For those who have not seen yet, The College Fix published an article the other day on the recent College Council meeting, which featured an, er, interesting exchange between fellow students. The article contains a partial transcript and link to the video feed from the meeting.

We ought to frame this meeting in its larger context: Students requested money for a Black Previews event from CC. These students were questioned thoroughly about the nature of the event and the money requested. They were ultimately granted the money necessary. That is, these students went through the same process as all do when requesting money.

I can’t imagine anyone would regard navigating the bureaucracy of College Council to request funds a particularly delightful experience. Many clubs have been the cause of the creation of subcommittees to monitor their funding, and many, too, have seen their budgets slashed. Let us disregard, then, the fact that Black Previews is an event that merits its own debate–these black activists were angry because they faced the same process as every other student does, and they responded with what can only be described as the verbal abuse of their classmates.

There may be some very real problems with College Council, but to discuss these with the rhetoric of racism is irresponsible and exploitative: Irresponsible because it is a disservice to the real instances of institutional and intentional racism both on campus and beyond. Exploitative because it takes advantage of the social norms in place and the average student’s desire to be agreeable and, well, not racist. Any disagreement, any objection to this abusive diatribe would have immediately been deemed racist, and this was no subtlety in the rhetorical strategy of the two speakers. “You want to have free speech? You want to have a debate?” Isaiah says at one point. “You want to be racist? Say some s*** now.” They then correct themselves to say that their offer to respond was sincere, and when someone does respond to them–to express his remorse for their struggle–the activists proceed to liken the heads of their fellow students to a bunch of reproductive organs. Tough to respond when the person you’re talking to believes your speaking up (even if you’re on their side!) is also an indication of your being racist, and they respond with puerile (but perhaps still hurtful) insults.

What is most lamentable about this whole debacle, however, is that the students not only accept this kind of attack, but dignify it. One student cites the “moving” nature of the speech as a reason to discuss it further. Another merely says he is glad the activists received their money after the quality of his eyesight is called into question (“Are you blind?!”). Another claims the CC bylaws are violent to people of color. Dignifying students like these grants power to this type of discourse. Students at Williams have a responsibility to preserve a respectful exchange of ideas among a student body that contains some of the brightest minds of our generation. As the political climate becomes dominated by tactics of intimidation and antagonism, we sacrifice perhaps the most noble quality of our campus: its ideological diversity and the exchange of those ideologies.

It is a fascinating time of political discourse at Williams and similar institutions. Coming from a hometown that was plagued with conservative and religious dogma, I realize now the parallels between the radical left and evangelicals of the south. I do hope this is a short-lived fad rather than the beginning of a longer trend, though history would indicate otherwise.

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