Former Williams History Professor Eric Knibbs wrote “Against Race Theology, or: Williams College is Everywhere Now,” the most scathing attack on the culture that is Williams is years. (Hat-tip to John Drew.) Let’s spend a week going through the highlights of the article, centered around last year’s controversies about White Male Vigilantes, self-CARE Now and Green/Love Black Joy. Professor Knibbs will be responding to (some) comments here.

Knibbs summarizes the craziness of last year well. He is not a fan of Maud Mandel:

Student activists developed a protest cult to their absent professors [Green and Love]. They established an impromptu “memorial” in the hallway where both had their offices. This consisted primarily of copies of the Record with its libelous headline, as well as strings and other bits of garbage.

At this moment I enter the tragicomedy briefly. I left Williams two months before all of this took off. Before I knew I’d be departing, I chaired a committee responsible for managing Hollander Hall, the very building afflicted by this outrage. After I left, Prof. Keith McPartland took charge in my place. This landed him in a hard spot, because it turns out that that pile of nonsense violates state fire safety regulations, and is probably also contrary to accessibility standards. Staff, however, were presumably too terrified to touch any of it, lest they get fired. So McPartland did what I hope to god I would’ve had the courage to do, had it been me. Because he enjoyed some measure of protection as a tenured professor, he consulted with campus security and then boxed up the offending portions of the memorial himself. As he did this, students confronted him, but he carried on. That night, faculty offices were papered with posters denouncing McPartland as a racist for his troubles.

Maud Mandel, the weak and indecisive president that Williams so richly deserves, then did exactly what you might expect. She took to her email and promptly denounced her committee chair for doing his job.

We were critical of Maud’s actions last year, but not nearly as critical as Knibbs is here. Were we too generous? Is he unfair?

There is a lot to say about this disgraceful, pandering note. That she doesn’t name the committee chair who did what was necessary matters not at all. Everyone, including me, a whole continent away, knew who it was. The tepid hand-wringing, the saccharine morality, the vagueness as to fact and circumstance: All are characteristic of the administrative rhetoric cultivated at expensive schools like Williams. These are letters that communicate nothing clearly save for the emotional state of their authors. The professors not teaching, but retaining their jobs and collecting a salary, are here said to be undergoing “a difficult time.” And Mandel could hardly pass up the chance to suggest that it was the free speech of Profs. Green and Love and their student supporters that was threatened. Thus she cast herself as guardian of the free expression of those selfsame activists whose histrionics were one battle in a wider campaign to deny free speech to everyone else. A leftist protester is gently prevented from violating fire regulations: For Mandel that’s a free-speech issue. Some faculty signed a thing and have a meeting about the Chicago principles: Speech harms, people at the meeting are told; and the administration rings its hands about how deeply complex it all is. The result is that everyone, including free speech activists, defends all manner of disruptive campus leftist performativity, while only a few people bother to defend anyone else’s right to speak. The only unopposed voices on campus? People like Prof. Green, who feared at one point that their program chair was plotting their assassination.

Green is, clearly, mentally ill. How long will they be teaching at Williams?

Relenting does not quiet the mob. It emboldens its worst actors.

Indeed. But doesn’t Maud deserve some credit for standing up to folks like Green/Love/others by restoring free speech to Williams? Knibbs seems to judge Maud against some (unobtainable?) standard of what a Williams president ought to be. I judge her against the standard of other liberal art college presidents. Which is the fair comparison?

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