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 6.

Furthermore you can learn a lot from arguments you disagree with—something I have learned listening to creationists, climate denialists and even some bigots. I emphasized that the reason we want free speech is not because we want to invite bigots, but because we don’t want to see discussion shut down. The recent cancellation in theater shows how “protection” of feelings actually hurt African-Americans (the artist who wrote the play)! Students are hurting the very cause they think they are defending.

Finally, I re-emphasized that invitation is not the same as disinvitation: the Chicago Statement has rules on what to do once someone is invited, and has no guidelines about who should be invited. Furthermore, the guidelines allow disinvitations for extremist speakers who poses a genuine physical threat to individuals.

1) Just how much time has Maroja spent listening to creationists? Maybe quite a bit, depending on the social milieu in which she was raised in Brazil. But lately? And just what did she “learn?”

2) How does Maroja define “climate denialists?” I know as much about the scientific literature associated with climate change as Maroja, whose field is biology. Why does she insist on insulting people like me by comparing us to those who deny the Holocaust?

3) “the reason we want free speech is not because we want to invite bigots” — Who is the “we” in this sentence? As long as Muroja (and the rest of the faculty . . . and all the students . . .) have no interest in bringing “bigots” — as defined by CARE Now — then there isn’t a problem. In fact, there is no need for the Chicago Statement!

4) Does the Chicago Statement really have “no guidelines about who should be invited?” Key sentence:

Because the University is committed to free and open inquiry in all matters, it guarantees all members of the University community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn.

Almost everyone involved in this debate believes that this applies to the right of faculty/students to invite whoever they want to campus, so that they can “listen” to them. This is the same right that faculty/students at places like Berkeley and Michigan take for granted.

Does Muroja understand this key point? To the extent that she wants the College to adopt the Chicago Statement, or something like it, the best rhetoric will focus on the rights of students/faculty. Students/faculty hate to be told that they can’t do X. They would be enraged to know that they can’t do X while their counterparts at Umass/Michigan/Berkeley can do X. That framing would maximize support for something like the Chicago Statement.

Indeed, this framing provides a way for President Mandel to solve the problem in a particularly Williams fashion.

The Mandel Doctrine: Williams College enforces fewer restrictions on students/faculty with regard to intellectual activities than any public institution.

No need to parrot the dweebs at Chicago! I don’t particularly like this phrasing — reader suggestions welcome! — but the framing is perfect. Or maybe:

The Mandel Doctrine: Williams College does not restrict the academic activities of our students and faculty, nor does it allow others to do so.

1) The vast majority of Williams students/faculty want at least as much freedom as their counterparts at MCLA down the road. They will be in favor.

2) No need to enter the weeds of who is a “bigot” or what is the definition of “hate speech.” No need to consider the “harms” which might result from a Derbyshire visit.

3) First Amendment jurisprudence, especially with a conservative supreme course, is very strong on the issue of state interference. This means that places like MCLA can’t do anything against an invitation to Derbyshire. They have to treat all activity in a content-neutral way. Mandel does not need to spend her presidency policing the edge cases. She can just defer to the US court system.

I hope that my Hopkins Hall readers will pass on this most excellent idea!

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