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Protests don't derail MSU commencement, speaker

Dec 13, 2014

EAST LANSING   (AP) - About 200 people gathered outside Michigan State University's commencement ceremonies to protest a speech by columnist George Will over his commentary on sexual assault reporting at colleges.

  The Lansing State Journal reports that Will didn't mention the protests during his speech to undergraduates Saturday on the East Lansing campus.

More than a dozen students stood as he spoke and turned their backs to him and several others in the audience did the same or held up newspapers.

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Activists this week delivered petitions signed by tens of thousands of people to university officials opposing Will's speech over his commentaries. In a June column, Will questioned statistics cited by President Barack Obama's administration and suggested that federal authorities were making "victimhood a coveted status."

  University President Lou Anna Simon said in an online statement that the decision to invite Will was made before the column. She says his appearance doesn't mean she or the school agrees with his statements but universities should serve "the public good by creating space for discourse and exchange of ideas."

  Will has said he was criticizing loss of due process for those accused of the serious crime. Critics say the columnist has a "track record of downplaying the seriousness of rape" and want the university to cancel his speech.