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 3.

Simplicio may be right that the Woodward Report is a useful touchstone since both supporters and opponents of Uncomfortable Learning take it seriously. Professor Sam Crane comments (while quoting from the Woodward Report):

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.

Agreed! As long as Sam agrees with me that, if they follow all the relevant rules, Uncomfortable Learning should have the same rights to invite speakers to campus as anyone else at Williams, I am happy to agree with him that they should follow the rules.

Of course, I think that Sam may misunderstand the rules and that he may, in the past, been unfair in applying them to UL but not to other student groups. But that is in the past! The new rules are fairly clear. Has EphBlog iterated to agreement once again? Or would Sam still support Adam Falk in banning speakers even if all the rules are followed?

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