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Admit Your Privilege, 1

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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3 Comments To "Admit Your Privilege, 1"

#1 Comment By dcat On December 3, 2018 @ 2:22 pm

What words are you possibly trying to ascribe to me that gibe with this post? What have I ever said about teaching heritability in biology classes? What on earth are you trying to do linking me, Rory, and John Drew here?

You have enough difficulty conveying your points in your own posts and comments. Don’t ever try to speak for me. I am pretty much a free speech absolutist and am deeply committed to faculty academic freedom. This argument has nothing to do with me. None at all. Nothing in this argument that you are making has anything to do with anything I have said and certainly contradicts nothing that I have written or posted.

In your attempts to be a provocateur it is perhaps not surprising that instead you just end up kinda being an asshole. And a deeply uninformed one at that.

#2 Comment By Tikhon On December 3, 2018 @ 11:44 pm

Dave, what the hell are you doing? Why is the compulsive liar and deluded mountebank John Drew being brought back onto this site? As someone who is a part of the Williams community and who lives in Williamstown, I am deeply disappointed by your decision to mention him positively, and to have him as a blogging contributor while he takes yet another malodorous dump on the community. Have you no shame? Or do you take some satisfaction in the grotesque spectacle of his deranged attacks on women faculty, people of color, and members of the current and past Williams LGBTQ community? And yesterday I was on the verge of accepting your offer to serve as one of the contributors to this site. Forget it–after this, I’m through even posting comments here.

#3 Comment By frank uible On December 4, 2018 @ 3:44 am

What did Harry Truman say about heat and the kitchen?