Professor Michael Brown’s Record op-ed last May urged a No vote on Claiming Williams.

This week, the Williams College faculty will consider a motion to make Claiming Williams (CW) an annual event. Prior to the faculty vote, there will doubtless be much talk about CW’s successes and its alleged value to the community. Nevertheless, the faculty should vote the proposal down.

Would that it had. Alas, it appears that we will be stuck with Claiming Williams for years to come.

Stop a minute to consider CW’s goals. Its online mission statement declares that this special day is designed to “[challenge] the effects of the College’s history of inequality that are based on privileges of class, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and religion” in order to “provoke individual, institutional and cultural change.” This implies that the College cannot successfully pursue shared educational goals and a common commitment to learning until it has atoned for its regrettable “privileges,” an atonement never likely to be achieved. Who will decide that all grievances have been heard, all past injustices righted? There is no end to it.

Exactly the point that I made here:

How would we know if Claiming Williams were no longer necessary? This is, obviously, a large question, but I would like to hear the organizers address it. How are we measuring what CW is trying to accomplish and, according to those measurements, when would they be willing to declare victory? My quess: Never!

There is a tendency for my faculty critics to claim that my views are outside the Williams mainstream. Sometimes this is true. But, about Claiming Williams, there is a non-trivial portion of the faculty that agrees with me.

By the way, did you notice how Professors Peter Murphy and Will Dudley were recently named to senior administrator positions. Kudos! I am big fans of both. But, as always, the interesting story is not just who was selected, but who was rejected. Michael Brown has held a variety of leadership positions at Williams and one other faculty member mentioned to me a few years ago that, after his work on Stetson-Sawyer, he would be a natural as the next Dean of the Faculty or Provost. I don’t know if he was a candidate for the job but writing an op-ed like this one, something that attacks the very world view of a large and noisy portion of the Williams faculty, would be unlikely to improve his chances.

Back to Brown:

The cringe-worthy quality of some elements of CW’s rationale is not lost on students of the College. A fair number – and, yes, this includes students of color – have spontaneously voiced to me and to other faculty members their skepticism and even embarrassment about the event. Among the more outspoken are those international students with first-hand experience of overt political violence, poverty and institutional discrimination in their home countries. They find bizarre and self-indulgent CW’s claims that Williams is a fundamentally hostile place. What they see is a community privileged to enjoy such amenities as physical safety, enviable food and housing and competent, caring employees. To note this is not to defend prejudice or abusive behavior, which have no legitimate place at Williams. It is only to reject the trivialization of suffering inherent in CW’s vision of the College.

Exactly right. Read the whole thing.

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