Let’s spend the rest of the week on various subplots associated with the controversy over Professors Kai Green ’07 and Kimberly Love’s failure to teach this semester. Day 3.

A (different!) Williams professor writes:

The main issue is that two mentally ill professors have made a claim that Williams is so violent to them that they cannot teach their classes. Some students believe that claim to the point that they set up a shrine to worship these professors. The college, by not denying the claim that the college is too violent to teach and by supporting the shrine despite obvious fire code violations (there are newspapers literally covering green lighted exit signs), is taking a side.

I am sad that there are some professors who are facing legitimate, devastating hardship: a child with a life threatening disease, a spouse with cancer, perhaps their own debilitating diagnosis. Some of these professors are faculty of color from very different backgrounds and cultures. These professors show up to their classes, write letters of recommendation for their students, and they role model doing work during times of hardship. In extreme cases they work with their departments and the Dean’s Office to get help with their classes and workload. These professors do not get shrines in the hallway or letters of support in The Record. They are doing their best to be adults and to do their jobs. Other faculty work around the clock to deliver excellence to their students.

This incident at Williams is a case of two very squeaky wheels getting some unearned, undeserved grease in the form of a paid leave, a shrine of worship, and the sense that they are somehow social justice warriors.

As a Williams professor, I am deeply embarrassed.

If it is true that these professors are mentally ill (not for me to judge), then students and other people should be supporting them as people and not necessarily supporting their unsubstantiated assertions. Students should be giving these two faculty support and privacy, not discussing this incident in terms of race, violence, or tenure. The fact that students are validating their claims and that Keith McPartland has been branded a racist means that this incident is not being treated as a mental health issue. The two professors are indeed being treated as social justice warriors instead of individuals who require a medical leave.

One of these professors literally stated that their department Chair was going to “assassinate them,” and rather than give this professor a medical leave several months ago, the college asked the Chair to step down. What does that imply? That implies, to me, that even if these two faculty are mentally ill, that the college has not responded in a way that is treating them as mentally ill, but is instead validating their assertions. The students supporting them are doing the same, passing around their ideas from The Feminist Wire, and looking to these faculty as role models.

I personally think that these two faculty deserve respect and privacy, and they should take their leave to heal however they need. But their actions were objectively hurtful and their assertions unjustified. Other faculty are suffering from problems, including mental health problems, who go about solutions in an appropriate way. The actions of these faculty should not be worshipped with shrines and admirers.

[T]hese two professors [Green and Love] were put on medical leave. That means the college considers this a mental health issue (because there are no physical health issues). One of these professors was put on medical leave after she didn’t show up to class as that was probably the only way to give her a chance and not terminate her employment. Discussions of mental health might not be coming up on EphBlog but believe me they are being discussed all over campus. My frustration is that students and some faculty aren’t treating this as a mental health issue, they are treating these two faculty as victims of a violent college and true social justice warriors. If this was only about mental health then none of us, not even you, should be talking about it. My point is that this is not just a mental health issue. The way the college has legitimized their concerns and the way that students have advanced their cause means that we haven’t even figured out how to talk about this yet.

Agree or disagree, a great College — as Williams aspires to be — should be a place at which we can have this conversation, where we can discuss and debate difficult questions, where — not only is it acceptable for someone to make you uncomfortable — but where being uncomfortable is a part of every Eph’s education.

Alas, Williams is not interested in having this conversation (in public). Instead of posting this comment on WSO Discussions — which have been dormant for a decade or more — this professor comes to EphBlog. And we are glad to host them! And our (hundreds? thousands?) of readers are eager to engage with his thoughts, as recent comment threads make clear.

Yet the fact that we, rather than Williams, host this conversation is an indictment of the Williams Administration. They could recreate WSO Discussions, perhaps only allowing Ephs to view/participate, perhaps requiring real names only. Yet the very last thing Williams wants is for a professor to be able to communicate, directly, with the entire community of Ephs, both students and alumni.

Williams insists on controlling the conversation because it does not trust us to talk amongst ourselves.

PS. Could someone clarify whether or not both professors are on medical leave, or just Green?

Print  •  Email