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 4.

I explained how censorship hurts the very cause they are fighting for, noting that because I am Hispanic, people often assume that is the reason I got into Cornell, got a job, and got grants, and that students of color will face the same fate in the outside world.

1) Would most Hispanic students at Williams consider Maroja Hispanic? Honest question! She sure looks white to me. Not that there is anything wrong with that! Maroja was born and raised in Brazil. According to Wikipedia:

The term Hispanic (Spanish: hispano or hispánico) broadly refers to the people, nations, and cultures that have a historical link to the Spanish language or the country of Spain, depending on the context.

It commonly applies to countries once under colonial possession by the Spanish Empire following Spanish colonization of the Americas, parts of the Asia-Pacific region and Africa.

Brazil, of course, was never a Spanish colony, which is why they don’t speak Spanish there. From Pew Research:

Q. What about Brazilians, Portuguese, and Filipinos? Are they Hispanic?
A. They are in the eyes of the Census if they say they are, even though these countries do not fit the official OMB definition of “Hispanic” because they are not Spanish speaking. For the most part, people who trace their ancestry to these countries do not self-identify as Hispanic when they fill out their Census forms. Only about 4% of immigrants from Brazil do so, as do just 1% of immigrants from Portugal or the Philippines.3 These patterns reflect a growing recognition and acceptance of the official definition of Hispanics. In the 1980 Census, about one in six Brazilian immigrants and one in eight Portuguese and Filipino immigrants identified as Hispanic. Similar shares did so in the 1990 Census, but by 2000, the shares identifying as Hispanic dropped to levels close to those seen today.

I bet that there are more than a few student protestors who give Maroja the side-eye when she claims to understand what life is like for “students of color.”

2) Williams has, for decades, been telling me that it places a high priority on hiring faculty of color. I believe it! Don’t you? I believe that, given her willingness to check the Hispanic box, Maroja had an advantage when she applied to work at Williams. And that is OK! Maroja does not make the rules. Nor does it mean that Maroja was not the best candidate for the job, with the strongest teaching/research resume. If you are in favor of affirmative action — and I believe that Maroja is — then you are asking for a world in which “people often assume” that you had an advantage in getting X because you had checked box Y.

Thus, I added, students need to be able to defend their positions with strong reason and argumentation, not by resorting to violence or name-calling. Disinvitations invigorate bigots; they do not suppress their message.

Says who? I think that disinvitations, as part of the broader No Platform movement, work pretty well. Consider a sentiment that John Derbyshire probably would have voiced if Adam Falk has not banned him:

The US should allow fewer immigrants, both legal and illegal, from Mexico.

Was Derbyshire invigorate[d]? Maybe. But he did not get to voice these hateful (?) opinions at Williams. Moreover, students and faculty with similar opinions were intimidating from speaking. Sure seems like a successful example of “suppress[ing] their message.”

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