At Reed College in Oregon, a student claims that his professor banned him from class because he disputed the existence of a “rape culture” in the United States as well as the (obviously bogus but often stated) statistic that one in five college women is the victim of sexual assault. The student, Jeremiah True, has begun a petition calling on the professor to allow him back into class. I have signed it and I encourage you to do so as well.
I don’t know to a certainty that the story is true or complete. Nevertheless, the following is the text of an e-mail I just sent to the professor in question.
Dear Professor Savery,
Having been a libertarian at an extremely left-wing college, I understand what young Mr. True probably feels.
There was a fair amount of intolerance of diversity of opinion even when I was in college 30 years ago. These days, it’s much worse. People, and especially “liberals” — who are supposed to support tolerance and diversity — seem to think there is a right not to be offended.
If there is anything which a liberal arts education and a high quality educational institution must support, it is the ability of a student to make unpopular statements, particularly unpopular statements which have a reasonable likelihood of being true (if they are intended as statements of fact.)
Unless Mr. True has called for violence, if there are people in class who feel “extremely uncomfortable,” that is their problem, not his. It is unjust and contrary to your fundamental mission to exclude him because other people feel that his presence “makes them uncomfortable.” Since when do college students (or even teachers) get to vote on whether another student gets to stay in class simply because he speaks inconvenient truths — or even inconvenient untruths which you and/or the class could then dispel?
While the veracity of Mr. True’s claim that “rape culture” doesn’t really exist, and that the statistic about one in five college females being the victim of sexual assault is also bogus, is not really the main point here, his claim is in fact true.
You can read more here: https://thefederalist.com/2014/12/11/new-doj-data-on-sexual-assaults-college-students-are-actually-less-likely-to-be-victimized/
But I would suggest to you that, other than perhaps at Reed College, which seems to have a surplus of women claiming they’ve been sexually assaulted (again, I don’t know whether such claims are true, though I’m skeptical that so many at one school can be true), it should stand to reason that it’s simply impossible that 20% of all college women get sexually assaulted. Can you imagine the outcry from parents across the country if such a statistic were true?
The crusade against college men is not harmless and it does not simply empower women. It does great harm to men who face a system implacably biased against them, not least because of college administrators’ fear of getting on the wrong side of a Department of Education and Department of Justice filled with people out for “social justice,” which generally means persecuting students who have the misfortune to be one or more of heterosexual, white, or male.
But “social justice” is an oxymoron. Justice is for individuals, not for groups. I realize that’s not the popular approach these days, but any other approach leads inevitably to tyranny.
So what you’ve done is something like “social justice” for your class, at the expense of the education of a young man whom you seem to be penalizing for a thought crime.
If you happened — and I realize this is impossible at Reed — to have a class full of conservatives who believed, for example, what Mr. True believes about “rape culture” and one liberal women — perhaps even a victim of sexual assault — challenged them, and the class said that she makes them feel “uncomfortable,” would you ban her from the class? I doubt it.
Justice — again something which applies individually — should be blind to anything other than illegal/rule-breaking/unethical acts. The last place people should be punished for what they think is on a college campus.
Sadly, your actions demonstrate that few places have less freedom of thought and freedom of expression than “liberal” colleges in the United States.
I urge you to reconsider, perhaps have a class discussion about it, let Mr. True present some statistics, let the class tell him they’re uncomfortable. That’s how things have to be dealt with in the real world, so you’ll also be giving the students a valuable lesson. Simply banishing someone because some hypersensitive over-privileged teenagers feel “uncomfortable” with him is harmful to all involved, including by pandering to the students’ tender feelings in a way that reality never will once they leave the college cocoon, and moreover it is shameful given the proper role of a college and a college professor in building future leaders of, or at least contributors to, civil society.
Please reinstate Mr. True immediately as a member of your class and conference.
Ross G Kaminsky
Columnist, The American Spectator