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No Barbeque for You

Williams College graduate, Eliza Klein ’19, has been called out by Canary Mission who claims she “…has defended terrorists, supported a violent agitator and promoted the #returnthebirthright campaign calling on American Jews to boycott the Birthright Jewish heritage tour.” In a recent Tweet, Canary Mission criticizes her for a 2017 incident in which they say Klein harassed Jewish students who hosted a kosher barbeque,

On May 3, 2017, Klein wrote in the Williams college student newspaper: “By disrupting the barbeque, by writing this op-ed and by speaking out against the occupation of Palestine, we hope to destabilize the normalcy and legitimacy of supporting Israel.”

Readers of Ephblog may recognize Eliza as the student leader of Students for Justice in Palestine a recognized student organization with the faculty/staff advisor Shanti Singham, a Professor of History and Africana Studies, Emerita.

As a student at Williams, Eliza opposed efforts to bring the Chicago Principles to campus.

She also supported the efforts of the College Council to bar the Williams Initiative for Israel (WIFI) from becoming a recognized student organization. This decision sparked a strong rebuke from president Maud Mandel and a successful complaint to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. Currently, Williams College is being held accountable by the federal government so that it does a better job of protecting WIFI and following Title IV law and regulations.

By all accounts, Eliza was rewarded for her behavior as a student at Williams College. She is the 2019 winner of the Davis Center’s Senior Social Justice Advocate Award.

John C. Drew, Ph.D., is a former Williams College professor. He received the William Anderson Award from the American Political Science Association for the best doctoral dissertation in the nation in his field in 1989. He contributes to American Thinker, Breitbart, Campus Reform, The College Fix, and WorldNetDaily. 

 

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Short Leash

U.S. Department of Education to avoid an investigation into the manner in which the College council rejected a new pro-Israel group, Williams Initiative for Israel (WIFI), in April 2019. JNS reports:

“This Agreement contains no findings of fact, does not constitute an admission of liability on the part of the College, and does not represent a determination by OCR that the college has violated Title VI or its implementing regulations or otherwise engaged in any discriminatory conduct,” stated the agreement, obtained by JNS.

The Massachusetts school pledged that WIFI will be “afforded the same rights and privileges as registered student groups approved by the College Council,” and that it will treat the student organization “in a nondiscriminatory manner” in that the student government evaluates “WIFI requests for and provide financial assistance and other benefits” as such.

The school must submit documentation to demonstrate that it is complying with the “same rights and privileges” clause by Nov. 1, and subsequently do so in 2020 by Feb. 1, June 1 and Nov. 1.

By June 1, 2020, Williams must submit documentation showing that it is complying with the clause that the student government evaluates WIFI financial assistance and other requests in a nondiscriminatory manner.

Reviewing what we know of the agreement that Maud signed, it appears to me that the school was in no hurry to dispute the complaint that it had violated Title VI law and that it was okay living under a temporary period of intensive federal scrutiny in order to bring this matter to a close. Will this be enough to protect WIFI students? It seems unlikely that additional federal accountability will be enough to protect the pro-Israel students who have been the targets of on campus hostility at least as far back as April 2017.

All in all, it will be an entertaining spectacle. I’m looking forward to seeing how Maud will bring the aggressively anti-WIFI College Council into compliance with the new federal accountability measures. Where’s my lawn chair and my kosher barbeque?

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Bullet Dodged

WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – According to a report in the Jewish Journal, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has decided that the school did not violate Title IV when the College Council denied recognized student organization status to WIFI. Nevertheless, the OCR has created a number of stipulations which the college will need to follow moving forward according to Williams College Director of Media Relations Greg Shook.

As far as I can tell, the new stipulations will reduce the power and independence of the College Council. In particular,

“Williams will ensure that College Council, first, affords WIFI the same rights and privileges as any other Council-approved RSO; and, second, evaluates WIFI’s future requests for financial assistance and other benefits fairly, and allocates resources in a nondiscriminatory manner,” Shook said. “OCR provided helpful advice to develop this resolution and plan, and we’re grateful for their partnership.”

The Jewish Journal reports a statement from StandWithUs Legal Department Director Yael Lerman who said, “StandWithUs thanks the Office of Civil Rights for taking the time to investigate the Williams College matter and take allegations of anti-Semitism seriously. We appreciate that OCR is looking into protecting Jewish students facing discrimination. We hope that this will be a deterrent to those looking to spread hatred and misinformation against Jews and pro-Israel students.”

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Both Sides Now

The Berkshire Eagle has published an opinion piece by Joseph Moore ’20, one of the students who led the effort to deny WIFI equal status as a recognized student organization (RSO). He is a comparative literature major from Stroudsburg, PN.

Joseph Moore: It wasn’t WIFI that was denied free speech

The gist of his article is that anti-WIFI activists were unquestionably right in seeking to discriminate against WIFI because it was supporting “literal crimes against humanity.”

Moreover, the real problem now has nothing to do with the fact that the school is in danger of losing its federal funding. For Joseph, the real problem is how the nation-wide, nearly unanimous blow back from center-left news outlets and right-wingers has made anti-WIFI activists reticent to promote further discrimination against WIFI.

What can I say? Mission accomplished!

 

 

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Beyond the Purple Rubble

There is a lot of media attention focused on the U.S. Department of Education’s investigation of Williams College. Many of the articles are based on the original reporting by The College Fix. Here’s some of the most prominent headlines.

Geller Report: Williams College under federal investigation for discriminating against Jewish students

Newsweek: WILLIAMS COLLEGE INVESTIGATED FOR ALLEGED CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATION AFTER STUDENTS VOTE AGAINST PRO-ISRAEL GROUP

Jewish News Syndicate: US Department of Education studying Williams College for possible discrimination

The Jerusalem Post: AUTHORITIES INVESTIGATE WILLIAMS COLLEGE FOR REJECTION OF PRO-ISRAEL GROUP

Breitbart: Williams College Faces Federal Investigation for Discrimination Against Pro-Israel Student Group

The most interesting comments from the Geller Report are shown after the break.

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Sins of the Students

Jenni Fink at Newsweek has published an article on how the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) initiated an investigation into Williams College after a law professor alerted them to how the College Council discriminated against pro-Israel students.

NEWSWEEK: WILLIAMS COLLEGE INVESTIGATED FOR ALLEGED CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATION AFTER STUDENTS VOTE AGAINST PRO-ISRAEL GROUP

Fink’s story breaks some new ground. First, it appears that this issue is occurring elsewhere too. In April 2019, pro-Israel students hit New York University with a complaint to OCR claiming that school violated Title VI too.

Second, Fink reports on the motivations behind the report. “In my experience,” said David Bernstein, a law professor at George Mason University, “Jewish professionals on campus aren’t sufficiently assertive in such matters, and students have lots of others things on their plate, so I figured that if I didn’t do something, no one would.” Bernstein seems to get the on-campus climate. His observation is consistent with the school’s tepid initial response, seemingly endorsed by Rabbi Wax, that WIFI would enjoy separate and almost equal rights. Bernstein calls the situation “…a pretty open-and-shut case of discrimination.”

Third, Fink’s article describes the procedures involved.  “If OCR finds the organization failed to comply with the law, the first step is to negotiate a voluntary resolution agreement, which outlines specific remedial actions,” she writes. “In the event an organization rejects a resolution agreement, federal financial assistance can be withheld or the case can be referred to the Department of Justice.”

Fourth, Bernstein seems pretty insistent that Williams College acknowledge the gravity of the situation.

Bernstein credited Williams College with taking steps to mitigate the situation, but said it wasn’t solely an issue of poor procedures. He said it went past a “misgovernance problem” and was a problem of anti-Semitism, which required the college’s acknowledgment to alleviate.

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Two Track Attack

Roz Rothstein, the CEO and Co-Founder, StandWithUs sent Maud Mandel a letter dated May 30, 2019 complaining about the school’s two track system for approving student organizations. In Rothstein’s view, the school needs to end the role of the College Council in making these decisions. Without this change of policy the school will be unable to avoid the sort of discrimination which has provoked an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights into Williams’ conduct. Rothstein writes:

We therefore recommend that you take this opportunity to clarify the College’s policy in granting RSO recognition and formally adopt the policy on the Student Life website as the College’s official formal policy. In doing so, you will reduce the likelihood of similar bigotry and discrimination from reoccurring on your campus. Additionally, you will send a clear message to your student leaders that abuse of their power will not be tolerated and will be met with consequences.

So far, it appears that the administration has rejected Rothstein’s recommendation. This at least is what The College Fix is reporting regarding its conversation with Rothstein. The full letter is below the break.
Williams College refuses to change process that led to rejection of pro-Israel group

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Federal Case

According to a report by The College Fix, the U.S. Department of Education is now investigating Williams College over charges it violated anti-discrimination law when the College Council refused to approve WIFI, a pro-Israel student group. The complaint against the college was filed by David Bernstein, a law professor at George Mason University, on May 2, 2019.

Williams College under federal investigation for discriminating against Jewish students

The full text of Bernstein’s complaint appears after the break. As The College Fix reports:

The College Council voted to deny WIFI recognition as an official student organization during a secretive and controversial meeting April 23.

It was not livestreamed as usual, and speakers were not identified by name in the meeting minutes. An April 9 meeting that was livestreamed had drawn national attention because black student activists went on a profanity-laced rant against white students.

According to The Williams Record, WIFI was the first applicant in more than a decade to be rejected despite meeting all required bylaws.

According to a letter that Bernstein received from the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in Boston, he retains “a right to file a private suit in federal court whether or not OCR finds a violation.”

David E. Bernstein, 52, is a law professor at the George Mason University School of Law where he has taught since 1995. He focuses on constitutional history and the admissibility of expert testimony. He is a contributor to the influential conservative legal blog, The Volokh Conspiracy. He is a graduate of Yale Law School, where he was a senior editor of the Yale Law Journal. He took a B.A. degree summa cum laude with honors in History from Brandeis University.

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The Eagle Has Landed

The Berkshire Eagle has published a story on the WIFI free speech conflict. It interviewed some student leaders and broke new ground.

Council members Solly Kasab and Lance Ledet took issue with the discussion and voting process.

“The way the April 23rd meeting was run was ridiculous,” said Kasab, vice president of communications for the council, as well as treasurer of WIFI.

Kasab and Ledet said the way one co-president called on speakers, favoring one side of the discussion, was unfair. And both found it troubling that only three council members spoke during the meeting and that votes were secret.

Ledet termed the decision “absolutely politically motivated” and voted for WIFI to become a club. Ledet sees larger issues as well.

“Regardless of individual beliefs over whether or not WIFI should have become a club, I think everyone can agree that the debate highlighted how unrepresentative College Council is of the broader student body.”

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How Bureaucracy Causes Problems

Below the break is, I think, the last update from Williams about the WIFI situation.

The central lesson for President Mandel is that, if she wants to help out herself and future Williams administrations, the RSO (registered student organization) bureaucracy/forms should be removed. Go back to how things were done prior to 2010. (Thanks Adam Falk!)

Students have rights, organizations do not. If you want to reserve a room, request funding, set up a meeting, then you, as an individual Williams student, have the right to do so. From the College’s point of view, you do not need to be certified as an RSO to do anything. The main reason for this change is that it removes the likely-to-be-abused power from College Council to block the creation of student groups like WIFI.

The College should no more be in the business of certifying that an official student group exists than it certifies that official student romantic relationships exist. Students form groups. Students date. Williams should stay out of both.

If you have something, like the RSO designation, that is likely to be abused and which serves no purpose, then get rid of it. The Williams of (at least!) the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s managed to survive without such nonsense. Go back to the rules of an earlier era.

Nothing prevents the College Council from coming up with its own rules about who it wants to fund and why it wants to fund them. And that is OK! Many groups want money from CC and don’t get it. The College can, at any point, step in and fund any group for any reason.

For those interested in a bit of history:

I was one of the founders of Uncomfortable Learning and can shed some light on that decision. We spent a significant amount of time speaking with the Williams administration before making the decision to operate as an independent group, but one that looked to partner with other groups on campus like the Debate Union.

We made the decision to be independent as if we had registered, the Williams administration would have imposed a set of requirements on Uncomfortable Learning that would have prevented us from accomplishing the goals of UL. UL’s ambition has always been to promote dialogue and encourage people to consider perspectives and arguments that are not common at Williams. Administrators at Williams would have only allowed Uncomfortable Learning to register if UL was run by a 10 to 15-person board made up of many groups on campus. While UL has actively looked to involve other groups on campus, the structure required by the Williams administration would have kneecapped UL from the start. That structure would have just replicated the mindset at Williams while UL was looking to question that very mindset. As we have seen recently, there are people at Williams who react negatively when their world view is questioned, and we could not take the chance of having those people run UL.

During this era, people like Professor Sam Crane were happy to use the College’s rules/bureaucracy to torture unpopular groups like Uncomfortable Learning. That was evil in-and-of-itself. But, perhaps worse, that abuse set the stage for the CC/WIFI disaster. Once you create a process/rules for punishing groups (like UL) whose views you disagree with, don’t be surprised to see that same process/rules turned against groups (like WIFI) with whom you agree.

Background links here, here, here and here.

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K.C. Johnson on WIFI

K.C. Johnson, a former Williams professor, has written a detailed description of the WIFI saga for The Tablet.

Separate and Unequal for Jewish Groups on Campus

He pulls the whole matter together including the chronology. He hits many of the salient points that caught my attention including a truly bizarre Williams Record article, signed by 11 anti-WIFI activists, saying “The state of Israel does not need a student group defending its ‘right to exist’ on this campus any more than we need to ‘defend’ the rights of wealthy, straight white men.” What?!

K.C. moves the narrative forward when he dissects some of the key arguments made before the College Council. He writes,

Though constricting the spectrum of acceptable positions on Israel would seem to undermine principles of free speech, a WIFI critic explained otherwise. “It’s really important,” he reasoned, “for us all to take a moment to just think about what ‘free speech’ and ‘democracy’ actually means.” Two sides should present “clashing free ideas,” after which the council should “vote in what we think are the best ideas and for us to vote out what we think are ideas we think are worthy of being discarded.” Defining free speech as tyranny of the majority is a mainstream view on too many contemporary campuses.

K.C. Johnson expresses gratitude for the way Maud eventually went all out to protect and fully fund WIFI. Nevertheless, he sees this as a national-level conflict which will continue to worry us.

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Maud Reverses CC’s WIFI Decision

WILLIAMSTOWN – Maud Mandel has formally recognized Williams Initiative for Israel (WIFI) according to an addendum to an existing article at Forbes.com. Moving forward, WIFI will hold the status of a recognized student organization (RSO). Forbes reports staff identified an alternative pathway for recognizing WIFI which involved a team of administrators and a single representative from the Williams College Council.

This action took place after Maud’s initial, tepid response which said WIFI would receive almost the same advantages as RSOs on campus. It was foreshadowed by a stronger, revised presidential statement which asserted WIFI would be receiving all benefits given to RSOs and that it would be treated equally. The statement from the Williams College Director of Media Relations appears after the break.

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Junior Fascist League

At the Boston Herald, Jeff Robbins has added his voice to the recent condemnation of the College Council. He breaks some new ground by pointing out the arguments some students made against approving WIFI met standard, internationally recognized definitions of anti-Semitism.

Under President Barack Obama, the U.S. State Department had promulgated definitions of anti-Semitism that included “the delegitimization of Israel,” including “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination and denying Israel the right to exist.” The Obama administration joined 30 other nations in issuing the Stockholm Declaration, which included within the definition of anti-Semitism, “claiming that the existence of the State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

Robbins isn’t shy about unleashing his judgement on the College Council. “In blocking pro-Israel students from having their own voice on campus, the Williams College Council has conducted itself more like the Junior Fascist League than the progressives they ardently believe themselves to be.”

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WINK Requests RSO Status

I just noticed this terrific tweet from the observant ex-Williams professor KC Johnson. Two new student organizations are being promoted through on-campus advertising – Williams Initiative for North Korea (WINK) and the Williams Initiative for Saudi Arabia (WIFSA). My prediction? Heads will roll.

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Maud Rescues WIFI

According to The College Fix, President Maud Mandel has toughened up her statement regarding the status of Williams Initiative for Israel (WIFI). Now, she refers to the benefits available to WIFI as “all” instead of “most.”

This was not the only difference.

Original

Even without CC approval, WIFI or any other non-CC organization can still access most services available to student groups, including use of college spaces for meetings and events.

Revised

Even without CC approval, WIFI or any other non-CC organization can still access all services available to student groups, including use of college spaces for meetings and events, and we are guaranteeing them exactly equal resources.

As I see it, Maud has nullified the College Council’s decision by asserting she will be guaranteeing WIFI “exactly equal resources.” It appears this new language is designed to shield Williams College from a Title VI discrimination charge which might cause it to lose federal funding.

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Coyne to the Rescue

Some of the best commentary about Williams College is now coming from a distinguished scholar, Jerry Coyne, Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago. In  Williams College Melts Down in a Big Way, he takes on three top issues:

  1. Push back from a black female campus safety and security officer, Nancy MacCauley. As far as I can tell, Ms. MacCauley is schooling the CARE Now haters, saying they are way off base regarding their complaints about CSS.
  2. Two leftist professors have an open argument about racism. As Coyne writes, this controversy is actually funny because of the way the combatants exaggerate the severity the kerfuffle. OMG! Two students described it as “egregious faculty-on-faculty aggression.”
  3. Denial of RSO status for WIFI. Here, Coyne, a secular Jew, complains about the tepid defense for WIFI offered by both Maud Mandel and the school’s Jewish Chaplin, Rabbi Seth Wax.

Coyne is trying to be helpful. If the school fails to heed his warnings it will most likely do an armstand dive into a deep pool of the nonsense that is drowning Evergreen State College. Williams College need to listen to him and take a step back from the edge.

 

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Sign to Protect Free Speech

Just noticed a petition circulating on Twitter. It reads as follows:

Sign to Protect Free Speech! The College Council (CC) at Williams College refused to approve a Jewish student group, all in an attempt to censor free speech. We call on the college to overrule the CC’s biased decision. Sign the Petition Here

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Title VI Complaint Form

This is the proper form used to file Title VI complaints.

Notice of Complainant and Interviewee Rights and Privileges

It looks like the crucial issue is whether or not you’ve been treated differently from other people.

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Title VI Violation?

A source passed on this complaint (doc):

I am writing to file a complaint against Williams College for discrimination against Jewish students in violation of Title VI and related Department of Education regulations.

My allegations, supported by an account in the Williams College student newspaper, available here, https://williamsrecord.com/2019/05/cc-rejects-williams-initiative-for-israel/ are as follows:

Williams College is an institution of higher education that receives federal funds, and is subject to Title VI.

Williams College has a student government known as the College Council (hereinafter, CC).

As an official arm of the college, actions by the CC are covered by Title VI.

And so on.

1) Any lawyers prepared to opine?

2) Am I correct that Ken Marcus ’88, the Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights, is the official to which this complaint will ultimately flow? If so, is that connection good or bad for Williams?

It might be good in that Ken is well-disposed toward Williams and won’t want to see us embarrassed. If you agree with CC’s decision, it might be bad because Ken is someone who is highly unlikely to be sympathetic to CC.

This complaint might be very good if you are Maud Mandel. You now have the perfect excuse! Just say, “On advice of counsel, and with respect to the Title VI complaint, Williams has decided to remove student organization recognition authority from College Council. All student groups will, henceforth, be recognized, or not, by Williams itself.” Problem solved!

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