Education & Academia

George Will vs. political correctness

George Will vs. political correctness

The latest example of the closing, and welding shut, of the American campus mind finds conservative columnist George Will banished from giving a speech at Scripps College, in a burst of shrieking feminist hysteria over his supposedly insufficient concern for the epidemic of campus rapes.  His offense was daring to ask logical questions about the extent of said epidemic.  How are the hysterics supposed to make any progress if reasonable people keep bugging them with pesky questions?

The Claremont Independent reports on Will’s dis-invitation, and the subsequent fallout:

Nationally syndicated columnist George Will was slated to speak at the ninth annual Elizabeth Hubert Malott Public Affairs Program, the mission of which is to bring speakers to campus whose political views differ from the majority of students at the all-women’s college, but had his invitation rescinded after he wrote a columnabout sexual assault on college campuses.

“It was in the works and then it wasn’t in the works,” Will said in an interview with the Independent. “They didn’t say that the column was the reason, but it was the reason.”

Will also told the Independent that Christopher DeMuth, former president of the American Enterprise Institute, one of the most influential conservative think tanks in the country, resigned from his position on the program’s speaker selection committee over the decision to revoke the invitation.

The Elizabeth Hubert Malott Public Affairs Program was established under the belief that “a range of opinions about the world – especially opinions with which we may not agree, or think we do not agree – leads to a better educational experience,” according to the Scripps College website.

Wow, is that last-decade thinking!  Everyone today knows that differing viewpoints just inject needless confusion into the orderly political indoctrination of young minds.  The name of the game these days is to declare such soaring intentions that nobody is allowed to ask questions about what a political movement is actually doing.  That’s what the global-warming con was all about, and it’s even more pronounced with campus “feminism,” where it is an article of faith that dissent from orthodoxy is nothing less than an attack on women.  It’s not a big deal if powerful people actually, you know, attack women, provided they have the right Party affiliation and promote the political agenda of feminism.

News of the cancellation comes shortly after the release of a recurring study by Claremont McKenna College Professor Emeritus Ward Elliott that aims to measure political attitudes at the Claremont Colleges. In the most recent update of the report, Elliott could not find any Scripps faculty members who are registered Republicans.

“Among the 532 [Claremont Colleges] core faculty only 15 Republicans could be found in the registries,” Elliott said in an email to the Independent. “Pomona, Pitzer, and Scripps have a very few registered third-party core faculty, but no Republicans at all found.”

Libby Ramsey SC ‘17 said that the cancellation underscores the lack of political diversity at Scripps.

“There is minimal political diversity at Scripps,” Ramsey said in an email to the Independent. “Not only this, but the minority who have different viewpoints feel uncomfortable sharing their opinions, and there is a culture of exclusion and a lack of acceptance. If Scripps claims to want ‘to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently,’ as our founder explained, it should not keep contributing to a culture of exclusion and silence.”

You seem to view that “culture of exclusion and silence” as a bug, rather than a feature, Libby Ramsey.

When Will actually got hassled by four Democrat Senators for writing his thoughtcrime column, he replied tartly, “I think I take sexual assault much more seriously than you. Which is why I worry about definitions of that category of that crime that might, by their breadth, tend to trivialize it. And why I think sexual assault is a felony that should be dealt with by the criminal justice system, and not be adjudicated by improvised campus processes.”  

The problem, you see, is that the column in question (which we published here at HUMAN EVENTS, making us accessories to thoughtcrime) questioned whether too many “micro-aggressions” of dubiously criminal character were being lumped in with serious criminal assaults, for the purpose of producing exaggerated statistics.  This practice is viewed as politically useful by activists, because it draws attention to their cause by inflating an issue to crisis proportions, to which only the most panicky immediate response, with no questions asked, is appropriate.  (One wonders if the primary goal is more about turning the crisis into a political cudgel that can be used to beat anyone with the temerity to ask questions, a theory I’ll bet Mr. Will is entertaining right about now.)  Will’s point about diminishing serious matters by erasing the continuum between hard crime and rude behavior is lost on those who responded by trying to diminish him.

Since he’s getting tarred and feathered for writing it, it behooves every adversary of both hysterical politics and academic intolerance to read Will’s column in full – if the answer to offensive speech is more speech, then the answer to offensive censorship is more reading.  Permit me to excerpt the part that probably got the tar boiling and the chickens plucked:

The administration’s crucial and contradictory statistics are validated the usual way, by official repetition; Joe Biden has been heard from. The statistics are: One in five women is sexually assaulted while in college, and only 12 percent of assaults are reported. Simple arithmetic demonstrates that if the 12 percent reporting rate is correct, the 20 percent assault rate is preposterous. Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute notes, for example, that in the four years 2009 to 2012 there were 98 reported sexual assaults at Ohio State. That would be 12 percent of 817 total out of a female student population of approximately 28,000, for a sexual assault rate of approximately 2.9 percent — too high but nowhere near 20 percent.

Education Department lawyers disregard pesky arithmetic and elementary due process. Threatening to withdraw federal funding, the department mandates adoption of a minimal “preponderance of the evidence” standard when adjudicating sexual assault charges between males and the female “survivors” — note the language of prejudgment. Combine this with capacious definitions of sexual assault that can include not only forcible sexual penetration but also nonconsensual touching. Then add the doctrine that the consent of afemale who has been drinking might not protect a male from being found guilty of rape. Then comes costly litigation against institutions that have denied due process to males they accuse of what society considers serious felonies.

The rest of it’s pretty lively too, as he calls out the academic world for various progressive follies.  Naturally, they’ve responded with more folly.

Will mentioned the campus assault controversy yesterday, in the course of making a splendid contribution to the diagnosis of what I call the “Ineptocracy” – a government grown so huge and distracted that it acts like an idiot, no matter how many ostensibly smart people manage or serve it.  He might have usefully added the fact that four Senators decided it was the job of government to give a writer a hard time for writing a column questioning the validity of politically useful statistics, but perhaps modesty prevented him from bringing it up.  Will’s remarks on Fox News, as transcribed by RealClearPolitics:

Teasing this segment, you said, can we have faith in government? I think we have much more to fear from excessive faith in government than from too little faith in government.

You asked, can we trust the government to do its job? What isn’t its job nowadays? I just made a list of it. It’s fine-tuning the curriculum of our students K through 12. It’s monitoring sex on campuses. It’s deciding how much ethanol we should put in our gas tanks. It has designed our light bulbs and it’s worried sick over the name of the Washington football team.

Now, this is a government that doesn’t know when to stop. The distilled essence, and here I get partisan, my friend, the distilled essence of progressivism is that government is a benign — that is disinterested force, that’s false. And, (b), it is stocked with experts who are really gifted at doing things. Republicans do this also. Democrats do it in domestic policy. The Republicans brought us nation-building and regime change. A common theme is the excessive faith in the skills of government.

What good is highly “skilled,” awesomely powerful government when its decisions are guided by blind ideology, faulty data, and the relentless drive of every agency to make itself bigger?  Garbage in, garbage out, as they say in the computer world.


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