Did George Will's Offensive Rape Comments Alienate Another Institution?
Blog ››› ››› ELLIE SANDMEYER
UPDATE: Scripps College President Lori Bettison-Varga responded in a statement, explaining that she felt sexual assault was not an ideological topic and that Scripps had chosen not to finalize the speaking agreement with Will after his column "trivialized" these cases (emphasis added):
We invited George Will to speak as part of our Elizabeth Hubert Malott Public Affairs Program because he is a prominent conservative commentator, and we believed our community would benefit from the healthy intellectual debate that has been the hallmark of the program since 2006. Over the past eight years, the Malott Public Affairs Program has diversified the educational environment for our students by featuring conservative thought leaders in a widely publicized and well-attended event series. We do not shy away from bringing strong conservative viewpoints into our community.
Sexual assault is not a conservative or liberal issue. And it is too important to be trivialized in a political debate or wrapped into a celebrity controversy. For that reason, after Mr. Will authored a column questioning the validity of a specific sexual assault case that reflects similar experiences reported by Scripps students, we decided not to finalize the speaker agreement.
Scripps College revoked a speaking invitation to the Washington Post's George Will, an act the columnist believes is in response to a piece he wrote in June which trivialized sexual assault on college campuses.
In June, Will used his column to dispute evidence that 1 in 5 women on U.S college campuses experience sexual assault and argued that efforts to fight sexual assault on college campuses have made "victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges."
On October 6, a college newspaper called the Claremont Independent reported that the all-female Scripps College had revoked an invitation for Will to speak as part of a program "designed to promote conservative views on campus." Will suggested that the controversial June column was the impetus for the disinvitation, telling the Independent, "They didn't say that the column was the reason, but it was the reason."
According to the Independent, Christopher DeMuth, a member of the program's speaker selection committee who previously served as president of the conservative American Enterprise Institute resigned in response to the revoked invitation.
Will's June 6 commentary on sexual assault was widely criticized. Four senators publicly condemned his comments in an open letter, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch dropped his syndicated column and apologized for publishing Will's "offensive and inaccurate" arguments, and women's rights groups called for the Washington Post to fire him. Will refused to apologize for the the column and later doubled down on the claims. The Washington Post stood by him, telling Media Matters that his comments were "well within the bounds of legitimate debate."