Professors in the Miami University program on women, gender and sexuality studies are objecting to George Will's planned appearance next week on campus, declaring in a unified voice that previous comments he made about campus rape are “hate speech” that “amount to the sort of vitriol that potentially encourages violence toward women in particular.”
“The Miami I believe in is committed to creating a welcoming and safe environment for all of our students,” said Anita Mannur, director of the Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies program at the Oxford, OH, campus. “I am disappointed that a speaker who clearly does not respect women, or take the issue of sexual assault seriously, is being given a platform to speak, particularly because such inflammatory rhetoric has the potential to re-victimize and re-traumatize some of our students.”
The Washington Post syndicated columnist has been under fire from U.S. senators, media, and women's equality groups since the publication of his June 6 column, which argued that efforts to fight sexual assault have made “victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges.” Will has been making similar comments for more than two decades.
In early October, Scripps College of Claremont, CA, canceled a planned appearance by Will in light of the column, with the school's president stating, “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.”
The columnist will receive $48,000 for his scheduled speech at Miami University's Farmer School of Business for its annual Anderson Lecture Series on October 22. Earlier this week, a school spokesperson told Media Matters that the administration is aware of the controversy surrounding Will and that “Members of our campus community may rightfully have questions about Mr. Will's writings on a number of issues and we support their right to pose those questions.”
The university's women's, gender, and sexuality studies faculty slammed Will's speaking engagement in a joint statement authored by Lisa McLaughlin, an associate professor in the program (emphasis added):
Will's June 6 opinion piece featured an attack on some imagined “campus victimization” advocacy campaign centered on “rape, aka 'sexual assault'.” “She asked for it” or “misrepresented it” certainly isn't an original position. The invitation for him to hold forth for the endowed Anderson Speaker Series, overseen by the Farmer School of Business, inflicts on Miami University a misogyny that “diminishes the autonomy, resources, prestige and comity” of this university, to borrow some words from Will's opinion piece.
I'm reticent to give Will any additional attention. Privilege is much more the property of talking heads who are paid so much to enlighten so little, not that of women who have attained victimhood status because they have been sexually assaulted. George Will is privileged. Perhaps he would be more invisible and have less to say if he had ever been raped, but, instead, he draws more attention than anyone who has ever had to endure sexual assault. I do think that he is engaging in hate speech as opposed to free speech. His column amounts to the sort of vitriol that potentially encourages violence toward women in particular. It is not simply a case of Will taking a derisive stance toward the progressivism of government and universities in the spirit of debate. His words on this subject are more in the spirit of bullying than dialogue.
What “serves [us] right,” to again borrow a few more words from Will's June 6 column, is Miami University President David Hodge's call for MU to develop new policies and a culture in which the campus has an “obligation to foster and maintain an environment that is free of harassment, discrimination and sexual violence.”
I am guessing that Will would not have been invited to this campus if some divisional administrators had taken President Hodge's words seriously. But, the invitation was extended, the contract is signed, and I can't imagine that it will be rescinded. It's too late for that. On the university website, I read the announcement of the George Will presentation and noticed that the final words are that 'seating is limited.' I think that's the only good news in this case."
Other instructors in the department expanded on the statement in emails with Media Matters.
“While I have respect for Mr. Will's past writings, even when I have disagreed with him, I find his comments about sexual assault prevention on college campuses seriously misguided,” said Madelyn Detloff, an associate professor of women's, gender, and sexuality studies.
Darcy Donahue, another associate professor in the program, wrote that she is “disappointed, but not surprised that the Farmer School of Business is welcoming Mr. Will to Miami,” later adding, “Suffice it to say I think it was an unfortunate decision to invite him, but one which the university will not change.”