A faculty friend passed along this e-mail:

From: Karen Swann
Date: Fri, Jan 27, 2017 at 8:54 AM
Subject: Williams Opposes Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary

Dear all,

Some Williams faculty have drafted a letter asking President Falk to issue a public statement in opposition to Betsy DeVos’s appointment as US Education Secretary. Apologies if you have already been asked to sign. (There are over 260 signatures so far.) If you would like to sign, please use the link below to do so, and please feel free to send it on to others in the Williams community. The confirmation hearing is this coming Tuesday, so it is important to proceed quickly.

Falk should decline to issue such a statement. The President of Williams is a non-partisan position. He, acting ex-officio, should no more take a stand on a cabinet nominee than he should speak out in favor a specific contestant for Miss America. Predictions in what Falk will do?

The actual letter is absurd in its extremism.

We the undersigned members of the Williams community urge you to make a public statement on behalf of Williams College students, faculty, alumni, staff, and Board of Trustees opposing the appointment of Betsy DeVos for U.S. Education Secretary.

Mrs. DeVos refuses to support federal policies regarding educational systems that receive public funding. Especially concerning is Mrs. DeVos’s devaluation of Title IX and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which ensure that all students’ educational experiences are free of discrimination that impedes learning. Mrs. DeVos’s proposed policies, to the extent that she has managed to articulate them, will gut public education at every level, and further widen the preparation gap and achievement disparities we work every day to remedy for our students. Let us be clear: school choice and deregulation are tantamount to resegregation, and will inflict the most harm on students in already underfunded areas with the least resources for mobility. As educators, our highest priority is the well being and intellectual growth of our students. Every one of Mrs. DeVos’s answers in her confirmation hearing flew in the face of these values. She is unqualified to hold any office in connection with education.

The vote on DeVos is currently scheduled to take place this coming Tuesday, January 31 at 10 AM. This is the time to stand up and make our values known. As a private, not-for-profit institution in an imperfect system of higher education, we have a responsibility to defend and protect the right to free, equally funded, high quality K-12 public education for every resident of every county in the nation. Please stand with us in courage and commitment to help block this nomination and galvanize educators throughout the country. If we do not speak now, our students will suffer for years to come.

There are many reasons to oppose DeVos. One could — and I hope that Williams faculty would — make the argument against her soberly. This letter isn’t that. It is so sloppy that I am too bored to fisk it.

However! It would be great if Williams hosted a debate between Professor Swann and supporters of DeVos, someone like Mike Needham ’04 or William Bennett ’65. Or is that the sort of uncomfortable learning that Williams faculty have grown tired of?

UPDATE: Perhaps more importantly, the Williams President (and/or faculty when speaking as a group) should save their fire power for something that truly matters to Williams students, like the travel ban. That’s important! But by yelping about every Republican thing that happens — and DeVos is nothing if not a standard Republican nominee — people like Professor Karen Swann make it less likely that we will take them seriously on a topic (the travel ban) which deeply affects some of their students and colleagues.

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