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“On Campus Activism: From the Summer 2019 Williams Magazine”

Link to a column that the president wrote for the 2019 summer issue of the Williams Magazine:

https://president.williams.edu/articles-2/summer-2019-report-on-campus-activism/

 

This section stood out to me in particular (emphasis mine):

“I absolutely think Williams needs to teach people to voice strongly held views in constructive ways. That lesson is best learned within a community broad enough to accommodate conservatives and radicals, believers and agnostics, creatives and critics. Disagreement, in such a culture, should fuel intellectual vitality.

 

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19 Comments To "“On Campus Activism: From the Summer 2019 Williams Magazine”"

#1 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On July 13, 2019 @ 10:34 am

I wish that she had gone further in her listing of opposites: “Republicans and Democrats, Communists and Fascists, Monarchists and Anarchists.”

This would have brought home more clearly that there will be no more speaker-banning at Williams.

#2 Comment By SL On July 13, 2019 @ 3:29 pm

It appears to me that my harmless comment on JCD’s most recent post targeting a Jewish student has been removed. Where did I err in writing “It is difficult to see how hanging banners and engaging in discussions with people can be classified as harassment (unless Canary Mission has evidence of further activities). Or is the Right now characterizing “viewpoint diversity” as violence when Jewish students don’t support the party line on Israel?” ? It seems JCD can’t abide viewpoint diversity either.

#3 Comment By GloryDaysChaser On July 13, 2019 @ 5:03 pm

Forget it, SL. DDF has completely allowed JCD to commandeer Ephblog, insult, attack, or criticize individuals, groups, and the college explicitly and implicitly, and hide it behind an absurd “authors have always been able to shut off comments” argument that completely sidesteps the issue in the most gutless way possible and ignores the fact that JCD has shut off comments from the beginning on more posts in the last two weeks than any author has ever done in the entire history of Ephblog.

And he gets to sign off every one of these now with the “former Williams professor” line which elides the fact that he did not even make it to the tenure review process before he was canned. He was canned at the third-year-review, which is when any school realizes that they made a grave mistake. No school gets rid of merely borderline folks at the third-year review process.

#4 Comment By purple & gold On July 13, 2019 @ 9:24 pm

@ SL:
There’s nothing wrong with your comment, and I agree that JCD’s most recent post is hypocritical. When a conservative student speaks out, they are considered brave, but when a left-wing student speaks out, they are ridiculed and defamed. Just to be clear, I believe that students of all political viewpoints–whether they are to the right or to the left of the spectrum–should be able to voice their thoughts without fear of physical or online harassment. However, many seem to apply ‘free speech’ selectively.

@GloryDaysChaser:
I think the issue with comments being shut off on JCD’s post is one of DDF’s “experiments” in which JCD also won’t comment on other posts. Also, I don’t think there’s much of a point in rehashing JCD’s short-lived career as a Williams professor.

#5 Comment By GloryDaysChaser On July 14, 2019 @ 3:39 am

As long as JCD advertises himself as a former Williams professor it is very much worth putting front and center how absurd that advertisement is. I’m not “rehashing” anything so long as his sole justification for being able to post his bile here is that he flamed out before he had ever published a single article and so long as he keeps putting in his posts (and in his external pyblications in the right wing chop shop) that he once taught in the Purple Valley.

DDF’s experiment is dumb. Longtime posters get their comments arbitrarily expunged here while JCD gets to use his failure at Williams more than three decades ago to criticize current faculty, students, and the college at will. I don’t need your dime store rationalizations for crap I’ve observed for years.

#6 Comment By SL On July 14, 2019 @ 5:46 am

It is pretty grating to see publications like the College Fix advertise him as a former Williams prof, with the implication that he has some special inside knowledge of the school as it exists now. You’d think, if they had any journalistic integrity, they’d note how long ago he taught there and the circumstances of his leaving, so that the reader could decide whether he’s a credible source or an obsessive disgruntled former employee. But I don’t think their standards are such that they challenge anyone who helps them sell their story, warped and false as it may be.

#7 Comment By purple & gold On July 14, 2019 @ 9:10 am

@GloryDaysChaser:
To clarify, I share your viewpoint on DDF’s experiment, and I wasn’t trying to rationalize it; I was just pointing out why JCD has been able to shut off comments on all his recent posts. I’m on your side here. I’m also new to Ephblog, so I didn’t know that JCD was posting anti-Williams rants for such a long time.
You’ve also changed my mind about why it’s important to discuss JCD’s background. I didn’t realize he was using his career at Williams to bolster his credibility, and I agree that it’s important for readers to know the whole story if he’s going to advertise himself as an “insider” (of which he is not).

@SL:
I totally agree (see my response to GloryDaysChaser above). The College Fix even admits that they are ideologically motivated and opinionated rather than objective and factual. This is their tagline: “Your daily dose of right-minded news…”
To make myself clear, it isn’t JCD’s conservatism that is off-putting at all; it’s his conduct, his questionable motivations, and the way he attacks the College (without much success) behind a veneer of concern.

#8 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On July 14, 2019 @ 10:30 am

> Where did I err in writing

Authors can do whatever they want in their own posts.

> when a left-wing student speaks out, they are ridiculed and defamed.

How was the student “defamed?” Did JCD get some facts wrong? Criticizing someone is not the same as defaming them.

> JCD advertises himself as a former Williams professor

JCD is, in fact, a former Williams professor.

> his sole justification for being able to post

Anyone interested in Williams is welcome to author at EphBlog. You don’t need to be a former professor.

To make myself clear, it isn’t JCD’s conservatism that is off-putting at all; it’s his conduct, his questionable motivations, and the way he attacks the College (without much success) behind a veneer of concern.

This is exactly what a (vast?) majority of the Williams faculty/administrators have said about me for many, many years.

#9 Comment By SL On July 14, 2019 @ 10:52 am

I’m not arguing that JCD doesn’t have the right to delete my comment; I’m just questioning what possible grounds he could have had for deleting it other than his dislike of dissenting views, contrary to his posturing of free speech absolutism. Surely someone’s being allowed to do something doesn’t preclude conversation about the reasonableness or self-consistency of that action.

As to the question of defaming students, when a student is accused of harassment for doing nothing of the sort, what is that except defamation?

And as for JCD’s advertising himself as a former Williams professor, my issue was with how he presents himself in non-Williams media, to people who do not know his story, thus the clause “with the implication that he has some special inside knowledge of the school as it exists now.” His particular history with the school should count against his credibility, not in favor of it, and I was registering my frustration with other media outlets that do not care to do any basic research into their sources.

#10 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On July 14, 2019 @ 12:14 pm

> doesn’t preclude conversation

Indeed not! Conversation is always welcome.

> when a student is accused of harassment

What word would you use to describe a student who purposely disrupts a social gathering?

> he presents himself in non-Williams media

The word you are looking for his “accurately.” He is a former professor and that is how he presents himself.

Now, you might think that this description, while true, is incomplete. You might argue that there is a whole paragraph of stuff that one needs to know about JCD before one can truly judge his contributions. Perhaps. And, describing Henry Kissinger as a “former Secretary of State” might be just as misleading.

But space is limited! No publication is willing to include a paragraph of background about each person, whether they be JCD or HK. For the purposes of 99% of the people reading College Fix or Breitbart, “former Williams professor” is the most useful short description of JCD.

#11 Comment By 0xEph On July 14, 2019 @ 12:45 pm

For the purposes of 99% of the people reading College Fix or Breitbart, “former Williams professor” is the most useful short description of JCD.

No way! That’s probably the most misleading, and therefore least useful, description of JCD.

Ask yourself a question: if someone explained (fairly and accurately) that JCD was a professor at Williams for only 3-4 years in the 80s, failed to be granted tenure, thereafter saw his academic career fully derailed, and is now, 30-years detached from any meaningful connections with the school, one of its most public detractors, do you think the average reader would say “sure, ‘former Williams professor’ concisely captures what you need to know about JCD.” No! It’s technically correct but it’s highly misleading insofar as it leaves out really just about all of the relevant information about JCD.

“Former Williams professor” implies that JCD may have some insight on Williams of today. It also at least leaves open the question of his neutrality and implicitly gives him some authority — because professors are generally viewed as relatively neutral and detached and thoughtful parties (key word on “relatively”). A far, far, far less misleading descriptor for JCD would be something like “disgruntled former employee,” which has the same number of words. Or another option, less revealing but still better than “former Williams professor,” would be to say something like “John C. Drew was an assistant professor at Williams College from 1986-1989” (or whatever the dates were). “Disgruntled former employee” captures most of what is necessary to contextualize his posts. “…assistant professor from…” at the very least, clarifies the timeline here, which is an important detail totally lacking from his current signature line.

#12 Comment By SL On July 14, 2019 @ 1:53 pm

Handing out leaflets and hanging up signs is not disrupting a social gathering, especially at a barbecue where people are milling around and talking to others anyway, and it is certainly not harassment. Stalking people, getting in their faces, and/or yelling at them would be harassment, but nothing like that was going on, unless you believe that presenting alternative viewpoints is inherently aggressive and violent behavior. I’m frankly surprised you don’t see the kosher barbecue and the counter-protest as a model for student political discourse, but JCD has already come out against it, so perhaps he’s painted you into a corner.

As for the College Fix and other alternative media, part of their conceit is that they supposedly offer the truth that mainstream outlets and the Left in general omit or downplay out of ideological biases. But how they handle JCD shows that they are at least as susceptible to bias as their mainstream competitors, so it might behoove them to drop their haughty attitude and pretensions of absolute truth-seeking, just as JCD has shown by his comment deletions that he is not the free speech warrior he claims to be.

#13 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On July 14, 2019 @ 2:25 pm

> Handing out leaflets and hanging up signs is not disrupting a social gathering

Can you read? Klein herself, in her own words, admitted “disrupting” the barbecue.

> most useful short description

The College Fix (and the New York Times and every other media organization) needs a short description of people. Provide a better one than “former Williams professor.” You have three words. Your suggestion of “disgruntled former employee” is absurd. Don’t believe me? Write to them with the suggestion! They will dismiss it as quickly as I have.

#14 Comment By SL On July 14, 2019 @ 2:38 pm

Dear DDF, I’m sure you do not take all of Klein’s statements at face-value. She can think of herself as having “disrupted” the barbecue, but if the barbecue went as planned, which it did, it was not in fact disrupted. Another event was held in its midst, but it did not interfere with any of the regularly scheduled programming. In any event, my real issue was with Canary Mission’s use of the term “harassment,” as you should have been able to tell from the rest of my post (can you read?).

While we’re on the subject of ability to read, I would hope that these news organizations would expect their readership to be able to consume more than three words describing the identity of a major source on a particular piece. If there’s enough space for that person to be quoted extensively, surely there’s enough for more than three words, especially for as interesting a character as JCD.

#15 Comment By 0xEph On July 14, 2019 @ 2:50 pm

The College Fix (and the New York Times and every other media organization) needs a short description of people. Provide a better one than “former Williams professor.” You have three words. Your suggestion of “disgruntled former employee” is absurd. Don’t believe me? Write to them with the suggestion! They will dismiss it as quickly as I have.

“Disgruntled former employee” is much more representative than “former Williams professor.” In any event, “John C. Drew was an assistant professor at Williams College from 1986-1989” easily fits the space constraints for these sorts of quick descriptive bios. I’ve worked in an editorial capacity before and “former Williams professor” is dishonest journalism (and yes, it is possible to be technically accurate and yet dishonest).

#16 Comment By SL On July 14, 2019 @ 3:03 pm

Although I would say that an outlet like Breitbart or the College Fix is more journalistically lazy (at least in this instance) than dishonest, which would require knowing all the facts and choosing to omit those that are inconvenient. I think the real problem here is finding someone who agrees with you and then accepting all their claims without doing any investigation of your own. But yes, to oxEph’s point, it is possible to be accurate and also dishonest; read the Wikipedia page on “mental reservation,” especially the “equivocation” section, for examples.

#17 Comment By 0xEph On July 14, 2019 @ 3:17 pm

To build off my previous post, the point of these bios is to provide the reader with a quick amount of context to better understand the perspective or the authority of the author or interviewee in question. “Former Williams professor” implies a lot of incorrect things about JCD’s perspective regarding Williams while leaving out a lot of things that are important to understand. The fact that JCD’s Williams connection is that he flamed out there 30 years ago does not render anything that he would say about the school incorrect — but it’s certainly a highly relevant consideration for understanding anything that he writes about the school now.

For example, if a journalist was to interview Jeffrey Skilling about Enron’s collapse, and described him as a “former CEO of corporation ranked in the top 5 of the Fortune 500” or something similar–that description would be perfectly accurate and yet highly misleading. Skilling might well have valuable things to say about Enron, including about its collapse. But it would be important for readers to understand that he is not an unbiased narrator.

#18 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On July 14, 2019 @ 9:29 pm

> “John C. Drew was an assistant professor at Williams College from 1986-1989”

This seems fine to me. EphBlog has iterated to agreement once again!

If SL disagrees, they should fight it out with OxEph and leave me out of it.

#19 Comment By GloryDaysChaser On July 15, 2019 @ 8:08 am

I see that in his bio line at the end of his latest post JCD has now added his dissertation award from 30 years ago. That might be the saddest thing I have ever read, in no small part because he has no idea how sad it is.