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Hardy House Materials

See below for some of the key documents/statements associated with the Hardy House takeover. What others am I missing? (I am gathering reading material for our upcoming January seminar. Suggestions welcome!)

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Productive Dialogue

John Noelke has a follow up to his hilarious QSU spoof.

Clarification:

I just had an hour and a half discussion with a member of the QSU who brought to my attention that the intent of my first post was misinterpreted by many readers.

I did not intend this post to be a personal attack on anyone, and I sincerely apologize to anyone who may have been offended. My intention was not to damn the general motivation to make Williams a campus where everyone can feel accepted.

My intention was to use humor to lighten the issue purely to open up discussion in which no one would feel marginalized on either side. It seemed that there were people who disagreed with the QSU’s methods but were uncomfortable speaking out. I wanted my initial post to lead everyone into diving into the heart of the issue at hand. My goals are similar to that of the QSU, it was my tactics used to achieve them that I differed on. The reason for my alternative means was to ensure that we do not limit freedom of expression or damage the meaningful connections that people can make with each other on this campus because we have silenced ourselves in an attempt to display omnipotent sensitivity toward others.

My vision is not to have a Williams where we focus on race or gender or sexuality, but a place where we are Williams students first and where people are individuals defined by their values, character, and intellect. The smallest minority in any group is always the individual. To protect the individual is to protect everyone – regardless of other characteristics that they may have.

At this point I invite any member of the QSU or anyone distraught with my original post to voice their opinion so that we can have the productive dialogue that I wanted in the first place.

I do not retract any of my previous statements; I see no need to after this clarification. Any retreat from what I hold to be true would be entirely superficial. To prompt discussion, here are the main points I wanted to get across:

• To what extent do we have a right to not be offended?
• Who is to decide the point to which the definition of a marginalized group extends?
• What are the reasonable and effective ways to adjust the attitudes of the Williams community and allow everyone to feel accepted?

Great questions. My answers:

1) Not at all.
2) The First Amendment. If you can say it on Spring Street, you can say it at Williams.
3) Tough question! Greater ideological diversity among the faculty and students would help. And don’t forget my Eph Style Guide, a genius idea whose time may never come.

Your answers?

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Respect Our Diversity

Hilarious or insulting? Depends on your point of view.

A Petition from the Williams Students for More Clothing Coalition, the Williams Center for Genital Covering, and the Quaint Students for Underpants:

Decent and Honorable members of The Williams Community,

Today was scarred with the most morally degrading event in the history of Williams College and possibly all of human time. Four young adults, wearing nothing but their bare epidermis, sprinted through the final Psychology 101 lecture shouting like the rambunctious naked yahoos that they were. Any decent human being knows that impure bodily organs should only be revealed in private. They are not meant for the public sphere-that is why you can only see butts on cable or satellite. The flapping cocks and bouncing breasts that violated the morning of hundreds of Williams students today cannot be taken lightly.

On this occasion we are called to drastic action-SOUND THE ALARM- MAN THE BARRICADES! Starting tonight we will camp out in Chapin Hall until the college recognizes that the clothed community is under attack. In an act of recognition that they see us as a population under suppression, the college administration must give us our own gigantic lecture hall to complain constantly every time a woman reveals her ankles or a man takes off his shirt during a pick-up game of basketball in which neither team is designated skins. There is no possible way to stop the oppression of the clothed students at Williams except to seize a precious piece of campus property. In order for us to feel secure, we also issue the following demands:

1. A full-time Campus Undergarment Coordinator to preempt potential nudity.
2. Cameras in all bedrooms and shower stalls to ensure students remain clothed at all times-even in the most private of spaces.
3. A Human Shame and Clothing Major offered immediately. Why study worthwhile things at college like linguistics when we could have so much more fun sucking the life from the already dire school budget situation in order to retreat into a small-minded surcease of sorrow, immersed in the history of one superficial human characteristic?

Remember: the best way to start seeing people as individuals with equal rights is not to assess them based on the power of their intellect or the content of their character, but it is to dwell on the inconsequential differences that separate them from others. At Williams, we ought to devote our academics to that vision, and Women’s and Gender Studies cannot hold down the fort alone.

We have to deal with the uncomfortable reality that the clothing community has not yet been able to claim Williams as its own. Once we have our coordinator, major, and lecture hall, we feel that it will be physically impossible for anyone on campus offer the opposite and obviously incorrect view. They could never choose to sprint around in the nude or even whisper words like ‘gonad’ and ‘bollocks’ in passing. Our Underwear Coordinator and Clothing Major will be armed with magical force fields to protect us from any offensive behavior whatsoever. We ought to feel comfortable on this campus, and who is better suited to the task of protecting the weak than our representatives? We urge the College Council to be our protector, our cock block.

If you disagree with us, we respect the right of your opinion to exist, but we refuse to acknowledge its validity. We all have a right to free speech, but there is a hierarchy of rights as well, and the right to free speech must only flow from the right to not be offended.

Our freedom to speech has been endowed to us both legally and by the mere fact that we are rational, thinking creatures. This unlimited freedom is constrained by our obligation to forever remain politically correct. Since the clothing community has been offended first and loudest on this issue, the podium belongs to us and no one else. Because it is our view of moral truth, we have every right to demand that the whole campus subscribes to it.

Please respect our diversity.

Please.

Compare and contrast with the College Council’s letter in support of the Hardy House occupation and the original demands.

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Stories

A good idea?

QSU & Women’s Center would like to collect 3 stories of homophobic and 3 stories of sexist incidents that have occurred on campus to be published anonymously in the Williams Record. Ideally these stories would be small paragraphs and would reiterate that our current initiative is not in response to just one homophobic incident. We’ve received over 30 personal stories from alumni, but we’d like to publish stories from current students.

ALL SUBMISSIONS WILL BE TREATED AS ANONYMOUS and NOT connected to the e-mail address that made the submission. If submission is via Paresky Box #2206, PLEASE DO NOT INCLUDE ANY IDENTIFICATION.

1) I was sorely tempted to submit a “story” from an anonymous gmail account. I didn’t. Did anybody?

2) Never too late for a Williams Star Chamber.

What if Williams organized a star chamber and no one showed up? Williams Speaks Up is a “Web site on which campus members can report and share incidents of unwanted, abusive, or harassing behavior.” (See background here.) Turns out that only one brief comment has been submitted after several weeks of advertising. Possible conclusions:

1) The WASP patriarchy of Williams is so powerful that the oppressed fear even recording their complaints.

2) There are very few actual bias incidents at Williams.

3) There is abusive behavior, but victims are too lazy to report it or too cynical to think that any good will come from their reports.

I choose door #2.

I choose door number #2 again. There are so few homophobic/sexist incidents on campus that the collective members of the QSU/Women’s Center can’t even come up with three stories to publish in the Record without soliciting anonymous complaints.

3) Conclusion: “[O]ur current initiative is not in response to just one homophobic incident” although we would like to pretend otherwise.

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Transcript Coverage

Transcript covers the Hardy House sit-in.

A group of students at Williams College have staged a sit-in at the Hardy House on campus after a rash of vandalism over the Thanksgiving holiday damaged a freshmen dormitory and left homophobic slurs painted across a wall.

Have we established just how many students were in Mills/Dennett from 10:30 to 3:00 on Saturday. I would have expected fewer than 50.

The students, who are members of the Queer Student Union and the Women’s Center, have demanded that the college establish the following: a Gender and Sexualities Resource Center on campus; a more comprehensive LGBTQ/Women’s Issues-oriented training for junior advisors; gender neutral housing; more queer and sexuality studies courses and professors with the knowledge to teach them; and a full-time Queer Life Coordinator position (as the director of the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center).

Are students “members” of the Women’s Center? I thought that this was a room in Hardy House and not a student organization. Isn’t the Women’s Collective the name of the group? Clarifications welcome.

More quotes and commentary below.
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Falk on Dennett Graffiti

A message from incoming President Falk:

Dear Tracey and Michael,

Thank you for including me in the conversation about this terrible incident and the campus’s response to it. The vandalism was a hateful and horrible thing, and I am so sorry that the students in the entry, as well as the entire campus, have had to endure it. To say that such behavior is unacceptable is simply to scratch the surface of the outrage that I feel.

I agree completely that, especially in the aftermath of this incident, students and administration must come together around the critical purpose of eliminating from the Williams campus homophobia and other forms of discrimination against the many varieties of sexual expression. As it is with all expressions of bigotry, this is neither an easy task nor a quick one. I understand that you have started a productive conversation with the current College leadership about steps that could be taken in pursuit of this goal. I support that process fully, and look forward to becoming engaged in the dialog myself when I arrive on campus in April.

For now, let me just say again how appalled I am at what happened in Mills-Dennett 1 last weekend. I know that this is hardly representative of the views, or behavior, of the marvelous Williams student body. But as true as that may be, it does not diminish the importance of taking this opportunity to acknowledge and address the very real homophobia that does exist on campus. And to do so now.

I look forward to meeting you and your colleagues in the spring, hopefully under somewhat happier circumstances.

With my best regards,
Adam Falk

Adam F. Falk
President-elect
Williams College
Adam.F.Falk@williams.edu

1) Seems like a reasonable statement, if a little overwrought for my tastes. Good to see that Falk is already involving himself in Williams affairs. (My total guess is that the College wanted him to start on January 1 but that Falk’s family would have preferred June 30, and so we ended with an April 1 compromise.)

2) Is it officially “Adam F. Falk?” The College had some sort of standard for referring to Morty which always include, in official communications, his middle name and/or initial. Does Falk want us to not forget the “F”? If I were President of Willams, I would want a cool, friendly e-mail address like dave@williams.edu. Maybe someday if I suck up enough to my friend in OIT enough!

3) I think that framing this as mainly an issue of “homophobia” is absurd. Would these actions be any less objectionable if the same vandalism occurred but the word “fags” was replaced by “losers” or “mother-f**kers?” No. Is there any evidence that the vandals were actually motivated by anti-homosexual feeling? No. In fact, all the evidence we have suggests that this event was caused by personality conflicts with no connection to anyone’s sexuality.

Perhaps it would be better if Williams vandals were taught to use “mother-f**kers” instead of “fags” since the later makes more people more upset than the former. But, keep in mind that the vandals wanted to make more people more upset! The more that the Williams Administration makes a big deal of this event, the more likely future vandals will draw the (in)correct lesson about word choice.

4) Are the grammar pendants among our readers going to mock Falk’s use of “hopefully?” Give him a break! He is a physicist . . .

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Homophobic Culture

Will Slack writes:

The extent of that problem is a matter of debate and discussion. Some people on campus – like myself – have not observed a homophobic culture on campus. For others, this culture is obvious. I admit that as a straight guy, I probably pay less attention to this stuff, just as a gay male from Boston might not pay as much attention to a prejudiced statement about the South. So that means that we need to understand each other’s perspective on the problem. Until that happens, there will be no unity or consensus about the solution.

UPDATE: Will adds:

I need to clarify this. I have observed instances of homophobia and/or prejudice, which could be interpreted as indicating the existence of a homophobic culture to go along with a culture that welcomes LGBTQ people and their sexuality. I meant to indicate that the campus culture, taken as a whole, does not appear homophobic to me.

Alumni are not the best judges of what campus culture is like at Williams now, but we could help inform debate about what the culture has been like in the past. Was there a “homophobic culture on campus” during your time at Williams? I would be interested in hearing from alumni of all ages.

I was at Williams from 1984 to 1988. It was certainly not unheard of, especially among athletes, to hear the term “fag” used but the most common intended insult was to question the target’s masculinity rather than as a direct (?) message of hatred towards homosexuals. Derogatory terms like “pussy” would have been used interchangeably in these contexts.

But, at the same time, I never witnessed (or even heard of) someone attacking a homosexual student, either verbally or physically. (I had a gay roommate.)

There was certainly a feeling that, say, defending adoption laws which favored heterosexual couples or the military’s ban on homosexuals was, ipso facto, evidence of homophobia and created a harassing environment for homosexual students. There were at least two open homosexuals on the faculty.

For the record, I was widely known as the campus homophobe, mainly because of my defense of Marine Corps recruiting and because of an ill-judged essay I wrote trying to (honestly!) explain the mixed feelings that some students felt about homosexuality. Professor Katie Kent may recall a particularly poorly constructed analogy from that article . . .

What was Williams like in your era?

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From Wagner and Merrill, on Dennett/the QSU

To the Williams Community,

As some of you know, a group of students, led by the Queer Student Union and Women’s Center, have responded to the incident of graffiti last weekend in Dennett House, which was described in Monday’s all-campus e-mail. This kind of intolerant and hurtful behavior is unacceptable in our community. It harms not only those against whom it was directed, but all of us.

The student group is communicating about their response at this site: http://queer.williams.edu/?p=321 .

During their time in Hardy House today, College operations there proceeded as usual.

We, along with a few other faculty and administrators, met this evening with representatives of the group.

We support their efforts to end at Williams all behaviors aimed at intimidating or targeting people because of their gender, sexual identity, or gender expression and to build a community that welcomes and supports all.

We began this evening to work on how to advance their thoughtful and constructive ideas. It feels to us like a strong beginning.

With regards,
Bill Wagner
Interim President

and

Karen Merrill
Dean of the College

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QSU Occupies Hardy House

From a QSU Member

I am of the camp that is generally happy with the culture here at Williams. Is occupying Hardy an overreaction to someone painting “XXXX” on the wall… once? Let me be the first to say YES. What we’re doing is using this incident as a springboard, as leverage, to build a Williams that we want, we are truly Claiming Williams. The status quo is pretty good, in my opinion, not many people are getting attacked or harassed on a regular basis, but that doesn’t mean things can’t be better. We can make happen in a week what has literally been fought for for decades. That’s why I’m going to Hardy right now, because the stars are finally aligning: interim, very friendly president, homophobic incidences, Queer politics in the news, etc… This is a very, very ripe fruit and if we don’t carpe, we might not get another chance.

To the Williams Community,

The recent homophobic incident on campus has brought to light both historical and current issues regarding gender and sexuality at Williams College. Currently there is no designated space for a Gender and Sexuality Resource Center to address these issues. We students believe that this is a necessary addition to the network of student resources at the College. The presence of such a Center would provide students with a fixed place to go for support such as the counsel of other peers, the Queer Life Coordinator, printed information, or sexual health resources. The space would be utilized by currently existing groups such as the Women’s Center, the Queer Student Union, Anything But Str8 in Athletics, and other groups invested in these issues. The establishment of this center would create a more permanent space in which these groups could work with the College administration (including the Deans’ Office, the Office of Campus Life, the Admissions Office, the Career Planning Center, the President’s Office and the Health Center). Read more

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Homophobic Graffiti in Dennett

From WSO:

The homophobic graffiti that was written on the walls of the Dennett Hall entry this past Saturday was an example of malicious and unacceptable behavior.

Williams is our home. Every single student deserves to feel safe during their time here. Each of us is responsible for creating this culture of respect.

While it is impossible to change people’s beliefs from the outside that change must come from within all Williams students must respect and hold one another accountable to a certain standard of behavior. Vandalism and inappropriate, discriminatory language do not fall within the bounds of acceptable conduct.

We encourage all Williams students to speak up and hold their fellow students accountable for any form of discriminatory behavior that intimidates, threatens, or endangers members of the Williams Community.

Join College Council tomorrow night, Wednesday, at 8:00 pm in Henze Lounge (2nd Floor Paresky) to discuss the discriminatory act that happened this past weekend as well as the structural reasons behind homophobic behavior. Nothing is off-limits in this discussion. We encourage you to join the dialogue.

Comments:

1) Can someone provide details about the graffiti? What, exactly, was written? When was it discovered? Is there any background story (like the intra-entry disputes in Williams E two years ago) that might provide useful context?

2) Kudos to College Council for organizing this event. The more discussions, the better for the Williams community. If you go, tell us about it. If you have thoughts, share them in the comments.

3) The last major (?) act of (alleged?) homophobia at Williams was the Queer Bash E-mail controversy of 6 years ago. I still like my (unused) theoretical defense for the students.

“I stand by the content of my original e-mail. Having been raised in a Christian home, I believe that there is a Heaven and a Hell and that certain people, because of the decisions that they make, are headed for the latter. Prior this controversy, I understood, because of my cultural background, the terms “faggot” and “queer” to be largely synonymous, both in terms of meaning and acceptability. It is since come to my attention that, for some people, the latter is much preferred to the former. If the Dean of the College provides me with a list of terms that are inappropriate for use on campus, either via e-mail or speech, I would be happy to adhere to it. It was not and is not my intent to harass any individual.”

“Williams make a strong claim to encouraging a diversity of viewpoints on its campus. This is an easy claim to make when all the viewpoints agree with your own. It is a much tougher to fulfill when the viewpoints expressed are ones that you find abhorrent. How Williams proceeds with a disciplinary action against me will tell us all a great deal about seriousness with which Williams undertakes its educational mission.”

I believe, but could never confirm, that at least one of the students involved (if not both) were required by Williams to take time off, although it may have been that other academic/disciplinary problems that they had were involved as well. (I don’t see any relevant cases in the Honor and Discipline Reports for 2003 and 2004.) So, I doubt if they were officially sanctioned. Does anyone know?

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