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?