Williams College gets unwanted media attention

The kind of negative publicity that brought down Evergreen State College is now devolving on Williams College, and I can’t say that it upsets me. Many of its students and much of the administration are trying to tiptoe around enacting a speech code that conforms to the First Amendment (it’s “hate speech” that has to go, you know); the students are calling for housing segregated by race (as well as other criteria); and some students are making ludicrous demands that the University undergo serious structural changes, threatening to take unspecified actions if the College doesn’t answer their demands by 5 p.m. Friday (these include the creation of the euphemistic “affinity housing”).

A number of articles, including ones on this site, have called attention to these shenanigans and to to the demands of aggrieved but entitled students. The media has now gotten hold of the Williams issue, though, and they’ve published several pieces that cast the College in a bad light. I’ll summarize the pieces I know of in this post; click on the screenshots to go to the pieces.

As is usual with these things (and which was the case with Evergreen State before the New York Times finally wrote about it), it’s the right-wing media that first highlights the shenanigans, for their agenda is to make liberal colleges, and thereby the Left, look bad. That’s not my agenda, though, which is to keep colleges as places where freedom of speech is sacred as a tool for learning, and to try to keep the Left from going so bonkers that it discredits itself, possibly leading to another Trump victory next year.

Here goes:

From Inside Higher Ed:

 

From The College Fix, a right-wing site:

. . . and another:

Oy! Breitbart:
This one will surely make Williams administrators sit up:  Fox news via Project 21:
While the Fox discussion (below) starts about reparations, at 3:21 the host abruptly brings up the issue of affinity segregated housing at Williams. LaDawn Jones actually tries to defend it, saying “I see nothing wrong with exploring the ideas about what works for them [the black students].”  Indeed, if you read the letter from Williams’s President Maud Mandel (see below), you’ll see that she as well seems open to the idea of segregated housing.

Below is Williams Professor Darel Paul‘s Areo piece on the excesses of Woke Williams and other similar schools. I’ve already mentioned this piece; it’s quite critical of the College:
Finally, a letter from Williams President Maud Mandel to the College has been reprinted on the site of an alum, Ephblog (for some reasons Williams students are called “Ephs”):

Make of the letter what you will. I see Mandel as the Eastern equivalent of Evergreen’s George “Invertebrate” Bridges: someone who realizes that she must cater to the students’ demands while making noises about civilized discourse for all. After all, students can make a lot of trouble for a college’s reputation, but the faculty, well, not so much. Faculty don’t march, demonstrate, or make ludicrous demands.

Mandel highlights but one instance of supposed “hate speech”: the removal of a poster advertising a panel organized by a left-wing faculty member; but Mandel ignores even worse actions taken by students against a professor who contested some of the students’ claims (the students defaced his door with odious anti-white slogans and claims that he was “killing them”). I have my doubts about whether the one instance of bigotry that Mandel mentions in her letter is even real, given the history of such crimes at Williams, which almost always have been hoaxes, and nearly all of which seem to have been perpetrated by members of the minorities that were the targets. (The results of those investigations of hoaxes, by the way, are never revealed to the students, so an atmosphere of paranoia is kept alive.)

There’s also mention of “affinity housing” in a letter that is a masterpiece of equivocation: not taking any stand but pleading for respectful discourse. Here’s a bit: (my emphasis):

The issues over which people are disagreeing right now are serious and valid. They’re also not just “Williams problems”: Campus attention to race relations is connected to national and global injustice. Conflicts over speech and speakers are roiling many schools. Work on affinity housing points to wider challenges with balancing integration and the right of free association. Tensions over how we disagree are characteristic of a societal problem with public discourse. A school like Williams absolutely should discuss these complex and important issues. When we do, conflicts will necessarily and even productively arise. Our goal shouldn’t be to avoid disagreement or dissent, but to develop ways of engaging in it without losing respect for each other as people.

I hope we can model this ideal in classrooms and dorm rooms, offices and alumni gatherings, joining in a campaign to improve our culture. Some people have expressed frustration that processes like Strategic Planning won’t make this happen quickly enough. I share the sense of urgency, but meaningful change often does take time: Time to make sure all points of view are surfaced, listened to and considered. Time to educate people on new ways of working and healthier ways of engaging with others. Time to figure out which investments will make the biggest, most sustainable impact on issues we care about. Organizations like Williams can do this deliberate work without sacrificing our ability to address more immediate challenges.

The way each of us acts affects the community as a whole. If we’re intolerant and harsh, it sets a norm for how we’ll be treated in return. To make Williams instead a place where everyone is valued, we’ll need to treat each other with respect when differences inevitably emerge. It’s up to each one of us, and all of us as a collective, to make it so.

Translation: “I’m going to give the students what they want, including segregated housing (if I can get away with it), but it will take a bit of time. In the meantime, you professors treat the Aggrieved Students well and don’t make them mad.”

If I were the Trustees and administrators of Williams, I’d take this negative publicity very seriously. After all, it’s what brought down Evergreen State.

25 Comments

  1. CAS
    Posted April 24, 2019 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Great that this is attracting attention. If Williams has a large decline in enrollment it might induce a bit of backbone in administrators at other schools. Nothing like damage to their resumes to encourage backbone in the spineless (sorry snails).

  2. Posted April 24, 2019 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Too often a percentage of the faculty is in on the student demands and it’s almost always the humanities isn’t it?

    Sorry you are unhappy kids. Let us know where you want your transcripts sent to your new school.

    It’s never good to have the inmates running the asylum.

  3. ritebrother
    Posted April 24, 2019 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    If “affinity housing” for students of color becomes a thing, I’m looking forward to the reaction to the inevitable test case for “affinity housing” for white students.

    • Richard
      Posted April 25, 2019 at 4:09 am | Permalink

      And just how do we decide who is un-white enough to qualify for the affinity housing? Are we back to the “one drop” rule? Or racial purity certificates?

      • XCellKen
        Posted April 25, 2019 at 9:36 am | Permalink

        My Great Great Grandmother was a Cherokee Indian. Does that count ???

  4. BJ
    Posted April 24, 2019 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately, I doubt this will make even so much as a dent in Williams’ enrollment numbers. Evergreen was a college that had a 98% acceptance rate, while Williams is considered one of the top “Liberal Arts” schools in the country. People will always want to go there. In fact, this might make the climate on campus even worse, as perhaps it will start to attract even more “woke” students and even fewer with any other viewpoints (the same might go for professors as well).

    • Posted April 24, 2019 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

      You may describe the present situation accurately, but I don’t think that “always” will last for long. I actually wonder for how long the rot has been developing. This is an advanced stage.

    • max blancke
      Posted April 24, 2019 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

      It could very possibly reduce the numbers of students pursuing useful degrees.
      If my son’s experience is typical, the kids spending all their time disrupting other student’s studies and screaming profanities at everyone are reading very low-stress subjects, likely varieties of grievance studies.
      It is hard enough to keep up with your studies in medicine or chemistry or such, which require lots of focus and actual studying. If you add in the distraction of a bunch of activists who seem to have unlimited time to invade lectures and study sessions and scream things like “F*** your whiteness!”
      It certainly puts the concept of “safe spaces” to a real world test. The kids trying to actually learn something ought to have a space where they are allowed to learn without having to receive such abuse.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted April 24, 2019 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

        “It certainly puts the concept of “safe spaces” to a real world test. The kids trying to actually learn something ought to have a space where they are allowed to learn without having to receive such abuse.”

        Hear, hear!

  5. KD
    Posted April 24, 2019 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    “. . . it’s the right-wing media that first highlights the shenanigans, for their agenda is to make liberal colleges, and thereby the Left, look bad. . . ”

    And what’s wrong with that?

    The Left looks bad because what it is pushing is bad.

    If the arc of Leftism is Maoist-style Cultural Revolution, vapid slogans and struggle sessions, then it deserves repudiation.

    On the other hand, if it wants to go back to the business of helping average Americans, and leave totalitarianism to the Right, then it should make that clear by repudiating the woke zealots.

  6. Posted April 24, 2019 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    The old south segregationists missed the boat. They should have told the anti-segregationists “We don’t practice segregation. We have affinity schools, affinity restaurants, affinity hotels, affinity water fountains…”

    • Stephen Mynett
      Posted April 24, 2019 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

      Good point Darwinwins, I was thinking about apartheid in South Africa but had to check up when it finished and was surprised it was as long back as 1993. Still none of the university moaners will have been born then.

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 24, 2019 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    … it’s the right-wing media that first highlights the shenanigans …

    Yeah, well, let’s not lose sight that that’s got nothing to do with the right-wing media being founts of truth and enlightenment; it’s got everything to do with their dodging any discussion of the rolling disaster that is our executive branch.

  8. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 24, 2019 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    “Work on affinity housing points to wider challenges with balancing integration and the right of free association.”

    The “right of free association,” so-called (it appears nowhere in the text of US constitution), is what the Southern segregationists argued in opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, what bigoted business people used as justification of “redlining” practices whereby they’d deny services to minorities, what racists and anti-Semites across this country used to justify “restrictive covenants” in land deeds preventing owners from selling to Blacks or Jews or anyone else not deemed “a member of the white race.”

    My god, do none of these soi-disant “educators” on college campuses know a goddamn thing about the history of the American Civil-Rights movement?

    • Jon Gallant
      Posted April 24, 2019 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

      The “educators” you refer to specialize in Critical Race Theory, Critical Gender Theory, and Postmodernist Theory. What you refer to are matters of fact, not Theory, and so have no place in the education of the truly Woke.

  9. Diogenes
    Posted April 24, 2019 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    Now Reza Aslan has doubled down on the nonsense that started this all:
    https://mobile.twitter.com/rezaaslan/status/1121177572581134336

  10. Filippo
    Posted April 24, 2019 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    sub

  11. DrBrydon
    Posted April 24, 2019 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    I think they are called Ephs because the school is named after one Ephraim Williams. I actually looked that up the other day, because I though it might, ironically, be named after Roger Williams. Ephing Ephs.

    • Lurker111
      Posted April 25, 2019 at 10:48 am | Permalink

      Gee. I thought “Ephs” was a reference to the grades they would have gotten in any course requiring work instead of emoting.

  12. Posted April 24, 2019 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    I wonder how long this movement will go on, or if it ever will. Ethnic differences persist. Sometimes they pop up as disturbances in places where we thought the problems had been solved. Riots and wars can result.
    Hope they can work things our.

    I wonder why the affected students don’t rent apartments or houses of campus like they say the white athletes do. I suppose that would be too simple an answer. But it would give them the free association they say they want. They could express themselves as much as they wanted.

  13. openidname
    Posted April 25, 2019 at 12:39 am | Permalink

    “[T]he right-wing media[‘s] . . . agenda is to make liberal colleges, and thereby the Left, look bad. That’s not my agenda, though, which is to keep colleges as places where freedom of speech is sacred as a tool for learning . . . .”

    I resent the implication that the right-wing media, and the right wing in general, don’t genuinely care about freedom of speech. It’s precisely because they, too, feel it’s sacred that they get angry when they see the left traducing it.

  14. Jane Resh Thomas
    Posted April 25, 2019 at 3:28 am | Permalink

    Professor Coyne, In your piece today about Williams, you wrote, “it’s the right-wing media that first highlights the shenanigans, for their agenda is to make liberal colleges, and thereby the Left, look bad. ” I disagree with this attribution of motive. Liberal colleges do not need to be made to look bad; they are doing bad things, all on their own. (Having been mobbed by faculty and students for defending free speech, opposing race and gender as the primary consideration in hiring faculty in my department, and advocating that we all step back from our anger and make distinctions between malice and inadvertent mis-steps, I know what I am talking about.) Although I am a lifelong liberal, disappointed in the media I used to trust, I have been watching Tucker Carlson in the hope of broadening my perspective. I am surprised by his rationality and good sense. His defense of free speech, not only in universities but also in H.R. offices and dinner tables, seems to me entirely sincere. I think his demeanor and attitudes have changed in maturity from the nastiness and arrogance of his earlier career. He still talks over his guests, but his guests often bloviate and filibuster, and he does provide a voice to his political opponents. He criticizes the Republican establishment party line as much as that of Democrats. He is often critical of President Trump. He criticizes the upper-crust universities for their outrageous tuition despite enormous endowments and unconscionable pay for administrators while adjuncts earn less than a living wage and the students those adjuncts teach indenture themselves with debt, can’t afford to marry or have children if they do, and must live with their parents. He is a rare voice in raising alarums about the dangers of Big Tech. He foresees the impoverishment of workers and feels compassion for them as AI develops. In fact, Carlson often sounds like an old time liberal.

    I think that the customary labels, liberal and conservative, no longer are meaningful. I hear a great deal of sense from Glenn Loury and Thomas Sowell, black economists who offer healthy contrarian views. The black linguist John McWhorter, who is decried as a right-winger although he recently identified himself as a liberal Democrat, provides independent thought that counters the extremism of Black Lives Matter. Victor Davis Hanson, the classicist/military historian/ fourth-generation Fresno farmer/ and fellow at the Hoover Institution, voted for President Trump and probably will do so again. I haven’t yet read his recently published *The Case for Trump*, but Hanson’s speech offer a refreshing perspective on the origins of that phenomenon and the utility of Trump policies, while he criticizes his loutish behavior. I think it worth my while to hear Hanson, since the prospects my lifelong party so far puts forward are weaklings, charlatans, radicals, or career politicians who have no idea what ordinary American life is like these days. Dave Rubin talks equally respectfully with Bret Weinstein and David Horowitz and provides them both a microphone. Voices that would otherwise be silenced find a soapbox at Quillette.

    I would like to say a great deal more to you, as I read Why Evolution Is True every day, enjoy it immensely, and admire your (sometimes cranky), well-informed, intelligent views. I won’t bend your ear further, however, except to say that I rejoice at Honey’s return and love thrill at her love life and nurture of her ducklings.

    Thank you for your rich contributions to civil discourse. I take hope from it. Yours, Jane Resh Thomas

    On Wed, Apr 24, 2019 at 1:32 PM Why Evolution Is True wrote:

    > whyevolutionistrue posted: “The kind of negative publicity that brought > down Evergreen State College is now devolving on Williams College, and I > can’t say that it upsets me. Many of its students and much of the > administration are trying to tiptoe around enacting a speech code that c” >

    • Posted April 25, 2019 at 5:56 am | Permalink

      Sorry, but I disagree. It is the agenda of places like Breitbart and The College Fix to criticize everything that smacks of Leftism, and never to criticize the Right. Yes, the colleges do look bad, but I was explaining why these sites are the first one to criticize them. If the Right looks bad at a school, they never call it out. I assert that these sites are out to destroy the left, just as HuffPost or Salon wants to destroy the right.

      As for your praise of Tucker Carlson and Trump, I’ll leave that to others. However, if you think the motives of sites like Breitbart and The Daily wire are pure and objective (both have criticized evolution and praised ID, for crying out loud), then I think you’re deeply mistaken.

      And thanks for your praise (tempered, of course, with “cranky” (which is somewhat of an assumed persona).

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 25, 2019 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      You contest that the right-wing media’s agenda is to make the Left look bad, and you praise Tucker Carlson for “his rationality and good sense.” Carlson’s raison d’être as a Fox News host is to make the Left look bad.

      On the evenings when I tune in to cable news, I always make a point of watching some of Carlson’s show, at least for as long as I can stomach it. I’ve seen him engage in vicious demagoguery on issues regarding immigration and the place of non-white and gay people in this nation, see, e.g., here — to the point where many of his sponsors no longer wish to be associated with his noisome views.

      And I’m unsure what you mean when you say “his demeanor and attitudes have changed in maturity from the nastiness and arrogance of his earlier career” — unless it’s meant as an excuse for the recently unearthed vulgar misogynistic, racist, homophobic grotesquerie Carlson engaged just a few years ago as a regular guest on the “Bubba the Love Sponge” show.

      Pace your contention, quite early in his career Tucker Carlson was a serious (albeit arch-conservative) journalist, long before he adopted his current faux-populist obnoxious tv persona.


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