Continuing our analysis of President Biddy Martin’s statement:
And the administration will ensure that no students, faculty, or staff members are subject to retaliation for taking advantage of their right to protest.
Did an Amherst lawyer vet this? What an absurd (and dangerous) promise to make! “Right to protest” is a very different thing than the right to free speech. I am writing this prior to the events, if any, on Wednesday, but hasn’t Martin given the students carte blanche — Is that word a micro-agression?! — to do anything they want, short of violence? Imagine students protest by shutting down the presidents office (or the presidents house!) by refusing to leave. Martin has just guaranteed that they won’t be punished? What if they occupy the two or three largest lecture halls on campus, thereby preventing classes from meeting there? Again, they can’t be punished!
Amherst has committed itself to equal opportunity for the most talented students from all socio-economic circumstances.
The College also has a foundational and inviolable duty to promote free inquiry and expression, and our commitment to them must be unshakeable if we are to remain a college worthy of the name. The commitments to freedom of inquiry and expression and to inclusivity are not mutually exclusive, in principle, but they can and do come into conflict with one another. Honoring both is the challenge we have to meet together, as a community.
“Inclusivity,” thy name is “Speech Code.” Either Amherst students have the same free speech rights as UMass students or they don’t. Which is it? Getting clarity on that point (at least for Williams College) is perhaps the most important issue in this debate. What do our readers think?
Those who have immediately accused students in Frost of threatening freedom of speech or of making speech “the victim” are making hasty judgments.
If I were an Amherst trustee, I would be reaching for George Orwell right about now, and wondering if I can trust Martin to be truthful. The protesters have demanded punishment for other Amherst students whose only “crime” was to put up posters about free speech. If this isn’t “threatening freedom of speech,” then words have no meaning.
It takes time, attention, and serious discussion to sort out and make clear how we protect free speech while also establishing norms within our communities that encourage respect and make us responsible for what we do with our freedom. That is the discussion we need to have.
Does Amherst have a history of left wing presidents? President Martin, like President Marx before her, is certainly more stridently leftist in her pronouncements (and career?) than any Williams president.
You heard it here first: Why not rename Amherst? The student protesters don’t like the Lord Jeff mascot because Lord Jeffrey Amherst fought the King’s enemies in ways of which they disapprove. They want a new mascot. Fine. But the college would still be called Amherst! (I am hazy on whether this Amherst (the town?) is also connected to Lord Jeffrey.) So, why not solicit a gift for a billion dollars or so from some really rich megalomaniac and rename Amherst after him? Everybody wins!
And I even have a candidate: Weill College, after Citigroup’s Sandy Weill. This is perfect because a) Biddy Martin has raised money from Weill before, b) Weill has (at least?) a billion dollars and c) the Weills have tried before to get a college named after them.