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A curious thought …


… I wonder what the quality and quantity of the blog correspondence under various postings would be if the exchanges had to be made with pen and ink and sent through the mail …


Falk Bans Watson

As much as we disliked Adam Falk’s squelching of free debate at Williams, we must salute his consistency. Here is the latest from the President’s Office:

James Watson’s Scheduled Appearance at Williams

To the Williams Community,

Today I am taking the extraordinary step of canceling a speech by James Watson, who was to have presented his views here on Thurday night. The college didn’t invite Watson, but I have made it clear to the biology faculty who did that the college will not provide a platform for him.

Free speech is a value I hold in extremely high regard. The college has a very long history of encouraging the expression of a range of viewpoints and giving voice to widely differing opinions. Until this year, we have never canceled speakers or prevented the expression of views. But, as in the case of John Derbshire last week, there is a line and James Watson is on the other side of it. As reported in the New York Times:

In an interview published Sunday in The Times of London, Dr. Watson is quoted as saying that while “there are many people of color who are very talented,” he is “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa.”

“All our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours — whereas all the testing says not really,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

These thoughts clearly constitute hate speech, and we will not promote such speech on this campus or in our community.

We respect our faculty’s exploration of ideas, including ones that are very challenging, and we encourage individual choice and decision-making by faculty. But at times it’s our role as administrators to step in and make decisions that are in the best interest of our community. This is, again, one of those times.


Adam Falk

More commentary below the break: Read more


From August, 2008 … Even more timely.



Williams Welcomes Anti-Semitic Speakers

Professor Vijay Prashad is a virulent anti-Semite.

Prashad recently joined the Geobbels-esque choir chanting their latest popular “Palestinian children were killed in cold blood” refrain.

Typically, these catchy tunes list names of Palestinians killed in the act of stabbing, shooting, or running over Jews.

Prashad’s own list, published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, named six individuals—one who is decidedly NOT dead, four who were killed-while-killing or trying to kill, and one who child who was an adult caught in the crossfire between a terrorist and police.

One does not have to be a news junky to know that the Palestinians that have died in the recent terrorist wave are not being “killed in cold blood.” The US media has reported clearly on the causality of these events.

Hence, when Prashad blatantly lies about his own list and later about “over 150” Palestinians, he is demonizing the Jewish state and thus fanning the flames of anti-Semitism among Gazette readers—and likely on Trinity College campus where he is employed and on any campus he visits as a speaker.

And one of these campuses was Williams College.

Granted, that was back in 2010. However, Williams has invited other speakers more recently that are part of the tidal wave of anti-Semitism that is crashing across college campuses.

Just last semester, for example, the college hosted Remi Kanazi who denies Jewish right to self-determination. Kanazi poeticizes about segregated bus (no such thing), hundreds of Israeli checkpoints (there are 13), and other fabrications in order to falsely associate Jewish society with apartheid. And Kanazi dreams of day when “Zionists” will cower.

This dreck arrived on campus and was not banned.

President Falk appears not to even have bothered to identify Kanazi’s fabrications as hate speech or condemn it as anti-Semitism.

So President Falk’s decision to ban Derbyshire from campus, of course, begs the question:

Should Williams deny a racist’s right to free speech (Derbyshire) but support that of an anti-Semite (Kanazi/Prashad)?

Is there one standard for African Americans and other groups and another for Jews?

And if the president desires to “protect” students, should he not protect ALL students?

Or none.

Certainly, to protect some groups and not others IS bigotry.

And so, should we not be objecting to this double-standard?

And if we do not object, are we not ourselves accomplices to bigotry?


Join EphBlog!

EphBlog welcomes new authors. Right now, sadly, many of our best writers (Professor Darel Paul, sigh, simplicio, Mr. Calabash, Professor Sam Crane, S ’18, A Williams Parent, Will Slack ’11, Dick Swart ’56, Whitney Wilson ’90, ephalum, dcat and many others) only appear in the comments. That is a shame! Your voice merits placement on the main page. Our readers (most of whom don’t read our comment threads) want to hear from you, not just from me, Edward W. Morley ’60 and Professor Steve Miller.

You can even join completely anonymously! Just e-mail me (daviddudleyfield at gmail) from a anonymous e-mail account. I don’t need to know your real name. I will send you the necessary login and password.

The public conversation among students, faculty, staff and alumni will only be as good as we make it. If you want a better conversation, then step up and lead it. Williams, alas, refuses to do so, refuses to create an on-line space at which we might talk with each other. So, as with the founding of the Society of Alumni almost 200 years ago, we will do it ourselves.


5th Year Interim Report

Here is the 2012 Fifth-year Interim Report on Williams, providing an update on issues associated with accreditation NEASC. Lots of good stuff there! Example:



Is the whole document worth a three week review?


What Would Gaudino Do?

This excellent article (pdf) from the Alumni Review provides a sense of what Robert Gaudino would do if a controversial speaker were invited to campus.


If Derbyshire’s talk wasn’t providing “the creative potential to unsettle and disturb” then the words have no meaning. Show this quote to someone like Professor Sam Crane and he would (I hope!) agree with it. Williams should “unsettle” and “disturb” its students. But what Sam really means is that Williams should “unsettle” and “disturb” its students from the left. If a student is a strong supporter of Israel, then Williams should unsettle/disturb him by confronting him with a passionate opponent, like Vijay Prashad. If a student is opposed to affirmative action, then Williams should unsettle/disturb him by confronting him with a speaker like Tim Wise. And so on.

Gaudino, of course, would have gleefully mocked Sam Crane, would have pointed out that if you really believe that the College has a responsibility to “unsettle and disturb” its students, then that responsibility applies to all students, even (especially!) those students who agree with the common zeitgeist.


Should Falk Ban Charles Murray?


As we have noted, on the topics that got Derbyshire banned at Williams, Charles Murray is every bit as non-PC. But, he is more polite and less likely to give offense. If I were a social justice warrior, that would make me more worried about Murray rather than less.

Among those who agree with Falk’s decisions to ban Derbyshire: Do you also think he should ban Murray? I am honestly curious to read your views and reasoning. Especially appreciated would be links to Murray’s writings that you find offensive enough to justify a ban.


Paul on Falk/Derbyshire

As always, the best parts of EphBlog are often in the comments. Consider this one from Professor Darel Paul:

In light of the many recent controversies regarding what is and is not acceptable speech / representation at Williams College (Yes: Jiz Lee, Suzanne Venker, Remi Kanazi; No: John Derbyshire, left-facing (i.e. non-Nazi) swastikas; Preliminary No: old murals of King Hendrick), perhaps what is needed is a kind of Miller Test for the community.

As my deconstructionist faculty friends would say, there is a lot to unpack here. Let’s start!

1) Who can tell if Paul is kidding? I honestly can’t! From Wikipedia:

The Miller test (also called the Three Prong Obscenity Test) is the United States Supreme Court’s test for determining whether speech or expression can be labeled obscene, in which case it is not protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and can be prohibited.

On the one hand, Professor Paul could be serious. Williams does seem to have a problem in deciding what to allow and what not to allow. Given that, we need a procedure for deciding these issues going forward. Why not start with something like Miller?

On the other hand, he must be joking, purposely teasing the Williams administration — purposely teasing his boss Adam Falk? — about the stupidity of its current course of action. Would Williams really want to treat ideas — even ideas as unpopular as John Derbyshire’s — in the same way that provincial US local governments handled obscenity?

2) It is true that Williams now claims that Suzanne Venker would have been welcome if UL had not disinvited her. Does everyone really believe that, now that we know that Adam Falk considers “hate speech” a reason for banning someone from campus? I don’t know. Many Ephs thought that Venker was guilty of hate speech. The editors of the Record, for example, seemed to argue that Venker should not be allowed to speak at Williams, and for precisely the same reasons that Falk banned Derbyshire.

3) Remi Kanazi is a new one to me. Example views:

Poet Remi Kanazi, for example, who frequently speaks at SJP-sponsored events, represents Palestinian culture through work that attacks Israel as a “racist, apartheid state” that is “built upon the graves of Palestinians.” In one Facebook post from 2012, Kanazi wrote,“Dear Zionists: You have never ‘defended yourselves.’ You came in, stole land that wasn’t yours & maintained a racist state through massacres and brute force.”

There are certainly Jewish Williams students who are as offended by Kanazi as other Williams students are offended by Derbyshire. And, if they view that speech as “hateful,” then they are probably accurately describing their subjective feelings upon reading/hearing that speech. But, if you ban Derbyshire, why wouldn’t you ban Kanazi?


Mark Raymond New Football Coach?

A (well-informed?) commentator claims that Mark Raymond from St. Lawrence will be the new Eph football coach. Comments:

1) I wish that they had hired an Eph, or at least someone, like basketball coach Kevin App, with ties to the region. Williams should try to hire coaches that want to spend the rest of their careers with us.

2) I wish that they had hired someone more experience with (and who took more enjoyment in?) dealing with smart players. Eph coaches should be intellectuals, should be quoting poetry and arguing philosophy with the players. Want to improve the intellectual climate at Williams? Hire more intellectuals!

Note that these comments could be unfair. Perhaps Raymond was born in Williamstown! Perhaps he writes poetry on weekends! We can only hope.

Any other rumors?


Eagle Critiques Falk

From the Berkshire Eagle:

Our Opinion: Wrong call by Williams in cancelling speaker

At a time when too many college student bodies are demanding that controversial speakers be banned it is disappointing that Williams College won’t get to hear such a speaker who was invited by students.

1) Any forecasts on what other media outlets will editorialize about Falk’s decision? I am most curious about the Record, which deeply embarrassed itself last fall in the Venker controversy but is now under new leadership.

2) Key in this whole discussion is that Derbsyhire was invited by members of the Williams community. He wasn’t just wondering in off the street. I don’t think it should matter whether the invitation came from students or faculty or staff.

Williams President Adam Falk has ordered the cancellation of an appearance Monday by former National Review columnist John Derbyshire, who some have condemned as being racist. He had been invited by a student group called Uncomfortable Learning.

In framing the debate, how one describes Derbyshire is key. I think that the above is a fair description. It is both true (lots of people, including Adam Falk!, do condemn Derbyshire for being racist) and it highlights the reasons behind the controversy. This is much more neutral than describing Derbyshire as a “white supremist,” since he would disagree with that terminology, or as a “race realist,” which is too confusing for Eagle readers.

Students, faculty and administrators at colleges and universities nationwide have taken to banning or disinviting speakers whose views some find discomfiting. Teachers introducing similar views or failing to provide “trigger warnings” about controversial subjects are demeaned, harassed and threatened with suspensions or firings. The offending speakers and viewpoints are almost invariably conservative or far-right

Mostly correct, although a bit overwrought. But is there a single example — either at an elite college or anywhere else — of a president “banning” a speaker, of forbidding Person X from stepping foot on campus even though they have an invitation from current students or faculty? I can’t find one but pointers are welcome!

This is counter to the mission of higher education, which is to expose students to a variety of disagreeable viewpoints, not to protect their delicate sensibilities from them. Mr. Derbyshire denies he is a white supremacist (Eagle, February 19), and while The Eagle disagrees with the sentiments expressed in a National Review column advising white children about how to be safe among African-Americans, he is entitled to them and Williams students should be able to hear and debunk them.

Fifty years ago, Robert Gaudino considered it one of his missions to “expose students to a variety of disagreeable viewpoints.” Does any faculty member at Williams agree? I am honestly curious.

A Williams grad told The Eagle that “White supremacy has no place in the Purple Valley,” but all manner of racist views exist in the wide world outside of that protected enclave. There is no hiding from them and it is best to be exposed to them in school. That is part of the educational process, one that has been denied to Williams students.



Advice for Falk


What advice do our readers have for Adam Falk?

First, admit that you have a (big!) problem. This controversy shows no signs of going away. If anything, it is on the verge of snowballing out of control. When well-respected Harvard professors like Steven Pinker are openly mocking you, it is time to do something.

Second, the best approach would be what I suggested yesterday. Issue the following statement:

I have talked to many Williams faculty, students and alumni. I have now read John Derbsyhire’s book We Are Doomed, having checked it out from our own Sawyer Library. Although I profoundly disagree with Derbyshire’s views on a variety of topics, I now realize that my earlier decision was a mistake. Williams College is precisely the place where these odious opinions need to be explored, confronted and debunked. If not us, then who? If not here, then where? So, in the spirit of uncomfortable learning, I have personally invited John Derbyshire to Williams, where we will stage a debate between him and some of the members of our faculty.

And so on. The exact details are unimportant. But banning student-invited speakers is a horrible idea. Admit your error and move on.

Third, the second best approach is to shut up! Stop giving interviews. Stop talking to people. If anyone has questions, refer them to your statement. There is no upside (for you) in continuing the conversation. Your quotes in the Washington Post are a disaster. Consider:

“The understanding I came to of his writing was that it was simply racist ranting, with no redeeming intellectual value whatsoever,”

Then why does Williams have three of his books in its library? Are your staff idiots? Do Williams librarians purchase many books that are simply “racist ranting?” Providing quotes like this only makes you look incompetent. Moreover, John Derbyshire regular writes for The New Criterion, as hoity-toity an egghead magazine as you are going to find. Do you really believe that The New Criterion publishes a lot of material with “no redeeming intellectual value?” Are they a bunch of racists too? That is nuts, and readers of the Washington Post are smart enough to know it.

“The college does not have an obligation to give a platform to absolutely anybody. And a self-proclaimed white supremacist who was going to come and tell students … that they should avoid the African American students, was over a line.”

Note how the Post leaves out a part of your comment? Reporters are not your friends. They have a beast to feed and you are the meat. The more you say to them, the more you leave yourself open to quote-mangling, malicious or otherwise.

And you leave yourself open to rebuttal on the facts. John Derbyshire is many, many things but he is not “a self-proclaimed white supremacist.” You have just opened yourself (and Williams!) up to claim of defamation! Listen to your lawyers and shut up. (Attorney readers are welcome to offer their opinions as to whether or Derbyshire would have a case.)

And you aren’t even accurately summarizing Derbyshire’s infamous article correctly. He writes:

In that pool of forty million, there are nonetheless many intelligent and well-socialized blacks. (I’ll use IWSB as an ad hoc abbreviation.) You should consciously seek opportunities to make friends with IWSBs. In addition to the ordinary pleasures of friendship, you will gain an amulet against potentially career-destroying accusations of prejudice.

Derbyshire’s (rude) advice to non-black Williams students is exactly the opposite of what you have claimed it to be. He recommends that they go out of their way to make friends with black Williams students. He reasoning may be false and obnoxious and racist — and you are allowed to call it all those things and more — but you aren’t allowed to say that Derbyshire gives Advice X when, in fact, he gives Advice Y.

Fourth (and this is by far the worst option but still better than the path you are going down) is to make someone else at Williams the face of this issue. That is why senior administrators like Will Dudley, Denise Buell and Sarah Bolton get paid the big bucks. Let one of them — or perhaps a senior professor looking for a fight — spout off to the Washington Post. You are the president of Williams College. You should step back from the fray. You already made the decision. Let other faculty members talk about it.

What advice do our readers have for Falk?


Charles Murry Coming in March

This College Fix article on the Falk/Derbyshire is too right trollish for my taste, but it includes this bombshell.

For [Zachary] Wood [’18], he said he is focused on his next big event: hosting controversial conservative author Charles Murray in March. However, in 2014, Murray was disinivted from speaking to a private Christian college in Southern California.

“Is Adam Falk planning on banning Charles Murray,” Wood said. “I would like to know.”

Charles Murray at Williams College. Woo Hoo! That will be some uncomfortable learning. Comments:

1) Is Wood really worried about Falk banning Murray or is he trolling? It is inconceivable to me that Falk would ban Murray since Murry’s books are assigned in Williams courses and cited (approvingly) by Williams professors. Then again, I would have given 20:1 odds against Falk banning Derbyshire, so perhaps I am out of touch.

2) Charles Murray is John Derbyshire with a Ph.D. Now, this isn’t totally fair. No two thinkers agree on everything. But on the central topic that got Derbyshire banned — human genders and races differ genetically in ways that have huge effects on society — they are one and the same.

3) What would (will?) Murray say to the students and faculty who protested against Derbyshire? Probably something like this:

You’re at college, right? Being at college is supposed to mean thinking for yourselves, right? Okay, then do it. Don’t be satisfied with links to websites that specialize in libeling people. Lose the secondary sources.

Sound advice!


Record Assignment Desk

The forthcoming issue of the Record will get more views outside of the Eph family than all of last year’s issues combined. The news of an elite college president banning an student-invited speaker is that big a deal. What articles should the Record be working on, in addition to general news stories?

1) History of speech debates/suppression at Williams. I am embarrassed to admit that I don’t know this history at all. Does anyone? When was the last time a speaker was banned at Williams? What have previous Williams presidents said about free speech on campus? Start here, although I couldn’t figure out how to search. Suggestions welcome! Also, Katie Nash, the new Archivist, knows her stuff.

2) A comparison to other NESCAC/elite schools. Ask Amherst and Swathmore if they have ever banned a speaker. Ask them if they ever would. They might use this occasion to make fun of Williams. Ask them if they have any official policies which would prevent their students from inviting Derbyshire to campus. Place Falk’s action in the context of our peers.

3) Interviews with prominent alumni who have experience with, or expertise in, campus speech debates.

4) Interviews with faculty who have spoken out. I would start with EphBlog favorite Sam Crane who has an extensive discussion on his own blog. The key point to push with Sam is the following: Should students at Williams have fewer rights than students at MCLA? Because of the First Amendment, students at a state school like MCLA can not be punished for “hate speech” and can not be prevented from bringing (non-violent) speakers to campus, even if they are speakers that Sam Crane does not like.

Williams is a private institution and can have whatever rules it likes. But I would love to have Sam and other faculty on record as claiming that such restrictions benefit Williams students relative to their peers down the road at MCLA.

PS. Here is another suggestion for the name for the scandal: “Derb Makes Falk Uncomfortable.” This includes a reference to all three key players: John Derbyshire (who is nicknamed “Derb” in corners of the internet), Adam Falk and the student group Uncomfortable Learning. Previous discussion here. Only thing I don’t like is that it is too long. Suggestions?


Countdown Clock

Thanks for Professor Darel Paul for pointing out this Washington Post story.

Williams College cancels a speaker who was invited to bring in provocative opinions

Williams College’s president took “the extraordinary step” this week of canceling the speech of an author who had been invited to bring provocative ideas to campus, saying his ideas cross the line into hate speech.

There is a lot to cover, but here are the key issues:

1) Will this controversy lead to Adam Falk’s departure from Williams? I feel absurd (and sad!) even typing those words. I like Adam Falk! I think he is doing a good job as president! It would be bad for Williams to lose its president in the middle of a capital campaign. But this controversy is close to spinning out of control. And there are a lot of people at Williams, a lot of powerful people among the board of trustees, who believe strongly in free speech. The odds of Falk’s departure are not high, but they are no longer zero. Were the issues that led to the end of Hank Payne’s presidency any more serious?

2) This article reads like it was written by Adam Falk’s worst enemy. Could that title be biased any more strongly against him? It isn’t that the title is wrong or false. It is just the framing that is so damning. Why not “Williams College Cancels Speech by White Supremacist” or “Williams College Cancels Racist Speech” or, at minimum, “Williams College Cancels Speech by Author Widely Accused of Racism”? The greatest sin in America today is racism. Supporters of Falk’s decision need that word, or something like it, in the first sentence of every news story.

3) Who is giving Adam Falk such horrible advice? Jim Kolesar has been guiding Williams presidents through troubled waters for a generation. I like to hope he was against cancellation. Who does Falk rely on to make these sorts of decisions? He needs better advisers.

4) Has the backpedaling begun? Key passage:

“The understanding I came to of his writing was that it was simply racist ranting, with no redeeming intellectual value whatsoever,” he said.

Just how much time did Falk spend coming to an “understanding” of “his writing?” The Williams College library includes three books by Derbyshire. Did Falk read them? Did he talk to someone who did? One of those books, We Are Doomed, is a good summary of Derbyshire’s views. Which passages does Falk object to?

Yet the good part of this passage is that it provides Falk with a way out. Next week he could say:

I have talked to many Williams faculty and alumni. I have had a chance to read Derbsyhire’s book We Are Doomed. Although I profoundly disagree with John Derbyshire, I now realize that my earlier decision was a mistake. Williams College is precisely the place where these odious views need to be explored, confronted and debunked. If not us, then who? If not here, then where? So, in the spirit of uncomfortable learning, I have personally invited John Derbyshire to Williams, where we will stage a debate between him and some of the members of our faculty . . .

And so on. There is still an (easy!) way out for Adam Falk and the people around him. Are they smart enough to take it? I have my doubts.

5) Where to next? Once you have made the Post, the New York Times, NPR and the rest of the US media will not be far behind. Could this story make the morning talk shows (Mike Brezinski ’89)? The nightly news (Erin Burnett ’98)? You betcha!


Does the Falk Cancellation Have Legs?

What do readers predict will happen with regard to the Falk bans Derbyshire story? It just hit the AP.

BOSTON (AP) — The president of Williams College is canceling a speaking event by a contentious writer who had been invited to campus by students.

President Adam Falk told students on Thursday that the writer John Derbyshire, whose views have been criticized as racist, will not be welcome on the campus in Williamstown.

A student group that regularly hosts speakers with polarizing opinions had invited Derbyshire to speak on Monday. The group’s leader, sophomore Zach Wood, says that as an African American he disagrees with Derbyshire’s opinions, but he wanted to give students the opportunity to challenge those views.

It’s the first time the college has blocked a speaker invited by the group. The school’s president says many of Derbyshire’s views amount to hate speech.

Derbyshire could not immediately be reached for comment.

The story could end here. Or it could go as far as the Venker Disinvitation and get a mention in conservative outlets like Fox news. Or worst (best?) case, it could get into the mainstream press. What do readers predict?

The bull case is that this is the first time in several generations that an elite college has banned a speaker. (Changing your mind about awarding an honorary degree is not that same thing. And, even in those cases in which a speaker was disinvited from talking at Commencement, the college/university did not ban — and even explicitly welcomed — a talk in another venue on campus.) Does anyone know the last time this happened at a NESCAC or Ivy school? The last time it happened at Williams?

The bear case is that places like Fox news won’t touch it because they view Derbyshire, and other figures on the Alt-Right, as too toxic. There are also fierce divisions on the right, divisions which make people like Derbyshire more critical of Fox news than many liberals. (Fox, for example, is a big supporter of amnesty.) And, if Fox won’t touch it, why would the New York Times?

My prediction is that this story makes it to places like NPR and the New York Times. It is too juicy, too emblematic of the changes in society’s attitude to free speech. If the story does have legs, all that we ask is that they spell EphBlog correctly!


Alumni Office Letter on Falk Cancellation

Someone posted on Yik Yak this letter from the Alumni Office sent, I think, to Class Agents. (And others?)

Today, President Adam Falk make the decision to cancel the scheduled appearance at Williams of John Derbyshire. The full text of Adam’s letter to the community about this decision is available here.

I expect that some of you have already heard about this from your own classmates, or from any friends or relatives you may have on campus. Below is additional information that may prove helpful as you continue the vital work of contacting your classmates to encourage their support of Williams.

Derbyshire, who was fired from his role as a commentator for the National Review in 2012 after writing this piece in another publication, had been invited to speak by a couple of students involved with the Uncomfortable Learning group on campus. Derbyshire’s expressions of hate in the 2012 piece were directed specifically toward African-Americans, but his other writings and speeches have expressed, among other things, homophobic and misogynistic viewpoints (stating that women should not have the right to vote, for instance).

Cancellation by the college of a scheduled speaker—even one engaged by a group of students receiving no funding or official recognition from the college—is extremely rare and something the college would do only in extreme circumstances. This is the first such instance we’re aware of. Uncomfortable Learning has hosted many events over the past several years including K.C. Johnson, who spoke on November 5, 2015, after the Venker cancellation.

It is important to note key distinctions between this cancelation and the cancellation of a scheduled talk by Suzanne Venker in the fall. Both speakers were invited by the same group, Uncomfortable Learning. In the Venker incident, the students did not consult with or advise the college prior to inviting her. Indeed, the college learned of the planned event only after the student organizers had canceled it.

Had the administration been consulted, it would have strongly advised the students to continue the talk as scheduled, despite strong objections from fellow students.

In this instance, however, the organizers of the Derbyshire event submitted an electronic request for auditorium space several days in advance, and upon seeing it and learning more about the event, President Falk stepped in cancel it out of concern for the Williams community and a conviction that Williams will not promote hate speech. This goes beyond concern that students might be “uncomfortable” with differing viewpoints. Hate speech actively harms individuals, and in President Falk’s determination and that of many who have expressed support for today’s decision, to have provided Derbyshire with a stage and a microphone from which to espouse his views would have brought significant harm to the Williams community.

There is a lot to unpack here. Worth a week’s close reading?


FIRE Slams Falk

FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, has slammed Williams/Falk for cancelling the UL/Derbyshire talk. Best part:

There is no reconciling Falk’s October position with his current one, leaving students with unclear guidelines as to which speakers or subjects are out-of-bounds at Williams College. In fact, the only thing that is clear now is that President Falk has declared his administration to be the sole arbiter of what can and cannot be said at the college, the college’s supposed commitment to free speech notwithstanding.

Although Williams is, as a private institution, free to craft its own rules, it has stated that it is “committed to being a community in which all ranges of opinion and belief can be expressed and debated” and that “controversy is at the heart of … free academic inquiry.” Imposing restrictions on what topics may be discussed and who students may invite to discuss them is the polar opposite of “free academic inquiry”; it is closer to indoctrination than education.

Indeed. What would Robert Gaudino say? FIRE continues:

It’s worth noting that some of the most controversial speakers invited to speak at colleges and universities over the past century have sparked the adoption of policies that protect robust and open debate on campuses. The prime example is Yale’s 1975 Woodward Report, which is regarded as the first free speech policy statement by a university to espouse a deep commitment to examining all viewpoints, no matter their popularity, as a path toward truth. That report was adopted only after students called for the disinvitation of controversial Nobel laureate William Shockley, whose views many contended were not only patently racist, but incontrovertibly false. The Woodward Report has been cited as an inspiration for the University of Chicago’s free speech policy statement, which FIRE has endorsed, and which schools are increasingly adopting.

For the moment, it appears Williams has chosen a different path—a path on which paternalistic administrators decide which ideas are too dangerous for college students to hear, even when students themselves have established a program specifically for the purpose of engaging with such ideas. It is now up to the students, faculty, alumni, and trustees of Williams to decide whether that is truly the kind of place they want their college to be, or whether they are going to push back against this act of censorship.

Are we going to push back?


Eagle Article on Falk Cancellation

Outstanding Berkshire Eagle article by Scott Stafford about Adam Falk’s banning of John Derbyshire from speaking at Williams. Read the whole thing for an excellent overview of the controversy. Some highlights:

“We feel very confident on this decision given that Mr. Derbyshire’s writings not only on race, but on women’s rights, gay rights and sexual harassment make him unsuited to discussions at Williams College,” Detloff said.

How quickly the definition of hate speech expands! If one is, for example, against the recent Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, is one guilty of hate speech and, therefore, not welcome at Williams? Perhaps Detloff could provide us with a summary of the acceptable views on controversial topics like “women’s rights” . . .

Derbyshire describes himself in his writings as a “race realist.” …

Derbyshire says that to label him as a white supremacist is a “misinterpretation.”

Basic politeness requires that we describe people using the terminology they prefer unless that terminology is grossly misleading. If someone describes herself as “pro-life,” you should use the same terms, even if you really want to call her “anti-abortion.” The same should apply to Derbyshire. He describes himself as a race realist. Why not use that term? (Google suggests that Williams folks will find race realism every bit as objectionable as white supremacy.)

Entire article below the break.
Read more


Suggested Names For This Controversy?

What should we call the current campus controversy? Suggestions welcome! For now, our category will be the simple “UL/Derbyshire,” but that is boring! Recall some previous excellent controversy names like Willy E. N-word, Nigaleian and Mary Jane Hitler. (That last one is, in many ways, the most relevant to today’s. I bet that Morty Schapiro would have been smart enough not to cancel Derbyshire’s speech.)

UL/Derbyshire is not a bad name since it includes two of the personae dramatis: the student group Uncomfortable Learning and John Derbyshire. But it leaves out Adam Falk, perhaps the most important actor. We might also include a reference to Professor Robert Gaudino, the patron saint of uncomforable learning. Maybe:

Ferbyshired — combining the F in Falk with the speaker, in a way that suggests the action Falk took, or in reference to the situation being all Ferbyshired up.

Line in the Derb — making a reference to Falk’s note about “We’ve found the line. Derbyshire, in my opinion, is on the other side of it.” Also uses short form of Derbyshire’s name, a common usage in the Alt-Right community.

Falk Bans Derb — highlights the key actors and actions.

Falk Hates Derb — connects to Falk’s discussion of hate speech. Also, is there some common emoji for hate that we could use?

Falk Bans Speech — abstracts away from Derbyshire, who is not the most important aspect of this debate, and highlights the central problem: What other speech will Falk ban? What are students and faculty not allowed to say?

Suggestions welcome!


Falk Cancels Speech

I enjoyed Adam Falks op-ed in the Record last fall, especially this part:

The senior class may remember that in my Convocation remarks to them this fall, I gave them an assignment to seek out someone whose opinions and beliefs are different than their own, and to engage in a conversation to really listen and learn from one another.

Excellent advice! Alas, it looks like Adam Falk no longer agrees.

To the Williams Community,

Today I am taking the extraordinary step of canceling a speech by John Derbyshire, who was to have presented his views here on Monday night. The college didn’t invite Derbyshire, but I have made it clear to the students who did that the college will not provide a platform for him.

Free speech is a value I hold in extremely high regard. The college has a very long history of encouraging the expression of a range of viewpoints and giving voice to widely differing opinions. We have said we wouldn’t cancel speakers or prevent the expression of views except in the most extreme circumstances. In other words: There’s a line somewhere, but in our history of hosting events and speeches of all kinds, we hadn’t yet found it.

We’ve found the line. Derbyshire, in my opinion, is on the other side of it. Many of his expressions clearly constitute hate speech, and we will not promote such speech on this campus or in our community.

We respect—and expect—our students’ exploration of ideas, including ones that are very challenging, and we encourage individual choice and decision-making by students. But at times it’s our role as educators and administrators to step in and make decisions that are in the best interest of students and our community. This is one of those times.


Adam Falk

Good stuff! But surely there is more that Falk should do. For example, if Derbyshire can’t speak at Williams, then we can hardly allow his books to stay in the library.


Hate speech is hate speech, whether it is spoken or written.

With luck, Falk will correct this oversight immediately. EphBlog recommends a nice book burning ceremony this afternoon, right on the steps of Chapin.


Faculty Getting Older

You would expect Dean of the Faculty Denise Buell to know basic facts about the Williams faculty. Judging by this tweet, she does not.


The faculty is getting more diverse (read: less white) but it is also getting older, and has been getting older for years, maybe decades. Consider the excellent graphic created by Arjun Kakkar ’18.


The details behind Kakkar’s methodology can be found here. I have not examined this work closely. Does Kakkar leave out athletic faculty, as I think he should? Buell is also, presumably leaving out non-tenure track and tenured faculty. Is Kakkar?

Those quibbles aside, I would bet a lot of money that, fifteen years ago, the average TTT faculty member at Williams was close to 45. Now, she is much closer to 50.

Or is Kakkar wrong and Buell right?


Sandstrom new Dean of the College

Professor Marlene Sandstrom will be the new Dean of the College, replacing Sarah Bolton on July 1. Falk’s entire e-mail is below the break. See here for Record coverage and here for the Berkshire Eagle.

1) Note Sandstrom’s 2010 New York Times opinion piece on cyberbullying. She isn’t explicitly anti-free speech, but, if I were a Williams student with controversial opinions, opinions likely to cause other students to complain, I would be worried.

2) I think that Sandstrom is the first Dean (first senior administrator?) to be married to another member of the faculty, in her case Professor Noah Sandstrom. Not sure what bearing, in any, that fact has on her appointment or will have on her performance.

3) How did Sandstrom get the job? Good question! Informed gossip is always welcome. My guess is that Falk has been a Sandstrom fan for awhile. He awarded her (and her husband) the directorship of Williams-Exeter two years ago, a position for which there is a fair amount of competition among the faculty.

4) Is it weird for me to wonder if the Sandstroms have any children? My prejudice would be that a Dean with children is more likely to be sympathetic to students and their problems, but perhaps that is unfair to the childless.

5) I am pleased to see that Sandstrom served on the Honor Committee, as every faculty member interested in being Dean of the College should.

Read more


Report of the Honor Committee 2013 — 2014

Reports from the Honor Committee are always worth reading. Here (pdf) is the latest, from 2013 — 2014 academic year. Comments:

1) The last two years have featured 34 and 30 cases. That is about double the average of the proceeding decade. Are Williams students cheating more or is the College more diligent in catching them?

2) The Committee deserves praise for being so transparent in telling us what happened and why. Example report:

A sophomore was found to have violated the Honor Code by using the answers of another student to complete her work on a take-home exam in Chemistry, and also by submitting an incorrect time log on the exam. The sanction was failure in the course with disciplinary probation until graduation.

Transparency is wonderful, because it both discourages future cheating and helps build community consensus about unacceptable behavior and the appropriate punishments therefrom.

3) But even more transparency would be better. In some reports (as above) they make clear the gender of the student. That is good! If cheating is more male than female (or vice versa) then we have a better idea about where to devote our educational efforts. Another location for increased transparency is reports like this one:


Seems obvious to me that these students had more in common than this class. Isn’t it highly likely that they were on the same sports team? As always, we don’t need to know the names of the students and we don’t want so much information that they are identifiable. But we need more data if we are to reducing cheating. If lots of cheating seems connected to team membership, then we ought to know that fact. Similarly, if international students are more likely to be charged — perhaps because foreign high schools have different standards — we need to know that as well.

What is your favorite case from 2013 — 2014?


Dudley ’89 to Washington and Lee

Professor and Provost Will Dudley ’89 has been appointed president of Washington and Lee. Full e-mail from Adam Falk below the break. Comments:

1) Congrats to Will, a longtime friend (or, at least, frenemy) of EphBlog.

2) This opens up the race to succeed Falk. Dudley, because of his insider status and great alumni connections was always the favorite, especially since Williams has a history of following outsider presidents (like Falk) with insiders.

3) Washington and Lee (ranked #14 by US News) is a much more prestigious (and well-endowed) institution than Wooster (Bolton) and Dickinson (Roseman), much more the sort of school that top Williams administrators go to. Or maybe that was just true historically and now the competition for college presidencies is much tougher?

4) From the news article:

W&L, a school that traces its heritage to President George Washington and was led by Gen. Robert E. Lee following the Civil War, has sometimes struggled to reconcile its rich history with current-day issues of race and diversity. Displays of the Confederate flag at Lee Chapel, where Lee is interred, have generated controversy.

Like the 26 presidents before him, Dudley is a white male.

“At the very front end of the process, we were conscious of that,” Owens said in response to a question about how a desire for diversity influenced the school’s search.

Women and minorities made the short list, he said, “but at the end of the day, we chose somebody that was going to be the best candidate for W&L.”

I would suspect that the Black Lives Matter folks would have serious complaints about a school named after a slave owner (Washington) and a confederate general (Lee). If I were Dudley, I would do everything I could to ensure that black students at W&L were of comparable academic quality to non-black students. There is no better way to create a militant BLM movement on campus that excessive affirmative action and the academic mismatch which inevitably follows.

5) Was Bolton (also on the market over the last year) on the short list at W&L?

6) Most interesting decision that Dudley faces? I would go with fraternities/sororities, which 80% (!) of W&L students participate in. Was Will asked about this? Did he offer any thoughts? Williams College is, of course, famous for being the first (?) elite liberal arts college to get rid of Greek Life, more than 50 years ago. I bet that Dudley thinks that Williams made the right choice then. If so, what choice should W&L make today?

Read more


Run for College Council

If you are the sort of student who reads EphBlog, then you ought to run for College Council. First, you will be in a position to try to make Williams a little bit better. You aren’t going to change the world or make the Administration change its policies, but, on the margin, you can improve things for students. Second, you will learn a lot about life, committees and bureaucracies — valuable knowledge for wherever you go after college.

Perhaps the single most important skill in the corporate world is to get people to do things, especially people who don’t work for you. There are few better places to develop this talent than College Council.

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International Student Countries of Origin IV

Here (doc) is a listing of the countries of origin of the 155 international students in the classes of 2015 — 2018. Let’s spend four days discussing it. This is Day 4.

Recall our discussion of President Falk’s induction address five years ago. Falk said:

we must develop a deeper understanding of what it means for Williams to be an international institution. We must simultaneously be local and global, building a very specific, Berkshires-based Williams that could only be found in this valley, while reaching out far beyond to prepare our students to be effective citizens not only of this country but of the world. Many pieces of this process seem obvious – bring international students to Williams, send Williams students to study abroad – but our conception of a global strategy is still emerging. We are, after all, not a sprawling multiversity but a small college of two thousand students, each here for four years and some thirty courses. We cannot simply add every desirable experience to our curriculum or to student life. We must become global within our existing scale and scope, and without chasing fashions or being driven by our shifting anxieties about America’s geopolitical position. Grappling with this question will require the engagement of our entire community, as our strategies will encompass the curriculum and extend into so much of what we do. And we must think of the internationalization of Williams as something that happens here in Williamstown, capitalizing on what this campus and region can offer.

It has been five years. Does Falk still believe this? I don’t know. This is exactly the vision that I have for Williams, the fundamental change that I have pushed and pushed and pushed for many years. I hope that future historians will mark this as the most important paragraph in the speech.

Recall our previous discussion about how Falk might make Williams “a college for all of the United States, and of the world.” Falk is, I think, explicitly rejecting the Middlebury Model of a global liberal arts college with facilities and programs all around the world. Reread these key phrases: “Berkshires-based Williams that could only be found in this valley” and “global within our existing scale and scope” and “happens here in Williamstown, capitalizing on what this campus and region can offer.” Falk has no plans to expand programs like Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford.

2) If you reject the Middlebury Model of offering facilities/programs everywhere and if you realize that there is no way — without tilting admissions toward dramatically more wealthy students — to enroll US applicants that are more “global,” then your only option “for Williams to be an international institution” is to dramatically increase foreign student enrollment. Reasonable people might disagree with that goal, might think that a Williams with 8% non-US citizens and quality study abroad options is international enough. But if you really believe Falk’s rhetoric, then your only choice is a major change in admissions.

Yet it has been five years. If Falk really wanted to make Williams more global, he would have done more than increase international enrollment from 37 (class of 2014) to 46 (class of 2018). Maybe he is about to start now? We can hope! What should he do?

1) Hire at least one member of the admissions office to work (and probably live) in Asia. The best person would probably be a recent Williams graduate, a citizen of one of the major feeder countries. That person would work on establishing relationships with the most elite English-immersion high schools in Asia. Recall our discussion about the Daewon Foreign Language High School. There are a score (50?) of schools of Daewon’s quality in China, South Korea, and the rest of Asian. We should know them and they should know us. We don’t need everyone in China to know about Williams. We just need the students and counselors of schools like Daewon to.

2) Increase admissions from China, Korea and other countries with high quality applicants. It is absurd that there are only 16 students from China and 11 from Korea among the 2,000 Ephs. Williams, could, in the class of 2020, have 25 from both countries (call it one per entry) without either decreasing the academic quality of the class or spending anymore on financial aid. (There are plenty of wealthy (or at least not poor), highly intelligent applicants currently attending elite high schools in Asia who would love to come to Williams, especially if a Williams admissions officer explained what it means to be the #1 liberal arts college in America.

Because of my naivete, I bet (link?) a fellow EphBlogger that Williams would be 20% international by the class of 2021. This looks like a bet that I am certain to lose. That makes me sad. But the battle continues.

If, 100 years ago, you wanted Williams to be the best college in the world, you should have argued against discriminating against Jews. If, today, you want Williams to be the best college in the world, you should be against quotas for international applicants. What do you want?


International Student Countries of Origin III

Here (doc) is a listing of the countries of origin of the 155 international students in the classes of 2015 — 2018. Let’s spend four days discussing it. This is Day 3.

There seems to be some “country collecting” going on here, lots of countries with just one or two students. That is, I bet that there are much stronger students in, say, China/Korea/Canada that Williams rejects in favor students from more obscure countries.

This probably leads us to underestimate of the amount of discrimination against academically excellent international applicants. Recall previous discussions here and here. Summary: It sometimes (but not every year) seems like international students do much better in academics than US students, suggesting the possibility of bias against them in the admissions process. (Of course, there are other hypotheses.)

The relevance about this new information, however, is that we can probably divide the international population into two groups: competitive countries (China, Korea, Canada, . . . ) and non-competitive countries. Applicants from competitive countries, with academic credentials significantly above the Williams average, probably do much better at Williams (and are more discriminated against by admissions) than applicants from non-competitive countries.

Consider the 46 seniors elected to Phi Beta Kappa last spring. Only 5 appear to be international:

Benjamin C. Hoyle, mathematics, Paris, France
Raea E. Rasmussen, psychology, Tokyo, Japan
Miho Sakuma, history, Tokyo, Japan
Phonkrit Tanavisarut, economics and mathematics, Bangkok, Thailand
Jeewon Yoo, English and mathematics, Seoul, Republic of Korea

This is not too much above the class’s proportion of international students. But these students sure don’t seem to come from the countries that, a priori, I would describe as “competitive.”


Common Data Sets

The Common Data Set for 2015-2016 has been posted. Comments:

1) Williams has removed copies of the Common Data Set from before 2011 from its website. Pathetic! So, because we can’t trust Williams to be honest about its history, we have to start maintaining our own copies: 2011-2012, 2012-1013, 2013-2014, 2014-2015, 2015-2016.

2) Do readers notice any major changes over the last five years? Should we spend a week reviewing these documents? Let us know your preferences!

3) Diversity is always interesting. Compare the first year class 5 years ago:


With today:


The biggest change is probably the increase in Asian-Americans and the decrease in whites. (Also, I would not be surprised if many students the “Two or more races” category were at least part Asian. Indeed, I know many mixed-race white/Asian applicants who check the “white” box on the Common Ap because they worry (correctly!) that elite US college discriminate against Asian-Americans. A majority (?) of international students are also Asian by race.

Put it all together and I would wager that 20% of the class of 2018 at Williams is Asian. Hard to believe that that proportion is going anywhere but up over the next few decades . . .

Not that there is anything wrong with that!


International Student Countries of Origin II

Here (doc) is a listing of the countries of origin of the 155 international students in the classes of 2015 — 2018. Let’s spend four days discussing it. This is Day 2.

Williams students come from more than 50 different countries. Wow! That is real diversity. A student who grew up in, say, Tunisia, brings much more diversity to the Williams campus than a student (whether African-American, Hispanic or whatever) who spent the last 12 years at Milton. (The sons/daughters of the local kleptocracy who also attended Milton, not so much.) If you want Williams to be the best College in the world (and you should), then you want Williams to admit and attract the smartest English-fluent 18-year-olds regardless of their place of birth. This listing is a good start.

Any updates on the official plans for international admissions? Recall our discuss last summer. Summary: For most of the last 15 years, Williams had an explicit quota for international students, at about 35 in each class. Then, last year we had 49 and this year 46. Has there been a change in the policy? If not, then why us the number 1/3 higher than it used to be?


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