Associate Professor of Biology Luana Maroja‘s report about the state of free speech at Williams is the most important statement from a member of the faculty in years. Let’s go through it. Day 1.

As background, there has been a long-running debate at EphBlog about how much (malign) influence progressive members of the Williams faculty have on the evolution of the College. To caricaturize a bit, folks like John Drew have argued that “the postmodern radical ideology which dominates the culture of Williams College appears so unhealthy to well-meaning outsiders.” People like dcat and sigh have argued that this is nonsense, that, while there are liberal/progressive faculty members, they don’t do anything which in any way harms or oppresses non-liberals. For the most part, I have been on team dcat/sigh in this dispute. But perhaps I am wrong . . .

Freedom of speech at Williams College – are the walls closing in?

Many professors at Williams have been feeling the walls closing in. I’m an evolutionary biologist, and in my classes there is increasing resistance to learning about heritability (probably fear of the “bell curve”, something I actually dismiss by contrasting Brazilian with Americans, as I am from Brazil) and even kin selection! (Using the “naturalistic fallacy” argument, students assume that by teaching kin selection I am somehow endorsing Trump hiring his family.) The word “pregnant woman” is out: only “pregnant human” should be now used (after all, what if the pregnant individual goes by another pronoun?).

“Walls closing in” is remarkably strong language, even — dare I say i? — quite John Drewish. Is Maroja providing us with an accurate description of life at Williams today? If so, then wow! Students (in a biology class!) are demonstrating “resistance to learning about heritability?!?” That is nuts! I think that dcat/sigh/me owe John Drew an apology.

In other fields the walls have closed in even more. The theater department recently dealt with two challenges: a cancellation of a show and an uproar about another show – both shows deemed offensive or overtly violent to blacks, yet both written by African-American artists. Williams is now developing a reputation of being unfriendly to artists of color.

1) Again with the “walls” closing in metaphor. In this a fair description of intellectual life at Williams or Fox News nonsense?

2) Are these uproars in theatre connected to Theatre Professor David Gürçay-Morris’s ’96 role in the faculty petition? We are always most conservative about the things we know best. Perhaps these controversies are radicalizing even theatre professors like Gürçay-Morris.

3) I have not provided much coverage on these stories. Do others have comments? I think that there is more complexity to these disputes than Maroja is letting on.

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