Sex offender to speak on campus

Jessie Hellmann

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rapermanActivities Programming Board (APB) and Phi Delta Theta fraternity are paying a convicted lifetime sex offender $1,800 to speak on campus.

APB hired Robert Adam Ritz, known as Adam Ritz, to deliver his “The Adam Ritz Show: Are you Invincible?” presentation for Alcohol Awareness week 8 p.m. Oct. 19 in Carter Hall.

 

In the presentation, Ritz discusses people in the news who have made bad decisions and the negative consequences that follow.

Ritz has delivered presentations to schools like Eastern Illinois University, Indiana University and Texas Tech University. He is scheduled to speak to professional football teams like the Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks.

Ritz served six months in prison after he pled guilty to sexual battery involving his children’s 22-year-old babysitter in 2004.

 The court ordered he complete one year of probation, 120 hours of community service and to register as a lifetime sex offender.

“I wasn’t aware of (Ritz’s charge) prior to doing the contract for it, so of course I was a little alarmed by it,” APB adviser Kathy Jones said.

She said APB has already signed the contract, so it is too late to cancel the event without losing the $1,800 they paid to bring him here.

She said APB does not do background checks on speakers before they are hired.

“We haven’t done background checks before,” Jones said. “It is something we may have to look into because this is the first instance this has happened.”

She said she still might have hired Ritz if she knew about his history before she signed the contract because he is presenting on alcohol abuse, not sexual safety.

“(I’m) not necessarily saying we wouldn’t bring him,” Jones said. “We’d probably just go ahead and do extra research and make sure he was a good fit for the type of presentation we wanted.”

“If he were presenting about sexual safety on campus, that may make us sit back and say, ‘well I don’t know if this is the best person,’” Jones said.

To make students comfortable, extra security will be at the event as well as a representative from the counseling center, Jones said.

“We want to be respectful to the presentation,” Jones said. “At the same time we also want the students to feel like they’re not in harms way, which I don’t personally think that they would be in harms way with this type of presentation,” Jones said.

Jones said APB always hires a speaker to talk to students during Alcohol Awareness week.

“His name kept popping up, so we figured we’d go ahead and try it,” Jones said.

Staff counselor Stephanie Cunningham said she was horrified when she found Ritz was coming to USI.

She said she first heard about Ritz’s background on a professional listserv for women’s issues when the director of the Women’s Center at Minnesota State University warned other universities not to bring Ritz to their campuses.

“It turned into a big drama fest on their campus because of the way he talks about his issues and things,” Cunningham said. “It’s really focused on his experience as a perpetrator and very minimizing to the survivors of violence.”

Cunningham said if she were involved, she would cut her losses and not have Ritz come to campus, even though that meant losing $1,800.

“I think that’s a loss that’s worth taking, personally, but that’s obviously a judgment call by (APB) and the university,” she said.

Cunningham said she has not seen Ritz’s presentation yet, but understands he is blaming his actions on alcohol. She said blaming actions on alcohol minimizes his responsibility and sends a problematic message to anyone that hears his message.

“That’s tacky, if nothing else, and that’s what makes his presentation so fundamentally offensive,” Cunningham said. “Nobody cares about his experience as a perpetrator. Victims and survivors, that’s really what’s important. I don’t see that being helpful in any way to focus on the experience of a perpetrator.”

APB education chair Jesika Gibson said she found out Ritz was a lifetime sex offender Tuesday afternoon.

“I think that’s not necessarily a good thing or bad thing, because we have people on campus who may have similar charges,” Gibson said. “By bringing someone who has that kind of history to come here, it can kind of give them hope that you can do something better than what you’re doing with your life right now.”

Student Government Association President Jordan Whitledge declined to comment on the situation. 

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