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Adam Falk’s Legacy, 4

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 4.

I can offer numerous examples in support of my argument from just the Williams campus. Three weeks after I declined to host Derbyshire, Murray spoke to a respectful student audience. Later in 2016, a similarly civil gathering heard Ilya Shapiro of the Cato Institute debate Daniel Weiner of the Brennan Center on campaign finance reform.

Unpacking this suitcase of misinformation is my raison de blog.

First, the only reason that Murray spoke at Williams was because Uncomfortable Learning invited him. In the last four years, Williams faculty/administrators have invited almost no conservative/Republican/libertarian speakers to campus. Moreover, Falk/Williams tried very hard, over multiple years, to shutdown UL. If he/they had been successful, Murray never would have come.

Second, Williams — and I suspect Falk was involved in this subterfuge — couldn’t even allow Murray to simply speak. Instead:

In response to Murray’s scheduled appearance at the College, the Williams College Debating Union (WCDU) invited Joseph L. Graves Jr., an evolutionary and nanobiologist and historian of science based at the Joint School for Nanoscience and Nanoengineering. Graves’ speech, entitled “Race, Genomics and Intelligence: Slight Return,” occurred in the same venue as Murray’s talk, immediately before the AEI fellow was to speak.

The Record is almost certainly guilty of its usual lousy reporting on this. First, the WCDU was not very active 2016, inviting zero speakers other than Graves to campus. Second, the sign for the event gives the leading spot for funding to the “Office of the President.” In other words, Falk was so concerned about (the reaction to?) Murray’s speech that he used a bunch of his own discretionary funds, laundered through a student group, to invite a mediocrity to speak for 90 minutes directly before Murray. That seems like a vote of confidence in the Williams community’s ability to handle controversial speech!

Third, explicitly mentioning a Charles Murray talk at a NESCAC school without discussing the violence which erupted at Middlebury is . . . a rhetorical trick that relies on the (assumed!) ignorance of his audience.

Fourth, the Shapiro/Weiner event, while praise-worthy, is one of only two non-UL events in the last four years involving a conservative/libertarian/Republican perspective. For Falk to cite this as if it is a common event on the Williams campus is absurd. Note also that neither of these two events featured a right wing voice speaking alone. Neither the College nor any faculty member has invited a solo speaker like Shapiro in the memory of any current student.

Last November, two days after the national election, former senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.), a prominent Donald Trump supporter, participated in a well-attended analysis of the results. And American Enterprise Institute scholar Christina Hoff Sommers recently came to offer her critique of contemporary feminism. Our students listened closely, then responded with challenging questions and in some cases blunt critiques — utterances to which they, too, surely were entitled.

First, many students (and faculty members?) felt that someone like Brown should not be allowed to speak on campus.

Second, Brown was, like Shapiro, paired with a liberal speaker. During Adam Falk’s 7 years at Williams, there have been scores of events featuring a liberal/progressive/Democratic speaker sharing her views with the audience, without the need for a debate or an opposing viewpoint. Outside of Uncomfortable Learning events, I don’t think there has been a single such event featuring a speaker from the Right.

Third, notice how Falk takes credit for Sommers even though she, like Murray, only appeared at Williams because of Uncomfortable Learning, an organization that senior faculty members like Sam Crane have gone out of their way to try to destroy.

If UL goes away with Zach Wood’s graduation next spring, will there be a single (solo) conservative/libertarian/Republican speaker invited to campus in 2018-2019? I have my doubts.

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#1 Comment By JCD On November 30, 2017 @ 8:59 am

On the surface, there is nothing objectionable about pairing a liberal against a conservative in a campus presentation. What is problematic is the way this standard, adversarial practice is implemented in such a biased, one-sided manner at Williams College.

As reported earlier, the school’s year-long look at climate change did not include a single Republican or skeptical speaker. This happened even though there is substantial doubt about the liberal conventional wisdom concerning climate change.

Peer-Reviewed Survey Finds Majority Of Scientists Skeptical Of Global Warming Crisis

From the perspective of the leftist activists, such as Adam Falk, it is quite convenient to officially leave out the insights of Republican or skeptical speakers. It creates a more peaceful campus by reducing the stress of a number of constituencies:

1. Leftist Faculty: Adding conservative voices to the mix would force faculty to work harder, to examine their underlying assumptions, and sincerely study the evidence provided by their opponents. All of these activities would be costly, time-consuming and perhaps emotionally painful, particularly for less able faculty members. They would also be embarrassed when it is revealed that they have only the most limited knowledge of the issues that they are supposedly most expert in.

2. Leftist Students: By denying persuasive conservatives an opportunity to rebut leftist ideology, it is easier for leftist students to dominate campus debate and social life. It becomes much easier to intimidate conservative students into silence, and create the illusion that a consensus exists among students.

3. Conservative Students: Ironically, it also makes life somewhat easier for conservative students too. By effectively banning conservative views, liberals end up presenting a relatively easy to mimic set of beliefs. This saves conservative students time because they only need to regurgitate a limited packet of information if they want to temporarily pass as liberals during their undergraduate years.

4. Weak or Under-prepared Students: It also makes life easier for less qualified or unqualified students. Since the level of discourse is so dumbed down, it requires far less work on their part to fit in. If there was real debate on campus, then the less qualified or unqualified students might quickly find themselves unable to plausibly defend their relatively simple positions since they would need to understand more challenging subjects including math, statistics, modelling and chemistry.

The end result is that Adam Falks willingness to censor or limit student access to conservative speakers ends up making life easier for a lot of people by reducing their workload, creating a temporary sense of unity, making it easier for conservatives to pass as liberals and allowing those who have long since given up on academic excellence to feel they are nevertheless accomplishing something creative and useful on behalf of the seemingly transcendent glory of the Democrat party.

#2 Comment By abl On November 30, 2017 @ 11:46 am


You’ve brought up climate change previously. This is a particularly poor example for you as to the need for balance.

The article to which you cite purporting to show that “there is substantial doubt about the liberal conventional wisdom concerning climate change” (there isn’t) is a survey of members of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA), a professional association for the petroleum industry in Alberta. See http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0170840612463317.

On the other hand, surveys of non-industry scientists–in particular, climate scientists (because why is it relevant what a petroleum engineer believes about climate change?)–continue to show an overwhelming consensus. See, e.g., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surveys_of_scientists%27_views_on_climate_change.

You’re probably right that there needs to be more balance in academia in general and at Williams specific. Climate change is possibly your worst illustration of this: I suspect that the number of prominent speaking slots given to climate change skeptics/deniers nationally far exceeds, in proportion, their representation in their field.

#3 Comment By abl On November 30, 2017 @ 11:52 am


I have a question for you: should Williams be willing to hire tenure candidates with inferior records, and to give those tenure candidates more reign not to publish/not to publish well before cutting them loose, so as to develop a faculty that includes more voices on the right? In other words, should Williams be practicing affirmative action for conservative scholars on its faculty?

#4 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On November 30, 2017 @ 1:35 pm

abl: I specifically proposed inviting these speakers on climate change. Would you have objected to any of them? I realize that the consensus on climate change is as you report. But, the purpose of a year-long focus on topic X, including a dozen+ speakers on X, should be to present a wide range of views on X, not just the “consensus” opinion. Don’t you think?

#5 Comment By JCD On November 30, 2017 @ 3:34 pm

[Post deleted by request. DDF]

#6 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On November 30, 2017 @ 3:59 pm

> uninformed intellectual lightweight

JCD: Please me more polite to members of the EphBlog community. I, and almost every other reader, greatly value abl’s thoughtful contributions, especially when I disagree with his views.

An apology would not be unwarranted.

#7 Comment By JCD On November 30, 2017 @ 4:25 pm

It is not helping our nation to grow and prosper when folks like Adam Falk unfairly restrict the information provided to inexperienced 18-21 year-old students to only one side of a political issue, as was the case with the school’s year-long focus on climate change.

Public opinion is actually moving against the leftist take on climate changes. For example, I used to believe it myself. This was at least until 2009 when leaked e-mails from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia revealed that climate scientists were hiding key problems in their data.

Today, there is plenty of evidence that we need to rethink the climate change prediction business.

Study: No speed-up in global warming, Earth less sensitive to CO2

Ideally, places like Williams College should be the leaders in critiquing the leftist views on climate change. Instead, the school is going down a blind alley and pursuing what appears to be an official policy of censorship against even the most august critics of these highly flawed climate models.

From a historical perspective, I think it is safe to say that the current leftist take on climate change will be remembered as a feckless effort to fool the public. As a consequence, Falk will be remembered mainly for his role in ruthlessly limiting debate on a theory which proved to be as silly as the medieval practice of bloodletting.

#8 Comment By JCD On November 30, 2017 @ 7:10 pm

I just read an excellent article by William Treadgold in Commentary that describes my experience as a young conservative scholar at Williams College. I think it provides some welcome insight into why folks like Adam Falk believe it is okay to only present one-side of an issue as controversial as climate change.

The Death of Scholarship: Leftists are limiting academic work to demonstrations of leftist dogma

As Warren Treadgold writes:

Many politicians, journalists, alumni, parents, and other outsiders will continue to attack colleges and universities for their leftism and intolerance and will succeed in reducing their funding. This will mainly result in antagonizing professors and academic administrators and pushing them further to the left. These embittered figures will claim that universities themselves are under attack. And admittedly, many critics of today’s universities seem more interested in destroying them than in reforming them, especially because reform seems impossible.</blockquote

#9 Comment By abl On November 30, 2017 @ 9:11 pm

Would you have objected to any of them? I realize that the consensus on climate change is as you report. But, the purpose of a year-long focus on topic X, including a dozen+ speakers on X, should be to present a wide range of views on X, not just the “consensus” opinion. Don’t you think?

The issue isn’t that they are bad scholars (although I didn’t click through to check) — it’s that they represent a perspective that probably isn’t sufficiently important to warrant any significant time, even in a year-long exploration of climate change. There are a lot of aspects of climate change that merit a speaker, as there are economic, sociological, political, and philosophical ramifications of what’s going on–in addition to the scientific issues (which are not limited to the question of whether or not it is happening). A good year-long plan would present, at most, maybe two speakers primarily focused on describing climatology research — and given the state of the science, neither of those speakers should be skeptics.

If Williams was running the sort of year-long discussion that included several dozen scientists each presenting different aspects of the evidence supporting the existence of human-caused climate change, then maybe there would be a place at the table for one of the few scientific skeptics. But I can’t imagine that Williams was running that sort of climatologist summit (nor should it have).

So, to answer your question, yes — I would have objected to any of those scientists. But not, I think, for the reasons that you might have previously guessed.

#10 Comment By ZSD On November 30, 2017 @ 10:07 pm

An apology would not be unwarranted.
In question: comment from JCD to abl, since redacted.

Suggestion made to JCD by DDF.

While himself the target of many remarks, an apology from JCD would be a recognition of the need for much-needed self-moderation on this blog.

#11 Comment By 89’er On November 30, 2017 @ 11:39 pm

Alberta petroleum engineers as the basis for the counter argument on climate change?


I also understand the Tobacco Institute has some interesting new findings on the health benefits of smoking.

#12 Comment By JCD On November 30, 2017 @ 11:59 pm

– 89’er

The Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta is a regulatory body that licenses engineers and geoscientists in Alberta, Canada. It is inaccurate to refer to it as a “professional association for the petroleum industry.” This error, in my view, is almost as bad as mistaking Zach Wood ’18 for an acolyte of John Derbyshire.

Check out their website for yourself:

Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta

By the way, one of the things that never makes sense to me is why so many leftists see business people as selfishly motivated and untrustworthy as intellectuals but give government employees and academics a pass. Plenty of academics and government employees are making money off of this climate change hoax.

Look at the case of Williams College. Who on that campus would jeopardize their careers by daring to call attention to the sheer one-sidedness of a year-long event which involved zero conservative or Republican speakers? Williams College faculty are not stupid. They read the same articles I read.

I think there are plenty of them who are keeping their mouths shut on this bias and unfairness just so they can live in peace and milk the resources of the college.

#13 Comment By 89’er On December 1, 2017 @ 12:08 am

It is a professional society that has some self regulatory responsibilities.

Calling them a regulatory body obscures the fact that they are a professional society and not a government body.

They call themselves a professional association on their own website.

Doubtless they have many fine and honorable members. But their purview is to oversee licensure of their members.

#14 Comment By frank uible On December 1, 2017 @ 1:00 am

In 50 years will Falk be any more than a footnote in the History of Williams College?

#15 Comment By abl On December 1, 2017 @ 1:05 am

Which is a bigger error:

1. Citing a survey of a professional association in Alberta, Canada as evidence–implicitly as sufficient evidence–of there being “substantial doubt about the liberal conventional wisdom concerning climate change;”


2. Describing said professional association, which is comprised predominantly of people working in the petroleum industry, as “a professional association for the petroleum industry?”

JCD, I have no personal beef with you. I would rather we keep these discussions cordial and professional — and I am not sure that’s possible if you’re unwilling to put whatever grudge you hold against me (and a number of others on this board) aside. Your personal attacks are uncalled for and unnecessary and, frankly, take away from the substance of your posts — as well as the ability of others to have a reasoned discussion on these boards.

I didn’t use your misleading citation to call into question your character or your intellectual ability. Frankly, I don’t think your character or intellectual ability are relevant to this conversation. I understand that, in these sorts of discussions, most of us aren’t going fully research every topic that we weigh in on. And so, when we muff something–as we all sometimes will–that’s not necessarily a reflection of any bad faith or intellectual limitation. Even if it were, what really matters here is the substance of the posts that we make. (Otherwise, we’re just exercising the ad hominem fallacy, and that’s incredibly boring.)

I’ll add my voice to the chorus of David, ZSD, Frank, and the others here who have asked for higher standards on this board. To some extent, this board is a reflection of Williams — and, as such, we all need to do better. As I have repeated many times, I believe that you are capable — both intellectually and personally — of doing better. I know that I am not alone in hoping that you begin to make some effort to not simply stoop to insults and ad hominem attacks in your future posts.

#16 Comment By abl On December 1, 2017 @ 1:22 am

Returning to substance …

Today, there is plenty of evidence that we need to rethink the climate change prediction business.
Study: No speed-up in global warming, Earth less sensitive to CO2

No, there’s not.

If you look hard enough, sure, it’s possible to find some climatologists and some climatology research that points towards climate change being not as human-caused or not being as severe as what is more generally reported. That’s part of the deal with a 97% consensus: 3% of climatologists don’t believe that human-caused climate change is occurring in a concerning manner. And, in the extraordinary amount of data on this subject, there is–of course–some support for the position of this small minority of scholars.

Unsurprisingly, though, the vast, vast body of evidence points in another direction. This is how science works: hypotheses are tested and retested; ideas are challenged; and contradictory evidence is reconciled. There are few testable theories–even those long accepted as true–that are contradicted by literally no evidence at all. At some point, the evidence pointing to one conclusion becomes sufficient that scientists begin to describe that conclusion as likely true.

We are well past that point on the question of human-caused climate change. The existence of a very small handful of trained climatologists who remain unconvinced, and the existence of the occasional study (dropped into an ocean of contrary evidence) that supports this skeptical outlook, does not constitute “plenty of evidence,” let alone “plenty of evidence that we need to rethink [the predominant conclusion].”

#17 Comment By JCD On December 1, 2017 @ 1:40 am

– abl

It’s not worth my time to deal with you.

For a very long while you believed that Zach Wood ’18 was a supporter of John Derbyshire. You held to this odd belief for months even though Zach’s political stance is widely published, frequently repeated, and common knowledge among Williams College staff, alumni, students as well as the folks who regularly participate in Ephblog.

Given the gravity of this error, I’m not convinced you were even a student at Williams, much less one of its admissions officer. Your willingness to hide behind anonymity leads me to believe that you aren’t really who you say you are.

If you start posting under your real name and allow me and my fellow contributors at Ephblog to verify your claims, then I might think differently about your situation. Until then, however, I don’t feel comfortable interacting with someone who is potentially playing us.

#18 Comment By Dick Swart On December 1, 2017 @ 2:03 am


it may be time to turn the comments off.

#19 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On December 1, 2017 @ 7:52 am

I would like to encourage everyone, but especially JCD, to focus less on ad hominem arguments. It does not matter who we are. What matters is the quality of the arguments that we make.

Closing this thread at the suggestion of DS.