Editorial: Professor Chris Ellis’ Kavanaugh poster sparks productive conversation, but has short-sighted approach to due process

This past week, some may have noticed a poster on Associate Professor of Political Science Chris Ellis’ door. The poster, featuring a picture of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, was captioned, “Nevertheless, he persisted.” This aphorism originates from the Senate debate over the confirmation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, during which Elizabeth Warren fervently opposed his ratification, but her speech was cut short by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell famously claimed on the Senate floor, in reference to the length of Warren’s speech, “Senator Warren was giving a lengthy speech. She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

In response to the systematic silencing of women in politics, the feminist movement turned the phrase on its head, adopting the phrase “Nevertheless, she persisted” to proclaim the resilience of Warren throughout the hearing, and the determination of the women’s movement to overcome the Trump Administration at times of oppressive reign.

Thus, to the surprise of much of the student body, the phrase was found belittled on a poster with a picture of Kavanaugh, implying that he persevered to his Supreme Court confirmation despite the allegations of sexual assault against him and attempts by Democrats to use this allegation, though uncorroborated, to derail it. The Bucknellian interviewed Ellis regarding the poster, and he claimed his motivations behind the poster were not to perpetuate a culture that permits and silences the severity of sexual assault, but rather that due process is important when considering allegations of sexual assault. Ellis emphasized that there is a difference between “listening to accusers and believing survivors.” Rather than taking the word of survivors immediately as truth and allowing that word to affect the lives and careers of the accused, Ellis claimed we must allow due process to run its course before making any sort of judgement.

Despite the fact that in the case of the Kavanaugh confirmation, there was no trial to be held, as an editorial staff we find Ellis’ view to be short-sighted, specifically regarding the institutionalized disbelief towards victim-survivors of sexual assault. While in an ideal world due process would provide justice, due process often works against victim-survivors, as perpetrators are rarely convicted even after having been sent to trial. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), out of every 1,000 rapes that occur, 310 are reported, followed by 57 arrests, and only 7 felony convictions. Therefore, to claim that due process is necessary is to avoid the greater issue that due process is often unjust.

Though Ellis may have intended to strike conversation among University students, the misuse of a phrase widely known to be associated with the resilience of the feminist movement was satirically denigrated to trivialize the grave reality that is sexual violence. This belittling is especially disheartening coming from a professor in a clear position of power over students who may have experienced this reality.

Ellis remains heartened by the willingness of University students to engage in productive and meaningful discourse surrounding his poster, as he reported to The Bucknellian. The poster, he believes, has led to a more thorough understanding between himself and other students of differing worldviews.

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