October 29, 2015
Williams Disinvites Feminist Critic
Last week, students at Williams College revoked an invitation to Suzanne Venker, a writer and feminist critic, to speak at the school. Venker had previously been invited to deliver a lecture at the College, as part of a student run speaker series, where she planned to give a talk entitled “One Step Forward, Ten Back: Why Feminism Fails.”
According to the speaker series’ co-president and Williams student Zack Woods, the group decided to cancel the lecture when comments on the Facebook page got “a little out of hand.” Woods later went on to say that “people would get riled up while she was speaking...We’re just trying to think ahead here. The last thing we wanted to do was do something destructive.”
The lecture series, entitled “Uncomfortable Learning,” is designed to bring speakers with controversial views to Williams. It was funded by alumni who gave students the power to choose which speakers they wanted to bring to campus and what topics they wanted them to discuss. The decision to revoke Venker’s invitation for her controversial views thus seemed contrary to the groups mandate.
After being disinvited, Venker took to Fox News to give her opinion on the matter. “I had planned to talk about feminism, but from a different perspective than the one students are used to hearing. I was going to tell them why feminism fails.” Venker later criticized the speaker series for stifling academic diversity.
Bowdoin Abandons Contentious Jefferson Davis Award
The Bowdoin government and legal studies department announced last week that it would no longer issue its controversial Jefferson Davis Award, a cash prize given to a student who excelled in constitutional law studies. In its place, the department will now offer a new award which is still currently unnamed.
The move was a major initiative of new President Clayton S. Rose. Following this announcement, President Rose commented on the decision in a statement saying, “It is inappropriate for Bowdoin College to bestow an annual award that continues to honor a man whose mission was to preserve and institutionalize slavery.”
Jefferson Davis was issued an honorary degree from Bowdoin College in 1858 when he attended the school’s Commencement ceremony while traveling through Maine. At the time, Davis was a sitting U.S. Senator from Mississippi who, despite his controversial views on slavery, commanded great respect. Nonetheless, the decision to issue the degree to Davis was still highly contentious within the board of trustees.
“[Davis’s] principles were diametrically opposed to those of the majority of the people of Maine; but when a man of his ability and prominence, from a distant state, was present at Commencement, it would have been almost a personal insult not to give him a degree,” wrote Louis Hatch in “The History of Bowdoin College.”
The College still plans to acknowledge its association with Davis. In a statement, Rose said, “We clearly do not and will not honor [Davis] in any contemporary way going forward. We have a historical connection with him, and that is a fact of history that is undeniable...One of the things that I think is important for institutions like ours is to be transparent and clear and to acknowledge our history, and then for each of us to take lessons from that history.”