Campuses have increasingly become ground zero for the battle over speech. And while the First Amendment protects freedom of speech, press, assembly, petition and religion from government infringement, it faces limitations at private schools like Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
The interview is a short 6 minutes. Alas, I can’t find a transcript. Is there an easy way to make one from an audio recording? Comments:
1. Tiku, a personal friend of Adam Falk from their graduate student days and a member of the search committee which selected him, has Falk’s back. He doubles down on the banning of John Derbyshire from campus.
2. Why do this? The Derbyshire fiasco was one of the worst black eyes for the College in the last few years. Why even grant an interview to discuss the topic? If you aren’t going to change the policy, there is no reason to bring it up.
3) Why not change the policy? Perhaps it was impossible for Falk to admit his mistake. But Falk is gone. Can’t we let the mistake go with his departure? Majumder could do a big favor for the next Williams president by putting this controversy aside. He doesn’t have to issue a news release. He could just let Zach Wood know that Uncomfortable Learning is free to invite any speaker they want.
4) Majumder should practice more for these interviews. His opening answer — when he knew the topic ahead of time — was a mishmash of non-sequiturs. (The interviewer, JD Allen, does not challenge Majumder in anyway.) For example, pointing out, as Falk has done, that Williams is different than the main street of Williamstown, is effective rhetoric. Majumder should say that “The First Amendment protects the right of every kooky racist who rants to rant on the main street of Williamstown. That doesn’t mean that we (or you!) need to invite them all into our house.” (Of course, I disagree with that argument, but this line of reasoning is more persuasive than specific attacks on Derbyshire.)
5) Majumder won’t allow speakers that “provide no benefit in moving forward the conversation we are interested in fostering.” That sure seems like a sensible standard! What could possibly go wrong?
6) Compare Williams with the University of Chicago, which is allowing Steve Bannon to speak.
The University of Chicago is deeply committed to upholding the values of academic freedom, the free expression of ideas, and the ability of faculty and students to invite the speakers of their choice.
For most practical purposes, Bannon and Derbyshire have the same views on public policy.
The traditional knock on Williams, in comparison with great universities like Chicago or Yale (where Derbyshire spoke two years ago) , is that we are little more than a glorified prep school, a finishing academy where the not-really-intellectucal children of the elite go to learn some manners, to learn what they may say/think to advance in the world. Chicago/Yale/Harvard are for the true elite, for students who do not need adults to control their lives.
I have always hated that criticism, all the more so in cases where it is true . . .