This letter was written in response to George Will’s scheduled lecture, Wednesday, Oct. 22. The letter was sent last night to the administration after circulating the community for several days, gaining signatures.
Dear President Hodge, Provost Gorman and Board of Trustees:
The hosting of George F. Will for this year’s Anderson Distinguished Lecture sends the wrong message to current students, prospective students, and their families about the tolerance of rape culture and predatory sexual behavior at Miami University. Will’s June 6, 2014 op-ed column in The Washington Post belittled the “progressivism” of new measures to help prevent sexual assault on campus. Sexual assault is not a partisan issue.
We completely support Will’s First Amendment right to freedom of expression. However, Will’s column supported at least two things that are against Miami’s Code of Conduct:
1) Implying that a drunk person is capable of consent, Will complains of the “doctrine that consent of a female who has been drinking might not protect a male from being found guilty of rape.” Miami’s Code of Conduct is clear on this point: “An individual cannot consent who is substantially impaired by any drug or intoxicant.” (2.1.C.1).
2) Will denigrates the “preponderance of evidence” standard that Miami and most universities use. Given the nature of sexual assault, “beyond a reasonable doubt” is an impossible standard that prevents many victims from getting justice.
Furthermore, Will states baldly that colleges “make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges,” a message that is contrary to the experience of many assault survivors who find the process of reporting assault shaming and silencing. We as a campus should be working to make that process less stigmatizing, not more.
As President Hodge wrote in an email to the entire campus on September 18 of last year, this campus has an “obligation to foster and maintain an environment that is free of harassment, discrimination and sexual violence.” Hosting George Will—and paying him nearly $50,000—is disrespectful to the university community, especially sexual assault victims and those who have worked hard to make campus a safer place. It will also damage the University’s public image, respect from alumni, and ability to recruit new students in years to come.
1,179 members of the Miami community signed the below letter, including 61 full professors, 86 associate and assistant professors, 7 chairs, 5 distinguished professors, scores of other faculty and staff members, and many hundreds of graduate and undergraduate students. THANK YOU for the overwhelming support.
If you’d like to do more, a teach-in and peaceful protest are being planned in response to George Will’s presence on campus as part of the Anderson Lecture Series. They will focus on the continuing serious problem of sexual assault on college campuses and on sexual assault prevention. Those interested in participating in the peaceful protest will gather near FSB at 4:45 pm. The Women’s Center (McGuffey 127) has supplies available for those who wish to create signs. The teach-in will be from 5:30 – 7:00 pm in the area between the Cook Field track and the parking lot between Cook Field and FSB. Participants will need to be respectful and not block the field or the parking lot. Materials from the CDC on sexual assault prevention efforts will be available.
For Love and Honor,
Dr. Cris Cheek
Associate Professor, English; Affliate CMS; Affiliate IMS
Professor, English; Director, Creative Writing Program