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 5.

My presidential colleagues could add many examples from their own schools. Such events are happening on American campuses practically every day.

No kidding! The issue is not: Is there a single conservative speaker at Williams? The issues are: 1) What is the ratio of liberal-to-conservative speakers? 2) How does the format of events differ depending on the political views of the speaker? 3) How does student reaction vary? Falk insults his most serious critics by declining to consider their strongest arguments. Answers for Williams:

1) The ratio of liberal-to-conservative speakers invited by Williams faculty/administrators has been 25:1, or even 50:1, over the last 7 years. Does that seem sensible?

2) Liberal speakers almost always appear on stage alone and are provided an opportunity to make their case, followed by a Q&A. Conservative speakers almost always appear in a debate/discussion format.

3) Students often react very negatively to conservative speakers. Although we have (thankfully!) seen nothing like the physical violence at Middlebury, individual Williams students have been harassed.

What has too often been portrayed as a simple problem of liberal campuses censoring conservative ideas is something far more complex.

No, it isn’t. You banned a conservative speaker. Hundreds of Williams students (and faculty?) want to ban almost any speaker who is pro-Trump.

Sen. Kennedy himself stumbled onto the real issue when he told the hearing that schools should be allowed to respond differently to “speech that’s inflammatory; speech that uses a racial epithet; speech that’s designed to provoke” than to “a point of view that may not be popular.”

Is Falk well-served to refer to a US Senator as having “stumbled?” One view is that it is stupid to gratuitously insult powerful people. Why not be polite to Kennedy if politeness is free? The alternative view is that Falk is playing to the crowd, to the sort of people who read the Washington Post and run the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. For those people, Republican from Louisianan are capable of little more than stumbles . . .

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