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Predatory Desires, 2

Great Record article by Rebecca Tauber and Samuel Wolf about the on-going debate over the Chicago Principles. Read the whole thing, along with our previous commentary. I will pull out some highlights over the next three days. Day 2.

Mark Reinhardt, professor of political science and American studies, sent an email to the entire faculty urging his colleagues to withdraw their signature or not sign the petition. He expressed problems with the petition’s format, larger messages and implications of the Chicago Statement. “I know there is among us a wide range of views, rooted in part in very different experiences of the College and American society,” he wrote. “Given that diversity, I propose that any forums be approached as opportunities to consider campus discourse in the broadest possible terms, and not merely as occasions for endorsing or opposing one particular, predetermined framing of our circumstances, challenges and prospects.”

1) A faculty source forwarded me several of the intra-faculty e-mails on this topic, although not Reinhardt’s. Should I publish them? (Faculty readers should feel free to add them in the comment thread.)

2) Who will lead the fight against Maud? One candidate is Reinhardt, who knows his way around the College administration. (Recall his successful fight to remain at Williams after he was initially denied tenure 20 years ago.) Other candidates include Gene Bell-Villada and Gail Newman. Eli Nelson wrote and distributed a detailed document (pdf), but my advice to all non-tenured faculty is to avoid fights with the president.

3) What advice do you have for Reinhardt? How should he try to stop Williams from going in the direction that President Mandel clearly favors?

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1 Comment To "Predatory Desires, 2"

#1 Comment By Eric Knibbs On January 23, 2019 @ 2:19 pm

Here is Reinhardt’s letter:

Dear Colleagues,

Because I am on leave and will be away during Thursday’s forum, I want to share by email a few concerns about the petition that’s making the rounds right now.

I find the “sign first, discuss later” approach perplexing. If we consider unfettered inquiry and diverse viewpoints crucial to the College’s intellectual life, then let’s put the principle into practice here and now—let’s first talk a lot as a community before determining what kind of statement may or may not need issuing. Perhaps stressing the order of operations will strike you as an emphasis on procedure at the expense of substance, but if so—and here is my next concern—I ask you to think about what statements such as Chicago’s, and petitions such as this one, really are. They are not only sets of propositions, with which one might agree or disagree, but also speech acts, ways of doing things with words that produce effects in the world. And however well-intentioned the Williams initiative may be, the way it has so far been pursued does not strike me as producing good effects here. It presumes quite a lot about what problems are pressing and how best to respond to them (about, for instance, in what ways discourse in our community might be threatened or enhanced, and whose ability to speak is at risk and whose is not). Although I concur with some of those assumptions, I do not share all of them, and, more important, I know there is among us a wide range of views, rooted in part in very different experiences of the College and American society. Given that diversity, I propose that any forums be approached as opportunities to consider campus discourse in the broadest possible terms, and not merely as occasions for endorsing or opposing one particular, pre-determined framing of our circumstances, challenges, and prospects. I hope to attend the second forum. In the interim, however, I encourage those who share my worries to refrain from signing the petition, and to consider withdrawing your endorsement if you have already signed.

Collegially,

Mark