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Ad Hoc Committee Members

Observations on President Mandel’s latest announcement about the Ad Hoc Committee on Inquiry and Inclusion. (See also this solid Record article.)

1) I think my detailed observations from last month were spot on. Key point:

If Mandel’s strategy for freeing Williams from the legacy of Falk’s folly depended meaningfully on this Committee, she would put fewer students on it, ensure that those students were carefully selected and entrust the Committee with a broad mandate. She is doing the opposite. Therefore, we know that this Committee will be unimportant.

2) Check out those Committee members:

Two of the student members — Michael Crisci ’21 and Rachel Porter ’21 — signed the student petition against the Chicago Statement. That document — how to put this neutrally? — does not provide many reasons for compromise. It is not clear how strongly Crisci/Porter felt about the issue. Not every signer was, presumably, fully committed. But for Mandel to allow students onto the committee who may very well have no inclination to allow someone like John Derbyshire (or Charles Murray or . . .) is a sign that she expects nothing of use from the committee.

Two of the faculty members — Cheryl Shanks and Fred Strauch — are strong proponents of free speech. (I have not discussed the topic with either.) Shanks authored a Record op-ed which was, perhaps, the strongest faculty statement on the issue. Strauch is a member of the rump Republican/conservative/libertarian/non-progressive wing of the faculty.

3) Note the change to the committee’s charge. New version:

I am charging an ad hoc committee with recommending to me, by May 2019, a set of speaker invitation guidelines that would demonstrate our full commitment to both inquiry and inclusion.

The emphasis on the “and” is new. Hmmm. Perhaps I shouldn’t make a big deal about changing patterns of italicisms . . .

4) The key power/responsibility in this whole discussion will fall to the Coordinating Committee. More on it some other day . . .

5) From the Record:

In a collective statement to the Record, committee members emphasized the range of backgrounds included in its membership. “President Mandel’s process for constituting this group of faculty, student, staff and alum representatives involved allowing each group to use their own governing bodies to nominate potential members,” they said. “Working together as a committee will in fact involve establishing a working model of inclusive dialogue among a diverse group.”

a) Good to see the Record picking up the phone and getting a statement. b) Why not publish the entire statement, rather than just two sentences from it? Even if there is not room in the physical paper, the statement could be added in a comment box to the web article. c) The Record should also have reached out to some critics, like either the faculty behind the petition of the leaders of CARE-Now.

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2 Comments To "Ad Hoc Committee Members"

#1 Comment By abl On February 7, 2019 @ 1:35 pm

But for Mandel to allow students onto the committee who may very well have no inclination to allow someone like John Derbyshire (or Charles Murray or . . .) is a sign that she expects nothing of use from the committee.

Not true! For a committee like this to have perceived legitimacy, it has to include viewpoints on both sides of this issue. I don’t know whether this committee will do much of consequence, or if Mandel is even thinking along these strategic lines, but by including several publicly identifiable left-leaning students and right-leaning faculty on the committee, Mandel increases the likelihood that any recommendation that is perceived to lean one way or another is nevertheless accepted.

I actually see the inclusion of right-leaning faculty members to be much more notable here. I have no doubt in my mind that Mandel is more confident about being able to persuade left-leaning students than she is right-leaning faculty members. If I were trying to engineer a committee to achieve my desired result, I would stack it with faculty members who I know agree with my position and students who don’t (but aren’t so entrenched to be unpersuadable–like students who have signed the petition but not taken more of a public role in the issue), and hope to get to a “bipartisan” proposal that relies on persuading the students in question.

All of this said, my honest guess is that Mandel is open to a range of possible outcomes from this committee and isn’t playing these sorts of strategic games. My bet is the reason why you see a diversity of viewpoints represented on the committee is that Mandel genuinely wants to reach some sort of compromise that will generally placate most people. And the reason why she’s limited the reach of the committee is because that also limits the risk of delegating this much responsibility — it becomes easier for her to rein in any proposal that she doesn’t like based on ‘exceeding the scope of the committee’ or some other seemingly non-ideological grounds.

#2 Comment By John Drew On February 7, 2019 @ 5:21 pm

It is interesting Maud has a black staff therapist, Alysha Warren, on board. I would like to know where Alysha stands on freedom of speech in those cases where students confront professors who are both left-wing anti-capitalists and wildly psychotic.

I understand it is unhelpful to confront a person with chronic delusional disorder with the untruthful, illogical nature of their fixed beliefs. There is always a chance that the delusional person will react by becoming even more isolated and thus even more of a threat to themselves.

Nevertheless, students and administrators shouldn’t have to treat mentally ill professors with the same level of care a therapist gives to a mentally ill patient.

Ultimately, I don’t see how you operate any college or university on the basis of whether or not what is said, or takes place, on campus might push a mentally professor to contemplate suicide. We can’t allow the pursuit of truth to be limited by the vulnerabilities of those who quite literally can’t handle the truth.