More lunacy at Williams College: College paper endorses segregated housing, declares that its mission is not reporting, but social justice

The Williams Record, the student newspaper of Williams College, is a reliable source of ludicrous Woke Culture (with a big dose of Perpetual Offense), which would be amusing if it weren’t horrifying. This week, the newspaper is dealing with student demands by a group called CARE (see here) for the kind of perks we’ve seen before: more therapists, free weekend shuttle buses to New York and Boston (this is a new one), more funding of diversity and, especially, “affinity housing,” the new euphemism for “racially segregated housing.” It’s only a matter of time before Williams students, like those at Sarah Lawrence, demand free laundry detergent and softener in the laundry rooms.

I’d be more sympathetic to student demands for better treatment of racial inequities at Williams if I were convinced that there were any. I’ve tried to find them, but all I observe is that minority students are treated not only better than any other college I know of in this country, but better than any other ethnic group. Yet they claim that they are unsafe, that they are in physical danger, that they are victims of Williams’s “institutional violence”. Yet I’ve never been able to find a single instance of “hate crimes” or of bigotry there; what we appear to have is pure Offense Culture—seemingly on the part of every “minoritized” (their term) group. And now the students are demanding “The creation of new enrollment options and teaching fellowships in Native, Trans, Disability, and Fat Studies.” Given that students also demand that this type of course be taught by a member of the stigmatized minority, one wonders if they’ll advertise for a “professor of size”.

But the most odious of the demands, or so I think, is for affinity housing, and that’s the topic of much of the paper’s reporting this week. Of course the Record favors it. Click on the screenshots below to see the articles.

But first, the front-page editorial of the paper is a paradigm of self-flagellation in journalism. The editors have decided that, over the history of the Record, they have not been supportive enough of student movements and demands. That is, they’ve been supportive, but not in the right way, as they’ve failed to support every demand and every tactic of the protestors. Apparently full, unreserved, and uncritical support is essential.

We must do better

For example:

We must face the ways we have failed students who sought, with, in their words, actions and bodies, to make this campus a better place for them and for all members of the community. We have fallen short of our obligation to consistently report on the stories relevant to marginalized members of our community, leading many to feel, justifiably, that the Record does not serve them. Too often, our editorial board has also passed judgment on the validity of campus activism from a privileged position that affirms apathy and passivity, in the process undermining positive change and upholding those in power.

How, exactly, have they failed? By not giving unreserved support to student demands and actions:

The Record in particular has a long history of upholding institutional passivity and the status quo. When students held the hunger strike that ultimately spurring the creation of a Latina/o studies program, the Record published an editorial under the headline, “Strike devalues legitimate goals” (April 27, 1993), writing, “The group is delegitimizing its worthy ideological effort by tying it so closely with unreasonable requests.” On Feb. 29, 2012, the Record published an editorial titled “Working within our means: Examining the College’s curricular priorities,” which opposed the creation of an Asian American studies program and calling into question the utility of such a concentration.

These failures apparently constitute mortal sins, but the Record is resolving to do better, and will do so not by adhering to objective reporting, but by giving complete and unreserved support to whatever minoritized students demand. This is the abnegation of journalistic responsibility in favor of Woke ideology, and it’s scary.  They might as well be penitentes scarifying their backs with barbed whips:

These gaps in reporting remind us that we cannot claim to have served all members of our community in the past, and some may find it difficult to believe that we will do so in the future. We recognize, however, that the only way for us to regain trust with those whom we have inadequately served is to expand our efforts to write, in truth and in fairness, stories that reflect the harms and issues that marginalized students, staff and faculty face at the College.

. . . As we craft editorials as well, we must be mindful not to undermine calls for change with distanced equivocation. Indeed, an endorsement of principles can be offered without any real or material commitment toward bettering campus and indeed can be accompanied by calls for restraint that actually impede progress. Passivity is not a neutral stance nor a helpful one.

No equivocation! Principles must be endorsed wholeheartedly, with no calls for restraint or rational consideration.

This kind of stuff should make any real journalist ill. But those who write for the Record are not journalists but ideologues. The campus has gotten the newspaper it deserves.

This next article, which I won’t summarize in detail, justifies why segregated housing is deemed essential. (Heretofore the Williams administration has refused to implement it, but I think the time is coming.) Apparently other schools like Amherst and Wesleyan have it, but I’m curious why such housing isn’t illegal.

I oppose affinity housing on two grounds: it’s segregation by ethnic groups (usually race), something inimical to bringing people together. Further, “mixed” housing, which most universities have (and for a reason), is a positive force for getting people from different backgrounds to learn about each other. This, at least in the eyes of most liberals, is a good thing, promoting mutual understanding.

The Record does not agree.

On the need for affinity housing

Why segregation is good:

We at the Record wholeheartedly support establishing affinity housing at the College. As a community, we must recognize that the College is a predominantly white institution in which students of color often feel tokenized, both in their residences and more broadly on campus. Establishing affinity housing will not singlehandedly solve this problem, but it will assist in making the College a more welcoming, supportive and safe community for minoritized students.

Some say affinity housing reinforces division, arguing that having minoritized students cluster in one space would be harmful to the broader campus community. We believe, however, that allowing for a space where students can express their identities without fear of tokenization or marginalization will encourage students to exist more freely in the broader campus community, rather than recede from it.

Given the propensity for many ‘minoritized’ students to take classes that attract similar minorities, classes like Africana Studies, Asian Studies, Arabic studies, Jewish studies, and so on (this hardly exhausts the list at Williams), this is not convincing. Further, I see absolutely no evidence that minority students at Williams are tokenized or marginalized. If they were, we would have tangible examples, but even asking for such examples is considered “violence” (see the Areo piece below by Darel Paul, a Williams professor, who documents the woeful lack of evidence for the kind of violence and discrimination claimed by Williams students).

Here’s yet another of the paper’s approbations of affinity housing:

Push for affinity housing builds

The statements below make me wonder if “affinity housing” is not supposed to apply just to African-American students, but to all minorities. Imagine the Balkanization that would ensue! (Emphases are mine.)

Students at the College have articulated a vision for living spaces of affinity around a common identity – including but not limited to race, culture and sexuality – as an antidote to feelings of tokenization and isolation that students say the College’s current housing options fail to address. Students say that they have began conversations on affinity housing last spring with administrators, who say that affinity housing will be a key topic of consideration as the College moves forward in the strategic planning process. A group of students met with administrators on Monday about a current attempt to create an affinity space through the housing lottery.

One of the 12 demands published by Coalition Against Racist Education Now (CARE Now) on Friday requested the establishment of “affinity housing for Black students (and all other marginalized groups).”

Will there be Asian Houses, Jewish houses, Disabled houses, Gay Houses, Fat Houses, and so on? After all, doesn’t every minoritized group deserve to have its own residence to affirm the identity of its members?

The article quotes a a previous piece by a student defending affinity housing, making clear that its goal is support and affirmation of one’s identity:

“Affinity housing would grant students who share an aspect of their identity the opportunity to live together in an intentional community with shared values and goals, allowing these students to feel supported and have their identities affirmed by those who live around them,” [Alia Richardson] wrote.

This is not a recipe for the “inclusiveness” that Williams touts, but for a separation and segregation that will intensity the identity politics already destroying the College.

In the paper’s podcast below, opinions editor Kevin Yang, at 4:15, begins the self-flagellation familiar to students of China’s Cultural Revolution, a view mirrored in the editorial that begins this article. The paper holds itself “complicit in some of these harms that have happened”, but it is wrong on two counts: there are no documented “harms,” and the paper is not complicit.

Darel Paul, professor of political science, wrote an enlightening article about this and similar madness here (or click on screenshot below). Although it deals with other liberal arts colleges similar to Williams (Wesleyan, Evergreen State, and so on), it has several enlightening links to what’s going on at his own school. Paul is clearly disaffected, and the administration should pay attention to his thoughts. More likely, though, Paul will be demonized and ignored for, after all, he’s an Old White Male:

Have a gander at the video in this article. It’s from The College Fix, a right-wing website, but it does show an amazing piece of political theater as angry black students burst into a Williams student council meeting (these things are livestreamed at Willams) and abuses the other students for not appropriating money for blacks-only events at “Previews”, the time when prospective students visit Williams and the college tries to sell itself to them. I’ve watched this video twice, and there’s nothing more telling about the climate at Williams than what happens in it. You needn’t read the article if you don’t like the site, but watch the video embedded in it; the fun begins at 30:02.

Note the deep and abusive anger of the yelling student (unwarranted, in my view), as well as his denigration of free speech. It reminds me of the flack given to Nicholas Christakis at Yale during the Great Halloween Dustup.

The abuse of the student toward other Council members continues for a full 15 minutes, and the members of the council, clearly cowed, reversed their stand on race-specific Previews. They were funded.

This is exactly like the kind of stuff an abusive husband heaps on his wife, and all too often the partners buy it, assuming they’re responsible for bringing on the abuse.

Williams is this year’s Evergreen State College.

New York Times touts tired old Christian theology

Well, this Sunday is Easter, and so it’s time to hear about how and why Jesus died for our sins, and why. Here we have an answer in The New York Times, penned Peter Wehner, a man identified this way:

Peter Wehner (@Peter Wehner) a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, served in the previous three Republican administrations and is a contributing opinion writer, as well as the author of the forthcoming book, “The Death of Politics: How to Heal Our Frayed Republic After Trump.”


The crucifixion and Resurrection, as the central myth of Christianity, have always been a mystery to me, for it seems bizarre that God would have used such a tortuous scenario to convince us of his presence and his love. And I am not all that convinced that there was even a real person on whom the Jesus myth was modeled. But I am as certain as can be that any such person was not divine, was not the son of God/incarnation of God, and was not resurrected.

Yes, the crucifixion and resurrection could be a metaphor for eternal life: something that reassures Christians that this brief span on Earth is not all we have, for Jesus himself, who was part human, did come back to life. But Wehner says that it’s more than this.  It actually happened, and the fact that it happened brings Wehner enduring peace as an “interpretive prism.”

But there’s the rub, for if it’s more than a symbol, and actually happened, then for Wehner there must be evidence for it. He considers himself a skeptical person riddled with doubts, and yet he accepts the whole megillah without doubt.

Yet even if it happened, there are still questions.  Why, if God wanted us to believe and be saved, hasn’t he sent Jesus back to us? After all, he said (in Matthew 16:28): Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.  Did the Son of man come into his kingdom when we weren’t looking?

I won’t belabor this article, which is nothing more than one fervent Christian saying how inspired and moved he is by the death and resurrection of Jesus, but also recounting the same old reasons why it happened. So Wehner trots out the same old explanations. These quotes come directly from his article:

  • “Perhaps the aspect of the crucifixion that is easiest to understand is that according to Christian theology, atonement is the means through which human beings — broken, fallen, sinful — are reconciled to God. The ideal needed to be sacrificed for the non-ideal, the worthy for the unworthy.”
  • “’I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross,’ John Stott, one of the most important Christian evangelists of the last century, wrote in The Cross of Christ. ‘The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as ‘God on the cross.’ In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?’ From the perspective of Christianity, one can question why God allows suffering, but one cannot say God doesn’t understand it. He is not remote, indifferent, untouched or unscarred.”
  • “Scott Dudley, the senior pastor at Bellevue Presbyterian Church in Bellevue, Wash., and a lifelong friend, pointed out to me that on the cross God was reconciling the world to himself — but God was also, perhaps, reconciling himself to the world. The cross is not only God’s way of saying we are not alone in our suffering, but also that God has entered into our suffering through his own suffering. . .What God offers instead is the promise that he is with us in our suffering; that he can bring good out of it (life out of death, forgiveness out of sin); and that one day he will put a stop to it and redeem it. God, Revelation tells us, will make ‘all things new.’ For now, though, we are part of a drama unfolding in a broken world, one in which God chose to become a protagonist.”

But all this blurs the distinction between the cross as a symbol of God as a savior and the cross as something on which a divine Jesus person (aka God) was really crucified. Is it really important that the story actually happened, or is its use as a symbol sufficient? The purpose of Wehner’s article—which, I admit, isn’t really clear to me except as a way to tout his beliefs all over the editorial pages—appears to be that it really happened, and that despite his admitted doubts, he has a “settled belief” that the crucifixion and resurrection were real.

But perhaps I don’t get it, as I’m not a Christian. I can’t get past the question, “If God is loving and powerful, why didn’t he just cut out the middleman and dispense with Jesus, saving people directly? Why go to all the trouble of making himself human and getting himself nailed to a cross?”

Please read the following and tell me what the sweating writer is trying to say. Emphasis below is mine:


Worshiping a God of wounds is a little strange, as my friend said. For some, it is grotesque and contemptible, a bizarre myth, an offense. But for others of us, what happened to Jesus on the cross is profoundly moving and life-altering — not just a historical inflection point, but something that won and keeps winning our hearts. As individuals with wounds, flawed and fallen, we cannot help but return to the foot of the cross.

The most important moment in my faith pilgrimage was when the cross became my interpretive prism. What I mean by this is that I was and remain a person with a skeptical mind and countless questions. There are parts of the Bible I still find puzzling, difficult and troubling. (That is true of many more Christians than you might imagine, and of many more Christians than are willing to admit.)

But I did arrive at a settled belief that whatever the answer to those questions were — answers I’m unlikely to ever discover — I would understand them in the context of the cross, where God showed his enduring love for people in every circumstance and in every season of life. I came to treasure a line from an 18th-century hymn by Isaac Watts that I have replayed in my mind more often than I can count: “Did e’re such love and sorrow meet, Or thorns compose so rich a crown?”

In response to his fictional P.R. person’s claim that using the cross as a symbol for faith would be mad, Malcolm Muggeridge replied: “But it wasn’t mad. It worked for centuries and centuries, bringing out all the creativity in people, all the love and disinterestedness in people, this symbol of suffering. And I think that’s the heart of the thing.”

It is the heart of the thing. Where some see the cross as superstitious foolery or a stumbling block, others see grace and sublime love. For us, the glory and joy of Easter Sunday is only made possible by the anguish of Good Friday.

But it’s still a symbol!

This to me seems close to the populist but naive theology of C. S. Lewis. I always scratch my head when I read this famous passage from C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, perhaps the most popular work of Christian theology ever:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.

I’m going for one of the non-divine explanations: that Jesus, if he did exist (and I’m not at all convinced of that) was an apocalyptic, itinerant, and deluded preacher, i.e., a poached egg. It’s not at all obvious that Jesus wasn’t a lunatic.

In his book Lewis demonstrated, as does Wehner, that it’s only religion that can turn a thoughtful and intellectual person into a babbling, superstition-soaked idiot. And why the New York Times would publish a guy doing garden-variety witnessing for Jesus? What’s new here?


Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader and origami artist Robert Lang (see my post about him here) contributed some lovely photos of birds he saw in the neotropics. His notes are indented:

It has been a while since I sent some Reader’s Wildlife Photos™, but I recently was invited to Panama to talk about my favorite subject (which you’ve seen) and my host took my wife and I on several sight-seeing trips. These images are from a boat trip in the Gamboa Rainforest Reserve, which is on the shores of Gatún Lake, occupying a large part of the Panama Canal.

We first have the Snail Kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis), both females (the males are dark blue-gray). They did not historically live in Panama, but migratory birds have settled around the lake to feast on the snails, which were introduced to feed on the (invasive) water hyacinth.

The long, narrow, and sharply curved beak looks ideal for prying snails out of their shells.

And a different raptor, the Yellow-Headed Caracara (Milvago chimachima):

Next, we have a Limpkin (Aramus guarauna), which also feeds on the snails.

And other shore bird, the Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea). Now that is some serious blue!

The Northern Jacana (Jacana spinosa).

And last, a Flycatcher. I’m not positive, but it looks like the Panamanian Flycatcher (Myiarchus panamensis).

To come later: reptiles and amphibians!

Friday: Hili dialogue

It’s Friday already! To be precise: Friday, April 19, 2019. It’s National Rice Ball Day, a holiday I don’t understand because what good is a rice ball without sushi or something else on top of it? Having just returned from Amsterdam, I’m also pleased to note that it’s Dutch-American Friendship Day, which doesn’t mean that you should befriend Dutch-Americans, but that we are celebrating the amity between our two countries. Wikipedia explains why the holiday occurs today:

. . . [this is] the day in 1782 when John Adams, later to become the second president of the United States, was received by the States General in The Hague and recognized as Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States of America. It was also the day that the house he had purchased at Fluwelen Burgwal 18 in The Hague was to become the first American Embassy in the world.

I bet you didn’t know that about the Embassy.

There are two drakes in the pond this morning; one is Gregory Peck (Honey’s husband), while the other is an interloper.  And it’s Darwin Death Day (see below); the 137th anniversary of the Great Man’s demise.

Lots happened in history today, beginning with the onset of the Lisbon Massacre in 1506, in which hundreds of Jews, blamed for the drought and plague in Portugal at that time, were publicly slaughtered. On this day in 1770 there were two events: Captain James Cook (at that time still a lieutenant), glimpsed the eastern coast of what is now Australia. On the very same day, Marie Antoinette married Louis XVI of France (then the Dauphin) at a “proxy wedding”; the Dauphin wasn’t able to be there and there was a stand-in groom.

On April 19, 1775, the American Revolutionary War began with an American victory at Concord, Massachusetts. And, as noted above, today was the day in 1782 when the Netherlands recognized the U.S. as an independent country. In the Hague, the house of John Adams, who had secured this recognition, became the first American Embassy.  On this day in 1927, Mae West was sentenced to ten days in jail for obscenity in her play Sex. It was a popular hit but a critical failure due to its themes of murder and prostitution, and eventually was forced to close.

Another two events on this day in 1943. In Poland, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began when the remaining, undeported Jews resisted Nazi calls for surrender. The Nazis won, of course, killing 13,000 Jews and wiping out the ghetto. On the same day in Basel, Switzerland, the first deliberate acid trip took place, as Albert Hofmann deliberately took 250 micrograms of the drug three days after having observed its effects on him during research done three days earlier. As Wikipedia notes, “This day is now known as “Bicycle Day”, because [Hoffman] began to feel the effects of the drug as he rode home on a bike.”

On this day in 1956, Prince Rainier of Monaco married actress Grace Kelly, who became the Princess of Monaco, serving until her death in a car accident in 1982. In 1971, Charles Manson was sentenced to death for conspiracy in the Tate-LaBianca murders; his sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment.  On this day in 1987, according to Wikipedia, “The Simpsons first appear as a series of shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show, first starting with Good Night.” Here’s that first episode, which has some neurophilosophy:

On April 19, 1995, the Oklahoma City bombing, perpetrated by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, took place: the explosion of a huge bomb, placed in a truck parked beside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killed 168 people. McVeigh was executed in 2001,  while Nichols is serving life without parole in a Supermax facility in Colorado, living on a cell block called “Bombers Row” along with Ramzi YousefEric Rudolph, and Ted Kaczynski.

On this day in 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope, becoming Benedict XVI. He resigned in 2013 and hasn’t yet gone to his maker. Exactly six years later, Fidel Castro resigned as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba. Finally it was on this day six years ago that Boston Marathon suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police, and his brother Dzhokhar, wounded, was captured hiding inside a covered boat in a backyard in nearby Watertown.

Notables born on this day include Dickie Bird and Jayne Mansfield (both 1933), Elinor “Betty” Donohue (1937), the odious Stanley Fish (1939, 80 today), Ashley Judd (1968), and Kate Hudson (1979, 40 today). Dickie Bird is regarded as one of the greatest and most beloved cricket umpires. He’s still alive at 86, and here’s a film of him remembering his career:

Those who croaked on April 19 include Canaletto (1768), Benjamin Rush (1813), Lord Byron (1824), Charles Darwin (1882), Pierre Curie (1906), William Morton Wheeler (1937), Jim Corbett (1955), Daphne du Maurier (1989), Octavio Paz (1998, Nobel Laureate), evolutionist John Maynard Smith (2004), and Levon Helm (2012).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is mousing down by the Vistula. Malgorzata explains the first line:

Hili’s first line is the title of a book by Józef Mackiewicz (1969). The book was translated into English and published under this title. Your readers probably haven’t heard of it. 

Hili: One is not supposed to speak aloud.
A: Why?
Hili: In order not to startle the mice.
In Polish:
Hili: Nie trzeba głośno mówić.
Ja: Dlaczego?
Hili: Żeby myszy nie płoszyć.

A tweet from reader Barry. It’s well known that lion/tiger hybrids (“ligers” or “tigons”) can be much larger than either parental species. Look at this monster:

In Hawaii, it’s Aloha Friday, as is every Friday. Reader Nilou sent this lovely albatross:

Tweets from Matthew. The first shows that ant-parasitive beetles evolved very quickly after “eusocial” ants evolved. In fact, the imposter “clown beetles” are nearly as old (99 million years) as the oldest ants we know.

Here’s the twitter translation for this beautiful and etiolated bee:

“A parasitic bee visited in the fallen tree of the jungle. It may be parasitic on other insects lurking inside the tree. Beautiful things have a dangerous side..”

Seamus and Bubbles! Such a lovely tale (sound up):

Matthew had to explain this joke to me very carefully until I got it, and even then I didn’t think it was funny!

Tweets from Grania. First up: “The Happy Cement Mixer”:

LOL. I agree!


And a distracted kitteh:

Ceiling Cat bless the Phoenix Fire Department

I doubt the quacking mother here was asking for help rather than just quacking in distress, but that’s not implied. At any rate, these firefighters restore my faith in humanity.

Lagniappe: Another duck rescue, which I believe I’ve posted before, but so what? This one (contributed by Heather Hastie via Ann German) may be in Czechoslovakia. Around the world, we have some really nice Quack Responders.


More words I hate

It’s time for another edition of Words I hate, with the implicit invitation of readers to share words (or phrases) that they find repugnant. I have but two today:

1.) Relatable. Yes, this is in some dictionaries, but it really grates on me for reasons I can’t understand. Perhaps it’s because HuffPo, my bête noire, uses it so frequently, as in the following article (click on screenshot).

2.) Word.  And here I mean the use of this word in a single sentence, as in this entry from the Urban Dictionary:

But I often see an individual using it to praise themselves, meaning “What I just said was awesome, and pay attention to it.” For example, to put a number of things that irritate me in a single sentence, “Beyoncé’s new album from Coachella just dropped, and it’s awesome. Word.”

Have at it. After all, the purpose of this post is to blow off steam. And if you want to say something like “Languages evolves, and this is fine,” please refrain.

Middlebury College cancels another controversial speaker because of “safety concerns”

UPDATE: I have sent this letter to the President, the Dean, and the Provost of Middlebury:

Dear President Patton, Provost Cason, and Dean Taylor,

I was appalled to hear that Middlebury College has canceled a talk by Ryszard Legutko because the safety of the College community could not be guaranteed if he appeared. The report by Inside Higher Education notes that the administration, including at least two of you, helped make this decision.

While I am strongly opposed to the right-wing views of Mr. Legutko, and the increasing conservatism and growing anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant sentiments of Poland (and much of Europe), I value free speech in America, especially as the paramount virtue of a university. Students will not learn how to defend their positions, or think properly, unless they are able to hear all sides of controversial issu. You are surely aware that the University of Chicago has formulated “principles of free expression” defending that idea. This should be a model for Middlebury College and for all colleges and universities.By claiming that you could not guarantee the safety of your community, and canceling a right-wing speaker, you are in effect giving the Left (of which I am a member) a heckler’s veto over speech at Middlebury. For it is almost always the Left that threatens the safety of speakers and campuses. (Of the 26 college disinvitations occurring in 2018 and 2019 whose political source could be identified, 21 were prompted by the Left and only 5 from the Right.)  You of course realize that using “campus safety” as an excuse to cancel talks creates a tacit policy in which right-wing speakers are censored at the expense of those on the left. This was the case two years ago when Charles Murray was censored at Middlebury in a shameful exercise of student censorship and administrative cowardice.

I hope you will reevaluate your policy and take action to guarantee the safety of all invited speakers by using your campus security to guarantee academic freedom and First Amendment rights at Middlebury.

Jerry Coyne
Professor Emeritus
Department of Ecology and Evolution
The University of Chicago


Inside Higher Ed (IHE) is becoming a clearinghouse for all the Authoritarian Leftist shenanigans at American colleges and Universities. Today’s top story—to my mind at least—is the disinvitation (or rather, cancellation) of a talk by a right-winger scheduled to talk at Middlebury College in Vermont. As you may recall (see my posts here), in 2017, Middlebury students, who had gone wild by overrunning the campus library, accosting white students and accusing them of racism, also shut down a talk by infamous sociologist Charles Murray, forcing him to cancel a public presentation and actually injuring one of his hosts, a Middlebury professor. There are reports that the students involved in that harm were disciplined, but, as far as I know, the nature of that discipline has neither been revealed nor described.

Now Inside Higher Ed describes yet another instance of a speaker whose invitation to Middlebury has been canceled—on the specious grounds that the College couldn’t guarantee the safety of the speaker.

Let me hasten to add here that I’m equally eager to criticize disinvitations and deplatforming of Left-wing speakers, but I almost never find out about them. They do exist, though: in the FIRE “Disinvitation Database”, for instance, l counted 31 disinvitations in 2018 and 2019 (so far). Of these, 22 came from the Left, 5 from the Right (speaker topics opposed by the Right: abortion, the speaker’s religion, sexual orientation, and the Israel-Palestine conflict), while 4 disinvitations were “not applicable” as to ideology.  If you hear of a case of disinvitations stemming from the Right, do let me know.

To see the IHE article, click on the screenshot below or go here.  There are other reports at the Burlington Free Press and the student newspaper, The Middlebury Campus

From IHE’s report on the disinvitation of speaker Ryszard Legutko:

Legutko is a professor of philosophy at Jagiellonian University, in Kraków. He is also a member of the European Parliament and is associated with far-right views that have growing support in Eastern Europe. He has offended many groups, and criticism at Middlebury has noted his support for discrimination against gay people. His fans note his stance against dictatorship in the era when the Soviet Union controlled Poland.

I find the rise of the right wing in Poland, and the concurrent rise of anti-Semitism (with both trends holding over Europe in general) reprehensible, and so I suspect I’d be deeply opposed to what Legutko had to say (I haven’t listened to his class appearance mentioned below). But so what? He should be allowed to talk because a student organization invited him. But he wasn’t, and the Middlebury administration is to blame for the disinvitation:

. . . . On Wednesday, another controversial figure was slated to give a talk at Middlebury. Again, protests were planned against the speaker, although it is unclear if those protests would have disrupted the speech — a violation of Middlebury rules and the norms of campus discourse. This time Middlebury called off the event, citing safety concerns.

An email that went out to the campus hours before the scheduled appearance by Ryszard Legutko said, “In the interest of ensuring the safety of students, faculty, staff and community members, the lecture by Ryszard Legutko scheduled for later today will not take place. The decision was not taken lightly. It was based on an assessment of our ability to respond effectively to potential security and safety risks for both the lecture and the event students had planned in response.”

The email was signed by Jeff Cason, the provost, and Baishakhi Taylor, dean of students.

They went on to write that due to location changes and an increased number of expected attendees, “we didn’t have the staff capacity” to assure safety.

The Alexander Hamilton Forum, a group at Middlebury that invited Legutko, indicated that it would invite him again in the fall, and a Middlebury spokeswoman indicated that the college was open to that visit, consistent with “standard” event scheduling rules.

While he was unable to speak in a public lecture, Legutko did appear in a political science class, some of which was live-streamed to Facebook.

Here are a few links to detractors and supporters of Legutko’s talk:

An open letter circulating on campus questions sponsoring “a speaker who blatantly and proudly expounds homophobic, racist, xenophobic, misogynistic discourse.” Bringing such a speaker to campus amounts to “shutting out large swaths of the Middlebury community, all of whom are engaged, critical and rigorous thinkers whose energies would be better spent not combating degrading and dehumanizing rhetoric.”

A recent Middlebury graduate who is from Poland published a letter in the student newspaper in which he said in part, “I am all for Middlebury inviting speakers that hold views different than those of the campus majority. But you could at least seek speakers who are not bigots and hypocrites.”

Keegan Callahan, assistant professor of political science and director of the Alexander Hamilton Forum, circulated another letter about the planned visit. While noting that many respect Legutko, the letter stressed the value of the college having speakers with a range of views.

The  Middlebury administration is complicit with its Authoritarian Leftists students in this violation of free speech, for the excuse that “we are unable to guarantee the safety of the College community” doesn’t wash. It is the school’s responsibility to guarantee the safety of the college community, and they could do so if they wanted. All they have to do is ensure a strong security presence and prevent disruption by removing disruptors from the site of the talk (protests outside a talk, of course, are fine). Since it is almost always the Left that constitutes the locus of violence here, shutting down talks that “endanger the campus community” is a tacit agreement that only Left-wing speakers will be permitted.

In this way the Left has taken a page from the Islamist playbook: by threatening violence against those who oppose a group’s ideology, they guarantee that the opponents will be silenced. Shame on Middlebury College for doing this, and so soon after the College was nationally shamed by many for its treatment of Charles Murray.

After I finish this post I’ll write to Middlebury’s President, Laurie Patton, at her email address that’s publicly available on the Middlebury website. My letter will also go to those who signed the disinvitation notice, Provost Jeffrey Cason and Dean of Students Baishakhi Taylor.  Their actions are shameful, and parents and students should be aware of them.

And yet there’s more; IHE reports an other disinvitation that had escaped me:

The decision by Middlebury came just a few weeks after Beloit College, a liberal arts institution in Wisconsin, shut down a planned speech by Erik Prince, an associate of President Trump and the controversial founder of the security company Blackwater. Administrators canceled Prince’s chat following student protests in which they banged on drums and built a barricade of chairs on the stage where Prince was due to give his talk.

What is happening to our colleges? Well, we already know: they are becoming vehicles for political indoctrination and social engineering rather than learning (and learning to think). Middlebury College is complicit in these changes.

Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader Joe Dickinson is back with some photos from California; his notes are indented.

Here are some photos from a recent trip up to Tomales Bay and Point Reyes, north of San Francisco.  I’ve fleshed them out with some shots from earlier trips to the same area.  A second set will follow shortly.

There were big rafts of scaup ducks, probably greater scaup (Aythya marila) out on the bay

Tule elk (Cervus canadensis nannodes) are found in a refuge at the end of Point Reyes.  I particularly like the cow lying down in a bed of flowers.  The bulls are from another year and at a different season.

Here the best of the “context” shots.  The point has a long, curved ocean beach and, before you reach the elk refuge, a nice trail follows a fresh water seep that is damed behind dunes at the edge of the beach.  We have had a wet spring, so everything was nice and green.

These California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) were among many flowers along that trail.

This, I’m pretty sure, is a garter snake of the genus Thamnophis but I can’t identify the species.

I’m more accustomed to seeing them in fresh water wetlands, but this great blue heron (Ardea herodias) is on a rock in the intertidal zone.


Thursday: Hili dialogue

It’s Thursday, April 18, 2019. It’s National Animal Cracker Day (do kids still eat those?). I loved them as a kid, biting the heads off the animals first. You can read more about the history of animal crackers here.  And it’s International Day for Monuments and Sites, also known as “World Heritage Day.”

I’ll be busy with various commitments today, so posting may be light.

On this day in 1521, Martin Luther’s trial for heresy began during the Diet of Worms. Refusing to recant his criticisms of the Catholic Church, he was eventually excommunicated. Here’s Pope Leo X’s Papal Bull from 1520 listing Luther’s errors and threatening him with expulsion. You can make out most of the the Latin (I’d never seen a Papal Bull before, a name that has inspired many jokes):

Moving ahead several centuries, it was on this day in 1909 that Joan of Arc was beatified by the Vatican. That’s the first step on the road to sainthood, which Joan achieved in 1920.

On April 18, 1923, Yankee Stadium was opened, and has been called “The House the Ruth Built”, referring to star Babe Ruth, whose best years as a hitter began at that time. (His famous 60-home-run season was in 1927.) And here is a weird one that someone should check: Wikipedia says that on this day in 1930, “The British Broadcasting Corporation announced that “there is no news” in their evening report.” The link says this:

On Easter weekend in 1930 (18 April), this reliance on newspaper wire services left the radio news service with no information to report after saying “There is no news today”. Piano music was played instead.

Only the Beeb would say “there is no news today” rather than “we were not given any news today”!

Finally, it was on April 18 of 1983 that a suicide bomber in Lebanon, driving a van packed with explosives, destroyed the U.S. embassy in Beirut, killing 63. It’s considered the beginning of Islamist attacks on U.S. targets.

Notables born on this day include Lucrezia Borgia (1480), Clarence Darrow (1857), Pigmeat Markham (1904), Joy Davidman (1915), Hayley Mills (1946), James Woods (1947), Susan Faludi (1959), Conan O’Brien (1963), and Melissa Joan Hart (1976).

Hayley Mills and her faux twin (in the movie “The Parent Trap”) was one of the first love objects for boys of my generation, along with Annette Funicello. I found this short video describing what happened to her after her fame in Disney movies:

Those who died on this day include Julius Caesar (1636, yes, there was an English one), Erasmus Darwin (1802), Ernie Pyle (1945), Albert Einstein (1955), and Thor Heyerdahl (2002).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili speaks obliquely, and Malgorzata explains:

“Hili just sees too much of the interesting Spring-y world. She can’t process everything. But she thinks that it’s wonderful and she does not mind that there are so many new and interesting things about that she cannot see them all. She is overwhelmed but it’s OK, it’s “cool”.”

Hili: The world has become more interesting.
A: Do you see something?
Hili: I’m overwhelmed, but it’s cool.
In Polish:
Hili: Świat stał się ciekawszy.
Ja: Coś widzisz?
Hili: Wręcz zbyt wiele, ale to fajne.

Several readers sent me this Facebook meme on faith versus fact:

From reader Barry (I may have posted this before). The raccoon is clearly a color mutant:

Tweets from Grania. Someday this d*g will be able to handle that ball with ease:

A tweet from the Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office:

A lovely flyby from the ISS. Do you recognize the areas?

That ginger and white moggie has a wicked left hook:

Cats have been used by capitalists to sell goods for a long time. . .

Tweets from Matthew, the first one showing a beautiful weevil:

. . . and some even more beautiful stick insects:

In honor of yesterday’s Bat Appreciation Day, which I forgot:

This is really informative:

Remember the joke: “Go forth and multiply?” “We can’t—we’re adders!”


Wednesday: Duck report

Four drakes have been patrolling Botany Pond for several days; three are smallish, and perhaps yearlings—maybe they’re Honey’s offspring. But the Boss Duck, who tries to get rid of them constantly, is Honey’s mate Gregory Peck, who’s identifiable by his large head and his head color, which has more purple in it than the other drakes.

Here’s Greg:

In the right light his purple color becomes quite visible.

My philosophy is to feed Gregory so he stays around to protect Honey and her ducklings when she returns, but not feed the other drakes since they could go after mom or offspring when they return. This is nearly impossible to implement, as Gregory will come for food when I whistle and begin eating, but then the Interloper Drakes see him eating and approach the noms. He then tries to drive them away, but since there are four of them he can’t do it without another one sneaking in from the side for noms. It’s almost funny, but I feel sorry for them all. It’s tough to be a drake.

Here’s the pack, with Gregory in the foreground.


And here is Gregory nomming corn, but at the end he takes off in pursuit of an interloper.

And I forgot that it’s Bat Appreciation Day. My bad! In honor of the only flying mammal, here’s a tweet sent to me by Su.