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Evolution of Student Petition Against Chicago Statement

An anonymous student sent in this zip file which catalogs, in detail, the evolution of the student petition against the proposal that Williams adopt the Chicago statement. Comments:

1) New authors welcome! The student who sent this should join us as an author, anonymous or otherwise. Our readers would love to get your perspective.

2) New authors welcome! Any student who worked on (or agrees with) the petition should join us as an author, anonymous or otherwise. Our readers would love to get your perspective.

3) The screenshots make clear that Isabel Peña ’19 and Audrey Koh ’21 played leadership roles in putting this together. Kudos! I disagree with almost everything in the document, but playa recognize playa! Should we be surprised or pleased (or both? or neither) that two women are leading the effort?

4) Which other students are leading the charge on this? My sense is that Liliana Bierer ’19 has also played an important role, but, then again, hers is only the 16th signature on the petition. Is signature placement a useful signal?

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#1 Comment By Oras On December 2, 2018 @ 10:37 pm

For what it’s worth, I do not think a single member of Phi Beta Kappa had any role in putting together the document.

#2 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On December 2, 2018 @ 10:43 pm

Ha! Here is the list of the 28 seniors inducted into PBK this fall. Again, it is tough to tell who played a role in putting it together, but PBK members Iona Binnie ’19 and William Chen ’19 are signatories, and I expect several other PBK’ers are as well.

#3 Comment By JAS On December 3, 2018 @ 11:33 am

With the caveat that I have not looked closely at any of the particular language, can I just say that I am extremely impressed with the degree of planing, collaboration and editing of this document? I am hard pressed to imagine a document that I worked on in college that went through more than 2 drafts (except maybe my thesis), and none were modified as extensively as this one. Granted, I never worked on group documents like this one until after, but real editing was not a skill that I had any experience with until much later. Impressive to see students working at this level, even if the ultimate product is not one all would agree with.

#4 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On December 3, 2018 @ 11:47 am

> Impressive to see students working at this level

Agreed! Hence my Kudos.

And, although the joke about PBK from Oras was funny (?), I suspect that the average GPA of the students signing this document is at least as high, if not higher, then the average of those who did not.

Which makes the views expressed all the more frightening . . .

#5 Comment By PTC On December 3, 2018 @ 12:19 pm


Glance at it again. Also glance at the links to the Professors’ work in “the feminist wire.” You can find those links in “The Record Assignment Desk” post below.

Oddly, the works are so similar! Similar in both content and style!

Regardless. The logic in these pieces is flawed. Horrible.

Both the profs and the students rely on leaps of logic that follow the poorly argued use of selected facts to reach (the same) conclusions.

It is essentially a set of conclusions backed up by highly selective facts- propaganda. I can understand this coming from students, but not from professors. They should know better.

These profs and students are arguing that emotions are conclusions because well – debates about free speech are really about- Steve Bannon! The Koch brothers! And stuff!

But I agree, as propaganda the style is well done and the content serves the conclusions.

Propaganda is a manipulated narrative that leads to action. In this case, the continued action of banishing art, artists, and speakers from Williams is the desired outcome. Censorship.

The use of propagandistic techniques in these students and prof articles/ petitions structures this debate to manipulate reason in order to bring the targeted audience to desired conclusions. The authority pushing the narrative (the professors) understand the presented information in a way that is hidden by techniques that manipulate the audience.

Just because something is well written, that does not make it valid.

Look at the logic- Just glance at what is written in these arguments.


The Koch brothers are involved in the use of speech rights to advance a (bad) agenda. True.

Steve Bannon uses speech rights for a right wing agenda on College campuses. True.

So does Milo, and Ben Shapiro, and etc. etc. True.

False conclusion: All speech rights arguments on college campus stem from, and are exemplary of, these types of examples. Therefore all speech rights debates at colleges support the alt right and a right wing agenda that discriminates against minorities.

False causation.

This is bad logic. It is not valid.

#6 Comment By Doug On December 3, 2018 @ 7:53 pm

I recall the UChicago speaker from last spring who addressed the topic of free speech on campus, taking what I guess now is a “conservative” stance.

When students who resent free speech spoke during Q&A, their argument began (and stopped) with: what happens when speech makes me/my peers (“marginalized identities”) feel bad?

The reply was simple: do you want authority figures banning speakers who you find offensive? Who gets to decide what’s offensive? What happens when this authority is inevitably extended to someone you disagree with? Do you think the conservative president of a southern university should be allowed to ban a transgender speaker because it makes Christian students uncomfortable? When the issue is framed in this light, the concept of an open platform starts to seem much more attractive.

This reply pretty swiftly made the students actually reflect on the implications of what they were advocating for. It was concerning it took so long for a counterargument to be heard.