The best way to solve the controversy over “free speech” (and controversial speakers) at Williams is to reframe the discussion around one of our core values: academic freedom.

First, every Williams faculty member will agree that every Williams professor deserves untrammeled “academic freedom.”

Second, every Williams faculty member will agree that the best definer and defender of “academic freedom” is the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

Once the Coordinating Committee — Maud’s stalking cow for fixing the Falk/Derbyshire disaster — has guided the faculty to these two points, the rest follows naturally. The AAUP addresses precisely the issue — invitations to outside speakers — which has bedeviled Williams.

Because academic freedom requires the liberty to learn as well as to teach, colleges and universities should respect the prerogatives of campus organizations to select outside speakers whom they wish to hear. The AAUP articulated this principle in 1967 in its Fifty-third Annual Meeting, when it affirmed “its belief that the freedom to hear is an essential condition of a university community and an inseparable part of academic freedom,” and that “the right to examine issues and seek truth is prejudiced to the extent that the university is open to some but not to others whom members of the university also judge desirable to hear.” . . .

See how the Gordian Knot of hate/free speech is so cleanly cut with this approach? No need for definitions, for balancing, for weighing costs and benefits. No reason to argue about the Chicago Principals, as if the best college in the world should concern itself with the ramblings of a not-quite-first-tier research university.

Academic Freedom -> AAUP -> All Invited Speakers Welcome

Third, President Mandel and the Trustees assert that students deserve “academic freedom” — at least with regard to speaker invitations — as well. This might not meet with universal faculty agreement, but that is why Mandel is paid the big bucks.

Problem solved! And then the problem largely goes away, absurd fantasies about Chapin being booked by white supremacists every Wednesday night not withstanding.

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