The Corner

My Alma Mater Makes a Fool of Itself

Eight days ago, Katherine Timpf reported that at both Oberlin College and my beloved alma mater, Georgetown University, students had virtual conniption fits because campus groups were hosting speeches by AEI’s distinguished Christina Hoff Sommers, a strong critic of the radicalization of modern feminism.

The rest of the story at Georgetown is this: Both the campus paper of record, the Hoya, and the Georgetown Center for Student Engagement (yes, I kid you not, that’s the name of an official department of the university), have done even more to embarrass themselves than did the students who posted “trigger warnings” that Ms. Sommers might say things that upset somebody.

As an aside, but for full disclosure, this pains me no end: I adored Georgetown and revere its traditional mission, and I will forever love the Hoya, on whose editorial board I sat (at various times during my four years there, three decades ago) in six different capacities.

Anyway, the first embarrassment came in the form of an editorial by the newspaper. Read it for yourself at here. It’s one of the worst pieces of drivel I’ve ever seen from a supposedly mainstream newspaper at an elite university. Called “No More Distractions,” the paper’s official position is that because Sommers at various times has questioned the accuracy of certain alleged statistics on the frequency of rape, she therefore should not have been invited to speak on campus. (Never mind that rape wasn’t even the topic of her Georgetown speech.) The self-contradictions in the editorial were legion. Example one: “By giving Sommers a platform, GU [college Republicans have] knowingly endorsed a harmful conversation on the serious topic of sexual assault.”

If it’s a serious topic, and it’s a university (supposedly dedicated to the free flow of ideas), how, pray tell, can a “conversation” be harmful?

But, worse, the editors write that “giving voice” to someone who argues that the statistics are inflated (by the way, as horrific a crime as rape is, the reality is that Sommers is right about its incidence) will only “trigger obstructive dialogue.” What sort of Orwellian double-speak is this? How can “dialogue” be “obstructive”? Perhaps a diatribe, in certain circumstances, might be seen as somehow obstructive, but a dialogue by its very nature serves to illuminate, not obstruct.

The editors then proceed to instruct readers as to what sort of “conversation” we should be having: one that focuses on only one aspect of rape, and from only one perspective. Some conversation. Yet if a conversation veers outside those bounds, according to the editors, it leads to “rape denialism.”

Of course, rape is hideous. I think it should be punished almost as severely as murder is. But it’s also hideous to falsely accuse someone of rape — and, with the UVA Rolling Stone rape hoax so freshly in the news, on top of the Duke University rape hoax from several years ago, one would think that college students would understand that on such a serious topic it’s important to actually examine the facts, not just the feelings. But the entire message of the editorial is that feelings trump facts.

The editors then don’t even seem to realize their own self-contradictions when, in the course of an editorial arguing that Sommers’s views should be silenced, they complain that “rape culture is a system that thrives on silence. Students cannot allow Georgetown’s sexual assault discourse to be subdued by those who would downplay the problem at hand.” Yes, while arguing in favor of subduing the “dialogue” with Sommers, they argue that “discourse” should not be subdued.

The whole editorial is embarrassing. “‘Shut up,’ they explained,” indeed.

But — get this — the editorial wasn’t the worst of things on what’s known as the Hilltop. Now it turns out that the aforementioned Student Engagement office is threatening people (namely, the Clare Booth Luce Policy Institute) for publicizing, yes, students’ engagement with a public issue at a public forum. Because Luce posted a video of the entire event, the Student Engagement office has demanded that the video be edited so that students who did not give consent to be videotaped will not be shown. This was at a public meeting, with the video camera in clear evidence. Since when is it forbidden, or even wrong, to post video from a public meeting at which people are speaking for all the world to hear?

This is inanity upon inanity. First there are students warning that a respected scholar should not be heard at a university, while they behave childishly at the event. Then there are student editors not only backing up those students, but offering one of the most confused and confusing, illogical editorials imaginable to make their case. Then comes the school administration to threaten to “step in” to make un-public that which was always public.

The mind reels. And the heart breaks, for all those paying obscene amounts for what is supposed to be an education, but who get treated instead to such close-minded, foggy-headed nonsense in a campus atmosphere obviously antithetical to traditional liberal values and traditional liberal education.

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