Williams College, a private, liberal arts college in Williamstown, Massachusetts devised a series in 2014 known as “The Uncomfortable Learning Speaker Series”. Three students in 2013 noticed that much of the discussions and/or debates at Williams College leaned heavily in favor of left-thinking philosophies, and conservative thought was not being uttered very much. The students decided that they wanted speakers to come to Williams who would deliver speeches from diverse points of view, and open up the debates and dialogues on campus. The series was met with enthusiasm and
Fast forward to last week, when the ironic and illogical happened. A speaker for the upcoming Uncomfortable Learning Series was uninvited! Was the speaker a supporter of terrorism? A supporter of anarchy? A person who doesn’t think the President is a U.S. citizen?? Not at all! The scheduled speaker, Suzanne Venker, was going to discuss the failings of Feminism “because it denies the existence of biology and teaches that equality means sameness, which is a losing proposition when it comes to planning a life-particularly if that life includes marriage and family.”1
The folks at Williams College who plan the Uncomfortable Learning Series began to hear complaints about having Venker speak. Why didn’t the planners stand their ground? Isn’t the point of this series to encourage students to at least hear another person’s viewpoint? From my readings about this speaker series, students aren’t forced to attend, so if a speaker is going to discuss something that really, really, really makes a student uncomfortable, that student can stay in their dorm room and nap! Or surf the internet! Or do their homework!!
This refusal to allow one speaker to speak at Uncomfortable Learning made me also think about an article one of my cousins shared on Facebook. My cousin found an article interviewing two gentlemen, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathon Haidt. Their article which they wrote for The Atlantic, The Coddling of the American Mind, is about a disturbing trend, growing on college campuses, of students wanting words and discussions stopped if those words and discussions make them feel uncomfortable. They cited in their article one anonymous professor, who wrote a piece for Vox, stating that he’s a liberal professor and he has to be careful of how he teaches as his liberal students terrify him! Lukianoff and Haidt go on in their article how this coddling of students’ minds can also lead to mental health problems.
I know that when I was a college student, back in the dark ages of 1983-87, political correctness was beginning to raise it’s misguided head. I think that this new trend is a direct offspring of the campus pc police, meaning that the loudest students and/or faculty that don’t like an idea or philosophy try to get it shut down, making it forbidden to discuss those ideas or philosophies on campus.
I really hope those at Williams College, running that speaker series, will realize that they caved in to the pc police and re-invite Suzanne Venker to give her speech. Don’t become wimps, Williams College! Enlighten your students’ outlooks on life! Don’t let one vocal group of opposition shut down your scheduled speakers!
Sources used for this blog: 1Williams College’s ‘Uncomfortable Learning’ speaker series dropped me. Why? by Suzanne Venker, Oct. 20th, 2015, FoxNews.com
‘Uncomfortable Learning’-How 3 Students Changed Their Elite College For The Better, Jennifer Kabbany, Sept. 5, 2014, The College Fix
Where Did Colleges Go Wrong? Hara Estroff Marano, Oct. 14, 2015, Psychology Today
The Coddling of the American Mind, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathon Haidt, Sept. 2015 issue, The Atlantic