Four Cornell University freshmen, including a teen-ager from Newport Beach, are being investigated by university officials for sending e-mail that disparaged rape victims and black female entertainers.
The students circulated the e-mail, titled "Top 75 Reasons Why Women . . . Should Not Have Freedom of Speech," late last month to about 20 of their friends. They later contended it was a joke. Others picked up the transmission and circulated it to a far wider audience throughout the Internet, prompting several thousand complaints by e-mail to officials at Cornell, in Ithaca, N.Y.
According to a copy of the original e-mail provided by the Boston College Women's Resource Center, which has complained to Cornell, the "Top 75 Reasons" included:
No. 9: "Affirmative action."
No. 10: "When men whistle at them in the street, they should just shut up and obey anyway."
No. 27: "Dykes."
No. 35: "Female drunks are annoying unless they put out (for which they don't need to talk)."
No. 38: "If she can't speak, she can't cry rape."
No. 57: "Janet, Mariah and Whitney," referring to singers Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston.
The students--Brian Waldman of Massapequa, N.Y., Evan Camps of Bethesda, Md., Rikus Linschoten of Newport Beach, and Pat Sicher of San Juan, Puerto Rico--had dubbed themselves the "Four-Players of Cornell" and had signed their names to the original e-mail.
The students have since apologized in a letter to the Cornell Daily Sun. Waldman's father, Ronald, on Wednesday blamed the persons who disseminated the message over the Internet for causing the uproar.
"I think it was meant to be among them," Ronald Waldman said in a telephone interview. "Unfortunately, somebody other than them went on a spree and sent it beyond them. . . . That person is the one who really caused the problem."
Cornell officials said Wednesday that an inquiry by the school's judicial administrator was continuing. Potential penalties range from performing community service work to expulsion.
In their letter to the Daily Sun on Nov. 3, Waldman, Camps, Linschoten and Sicher wrote:
"Our original intention for writing this list was as a joke to send to some of our friends, male and females. These are people who know us and know our personalities. They know it was a joke. As individuals, we are in no way sexist or discriminatory against any group."