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 3.

The doctrine of free speech is not merely a negative principle. But political tolerance is also a positive principle. A free people become so by learning how to competently engage in public, competitive, even hostile, discourse; how to sift the stronger from the weaker; how to use conflictual disputatious citizenship to reveal hidden and corrupt motives and, in sum, how to best use the public space for contestation. But these practices are not natural. In his stance, Falk sells our students short.

Does he really? It is nice that Marcus believes that today’s Williams students are willing to “engage in public, competitive, even hostile, discourse.” But I have my doubts. 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 Record objects to Venker — someone’s whose views are positively mainstream in comparison to Derbyshire’s — then why would Marcus think that Williams students in general are ready to handle the Alt Right?

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email