To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 2.

Williams College president: Don’t ignore the real threats in the debate over free speech

Authors don’t always get to choose their titles, but, in this case, I bet that Falk did. Even though Falk, personally, has done more damage to free speech at Williams than anyone else in the last century, he wants to employ some misdirection, like any good Three-card Monte hustler. “I, banner of campus speakers, am not the problem,” says Falk, “the threats are elsewhere.”

Last June, at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) announced that I was unfit to be a college president, so I should resign and “put [my] head in a bag.” The insult wasn’t all that bad: In my job, you get worse. I was far more concerned by the misinformation behind the pronouncement.

Oh, Adam! You are so brave! Standing up to the brickbats of the hoi polloi. To think that you are willing to do this for only $810,821 per year. How is Williams ever going to survive without you?

The senator’s comment apparently referred to my February 2016 decision not to offer the blogger John Derbyshire the opportunity to speak on the Williams campus. Derbyshire, a self-described white supremacist, had been fired by the National Review for writing about how he would teach his children to avoid black people and advise other white parents to do the same.

How misleading can a paragraph be?

1) You banned Derbyshire from campus, forever, no matter the topic. This is much worse than a “decision not to offer” an “opportunity to speak.”

2) Calling Derbyshire a “blogger” is like calling Falk “short.” It is true that Derbyshire blogs and it is true that Falk is not the tallest Williams president in history. But, when writing in the Washington Post as the Williams president, you have an obligation to refer to your opponents politely. You should describe Derbyshire as an “author” since he has written several books with leading publishers, books that are available in the Williams libraries.

3) Derbyshire is not a “self-described white supremacist.”

I will save discussion of the “avoid black people” slur for another day.

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