Stockton News

Faculty opposition prompts Stockton to cancel Ray Rice visit

Last week, Stockton University—in junction with the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Center—announced that on Wednesday, April 5th, they would be hosting an “Honest Conversation” with former Baltimore Raven running back Ray Rice, who in 2014 was caught on video striking his then-fiancee Janay Palmer in the head, knocking her unconscious and dragging her out of the elevator at what is now known as the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City. In response to this announcement, Stockton assistant professor of writing and first-year studies Emily Van Duyne and her WGSS colleagues drafted a statement of opposition—signed by over 50 faculty members—on Thursday, March 30, citing Rice’s proposed visit as a “disservice” to “any student studying for a degree in Criminal Justice, Social Work, Psychology, or any related field.” The University canceled Rice’s visit the next day.

A digital flyer for Rice’s visit. Photo courtesy of OspreyHub.

While Van Duyne stated that Rice’s act of third-degree aggravated assault is “in and of itself enough to preclude Stockton University from hosting [him] as a guest speaker for our students,” she also highlights the potentially negative implications of Rice’s planned “Talking Points” that were included in the University’s email announcement of his visit.

The OspreyHub description of Rice’s visit claims that he has “done the work to turn his life around after his one incident of domestic violence…[and] now goes around to different schools and universities talking with students about domestic violence,” echoing Van Duyne’s claim that the framing of his visit “repeatedly downplay[s] Rice’s assault of Palmer, calling it a singular moment where he ‘lost control.'”

“These talking points also promote a false redemption narrative which frames Rice as the victim of the legal, financial, and social consequences he faced, rather than receiving the just results of his violent actions. This is in line with cutting-edge scholarship on our cultural reception of men who commit violent crimes, by the philosophers Kristie Dotson, Miranda Fricker, and Kate Manne…[who] question, and offer critical frames for, why we tend to empathize with male perpetrators rather than their female victims,” wrote Van Duyne.

She also touched upon the potential impact that Rice’s visit and its framing could have on survivors of domestic violence within the Stockton community, as well as the “ways this perpetuates problematic, stereotypical optics of violent Black masculinity and the erasure of Black women.”

Van Duyne concluded the statement by identifying Rice’s case as a “textbook example” of Kimberle Crenshaw’s “landmark” intersectional critique of the American legal system, stating that the “term intersectionality is thrown around loosely in many events sponsored by this institution; it might be worth revisiting its origins.”

Rice’s planned visit to Stockton University is part of his work as a motivational speaker following his suspension and subsequent retirement from the NFL following his assault on Palmer. Shortly after the incident, Rice was temporarily suspended from the first two games of the 2014 NFL season and was indicted by a grand jury on third-degree aggravated assault, which included a potential jail sentence ranging from three to five years and a fine of up to $15,000; however, Rice’s criminal charges were dropped after he agreed to undergo court-supervised counseling. Though Rice announced his official retirement from the NFL in 2018, a largely opinion-based article from Men’s Journal claims that as of May 2022, Rice is eligible to return to the league and is currently in training.

The full statement of opposition can be accessed here.

Crenshaw’s critique of the American legal system, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color,” can be accessed here.