A debate about rape culture scheduled at Brown became so controversial among students that the president of the school scheduled a second event to tell students what they want to hear.

Samantha Miller of the FIRE reports.

Brown University’s Two-Faced Attitude Toward Free Speech

This afternoon, Brown University’s Janus Forum will be hosting a debate titled, “How Should Colleges Handle Sexual Assault?” The debate will feature Wendy McElroy, ifeminists.com editor and “rape culture” skeptic, facing off against Feministing.com founder Jessica Valenti. In response to some students’ complaints about the event, Brown president Christina Paxson announced the creation of an alternative event to be held at the very same time.

Paxson declared in a campus-wide email that her counterprogramming, titled “The Research on Rape Culture,” will provide students with “research and facts” about “the role that community norms and values play in sexual assault.” The message isn’t hard to discern: No need to hear the debate, folks; here’s a better event that will tell you everything Brown University thinks you need to know.

Support for the creation of this alternate event hinges on the idea that Brown is responsible for the emotional “safety” of its students. Indeed, The Brown Daily Herald reported that “multiple students have said they feel the event … goes against the University’s mission to create a safe and supportive environment for survivors.” Event organizers clearly anticipated this reaction, telling the Herald that they would be “hosting Sexual Assault Peer Education in Salomon 203 at the same time as the debate if at any point during the lecture students need to leave and receive support.” But Paxson’s announcement of the “Research on Rape Culture” event took this effort a step further by actually discouraging students from even attempting to listen to the debate.

Given the debate organizers’ prior arrangements to provide support to anyone who actually felt the need for it, Paxson’s choice to counterprogram the event makes little sense in terms of “emotional safety.” But it makes all the sense in the world if you assume the real goal is to provide an intellectual cocoon for students—an effort to create a ideological bubble on campus in which students’ beliefs will be free from challenge.