One of our Williams sources forwarded e-mails (from Morty Schapiro and Dean of the Faculty Bill Lenhart) and suggested “discussion” at EphBlog.

Well, I don’t know if discussion is really what we do best here, but if you’re looking for uninformed speculation and disjointed mutterings, then you have come to the right place!

See below for the complete e-mails. Here is the key section, from Lenhart:

At the end of the spring semester, a meeting took place in which a group of faculty members, one of whom is African-American, was conducting department business. One of those present raised a concern about the status of her own field of professional work relative to the fields of the others. At one point, she made a heated statement to the effect that she did not want her field to be “used as a nigger.”

The matter was promptly brought to my attention by several of those present at the meeting and a formal complaint was made against the faculty member who made the remark. Upon investigating, I concluded that the faculty member’s behavior warranted the serious step of imposing sanctions on her, which I have done. I believe that the statement made at the meeting was a use of racist language that was meant to provoke or hurt the African-American colleague who was present.


Although the Record — and perhaps the Eagle and Transcript — will be diving into this controversy soon enough, I can’t wait to start asking questions:

1) Which department? There are only so many departments at Williams with African-American faculty members. In this case, we also need a female member (the perp) doing work that might be perceived as outside the mainstream. Is there a list of the African-American faculty at Williams? The best that I could come up with is this listing of faculty associated with African American studies. I do not think that every black faculty member is on this list (although, off-hand, I have trouble coming up with a counter example) nor would I guess that every person on this list (Shanti Singham?) is black.

Anyway, my guesses are History or Political Science. I have trouble even coming up with topics in departments like Art, Theatre and even English that would be considered outside the mainstream in a Williams context.

UPDATE: Not Political Science.

2) Who is the perp? My guess would be someone who either has tenure (and therefore feels safe saying whatever the heck she wants to say) or was not born/educated in the US. I find it almost inconceivable that an untenured faculty member who had spent the last 10+ years in the caldron of political correctness that is US higher education would be so stupid as to make such a career-ending remark. Without knowing the department, it is hard to get more detailed. But there is a certain tenured female member of the political science department with a flair for the outrageous remark and some interests that might fairly be considered outside the mainstream.

Again, I have no idea if this total guess is anywhere near the mark, but . . .

UPDATE: Wrong guess. (Apologies if this tongue-in-cheek was too much tongue and too little cheek. If the suggested professor is offended, I will remove this portion of the post.)

2) What were the “sanctions?” Can the College actually keep the punishment secret in this case? What are the sanctions available to Lenhart anyway? No doubt the perp was concerned that Lenhart might have a “frank exchange” with her, but I assume that more was involved in this case. I assume that the BSU will demand to know more.

3) Who were the dime-droppers? Oh, to be a fly on the wall at the department’s next meeting! Lenhart does not make clear (purposely?) if the tattlers came to him as a group or individually. Nor does he tell us if the African-American faculty member complained. This is the sort of inside detail that EphBlog readers need to know!

This is probably enough for now. Readers of EphBlog are encouraged to provide their own answers.

UPDATE: Minor corrections and editing done.

—————————————
Below are the actual e-mails. After extensive examination of superscripts, kerning and other technical issues, I have determined that they are authentic, unlike some other newsworthy documents . . .
—————————————

This e-mail contains two messages of importance to our community — one
from me and one from the Dean of the Faculty.

September 10, 2004

To the Williams Community,

While there is so much about Williams that we can be proud of, one area in which we clearly need to do better is in becoming fully welcoming and supportive of every member of our increasingly diverse campus community.

Yes, we’ve made progress in recent decades and in recent years. I acknowledge this and am thankful to the many people who have worked hard to realize those gains. But I have to say that there have been too many reminders, including the letter from Dean of the Faculty Bill Lenhart that’s included below, that we haven’t yet reached this important goal.

Today, with the strong support of the Board of Trustees, I call on all of us at Williams to contribute to a special initiative this academic year toward ensuring that our community be one in which all members are accepted and respected.

I am consulting with the Committee on Community and Diversity, the Multicultural Center, the Office of Human Resources, and others on campus on how best to mobilize the community for this effort. To launch it, I will be inviting all students, faculty, and staff to a gathering to be organized with the Chaplain’s Office. I will report back to you on this soon.

As a college, our emphasis should be on education. The light of knowledge and understanding is our most effective tool.

We value the free and vigorous exchange of ideas. At the same time, every member of the campus community should know that we reject personal harm as a part of that exchange. A civil atmosphere of mutual respect is critical to our educational mission. We therefore insist that public discourse not be undermined by personal attacks, especially when they reopen the many wounds of historic discrimination that burden our culture even today. Breaches of those limits will face serious consequences.

This is a national (even an international) issue but we take no comfort in that. At Williams we set for ourselves the highest possible standards including, critically, in the promotion of civility, tolerance, and community.

We can do better. We will do better. It will take the efforts of all ofus.

Sincerely,

M. Schapiro
President
—————————————————————————-

September 10, 2004

To the Williams Community,

I am writing to inform you about an occurrence that resulted in sanctions against a faculty member.

At the end of the spring semester, a meeting took place in which a group of faculty members, one of whom is African-American, was conducting department business. One of those present raised a concern about the status of her own field of professional work relative to the fields of the others. At one point, she made a heated statement to the effect that she did not want her field to be “used as a nigger.”

The matter was promptly brought to my attention by several of those present at the meeting and a formal complaint was made against the faculty member who made the remark. Upon investigating, I concluded that the faculty member’s behavior warranted the serious step of imposing sanctions on her, which I have done. I believe that the statement made at the meeting was a use of racist language that was meant to provoke or hurt the African-American colleague who was present.

Over the summer, I and other administrators have been working with the department to determine how best to move forward toward the goal of ensuring an environment that is respectful of all the department’s members.

In recent years there have been a number of discussions concerning the extent to which various members of our campus community feel it to be one that is sufficiently welcoming and supportive of all. President Schapiro’s letter addresses these broader issues.

I am confident that a community as strong as ours can seize this challenge to make Williams a better place for all its members.

Sincerely,

William J. Lenhart
Acting Dean of the Faculty &
A. Barton Hepburn Professor of Computer Science

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