Last Thursday, protesters disrupted a speech by Princeton University professor Robert P. George at Washington College because of his alleged conservative views on gender. George is a tenured professor of 38 years and was the featured speaker for the annual Lawrence W. Swanstrom ‘67 Memorial Lecture. The lecture series’ motto was “The Truth Seeking Mission of the University.”
Local newspaper Star Democrat reported that the protesters blew whistles “loudly” and shouted immediately upon entering the room. They did not leave until the lecture was canceled, which eventually happened.
Apparently, one of the vocal protesters is an employee of Washington College. The newspaper quoted a “queer alum” named Antoine Jordan, who said that he was proud of the assembled protesters. Jordan is a director of student engagement at the college.
About 150 people were in attendance for the lecture, including Washington College President Mike Sosulski, and it was the first time where George was met with public opposition. His previous speeches at Oklahoma State University, Harvard University, and Yale University went without incident.
Before interruption by the heckling protesters, George spoke about the pursuit of truth and the increasing politicization of higher education. “Liberal arts colleges like this one have three fundamental purposes,” he said. “The pursuit of truth. The preservation of that truth. And the transmission of that truth. And anything these institutions do to undermine these purposes, they shouldn’t allow.”
George also warned the audience, “For many institutions in the country a much greater threat is posed by the politicization of the academy.”
All great minds do not think alike, he stated. Students need to be challenged to be able to hear from all perspectives so they can argue intelligently and arrive at truth, he told the crowd. He said intimidation is happening, which keeps people from learning truths in philosophy, politics, science, and literature.
He called it a scandal for students to leave institutions having no understanding, or protesting misunderstandings, of the “arguments advanced by serious people who hold beliefs that differ significantly from their own.”
At that point in his remarks, George was cut off by protesters. One protester apparently said, “How did Hitler rise to power?” When the question went unanswered, the same protester claimed, “Because he [Hitler] was given a platform.” The protester then had to clarify that he was not calling George a Nazi neither Hitler, but that George’s ideas were allegedly dangerous to the transgender community.
If anything, the protester’s lack of historical ignorance demonstrated George’s criticism of group think and a failure to recognize opposing viewpoints and ideas.
The protesters did not agree about why they were protesting George’s speech. Some said that they oppose George because he is a board member of the conservative Heritage Foundation, while others claimed that George practices hate speech against LGBTQ people and cited GLAAD’s research.
According to its website, Washington College was the first college chartered in the United States of America and was founded in 1782. It is located in the eastern shore city of Chestertown in Maryland.