Tue 20 Oct 2015
We will have more coverage of this topic tomorrow, but here are some clarifications about the most widely covered Williams story of 2015.
Start with Instapundit:
All right-wing Ephs love Instapundit, but he is wrong on the facts. Venker was not “dropped” by Williams College, the institution. She was disinvited by the same students who invited her in the first place, as Williams itself notes in this tweet:
Correct. Despite the fantasies of the clueless weevils infesting Instapundit’s comment threads, Williams College barely cares about the speakers that its students invite. It, as an institution, cares about completing its $650 million capital campaign. That is what keeps Adam Falk awake at night, not the prospect of a visit from the Fox News junior varsity. With luck, Instapundit will correct his post.
Venker’s article is here. Background on the issue comes from this excellent article in the Williams Alternative by Zach Wood ’18. Summary: The Uncomfortable Learning student group disinvited Venker after (many?) students expressed (how?) vehement disagreement with her scheduled appearance. It is a shame that the group caved. As Wood eloquently writes:
At America’s top liberal arts college, we should not settle for petty personal attacks, unchecked confirmation bias, and Taco 6-like verbal harassments when we deeply disagree with people. We can come to terms with meaningful disagreements without making presumptions of guilt. We can critique each other intellectually and challenge people effectively without snidely suggesting that they are sexist, racist, anti-black, anti-feminist, or xenophobic. Fact is: All of us are biased. So before we discount what someone has to say because we think that they are biased or prejudiced, we should ask ourselves, as Socrates asked Plato, whose bias do we seek?
1) Do I blame Uncomfortable Learning for caving in to student pressure? No. It is a free country and the students involved have every right to make their own decisions. Having your friends (honestly!) think that you are encouraging “hate” is hard, especially when you hold campus positions (like JA) or hope to contribute more to the Williams community in the future, all the more so if all you really want to do is encourage discussion.
2) Adam Falk, rather than viewing this as a public relations annoyance — there are plenty of rich and political moderate alumni who don’t like the idea of Williams cancelling speakers (which did not happen here!) — could seize it as an opportunity, a chance to demonstrate that Williams is the most politically diverse and intellectually open of any elite college. Invite Venker back, but in a debate forum, with her arguing over the merits of feminism with a prominent member of the faculty, perhaps Professor Katie Kent ’88. This would quiet the right-wing loons screeching censorship while generating much useful campus discussion. Even better would be to include students in the presentation, as in the Williams College Debate Union events a decade ago.
3) Wood ’18 makes reference to various Facebook threads. Are those public? Could some of our readers paste them into this comment thread (leaving out author names, if you like). Future historians will thank you! And our readers always enjoy reading the arguments of passionate Williams students.
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