Just weeks after EphBlog discussed the activities of the “Uncomfortable Learning” organization at Williams College, the group is in the headlines — and not in a good way. Suzanne Venker has an opinion piece posted online titled: “Williams College dropped me from its ‘Uncomfortable Learning’ speaker series. Why?” In it, she writes:
For the past two months, I’ve been preparing a speech for my upcoming visit to Williams College in Massachusetts. I was invited to speak at the university on behalf of its ‘Uncomfortable Learning’ Speaker Series…
[M]y talk was cancelled several days prior to the event. “Thank you for agreeing to speak,” read the email, “but we’re not going to be able to host this event.”
Though my contact didn’t give a reason, the day before he’d sent me this email: “Dear Ms. Venker, A quick heads up…We’ve been advertising the event, and it’s already stirring a lot of angry reactions among students on campus. We just wanted to make you aware of the current state of students before your presentation…”
When I pressed further as to why the event was being cancelled (though of course I knew why), he conceded that Williams College “has never experienced this kind of resistance” to a campus speaker.
Venker is the author of “The Flipside of Feminism” and “How to Choose a Husband and Make Peace With Marriage,” and is an iconoclast critic of modern feminism. According to her article, she planned to share her critique of feminism, framing it around the idea of uncomfortable subjects, as appropriate for the series:
My goal for you all, my purpose in being here today, is to inspire you to think for yourselves. Do not be swayed by groupthink no matter what your friends, your family or the culture believe. Do not be afraid to ask yourself questions that may make you uncomfortable. And do not be afraid of the answers…
Imagine the possibilities if students at Williams College and elsewhere were exposed to a completely different worldview. Something positive. Something uplifting. Something, dare I say it, empowering?
We can hope that there’s another side to the story of the cancellation of Venker’s scheduled speech, but at a time when the toxic atmosphere for intellectual disagreement on college campuses has drawn widespread attention — with even President Obama weighing in to encourage universities to host more ideological diversity — this disinvitation is not reflecting well on Williams.