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Advice for Falk

pinker

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?

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#1 Comment By sigh On February 22, 2016 @ 2:52 pm

1. Are you involved in funding uncomfortable learning?
2. Why do you keep posting new pieces instead of letting conversation actually coalesce on one thread?
3. take your own advice (“shut up”) :)
4. John Derbyshire has defended the term “white supremacy.” See here: http://www.thewire.com/politics/2012/05/racism-dollars-john-derbyshire-turns-white-supremacist-pitchman/52296/
5. Derbyshire’s piece in Jan 2016 for New Criterion was his first piece there in 5 years and had nothing to do with anything here. However, he writes on vdare.com regularly and considers that his writing home. be honest about him.
6. Derbyshire’s books in the library are all from before his turn into outright racist and this is such an irrelevant tangent I can’t even continue this comment.
7. Bad argument from authority re: Pinker. Of course Pinker tweeted that, he’s long been a public free speech absolutist. That’s neither surprising nor informative.
8. Derbyshire’s advice? you’re defending this? christ, why do i even bother. Nor is that the only piece of writing that he has written that is beyond the pale.
9. No thoughts on the fact that Derbyshire’s planned speech is on vdare.com (for emphasis: a white supremacist website), has nothing to do with Trump or really immigration and has this choice argument: “Sharpton or Coates would starve to death in a black society. They are, in the plain ecological sense, parasites on their non-black fellow citizens.”

fuck him. plain and simple. His proposed speech is one big joke based on logical fallacies, basic misreadings of history, and insultingly out of date definitions of race and ethnicity that make him later using arguments from the early 1990s look downright avant garde in comparison. It says nothing of Trump or really anything tangible about immigration, supposedly what Zach Woods invited him to speak on. It is sophistry and it’s not even good at that. Uncomfortable Learning needs a better set of advisors to reach out to better speakers, for everyone’s benefit.

my advice? don’t listen to you for one. Commission a committee that defends free speech, proposes a solution to inappropriate speakers being proposed on campus, and also gets rid of uncomfortable learning because they are embarrassing themselves, their mission (no one is learning from this) and their school and as an unofficial group that is unwilling to go through the standard practices and policies of williams, should never have existed anyway. You want to do what they do? Fine. Do it like every other student group, not like a unique special snowflake of a group with a big money alumni whose name initials are probably DK.

#2 Comment By Whitney Wilson ’90 On February 22, 2016 @ 3:38 pm

More commentary published in the Washington Post.

The Williams College administration’s response to the Venker controversy was admirable. Williams President Adam Falk issued a statement reaffirming the school’s commitment to free expression and open exchange.

That was then…

To make my position abundantly clear, I do not believe Williams College is under any obligation to invite someone like Derbyshire to campus. I would not recommend inviting him to speak and I question the judgment of the students who did…

Given that a student group did decide to invite Derbyshire to campus, however, the proper response of the administration is to allow the event to proceed. It would be perfectly acceptable for Falk or other members of the Williams community to condemn the speaker and attack his ideas, perhaps even to protest outside the event. Prohibiting the event, on the other hand, is a betrayal of liberal values. If Falk is not willing to allow those with distasteful views to speak on campus, he should drop the pretense and make clear that free expression takes a back seat to other concerns (as other members of the Williams community have done).

At the conclusion of a post about the Venker controversy, I wrote: “And to think Williams was once considered one of the finest liberal arts colleges in the nation.” That sentiment is even more appropriate today. Williams students may still rank among the smartest and most qualified in the country, but the institution has clearly betrayed the liberal arts principles to which it once adhered — indeed, to which Falk appealed just a few short months ago.

#3 Comment By simplicio On February 22, 2016 @ 3:40 pm

I believe sigh’s advice is very sound. I also wish to agree with number 2: the most entertaining part of Ephblog is the comments, and the post-to-comment ratio is a bit out of proportion here.

Finally, regarding the embarrassing acts of uncomfortable learning, I believe Hanlon’s razor may be of some assistance: “never assume malice when stupidity will suffice.”

#4 Comment By John C. Drew, Ph.D. On February 22, 2016 @ 3:46 pm

As I pointed out on Williams Alternative, you cannot justify the unjustifiable. John Derbyshire is a race realist, alt-right thinker whose views are grounded in facts, supported by his own common sense, and widely popular among numerous readers. It is only the vicious desire of the left to limit politically incorrect speech which is at stake here. To responsible educators, an intelligent look at the relationship between IQ, culture, and public policy (or self-protection) should be seen as an essential part of being fully alive in the present moment, alive to the actual debates taking place in our nation. For Adam Falk to ban Derbyshire is an example of pure, hateful leftist censorship. Are we going to burn Derbyshire’s book next, Mein Führer?

#5 Comment By sigh On February 22, 2016 @ 4:01 pm

@simplicio: yes, I do not think Woods is malicious in his efforts. The alumni donors, on the other hand…I’m not convinced. their anonymity does them no favor there, at least with me.

@whitney: first, a reply to your point on another thread. You’re right, one of my sub questions was unfair to Derbyshire. Though I know him and his racism better than most–I’ve seen him speak (he was invited specifically to derail a panel while I was on grad school). I am curious to hear from someone how they defend the choice of him as a speaker, given his obscurity and lack of expertise on issues of race (outside of being so inappropriate, the national review had to fire him).

Second, I wish Woodward references included a consideration of its dissent–which I think is overstated in many cases, but also makes some important corrections (including, but not limited to, the critique of the concept of “general civility” and the implicit power inequity behind that and it’s critique of the positivist presumption behind a claim of “pure” free speech and the power of rationality to beat ideology). One of its more interesting lines is this “A point which goes more deeply to the fundamental rationale of the Majority is the historical fact that the disruptions at Yale have not been stimulated by academic issues about which the Majority claims Yale has a duty to present factual, rational argument above all else, but by political issues which are a source of equally competent contention throughout American society, centering around morality, opinion and passion rather than intellectual fact.”

The Woodward report presupposes official student groups acting as groups. There is something of value to some local knowledge, as our own Dan Drezner wrote. In this case, Uncomfortable Learnings…unique…position is an important piece of local knowledge. Much of the debate outside of those who know Williams will miss that unique piece to the puzzle here, and I think it’s very important to understanding what’s happened, what is happening, and what will happen re: williams and free speech. In other words, were it an official group funded through traditional means, I’d be less supportive (though I’d probably still support it, to be honest) of disinviting Derbyshire.

#6 Comment By sigh On February 22, 2016 @ 4:04 pm

So here we go–shall John Drew’s comparison of Falk (I assume that’s who he is referenceing) to Hitler be allowed as “free speech?” Noting in this case, that President Falk’s family line is from holocaust survivors.

I for one, think it unacceptable. but i’m not a free speech absolutist.

#7 Comment By simplicio On February 22, 2016 @ 4:22 pm

@sigh: One great thing about being a free-speech liberal (a slightly more accurate term than absolutist), though, is that you are free to ignore speech you find repugnant. It seems that the free-speech conservatives (as in those arguing for less speech) are usually the ones who have an opinion on everything.

I don’t disagree that the Woodward Report could be improved upon; I just wonder if anyone advising Falk has read it, or even thinks it might be worth reading someday. If the answer is no, then I think we have identified part of the problem.

#8 Comment By adeline On February 22, 2016 @ 4:26 pm

do you use wordpress or microsoft paint

#9 Comment By sigh On February 22, 2016 @ 4:27 pm

@ simplicio: that’s a freedom that I wish we all had, but I know we do not all have. And that’s why I’m not a free speech liberal/absolutist.

though, i am weirdly happy at being called a “conservative” on any topic! :)

also funny to have this debate/juxtaposition after the Georgetown law email fiasco re: Scalia. Which, if you have not read about, you should go read about. its hilarisad.

#10 Comment By Sam Crane On February 22, 2016 @ 5:13 pm

Yes, the Woodward Report is instructive. Note:

“Third, the University could be more effective in discharging its obligation to use all reasonable effort to protect free expression on campus. We submit that this obligation can be discharged most effectively in the following ways:

“1) The University and its schools should retain an open and flexible system of registering campus groups, arranging for the reservation of rooms, and permitting groups freely to invite speakers.”

This suggests that when “group” is discussed in the report, it is referring to a group that has been officially registered or recognized by some standard procedure.

“Uncomfortable Learning” violates this provision of the Report. It has never been formally registered by the College. It does not follow the standard procedures that other student groups follow. It is not a student group of Williams College.

Here, too:

“6) Much can be done to forestall disruption if sufficient notice is given of the impending event. The administration and others can meet with protesting groups, make clear the University’s obligations to free expression, and indicate forms of dissent that do not interfere with the right to listen. The inviting group can work closely with the administration to devise the time, place, and arrangements for admitting the audience (if there are any limits on who may attend) that will best promote order.”

“Sufficient notice” was not provided in this case and, I believe, in most cases. Indeed, having spoken with campus staff responsible for scheduling events they have for some time noted the problem created by furtive manner in which “UL” operates. Its events have obviously caused “disruption,” indeed, they are designed to do so. But the events have not been responsibly organized.

“UL” should come into the organizational fold of the College, operate under the common procedures of the community, and be transparent about their membership, their goals, and their financing.

(and, for the record: I always post under my name. Please do not ascribe other anonymous comments to me, as happened on some other post here).

#11 Comment By simplicio On February 22, 2016 @ 6:32 pm

@Sam Crane
This is good news, indeed! Did you communicate your concerns to President Falk or his cabinet? It is possible that effective procedures such as these will allow the College to maintain its commitment to the free exchange of ideas. UL and Zach Wood would do well to consider their ethical responsibilities, just as President Falk should.

@Dudley Field
Take note! Leaving a post up for comments has led to progress!

I do apologize for my pseudonym. I hope its use will serve me better than its originator.

#12 Comment By John C. Drew, Ph.D. On February 22, 2016 @ 11:50 pm

My friends at The College Fix are running two great articles that highlight the verbal abuse being piled on Zach Wood by his fellow students and the remarkable moral courage he has shown under these difficult circumstances. Both are worth reading:

http://www.thecollegefix.com/post/26316/

and http://www.thecollegefix.com/post/26302/

Thankfully, independent students like Zach now have channels of communication which bring their plight to national attention. I think it is good for students like Zach to know he has millions of supporters and that we greatly admire his strength.

#13 Comment By John C. Drew, Ph.D. On February 23, 2016 @ 12:46 am

FYI: John Derbyshire has released a copy of the speech he planned to give at Williams before the Falk administration decided to censor him out of the picture. You can read Derbyshire’s article for yourself at

http://www.vdare.com/articles/derbs-canceled-williams-college-hate-address-national-question-race-ethnicity-and-identity-in-the-21st-century

I was pleased to see that Derbyshire is apparently aware of the work being done here at Ephblog. He includes a link to Ephblog in his article.

When I want to really know the truth about some scandal impacting Williams College, this is where I turn to get the best and latest information.

#14 Comment By Sam Crane On February 23, 2016 @ 8:44 pm

@simplicio You will notice that David Kane has ignored what appeared to you to be “progress” because he will not be transparent and follow the rules that other groups on campus that invite outside speakers follow. Thus, he will not live up to the standards of the Woodward Report. Indeed, he will not even publicly identify himself as David Kane and admit that he is a financial backer and organizer of “ul”. I imagine he is afraid what his colleagues at Huchin Hill Capital might say if they were aware of his activities. I don’t think it is possible for him to be embarrassed.

#15 Comment By D Kane On February 23, 2016 @ 11:50 pm

Sam,

A friend pointed out this comment. My reply:

Senator Joe McCarthy called. He wants back his tactics.

I have not given any money to UL. I have no plans to do so in the future. There are many alumni, far wealthier than I, who have provided, I think, more than enough funding.

The students who run UL are responsible for their own actions. You seem to think I am the puppet master? Perhaps you don’t think that Williams students can make there own decisions? If you think that they are breaking College rules, then speak to Dean Bolton. I have never broken a college rule.

It is a free country, so you can do as you please. A better bet, perhaps, would be to approach your acquaintances at Middlebury. I am on the faculty there this spring. Middlebury, at least, believes in the importance of intellectual diversity among its faculty and would never ban a student-invited speaker. It is a shame that the same can not be said of Williams.

#16 Comment By S ’18 On February 24, 2016 @ 12:16 am

Dear Mr. Kane,

While you claim not to be a financial backer of Uncomfortable Learning, an email I received from the president of UL in December names you as a “sponsor”. You were cc’d on the email, and did not bother to correct that assertion, so I will assume it to be accurate.

I’m interested in the distinction between a financial backer and a “sponsor”. For a normal campus group, registered with CC in accordance with college regulations, I would interpret “sponsor” to mean that you were the faculty/staff member who advised the group on what to do and was accountable for the group’s actions to the administration. However, UL is NOT registered with CC, and I have heard from multiple people that the administration has no real idea how it operates or is funded, so this definition seems to not be what you mean.

It’s also worth noting that, even if you have no financial stake in UL, any tortured definition of “sponsor” almost certainly generates a conflict of interest that should be disclosed on your blog posts, which nearly universally describe UL in the third person.

PS: Nicely done maintaining plausible deniability by changing your name in the comments from David Dudley Field ’25 to D Kane, despite the fact that we all know that the two are the same. The theatre is getting truly absurd…

#17 Comment By John C. Drew, Ph.D. On February 24, 2016 @ 12:33 am

Prof. Crane seems to be in a real tizzy today. Derbyshire smacked Crane down for making up a quote and attributing it to him. Like any bully, Crane quickly backed down and gave into Derbyshire’s complaints.

Here, Crane implies, with no evidence at all, that David Kane has funded UL.

As an ex-Communist, I understand why Crane has so little regard for the truth. If anything gets in the way of your socialist utopia, the left gives itself permission to do and say anything. That is why leftists are historically dangerous.

#18 Comment By Sam Crane On February 24, 2016 @ 7:51 am

#19 Comment By simplicio On February 24, 2016 @ 11:18 am

@ Sam Crane
Your comments are well put, and I hope Dudley Field lets the genuine thinkers on campus such as yourself work on this before taking one poorly thought-out statement and micro-analyzing it over an entire week.

The Woodward should be read, its recommendations should be considered, and the entire community should work towards more transparency. Sunshine is the best disinfectant.

#20 Comment By dcat On February 24, 2016 @ 5:34 pm

I agree. Sunshine is the best disinfectant. Who funds Uncomfortable Learning?

Answer that question or stfu with the concern trolling about transparency.

#21 Comment By simplicio On February 24, 2016 @ 6:14 pm

@dcat

I do not have the information you are looking for. Nor do I know of the trolls you mention, but my statement regarding transparency was referring to Sam Crane’s comment above:

Much of the guidance the College needs can be found in the Woodward Report. If you would like to learn about trolls, I could refer you to another text.

#22 Comment By John C. Drew, Ph.D. On February 25, 2016 @ 12:00 am

I still can’t believe that Sam Crane wrote absolute lies about David Cane and made up a quote regarding John Derbyshire.

What are the rules for reporting an academic who is such an embarrassment to the school? I don’t mind reading Crane’s off-the-wall and frequently silly opinions. But when he just makes stuff up, I think that shows a lack of character which needs to be investigated by higher authorities at Williams College. Is there someone I need to call or write to address Crane’s carelessness?

I’ve been in and out of the academic world for years. I’ve never made up a quote…not even for a friend.

#23 Comment By Nan C. Drew, PI On July 17, 2016 @ 10:54 pm

@ D Kane

Putting on my PI hat, I wonder if your comments regarding funding UL are a bit lawyerly. Since UL is not a registered student group, there is no student group account at the college to receive any funds. As far as I know, UL is also not registered as an entity elsewhere, so there is no way for it to receive any funds in a bank account with UL’s name. Have you given any money to individuals (students, speakers) that was used for UL activities?

#24 Comment By Alum On July 18, 2016 @ 12:03 pm

Nan C. Drew,

John C. Drew funds for uncomfortable learning along with Sasquatch and the Kock Brothers