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Society for Conservative Thought Event: “Considering the Case for Campus Free Expression”

On April 3rd, the Society for Conservative Thought hosted “Considering the Case for Campus Free Expression.” In light of recent campus and national discourse concerning the roles of free expression and open intellectual inquiry in liberal education, this event provided students the opportunity to listen, learn, and voice their perspectives on these vital matters. More than 70 students, faculty, administrators, and local community members attended.

Guest speaker Nico Perrino (pictured left), is Director of Communications at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. He is the creator and host of “So to Speak: The Free Speech Podcast”, and his writing has been published in USA Today, Politico, and The Guardian. He regularly travels across the country to speak about the rights of students and faculty on college campuses.

Professor Luana Maroja (pictured right) is Associate Professor of Biology and Chair of the Biochemistry Program at Williams. She has advocated in online and campus publications for the free exchange of ideas on college campuses.

Professor Steven Gerrard (pictured center) is Professor of Philosophy at Williams. He has offered classes on both free speech and related controversies on college campuses.

After introductions, Professor Maroja and Mr. Perrino gave opening remarks in support of campus free expression. Professor Gerrard then led a discussion panel that led to further interrogation and articulation of these ideas. The floor was then opened for an interactive Q&A session between audience members and the speakers.

The Society is deeply grateful for the support of the Class of 1971 Public Affairs Forum, and the Department of Political Science. Thanks to our sponsors, 12 Society members were able to dine with the speakers prior to the event.

Learn more about the Williams College Society for Conservative Thought by visiting our website.

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20 Comments To "Society for Conservative Thought Event: “Considering the Case for Campus Free Expression”"

#1 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On April 6, 2019 @ 9:33 am

Looks like a great event. Well done!

#2 Comment By John Drew On April 6, 2019 @ 10:55 am

Nico Perrino, Director of Communications at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), interviewed Zach Wood about his book, Uncensored, in December 2018.

So to Speak podcast transcript: ‘Uncensored’ with Zachary Wood

#3 Comment By staff issue On April 6, 2019 @ 12:15 pm

DDF – Surprised to see no commentary yet on the Record’s recent staff issue. It’s incited lots of talk on campus, especially among faculty & staff.

#4 Comment By staff issue On April 6, 2019 @ 3:48 pm

DDF – Wonder about your thoughts on the Record’s recent staff issue. Provoked lots of conversations on campus, especially among and between faculty and staff.

#5 Comment By staff issue On April 6, 2019 @ 9:34 pm

Whoops. Seem to be parroting here. Comment didn’t post so tried a second.

#6 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On April 7, 2019 @ 2:06 pm

> Wonder about your thoughts on the Record’s recent staff issue.

Nothing that interesting. What sort of conversations has it started?

People everywhere complain about their jobs.

At every firm that I have ever been, those who are paid below the median think that the system is unfair and that they are being mistreated.

#7 Comment By abl On April 7, 2019 @ 2:14 pm

My instinct is that there’s room for improvement with respect to staff satisfaction, and that Williams is wealthy enough to try harder in that respect. That said, I’m curious what average job satisfaction for maintenance, custodial, food service, etc. workers more generally is. It’s easy to read those surveys as evidence of the College’s failure–staff satisfaction is, at best, mixed at Williams. But it may well be that in the context of the typical satisfaction for people in these sorts of positions more generally, Williams is doing a great job.

#8 Comment By John Drew On April 9, 2019 @ 1:00 am

I’m very proud of the student leaders of Society for Conservative Thought . As far as I could tell from the snippet I listened to it looks like the conservative students were greatly outnumbered by non-conservative students.

What surprised me about the video?

First, I was startled to see Prof. Luana Maroja suggest that Uncomfortable Learning had been funded by Ephblog. Previously, I have read remarks like that the Ephblog comment sections. It never occurred to me that serious people on campus, particularly faculty members, believed this to be a realistic possibility.

Second, I was sincerely alarmed by the strident, uncorked hatefulness expressed toward President Trump by professor Steven Gerrard. He used swear words and absolutist statements that I found inconsistent with being a tolerant, objective college professor.

Why the histronics? All I can think is that Gerrard’s principled defense of freedom of speech places so much pressure on him that he has to go over-the-top with his anti-Trump hatred in order to maintain his social standing on campus.

Here’s some friendly advice for Steven from a former Williams professor who is sympathetic to his views, but disturbed by his overly heated presentation. A lot of your students are voting for Trump and so are their parents. Dial it back, bro.

#9 Comment By Offer Busl On April 9, 2019 @ 10:16 am

Overplay is not effective, agree re Prof Gerrard.

#10 Comment By Anon On April 10, 2019 @ 8:15 pm

Abl- I liked it when the college stole (oh sorry, “withheld”) tips from the dinning service employees and were forced to settle after firing the whistleblower…

And no one in managment who stole was fired. In fact the behavior was encouraged and made into policy. The college does not steal tips now, they just force employees to use tip money to buy work clothes…

See, when Williams reaches into your tip jar and takes money that someone gave to you as a gratuity, it is not stealing. It is “withholding.” Later known as “policy.”

When the presiddent does it, it is not a crime!

Great job everyone. Williams is the best!

https://www.berkshireeagle.com/stories/williams-college-to-pay-86000-settlement-for-withholding-tips,378931

#11 Comment By anon On April 10, 2019 @ 8:40 pm

#12 Comment By Things are great! On April 10, 2019 @ 8:51 pm

https://williamsrecord.com/2019/04/staff-discuss-low-morale-feelings-of-alienation/

Did anyone read the article?

“They requested that stories of their individual treatment not be published because they feared they would be identified and face retribution for speaking publicly. Comments from WSC suggest that other staff have expressed similar concerns to WSC but that they have been afraid to voice their opinions to managers. Four custodians who spoke extensively to the Record are identified in this article as A.Z., B.Y., C.X. and D.W. The initials have no correlation to their name…”

“The implementation of building rotation for custodial teams was started as a pilot program in response to custodians expressing an interest in having more variety in their daily work environments,” Wright said. “Response to the initial pilot program, which started with just one team, was positive, so we alter added a second team. However, over time, both teams shared that they preferred not to rotate buildings, so based on feedback from staff we decided to end the program.”

Custodians, nevertheless, said that the program was discontinued only after faculty voiced disapproval. “The guys were complaining about it, and nobody was happy with it,” B.Y. said. “And [supervisors] didn’t want to hear it. … We don’t even know what’s going on. We don’t have meetings anymore. They make the decisions. We’re not even confronted and asked if that’s something we want to do or should be doing.”

“Our opinions don’t amount to a hill of beans around here most of the time,” C.X. said.”

Custodians say that when they have reached out to HR about issues with supervisors, they rarely have seen results.

“It’s always dismissed – under the rug. Nobody ever deals with it,” B.Y. said. “If you go to HR, they’re going to side with management.”

“Typically, they’re not very good at getting back to you on anything,” C.X. added.

Sounds like an awesome place to work!

#13 Comment By anon On April 11, 2019 @ 1:43 pm

Staff issue- The article in the Record is one of the most important articles written.

Williams has been playing it fast and loose with blue collar staff for a long time now, and that (supposedly) goes against some “core values.”

Danny Jin and others at the Record are doing the kind of investigative journalism that should be applauded and highlighted here on ephblog.

Outstanding work! Stay after it.

https://williamsrecord.com/2019/04/staff-discuss-low-morale-feelings-of-alienation/

https://williamsrecord.com/2019/04/building-an-equitable-community-making-change-to-ensure-staff-can-thrive/

#14 Comment By abl On April 11, 2019 @ 2:05 pm

Anon —

I don’t know enough about the tip jar practice to condemn or defend it, but that article you cite implies that there’s more going on than meets the eye. It’s clear that, at the very least, there’s a local firm that’s making a killing off of these suits. Whether that’s because they’ve discovered a widespread local bad practice or whether they’re unfairly extorting settlements from local businesses, it’s clear that this “service charge” business is not limited to Williams–and indeed that Williams is a relatively minor offender.

Again, Williams is a wealthy enough school that it shouldn’t be finding itself in these sorts of circumstances — if it has to pay an extra $50,000 a year to keep staff happy (/non-litigious), that’s a pittance. I agree that Williams could and should do more for its staff. But I’m also not convinced that it’s the bad actor here that your tone implies.

#15 Comment By anon On April 11, 2019 @ 3:04 pm

abl- Did you read the record articles? A climate of retribution for whistle-blowers at HR…

Does it matter that prior to the change of management in 2008 the employees used to get the tips (keep their money), and that after it they did not?

This Indicates a clear intentional change in practices to deny workers what they once gained during alumni weekends and other important functions. Not only that, the price was misrepresented to alumni and others, who believed that they were tipping service employees.

They are only scratching the surface. What happens now will be interesting.

But your response proves my point- in the mind of the members of the purple bubble, Williams can do little to no wrong.

#16 Comment By abl On April 11, 2019 @ 3:43 pm

I haven’t read all of the articles yet, but I will — I did read the articles on the tipping lawsuit.

I think I’ve been pretty clear in saying that Williams can and should do better by its employees. To the extent that’s all you’re saying, we are in complete agreement. To the extent you’re condemning the college as some sort of greedy and evil exploiter of labor (and the tone of your article implies as much), my point is simply that I think you’re overstating the College’s malice. There are obviously case-by-case exceptions, and there’s certainly room for improvement, but I think that Williams is by and large a pretty good employer.

#17 Comment By abl On April 11, 2019 @ 3:57 pm

Ok, I’ve read all of the articles now. I stand by my prior comments regarding the improvement that can and should happen — and that the institution of Williams does not come across as a bad employer in this. If anything, the problems are more limited to just one department, custodial services, than I would have guessed.

#18 Comment By anon On April 12, 2019 @ 11:34 am

abl- Dinning services and HR as well.

You are not reading carefully. That or you are playing willful ignorance because of your strong support for the status quo- all things Eph- but not the working class.

You have multiple employees outright stating on the record that their concerns are not addressed by HR or their department heads, and they they fear retaliation- and others that will not comment, even anonymously, for fear of retaliation. You have examples of when and how abuse has occurred. This is just the tip of the iceberg if the record keeps investigating and Mandel runs another anonymous survey where everyone feels free from retaliation to respond honestly.

But, that is the issue. Working people are not considered as a part of the organization. Not really. Certainly not by your defenses of this abhorrent behavior of management.

I applaud what the students and faulting are saying- people who are a lot closer to these problems than you- that the blue collar employees at Williams are currently not being treated well and that they deserve a voice and respect.

#19 Comment By abl On April 12, 2019 @ 3:23 pm

anon —

I guess we just disagree about what we’re seeing. I think that any school as large as Williams is bound to have some disgruntled employees (especially in departments like dining service and maintenance) and some crummy supervisors. Some amount of discord is inevitable.

You and I don’t disagree on the potential for improvement or the need for improvement at Williams wrt staff. We disagree about whether these various stories regarding crummy supervisors and employee discontentment are evidence of a substantial and pervasive institutional malice towards staff, or whether they represent part of the crumminess and discord expected at a school of Williams’ size. That I believe that the latter answer better explains these complaints does not mean that I think that this is acceptable or forgivable, or that Williams shouldn’t be working hard to improve in these respects. It’s just that I don’t think that Williams’ legitimate need for improvement wrt staff treatment is also a reflection of the sort of institutional ill will or bad faith that the tone of your posts imply.

#20 Comment By John Drew On April 12, 2019 @ 5:24 pm

I think there are good reasons to assume that Williams College is a bad enough employer that student activists are correct to be alarmed at the incongruity of their situation.

These students will not be the last to find out that liberals/leftists aren’t very nice people…especially if you work for them. Remember board member Joey Shaista Horn ’87 who was sentenced to jail for the abuse of her au pairs?

Greedy for Globalism: Williams College Trustee Joey Shaista Horn ’87 Sentenced to Prison for Au Pair Abuse Crime

Williams is at risk of systematically mistreating its employees due to the extreme geographic isolation of the school. Simply put, there aren’t many jobs in the community to begin. With so few alternative jobs available there isn’t much market pressure on the school to strictly police itself against abuse, retaliation, or even petty matters like taking away worker’s tips.

If Williams was located in a large urban area, it would be easier for its mistreated employees to find other jobs. It would also be easier for the local media to follow up on worker’s complaints. For now, however, shaming the school looks like the only option for improving working conditions.