Several hundred students reportedly protested George Will's speech last night at Miami University in response to his claim that efforts to fight sexual assault have made “victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges” on college campuses.
Will, whose column is distributed by the Washington Post News Service and Syndicate, has been criticized by U.S. senators, media, and women's equality groups since the publication of his “coveted status” piece on June 6. Will has been making similar comments for more than two decades.
The columnist's appearance at the Oxford, Ohio, campus -- for which he received $48,000 -- became the subject of controversy over the last week. Nearly 1,200 students, faculty, and staff signed a letter stating that hosting Will “sends the wrong message to current students, prospective students, and their families about the tolerance of rape culture and predatory sexual behavior at Miami University,” according to the Miami University Women's Center. The speech also drew criticism from professors at the school's Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies program and the national women's rights group UltraViolet.
While protesters outside the Farmer School of Business event were denouncing Will's appearance and discussing their experiences with sexual assault on campus, inside, Will was defending his column from student critics. According to The Cincinnati Enquirer:
In response to the student Will said many have misconstrued the points in his column but acknowledged the controversy, saying “I've written columns since 1973, but the one you are talking about has certainly gotten the attention of this campus.”
In response, Will defended his column and criticized “the dubious sociology” of ill-defined federal definitions of sexual assault that he contends diminishes the legal rights of the overwhelmingly male defendants assumed “guilty until proven innocent” under the new laws.
A second student who asked about Will about his column, who identified herself as a victim of sexual assault, subsequently told Cincinnati's WLWT:
She said she asked Will about his comments concerning the cost of treatment for sexual assault victims.
“He replied in a series of non-finished sentences at which point I said, 'I have specifically received treatment and is it worth it?' and he said, 'Yes, it is, but only for real survivors of real rape,' and it was very diminishing and deterring my ability to talk about it,” she said.
Watch this report on the protests from Cincinnati's WCPO:
Here are some images from the protest, courtesy of the Facebook page of the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program: