Last year Scripps College in California pulled back a speaking invitation for conservative syndicated columnist George Will, a decision he attributes to a column he wrote questioning whether sexual assault on campus is as widespread as commonly believed.
Several hours up the coast, Santa Clara University has promised that it won’t rescind Will’s invitation to address its President’s Speaker Series on Thursday in response to the same pressure, Inside Higher Ed reports:
“Mr. Will is a prominent conservative commentator, and we believe our community would benefit from healthy intellectual debate,” Deepa Arora, director of communications at Santa Clara, said in a statement emailed to Inside Higher Ed. “The leadership of Santa Clara University is sensitive to concerns raised by students and faculty about a column which expressed a controversial point of view about the way campus sexual assault is handled on some campuses. While some campus members disagree with Mr. Will on his stance in that article, we urge his critics to continue to respect the university’s role as a place for discourse and free speech — even speech with which we may not agree.”
A Change.org petition to convince the school to disinvite Will has more than 300 signatures, arguing that SCU is sending a “profoundly contradictory message”:
At this year’s university convocation, President Engh talked about the need for students, faculty, staff — and the institution as a whole — to respond with more courage and concern to the problem of violence against women, particularly on college campuses across the country. Last year the president also approved the formation of a university task force on sexual assault … Inviting George Will to speak to our students makes the president’s words and actions appear hollow.
The petitioners are also mad at Will’s dismissal of environmental “sustainability” as a “progressive gesture,” noting that climate scientist Michael Mann – who is suing his critics because they criticized his methodologies – has accused Will of “grossly misstating” climate science.
Oh, and the agnostic Will slighted the pope – a charge the petition organizers evidently hoped would sway the Catholic school.
IMAGE: Penn State/Flickr