Following an exchange he acknowledged struck some recipients as offensive and creepy, a University of Wisconsin-La Crosse residence hall director has been reprimanded for e-mailing several hundred students about the need for men to pay more attention to women’s orgasms.
Drake Hall Director Jude Legiste, 26, ultimately issued a formal apology Sunday night to the students to whom he sent an e-mail Thursday that began: “It’s time to be honest about something women don’t talk about much: the orgasm deficit.”
The e-mail went into graphic detail about the difficulties of “a large majority of women” to reach orgasm from intercourse alone. “As few as 7 percent can climax regularly from this method — and worse, some men don’t seem to even realize it!” said the email sent by Legiste, who earned his master’s degree in higher education/higher education administration from Louisiana State University in 2014 before becoming a residence hall director at UW-La Crosse last year. The e-mail included crude, salacious descriptions of how to achieve orgasm through different methods, with little context as to what prompted him to send it or why any student would want to read it.
“Bless you for reading: Your enthusiasm and willingness to learn is a crucial first step,” the e-mail said.
Within four hours of sending the e-mail, Legiste sent a follow-up, stating he recognized that his earlier email was polarizing.
“Some viewed it as helpful and an honest conversation on a topic that rarely gets discussed,” Legiste wrote. “Others see it as offensive, creepy and that it was not my place (as the hall director) to send it in the first place. I want to validate all those feelings. So let’s talk about it.”
Legiste suggested in the follow-up that they have a hall forum Wednesday in the basement, or that students meet with him on an individual basis. He described himself as a supporter of gender equity. The forum was canceled after the university heard from Milwaukee radio talk show host Mark Belling, a UW-La Crosse alumnus who obtained the e-mail.
Legiste then sent out his apology in an e-mail three days later.
Legiste told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Monday that his supervisors called him into a meeting Friday morning because they received formal complaints from students and parents. He also heard from students who weren’t bothered by it, and others who were, as well as from parents.
“I had no idea it would be shocking,” Legiste told the Journal Sentinel. “Impact matters more than intentions. … I take full responsibility, and I’m not running from this. I have to take on all that comes of this. It wasn’t an accident; it was poor judgment.”
Legiste said he will work to repair his relationship with students who were offended or uncomfortable, and he realizes that he was wrong to send the email as a residence hall director.
But he still believes the conversation about female orgasm is important for students.
“It’s more than sex,” Legiste told the newspaper. “That’s where we’re most human, and if people don’t have equality at that level, it’s not going to happen anywhere else.”
UW-La Crosse Chancellor Joe Gow told the Journal Sentinel that while the e-mail was “clearly unacceptable behavior for a person in this position,” he did not intend to fire Legiste, although the university would seriously address any student complaints. A letter of reprimand will be placed in Legiste’s file.
“We really don’t think this is a fireable offense,” Gow said. “If it were, some due process would be required. He is a very young man, and he certainly will learn from this. I don’t think it’s fair to destroy his career over a single incident of bad judgment.”
Legiste aspires to become a vice president of student affairs and possibly president of a university or college, according to his LinkedIn profile.
In his formal apology to “the entire Drake community” on Sunday night, Legiste said his mission is to create a community in which people feel safe and welcomed.
“The email I sent out earlier this week was the antithesis of everything I want Drake to be. As your hall director, it is my job to role model appropriate behavior, inclusiveness and develop community. I failed you in all those aspects and more.”
Legiste said in his apology that he took full responsibility, and would be remiss if he didn’t re-evaluate his thoughts, behaviors and interactions with students. “I must do better and I will do better.”
Two years ago, when Legiste was a graduate student at LSU, he wrote a blog post aimed at student affairs administrators under the subject header: “Dating Students? Why Not?”
“We work in an environment where there could potentially be tens of thousands of beautiful young men and women. It’s only natural that we’ll be attracted to at least some of them. And sometimes they will be attracted to us too.”
Legiste wrote that he learned in his first graduate course not to date a person when there is a power disparity within the organization, “YET, who are we to prevent the manifestation of love?”
In another blog post while at LSU, Legiste wrote about crossing the line by sharing personal information that can change others’ perceptions of you.
“So the question still remains, how much should you share with your students? When is the right time to cross that line?” that blog post concluded. “I can’t say for sure but I do know that it’s a decision each and every one of us will have to make at some point in time.”
Legiste’s original e-mail to UW-La Crosse students about female orgasms was troubling to university officials on more than one front.
It immediately raised red flags about whose thoughts Legiste was sharing when the email said the core of the “orgasming issue” doesn’t lie with women’s bodies, “but rather in the disconnect between how men treat us in bed, and how we wish they would treat us instead.”
Legiste failed to attribute the email’s contents to a woman who’s an activist in New Zealand, Gow said. The woman’s name was included in small, italicized type at the end of the email, but Legiste wrote the e-mail as though he was presenting his own expertise, Gow said.
“It is colossally unprofessional,” said Gow, who previously has talked with Legiste about his career aspirations, and has encouraged him.
“I was very surprised he would use such poor judgment,” Gow said Monday. “If you want to be a leader in higher education, you have to have the sensitivities to different audiences in a university community.”
The topic of female orgasm itself should not be off-limits for discussion on a university campus, Gow said.
However, what is acceptable in a class about gender studies or feminism, or at a forum students choose to attend, is not acceptable for an audience of students who did not seek out the information and may find it offensive, Gow said.
Coincidentally, the campus has a previously scheduled program Monday night on female orgasm—one that has been held on campus before, featuring two well-known traveling sex educators.
The program is sponsored by the Campus Activities Board and the Pride Center, and funded by student-activity fees through the Campus Activities board. It is not funded by taxpayers, university spokesman Brad Quarberg said.