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Wood ’18 and Lawrence ’77 Testify to Senate, 7

Williams student Zachary Wood ’18 testified (pdf) to 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 7.

More from Fred Lawrence’s testimony:

The moral response to hateful speech is to describe it as such, and to criticize it
directly. Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis famously wrote in Whitney v.
California that except in those rare cases, such as we have discussed earlier, in which the harm from speech is real and imminent, the answer to harmful or hateful speech is not “enforced silence,” but it is “more speech.”

We bind ourselves to an impoverished choice set if we believe that we can either punish speech or else we validate it. There is the middle position, Brandeis’s dictum of “more speech” that allows us to respond without punishing. In the face of hate speech, the call for more speech is not merely an option. It is a moral obligation.

Indeed.

Fred Lawrence ’77 for interim president of Williams!

1) He is too old (?) and/or has no interest in the job as a permanent position, so he is a perfect placeholder.

2) As a former trustee, he already understands most of the important issues affecting Williams.

3) His expertise in free speech issues — and his strong commitment to open debate — make him the perfect person to close the door on the Derbyshire imbroglio, the College’s worst mistake — at least from a public relations standpoint — in the last decade.

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Wood ’18 and Lawrence ’77 Testify to Senate, 6

Williams student Zachary Wood ’18 testified (pdf) to 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 6.

Fred Lawrence’s ’77 testimony included this story:

The second story took place took place at Williams College, where I was a Trustee. A Jewish student complained that a faux eviction notice had been placed on her dorm room door. “If you do not vacate the premises by tomorrow at 6PM, we reserve the right to demolish your premises without delay,” the notice read. “We cannot be held responsible for property or persons remaining inside. Charges for demolition will be applied to your student account.” The student understandably felt terrible. The President wanted my opinion on what should be done to those responsible.

Let me now return to the case that occurred at Williams College involving the
faux eviction notice that had been placed on a student’s dorm room, in imitation of the notices placed on Palestinian homes that are to be demolished by Israeli authorities due to the connection between residents and acts of terrorism. The College President asked what I thought should be done to those responsible for the notice. “This,” he said to me, is not just speech – this is actual conduct. Can we sanction these students?”

We talked about Virginia v. Black and the role of intent. “But how would we
know the student’s intent?” he asked. I suggested looking into the way the notices were posted. Were only the leaders or a Jewish student organization targeted? For that matter, were only Jewish students targeted? As it turned out, every student in that dorm regardless of affiliation received one. That the complaining student honestly felt intimidated is not the issue. The issue was the actual intent of those who posted the notices – to intimidate and threaten individual Jewish students or to make a dramatic statement about their views concerning the Israel – Palestine conflict.

1) When did this occur? If it was in the last 15 years, then how did EphBlog miss it? Apologies! Was there any coverage in the Record?

2) The most similar controversy was, of course, Mary Jane Hitler. Good times! Summary: Williams student and her creepy boyfriend post signs mocking Holocaust Remembrance Day:

poster2.gif

Campus goes crazy. But then-President Morty Schapiro keeps his head, calms everyone down, and does not punish the Williams student in any way. (Contrast this excellent performance with Adam Falk’s incompetence in dealing with the Jess Torres ’12 hate hoax and John Derbyshire.) Many readers think that EphBlog’s unmasking of the creepy boyfriend was our finest moment. Ah, memories . . .

3) Might Fred Lawrence be willing to serve as an interim president? He is a former Williams trustee and former Brandeis president, so he knows the ropes.

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The Houses of Williamstown: Delta Phi …

(originally posted 19 Oct, 2009, Click COMMENT to see entire post)

 

(this is the 5th in a series of 16 posts)
Delta phi Top copy

This article continues under the fold Read more

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Wood ’18 and Lawrence ’77 Testify to Senate, 5

Williams student Zachary Wood ’18 testified (pdf) to 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 5.

Wood’s testimony is excellent:

Humanity is not limited to the views and values we admire. Humanity also encompasses the thought and action we resist. To gain a deeper understanding of humanity, I have made a concerted effort to understand as thoroughly as possible the visions and convictions of those whose arguments I diametrically oppose.


Bob Gaudino
would be proud that his spirit lives on at Williams, at least among a handful of students.

I have faced considerable backlash in addition to administrative obstacles. For inviting controversial speakers to campus, I’ve been labeled “a men’s rights activist,” “a sellout,” and “anti-Black,” among other things. I’ve also been the target of implicit threats. On Facebook, one student wrote that “they need the oil and the switch to deal with him [me] in this midnight hour.” Once, I even received a hand-written letter, slipped under my door, that read: “your blood will be on the leaves.”

1) We need a scan of that hand-written letter, if only for the use of future historians.

2) Can you imagine what the reaction of the Williams Administration would be similar threats directed against a more conventionally liberal student?

3) Recall Falk’s claim to Time magazine:

“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.”

The best way to increase civility at Williams is to punish the incivility directed at Wood. And the best way to punish that incivility is not to go after the students who attacked Wood, as satisfying as that might be. Instead, Falk should say something like:

I stand with Zach Wood. The incivility with which he has been treated by members of the Williams community is unconscionable. But, at Williams, we do not punish speech. So, instead, the College will be funding weekly speakers, chosen in conjunction with the student leaders of Uncomfortable Learning, who disagree with the views of the students/faculty who have attacked Zach. The first two speakers will be Suzanne Venker and John Derbyshire. Until the Williams community learns to accept that Ephs differ in their views and that those differences are not grounds for incivility, we will be providing them with some “uncomfortable learning,” just as Robert Gaudino did 50 years ago.

Odds of this happening? Zero.

What advice would you have for Falk (or the interim president or the next president) about how to decrease incivility at Williams?

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Washington! What it means to be a leader …

…from the Williams course catalogue

LEAD 285
The Revolutionary Generation: Galaxy of Leaders

Fall 2017 Cross-listed as HIST 354, PSCI 285

The American Revolution produced a galaxy of brilliant politicians, statesmen, and military leaders of extraordinary courage, intellect, creativity, and character: Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, Adams. In this seminar, we will study their astounding accomplishments–

Alec:Wash

One can’t help but think of today’s incumbent in this perspective as we ready for Independence Day…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MPfG7wyflw&t=9s

 

 

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Questions from a Reader

A loyal reader writes:

Be sure to spend more time on the testimony of Frederick Lawrence from the Senate hearings. It was telling that he did not contradict Sen. Kennedy in any way in the discussion of Falk’s unique approach to defending free speech (a la Ben Tre).

Will do, later this week.

Speculation regarding Falk’s departure is amusing, but the choice of the next president is a much more important issue. Some relevant questions: How does one communicate with the board of trustees, who will be on the hiring committee, etc. Is there any way Lawrence could end up on the committee? He is quite impressive.

1) The full search committee has not been announced yet, but trustee chair Michael Eisenson ’77 will be the chair. I think that I also read, but can’t find the link, that Isaacson, Miller has been hired to help, as they did in the last search. True?

2) It is unlikely that Fred Lawrence ’77 will be on the search committee, mainly because he does not live in Williamstown or Boston. A committee which draws all its members from those two locations will be much easier to manage. As I will discuss later this week, I like Lawrence for interim president. I wonder if he and Eisenson knew each other back in the day . . .

3) You will have many opportunities to communicate with the search committee. They will do a dozen or more meet-and-listens with various parts of the Williams community. They will solicit input from everyone. (How closely they will read the written comments they receive is unclear . . .)

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A note to the selection committee …

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Former prestigious university president may be available soon!

Current position under fire. Familiar with press and branding.

Campus personal housing may have to be up-gilded.

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