A Senior Williams Professor and I will be debating the following resolution: Resolved: Williams is disintegrating. Each Monday, one of us will make an argument. One week later, the other will respond. We will debate until we grow bored with the exercise. Readers are welcome to chime in at any time. This week, I respond to Senior Professor’s second argument. (His words in blockquotes.)

President Mandel’s embrace of “diversity and inclusiveness” as her agenda for her presidency is, quite simply, sophomoric.

I am very sympathetic to the general point that Williams ought to spend much more time worrying about excellence and much less time working on diversity. But nonsense is nonsense, whatever the ideological predilections of its proponents. And this is nonsense.

What evidence is there that Mandel has made “diversity and inclusiveness” the “agenda” for her presidency? Here is her induction speech. Although she mentions items about diversity and inclusion, they do not occupy a central place in her speech, nor in any of her talks since assuming the presidency. Yes, she cares about these things, but there is no evidence that she cares about them more than, say, great teaching or superb extra-curriculars or any other item which might, plausibly, be part of the “agenda” of a Williams president. If anything, the evidence points the other way, suggesting that Maud’s main agenda, at least in 2019, is to fix the Falk/Derbyshire disaster.

And her ‘agenda’ is a tired repetition of the mantra of our past several presidents, beginning with Frank Oakley, our last intelligent dean of faculty, who in 1978 proposed a fantastic Great Books program, but who then abandoned that idea as he saw that he might become President, which indeed happened.

You think the focus on diversity began with Oakley? Hah! Diversity was just as much a focus under Chandler, even going back to Sawyer and the increase in black enrollment in the 60s.

By the way, Oakley’s new book, From the Cast-Iron Shore: In Lifelong Pursuit of Liberal Learning, is available. Worth discussing?

Beginning with the College’s bicentennial, we’ve heard constant paeans to the supposed goals of diversity and inclusiveness.

I sometimes worry that Senior Professor is revealing too much about when he came to Williams! Although diversity has been with us for 30 years, these efforts go back, at least, to the Hopkins Hall takeover of 1969. Has Williams been disintegrating for 50 years? What is taking so long?

And what the College has wrought are dreadful programs in Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies, African-American Studies, and Anti-American Studies, along with an assortment of other supposed ‘majors,’ all of which pander to the interests of various identity groups.

I agree that these programs are pernicious nonsense. Recall the wisdom of AF:

I think the value of identity studies should be actively questioned: I find it troubling that many students come to Williams only to major in themselves, as it were. In many of these departments there’s a emphasis on ideology and a paucity of facts — it is not unreasonable to say the only identity tradition that is critically studied is the Western one.

Exactly right. But the nonsense of identity studies is not our debate topic today.

Senior Professor finishes with:

I have little hope for the College’s future. I think that only when and if the College re-commits itself to intellectual excellence, first and foremost, shall it survive.

I will take the other side of that bet! The position of elite US colleges like Williams has never been stronger. They have a product to sell — and you can bet that “diversity” is part of what they are selling — and the demand for that product has never been better.

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