Las Vegas-based company that sells “sensual products,” as worded on their website. Passion Parties consultants pitch their wares in private gatherings — often compared to similar events put on by Tupperware and Avon — while also providing tips on enjoyable and healthy sex.

“By having these kind of events that throw [sexuality] in your face and make you learn about it in a healthy way and in a positive way, we’re saying ‘don’t be ashamed of who you are, what you like, what you don’t like,’” said Sam McNelly ’14, VOX’s treasurer. “When we destigmatize the idea of talking about lube or sex toys or anything like that, you foster an ability to create a good discussion and let people be healthy about the decisions they’re making.”

The day before the event, in addition to responding to Cornwell’s email, VOX had to unexpectedly move the Passion Party from Lowry’s Tartan Room to the Wooster Inn because of issues regarding on-campus vendors.

When registering the Passion Party with Campus Life in early November, Zeigler neglected to mention that items would be for sale. However, she was under the impression that the Campus Life staff members were familiar with Passion Parties and understood the event. VOX only found out about the restrictions regarding vendors on Dec. 4, when the administration learned about the sales aspect of the event via Wooster Headline News.

Members of VOX hurriedly put up new posters for the Passion Party, but were then told that off-campus events cannot be advertised on campus.

“We understand the vendors side of things,” said Bell, “but after so much happened, it started to feel like an attack.”

“Do I see anything wrong with that kind of a party? No,” said Angela Johnston, secretary of the College. “But … my job is to make sure that they have the vendor licensed properly to do it.”

Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Ohio paid the Wooster Inn’s rental fee, which was already discounted by the inn’s Proprietor Ken Bogucki, who Zeigler described as very involved with Planned Parenthood.

In light of their Passion Party, VOX’s leadership is worried that the campus community perceives them as radicals.

“Maybe this event was seen as more radical, but that’s not the way we intended it at all,” said McNelly. “We really are just another group on campus that’s working with other groups on campus, with other students who have diverse interests,” she continued. “We’re not trying to be that weird kid.”