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?