The Scripps Voice, the official student newspaper of Scripps College, came out in support of the college’s decision to suppress the voices of those on campus with whom it disagrees.

George Will

In its Oct. 16 issue, the newspaper featured a breathtakingly laudatory editorial in response to the Scripps administration’s decision to disinvite conservative columnist George Will from speaking on campus over a June 6 column that he wrote about sexual assault.

“The Scripps Voice stands behind – and applauds – the College’s decision,” the editorial reads.

The newspaper makes several arguments regarding why the college was justified in rescinding Will’s invitation to speak.

First, the editorial claims that “sexual assault is a bipartisan issue” about which there is no room for reasonable disagreement. On its face, there is some truth to this argument. Sexual assault is absolutely not a political question in the same way that, for instance, abortion is. Conservatives and liberals generally disagree about whether abortion is an inherently evil act, whereas both sides believe that sexual assault is always wrong.

But Will clearly was not arguing about the moral merits and detriments of the actual act of sexual assault in his column. Rather, he wrote about which acts deserve to be given the very serious label of “sexual assault,” which cultural institutions (or lack thereof) sexual assault is most prevalent under, and what our judicial response to sexual assault should be. These are questions surely up for political debate and discussion – ones about which conservative and liberal principles and philosophy are generally in disagreement.

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 4.42.43 PMThus, Will was disinvited from speaking on campus because of his conservative views toward the issue sexual assault – in a guest lecture series designed to promote conservative views on campus – because the Scripps College administration personally disagreed with those political views.

It should also be instructional that only liberals and progressives are using the “sexual assault is a bipartisan issue” line. Where are the conservatives making the supposedly bipartisan argument that there is no room to disagree about political questions tangentially related to sexual assault?

Second, the editorial argues that allowing Will to speak after writing such a column would be harmful to the Scripps community, as it would trigger the past traumas of sexual assault survivors.

Yet, the Voice fails to mention that the only reason they are writing about Will’s column is because the Scripps administration chose to disinvite him from speaking on campus. Many people on this campus – perhaps among them survivors of sexual assault – only read Will’s initial column because of the political brouhaha that ensued after the disinvitation was revealed.

scripps sealWill’s column would not have been required reading had he simply been allowed to come and speak on campus, nor would attendance at the talk have been mandatory, and it is very likely that the only mention of sexual assault would have been during the Q&A session. It can be argued that the Scripps administration did more to trigger past traumas by rescinding Will’s invitation than they would have by letting him speak. (Of course, in its defense, the administration was probably counting on nobody finding out about the disinvitation.)

Third, and most fallaciously, the editorial argues that, because Will’s First Amendment rights were not violated by the disinvitation, he was not really “censored.”

Aside from the fact that no one is claiming that Will’s First Amendment rights were violated, this is a very dubious argument – and a bit of a troubling one coming from a newspaper with the word “voice” in its name. Perhaps it is best rebutted by a simple thought experiment.

Hypothetically speaking, were the Scripps administration to, say, take a stack of the most recent edition of the Scripps Voice and throw it into the trash, perhaps because it disagreed with one of the articles, would the Scripps Voice claim that they had been censored?

One need not think long on this question, because that is exactly what the newspaper claimed to have happened last year, when it intentionally left its Feb. 17 issue’s front cover blank in order to protest “student censorship” on campus.

It is ridiculous to think that political censorship can only exist within the sphere of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. Just because it is not an American governmental entity doing the censoring does not mean that one has not been censored.

Finally, while the arguments raised by the Scripps Voice are far from persuasive, they are also straw men.

The real question up for debate here is not whether George Will expressed a conservative point of view, if what he wrote was insensitive, or if Scripps technically “censored” him by rescinding his invitation from campus, but whether the university can fulfill its primary purpose of creating critical thinkers and responsible citizens by presenting only one side of any given argument.

Is the modern-day university doing its students a disservice by shielding them from opinions about which they may disagree and that they may find hurtful? Can the academy properly function while only presenting certain acceptable points of view for debate and discussion?

You won’t find out by reading the Scripps Voice.

Categories: Opinion Rebuttal
  • Will wasn’t disinvited for having a shitty opinion. His article demonstrated faulty statistics, an ignorance of his own privilege, and a general lack of understanding of how to have a respectful argument. I think there’s a very distinct difference between having a discussion about the nuances surrounding consent and sexual assault, and piggybacking onto a controversial subject for the purpose of deriding the Obama administration. Being as the victims of this piggybacking (along with the misinformation and poor discussion it results in) are young women and men on college campuses, I think it makes total sense for Scripps to not pay ~5 figures for his presence. People who think Scripps is punishing him for disagreeing might be missing the point.

    • anonymous

      Minor correction: The statistics were not faulty. The math that George Will did with them was.

      What does it matter whether or not George Will is ignorant of his own privilege? Should not the statements made in the article be judged solely on the basis of whether they accurately or inaccurately portray the events, actions, laws, procedures, and experiences being discussed?

      What in the article demonstrated a “lack of understanding of how to have a respectful argument?” George Will did not resort to name-calling, nor did he make ad hominem attacks; he made statements that directly challenge the ideas of progressives (albeit often without backing those statements with evidence). What more is necessary for an argument to be respectful?

    • bob

      1. these aren’t actually new issues (aff consent and stuff was a big story for a little while in the 90s) and Will wrote a better version of the column he intended to write this time then so no, he’s not doing this because he wants to insult Obama, he’s doing this because he honestly sees a strand of progressive ism he dislikes in the claims being made. The article suffered by combining two points 1. the absurdity of micro-aggressions and trigger warnings:
      “micro-aggressions,” often not discernible to the untutored eye, are everywhere), and that when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate”
      and how superficial claims of victimhood are used politically as status symbols (waspy people telling others to “check their privilege” is an assertion of power) to mandate more intrusive government interference with
      2. the problems of calling a lot of these hookups rape (sexual assault) and the new system which mandates few due process protections.

  • So sick of this nonsense

    Alert the dictionaries. The Claremont Independent has redefined “silencing.” Seriously. All they did was choose to not give him money. That’s not silencing him. If he really wanted his voice heard, he could have come for free. Or if the Claremont Independent really cares about having him talk here, how about they pay him then?

    • anonymous

      Thank you for pointing this out (and I hope you are just as quick to point out when progressive groups redefine words for the purpose of winning arguments).

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