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Banned in Chicago

I was a little startled to learn that DDF has been banned over at the Why Evolution is True blogsite.

This is the on-line home of Jerry Coyne, one of our nation’s most outspoken  public intellectuals. He is a Harvard trained evolutionary biologist. Along with Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, Coyne is one of the world’s most prominent “New Atheists.”

Coyne’s blogsite, Why Evolution is True, reportedly has over 50,000 e-mail subscribers. Lately, Coyne has been especially supportive of Luana Maroja, a fellow biologist. He has used his highly visible site to bring the free speech standards of the Chicago Principles to Williams College.

Earlier, Coyne cited a number of my comments on the Sawacki Report and published them on his site. I was surprised when DDF subsequently went after Coyne and accused him of being a fool. What?! I later got an e-mail from Coyne indicating he was offended by DDF’s words and that the intellectual skirmish had continued over at Why Evolution is True. Coyne posted the following statement on his blog:

After letting you use my site to direct traffic to yours, I will ban you for insulting the host (what a rude person you are in your post, a characteristic you must have gotten from the woke Williams students).

First, though, since you had the temerity to call me a fool, let me reply that you are an arrant jackass. The only “mistake” I made in my post was characterizing the universities who use the Chicago Principles as “adopting them” rather than, as the FIRE site says, the 65 schools “Have adopted or endorsed the Chicago Statement or a substantially similar statement.”

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Fox News Alert

Jonathan Butcher just posted a piece at the Fox News website criticizing the failure of Williams College to protect freedom of speech by adopting the Chicago principles.

Freedom of speech? Not allowed at politically correct liberal Williams College

He is alarmed about an article in The College Fix that reported one of biology professor Luana Maroja’s colleagues had “threatened violence” if Williams adopted the Chicago statement. As Butcher writes:

No, Williams is not a public school. Its trustees and administrators have the right to set whatever campus policies they see fit. But considering how quickly the campus “conversation” on free speech escalated from a discussion of mutual respect to threats of violence, Williams’ students and faculty are right to ask: “Will I be threatened when I speak out on campus? And do I want to live in a place like that?”

Butcher’s recommendation is the school require mandatory sessions on free speech during first year orientation – and “…explain that hiding from ideas with which you disagree is a poor strategy for life.”

Jonathan Butcher is a senior policy analyst in The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy.

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Jerry, Luana and Me

Unfortunately, I think DDF is overly optimistic about the eventual results of the Sawicki Report. I read the report looking for evidence freedom of speech was perfectly safe and I didn’t see it. Neither did Jerry Coyne.

As you may know, Coyne is one of our nation’s most influential public intellectuals. He is a Harvard trained evolutionary biologist who is now most well-known as a prominent anti-theist. Along with Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, I think of Coyne as one of the world’s most prominent “New Atheists.” Coyne’s blogsite, Why Evolution is True, reportedly has over 50,000 e-mail subscribers. I’m grateful Coyne has focused attention on the free speech conflict at Williams College. He has been especially supportive of Luana Majora and has used his highly visible blogsite platform to publicize her plight.

Nevertheless, DDF went after Coyne. He went so far as to suggest Coyne is a “fool.” As far as I can tell, DDF believes the Sawicki Report will lead to a rebirth of freedom of speech because,  as DDF notes, the report ties the school’s policies to the standards set by both the AAUP and PEN. The central issue is whether this is enough?

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Global Warning

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The College Fix

The College Fix torched the Sawicki Report this morning and highlighted the reactions of those of us who were hoping Williams College would adopt the free speech absolutism of the Chicago Principles including Jerry Coyne, Luana Majora and me.

Ethan Berman, a student at the University of Texas-Austin, criticizes the Sawicki Report saying “…this ad hoc committee on ‘Inquiry and Inclusion’ instead gave the administration plenty of loopholes to regulate both student and faculty speech, including a ‘feedback’ protocol that resembles a community-wide heckler’s veto.”

The article favorably quotes the pessimistic views of Jerry Coyne, a top leader of the New Atheist movement, who asserts it is impossible to reconcile freedom of speech and inclusiveness, and silly to think the Sawicki Report will fix things. “If Mandel and the committee thinks that this policy will quell the discontent of Williams’s woke students when they return this fall,” Coyne writes, “they are sorely mistaken.”

On a positive note, the article report  Coyne was pleased that the committee report dropped an idea floated earlier that would have required each student group to have a faculty advisor who would discuss “the appropriateness of a speaker and its effect on the College community.”

The College Fix interviewed Williams biology professor Luana Majora who indicated she was “relieved” the report was “not as terrible” as she feared it might have been. Maroja told The Fix that she agrees with Coyne’s take “for the most part.” “I thought [the report] would require an ‘advisor’ approval all invited speakers,” as Coyne feared, Maroja wrote in an email. “We will see what the fall brings to us.” Read more

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Sawicki Report, 6

President Maud Mandel has accepted the “recommendations in full” from the final report (pdf) of the Ad Hoc Committee on Inquiry and Inclusion, chaired by Professor Jana Sawicki. Consistent with our prediction from November and following the advice we laid out in February, academic freedom has returned to Williams. See here, here, here and here for related EphBlog discussions. Maud Mandel has now cleaned up Adam Falk’s legacy. Let’s discuss! Day 6.

What follows are many small comments. If you think I should expand this into another week(s) of posts, speak now. Otherwise, this series ends today. It is possible that the free speechers on the Committee would agree with many of these but were forced by committee dynamics to pull their punches in order to reach consensus on the AAUP/PEN standards. If so, I withdraw my criticism.

1) Including PEN as part of the discussion with AAUP was a mistake. AAUP is, by far, the most important US organization concerned with academic freedom. It will be fighting this fight, and on the right side, 100 years from now. Will PEN? I have my doubts.

2) Why was PEN’s work so prominent in the Report? Presumably because committee member Eli Miller ’21 worked there last summer. Or maybe Miller was picked because his work at PEN suggested he would be a free-speecher?

3) Note how often the Report references and quotes from the College’s ​2017 Accreditation Self-Study (pdf). Key line: “Williams starts from a presumption of absolute intellectual and academic freedom as one of our foundational values.” Who put that there? And was it intended to set the stage for the repudiation of Falk’s decision? If so, well played Steve Fix!

4) I appreciate that the Report includes an extensive appendix. Future historians will thank you! But that makes it all the more desirable/possible that the main body of the Report be concise. Put all the extra stuff — Maud’s charge to the Committee, the list of groups met with — in the appendix.

5) How does a well-written report start?

That is from the Self-Study. I hope that the authors of the forthcoming “statement on expression and inclusion” can be as eloquent.

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Sawicki Report, 5

President Maud Mandel has accepted the “recommendations in full” from the final report (pdf) of the Ad Hoc Committee on Inquiry and Inclusion, chaired by Professor Jana Sawicki. Consistent with our prediction from November and following the advice we laid out in February, academic freedom has returned to Williams. See here, here, here and here for related EphBlog discussions. Maud Mandel has now cleaned up Adam Falk’s legacy. Let’s discuss! Day 5.

This isn’t over until John Derbyshire speaks at Williams.

Consider this a public service message to the Williams administration. I, and the thousands (?) of other Ephs who value academic freedom and “uncomfortable learning” are pleased that Mandel has fixed Falk’s failure. But we are concerned. Has Williams really turned the corner on this disaster? Is the College really committed to this old/new policy? We hope so. But we can’t be sure until the policy is tested, until John Derbyshire, or someone just as “extreme” comes to Williams.

Why? Because I don’t want to fight this battle again in five or ten years. I want to ensure the supremacy of academic freedom at Williams for a generation. Some smart observers, like abl, believe that insisting on Derbyshire’s return is more likely than not to hurt the cause of academic freedom at Williams. Perhaps. But I have a more Marine Corps view of the world . . .

John Derbyshire speaking at Williams will shut down the speaker-banners for years. If Derbyshire can come to Williams — and somehow the College continues to thrive — then there is no reason why person X can’t come.

Given that fact — that Derbyshire is coming, one way or another — what should Williams do? Invite him, of course! It is much better that Derbyshire’s speech be organized (and controlled) by Williams than that it occur as a half-assed student-run disaster. There are many options:

1) Invite Derbyshire to give a stand-alone speech, ideally the same speech he was planning to give three years ago. (Derbyshire’s opinions about immigration are among his least problematic.)

2) Arrange a debate, perhaps using the format of the old Williams College Debate Union, between Derbyshire and a member of the Williams faculty, each partnered with a student. If Williams is smart, it would make the topic of the debate be something like: Trump should be re-elected. This will focus the discussion on topics on which Derbyshire’s opinions are positively mainstream. (A majority of white Americans will probably vote for Trump.)

3) Schedule a week-long conference on a broad topic, like “American Populism,” perhaps looking to Darel Paul’s course PSCI 360 Right-Wing Populism for guidance on topics and speakers. Derbyshire would speak, but he would just be one voice among many. There would be just as many critics of populism as supporters.

Again, it is not for me to pick the format. My only promise is that Derbyshire is coming to Williams, one way or the other. Better that the College embrace this latest bit of uncomfortable learning. Make Gaudino proud!

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Sawicki Report, 4

President Maud Mandel has accepted the “recommendations in full” from the final report (pdf) of the Ad Hoc Committee on Inquiry and Inclusion, chaired by Professor Jana Sawicki. Consistent with our prediction from November and following the advice we laid out in February, academic freedom has returned to Williams. See here, here, here and here for related EphBlog discussions. Maud Mandel has now cleaned up Adam Falk’s legacy. Let’s discuss! Day 4.

One key message from the Sawicki Report: The kids are not alright. From the student survey:

20% supported speaker disinvitation

22% consider themselves or others to be disrespected or hurt when certainoutside speakers are brought to campus

19% responded that, by inviting a speaker to campus, Williams is implicitlyagreeing with that speaker’s beliefs.

It gets worse:

Is nonsense like “foolish white liberal thought” the result of poor high school educations or the fault of poisoning from social justice left Williams professors?

Maud makes the point that students today are different than students 30, perhaps even 10, years ago. They are much less committed to academic freedom. True! And shouldn’t that make us worried, both for the future of Williams and the future of the West? How long before we lose the traditional rights of every Englishman?

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Sawicki Report, 3

President Maud Mandel has accepted the “recommendations in full” from the final report (pdf) of the Ad Hoc Committee on Inquiry and Inclusion, chaired by Professor Jana Sawicki. Consistent with our prediction from November and following the advice we laid out in February, academic freedom has returned to Williams. See here, here, here and here for related EphBlog discussions. Maud Mandel has now cleaned up Adam Falk’s legacy. Let’s discuss! Day 3.

The smartest thing that the Committee did was to pretend that there wasn’t a problem:

Very clever! But also a little dishonest . . .

The “official policy” at Williams for the last three years is that the Williams President reserves the right to ban speakers. Then-President Adam Falk began this disaster in 2016 with:

We [Williams College] have said we wouldn’t cancel speakers or prevent the expression of views except in the most extreme circumstances. In other words: There’s a line somewhere, but in our history of hosting events and speeches of all kinds, we hadn’t yet found it. We’ve found the line.

Then-Interim-President Tiku Majumder re-affirmed this policy in 2018 — just last year! — insisting that Williams would ban speakers who “provide no benefit in moving forward the conversation we are interested in fostering.”

This policy, consistent over the last two Williams presidencies, was never changed. Sawicki et al (conveniently!) pretend that it has changed or (even better?) pretend that it never existed in the first place. “Majumder” does not appear in the 75 (!) page Report. The body of the Report mentions Falk exactly once, never quotes him and fails to provide a single citation to anything he said or wrote.

Falk was airbrushed out of the history of free speech at Williams. And that was pretty clever! Why bother meeting your intellectual opponents on the field of battle when you can just pretend they don’t exist? Declare victory and move on.

Again, given its goals, this was a politically adroit decision by the Committee. But I would still like to see the College have a wide open discussion. How about a debate between Majumder and Shanks? How about inviting Falk back to campus?

That is what Gaudino would do . . .

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Sawicki Report, 2

President Maud Mandel has accepted the “recommendations in full” from the final report (pdf) of the Ad Hoc Committee on Inquiry and Inclusion, chaired by Professor Jana Sawicki. Consistent with our prediction from November and following the advice we laid out in February, academic freedom has returned to Williams. See here, here, here and here for related EphBlog discussions. Maud Mandel has now cleaned up Adam Falk’s legacy. Let’s discuss! Day 2.

The two biggest failures of the report — given their recommendation that Williams, in essence, adopt the Chicago Principles — were to not discuss a) Mark Hopkins’ decision to ban Ralph Waldo Emerson from speaking on campus, and b) Robert Gaudino’s claims about the importance of “uncomfortable learning.”

1) The Report, while well-written in places, was disjointed, clearly the result of a committee, perhaps a committee which was not as united as it ought to have been. A better chair than Sawicki might have recognized this and used her power as chair to, at least, write an Introduction which told the story of Mark Hopkins and Ralpha Waldo Emerson.

That is from page 162 of ​Mark Hopkins and the Log by Professor Frederick Rudolph ’39. The Report cites this book, but did anyone actually read it? I have my doubts. How about?

Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of the most important thinkers of the 19th century, was banned from speaking at Williams in November 1865, by Mark Hopkins, legendary president and occupant of one half of the proverbial Log. For more than 150 years afterwards, Williams upheld the highest standards of academic freedom, never banning a book, an idea or a speaker. Are we a College which bans or are we not?

OK, OK. This is not so good. But it isn’t bad! And the basic idea — that a well-written description of the most important example of speaker-banning in Williams history is the best way to start the Report — is spot on. Indeed, whatever committee is charged with writing “a statement on expression and inclusion” should steal this idea. You’re welcome!

2) Robert Gaudino is the one of the most important faculty members of the last 100 years. But don’t believe me! Recall Adam Falk’s (?!) Induction Address:

Liberal education strengthens the mind and spirit so that a human being may more fully engage the world. Since Mark Hopkins’ time a string of Williams educators has further developed this idea. In the middle of the last century Professor Robert Gaudino pushed his charges to learn uncomfortably, in India, in rural America, in situations within the classroom and without that challenged the safe and familiar worlds they’d brought with them. If Mark Hopkins was the first professor to ask his students, “What do you think?” then Gaudino and others, including faculty of today, have raised the asking of that question, with all its implicit challenge, to a form of art.

Our faculty walk in the footsteps of Hopkins, Gaudino, and so many others.

Falk recognized, correctly, that Gaudino was one of the most important figures in recent Williams history, second only to Mark Hopkins in his influence on how Ephs think about themselves and about the education they receive. Gaudino’s notion of “uncomfortable learning” is central to the debate about free speech. This excellent article (pdf) from the Alumni Review provides a sense of what Robert Gaudino would do if a controversial speaker were invited to campus.

gaud1

And yet the Committee seemed not to know about this! There are no (meaningful) mentions of Robert Gaudino in the report, no acknowledgment that the very name of the student group — “Uncomfortable Learning” — that invited Derbyshire was a direct reference to his vision of a Williams liberal arts education.

What a missed opportunity!

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Jerry Coyne is a Fool

My co-blogger JCD approvingly quotes from this pile of nonsense from University of Chicago Professor Jerry Coyne. Sadly, our new experiment means that I can’t comment on JCD’s post. So, I need to post here.

Note that Coyne and I are on the same side of the barricade when it comes to free speech at Williams and Chicago. Yet his comments are too ignorant to let stand.

The committee’s statement does not constitute a policy.

This is simply false, as I explained in detail this morning. Williams has accepted the AAUP/PEN recommendation of allowing any Williams student/professor to invite any speaker. Admittedly, there is plenty of turgid prose and SJW verbosity in much of the report but such sins do not provide Coyne with free rein to mislead his readers.

Associate Professor of Biology Luana Maroja wrote a post calling for Williams to adopt the Chicago Principles of Free Expression, which have already been endorsed by 64 American colleges and universities.

This is highly misleading. I realize that Chicagoans, like Coyne, think that their “Principles” are super-duper cool but — News Flash! — schools believed in academic freedom before the Chicago faculty whipped up a poorly worded statement in 2014. Trying to claim credit for changing/strengthening/affecting the views of every other school is nonsense. The list that Coyne links to includes Amherst, and yet a search of the Amherst website reveals zero hits for “Chicago Principles”. How can then be if Amherst has “endorsed” it? Answer: It hasn’t! Amherst has its own statement. In fact, its statement references the AAUP, just like Williams’.

On some dimensions, it is a small thing for Coyne to not know which schools have approved the Chicago Principles and which have not. But he is holding himself out as someone with a clue about this topic, someone qualified to opine on what is happening at Williams. He isn’t.

The 13-person committee appointed by Mandel included just five faculty, as well as four undergraduates, a rabbi, a librarian, a staff therapist, and, bizarrely, the director of the 50th reunion program.

Don’t you just love Coyne’s snottiness? Jerry Coyne is an intellectual, a man with ideas. Mark Roberston ’02 (the director of the 50th reunion program) is a . . . what, exactly?

I happen to know Mark. He is every bit as smart, every bit as thoughtful as Coyne (appears) to (sometimes) be. In fact, I would much more trust Mark to get the facts correct. Coyne is, at least in this post, absurdly sloppy.

But the report isn’t great, as it simply won’t unqualifiedly endorse the Chicago Principles.

As if the Chicago Principles are so wonderful? As if the first page of ass-kissing quotes of former/current Chicago Presidents isn’t an embarrassment? Consider:

What folderol! What would it even mean to “endorse” such trivialities? Think that I am cherry-picking the worst paragraph in a two (!) page report? How about:

Of course, College presidents spout a lot of feel-good nonsense. It is a part of the job. But for Coyne to pretend that the “Chicago Principles of Free Expression” are some sort of magical tablet, brought down from the Mountain by the intellectual giants on the Chicago Faculty is just absurd. Mark Roberts ’02, despite (because of?!) his lack of a Ph.D., could come up with something much more impressive.

There are another half-dozen mistakes/misunderstandings/stupidities in Coyne’s post. Shall I go through them? Let me know!

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Fatal Flaw

CHICAGO – The distinguished free speech absolutist, Jerry Coyne of the University of Chicago, has reviewed the Sawicki Report and found it disappointing. To be more precise, he calls it “lame” and labels it “long and turgid.”

The only thing Coyne likes about the report is it dropped the suggestion floated earlier by Jana Sawicki at Inside Higher Education that each student group should have a faculty adviser who would “…talk with the club members about whether they’d thought through how the speaker’s views would affect their peers.”

Ultimately, Coyne asserts it is impossible to combine freedom of speech with inclusion and diversity.

Setting an example of simplicity and grace, Coyne introduces his article with a short and easy to understand summary of the Sawicki Report and its most significant and fatal flaw. “The committee’s statement does not constitute a policy,” he writes. “…it’s a farrago of good intentions and desires to balance free speech with diversity and inclusion. But it offers no guidelines about what speech is to be seen as “hate speech” that threatens “dignitary safety” and therefore subject to institutional action.”

Fans of Ephblog will note that Jerry Coyne quotes liberally from my recent Ephblog article accessing the Sawicki Report. As you may know, Jerry Coyne is a prominent “New Atheist” along with Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. Reportedly, Coyne’s Why Evolution is True blogsite has over 50,000 e-mail subscribers.

John C. Drew, Ph.D., is a former Williams College professor. He contributes to American Thinker, Breitbart, Campus Reform, The College Fix, and WorldNetDaily. He has been an Ephblog regular since 2010.

 

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Sawicki Report, 1

President Maud Mandel has accepted the “recommendations in full” from the final report (pdf) of the Ad Hoc Committee on Inquiry and Inclusion, chaired by Professor Jana Sawicki. Consistent with our prediction from November and following the advice we laid out in February, academic freedom has returned to Williams. See here, here, here and here for related EphBlog discussions. Maud Mandel has now cleaned up Adam Falk’s legacy. Let’s discuss! Day 1.

I agree with 90% of the report. Read it and you’ll know what I think. But that’s not why you come to EphBlog! What follows are all the usual quibbles, complaints, idle speculations and endzone dances . . .

The Sawicki Report recommends that Williams “[a]dhere to policies and principles regarding campus speakers articulated by AAUP and PEN America.” This is the most (only?) important recommendation. Once you have tied your policies to the free speech absolutists at AAUP and PEN, everything else is boring details.

May I take a victory lap?

1) Maud has done exactly what I advised Falk to do three years ago:

Smart presidents use committees! With luck, Falk has already learned that lesson in the debate over the log mural. He should follow the same strategy in dealing with free speech. Create a “Committee on Freedom of Expression at Williams.” Appoint a cross-section of faculty/students/alumni, but with a sotto voce emphasis on free speech. Charge the Committee with reviewing the history of free speech debates at Williams, meeting with members of the College community, and recommending policy going forward. Best person to put in charge? Philosophy Professor Joe Cruz ’91.

This is precisely what Maud did, although she used a different professor of philosophy (Sawicki instead of Cruz) and a different committee name. (The key sotto voce free speechers on the committee were Strauch, Shanks and (maybe?) Nelson and Sawicki herself.)

2) I predicted this outcome last fall. Maud wanted to move Williams back to free speech. She followed EphBlog’s advice — actually the same advice would have been given by any knowledgeable observer of elite education — and, unsurprisingly, succeeded. Well done!

3) Kudos to abl who wrote:

If I were trying to engineer a committee to achieve my desired result, I would stack it with faculty members who I know agree with my position and students who don’t (but aren’t so entrenched to be unpersuadable–like students who have signed the petition but not taken more of a public role in the issue), and hope to get to a “bipartisan” proposal that relies on persuading the students in question.

Which is exactly what happened. (I was, incorrectly, much less sanguine about the Committee’s likelihood of success.) Although student members Michael Crisci ’21 and Rachel Porter ’21 had signed the student/alumni position against the Chicago Principles, Shanks/Strauch/others were able to bring them around.

4) Note that reliance on AAUP, first (?) suggested by EphBlog in February.

The best way to solve the controversy over “free speech” (and controversial speakers) at Williams is to reframe the discussion around one of our core values: academic freedom.

First, every Williams faculty member will agree that every Williams professor deserves untrammeled “academic freedom.”

Second, every Williams faculty member will agree that the best definer and defender of “academic freedom” is the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

Academic Freedom -> AAUP -> All Invited Speakers Welcome

And so on. Did Sawicki get this idea from EphBlog? I don’t know. Great minds think alike, after all. But I did send it in via the Committee’s handy submission form . . . and note this line from the Report:

Given that no one has written more words, read by more students/alumni/faculty, about free speech at Williams over the last three years, at least one footnote to EphBlog would have been nice. But we will take what we can get!

4) Apologies for the navel-celebration. But this has worked out exactly how we wanted, in exactly the manner we forecast.

And that is why — I hope! — you read EpgBlog . . .

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