The growing intolerance shown on campuses continues this week with a new controversy at Warwick University in Coventry, England where second-year George Lawlor, 19, has been publicly harassed and denounced for questioning rape awareness sessions. While universities have embraced the ill-defined concept of “microaggressions” and pursued speech deemed insulting or harassing against different groups, there appears to be little protection for those who espouse opposing views. The Warwick case raises an interesting example of legitimate and less legitimate responses to controversial views. I happen to disagree with Lawlor on critical points, but I am disturbed by reports of his being effectively prevented from going to class.
Lawlor challenged a student union drive to hold rape awareness sessions by arguing that the majority of people “don’t have to be taught to not be a rapist” – and that men inclined to commit the crime would be unlikely to attend such a workshop. He said that organizers where “pointing out the obvious.” He said that his invitation to attend such a session was “incredibly hurtful.” One can clearly disagree with Lawlor’s position, but he was espousing a good-faith point of view on a matter of great public debate. However, he was immediately denounced and branded a “rapist’ and “misogynist.”
Lawlor who studies politics and sociology says that he has been unable to go to classes due to the harassment and verbal attacks. To be sure, Lawlor’s posted picture saying “This is not what a rapist looks like” was provocative and I can understand the objections to that message. I agree with critics that the picture suggests that there are readily identifiable rapists or “typical” rapes — notions that can raise racist elements.
In my view, a voluntary program is hardly something that should be viewed as “hurtful” and the picture as ill-conceived and counterproductive. However, Lawlor’s article raises what he views as a politically correct program that is unlikely to affect the targeted group of offenders. His article titled Why I don’t need consent lessons was in response to invitations sent for I Heart Consent workshop via Facebook.
As we see increasingly efforts to protect the “voices” of certain groups including the creation of minority only columns in school newspapers, it would seem axiomatic that free speech should be protected regardless of content. There is no problem in my view of people calling out Lawlor on social media and forums in disagreement with his views. I do disagree with the response in calling Lawlor a rapist and a “classist” for raising these questions. There is a growing tendency to attack the speaker rather the point in out debates on campus. Lawlor could hold these views and still be, as he claims, anti-rape and opposed to those who engage in such abuse or assaults.
For the university itself, there is something seriously wrong when a student who espouses controversial views does not feel safe going to class. I do believe that we need to consider the complaints of conservative students who believe that they are no longer able to speak freely on campuses in a growing environment of intolerance. There is a big difference between a passionate debate and a pattern of harassment.
What do you think?
Source: Daily Mail