According to the university's Student Life newspaper, the student government approved a plan Tuesday for Palin to head up a four-person panel on Feb. 7. She'll speak for 25 minutes, then discuss "abstinence in a college setting" with the other panelists: a representative from the Catholic Student Center, one from Missouri Right to Life, and one from Planned Parenthood. It's not clear exactly how much money she'll charge for this, but her usual speaking fee is $15,000-$30,000, and the event's budget is $20,000.
The rationale for inviting Palin: in the past, Sex Week (which is apparently also called Sexual Responsibility Week) has been too sexy. Says Student Health Advisory Committee (SHAC) president Scott Elman, "We [...] wanted to target abstinence because SHAC and Sex Week have been criticized for being too liberal and too one-dimensional, and that the abstinence conversation hasn't been brought up." He added that at Washington U, "3,000, maybe 4,000 people haven't engaged in sex. There's a population on our campus that does practice abstinence and gets forgotten about." At least on Palin's panel, however, it looks like those actually having sex will be the ones forgotten about: of the four panelists, only the one from Planned Parenthood will probably deviate from the pro-abstinence message.
Some students, understandably, aren't happy with the choice. Says Sherveen Mashayekhi, president of the Washington U College Democrats, "While she is obviously an experienced person on the matter of teen pregnancy, she is an extremely polarizing presence in social and political terms and does not provide the right type of balancing, sensitive, well-rounded force to an issue as hot as sex on campus." The word "balancing" is key — while the university's 3,000-4,000 abstinent students may want a greater voice in sex week, the fact is that the school has over 13,000 students, many of whom are having sex, and may look to Sex Week for discussion on how to do so safely and happily. And while it's very difficult to have a conversation about sex that's totally devoid of ideology, making Sarah Palin's daughter the keynote speaker pretty much insures that the event's going to be politically charged — rather than trying to make the week neutral, organizers have steered it all the way to the right. Sex Week is now going to start off as No Sex Week — and the majority of students who are sexually active are about to find themselves marginalized.
Bristol Palin To Speak During Sex Week [Student Life]