Kimberly Peirce, who made the 1999 film “Boys Don’t Cry” about the transgender man Brandon Teena was recently invited to screen the film and give a talk at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.

Things went downhill quickly as students arrived and shouted obscenities at Peirce, preventing her ability to speak. The students were angry that Peirce had cast Hillary Swank, a non-trans actor in the main role and accused Peirce of profiting off of violence against a transgender person.

We covered this in a recent Quick Take, based on a report by Robby Soave of Reason:

Leftist Students Shouted ‘F*ck You B*itch’ at the Gay Director of a Pro-Trans Movie, Boys Don’t Cry

There was a time not so long ago when the people shouting “fuck you bitch” at a gender-fluid gay filmmaker would have been bigoted right-wing conservatives. But because we currently live in the year 2016, the people who heckled Kimberly Peirce—director of Boys Don’t Cry, a groundbreaking film about a transgender man—during her recent appearance at Reed College were far-left students.

The students hurled a litany of insults at Peirce, putting up posters that read “fuck your transphobia” and “you don’t fucking get it” among other things. Worse, when Peirce ascended to her podium, students had placed a sign there. It read “fuck this cis white bitch.” That Peirce is actually gender-fluid is quite beside the point.

The students’ unbelievable rudeness crossed the line into a kind of censorship when Peirce tried to speak: the students simply shouted over her. Eventually they let her talk, but some students continued to yell things like “fuck your respectability politics” and “fuck you scared bitch.”…

Kevin Myers, the Director of Strategic Communications at Reed College, left a comment on our post, which directed us to a statement by Reed College Dean of Faculty, Nigel Nicholson
.

Here is a portion of his statement:

How Do We Want to Treat Our Guests?
By Nigel Nicholson

Dear Reed Community,

I write today to try to prompt some serious reflection about the standards we should observe in our treatment of (all) our visiting speakers.

Last Friday, November 11, we hosted one such speaker. Many students find her work inspirational, but others find fault with it, and that of course is their prerogative. I disagree with that position, but, of course, have no problem with such disagreements; they are a central part of what it means to be an intellectual community. We would hardly expect (or even want) unanimity over a speaker’s work.

What was deeply disappointing to me, however, was how some of the students who found fault with the work chose to express their disagreements, and that is what I want to focus on here.

First, and most simply, some students were deeply rude and uncivil. One called the speaker a bitch. Others carried deeply offensive and accusatory posters. The atmosphere was intensely hostile. The principle that a speaker, any speaker, should be treated with respect was explicitly rejected.

Second, the actions that I saw were not animated by the spirit of inquiry or the desire to learn that usually animates Reed audiences. The students had already decided what they thought, and came to the Question-and-Answer session to make their judgments known, not to listen and engage. Some brought posters bearing judgments and accusations. Others asked questions, that, while grammatically questions (that is, they ended with question marks), were not animated by a genuine desire to explore a question, but rather sought to indict the speaker. It felt like a courtroom, not a college.

Third, some students sought to dominate the space, and to take control of the space away from the speaker. This was done by hanging posters, carrying posters, dominating the questions, coordinating questions, and rejecting the codes of conduct that usually govern such spaces. A visitor to the campus was insulted and all visitors thus made to feel unwelcome.

I was deeply embarrassed and ashamed of our conduct, and I hope that as a community we can reflect on what happened and make a determination not to repeat it.

The story has been picked up by other publications such as Inside Higher Ed, where Scott Jaschik writes:

Whatever one thinks of the film and its portrayal of violence against a trans man, the reception Peirce received has become what Reed students and faculty members, and others, are talking about. Reed students are politically active, generally supportive of transgender rights and quick to protest — so the activism was not surprising or controversial. But the form of activism has caused controversy.

The shouting down of speakers on college campuses is unfortunately not uncommon but is usually reserved for conservative speakers, not lesbian filmmakers.

The statement from Dean Nicholson is a good one. Let’s hope it gets remembered if anyone like Ann Coulter is ever invited to speak at Reed.