- - Friday, October 10, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Arithmetic continues to be a puzzle in certain precincts of academia. Scripps College, an all-female school in Claremont, Calif., founded on the principle that “the paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently,” last week revoked an invitation to conservative newspaper columnist George Will to speak to students because its administrators were offended by his rigorous math.

The mild-mannered Mr. Will questioned whether feminists were fudging the numbers of incidents of campus rape. The feminists cite studies that say that only 12 percent of sexual assaults are reported on campuses across the nation and that 1 in 5 women — or 20 percent — are sexually abused on campus.

Mr. Will ran the numbers, observing that if those dramatic figures were correct, Ohio State, for example, with 28,000 female students, should logically report 5,600 assaults, of which only 672 would have been reported. He noted that 98 were actually reported. This was “too high, but nowhere near 20 percent.”

Several Democratic senators, eager to push their campaign theme that Republicans and conservatives are conducting a “war on women,” leaped to avenge the honor of statistics. They wrote to Mr. Will — and helpfully copied their letters to eager newspapers and websites — that his views were “antiquated” and “counterintuitive” and “contrary to anything we hear.” Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Dianne Feinstein of California, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Robert P. Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania wanted everyone to know that they do not approve of sexually assaulting women and do not understand why anyone would challenge the statistics. “There is no acceptable number of sexual assaults,” they wrote, “anything more than zero is unacceptable.”

Mr. Will had said that, too, but the administration at Scripps College listened to the noise and buckled to the pressure. Mr. Will had been asked to speak at the Elizabeth Hubert Malott Public Affairs Program, which is specifically meant to present “a range of opinions about the world — especially opinions with which we may not agree, or think we do not agree.” Nevertheless, the mob prevailed and diversity was banished.

Resisting the academic mob, which looks for opportunities everywhere to punish “offensive” speech, is often difficult. Some colleges limit the expression of ideas to “free-speech zones,” which relegate unpopular views to campus ghettos. At Penn State University, student members of the Young Americans for Freedom were told they couldn’t have a public table with literature because it was outside a designated “free-speech” zone. The California State University System “derecognized” 23 Christian organizations because membership was limited to Christians.

The radicalization of the American campuses began in the tumultuous ‘60s at the University of California at Berkeley under the guise of the “free-speech movement.” The students who marched on Sproul Hall have grown up, and some of them gathered on the campus last week to observe the 50th anniversary of the movement. Now they’re trying to suppress the free exchange of ideas. The hippies have become “the man.”

“Diversity” is only a word, often cited and much abused. A study of the makeup of the faculties of the Claremont Colleges, of which Scripps is one, reveals that only 15 of 532 faculty members are Republicans. The students are taught to think in terms of emotions and feelings, not facts.

The professors fear that allowing the likes of Mr. Will to speak among them would disturb their cozy campuses, where everyone must speak and think alike. Allowing actual diversity would disturb the math.

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