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Inclusion of George Will violates spirit and intent of SCU President's Speaker Series

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We are extremely disappointed that George Will will be speaking at Santa Clara University on October 8th as a part of this year's President's Speaker Series. While we believe that hosting speakers with a wide range of political viewpoints is vital to the intellectual life of the university, publications by Will demonstrate that he is not interested in the kinds of presentation and discussion that make this series a successful contribution to the mission of the university.

Will has repeatedly issued statements that both trivialize the problem of campus sexual assaults and invalidate the experiences and feelings of sexual assault survivors.  Moreover, his recent claim that national and local efforts to combat campus rape have made "victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges" is not merely misguided, but deeply misogynistic and ignorant.

The invitation of Will, at considerable financial cost to the university, sends a profoundly contradictory message to our campus community and particularly our students.  At this year's university convocation, President Engh talked about the need for students, faculty, staff -- and the institution as a whole -- to respond with more courage and concern to the problem of violence against women, particularly on college campuses across the country.  Last year the president also approved the formation of a university task force on sexual assault, which was charged with creating "a unified policy addressing sexual misconduct and other forms of discrimination that covers all members of the campus community equally with the same kind and degree of protection of their rights in compliance with Title IX, Campus SaVE Act, and California SB 967."  Inviting George Will to speak to our students makes the president’s words and actions appear hollow.

Other universities rescinded their invitations to Will in 2014 following his public statements about sexual assault.  As one noted, “Sexual assault is not a conservative or liberal issue. And it is too important to be trivialized in a political debate or wrapped into a celebrity controversy.” Providing an audience for Will at SCU does not demonstrate the kind of courage and concern that President Engh encourages us to model. 

Featuring George Will in the President's Speaker Series also undercuts the dedication of many universities (including SCU) to promoting sustainability, an effort Will derides as a silly “progressive gesture.”  Moreover, leading climatologist Michael Mann notes, “George Will is known for grossly misstating the science of climate change.”  Ironically, in a recent opinion piece titled “Pope Francis’s fact free flamboyance,” Will described Pope Francis as embracing ideas “impeccably fashionable, demonstrably false and deeply reactionary,” with the “intellectual tone of fortune cookies.” 

We find Will’s flatly dismissive statements about sexual assault, climate change, and the Pope not only disrespectful, but contrary to the very spirit of a speaker series dedicated to “engaging people and ideas that shape our world.”

 



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