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Good News? Mandel Opposes Personal Attacks

I had a chance to review Maud’s response to CARE Now. I didn’t notice much that was new or unusual in it. As best I can tell, she is trying to quell the protesters by dumping tons of disorganized facts on them regarding every little thing the school does, substantively or symbolically, to meet their professed demands.

The good news, I suppose, is she won’t be handing the school and its vast resources over to what’s left of the Mohican Nation.

One of the themes that did catch my attention was her willingness to rebuke those who wage vicious personal attacks on their political opponents. I have no doubt she followed up on this theme in reaction to the substantial visibility of the anti-white bigotry displayed by CARE Now leaders at the April 9, 2019 College Council meeting.

As to the issue of engagement across difference, this has also been a year in which people tried to make their views known to each other on a range of complex issues, from free speech to racism to geopolitics. Such debates are always happening at schools like Williams, and should happen: it’s one of the hallmarks of the liberal arts that we’re constantly exploring and testing new ideas and relating them to what we see in the world. But changes in our political environment are making it feel like the stakes for such debates are now especially high. It’s clear that we need to do more to teach and uphold principles for such engagements, so that people can debate issues vigorously without devolving into personal attacks.

As far as I know, this is her first presidential message which comes out against personal attacks. Her comments go so far as to assert that unless this changes the school will be in great trouble. This, I take it, means Williams College will become another Evergreen State University. She writes:

I believe deeply in the importance of process and consensus-building in a campus community. To reach our shared goals, we must exchange ideas, agree and disagree, and come to a common understanding of how to move the institution forward, one step at a time. I’m committed to this effort and hope that the many members of our community will join me in articulating and living these principles.

With such principles in place for a robust, respectful and inclusive intellectual community, Williams will thrive. Without them, we’re unlikely to progress on any other work, no matter how important.

She has a point. I don’t see how you can operate a modern college if you allow it to be the scene of nearly constant, unabated, anti-white bigotry.

Nevertheless, Maud does come to the defense of the student activists on the topic of affinity housing. Conservative media outlets have pointed out that the demand for black affinity housing is basically a request for segregation. It is a demand, I assume, that would not be considered if white students asked for white only housing. She adds:

We do want to pause and recognize that, at the time of writing, some students involved in the affinity housing and other efforts are being subjected to unduly harsh media and social media attention that misrepresents affinity housing as “segregation.”

In this instance, I believe she is referring, primarily to criticism of the idea of affinity housing offered by conservative news outlets including Breitbart and The College Fix.

As she mentions above, the issues being addressed on campus are heightened because the stakes are higher now. One of the changes in our political environment that is making the stakes higher is conservative students on campus now have outlets like Breitbart, The College Fix, and Campus Watch which they can rely on to bring national attention to the way conservative students and faculty are facing discrimination and suppression at places like Williams College.

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