Ever heard of the “Karen Owen List”? Most people haven’t — or hadn’t until the mock thesis paper of Duke University student Karen Owen became a viral internet sensation. It seems that one Karen Owen thought it would be amusing to make a Power Point presentation of her “unofficial senior thesis,” titled “An education beyond the classroom: excelling in the realm of horizontal academics,” and send it to several friends for their enjoyment. According to the Bleacher Report, the resulting viral exposure of the “thesis” has become less-than-amusing to school officials and those on Owen’s “F*** List” of “horizontal” partners, involving the prestigious private university in its second sex scandal in less than five years.
Owen, a recent graduate at Duke, apparently kept track of her “horizontal academics” — or at least 13 specific socialization experiences — and thought it might be amusing to share with her friends the extent of her extracurricular education at Duke. Her list of “subjects” included young men from Duke’s baseball, lacrosse, and tennis teams. The “Karen Owen F*** List” — or, for more polite company, the “Karen Owen List” — is a 42-page report of Owen’s love life at Duke. It comes complete with pictures, names, details, and even graphs (one scoring the “subjects” in their performances) and submitted, according to the author’s title page, as a “partial fulfillment of the requirements for a Degree in Tempestuous Frolicking (D.T.F.).”
Most websites that ran with the list have since been contacted by Duke and interested parties, and the names of Owen’s subjects have been redacted from the Power Point document. But most of the document can still be found, complete with the details of Owen’s sexual exploits and her “Evaluation Process” (size of subject, creativity, physical attractiveness, use of “hardware”), at various websites.
Jezebel spoke with the author (warning: copy of Power Point NSFW), who now seems to believe that the joke isn’t all that funny.
“I regret it with all my heart,” Owen said. “I would never intentionally hurt the people that are mentioned on that.”
Owen’s list comes to Duke University just a little over four years after the school was involved in a sex scandal where members of its lacrosse team were accused of rape by a young co-ed from another North Carolina college. Making matters worse was that the accuser was African-American and the accused were Caucasian. The scandal rocked the sporting and academic world and brought to the fore latent racial tensions within the Raleigh-Durham community, as well as across the nation. Although it was later determined that the young men had been falsely accused, the sex scandal would eventually cost the lacrosse team their season, the head coach his job, the prosecuting attorney his position and his ability to practice law, the three young men specifically accused some of their freedom and reputation, and the taxpayers millions of dollars in court costs.
Karen Owen’s Internet-published list of sexual accomplishments while at Duke is nowhere near as serious a matter as the 2006 Duke Lacrosse Case. It is, however, a matter of embarrassment for all involved. But, like the 2006 case, it is a stunning example of what can happen when a person takes things too far.