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Marcus ’88 Moves on Racial Issues, 1

Ken Marcus ’88 is the (recently confirmed) Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights, a position which places him at the center of the debate about racial diversity in higher education. Marcus, and his colleagues in the Justice Department, have started the process of getting rid of racial preferences. Let’s spend a week discussing their efforts. Day 1.

From The New York Times:

The Trump administration said Tuesday that it was abandoning Obama administration policies that called on universities to consider race as a factor in diversifying their campuses, signaling that the administration will champion race-blind admissions standards.

In a joint letter, the Education and Justice Departments announced that they had rescinded seven Obama-era policy guidelines on affirmative action, which, the departments said, “advocate policy preferences and positions beyond the requirements of the Constitution.”

1) Marcus will be at the center of the debate over affirmative action at places like Williams for the next 2 (or 6?!?) years. Very convenient for EphBlog!

2) Say what you will about Trump’s focus/competence/ideology, but, in this part of the Federal Government at least, we are getting serious Republican/conservative policy-making, good and hard. You may dislike Marcus’s ideology, but he is very, very smart. He, and his peers at Justice, are going to do everything in their power to make affirmative action disappear. Underestimate them at your peril.

3) One of my favorite post-election memes illustrates the problem that Democrats/liberals face:

Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 1.53.22 PM

If the Federal Government were less powerful, then Marcus would not be able to change admissions policy at places like Williams. (And that would certainly be my preference! I think that the Federal Government should leave private institutions like Williams alone.) But my Democratic/progressive/liberal friends want a powerful Federal Government, one with the ability to tell everyone else how to run their affairs. Be careful what you wish for!

Entire New York Times article below:

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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.

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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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Zero African-American Phi Beta Kappa Graduates in 2017

In the Williams College class of 2017, there were 71 Phi Beta Kappa (PBK) graduates. None of them were African-American. (Full list of students available in the course catalog, and reprinted below the break for your convenience.) Comments:

1) There were 38 African-American first years in 2013-2014 (pdf). Some of those students transferred or took time off. Some African-American students from earlier years ended up in this class. We don’t know the total number of African-American graduates in the class of 2017, but it was probably around 35.

2) Since Phi Beta Kappa is the top 12.5% of the class, we would expect about 4 African-American PBK graduates. Of course, there will be random variation. Perhaps this year is low but, in other years, African-Americans are over-represented? Alas, that does not appear to be the case; there were zero African-American PBK graduates in 2009 and 2010 as well.

3) A relevant news hook is the “scandal” over UPenn law professor Amy Wax claiming that African-American law students “rarely” graduate in the top half of their class. The difference between EphBlog and Amy Wax, obviously, is that we have the data. (Williams declined to confirm or deny our analysis.)

4) Should we spend a few days discussing the reasons for this anomaly? If the Record were a real paper, it would investigate this statistic and interview senior faculty and administrators about it.

Williams 2017 Phi Beta Kappa graduates:
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Diversity Circus: A Self-Perpetuating Administrative Pathology

An anonymous Williams professor explains faculty hiring:

The Dean of the Faculty and the CAP oversee hiring at every stage. When a department wants a new line they have to apply to the CAP, explaining why it necessary to have a Professor of Widgetry, why other professors in the department can’t teach widgetry, and how having a specialist in widgetry will dovetail with offerings in other departments.

The CAP then approves or denies the line. This is necessary because departments only see their own needs and priorities; CAP and the DoF have (in theory anyway) a view of staffing needs across departments. They may also have a specific vision of where the college should be moving. All of this is–again in theory–a Good Thing.

After you get the line, the department must seek approval for every subsequent stage of the search. The job ad has to be approved. Shortlists have to be approved. Finalists are all interviewed by the CAP, and ultimately the CAP has to approve hires. (So do the Trustees, as already noted in this thread.) These safeguards are in place to preserve and enforce academic standards. They are how the administration ensures that departments actually hire for the position they received permission to hire in. Because all new hirees must have their tenure decisions approved by the CAP, it also makes sense to have this same committee approve their initial job offer.

The problem is that enforcing academic standards isn’t really the flavor of the month anymore. The Dean of the Faculty and the CAP flex their muscles primarily on behalf of diversity. Academic standards seem, increasingly, to be matters of secondary concern. The diversity pressure is applied at all stages of the process and really seems to corrupt it. You might not get approval for your professorship of widgetry unless you redefine the position with some political or diversity edge. You need to hire a Professor of Subaltern Widgetry, the unspoken hope being that this kind of line will ultimately result in a minority hire. Affirmative action forms go to the associate dean for institutional diversity. At every stage of shortlisting, this person has to be consulted to ensure that minority candidates aren’t disproportionately eliminated due to implicit bias. This is despite the fact that in most cases the hiring department has no clarity on the race of specific applicants. As for the CAP interactions with finalists, my impression has been that their academic standards are well below that of the hiring department. Again diversity looms as the major concern.

A few observations: The faculty-facing admins must struggle to judge the quality of any individual candidate. Only the hiring department has that kind of expertise. The hall monitors have a particular proclivity for diversity mongering because that kind of thing *is* eminently legible to the CAP and the DoF. The diversity circus thus becomes a self-perpetuating administrative pathology.

Weird things happen when you make faculty demographics a leading priority. You can’t actually advertise for minority candidates, so positions have to be redefined such that they are more likely (in the eyes of administrators) to yield a critical mass of minority applicants. You might have had 100 candidates in your search for a Professor of Widgetry. Now that you’ve clarified you want a Professor of Subaltern Widgetry you might only have a few dozen candidates. Other schools are playing the same game, so any minority finalists will very probably turn out to be heavily recruited, with multiple offers from other institutions. In these cases we’re not redressing any past injustices, as the minority candidates would’ve clearly entered the academy regardless of our search. When you do finally hire the professor of subaltern widgetry, it will turn out that most of their curricular offerings and scholarship are a critique of the broader field of widgetry. But you don’t have any ordinary professor of Widgetry, remember, so the meaning and relevance of this critique for students will always be an issue.

This agrees with everything I have heard, both about Williams and about elite schools in general. Any dissenting views?

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KC Johnson on Safety Dance

Former Williams professor KC Johnson, co-author (with Stuart Taylor) of The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America’s Universities, sent in this analysis (doc) of the latest filings in the Safety Dance sexual assault case:

There have been some new filings in the Title IX/due process lawsuit against Williams. I’ve summarized the case previously, so won’t repeat what I wrote. Unique among the 200 or so lawsuits filed by accused male students, Williams features an accuser who also was a college employee. And at several points in the process, Williams administrators appeared to favor their employee over their student—in a manner that likely would have generated outrage if the genders had been reversed.

The new filings deal with attempts by the accused student’s lawyer to depose President Falk and two members of the college disciplinary panel that voted to expel her client. The judge previously had limited the number of depositions to ten per side.

There are, however, two items of potential interest included in the filings.

The first: as part of the discovery process, the accused student has obtained the training material that Williams uses for its Title IX adjudicators. (Since 2011, the federal government has required colleges to train adjudicators in sexual assault cases—and only sexual assault cases.) To the best of my knowledge, no college or university has voluntarily publicized its training material; my co-author Stuart Taylor and I obtained around a dozen schools’ training materials and analyzed their overwhelmingly one-sided nature. For a comparison to the criminal justice system: imagine if, in rape and sexual assault trials and only in those trials, the prosecutor could require jurors to spend 3-5 hours reading general material on the topic that the prosecutor herself selected—and then could deny the defense attorney any chance to see the material at any point in the process.

Williams’ training material is less unfair than that of some other institutions (for a particularly egregious example, see pages 20-21 of this decision against Penn, which eventually led the college to settle the case). Williams, typically, has filled its training with frightening statistics that say nothing about the specifics of the case the panel is supposed to judge. (One slide, for instance, claims—without citation—that 21% of college students experience dating violence from their current partner.) More problematically, the training (which is supposed to be gender-neutral, since males as well as females can be victims of sexual assault, and because gender-biased training risks violating Title IX) appears to presuppose that sexual assault victims are female, listing “toxic masculinity” as a cause of sexual assault. Would a Williams adjudicator, faithfully following this type of training, have decided to overlook the accuser’s dubious conduct? Even more problematically, the training includes a slide entitled “Meet Frank,” an apparent reference to a composite character—from decades ago—from researcher David Lisak. An exposé in Reason raised significant questions about Lisak’s credibility in his use of “Frank,” who the researcher inaccurately presented as a single person rather than a collection of quotes. The training also has several slides about trauma-informed investigation, a controversial theory debunked by Emily Yoffe in a high-profile Atlantic article.

Also striking is what the training doesn’t contain. It doesn’t, for instance, mention the presumption of innocence. Or the need for fairness. Or the importance of allowing the accused student a meaningful opportunity to defend himself.

In short, the training appears designed to make it more likely that a Williams disciplinary panel will return a guilty finding when considering sexual assault allegations.

The second item from the filings: the accused student’s lawyer included a snippet of the deposition from the investigator Williams hired for the case, an employment lawyer named Allyson Kurker. The deposition has little of substance, though Kurker’s confusion about Williams’ standards is a little striking.

More interesting here is Williams’ decision to hire Kurker in the first place. In Title IX litigation, Kurker is best-known as the investigator in an Amherst case that might well be the single most unfair adjudication of any in the country since the 2011 change in policy. (The student sued Amherst, easily survived a motion to dismiss, and then the college settled.) Kurker’s investigation failed to uncover critical, exculpatory text messages sent on the night of the incident by the accuser. Then, in depositions, she attempted to dismiss the texts’ significance on grounds that the relevant texts would have been those that corroborated the accuser’s story.

Given that record, what was the process used by Williams in hiring Kurker?

In terms of where the case might go from here, two thoughts. First, on Friday, the judge in the Williams case, Michael Ponsor, ruled in favor of UMass in a lawsuit filed by an accused student named James Haidak. Though Ponsor gave a token acknowledgement to the due process concerns, most of his lengthy opinion outlined his very forgiving standard toward college actions.

Despite some factual differences, the UMass and Williams cases have at least one important similarity: in both cases, the accused student was a highly unsympathetic figure. There’s certainly nothing in Ponsor’s holding to suggest that he (unlike judges in many of the dozens of due process cases in which the college has been on the losing end) is a judge who’s particularly concerned about the problem of unfair campus adjudication procedures.

On the other hand: while only around two dozen accused students have survived motions to dismiss on Title IX claims, colleges have been vulnerable in cases where the female student also appeared to have committed some form of misconduct, yet the institution only investigated and punished the male student. For a particularly obvious example of this pattern, see page 37 of the decision in the Amherst case.

Usually, these cases involve a single incident (for instance, sex when both parties are extremely drunk, and so neither student had the ability to consent under often-restrictive college rules). The Williams case doesn’t feature such a fact pattern—but in one respect, it’s worse: the college seemed indifferent to the possibility that a female employee was filing retaliatory complaints against a student. If, in the end, Williams loses this case, the college’s decision to so blatantly favor one party in a deeply dysfunctional relationship will likely be the reason why.

Why won’t (can’t?) the Record cover this important case, especially stuff like the absurdity of hiring Kurker?

By the way, is Kurker still working for Williams?

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Latest Legal Filing from Safety Dance

Here (107-main) is the latest legal filing in the Safety Dance sexual assault case. Here (107-1, 107-2, 107-3, 107-4, 107-5, 107-6, 107-7, 107-8, 107-9, 107-10, 107-11) are the exhibits.

Case summary: Male Williams student engages in two year long sexual relationship with female student-then-employee. At the end of that relationship, female employee physically assaults male student. Male student reports assault which goes ignored by Williams. After male student pushes for the complaint to be investigated, female employee makes retaliatory counter complaint, alleging she had been subjected to two years of “abuse” by the student. At the eleventh hour into the investigation, nearly three years after the commencement of their relationship, employee alleges that the two had sex eighteen months earlier without the female providing “affirmative consent.” That is, the male is not accused of a “rape” that any US prosecutor would ever pursue. The woman did not resist or say any form of “No.” Male student finishes all requirements for graduation but Williams expels him for sexual assault and refuses to give him his degree. He has sued.

My comments are mostly the same as they were 10 months ago:

1) Reader (especially lawyer) comments are welcome! What is your sense of John Doe’s odds of success?

2) Should we spend a week going through these filings? Reader interest seems to be lagging.

3) Why won’t the Record cover this story? It is incompetence, political correctness or something else? I am honestly curious . . .

4) Why won’t the College just give Doe his degree? I could, perhaps, understand why the College might fight to enforce an expulsion if settlement required allowing the accused student to come back on campus. But why the Ahab-like insistence om preventing Doe from getting his degree?

5) Can anyone provide more details on educational options for students expelled from places like Williams? Several students (how many?) have been expelled from Williams over the last 5 years for sexual assault. What happens to them? Presumably, they still want/need a college degree? Are they allowed to transfer to other schools? Can they use their Williams credits? I don’t know . . . but surely our readers do! In case it matters, Doe is a New York State resident. Could he transfer (almost) all his credits to some SUNY school, take a class or two, and then get his degree? Or would SUNY deny his transfer application because of his expulsion from Williams?

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Hall Monitors of the Diversity Brigade

From an anonymous faculty member:

I think Seery paints a very partial picture of “politically correct scripting,” one calibrated to spare his colleagues. At Williams I’d say the diversity brigade has three pillars of support: 1) Student life administrators and elements in the office of the Dean of the College, 2) more or less the entire office of the Dean of the Faculty, and 3) a substantial faculty bloc, consisting particularly of faculty in politically sensitive fields.

I want to emphasize that I like a lot of these people individually. Almost invariably they are personally well-meaning and generous. Collectively, though….

Faculty side admins put pressure on hiring and strive to define new positions in such a way as to yield the right kind of candidates, thus expanding the faculty bloc. Here it is important to note that diversity considerations provide a pretense for the administration to interfere in matters of departmental governance where it most matters, i.e. hiring and promotion. As long as this remains the case, upper administrators will always have reason to sponsor the circus. Meanwhile, politically conscious faculty and the student-facing admins create, coordinate and direct activist tendencies among our acolytes. This process makes a lot of things happen. One of them is that a great part of the campus-wide discourse is directed to identity politics 2.0, the constant elaboration of theories of repression and dominance. Another is that the process reinforces itself as student discontent demonstrates the need for more diversity-brigade staffing and more diversity-brigade activity.

I don’t know what my point here is really. I guess the Davis Center putting out lawn signs is the least of it. These are just incidental manifestations of a constant dialogue about oppression and oppressors that is echoed by many of our invited speakers, that recurs constantly in informal discussions by the Hollander espresso machine, and in faculty and committee meetings, infecting almost every social interaction (seriously, from mundane scheduling matters, to curriculum tinkering and syllabus design, internal administrative chores, you name it). On the one hand I teach my classes and write my articles and work out and I’m fine. On the other hand, the hall monitors of the diversity brigade, so quick to detect structural oppression in their opponents, have become stunningly blind to their own powers and repressive tendencies. Also there is an anti-intellectual aspect to their rhetoric that I find increasingly embarrassing.

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Diversity, in All Its Forms: Conservative Society President Speaks on Claiming Williams Day

On February 1st, classes were cancelled for the tenth annual Claiming Williams Day celebration of topics related to diversity and inclusion.

Conservative Society President John DiGravio ’21 was invited by student organizers to give a speech at a Claiming Williams morning event. The presentation, titled “Diversity, in All Its Forms: Conservative Thought at Williams” was delivered to 130 students, faculty, and administrators assembled in Griffin Hall. After articulating the foundations of his personal commitment to diversity of perspective, John explained the extent to which the College is failing to ensure the intellectual diversity of the curriculum and campus community. He then described the Society’s efforts to address this issue and called upon members of the Williams community to uphold their commitment to diversity in all its forms.

John has spoken at a number of public engagements related to intellectual diversity and conservative thought at Williams. If you would like to continue the conversation initiated in this speech, or arrange for John to present at another event, please contact him at jjd6@williams.edu.

For the latest updates on the activities of the Williams College Society for Conservative Thought, please visit and bookmark our new website: https://www.wcsct.org/.
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Hate Hoaxes: A History

A “hate hoax” is an act of hate — racist graffiti, a threatening note — which is a hoax in the sense that it was perpetrated by a member (or ally) of the class of people it purports to attack. See Pro Publica and Reason for discussion and examples. Let’s review some examples from Williams history:

January 1993: Three (anti-black) racist slurs posted on the door of Rice House. Perpetrator turned out to an African-American student. He was suspended for one semester.

September 2001: Female student reports that she was assaulted in her dorm room. Turns out that she made the whole thing up. I do not think that this truly qualifies as a hate hoax since her intent was probably not to stir up a campus controversy about sexual assault.

November 2011: Racist note — All Niggers Must Die — attached to a door in Prospect House. Perpetrator was (almost certainly) an African-American/Hispanic student activist. She was not punished and, to this day, the College maintains the public fiction that this was an actual hate crime.

November 2012: Racist statement — All beaners must die — written on whiteboard in Mission. Perpetrator was of “Mexican descent.” As best I can tell, the student was not punished.

November 2016: Racist graffiti — AMKKK, “meant to signify AmeriKKKa, a spelling of America that references racism in our society” — written in red paint in Griffin Hall. Two students are caught, both claiming (plausibly!) to have no connection to the KKK. There are reports that at least one of the students was a minority. Students were probably punished, but I do not know the details. One might reasonably quibble whether this is an example of a true “hate hoax,” in particular, whether the two students had the necessary intent. Let’s leave that debate for another day.

Are there other examples I should include?

As best I can tell, there are about as many hate hoaxes at Williams as there are actual hate crimes. What do readers estimate the proportions to be?

Even the hate crimes that do not seem to be hoaxes — Williams E in 2008, Mills-Dennett 1 in 2009 and Paresky 2014 — often seem to be driven by animus whose original source has nothing directly to do with hate . . . but that is a discussion for another day.

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Society for Conservative Thought Hosts Chris Gibson

On Wednesday, January 10th, the Society for Conservative Thought held its inaugural public event featuring Chris Gibson’s presentation,“What it Means to Be a Conservative.” Dr. Gibson previously served as a U.S. Army colonel and U.S. representative, and is currently Stanley Kaplan Distinguished Visiting Professor of American Foreign Policy in the Williams leadership studies program.

Addressing the audience of 45 students, administrators, and community locals, Dr. Gibson asserted the importance of the “conservation of the founding principles” and the recognition of their enduring value in the modern world. With many references to American history and European political philosophy, he described the miracle of the American political experiment and the critical need to maintain “the spirit of Philadelphia” which conceived of it. Students then stayed for over an hour to participate in a Q&A session in which Dr. Gibson outlined concrete legislative actions to improve the American political system, drawing upon his experiences from serving in Congress.

Following the discussion, the Society offered complimentary copies of Dr. Gibson’s most recent book, Rally Point: Five Tasks to Unite the Country and Revitalize the American Dream, courtesy of the Society’s budget.

The invitation of distinguished guests to voice conservative principles on campus is essential to the mission of the Society for Conservative Thought. If you can refer such individuals who would be interested in contributing to a future event, please contact jjd6@williams.edu.

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A New Year, A New Era for Williams College

Alumni and Friends of Williams College,

I am pleased to announce that the student representatives of College Council have formally approved the incipient Society for Conservative Thought as a registered student organization. This milestone has been made possible through the tireless and earnest contributions of faculty members and many students, to all of whom I am deeply grateful.

Since my arrival at Williams as a freshman this fall, I have become increasingly alarmed by the extent of the liberal intellectual uniformity of the curriculum and campus community. Fellow students upholding all varieties of political and social beliefs have confided to me their concerns that the explicit liberal bias is inhibitive to the attainment of a well-rounded liberal arts education, and that alternative views are frequently neglected, misrepresented, and ridiculed without basis. This close-mindedness breeds a shallow and hegemonic intellectual environment in which students do not feel able to freely express non-conforming ideas. As asserted by the campus administration during the First Days presentations, it is a mission of the College to promote diversity “in all its forms.” Diversity, however, should not be restricted to classifications of racial, sexual, and socioeconomic identities—at an educational institution, it must include diversity of thought. Though the administration has openly acknowledged the problem of liberal homogeneity in the official 2005 Diversity Initiatives Self-Study, in which students described “a lack of tolerance of diversity of thought” regarding conservative philosophies (pg. 10), the College has taken no meaningful measure to improve the situation and there are no existing student organizations dedicated to the study of conservative beliefs.

The Society for Conservative Thought is the product of the current student movement to broaden the intellectual diversity of the College and establish an academic refuge where students can engage with the rich intellectual tradition of conservatism in the vein of Edmund Burke and Russell Kirk. As a non-partisan and non-activist organization, we invite students of all varieties of political and social beliefs to expand their academic horizons and study, discuss, and even challenge ideas that are underrepresented in the Williams curriculum. Unlike other student organizations which have attempted to prompt dialogue through spectacle and incendiary controversies, the Society will foster a genuine understanding and appreciation of conservative principles through group readings and discussions, debates, and invited speakers. The Society is sponsored by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a prestigious and well-endowed organization founded by William F. Buckley Jr. in 1953 for the promotion of conservative ideas on college campuses. Through ISI, the Society has access to educational resources, a bureau of distinguished speakers, and special off-campus events, all free of charge.

I understand that there is a strong contingent of alumni who are rightfully disaffected with the intellectual climate of the College. To alumni: may this message inspire you with the knowledge that there are many among the student body who share your concerns and are striving to right the situation. The Society will be a liaison between the student and alumni communities, and we look forward to hearing your advice as we forge lasting bonds of friendship in our joint effort to establish true diversity of thought at the College. Please contact me to learn more and become involved in our mission—Williams needs you.

At this moment the intellectual affairs of the College face a fateful crossroads of critical importance. By the end of this academic year, the two most prominent campus advocates for free thought will have retired and graduated, and a new president will be taking office. For over two centuries, Williams has formed the minds, hearts, and souls of generations of students who have effected incredible and outsized impacts on our nation and the world. Will the College endanger this legacy by continuing to stifle the holistic intellectual growth of its students? Perhaps, but I promise that the Society will do everything within its power to provide Williams students with a refuge for free thought and the unprejudiced study of the true, good, and beautiful.

Society activities will commence during the Winter Study period. We will read selections from William F. Buckley Jr.’s God and Man at Yale, Roger Scruton’s The Meaning of Conservatism, and Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind, as well as host a number of speakers drawn from distinguished faculty members and alumni. Those with questions or interest in our efforts may contact me at jjd6@williams.edu.

Sincerely,

John J. DiGravio ‘21

President, Williams College Society for Conservative Thought

“Veritas Vos Liberabit”

 

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#MeToo

From Wikipedia:

“Me Too” (or “#MeToo”, with local alternatives in other languages) spread virally as a two-word hashtag used on social media in October 2017 to denounce sexual assault and harassment, in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against film producer and executive Harvey Weinstein.[1][2][3] The phrase, long used in this sense by social activist Tarana Burke, was popularized by actress Alyssa Milano, who encouraged women to tweet it to publicize experiences to demonstrate the widespread nature of misogynistic behavior.

There are plenty of recriminations, now, for those who knew about the depredations of Harvey Weinstein and his ilk, but did nothing. Before casting stones, however, EphBlog prefers to look in the mirror. Are there things at Williams that, while not Weinstein-like in their depravity, should be aired rather than hidden?

What are our responsibilities and what are yours?

UPDATE: I have deleted the previous contents of this post, after considering the discussion in the comment thread below. (Reasoning: Anytime three 80+ year-old white guys agree with WW, I should listen!) The contents included a discussion of this incident as well as unsubstantiated rumors about a senior administrator.

Thanks to all for the feedback.

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College Censorship Anniversary

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On or about two years ago today, Williams College began to censor historic artifacts founded by previous generations of Ephs. This mural in the log came from the World War Two generation. A war memorial that depicted Chief Hendrick Theyanoguin standing over a map being inspected by Ephraim Williams on the morning of the Bloody Morning Scout, during the battle of Lake George in 1755. Hendrick and Ephraim were both killed in combat during this joint reconnaissance mission.

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@WilliamsRapists

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The Record should cover this story without, obviously, mentioning the names of the anonymously accused. Former faculty member KC Johnson chimes in with:

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Let’s Have Completely Blind Admissions

Williams College is currently a need-blind in its admission process for national students (not so for international students). That by itself is a good thing, but isn’t that still leaving space for the admissions office to discriminate against potential students through other factors–say, if they’re white or black, a legacy student, or from a nice family in North Adams?

I propose that Williams expand its blind admission policy to all factors that don’t immediately relate to an applicant’s academics and (certain) extracurriculars. The school wouldn’t know if the 1580 SAT score and 4.0 GPA comes from a white, upper class student from Los Angeles or a working class black student from Chicago. Whether you share a last name with a big donor of the campus goes unnoticed by the admissions office. You won an interscholastic competition? Great, that gets considered. But they won’t know or care if you’re president of the Asian students club of your high school.

Regarding international students, the policy will affect them in the same manner. All that will be known are their academics and their status as an international applicant.

This new policy has the potential to boost the already respectable academic achievement of the campus. High school GPA correlates with college GPA, and the SAT predicts for future academic success. It follows that a selecting for students who perform and score the best in high school will likely select for the students who will get the most out of college.

I leave this idea for you to entertain.

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Divest Williams Wedding

Even if you disagree with the goals of the Divest Williams effort, you have to admire their commitment and moxie.

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From the Record last April:

On Friday, Divest Williams staged a mock wedding between the College and the fossil fuels industry to protest the College’s investment in that industry and call for divestment from it.

The wedding, which was attended by roughly 150 students, faculty, and staff members, followed mock weddings staged over the past few years by divestment activists at Whitman College and the Universities of Washington, Montana and Oregon.

Max Harmon ’19 played the part of the bride – the College, wearing a cow costume and veil. Linda Worden ’19, dressed as President Adam Falk, escorted him down the aisle. In front of them, Phacelia Cramer ’19 scattered fake hundred dollar bills like rose petals. Lili Bierer ’19 played the groom, representing the fossil fuels industry by wearing a suit adorned with the logos of large oil and gas companies and a tall hat made of smoke stacks.

Well done! Read the whole thing. However, there was at least one sour note:

wtrThe bridesmaids included Haley Bosse ’20, MaKaila DeSano-Smith ’18 and Suiyi Tang ’19, dressed as Michael Eisenson ’77, O. Andreas Halvorsen ’86 and Martha Williamson ’77 — three members of the Board of Trustees. The Board announced in 2015 that it would not be divesting from fossil fuels. Halvorsen stated at this year’s open forum with the trustees that the matter was a closed issue.

With the ceremony over, the wedding party and many audience members sang, “We’re gonna roll, we’re gonna roll, we’re gonna roll divestment on … If trustees are in the way, we’re gonna roll it over them … If Falk gets in the way, we’re gonna roll it over him. We’re gonna roll divestment on!”

The mock wedding was one of Divest Williams’ more humorous actions, according to Worden. She said it is “important to employ different tactics throughout the year” because “different tactics appeal to different audiences. As a group, it keeps energy going to have a variety of approaches.”

Is Divest Williams really going after Martha Williamson’s ’77 daughters? That is unbelievably rude. If I were Dean of the College, I would have a few choice words for Suiyi Tang ’19 and the rest of Divest Williams. The children of fellow Ephs are off-limits — whatever the depths of your disagreements may be.

Of course, the College should (would?) never punish a student for engaging in free speech, but an education in the costs/benefits of such tactics would be useful. There is no better way to get the trustees to ignore you forevermore than to go after one of them in such a personal way.

Is there some backstory here? Did Williamson, in a previous meeting with Divest Williams, mention the race of her daughters?

Haley Bosse’s ’20 costume was also . . . edgy . . . in a way that she might not have realized or intended . . .

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Title IX Update

Useful update on Title IX from former Williams professor KC Johnson:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on September 22 formally rescinded the Obama administration’s commands that universities use unfair rules in sexual-misconduct investigations—rules that had the effect of finding more students guilty of sexual assault. And she appears also to be preparing for far more forceful due-process protections down the road.

Those follow-on regulations could require schools to presume that accused students are innocent unless proven guilty, to allow rigorous cross-examination of accusers, and perhaps also to grant the accused the unqualified right to appeal adverse decisions, and more.

Meanwhile, the modest improvements that DeVos included in the “interim guidance” of September 22 let universities know how to comply with the Education Department’s requirements during the time between the end of the Obama decrees and the final adoption of new, carefully considered regulations.

Read the whole thing.

At a recent meeting with alumni, President Falk suggested the following: First, the College had already incorporated most of the suggestions on the Obama era guidance, even before that guidance was made, so DeVos decision really doesn’t effect Williams. (Is that true? Perhaps the most important change involved the change in burden of proof standards, and I don’t remember that changing before Obama’s guidance.) Second, Falk suggested that, despite whatever DeVos might suggest, the College would continue to do what it thinks best to fight the scourge of sexual assault at Williams.

Has anyone who has gone through the details of the Safety Dance case think that Williams is on the right track? I don’t.

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Resist

Via a post to the class of 2018 Facebook Group from Emily O’brien, we find this petition, now interspersed with my comments:

It has come to our attention that last night, around 5 pm, a junior was taken into custody at CSS and then at the Williamstown Police Department. While he was in holding, CSS searched his room. After the search, said student was received drug charges from WPD and disciplinary charges from the College.

The interaction of the College with WPD is a topic we have covered on occasion, but perhaps not to the depth that we should have. I assume that there is some standard operating procedure involving room searches. I think that there is an arrest involving WPD about once per year, almost always involving drugs.

The punishment that this student may incur follows a long history of racist and classist practices in disciplinary enforcement at Williams.

True? There is a great senior thesis or Record article to be written about the history of “disciplinary enforcement at Williams.” Who will write it? My sense is that African-American males are much more likely to be caught up in these situations than other students.

The college continues to search for and accept students from low-income households and people of color who fuel their problematic “diversity” statistics without actually caring about the lives of those same students.

Harsh but fair. The College loves to brag about diversity, but refuses to discuss the fact that students in the bottom 20% of enrollees — more or less academic rating less than 4 and/or SAT less than 1300 — do much worse than other students. If such students only graduate at, say, the rate of 75%, isn’t the College doing something wrong in admitting them? Or at least in admitting them without being transparent about their odds of graduation?

How can the college claim it is a “diverse” and “inclusive” community while continuously criminalizing and punishing low-income students and students of color, specifically black students. The student who is in potential trouble is a black student from a low-income household.

Because the College doesn’t really care about them. Emily O’brien is displaying a touching degree of naivete to think otherwise. Adam Falk and Liz Creighton love to primp and preen as oh-so-virtuous, but, when the cops hit the door, it is obvious whose side they are on.

Wouldn’t this student have been better off if he had not been accepted at Williams?

This petition calls for a few things:

1) Williams College should drop the charges against said student, and provide the support necessary for said student to fight the legal charges he incurred after CSS searched his room.

Once the WPD is involved, the College can’t “drop the charges.” Only the District Attorney gets to decide who is charged and who is not. (Of course, the College, in its interactions with local power brokers has favors it can grant and call in, so they might be able to cajole the DA into not pressing charges.

Independent of the DA, Williams has little choice but to enforce its rules about drags against this student in the same way that it does against other students. I think that this generally involves a one or two semester suspension.

2) Williams College should hold a community meeting that is charged with re-thinking the disciplinary processes it utilizes to criminalize and punish those at this school that are already most marginalized.

EphBlog votes Yes! The more open discussion there is about the College’s policies, the better.

Advice to Emily: Try to get College Council or the Gargoyles or the BSU involved. They probably have the power to force a community meeting.

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Please Falk, Stop Panicking

Adam Falk has a habit of panicking at the sight of graffiti. This is an unhelpful personality tick for a Williams president to have in this day and age. The more he panics — the more all-campus e-mails, the more calls to the police, the more sturm und drang — the more graffiti incidents to come. Feeding the trolls is a bad idea, on the web or at Williams.

Consider the latest incident. Here is the photo:

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Here is a close up:

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If just this (inconclusive!) image causes you to call the police (!), you are a fool.

First, it is not clear if this is actual graffiti! Those 3 Ks look different, as if they were written at different times, perhaps with different pens. The first two Ks seem fairly intentional. Perhaps there is a student nicknamed KK in the class of 2019? It would certainly be wise to try to find out before calling the FBI. (Not sure if Williams called the FBI on this one, but they have done so in the past.) In fact, it could be that the third K was written first (I see other faded out letters around it) and then the KK was added.

Second, even if this was written intentionally, the odds are that it was done so by a left-wing student, not by an actual supporter of the KKK. Recall that the Griffin Hall KKK vandalism last fall was created by left-wing students upset at Trump’s election. The racist graffiti in Prospect in 2011 was written by Jess Torres ’12, a minority Democratic activist.

Third, even if it was done intentionally and was not written by a left-wing student, it might have been done innocently. I realize that my Eph social justice warrior friends think that KKK is one of the worst symbols in the world and that everyone knows this. But (sadly?) that isn’t true. There are 200+ non-US citizens at Williams, many of them as clueless about American racial politics as you, dear reader, are about, say, Hindu nationalism. Recall the KKK cook-out of 2004.

fistFourth, even if it was done intentionally by someone who understood the meaning of KKK, it does not follow that punishment is a allowable (or wise) course of action. Note that the clenched fist on the poster, which seems likely (just to me?) to be a nod to the traditional symbol of Black Power. Once the College allows political symbols to be included on the banner — without any indication that this is against the rules — it would have trouble punishing someone for putting a different political symbol on the same banner. (It could forbid it and/or remove KKK. But it would have difficulty punishing a student for doing that, or at least with punishing a student willing to fight the system.

Instead of panicking, Falk should take a page out of Morty’s handbook and ignore the trolls. Students do stupid things and the bigger a deal you make of it, the more likely you are to get more of it. Now, if real damage is being done (as in Griffin) or serious (fake!) threats are being made (as in Prospect), then you do need to investigate. But for trivial stuff like this, your best bet is silence.

Recall how Morty handled Mary Jane Hitler a decade ago. Summary: This was an infinitely more serious situation with an actual Nazi on campus, putting up posters on student dorm room doors, with help from his Eph girlfriend, who Morty decided not to punish in any way.

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DeVos Speech on Due Process

Former Williams professor KC Johnson writing (with Stuart Taylor) in the Wall Street Journal:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has made clear her intention to correct one of the Obama administration’s worst excesses—its unjust rules governing sexual misconduct on college campuses. In a forceful speech Thursday at Virginia’s George Mason University, Mrs. DeVos said that “one rape is one too many”—but also that “one person denied due process is one too many.” Mrs. DeVos declared that “every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined.”

This might seem like an obvious affirmation of fundamental American principles. But such sentiments were almost wholly absent in discussions about campus sexual assault from the Obama White House and Education Department. Instead, as Mrs. DeVos noted, officials “weaponized” the department’s Office for Civil Rights, imposing policies that have “failed too many students.”

Indeed. Do any of our readers think that the John Doe of Safety Dance should be denied, forever, his Williams degree even though he has completed all his classes?

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Ending Kangaroo Courts

Latest from former Williams professor KC Johnson:

Is the Education Department preparing to dial back the Obama administration’s assault on campus due process?

Beginning in 2011, the Obama administration used Title IX—the federal law banning sex discrimination at schools that receive federal funds—to pressure colleges and universities into adopting new procedures for handling sexual-misconduct complaints. At most schools, accused students already faced secret tribunals that lacked basic due-process protections. But the Education Department mandated even more unfairness. It ordered schools to lower the standard of proof to “preponderance of the evidence” instead of the “clear and convincing evidence” standard that some schools had used. It required schools to permit accusers to appeal not-guilty findings and discouraged allowing students under investigation to cross-examine their accusers.

Does anyone know exactly what occurred at Williams and when? The above is, I think, consistent with what we have seen, especially the change in the standard of proof. Perhaps even more important was the change in venue. Back in the day (when?) sexual assault was adjudicated at Williams (in those cases with no police involvement) in the same way as any honor code violation: by a committee run and controlled by students. Now, the Honor and Discipline Committee does not hear those cases. They are handled by administrators/faculty with no student involvement.

As always, the more students are involved in activity X, the better for Williams. I have much more faith in the ability of students to judge these cases than I do in folks like Sarah Bolton.

[Trump appointee] Ms. Jackson has one of the most thankless jobs in Washington — seeking to vindicate procedural norms and basic fairness on an issue that triggers intense emotional responses. She deserves all the support she can get.

Indeed. I doubt that anyone who matters at Williams agrees . . .

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Marcus Slams Falk Over Derbyshire, 5

Last year, Professor George Marcus attacked President Adam Falk over his decision to ban John Derbyshire from speaking at Williams. Let’s spend a week discussing his argument. Today is Day 5.

Marcus concludes:

The liberal arts are the arts that make you free. And among the arts that make you free are those that enable you to learn how to deal with contentious conversation, how to inquire, speak, lead, follow and act as an autonomous citizen rather than, as the current local norm seems to have it, demand to be protected against discomfort. The norms of social, intellectual and political tolerance conflict and that adds to the complexity of being at a liberal arts college. We all need to learn to navigate between these contrary norms with practiced competence. It would behoove us all – students, faculty and administrators – to repair the self-inflicted damage and become, once again, a true liberal arts College. But that requires leadership. To that end we need an administration that understands and acts on its many obligations.

Perhaps we will get one in January?

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Marcus Slams Falk Over Derbyshire, 4

Last year, Professor George Marcus attacked President Adam Falk over his decision to ban John Derbyshire from speaking at Williams. Let’s spend a week discussing his argument. Today is Day 4.

Allowing this administration to mysteriously determine the boundaries of what “we” tolerate leaves our students unprepared to learn the practice of the liberal arts of citizenship.

Indeed it does. Falk may be giving (leftist) students what they want, but that is not what they need.

These skills of citizenship are evidently sorely lacking in the College student body.

Indeed they are. More students have written op-eds in the Record against speakers like Venker and Derbyshire than for them. Only a small handful of students — Zach Wood ’18 most prominently among them — have come out publicly in support of bringing non-mainstream speakers to Williams.

Tolerant citizens do not tolerate a regime that requires political speech, and posters are just one form of political speech, to be vetted before being allowed.

Why the reference to “posters?” Is there some controversy about this, some new rule from the Administration?

A politically tolerant student body would not tolerate an administration that proclaims it has first and final say over who can be invited to this campus to give an expressly political talk.

I disagree with Marcus’s implicit definition of “politically tolerant.” A majority of Williams students are, with regard to this debate, apolitical. They don’t care who comes to campus or who is prevented from coming to campus. They have better things to worry about!

What Williams lacks is students, like Zack Wood ’18, who are defenders of free speech, insistent on bring a variety of views to the Williams campus, even (or especially!) views they disagree with. I am not sure what the best short description of such students might be, but it certainly isn’t “politically tolerant.”

A politically tolerant citizen would not demand that this or that individual that he or she finds obnoxious be prevented from coming to this campus. A politically tolerant student would not demand that all groups be “vetted” by the administration before they are allowed to organize. A student newspaper competent in the skills and practices of a free press would not go to a senior member of the administration to examine the soundness of a decision made by the senior member of that administration and publish a story that inquired no further.

Indeed. The Record’s coverage of this controversy was sloppy, and it only got worse in their stories about Uncomfortable Learning.

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Marcus Slams Falk Over Derbyshire, 3

Last year, Professor George Marcus attacked President Adam Falk over his decision to ban John Derbyshire from speaking at Williams. Let’s spend a week discussing his argument. Today is Day 3.

The doctrine of free speech is not merely a negative principle. But political tolerance is also a positive principle. A free people become so by learning how to competently engage in public, competitive, even hostile, discourse; how to sift the stronger from the weaker; how to use conflictual disputatious citizenship to reveal hidden and corrupt motives and, in sum, how to best use the public space for contestation. But these practices are not natural. In his stance, Falk sells our students short.

Does he really? It is nice that Marcus believes that today’s Williams students are willing to “engage in public, competitive, even hostile, discourse.” But I have my doubts. Recall the official editorial position of the Williams Record:

Though Venker’s speech is legally protected, the College, as a private institution, has its own set of rules about what discourse is acceptable. In general, the College should not allow speech that challenges fundamental human rights and devalues people based on identity markers, like being a woman.

If the Record objects to Venker — someone’s whose views are positively mainstream in comparison to Derbyshire’s — then why would Marcus think that Williams students in general are ready to handle the Alt Right?

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Marcus Slams Falk Over Derbyshire, 2

Last year, Professor George Marcus attacked President Adam Falk over his decision to ban John Derbyshire from speaking at Williams. Let’s spend a week discussing his argument. Today is Day 2.

But the definition of political tolerance has long been straightforward: one supports the rights of all but precisely those we find objectionable. We measure political tolerance by seeing whether those proclaiming their tolerance are willing to uphold all political and civil rights for those they find objectionable, whether “they” can give talks, hold rallies, run for office, securely rely on the protection of the laws and more. There is no “line” beyond which we can withdraw those rights because “we” share President Adam Falk’s “outrage” (and here the “we” in Falk’s diatribe means “me, Adam Falk”). His missive exemplifies his intolerance. To that he adds the command that we respect his authority to impose his outrage, no matter how widely or narrowly shared, on the entire community.

All of this is reasonable enough. But, on the whole, Marcus’s op-ed is not nearly as good as Michael Lewis’s. (Regular readers will recall our 5 part series from last year.) If you only have time to read one faculty op-ed attacking Falk, read that one.

Falk speaks of the need to secure social tolerance. This is an essential and, especially at a residential college, vital task. People should feel secure and comfortable here, should receive – at the very least – civility, if not authentic caring and empathy. It is appropriate that the administration strengthens social tolerance where and when it should and where and when it can (in first-year orientation, on Claiming Williams Day, etc.). But social tolerance is not the only form of tolerance to be taught and protected. There are other forms of tolerance that advance conflicting norms and require different skills. They cannot be reconciled.

These two other forms of tolerance are essential if this is to be a liberal arts college. One of these is intellectual tolerance, experienced in the classroom and its other venues. It is in the circumstances of learning that we expose ourselves and our students to new and challenging ideas, ones that are both old and new, that may prove to be uncomfortable for some.

Note the key error. As soon as Marcus asserts that “People should feel secure and comfortable here,” he loses. Derbyshire (and other members of the Dissident Right) really do make people “feel” insecure. That is the whole problem! Much better to invoke the spirit of Robert Gaudino and “uncomfortable learning.”

You can’t simultaneously write “people should feel . . . comfortable” and “we [should] expose . . . our students to . . . ideas . . . that may prove to be uncomfortable . . . .”

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