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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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Where’s the Violence?

The College Fix has locked on to the Green/Love Black Joy controversy in an article published on February 18, 2019, titled “Black queer professors suddenly cancel their courses at elite college because of ‘microaggressions’

The focus of Greg Piper’s report is that Dr. Kai M. Green and Dr. Kimberly Love have massively inconvenienced their students and colleagues through the last minute cancellation of their Spring 2019 classes over what appear to be trivial concerns. From my perspective, Piper seems to underestimate the degree to which this controversy is a distraction from the underlying mental health issues which caused Kai M. Green ’07 to go on medical leave. (Kimberly Love has apparently also been placed on medical leave to help support Kai M. Green.)

In Piper’s view, the reasons that Green and Love provide for cancelling their classes seem relatively insubstantial. At best, he reports that they framed their complaints as

Colleague: Can I touch your….?

Answer: NO!

Piper is particularly concerned that neither Green or Love provide much detail regarding the “violent practices” they experience while teaching at Williams College:

Their article is light on specific incidents that bothered them; rather, it says Williams and other colleges “have not made structural changes to create environments in which Black, Brown, disabled, poor, queer people, and our work can thrive. Through various isolating tactics, academic institutions can dull our awareness of the grave conditions under which we are expected to perform.”

They cite one off-campus incident: a tow-truck driver who thought they weren’t “from around here” when he towed their stalled car, asked if they were students, and then called them “ball busters” when they complained that he wouldn’t drive them home, as he’d earlier promised.

Their description of this incident continues for several more paragraphs but does not acknowledge their classism toward the blue-collar worker. They finally suggest they told the account in “two very different ways” but both through a “Black Queer feminist lens.”

The professors, again, share no specific incidents of bias at Williams, other than the vague reference to requested touching. They credit the college for its “commitment and work … in the name of creating and sustaining a more equitable Williams.”

All in all, Piper is dubious about the merits of the complaints these Williams College professors have made about their working conditions. He writes: “Love and another professor, who together identify as “Black Queer Feminists,” are leaving their students high and dry due to abstract harms they claim to have suffered as a result of not being free to “point out the anti-Black, transphobic, xenophobic” environment of the extreme leftist college.”

Key comments on the Piper article include the following wry observations:

If you’re an SJW and you can’t find a safe space at Williams then you’re insane. The problem it seems is that the school allowed her to build her own course program and then got angry when no one signed up for it. Then she went to the college and demanded it be made mandatory or demanded reparations or she simply has a better offer somewhere else. Seriously, I have family members who work there.

Black, Queer, Heavy-set Feminist and a woman suffering from disphoria. What a team.

“Professors”: give everything plox
College: lol no ur batshit insane
“Professors”: microaggressions! transphobia! ur literally hitler

 

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