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K. C. Johnson on How to Fight BDS

I saw an excellent article in the Tablet today from one of my favorite former Williams professors, K.C. Johnson, on the successes enjoyed by those fighting against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement on college campuses. In particular, he applauds the presidents of Pitzer, Cornell and the University of Michigan for standing up to the BDS movement.

Nevertheless, Johnson thinks it is foolish to depend on college presidents to stamp out the BSD movement. Instead, he recommends more aggressive actions by faculty and students. Among faculty, he notes:

On the faculty side, after several minor academic organizations had adopted resolutions committing support to BDS, the American Historical Association seemed poised to follow suit. But the Alliance for Academic Freedom, an organization championed by high-profile professors such as Maryland’s Jeffrey Herf and David Greenberg of Rutgers, engaged the BDS advocates on a variety of grounds, and helped to persuade more moderate AHA members to decisively reject the BDS resolution. The 2016 vote blunted the momentum of BDS activists in targeting academic organizations.

Likewise, Johnson also sees great hope in encouraging students to show courage in combating the BDS movement on their own, potentially with the help of legal talent.

Earlier this week, meanwhile, San Francisco State University settled a lawsuit filed by two Jewish students who alleged religious discrimination in one of the nation’s most virulently anti-Israel campus environments. The university agreed to spend$200,000 on “educational efforts to promote viewpoint diversity (including but not limited to pro-Israel and Zionist viewpoints).” The school also released a statement reiterating “its commitment to equity and inclusion for all—including those who are Jewish,” and affirming “the values of free expression and diversity of viewpoints that are so critical on a university campus.

It is, of course, a great shame that K.C. Johnson saw his excellent research record demeaned while he was a faculty member at Williams. According to a report he gave to an Ephblog correspondent, he bailed out rather than endure what looked like a fruitless, upcoming tenure battle. It warms my heart to see such a courageous fellow sticking it out in the academic world, promoting the freedom of speech standards which once made our elite institutions truly elite.

 

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Authenticity

From The Washington Post:

[T]hat hasn’t stopped senators and newly minted presidential candidates Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) — youngish politicos trying to appeal to even younger voters — from recently wading into the murky waters of cultural commentary, with similarly mixed results.

“Folks running for president in the digital age are controlled by memes and discourse that takes place online — it’s faster,” explains VaNatta Ford, an assistant professor of Africana studies at Williams College in Massachusetts. “They’re really trying to engage with millennials and Gen Z, and in order to do that they have to be hip to what’s happening.”

That’s how Harris and Booker (among other politicians) ended up becoming part of the Jussie Smollett saga. Smollett alleged that on Jan. 29 he was beaten in Chicago by two men yelling racial and homophobic slurs. Both senators described the attack in the very same way on social media: “a modern-day lynching.” Apparently a noose was involved. But there’s just one problem: Smollett’s case has been unraveling, according to Chicago police, who say the hoax was somehow tied to the actor’s salary on the Fox drama “Empire.”

Was this a misstep for the presidential aspirants? Ford says no, in part because this was more serious — and more political — territory than your average viral story. “To get out in front of it when it happened, that’s one thing politicians should be doing, calling out racism,” says Ford. “When it comes to standing up for the black LGBT community, being fast is never a bad thing. You can never go wrong with that.”

Never?

“They’re doing what politicians always do. The difference is they’re both black, and they’re both a little bit younger,” says Ford, who researches African American rhetorical traditions and hip-hop.

While it might appear that Booker and Harris are doing something new by appearing on “urban” radio and rapidly engaging with the news of the day on Twitter — much like social media and millennial superstar Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — they are in fact following the same old playbook that has politicians eating ribs, sipping beer and heading to the county fair.

So there’s nothing wrong with the general idea of what Booker and Harris did — but the trick is to do it like a normal person and not someone’s imaginary hip best friend. Ford has some advice that every politician should heed. “One of the things they have to do a better job at is authenticity,” she says. Put another way: It’s best to leave the lingo to the millennials.

Nothing more authentic than EphBlog.

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Show Them The Money

My co-bloggers here at EphBlog, along with other Ephs of goodwill, often take issue with my complaints about the College’s gifts to charity. As many times as I ask, I have trouble finding anyone who will specify where $250,000 should be cut from the College budget to fund worthwhile programs at Mt. Greylock High School.

But perhaps I should turn the question around. Assume that the College has decided to spend an additional $250,000 this year (or even every year) on attracting and retaining the best college teachers in the country. How would I spend this money, if not on gifts to the local schools and hospital along with realestate development?

Call me crazy, but I would . . . Give the money to the very best teachers at Williams!

Show them the money. Would that really be so hard? Establish “Ephraim Williams Awards for Teaching Excellence.” Five would be given out every year, each consisting of a cash prize of $50,000. Winners would be selected by a committee dominated by students. The only restriction might be that the same person can’t win two years in a row. Nothing would prevent truly exceptional teachers from being recognized several times each decade.

Of course, there is a lot that could be done with these awards. Perhaps one of the awards should be reserved for excellence in advising senior theses and/or individual projects — thus ensuring that not just the best lecturers win. Perhaps 2 of the five awards could be determined by former students — ideally committees centered around events like the 10th and 25th year reunions. This would nicely bias things toward professors who make a career at Williams, thereby giving folks like Gary Jacobsohn and Tim Cook a(nother) reason to stay.

If you want great teachers to come to and stay at Williams, then giving them special prizes is almost certainly the most cost effective way of doing so.

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The Pillory of McPartland

Professor McPartland’s duties, as a philosophy, a teacher, and a mentor to students, have been jeopardized by the Hollander Hall backlash:

  • The man is deeply dedicated to the principle of free speech and equality. Opportunists on both sides of the political aisle will now attempt to connect his principles and actions either to a racist agenda or as a sacrifice done in support of the persecuted right. These are distortions of his real beliefs. Nevertheless, they will out into the campus and beyond, allowing others to hijack his beliefs.
  • Minority students who wish to work with him will hesitate to ever approach McPartland, now. He’ll be known as the ‘racist’ professor, and such a label is as damning as it is indelible. Yes, he is tenured, but this won’t prevent the jury of popular opinion from denigrating his reputation. If people won’t approach him, how can he properly teach?

The worst part of all this? This could happen to any other professor who happens to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong professional capacity. As a student who cares for that unique bond between professors and students formed by an education in Williams, I worry for the future where all are subject to the pillory.

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McPartland in the Crosshairs

Where will the madness end? Your guess is as good as mine. Our story so far:

0) Assistant Professors Kimberly Love and Kai Green ’07 write an essay for the feminist wire in November. It is hard to summarize. Selected quotes:

We write this piece as two untenured junior faculty. We are Black Queer Feminists, serious about our call to research, service, and teaching. We are not safe. And it is not because we do not have tenure that we are not safe. …

We navigate this academic career with integrity and a deep love for knowledge. We are tired of shrinking ourselves to be here! We are tired of holding our tongues out of politeness because our colleagues are not ready to ask certain questions and are not ready to accept certain answers:

Colleague: Can I touch your….?

Answer: NO!

What we have been doing to fit our bodies in these institutions is killing us and we WANT TO LIVE! And not even tenure is worth our Black joy.

1) Love and Green cancel their classes just prior to the start of the spring semester, leaving their students (and departments) in the lurch. Their reasons for doing so are opaque at best.

2) Students (only?) sympathetic to Love and Green create a display/memorial around their (unused?) offices in Hollander Hall.

3) Philosophy Professor Keith McPartland removed the material in his capacity as Chair of the Hollander/Schapiro Users Committee after consultation with Campus Security and a conversation with them about the fire code. (It is hard to believe that no one mentioned this to the Administration. McPartland, and the folks at security, are well-versed in the nonsense which passes for political discussion at Williams. Surely they anticipated a blow-back? Surely they sent an ass-covering e-mail to higher ups?)

4) President Mandel sends a somewhat bizarre e-mail about the removal. Mandel claims that, previously (meaning last week?), “after senior staff and I confirmed that the materials were not impeding movement through Hollander we had asked custodial, CSS and other staff not to disturb them.” Sure would be weird for Mandel to tell CSS not to touch anything and then, a week later, McPartland checks with CSS and they say, “Go ahead. Remove it.” But, then again, miscommunication is the curse of every bureaucracy . . .

5) Students (how?) discover McPartland’s role and decorate/vandalize his office. These photos (four more below the break) are from Thursday morning. Should McPartland be concerned about his future at Williams? What advice would you give him?

What does this mean? We need a scandal name! The saga of Love/Green will be with us for a while. Suggestions? 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, Mary Jane Hitler and Self-CARE Now.

“Love” and “Green” are good words to work with. How about “Love Green Black joy”? Suggestions welcome!

Four more photos below. I believe these are from the morning of Feb 14. Thanks to an anonymous reader for sharing them!
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Violent Practices

EphBlog has been telling you for months that Professors Kimberly Love and Kai Green ’07 are . . . uh . . . not the very model of modern major Williams faculty. The Record reports:

Two professors canceled their courses in the days leading up to the start of spring semester. In an email to students enrolled in her courses, Kimberly Love, assistant professor of English, cited “a refusal to continue business as usual” in the face of “the College’s violent practices” as the reason that she would not return to the College this semester. Kai Green ’07, assistant professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies (WGSS), is spending the semester on medical leave, writing in an email to the Record that the College is not a “safe place” for him.

Worth going through the (pathetic) details? Let me know!

Who is at fault for this nonsense? In order of culpability:

1) Dean of the Faculty Denise Buell, whose relentless focus on hiring (unqualified) applicants who check the right boxes has led us to this sorry state.

2) Former President Adam Falk, who aided and abetted Buell for almost his entire presidency.

3) The members of the English and WGS Departments, especially the ones who served on the search committees that selected Love and Green.

Entire article below the break:

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Four Letter Word, 14 Years Later

This post was originally written 14 years ago. More true today than ever?
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What is the stupidest, most out of touch statement by a senior faculty member to be published in the Record in the last year? Good question! Given all the misrepresentations concerning anchor housing, the competition is a tough one. But I am going with this.

To bring discussion [on racial incidents] to a more public arena, Schapiro and Roseman are hosting an open forum in Griffin at 8:30 p.m. tonight. Roseman said she felt that WSO blogs are ultimately limited in lasting value, despite the good content they sometimes contain. “They’re not really a dialogue,” she said. “They always degenerate over time.”

Pathetic. Roseman was also reported to refer to “blog” as a “four letter word” — i.e., something that she thought was not just useless but positively harmful.

First, does Roseman even read the WSO blogs? In other interviews, she has claimed not to. How can she know that they are “not really a dialogue” if she doesn’t read them regularly? How does she know that they “always” degenerate? Now, she is under no obligation to read the blogs, but if she is ignorant on the topic she has no business being insulting.

Second, the WSO blogs have many, many examples of incredibly lucid and subtle dialogue. Consider Katherine Dieber ’07 on campus racism:

In my opinion, the crime is not fearing, but letting that fear dictate actions. I’m always questioning whether or not I’m subconsciously racist or afraid, and if that’s the deeper reason for the way I interact with people of different backgrounds. Here’s my confession: I question most my interactions with black people. I wonder if I should be taking bigger steps to blend white American culture with black American culture, and this sort of worry colors my interactions with black people (until/unless I get to know them fairly well). Frankly, I’m intimidated. Am I the privileged white kid that black kids see as their enemy, or at least opposite?

Or Nick Greer ’08 on the Odd Quad:

We’ve built our own culture, we built the kind of tightly-knit “cluster” that you want for yourself, but one that excludes you. We built a culture that accepts even the most socially awkward. First years that have already given up on their entry? They’re in Currier common room hanging with us. People like you Kati- I mean Jessica, you make up 80% of this campus so from your perspective clusters aren’t that bad. I mean you may share a bathroom with that frumpy girl who plays D&D but it’s not like she hangs out with you or anything. No, Friday nights when your cluster is having another OC party she’s in her room. Oh, you’re so nice, you’ll invite her to come? Well she’s not interested, she hates you remember. Not everyone on campus likes that sort of thing and when you assume everyone on campus is like you, you exclude the people who are not.

Or Diana Davis ’07 on athletics at Williams:

My childhood friend, who is a year younger than I, looked at Williams when she was considering her college choices. She plays the oboe and the piano, sings, dances, acts, and does all sorts of wonderful things, but she is not an athlete. On her tour, she and her dad report that her tour guide repeated three times the impressive statistic that Williams wins 77% of its games. She was turned off by this athletic focus, and nothing I said could get her to reconsider and apply to Williams. This is sad. Are we alienating many such prospective students? Look on the bright side — that leaves more spots for athletes!

Or Cassandra Montenegro ’06 on Queer Bash pornography.

i didn’t know what to expect going into my first queer bash, but it wasn’t that. i was in no way warned. i dressed up for (what i was told was) the semester’s best party and left feeling the victim. i was so confused as why someone would do that to me–with no concern for my feelings. i couldn’t ‘just look away’ if i didn’t like it, like my friends told me to do. it was more than that, it was the principle. why porn? why on a screen? why at a campus party?

If Roseman doesn’t think that this sort of writing — and the larger dialogues in which they are embedded on the blogs — is the heart and soul of what a Williams education should be, then she is an idiot. More importantly, dozens of similar examples are available for all to see.

Third, it’s not that similar dialogues don’t occur over Mission lunches and late night pizza, just as they did 30 years ago. There are few better parts of a Williams education than the talks/arguments you have with your fellow Ephs. But the blogs provide an extra dimension that we lacked back in the day. They give students a chance to think for a moment about what they want to say, to pause and reflect on the opinions of others. The blogs are not a substitute for other dialogue, they are a complement.

Fourth, any regular blog reader will tell you that the blogs have two big advantages over in-person dialogues. First, they often bring together Ephs who don’t know each other well, who don’t share a dorm or classroom together. Second, they provide a way for the rest of us to listen in, to learn from the conversations among our fellow Ephs.

Why is Roseman so blind to the benefits that the blogs bring to Williams? Tough to know, but I’ll freely speculate. I think that there is a certain kind of administrator who does not really trust the students, who thinks that any discussion on a controversial topic needs to be supervised and moderated. This sort of administrator likes campus forums and classroom discussions because some adult is in control, someone is running the show. For this sort of person, the blogs are anarchic, out of control, always degenerating, making more trouble. A real dialogue includes a teacher, a Socratic figure who guides the benighted students.

Blogs are messy. They aid the students in doing for themselves what the College is unable and, often, unwilling to do for them. They represent a loss of control for Hopkins Hall.

I don’t know if Roseman is this sort of administrator. Perhaps there is some other explanation for her ridiculous comments. But, regardless of the explanation, the messiness is here to stay. The Dean of the College today has much less control over conversation on campus than the Dean did 20 years ago. Nothing can stop that trend from continuing. Embrace the Blog, Dean Roseman. We are the future.
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Fourteen years later, we have some updates.

1) Nancy Roseman, being an idiot, was an utter failure as Dickinson’s president. Where is she now?

2) Williams students are still discussing things, but those discussions are less open and inviting, more narrow and restricted.

A well-run school would urge WSO to bring back Discussions and make them readable by all.

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Vibrant Campus Community

Latest e-mail from President Mandel:

Williams students, faculty and staff,

Spring is here! Well, spring semester anyway, although you wouldn’t know it by the weather. Ever the optimist, though, I feel like I can see the (day)light at the end of the tunnel. If you’ve been away, welcome back. If you stayed here, I hope you had a great Winter Study.

The new semester will be as busy as ever, starting tomorrow with Claiming Williams. I’m excited for my first experience with this unique program, and the organizers have assembled a great schedule for the day. Please find a way to participate if you can, since the program embodies the values essential to building a healthy and vibrant campus community.

Meanwhile, work on strategic planning is coming along nicely: I’m happy to announce a new website where you can learn all about the effort. I want to start this process by inviting your feedback: if you have comments on our organizational structure and plan for moving forward, please submit them via the website by February 15. That’s when the coordinating committee will begin writing charges for each working group, and we want to be able to incorporate community input. Then, starting later in February, I’ll begin to provide monthly updates via campus email, EphNotes and the project website. These will include information about next steps and further opportunities to share your ideas.

I’m also pleased to announce that we’ve finalized the membership of our new Ad Hoc Committee, which will develop recommendations on how Williams can maximize our commitments to free expression and inclusion. The roster and charge are available on a new page of the Committees website, and also via the Strategic Initiatives menu of the president’s office website. Thank you to the faculty, students and staff who are making time to participate on the committee. This is an important project, and I look forward to working with them.

On another issue of national importance, Williams today submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Education commenting on their proposed changes to the Title IX process. While we’re always looking for further ways to help prevent and respond to sexual harassment and discrimination, my letter explains how the Department’s proposed changes could actually impede our efforts.

On a happier note, the Teach It Forward campaign recently exceeded both our 85% engagement goal and $650 million fundraising goal. Beyond the numbers I’m proud of TIF’s impact, from funding the new science center to endowing the CLiA directorship to supporting a world-class faculty and expanding financial aid offerings—including our recent elimination of one summer’s earnings contribution for every student on financial aid. We hope the change will help all students explore learning and career opportunities when school isn’t in session. This and many other good things are made possible for us by Williams alumni and friends, so I hope you’ll join me in thanking them. And we’re aiming still higher in areas from financial aid to sustainability, so will make the most of the time remaining before the campaign ends this June.

All of this is just the beginning. I look forward to starting a new semester with you and to seeing you in the dining halls, on the athletic fields, in the classrooms and meeting spaces, and on Spring Street, as well as at Claiming Williams tomorrow.

Lots to unpack here! Alas, no time to do it!

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Ad Hoc Update, 5

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 5.

Once the committee presents its recommendations in May, I will share this information with the community, and we will organize next steps for when people return in the fall. It will be helpful if the report identifies the historical, philosophical and other considerations that influenced their recommendations. The report should also identify likely costs and benefits of any proposals.

Some people have looked at the current “free speech” debate in this country with dismay. I believe, in contrast, that this is an important step toward building the most vibrant educational community possible. I am deeply grateful to the committee members, and to Williams, for taking on this challenge.

How can Maud be “deeply grateful to the committee members” if she doesn’t yet know who they are?

1) Sure looks like a draft of this statement was written when Maud (and/or Jim Reische?) expected that the committee would have been named by now. If it had been, then thanking them would be the natural way of ending this statement. But the committee has not been named — presumably because of extensive infighting behind the scenes — leaving us with a mistimed expression of gratefulness.

2) Glad to see that Maud, the historian, wants the committee to dive into some history. Start with the time that Mark Hopkins banned Ralph Waldo Emerson from speaking at Williams.

3) But, again, note the incoherence of telling the committee to only provide her with “a set of speaker invitation guidelines” while, at the same time, encouraging them to provide “the historical, philosophical and other considerations that influenced their recommendations.” Just how complex is the history or philosophy associated with such guidelines?

If, however, Maud wrote this draft a few weeks ago — back when she expected this committee to have a large focus and when she expected to have the membership settled by the “end of the calendar year,” everything fits together . . .

except that Jim Reische should have raised these concerns before the e-mail went out . . . ;-)

I am excessively proud of my reasoning on this one, although not quite J’accuse proud. Feel free to disabuse me in the comments.

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Ad Hoc Update, 4

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 4.

Following are a few framing questions the committee might consider in this work:

  • What obligation do liberal arts colleges have for exposing students to new ideas and ways of thinking about the world?
  • What responsibility has Williams assumed (or should it) for helping students achieve equal footing from which to study, expound and challenge diverse ideas?
  • Given the wide range of content available on-line, including many speeches, what types of presentations (in both form and content) best support our educational mission?
  • What support, if any, should Williams give to campus members seeking to host, engage or debate speakers?
  • Are college guidelines related to campus activism toward speakers adequate?

Framing the debate is the first step to victory.

But note how these questions have little/nothing to do with the committee’s new charge to come up with “a set of speaker invitation guidelines that would demonstrate our full commitment to both inquiry and inclusion.” The first two questions are too broad to be of use to a committee which is just working on invitation guidelines. Even the fifth question, which is obviously speaker-related, has nothing to do with invitations per se. A question like that is only relevant if the committee has a much broader mandate than, in fact, it has.

The whole effort is fairly schizophrenic, as if it were written with two different mindsets:

Mindset 1: This committee is a successor to Angevine in its importance. It will solve the problem of free speech/expression at Williams, perhaps via a Chicago-style approach.

Mindset 2: This committee is narrowly focused on the topic of speaker invitations. Other people/committees will handle the broader issues.

What could explain this discrepancy? (Maud and her staff are smart and excellent writers.)

My guess: The initial plan was to go the Angevine route, a committee which would solve the problem. The charge was draft during this period. Later, once it became clear that this was not going to work, the remit of the committee was drastically reduced, but no one went back to do a thorough edit of the entire draft.

Other explanations?

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Ad Hoc Update, 3

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 3.

Proposed Committee Charge

Williams, like other schools around the country, is debating how to uphold principles of open inquiry and free expression. The debate has focused on how to do so while not providing a platform for hate speech, racism, or other forces that are corrosive to a learning community. This issue was identified as a concern in Williams’ Fall 2017 accreditation self-study, which was shared with campus at the time:

“intellectual freedom… is defined broadly at Williams to include the unfettered exchange of diverse points of view, the dissemination of original scholarship, and respect for faculty, students, staff, alumni, and others who wish to share their opinions on how the college is governed. This “basket of rights” must sometimes be actively managed.” (pp. 103–4)

The conversation at Williams has recently focused on speaker invitations, as it has elsewhere around the country. I am charging an ad hoc committee with recommending to me, by May 2019, a set of speaker invitation guidelines that would demonstrate our full commitment to both inquiry and inclusion.

The most important part of this update is right here. Mandel is restricting the work of the committee to “speaker invitation guidelines.” This is a dramatic change from her November vision:

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.

Possible explanations:

1) Nothing-Burger. I am reading too much into some minor word changes. Mandel has not changed her approach/goals despite the superficial changes in phrasing.

2) Worrying about failure. Perhaps Mandel realizes that Williams — or at least the Williams as represented by the committee she has no choice but to name — is not ready for full-scale Chicago-style academic freedom. Rather than let the Committee do some real damage, she is restricting its remit.

3) Changing the battlefield. Perhaps Mandel has decided that this Committee — whatever the strengths and weakness of its membership — is the wrong venue in which to push for the changes she seeks. Note what follows next in her charge:

This targeted project will complement our broader attention to learning and campus climate through the strategic planning process. I further ask that they do so through a process that allows for input from anyone in our community with opinions or ideas to share on the subject.

Calling it a “targeted project” is quite a comedown from the language two months ago. Moving the real battle to the “strategic planning process” places the debate in an area over which Mandel has much more power. Who is in charge of that? Meet the Coordinating Committee:

The most important news is that a Coordinating Committee has been formed to guide the work. This committee will articulate a vision and goals, organize and develop charges for sub-committees working on each area of focus, create opportunities for input and knit all the aspects of the planning process into a unified, final plan. The Committee, which I’ll chair, includes faculty, staff and students.

This is a committee which Mandel will do much more than “chair.” This is a committee which will do her bidding, a committee which will support their President in whichever direction she wants to take Williams. More on the committee some other day, but, for now, note that it includes David Gürçay-Morris ’96 one of the three faculty leaders of the free speech push and Essence Perry ’22, one of the very few (only?) students to outline a pro-free speech position in the Record. What better venue could there be for Mandel to push Williams in a more Chicago’sh direction?

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Ad Hoc Update, 2

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 2.

Mandel’s e-mail continues:

Faculty, student and staff governance bodies are helping me build a committee roster, and I expect to have a final version to share with you in my start of semester message on January 30. In the meantime, below is a copy of the proposed charge for the committee. I hope this will help you and our whole community understand the scope of their work and the framing questions I’m posing to help them get started.

My original recommendations were sensible. I reprint them below, along with some additions.

Administration: Jim Reische, Keli Gail, Dukes Love.
Black Faculty: DL Smith. Maybe Neil Roberts if it is clear he will play ball. Maybe Leticia S. E. Haynes if no Black faculty member can be found.
Hispanic Faculty: Joseph Cruz ’91, Peter Montiel, Greg Phelan.
Asian Faculty: Eiko Siniawer ’97, Lee Park.
White Faculty: Karen Merrill, Katarzyna Pieprzak, Darel Paul, Steve Miller, Fred Strauch, .
Athletic Faculty: Lisa Melendy, Marshall Creighton.
Students: Jake Bingaman ’19, John DiGravio ’21, Ariana Romeo ’19, Alex Jen ’19

With either Joe Cruz or Karen Merrill as chair.

But this is now (sadly?), out of date. I thought — and I suspect Mandel originally planned — that the committee would consider the broad issue of free expression at Williams and, after 6 months or so, recommend that the College either sign the Chicago Statement or something similar to it. However, I now think that Mandel is going in a different direction. Key sentence from her charge:

I am charging an ad hoc committee with recommending to me, by May 2019, a set of speaker invitation guidelines that would demonstrate our full commitment to both inquiry and inclusion. ”

The Commitee’s charge is remarkably narrow. You aren’t going to get anywhere near the Chicago Statement, or the broader issues associated with it, if you are restricted to discussing “speaker invitation guidelines.”

That means that this Committee is a side show, a distraction from the main event. So, who cares who is on this committee or what they decide? Not me!

Or maybe, more deviously, Mandel has decided to set this committee up for failure by stocking it with some of the most polarizing — and least likely to compromise — figures on campus. Perhaps Luana Maroja, Steven Gerrard and David Gürçay-Morris ’96 on the pre-speeech side and Joy James, Kai Green and Kimberly Love on the pro-safety side. Such a Committee is unlikely to make much progress. But a high profile failure might allow Mandel to swoop in from the side and institute a broader solution . . .

UPDATE: I wrote this series last week. We now have new evidence that the analysis is spot on! Consider the all-campus e-mail from College Council which went out yesterday. (Thanks dshakirov!) You can tell that the Committee on Campus Speakers, Inquiry and Inclusion — Is this the official name? — will have no real power because:

1) It has four students on it! That is way too many. Williams loves its students but, as an institution, it does not trust them that much.

2) The naming of those students is being left (completely?) to the discretion of the College Council Appointments Committee. Williams loves CC but, as an institution, it does not trust CC with truly important decisions. Note that CC played zero role in, for example, naming the students appointed to the search committee which chose Mandel.

3) CC is likely to (and should?!) name students deeply involved in this debate. Why not include at least one (and maybe more!) of the students involved with CARE-Now? If you were on CC, wouldn’t you appoint Liliana Bierer ’19, Audrey Koh ’21, Isabel Peña ’19, Isaiah Blake ’21, Carlos Cabrera-Lomelí ’20, Suiyi Tang ’20, Annalee Tai ’21 or Rocky Douglas ’19 if they applied? These students are all intelligent and committed. Good stuff! But, from Mandel’s point of view, they are highly unlikely to come up with the answer that she wants.

4) The name of the Committee begins with “Campus Speakers.” This is further evidence that the Committee’s charge will be exceedingly narrow.

If Mandel’s strategy for freeing Williams from the legacy of Falk’s folly depended meaningfully on this Committee, she would put fewer students on it, ensure that those students were carefully selected and entrust the Committee with a broad mandate. She is doing the opposite. Therefore, we know that this Committee will be unimportant. More evidence over the rest of the week.

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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.

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Update: Ad hoc committee on speakers, inquiry and inclusion

Maud’s Moment has been delayed a bit.

Williams faculty, staff and students,

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.

Faculty, student and staff governance bodies are helping me build a committee roster, and I expect to have a final version to share with you in my start of semester message on January 30. In the meantime, below is a copy of the proposed charge for the committee. I hope this will help you and our whole community understand the scope of their work and the framing questions I’m posing to help them get started.

After the committee comes together I expect they’ll want to communicate with campus about their process and opportunities for input. In the meantime, I look forward to sharing news about the roster in a few weeks.

Sincerely,

Maud

————————–

Proposed Committee Charge

Williams, like other schools around the country, is debating how to uphold principles of open inquiry and free expression. The debate has focused on how to do so while not providing a platform for hate speech, racism, or other forces that are corrosive to a learning community. This issue was identified as a concern in Williams’ Fall 2017 accreditation self-study, which was shared with campus at the time:

“intellectual freedom… is defined broadly at Williams to include the unfettered exchange of diverse points of view, the dissemination of original scholarship, and respect for faculty, students, staff, alumni, and others who wish to share their opinions on how the college is governed. This “basket of rights” must sometimes be actively managed.” (pp. 103–4)

The conversation at Williams has recently focused on speaker invitations, as it has elsewhere around the country. I am charging an ad hoc committee with recommending to me, by May 2019, a set of speaker invitation guidelines that would demonstrate our full commitment to both inquiry and inclusion. This targeted project will complement our broader attention to learning and campus climate through the strategic planning process. I further ask that they do so through a process that allows for input from anyone in our community with opinions or ideas to share on the subject.

Following are a few framing questions the committee might consider in this work:

What obligation do liberal arts colleges have for exposing students to new ideas and ways of thinking about the world?
What responsibility has Williams assumed (or should it) for helping students achieve equal footing from which to study, expound and challenge diverse ideas?
Given the wide range of content available on-line, including many speeches, what types of presentations (in both form and content) best support our educational mission?
What support, if any, should Williams give to campus members seeking to host, engage or debate speakers?
Are college guidelines related to campus activism toward speakers adequate?

Once the committee presents its recommendations in May, I will share this information with the community, and we will organize next steps for when people return in the fall. It will be helpful if the report identifies the historical, philosophical and other considerations that influenced their recommendations. The report should also identify likely costs and benefits of any proposals.

Some people have looked at the current “free speech” debate in this country with dismay. I believe, in contrast, that this is an important step toward building the most vibrant educational community possible. I am deeply grateful to the committee members, and to Williams, for taking on this challenge.

Maud

Looking for my line-by-line exegesis? Of course you are! Sadly, you will have to wait till next week.

By the way, we still need a scandal name. I was planning — in my role as elder statesperson — to go with “Name-of-Chair Committee” once Mandel named the committee. But is that too wishy-washy?

In my role as senior trouble-maker, I am inspired by this student op-ed. 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.

Worth going through? Perhaps. In the meantime, I laughed out loud at their closing paragraph:

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

Scandal name? “Self-CARE Now

I am a bad person . . .

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A Chance to Step Away

Staff/Faculty e-mail from President Mandel:

Dear Williams staff and faculty colleagues,

I am writing to wish you a very happy, healthy, and peaceful holiday season, as well as to thank you for welcoming me and my family to the Williams community. This is a special campus, and I am grateful for all you do to help make it so.

One of the distinctive features of Williams’ winter break tradition is that it gives staff a chance to step away and enjoy time off. So I would like to extend an extra special thank you to our colleagues who will continue to work through the break to keep campus running smoothly.

Many warm wishes for all things good in 2019!

With gratitude,

Maud

I should not be too churlish during the Christmas holiday season, but I believe that the “chance to step away” refers to the College giving staff an extra week of vacation — in addition to the regular paid vacation that they would get if they worked for a “normal” employer — during the winter break. A nice perk!

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Paul on Free Speech

Professor Darel Paul tweets about the Ricochet article from two weeks ago.

No offence to Lukianoff et al., but trying to convince opponents of speech that free speech protects the rights of the minority is a loser of an argument for at least 2 reasons.

First, the opponents of the Chicago statement at Williams are not the “minority”. They are the majority, at least of those holding power (student government, student newspaper, etc.). And it makes sense that the majority might like to ban speech.

Moreover, this majority has no fear that it may one day become a minority on campus (a very reasonable belief) and thus one day require the protections of something like the Chicago statement.

Second, in a therapeutic culture like the one which characterizes elite college campuses in America today, freedom is a secondary value. Safety is a primary value, one which is potentially threatened by speech.

I don’t know how to get opponents of freedom to value it, but going about assuming that they actually do so in a way they don’t yet realize is an obvious mistake.

Right on all counts.

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Admit Your Privilege, 6

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 6.

Furthermore you can learn a lot from arguments you disagree with—something I have learned listening to creationists, climate denialists and even some bigots. I emphasized that the reason we want free speech is not because we want to invite bigots, but because we don’t want to see discussion shut down. The recent cancellation in theater shows how “protection” of feelings actually hurt African-Americans (the artist who wrote the play)! Students are hurting the very cause they think they are defending.

Finally, I re-emphasized that invitation is not the same as disinvitation: the Chicago Statement has rules on what to do once someone is invited, and has no guidelines about who should be invited. Furthermore, the guidelines allow disinvitations for extremist speakers who poses a genuine physical threat to individuals.

1) Just how much time has Maroja spent listening to creationists? Maybe quite a bit, depending on the social milieu in which she was raised in Brazil. But lately? And just what did she “learn?”

2) How does Maroja define “climate denialists?” I know as much about the scientific literature associated with climate change as Maroja, whose field is biology. Why does she insist on insulting people like me by comparing us to those who deny the Holocaust?

3) “the reason we want free speech is not because we want to invite bigots” — Who is the “we” in this sentence? As long as Muroja (and the rest of the faculty . . . and all the students . . .) have no interest in bringing “bigots” — as defined by CARE Now — then there isn’t a problem. In fact, there is no need for the Chicago Statement!

4) Does the Chicago Statement really have “no guidelines about who should be invited?” Key sentence:

Because the University is committed to free and open inquiry in all matters, it guarantees all members of the University community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn.

Almost everyone involved in this debate believes that this applies to the right of faculty/students to invite whoever they want to campus, so that they can “listen” to them. This is the same right that faculty/students at places like Berkeley and Michigan take for granted.

Does Muroja understand this key point? To the extent that she wants the College to adopt the Chicago Statement, or something like it, the best rhetoric will focus on the rights of students/faculty. Students/faculty hate to be told that they can’t do X. They would be enraged to know that they can’t do X while their counterparts at Umass/Michigan/Berkeley can do X. That framing would maximize support for something like the Chicago Statement.

Indeed, this framing provides a way for President Mandel to solve the problem in a particularly Williams fashion.

The Mandel Doctrine: Williams College enforces fewer restrictions on students/faculty with regard to intellectual activities than any public institution.

No need to parrot the dweebs at Chicago! I don’t particularly like this phrasing — reader suggestions welcome! — but the framing is perfect. Or maybe:

The Mandel Doctrine: Williams College does not restrict the academic activities of our students and faculty, nor does it allow others to do so.

1) The vast majority of Williams students/faculty want at least as much freedom as their counterparts at MCLA down the road. They will be in favor.

2) No need to enter the weeds of who is a “bigot” or what is the definition of “hate speech.” No need to consider the “harms” which might result from a Derbyshire visit.

3) First Amendment jurisprudence, especially with a conservative supreme course, is very strong on the issue of state interference. This means that places like MCLA can’t do anything against an invitation to Derbyshire. They have to treat all activity in a content-neutral way. Mandel does not need to spend her presidency policing the edge cases. She can just defer to the US court system.

I hope that my Hopkins Hall readers will pass on this most excellent idea!

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Admit Your Privilege, 5

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 5.

While most professors at the meeting were highly supportive of free speech and many sent me grateful emails, I was shocked at the behavior of some of my colleagues. For example, one professor turned to the students and said that they should read the names missing from our list of signatories, as “those were professors that were with the students” (an appalling tactic that created an “us vs them” atmosphere). Another professor stated that she was involved in creating violence in UC Berkeley for Milo Yiannopoulos’s disinvitation and would be ready to do the same at Williams.

1) Which professor did the “us vs them” trick? Surely, we have a reader or two who was at the event.

2) A professor threatening violence is nuts! Is anyone else shocked by this? But, at the same time, tell us your story! EphBlog loves a riot. What was the Berkeley riot like? What did you do? What lessons did you learn? Perhaps you could share those lessons with your Williams students . . .

3) Who is the professor? The Record ought to find out. The Course Catalog (pdf) lists faculty backgrounds. Sarah E. Olsen (2016), Ianna Hawkins Owen (2016), Kailani Polzak (2017) and Yana Skorobogatov (2018) are the Williams faculty with the most recent degrees from Berkeley. Of course, just because this professor was at the riot does not mean that she has a degree from Berkeley, but this is the place to start. I also suspect that this is more likely to be a new faculty member since most already-hired Williams faculty would have been teaching during the February 2017 Milo riots.

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Admit Your Privilege, 4

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 4.

I explained how censorship hurts the very cause they are fighting for, noting that because I am Hispanic, people often assume that is the reason I got into Cornell, got a job, and got grants, and that students of color will face the same fate in the outside world.

1) Would most Hispanic students at Williams consider Maroja Hispanic? Honest question! She sure looks white to me. Not that there is anything wrong with that! Maroja was born and raised in Brazil. According to Wikipedia:

The term Hispanic (Spanish: hispano or hispánico) broadly refers to the people, nations, and cultures that have a historical link to the Spanish language or the country of Spain, depending on the context.

It commonly applies to countries once under colonial possession by the Spanish Empire following Spanish colonization of the Americas, parts of the Asia-Pacific region and Africa.

Brazil, of course, was never a Spanish colony, which is why they don’t speak Spanish there. From Pew Research:

Q. What about Brazilians, Portuguese, and Filipinos? Are they Hispanic?
A. They are in the eyes of the Census if they say they are, even though these countries do not fit the official OMB definition of “Hispanic” because they are not Spanish speaking. For the most part, people who trace their ancestry to these countries do not self-identify as Hispanic when they fill out their Census forms. Only about 4% of immigrants from Brazil do so, as do just 1% of immigrants from Portugal or the Philippines.3 These patterns reflect a growing recognition and acceptance of the official definition of Hispanics. In the 1980 Census, about one in six Brazilian immigrants and one in eight Portuguese and Filipino immigrants identified as Hispanic. Similar shares did so in the 1990 Census, but by 2000, the shares identifying as Hispanic dropped to levels close to those seen today.

I bet that there are more than a few student protestors who give Maroja the side-eye when she claims to understand what life is like for “students of color.”

2) Williams has, for decades, been telling me that it places a high priority on hiring faculty of color. I believe it! Don’t you? I believe that, given her willingness to check the Hispanic box, Maroja had an advantage when she applied to work at Williams. And that is OK! Maroja does not make the rules. Nor does it mean that Maroja was not the best candidate for the job, with the strongest teaching/research resume. If you are in favor of affirmative action — and I believe that Maroja is — then you are asking for a world in which “people often assume” that you had an advantage in getting X because you had checked box Y.

Thus, I added, students need to be able to defend their positions with strong reason and argumentation, not by resorting to violence or name-calling. Disinvitations invigorate bigots; they do not suppress their message.

Says who? I think that disinvitations, as part of the broader No Platform movement, work pretty well. Consider a sentiment that John Derbyshire probably would have voiced if Adam Falk has not banned him:

The US should allow fewer immigrants, both legal and illegal, from Mexico.

Was Derbyshire invigorate[d]? Maybe. But he did not get to voice these hateful (?) opinions at Williams. Moreover, students and faculty with similar opinions were intimidating from speaking. Sure seems like a successful example of “suppress[ing] their message.”

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Admit Your Privilege, 3

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 3.

Maroja provides a detailed report, which I hope the Record will verify and expand on:

However, trouble started after a professor opposed to free speech shared the petition with students, who wrongly assumed that we were voting on the issue on November 15. While I did reach out to these students to let them know that no vote was taking place and that this was a faculty forum to discuss ideas, these efforts were in vain. A group of about 15 students waving posters stating “free speech harms” came to our discussion on November 15. The professor leading the meeting was extremely nice, welcoming the students in the room and reading their response aloud.

Who was this professor? Gerrard?

Reading aloud the student petition was, I think, a tactical mistake. Give these activists an inch and they will take a mile. Did he really read the whole thing aloud? It is not . . . uh . . . concise. At most, I would have paused the meeting for a few minutes to allow folks to read it silently to themselves.

But many of the students were disruptive throughout, finally asking white male professors to sit down and admit their “privilege”. They pointed out how horrible the college is in welcoming and including them, but then stated that they want to be protected by the president! They equated free speech with “hate speech” and with the desire of professors to invite John Derbyshire back (Derbyshire a figure within the alt-right movement, was invited by a student group and disinvited by president Falk a couple years ago).

Holy turning over The Log! Did that really happen?Did Williams students really ask (or did they tell? or demand?) that white male professors “sit down and admit their ‘privilege’?” The mind boggles.

I am having a pleasing time imagining what the Williams professors of another era — James MacGregor Burns ’39, Mark Taylor, R. G. L. Waite — would have responded if a similar demand was put to them . . .

Has the Chinese Cultural Revolution finally come to Williams? Let the struggle sessions commence!

the victim of a struggle session was forced to admit various crimes before a crowd of people who would verbally and physically abuse the victim until he or she confessed. Struggle sessions were often held at the workplace of the accused

Admit your privilege, you nasty white men!

Perhaps “Admit your privilege” is a good name for this controversy?

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Admit Your Privilege, 2

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 2.

While several speakers have been invited to talk about free speech (recently Geoff Stone and Frederick Lawrence), and classes on the topic have been taught, discussion about college policy never really got started among faculty or students.

As expected. Would anyone really expect more than a tiny fraction of the students who signed this petition to attend such a talk or take such a class? I wouldn’t! Note this comment from yesterday:

I recall the UChicago speaker [Geoff Stone] from last spring who addressed the topic of free speech on campus, taking what I guess now is a “conservative” stance.

When students who resent free speech spoke during Q&A, their argument began (and stopped) with: what happens when speech makes me/my peers (“marginalized identities”) feel bad?

The reply was simple: do you want authority figures banning speakers who you find offensive? Who gets to decide what’s offensive? What happens when this authority is inevitably extended to someone you disagree with? Do you think the conservative president of a southern university should be allowed to ban a transgender speaker because it makes Christian students uncomfortable? When the issue is framed in this light, the concept of an open platform starts to seem much more attractive.

This reply pretty swiftly made the students actually reflect on the implications of what they were advocating for. It was concerning it took so long for a counterargument to be heard.

Really? I have my doubts about this. There are many plausible counter-arguments — just ask smart EphBlog readers like sigh and abl! — to this hypothetical, not least that no elite college in the last 50+ years has banned or disinvited a leftist/liberal speaker. Back to Maroja:

This is in large part because faculty sharing my concerns about the increasing censorship on campus felt afraid of speaking up, always assuming that they were an insignificant minority.

Again, doesn’t sigh/dcat/me owe John Drew an apology? His claim, for decades, has been that conservative/Republican/libertarian faculty are afraid to publicly voice their opinions. sigh/dcat have largely poo-poo’d such concerns.

But, if Maroja is to be believed, the situation is even worse than Drew led us to believe. Even liberal faculty like her are “afraid” to offer the non-progressive opinion on a given topic.

In my view, the situation became critical when Reza Aslan came for a talk in campus titled “The future of Free Speech and Intolerance”.

Reza Aslan dominated the conversation and, in his always convoluted and self-contradictory style, started by bragging that he had once been disinvited from another venue, proceeding to say that anything that offended him should not be allowed, and finally asserting that “only factual talks” should ever be allowed in campus. This nonsense was met with intense student applause. It was appalling.

Indeed. Am I the only one deeply troubled by this? What say you dcat/abl/sigh?

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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.

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President Mandel on Free Speech Development

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

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Faculty Petition Timeline and Request for Controversy Name

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

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

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

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

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

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

Petition to the Faculty of Williams College

Greetings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gaudino’s Revenge?

None of this is working for me. Suggestions welcome!

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Mandel’s Moment?

From Ricochet:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Renzie Lamb, RIP

Williams legend Renzie Lamb has passed on to the great sideline in the sky. Upon his retirement, Williams wrote in 2004:

When Renzie W. Lamb, the college’s long-time men’s head lacrosse coach, retires this June, his name will remain much in evidence—gracing the new turf field which the athletics department is planning for Weston Field. If construction remains on schedule, the field bearing Lamb’s name will be complete by early fall of this year.

Lamb, who came to Williams in 1968, is revered for the pep talks he gave to his teams every year before playing arch rival Amherst. A rendition of his speech was even quoted in an article by The New York Times about the endurance of Williams-Amherst hostility:

“If you wish to be happy for an hour, get intoxicated. If you wish to be happy for three days, get married. If you wish to be happy for eight days, kill a pig and eat it. If you wish to be happy forever, beat Amherst.”

Amen.

After graduating from Hofstra College, Lamb spent four years with the Marines and coached high school lacrosse teams in the New York City area before transitioning to a life in the Berkshires. Called by some the “Renaissance man” of the athletics department, he has served as the college’s football scout and has coached football and women’s squash, in addition to men’s lacrosse.

Lacrosse, though, has been his passion. A few years ago he even went so far as to cook up a dry marinade, Renzie’s Rub, to sell on behalf of the men’s team. His dedication has not gone unheralded. Two generations of Lamb’s former players continue to return to campus for the team’s bi-annual alumni game.Former captain Ian Smith ’91 said, “The recent success of Williams lacrosse cannot be measured by winning percentage, though it has been high. The success of the program is found in its timeless nature. Tales pass from one generation of Williams players to the next, and each player is well aware of the heritage.”

Indeed. There are many Renzie stories. Who can share some with us? Frank?

Condolences to all.

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Future of the JA System in Doubt?

I would not be surprised if the JA system disappeared in the next decade or so.

1) Would people like more coverage of this topic? There have been a bunch of Record articles over the last few years, but they are no longer easily available.

2) The key characteristics of the JA system, and what makes it different from similar systems at peer schools, include:

JAs are undergraduates. (Proctors at Harvard are college graduates.)
JAs are unpaid. (Yale pays its counselors — “FroCos” — by giving money which is applied to food/board charges.)
JAs are chosen by other students. (No elite college I know of gives students such power.)
JAs, although connected/watched/supported/supervised by Williams, are given more freedom than their peers at other schools.

3) In her talk with alumni volunteers yesterday, Dean Marlene Sandstrom mentioned the recent problems with too few JA applications, and with too few applications for other leadership positions as well. She attributed much of this to students who felt (and whose families felt) that the College should not be asking them to do so much without paying them for their labor. She also mentioned that the College, although it does not “pay” JAs, does release JAs on financial aid from their on-campus employment obligation.

4) The College’s bureaucracy continues its endless growth. All those bureaucrats need to fill their days somehow. Selecting, paying and controlling JAs would be a natural thing for them to do.

The future? Who knows! But Sandstrom’s initial opening — which was far from a random riff — seemed designed to prepare these alumni volunteers for changes which they might not like . . .

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Will the bombs be the Trumpian Reichstag?

O that Professor Robert Waite were available to offer his psychohistory analysis on the current WH resident as he did on the former resident of a bunker in Berlin. The Reichstag Fire is generally credited as the reason for the sweeping disruptions of German freedoms of personal and public activities, including freedom of the press… under The Reichstag Fire Decree of 1933.

The second reference (above) is from Australia with a 2 March, 2017 dateline. I am not the first to have this thought. Events seem to have progressed since 2017. The party state must protect itself.

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Obsequious Deference

Professor Susan Dunn writes at CNN:

By attacking our closest allies and their leaders and displaying obsequious deference to the virtual dictator Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump has repudiated American global leadership. He has replaced it with a hyper-nationalism and unilateralism that are less of a foreign policy and more the bullying tactics of a would-be strongman.

Trump’s “America First” isolationism is fast weakening and isolating the United States, undermining the stability of long-standing alliances, and allowing dictatorships to thrive unchallenged around the world.

Read the whole thing. But I confess to some confusion. Isn’t one of the central lessons of the last few decades that sometimes (often? always?) “allowing dictatorships to thrive unchallenged” is the best option among the set of bad choices? Does Dunn think it was a good idea to challenge the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi or Bashar al-Assad? Those actions by prior US presidents seem, to me, to have resulted in immense human suffering. Wouldn’t most readers agree that, however monstrous Hussein/Gaddafi/al-Assad were, we should have not gone to war with them? Honestly curious!

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Doctrine Propounded

Interesting comment on pronouns from Professor Eric Knibbs:

In 2015 it was still OK to refer to “preferred pronouns.” The same was true in 2016. Right now staff hiring guidelines still suggest asking after a candidate’s “preferred pronoun” (expand “Marital/Family Status” at the bottom).

Clarity from the office of the Dean of the Faculty on when “preferred pronouns” became prohibited would be very helpful.

The LGTBQ Life at Williams page has an entire discourse on pronouns that appears at points to use “non-binary” and “gender-neutral” interchangeably, contrary to the doctrine propounded by the Dean of the Faculty.

References to “male pronoun(s)” and (less commonly) “female pronoun(s)” are scattered across the web presence of Williams College.

Read the whole thread for interesting discussion. Knibbs should join us as an author. (What is the point of tenure if not to have fun on EphBlog?!) We need more contributions from faculty!

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