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 5.

This isn’t over until John Derbyshire speaks at Williams.

Consider this a public service message to the Williams administration. I, and the thousands (?) of other Ephs who value academic freedom and “uncomfortable learning” are pleased that Mandel has fixed Falk’s failure. But we are concerned. Has Williams really turned the corner on this disaster? Is the College really committed to this old/new policy? We hope so. But we can’t be sure until the policy is tested, until John Derbyshire, or someone just as “extreme” comes to Williams.

Why? Because I don’t want to fight this battle again in five or ten years. I want to ensure the supremacy of academic freedom at Williams for a generation. Some smart observers, like abl, believe that insisting on Derbyshire’s return is more likely than not to hurt the cause of academic freedom at Williams. Perhaps. But I have a more Marine Corps view of the world . . .

John Derbyshire speaking at Williams will shut down the speaker-banners for years. If Derbyshire can come to Williams — and somehow the College continues to thrive — then there is no reason why person X can’t come.

Given that fact — that Derbyshire is coming, one way or another — what should Williams do? Invite him, of course! It is much better that Derbyshire’s speech be organized (and controlled) by Williams than that it occur as a half-assed student-run disaster. There are many options:

1) Invite Derbyshire to give a stand-alone speech, ideally the same speech he was planning to give three years ago. (Derbyshire’s opinions about immigration are among his least problematic.)

2) Arrange a debate, perhaps using the format of the old Williams College Debate Union, between Derbyshire and a member of the Williams faculty, each partnered with a student. If Williams is smart, it would make the topic of the debate be something like: Trump should be re-elected. This will focus the discussion on topics on which Derbyshire’s opinions are positively mainstream. (A majority of white Americans will probably vote for Trump.)

3) Schedule a week-long conference on a broad topic, like “American Populism,” perhaps looking to Darel Paul’s course PSCI 360 Right-Wing Populism for guidance on topics and speakers. Derbyshire would speak, but he would just be one voice among many. There would be just as many critics of populism as supporters.

Again, it is not for me to pick the format. My only promise is that Derbyshire is coming to Williams, one way or the other. Better that the College embrace this latest bit of uncomfortable learning. Make Gaudino proud!

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