Williams student Zachary Wood ’18 testified (pdf) to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing: “Free Speech 101: The Assault on the First Amendment on College Campuses.” (Also testifying (pdf) was former Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence ’77.) Let’s spend two weeks on this topic. Today is Day 4.

Continuing our examination of Falk’s “interview” in Time magazine:

Falk said universities across the country have been tested by “the toxic political culture that all of us are currently swimming in,” but he believes Williams has remained a welcoming place for public debate.

Paging George Orwell! Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Truth. And Williams is a “welcoming place for public debate.” Recall the official editorial position of the Williams Record:

Though Venker’s speech is legally protected, the College, as a private institution, has its own set of rules about what discourse is acceptable. In general, the College should not allow speech that challenges fundamental human rights and devalues people based on identity markers, like being a woman.

If the college paper wants to ban Suzanne Venker — or anyone who disagrees with feminist orthodoxy? — and the college president has no problem banning a speaker, then, whatever its other merits, that school is not “a welcoming place for public debate.”

Back to the Time interview:

“There are things in the broader culture that have changed. We are a much more combative political culture,” Falk said. “Our campuses are more civil than what you get when you turn on your TV or open your Twitter feed.”

Perhaps true, but mostly irrelevant. Falk is not responsible for the larger culture. But he does bear some responsibility for the culture at Williams, and that includes the fashion in which some Williams students treat other Williams students on-line. Recall the sort of abuse that Zach Wood and the other students behind Uncomfortable Learning were subject to:

When you bring a misogynistic, white supremacist men’s rights activist to campus in the name of ‘dialogue’ and ‘the other side,’ you are not only causing actual mental, social, psychological, and physical harm to students, but you are also—paying—for the continued dispersal of violent ideologies that kill our black and brown (trans) femme sisters. You are giving those who spout violence the money that so desperately needs to be funneled to black and brown (trans) femme communities, to people who are leading the revolution, who are surviving in the streets, who are dying in the streets. Know, you are dipping your hands in their blood, Zach Wood.

That this occurred on Facebook, rather than in person, does not disguise the fact that Williams is a college in which some students will attack other students in the most extreme fashion, for the simple sin of bringing a speaker to campus. The President of Williams ought to do something about that, other than blaming Twitter.

Back to Time:

During the hearing, as Senators debated First Amendment issues that have riled campuses from Middlebury to Berkeley this year, they continued to ask where the line should be drawn between speech that is protected and prohibited. Falk said visiting speakers should “contribute to a serious intellectual discussion of serious ideas,” adding that the college doesn’t have an obligation to host speakers, like Derbyshire, who aim only to provoke.

Falk’s mind-reading powers are impressive! How can he possibly know what is in John Derbyshire’s heart? It is true that there are figures on the right — Milo Yiannopoulos? Richard Spencer? — to whom the “aim only to provoke” attack might apply. But Derbyshire is not one of them. He is an straight-laced, non-shouting, hyper-reasonable intellectual, a published author with an impressive range of interests. He is certainly a “racist” — at least as Adam Falk would define that term — but he is every bit an intellectual as the average member of the Williams faculty.

“It has always been the responsibility of the administration at a university to foster an environment where discourse around a wide variety of ideas expressed by a wide variety of people is effective and flourishes. That’s part of what we do to run a college and university. And that work is much more complex than simply, in an indiscriminate way, giving a platform to anyone who wants to speak,” Falk said.

Williams, as an institution, does not give a “platform” to anyone. Specific people at Williams invite speakers. The question is: Can students (or faculty!) invite John Derbyshire, or anyone else that Falk disagrees with?

“Freedom of speech is a fundamental value of society, and it’s a fundamental value on our campuses. But we also have to create conditions where that speech is civil and the dialogue that it spawns is productive.”

Agreed. So why doesn’t Falk do his job and make this happen?

While state lawmakers are considering legislation to regulate student protesters and discipline hecklers, Falk said such measures are unnecessary.

“We do our best to manage these challenges,” he said. “But they’re not existential, they’re not unprecedented.”

Agreed. The last thing we right-wing Ephs want is a stronger federal government. Washington should leave Williams alone.

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