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:

1) Yes, this is a parody. Could you tell? Feedback is always welcome!

2) Yes, the quotes are accurate. Nobel-prize winner James Watson did voice those opinions. In fact, those opinions are very similar to those of John Derbyshire (and Charles Murray). Wouldn’t logical consistency require Falk to ban Watson and Murray too?

3) Note the changes made in this parody from Falk’s actual Derbyshire letter. In this hypothetical example, it was the faculty, rather than the students, who invited Watson. Do you think that is outlandish? I don’t know. The problem with Derbyshire was not who invited him; it was what he said. How can Williams faculty believe in the illusion of academic freedom if they can’t even invite published authors to Williams?

4) Do you (like many of our readers!) think it is OK to ban Derbyshire but ridiculous to imagine that Falk might ban Watson? Maybe. Consider this Record interview with Falk:

Derbyshire also references Charles Murray, the next speaker UL has invited, after claiming that “genetic variation that characterizes different races might tend to result in different societies.”

Murray, author of The Bell Curve, is scheduled to come to the College this spring. He believes that race and class are linked to intelligence. Falk has no plans to cancel Murray’s visit.

“It’s actually instructive to compare [him] directly with Derbyshire. Charles Murray has never written anything, to my knowledge, like Derbyshre’s ‘The Talk.’ I don’t agree with what he says, I haven’t agreed with much of what he has said for 20 years, but he’s a scholar,” Falk said. He hopes that people start a civil and constructive argument with Murray when he comes.

What is the criteria by which Murray is a “scholar” and Derbyshire is not? The Williams library contains at least three volumes published by Derbyshire, all on different topics, all under the imprint of serious publishers.

If Falk can ban a speaker and, by fiat, determine that he is not a scholar, then why can’t he do the same to a tenured Williams professor?

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