President Maud Mandel has accepted the “recommendations in full” from the final report (pdf) of the Ad Hoc Committee on Inquiry and Inclusion, chaired by Professor Jana Sawicki. Consistent with our prediction from November and following the advice we laid out in February, academic freedom has returned to Williams. See here, here, here and here for related EphBlog discussions. Maud Mandel has now cleaned up Adam Falk’s legacy. Let’s discuss! Day 1.

I agree with 90% of the report. Read it and you’ll know what I think. But that’s not why you come to EphBlog! What follows are all the usual quibbles, complaints, idle speculations and endzone dances . . .

The Sawicki Report recommends that Williams “[a]dhere to policies and principles regarding campus speakers articulated by AAUP and PEN America.” This is the most (only?) important recommendation. Once you have tied your policies to the free speech absolutists at AAUP and PEN, everything else is boring details.

May I take a victory lap?

1) Maud has done exactly what I advised Falk to do three years ago:

Smart presidents use committees! With luck, Falk has already learned that lesson in the debate over the log mural. He should follow the same strategy in dealing with free speech. Create a “Committee on Freedom of Expression at Williams.” Appoint a cross-section of faculty/students/alumni, but with a sotto voce emphasis on free speech. Charge the Committee with reviewing the history of free speech debates at Williams, meeting with members of the College community, and recommending policy going forward. Best person to put in charge? Philosophy Professor Joe Cruz ’91.

This is precisely what Maud did, although she used a different professor of philosophy (Sawicki instead of Cruz) and a different committee name. (The key sotto voce free speechers on the committee were Strauch, Shanks and (maybe?) Nelson and Sawicki herself.)

2) I predicted this outcome last fall. Maud wanted to move Williams back to free speech. She followed EphBlog’s advice — actually the same advice would have been given by any knowledgeable observer of elite education — and, unsurprisingly, succeeded. Well done!

3) Kudos to abl who wrote:

If I were trying to engineer a committee to achieve my desired result, I would stack it with faculty members who I know agree with my position and students who don’t (but aren’t so entrenched to be unpersuadable–like students who have signed the petition but not taken more of a public role in the issue), and hope to get to a “bipartisan” proposal that relies on persuading the students in question.

Which is exactly what happened. (I was, incorrectly, much less sanguine about the Committee’s likelihood of success.) Although student members Michael Crisci ’21 and Rachel Porter ’21 had signed the student/alumni position against the Chicago Principles, Shanks/Strauch/others were able to bring them around.

4) Note that reliance on AAUP, first (?) suggested by EphBlog in February.

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).

Academic Freedom -> AAUP -> All Invited Speakers Welcome

And so on. Did Sawicki get this idea from EphBlog? I don’t know. Great minds think alike, after all. But I did send it in via the Committee’s handy submission form . . . and note this line from the Report:

Given that no one has written more words, read by more students/alumni/faculty, about free speech at Williams over the last three years, at least one footnote to EphBlog would have been nice. But we will take what we can get!

4) Apologies for the navel-celebration. But this has worked out exactly how we wanted, in exactly the manner we forecast.

And that is why — I hope! — you read EpgBlog . . .

Print  •  Email