The most recent annual report on sexual assault is out. Let’s spend 10 days talking about it! Today is day 5.

The changes we implemented included using a professional investigator for every case (so that complainants, respondents, and witnesses are all questioned by someone with deep expertise in doing this work), as well as creating a hearing process in which students who are raising or responding to a concern never have to discuss their experiences in front of other students or their professors.

If this is such a good idea, then why doesn’t the College do the same thing with regard to the Honor and Discipline Committee? Williams could, easily, use a “professional investigator” to examine cases of alleged plagiarism, someone with “deep expertise in doing this work” — much deeper than current committee members like, say, Quamrul Ashraf or Cheryl Shanks. Williams could, easily, arrange a process that did not force accused students to “have to discuss their experiences in front of other students,” like, say, current committee members Tyler Sparks ’15 or Adam Pollack ’18.

The reason this would be a bad idea, obviously, is that the more that the Williams community governs itself, the better. Faculty like Ashraf and Shanks will always have a better sense of the standards of the Williams community than any “professional investigator.” Students like Sparks and Pollack will always be better judges of their peers. (And, as a side benefit, students on the committee almost always view this service as one of the most valuable parts of their Williams education.)

Adam Falk is often guilty of prattling on about the importance of “faculty governance” at Williams. But he has done more to undermine such governance, to make faculty less powerful and less involved in the running of Williams, than any president before him. Removing faculty from investigating, judging, and punishing accusations of sexual assault is another slip down the long slide toward faculty irrelevance.

Print  •  Email