Uncomfortable Learning

One of the most concerning trends on college campuses over the last several decades has been the increasing monopoly over academic culture by an orthodox ideology. Although all collegiate institutions are vulnerable to this, the absence of intellectual diversity is felt particularly strongly at small, liberal arts colleges. The rise of one-sided, partisan thought has ultimately drowned out reasoned discussion and suppressed opportunities for conversation of alternate opinions. Professors and students are unwilling to comment on what they see at Williams and across universities due to the current culture that views diversity of thought as a threat.

Uncomfortable Learning was started by Benjamin Fishberg ‘14, David Gaines ’15, and James Hitchcock ‘15  in Winter of 2014 as a guest lecturer series seeking to facilitate further discussion of topics that are often one sidedly supported on campus.  

Contact information

David Gaines: hdg1@williams.edu


Listing of events: date, location, speaker, title. Link to record coverage and YouTube video, if available. Should be in reverse chronological order.

11/20/14: Griffin 6 - “Breaking Apart: How Institutions Splinter” by Robert Jackall

Robert Jackall is a professor of Sociology and Chairman of the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at Williams College. He is the author of the 1988 book Moral Mazes, which documents an investigation into the world of corporate managers in the United States. It was named the "Most Outstanding Business and Management Book" of 1988 by the Association of American Publishers

Attendance: 30

11/12/14: Paresky Auditorium - “Between Massacre and Statehood: The Future of Palestine” by Norman Finklestein

Norman Gary Finkelstein is an American political scientist,activist, professor, and author. His primary fields of research are the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and the politics of the Holocaust, an interest motivated by the experiences of his parents who were Jewish Holocaust survivors. He is a graduate of Binghamton University and received his Ph.D in Political Science from Princeton University. He has held faculty positions at Brooklyn College, Rutgers University, Hunter College, New York University, and, most recently, DePaul University, where he was an assistant professor from 2001 to 2007.

Attendance: 60

10/9/14: Paresky Auditorium - “Affirmative Action: Does It Do More Harm Than Good?” by Richard Sander

Richard Sander has been working on questions of social and economic inequality for nearly all of his career.  He was born in Washington, D.C., but spent most of his childhood in small towns in northwest Indiana.  After earning a B.A. in Social Studies at Harvard, Sander in 1978 joined the federal Vista program and worked for a small neighborhood housing group on Chicago's south side.  While organizing tenant unions and building receiverships, he was deeply impressed with the work of the South Shore Bank, an experimental, community-development bank owned by churches and foundations.  Sander secured funding from three federal agencies and, with the Woodstock Institute, completed the first detailed study of the bank.  South Shore Bank was widely imitated as an instrument for community revitalization in other urban areas over the next two decades. In 2004, Sander published a comprehensive study of affirmative action in American law schools, focusing particularly on the ways in which large preferences imposed unexpected but substantial costs on their intended beneficiaries.

Attendance: 50

10/2/14: Wege Auditorium - “The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word: The N-Word” by Randall Kennedy

Randall Kennedy is an American Law professor and author at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is the Michael R. Klein Professor of Law and focuses his research on the intersection of racial conflict and legal institutions in American life. He supervises written work and accepts press inquiries regarding the topics of contracts,freedom of expression, race relations law, civil rights legislation, and the Supreme Court. Kennedy has written five books: Interracial Intimacies: Sex, Marriage, Identity and Adoption; Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word; Race, Crime, and the Law; Sellout: The Politics of Racial Betrayal and The Persistence of the Color Line.

Attendance: 100

Link to Record Article: http://williamsrecord.com/2014/10/08/kennedy-lectures-on-the-history-of-the-n-word/

9/19/14: Paresky Auditorium - “Are Asian Students Discriminated Against?” by Ron Unz

Ron Keeva Unz is a former businessman and political activist, best known for an unsuccessful race in 1994 for the governorship of California, and for sponsoring propositions promoting structured English immersion education. He was publisher of The American Conservative from March 2007 to August 2013.

Attendance: 40

4/29: Paresky Auditorium - “How Washington Works, but for the wrong people” by Michael Needham

Mike Needham is the Chief Executive Officer for Heritage Action for America. He is responsible for setting the strategy and vision of Heritage Action, ensuring it advances the mission of The Heritage Foundation while building it into a permanent presence in Washington. He also oversees all policy decisions that hold Members of Congress accountable. He appears regularly television, including Fox News, CNN, CNBC, MSNBC and CBS. Prior to his role at Heritage Action, Mike served in four different roles at The Heritage Foundation, including Chief of Staff, advisor to the President, and a director in The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies.

Link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07ETgqKWUoU

Attendance: 50

4/24: Griffin 3 - “The Tyranny of Cliches: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas.” by Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is an American conservative syndicated columnist and author. Goldberg is known for his contributions on politics and culture to National Review Online, of which he is editor-at-large. He is the author of Liberal Fascism (2008), which reached #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list. He appears on such television programs as Special Report with Bret Baier, Good Morning America, Nightline, Hardball with Chris Matthews, Real Time with Bill Maher, Larry King Live, Your World with Neil Cavuto and most recently the Glenn Beck Program and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Attendance: 60

Link to Record Article:


Jonah Goldberg National Review Article: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/376580/america-eats-itself-jonah-goldberg

4/21: Wege Auditorium - “The Battle for Free Speech” by Greg Lukianoff

Greg Lukianoff is the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). He previously served as FIRE's first director of legal and public advocacy until he was appointed president in 2006. A graduate of American University and Stanford Law School, he has described himself as a "pro-choice liberal”. Lukianoff has published articles in the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, and the New York Post. He is a blogger for the Huffington Post and served as a regular columnist for the Daily Journal of Los Angeles and San Francisco. Along with Harvey A. Silverglate and David French, Lukianoff is a co-author of FIRE's Guide to Free Speech on Campus. He testified before the United States Congress on the state of free speech on college campuses.

Attendance: 40

Link to video: https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=greg%20lukianoff%20williams%20college

4/17: Physics 202 - “The War on Work” by Richard Vedder

Richard K. Vedder is an American economist, historian, author, columnist, and currently distinguished professor of economics emeritus at Ohio University and senior fellow at The Independent Institute. Vedder serves as an Adjunct Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a think tank known for mostly libertarian and conservative perspectives. He has served as an economist with Congress' Joint Economic Committee. In his role with the AEI, he later testified before the Committee on October 30, 2008. He is also director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity in Washington, D.C.        

Attendance: 50

Link to Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51mmGmMu2k8