A workshop led by professor John Ostwald drew a crowd of about 50 students to Brahan Hall on Monday.
The workshop, titled “Pedophilia: a Compassionate View,” was Ostwald’s last at the college before his retirement at the end of this semester. Ostwald began the discussion by asking for words people assosiated with pediphilia. “Disgust,” “fear,” and “anger” were three responses given.
“As a parent I don’t think it’s right. It makes me fear for my children. I’m scared that there are people like that out in the world,” said one Hudson Valley student in attendance.
“I don’t look at it as being a mental disability, I think it’s all about people who end up making poor choices,” said Xavier Miller, liberal arts student. “I think repressed sexuality can play a part. If somebody is not allowed to show a side of themselves as a child they will [as an adult].”
Ostwald replied, “That’s an old theme we see a lot in psychology. The ‘minister’s daughter’ becoming promiscuous as an adult.”
Ostwald then moved the discussion onto viewing pedophilia from a biological perspective. “Perhaps the brains or endocrine systems of pedophiles are different from everybody else’s,” he said. “I’m not trying to justify being a pedophile, but in college sometimes you have to separate emotions from research.”
Ostwald asked the audience whether they thought pedophillia was worse than murder. Four audience members responded that murder was worse while two said pediphilia or sexual offenses are greater crimes.
Miller, who thought that pedophilia was worse, said, “A child has to relive that trauma over and over every day in their head.”
The discussion concluded with Ostwald recounting his own personal experiences with a sexual offender as a child. He was an altar boy at the age of 11 and was sexual assualted by a priest.
According to Ostwald, this is not an uncommon theme among men his age. “Now 40 years later I can still remember what he smelled like.” he said.
Closure for Ostwald was only a few miles away in a Schenectady cemetery. “I found the priest’s grave, and I peed on it,” he said.
“I’m asked periodically to come up with provocative topics to get students interested in talking and expressing their thoughts,” said Ostwald. “Many of you will get diplomas when you leave here, but to me that is a very small part of college. College is for personal growth, and being able to address controversial issues.”
“One way of being compassionate is having a real understanding of a topic from a research perspective,” he said.
This is not the first time Ostwald has attempted to bring controversial discussions to Hudson Valley. Ostwald spoke about trying to get controversial Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan to speak at Hudson Valley a few years ago. “I thought it would be good to expose students to that sort of radical thought. College is for controversy.”