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.

Indeed.

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email