Currently browsing posts filed under "Robert Gaudino"
Another excerpt from this excellent article (pdf) about Robert Gaudino.
Exactly. Does Sam Crane, does any member of the Williams faculty, do that today, really push Williams students to think hard about that “same set of limiting prejudices” they bring with to the Purple Valley? Perhaps. Certainly, they challenge students who come in with traditional/conservative/libertarian/Republican prejudices. And that is a good thing! Gaudino would approve. But he would just as surely mock professors like Crane if they declined to challenge the prejudices of progressive/liberal/leftist/Democratic students.
This point — the essentially non-partisan nature of uncomfortable learning — is one that many people fail to understand. Consider this comment from A Williams Parent:
[Gaudino] was determined to get the 1950’s and 1960’s men out of the cloistered, privileged, materially ambitious purple bubble.
It was not spending a couple of hours in a lecture hall in Williamstown . . . But a lecture, a Q & A? Almost meaningless, an intellectual or pseudo intellectual postcard and little more. He should be read instead of invoked.
I encourage you to read him! For those of us who have, his position, were he alive today, is obvious. More importantly, the above comparison represents the same sort of confusion we see in this Record op-ed by former EphBlogger Jeff Thaler ’74.
What exactly is “uncomfortable learning” in a liberal arts education?
One answer: It is not someone standing in front of an audience to espouse an ideology. That is not dialogue, not Socratic, not an educator or speaker willing to reduce his or her own self in order to give space to the students to wrestle – verbally, publicly – with their own views, beliefs, biases, ignorance. Gaudino was a Socratic gadfly – while he liked to provoke discussion and at times controversy, he never tried to impose his own beliefs or ideology upon students, faculty or community members.
No one doubts that a class, ideally a semester-long tutorial, with a professor like Gaudino is a superior experience to a single lecture. The issue is whether a lecture — especially a lecture by a published author who would challenge many of the basic assumptions of the Williams faculty and student body — is better than no lecture at all. Anyone who reads Gaudino with an open mind would have no doubt as to his answer: Bring on the lectures! The more people who come to Williams and make students/faculty “uncomfortable” the better.
You really don’t know the story of Gaudino’s famous lecture, the single most disruptive event staged by a Williams faculty member in the last century? The one where he began by insulting all the women and freshmen in the audience? You don’t know the stories about how Gaudino, in his complaints about the founding of the Center for Development Economics, was perhaps the single loudest critic in his generation of the College administration?
As paraphrased by his colleague Professor Vince Barnett:
You have to look at your own life and your own convictions and your own opinions and ask yourself where they come from and why do I hold them and how good are they? And he kept pushing at the boundaries of these convictions in such a way that I’m sure it made a number of students very uncomfortable. They would make some adults very uncomfortable.
What sort of questions would make a progressive Williams student uncomfortable today? Not questions about wealth or privilege or the evils of racism. That is what she already believes, with all her heart. If you believe in uncomfortable learning for her, then you need to ask some very different questions.
This excellent article (pdf) from the Alumni Review provides a sense of what Robert Gaudino would do if a controversial speaker were invited to campus.
If Derbyshire’s talk wasn’t providing “the creative potential to unsettle and disturb” then the words have no meaning. Show this quote to someone like Professor Sam Crane and he would (I hope!) agree with it. Williams should “unsettle” and “disturb” its students. But what Sam really means is that Williams should “unsettle” and “disturb” its students from the left. If a student is a strong supporter of Israel, then Williams should unsettle/disturb him by confronting him with a passionate opponent, like Vijay Prashad. If a student is opposed to affirmative action, then Williams should unsettle/disturb him by confronting him with a speaker like Tim Wise. And so on.
Gaudino, of course, would have gleefully mocked Sam Crane, would have pointed out that if you really believe that the College has a responsibility to “unsettle and disturb” its students, then that responsibility applies to all students, even (especially!) those students who agree with the common zeitgeist.
Great 1987 speech (pdf) from former Williams provost Steve Lewis about “Uncomfortable Learning.” Highly recommended.
Henry Bass ’57 shared these memories of Professor Robert Gaudino:
I well remember the excitement caused by the arrival of Bob Gaudino in the fall of 1955 when I was a junior. We were living in the complacent 50’s with the solidly conservative Ike as our president. And Williams was even more conservative than the US generally. There was a story in the national press at that time that a poll showed that Princeton students were only the second most Republican in the country, top honors having been taken by Williams.
Gaudino we soon learned was a radical not only in political philosophy but on campus issues. Soon after his arrival he sought me out knowing that I favored a radical solution to the fraternity problem and we had many long conversations on how to change campus life at Williams for the better. He very much wanted to get the student viewpoint, especially the students who thought campus life was less than perfect. He always showed great respect to us telling us we knew more about campus issues than he did.
Knowing how radical Gaudino was I knew early in the fall of ’55 there was only an amount of time, before there would be a public confrontation between Gaudino and President Baxter. Lively discussions of campus issues then took place in the new Baxter Hall. We did not have long to wait. I don’t remember what the argument was about. I do remember that it was quite heated and that Phinney soon showed signs of losing his temper. And acrimonious debates with the president of Williams did not happen in those days.
One thing you must understand about Williams of that day. That is how important Anne Baxter, Phinney’s wife was. Anne Baxter might well have been the most influential college president’s wife in the country. She was very bright and wonderful with dealing with people and President Baxter respected her immensely. She knew how to keep Phinney out of trouble with potential trouble-makers. She would invite any faculty or administration member with whom Phinney was having disagreements to lunch and would give the trouble- maker her ear and try to win the fellow over. And figure out how to defuse the situation.
As the discussion continued that night in Baxter, just minutes after that first confrontation between Gaudino and the president, Anne Baxter, went right over to Gaudino and started talking privately to him. No one knew what she whispered to him, but we guessed that after expressing partial agreement with his ideas, she invited him to lunch.
Anne Baxter went after Gaudino like no one she had ever courted. Meeting after meeting took place. She wanted to know exactly how he would like to change Williams. Gaudino was at first skeptical. But, soon became convinced she was really listening. And Gaudino was won over after she arranged for Gaudino to express his concerns directly to the president, who listened with respect.
I have little doubt that without Anne Baxter, Gaudino would have either been fired or that Gaudino would have soon left Williams in disgust. I suspect Anne Baxter convinced Phinney that Gaudino would be a wonderful addition to the community and convinced Gaudino that it would be worthwhile for him to devote his life to changing Williams.
Thanks to Henry for sharing these memories.
Did any readers have Gaudino as a professor?
What ever happened to … I remember that guy … Jeez, PhDrew, what a lack of credentials … What is this, Read more
From: Jeff Thaler ’74
Date: May 13, 2010
Re: 4/16-18/2010 Gaudino Commemorative
On Friday evening well over 100 Gaudino Alumni, significant others, and faculty gathered in Paresky Center for dinner and talk. Speakers at the event included Jim Burns, Fred Greene, Kurt Tauber (all of whom are still remarkable articulate, mentally sharp, and insightful), Ray Baker, Craig Brown, Charlie Baer, and George Marcus. Unfortunately, I did not make detailed notes of what they said. A few things I jotted down were: questioning as a sign of respect; Gaudino’s ability to be friends with people who strongly disagreed with his views (for example, Charles Samuels); Gaudino’s laughter and sense of irony; Gaudino’s belief in collegiality, conversation as a form of friendship, sense of “The Commons” as from Aristotle; Gaudino never criticized other professors.
After dinner, 9 Williams-at-Home alums and friends went upstairs to look at Joe Standart’s photos from Williams-at-Home. It was interesting how much we still don’t know about each other’s home stay experiences in different parts of the program and the country!
Saturday morning everyone was divided into 2 groups. One group spent three hours trying out Professor Ed Burger’s “Exploring Creativity” course activities, lead by his students, focusing on Studio Art, Philosophy, and Creative Writing. The second group, in which I was part, was actually then split into three smaller groups that rotated every 60 minutes. There were three sessions: one was led by former Williams Political Science Professor Craig Brown, one by still Williams Political Science Professor George Marcus, and one by Philosophy Professor and incoming Gaudino Scholar Will Dudley. Brown led a discussion on Burger’s recently-approved proposal for creation of a “Gaudino Option” grading system (where a student can decide by the end of the semester to have one course “G” that will still count as a course credit for graduation); the Dudley group discussed “Philosophy of education: why are you here at Williams?”; and the Marcus group discussed what role was religion meant to play by the Founding Fathers. Read more
Presented without further ado:
With many thanks to all of those who made this possible, but especially filmmaker Paul Lieberman; Will Slack; and Juan Baena for encryption and upload.
The Robert L. Gaudino Memorial Fund is a unique educational resource inspired by the work of a gifted professor, Robert Gaudino. His educational and profound moral visions had a lasting impact on the lives of generations of Williams students. At the heart of that vision were experiential education, rigorous scholarship, and a respect for the different perspectives people bring to a question or problem. With insight, discipline, and an unfailing insistence on civility in discussion, Professor Gaudino brought students into contact with uncomfortable differences between their accustomed views of the world and alternative ways to see it. His work was done in the classroom and outside it, placing high value on improving the openness and quality of intellectual discourse throughout the campus.
So we get a rushed version with a special one for next week.
Considering my lateness in preparing for this week and the recent honoring of Gaudino, I thought I’d travel back in time as oldies are still, sometimes, really goodies in the research world. And so, without much more lead in (seriously, does anyone need more lead in with regards to Gaudino?) I present this link to his doctoral dissertation . It may have been linked before, but who cares: read it for the first time, read the intro, re-read it. He’s a Williams legend. The intro alone is amazing. For example: “Higher education has two dimensions. It exists as a public institution and as a way of life.”
Random tangential thought beneath the fold Read more
James MacGregor Burns began
Ray Baker– “Bob Surrounded by His Students”
(this post is in progress)
An excellent article on Professor Gaudino in The Alumni Review
A note on the event from Dale Riehl ’72
Final Gaudino Weekend Details — April 15, 2010
Here is some key information for this Bob Gaudino Commemorative Weekend:
• Friday dinner participants: the venue has changed. We are assembling starting at 6:30 pm for wine & beer in the “Great Hall” of the Pareksy Center, ground floor (aka the old SU). Bar will be set up adjacant to a giant fireplace. Buffet supper to begin 7-ish in the large space adjacent to the Great Hall, next to the Snack Bar, called “Whitman’s Servery.”
• Breakfast is on your own on Saturday
• Saturday morning classes begin at 8:30–but please be at the respective starting classrooms by no later than a few minutes before that. “Exploring Creativity” students report to South Academic Building Classroom #129; those taking the “Gaudino-inspired” classes go to North Academic Building Classroom #140. Both groups will be divided into three, each then going to one of three nearby classrooms. Here is a link to a campus map. Participants in the “Gaudino” classes should have received a modest homework assignment from me by now; if not, please be in touch.
• Meals: if you signed up for any Saturday daytime activities, be aware that there is a buffet lunch served from 11:30 to 12:30. The food will be located just outside South Academic Building Classroom #129. You are encouraged to eat in any nearby classrooms or the adjacent lounge.
• For those planning on going on the Sunday morning walk, you should be prepared with an umbrella. Weather prediction: “possible shower.”
• A number of people have already queried about appropriate “dress.” The Friday “supper” is academic neat- casual, ie-turtleneck with or without jacket (nb-pretty nippy with Fri low at 40; lower Sat). Saturday’s dinner is a more formal event, so jacket and tie is my rough sartorial guidance. Read more
Here are members of all of the host families and Williams students, and their instructor, at a recent pot luck held at a YMCA. People in the photo are from such diverse places as Cambodia, Somalia, Guatemala, Rwanda, Thailand, the Congo, El Salvador, Ecuador, Montana, Iowa, Virginia, the Bronx, and rural NY and Connecticut (oh yes, and Maine).
Sameer Aryal (of Kathmandu, Nepal) and Tarjinder Singh‘s (of Toronto, Canada) project will explore “Demand-Side Barriers and the Influence of NGO Operations on the Provision of Healthcare in Nepal,” volunteering in healthcare programs in a remote village in Nepal.
Julian (Adam) Century‘s (of Troy, N.Y.) project, “South African Perspectives on the Chinese, Examined through the Microcosm of the Chinese-Zimbabwean Arms Shipment Refusal at the Port of Durban in April 2008,” will examine the complicated relationship between South Africa and China. Century will conduct interviews with South African workers in the area surrounding the Port of Durban, where the community organized a successful grassroots opposition to China’s economic policy in April 2008.
Zeynep Coskun‘s (of Istanbul, Turkey) project is titled “The Ironic ‘Other’ Experience in the Country Where My Family Had Been Living for Four Generations.” He [sic] will investigate the Kurdish minority conflict in southeast Turkey, close to the border with Iraq, a region often referred to as “the orphan child of the country.”
Hannah Cunningham (of Chapel Hill, N.C.) will travel to Kyetume, Uganda for her project titled “Labial Stretching in the Buganda Kingdom.”
Leah Eryenyu’s (of Kampala, Uganda) project will study “The Street Children Question in Kampala, Uganda” to uncover the cause of influx of children on Kampala’s streets. She also will consider the interplay of children fleeing their homes, working, and becoming victims of road accidents, abuse, and ritual sacrifice.
Gonpo Lama (of Kathmandu, Nepal) will spend January Term at a leprosy colony in central India, where he will volunteer at the local elementary school and the hospital. For his project, “The Relevance of Faith and Religious Belief at a Leprosy Community in Rural Maharashtra, India,” Lama will examine the role and strength of faith and religious belief in environments of suffering.
Shara Singh‘s (of New Delhi, India) project “Sociolinguistic Causes behind the Endangerment of the Inari Sami Language” will study the Inari Sami language which is spoken in Northern Finland by approximately 500 people. She hopes to contribute to the maintenance and (re)vitalization of the language.
Emanuel Yekutiel (of Los Angeles, Calif.) will spend January in Jerusalem, studying the culture of the Afghan-Jews who live there and will consist of participant observation within the Jerusalem community. His project is titled “An Ethnographic Study of Afghan-Jews in Jerusalem.”
Reason #303 why Steven Gerrard is a great professor.
Associate Professor of Philosophy and Associate Dean of the Faculty Steve Gerrard led a philosophical discussion on Saturday in Brooks-Rogers Recital Hall. The hour-long function, part of the Spring Family Weekend activities, addressed questions concerning the nature of virtue and its ability to be taught at Williams.
Gerrard, roving around in the front of the hall as if in a classroom, began his presentation with the first scene from the Platonic dialogue Meno, in which the young and ambitious Meno asks Socrates: “Can virtue be taught?” Gerrard quickly turned to the medium-sized audience, composed almost solely of parents visiting the campus for the weekend, and asked them to make a list of virtues. The list was certainly a broad one,including a sense of justice, the ability to forgive, a sense of humor and the ability to trust and be trusted.
This was more than a decade ago. I hope that Gerrard has given the same talk many times since. The parents would love it.
“I take the Socratic method seriously,” he said, “and its first step is always meant to get everyone’s feelings out in the open.” But Gerrard added emphatically that the method is based on careful logical argumentation and criticism. The feelings and original thoughts are important, but they must be subjected to strong criticism.
“This is what Williams tries to foster and nurture,” he said. “My view is that true respect for others and other cultures does not come about with a mere exchange of feelings. When differences between cultures show themselves, one can say ‘we’re both right’ or one can say ‘I understand where you’re coming from, but I’m still right.’”
Gerrard says he sees only one plausible answer. “At the end of the day, we have to believe in Truth and we have to believe in the Good, and we have to fight for what we believe in. We have to ask these questions concerning virtue and what is right. And this is our job as teachers.”
Gerrard paraphrased the Talmud to complete the discussion. “‘It is the job of the teacher to comfort the troubled and trouble the comfortable.’ I believe that this is true. And I believe in Truth.”
Ahhh. But does Gerrard really believe that when the “comfortable” are he and his fellow Williams faculty? I hope so, but time will tell. For example, I have never seen a Williams (academic) faculty member criticize affirmative action. Have you? EphBlog is preparing to make some “trouble” on that topic.
Stand by for some “uncomfortable learning,” in the style of Robert Gaudino.
Speaking of Gaudino, Professor Sam Crane wrote:
First, Kane is not the heir of Gaudino. Gaudino confronted privileged Eph men with “uncomfortable” material truths, taking them to Appalachia and India to see first hand the ravages of poverty and prejudice. Kane is a Reagan-era conservative trying to defend The Bell Curve and its crude conceptualizations of intelligence. With his narrow understanding of culture and society, Kane would make Williams ever more exclusive. Gaudino worked against that impulse.
This is charmingly incoherent. I suspect that Sam has few, if any, meaningful conversations with “Reagan-era conservative[s]” and so has little, if any, idea about how we think. I have never heard of any current member of the Williams faculty described as a “”Reagan-era conservative.” But the more interesting phenomenon is how Sam has taken a Williams legend and twisted him to fit into the hegemonic ideology of Williams today. The thinking goes something like:
Robert Gaudino was a great teacher.
Standard Williams liberalism — Épater les prepsters — is a great belief system.
Therefore, Gaudino’s main focus was to confront “privileged Eph men with “uncomfortable” material truths.”
How Gaudino would chuckle at that characterization of his work at Williams!
Rory makes the same mistake.
Gaudino would have tact. Gaudino never would have written or said comment six.
I (did not) know Robert Gaudino. You, sir, are no Robert Gaudino.
“Tact,” eh? Stand by to eat those words. I suspect that my comment six would not rank among top 10 most outrageous things that Professor Gaudino said at Williams, probably each semester!
I have been working on the Wikipedia article about Williams Professor Robert Gaudino. (Special thanks to Carrie Greene and Sylvia Kennick Brown at Williams for their help and permission to use a picture of Gaudino from the College’s collection.) Care to help me? I have provided links to some great primary sources but the information still needs to be incorporated in the article. Questions:
1) Gaudino’s former students still remember him fondly and think back on his teachings, even 30 years after his death. What current professors at Williams will cast as long a shadow?
2) Professor Kurt Tauber, my teacher in Political Economy 301, called Gaudino “arguably the the greatest Williams College educator of the 20th century.” If Gaudino does not deserve that description then who would?
Jeff Thaler ’74 writes:
Being the creator of the Winter Study Project that Ronit, in his January 9 posting, said was one of the “Courses That I Wish Had Been Offered When I Was At Williams, Pt.1″, I want to thank him for that recognition and good judgment, as well as others who made interesting postings back and forth that day. David Kane sent the link to me, and I had hoped to respond to the comments sooner–but have been very busy with work on the project this month, as well as related initiatives involving the refugee and immigrant communities here in Maine. So even though the blogging trail went cold more than 2 weeks ago, I do feel it important to correct some mistaken assumptions and myths voiced in some of the blog entries.
First, the notion that this WSP is expensive or would save the college much money if cut is wrong. I cannot imagine a more cost-efficient way of having Williams students exposed to and experiencing cultures very different from their own than this project. Rather than going overseas on a WSP travel project, or a summer internship, many of which in part rely on College-related funds, my Project is only a 4 hour drive from Williams. The costs are primarily paying the host family a per diem for the student’s room and board, something I did during the 1972 Williams-at-Home program as well.
Second, in a couple postings, people suggested that Somali refugees were wrongly being resettled in Lewiston, Maine by the government, that they were hurting the Lewiston economy and there were no programs in place to deal with their influx. That is a myth as well. The bulk of the Somalis in Lewiston, who became the focus of national publicity a few years ago, are secondary refugees–NOT ones placed by the government in a particular city. Rather, these refugees–who generally had come from rural areas of Somalia– had been placed in places like Atlanta, where they were not happy by what they perceived to be high costs, crime, and urban density…and they chose to move to Lewiston, which is not as isolated as some commenters think. It is home to Bates College, is part of a two-city area of about 60,000 people about 40 miles from Portland. Last week, Newsweek did a story quoting a number of Lewiston officials who are very glad the Somalis came, to help revive the city and schools. Having worked in Lewiston for 11 years, the description of its past and present situations is accurate.
Last, I have deliberately designed my WSP so that it is not just a service learning activity, or a cultural experience, or a visit to a different part of the world. I have tried to make the project a blend of experiential and academic learning, with required readings before the students come; journaling while here, which I review and comment upon the journals at the end; reflective essays before arrival and at the end of the project, which I again review and comment upon; and during the stay, I am frequently interacting with the students to push them to ask more questions of themselves and the people with whom they are living, working, and encountering day by day. Being an “old” alum who is facing his 35th Reunion in June, I can safely say that the part of my liberal arts education that has had the biggest impact upon my post-Williams years professionally, personally, and every other way, was my participation in Prof. Robert Gaudino’s Williams-at-Home program. Before I ever heard the phrase, it helped me become a “lifelong learner” who was interested in other people’s lives and activities, able to listen more fully to their views, and then willing to act upon what I believed needed to be done in my community, wherever it may be.
Kudos to Thaler for creating such a wonderful course for current Williams students.
Professor Sam Crane writes :
I talked yesterday, and had a pleasant dinner with, a group of alumni from my college. They were students of a famed teacher, Robert L. Gaudino. He was an immensely dedicated teacher, committed to the idea of “uncomfortable learning,” challenging fundamental assumptions and, even, identities. I was impressed by the deep effect this teacher had on his students, evident still forty years later.
Gaudino was one of the most important professors at Williams in the last 50 years. (I just created his Wikipedia page. Who will add to it?) We all agree on the importance of “uncomfortable learning,” of being confronted by strange and disquieting views, of learning that not everyone thinks as we think and acts as we act. Don’t we?
Alas, we don’t. Some are too quick to sacrifice a diversity of viewpoints in the name of “promoting acceptance.”
In reaction to the racial slur that was directed at a student in May 2005, President Schapiro asserted that “hateful behavior lies well outside the boundaries of this community’s standards.” Last Friday, a misguided student ignored that message and crossed those boundaries. An incendiary poster campaign promoted a pro-Hitler message and mocked the remembrance of genocide. Cognizant of recent events at Virginia Tech, some Williams students were terrified by the message and afraid to participate in ordinary activities.
The behavior that promoted this kind of fear among community members was unacceptable. Williams must be a safe and accepting community. All students have the right to walk around campus and participate in activities without feeling threatened. No student has the right to make a member of the Williams community uncomfortable. As your elected officers, we condemn the posters and ensure the community that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.
No, no, no. A thousand times No. Not only does Julia have the right to make the students around her “uncomfortable,” she has an obligation to do so. We all do, particularly members of the Williams faculty and those alumni with a devoted interest in our beloved alma mater. If you are “comfortable” at Williams all year long, then the College is doing something wrong. A comfortable liberal arts education is an oxymoron.
Now, of course, we don’t want students to feel “terrified” (as some no doubt were by Julia’s posters); we need to ensure that everyone can participate in the Williams conversation; we need ground rules for maximizing effectiveness and inclusion. Yet Julia’s decision to put up posters featuring Hitler as a satire of, and comment on, the WCJA’s Holocaust Remembrance Day campaign is well within the framework of a Williams education, of “uncomfortable learning.” Say what you will about Julia, but this Record article makes clear that she is intelligent, thoughtful and well-spoken. There is no doubt that she belongs at Williams, that she is a part of the community, that her speech has educated others. She might want to cultivate some more empathy for those around her, especially those students who “felt threatened” by the posters. (Much the same was said, correctly, of me 20 years ago. Surely, loyal EphBlog readers know that I was the Julia of my day at Williams.) But empathy will come with time, as it comes to all of us.
Surely at least some members of the faculty would agree with this sentiment, would recognize that posters like Julia’s, ideas which we find offensive, are an integral part of our education. Or are there no Robert Gaudino’s left at Williams? Consider this description of an event at Williams 25 years ago, before Julia had even been born.
Steve Lewis [’60, former Economics professor] began by discussing three events that had occurred at Williams which were “created” by Gaudino. In essence, Gaudino responded to certain situations and transformed them into educational “events.” Steve introduced the events by referencing one of Gaudino’s questions: “Isn’t education really one big upset stomach?”
Indeed it is. Read the whole thing. If Bob Gaudino were at Williams today, he would be turning this into an “event,” defending in the strongest possible terms Julia’s active participation in the intellectual life of the College, asking all of us to consider (and appreciate) the stomach ache that these posters have created.
Where have you gone, Professor Gaudino?
Currently browsing posts filed under "Robert Gaudino"