The Debate at Brown

The recent drama at Brown University over a campus forum debating sexual assault could have been an episode in a sharp and outrageous satire of political correctness gone mad—complete with a “safe space” counseling group for undergraduates traumatized by the presence of heresy on campus and with one of the panelists opening her remarks by decrying the debate’s very existence. Of course, in the modern-day academy, fiction is rarely a match for truth.

The November 19 debate, sponsored by a campus organization called the Janus Forum, pitted writer and blogger Jessica Valenti, a leading voice in the anti-“rape culture” crusade, against libertarian feminist Wendy McElroy, who penned an essay earlier this year titled “The Big Lie of a ‘Rape Culture.’”

Cue the outrage: according to the Brown Daily Herald, “multiple students have said they feel the event devalues the experiences of sexual assault survivors on campus and goes against the University’s mission to create a safe and supportive environment for survivors.” Among those expressing such concerns was Undergraduate Council of Students President Maahika Srinivasan, who told The Herald, “It just seems like unfortunate timing in the way that we’ve been framing discussions of sexual assault for the past couple of months… Having this event now might seem like backtracking from the forward direction that we’ve been moving in.” (It’s unclear what timing Srinivasan would have considered preferable; the likely answer is, “Never.”) Continue reading

Looking Very Hard for Racism

“The Microaggression Farce,” Heather  Mac Donald’s latest article for City Journal, is getting a lot of attention. It examines one of the more pathetic campus trends, finding  alleged racism in acts so small (or non-existent) that only aggrieved students of color and their allies can spot  them.

Mac Donald writes: “As student claims of racial and gender mistreatment grow ever more unmoored from reality, campus grown-ups have abdicated their responsibility to cultivate an adult sense of perspective and common sense in their students. Instead, they are creating what tort law calls “eggshell plaintiffs”—preternaturally fragile individuals injured by the slightest collisions with life. The consequences will affect us for years to come.”


Let’s Not Say ‘Freshman’ Any More

You can’t make this stuff up. Elon University in North Carolina has dropped the word “freshman” and replaced it with “first-year,” according to The College Fix. ”Freshman,” of course, has the deadly word “man” in it. Can’t have that. But there’s another reason for the change: “f——n” ” may contribute to sexual violence on campus because it labels the youngest students, causing them to be targets. (Whereas “first-year,” which also labels most new students as young, apparently does not increase the odds of sexual violence.)

Feminists have been explaining for a year that drinking yourself into a stupor does not have anything to do with rape, but apparently the word “f——n” does. That’s the analysis of Leigh-Anne Royster,  Elon’s “Inclusive Community Wellbeing Director.” (Irrelevant question: why do women with hyphenated names seem to gravitate to weird PC job descriptions?)

Continue reading

Anti-Israel Activist to Students: What’s to Discuss?

In his fine essay in The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel, Russell Berman of Stanford University, says this of the boycott Israel movement in academe: “a hatred of knowledge and of reasoned argument pervades its prose.” I thought that characterization over the top until I read this account of a panel on Palestine at Conflict Kitchen, a Pittsburgh restaurant that “serves only cuisine from countries with which the United States in in conflict.” Conflict Kitchen is directed by John Rubin, a professor of art at Carnegie Mellon University, and Dawn Weleski, an artist and former student of Rubin’s. The panel, which also included a former West Bank resident, was co-sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh’s Honors College.

At the panel, Ken Boas, a part-time English instructor at the University of Pittsburgh, came out against debates and discussions of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. When an audience member proposed that Boas’s comments, equating Israel with apartheid South Africa and calling for an academic boycott, were one sided, Boas pleaded: “why do we continually have to have balance and get into debates and have discussions?”

Rubin justifies the one-sidedness of Conflict Kitchen’s treatment of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by claiming to air a point of view that is rarely aired.  Conflict Kitchen exists to “reveal a voice that isn’t given a forum” or, as Weleski says “to have a conversation that’s not already here.” That is why Rubin has ignored “pushback from members of the local Jewish community that aren’t in support of us presenting those types of viewpoints.” There are “plenty of other [forums]” for the Israeli side of the story.

Continue reading

An Actual Debate at Brown

Debates on campus are now as rare as white truffles, and the reason is fairly obvious: as essentially homogeneous liberal outposts in a center-right nation, the campuses see no need to allow adversaries and dissidents to speak. So it’s a surprise to see that Brown University hosted a debate on “How Should Colleges Handle Sexual Assault?” The event, held yesterday, featured author Jessica Valenti, late of Feministing, who believes “Rape is a standard result of a culture mired in misogyny,” and Libertarian Wendy McElroy, an editor of and author of “The Big Lie of a ‘Rape Culture”.”

Since this is Brown, where then NYC police commissioner Ray Kelly was shouted down and prevented  from speaking, the planning for the debate came with several indicators as to how students are supposed to feel:

Continue reading