There is an interesting discussion at WSO about free speech and related issues. The problem is that, like a poorly run Williams seminar, it is a bit all over the place. It is too bad that more Williams faculty don’t participate in this aspect of the Williams Conversation. Imagine if Will Dudley or Mark Reinhardt or Cheryl Shanks or insert-your-favorite-professor-here were involved in that thread. Wouldn’t the conversation be a lot more focused and productive?

The key is to have a concrete example of “free speech” that some people ay Williams would like to ban and others would protect. Such an example will highlight the opposing views and the reasons behind them. My suggestion: Imagine a student (or professor!) with the following sign on her own door.

The average combined SAT score (math + verbal) for Chinese-American students at Williams is 200 points higher than the average for African-American students at Williams. The College should stop discriminating in admissions against Chinese-American applicants.

Would such a sign be obnoxious? Obviously. Would it lead to hurt feelings and even emotional pain among some members of the Williams community? Of course. Would I recommend that the student with this sign on her door take it down? Yes. But should the College require that the student remove the sign? No.

If free speech at Williams means anything, it entails the right to voice unpopular political opinions.

If the WSO discussion would use that specific example (or a different one), the conversation would be more productive.

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