Letter to the editor: Bucknell University Conservatives Club response to criticism of ‘factual feminist’

To the editor:

On Feb. 9, the Bucknell University Conservatives Club had the distinct privilege of cosponsoring an event featuring Christina Hoff Sommers, a distinguished feminist writer and critic. Our objective was to provide a forum for conservative and libertarian viewpoints on feminism, the discussion of which has largely been monopolized in the classroom by Leftist perspectives.

Since Sommers’ speech, there have been three articles in The Bucknellian, of which only one included a conservative opinion. These articles contained several spurious claims of Sommers’ alleged conceptual misapprehensions and intellectual dishonesty. In the interest of journalistic integrity, I feel compelled to dispel the lies promulgated in the event’s aftermath.

In the article, “A ‘factual feminist’ critiques modern campus activism and feminism,” Tooba Ali ’17 claims, “[Sommers] at first stat[ed] that she doesn’t believe in safe spaces, then when questioned fervently by the audience, told us that she did.”

Fortunately, the entirety of the event is now available on YouTube, which provides veritable evidence to debunk these assertions. On the subject of safe spaces, Sommers initially rejected the notion, but was then asked by a member of a group of feminist students, “So you want to create safe space [sic] for free speech on college campuses?”

Sommers immediately replied, “I want a safe space for debate, for reason, that’s the purpose of education.”

These individuals then declare the purpose of safe spaces to be the promotion of free speech and debate. This is asinine. That is not the universally recognized definition of safe spaces, which are defined by Oxford Living Dictionaries as “places or environments in which a person or category of people can feel confident that they will not be exposed to discrimination, criticism, harassment, or any other emotional or physical harm” (we agree that no individual should suffer discrimination, harassment, or physical harm). Sommers assumed that this definition, the actual definition, would be universally understood among these students, considering they’re the people attempting to foist these spaces on the rest of us. By definition, safe spaces curtail free speech.

Safe space advocacy and free speech advocacy are mutually exclusive, and this student’s assertion to the contrary is either intellectually dishonest or pitifully ignorant.

The article “A ‘factual feminist’ spreads alternative facts” contains too many lies and fallacies to rebut in 750 words. However, one common source of outrage was Sommers’ repudiation of the oft-mentioned “one in five” statistic. The article’s author, Ruby Gould ’19, described the exchange as follows:

“[Sommers] disputed with members in the audience that sexual assault occurs at a rate of one in 50 women, rather than the widely researched and corroborated rate of one in five women.”

Sommers’ argument took exception to the studies which produce this alarmingly high figure, undermining their legitimacy by pointing to their unrepresentative samples and deceitfully broad definitions of sexual assault. She also pointed to the disparities between these studies and Bureau of Justice Statistics studies, which indicate a rate of 6.1 per 1000. Gould characterized Sommers’ position as “factually inaccurate but hopelessly defensive,” while neither mentioning nor attempting to refute the arguments presented by Sommers, instead invoking those same “reputable” studies.

Sommers didn’t even allude to the kangaroo courts that are campus sexual assault processes. The Obama administration drastically lowered the burden of proof required to demonstrate guilt in a sexual assault case, eliminated cross-examination of accusers, and implemented measures which severely restrict the due process rights of the accused. In spite of this, a comprehensive BJS study found a higher incidence of sexual assault among non-students, as well as reported sexual assault totals ranging from 4,558 to 5,335 for the years 2012-2014, which in no way corroborate the “one in five” statistic.

Sommers’ detractors were quick to attack her conclusions, but refused to address or discredit her arguments, instead claiming that she refused to “[include] a citation to any scientific study or any reasonable reason as to why [she believes these things],” which is disproved by the audio evidence.

Furthermore, Gould brazenly asserts “[Sommers] openly agreed that sexual assault is real (a stance that not many conservatives share with her).” So now conservatives don’t even acknowledge that sexual assault is an actual thing? Such absurdity is more of a reflection on the author of the article than of conservatives nationwide.

We look forward to hosting similar events that will reinforce the value of free speech and expression, open the minds of the faculty groupthink, and engender a civil and respectful dialogue on campus, one rooted in veracity, rather than “alternative facts.”

Kevin Chabrier,

Treasurer, Bucknell University Conservatives Club

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