It is no secret that college students today are all hot and bothered about people speaking ideas they might not agree with out loud on their campuses. Students at Stanford’s law school ceremoniously pitched a fit earlier this month when their campus’ Federalist Society invited Stuart Kyle Duncan, a conservative federal judge, to speak on current issues and the Supreme Court. Las week, Michael Knowles was shouted down at Purdue University by adult students with chants far too nasty to quote here.

But Mary Eberstadt, a researcher who compellingly documents the dramatic downsides of the sexual revolution, took a very different route when Furman University’s student-run campus newspaper opined that invited speakers like her who advocate for “restoring … the heterosexual nuclear family” and “blame inner-city gang violence on fatherlessness” are making “Furman a worse place.” They accused her of perpetuating “dangerous and evidence-less myths” while offering no evidence of her having done so. Posters advertising her talk around campus were mysteriously removed, replaced by organizers, then disappeared again.

Eberstadt told these grumpy Furman students in the pages of The Wall Street Journal today, “You can’t cancel me, I quit.” She refused to play along with their silliness by simply canceling her talk.

In her piece, she referenced an essay in the journal First Things where Liel Leibovitz offers advice to intellectuals who find themselves in such situations: “stop talking to people who hate you.” When we do this, Leibovitz explains, “the power of intimidation and of setting the terms of the debate, dissolves the moment you realize you’re free to disengage.”

And disengage she did, essentially telling the students of Furman University, which was  associated with the Southern Baptist Convention until 1992 and still retains its original motto, “For Christ and Learning,” that she wasn’t interested in teaching them anything if some students didn’t want her there.

It is a debatable approach in this unfortunate age where college students regularly throw tantrums when speakers they disagree with are invited to their campuses. It is certainly Eberstadt’s prerogative to refuse to speak on a campus where some petulant students don’t want her. There is a case to be made for her choice, and she made that case in the pages of The Wall Street Journal. But what about the inviting organization, Furman’s Tocqueville Program, which was clearly eager to have her come? What about the students who were looking forward to hearing what she had to say?

Eberstadt apologized to them in her piece, explaining “I’m sorry to miss you.” She also promised to send interested students a free copy of her book. But the final score is a very fine speaker decided to give the unreasonable students a big “W” and deprived so many others the chance to learn from her important insights. Now, those chirping students are more emboldened to keep intimidating future speakers and campus conservatives will be less inclined to invite others.

Judge Duncan persevered in delivering his talk at Stanford after many interruptions and Knowles showed his audience at Purdue that bullies can be stared down by taking the stage and giving his speech as planned.

Such is the state of the so-called free exchange of ideas on the university campus today. The institution that gets its name, literally, from presenting a universality of ideas which make us all wiser. It is truly sad that the more mature students of Furman University – those on the left and right – were denied Mary Eberstadt’s vital insights and research because of a few of their peers’ childish behavior.