Simplicio, a regular commentator here and at the Record, suggests viewing the Falk/Derbyshire dispute through the lens of the Woodward Report. Let’s do that for five days. Today is Day 1.

Background from Yale today:

When you come to Yale College you join a community of scholars from around the nation and the world. Yale, like every community, has certain values and principles by which it operates. Among the College’s most cherished principles is its commitment to freedom of expression.

Freedom of expression is especially important in an academic community, where the search for truth holds a primary value. In 1975, a committee chaired by the late C. Vann Woodward, one of Yale’s most distinguished professors, issued the Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression at Yale, informally called the Woodward Report. This document emphasizes that the history of intellectual growth and discovery demonstrates the need to be able to “think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable.” The report acknowledges that such freedom may sometimes make life uncomfortable in a small society such as a college. But it also asserts that “because no other institution combines the discovery and dissemination of basic knowledge with teaching, few need assign such high priority to it.”

Yale’s commitment to freedom of expression means that when you agree to matriculate, you join a community where “the provocative, the disturbing, and the unorthodox” must be tolerated. When you encounter people who think differently than you do, you will be expected to honor their free expression, even when what they have to say seems wrong or offensive to you.

John Derbyshire spoke at Yale in 2016. John Derbyshire was banned from Williams by Adam Falk. Would you recommend to Yale president Peter Salovey that he follow Falk’s lead and start banning Derbyshire (and speakers who agree with Derbyshire?) from speaking at Yale? The Woodward Report captures my views perfectly:

The primary function of a university is to discover and disseminate knowledge by means of research and teaching. To fulfill this function a free interchange of ideas is necessary not only within its walls but with the world beyond as well. It follows that the university must do everything possible to ensure within it the fullest degree of intellectual freedom. The history of intellectual growth and discovery clearly demonstrates the need for unfettered freedom, the right to think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable. To curtail free expression strikes twice at intellectual freedom, for whoever deprives another of the right to state unpopular views necessarily also deprives others of the right to listen to those views.

The men who led Williams in decades past — men like Jack Sawyer, John Chandler and Frank Oakley — would agree. Why doesn’t Adam Falk?

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