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Local demands for intellectual diversity

Saw the following today, thought others might be interested in seeing what’s going on at other schools in our neck of the world: UMass students — fed up with professors preaching anti-Americanism — demand ‘intellectual diversity’ .

The petition itself is available here. What I find fascinating is that the title of the article uses the word ‘demand’, which appears no where in their petition. They use words such as ‘petition’, ‘urge’ and ‘suggest'; it is written in a very different tone than other recent petitions (such as this one from Oberlin).



Uncomfortable Posting

Greetings. I’m the faculty president of the Williams’ chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest academic honor society. As there has been a lot of discussion about speakers invited to campus by Uncomfortable Learning, I wanted to briefly post why PBK has decided to co-sponsor their next speakers.

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

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out
                     Because I was not a Socialist.

                     Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out
                     Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

                     Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out 
                     Because I was not a Jew.

                    Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for
                    me. — Martin Niemoller

Steven Miller (, Associate Professor of Mathematics


‘Moskau’ ha, ha ha ha, ha ha ha: on the bells at Thompson …

A few days ago, according to a thankyou note on WSO, the campus was filled with Moskau the German pop hit from the ’80’s by Dschinghis Khan, that cross between ABBA and the Village People. Disco from the tower of Thompson!

Hats off to Will Slack and The Guild of Carilloneurs for asserting despite evidence to the contrary that Disco is Not Dead!

Moscow, Moscow, throw your glasses at the wall
And good fortune to us all,
A ha ha ha ha – ha!
Moscow, Moscow, join us for a kazadchok
We’ll go dancing round the clock
A ha ha ha ha – hey!
(What did I ever do with my vest…)


Williams Conversations

Shortly after I graduated from Williams, when I was studying at Albert-Ludwigs-Universität in Freiburg, Germany, I approached a professor lecturing on Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival to ask her about a concept in that epic (I believed was) similar to one in Beowulf. “Approach” may not be the best way to describe how I sought to contact this scholar. It was more like chased down. I had to rush after her at the close of the class. Unlike her peers in the Purple Valley, she did not stay after to field questions from students, leaving almost immediately after she excused us.

When I did track her down, she seemed almost stunned by my intellectual interest in the epic–and the comparison I was making (without her prompting) to another great medieval poem.

One could say that is the difference not between Williams and the university in Freiburg, but between an American and a European university.  And to be sure, I often enjoyed conversations with professors at  the various graduate institutions where I have studied on this side of the Atlantic, even dropping by to visit a law school professor when I was in Charlottesville, Virginia this past weekend.

Yet, we didn’t just have conversations with our professors at Williams.  We often had spirited exchanges, touching on the subject matter of our courses, student life at a small college and even about our career goals or the news of the day.

I was reminded of that when I related the above anecdote to Gail Henderson ’86 while visiting her in Charlotte Monday night.  And like our days at Williams, we ended up talking well into the night, sharing stories of our lives since college and discussing the various challenges we have faced over the years.   Read more


Honorary Degree/Commencement Speaker for ’11

From WSO:

Who would you want? I just read that e-mail and thought that if we form some kind of small consensus here on wso, then we can send e-mails to the committee and get someone who we would really like.

1) What e-mail? Please put it in the comments if you have a copy.

2) Has the Honorary Degree committee solicited student opinion in past years? If so, how? If not, why the change? (Kudos either way. The more that student opinion is gathered and listed to, the better.)

3) Suggestions from readers? Obvious choice is soon-to-be Senator Martha Coakley ’75. I am in favor of any alum. I am against (almost) any non-alum.

4) I first raised the issue of the ideological diversity of commencement speakers 6 years ago. The last identifiably Republican/conservative speaker was in 1996. An easy way to break that streak would be to invite Harry Jackson ’75.

5) The racial breakdown of Commencement speakers provided for a rollicking discussion last year, including an apology from me, prompted by Sam Crane and (then) Frosh Mom. During the last nine years, every speaker but one has been either Jewish or African-American. The exception, Morris Dees, was (I think) the most embarrassing.

6) Who can help us improve our knowledge of the history of Commencement Speakers as maintained on Wikipedia? If you remember who spoke in your era, add them.


Veterans in Academia

Former Williams prof. Marc Lynch, in a response to a Tom Friedman column, writes about officers returning from military service to academia, particularly to pursue graduate studies in political science and Middle Eastern studies:

I’ve met a lot of these officers over the last few years, and have frequently been deeply impressed with them. A remarkable number of my students at Williams College (and later from George Washington) chose to serve in the military after graduation in the post-9/11 period (and some, like the much-missed Nate Krissoff, didn’t make it back). There is absolutely no reason why such officers and soldiers wouldn’t choose to pursue advanced degrees, or succeed brilliantly when they do.

When they enter academic programs, these veterans will (and already do) bring a great deal of on-the-ground experience to the classroom and to their research. Many will (and do) enter their programs with far more advanced language skills than did earlier generations of students, although perhaps with more familiarity with colloquial spoken dialects than with Modern Standard Arabic (reversing a common traditional pattern). Their point of reference will be (and is) Iraq and the Gulf, not Israeli-Palestinian affairs, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, or other areas where a great number of current faculty began their encounters with the region. And they will have much greater familiarity and comfort with military and security issues than do many currently in the field.

I doubt that the main effect will be to push the field to the “right”, as I’ve heard suggested. The officers I’ve met are all over the map politically and in terms of their intellectual aspirations. Indeed, I’d guess that the bias would be towards pragmatism and empiricism, and against any kind of ideological doctrines. And at any rate, the allegations of the politicization of Middle East Studies — particularly political science — have always been wildly exaggerated. How the critics of the “Human Terrain Program” over in Anthropology might react, I admit I don’t know…

That’s not to say that there might not be depressing misperceptions on both sides. I’ve had a few soldiers interested in pursuing degrees ask me nervously whether they would be shunned by academics. I would be shocked if any experienced prejudice or bias because of their war service — certainly not at a place like GWU — and would be appalled if they did. I certainly hope that such concerns wouldn’t stop them from applying. I suppose there’s a chance that some faculty might feel threatened by students from such a background — but those are probably professors who have trouble in other areas as well, frankly. Constructive argument and productive friction between people with very different backgrounds, perspectives and knowledge should enrich and even electrify a well-run classroom, not cause problems. That’s a good, not a negative.

Continue reading here.

Dan Drezner ’90 comments:

To put it bluntly, most top political scientists don’t have a lot of experience beyond being political scientists. That is to say, the top Ph.D. students often enter graduate school straight from undergraduate programs. They might have interesting summer internships, but otherwise have limited hands-on experience with politics or international relations…..

The problem comes when everyone in a profession pursues the identical career track — to the point where those who deviate from the career track are thought of as strange or different. At that point, the profession loses something ineffable.

So, former members of the military should be ecouraged to enter Ph.D. programs — as should those who worked on the ground for NGOs and civil affairs branches of the government. I can’t guarantee that it will lead to better scholarship. At a minimum, however, it improves the quality of the teaching and the conversations that take place between colleagues. And I’m pretty confident that that leads to better research.

Additional comments here.


Bible Eph

Andrew Liu asks:

Does believing everything the Bible says make me a bigot/sexist/jackass?

At Williams College, the answer is obvious. And a shout-out to Dave Moore for the fastest invocation of Goodwin’s Law that I have ever seen on WSO. Conversation started here. Any suggestions for which faculty member Liu should contact for theological support? Paging College Chaplain Rick Spalding . . .


Free Speech

There is an interesting discussion at WSO about free speech and related issues. The problem is that, like a poorly run Williams seminar, it is a bit all over the place. It is too bad that more Williams faculty don’t participate in this aspect of the Williams Conversation. Imagine if Will Dudley or Mark Reinhardt or Cheryl Shanks or insert-your-favorite-professor-here were involved in that thread. Wouldn’t the conversation be a lot more focused and productive?

The key is to have a concrete example of “free speech” that some people ay Williams would like to ban and others would protect. Such an example will highlight the opposing views and the reasons behind them. My suggestion: Imagine a student (or professor!) with the following sign on her own door.

The average combined SAT score (math + verbal) for Chinese-American students at Williams is 200 points higher than the average for African-American students at Williams. The College should stop discriminating in admissions against Chinese-American applicants.

Would such a sign be obnoxious? Obviously. Would it lead to hurt feelings and even emotional pain among some members of the Williams community? Of course. Would I recommend that the student with this sign on her door take it down? Yes. But should the College require that the student remove the sign? No.

If free speech at Williams means anything, it entails the right to voice unpopular political opinions.

If the WSO discussion would use that specific example (or a different one), the conversation would be more productive.


Stupid Grins

Ready for another one of my famous parodies? How about this e-mail from Dean McKeon to all Williams students studying abroad:

Hi student travelers,

You have not doubt heard the thrilling news that Barack Obama was elected President last night. Most people here are walking around with stupid grins and new hope in their hearts. We have a long hard road ahead but “Yes we can.”

I believe that this election will change the standing of the United States abroad quite noticeably. I would be delighted to learn from you what you are hearing and feeling and seeing.

All best wishes on your adventure in learning and being,

Laura McKeon

I must have made that up, right? No Williams Dean would so blithely assume that every single student would find Obama’s election thrilling. Only a rightwing Troglodyte like me would ever think that the ideological unanimity of Williams leads inevitably to this sort of stupidity.

Alas, no parody. A student writes:

You can imagine my surprise, then, when I opened an email from Dean McKeon on Wednesday only to find her fawning over Obama as if her were the second coming of Christ. As if this weren’t enough, it was followed by another email two days later with an AP article that, in my opinion, captures the media’s failure in this day and age. Both the email and article are attached below.

Really, is all this absolutely necessary? I wonder if Dean McKeon sent study-abroad students a similar email in 2004 after Bush won–I’ll go ahead and say no. And if her email is accurate, it also makes me wonder what the campus’ political atmosphere is like right now.

No worries, though! Professor Sam Crane is always telling me that the lack of ideological diversity among the Williams faculty (and staff) is nothing to worry about. Perhaps this student should seek psychological counseling. All Ephs should all be walking around with “new hope in their hearts” . . .


Shock The Boys

A great comment from last year by Henry Bass ’57.

Phinney Baxter the president in the 40’s and 50’s hired Red Fred Schuman to come to Williams. Schuman had been forced out of Chicago by the very conservative CHICAGO TRIBUNE. When asked by his Trustees why he had hired this notorious Commie, Phinney laughed and said, “I think its good to have a few teachers that will shock the boys”. He also hired Don Antonio to head the Spanish dept. He was a young fellow, who was the Spanish Republic’s Ambassador to the US. He was stranded in Washington when Franco overthrew the Republic, who lots of folks considered Red. On the other side, the Poli Sci dept had Fred Greene, who even in the 50’s was such a hawk that he was already saying we had to fight in Vietnam. I talked to Fred last June and he has not mellowed one bit. He would be called a neocon and minced no words about the liberal interpretation of the Vietnam War.

I suspect that the current administration does not have a commitment to going out and finding faculty who will be sufficiently diverse that they will shock the students.

Indeed. Is there a single member of the faculty who would “shock” the students today? Certainly, not from the right. Is that a problem? I think so.

Note that the resulting discussion made clear that “neocon” was not a fair description of Fred Greene.



An interesting roundtable tonight.

The W. Ford Schumann ’50 Program in Democratic Studies at Williams College will sponsor a Judicial Roundtable featuring U.S. District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall of the Central District of California, U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams of the District of Maryland, and A.J. Kramer, federal public defender for the District of Columbia. The roundtable titled “Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System” will take place on Monday, Oct. 20 at 8 p.m. in Griffin Hall, room 3, on the Williams College campus.

Big picture, there are two views on racial disparities: first, that the disparities are caused by racism (either explicit or implicit) and, second, that the disparities have nothing to do with race per se. The second view argues that the reason that there are, say, a higher percentage of African-Americans than Asian-Americans in prison has little to do with the racial biases of policemen, prosecutors, juries or judges and everything to do with different rates of criminality.

Without even googling the three presenters, I would predict that only one of these two views will be presented/defended. Am I wrong? (Un-PC background reading for those interested.)


A Lost War

Professor Sam Crane claims that the war in Iraq is “lost.” But why doesn’t his post on the topic bother to confront, much less refute, the arguments on the other side?

Remember: Bush Lost the War

There is a lot of talk these days about how the “surge” in Iraq has worked and that “victory” is at hand. Rubbish. While it is true that the “surge” was one of several elements (the others being internal Iraqi political shifts beyond the control of US policy) that contributed to a reduction in violence, it has not produced a political settlement. And without a political settlement, Iraq remains a lost war.

Bush lost the war.

Perhaps, but Sam fails to make the case. Details below.
Read more


Commencement Speakers

Random New York Times surfing allowed me to add the identity of the 1989 Commencement Speaker to our Wikipedia listing. But surely we can fill in some of the missing years? Note that 20% of the speakers in the last 20 years were African American (Cole, Franklin, Reagon and Davis). Wasn’t somebody complaining a few months ago about having too many white speakers?

Also, consider my claim from 5 years ago about ideological diversity among Williams Commencement Speakers.

Looking at this pessimistically, it is sad to see Williams not doing a better job of providing balance. Of course, a sample size of 10 isn’t enough to draw serious conclusions, but I don’t recall graduation speakers being too right wing in the 1980’s. A good out of sample test going forward will be to see how Williams does over the next 10 years. If they fail to invite any of the three recent Republican governors of Massachusetts or any leading Republican Senators and Cabinet Secretaries, it will probably be fair to conclude that there is as much bias at Williams as anywhere else.

Our out of sample test of five speakers shows two liberals (Friedman and Halberstam), two artists with uncertain (to me) politics (Davis and Serra) and one news anchor who votes Democratic (I think) but is largely non-political in her public persona (Couric). What are the odds that the College will have a conservative/republican speaker in the next five years? Low. If we invited former Democratic governor of Massachusetts and presidential candidate Michael Dukakis for 1990, why wouldn’t we invite former Republican governor of Massachusetts and presidential candidate Mitt Romney for 2010? Because the people doing the inviting think that liberals/democrats are more interesting and/or honor-worthy than conservatives/republicans.


Faculty Diversity

Am I making up these quotes?

[F]or all the hoopla given to diversity at this school, there is relatively little diversity of thought.

Although I don’t know the views of all the faculty members, I think you’re right. Not just on the issue of Jena 6, but in general. I would like to see an openly socialist professor passionately debating an openly libertarian professor. How come I don’t see that? Everyone would benefit from that. I just don’t see much disagreement at Williams. The more disagreements, the more heated debates, the better.

Seriously, though, it is a shame that there isn’t more diversity of thought amongst Williams faculty. It’s safe to say that their political leanings are predominantly to the left, though viewpoints on discrete issues are obviously much more complex. I would note, though, that there have been debates between professors of different ideological backgrounds. I wasn’t here for it, but one of the more contentious ones occurred between faculty regarding the invasion of Iraq…

So, the last time that a Williams professor publicly professed an idea that might be considered conservative/Republican was, what, 5 years ago? Good to know! Comments:

1) Williams has a problem with the lack of ideological diversity on the faculty. The first step in dealing with any problem is admitting that you have one. When I have brought up this topic in the past, many/most readers have claimed that the lack of professors willing to publicly defend their actual conservative/Republican/libertarian beliefs is a non-issue. Yeah? Tell it to students like Gary Jin, Achbold Battogtokh and Andrew Wang.

2) Previous discussion and related links here, here and here. One reason that no faculty member who is suspicious of the Jena Six will come take the other side at a teach-in is fear of retribution from his liberal colleagues. Or do you think that Professor Kirby was lying when he explained why he kept his (libertarian) politics to himself.

I did keep my views entirely to myself, but not because I was advised to do so. I had seen (on separate occasions) a senior faculty member make positive comments about a leftist job candidate and disparaging comments about a Republican student in department meetings, and these comments yielded assent from other faculty members. As a non-tenured libertarian these and other subtle signals scared me. I thought it prudent to keep quiet.

Indeed. What is the upside for a faculty member going to a Jena Six teach-in and arguing with the usual progressives? Not much, other than their undying enmity. Have fun with that! Even a tenured faculty member is stuck with these folks for decades to come. Who needs the hassle?

3) This has little to do with what goes on inside a Williams classroom and everything to do with political dialog in the Williams community. 98% of classroom teaching is not affected by ideology. (And it sure is fun to mock the remaining 2%!) The key issue is the campus conversation, events outside of class. Why was no conservative faculty member present at the Jena Six teach in? (My personal opinion is that, more or less, the Jena Six have been treated fairly by the justice system.) Was no conservative faculty member invited? If so, shame on the organizers! That’s not a teach-in; it’s an indoctrinate-in. Or was no conservative faculty member willing to speak out, or even available? If so, shame on Williams.

4) My opponents on this will point out that, as with finding more African American faculty, there is a problem with the small size of the pool. If all the political science Ph.D.’s are liberal, there is no way that Williams can expand the ideological diversity of its faculty. There is some truth to that. But the people who run Williams have no interest in ideological diversity even when they have a chance for it. Evidence?

First, we have the Iraq War teach-in from last year. I e-mailed Professor Singham to see if either a) pro-war speakers were invited and/or b) if she needed such speakers, I might attend. She was not polite enough to reply. Now, it’s a free country and Professor Singham does not need to reply to my e-mails if she does not want to. But if Gary Jin, Achbold Battogtokh and Andrew Wang are wondering why there are no non-students, much less faculty members, at these sorts of events at Williams, it is because of faculty like Singham. She has no interest in ideological diversity.

Second, I have applied to teach at Williams, on several occasions and in multiple departments. Nothing but rejection so far (although something might work out for Winter Study 2009). But this topic provides another opportunity, so I just sent Morty an e-mail (and cc’d those three students). See below for a copy.

Now, these rejections are almost certainly not driven by my politics. The MATH/STAT department wouldn’t care if I were a Marxist. But, at the same time, the fact that my politics don’t count in my favor is evidence that no one in power cares about ideological diversity. Being a member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, Eph Division may not count against me but it certainly doesn’t count for me.

Consider a hypothetical: What if I were African-American? Would Williams let me teach a one semester class? I am pretty sure (contrary opinions welcome) that Williams would, that it values racial diversity enough to make that happen. Ideological diversity? Not so much.

Read more


Kirby on Ideological Diversity

For years I have claimed that the lack of ideological diversity among the Williams faculty (all left, no right) is a problem and that something ought to be done about it. My favorite concrete example is the lack of faculty members who agree with, say, Republican policies and are willing to defend those policies in campus debate. (Vaguely related discussions here and here.) Note James McAllister’s comment that “it goes without saying that there should be more political diversity among the faculty at Williams.”

Recall this discussion and Lowell’s claim that

He [Professor Kris Kirby] related that he had to keep his views entirely to himself, and was told to read and subscribe to certain newspapers and magazines and not even hint at his political affiliations.

I checked this story with Professor Kirby. He clarifies as follows.

The gist of Lowell’s recollection is mostly correct, but he has mixed together two different points. I did keep my views entirely to myself, but not because I was advised to do so. I had seen (on separate occasions) a senior faculty member make positive comments about a leftist job candidate and disparaging comments about a Republican student in department meetings, and these comments yielded assent from other faculty members. As a non-tenured libertarian these and other subtle signals scared me. I thought it prudent to keep quiet.

The point about the magazines was related but different. There is a presumption here that all faculty share the same political beliefs. It rarely occurs to us to wonder whether a Republican joke, for example, might not be appreciated by everyone in the audience. When I first arrived on campus a kindly old professor gave me advice on which local newspapers were worth subscribing to. He noted disapprovingly that some people up here “take the New York Times,” but recommended against it because it is “too conservative.” My point was that it never even occurred to this professor that I might be conservative (I’m not) or even to the right of the New York Times.

I have seen little in the way of outright political discrimination at Williams. Most faculty are fair-minded people. But the near-unanimity of left-liberal belief allows for a presumption of agreement that inhibits the expression of diverse political views more than the faculty realize. This was the real point of my anecdotes.

If McAllister thinks that the College needs greater ideological diversity among the faculty and Kirby notes that the “near-unanimity of left-liberal belief” is a problem, can we all agree that there is something wrong at Williams? Whether anything could be done about this, and at what cost, is a separate question. But the first step in any recovery is admitting that you have a problem . . .



Julian Mesri asks “Who here supports torture?”

An honest open question. You can see that any way you like, special circumstances, any ideal situations you may come up with welcome, as long as the torture of a human being is involved. I am just honestly curious who does, and why. Partly I am a bit affected after seeing Road to Guant�namo, and then in the ensuing discussion hearing that according to one poll a majority of Americans (and an even higher majority of Christian Americans) support torture. That being said, I’d like to hear reasons, and learn perhaps this dreaded “other side” of things that so many of you fight so hard to uphold in ultra liberal institutions such as this one. So please, tell me; because I don’t understand.

An excellent question. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a faculty member at Williams who could answer, who could explain to Julian why he, like a majority of Americans, supports torture in very limitted circumstances, say the waterboarding of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed?

Unfortunately, there is no such faculty member. No one in authority at Williams is willing to offer her truthful and public support to most Republican/conservative positions. On this, as on so many other important policy questions, there is no meaningful ideological diversity among the faculty. But, no worries. Why would Julian Mesri really need to “understand” the views of those he disagrees with? Silly Eph. As long as someone can explain those views, like an 19th century anthropologist describing the beliefs of some primitive tribe, there is no reason for Julian to speak to anyone who actually holds those beliefs. Right?


Africana Studies

There is a fun discussion at WSO about this post. Aston Gonzalez, who started the thread, does not seem to be my biggest fan.

What I think you’re missing is Kane’s blatant sarcasm and mockery of the Africana Studies program.

I am not mocking the Africana Studies program. I am mocking Williams for thinking that doubling (?) the size of the Africana Studies program does as much to increase “diversity” on campus as would spending the same amount of money on increasing the range of ideological views among the faculty.

Now, there are a lot of messy details in this dispute. Williams did not used to have an Africana Studies program at all. It used to be called Afro-American Studies, which is, as Professor Joy James can explain better than I, not the same thing. I also do not know if the budget has doubled. But you can be sure that Professor James did not take a pay cut when she left her position at Brown to come to Williams. Tenured Ivy League professors do not come cheap, either in terms of the salary they merit or in terms of the resources they require. A glance at the program’s homepage demonstrates that some serious money is being spent.

But the central point is that just because you think that Williams should spend more money on X and less on Y does not necessarily imply that you think money being spent on Y is being wasted.

These were his words: “The fact that KC isn’t at Williams is one of the worst faculty outcomes of the last two decades. No worries, though. We have a new department of Africana Studies. Who needs ideological diversity among the faculty? That would be too confusing for the students!”

He is chastising the College for not hiring a Poli Sci prof. who, in his eyes, believes and teaches from a different point of view. I completely understand and see the merit in that.

Good! Perhaps Gonzalez and I are closer to agreement than he thinks we are. We both agree that Williams benefits from having great teachers like KC Johnson and Joy James. We both think that, in addition to their qualities as superb teachers and researchers, Johnson and James bring something else to the College. In other words, even if they taught, say, chemistry, Williams would be pleased to have Johnson and James. But the fact that Johnson has a unique ideological viewpoint and that James has an expertise in a specific academic discipline means that they are even more desirable than their “raw” teaching ability would suggest.

Fine. All is rosy. But does Gonzalez understand that resources are limited, that Williams can not hire 500 professors, that choices must be made?

Imagine that Morty announced tomorrow that he was doubling the size of the Classics Department, that he had hired away a famous professor from Yale, that two new assistant professor positions had been created and that several new visiting positions and a lecture series were being funded.

Who could be against such wonderfulness? Could Gonzalez be so anti-Grecian (?) that he would deny the value of studying Greek literature? Is he so anti-Roman in his thinking that he might fail to see the value to Williams of more classes in Classics? I hope not!

Instead, I hope Gonzalez would see, not just the wonderfulness of the new additions, but also what those resources might have gone to instead. I hope that he would be aware of both what is seen and what is not seen.

At that point, we can have a conversation about the costs and benefits of the different ways that Williams can spend its money. There are benefits to doubling the size of Africana Studies. But are the marginal benefits of doing so — given that Williams already had a fine program with dedicated teachers — greater than the marginal benefits of adding the first contingent of non-liberal faculty? I don’t think so.

In the same thread, Daniel Blinder writes:

I do agree that more professors with viewpoints not conforming to the liberal norm would be good to have. I don’t consider myself conservative, but I’m also less liberal than a lot of people here.

Andrew Wang agrees:

Africana Studies is fine, but at the same time, the vast majority of faculty teaching in such fields are liberal and left-leaning. As an individual who does not always subscribe to the prevailing wisdom of liberal academia, I would find it refreshing to bring in experienced, well-respected, and skilled faculty who were NOT always left of center.

Agreed. On the margin, the thing that Williams needs most is ideological diversity among the faculty, i.e., a few conservatives/Republicans/libertarians.

However, my problem with his statement is how he discounts the entire Africana Studies program, and implies that its mission, purpose, and existence pale in comparison to that of one allegedly unique prof.

This is not what I believe. In fact, I expect to become more of a Joy James fan over time. I hear, from students, that she is a demanding professor who requires her students to think clearly and work hard. That’s my kind of Williams professor! The Williams professors/programs which I hold in contempt are the ones that do not require serious work from their students. Science gut courses for non-majors are the worst examples.

What angers is me is how Kane frequently, as Andrew W. said, “would rather see us return to the good ol’ days when we studied the works of “dead white men” to the exclusion of everything else.”

Life is short so I don’t expect Gonzalez to read what I write. But he shouldn’t pretend to know what I think if he isn’t going to take the time to find out. If students prefer Frantz Fanon to The Federalist Papers, if they would rather read Rigoberta Mench� than Plato, then more power to them. I may, on occasion, mock students for making these choices, but I will always defend their right to make them. The College should teach the courses and topics that students want to take (chosen from the universe of serious academic fields) and not the courses and topics that I (or Aston or the faculty) want students to take.

Indeed, this desire to respond to student preferences is one of the reasons that I do not like small, specially focused departments like Africana Studies. Better, I think, would be for these professors to be housed in large departments so that it would be easier to shift them around as student interests change. But this is a side issue to those raised by Gonzalez.

Yet the great irony here is that Gonzalez demonstrates the very need for greater ideological diversity among the faculty by his incorrect assumption that anyone, like me, who would criticize the increase of Africana Studies must be in favor of requiring that students read more Dead While Males. Some conservatives, it is true, do argue that. But many (indeed, most conservative Ephs) don’t. If Gonzalez actually had a conservative professor — someone who like Sam Crane or Marc Lynch taught her classes non-ideologically but who added her viewpoint to the public conversation on campus — he might realize that we aren’t all alike.

The debate on WSO includes this:

Little known fact: Reading exclusively Western literature does not promote diversity because all dead white men agreed with each other.

To which Gonzalez responds with “Amen.” Please tell me that this is irony!



KC Johnson’s blog about the Duke (False Accusation of) Rape Case, Durham-in-Wonderland, continues to be the place to go for updates on this continuing miscarriage of justice. I hope that Morty and his fellow Council members are reading it closely.

The fact that KC isn’t at Williams is one of the worst faculty outcomes of the last two decades. No worries, though. We have a new department of Africana Studies. Who needs ideological diversity among the faculty? That would be too confusing for the students!


Proseltyzing History

The main interest during our CGCL this Winter Study will continue to be with the various sections of the Diversity Initiatives Report, as critiqued and supported by our discussants. Thanks to James and Reed for fine efforts so far. But, along with these main streams of the conversation, I and the other bloggers here will highlight side issues that have come up. (Requests from readers are also welcome.)

Today, I want to solicit information on what really happened with the Western Massachusetts Labor Action (WMLA) and Williams in the 1990s. Unfortunately, the on-line archives of the Record do not go back far enough to tell us much.

Our story starts with the scary case of Jennifer Kling ’98, sucked up into a frightening cult in Brooklyn, isolated from her family and friends. In the comments to our previous entry, Alexander Woo ’97 reported that:

I distinctly remember Jennifer saying she felt her quotes were misused in the NYTimes article, and that the general tone of the article was, to her, inaccurate. Elaborations, if any, were not concise enough for me to remember almost 8 years later.

So please read that with a few grains of salt.

Is the Times portrayal accurate? I don’t know. Perhaps the WMLA are actually a bunch of fun fellows, sort of Williams-in-New-York, version 1.0. But there is more here than the New York Times article. (The next paragraph is from a reliable source (not anyone in the Political Science department) with knowledge of that era.)

For starters, Tauber was involved with the group for many years and misled others (and perhaps himself) about their totalitarian tendencies. The WLMA was a cult in all the worst sort of ways, not just a bunch of unionists. Kling was not the only student to be entrapped. Moreover, Professor Alex Willingham also allowed the group to proseltyze in his class and, even after the worst details came to light, continued to defend it.

Much of this is supported here. See below the break for key excerpts.

Again, the purpose of this post is not to pass judgment on any of this but to ask our readers what really happened at Williams ten years ago. Please tell us. Sam Crane asserts that I am a bad person for even wanting to know what happened, for reporting what people say about those events.

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Ideological Diversity

I have a few comments to make about David’s remarks about political diversity at Williams. First, I think that it goes without saying that there should be more political diversity among the faculty at Williams. However, framing the issue in terms of professors allegedly “willing to publicly argue the republican /conservative/ libertarian view” is not helpful. I have taken many public positions in favor of the war in Iraq and the Bush’s administration’s national security policy in general, but I have never thought of myself as arguing for the Republican Party or Bush himself. This is true both inside and outside the classroom. My credibility with students, and I would suspect the reason my classes are always overenrolled, is precisely due to the fact that Williams students generally do not welcome ideologues disguised as scholars. Just because 95% or more of the Williams faculty are registered Democrats, does not mean that we should have an affirmative action program for Republican scholars.

I also think President Schapiro is largely correct in his belief that “prosleytizing” is not a major problem on campus, although I disagree with the implication that Williams could not be a better place in terms of intellectual diversity. I have no idea what my colleagues do in the classroom on a daily basis, but I have not heard many horror stories about students being subjected to daily rants and tirades about current political issues. I do not remember any Faculty Senate meetings taken up with resolutions opposing the Iraq War or letters to the editor signed by 100 faculty members protesting this or that issue. While the case of Jennifer Kling is truly sad, I would be shocked if you could find anything even remotely close to that today. Again, I would agree with Morty that active “proselytizing” is a fringe concern in 2005 and has been for many years.

Since I suspect that much of the discussion here will be fairly
critical, let me conclude with a few optimistic thoughts. First, compare Williams with any of our peer institutions and I think you will find a much greater tolerance for so called conservative ideas here than elsewhere. Second, as a faculty member who is rightly or wrongly thought to be conservative (I am certainly conservative in comparison to the vast majority of my colleagues, but probably not in comparison to the population at large), I can say that I have never experienced any serious trouble with my colleagues on political grounds. President Schapiro has always been supportive of things I have tried to do here and I know from personal experience and actions that he is supportive of intellectual diversity.

Unfortunately, I have to run but I look forward to reading more of what everyone has to say. I certainly support critical thinking on issues of intellectual diversity and everything else related to Williams, but let’s also keep in mind the many positive elements of Williams. There is no other place in the nation that I would rather be–that would be true even if we did not have the wonderful Taconic Golf Course.

James McAllister



President Morty Schapiro’s Introduction to the Diversity Initiatives merits careful study. It perfectly captures the confusion, obfuscation and borderline dishonesty which plague discussions of diversity at Williams and elsewhere. Although Morty (and Williams) deserve praise for the openness with which this study has been conducted — especially for the publication of a variety of data tables — the overall result lives down to my already low expectations.

The confusion and obfuscation start at the very beginning.

The most significant change in higher education during our time may be its increasing inclusion of students, faculty, and staff from groups that had previously been excluded from its campuses.

First, the notion that there was a great deal of exclusion at Williams and places like it is, historically, false. Morty may not have read The Chosen by Jerome Karabel, but those of us who have know that there is little if any evidence of significant discrimination against Asian American, Latino or African Americans (AALAA) since 1900 in elite admissions. If you had the grades (and the money), you got in (unless you were Jewish). If you didn’t have the grades and the money, you didn’t get in, regardless of race. There were, of course, individual acts of discrimination — see pages 232-233
of The Chosen for a particular disgusting example involving a Williams graduate — as well some schools, like Princeton, with particularly backward attitudes, but it is just false to claim that the number of AALAA students at Williams and other schools prior to 1965 would have been much higher in a colorblind world than it was in our imperfect world. It would not have been. Discrimination, at the admissions stage, probably affected dozens of students, not hundreds much less thousands. The real victims of elite discrimination in the 20th century were the Jews. The Report has little if anything to say about that.

Second, the most significant change in higher education — outside of exploding sticker price — in our time (meaning, say, post 1950) has been sorting by IQ. In the 1950’s, lots of not so smart (white) men got into Williams and places like it. (Not you, Dad.) Now, with very few exceptions, almost every student at Williams is from the far right tail of the Bell Curve.

Now, Morty knows these things, and there is nothing wrong with a little pablum from a college president. Yet issues surrounding diversity at Williams are difficult. The closer we can get to an honest description of the facts, the more progress we can make.

Although mission statements are mostly fluff, it is nice to see Morty provide a clear goal for Williams.

The College’s mission to provide the highest quality liberal arts education is enhanced by the rich variety of backgrounds and experiences that students, faculty, and staff bring to the task of educating each other.

I agree that the goal of Williams should be “to provide the highest quality liberal arts” in the world. I also agree that diversity of all types helps with that goal. I can’t imagine that Williams could be as good as it might be if there were, for example, no international students on campus. But it is a long leap from this premise to the actual policies that Williams currently follows, and even longer to the policies that people like Evelyn Hu-DeHart would like to see Williams follow.

More importantly, as every good economist (like Morty) knows, there are trade-offs. Every time you let in an under-represented minority (URM, which in a Williams context almost always means Latino or African American), you deny admission to someone else, someone who might be smarter, who might be poorer, who might even be a minority herself. (Williams denies admissions to dozens of Asian American applicants with much stronger SAT scores and high school grades than those of some of its URM admittees.) Williams is poorer because that student is not present. But she is also invisible. It is hard to judge the cost of rejecting her if none of us can clearly see what she might have added.

The hard decisions are, as always, made on the margin. The first 20 URMs that Williams admits are as good as any Jewish or Asian or WASP Eph. The second 20 are also. But by the time we get to number 100 of enrolled, not just accepted, we are talking about applicants with significantly weaker high school records than their classmates at Williams.

In the class of 2009, Williams is 20% URM. The hard question for those who love Williams is whether this number should be 10% or 30%.

One of the stranger parts of the discussion involves Morty’s desire to focus on “intrinsic” factors.

For all the progress Williams has made in becoming more open and supportive, the case remains that some people, because of factors intrinsic to them, are excluded from the College or have less full and satisfying experiences here.

Does this make sense? Morty implies that by “intrinsic” he means things like race and gender that we are born with, not factors like religion. (Let’s leave aside the question of whether or not one can be born a Jew.) The problem is that no one is born Hispanic, at least by the definition of Hispanic that is used by Williams.

Again, I realize that the Diversity Initiative can not be about everything and that it is reasonable for Morty/Williams to focus on some aspects of diversity rather than others. But, don’t claim to be focusing on “intrinsic” factors and then spend time on cultural ones.

Greater awareness of this fact, resulting from the compelling testimony of current and former members of the campus community and from analysis of data on student demographics and student experiences, led to the launching at the beginning of this academic year of the Diversity Initiatives.

Isn’t this borderline dishonest? Unless I am mistaken, there were no plans to launch a great big Diversity Initiative until the Nigaleian fiasco of last fall.

But the most disingenuous section of the Introduction involves those dreaded conservative critics, bane of left-thinking college presidents everywhere.

Several submissions to the Web site raised issues regarding the political beliefs of faculty. These echo concerns expressed more publicly about college faculties in general, usually in terms of suspected proselytizing to students. These submissions failed to gain traction through the Initiatives process, perhaps because few people, if any, on campus believe such proselytizing takes place, and because one’s political views are considered to be a characteristic that is acquired rather than intrinsic.

Why is this dishonest? First, Morty acts as if the primary, if not only, concern about political diversity raised by outsiders involved fears of “proselytizing.” But, as anyone can see, not a single outsider raised this concern. There are several discussions of diversity of political opinion among the faculty, but they almost all fall in the category of diversity-of-opinion-is-a-good-thing. Of course, few if any readers of the Diversity Initiative are likely to read those comments, so Morty can safely (?) misrepresent their contents.

I suspect that I speak for the vast majority of the political diversity camp when I claim that the problem is not that Williams has leftist professors. Some of my friends are leftist professors! The problem is that Williams has virtually no professors willing to publicly argue the Republican/conservative/libertarian view. That is a problem.

Second, Morty acts as if concerns about “suspected proselytizing to students” are crazy kookery. Why should such ridiculousness get any “traction” with the members of the Coordinating Commitee? Tell that to Jennifer Kling ’98 (and her family). The New York Times reported back in 1996 that

Jennifer Kling left Williams College here to join the National Labor Federation in Brooklyn with dreams of organizing the poor to create a more just world.

Instead, Ms. Kling found herself trapped in a cramped, tense apartment building, unable to walk outside. Every second was charted. During the day, she filed papers, wrote articles and worked a phone bank, selling advertisements in the organization’s publications. In the evenings, she was required to attend political lectures that would often go until 4:30 A.M., when she was finally allowed to collapse into sleep in a small room with five other women.

Six hours later, at 10:30, the wake-up call would come over the loudspeaker, and Ms. Kling and about 50 other members of the group, which has been called a cult, would start the cycle all over again.

”They didn’t encourage idle chatter,” she said. ”Time was precious. Every minute was pre-scheduled. They kept you so busy that you didn’t have time to think about leaving.”

It took a terrified Ms. Kling weeks to build up the courage to sneak out of the building one morning last year and take a bus home to her family in Missouri.

Scary stuff. The entire article is provided below the break. If any of our seminar participants were on campus in this era, please provide some background and details in the comments.

Morty might like to claim that this is just some sad story unconnected to “proselytizing” by the Williams faculty. After all, only those crazy conservative wingnuts think that this might be a concern at Williams, land of the open-minded professor.

Indeed, Western Massachusetts Labor Action became almost an institution on campus and enjoyed a reputation as a sort of Salvation Army with a political edge, a place where socially conscious students could go to work with the poor. Its connection to Mr. Perente-Ramos was not readily apparent, and the local group’s lead organizer was invited to economics and political science classes to lecture on the region’s social conditions.

Kling and others were sucked into this cult directly from a Williams classroom. My former professor Kurt Tauber, now retired, is mentioned by name. I believe that other Williams professors still on the faculty were involved as well.

Now, just because a few students were lost to one cult does not mean that having outside visitors is a bad idea or that students shouldn’t be encouraged to participate in social work in the local community. But Morty does us all a disservice when he pretends that “proselytizing” is a fringe concern. Nothing to see here. Just move along.

Why should a concerned alum trust the rest of the Report when it is so misleading about this sordid history?

All in all, the Introduction is weak. I realize that Morty (rightly) feels constrained in how “presidential” he must be in this context, but a little more directness and a lot less dissembling would have reassured me that the entire Diversity Initiative was a worthwhile project and not just a circular PC love-in, an exercise in which the people that mattered knew the answer before the first meeting was held. I am not reassured.

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“Excellent” Reheated Wingnut Blogging

Marc Lynch had these comments on the recent speech by President Bush on the war.

[I]s it just me or did that speech come across as second-rate, re-heated wingnut blogging? I’m not going to say anything more about it . . . with any luck, this speech will quickly, and deservedly, fade into obscurity.

The mostly non-partisan Michael Barone, perhaps the leading expert on American politics, called it “excellent” and noted that:

I am struck by the sublime indifference of most critics of Bush’s Iraq policy to the fate of the Iraqi people. They are totally unexultant about the overthrow of a vicious dictatorship and seem to have no interest at all in what would happen to Iraqis if we leave suddenly. Hitchens has argued persuasively that no one deserves the label of liberal who is so indifferent to whether others live in freedom or under tyranny. In this passage Bush reminded Americans more hardheadedly about our own self-interest. But of course many of his critics are more interested in hurting Bush than they are in preventing the emergence of an anti-American tyranny in Iraq.

The problem isn’t that Lynch (or Sam Crane) is wrong and Barone is right. (I also don’t think that professors like Lynch and Crane can be fairly accused of “sublime indifference.”) The problem is that Williams students never hear from teachers who agree with Barone.


Blaming W

Assistant Economics Professor Alan de Brauw writes that:

My research stems from an interest in understanding the reasons that a few people (on the planet) are so rich and most people in the world are very poor. I am interested in examining this question from the perspective of the household and the village. As far as the larger reasons are concerned, a link to a quite obvious reason is here.

All perfectly reasonable until you click on the “here” and are whisked away to the home page of the White House.

I suspect that de Brauw did not create this link when President Clinton was in the White House.

Why is this so pathetic? Let me count the ways.

1) It does not even occur to the cloistered de Brauw that this might be inappropriate. In the world of Williams faculty, contempt for George Bush is virtually universal. The 50%+ of the US population that voted for him are either idiotic or evil.

2) It does not even occur to the untenured de Brauw that this might be career-threatening. At Williams, casual dismissal of conservative views never hurt anyone’s tenure chances.

3) It does not even occur to the clueless de Brauw that nothing signficant would be different in places like East Timor, Tanzania, Madagascar and most other very poor countries if John Kerry (or Al Gore) had won the Presidency. Even if the sainted Clinton had been president for the last 13 years, the vast majority of people on Earth would still be “very poor.”

As always, I love the fact that Williams has outspoken left-wing faculty. It’s lack of outspoken right-wing faculty is a disgrace.



Loved this parody, courtesy of the Garfield Repblican Club.

The fourth lecture in Williams College’s 94th annual Faculty Lecture series will feature a slide talk by Associate Professor of Art and Chair of the department Michael Glier on “Discussing Cubism with Lynne Cheney.” The lecture is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 24, at 4:15 p.m. in Brooks-Rogers Recital Hall.

The talk will feature Glier’s work over the past five years, and “since meaning in art is wonderfully mutable,” said Glier, “I will discuss my work in the frame of the current political climate focusing on the conflict between moral relativists like myself and extreme absolutists like Ms. Cheney.”

Oh, wait. This is real! Mike Glier ’75 is actually a professor at Williams. Who’d a thunk it?

I guess that this puts the Nigaleian controversy in context. Any good moral relativist knows that, from a moral point of view, there is no nothing wrong with using a racial slur at an Art department meeting. The only people who worry abour right and wrong are those weirdo [and redundant — ed] “extreme absolutists.”

The Art Department: Where Moral Relativists Run Free. Coming straight to video.


Bakija on Social Security

A Transcript article on Democratic reaction to President Bush’s plans to revamp social security reports that:

John Bakija, an assistant professor of economics at Williams College, backs the view that borrowing money to finance a Social Security overhaul leads the country down a road of piling up more debt. The key for the country’s financial success in the long run is to save money, not borrow it, he said.

I’ll leave commentary on the substantive point for another day.

Bakija is clearly a serious scholar. It is nice to see that the Econmics Department, despite having seen massive turnover in the last 20 years, continues to attract such strong economists. Perhaps his syllabus for ECON 120 is not as biased as it could be, but there are clearly many more left wing items in the reading packet than their are right wing ones — although perhaps that claim depends on how one classifies The Economist not optimal. I would certainly like to see both left and right with equal representation as well as a broader selection from across the ideological spectrum.

As always, the problem is not that Williams has professors like Bakija, professors who are active participants in the public square from the non-right-wing side. Williams needs more professors like Bakija! It just needs some professors who disagree with him, professors who would assign work from Heritage Hoover as often as they do from Brookings.

UPDATE: Having had the chance to review the syllabus more closely, and thanks to some of the input in the comments below, I rephrased the above. Upon reflection, I should not have used the word “bias”. Special thanks to Professor Bakija for providing some background information. I was especially pleased to hear that his “students frequently say that they like that they can’t tell what my views are, which I think is important for promoting critical thinking and lively debate in class.” I could not agree more.

Again, Williams needs more professors like Bakija. I hope that Williams tenures him and that he stays for 30 years. But perhaps I am just biased in favor of professors who contribute to EphBlog! ;-)


Needham ’04 on Churchill

Fellow EphBlogger Mike Needham ’04 has an op-ed in the Washington Times about l’affair Churchill and some Williams history.

Where was this full and unconditional support a few years ago at a peer liberal arts college of Hamilton’s? At my alma mater, Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., liberals were tripping over themselves to condemn the Record, the student newspaper, for running a controversial paid advertisement.

The controversy erupted over the suggestion that anti-Semitism — or “Arab and Islamic Jew-hatred,” as author David Horowitz called it in his ad — was the root cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Regardless of your opinions, Mr. Horowitz’s view has more validity than Mr. Churchill’s claim the defenseless and innocent September 11 victims were “little Eichmanns.” Not so in the twisted world of American higher education.

Almost immediately, five professors and the college chaplain and associate chaplain condemned Mr. Horowitz’ paid expression: “Hate speech and inflammatory rhetoric poison the public sphere, and subtly censor victims by frightening them from participating in the arena of public discourse. At a liberal arts college, we can and should hope for better.”

One doesn’t find the same concern today that Mr. Churchill’s language might “subtly censor” or “frighten” those who disagree with his characterization of Americans from “participating in the arena of public discourse.”

See here for a selection of Record articles and letters on the controversy. I could not find a copy of Horowitz’s add. Is one available somewhere? Note especially the letter that Mike refers to. Would Lynch et al object if the Record were to publish some of Churchill’s writings?

Someone should ask them.


The Diversity Addiction

Oren Cass ’05 has a great op-ed on the “diversity addiction” at Williams.

The history department offered nine American history courses this semester. Four focused explicitly on ethnic studies, two on colonialism and two on slavery.

That adds up to eight, which means the department had the temerity to offer a course not focused on racial issues. But you had to be at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut to enroll, so at least the bigots were kept out of state.

Next semester’s courses are slightly more apple pie, with only three of the seven dedicated to race or gender. But these are the All-Stars, like HIST 468: Sex and Race in Colonial North America, which deserves a lifetime achievement award for getting the holy trinity of gender, race and colonialism into its title.

Read the whole thing.

Why isn’t Cass (or someone with similar views) a member of the President’s Diversity Committee (not sure if this is the appropriate name for the group)? It’s as if the Diversity panel is interested in the diversity of everything except for viewpoints.

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Diversity of Opinion

Thanks to a suggestion in Todd Gamblin’s ’02 blog, I discovered this handy site for reveiwing political donations by zip code. Here is a listing for all the givers from the 01267 Williamstown zip code. This is a nice compliment to sites that allow you to search by employer.

A quick perusal shows a variety of Eph folks, including members of the administration (McIntre and Ouellette), former presidents (Chandler and Oakley), current professors (Dew ’58, Satterthwaite, Booth, Scholfield, Willingham, Marcus, Fix, Brown, Altschuler, Epping, Reinhardt, Schmidt, Engel, Singham, Skinner), professor emeriti (Sabot, Winston, Markgraf, Faison ’29, Rudolph, Burns ’39), and even faculty spouses (Crampton, Wooters, Versenyi).

Now, since Williams College values diversity — political, intellectual and otherwise — you might expect that some Ephs would donate to Democrats and some to Republicans.

You would be wrong. In terms of politics, the diversity of opinion at Williams seems to run from Kerry to Dean.

I can not find a single person employed by Williams (or married to someone employed by Williams) who has donated money to any Republican candidate or group this electoral cycle.

I suspect that there is a nice Record article in here somewhere . . .


One problem with academia nationwide,

One problem with academia nationwide, and one that seems particularly worrying in English departments, is the prevalence of group think on certain issues. For example, take this account of last week’s Modern Language Association meeting from The Boston Globe.

In more than a dozen sessions on war-related topics, not a single speaker or audience member expressed support for the war in Iraq or in Afghanistan. The sneering air quotes were flying as speaker after speaker talked of “so-called terrorism,” “the so-called homeland,” “the so-called election of George Bush,” and so forth.

The approach to the war was certainly wide-ranging — from cultural studies to rhetoric to literature to pure political speechifying. In a session on “Shock and Awe,” Graham Hammill of Notre Dame traced the ideas behind the initial bombing back to the Roman historian and orator Tacitus’s idea of arcana imperii, which translates roughly as “mysteries of state.” Like Roman emperors who used rhetoric to sway the populace, Hammill argued, the Shock and Awe campaign was a rhetorical gesture aimed at demonstrating US power as much as flattening Baghdad.

At a different panel, Cynthia Young of the University of Southern California spoke about how the White House uses Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell “to create a distorted multiracial mask on imperialism.” “What does it mean,” Young asked, “when imperialism comes wrapped in a black bow?”

I guess we can be thankful at Williams that comments as inane as Prof. Young’s aren’t routinely made by our faculty. As for intellectual diversity: Last February, 123 faculty members signed a “statement of resistence” to a war in Iraq. There were certainly not 10 faculty members who supported the war and there almost certainly were not 5.


Very Foundations

Surfing around the Williams web — perhaps I need a new hobby — I am consistently underwhelmed with the news and publication section for alumni. Not only is the most recent Alumni Review not posted but the section on Spectrum (a “monthly Newsletter highlighting activities of the Multicultutural Center and Alumni Networks”) is pathetic. I can understand why something like Spectrum might no longer be publishing (and why it was never really “monthly”) but I don’t see the point in keeping up issues that end in December 2002. Perhaps the best guess is that there was a May 2003 issue, but that that was never posted.

Strangely enough, although our household includes an alumna of color (would that be the appropriate PC phraseology?) we don’t receive it.

Looking on he bright side, however, there is material here to blog about! In the December 2002 issue, Stephen Collingsworth, Assistant Director and Coordinator for Queer Issues at the MCC (Multicultural Center) writes (p. 4):

Because of my background, I guess forget that through being white and living in the United States, I am the benefactor of a history and a country whose very foundations are based on the concept of entitlement and the idea that as a nation, we are not responsible for our actions.

“Very foundation”? I seem to remember something about democracy, freedom, separation of church and state, the rule of law and so on. The Framers of the COnstitution obviously failed to live up to the ideals embodied therein, but they surely deserve points for trying. Collingsworth goes on:

The very concept of capitalism on which the United States economy is based, quite proudly it seems, is rooted in that oppression: slavery. We fought and won a Cold War based on the idea that capitalism is better than the oppressiveness of communism.

It is hard to know where to begin with sentiments like this. Here I always thought that the Cold War had something to do with freedom. Would Collingsworth really rather live in, say, North Korea or Cuba?

In any event, I don’t want to get too political (read: boring) here, but whenever confronted with these sorts of ramblings from outfits like the MCC, I always go back to a simple question: In what nation on Earth are my daughters — of proudly mixed-race parentage — least likely to be treated different from other little girls because of the color of their skin? France? Germany? China? Japan? Although one could, perhaps, make a case from a place like Brazil, it seems that the obvious answer is the United States. For all its many faults, there is no country in which my daughters heritage will cause them so little (and none so far) heartache.

I would feel better about Williams and the MCC if this point, if not embraced, were at least acknowledged as plausible. But that would require a diversity of political viewpoint that Williams does not seem to have enough of.


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