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 ...

Most Popular


‘Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself’

It was just one more segment to fill out the hour, and thereby fill the long 24 hours of Saturday’s cable news on November 2. Or so it seemed. Navy SEAL Mike Ritland was on the Fox News program Watters World to talk to Jesse Watters about trained German shepherds like the one used in the raid that found ... Read More

A Defining Statement of Modern Conservatism

The greatest documents in American history never lose their ability to astonish. They deserve, and repay, careful study, and inevitably have contemporary resonances no matter how long ago they were written or uttered. There’s no doubt that Ronald Reagan’s “A Time for Choosing” belongs in the top ranks ... Read More
White House

The Russian Conspiracy That Won’t Die

The Mueller report accomplished nothing. Whether you thought that the two-year, $32 million investigation was warranted or not, the report promised to establish a factual record that both sides could accept, especially on the explosive charge that Donald Trump had conspired with the Russians to win the ... Read More

What Do Republican Voters Want?

The latest entry in the post-Trump conservatism sweepstakes was Marco Rubio’s speech at the Catholic University of America in early November. The Florida senator made the case for a “common-good capitalism” that looks on markets in the light of Catholic social thought. “We must remember that our nation ... Read More