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Faculty Petition Timeline and Request for Controversy Name

We need a name for this controversy and we need one now! Loyal readers know that Ephblog loves to name a controversy — ¿Quién es más macho?, Nigaleian, Safety Dance, Prospect Must Die, Willy E. N-word, Catch Moore If You Can and Mary Jane Hitler are just a few of our highlights — and this debate will be with us for months to come. Suggestions?

For background, here is a timeline (pdf) of events:

The following petition was drafted by several faculty members, in collaboration with and inspired by discussions among many, and finalized on October 14, 2018. It was then sent to several more faculty members for review, who gave feedback and signed their names. At the same time, a meeting for a faculty discussion was planned for November 15, 2018.

After the petition had garnered sufficient faculty support, it was sent to all voting members of the faculty on October 29, 2018 by Luana Maroja, Associate Professor of Biology, Steven Gerrard, Professor of Philosophy, and David Gürçay-Morris, Associate Professor of Theatre. Over one hundred members of the faculty had signed by November 5, 2018, representing a range of disciplines and identities. Several faculty voiced concerns by email and in person, and it was planned to have several faculty discussions to allow productive dialogue on the petition and the issues of concern. Plans for student outreach were also initiated at this time.

Apparently, information about the petition and the first planned discussion was shared with students shortly thereafter. The petition was discussed at a meeting with students and President Mandel on November 11. College Council discussed the petition on November 13. A letter to the editor by Cheryl Shanks, Professor of Political Science, was published in the Williams Record on November 14. A student letter was presented to the faculty at the November 15th 4pm meeting, which was read out loud by Professor Gerrard before he presented some brief remarks. Instead of the planned discussion amongst faculty, interested students were welcomed into the meeting. They shared their thoughts about the petition and the issues raised therein. The discussion between faculty and students continued until 6:30pm.

We still don’t know the names of the “several faculty members” who wrote the petition although, presumably, Maroja, Gerrard and Gürçay-Morris played leading roles. It would also be interesting to know which 100 faculty members signed. Here is the original version:

Petition to the Faculty of Williams College


In view of the continuing local and national discussions regarding freedom of expression on campus, several of us think that it is an opportune time to reflect on and clarify our policies and ideas on this issue. While there is an understandable desire to protect our students from speech they find offensive, doing so risks shutting down legitimate dialogue and failing to prepare our students to deal effectively with a diversity of opinions, including views they might vehemently disagree with.

We believe that Williams College, as an institution of higher learning, must maintain a strong commitment to academic freedom. We further believe that Williams should protect and promote the free expression of ideas. We should be encouraged to use reasoned argument and civil discourse to criticize and contest views we dispute, not to suppress these views and risk falling down the slippery slope of choosing what can and what cannot be discussed.

The Chicago Statement articulates the duties of institutions of higher learning towards freedom of expression. A version of this statement has now been adopted by many other colleges and universities, including Amherst, Princeton, Smith, and, most recently, Colgate. We believe that Williams College should affirm its commitment to the principles of freedom of expression and academic freedom as essential to fulfilling its mission and goals by adopting the Chicago Statement.

If you agree with our concern and this statement, we ask you to please add your name to this petition. If we have a critical mass we will bring this to the president and our fellow faculty members for further consideration.

Links in the original. Again, my purpose in this post is not to dive into the substance of this debate. We will have months of that to come! My purpose is to solicit ideas for a funny/descriptive/insightful name for this controversy, something which merits the creation of a new EphBlog category. Thoughts:

1) Luana Maroja seems to be playing a leadership role in this effort. Well done! Maybe “Maroja’s Marauders?” I am a sucker for military references . . .

2) Note that “a group of six Williams professors started talking about getting the college to adopt the Chicago Statement.” I would assume that the 6 included Maroja, Gerrard and Gürçay-Morris. Who are the other three? Perhaps the controversy name should involve all of them? Perhaps “The Terrible Six?” Eph historians will recognize the reference (pdf):

3) I still like the alliteration of “Maud’s Moment.” Mandel will certainly be a central player in this debate, but “moment” does not quite capture things . . .

4) Is there some phrase we can use from the students’ petition against the change that resonates?

To quote Aiyana Porter at last week’s Black Student Union town hall, “John Derbyshire literally said that Black people are not humans. I’m not going to consider that in my classroom . . . . Who are we okay with making uncomfortable? Why are we so driven to making those particular people uncomfortable? If we are so insistent on making them uncomfortable, then we at least need some institutional support to get through all of the discomfort that you are thrusting upon us.”

I assumed that the reference to “my classroom” meant that Porter was a professor. Untrue! She is a student. But she does remind us how all this started with Uncomfortable Learning and John Derbyshire. Maybe “Derbyshire’s Revenge” or “Derbyshire’s Discomfit?”

Gaudino’s Revenge?

None of this is working for me. Suggestions welcome!

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Comments Disabled To "Faculty Petition Timeline and Request for Controversy Name"

#1 Comment By Anon On November 30, 2018 @ 9:37 am


“… While most professors at the meeting were highly supportive of free speech and many sent me grateful emails, I was shocked at the behavior of some of my colleagues. For example, one professor turned to the students and said that they should read the names missing from our list of signatories, as “those were professors that were with the students” (an appalling tactic that created an “us vs them” atmosphere). * Another professor stated that she was involved in creating violence in UC Berkeley for Milo Yiannopoulos’s disinvitation and would be ready to do the same at Williams… ”

It is amazing that a Williams College prof has stated that they incited violence on another campus, and now threaten to incite violence on Williams College’s campus. Does this prof think such speech is protected? Does a professor at Williams honestly believe it is ok to use his or her influence to incite younger adults to beat people and destroy property?

Hard to believe. Perhaps (and hopefully) hyperbole or an internet rumor?

Maroja’s Marauders is good. She seems to be the one in the trenches.

Right now Maroja’s Marauders(a squad of six) has a battalion (364) of students who have signed a petition against them. That is what, about 20% of the student body willing to go on record in opposition. If the webpage has good data?


A squad of 6 against battalion of 364 are not good odds …

Hopefully the squad has some good close air support. But only if the high command issues it.

#2 Comment By amunzer On November 30, 2018 @ 11:13 am

“Marginalized Free Speech”?

#3 Comment By prof john doe On November 30, 2018 @ 11:36 am

Well over 120 faculty had signed the petition before names were removed (I can’t remember exactly how many there were). So the fraction of faculty signing the petition was substantially higher than the fraction of students signing theirs.

#4 Comment By PTC On November 30, 2018 @ 1:10 pm


That would be a 2.3 (F) to 1 (S) ratio. Not sure students (or faculty) are “done signing.”

What about faculty on the side of restricted speech policies? With 120 signing on that leaves about 182 who did not commit to free speech.

What is your best guess as to the number opposed? Are there particular departments/ disciplines more for and against? One could guess…


Another way to look at it is less than half the faculty (on paper) support free speech at Williams.

Also, over 1700 students (on paper) have not signed on to the opposition. Although generally, this is a topic that faculty (1) originated; (2) had more visibility on and (3) would tend to care about more as faculty have a more permanent interest in Williams and the academy generally.


Anyhow, please verify whether or not what DDF (Ephblog) posted as the “Faculty Petition about Free Speech” on the 29th is the document that was put forth? It seemed wrong to me, and that one of the members (JAS) in the thread had the right document.

Do you have a copy of the actual petition to link or post?

Also, any idea who decides? If a committee is formed what might that look like, how much authority will it have?

Is this the kind of item put to some kind of vote, decided by the president, or some other sovereign?

The Falk principles lacked clear guidance on how speech prohibitions were decided by the administration. I know that any visiting artist or speaker had to be officially suggested one month (I forget which department) prior and then approved or disproved- but there appeared to be no methodology or need to inform campus members as to a reason or mechanism for a disproval.

Us townies care because Williams used to have more entertainment. Modern comedians and musicians and such. Could catch a show …

The consideration of censorship/ removal of town- college historical artifacts seems to be over for now. That was scary.



#5 Comment By suggestion On November 30, 2018 @ 1:49 pm

Venker’s Valhalla

#6 Comment By o’sullivan On November 30, 2018 @ 5:38 pm

The ~350 who signed the student counter-petition are not all current students, so you can’t really say it was 15% of the student body.

#7 Comment By dcat On November 30, 2018 @ 9:16 pm

Why do we need a name for this? Is it even a controversy right now? The overwhelming majority of the faculty seem committed to free speech. Derbyshire is a noxious gasbag who nonetheless should have been allowed to bray like the jackass that he is. Falk screwed up. There is no sign that his screwup was a function of the majority belief of the community.

But yes, we need to label everything in ways that Dave finds pithy, and then to which he can self-refer to as if the self reference is actually a thing outside of Ephblog.

Here is a title: Free Speech at Williams.

But is I’m going to play the game: Gasbag’s Delight.

Dave, I just wish you had the slightest amount of balls and/or intellectual integrity to acknowledge the extent to which you were behind the drive to bring in Derbyshire. In fact, my rule at Williams would be this: You can bring in anyone you want as long as you stand behind it with your own name. No anonymity, and we need names of donors. But beyond that, anyone not inciting violence gets to speak. Deal?