Tags: George Will | Scripps College

George Will: Sexual Assault Column Led to College's Disinvitation

By    |   Wednesday, 08 Oct 2014 09:44 AM

A controversial column written in June was the reason Scripps College, a women’s institution in California, withdrew an invitation to speak in a program geared toward promoting conservative views on campus, Washington Post columnist George Will tells The Claremont Independent.

"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.”

Scripps College President Lori Bettison-Varga issued a statement that read, in part: “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.”

Will was invited to speak as part of the college's Elizabeth Hubert Malott Public Affairs Program, at which it intended to honor the memory of alumna and trustee Elizabeth Hubert Malott and "her 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. Although the primary audience for this annual program is the Scripps College student body, all members of the Claremont community and the general public are welcome," according to the program's website.

Past speakers have included columnists Peggy Noonan and Charles Krauthammer, as well as politicos like Mary Matalin and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

At the center of the controversy is a June 6 column in which Will is critical of new regulations issued by the Department of Education regarding the definition of sexual assault on college campuses.

Will wrote dismissively of the "capacious definitions of sexual assault that can include not only forcible sexual penetration but also nonconsensual touching" and said the Obama administration was attempting to "excavate equities from the ambiguities of the hookup culture, this cocktail of hormones, alcohol and the faux sophistication of today’s prolonged adolescence of especially privileged young adults."

The column elicited a backlash from feminist groups, such as the National Organization of Women (NOW), which elected Will to its "Media Hall of Shame."

NOW asserted Will was "utilizing incorrect and ignorant assumptions about sexual violence" to perpetuate "the stigmatization of sexual assault survivors and contributes to a culture of victim-blaming."

Responding to a letter released by four female senators, Will wrote, “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.”

During a later appearance on C-SPAN's "Q&A" program, Will said he anticipated there would be some controversy, but said, “This is my job, when dubious statistics become the basis of dubious and dangerous abandonment of due process, to step in and say ‘Take a deep breath, everybody.’ ”

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Will is the latest in a growing list of speakers who have had invitations rescinded following criticism from outside interest groups, or students themselves, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

Since 2000, disinvitation incidents have averaged 7.5 per year, but that average increased to 11 from 2006-2008, and then to just under 18 per year from 2009-2011.
"Since 2012, the average number of disinvitation incidents has again risen, to nearly 25 per year. The average number of disinvitation incidents for one year within the 2012–2014 time frame is greater than the total number of disinvitation incidents from 2000–2002. Disinvitation efforts are not new, but our research indicates that they are dramatically increasing," reports FIRE.

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A controversial column written in June was the reason Scripps College, a women’s institution in California, withdrew an invitation to speak in a program geared toward promoting conservative views on campus, Washington Post columnist George Will tells The Claremont Independent.
George Will, Scripps College
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2014-44-08
Wednesday, 08 Oct 2014 09:44 AM
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