George Will speech at Scripps College canceled because of tolerance, or something

This story begins almost four months ago, when Washington Post columnist George Will challenged the Obama administration’s attempts to use debunked data to push a narrative of an epidemic of sexual assaults on American college campuses. Will also criticized the expansion of the term “sexual assault” to a nearly meaningless definition, and the demand by the White House for colleges to use a minimal standard of evidence to “convict” the accused. For being one of the first to call foul on the Department of Education’s efforts, Will earned the ire of progressives and activists, and one newspaper stopped carrying his column when the controversy erupted over his opinion.

Since then, plenty of people have joined Will in questioning the actions, motives, and outcomes of the Obama administration’s insistence that a sexual assault epidemic has erupted and kangaroo campus courts are the remedy, including myself, and especially Ashe Schow at the Washington Examiner.  That emergence of a legitimate debate over what looks very much like a new McMartin Preschool-style witch hunt made little difference to Scripps College, which invited Will to deliver a speech — and then disinvited him:

A prominent conservative political pundit was uninvited from speaking at Scripps College, in a program designed to promote conservative views on campus, because of his conservative views.

Nationally syndicated columnist George Will was slated to speak at the ninth annual Elizabeth Hubert Malott Public Affairs Program, the mission of which is to bring speakers to campus whose political views differ from the majority of students at the all-women’s college, but had his invitation rescinded after he wrote a column about sexual assault on college campuses.

“It was in the works and then it wasn’t in the works,” Will said in an interview with the Independent. “They didn’t say that the column was the reason, but it was the reason.”

Yes, you read that correctly. Scripps has a program in place to promote ideological diversity and tolerance, and bounced Will from it because he deviated from their measure of the political-correctness norm. If anyone wonders why Scripps needs this program, the Claremont Independent explains:

News of the cancellation comes shortly after the release of a recurring study by Claremont McKenna College Professor Emeritus Ward Elliott that aims to measure political attitudes at the Claremont Colleges. In the most recent update of the report, Elliott could not find any Scripps faculty members who are registered Republicans.

“Among the 532 [Claremont Colleges] core faculty only 15 Republicans could be found in the registries,” Elliott said in an email to the Independent. “Pomona, Pitzer, and Scripps have a very few registered third-party core faculty, but no Republicans at all found.”

Scripps can choose to have any ideological environment they wish. Scripps is a liberal-arts women’s college, privately funded, and which costs in the mid-five figures for annual tuition. Perhaps they felt that the young women on campus didn’t want their views challenged, or maybe they felt that the women couldn’t handle a debate on this topic. Either way, it’s rather amusing in light of the Wikipedia description of their “Core curriculum”:

A key part of the Scripps experience is the Core curriculum, a sequence of three classes that encourage students to think critically and challenge ideas. Every first-year student takes Core I in the fall, which introduces students to major ideas that shape the modern world. Core II seminars focus on specific ideas introduced in Core I and are team-taught by two professors in different fields, such as physics and art. The concluding Core III classes encourage discussion and critical thinking for first-semester sophomores, culminating in individual projects.

Thinking critically and challenging ideas are both fine efforts to encourage. Too bad Scripps can’t put that into practice. Perhaps students looking for that kind of environment should spend their $47,000 in annual tuition at an institution that practices what it preaches. This puts a whole new spin on the old proverb, Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.

If Scripps wants to maintain its ideological rigidity and force boundaries on debate on their campus, they are free to do so. However, they can’t expect to claim the virtue of tolerance while shutting down debates that they simply don’t like. One does not have to agree with George Will in order to allow him to speak, as even George Will recognizes. Even if Will’s column offends, why not challenge him to defend it? Is there no one at Scripps among those so offended by his argument who would be up to that kind of intellectual challenge? If so, that’s an even better indication to potential enrollees that Scripps looks like a waste of a lot of money.

Finally, if George Will is too conservative for a program that is aimed at providing mainstream conservatives a voice on campus, it’s difficult to see what kind of conservative would qualify for that speaking slot. Anyone to the right of Howard Dean apparently need not apply.