The next issue of the Record (the last of the semester) has a chance to be epic, to be read widely within the Williams community and across the country. Free speech is hot, Hot, HOT and the Record is well-positioned to cover the debate. My advice (somewhat cribbed from two years ago):

1) Pick up the phone! The Record‘s continuing refusal to talk to people like, well, me, who know a great deal about the institution is annoying. They don’t have to quote me — indeed, I might prefer for the talk to be on background — or do what I say, but a failure to even talk with knowledgeable sources is pathetic.

2) Report the facts. We know that the three key faculty behind the petition are Luana Maroja, Steven Gerrard, and David Gürçay-Morris ’96 but I believe that there were three others in the original “group of six.” Who were they? And tell us more details about the backstory. Gerrard, at least, has been wrestling with this topic for a while, teaching an entire course about free speech. Was he the prime mover? (If so, he was smart to recruit/cajole Maroja. White men are unwise to lead these sorts of efforts at Williams!)

3) Seek comment from Adam Falk. He may not provide one but, even then, you should tell us that he refused to comment. Quiz him about the op-ed in which he urged students “to seek out someone whose opinions and beliefs are different than their own, and to engage in a conversation to really listen and learn from one another.” Fun stuff!

4) Cover the history of speech debates/suppression at Williams. I believe that, prior to John Derbyshire, no speaker has been banned at Williams for 150 years. The last documented case was Mark Hopkins banning Ralph Waldo Emerson. Tell us more about this history, and seek some comments from history professors at Williams.

5) Provide a comparison to other NESCAC/elite schools. Ask Amherst and Swarthmore if they have ever banned a speaker. Ask them if they ever would. They might use this occasion to make fun of Williams. Ask them if they have any official policies which would prevent their students from inviting any speaker to campus. Place Williams policy — which, right now, is that the president can ban whomever she likes — in the context of our peers’.

6) Interview prominent alumni who have experience with, or expertise in, campus speech debates. Start with Cappy Hill ’75 (who faced similar issues when president of Vassar and is now on the board at Yale), Will Dudley ’89 (who has his own set of challenges at Washington and Lee), Fred Lawrence ’77, and Zach Wood ’18. Lawrence and Wood testified before the Senate about this very issue.

7) Interview leading faculty opponents of free speech. Start with Kai Green, Kimberly Love and Joy James. Ask them tough questions: “Professors at places like Michigan, Amherst and Harvard can invite any speaker they want to campus. Do you prefer that you and your Williams faculty colleagues have fewer rights, that the President of Williams can, for any reason, deny your invitation to a speaker? What would you do if, for example, Maud Mandel rescinded your invitation to Angela Davis on the grounds that she had engaged in “hateful” speech toward police officers?”

8) Interview leading student opponents of free speech. (Not sure who those would be. Perhaps start with the first few signatures on the student petition: Isabel Peña ’19, Audrey Koh ’21 and Annalee Tai ’21) Ask them a similar question: “Students at places like Michigan, Amherst and Harvard can invite any speaker they want to campus. Do you prefer that you and your Williams peers have fewer rights, that the President of Williams can, for any reason, deny your invitation to a speaker? What would you do if, for example, Maud Mandel rescinded your invitation to a leader of Black Lives Matter on the grounds that he had engaged in “hateful” speech toward police officers?”

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