Phi Beta Cons

Disinvitations Déja Vu

Like George, I was struck by this latest disinvitation. This time the college was Williams College and the speaker, Suzanne Venker, author of The War on Men and The Flipside of Feminism. She was going to talk on “Why Feminism Fails,” as part of  a series called “Uncomfortable Learning,” which is designed to acquaint students with ideas they might not normally find on campus.

 Zach Wood, the student organizer of the event, canceled it when a Facebook complaint  ended with:

“You are giving those who spout violence the money that so desperately needs to be funneled to black and brown (trans) femme communities, to people who are leading the revolution, who are surviving in the streets, who are dying in the streets. Know, you are dipping your hands in their blood, Zach Wood.”

He told Inside Higher Ed that he was worried because he wasn’t able to organize security quickly enough and feared there might be disruption and even “people throwing things.”

On a blog called the Williams Alternative, Wood defended his choice of Venker and expressed regret at having to disinvite her.

At Williams, learning (theoretically anyway) begins with confronting challenging ideas. Tens of millions of Americans espouse Venker’s views–and I am not one of them. I am, in fact, of the opinion that her arguments deserve trenchant criticism, but to challenge her intellectually and critique her arguments substantively, we must first understand her views. Each of us has the license to engage Venker’s ideas, or to ignore them, but energetic intellectual engagement is not synonymous with ideological endorsement. Those who protested viewed this event through a lens of motivated ignorance.

A good statement. Too bad that it isn’t obvious to all.

Jane S. ShawJane S. Shaw retired as president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in 2015. Before joining the Pope Center in 2006, Shaw spent 22 years in ...


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