Georgetown to College Republicans: do me a kindness and edit the Christina Hoff Sommers lecture
posted at 8:41 pm on April 30, 2015 by Matt Vespa
If there’s one thing that’s true, Christine Hoff Sommers of the American Enterprise Institute invites all the trigger warnings when she comes to speak at college campuses. Oh, and she’s the harbinger of microaggressions. It’s not a problem if you don’t understand these terms; they don’t exist in the minds of serious people. In short, they’re a set of protocols by progressives to shut the debate down because heaven forbid we challenge the preconceived notions about politics to those delicate snowflakes on the left.
Last week, Ms. Sommers (in some schools, the term “Ms.” is offensive) gave a lecture at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. last week.
The Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute helped organize the event at Georgetown, and Sommers gave her lecture that lasted a little over an hour. Yet, the school administration is asking the College Republicans to edit the video of the lecture by removing footage of some of the students who raised questions at the event (via Ashe Schow):
Lauren Gagliardi, the school’s assistant director for the center for student engagement, emailed two members of the College Republicans to request they edit the video to remove students who did not agree to be videotaped.
In the email, provided to the Washington Examiner, Gagliardi tells the students that the “edited version needs to be released without students who did not give permission to be taped.” She also says that if the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute, which sponsored the event, is “unwilling or unresponsive to the request, Georgetown will need to step in.”
The video that has Gagliardi so upset features feminist activists holding up signs accusing Hoff Sommers of being an anti-feminist or deny rape.
Laurel Conrad, the lecture director for the Clare Booth Luce Policy Center, wrote in Legal Insurrection that “it stretches credulity that Georgetown and its students would not understand that the lecture was a public event. The video camera was in plain view, and audience members themselves appear to be taking video and photos. It could not shock any student that he or she was on camera.” She also noted why she understands why Georgetown is taking this position; it’s a public relations nightmare.
Schow included a statement from Clare Booth Luce Policy Center’s founder and president–Michelle Easton–who noted that once the video was uploaded on YouTube, it’s impossible to edit.
Also, I would respect college liberals more if they would just come out and straight-up say they do not respect free speech on their respective campuses. The whole “we support free speech, but only what we view as legitimate speech” isn’t a standard. It’s not even a serious position. Nevertheless, The Hoya, Georgetown’s student newspaper, and their editorial team is just fed up with people articulating a different point of view [emphasis mine]:
The Georgetown University College Republicans hosted Christina Hoff Sommers, an author and philosophy professor known for her criticism of contemporary feminism and her disavowal of a so-called “rape myth,” last week.
By giving Sommers a platform, GUCR has knowingly endorsed a harmful conversation on the serious topic of sexual assault.
Giving voice to someone who argues that statistics on sexual assault exaggerate the problem and condemns reputable studies for engaging in “statistical hijinks” serves only to trigger obstructive dialogue and impede the progress of the university’s commitment to providing increased resources to survivors.
It is necessary and valuable to promote the free expression of a plurality of views, but this back-and-forth about whether or not certain statistics are valid is not the conversation that students should be having. Students should engage in a dialogue that focuses on establishing a safe space for survivors while at the same time tackling the root causes of sexual assault.
Inevitably, the discussion initiated by Sommers distracts from a focus on solutions. At its worst, such discourse encourages rape denialism.
This ploy to divert attention and resources from solutions and survivors has no place anywhere — especially not at Georgetown, where students are fortunate enough to participate in a community that emphasizes care for the whole person. Denying the lived experiences of survivors stands in sharp contradiction to this value.
Conversations that focus on whether or not the problem is “overstated,” rather than on how the problem can be solved, are an insult to Georgetown’s survivors and a recipe for inaction.
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.
Wait, we promote free expression, BUT a debate about the validity of statistics is not “valid.” Then, you don’t support free speech. It’s the same situation with anti-gun liberals, who say they’re for the Second Amendment and respect the rights of hunters (I doubt the PA State Game Lands, which didn’t exist, were a point of contention at the 1787 Constitutional convention), and then go on to support policies that chip away at gun rights. Granted, the statements by the Hoya are rather explicit in showing that they have no clue what freedom of speech entails. Yes, you have to tolerate some insane opinion. Yes, that’s a testament to how serious you take the Bill of Rights–and yes, you can choose not to go. This is college; I’m sure there are a multitude of other activities–college liberal-approved–that are occurring when these events occur.
Last December, Slate’s Emily Yoffe had a phenomenally researched piece about rape statistics–and how they might not be as clear cut when given a second look. She also noted that the rush to prevent the spread of this “putative” epidemic on college campuses–and protect women from harm–has led to men’s rights being infringed by “misguided policies.” Gasp! Does Yoffe deserve a trigger warning too for writing something that is most certainly not a conservative publication?
One campus rape is one too many. But the severe new policies championed by the White House, the Department of Education, and members of Congress are responding to the idea that colleges are in the grips of an epidemic—and the studies suggesting this epidemic don’t hold up to scrutiny. Bad policy is being made on the back of problematic research, and will continue to be unless we bring some healthy skepticism to the hard work of putting a number on the prevalence of campus rape.
It is exceedingly difficult to get a numerical handle on a crime that is usually committed in private and the victims of which—all the studies agree—frequently decline to report. A further complication is that because researchers are asking about intimate subjects, there is no consensus on the best way to phrase sensitive questions in order to get the most accurate answers. A 2008 National Institute of Justice paper on campus sexual assault explained some of the challenges: “Unfortunately, researchers have been unable to determine the precise incidence of sexual assault on American campuses because the incidence found depends on how the questions are worded and the context of the survey.” Take the National Crime Victimization Survey, the nationally representative sample conducted by the federal government to find rates of reported and unreported crime. For the years 1995 to 2011, as the University of Colorado Denver’s Rennison explained to me, it found that an estimated 0.8 percent of noncollege females age 18-24 revealed that they were victims of threatened, attempted, or completed rape/sexual assault. Of the college females that age during that same time period, approximately 0.6 percent reported they experienced such attempted or completed crime.
That finding diverges wildly from the notion that one in five college women will be sexually assaulted by the time they graduate.
The Sexual Victimization of College Women, a 2000 study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Justice, is the basis for another widely cited statistic, even grimmer than the finding of CSA: that one in four college women will be raped.
But the authors go on to make several assumptions that ratchet up the risk. The study was carried out during the spring and asked women to describe any assaults experienced during that academic year. The researchers decided to double the numbers they received from their subjects, in order to extrapolate their findings over an entire calendar year, even as they acknowledged that this was “problematic,” as students rarely attend school for 12 months. That calculation brought the incidence figure to nearly 5 percent. Although college is designed to be a four-year experience, the authors note that it takes students “an average” of five years, so they then multiplied their newly-arrived-at 5 percent of student victims by five years, and thus they conclude: “The percentage of completed or attempted rape victimization among women in higher educational institutions might climb to between one-fifth and one-quarter.”
In a footnote, the authors acknowledge that asserting that one-quarter of college students “might” be raped is not based on actual evidence: “These projections are suggestive. To assess accurately the victimization risk for women throughout a college career, longitudinal research following a cohort of female students across time is needed.” The one-fifth to one-quarter assertion would mean that young American college women are raped at a rate similar to women in Congo, where rape has been used as a weapon of war.
Now, we can debate these findings–and we should. Even Yoffe’s colleagues at Slate said it was a great write-up on how the 1/5 and 1/4 statistics are “shaky.” Yet, the Hoya editorial board seems to think otherwise. It’s troubling when Onion satire begins to mirror real life.
As for the video being edited, it should not be edited. Yes, Sommers had her detractors in the room, but nothing especially obnoxious occurred.
Exit question: Isn’t Washington D.C. a single party consent state for video recording? If that’s the case, then Georgetown really can’t “step in” regarding the editing of a public event.