This message was sent from Morty at 6:00 this evening.

To the Williams Community,

Having had time to consult and reflect on the recent appearance of Hitler posters on the doors of many students, we would like now to give you our fuller sense of the matter.

The posters, which appeared in at least seven dorms, were designed to mimic ones put on student doors and elsewhere earlier in the week raising awareness of the Holocaust.

The student who admitted that she had produced and hung the second posters said that her doing so was intended as a use of her right to provoke discussion about the appropriateness of the first ones.

Williams, like all colleges, needs to grant wide latitude for speech, even speech as repulsive as this, as long as it does not represent verbal assault.

While this second round of posters seems not to rise to the level of verbal assault, it certainly does offend us and all those who value the well-being of our campus community and its members.

Many students who viewed what appeared as a pro-Hitler poster on their door felt threatened — understandably so, especially so soon after the horror at Virginia Tech. This sense of threat was not limited to Jewish students, though not surprisingly they were the most effected.

Adding to their sense of violation was both the anonymity of the Hitler posters and the degree to which they mimicked the ones for Holocaust remembrance, to the point of replacing the Star of David with a marijuana leaf.

The result was pain and fear for those who felt threatened and deep
disappointment for all of us who care about them.

There were many ways to foment discussion that would not have been outrageous, would not have made members of our community feel threatened, and would have resulted in dialogue of a healthier nature.

We understand that some students found the Holocaust posters too strident, especially in their placement on student doors, but the two are not equal. One drew attention to the plight of victims, the other had the understandable effect of making people feel victimized.

The student has said she will address the community about this matter. When she does, we encourage the College community to rise to its highest values — affirming free speech, to be sure, but also identifying outrageous speech when we encounter it, and caring about the well-being of all community members.


Michael Reed
Vice President for Strategic Planning and Institutional Diversity

Nancy Roseman
Dean of the College

Morty Schapiro
President of the College

Print  •  Email