Last year, Professor George Marcus attacked President Adam Falk over his decision to ban John Derbyshire from speaking at Williams. Let’s spend a week discussing his argument. Today is Day 2.

But the definition of political tolerance has long been straightforward: one supports the rights of all but precisely those we find objectionable. We measure political tolerance by seeing whether those proclaiming their tolerance are willing to uphold all political and civil rights for those they find objectionable, whether “they” can give talks, hold rallies, run for office, securely rely on the protection of the laws and more. There is no “line” beyond which we can withdraw those rights because “we” share President Adam Falk’s “outrage” (and here the “we” in Falk’s diatribe means “me, Adam Falk”). His missive exemplifies his intolerance. To that he adds the command that we respect his authority to impose his outrage, no matter how widely or narrowly shared, on the entire community.

All of this is reasonable enough. But, on the whole, Marcus’s op-ed is not nearly as good as Michael Lewis’s. (Regular readers will recall our 5 part series from last year.) If you only have time to read one faculty op-ed attacking Falk, read that one.

Falk speaks of the need to secure social tolerance. This is an essential and, especially at a residential college, vital task. People should feel secure and comfortable here, should receive – at the very least – civility, if not authentic caring and empathy. It is appropriate that the administration strengthens social tolerance where and when it should and where and when it can (in first-year orientation, on Claiming Williams Day, etc.). But social tolerance is not the only form of tolerance to be taught and protected. There are other forms of tolerance that advance conflicting norms and require different skills. They cannot be reconciled.

These two other forms of tolerance are essential if this is to be a liberal arts college. One of these is intellectual tolerance, experienced in the classroom and its other venues. It is in the circumstances of learning that we expose ourselves and our students to new and challenging ideas, ones that are both old and new, that may prove to be uncomfortable for some.

Note the key error. As soon as Marcus asserts that “People should feel secure and comfortable here,” he loses. Derbyshire (and other members of the Dissident Right) really do make people “feel” insecure. That is the whole problem! Much better to invoke the spirit of Robert Gaudino and “uncomfortable learning.”

You can’t simultaneously write “people should feel . . . comfortable” and “we [should] expose . . . our students to . . . ideas . . . that may prove to be uncomfortable . . . .”

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