Currently browsing posts filed under "Adam F. Falk"

Follow this category via RSS

Next Page →

A Farewell from President Falk …

To the entire Williams community,

A presidency can pass in the blink of an eye.

It was the fall of 2010, but it seems just yesterday that I stood in Chapin Hall at Convocation to deliver my inaugural address. I’d already been on the job for almost half a year, but still it felt like the beginning. What surprises and challenges lay ahead of us? What should we be mindful to preserve, and what would we need to change? What forces from beyond the Purple Valley would affect us, and how would we, in turn, aspire to affect the world?

Not easy questions to answer, to be sure. The sage Yogi Berra once said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” As all new presidents are compelled to, I still did my imperfect best to deliver on the promise of a vision. But the most important observation I made then, one in which I believe just as deeply today, is that the choices about where to go would not be mine alone. “This day is not about an individual person,” I said, “but about a college.”

And almost a decade later, I’m indeed proud of what we, this college, have accomplished.

We’ve reinvigorated our campus landscape, from the new Sawyer Library and the Class of ’66 Environmental Center to the renovated Chapin and Weston Halls, with the additions to the science center soon to join them.

We’ve started new programs like the Center for Learning in Action, which every day strengthens our relationship to our surrounding communities and deepens our students’ engagement with people throughout the Berkshires and beyond.

We’ve strived to welcome to Williams people from an ever-wider array of backgrounds and identities. Living and learning in a diverse community fosters imagination, empathy, open-mindedness and respect, all characteristics needed now more urgently than ever. And we’ve made strides in keeping membership in this community affordable to students and their families. Leaders don’t usually brag about increasing expenditures. But I’m proud of the more than $50 million in aid we provide to Williams students every year, expressing as it does our deep commitment to expanding educational opportunity.

There’s of course plenty left for the next president to work on, and they’ll do so in collaboration with our entire community: a convocation and sometimes a cacophony of many voices, many aspirations, and many efforts. Let us remember that our most important work, our hardest work, requires every one of us and is by its nature never fully done.

While it’s not my job to set the agenda for my successor, that agenda will surely include continuing to hire and support one of this country’s great teaching faculties. It will surely include continuing to open Williams to students drawn from every part of our society, and to provide everyone who is here the fullest opportunity to thrive. And it will surely include continuing to care for the natural and built environment that is the home for the remarkable work that students, staff, and faculty do: alone, with each other, and, increasingly, in partnership with our alumni.

Back in 2010, I closed my inaugural address by saying, “We love the Williams that we know and have known, but we will love even more the Williams that we create.” I love the Williams we, together, have created, and I hope that you do, too. Now will begin a new phase of its creation. I’ll be following Williams’s ongoing evolution from elsewhere, but will do so with pride, affection and gratitude for all that we’ve achieved in these past eight years.

Sincerely,

Adam Falk
President

Facebooktwitter

Adam Falk’s Legacy, 13

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two three weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 13.

Falk’s main argument is that one article by Derbyshire, “The Talk: Non-Black Version,” makes his presence at Williams unacceptable. Falk does not so much argue against the substance of Derbshire’s views as point-and-sputter in their general direction. Falk (accurately) quotes Derbyshire:

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

(10b) Stay out of heavily black neighborhoods.

First, we should always be interested in what other people tell their own children. Recall that the context is “The Talk” that African-American parents give their children about the dangers inherent in interactions with the police. Derbyshire writes:

There is a talk that nonblack Americans have with their kids, too. My own kids, now 19 and 16, have had it in bits and pieces as subtopics have arisen. If I were to assemble it into a single talk, it would look something like the following.

I certainly believe that Derbyshire is telling the truth. I also doubt that he is some weird outlier. You really think that he is the only parent in America who tells their children to stay out of certain neighborhoods? Most of us, of course, don’t put it so crudely. We tell our children to be wary of “bad” neighborhoods and “poor” neighborhoods. But, in the vast majority of US cities, the exact terminology does not change the recommended action. If you stay out of “poor” neighborhoods, you will also stay out of “black neighborhoods.”

Second, even if Derbshire is the only racist in America, it sure seems like the rest of the country is following his advice. Go to the black neighborhood in your city. How many white/Asian teenagers do you see? How many from outside the neighborhood? How many middle class or richer? Very few non-poor, non-black teenagers spend any unsupervised time in “heavily black neighborhoods.” You may decry this fact, but you can hardly blame Derbyshire for it.

Third, note Falk’s hypocrisy. You can be certain that his teenage children have almost never spent any unsupervised time in a heavily black neighborhood. And that is OK! My children haven’t either. Have your children? Of course, Falk never says the words to his children that Derbyshire said his, but the actual reality of their lived experience is probably identical.

Facebooktwitter

Adam Falk’s Legacy, 12

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two three weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 12.

Falk’s critique of Derbyshire is just as sloppy as his defense of his decision to ban Derbyshire from Williams. But before that a story . . .

At a 2017 May presentation to important alumni, Falk was asked:

No event in the last five years has given Williams more of a black eye in the national press than your cancellation last year of a student-invited talk by John Derbyshire, a leading intellectual of the alternative right. Since then, Donald Trump has won the presidency and several leaders of the alternative right — people like Steve Bannon and Jason Miller — have ascended to leadership positions in his administration. I met yesterday with the student leaders of the new Republican Club on campus. They plan on bringing several speakers to campus — including alumni like Mike Needham ’04 and Oren Cass ’05 — Republicans who are often branded as “racists” by their political opponents. In fact, they might even invite me to speak. I agree with some, but not all, of what John Derbyshire has written. Will you also be banning me from speaking on campus?

Falk assured me that I, at least, would not be banned from campus. Good to know! But he steadfastly defended his decision, claiming that Derbyshire’s views were too outrageous to allow on campus. At that point, Falk could have trotted out any of Derbyshire’s positions as justification. Instead he said:

Derbyshire believes that African-Americans are more violent.

And that was it! That was all Falk offered in terms of a specific example.

The problem, of course, is that — using any definition of violence you like — African-Americans are much more violent than white Americans, much less Asian-Americans.

Consider this report from (Obama’s!) Department of Justice or data from the FBI. Wikipedia provides a useful summary.

Derbyshire’s sin is not that he advocates violence (he doesn’t) or that he advocates hate (he doesn’t) or that he tells lies. Derbyshire’s sin is that he tells the truth.

Facebooktwitter

Adam Falk’s Legacy, 11

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two three weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 11.

Apologies for extending this discussion for a third week, but Falk’s misleading prose deserves a thorough fisking. His Washington Post article finishes with:

How many more examples do we need? For how long are we going to allow the vocabulary of freedom to be hijacked by people trying to impress upon us its opposite?

Let’s start with the Communists. No student should be allowed to wear a Che shirt at Williams, much less display the hammer-and-sickle on any item of clothing. We should never allow someone like, say, Angela Davis to speak at Williams, as she has multiple times in the past. Adam Falk has found the line and, one would hope, Communists, like Nazis, are on the other side of it . . .

Of course, in Adam Falk’s world, no opinion is too leftist to be heard at Williams. Only speech from the right must be prohibited.

As Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said at yet another congressional hearing on the topic recently, “Colleges should be a place of robust speech and disagreement. … But, I think, we cannot use the banner of protecting free speech to allow people to terrorize folks.”

Those who care about real freedom of speech — as I do, and as I know Sen. Kennedy does — need to be far more concerned with such threats than with even the most boisterous student protest.

As an educator, I politely decline to hide my head in a bag. It’s too important for me, and Sen. Kennedy, and all of us, to keep our eyes and ears open to the rising chorus of hate.

Note the misdirection. Adam talks about “such threats” without noting that John Derbsyhire has never threatened anyone. He has never committed a crime or even been charged with one. He has never encouraged lawlessness. He only has ideas that Adam Falk does not like.

History will remember that Adam Falk was the first Williams president in 150 years to ban a speaker from campus, to restrict discussion and debate which students had sought out. With luck, he will be the last Williams president to do so, at least for a century or so.

Facebooktwitter

Adam Falk’s Legacy, 10

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 10.

Campuses have to be shut down to deal with the ensuing threats. Learning is being disrupted, tuition money wasted, innocent people terrorized.

Some version of this drama has played out at Texas A&M. At Syracuse University. At the University of Iowa and Evergreen State and Dartmouth and Hampshire College and Trinity College and Drexel University.

Note what Falk leaves out: He fails to mention the time that he shut down the Williams campus! How stupid he must think we are. He, and he alone, was responsible for “tuition money wasted” and learning “being disrupted.” Back-of-the-envelope, there are 120 class days per year, so Falk’s cancellation caused 2,000 Williams students to miss almost 1% of their education that year. Total cost: more than $500,000.[1]

Most annoying is Falk’s concern over “innocent people terrorized.” Falk’s 2011 campus shut down involved racist grafitti (“All Niggers Must Die”) in Prospect House. We now know — and the Williams administration knew very quickly — that this was written by black/Hispanic student Jess Torres ’12. Scores of students were honestly terrified by this event. (I have spoken to some.) They really believed — because the Williams administration led them to believe — that there was a (potentially violent?) Klansman with access to the inside of student dormitories. Falk allowed them, even caused them, to feel terrorized because he was too much of a coward to reveal the truth. And now he seeks to lecture us about the dangers of John Derbyshire speaking on campus?

[1] Note that I don’t think this sort of calculation makes a lot of sense. But Falk is the one arguing in these terms.

Facebooktwitter

Adam Falk’s Legacy, 9

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 9.

There are times when I’ve wondered whether we should treat these events as a type of performance rather than speech: If the World Wrestling Federation demanded to hold a cage match on the Berkeley campus, would the university be obligated to host it at public expense?

Views that Adam Falk agrees with == Speech.
Views that Adam Falk disagrees with == Performance.

The First Amendment applies to Speech but not to Performance. Simple!

Let’s try rewriting that last bit:

If When Brothers Speak demanded to hold a spoken word concert on the Berkeley campus, would the university be obligated to host it at public expense?

First, making fun of the enthusiasms of whites, especially poor, less educated whites, is OK, if you are Adam Falk. Making fun of the enthusiasms of African-Americans or Jews or just about any other group? Forget about it!

Second, is Falk so uneducated that he does not realize that this is a settled matter of Constitutional law, a non-problem that is easily handled hundreds of times each week in this great country of ours? Any public institution — whether it be the University of California or Margaret Lindley Park must operate in a viewpoint neutral manner. If you allow group A to hold an event of type X, then you must allow group B to hold an event of type X. You can have rules about X — nothing for profit, nothing loud, nothing with more than 100 attendees, whatever — but those rules must apply to everyone.

The incidents we’re being forced to contend with are far more pernicious and no less staged.

I suspect that Falk is not clear-eyed enough to understand exactly what his views imply. Can public institutions, like Margaret Lindley Park, bar “pernicious” events? Or only pernicious events that are “staged?” Who gets to decide? If that is the rule then, in addition to Nazi events, I would like to ban Communist events since Communists were responsible for at least as many innocent deaths in the 20th century as Nazis.

Nor should we be concerned solely with sensationalist speakers. Too many of our students and faculty are being threatened and harassed for expressing challenging points of view, especially about race. Their words are picked up by websites such as Campus Reform and The College Fix, amplified and distorted and shoveled into the Internet outrage machine.

Adam Falk is concerned with rudeness on the internet? Good luck! But it sure would be nice to see some concern for harassment directed at Williams students like Zach Wood. Adam Falk has no said one single word about that. As best we can tell, he only cares about threats and harassment from the right.

Facebooktwitter

Adam Falk’s Legacy, 8

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 8.

Private colleges have a great deal of discretion to choose which guests to invite to speak in our communities. Our campuses are not legally public squares. So these provocateurs have instead turned their focus to the more vulnerable public institutions.

“Vulnerable” is an interesting choice of works. Often, when people think that an institution is “vulnerable” to something pernicious, they want to strengthen or protect it. Would Adam Falk like to strengthen public schools so that they, like Williams, are no longer “vulnerable” to people like Derbyshire? I am honestly curious.

After all, laws, even the Constitution, can be changed. Or judges can change what the laws mean. If the First Amendment were to be interpreted as strictly as some other amendments, it might become possible for public universities to ban “hate speech.” Is that what Adam Falk wants?

Just this fall we’ve seen the University of Florida forced to spend more than $500,000 to enable a single speech by Spencer.

“Forced?” Not by Spencer. Spencer is happy enough to speak for free. The problem is, obviously, Antifa, the same group responsible for the violence at Middlebury. They seek to deprive, using violence, Spencer from exercising his constitutional right to free speech. Does Falk really want to see the heckler’s veto work so well?

Falk’s opinions are not important because he is important. They are important for the light they shed on where elite opinion is heading in America: Toward the restriction of unpopular speech.

And of course there were the far more agonizing costs of the tragedy in Charlottesville, which began with people carrying torches, swastikas and Confederate battle flags across the Lawn at the University of Virginia.

The Lawn is public. Would Adam Falk like to ban Confederate flags, and the people who like them, from the Lawn? From all public property? From private property? Of course, we need rules and regulations and permits for the use of public land. Current US law is that all such regulation must be viewpoint neutral. The rules for having a Black Lives Matter march on the Lawn must be the same as the rules for having a Nazi march. Adam Falk seems to prefer an America in which some viewpoints are allowed on the Lawn and some are not. Is he some weird outlier? I doubt it.

Facebooktwitter

Adam Falk’s Legacy, 7

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 7.

The problem is that provocateurs such as Derbyshire, Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopolous are intentionally blurring the line between the two. They have few policy ideas to offer, conservative or otherwise, and little or nothing interesting to say about critical issues such as health care, foreign policy or the tax code.

Unlike, say, Jiz Lee (NSFW)? Recall that Williams invited porn star Jiz Lee to speak on campus in 2012, during Adam Falk’s presidency. And that is OK! Williams should be a place for free-wheeling debate. Not every speaker needs to have an opinion on, say, health care. But Falk can’t pretend that there is no place for “provocateurs” on campus while, at the same time, allowing Jiz Lee to speak.

Instead they’re obsessed with provoking outrage by demeaning whole populations and challenging their right to be on our campuses or in our country.

Falk misleadingly conflates Derbyshire (the person he actually banned) with Yiannopolous, much less Spencer. Perhaps Yiannopolous enjoys the outrage game. Derbyshire doesn’t. Perhaps Spencer challenges rights. Derbyshire doesn’t.

Note the sloppy language/thinking in a phrase like “challenging their right to be on our campuses.” What does that even mean? Do Derbyshire/Yiannopolous/Spencer (DYS) challenge the right of any Eph to be on the Williams campus? No! Falk is just making stuff up. (Williams, of course, reserves the right, not only to prevent DYS from being on campus, but to reject thousands of applicants each year.)

Is Falk’s position that anyone who challenges the “right” of group X to be “in our country” is a hate-filled bigot? I am honestly curious. DYS, like President Trump and a majority of American citizens, believe that immigration to the US should be significantly restricted. The Williams faculty/administration has certainly never invited a supporter of immigration-restriction to campus. Is this view banned as well?

What today’s students object to is not hearing points of view different from their own, but hearing their contemporaries publicly humiliated and threatened.

Falk did not object very strongly when Zach Wood and other Williams students were “threatened” by Eph social justice warriors. From Wood’s Senate testimony (pdf):

threat

Or are threats against conservatives OK?

Speakers such as Spencer and Yiannopolous — craving attention, backed with outside money, pumped up with social media muscle and often surrounded by literal muscle — cleverly bully students into a prescribed role in a formulaic drama: intolerant liberal “snowflakes” silencing courageous speakers of uncomfortable truths.

Exercise for the reader: Evaluate the (sloppy) rhetoric in this passage.

Facebooktwitter

Adam Falk’s Legacy, 6

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 6.

Before we continue our examination of Falk’s justifications, I want to step back and examine my claim that, if Falk is remembered for anything 50 years from now — in the same way that we remember Williams President Jack Sawyer ’39 for his elimination of fraternities — it will be for banning Derbyshire. Are there other candidates for historical importance during Falk’s tenure?

1) His tenure placed the final nail in the coffin of faculty governance. Recall the “alignment” (pdf) that Falk outlined 7 years ago. I devoted nine days of discussion to explaining what this meant: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. Read it if you want to understand the past/future of faculty governance at Williams. Short version: Faculty governance has decreased each decade at Williams for at least the last 50 years. Falk accelerated/completed that change.

2) Falk’s naivete about fake hate crimes might be an example in a history book 50 years from now. In November 2011, someone wrote “All Niggers Must Die” on the door of a bathroom on the fourth floor of Prospect House. (Record coverage here, here, and here.) That someone was almost certainly student of color and campus activist Jess Torres ’12. Evidence here: pdf. Previous discussion starts here. Falk cancelled classes even though he knew, or should have known, that this was a hate hoax. This was the first campus-wide cancellation of classes for almost 50 years.

3) Might Zach Wood ’18 go on to greatness? Probably not, since there are few slots available in history’s pantheon. But, if he does, his battles with Falk will live on.

4) Someone suggested (sorry, can’t find the link) that Falk would be remembered for turning Williams into a mall and/or ski-lodge. I disagree with that assessment because the major changes in campus construction (replace Baxter with Paresky, add Hollander/Schapiro, remove Sawyer Library) all occurred before his arrival. Even the major change during his time (completion of new Stetson/Sawyer) was planned/started before him.

What do readers think Falk will be remembered for in 2067?

Facebooktwitter

Adam Falk’s Legacy, 5

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 5.

My presidential colleagues could add many examples from their own schools. Such events are happening on American campuses practically every day.

No kidding! The issue is not: Is there a single conservative speaker at Williams? The issues are: 1) What is the ratio of liberal-to-conservative speakers? 2) How does the format of events differ depending on the political views of the speaker? 3) How does student reaction vary? Falk insults his most serious critics by declining to consider their strongest arguments. Answers for Williams:

1) The ratio of liberal-to-conservative speakers invited by Williams faculty/administrators has been 25:1, or even 50:1, over the last 7 years. Does that seem sensible?

2) Liberal speakers almost always appear on stage alone and are provided an opportunity to make their case, followed by a Q&A. Conservative speakers almost always appear in a debate/discussion format.

3) Students often react very negatively to conservative speakers. Although we have (thankfully!) seen nothing like the physical violence at Middlebury, individual Williams students have been harassed.

What has too often been portrayed as a simple problem of liberal campuses censoring conservative ideas is something far more complex.

No, it isn’t. You banned a conservative speaker. Hundreds of Williams students (and faculty?) want to ban almost any speaker who is pro-Trump.

Sen. Kennedy himself stumbled onto the real issue when he told the hearing that schools should be allowed to respond differently to “speech that’s inflammatory; speech that uses a racial epithet; speech that’s designed to provoke” than to “a point of view that may not be popular.”

Is Falk well-served to refer to a US Senator as having “stumbled?” One view is that it is stupid to gratuitously insult powerful people. Why not be polite to Kennedy if politeness is free? The alternative view is that Falk is playing to the crowd, to the sort of people who read the Washington Post and run the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. For those people, Republican from Louisianan are capable of little more than stumbles . . .

Facebooktwitter

Adam Falk’s Legacy, 4

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 4.

I can offer numerous examples in support of my argument from just the Williams campus. Three weeks after I declined to host Derbyshire, Murray spoke to a respectful student audience. Later in 2016, a similarly civil gathering heard Ilya Shapiro of the Cato Institute debate Daniel Weiner of the Brennan Center on campaign finance reform.

Unpacking this suitcase of misinformation is my raison de blog.

First, the only reason that Murray spoke at Williams was because Uncomfortable Learning invited him. In the last four years, Williams faculty/administrators have invited almost no conservative/Republican/libertarian speakers to campus. Moreover, Falk/Williams tried very hard, over multiple years, to shutdown UL. If he/they had been successful, Murray never would have come.

Second, Williams — and I suspect Falk was involved in this subterfuge — couldn’t even allow Murray to simply speak. Instead:

In response to Murray’s scheduled appearance at the College, the Williams College Debating Union (WCDU) invited Joseph L. Graves Jr., an evolutionary and nanobiologist and historian of science based at the Joint School for Nanoscience and Nanoengineering. Graves’ speech, entitled “Race, Genomics and Intelligence: Slight Return,” occurred in the same venue as Murray’s talk, immediately before the AEI fellow was to speak.

The Record is almost certainly guilty of its usual lousy reporting on this. First, the WCDU was not very active 2016, inviting zero speakers other than Graves to campus. Second, the sign for the event gives the leading spot for funding to the “Office of the President.” In other words, Falk was so concerned about (the reaction to?) Murray’s speech that he used a bunch of his own discretionary funds, laundered through a student group, to invite a mediocrity to speak for 90 minutes directly before Murray. That seems like a vote of confidence in the Williams community’s ability to handle controversial speech!

Third, explicitly mentioning a Charles Murray talk at a NESCAC school without discussing the violence which erupted at Middlebury is . . . a rhetorical trick that relies on the (assumed!) ignorance of his audience.

Fourth, the Shapiro/Weiner event, while praise-worthy, is one of only two non-UL events in the last four years involving a conservative/libertarian/Republican perspective. For Falk to cite this as if it is a common event on the Williams campus is absurd. Note also that neither of these two events featured a right wing voice speaking alone. Neither the College nor any faculty member has invited a solo speaker like Shapiro in the memory of any current student.

Last November, two days after the national election, former senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.), a prominent Donald Trump supporter, participated in a well-attended analysis of the results. And American Enterprise Institute scholar Christina Hoff Sommers recently came to offer her critique of contemporary feminism. Our students listened closely, then responded with challenging questions and in some cases blunt critiques — utterances to which they, too, surely were entitled.

First, many students (and faculty members?) felt that someone like Brown should not be allowed to speak on campus.

Second, Brown was, like Shapiro, paired with a liberal speaker. During Adam Falk’s 7 years at Williams, there have been scores of events featuring a liberal/progressive/Democratic speaker sharing her views with the audience, without the need for a debate or an opposing viewpoint. Outside of Uncomfortable Learning events, I don’t think there has been a single such event featuring a speaker from the Right.

Third, notice how Falk takes credit for Sommers even though she, like Murray, only appeared at Williams because of Uncomfortable Learning, an organization that senior faculty members like Sam Crane have gone out of their way to try to destroy.

If UL goes away with Zach Wood’s graduation next spring, will there be a single (solo) conservative/libertarian/Republican speaker invited to campus in 2018-2019? I have my doubts.

Facebooktwitter

Adam Falk’s Legacy, 3

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 3.

Sen. Kennedy portrayed the controversy as a matter of campus free speech. True, my decision made Williams an early entrant into the national debate on that issue. But his comments exemplify a widespread misunderstanding about the state of speech at American colleges and universities.

If the banning of Derbyshire is not a controversy about “campus free speech,” then what is it a controversy over? If anything, Falk’s actions are on canonical example of the problem.

Today’s students are far more eager to hear and engage with serious points of view of all kinds than you would think by reading the headlines. To understand this, just tally the annual speaking engagements of Charles Murray, Arthur Brooks, Jason Riley and other prominent conservatives who regularly speak to college audiences. But you won’t see many media stories titled, “Conservative Thinker Received Thoughtfully by Campus Audience.” That’s not a story that sells papers.

1) There are scores (hundreds? a majority?) of Williams students who think that speakers like Derbyshire/Veneker/Murray should be banned from campus. This is the official editorial position of the Williams Record. If we can’t trust Falk to be truthful about the problem, then why would we look to him for a solution?

2) Jason Riley is a prominent conservative? Uhh, maybe. But note that Riley is also the author of Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders, perhaps the most un-Trumpian book imaginable.

3) I agree that it is a good idea to “tally the annual speaking engagements” of, not just conservative speakers, but of all speakers. What would that show at Williams? The vast majority of speakers are, of course, non-political. Adalyat Issiyeva, speaking on “Russian Orientalism: Russo-Japanese War and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Opera ‘The Golden Cockerel’” is non-partisan, regardless of whether Issiyeva voted for Trump or Clinton. But the vast majority of explicitly political speakers at Williams are liberal. (Surely, no one doubts that?) Would the ratio of liberal-to-conservative speakers be 10:1? 50:1? I would guess at least 25:1.

4) A concrete example of the bias at Williams under Falk was the refusal of the College to invite anyone with a “Republican/Sceptical” perspective on climate change to the year-long examination of the topic. In this case, the ratio of liberal-to-conservative speakers was infinity.

Facebooktwitter

Adam Falk’s Legacy, 2

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 2.

Williams College president: Don’t ignore the real threats in the debate over free speech

Authors don’t always get to choose their titles, but, in this case, I bet that Falk did. Even though Falk, personally, has done more damage to free speech at Williams than anyone else in the last century, he wants to employ some misdirection, like any good Three-card Monte hustler. “I, banner of campus speakers, am not the problem,” says Falk, “the threats are elsewhere.”

Last June, at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) announced that I was unfit to be a college president, so I should resign and “put [my] head in a bag.” The insult wasn’t all that bad: In my job, you get worse. I was far more concerned by the misinformation behind the pronouncement.

Oh, Adam! You are so brave! Standing up to the brickbats of the hoi polloi. To think that you are willing to do this for only $810,821 per year. How is Williams ever going to survive without you?

The senator’s comment apparently referred to my February 2016 decision not to offer the blogger John Derbyshire the opportunity to speak on the Williams campus. Derbyshire, a self-described white supremacist, had been fired by the National Review for writing about how he would teach his children to avoid black people and advise other white parents to do the same.

How misleading can a paragraph be?

1) You banned Derbyshire from campus, forever, no matter the topic. This is much worse than a “decision not to offer” an “opportunity to speak.”

2) Calling Derbyshire a “blogger” is like calling Falk “short.” It is true that Derbyshire blogs and it is true that Falk is not the tallest Williams president in history. But, when writing in the Washington Post as the Williams president, you have an obligation to refer to your opponents politely. You should describe Derbyshire as an “author” since he has written several books with leading publishers, books that are available in the Williams libraries.

3) Derbyshire is not a “self-described white supremacist.”

I will save discussion of the “avoid black people” slur for another day.

Facebooktwitter

Adam Falk’s Legacy, 1

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 1.

Is Adam Falk a phony or a naif? Tough to tell. Think that is too harsh a framing? Consider just one sentence from his Washington Post article:

Today’s students are far more eager to hear and engage with serious points of view of all kinds than you would think by reading the headlines.

Really? Consider three examples from the Record:

1) Valerie Oyakhilome ’18 wrote that “the administration is able to disinvite John Derbyshire, but chose to allow [former Senator] Brown to enter into our sanctuary, incite concealed racists and further rob minority students of their sense of safety, security and agency.” Oyakhilome does not think that (liberal!) Republicans like Scott Brown should be allowed on the Williams campus.

2) Olivia Goodheart ’18 and Marissa Levin Shapiro ’18 wrote, “Students already encounter anti-feminism every day at the College, and no matter your opinion on free speech, uncomfortable learning or promoting dialogues, this is unacceptable.” Goodheart and Shapiro do not think that conservative women like Suzanne Venker, a perfectly mainstream Fox News commentator, should be allowed on the Williams campus.

3) The Record Editorial Board argued that “the College should not allow speech that challenges fundamental human rights and devalues people based on identity markers, like being a woman.” A naive observer might think that the Record was just following Adam Falk’s lead in attempting to ban nasty racists [sic] like John Derbyshire from campus. Untrue! The Record published that op-ed months ahead of the invitation to Derbyshire. They believed — and perhaps the Record still believes! — that no one to the right of, say, Scott Brown should be allowed on the Williams campus.

Now, admittedly, there are some student voices (e.g., here) at Williams in favor of open debate. But Falk is misleading his readers by pretending that there are not scores of students (hundreds of students? a majority of students?) who want to restrict debate at Williams.

So, is Falk a phony or a naif? My view is that he knows all too well how censorious current students are but that he wants to pretend that they (and their faculty teachers/enablers!) are not. He is the very model of a modern college president, committed to obfuscation when it comes to discussion about the status of open debate at places like Williams.

Facebooktwitter

Falk Libels Derbyshire

Adam Falk squawked this swan song in the Washington Post, revisiting the Senate hearing featuring Zach Wood ’18 and Frederick Lawrence ’77 which discussed Falk’s decision to cancel a Williams speech by John Derbyshire.

1) I have put the entire article below the break. Jeff Bezos is rich enough without your dollar.

2) Why write this article now? Falk has six weeks left as Williams president. His new role at the Sloane Foundation has, fortunately, nothing to do with free speech on campus. Does this article help Williams? Not that I can see. The Derbyshire cancellation, while perhaps justified, is nothing but a reputational black eye for Williams. Bringing it up again only hurts the College. He could have easily waited six months and left Williams out of the conversation.

3) Worse part of the article is Falk’s libel of John Derbyshire as a “self-described white supremacist.” If you call someone a “self-described” X, you better have evidence of him describing himself as X. Falk can write that “Derbyshire is a white supremacist” or that “Derbyshire is a poopy head.” That is Falk’s opinion. Even if he is wrong, it would be hard for Derbyshire to prove it. But it is much easier for Derbyshire to sue Falk (and Williams?) for libel given that there is no evidence that Derbyshire has ever described himself as a “white supremacist.” Perhaps some Eph attorneys could forecast how such a suit might go?

4) I asked Falk for a citation on this point. He fobbed the question off to Jim Reische, who pointed to this article. Alas, this makes the exact opposite point! Derbyshire considers a wide range of possible names for his position, including “Alternative Right,” “White Supremacist,” and “White Nationalist.” He rejects them all, settling on “Dissident Right.” If this is the best/only evidence that Falk has, I suspect he might have set himself up for some legal trouble . . . Informed commentary welcome!

Read more

Facebooktwitter

The Death of Faculty Governance at Williams

Note this Record interview with Falk:

Falk demurs on the notion that the College has grown more bureaucratic, emphasizing his belief that the goal of any hiring and reorganization was directly tied to the betterment of the community. “There had been great growth in the endowment in the previous decade [before I was president] and I think that it had put the College in a position where we didn’t have to make the same kind of difficult choices between different funding priorities that we would have to make once the endowment dropped 30 percent,” Falk said. “And we are just a more complex operation then we used to be. We have a debt portfolio of $300 million. We have a complicated [human resources structure], a complicated facilities operation, a childcare center, a controller’s office and auditors that are doing more and more sophisticated work. A lot of that is really hard work for a faculty member to rotate in every few years and do as effectively as someone who’s a really strong professional.”

The (anonymous!) faculty member who points out this passage asked some (rhetorical!) questions:

Falk’s opinion of faculty governance is on full display here. He clearly prefers a “really strong professional” to make the “difficult choices between different funding priorities.”

Exactly right. Most Williams presidents are remembered, at most, for one thing: Sawyer abolished fraternities. Chandler created Winter Study. Oakley instituted tutorials. What will Falk be remembered for 30 years from now? Tough to say, but one contender is: Put the final nail in the coffin of faculty governance.

Is it truly the case that students and faculty are comfortable with having unaccountable administrators in charge of the really difficult decisions?

Students don’t care, obviously. Faculty (like my correspondent!) love to complain but, when push came to shove, they did nothing of substance. Recall the “alignment” (pdf) that Falk outlined 7 years ago this week. I devoted nine days of discussion to explaining what this meant: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. Read it if you want to understand the past/future of faculty governance at Williams. Short version: Faculty governance has decreased each decade at Williams for at least the last 50 years. Falk accelerated/completed that change.

Does he really have such a low opinion of the faculty who have taken on administrative roles?

That is unfair. Falk loves Dukes Love and Denise Buell and Marlene Sandstrom. There are a dozen or more faculty at Williams who want/wanted those jobs. Falk turned all of them down, in preference for the ones he picked. But, at the same time, Falk (and the trustees!) want to pay Chilton/Puddestar/Klass two or three times as much money Love/Buell/Sandstrom and give the former much more power.

If so, what is his opinion of the other faculty and their voice in charting a path for the College?

They should shut up. There are a dozen (or a score? or more?) faculty at Williams that Falk has never had a meaningful one-on-one conversation with.

In any organization, the power lies with a) the people paid the most and b) the people who spend the most time talking with the boss. At Williams, a) and b) describe the senior administrators, not the senior faculty.

Facebooktwitter

Falk on Dallas

EphBlog has fallen down in terms of commenting on President Falk’s letters. Apologies! Let’s start to catch up today by revisiting this July 18, 2016 letter about the Dallas police office shootings.

Standing with Dallas, and against violence
July 18, 2016

To the Williams Community,

As many of you know, this weekend violence erupted in Dallas, Texas, at a “Black Lives Matter” rally. Many people were injured and five police officers were murdered. The violence occurred on and near a college campus.

The events in Dallas were horrible. Violence has no place in American life. By why is Adam Falk lecturing us? Doesn’t he have a job to do? Is he under the impression that there are any Ephs who are in favor of murder?

This is the most annoying sort of virtue signalling. Falk picks a topic on which every Eph agrees, and then wastes our time with his perfectly pedestrian prose. I no more need/want the president of Williams to “educate” me about current events (unrelated to Williams) then I need/want his advice about breakfast cereals.

The events in Dallas were an assault by organized forces of racism and bigotry — a vile and vicious attack on all Americans. That attack is antithetical to everything Williams stands for, and to the values I personally hold most dear. We all must be united and condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America.

Isn’t this a bit over the top? (Perhaps I should cut Falk some slack since he was writing just two days after the violence.) It is true that the shooter, Micah Johnson, had some ugly views and was associated with some horrible (in my view) organizations. But Falk seems to cast a very wide net here. Black Lives Matter, like all political movements, has its own set of crazies and extremists. But that reality does not mean that its fundamental point — that too many innocent blacks are killed by police — isn’t worthy of consideration.

This is not about partisan politics: Republicans, Democrats, and independents from across the political spectrum, and throughout our entire community, are united in opposition to such foul acts. We express our support for and solidarity with the people of Dallas, and with all who are the targets of bigotry and hatred.

True and trite.

Let me be clear. There is no moral equivalence between racists and those who oppose them. Hatred is immoral, undemocratic, and wrong. It has no place at Williams, nor should it be allowed a footing on any campus, nor in our society as a whole.

I agree that Micah Johnson was a racist and that part of his motivation in killing those police officers was anti-white animist. I also admit that other people (no more than a tiny percentage) associated with Black Lives Matter are racist and/or overly sympathetic to some fairly odious views. (I am most annoyed by Communist paraphernalia at these events.) I agree that “foul acts,” including violence (much less murder) are beyond the pale. But Falk seems to be saying more than this. He seems to be implying that, not just Micah Johnson, but also everyone else on that “side” of the debate has “no place at Williams.”

Indeed, Falk seems to be going even further, suggesting that racist views — at least views that Adam Falk deems “racist” — have no place in America. Does he really propose banning free speech for all Black Lives Matter activists? Jailing Communist sympathizers? Removing the protection of the First Amendment for “racists?” That seems a dangerous path to me . . .

Oh, wait a second! Adam Falk never sent out a letter about the violence in Dallas. (That was only five police officers killed by a black man! No reason for a Williams president to involve himself in a local tragedy, hundreds of miles away from Williamstown.) But Falk did write a letter about the violence in Charlottesville. I have made minimal changes in his letter to make it apply to Dallas last year (and added, as a special bonus, a Trump Easter Egg).

Do you think the President of Williams should sent out letters like this one? If so, do you think that he should have sent out a similar letter about the murders in Dallas?

Facebooktwitter

Eisenson ’77 on Falk Departure

At 12:53 pm yesterday, just 19 minutes after Falk’s all campus email:

To the Williams Community,

I write, on behalf of the Williams College Board of Trustees and with mixed emotion, to officially confirm that Adam Falk will leave Williams at the end of 2017 to become president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The College has flourished under Adam’s leadership. We have sustained and, indeed, enhanced our position as a national leader in liberal arts education. We have maintained our commitment to providing access to the broadest possible spectrum of exceptional students, attracting ever increasing talent and diversity to our campus. We have had great success recruiting accomplished and highly sought-after new members to join our outstanding faculty ranks and, as well, Adam has built a deep and effective senior leadership team. Our campus is undergoing an ambitious, carefully-orchestrated renewal, with superb new facilities, including the Sawyer Library and a major new center for the sciences, positioning us for the next fifty years, while reflecting a purposeful commitment to managing our carbon footprint. Our alumni and friends have set the historic Teach It Forward campaign well on the path to achieving our ambitious goals, and the College’s finances are in all ways very sound.

Adam has been an exceptionally fine president for Williams. He has demonstrated a keen ability to appreciate and retain the best of Williams traditions, while encouraging the College to grow through a genuine openness to innovation, always with the education and wellbeing of our students foremost in mind. His departure will be a loss for the College and our community, and I will personally miss his wisdom, his friendship, and his deeply thoughtful and principled leadership. At the same time, he will be leaving at a time when the College is as strong, secure and thriving as it has ever been and the Board of Trustees is completely confident that Williams will attract another exceptional talent to lead us into the next decade.

Adam’s last day at Williams will be December 31, 2017. The Board has approved the formation of a search committee, and I have been appointed as its chair. In that capacity I will be back in touch later this Summer with information about the search process. We will organize various opportunities in the Fall for the community to thank Adam for his service and wish him well. In the meantime, please join me in congratulating Adam on his exciting next adventure and in making the most of his remaining time in the Purple Valley.

Best regards,
Michael Eisenson ’77
Chair, Williams College Board of Trustees

Facebooktwitter

Falk Steps Down

Today at 12:34 pm:

To the Williams community,

I’m writing to share with you the news that, at the end of December, I will leave Williams to become president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in New York.

I arrived in the Purple Valley in April of 2010, and the ensuing years have been among the most gratifying of my career. It makes me genuinely happy, looking back, to see what together we’ve achieved. Williams is attracting even greater numbers of passionate, insightful and diverse students. We’re making this place accessible to people who couldn’t consider coming here otherwise. We’re renewing our campus and making major investments in its sustainability. We’re hiring and supporting the deeply committed faculty and staff who define this college. And our loyal alumni are giving and volunteering in ways that help students thrive at Williams and build successful and rewarding lives after graduation.

Why would anyone leave such a place, at such a time? There are few opportunities that could have drawn me away. But it’s a familiar irony that the best time for a school to recruit a new president isn’t during a period of stagnation or trial, but at a time of vitality and promise. When the Sloan Foundation approached me a short while ago to lead their extraordinary institution, I was only able to consider this invitation to pursue other passions of mine—science and graduate education, among them—because I knew I’d be leaving Williams at such a vibrant moment in its history.

There will be no coasting during my remaining months on the job: we have much to accomplish together. Among my goals for this fall are the successful conclusion of our decennial reaccreditation process, raising support for Williams through the Teach It Forward campaign, continuing to advance the Science Center project, and paving the way for a smooth transition for my eventual successor.

December will come soon enough. And when it does I’ll miss Williams, and all of you, deeply. Thank you for the affection this community has shown me, and for the good work we’ve all been able to do together over these eight years.

Sincerely,

Adam Falk
President, Williams College

Facebooktwitter

Falk Responds to Senator Kennedy, 2

Williams student Zachary Wood ’18 testified (pdf) to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing: “Free Speech 101: The Assault on the First Amendment on College Campuses.” (Also testifying (pdf) was former Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence ’77.) Let’s spend two weeks on this topic. Today is Day 4.

Continuing our examination of Falk’s “interview” in Time magazine:

Falk said universities across the country have been tested by “the toxic political culture that all of us are currently swimming in,” but he believes Williams has remained a welcoming place for public debate.

Paging George Orwell! Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Truth. And Williams is a “welcoming place for public debate.” 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 college paper wants to ban Suzanne Venker — or anyone who disagrees with feminist orthodoxy? — and the college president has no problem banning a speaker, then, whatever its other merits, that school is not “a welcoming place for public debate.”

Back to the Time interview:

“There are things in the broader culture that have changed. We are a much more combative political culture,” Falk said. “Our campuses are more civil than what you get when you turn on your TV or open your Twitter feed.”

Perhaps true, but mostly irrelevant. Falk is not responsible for the larger culture. But he does bear some responsibility for the culture at Williams, and that includes the fashion in which some Williams students treat other Williams students on-line. Recall the sort of abuse that Zach Wood and the other students behind Uncomfortable Learning were subject to:

When you bring a misogynistic, white supremacist men’s rights activist to campus in the name of ‘dialogue’ and ‘the other side,’ you are not only causing actual mental, social, psychological, and physical harm to students, but you are also—paying—for the continued dispersal of violent ideologies that kill our black and brown (trans) femme sisters. You are giving those who spout violence the money that so desperately needs to be funneled to black and brown (trans) femme communities, to people who are leading the revolution, who are surviving in the streets, who are dying in the streets. Know, you are dipping your hands in their blood, Zach Wood.

That this occurred on Facebook, rather than in person, does not disguise the fact that Williams is a college in which some students will attack other students in the most extreme fashion, for the simple sin of bringing a speaker to campus. The President of Williams ought to do something about that, other than blaming Twitter.

Back to Time:

During the hearing, as Senators debated First Amendment issues that have riled campuses from Middlebury to Berkeley this year, they continued to ask where the line should be drawn between speech that is protected and prohibited. Falk said visiting speakers should “contribute to a serious intellectual discussion of serious ideas,” adding that the college doesn’t have an obligation to host speakers, like Derbyshire, who aim only to provoke.

Falk’s mind-reading powers are impressive! How can he possibly know what is in John Derbyshire’s heart? It is true that there are figures on the right — Milo Yiannopoulos? Richard Spencer? — to whom the “aim only to provoke” attack might apply. But Derbyshire is not one of them. He is an straight-laced, non-shouting, hyper-reasonable intellectual, a published author with an impressive range of interests. He is certainly a “racist” — at least as Adam Falk would define that term — but he is every bit an intellectual as the average member of the Williams faculty.

“It has always been the responsibility of the administration at a university to foster an environment where discourse around a wide variety of ideas expressed by a wide variety of people is effective and flourishes. That’s part of what we do to run a college and university. And that work is much more complex than simply, in an indiscriminate way, giving a platform to anyone who wants to speak,” Falk said.

Williams, as an institution, does not give a “platform” to anyone. Specific people at Williams invite speakers. The question is: Can students (or faculty!) invite John Derbyshire, or anyone else that Falk disagrees with?

“Freedom of speech is a fundamental value of society, and it’s a fundamental value on our campuses. But we also have to create conditions where that speech is civil and the dialogue that it spawns is productive.”

Agreed. So why doesn’t Falk do his job and make this happen?

While state lawmakers are considering legislation to regulate student protesters and discipline hecklers, Falk said such measures are unnecessary.

“We do our best to manage these challenges,” he said. “But they’re not existential, they’re not unprecedented.”

Agreed. The last thing we right-wing Ephs want is a stronger federal government. Washington should leave Williams alone.

Facebooktwitter

Falk Responds to Senator Kennedy, 1

Williams student Zachary Wood ’18 testified (pdf) to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing: “Free Speech 101: The Assault on the First Amendment on College Campuses.” (Also testifying (pdf) was former Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence ’77.) Let’s spend two weeks on this topic. Today is Day 3.

President Adam Falk provides a response, of sorts, to the call for his resignation (from Senator Kennedy) in this puffball Time interview:

The president of Williams College is defending his decision to cancel a controversial speech at the school last year, after he came under fire during a Senate hearing this week about the “assault on the First Amendment on college campuses.”

A perfectly good lede, although pendants will note that Falk did not merely “cancel” a speech; he banned John Derbyshire from ever speaking at Williams, on any topic. But, as always at EphBlog, we want the backstory. How did Falk decide to talk to Time rather than some other outlet? How did 24-year-old reporter Katie Reilly end up with the assignment?

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.”

Isn’t that exactly right? Williams, as an institution, is firmly committed to social tolerance, to all the appropriate progressive fashions. We get our pronouns and our bathrooms right! Falk is, obviously, not committed to political tolerance for anyone to the right of, say, George Bush.

Last year, Wood invited conservative writer John Derbyshire — who wrote a 2012 column for an online magazine that was widely criticized as racist, leading to his firing from the National Review — to speak on campus. Falk canceled the event, saying Derbyshire’s comments “clearly constitute hate speech.”

Falk’s reasoning was shallow, at best. But I have yet to provide a sentence-by-sentence exegesis. Save that for September?

More importanly, Derbyshire was not planning to speak on topics related to that controversy. Instead, his speech was going to be about immigration. Uncomfortably Learning informed Falk and the Administration about this. So, Falk’s position seems to be that if Speaker X ever says something hateful about Topic Y, then he will be banned from talking about Topic Z (or any other topic) at Williams. presumably forever. Falk doesn’t just want to ban hate speech. He wants to ban anyone who has ever uttered hate speech.

It is at this point that the careful reader starts to suspect a set up. Did Reilly ask any difficult questions? Did she have any follow ups? Did she speak with any of Falk’s critics, including Wood? I suspect not. Reilly is acting — perhaps in the best tradition of Time magazine? — as a stenographer to power. Her job is not to trouble Falk. Her job is to spin for him.

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.”

Indeed. Even if Falk believes — and I have no reason to doubt his claims on this score — that Derbyshire, along with the rest of the Alt (or Dissident) Right, is guilty of hate speech, he is hardly doing Williams students any favors by barring that speech from campus. With Trump in the White House — and Miller/Bannon behind the scenes — the Alt-Right matters.

In an interview with TIME after the hearing, Falk defended himself, saying he believed Kennedy had misunderstood the situation.

If Falk really believes that, he is a fool. If he doesn’t, he is a knave. Wood provide Kennedy with an accurate summary of the facts: a student group invited Derbyshire and Falk banned him from speaking. The Record ought to follow up by calling Senator Kennedy’s office for more back-and-forth.

Perhaps more importantly: Who is advising Falk? There are politically smart ways out of the ditch he has dug for Williams (and himself). Implying that a US Senator is clueless is not the approach to take.

UPDATE: Instead, he should follow this advice from an EphBlog reader:

Praise Uncomfortable Learning. Point out the service they provide, commit to helping them continue, highlight the very respectful appearance and treatment of Charles Murray at Williams College, point out some of the other groups and faculty who have committed to expanding discussions on campus (Williams Forum, new College Republicans, the event with Scott Brown, etc.).

This is pretty simple PR. Add some money to the mix and write a piece for WSJ or NYT. Here is a similar piece from the Wesleyan president.

Exactly right. Odds on Falk doing so?

Facebooktwitter

Senator Kennedy Calls for Adam Falk’s Resignation

Williams student Zachary Wood ’18 testified (pdf) to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing: “Free Speech 101: The Assault on the First Amendment on College Campuses.” (Also testifying (pdf) was former Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence ’77.) Let’s spend two weeks on this topic. Today is Day 2.

When was the last time a US Senator called for the resignation of the president of Williams College? Last week!

I can’t figure out how to excerpt a portion of the video, but this is the key exchange, between Zach Wood ’18 and Senator Kennedy.

ken1

I am not sure that this is fair to Suzanne Venker, or to Adam Falk. First, Venker has never argued that women “should be kept at home.” She argues that the insistence, by some feminists, that women need to work outside the home is nuts. She is “anti-feminists” in the sense that she disagrees with many of the positions that most/all feminists take, not that she disagrees with everything they say. Of course, Zach is speaking off the cuff (in the Senate!), so we should cut him some slack.

Second, Falk had nothing to do with the Venker cancellation. (Zach knows this, of course, but probably felt that he was not well-placed to correct a Senator in mid-rant.) However, given Falk’s behavior in regards to Derbyshire, I am now annoyed about the Administration’s preening about how, of course, they were sad that the students themselves cancelled Venker in the face of the Facebook mob.

ken2

Good stuff! Can anyone provide a link that goes to directly to this part of the video? Can anyone remember the last time a US Senator discussed the performance of a Williams College president? We have already determined (?) that the last Williams president to ban a speaker was Mark Hopkins preventing Ralph Waldo Emerson from coming to campus 150 years ago. Let’s play another SAT analogy game:

Kennedy:Falk :: ?:?

Also, what advice do you have for Falk on how to handle this?

Facebooktwitter

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!

Facebooktwitter

Do Your Job

From the Eagle:

Williams College President Adam Falk has joined Williams College with hundreds of other entities committing to the Paris climate accords following President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the international agreement to cut carbon emissions.

Falk signed on to the “We Are Still In” statement last week, joining more than 1,200 governors, mayors, businesses, investors and higher education leaders from across the U.S. who declared their intent to continue to ensure that the U.S. remains a global leader in reducing carbon emissions.

The “We Are Still In” statement calls the Trump administration’s announcement to withdraw from the Paris agreement one that “undermines a key pillar in the fight against climate change [and a move which is] out of step with what is happening in the United States.”

The statement can be found at www.wearestillin.com.

Falk said Williams’ commitment to addressing climate change, outlined in a set of initiatives developed and approved by the board of trustees in 2015, will continue as the campus community works toward achieving sustainable carbon neutrality by the end of 2020.

1) Instead of wasting time with virtue signalling, why doesn’t Falk do his job? Consider the example of the scores of students forced out of data sciency courses like STAT 201 and CSCI 135. These are great courses. But, precisely because of their quality and popularity, enrollment has been capped. It would be easy for Falk to do something about this, to authorize these departments to hire a visiting assistant professor or two to offer a few extra sections. The fact that he has failed to do so is evidence that he is prioritizing the wrong things as Williams president.

2) Is there any actual substance to this pledge? From the press release: “The landmark agreement succeeded where past attempts failed because it allowed each country to set its own emission reduction targets and adopt its own strategies for reaching them.” In other words, Williams could participate in this agreement even if it planned on doubling its emissions.

3) Is there a realistic plan for Williams to attain “carbon neutrality by the end of 2020?” Color me skeptical! Williams feeds and houses 2,000 people. That takes a lot of carbon! Anyone have links to the plan?

Facebooktwitter

Is This What You Voted For?

A friend of EphBlog and one of my favorite alumni wrote in last week (in reference to Trump’s executive order):

Sincere question: can you support the President given these recent actions?

You betcha! Since my friend, I suspect, does not know many Trump supporters, or at least not many Trump supporters with Williams-caliber IQs, let me elaborate.

The central issue in the election (for people like me) was immigration. We want the US to have the immigration policy of a “normal” nation, a place like Japan, Israel, Finland or China. My point, here, is not to argue about whether or not such a policy is best for the future of America or the World. (Let’s have that argument elsewhere.) My point is that, if you were/are an American with this preference then Trump was the only candidate who promised this. In my opinion, without his stance on immigration, Trump would not have won the Republican primary. And, if he had moved to the center during the general election, he would have lost to Clinton. A hundred years from now, much of the day-to-day trivia of governing will have been lost. But if there is one phrase that will still be associated with Trump, it will be “Build the wall.”

Given that policy preference, Trump is doing wonderfully. Naming a justice like Gorsuch to the Supreme Court is the best way to prevent the judiciary from trying to take control of immigration policy. Putting serious immigration restrictionists like Bannon and Miller in the White House guarantees follow through. Selecting heavyweights like Kelly and Sessions for key cabinet positions will bend the bureaucracy to our goals. About the only complaint we have, at this stage, is that Kris Kobach has not been hired yet. But I like to think/hope that Trump is just “saving” Kobach for later after the easy tasks have been accomplished. Summary: if your goal is an America with an immigration policy like Japan’s, Trump has done everything you want.

Even some of the items that seem like incompetence and/or overreach and/or cruelty — like banning green card holders — may be more than they seem. Why not go “too far” at first if doing so causes the eventual compromise to be everything you wanted in the first place? Why not start all the lawsuits running on a policy, like the new version of the EO, which is almost certain to be upheld since it is so similar to past US policies?

What seems like madness to my friend may actually be quite calculated. Trump is a lewd, boorish buffoon but people like Stephen Miller are as serious as black ice on the steps of Chapin. In that regard, consider the latest letter, co-signed by Adam Falk, about Trump’s executive order:

We recognize and respect the need to protect America’s security. The vetting procedures already in place are rigorous. Improvements to them should be based on evidence, calibrated to real risks, and consistent with constitutional principle.

We just had an election fought over this very question. People like me do not think that the current procedures are “rigorous” enough. Finland is an example of a country with an immigration policy “based on evidence” and “calibrated to real risks.” That is the policy we want. You can call us bigots and racists all day long and we won’t care. If it is OK for Israel and China to allow virtually no immigrants, then it is OK for America as well.

In any event, that is my answer to my alumni friend. Trump won the presidency on immigration and, on that policy at least, he is keeping the promises he made. Contrary views welcome in the comments!

Facebooktwitter

Almost 20% Low Income?

This naive and uninteresting article on elite college admissions mentions:

What top colleges and universities really have to do is reach out to students who don’t apply to them in the first place, said Adam Falk, the president of Williams College, almost 20 percent of whose students are low income, and which flies high-achieving low-income prospective applicants to its campus and teams up with a nonprofit called QuestBridge to find them.

The idea of need-blind admission “fits nicely on a bumper sticker,” Falk said. But “simply taking your admission pool and turning off your information about the financial need of students isn’t good enough. You have to go out there and find students. That means going into communities with high financial need and actively recruiting there.”

It also means supporting students from those places when they show up, Falk said.

Anyone who believes that 20% of the students at Williams are low income is a fool. Readers interested in this topic should start with this ten part rant from 2014.

Facebooktwitter

Griffin Vandalism was a Hate Hoax

Latest all-campus e-mail:

From: Adam Falk
Date: Monday, November 14, 2016
Subject: An update on the vandalism in Griffin Hall
To: WILLIAMS-ALL@listserv.williams.edu

To the Williams Community,

We write to inform you that Campus Safety and Security has identified the people responsible for the vandalism in Griffin Hall that occurred over the weekend. Two students were identified and interviewed, and during interviews they admitted that they alone were responsible.

The students told CSS that they had committed the vandalism to bring attention to the effects of the presidential election on many within our community. The use of “AMKKK” was not a specific reference from anyone affiliated with or supportive of the Ku Klux Klan, nor was it intended as a threat. Rather, we understand it was meant to signify AmeriKKKa, a spelling of America that references racism in our society.

The students will be held accountable for their actions through the college’s disciplinary procedures. Their actions did much more than damage property; they harmed our entire community and caused considerable fear, among students in particular. We are deeply distressed that anyone in our community would feel compelled to express themselves in such a destructive and harmful way. We understand that many continue to experience anxiety and fear in the wake of the election. Acts such as this vandalism are not the answer, and they will not be tolerated in our community.

Our thanks go to CSS for its tireless and thorough investigation and to all those who offered assistance in this effort. Please know that the deans, chaplains, Davis Center staff, and Psychological Counseling Services staff are available to provide support at any time.

Sincerely,

Adam Falk, President
Leticia S.E. Haynes, VP for Institutional Diversity and Equity
Steve Klass, VP for Campus Life
Marlene Sandstrom, Dean of the College

1) EphBlog told you so! To be pedantic, this was perhaps not so much a hate hoax — as in 1993, 2011 and 2012 — but just simple politically-inspired vandalism as in the hockey rink vandalism of 2015.

2) Instead of getting the campus all riled up with those absurd e-mails, a smarter Administration would have, from the start, raised the possibility of a hoax and mentioned the historical examples. Why terrify students, especially students of color, with a claim that white racist KKK members were roaming the Williams campus? (Cynical reasons would include both that students like to be terrified and that, without constant racial controversy, there would be no need for a highly paid “VP for Institutional Diversity and Equity.”

3) EphBlog should have guessed the “AmeriKKKa” usage. Who else recalls the Amerika mini-series of 1987?

4) “caused considerable fear, among students in particular.” But that was because of Administration incompetence! Will Falk et al be held accountable? I have my doubts!

Facebooktwitter

Vandalism in Griffin Hall

To the Williams Community,

We write to share with you news of a disturbing incident of vandalism that occurred over the weekend in Griffin Hall. The vandalism was discovered and reported to the Williamstown Police Department around noon on Saturday by a visitor to campus.

Police determined that the vandalism, while abhorrent, did not create an immediate danger, nor did it constitute a specific threat toward any individuals or groups. Had there been a confirmed threat to our community we would have communicated with you about it immediately. We worried–without any information about the intent behind the act of vandalism–about the impact of an immediate campus-wide notification on our community, including the possibility that it would cause fear. We thought it important and responsible to wait until we investigated further, in the hope we would soon have more complete information to share.

Here’s what we know. Sometime on Saturday morning, what appears to be a wood-stain type substance was splattered down the stairs inside Griffin from the top to the first floor. The visitor who reported it to police described the stain as looking like blood. In addition, “AMKKK KILL” was written on the wall along the stairs in red paint. The same paint was found on some posters on the bulletin board outside Griffin 3.

WPD and Campus Safety and Security began an investigation, and WPD has notified the FBI and the Massachusetts State Police. Both WPD and CSS have continued an active investigation ever since, with CSS interviewing more than 40 individuals.

This vandalism is disturbing and intolerable, no matter what motivated it. In the current post-election climate, we have a heightened awareness for any actions or expressions that may be bias incidents. So far it has not been determined that this vandalism was a bias incident, but we will inform you if that changes, and we hope to report to you soon that the responsible person or people have been identified. If you have any information that might aid the investigation, we urge you to call CSS at X4444.

Sincerely,

Adam Falk, President
Leticia S.E. Haynes, VP for Institutional Diversity and Equity
Steve Klass, VP for Campus Life
Marlene Sandstrom, Dean of the College

Facebooktwitter

A Path Forward, Together

To the Williams Community,

Election night brought to a conclusion the most divisive American presidential campaign in recent memory. Many members of the Williams community, including—but not limited to—women; immigrants, both documented and not; people of color; Muslims, Jews, and other religious minorities; and LGBTQ people have felt directly and deeply the rhetoric of this campaign. The rhetoric was threatening and destructive both to the individuals at whom it was aimed and to our society’s most essential values.

Even before Election Day, there had been a deep worry—which I share—that the vitriol would continue beyond the campaign season. It is essential that we recommit ourselves today, as American society at large and as a Williams family here, to the fundamental respect and care for each other that underlie all healthy communities.

On the national, state, and local levels, this means engaging in politics, each of us working as hard as we can to ensure that the laws, policies, and practices of our government reflect concern for everyone in our world.

Here at Williams, it means renewing our commitment, as we should do every single day, to a fully inclusive, equitable community in which everyone can thrive. It means treating each other with deep respect, as we attend particularly to those who feel most vulnerable in this, or any, moment.

I’m inspired by the ways I see our community already seeking to unite this morning, and I’m reminded once more of the fundamental relevance of a Williams education. Our work—to educate global citizens who are informed and empowered to lead and who feel a responsibility to help create the community we all most fervently desire to live in—today seems more important than ever.

Sincerely,

Adam Falk
President

Facebooktwitter

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.

Facebooktwitter

Next Page →

Currently browsing posts filed under "Adam F. Falk"

Follow this category via RSS