Beware college speakers paid to educate students on diversity — especially when the events are “mandatory.” This is the lesson one might learn from Hamilton College’s “required” event on “rape culture.” According to Samantha Harris at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the event is “a program at which they will be pressed to acknowledge their personal complicity in a ‘rape culture’ on Hamilton’s campus and to change their ‘rape-supportive’ beliefs and attitudes.”
The creepy title of the event? “She fears you.” Here’s a poster image from the website:
But it’s not even just about rape. It’s about the more metaphorical rape too — the kind of “rape” that occurs whenever someone encounters an attitude that is unacceptable. Hence the program’s bureaucrat-in-chief pledges to “make this an environment where it is no longer acceptable in any way to objectify women or define masculinity as sexual conquest, or subordinate women’s intelligence, capability, and humanity, or allow issues of racism, classism, and homophobia to go unabated, then this campus will be a better place for all of us to be.”
Administrators at the New York college ignored criticism of the program, which came from a range of voices, from concerned alumni to the student body itself to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Nobody seemed to be comfortable with the idea of requiring students to attend, but administrators perpetuated the myth that student ID cards would be swiped to ensure attendance. When students arrived at the event and it was clear no card swiping was happening, huge swaths of the audience departed.
Ashley Thorne at the National Association of Scholars sums it up best: “[W]hile it is said that today’s ‘rape culture’ has created a hostile environment for women, programs like this one tend to create a hostile environment for men. This emotion-driven presentation treats audience members as those in need of thought reform—bigots who must change their beliefs and actions.”
Oh, and if you’re wondering how much a browbeating chat like this costs, you have to call. The website notes that a single department can’t usually cover the full cost of the program, so it recommends pooling resources and applying for grants, like a $2,000 grant from the NCAA. And apparently, more than a few taxpayer-funded universities were quite happy to fork over the money, too.
I just got off the phone with Keith Edwards, who runs the “Men Ending Rape” program which includes the “She Fears You” program. He told The Examiner that he usually charges $2,000 per lecture plus travel expenses, but if there are more lectures over the course of more days, the cost can rise up to $5,000, possibly even $10,000. “It all depends,” he said.
But he objected to the characterization I offered of his program. I asked him if he agreed that the purpose of his program was to make it clear that those who did not speak out against “rape culture” were, in fact, complicit with it by being passive. He said yes. Isn’t that shaming? He didn’t respond.
I also asked him whether he felt that the sessions ought to be mandatory for students. At first he seemed uncomfortable with the question. “That’s really up to the universities… many feel that it’s necessary to mandate that students attend.” “But you? Do you think it should be required?” “It’s really up to the school.”
He did offer that it was legitimate for students to object to being required to attend the session. But he wouldn’t say whether he agreed with that objection. “The purpose of this is to empower people to speak up against things they don’t agree with,” he noted. Ironic, then, that he wouldn’t recognize people’s right to decide what event they did or did not want to attend. But he did offer this: “I don’t support any restrictions on people’s speech.”
That led to me asking him: “What about policies, based on your philosophy, that lead to universities punishing students for speech? If someone claims, for instance, that a student said something bigoted or racist or sexist — I’m not talking about a burning cross on someone’s lawn, but I am talking about someone saying something very, very offensive, possibly racist or misogynistic?”
“Well. That’s different.”
We couldn’t speak further, but it is interesting to get someone’s “social justice” perspective on people’s freedom of speech and freedom of conscience.
The truth is, Edwards runs a racket. If his seminars were optional for attendees, or if they had to pay for the seminars themselves, no one would attend. And if Edwards thinks I’m wrong, he’s welcome to test my theory out by writing into contracts that his seminars must only be optional.