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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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Marcus Slams Falk Over Derbyshire, 1

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 1.

The demise of the College: How the College fails to stay true to the ideals of a liberal arts education

I have never in my career at the College been embarrassed to be associated with it. But now I find that no longer to be true.

Did Marcus choose the title? Either way, the article (along with Professor Michael Lewis’s op-ed) is one of the strongest public attacks against a Williams president, by a faculty member, in living memory. Can anyone recall a similar incident?

My first year at the College was the last year of the long and illustrious career of Frederick L. Schuman, Woodrow Wilson Professor of Government. Years earlier in the fraught ’50s, when the “Red Scare” was in full force, some alumni of a conservative stripe demanded that the College fire “Fred the Red.” Schuman had taken progressive positions and had been called before the infamous House Committee on Un-American Activities, irking some alumni (and no doubt others). To his credit, then President James Phinney Baxter rejected that demand.

1) I thought Professor Schuman’s nickname was “Red Fred,” not “Fred the Red.” Can older alumni clarify? Perhaps it changed over time? Perhaps the students used a different one than the faculty?

2) There is a great history senior thesis to be written about this controversy. Who will write it? Isn’t it both sad and pathetic that the History department no longer (?) has a faculty member who is an expert in the history of Williams?

Now we have a president who assigns himself the role of College censor, setting “the line” wherein some can be prevented from talking to the College public. Dean Sarah Bolton tells us not to be concerned because this is only a rare event, that the line is far out there. I presume by that she means that those who espouse “our beliefs” need not worry.

Indeed. By the way, do we have any good gossip as to which member of the “senior staff” provided Falk with such lousy advice? Was it Bolton?

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Time Magazine Article on Falk/Derbyshire

When was the last time a sitting senator (!) called on a Williams College President to resign? In a Senate hearing?! Check out Time Magazine’s latest article on Williams, “Williams College President Rejects Claim That He Blocked Free Speech On Campus“.

Responding to Wood’s testimony, Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy on Tuesday called Falk unfit to lead the school. “If the way you described it is accurate, then he should resign,” Kennedy said. “It’s just that simple — because he needs to explain to students and have them understand that they do not have a constitutional right in life not to be offended. They’re going to be offended plenty of times in life.”

Emphasis mine.

And for that matter, when was the last time a Williams student took part in the investigations of a Senate judiciary hearing committee? Similar to the Washington Post piece from months ago, this piece reads like it was written by Falk’s worst enemies. Consider:

Williams College President Adam Falk did not attend the Senate judiciary committee hearing on Tuesday, but Williams student Zach Wood did, and Wood testified about what he sees as a lack of politically and ideologically diverse speakers at the Massachusetts private school, where he said “the administration promotes social tolerance at the expense of political tolerance.”

Is there anyone (except Falk) who still disagrees with this? I don’t!

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Falk:Derbyshire :: Hopkins:Emerson

“D” is the answer to our SAT analogy question:

FALK:DERBYSHIRE ::

A. Baxter:?
B. Chadler:?
C: Garfield:?
D. Hopkins:Emerson
E. Sawyer:?

Adam Falk banned John Derbyshire just as Mark Hopkins banned Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Ralph_Waldo_Emerson_ca1857 My first hint came from Steve Satullo’s ’69 excellent website devoted to the history of libraries at Williams.

The [Adelphic] Union also brought Ralph Waldo Emerson to Williamstown for a lecture, but he was entirely too radical for the [Mark] Hopkins administration and was not allowed to lecture on campus, but rather in the town’s Methodist church.

There is a great senior thesis to be written about the conflict between the 19th century Congregationalists who controlled Williams and the transcendentalists who scoffed at them. Who will write it it?

Mark Hopkins is, obviously, the most famous Williams president — or he is, at least, the one that most alumni can name. Satullo’s citation of the conflict between Emerson and Hopkins takes us back to Mark Hopkins and the Log by Fred Rudolph ’39. Ace College Archivist Katie Nash kindly provided these excerpts: pdf and pdf.

Will Ephs 150 years from now view Adam Falk’s decision to ban John Derbyshire from campus the same way that we view Mark Hopkin’s decision to ban Ralph Waldo Emerson?

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Falk:Derbyshire :: ?:? Part 2

Yesterday, we asked the question: When was the last time that a Williams president banned a speaker from campus? No one has given us the right (?) answer yet. Adam Falk’s decision to ban John Derbsyhire in February 2016 must have an historical parallel. What is it? Consider this SAT analogy question:

FALK:DERBYSHIRE ::

A. Baxter:?
B. Chadler:?
C: Garfield:?
D. Hopkins:?
E. Sawyer:?

I have provided some Williams presidents, in alphabetical order, as options. My reasoning:

A. Phinney Baxter ’14 was president during World War II and the worst parts of the Cold War. Might he have banned someone? Sure! But Baxter was, perhaps more than any other Williams president, a defender of free speech. From the Harvard Crimson of 1949:

“Like most if not all of my other colleagues on the Williams faculty,” Williams College President James Phinney Baxter, 3rd, wrote in an article for his school’s May, 1949, Alumni Review number, “I support the Marshall Plan, the Atlantic Pact, and the furnishing of military supplies to our fellow signatories.”

But the point of Baxter’s article was not to express his own views on foreign policy. It was to defend the right of Frederick L. Schuman, a member of the Williams faculty, to expound differing opinions.

Baxter noted that Schuman had been “severely criticized by a number of alumni for speeches critical of the current foreign policy of the United States.”

The college head wrote that Schuman had attacked the policies of both America and Russia, that he was an advocate “of a stronger form of international government than the United Nations,” and that he had “freely criticized the Communists for many years.”


For Free Debate

Baxter said Schuman should be as free to express himself as those who held the majority viewpoint.

Exactly right.

B. John Chandler was president during the dawn of the PC-era and had to contend with many racially-charged debates, including South African Divestment and affirmative action. The election of Reagan in 1980 was, from the point of view of faculty/student opinion, almost as surprising/shocking/disgusting as Trump’s election 36 years later.

C. Harry Garfield served as president from 1908 through 1934. There were non-trivial restrictions on free speech during World War I, and it would not be surprising to see this sentiment expressed at Williams.

D. Hopkins. I am cheating a bit with this one since Williams had two presidents named Hopkins: Mark and Henry (his son). They served for a combined 42 years. Surely, at some point, a proposed speaker was so offensive as to require banning from campus . . .

E. Jack Sawyer ’39 is almost uniformly regarded as the best Williams president of the last 100 years. But not everyone is perfect! He served from 1961 — 1973, the height of campus turmoil over civil rights and the Vietnam War. It sure must have been tempting to shut down debate on occasion! Sawyer, who served in the OSS — the forerunner to the CIA — during World War II must have felt some frustration at the campus snowflakes of his era . . .

Any guesses as to the correct answer?

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Falk:Derbyshire :: ?:? Part 1

Who remembers the analogy questions from the old SAT Verbal?

sat

Recall Adam Falk’s February 2016 decision to ban John Derbyshire from speaking at Williams. When was the last time that a Williams president banned someone from speaking on campus? In other words, we need the answer to the following analogy:

FALK:DERBYSHIRE :: ?:?

Any guesses from our readers? It has taken us more than a year to answer this question and, even now, I am not sure if we have it correct.

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Cornel West Throws Shade at Adam Falk

Robert P. George and Cornel West have written a statement about truth and the importance of open debate. Background here. Key paragraph:

It is all-too-common these days for people to try to immunize from criticism opinions that happen to be dominant in their particular communities. Sometimes this is done by questioning the motives and thus stigmatizing those who dissent from prevailing opinions; or by disrupting their presentations; or by demanding that they be excluded from campus or, if they have already been invited, disinvited.

No one is more guilty of this sin than Adam Falk, with his absurd banning of John Derbyshire (and others?) from campus.

Professor Michael Lewis is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the only Williams faculty member to sign the statement so far. Will there be others? Would you be interested in joining a movement — including faculty/alumni/students/staff — to convince/cajole/force Falk to revisit this policy? The forces of freedom are on the march . . .

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U Chicago Throws Shade at Falk

Here (jpg) is the letter to incoming first years at the University of Chicago. Best part:

Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.

[Emphasis added.] The most prominent cancellation of a controversial speaker at an elite college was, of course, President Falk’s cancellation of John Derbyshire. Questions:

1) Do you think the author of the Chicago letter had Williams in mind?

2) Has Williams sent out anything like this to incoming first years? I doubt it. Should it? You betcha!

3) EphBlog, while sadly a pale shadow of its former self, is starting to become a useful place for discussion. See this comment (in a dead thread) which jump started a 20 comment back-and-forth discussion about the Chicago letter. Kudos to participants like sigh, Trigger, anon-liberal and anon, all of whom make good points in the spirit of open discussion and debate.

If I were a Trustee I would ask President Falk why Williams itself does not provide a forum on which students, alumni and faculty might discuss these issues.

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Racist Provocateur

In The Economist in June:

Next consider the swelling range of opinion deemed to fall outside civilised discourse. To be sure, some opinions do, and the boundary shifts with time. The trouble now, says Zach Wood, a student at Williams College in Massachusetts, is that many people want to banish views that remain widely held among their compatriots, believing that, on neuralgic topics such as homosexuality, “It’s all said and done.” He runs a campus group that hosts challenging speakers. “Silence does nothing,” he reasons. Two of its invitations—to Suzanne Venker, author of “The War on Men”, and John Derbyshire, a racist provocateur—have recently been rescinded: Ms Venker was disinvited under pressure from other students, Mr Derbyshire by the college’s leadership. Mr Wood has been insulted, ostracised and (he is black) told he has “sold out his race”. Other prominent figures deterred or blocked from addressing university audiences include Condoleezza Rice, a former secretary of state, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Muslim, and Jason Riley, an African-American journalist who wrote a book called “Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder For Blacks To Succeed”.

Activists are entitled to their protests. But when, as at Williams, they decry counter-arguments as tantamount to violence, they stray into censorship.

I think that censorship is what they want . . .

By the way, calling Derbyshire “a racist provocateur” is sleazy. Most of his opinions (at least the ones Falk found objectionable) are held by a majority of people in, say, China. If most Chinese are “racist” — by the definition that The Economist is currently using — then it ought to start using a more useful definition.

Also, when was the last time that The Economist — easily the most important English language news magazine in the world — mentioned Williams? I can’t recall. But any article that talks so much about us and Yale is probably a net positive for admissions. So, well done Zack!

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Why Williams College’s President Canceled a Speech

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Dear Mr. Wood,

While I am not interested in an extended dialogue with the National Association of Scholars regarding matters at Williams College, I am prepared to give a brief response to your question about John Derbyshire’s canceled appearance here. To that end, please see his opinion piece “The Talk: Non-Black Version.” This article was considered so racist by the National Review (no bastion of left-wing orthodoxy, I assure you) that upon its publication the editors severed their association with Derbyshire and refused him further access to their pages. Typical of its content is the following excerpt, in the form of advice to “nonblack” children:

(10a) Avoid concentrations of blacks not all known to you personally.

(10b) Stay out of heavily black neighborhoods.

(10c) If planning a trip to a beach or amusement park at some date, find out whether it is likely to be swamped with blacks on that date (neglect of that one got me the closest I have ever gotten to death by gunshot).

(10d) Do not attend events likely to draw a lot of blacks.

(10e) If you are at some public event at which the number of blacks suddenly swells, leave as quickly as possible.

(10f) Do not settle in a district or municipality run by black politicians.

(10g) Before voting for a black politician, scrutinize his/her character much more carefully than you would a white.

(10h) Do not act the Good Samaritan to blacks in apparent distress, e.g., on the highway.

(10i) If accosted by a strange black in the street, smile and say something polite but keep moving.

As for Derbyshire’s views on white supremacy, I would point you to the following passage that appeared on the website VDare:

“Leaving aside the intended malice, I actually think ‘White Supremacist’ is not bad semantically. White supremacy, in the sense of a society in which key decisions are made by white Europeans, is one of the better arrangements History has come up with. There have of course been some blots on the record, but I don’t see how it can be denied that net-net, white Europeans have made a better job of running fair and stable societies than has any other group.”

Frankly, this is the kind of material I would expect to see distributed by organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan.

Derbyshire’s rhetoric, as typified in these passages, isn’t the explication of provocative, challenging or contrary ideas. To speak to what I’m sure is a particular concern of the National Association of Scholars, his work on race isn’t remotely scholarly. Derbyshire simply provokes. His racist bile would have added nothing to the complicated and challenging conversations occurring every day on our campus, across a wide range of ideologies and experiences. No educational purpose of any kind would have been served by his appearance at Williams.

I hope this clarifies matters.

Yours,

Adam Falk

Related article and discussion here.

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Lewis Slams Falk Over Derbyshire V

Let’s spend five days reviewing Professor Michael Lewis’s surprisingly sharp attack on President Falk concerning the banning of John Derbyshire from Williams. Today is Day 5.

Here’s where Uncomfortable Learning comes in. Having recognized that there is a growing uniformity of thought here (and elsewhere), its leaders invested a great deal of effort in bringing to the College points of view that typically go unheard. Twice their events have been canceled events. Perhaps Hopkins Hall can save them the trouble by showing them the blacklist of speakers who are persona non grata. And, while they’re at it, they might explain why it was a dreadful thing to have a blacklist in 1952 but it is morally correct in 2016.

Of course it isn’t called a blacklist. It is a symptom of the fundamental dishonesty of this day that we hesitate to call things by their right names. Back in the 1930s, that age of international fascism, the Louisiana populist Huey Long was asked if he thought fascism could ever succeed in the United States. “Sure,” he replied, “just so long as they call it anti-fascism.”

1) “events have been canceled events” Don’t the Record editors even read these articles?

2) The blacklist of 1952 was horrible because it targeted people on the left. Those are the good guys, as every Williams student is taught. The blacklistees of today — people like Venker and Derbyshire — are of the right. They are evil and should not be heard. At least, that is how Adam Falk sees it.

Again, I can’t recall a Williams faculty member even being so publicly critical of a Williams president. The question now, however, is: Will Professor Lewis and other faculty fight for free speech and open debate on the Williams campus?

I have my doubts. Lewis is a busy guy with many interests. Does he even live in Williamstown? Is he really willing to engage in the local faculty/student politics that taking Falk would require? I hope so! And EphBlog has some suggestions for when the fight begins . . .

Uncomfortable Learning is now in a stronger position than ever because now the College must decide, ahead of time, which speakers it is going to ban.

Imagine that UL leaders want to make life tough for Adam Falk. All they need to do is ask him (or the “Assistant Director for Student Organizations & Involvement in the Office of Student Life”) if they may invite person X to Williams. That is what the policy requires of them. They don’t have to — in fact, they are not allowed to! — invite person X before getting this permission. But this procedure (permission first, invitation second) means that they can endlessly torture Adam Falk by asking for permission for speakers that span the continuum from John Derbyshire on leftward.

The College is then trapped. Either they allow Uncomfortable Learning to develop a long list of all the speakers that Williams has banned (imagine the Washington Post article that would come out of the leaking of this list!) or they have to draw the line at Derbyshire and allow just about everyone else in. With luck, they will be smart enough to choose Door #2.

Does Uncomfortable Learning have the necessary student leadership to take advantage of this opportunity?

Professor Michael Lewis could do this as well. He could, easily, send an e-mail to Falk asking if it is OK for him to invite Jared Taylor or Richard Spencer or Milo Yiannopoulos or Ann Coulter or Charles Johnson or . . .

Either Falk says “No” and we crucify him on a cross of open debate or he says “Yes” and the problem is solved.

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Lewis Slams Falk Over Derbyshire IV

Let’s spend five days reviewing Professor Michael Lewis’s surprisingly sharp attack on President Falk concerning the banning of John Derbyshire from Williams. Today is Day 4.

Homogenous intellectual environments are not good at responding to new factors or conditions, as I learned from my own college experience. I went to Haverford, a Quaker college known for its extraordinary moral probity (with the country’s most rigorous honor code). I was there during the presidency of Jimmy Carter, throughout which time, in all my courses in political science, history and economics, I never heard the slightest suggestion that mighty shifts in American public opinion were underway that would lead to the Ronald Reagan landslide of 1980. My professors probably were unaware of their omission. But by being unable to give students a fair and well-informed summary of the basic tenets of the Reagan platform, other than a mocking caricature of it, Haverford failed in its duty to prepare its students for American life.

Something similar seems to be happening today with Donald Trump. We may write him off as a laughable neo-Napoleonic carbuncle, but if a sizable portion of the American population thinks otherwise, then our students need to hear the most articulate case for Trump – and hear it here, without having to drive to Renee’s Diner in North Adams. And if they cannot hear it from their professors, then they ought to be able to hear it regularly from outside speakers.

“[L]aughable neo-Napoleonic carbuncle” is great writing!

Recall that Lewis was writing in February. The case for Williams students being exposed to “the most articulate case for Trump” is even stronger now, obviously.

Is Lewis suggesting that his Williams colleagues in political science — like EphBlog favorites Sam Crane, James McAllister, Justin Crowe ’03 and Cheryl Shanks — can’t (or won’t) give the best case for Trump in their classes? If so, he should come right out and say it. That has never been EphBlog’s position. The problem is not that Williams faculty can’t teach or that their classroom teaching is biased. The problem is that the collection of speakers that Williams has invited to campus over the last few years includes exactly zero conservatives/libertarians/Republicans/Trumpians.

John Derbyshire, by the way, was one of the first Trump supporters among the chattering classes, back in July 2015. If Williams had more speakers like him than students/faculty/Falk would have been less surprised by the rise of Trump.

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Lewis Slams Falk Over Derbyshire III

Let’s spend five days reviewing Professor Michael Lewis’s surprisingly sharp attack on President Falk concerning the banning of John Derbyshire from Williams. Today is Day 3.

All this takes place against the background of a college that proclaims, ceaselessly and fervently, its commitment to diversity. But, as defined at the College, diversity seems to mean embracing the full variety of individual human differences – except for ideas and opinions. Here is why the Derbyshire and Venker incidents are so alarming. The College is fast approaching a state where the genuine exchange of serious ideas – in open public debate, with good will and mutual respect – is made impossible because a growing number of opinions are considered out of bounds. As Mary Detloff, the College’s director of media relations told The Berkshire Eagle, Derbyshire’s views on race, women’s rights, gay rights and sexual harassment render him “unsuited to discussions at Williams College.” Of course, once everyone’s views are homogenous, it’s hard to imagine what would be left to discuss.

Indeed. Lewis is exactly right about the danger and about the direction in which the College might go, might even be going right now. Recall the student who reported that although he supported Trump, he didn’t want to tell people that for (reasonable!) fear as to what that would do to his “social standing.” That seems like a problem to me! If the Williams student community chooses to ostracize someone merely because he will be voting for Trump, then honest discussion and debate becomes impossible.

But Michael Lewis, tenured member of the Williams faculty, is in a good position to do something about this! He could invite a series of speakers that agree with Trump (if not Derbyshire) on a variety of issues, thereby expanding the range of acceptable opinion on the Williams campus. If several Trump-supporters were to speak this fall, students who also support Trump would be less likely to be ostracized and more likely to speak out.

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Lewis Slams Falk Over Derbyshire II

Let’s spend five days reviewing Professor Michael Lewis’s surprisingly sharp attack on President Falk concerning the banning of John Derbyshire from Williams. Today is Day 2.

The excuse is the familiar platitude that “there’s a line somewhere” that divides free speech from hate speech. And speech that crosses this line must be squelched, even at the point of covering the ears of the listeners. But the notion that there is a line between free speech and hate speech is a curious one. Free speech is a principle that you can define in absolute terms. Hate speech is an accusation – frequently a moving one – which doesn’t lend itself to the drawing of neat lines. The only stable definition for hate speech is speech that makes someone hate you.

Isn’t that exactly backward? At Williams, and places like it, hate speech is not “speech that makes someone hate you.” Hate speech is speech that you hate. Perhaps I am confused by what a “stable” definition is? Perhaps I am defining hate speech descriptively — meaning a definition that an outsider could apply to Williams and use to predict what speech the community would define as “hate” — while Lewis is being more prescriptive, trying to come up with a new definition which we might all agree on and then use going forward.

You don’t have to agree with Derbyshire to believe that the College did something wrong in forbidding him from speaking here. Administrators can make blunders, but this isn’t a blunder; rather, it’s part of a larger and ominous pattern. Last October, the same students who invited Derbyshire were pressured into rescinding their invitation to Suzanne Venker. This itch to censor is not even limited to the present. Right now, a committee is tracking down “potentially problematic” historical art on campus. Its mission is encapsulated in a remarkable leading question (a question so artfully constructed as to yield but one answer): “What should be done about historical images that portray the College as less welcoming than we are or aspire to be?” Framed that way, it’s hardly a surprise that the mural in the Log depicting Chief Hendrick – the Mohawk ally of Ephraim Williams – has been found objectionable and whisked behind plywood.

Lewis was much too pessimistic with regard to the mural. Williams (and Falk, to his credit) has decided to keep the mural at The Log. Is Lewis also wrong about the “larger and ominous pattern?” I hope so! Certainly, across higher education, there is a move to greater censorship, especially of “conservative” views. But Williams has always been more mainstream than other elite liberal arts colleges and so, one hopes, less likely to slide down the censorship slope. Remove the Venker rescission (which was truly the decision/fault of the students who invited her) and the mural controversy, and the pattern becomes the single instance involving Derbyshire. Perhaps things are less dire than Lewis makes them out to be?

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Lewis Slams Falk Over Derbyshire I

Let’s spend five days reviewing Professor Michael Lewis’s surprisingly sharp attack on President Falk concerning the banning of John Derbyshire from Williams. Today is Day 1.

The title (chosen by Lewis?) of this Record op-ed is “A new blacklist: How the disinvitation of John Derbyshire reveals a troubling pattern of censorship on campus.” I can not recall a harsher public criticism of a Williams president by a Williams faculty member. Can anyone?

No one who really believes in free speech ever says, “Free speech is a value I hold in extremely high regard,” as our College’s president did last Thursday in a campus-wide email. If you believe in free speech, you simply practice it, which means going through your life listening to a good deal of cant, nonsense and occasional sheer vileness. One can always walk away; this is what it means to be an adult. But when someone sings a song of praise for free speech, you can reckon with mathematical certainty that there is a but circling in a holding pattern overhead, waiting to drop. It didn’t take long. President Falk’s paean to free speech ended with the inevitable: but John Derbyshire is not free to speak here.

I could not agree more. However, this being EphBlog, let’s engage in some small-minded editing suggestions. First, the “but” in “but circling” definitely needed quotation marks. Otherwise it reads too similar to “butt circling.” Second, planes don’t “drop” from a holding pattern, they “land” from one. Bombs drop but, when they do, they come from planes, not from holding patterns. Third, it is interesting to look at the Google search for Falk’s phrase. Turns out that no one has ever said this exact phrase before, which is not a critique of Lewis since he was obviously referring to sentiments like this in general.

But the uniqueness of the phrase makes it easier for us to find all the other critiques of Falk, like this one from Ken White at Popehat and this from Jonathan Adler at The Volokh Conspiracy. Lots of excellent material to get us through the dog days of August!

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Uncomfortable Learning Speakers

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The Record published this nice collection. What an excellent article, much better than the biased tripe served up later (parts I and II) by Emilia Maluf ’18. Read the whole thing.

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Rather Sell Crack

Most famous current Williams undergraduate? Almost certainly Zach Wood ’18 for his role as president of Uncomfortable Learning. This Newsweek article tells his story in the context of broader trends on campus.

Until it was squashed by administrative decree, Williams College sophomore Zachary Wood headed up an on-campus lecture series called “Uncomfortable Learning.” Wood, an African-American who grew up in one of the poorer neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., is a self-described liberal, devoted to learning and books. He liked inviting controversial speakers, usually from the political right, to challenge young progressives cloistered in a collegiate utopia at one of the nation’s great small liberal arts institutions.

Last year, though, Wood encountered the limits of free speech at Williams. First, he invited Suzanne Venker, an anti-feminist author and lecturer. After a campus and social media outcry, Wood’s fellow “Uncomfortable Learning” leaders disinvited her and then, to avoid further shaming on social media, resigned from the organization.

Wood then formed a club of one and invited an even more confrontational speaker, British-American writer John Derbyshire, whose contributions to the racial discourse include a snide white dad’s version of “the talk” black men give their sons about police. After suggesting that blacks are more “antisocial” than whites, he wrote that a small percentage “is ferociously hostile to whites and will go to great lengths to inconvenience or harm us,” while “around half will go along [with violence] passively if the five percent take leadership in some event.”

An hour after Wood advertised Derbyshire’s speech with a Facebook post, he was swarmed. On Facebook, someone wrote that Wood deserved the “oil and whip”—a reference to a punishment for slaves. Others accused him of providing a space on campus for “hate speech” and began debating how to file a complaint against him. When Wood replied to one critic, “So you would never bring a speaker on the far right, like Venker and Derbyshire? I value the work I do with UL,” someone retorted, “I’d rather sell crack first.”

A few days passed, the outrage kept building, and the university president disinvited Derbyshire.

Wood believes students need to hear provocateurs like Derbyshire in order to formulate their own thoughts and challenges. “What is hate speech to begin with?” he asks. “It’s what people don’t like to hear. Trump has the support of a considerable portion of the American electorate. With someone like him running for president, speaking on national television every day, saying controversial things about the most important issues of our time, it is imperative that we confront offensive views and afford college students the opportunity to learn how to engage constructively with people they vehemently disagree with. Shielding students from microaggressions does not improve their ability to argue effectively; it coddles them. At a time like this, uncomfortable learning is vital.”

EphBlog agrees!

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Can We Talk?

The official Colby College magazine covered the topic of free speech on campus.

A flood of incidents at institutions ranging from huge land-grant universities to small liberal arts colleges is growing into a conflict between “politically correct” culture and freedom of speech. The swift reaction has been passionate. Some warn of suppression of speech, while others welcome the shift toward a more sensitive culture as a needed adjustment in an increasingly intolerant world. Still others complain that such increased “tolerance” is itself a form of intolerance.

A recent national survey revealed that while most college students believe their campus environment should expose them to diverse viewpoints, a large majority also believes that schools should be allowed to restrict intentionally offensive language. And 54 percent of students recently surveyed by the Knight Foundation and Gallup said the climate on campus prevents some people from saying what they believe, because others might find it offensive.

But can colleges monitor and restrict slurs and hate speech while also protecting free speech and the give and take of ideas in what is, after all, an academic and intellectual space? In Colby’s tight-knit community, the conversation is just getting started. “We need to be very clear about our values when it comes to issues around freedom of speech and around respect and civility,” said President David A. Greene. “These things can coexist.”

Read the whole thing. Do you think that the Williams Magazine will cover the debate on this topic at Williams? I have my doubts. The Colby author writes:

As the conflict spread, Williams College canceled two right-wing speakers who were invited to campus as part of the college’s “Uncomfortable Learning” series.

1) It is interesting to see how (sympathetic!) observers portray the events of the last year at Williams. EphBlog readers know, of course, that “Williams College” did not really cancel two speakers. The students cancelled Venker and Falk banned Derbyshire. And yet, to Colby alumni, it will appear (correctly?) that there is less free speech at Williams than there is at any other NESCAC school.

2) At Colby there is a student Republican group. At Williams, there is not. Why? Should we be worried?

3) Always nice to see Robert Gaudino’s catchphrase, “Uncomfortable Learning,” get mentioned elsewhere.

4) Entire tenor of the article is remarkably restrictionist. They don’t quote — because they can’t find — a single faculty member or administrator who believes that speech at Colby should be at least as free as speech at the University of Maine.

So, I guess the answer to “Can we talk?” will be, in a few more years, “Only if you don’t say anything that upsets from from the right.” Or am I too pessimistic?

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Polite Silence

A reader commented yesterday:

At the faculty meeting today, a liberal cum libertarian critique of President Falk’s decision to cancel the Derbyshire talk was met with polite silence. A defense of President Falk’s decision was greeted with widespread applause.

1) Could other readers provide more details? Which faculty members spoke? What arguments did they make?

2) Those who hope that Williams is still a college rather than a madrasa might console themselves by imagining that the widespread applause was the dying gasp of an intellectually bankrupt regime, like the end of the miners’ strike in England 30 years ago. Those with a clear-eyed view of the future should cry over the Williams that was.

3) One of the mostly widely-read essays at EphBlog is about why smart 18-year-olds should choose Williams over Harvard. I have talked to more than one Eph who came across this essay while making her decision and was influenced by it. Yet can any lover of freedom continue to make that recommendation? At Harvard, students are treated as adults. They can invite someone with unpopular ideas, someone like John Derbyshire, to campus. They can listen to him and argue with him. At Williams, students can’t do that. They have about as much agency, at least when it comes to unpopular ideas, as 5th graders at the local elementary school.

If you are someone who is happy to follow the herd, who has no interest in bucking the mores of polite society, then Williams is probably still a better college than Harvard. But, if you are someone who sees the world differently than Adam Falk, then you ought to think twice before coming to Williams.

And those are perhaps the saddest words ever written at EphBlog . . .

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Kornell Recants

Professor Nate Kornell shared his thoughts on the UL/Derbyshire/Falk controversy.

I’ve been criticized for a recent tweet in which I supported the decision to disinvite a speaker in a lecture series here at Williams College, where I teach. In case anyone cares (which I doubt) here’s my thinking.

One thing I’m sure of, though: College campuses are THE place where rational debates should find safe harbor. If colleges want to create safe spaces, they should be places where it is safe to speak one’s mind, not where people are safe from hearing messages they don’t like (having such spaces is fine, but colleges needn’t provide them).

I wouldn’t want to disinvite someone because I don’t like their message — again, I want to hear from people who disagree with me — but only if they don’t make a rational case for it.

Read the whole thing. Comments:

1) We love Nate Kornell! He is exactly the sort of professor that Williams needs more of, engaged with both his students and the wider world. Kudos to Williams for hiring/tenuring him.

2) Glad to see Kornell come to his senses (although that last sentence could have used a good editor).

3) How many professors have supported Falk’s cancellation? Sarah Bolton, Sam Crane . . . Others?

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Kornell Backs Speech Cancellation

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Does Professor Nate Kornell really believe that banning speakers is a good idea, or is he just hopeful that, if he spouts the usual PC-vanities, the speech police won’t come for him next? I don’t know. But if Williams leftist are looking for another person to attack, Kornell would make for an interesting target.

1) Kornell is, obviously, a rape apologist.

2) Kornell fails to support — which is more or less the same thing as attacking — minority students.

3) Most relevantly, Kornell agrees with John Derbyshire, Steve Sailer and Charles Murray about the nature and importance of IQ. Recall:

kornell_sat

Here are some truths that Kornell almost certainly believes.

1) IQ tests like the SAT are some of the most important and reproducible results in all psychology. Doing well on an IQ test is highly correlated with all sorts of outcomes including performance in Williams college classes.

2) IQ is significantly genetic. The population variance that is explained by genes is at least 50% and possibly much more. The best way to ensure that your children are smart is to marry someone smart, and that is just as true even if you intend to give up your children for adoption.

3) Measured IQ (using any intelligence test, including the SAT) varies significantly by race, with African-Americans scoring much lower than, say, Asian-Americans.

4) The 10,000 or so genes that are affect IQ are being identified. This work is the “locomotive” that Charles Murray refers to as heading toward the social sciences. Within ten years, you will be able to make a fairly decent prediction, at birth, of what someone will score on the SAT 16 years later.

And that is just a sample of Professor Nate Kornell’s horrible beliefs! How can Adam Falk put up with such hate speech infecting Williams College classrooms?

UPDATE: Kornell recants.

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First They Came for the Fervent Liberals

Consider this comment from ephalum regarding student complaints about Venker being allowed to speak at Williams.

Sorry, Juan, but that comment reads like a self-parody (is it intended to be, perhaps I am missing something?) of the sorts of ridiculous overreaction to speakers whose ideas you might dislike, even find offensive or stupid. Having a speaker appear on campus who no one is under any obligation to listen to in no way causes tangible harm, let alone should be equated to the “dispersal of violent ideologies.” The answer to speech you dislike is more speech. That is fundamental to any discourse, whether political or academic. During my time at Williams we had plenty of speakers far more inherently offensive than this speaker on BOTH sides of the spectrum (Charles Murray, Nation of Islam leader Khalid Muhammed, etc.) but no one claimed to suffer any sort of psychological harm based on their mere presence on campus.

(And in case you don’t know, I am a fervent liberal, but the few extreme voices from the far left trying to shut down discourse due to purported psychological damage are an embarrassment to the rest of us).

Indeed. But where was ephalum four months later when Falk cancelled Derbyshire using, more or less, the exact same reasoning which ephalum mocked here? In particular, is Adam Falk (someone who has successfully “shut down discourse”) an “embarrassment to the rest of us?” And, if not, what distinguishes him from the students who protested against Venker being allowed to speak?

A similar complaint applies to our own Professor Miller who, four months ago, played the “First they came for the Socialists” card, writing:

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

Talk is cheap. If Miller really believes in the “the principles of freedom of inquiry and liberty of thought and expression,” he will stand up to Falk. Tenure serves no useful purpose if it does not encourage professors like Miller to fight the administration about important matters of principal.

Assume that Miller means what he writes. What should he do next?

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Accreditation Violation

Williams is accredited by the New England Association of of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). The current standards are here. Key portion:

5.23 Scholarship, research, and creative activities receive encouragement and support appropriate to the institution’s purposes and objectives. Faculty and students are accorded academic freedom in these activities.

It is a violation of the academic freedom of students to prevent them from bringing a (non-violent) speaker to campus. Is Williams in danger of losing its accreditation because it now picks and chooses among the speakers that it allows students to bring to campus?

The new standards (which come into effect in July) are worded differently but imply (?) the same substance. Relevant passages include:

The institution protects and fosters academic freedom for all faculty regardless of rank or term of appointment.

The institution is committed to the free pursuit and dissemination of knowledge. It assures faculty and students the freedom to teach and study, to examine all pertinent data, to question assumptions, and to be guided by the evidence of scholarly research.

If a faculty member (and I bet that Uncomfortable Learning could find at least one!) issues a new invitation to Derbyshire and the College insists on banning him, then there is no doubt that this would be an infringement of academic freedom.

Leftist readers will no doubt recall something from Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.

“Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules.

Can the College live up the rules of its own accreditation organization? I hope so!

The Record ought to call NEASC and ask some questions . . .

Side question: What is the closest Eph connection to either Alinsky or Rules for Radicals? Perhaps Wade Rathke ’71 of Acorn?

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Falk Bans Watson

As much as we disliked Adam Falk’s squelching of free debate at Williams, we must salute his consistency. Here is the latest from the President’s Office:

James Watson’s Scheduled Appearance at Williams

To the Williams Community,

Today I am taking the extraordinary step of canceling a speech by James Watson, who was to have presented his views here on Thurday night. The college didn’t invite Watson, but I have made it clear to the biology faculty who did that the college will not provide a platform for him.

Free speech is a value I hold in extremely high regard. The college has a very long history of encouraging the expression of a range of viewpoints and giving voice to widely differing opinions. Until this year, we have never canceled speakers or prevented the expression of views. But, as in the case of John Derbshire last week, there is a line and James Watson is on the other side of it. As reported in the New York Times:

In an interview published Sunday in The Times of London, Dr. Watson is quoted as saying that while “there are many people of color who are very talented,” he is “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa.”

“All our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours — whereas all the testing says not really,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

These thoughts clearly constitute hate speech, and we will not promote such speech on this campus or in our community.

We respect our faculty’s exploration of ideas, including ones that are very challenging, and we encourage individual choice and decision-making by faculty. But at times it’s our role as administrators to step in and make decisions that are in the best interest of our community. This is, again, one of those times.

Sincerely,

Adam Falk
President

More commentary below the break: Read more

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What Would Gaudino Do?

This excellent article (pdf) from the Alumni Review provides a sense of what Robert Gaudino would do if a controversial speaker were invited to campus.

gaud1

If Derbyshire’s talk wasn’t providing “the creative potential to unsettle and disturb” then the words have no meaning. Show this quote to someone like Professor Sam Crane and he would (I hope!) agree with it. Williams should “unsettle” and “disturb” its students. But what Sam really means is that Williams should “unsettle” and “disturb” its students from the left. If a student is a strong supporter of Israel, then Williams should unsettle/disturb him by confronting him with a passionate opponent, like Vijay Prashad. If a student is opposed to affirmative action, then Williams should unsettle/disturb him by confronting him with a speaker like Tim Wise. And so on.

Gaudino, of course, would have gleefully mocked Sam Crane, would have pointed out that if you really believe that the College has a responsibility to “unsettle and disturb” its students, then that responsibility applies to all students, even (especially!) those students who agree with the common zeitgeist.

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Should Falk Ban Charles Murray?

naughty

As we have noted, on the topics that got Derbyshire banned at Williams, Charles Murray is every bit as non-PC. But, he is more polite and less likely to give offense. If I were a social justice warrior, that would make me more worried about Murray rather than less.

Among those who agree with Falk’s decisions to ban Derbyshire: Do you also think he should ban Murray? I am honestly curious to read your views and reasoning. Especially appreciated would be links to Murray’s writings that you find offensive enough to justify a ban.

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Paul on Falk/Derbyshire

As always, the best parts of EphBlog are often in the comments. Consider this one from Professor Darel Paul:

In light of the many recent controversies regarding what is and is not acceptable speech / representation at Williams College (Yes: Jiz Lee, Suzanne Venker, Remi Kanazi; No: John Derbyshire, left-facing (i.e. non-Nazi) swastikas; Preliminary No: old murals of King Hendrick), perhaps what is needed is a kind of Miller Test for the community.

As my deconstructionist faculty friends would say, there is a lot to unpack here. Let’s start!

1) Who can tell if Paul is kidding? I honestly can’t! From Wikipedia:

The Miller test (also called the Three Prong Obscenity Test) is the United States Supreme Court’s test for determining whether speech or expression can be labeled obscene, in which case it is not protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and can be prohibited.

On the one hand, Professor Paul could be serious. Williams does seem to have a problem in deciding what to allow and what not to allow. Given that, we need a procedure for deciding these issues going forward. Why not start with something like Miller?

On the other hand, he must be joking, purposely teasing the Williams administration — purposely teasing his boss Adam Falk? — about the stupidity of its current course of action. Would Williams really want to treat ideas — even ideas as unpopular as John Derbyshire’s — in the same way that provincial US local governments handled obscenity?

2) It is true that Williams now claims that Suzanne Venker would have been welcome if UL had not disinvited her. Does everyone really believe that, now that we know that Adam Falk considers “hate speech” a reason for banning someone from campus? I don’t know. Many Ephs thought that Venker was guilty of hate speech. The editors of the Record, for example, seemed to argue that Venker should not be allowed to speak at Williams, and for precisely the same reasons that Falk banned Derbyshire.

3) Remi Kanazi is a new one to me. Example views:

Poet Remi Kanazi, for example, who frequently speaks at SJP-sponsored events, represents Palestinian culture through work that attacks Israel as a “racist, apartheid state” that is “built upon the graves of Palestinians.” In one Facebook post from 2012, Kanazi wrote,“Dear Zionists: You have never ‘defended yourselves.’ You came in, stole land that wasn’t yours & maintained a racist state through massacres and brute force.”

There are certainly Jewish Williams students who are as offended by Kanazi as other Williams students are offended by Derbyshire. And, if they view that speech as “hateful,” then they are probably accurately describing their subjective feelings upon reading/hearing that speech. But, if you ban Derbyshire, why wouldn’t you ban Kanazi?

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