In face of media and alumni outcry, Williams College finally recognizes a student pro-Israel organization

As Williams College plummets down the slide toward Evergreen State College at the bottom, its wokeness has moved beyond racial divisiveness to anti-Semitism. As I’ve recently reported, the Williams Student Council decided to reject an application of WIFI, a pro-Israel organization with modest aims, to become a registered student organization (RSO). Further, they had already recognized as an RSO the organization Students for Justice in Palestine, a hate group if ever there was one, with a history of not just anti-Semitism, but of intimidating and threatening Jewish students. You can read my posts about the Williams WIFI issue here, here, and here.

During the council vote, the students decided to vote anonymously and not to livestream the discussion, cowardly innovations designed to protect them from personal responsibility for their vote. And, as the minutes-taker of the Council revealed, the student representatives made anti-Semitic remarks during the discussion that he decided not to record.

Booting WIFI while approving SJP is hypocritical and unconscionable, but reflects a growing anti-Semitism among Williams students. That, of course, goes hand in hand with their growing wokeness, for the Authoritarian Left dislikes both Israel and Jews. But apparently there was pushback on the College, for President Maud Mandel decided to allow the WIFI organization access to Williams facilities for their meetings, even though it wasn’t an approved RSO.

But that wasn’t enough, at least for me. I wrote to the Williams rabbi, Seth Wax, saying that WIFI should surely have the same privileges as SJP (including money), and that it was wrong to make it a second class organization (see my letter to him here).  Wax never responded (as I expected) but I think that letter and the publicity from other venues like The College Fix and other groups (see below) about the Council’s decision had some effect. That’s because President Mandel slyly changed the wording of her announcement without saying so, now noting that while WIFI wasn’t Council-approved, it had not only “most services available to student groups”, but also had all services available to student groups, and “exactly equal resources”. Here is the President’s wording;  this comes from Ephblog, a Williams alumni site that monitors the College closely:


Even without CC approval, WIFI or any other non-CC organization can still access most services available to student groups, including use of college spaces for meetings and events.


Even without CC approval, WIFI or any other non-CC organization can still access all services available to student groups, including use of college spaces for meetings and events, and we are guaranteeing them exactly equal resources.

This continual tweaking of her decision bespeaks a president who is reactive rather than a leader—something I’ve always maintained about Mandel. She responds to student protests but does not lead, and shows no spine in her responses.  Note, too, that “exactly equal” is still separate but equal, à la Brown v. Board of Education.  If SJP is a registered student organization, then WIFI must be as well. In fact the mandate of Williams college that there will be no discrimination against student or student organizations based on their political views. Apparently that doesn’t apply to Jews.

Nevertheless, the flak against Williams continued in the media; here are some links:

From Tablet Magazine:


From the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE):

From the Boston Herald:

I’ve heard as well that alumni, who give gazillions of dollars to Williams (it has one of the highest per capita endowments in America), objected to this unequal treatment of pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli organizations. Because money talks (college presidents’ main job these days is squeezing dosh out of people), Mandel then had to placate the donors.

Eventually, she was apparently forced to do what she should have done all along: compelling the students to recognize the pro-Israel group as a registered student organization. I wasn’t sure at first whether she could do this, but according to the addendum of this new article in Forbes (more bad publicity for Williams), she could and eventually did:

The end of the piece:

ADDENDUM: On May 14th, the administration of Williams utilized an alternative procedure to recognize WIFI. According the Williams Director of Media Relations: “After Williams’ College Council (CC) voted last month to deny a proposal from Williams Initiative for Israel (WIFI) to become a CC-approved RSO, college administrators discussed the fact that the college’s Student Handbook described a parallel path to RSO status that had not been engaged in this case. This involved a committee made up of administrators and CC reps . . . We notified College Council of the process described in the Handbook, and asked them to designate a representative for the committee. On Tuesday, May 14, the committee considered WIFI’s request, as required by law, and voted to grant RSO status to WIFI. WIFI is now an RSO with the full rights, privileges and responsibilities that label entails. This experience has pointed to the value of a discussion with Williams students about student governance. As we move forward, we will continue to support students in thinking about the kind of governance they want and deserve. In addition, we will be working alongside the current Council to identify best practices relative to bylaw creation and support, managing meetings effectively, and any other structural issues that will be helpful for good student governance.”

What happened, then, is that the Williams administration created a committee whose sole charge was simply to make WIFI an RSO, which it did.  And what could have been accomplished at the outset was accomplished in three separate steps, each apparently in response to the outcry of the media and of Williams alumni.

In my view, Mandel has neither the chops nor the backbone to run Williams. She should resign. She won’t of course, just as George Bridges didn’t resign at Evergreen State. And there will be a temporary peace over the summer as the students depart. But things will start up even more divisively in the fall when two unhinged professors, who ignited much of the wokeness before their taking medical leave, return to start the fires again. Poor Williams!


  1. Carey Haug
    Posted May 19, 2019 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    It’s really a puzzle to me why Anti-Semitism is increasing. It is frightening in this day and age that so many people approve of violence against Jews. Haven’t we learned anything from the Holocaust?

    • Murali
      Posted May 19, 2019 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      ‘Haven’t we learned anything from the Holocaust?’

      Probably not. It depends on what kids learn in schools and later on as young adults. Wayne Hennessy, a Welsh professional footballer, was pulled up for giving a Nazi salute. According to one report, he had claimed ignorance of the Nazi salute. I don’t know if he lied. But some people thought that it was plausible.

      I have met adults (in the US) who were rather hazy about the war. The had certainly been through high school but were not all that familiar with some important aspects of the war.

      I now realize that for many people, reading about the past is not a thing.

      So the problem is not limited to the Holocaust; it applies to other areas as well. It is just that this particular aspect is dangerous.

    • Christopher
      Posted May 19, 2019 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      As I’ve said before, anti-semitism appears to be the only thing that the educated and uneducated, the far left and right, can agree on. Why hating Jews is nonpartisan, rather than something useful, like fighting climate change, well, I can’t say but it’s clear everyone needs a scapegoat and Jews are the chosen people. And why now? No idea. I had grown up isolated from this type of hateful nonsense (I’m not culturally Jewish) but the Jewish Community Center shootings in Kansas, a place that at the time I visited at least once, sometimes twice a week, shattered my innocent little bubble. All I can say is that the older I get, the less I understand the world and the people in it.

      • rickflick
        Posted May 19, 2019 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

        “…the older I get, the less I understand the world and the people in it”.

        It often feels like that to me too.

  2. Posted May 19, 2019 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    It seems the abusive Williams Student Council is left intact by this end run. The WSC needs a new charter that requires it to conduct open meetings with open voting, plus published minutes and appropriate reprimands for discriminatory conduct.

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 19, 2019 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    This continual tweaking of her decision bespeaks a president who is reactive rather than a leader—something I’ve always maintained about Mandel.

    The heart of an apparatchik pitty-pats inside her chest.

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 19, 2019 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Technically speaking, “separate but equal” was Plessy v. Ferguson, the 1896 case overruled in Brown.

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 19, 2019 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Because money talks …

    And sometimes, as a noted Nobel Laureate pointed out, it swears.

    Eventually we may find out whether, as he also said, “even the president of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked.” 🙂

  6. rickflick
    Posted May 19, 2019 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Jews are often oppressed, but not enough, I suppose, to make the woke happy. They are the richest and probably the most educated group in the USA. This makes their position on the totem pole of oppression very questionable, and makes the woke completely copacetic with violating their rights.

    • Carey Haug
      Posted May 19, 2019 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

      The problem is increased because the Palestinians are widely seen as the most oppressed people in the world and they blame Jews, especially Israelis for all their problems. In simplistic Woke thinking, Jews are powerful and evil. Muslims are oppressed and good. Too bad the world is not that simple.

  7. Posted May 19, 2019 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    I think Leibovitz is right. Jewish donors should stop giving money to institutions that keep picking on Jews.

  8. Posted May 19, 2019 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Separate but equal. That very much captures their untenable position.

  9. Jonathan Dore
    Posted May 19, 2019 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    Powerful article by Liebovitz — well worth a read.

  10. Rich Sanderson
    Posted May 19, 2019 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    Some of the regressive #NewRacists such as Thomas “SeriousPod” Smith and Peter “Humanisticus” Ferguson will be along any minute now, to gaslight us all and claim all this is a “hoax”.

    This Mandel character sounds like a suitable guest for Eiynah (Nice Mangos) wreteched podcast for freaks, racists, and antisemites.

  11. tubby
    Posted May 19, 2019 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    In my darker moments I’m fairly sure that it wouldn’t be all that hard to get the woke to have a tiki torch rally where they chant “Jews will not replace us!”

  12. Heather Hastie
    Posted May 19, 2019 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    The deeper implications of the growing anti-Semitism worry me a great deal. Historically, it has been a precursor to war. There are other pointers to the same thing, two of which I’m currently preparing a posts on.

    However, whether or not this is a precursor, we must continue to call out anti-Semitism and other prejudice for what it is. As Jerry says, a leader who does not do that has no right to the role in the 21st century. We should be beyond that, and our society’s leaders at least should be emulating that.

    • rickflick
      Posted May 19, 2019 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

      a leader who does not do that has no right to the role in the 21st century.

      This is what I dread. Where are the strong leaders of concience? I hate to say this, but, I think this could all go down hill. May I be as wrnog as possible on this.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted May 19, 2019 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

        I worry about it too. It’s not just in the US it’s a problem. All over Europe there are more and more leaders like Trump who are turning parts of their population into “others” and scapegoating them, and more often than not it’s Jews that are suffering. The consequences don’t bear imagining if it doesn’t change.

        And we only have to look at parts of the world like the Middle East. Countries there have never grown out of othering parts of their populations and look how unstable they are. Asia isn’t much better. The more inclusive a society, the more peaceful it is.

        • rickflick
          Posted May 19, 2019 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

          It sound to me like we are falling back into an earlier time, when humanity lost it’s nerve. I certainly hope it’s just a passing fancy.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted May 19, 2019 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

            The world looks a helluva lot like it did in the years before World War I. I’ve been saying that for about four years now, and it’s getting worse. I keep hoping I’ll see changes for the better, but when even NZ has mass shootings it’s hard to be positive.

  13. Charles Sawicki
    Posted May 20, 2019 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Antisemitism is the old, irrational hatreds of Christianity and Islam reborn in the world.

  14. Ullrich Fischer
    Posted May 20, 2019 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Is the power of the Cult of the Woke (COW) fading a bit? Are those bullying tactics finally attracting an effective push back? This seems like a hopeful sign.

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