Currently browsing posts filed under "Self-CARE Now"

Follow this category via RSS

Apply for the committee on Campus Speakers, Inquiry & Inclusion!!!

Beloved Student Body,

President Mandel emailed you all this week about her Committee on Campus Speakers, Inquiry and Inclusion that will engage the campus on conversations and debates around “free speech.” There are four spots for students on this committee, and you can now apply to be on it!

The Committee on Campus Speakers, Inquiry and Inclusion will be made up of faculty, senior administrators, students, and staff representatives. The Committee is constituted for the spring term of 2019 and is tasked with the production of a final recommendation in May.

All class years are welcome to apply here! Applications are due by noon Friday, January 18th, and will be considered by the College Council Appointments Committee.

Feel free to email Lizzy Hibbard (eh6) or Moisés Roman Mendoza (mr20) with any additional questions.

Much love,

Lizzy and Moises

Facebooktwitter

Ad Hoc Update, 1

In February 2016, the (now defunct) student group Uncomfortable Learning invited Dissident Right author John Derbyshire to speak at Williams. Then-president Adam Falk cancelled Derbyshire’s talk, causing a public relations black eye for the College. Current President Maud Mandel seeks to undo the damage associated with that decision. We have named the associated controversy Self-CARE Now. This week, I will review Mandel’s latest e-mail and her draft charge to the Ad hoc committee on speakers, inquiry and inclusion. Day 1.

Mandel’s email begins:

As I noted in an all-campus message before break, “Williams, like campuses across the United States, has engaged in debate about how to bolster its commitment to free expression while maintaining its responsibility to ensure an inclusive environment for all community members.” In that same message I announced plans to charge an ad hoc committee with recommending policies and practices that will help us achieve these goals. I’m pleased to provide you with a brief update on that work.

1) Quoting yourself is the Historian’s Vice.

2) Maud is wise to use the term “free expression” rather than the more controversial “free speech.” Too many of her opponents have already decided that “free speech” is something to which they owe no allegiance. They may be more open to defenses of free expression.

3) Even better would be a focus on “academic freedom.” Recall that Maud wants Williams to end up with as much free speech/expression/whatever as state schools like Berkeley. No more cancellations, or even demands for cancellation! Framing is one of the most powerful tools she has to achieve that goal.

Centering the debate around “academic freedom” is more likely to work because it activates the amygdala of every Williams faculty member. They may differ in their views about what sorts of speakers (stupid) undergraduates can invite to campus. They are united in their demand that they have complete “academic freedom” — as they should be! And the vast majority insist that academic freedom includes their right to invite anyone they damn-well please to Williams. Once they demand that, Maud need only insist that students’ rights are no less, at least when it comes to academic freedom. Problem solved!

4) Why the delay in naming the committee? Recall what Maud told us in November:

I intend to recruit the committee by the end of the calendar year with counsel from leaders of faculty, staff and student governance.

We are now two weeks past the end of the calendar year. Still no committee. And note this note from December 13.

In late November I announced my plan to charge an ad hoc committee with the responsibility of moving this discussion forward and proposing policies or programs that will help us achieve both goals. I’ll share the committee charge and roster with campus and alumni in my start of semester message in late January.

So, by mid-December it was obvious to Maud and her team that they would need more time to name a committee. But, then why share the committee’s charge now? (Or is it just a draft of the charge?)

My guess: Maud has decided that this committee — which she originally envisioned as another example of the sorts of Committees that, at Williams, have led to institutional change, i.e., Angevine getting rid of fraternities, MacDonald tightening admissions standards for athletes, Dudley instituting Neighborhood Housing — will not serve her well. Faculty and student attitudes are too anti-free speech for this Committee to succeed. So, Maud has decided to head in a different direction. Read later posts this week for evidence and more speculation.

Facebooktwitter

The Next Evergreen State?

The College Fix is not my favorite publication but Christopher Tremoglie’s overview of the timeline of the Self-CARE Now controversy is solid. But no links to EphBlog. Sad!

Facebooktwitter

Self-CARE Now

Controversies needs names. President Maud Mandel has embarked on a multi-semester effort to repair the damage done by former President Adam Falks’ 2016 cancellation of a speaking invitation extended by the student group Uncomfortable Learning to John Derbyshire. There are Ephs who want Mandel to succeed. There are Ephs who want her to fail. We will place relevant posts under the “Self-CARE Now” category, which is a sub-category of the Controversies.

Longtime readers will recall that EphBlog loves to name Williams controversies. Classic examples include: ¿Quién es más macho?, Nigaleian, Safety Dance, Prospect Must Die, Willy E. N-word, Catch Moore If You Can, The Taco Six and Mary Jane Hitler.

Why Self-CARE Now?

1) Readers failed to provide any better suggestions. (Note that this is still a chance to design a catchy graphic. Submissions welcome!)

2) The students leaders of the opposition to Mandel wrote a Record op-ed summarizing their position. It begins:

The student letter that surfaced in response to the faculty petition was co-authored and edited by over 20 students from a wide range of identities and positionalities. It was, above all, a democratic, grassroots project from start to finish. We are now continuing under the name “Coalition Against Racist Education Now” (CARE Now) in the legacy of Black-led organizing efforts on the Williams College campus.

Including “CARE Now” in the the controversy’s name makes sense. Hilariously, their op-ed concluded with:

Beyond this statement, we have chosen to not comment on our next steps as we are focusing on building coalition and self-care.

If I didn’t provide the link, wouldn’t readers older than 25 assume that this was a parody? Do Williams students routinely, in Record op-eds, insist on the need for “self-care” even as they are in the midst of fighting a righteous battle against “Racist Education?” Apparently, they do. And so I can’t help but to make fun of that contradiction.

3) My original plan was to name the controversy after the committee that Mandel promised to name. That would have been anodyne, but still descriptive. Yesterday’s e-mail, however, made clear that this committee will be much less powerful than initially advertised, so making it central to the controversy no longer makes sense.

4) On a broader view, President Mandel is, right “now,” trying to provide some “self-care” to Williams, as an institution. Falk’s cancellation was the worst single Administrative decision in the last decade, generating unhelpful media attention, and setting back the cause of academic freedom. Williams needs to heal from that mistake and, with luck, Mandel will help us to do so.

What do we want?
Self-CARE!
When do we want it?
Now!

Facebooktwitter

Admit Your Privilege, 1

Associate Professor of Biology Luana Maroja‘s report about the state of free speech at Williams is the most important statement from a member of the faculty in years. Let’s go through it. Day 1.

As background, there has been a long-running debate at EphBlog about how much (malign) influence progressive members of the Williams faculty have on the evolution of the College. To caricaturize a bit, folks like John Drew have argued that “the postmodern radical ideology which dominates the culture of Williams College appears so unhealthy to well-meaning outsiders.” People like dcat and sigh have argued that this is nonsense, that, while there are liberal/progressive faculty members, they don’t do anything which in any way harms or oppresses non-liberals. For the most part, I have been on team dcat/sigh in this dispute. But perhaps I am wrong . . .

Freedom of speech at Williams College – are the walls closing in?

Many professors at Williams have been feeling the walls closing in. I’m an evolutionary biologist, and in my classes there is increasing resistance to learning about heritability (probably fear of the “bell curve”, something I actually dismiss by contrasting Brazilian with Americans, as I am from Brazil) and even kin selection! (Using the “naturalistic fallacy” argument, students assume that by teaching kin selection I am somehow endorsing Trump hiring his family.) The word “pregnant woman” is out: only “pregnant human” should be now used (after all, what if the pregnant individual goes by another pronoun?).

“Walls closing in” is remarkably strong language, even — dare I say i? — quite John Drewish. Is Maroja providing us with an accurate description of life at Williams today? If so, then wow! Students (in a biology class!) are demonstrating “resistance to learning about heritability?!?” That is nuts! I think that dcat/sigh/me owe John Drew an apology.

In other fields the walls have closed in even more. The theater department recently dealt with two challenges: a cancellation of a show and an uproar about another show – both shows deemed offensive or overtly violent to blacks, yet both written by African-American artists. Williams is now developing a reputation of being unfriendly to artists of color.

1) Again with the “walls” closing in metaphor. In this a fair description of intellectual life at Williams or Fox News nonsense?

2) Are these uproars in theatre connected to Theatre Professor David Gürçay-Morris’s ’96 role in the faculty petition? We are always most conservative about the things we know best. Perhaps these controversies are radicalizing even theatre professors like Gürçay-Morris.

3) I have not provided much coverage on these stories. Do others have comments? I think that there is more complexity to these disputes than Maroja is letting on.

Facebooktwitter

Record Assignment Desk

The next issue of the Record (the last of the semester) has a chance to be epic, to be read widely within the Williams community and across the country. Free speech is hot, Hot, HOT and the Record is well-positioned to cover the debate. My advice (somewhat cribbed from two years ago):

1) Pick up the phone! The Record‘s continuing refusal to talk to people like, well, me, who know a great deal about the institution is annoying. They don’t have to quote me — indeed, I might prefer for the talk to be on background — or do what I say, but a failure to even talk with knowledgeable sources is pathetic.

2) Report the facts. We know that the three key faculty behind the petition are Luana Maroja, Steven Gerrard, and David Gürçay-Morris ’96 but I believe that there were three others in the original “group of six.” Who were they? And tell us more details about the backstory. Gerrard, at least, has been wrestling with this topic for a while, teaching an entire course about free speech. Was he the prime mover? (If so, he was smart to recruit/cajole Maroja. White men are unwise to lead these sorts of efforts at Williams!)

3) Seek comment from Adam Falk. He may not provide one but, even then, you should tell us that he refused to comment. Quiz him about the op-ed in which he urged students “to seek out someone whose opinions and beliefs are different than their own, and to engage in a conversation to really listen and learn from one another.” Fun stuff!

4) Cover the history of speech debates/suppression at Williams. I believe that, prior to John Derbyshire, no speaker has been banned at Williams for 150 years. The last documented case was Mark Hopkins banning Ralph Waldo Emerson. Tell us more about this history, and seek some comments from history professors at Williams.

5) Provide a comparison to other NESCAC/elite schools. Ask Amherst and Swarthmore if they have ever banned a speaker. Ask them if they ever would. They might use this occasion to make fun of Williams. Ask them if they have any official policies which would prevent their students from inviting any speaker to campus. Place Williams policy — which, right now, is that the president can ban whomever she likes — in the context of our peers’.

6) Interview prominent alumni who have experience with, or expertise in, campus speech debates. Start with Cappy Hill ’75 (who faced similar issues when president of Vassar and is now on the board at Yale), Will Dudley ’89 (who has his own set of challenges at Washington and Lee), Fred Lawrence ’77, and Zach Wood ’18. Lawrence and Wood testified before the Senate about this very issue.

7) Interview leading faculty opponents of free speech. Start with Kai Green, Kimberly Love and Joy James. Ask them tough questions: “Professors at places like Michigan, Amherst and Harvard can invite any speaker they want to campus. Do you prefer that you and your Williams faculty colleagues have fewer rights, that the President of Williams can, for any reason, deny your invitation to a speaker? What would you do if, for example, Maud Mandel rescinded your invitation to Angela Davis on the grounds that she had engaged in “hateful” speech toward police officers?”

8) Interview leading student opponents of free speech. (Not sure who those would be. Perhaps start with the first few signatures on the student petition: Isabel Peña ’19, Audrey Koh ’21 and Annalee Tai ’21) Ask them a similar question: “Students at places like Michigan, Amherst and Harvard can invite any speaker they want to campus. Do you prefer that you and your Williams peers have fewer rights, that the President of Williams can, for any reason, deny your invitation to a speaker? What would you do if, for example, Maud Mandel rescinded your invitation to a leader of Black Lives Matter on the grounds that he had engaged in “hateful” speech toward police officers?”

Facebooktwitter

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!

Facebooktwitter

Maud’s Moment!

President Maud Mandel is about to put her stamp on Williams.

Williams faculty, students and staff,

Numerous conversations have taken place recently, especially among faculty and students, around Williams’ principles and practices governing inviting speakers to campus. I’ve decided to charge an ad hoc committee with exploring various points of view and making recommendations for how Williams can ensure an educational environment that’s both intellectually open and inclusive.

I intend to recruit the committee by the end of the calendar year with counsel from leaders of faculty, staff and student governance. You can expect an update on the membership and charge once the group is constituted in early 2019. My hope is that the committee will engage campus constituencies who are interested in the issue and want to contribute to the development of guidelines appropriate for Williams.

Best wishes,

Maud

1) This is exactly the plan that EphBlog recommended two years ago.

Smart presidents use committees! With luck, Falk has already learned that lesson in the debate over the log mural. He should follow the same strategy in dealing with free speech. Create a “Committee on Freedom of Expression at Williams.” Appoint a cross-section of faculty/students/alumni, but with a sotto voce emphasis on free speech. Charge the Committee with reviewing the history of free speech debates at Williams, meeting with members of the College community, and recommending policy going forward.

Best person to put in charge? Philosophy Professor Joe Cruz ’91.

Adam Falk was not smart enough to follow this advice, but Maud Mandel is presidential timber cut from a better forest. (Or she reads EphBlog . . .)

2) Mandel would not be forming this committee if she did not want to move Williams toward the Chicago statement. Yay, Maud!

3) The next step is to pick committee members who will give her the answer she wants. Suggestions? It is not obvious that Mandel should pick many (any?) strong free speechers, like the faculty behind the petition. Does she know that, Michael Lewis, for example, wants free speech? Of course she does! But a committee filled with (too) many Michael Lewii might, counter-intuitively, make her goal more difficult to achieve. What she really wants is a committee which will produce the answer she prefers but is staffed by respected people with no (publicly disclosed) prior positions on the topic of free speech.

4) Such a rule would also provide cover for keeping faculty like Joy James far away. (Is going through the linked nonsense useful?)

5) Mandel should include at least one staff member (Jim Reische would be perfect) and one athletic coach. No one can complain about such choices, especially if the selected individuals have not expressed their views on free speech. But staff — who are at-will employees — are much more likely to know what the boss wants and to give it to her. Athletic faculty, also at-will, are naturally more “conservative” on these issues than their tenured brethren.

6) Should the committee include students? What about alumni? What choice will Mandel make? I am not certain what the best answer is.

7) The committee will have to include some racial minorities. Good choices might be Hispanic economists Peter Montiel or Greg Phelan. I haven’t spoken with either of them about the case, but most economists would be on Mandel’s side in this debate.

8) Mandel would love to have an African-American on the committee. Who should she choose? Not Joy James, obviously. Maybe Neil Roberts? He strikes me (contrary opinions welcome!) as one of the most “right-wing” African-American faculty at Williams, someone who might very well aspire to greater things. Being on this committee, and giving Mandel the answer she wants, would fast-track him toward being Dean of the Faculty.

9) EphBlog favorites Eiko Siniawer ’97 and Lee Park are plausible candidates. Again, I have not discussed this issue with them, but they are sensible, both in their policy judgments and in their willingness to play ball with a new president’s priorities.

10) The most competent high-profile committee in the last decade or so was the Merrill Committee, dealing with the Log mural. Might Karen Merrill be the best person to lead this new committee? What about Joe Cruz ’91 who also served on it?

11) Should Provost Dukes Love seek to be on this committee? Should he seek to chair it? Leading the campus conversation on such a difficult topic is the last item he needs on a resume which is perfectly crafted for his eventual job as an college president, at Williams or elsewhere. On the other hand, this whole thing could turn into an utter disaster, if handled poorly. Tough call!

Facebooktwitter

Currently browsing posts filed under "Self-CARE Now"

Follow this category via RSS