As much as our fancy technical gadgets and devices allegedly make life easier, anyone who's spent any time mashing keys and closing tabs knows that modern life is filled with its own perils. The accidental reply-all, the direct message sent to all of Twitter, the occasional sending of a malformed link that takes the recipient where no one intended them to go -- most of us have found ourselves on one end or the other of these pitfalls. This week, a Drexel University law professor became the latest person to become Internet famous for this kind of routine error. Unfortunately for her, her higher-ups in higher education have reacted with all of the aplomb of a decapitated chicken.
According to Above The Law's David Lat -- who both broke the story and was the first to attempt to inject some sanity into it -- Drexel University professor Lisa McElroy, while trying to share a link about legal brief-writing to her students over a network called TWEN (The West Education Network), accidentally included a link to a Pornhub video. And not just any Pornhub video -- a Pornhub video prominently featuring anal beads. Which is sort of appropriate when you think about it, considering that finding some kind of pleasure from pulling something out of your ass is practically a prerequisite for a legal career.
It seems like it was no more than a very mortifying accident, similar in many ways to what befell then-Fox News White House Correspondent Major Garrett back in January of 2010, when he inadvertently tweeted out a shortened link to the website of a Las Vegas call girl.
Garrett apologized for sending the link, telling his followers that it was an "innocent mistake." And even if Garrett was sizing up Nevada entertainment options and forgot what was on his Ctrl-C/Ctrl-V clipboard, an innocent mistake is precisely what it was. Garrett is a grown-up and he can do what he likes. Most of the world, properly recognizing this, moved on swiftly. As Lat reports, however, McElroy isn't getting the same break: "But this being legal academia, of course a mountain had to be made out of a molehill."
As Lat goes on to report, rather than being a chill-ass adult about this, Kevin Oates, the law school's senior associate dean of students, instead sent an email to all of Drexel's law students, obliquely referencing an "erroneous" email containing "inappropriate material" that was sent to some students. Way to get the titillated tongues -- of a universe beyond the few students who were originally involved -- wagging, super-genius!
From there, according to Lat's source, McElroy was put on leave, "pending an investigation" into whether she violated Section 9 of Drexel's sexual harassment and misconduct policy -- which deals with specifically with "concerns about [the] personal safety and physical and emotional well-being" of students.
"According to federal law and the University’s policies and procedures, Drexel is required to initiate fact-finding for all reports of inappropriate behaviors of a sexual nature that may impact members of our community," the school said in a statement. Which... what?
Let me go ahead and conclude this investigation for Drexel. It seems more than reasonable to assume that McElroy did not intentionally seek to discomfit, harass or harm anyone and that she accidentally pasted the wrong link. There could be any number of reasons she had that link on hand. Maybe McElroy, like so many normal humans, is into kink. Maybe she watches erotic videos. Know what? She's allowed.
However this link made its way into the message, it's clear it was not intended for public consumption. Given how desperate, unhappy and repressed the typical academic is, anyone being honest about this is obliged to recognize they could have easily made the same mistake. As Lat writes, "Now her students know that 'law professors are just like us' — they watch online porn."
Compounding all of this is the fact that McElroy suffers from a "severe anxiety disorder," which she wrote about for Slate back in July of 2013. So all of this needless pearl-clutching from her superiors probably can't be good for her. The best thing for everyone here is to recognize this as an unhappy accident, definitively in the there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I zone (as Lat also points out), and move on as quickly as possible. To be honest, the way Drexel's administrators have gone to ridiculous extremes in this matter makes me wonder what twisted stuff, exactly, they get off on.
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