Imagine this scenario: a young woman delivers a lecture at a state university. Suddenly, the lights go out and screaming protesters rush into the room. Someone hits her multiple times before she is taken into the hallway by security. They cannot find a way out of the building because protesters are everywhere, so they barricade her into another classroom. While she is in there, a protester yells, “Make her lose her flight.” Another says, “Tell her to pay us, then she can go.” After three hours, she is finally allowed to leave.

How would we expect people to react to these events? Surely the university’s leadership would condemn the violence immediately. There would be widespread public outcry, led by journalists, politicians, and academics, about violence against women. Everyone would declare their support for the young woman and demand accountability.

The scenario above describes what happened to former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines when she visited San Francisco State University (SFSU). But we have not seen much of the expected reaction.

Instead, SFSU students are acting like they are the victims, while their administration pats them on the back.

Why? Because Ms. Gaines believes only biological females should compete in women’s sports. This position remains popular, especially among female athletes being pressured into competing against—and sharing locker rooms with—biological males. A poll last year found that 58% of Americans agree.

But some of the students at SFSU think this view is hateful and even violent. The student government president spoke out against the “hateful rhetoric and promotion of violence spread by TPUSA and Riley Gaines.” The assistant director of the Queer & Trans Resource Center said “trans students don’t feel supported by the university right now, they don’t feel safe.” Another student said, “this school is promoted as an accepting school, a safe place for people, and they’re literally bringing a person that is attacking them onto our campus.”

Has it occurred to these students that if anyone is entitled to feel unsafe, it is Riley Gaines? Will someone tell them that words are not violence but hitting someone is?

They will not hear it from SFSU administrators, whose minds have been equally distorted by ideology. Vice President for Student Affairs & Enrollment Management Jamillah Moore praised the students “who participated peacefully,” saying, “I am proud of the moments where we listened and asked insightful questions. I am also proud of the moments when our students demonstrated the value of free speech and the right to protest peacefully.” She did not mention the moments when they struck Ms. Gaines or tried to extort her.

Next up was SFSU President Lynn Mahoney, who wrote that “the event was deeply traumatic for many in our trans and LGBTQ+ communities” without considering whether it was traumatic for Ms. Gaines. She went on to “applaud the students, staff and faculty who rallied quickly to host alternative inclusive events, protest peacefully and provide one another with support at a difficult moment.”

Passively acknowledging “a disturbance after the event,” she said, “we are reviewing the incident and, as always, will learn from the experience.” That last part could end up being true, since Ms. Gaines has threatened the university with a lawsuit.

Finally, President Mahoney proudly observed that “unlike previous events on this campus and other campuses, I am proud to say that the First Amendment was honored.” While the event took place without disruption, it strains credulity to think that future speakers will not be deterred by what happened to Ms. Gaines afterward, especially when one considers that violence against guest speakers is on the rise on American campuses.

It is damning that the students and administrators at SFSU do not see what happened to Ms. Gaines as an outrage. No one, let alone a young woman, should be endangered for sharing her views on an American campus. SFSU leaders should be scrambling to ensure nothing like this ever happens again instead of congratulating their students and themselves. But to do that, they would first have to escape the ideological cult that has gripped their campus and disconnected their minds from reality.

Steven McGuire is the Paul & Karen Levy Fellow in Campus Freedom at the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Follow him @sfmcguire79.


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