What’s in an apology?

Northwestern prof un-apologizes in public apology statement about live sex show

What’s the point of an apology if you don’t really mean it?

Last month, a professor in the United States has become the topic of controversy after he invited students in his psychology class to watch two people engage in a live sex act. The event occurred outside of regular class time and was completely voluntary for both the students that attended and the couple who demonstrated in front of them.

Almost two weeks later, the Northwestern University human sexuality professor, John Michael Bailey, released a statement apologizing for holding the session and to anyone he offended through his actions.

“I regret the effect this has had on Northwestern University’s reputation and I regret upsetting so many people in this particular manner,” Bailey said.

But then, in the same statement, Bailey went on to criticize those same offended people he had just apologized to, as well as the controversy the incident has caused.

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

Whatever you think about the ethics of staging a live sex show for your psychology class, practically un-apologizing while you’re apologizing doesn’t make much sense to me. If Bailey doesn’t actually think he did anything wrong, which is clear from his statement, then why go through the motions of apologizing? All his statement does is further incense anyone who was offended, as they no doubt feel that Bailey spat in their faces.

His fake apology also undermines any dignity the man maintains in the eyes of his supporters. If I didn’t have a problem with his live sex show, I would want to see him standing by his actions rather than bending to public pressure.

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