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 3.

Sen. Kennedy portrayed the controversy as a matter of campus free speech. True, my decision made Williams an early entrant into the national debate on that issue. But his comments exemplify a widespread misunderstanding about the state of speech at American colleges and universities.

If the banning of Derbyshire is not a controversy about “campus free speech,” then what is it a controversy over? If anything, Falk’s actions are on canonical example of the problem.

Today’s students are far more eager to hear and engage with serious points of view of all kinds than you would think by reading the headlines. To understand this, just tally the annual speaking engagements of Charles Murray, Arthur Brooks, Jason Riley and other prominent conservatives who regularly speak to college audiences. But you won’t see many media stories titled, “Conservative Thinker Received Thoughtfully by Campus Audience.” That’s not a story that sells papers.

1) There are scores (hundreds? a majority?) of Williams students who think that speakers like Derbyshire/Veneker/Murray should be banned from campus. This is the official editorial position of the Williams Record. If we can’t trust Falk to be truthful about the problem, then why would we look to him for a solution?

2) Jason Riley is a prominent conservative? Uhh, maybe. But note that Riley is also the author of Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders, perhaps the most un-Trumpian book imaginable.

3) I agree that it is a good idea to “tally the annual speaking engagements” of, not just conservative speakers, but of all speakers. What would that show at Williams? The vast majority of speakers are, of course, non-political. Adalyat Issiyeva, speaking on “Russian Orientalism: Russo-Japanese War and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Opera ‘The Golden Cockerel’” is non-partisan, regardless of whether Issiyeva voted for Trump or Clinton. But the vast majority of explicitly political speakers at Williams are liberal. (Surely, no one doubts that?) Would the ratio of liberal-to-conservative speakers be 10:1? 50:1? I would guess at least 25:1.

4) A concrete example of the bias at Williams under Falk was the refusal of the College to invite anyone with a “Republican/Sceptical” perspective on climate change to the year-long examination of the topic. In this case, the ratio of liberal-to-conservative speakers was infinity.

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