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Predatory Desires, 1

Great Record article by Rebecca Tauber and Samuel Wolf about the on-going debate over the Chicago Principles. Read the whole thing, along with our previous commentary. I will pull out some highlights over the next three days. Day 1.

Joy James, professor of political science and Africana studies, published an article in The Feminist Wire in which she argued against the Chicago Statement and outlined its implications for the College community. “The Chicago Statement ‘free speech’ campaign accumulates power for elites and enables their predatory desires and aggressions against marginalized groups,” James wrote. “People of color are window dressing for a Statement that seeks to legitimize hate speech.”

Is it worth going through James’ article? Not that I can see. But this does provide a handy excuse for revisiting James’ troubled tenure at Williams. (But, full disclosure, my prediction that she would depart was wrong. Perhaps no other school is interested in taking James off our hands? As a member of the political science department told me a decade ago: “Yes, she wrote a book. But it is not a good book.”)

James linked this view to a previously published article in The Feminist Wire by Kai Green, assistant professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies, and Kimberly Love, assistant professor of English, which discusses the relationship between academia and injustice. Green and Love detailed the challenges of being Black queer feminists in both higher education and Williamstown, portraying many of the issues raised by those against the petition. “We are not safe because we are Black radical thinkers and professors who refuse to wait for the right time to point out the anti-Black, transphobic, xenophobic and the list goes on … wrongs of this time,” Green and Love wrote.

Is it worth it to go through Green and Love’s article? Again, not that I can see. Perhaps the real purpose of having faculty like Green and Love at Williams is that, in comparison, Joy James looks like an intellectual.

All that said, it would be wonderful if the Williams College Debate Union were to organize some debates/panels featuring James/Green/Love and their faculty/student opponents. The more discussion and debate at Williams, the better.

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Uncensored: Zachary Wood ’18 Discusses His New Book on FIRE’s So to Speak Podcast

Zachary Wood ’18 is one of my favorite Williams College graduates. I was very pleased to see the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) interviewed him about his new memoir, Uncensored: My Life and Uncomfortable Conversations at the Intersection of Black and White America.

Wood’s backstory includes a tough life that gave him the fortitude needed to become one of the college’s most precocious and famous alums. He has a mom with schizoaffective disorder and grew up in Washington, D.C.’s extremely dangerous Ward 8 community. Ward 8 includes the historic Anacostia neighborhood where the overall crime rate is reportedly 223% higher than the national average.

Zachary Wood’s bravery was tested when he and his Uncomfortable Learning organization invited thought-provoking speakers like former National Review writer John Derbyshire to speak. The college administration, under President Adam Falk, cancelled the event.

You can catch up with Wood’s adventures and hear more of his story by clicking on this link: So to Speak: The Free Speech Podcast

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Censorship at Williams: When You’ve Lost David Brooks

David Brooks, the somewhat conservative columnist at the New York Times, has offered his take on the pro-censorship, anti-free speech movement at Williams College.

 

 

In a tweet on Saturday, Brooks references the student statement opposing the faculty effort to adopt a version of the Chicago Statement and writes: “This is a statement signed by 363 censorship advocates at Williams College. A perfect encapsulation of the fundamentalism sweeping America’s elite colleges.” Most of the comments on Brooks’ tweet were supportive.

There was also the predictable leftist responses as follows.

In my view, the fight for freedom of speech is the most important issue in our nation. The left cannot win if we argue about their policy ideas. When we do argue policy it is too easy for conservatives to point to the real world examples of leftist ideology in action including Cuba and Venezuela. The only way the left can win is by silencing conservatives. It is good that establishment figures like David Brooks are waking up to the censorship running wild at places like Williams.

David Brooks has been writing for the New York Times since September 2003. He appears as a commentator on “PBS NewsHour,” NPR’s “All Things Considered” and NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

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Homogeneous: The Political Affiliations of Elite Liberal Arts College Faculty

Earlier this year, I noticed a helpful article by Mitchell Langbert on the number of Republicans teaching at the top ranked liberal arts colleges in the nation. The article appeared on the website of the National Association of Scholars. Lamgbert mentions Williams in his article. His research shows only a single Republican teaching at Williams out of 254 faculty members. According to my sources, there are actually two registered Republicans at Williams.

If this is true, it would change Langbert’s reported ratio of Democrats to Republicans at Williams from 132:1 to 66:1. This would at least take Williams out of the worst of the worst category.

I had an extended e-mail conversation with Langbert after this article came out. We compared notes on what it was like to compete for tenure and teach in an environment biased against conservatives. His article supports what I learned when I spoke with Jon Shields and Joshua Dunn, the authors of Passing on the Right: Conservative Professors in the Progressive University. Without a doubt, Republicans fare the worst at the elite LACs in New England. For Langbert’s full article, click on the link below.

Homogeneous: The Political Affiliations of Elite Liberal Arts College Faculty

Mitchell Langbert is associate professor of business management at Brooklyn College, Brooklyn, NY 11210; MLangbert@HVC.RR.com.

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Faculty Petition Timeline and Request for Controversy Name

We need a name for this controversy and we need one now! Loyal readers know that Ephblog loves to name a controversy — ¿Quién es más macho?, Nigaleian, Safety Dance, Prospect Must Die, Willy E. N-word, Catch Moore If You Can and Mary Jane Hitler are just a few of our highlights — and this debate will be with us for months to come. Suggestions?

For background, here is a timeline (pdf) of events:

The following petition was drafted by several faculty members, in collaboration with and inspired by discussions among many, and finalized on October 14, 2018. It was then sent to several more faculty members for review, who gave feedback and signed their names. At the same time, a meeting for a faculty discussion was planned for November 15, 2018.

After the petition had garnered sufficient faculty support, it was sent to all voting members of the faculty on October 29, 2018 by Luana Maroja, Associate Professor of Biology, Steven Gerrard, Professor of Philosophy, and David Gürçay-Morris, Associate Professor of Theatre. Over one hundred members of the faculty had signed by November 5, 2018, representing a range of disciplines and identities. Several faculty voiced concerns by email and in person, and it was planned to have several faculty discussions to allow productive dialogue on the petition and the issues of concern. Plans for student outreach were also initiated at this time.

Apparently, information about the petition and the first planned discussion was shared with students shortly thereafter. The petition was discussed at a meeting with students and President Mandel on November 11. College Council discussed the petition on November 13. A letter to the editor by Cheryl Shanks, Professor of Political Science, was published in the Williams Record on November 14. A student letter was presented to the faculty at the November 15th 4pm meeting, which was read out loud by Professor Gerrard before he presented some brief remarks. Instead of the planned discussion amongst faculty, interested students were welcomed into the meeting. They shared their thoughts about the petition and the issues raised therein. The discussion between faculty and students continued until 6:30pm.

We still don’t know the names of the “several faculty members” who wrote the petition although, presumably, Maroja, Gerrard and Gürçay-Morris played leading roles. It would also be interesting to know which 100 faculty members signed. Here is the original version:

Petition to the Faculty of Williams College

Greetings.

In view of the continuing local and national discussions regarding freedom of expression on campus, several of us think that it is an opportune time to reflect on and clarify our policies and ideas on this issue. While there is an understandable desire to protect our students from speech they find offensive, doing so risks shutting down legitimate dialogue and failing to prepare our students to deal effectively with a diversity of opinions, including views they might vehemently disagree with.

We believe that Williams College, as an institution of higher learning, must maintain a strong commitment to academic freedom. We further believe that Williams should protect and promote the free expression of ideas. We should be encouraged to use reasoned argument and civil discourse to criticize and contest views we dispute, not to suppress these views and risk falling down the slippery slope of choosing what can and what cannot be discussed.

The Chicago Statement articulates the duties of institutions of higher learning towards freedom of expression. A version of this statement has now been adopted by many other colleges and universities, including Amherst, Princeton, Smith, and, most recently, Colgate. We believe that Williams College should affirm its commitment to the principles of freedom of expression and academic freedom as essential to fulfilling its mission and goals by adopting the Chicago Statement.

If you agree with our concern and this statement, we ask you to please add your name to this petition. If we have a critical mass we will bring this to the president and our fellow faculty members for further consideration.

Links in the original. Again, my purpose in this post is not to dive into the substance of this debate. We will have months of that to come! My purpose is to solicit ideas for a funny/descriptive/insightful name for this controversy, something which merits the creation of a new EphBlog category. Thoughts:

1) Luana Maroja seems to be playing a leadership role in this effort. Well done! Maybe “Maroja’s Marauders?” I am a sucker for military references . . .

2) Note that “a group of six Williams professors started talking about getting the college to adopt the Chicago Statement.” I would assume that the 6 included Maroja, Gerrard and Gürçay-Morris. Who are the other three? Perhaps the controversy name should involve all of them? Perhaps “The Terrible Six?” Eph historians will recognize the reference (pdf):

3) I still like the alliteration of “Maud’s Moment.” Mandel will certainly be a central player in this debate, but “moment” does not quite capture things . . .

4) Is there some phrase we can use from the students’ petition against the change that resonates?

To quote Aiyana Porter at last week’s Black Student Union town hall, “John Derbyshire literally said that Black people are not humans. I’m not going to consider that in my classroom . . . . Who are we okay with making uncomfortable? Why are we so driven to making those particular people uncomfortable? If we are so insistent on making them uncomfortable, then we at least need some institutional support to get through all of the discomfort that you are thrusting upon us.”

I assumed that the reference to “my classroom” meant that Porter was a professor. Untrue! She is a student. But she does remind us how all this started with Uncomfortable Learning and John Derbyshire. Maybe “Derbyshire’s Revenge” or “Derbyshire’s Discomfit?”

Gaudino’s Revenge?

None of this is working for me. Suggestions welcome!

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Donor Beware: Power Line’s Steven Hayward Takes on Williams College

 

 

 

I was surprised to see one of my favorite Power Line writers, Steven Hayward, had noticed the faculty petition to bring a version of the famous Chicago Statement to Williams College. He notes he is proud UC Berkeley has adopted the Chicago Statement and its common sense defense of free speech and academic freedom. He opines “…while places like Berkeley, Colorado/Boulder, the University of Wisconsin, etc. have the rap for being the most politically correct and radical institutions of higher education, in fact they are relatively sane compared to small, elite private liberal arts colleges.”

Our Rotten Liberal Arts Colleges

His article focuses on the extremes he sees at Williams College and Sarah Lawrence. He goes out of his way to share choice elements of the student led counter-petition which hysterically views free speech and academic freedom as little more than revolutionary pogroms targeted at “people of color, queer people, disabled people, poor people, and others outside the center of power.”

His article is a refreshing reminder of why the postmodern radical ideology which dominates the culture of Williams College appears so unhealthy to well-meaning outsiders. It is worth reading his article in full. Steven Hayward is a senior resident scholar at the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley, and a visiting lecturer at Berkeley Law School.

 

 

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Faculty Petition about Free Speech

A faculty member passed along this document (pdf) which seems to include both the (complete?) faculty petition and the student response. The petition:

Good stuff! EphBlog agrees.

1) Note that there is no mention of the Chicago Statement or Chicago principles. Perhaps an earlier (or later?) version made that connection? If not, I don’t know why President Mandel would use that terminology.

2) From a College-branding point of view — paging Jim Reische! — it might be nice to have “Williams Statement on Free Expression.” We don’t just agree with Chicago! We have our own (similar) views.

3) Who wrote this? Who organized it? Who signed it? Let us praise them!

4) Do readers have predictions about how this will all work out? This certainly seems to be the major campus controversy for 2018-2019.

5) Worth a line-by-line analysis?

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Mandel’s Moment?

From Ricochet:

Students at Williams College in Massachusetts are angry. According to a petition signed by hundreds of students, the faculty is urging the college to enact “reckless and dangerous policies” that will “imperil marginalized students,” and amount to “discursive violence.”

What awful set of policies could Williams College faculty possibly be considering?

It is a version of the policy known as the “Chicago Statement.” Created in 2015 by a committee led by legal scholar Geoffrey Stone at the University of Chicago, the statement “recommit[s] the university to the principles of free, robust, and uninhibited debate.” It explicitly reminds students and faculty on campus that they have a “responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect,” and that “concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be.”

1) Could this be Maud Mandel’s moment? She has an opportunity to guide/cajole/force Williams College along a very different path than the one Adam Falk preferred. Will she take it? EphBlog hopes so!

2) This issue comes up in the Record article we are reviewing this week. More tomorrow.

3) The petition is here (pdf). Worth a week to go through?

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George H. Nash Presents at the Williams Faculty Club

Dr. Nash presents his remarks
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On the evening of September 13th, members from across the Williams community gathered in the Faculty Club to attend a private dinner lecture with renowned presidential historian George H. Nash. This event, organized by the Society for Conservative Thought and generously sponsored by the Department of Political Science, was attended by thirty students, five professors, administrators, and a representative from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Recently inducted Williams President Maud S. Mandel attended the reception.
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Dr. Nash is a leading intellectual of the twentieth century American conservative movement. His 1976 book, The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945, was described by historian Forrest McDonald as “a masterful study that can be read for edification by people on the entire range of the political spectrum.” At the dinner, Dr. Nash articulated an overview of twentieth century American conservatism and explained the context and potential implications of populism as manifested in the Trump presidency. Video of his lecture is provided below:
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The Society for Conservative Thought earnestly thanks the Department of Political Science and the various College officials that were vital to the success of this event.
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Confederation of Deplorables

An anonymous faculty member writes:

My father was a laborer all his life. Our entire home life was shaped by his weekly shift postings: one week, 0700-1600, the next 1600-1200, and the third 1200-0700. My parents grew up and married during the Depression and became solid FDR adherents. So our household was a solid Democratic bastion. And when I came of age, I followed my parents’ lead, registered Democrat, and voted Democrat. And I remain a registered Democrat, perhaps out of familial or working-class-origin loyalty. But, please note, I haven’t voted Democratic in more than 30 years because of the Democrats’ profound leftist lunge and its betrayal of its former constituents, like my parents and me.

I mention this because current party affiliation is not necessarily a reliable indication of one’s political sentiments. I remain a registered Democrat, simply because of my family history. I can’t affiliate myself with RINOs and/or country-club Republicans. I’m a proud Deplorable. Ironically, we owe the detestable HRC for our name. Do you know that there is a small, quiet, but stalwart confederation of Deplorables among Williams faculty members, who not only deplore the rapid (does any other word apply?) Democratic/media attack on President Trump, but who also deplore the radical leftist policies instituted by presidents/deans/administrators of Williams College?

Are there really? I like to consider myself a friendly acquaintance — mostly via e-mail but also in person — of many (most?) of the non-liberal/progressive members of the faculty. I have only met one who thought highly enough of Trump to vote for him.

More importantly, why is this “confederation of Deplorables” so quiet? Many (all?) of them have tenure. Why not speak up? Recall:

With Richard Herrnstein, the late Harvard professor, he [Charles Murray] was about to publish The Bell Curve. There were early warnings that the co-authors would come in for a rough time of it. Murray was in the Herrnstein home, having a nightcap. And he said to the professor, “Exactly why are we doing this anyway?” Herrnstein recalled the day he got tenure, and how happy he was, thinking what it meant: For the rest of his life, he was free to do the work he loved at a place he loved. “I said to myself, there has to be a catch. And I figured out what it was: You have to tell the truth.”

Indeed.

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Faculty Political Diversity, 3

Mitchell Langbert writes about the dramatic lack of political diversity at elite colleges and universities. Previous discussions here, here, here, and here. Langbert kindly shared the data (faculty_registration) for Williams. Let’s spend 3 days discussing this. Day 3.

Nicholas Goldrosen ’20 reported in January for the Record that:

Over the course of 2017, faculty and staff employed by the College contributed a total of $20,325.22 to candidates and committees in federal elections, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) disclosures. All of these contributions went to Democratic or Democrat-leaning candidates or committees. The vast majority of contributions were modest, and individuals often made multiple contributions over the course of the year.

In 2017, 76 individuals who listed their employers as “Williams College” or some subsidiary – and did not list their occupations as “student” – made a total of 1240 contributions in federal elections. Of the 76 people who made contributions, 43 were members of the faculty and 33 were employed as staff members.

Comments:

1) Goldrosen fails to quote a single person in this story. Why? Reporting 101 is: Go out and talk to people and tell your readers what they say. There are faculty who are experts in US politics. Ask them questions! There are students involved in political campaigns and fund-raising. Interview them!

2) I asked Goldrosen to share the data with us. He never responded to my e-mail. Advice to our readers: Always respond to (non-spam) e-mails. The more people you network with, the better your career will be.

3) The FEC data is public. Should I spend sometime going through it?

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Faculty Political Diversity, 2

Mitchell Langbert writes about the dramatic lack of political diversity at elite colleges and universities. Previous discussions here, here, here, and here. Langbert kindly shared the data (faculty_registration) for Williams. Let’s spend 3 days discussing this. Day 2.

Recall our previous discussions about which Williams professors might be considered to be on the non-left-wing side of the faculty as a whole. Of those candidates, here are the ones that appear in Langbert’s data:

  
  name       sex   rank      dob        field       distance registration   age
                                      
1 Miller     M     Associate REDACTED   Mathematics    0.800 R             44.0
2 Paul       M     Professor REDACTED   Political      1.90  NP            50.0
3 McAllister M     Professor REDACTED   Political      2.20  NP            54.0
4 Kirby      M     Professor REDACTED   Psychology     1.90  NP            55.0
5 Marcus     M     Professor REDACTED   Political      0.400 D             75.0
6 Jackall    M     Professor NA         Sociology     NA     NR            NA  
7 Lewis      M     Professor NA         Art           NA     R             NA  
8 Strauch    M     Associate NA         Physics       NA     NR            NA  

UPDATE: See below.

Mathematics Professor Steve Miller is the only registered Republican on the Williams faculty. He is the “1” in the 132:1 ratio that Langbert reports.

Having only one Republican professor at Williams is about as bad as an alternate reality in which Williams had only one African-American professor. I am comfortable with people claiming that neither situation is a concern because Williams faculty teach in an unbiased fashion: you can’t tell from their lectures or their grading what their politics or race are. I am also comfortable with people claiming that both situations are a matter of great concern that the College should work to fix. I am uncomfortable with the current Williams view: We desperately need to increase racial diversity and we don’t need to worry about political diversity.

dcat asks what we should do. That is easy!

Williams could have the exact same set of policies about faculty political diversity as it has about faculty racial diversity. For example, Williams could keep track of (and report) on political diversity in the same way that it does racial diversity. It could insist that departments go out of their way to advertise positions in ways likely to come to the attention of politically diverse candidates. It could require (or strongly urge) departments — as it now does — to have at least one fly-out candidate who helps with political diversity. It could create positions for which the hiring pool is much more likely to be politically diverse. And so on.

This won’t make Williams 50/50 anytime soon, but it would quickly lead to a Williams with 10+ republican/libertarian/conservative faculty members, thereby (one hopes!) creating a very different political environment on campus.

UPDATE: I redacted birthdays by request. Although birthdays are public information (else how did Langbert find them), we like to stay on good terms with our faculty readers! Separately, Michael Lewis reports to EphBlog that he is a registered Republican in Williamstown. So, the ratio of Democrats to Republicans among the Williams faculty is 66:1. EphBlog gets results!

UPDATE II: Professor Miller writes:

I’ve held many political affiliations over the years, often due to what party’s primary I want to vote in. I was a registered Democrat in MA for awhile until the Affordable Care Act was passed. I view myself as a Conservative Libertarian.

Thanks for the clarification!

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Faculty Political Diversity, 1

Mitchell Langbert writes about the dramatic lack of political diversity at elite colleges and universities. Previous discussions here, here, here, and here. Langbert kindly shared the data (faculty_registration) for Williams. Let’s spend 3 days discussing this. Day 1.

Langbert writes:

In this article I offer new evidence about something readers of Academic Questions already know: The political registration of full-time, Ph.D.-holding professors in top-tier liberal arts colleges is overwhelmingly Democratic.

Key table:

Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 12.48.49 PM

Am I truly a right-wing nutjob for wanting Williams to have more than a single Republican faculty member? I hope not!

The data is very interesting, not least because it includes date of birth and distance (or residence) from Williams. Here are the youngest and oldest faculty:

   name      sex   rank      dob        field       distance registration   age
                                      
 1 Friedman  F     Professor 1987-12-25 Language       0.900 D             30.0
 2 Heggeseth F     Assistant 1986-05-23 Mathematics    2.00  D             31.0
 3 Smalarz   F     Professor 1986-08-08 Psychology     0.400 D             31.0
 4 Simko     F     Assistant 1984-09-21 Sociology      0.900 D             33.0
 5 Leight    F     Assistant 1984-11-15 Economics      0.200 NP            33.0
 6 Phelan    M     Assistant 1984-12-10 Economics      0.400 NP            33.0
 7 Blackwood F     Assistant 1984-06-08 Mathematics    0.600 D             33.0
 8 Johnson   M     Professor 1937-05-22 Art           11.4   D             80.0
 9 Graver    F     Professor 1936-08-17 English        1.30  D             81.0
10 Beaver    M     Professor 1936-07-16 History        0.400 NP            81.0
11 Dew       M     Professor 1937-05-01 History        1.00  D             81.0

Immediately, we see some problems with the data. Friedman and Smalarz were not professors at such a young age. In fact, (Nicole) Friedman does not really belong in the data set at all because she was not tenure-track. I have reported these issues to Langbert. Overall, however, the data looks very good to me. Do other people see any problems?

Here are the professors that live furthest away:

  name     sex   rank      dob        field     distance registration   age
                                  
1 Pye      M     Professor 1953-09-06 English       47.0 D             64.0
2 Merrill  F     Professor 1963-12-02 History       58.3 D             54.0
3 Ephraim  F     Assistant 1978-12-03 Political     69.8 D             39.0
4 Campbell F     Assistant 1981-03-06 Music        132   NP            37.0
5 Limon    M     Professor 1951-08-29 English      159   D             66.0

Do John Limon and Corrina Cambell really live more than 100 miles away? I have my doubts. Also note that some other professors (e.g., Singham) who I think live in different states are shown as living near by. So, I am not sure I would trust the distance data that much.

Screen Shot 2018-05-13 at 5.10.09 PM

None of us are concerned with students being “brainwashed” — although never forget the saga of Jennifer Kling ’98. The issue is political diversity. If racial diversity is important for the faculty, then why isn’t political diversity?

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Statement of Solidarity with Israel, 2

Last Tuesday, the Transnational Wall Demonstration was put up in Paresky lawn, and an accompanying email was sent out. The wall was meant to show solidarity between those of Palestinian and Mexican identity who struggle with walls and borders in their daily lives, and an accompanying talk was given.

In response to this, a student wrote and circulated a Statement of Solidarity with Israel, and the student gathered signatures and published his document in the Record. It gathered 65+ signatures, which can be viewed in the above link.

Day 2.

Discussion after the break.

Read more

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Statement of Solidarity with Israel, 1

Last Tuesday, the Transnational Wall Demonstration was put up in Paresky lawn, and an accompanying email was sent out. The wall was meant to show solidarity between those of Palestinian and Mexican identity who struggle with walls and borders in their daily lives, and an accompanying talk was given.

In response to this, a student wrote and circulated a Statement of Solidarity with Israel, and the student gathered signatures and published his document in the Record. It gathered 65+ signatures, which can be viewed in the above link.

Let’s take a few days to talk about the wall and this response.

Discussion after the break. Read more

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Local demands for intellectual diversity

Saw the following today, thought others might be interested in seeing what’s going on at other schools in our neck of the world: UMass students — fed up with professors preaching anti-Americanism — demand ‘intellectual diversity’ .

The petition itself is available here. What I find fascinating is that the title of the article uses the word ‘demand’, which appears no where in their petition. They use words such as ‘petition’, ‘urge’ and ‘suggest’; it is written in a very different tone than other recent petitions (such as this one from Oberlin).

 

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Uncomfortable Posting

Greetings. I’m the faculty president of the Williams’ chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest academic honor society. As there has been a lot of discussion about speakers invited to campus by Uncomfortable Learning, I wanted to briefly post why PBK has decided to co-sponsor their next speakers.

PBK is dedicated to the principles of freedom of inquiry and liberty of thought and expression. We do not necessarily support the views and opinions of the speakers, but we strongly support the calls made by President Falk,  William McGuire III ’17 and others on the importance and value of having civil discussions. There is a great opportunity in such debate, and we encourage all interested members of the community to come to these and other events and be heard. Many of the positions held by students and faculty on our campus today would not have found receptive audiences in the earlier days of Williams; ideas should be refuted by facts, not silenced.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out
                     Because I was not a Socialist.

                     Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out
                     Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

                     Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out 
                     Because I was not a Jew.

                    Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for
                    me. — Martin Niemoller

Steven Miller (sjm1@williams.edu), Associate Professor of Mathematics

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‘Moskau’ ha, ha ha ha, ha ha ha: on the bells at Thompson …

A few days ago, according to a thankyou note on WSO, the campus was filled with Moskau the German pop hit from the ’80’s by Dschinghis Khan, that cross between ABBA and the Village People. Disco from the tower of Thompson!

Hats off to Will Slack and The Guild of Carilloneurs for asserting despite evidence to the contrary that Disco is Not Dead!

Moscow, Moscow, throw your glasses at the wall
And good fortune to us all,
A ha ha ha ha – ha!
Moscow, Moscow, join us for a kazadchok
We’ll go dancing round the clock
A ha ha ha ha – hey!
(What did I ever do with my vest…)

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Williams Conversations

Shortly after I graduated from Williams, when I was studying at Albert-Ludwigs-Universität in Freiburg, Germany, I approached a professor lecturing on Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival to ask her about a concept in that epic (I believed was) similar to one in Beowulf. “Approach” may not be the best way to describe how I sought to contact this scholar. It was more like chased down. I had to rush after her at the close of the class. Unlike her peers in the Purple Valley, she did not stay after to field questions from students, leaving almost immediately after she excused us.

When I did track her down, she seemed almost stunned by my intellectual interest in the epic–and the comparison I was making (without her prompting) to another great medieval poem.

One could say that is the difference not between Williams and the university in Freiburg, but between an American and a European university.  And to be sure, I often enjoyed conversations with professors at  the various graduate institutions where I have studied on this side of the Atlantic, even dropping by to visit a law school professor when I was in Charlottesville, Virginia this past weekend.

Yet, we didn’t just have conversations with our professors at Williams.  We often had spirited exchanges, touching on the subject matter of our courses, student life at a small college and even about our career goals or the news of the day.

I was reminded of that when I related the above anecdote to Gail Henderson ’86 while visiting her in Charlotte Monday night.  And like our days at Williams, we ended up talking well into the night, sharing stories of our lives since college and discussing the various challenges we have faced over the years.   Read more

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Honorary Degree/Commencement Speaker for ’11

From WSO:

Who would you want? I just read that e-mail and thought that if we form some kind of small consensus here on wso, then we can send e-mails to the committee and get someone who we would really like.

1) What e-mail? Please put it in the comments if you have a copy.

2) Has the Honorary Degree committee solicited student opinion in past years? If so, how? If not, why the change? (Kudos either way. The more that student opinion is gathered and listed to, the better.)

3) Suggestions from readers? Obvious choice is soon-to-be Senator Martha Coakley ’75. I am in favor of any alum. I am against (almost) any non-alum.

4) I first raised the issue of the ideological diversity of commencement speakers 6 years ago. The last identifiably Republican/conservative speaker was in 1996. An easy way to break that streak would be to invite Harry Jackson ’75.

5) The racial breakdown of Commencement speakers provided for a rollicking discussion last year, including an apology from me, prompted by Sam Crane and (then) Frosh Mom. During the last nine years, every speaker but one has been either Jewish or African-American. The exception, Morris Dees, was (I think) the most embarrassing.

6) Who can help us improve our knowledge of the history of Commencement Speakers as maintained on Wikipedia? If you remember who spoke in your era, add them.

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Veterans in Academia

Former Williams prof. Marc Lynch, in a response to a Tom Friedman column, writes about officers returning from military service to academia, particularly to pursue graduate studies in political science and Middle Eastern studies:

I’ve met a lot of these officers over the last few years, and have frequently been deeply impressed with them. A remarkable number of my students at Williams College (and later from George Washington) chose to serve in the military after graduation in the post-9/11 period (and some, like the much-missed Nate Krissoff, didn’t make it back). There is absolutely no reason why such officers and soldiers wouldn’t choose to pursue advanced degrees, or succeed brilliantly when they do.

When they enter academic programs, these veterans will (and already do) bring a great deal of on-the-ground experience to the classroom and to their research. Many will (and do) enter their programs with far more advanced language skills than did earlier generations of students, although perhaps with more familiarity with colloquial spoken dialects than with Modern Standard Arabic (reversing a common traditional pattern). Their point of reference will be (and is) Iraq and the Gulf, not Israeli-Palestinian affairs, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, or other areas where a great number of current faculty began their encounters with the region. And they will have much greater familiarity and comfort with military and security issues than do many currently in the field.

I doubt that the main effect will be to push the field to the “right”, as I’ve heard suggested. The officers I’ve met are all over the map politically and in terms of their intellectual aspirations. Indeed, I’d guess that the bias would be towards pragmatism and empiricism, and against any kind of ideological doctrines. And at any rate, the allegations of the politicization of Middle East Studies — particularly political science — have always been wildly exaggerated. How the critics of the “Human Terrain Program” over in Anthropology might react, I admit I don’t know…

That’s not to say that there might not be depressing misperceptions on both sides. I’ve had a few soldiers interested in pursuing degrees ask me nervously whether they would be shunned by academics. I would be shocked if any experienced prejudice or bias because of their war service — certainly not at a place like GWU — and would be appalled if they did. I certainly hope that such concerns wouldn’t stop them from applying. I suppose there’s a chance that some faculty might feel threatened by students from such a background — but those are probably professors who have trouble in other areas as well, frankly. Constructive argument and productive friction between people with very different backgrounds, perspectives and knowledge should enrich and even electrify a well-run classroom, not cause problems. That’s a good, not a negative.

Continue reading here.

Dan Drezner ’90 comments:

To put it bluntly, most top political scientists don’t have a lot of experience beyond being political scientists. That is to say, the top Ph.D. students often enter graduate school straight from undergraduate programs. They might have interesting summer internships, but otherwise have limited hands-on experience with politics or international relations…..

The problem comes when everyone in a profession pursues the identical career track — to the point where those who deviate from the career track are thought of as strange or different. At that point, the profession loses something ineffable.

So, former members of the military should be ecouraged to enter Ph.D. programs — as should those who worked on the ground for NGOs and civil affairs branches of the government. I can’t guarantee that it will lead to better scholarship. At a minimum, however, it improves the quality of the teaching and the conversations that take place between colleagues. And I’m pretty confident that that leads to better research.

Additional comments here.

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Bible Eph

Andrew Liu asks:

Does believing everything the Bible says make me a bigot/sexist/jackass?

At Williams College, the answer is obvious. And a shout-out to Dave Moore for the fastest invocation of Goodwin’s Law that I have ever seen on WSO. Conversation started here. Any suggestions for which faculty member Liu should contact for theological support? Paging College Chaplain Rick Spalding . . .

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Free Speech

There is an interesting discussion at WSO about free speech and related issues. The problem is that, like a poorly run Williams seminar, it is a bit all over the place. It is too bad that more Williams faculty don’t participate in this aspect of the Williams Conversation. Imagine if Will Dudley or Mark Reinhardt or Cheryl Shanks or insert-your-favorite-professor-here were involved in that thread. Wouldn’t the conversation be a lot more focused and productive?

The key is to have a concrete example of “free speech” that some people ay Williams would like to ban and others would protect. Such an example will highlight the opposing views and the reasons behind them. My suggestion: Imagine a student (or professor!) with the following sign on her own door.

The average combined SAT score (math + verbal) for Chinese-American students at Williams is 200 points higher than the average for African-American students at Williams. The College should stop discriminating in admissions against Chinese-American applicants.

Would such a sign be obnoxious? Obviously. Would it lead to hurt feelings and even emotional pain among some members of the Williams community? Of course. Would I recommend that the student with this sign on her door take it down? Yes. But should the College require that the student remove the sign? No.

If free speech at Williams means anything, it entails the right to voice unpopular political opinions.

If the WSO discussion would use that specific example (or a different one), the conversation would be more productive.

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Stupid Grins

Ready for another one of my famous parodies? How about this e-mail from Dean McKeon to all Williams students studying abroad:

Hi student travelers,

You have not doubt heard the thrilling news that Barack Obama was elected President last night. Most people here are walking around with stupid grins and new hope in their hearts. We have a long hard road ahead but “Yes we can.”

I believe that this election will change the standing of the United States abroad quite noticeably. I would be delighted to learn from you what you are hearing and feeling and seeing.

All best wishes on your adventure in learning and being,

Laura McKeon

I must have made that up, right? No Williams Dean would so blithely assume that every single student would find Obama’s election thrilling. Only a rightwing Troglodyte like me would ever think that the ideological unanimity of Williams leads inevitably to this sort of stupidity.

Alas, no parody. A student writes:

You can imagine my surprise, then, when I opened an email from Dean McKeon on Wednesday only to find her fawning over Obama as if her were the second coming of Christ. As if this weren’t enough, it was followed by another email two days later with an AP article that, in my opinion, captures the media’s failure in this day and age. Both the email and article are attached below.

Really, is all this absolutely necessary? I wonder if Dean McKeon sent study-abroad students a similar email in 2004 after Bush won–I’ll go ahead and say no. And if her email is accurate, it also makes me wonder what the campus’ political atmosphere is like right now.

No worries, though! Professor Sam Crane is always telling me that the lack of ideological diversity among the Williams faculty (and staff) is nothing to worry about. Perhaps this student should seek psychological counseling. All Ephs should all be walking around with “new hope in their hearts” . . .

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Shock The Boys

A great comment from last year by Henry Bass ’57.

Phinney Baxter the president in the 40’s and 50’s hired Red Fred Schuman to come to Williams. Schuman had been forced out of Chicago by the very conservative CHICAGO TRIBUNE. When asked by his Trustees why he had hired this notorious Commie, Phinney laughed and said, “I think its good to have a few teachers that will shock the boys”. He also hired Don Antonio to head the Spanish dept. He was a young fellow, who was the Spanish Republic’s Ambassador to the US. He was stranded in Washington when Franco overthrew the Republic, who lots of folks considered Red. On the other side, the Poli Sci dept had Fred Greene, who even in the 50’s was such a hawk that he was already saying we had to fight in Vietnam. I talked to Fred last June and he has not mellowed one bit. He would be called a neocon and minced no words about the liberal interpretation of the Vietnam War.

I suspect that the current administration does not have a commitment to going out and finding faculty who will be sufficiently diverse that they will shock the students.

Indeed. Is there a single member of the faculty who would “shock” the students today? Certainly, not from the right. Is that a problem? I think so.

Note that the resulting discussion made clear that “neocon” was not a fair description of Fred Greene.

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Disparities

An interesting roundtable tonight.

The W. Ford Schumann ’50 Program in Democratic Studies at Williams College will sponsor a Judicial Roundtable featuring U.S. District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall of the Central District of California, U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams of the District of Maryland, and A.J. Kramer, federal public defender for the District of Columbia. The roundtable titled “Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System” will take place on Monday, Oct. 20 at 8 p.m. in Griffin Hall, room 3, on the Williams College campus.

Big picture, there are two views on racial disparities: first, that the disparities are caused by racism (either explicit or implicit) and, second, that the disparities have nothing to do with race per se. The second view argues that the reason that there are, say, a higher percentage of African-Americans than Asian-Americans in prison has little to do with the racial biases of policemen, prosecutors, juries or judges and everything to do with different rates of criminality.

Without even googling the three presenters, I would predict that only one of these two views will be presented/defended. Am I wrong? (Un-PC background reading for those interested.)

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A Lost War

Professor Sam Crane claims that the war in Iraq is “lost.” But why doesn’t his post on the topic bother to confront, much less refute, the arguments on the other side?

Remember: Bush Lost the War

There is a lot of talk these days about how the “surge” in Iraq has worked and that “victory” is at hand. Rubbish. While it is true that the “surge” was one of several elements (the others being internal Iraqi political shifts beyond the control of US policy) that contributed to a reduction in violence, it has not produced a political settlement. And without a political settlement, Iraq remains a lost war.

Bush lost the war.

Perhaps, but Sam fails to make the case. Details below.
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Commencement Speakers

Random New York Times surfing allowed me to add the identity of the 1989 Commencement Speaker to our Wikipedia listing. But surely we can fill in some of the missing years? Note that 20% of the speakers in the last 20 years were African American (Cole, Franklin, Reagon and Davis). Wasn’t somebody complaining a few months ago about having too many white speakers?

Also, consider my claim from 5 years ago about ideological diversity among Williams Commencement Speakers.

Looking at this pessimistically, it is sad to see Williams not doing a better job of providing balance. Of course, a sample size of 10 isn’t enough to draw serious conclusions, but I don’t recall graduation speakers being too right wing in the 1980’s. A good out of sample test going forward will be to see how Williams does over the next 10 years. If they fail to invite any of the three recent Republican governors of Massachusetts or any leading Republican Senators and Cabinet Secretaries, it will probably be fair to conclude that there is as much bias at Williams as anywhere else.

Our out of sample test of five speakers shows two liberals (Friedman and Halberstam), two artists with uncertain (to me) politics (Davis and Serra) and one news anchor who votes Democratic (I think) but is largely non-political in her public persona (Couric). What are the odds that the College will have a conservative/republican speaker in the next five years? Low. If we invited former Democratic governor of Massachusetts and presidential candidate Michael Dukakis for 1990, why wouldn’t we invite former Republican governor of Massachusetts and presidential candidate Mitt Romney for 2010? Because the people doing the inviting think that liberals/democrats are more interesting and/or honor-worthy than conservatives/republicans.

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Working for The Man

Professor Shanti Singham supports Obama?!

The NH primary is on Tuesday. I spoke to Shanti Singham, who is working for Obama, and she is looking for students to go up there for one or two days this weekend or early next week.

I am shocked by this news. Oh, and isn’t Professor Sam Crane always telling me that I don’t need to worry about professor “proselytizing” students? Indeed, he is. So, Singham is “looking” for students to go campaign for Obama. What, exactly, would she have to do to meet Sam’s definition of proselytizing? Just asking!

Now, to be fair, this is mostly New Years snark. I love it that engaged and engaging professors like Singham teach at Williams. The College needs more professors like Singham, not fewer. And it is a good thing that a professor would invite students to go with her, campaigning or anywhere else. The more time that students spend with professors, in Williamstown or elsewhere, the better.

The problem, as always, is that there are no Williams professors campaigning (or even supporting?) anyone on the Republican side. Looking to go to NH and work for Thompson? Sorry. You are out of luck. Williams does not value ideological diversity among its faculty. This is just the latest example.

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Faculty Diversity

Am I making up these quotes?

[F]or all the hoopla given to diversity at this school, there is relatively little diversity of thought.

Although I don’t know the views of all the faculty members, I think you’re right. Not just on the issue of Jena 6, but in general. I would like to see an openly socialist professor passionately debating an openly libertarian professor. How come I don’t see that? Everyone would benefit from that. I just don’t see much disagreement at Williams. The more disagreements, the more heated debates, the better.

Seriously, though, it is a shame that there isn’t more diversity of thought amongst Williams faculty. It’s safe to say that their political leanings are predominantly to the left, though viewpoints on discrete issues are obviously much more complex. I would note, though, that there have been debates between professors of different ideological backgrounds. I wasn’t here for it, but one of the more contentious ones occurred between faculty regarding the invasion of Iraq…

So, the last time that a Williams professor publicly professed an idea that might be considered conservative/Republican was, what, 5 years ago? Good to know! Comments:

1) Williams has a problem with the lack of ideological diversity on the faculty. The first step in dealing with any problem is admitting that you have one. When I have brought up this topic in the past, many/most readers have claimed that the lack of professors willing to publicly defend their actual conservative/Republican/libertarian beliefs is a non-issue. Yeah? Tell it to students like Gary Jin, Achbold Battogtokh and Andrew Wang.

2) Previous discussion and related links here, here and here. One reason that no faculty member who is suspicious of the Jena Six will come take the other side at a teach-in is fear of retribution from his liberal colleagues. Or do you think that Professor Kirby was lying when he explained why he kept his (libertarian) politics to himself.

I did keep my views entirely to myself, but not because I was advised to do so. I had seen (on separate occasions) a senior faculty member make positive comments about a leftist job candidate and disparaging comments about a Republican student in department meetings, and these comments yielded assent from other faculty members. As a non-tenured libertarian these and other subtle signals scared me. I thought it prudent to keep quiet.

Indeed. What is the upside for a faculty member going to a Jena Six teach-in and arguing with the usual progressives? Not much, other than their undying enmity. Have fun with that! Even a tenured faculty member is stuck with these folks for decades to come. Who needs the hassle?

3) This has little to do with what goes on inside a Williams classroom and everything to do with political dialog in the Williams community. 98% of classroom teaching is not affected by ideology. (And it sure is fun to mock the remaining 2%!) The key issue is the campus conversation, events outside of class. Why was no conservative faculty member present at the Jena Six teach in? (My personal opinion is that, more or less, the Jena Six have been treated fairly by the justice system.) Was no conservative faculty member invited? If so, shame on the organizers! That’s not a teach-in; it’s an indoctrinate-in. Or was no conservative faculty member willing to speak out, or even available? If so, shame on Williams.

4) My opponents on this will point out that, as with finding more African American faculty, there is a problem with the small size of the pool. If all the political science Ph.D.’s are liberal, there is no way that Williams can expand the ideological diversity of its faculty. There is some truth to that. But the people who run Williams have no interest in ideological diversity even when they have a chance for it. Evidence?

First, we have the Iraq War teach-in from last year. I e-mailed Professor Singham to see if either a) pro-war speakers were invited and/or b) if she needed such speakers, I might attend. She was not polite enough to reply. Now, it’s a free country and Professor Singham does not need to reply to my e-mails if she does not want to. But if Gary Jin, Achbold Battogtokh and Andrew Wang are wondering why there are no non-students, much less faculty members, at these sorts of events at Williams, it is because of faculty like Singham. She has no interest in ideological diversity.

Second, I have applied to teach at Williams, on several occasions and in multiple departments. Nothing but rejection so far (although something might work out for Winter Study 2009). But this topic provides another opportunity, so I just sent Morty an e-mail (and cc’d those three students). See below for a copy.

Now, these rejections are almost certainly not driven by my politics. The MATH/STAT department wouldn’t care if I were a Marxist. But, at the same time, the fact that my politics don’t count in my favor is evidence that no one in power cares about ideological diversity. Being a member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, Eph Division may not count against me but it certainly doesn’t count for me.

Consider a hypothetical: What if I were African-American? Would Williams let me teach a one semester class? I am pretty sure (contrary opinions welcome) that Williams would, that it values racial diversity enough to make that happen. Ideological diversity? Not so much.

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