Politics Aside: George Will’s Inconsiderate Remarks

When
I heard that Scripps was inviting another conservative columnist to be one of
our Malott Public Affairs speakers, I was very excited. Even as a somewhat
liberal Scrippsie, I sometimes feel that our community can become an
ultra­liberal echo chamber—so many of us agree on the ideals of feminism,
democracy and fighting the kyriarchy that we often forget that our accord is not necessarily
the norm.

Like
it or not, we have to acknowledge that conservatives exist as a reasonably
large demographic.

So
far, Malott Public Affairs speakers have been largely oppositional to the usual
Scripps student’s political leaning—Peggy Noonan, Charles Krauthammer, David
Brooks and even Newt Gingrich count among notable conservative speakers on
public policy. Inviting conservative speakers
to Scripps broadens our horizons and strengthens our debate skills by
challenging us to consider alternative viewpoints.

With
this in mind, I cautiously looked forward to this year’s speaker, George Will.
He’s won a Pulitzer Prize, has three books on politics and two on baseball,
and contributes to Fox News. His political leanings are far and wide: He is
against U.S. military involvement overseas, government surveillance and the
death penalty, and he supports the legalization of drugs. He also opposes abortion, denounces affirmative action and supports abolishing the
minimum wage.

To
me, George Will seemed just about as moderate as a conservative commentator can
get, which could be a gateway to understanding both sides of debate for us
Scrippsies.

And
then he went and said that colleges and universities “are learning that when
they say campus victimizations are ubiquitous (‘micro­aggressions,’ often not
discernible to the untutored eye, are everywhere), and that when they make
victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.”

Will
draws evidence from the proliferation of the term “trigger warning” as “soft
censorship” and what he calls “overblown” statistics on sexual assault
on college campuses to build a case against the increasingly common
administrative stance on building consent culture.

Regardless
of whether or not you think his arguments hold any weight, Will conveys his
view of the “facts” in an accusatory and victim-­blaming manner. He misinterprets
college policy against alleged perpetrators and for survivors as coddling,
glorifying and conferring some kind of privilege.

His
view that victimhood confers privilege is problematic because victimhood arises
from the removal of privilege. When somebody is sexually assaulted or even just experiences microaggression, their control over their body and
circumstances is taken from them.

When
he says “victims proliferate” as a result of liberal academic policy, he
misconstrues the results of allowing victims to speak in a safe space.
Providing safe spaces to victims and survivors allows them to speak openly
about their experiences, which leads to a more productive and safe environment
for everybody to learn. For every victim that comes forward, another 10 are
hiding away hoping that their environment improves. For every victim of
microaggression that opens a dialogue, many others—perpetrators and perhaps even
unknowing victims of the same microaggression—are listening and changing their views
to create a more welcoming environment.

Will
seems to believe that these changes are not positive. 

“Academia is learning its
attempts to create victim-free campuses—by making everyone hypersensitive, even
delusional, about victimizations—brings increasing supervision by the
regulatory state that progressivism celebrates,” he writes.

The
truth here is that when we provide safe environments in students’ formative
years at college, they will go into the world with some idea of how things should
be. And hopefully, with that in mind, they will try to slowly create change in that
same cold, hard world.

Will
treats the issue of victimhood and sexual assault as an intellectual exercise. But as Scripps President Lori Bettison­-Varga
said in her statement regarding Will’s dis­invitation, sexual assault “is too
important to be trivialized in a political debate.” I
stand by her statement.

Regardless
of Will’s political leaning, sexual assault is not an issue for political or academic
debate, and neither are any attempts to cater to the needs of assault
survivors. Survivors and victims should define the terms of how they should be
addressed, not political columnists. For Will to come forward with any opinion
on sexual assault victims other than “It’s not your fault” is so contradictory
to the ideals that Scripps College portrays that disinvitation was the only
logical option.

Imagine
that we hadn’t dis­invited him. Scripps students would probably have thrown
shoes at him during his address. We can’t have that.

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