Organizers cancel Venker lecture

October 21, 2015 by Francesca Paris, News Editor

On Friday evening, Uncomfortable Learning canceled a lecture by Suzanne Venker, author of Why Feminism Fails and The War on Men, amid backlash from students protesting Venker as misogynistic and homophobic.

Uncomfortable Learning had scheduled Venker’s talk, entitled “One Step Forward, Ten Steps Back: Why Feminism Fails” for yesterday. On her website, Venker describes herself as “an author, a cultural critic and an occasional Fox News contributor.”

Various students and student groups took issue with Venker’s ideas, expressed in her books, on her website and on Fox News, including the notion that women should strive to be more financially dependent on their husbands. Students expressed concern and anger over both Venker’s invitation to campus and her views, which they argued are harmful to students at the College.

Uncomfortable Learning is a student-run, alumni-funded organization that aims to encourage students to understand and engage with often provocative and uncomfortable viewpoints that oppose perceived popular opinions at the College. It was run by Matthew Hennessy ’17, Didier Jean-Michel ’17 and Zach Wood ’18. Jean-Michel has since stepped down from his position in the group.

“The goal of uncomfortable learning,” said Wood, “is to understand how someone who is just as sure as you are in their beliefs can think something completely different,” but he added that the express purpose of the organization is not to convince people to change their beliefs.

The leaders of Uncomfortable Learning chose Venker as a speaker because they anticipated that she would challenge students and make them examine their own opinions in an intellectually stimulating manner. Hennessy said that the choice was representative of the group’s effort to promote an “intellectually and academically open environment” on campus.

“We chose [Venker] because millions of Americans think her viewpoints carry weight, or even agree with her,” said Hennessy. “We think it’s important to get an understanding of why so many Americans do think these really interesting and difficult thoughts, so we can challenge them and better understand our own behaviors and our own thoughts.”

Uncomfortable Learning invited students to a Facebook event for the talk on Thursday, to which several students expressed outrage. In response, Emily O’Brien  ’18  created another Facebook event, “One Step Forward and We Keep Going,” on the same day in order to organize protests to the talk.

O’Brien emphasized that the goal of the protests was not to have the event shut down, but rather to express dissent from Venker’s ideas. According to her, many protestors had planned to attend the event and to engage with Venker during the question-and-answer session.

“The point of the event was not to censor her beliefs,” said O’Brien. “It was our rightful emotional and political reaction to something that has been harmful to many groups of people.”

Sam Alterman ’18 helped organize the protest and participated in discussions on both Facebook event pages. He said that the protestors were not seeking to censor Venker but rather disagreeing with the decision to provide her with a platform.

“No one has asked for her writing to be blocked on Purple Air [campus internet],” he said. “We were dissenting from the idea that she is someone we should elevate to a level where we feel that her point of view is relevant enough and intellectually rigorous enough to bring to campus, associate [the College’s] name with her, and give her money.”

The members of Uncomfortable Learning canceled the event on Friday evening because the nature of the backlash made them believe that the lecture would not achieve Uncomfortable Learning’s goals of generating productive conversation. Hennessy said that he and Jean-Michel also felt they had been personally harassed over Facebook private messages and “heckled” on campus.

“I think it’s the campus’ loss that we can’t challenge [Venker] on these thoughts,” Hennessy said, “but given the reaction to it, based on how personal the attacks were, and our position as [Junior Advisors], we felt it best not to continue with [the lecture].”

Wood wrote an article for The Williams Alternative, stating that a “vehement response” from students opposed to bringing Venker to campus had led to the event cancellation and suggesting that students had chosen “demonization” of Venker over productive discussion.

“Those who protested viewed this event through a lens of motivated ignorance,” he wrote.

Ava Anderson ’18, a member of the Feminist Collective board, said that she is troubled by some of the language used to refer to the students protesting Venker, particularly the title of Wood’s op-ed, “Breaking through a ring of motivated ignorance.”

“Many of these students care deeply about issues of gender equality and are seriously considering the impact of hosting Venker and funneling money towards her,” Anderson said. “When someone says these students are hypersensitive, it is writing off their perspective as not being legitimate, which is exactly the opposite of what Uncomfortable Learning claims to strive for.”

Gerardo Garcia ’16, another student who was vocal in protests against Venker, said “While I do not agree with the decision for Suzanne Venker’s visit to Williams, I also acknowledge that people are within their right to request for such a speaker. But I also believe we should be able to freely criticize the reasoning for this decision when we invite someone who only spews hate in her talks and in her writing, while providing no concrete evidence to defend her claims. Venker tells women to become subservient to men, while completely ignoring the issues of domestic violence, equality, and much, much more … Personally, I have no patience to learn about a perspective that has no evidence, attacks women and demonizes the queer community.”

Venker published an op-ed on FoxNews.com on Tuesday entitled “Williams College’s ‘Uncomfortable Learning’ speaker series dropped me. Why?” in response to the lecture cancellation. In the piece, she expressed disappointment with the cancellation and shared an excerpt from her planned speech. “Do not be afraid to ask yourself questions that may make you uncomfortable. And do not be afraid of the answers,” she said in the excerpt.

Venker also addressed those who criticized the event. “… the students who took issue with my appearance are as sensitive as their feminist leaders, who are notorious for cowering in the face of opposition. And I understand why: their arguments are weak. And weak arguments can’t hold up to scrutiny.”

Wood said Uncomfortable Learning will consider the response to Venker when choosing future guests, but will still bring “provocative” speakers.

Steve Klass, vice president for campus life, said in an email that the administration received no concerns about Venker’s talk and is committed to encouraging free speech and expression of differing perspectives and opinions.

{ 92 comments… read them below or add one }

Dr. Necessitor October 21, 2015 at 10:01 am

“… the students who took issue with my appearance are as sensitive as their feminist leaders, who are notorious for cowering in the face of opposition. And I understand why: their arguments are weak. And weak arguments can’t hold up to scrutiny.”

Final score: Venker 1, Feminist Collective 0

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Michael La Porte October 22, 2015 at 2:10 pm

That’s an interesting conclusion given the fact that the organizers caved, not the Feminist Collective. And, that Zach Wood, who disagrees with Venker was the only one of the three UL members who voted to go ahead with the invite.

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Louis October 23, 2015 at 1:08 am

Hey Mike, Do you really like it that the organizers were in a position that they felt compelled to “cave” and do something they did not want to do? They did not want to “cave”. Quit victim blaming.

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Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr October 23, 2015 at 8:40 pm

What Louis said. And it’s really interesting that Patriarchy would allow the Feminist Collective to bully and frighten more “privileged” men into canceling a speaker that FC dislikes. You know, because Venker claims there is no Patriarchy and…like OMG…this not only proves there is no Patriarchy, it also proves women are FAR more privileged than men on campus!

Hallelujah! Feminism was legit AND it solved the problem that made feminism necessary because, in the absence of Patriarchy and male privilege, there is no need for Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS)! I look forward to WGSS professors declaring victory despite their impending unemployment. Perhaps some of them can transition to English and other departments. Either way, this is a great day for gender equality and I’m proud to call myself a feminist despite the fact there is no longer a need for feminism.

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Robert October 21, 2015 at 10:09 am

This is a nicely detailed description of what happened. Even though I wouldn’t likely agree with the speaker on (m)any issue, I really admire the aims of the group who invited her. I think more of this is needed on college campuses, and I would be willing to listen. It sounds like the students who were planning to protest/debater her also had the right mindset — this is well within their right. Unfortunately, what sounds like a small number of immature and misguided students took it to another level, and the organizers (understandably I suppose) weren’t resilient enough to withstand them. That’s too bad. Attacking someone on a personal level for inviting a speaker is not consistent with the type of community that Colleges purport to promote.

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WuzYoungOnceToo October 22, 2015 at 10:44 am

– “…and the organizers (understandably I suppose) weren’t resilient enough to withstand them.”

I don’t think it’s understandable…nor excusable…at all. Principles and the courage of one’s convictions are meaningless if you abandon them the moment it looks like they might bring you some grief.

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Robert October 22, 2015 at 12:47 pm

Well, I agree, am just trying not to be too sanctimonious — it would have been hard for me at that age also. But you are right.

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Chris October 21, 2015 at 10:34 am

Is anyone in the administration looking into these “personal attacks” against the organizers? If someone on the football or rugby teams attacked someone for organizing a pro-feminist speaker that way, I guarantee there would be huge uproar and an investigation. Is this so different?

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Anonymous October 21, 2015 at 2:23 pm

Same thing with any event last year. Nothing ever happens to the people on the “correct” side who harass and bully others.

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Neil Sagan October 25, 2015 at 4:28 am

Oh Chris, if the football and rugby ‘teams’ attacked anyone, don’t you think they’d side with Suzanne Venker “…that women should strive to be more financially dependent on their husband.” I mean, stereotypically speaking, don’t troglodytes and social conservatives walk arm in arm?

Venker argues for traditional gender roles. You could probably find out why reading “The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know — and Men Can’t Say” by Suzanne Venker and Phyllis Schlafly.

Do any of the courses taught in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Williams College have this book in the syllabus?

What academic study informed “7 Myths of Working Mothers: Why Children and (Most) Careers Just Don’t Mix” by Suzanne Venker?

Do you think “How to Choose a Husband: And Make Peace With Marriage” is the kind of practical and philosophical advice every Williams student should embrace?

It’s regrettable the organizers voted to cancel the speech because it would be better to host it and understand the argument and critique it on the merit.

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Nigel October 21, 2015 at 10:58 am

Bravo Williams, Stalin would be proud.

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Michael La Porte October 22, 2015 at 2:16 pm

It wasn’t “Williams” it was the UL organizers:

“The members of Uncomfortable Learning canceled the event”

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jean dumas October 24, 2015 at 12:22 am

Williams here shares some blame.

you have to ask yourself why “The members of Uncomfortable Learning canceled the event” ?

It’s evident to me that it was intimidation and bullying.
University administrations have no problems weighing in and punishing this types of actions… not in this case, this is a white guy inviting and feminism critic. They are not afforded protection because of who he is (white dude) and her views.

For what it’s worth, I am glad the administration did not step in and protected him from the mob, I do not think the threat level was high enough, so common sense probably dictated no interventions. Ironically, this is one of the best tactic from the left, they will sometime use common sense to shut down a group they don’t like, but when they do the same thing they will use dogma and shaming to justify their own action (common sense is only important when things are to their advantage)

Once you understand this pattern it’s easy to spot. (even if I am doing a poor job at explaining it)

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DavidB October 24, 2015 at 11:11 am

“The members of Uncomfortable Learning canceled the event”

Under duress. And threats. And under the full understanding the “tolerant leftists” like yourself have an extremely bad habit of coming to such events and screaming down the the speaker with hateful abandon.

Still going to fly your vacuous canard?

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Drew October 21, 2015 at 11:58 am

Nothing in Venkner’s work remotely resembles “hate.”
Her positions merely state that all genders need to be included in any discussions of equality.
In no way have any of her articles advocated discrimination, racism, white suprenacy, sexism, or any other sort of bias.
She does make compelling arguments for oerdibal responsibility and transitional nuclear families.
I suppose to some it may resemble hurtful criticism. To others it more closely resembles truth.

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WuzYoungOnceToo October 22, 2015 at 10:46 am

You’re suggesting that those who seek to stifle speech with which they disagree might be so unprincipled, and their position so weak that they would resort to dishonesty in their attempts to justify said suppression of opposing views?

I’m shocked…SHOCKED, I tell you!! 😉

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Sam Crane October 21, 2015 at 12:10 pm

Who funds the “Uncomfortable Learning” series? I imagine it takes a lot of cash to bring in some of the people (Jonah Goldberg?) they have brought. Who is paying? A list of donors and the amounts they have given might help clarify the ideological context of the program. Also: did Venkner get paid? If so, how much?

Follow the money.

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DavidB October 24, 2015 at 11:13 am

So you can hunt it down and silence it?

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5Arete23 October 21, 2015 at 12:16 pm

and the comments to this article are enlightening as to how this situation appears to people who are not at college.

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WuzYoungOnceToo October 22, 2015 at 10:48 am

Perhaps you should enlighten us as to how cowardice and dishonest character assassination appear to those who ARE at college.

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Loren October 21, 2015 at 12:29 pm

How utterly ironic that the “Uncomfortable Learning” speaker series cancelled this speech…because the content may be uncomfortable.

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Louis October 21, 2015 at 1:56 pm

Am I reading this correctly? Did some guys have a women speech cancelled because they did not want her to speak about feminism? LOL! Really? Thank you men of Williams! I’m glad there are always men out there willing to shut down a women when she says someone they don’t like. LOL! Talk about privilege!

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Robert October 21, 2015 at 2:16 pm

hahaha. Not sure if you are trying to be funny/ironic. You know if that happened the campus would be on administrative lockdown and Title IX officials would be en route.

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Andy Grewal '02 October 21, 2015 at 2:10 pm

Sad. I thought the point of campus lectures was for students to first attend and then continue the relevant debates with their classmates. The resulting discussions and analytical exchanges would then help you form your independent views of issues, leading to your intellectual growth. Or at least that was the case when I was at Williams. We routinely went to lectures that we disagreed with at the outset — sometimes our minds changed, but most of the time we walked away with a better understanding of why we believed the speaker was wrong and we were right. This was a good thing

It’s truly unfortunate that many Williams faculty and students would rather censor views than let them be expressed. If the minority viewpoints are incorrect, they should be aired and then batted down through discussions within the community, and not shielded from public debate. This is especially so when the viewpoints reflect the view of millions of ordinary Americans, in which case the topic is per se important, even if it seems outlandish to those sipping their lattes in the faculty lounge.

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Michael La Porte October 22, 2015 at 2:19 pm

Its an odd view of “censorship” – UL invited. Feminists and others protested (which is their Free Speech right) and did so loudly. The UL rescinded the invitation.

Where’s the “censorship.” Isn’t this the “marketplace of ideas” rejecting one set of ideas as unworthy of purchase (in the eyes of the UL organizers themselves)?

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Louis October 23, 2015 at 12:59 am

A marketplace requires a buyer and seller. You had both here, the organizers and the speaker. They wanted her to speak, except an uninvolved third party interfered with this transaction by harassing the buyer causing the buyer to cancel the transaction. The buyers clearly wanted the product so there was no rejection. The fact is This situation went beyond polite disagreement. But I guess it doesn’t feel like censorship when your side wins.

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Sam Crane October 21, 2015 at 2:55 pm

Perhaps it is futile to attempt to correct the record in the face of determined ideological assault, but here is a fact: Williams faculty had nothing to do with this. The “Uncomfortable Learning” program is a student group, without, I believe, even a formal faculty sponsor. The invitation was extended by students, and it was rescinded by students. No faculty involvement, and thus no lattes in the faculty lounge, at all.

The shame of all of this is that the notion of “uncomfortable learning,” so long associated with the work of Political Science professor, Bob Gaudino, has now been tarnished by this sorry affair. And the appropriation of the term by a student group, funded by undisclosed outside sources, should not be confused with the excellent work done by the Gaudino Fund, which works to carry on a truer understanding of “uncomfortable learning.” See its mission here: http://gaudino.williams.edu/mission-statement/

Indeed, instead of the ersatz “uncomfortable learning” on display here, time would be better spent considering the excellent and challenging film sponsored this past weekend by the Gaudino Fund: http://gaudino.williams.edu/events/screening-of-of-men-and-war/

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Andy Grewal October 21, 2015 at 3:21 pm

Sam,

Thanks for the clarification regarding faculty involvement in this particular case. Of course, in other circumstances we see faculty expressing hostility to those who do not share their viewpoints, as in the Bloomberg commencement. And instances of faculty hostility to minority viewpoints is seen at campuses across the country.

I do not see why it’s terribly relevant that an outside group may have funded the speaker’s travel. You are concerned about the potential “ideological context,” but I thought the group made its ideological context very clear — provide a forum for minority views so that the majority can better “understand how someone who is just as sure as you are in their beliefs can think something completely different.” There’s nothing hidden about the ideological context — in fact, the group is refreshingly clear regarding its stated goals. If only all professors were so explicit about their goals, at Williams or elsewhere.

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Robert October 21, 2015 at 3:24 pm

That is a bit dramatic. In the big picture nothing will be tarnished by this. These episodes blow up and seem like the center of the universe for about, say, 1.5 days. Tomorrow some random student will file a title IX claim against a professor for putting Shakespeare on the syllabus, or a professor will be de-tenured for not giving a trigger warning, and everyone will rush to complain about that case, and no one will ever remember the Williams speaker disinvitation or mention it again.

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jehanne October 23, 2015 at 1:23 pm

I disagree. This is not dramatic at all. It is a microcosm of how certain ideologies are being squelched or censored in a majority of American institutions of higher learning. And when it becomes so obvious as in this instant, the issue comes to the forefront once again.
From my perspective, conservatism and Christianity are not the same and yet that is how they are treated all too often in the classrooms and in the media. With disdain. Yes, generally speaking, with disdain. For example, just look at PBS the so-called voice of calm and reason funded by public tax dollars. Review all those shows they have aired over the last couple of decades dealing with titles like “Finding the real Jesus” or “Secrets of the Bible,” etc. Horribly slanted and anything but a fair or reasonable presentation of the evidence. Yet, there is no major voices in the media to counter such a liberal or secular push. Nor at most universities. I just do not see a young adult all so eager to engage in due diligence to see if such positions on religion are wrong or unfair, because their findings may only put him or her and their habits on greater trial. No eagerness there.

I know I have wandered a bit, but that is to demonstrate just how serious these matters truly are. What is at stake is the reality of what the Catholic Church refers to as “the Four Last Things” — death, judgment, heaven and hell. Now it may be what Ms. Venkers had to say ties in to those grave realities. But if this encountered all only looked upon be her detractors as “offending me and my individual beliefs or wishes” — then she could have started with an apology.

But if we are talking about college students with alleged high intellectual skills and a desire to know the truth, then I say, wise up, be more forthright and quit protecting your egos. (at least that is how I see it)

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'17 October 21, 2015 at 8:57 pm

Professor Crane,

It’s snide, condescending comments such as these that have helped to create the toxic culture in which only one school of thought is allowed free movement through public discourse at Williams. That you are unable to see the clear irony in your grumbling about “ideological context” suggests either significant partisan blinds or a more general inability to self-reflect on the same kind of “context” of Williams. Thanks, at least, for identifying yourself so students can select more open-minded professors for next semester.

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Kenneth Thomas '93 October 22, 2015 at 2:05 pm

’17:

Lessee. Essentially outside group with anonymous invites quack speaker. In the face of relatively timid criticism of speaker on *FaceBook* of all places, group claims it is concerned with violence (really?) and disinvites speaker while issuing “the sky is falling” claims.

As far as I can remember, excepting perhaps the pathological liar known as Dinesh D’Souza (lying seems to run in this family), no students at Williams have engaged in the kind of behaviors that the organizers say they feared since, say, some fraternity brothers shot out the windows of William Sloan Coffin’s house back in ’58 or so, nearly killing a child– because of Coffin’s advocacy of racial equality.

Funny how the fault lines run there.

Nothing here appears in good faith. Rather, as usually, it seems reasonable to worry that this entire incident is ridiculous theatre, solely intended to produce the cries of outrage, and specious claims of discrimination etc., that a figure as mediocre and otherwise insignificant as Venker (and her backers and publicists) desire.

Perhaps she should self-nominate, for Speaker of the House.

Back to fault lines. All these protestations against, what is it– ideological bias on campus, “trigger warnings,” microaggressions, etc.? How ridiculously overblown they are, in the end– how utterly separate these boogeymen, from the reality of what is actually occurring on campuses.

But what an interesting discourse. People like Venker and her backers are certainly rather uncomfortable with change and their loss of structural privileges, aren’t they?

They sure do whoop up a fuss, as it is said.

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WuzYoungOnceToo October 22, 2015 at 3:36 pm

– “Lessee. Essentially outside group with anonymous invites quack speaker.”

It’s ironic that you would accuse others of dishonesty in the same virtual breath that you attempt to characterize a student-run organization as an “essentially outside group”.

– “In the face of relatively timid criticism of speaker…”

LOL! Here are those “relatively timid criticisms” of both the speaker and those who issued the invitation:

“When you bring a misogynistic, white supremacist men’s rights activist to campus in the name of ‘dialogue’ and ‘the other side,’ you are not only causing actual mental, social, psychological, and physical harm to students, but you are also—paying—for the continued dispersal of violent ideologies that kill our black and brown (trans) femme sisters. You are giving those who spout violence the money that so desperately needs to be funneled to black and brown (trans) femme communities, to people who are leading the revolution, who are surviving in the streets, who are dying in the streets. Know, you are dipping your hands in their blood, Zach Wood.”

To quote the great Captain Reynolds: “My days of not taking you seriously are definitely coming to a middle.”

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DavidB October 24, 2015 at 11:18 am

Wow. You didn’t even read what was written in protest to the speaker, did you? You, like many other liberals, simply scream don’t that which you do not agree with.

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Alum October 22, 2015 at 6:32 pm

Sam Crane,

I would be interested to hear why you think the group’s funding source is relevant. In my view, even if these speakers were bankrolled by Charles Koch himself, it’s still irrelevant because you’re not actually engaging with the content of the argument. An argument’s merit is unrelated to how much you like the person espousing it. In fact, I would love to get inside Charles Koch’s head and understand his perspective. Maybe he’s right, maybe he’s wrong. Same with Donald Trump. Same with anybody else.

It is an embarrassment to the memory of Gaudino that you applaud the Gaudino Fund in the same comment where you suggest that an argument’s validity should be determined based on how much you like the people espousing it.

This reminds me of how certain Williams Professors decided their feelings on ideas ad hominem, rather than based on the actual content of the argument. During my time at Williams this was common among the faculty in the Political Science and History departments. All I had to do with some professors to consistently get A after A on essays was parrot your hatred for all things “conservative” by fitting all of my thoughts into the same liberal frameworks of thought they espoused in class, knowing full well as I wrote them that they had more holes than a block of swiss cheese. It’s pathetic when your students can see the illogic of your position, but you’re too obsessed with ad hominem to be able to see it yourself.

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WuzYoungOnceToo October 23, 2015 at 12:55 pm

* golf clap *

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Sam Crane October 23, 2015 at 2:24 pm

Dear Alum,

There is a matter of rules. You will notice that there are specific procedures that student groups need to follow, as per: http://student-life.williams.edu/student-involvement/student-organizations/. It is not clear whether “uncomfortable learning” is registered as a student group. If it is not, these other rules may apply: http://conferences.williams.edu/college-facilities/. And you will notice there this requirement: “Any political activity on campus should be sponsored by a college office or group.” Depending on the nature of the outside funding, “uncomfortable learning” may well be engaged in political activity, and thus would have to be sponsored by a student group.

If “uncomfortable learning” is a student group, then it would be bound by this rule: “Students who wish to raise money for any campus activity by soliciting alumni, foundations, or other sources of funds must receive advance approval.” (http://dean.williams.edu/policies/fund-raising-activities/). Has “uncommon learning followed this rule? I don’t know. But it is fairly obvious that the source of funding matters insofar as established College rules and procedures are concerned.

Now, you might want to argue that rules are bothersome and limiting. Yes, they are. But they are there for certain reasons and if you want to change the rules you need to engage in whatever processes exist to do that. That does not seem to be the case with “uncomfortable learning.” Alternatively, you could argue that rules must be broken to in order to achieve X “good cause.” In that case, we should be honest and open to the fact that rules are being broken.

If rules are being broken we might ask, why? And here money looms large. Why should certain Ephs, with access to external sources of money, be able to flout the rules while other Ephs cannot? Maintaining a certain fairness in discourse, not privileging some voices because they have more access to money than others, is a principle that, I suspect, Gaudino would defend.

Please notice that these arguments are not “ad hominem.” There is evidence that the Koch Foundation has a particular political bent (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2014/11/07/charles-koch-foundations-unique-definition-of-academic-freedom/). That goes directly to the content of the arguments that their foundation supports. It is an ideological thing, not an ad hominem thing.

But the final point is: without knowing the source of funding we cannot know if there is an explicit ideological agenda attached to the money. Whether one thinks that particular agenda is a good thing or a bad thing cannot really be debated until we know what that thing is. That is why transparency in this case matters.

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WuzYoungOnceToo October 23, 2015 at 3:57 pm

– “There is evidence that the Koch Foundation has a particular political bent ”

That’s like saying, “There is evidence that they breath air and consume food and water.” There isn’t a source of funding that doesn’t come from people with political bents.

While your point would be relevant to the question of whether or not the student group in question is adhering to regulations pertaining to funding, it is not the least bit relevant to the questions at hand.

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Sam Crane October 23, 2015 at 4:25 pm

Dear Wuz,

Alum asked “why you think the group’s funding source is relevant”? That is the question at hand. I provided an answer: because there are particular rules that regulate how outside funding can be used by student groups, rules that “uncomfortable learning” appear not to be following. Indeed, those rules speak directly to how political activity on campus should be organized.

Perhaps, for you, the question at hand ought to be something about a perceived “liberal bias” in academia. A big issue, with various facets. For the sake of argument I will grant that this is a problem that needs to be addressed. In this case what we are talking about is a group of students, organized by a alumnus who put them in contact with two other alumni who provided funding outside of usual college procedures, to combat “liberal bias.” It appears they broke the rules to do so. Is that legitimate? Is that fair? I think it is neither. I imagine that you think it is both. What are your grounds for those beliefs, if indeed those are your beliefs? And, if breaking rules is justifiable in this case, what general standard would you invoke to justify other breaking of rules (since we can imagine that there could be other groups with various grievances about limitations imposed by rules)? Or, is this a revolutionary situation (remember: I study Chinese politics) and rules should be ignored in the furtherance of some set of political goals?

WuzYoungOnceToo October 23, 2015 at 5:22 pm

– “Alum asked “why you think the group’s funding source is relevant”? That is the question at hand.”

Uh…no. That’s a badly paraphrased version of the question at hand…which is “Why is the group’s funding source relevant to the issue of Venker being disinvited by Uncomfortable Learning?”

You provided a statement that was in no way an answer to that question.

– “Perhaps, for you, the question at hand ought to be…”

That’s a disingenuous deflection. What you want to assume I might think the question “ought to be” is even more irrelevant than your funding rules diversion. The question is what it is, and it wasn’t defined by me. What follows that opening line is nothing but an exercise in creative straw man building. Try again, but this time stick to what’s actually being said rather than manufacturing windmills to tilt at.

ertdfg October 27, 2015 at 4:00 pm

” Is that legitimate? Is that fair? I think it is neither.”

Right, the rules only permit thoughts that are approved; and only liberal thoughts are approved. Any non-approved thoughts violate the rules and should be suppressed. It is “unfair” for anyone to be allowed to have any view except for the liberal view they’re told by their superiors

VIVA EL PRESIDENTE!

Oh, that wasn’t the rules for a tinpot dictator for this third world country?
Sorry, it really looked like it was. Right down to the thoughtcrimes for not thinking only as you’re told to think.

“And, if breaking rules is justifiable in this case, what general standard would you invoke to justify other breaking of rules”

Well there’s that whole pesky “First Amendment” thing; but I’m sure tinpot dictators with desire to control and limit the thoughts of others would allow Constitutional premises to hold sway.

Freedom and liberty are just so evil; aren’t they?
Oh, sorry i mean freedom and liberty for others to NOT do as they’re told by you of course. Then it’s evil, right?

Franklin October 23, 2015 at 5:52 pm

“There is a matter of rules.” Ah, yes. That’s very important, when you’re trying to create a little mini-totalitarian “community,” isn’t it?

“Now, you might want to argue that rules are bothersome and limiting. Yes, they are. But they are there for certain reasons and if you want to change the rules you need to engage in whatever processes exist to do that.” Yes, Nurse Ratched, and you say it so…politely.

“Oh, I know what you are going to say” – purred Hustav; “this element of gracious living strikes you as queer, does it not? One is accustomed to consider such things in terms of sordid brutality and gloom, rifle butts, rough soldiers, muddy boots – und so weiter. But headquarters knew Mr. Ember was an artist, a poet, a sensitive soul, and it was thought that something a little dainty and uncommon in the way of arrests, an atmosphere of high life, flowers, the perfume of feminine beauty, might sweeten the ordeal. Please, notice that I am wearing civilian clothes.”
-from Nabokov’s Bend Sinister

Professor, you are a toad. And if things continue to go your way, we won’t have much time left to tell you so.

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Sam Crane October 23, 2015 at 8:46 pm

Dear Franklin,

So, your argument is that I am a toad. That really does elevate the conversation. Thank you for that enlightening contribution. I imagine the next thing to say is “liberals suck,” or, as Professor Vedder has offered, the “liberal intelligentsia” is like ISIS. Very helpful.

From what I can glean from your incomprehension is that the conservative position (are you taking a “conservative” position or are you just frustrated?) is something like “rules are totalitarian.” That would come as a surprise to Burke or Oakshott. Or perhaps I am distracting you from your deep study of Ayn Rand.

Well played, sir.

Sam Crane October 23, 2015 at 9:07 pm

Dear Wuz,

Thank you for clarifying your question, which is not the question that Alum posed.

The disinvitation is fraught. I do not want to engage in a critique of the individual students who made that decision. I am, after all, a teacher here who knows these students, has had them in class and has talked with them outside of class. They are in a difficult position now. I understand and sympathize with that. But it must be pointed out that the decision rested with the “uncomfortable learning” group. I have also spoken with the students who criticized Venker’s talk, and from what I can tell, that is all they did: criticize. There was no threat of intimidation. There was no call for disinvitation. There was criticism of Venker’s position, and that was sufficient for the organizers to pull the plug. Yes, some criticism was rhetorically strong (“blood on your hands”), but I cannot discern an actual threat there, at least nothing greater than Professor Vedder’s assertion that I, as a member of the “liberal intelligentsia,” am essentially like ISIS (what do we do to ISIS?). I imagine the situation has been uncomfortable for the organizers, but they, not the criticizers, who did not transgress free speech practices, are responsible for the disinvitation.

The media shit-storm that has emerged from this is unfortunate and distorted. Notice how so many want to quickly hold the faculty responsible, when, in fact, no faculty were involved in this at all. That is the usual right-wing assault: blame the faculty. And that is one of the things I am resisting here.

In terms of life at Williams and where we go from here, the funding issue is, actually, quite important. It goes to how we, as a community, collectively deliberate and manage difficult issues. It seems that Franklin believes that “rules are totalitarianism” (please correct me if that is inaccurate, Franklin), but that is not a formula for any sort of healthy community life.

John C. Drew, Ph.D. October 23, 2015 at 10:21 pm

I don’t think Sam Crane has much experience in the field of threat assessment. One of the unusual things about potential campus shooters is that they are sometimes first identified by their English professors. Apparently, the student’s violent fantasies are freely expressed in their writing and then shrewd professors hand these potentially violent students over the school’s behavioral assessment team (BAT). I think extremist language from a group of self-righteous, impulsive, potentially drunk 19 year-olds is much more threatening than Professor Vedder’s over the top comparison of the “liberal intelligentsia” with ISIS.

WuzYoungOnceToo October 26, 2015 at 12:28 pm

– “Thank you for clarifying your question, which is not the question that Alum posed.”

Uh, it was *precisely* the question that Alum posed. Go back and read it again, paying particular attention to phrases like, “you’re not actually engaging with the content of the argument” and other pretty obvious clues as to the meaning of the question.

– “I have also spoken with the students who criticized Venker’s talk, and from what I can tell, that is all they did: criticize.”

Describing an unhinged, hate-filled rant as “critcism” is disingenuous at best. I guess you just don’t have it in you to conduct an honest appraisal of the situation.

ertdfg October 27, 2015 at 3:54 pm

“There is evidence that the Koch Foundation has a particular political bent ”

And horror of horrors it is NOT a liberal bent. Terrible.

“Any political activity on campus should be sponsored by a college office or group.”
And those are 90% liberals (the rest are socialist or communist outright).

The rules we have written to protect “everyone” from badthought and should make it IMPOSSIBLE to have any view except the rightthink views you’re told (and forced) to have!
This is doubleplusungood that anyone somehow got a different viewpoint!

Sorry, trying to follow the line of thought that got you where you are went a bit more Orwellian that i liked.
Did you think Animal Farm and 1984 were instruction manuals?

” Maintaining a certain fairness in discourse, not privileging some voices because they have more access to money than others, is a principle that, I suspect, Gaudino would defend.”

And forcing all views to be approved by liberal sources; who only approve liberal views is as “fair” as it gets. Why they support the whole range of liberal views; which is all anyone really needs… right?

What was the Blues Brothers quote?
“We have both kinds of music here. Country AND Western”?

That is the level of “diversity” and “fairness” to opposing viewpoints you’re interest in allowing.
As I said, Orwellian; with a strong desire to control and limit the choices of others.

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Sam Crane October 21, 2015 at 10:33 pm

Dear ’17,

So, we should just ignore Mr. Grewal’s obviously wrong comment about Williams faculty involvement in all this? I was, in fact, trying to restrain my anger at the immediate presumption that Williams faculty routinely censor student speech. Such a serious assertion should be accompanied by concrete evidence, not snide guesses about our favorite caffeine drinks. For the record, I do not drink lattes.

Also, I believe it is completely legitimate to inquire about the funding of the “uncomfortable learning” series. You will notice here that a recent participant in the program, besides comparing the “liberal intelligentsia” to ISIS, has suggested it would be a good idea for the Koch Foundation to help with the financing: http://www.forbes.com/sites/ccap/2015/10/21/getting-intellectual-diversity-on-campus/

Is that happening? I think we should know, and I think full transparency of all funding sources should be practiced.

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Andy Grewal October 21, 2015 at 11:53 pm

Sam,

I am not sure why anyone believes that my incorrect remark should be disregarded. I, after all, specifically thanked you for clarifying my error. So, we can all agree that Williams faculty did not censor views here. Thank you again for the correction.

I am still left grappling with your strange statements regarding the “ideological context” and funding sources of a speaker series that is fully transparent about its purposes.

To be sure, I don’t have any general objection to the disclosure of the funding source for a campus speaker, whenever such a thing can be ascertained. I just don’t see what that has to do with the instant controversy. This student organization is absolutely clear regarding its intentions — it wants to expose students to viewpoints that are somewhat prevalent in the general populace but apparently are not expressed in College classrooms. If you doubt Mr. Cook’s good faith regarding his stated intentions and instead believe that he is using shadow funds to pursue some type of corrosive political agenda, you should simply say so. That would be more helpful than advancing a conspiracy theory about funding sources that is inapposite to the present controversy.

Also, for whatever it’s worth, my quick review of Venker’s website suggests that I would disagree with pretty much everything she said in any lecture. But I do not consider the fact of my disagreement with an invited speaker as grounds to disinvite him or her. It’s unfortunate that persons on campuses across the country believe otherwise — I wish they would take seriously President Obama’s recent comments on the subject.

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Kenneth Thomas '93 October 22, 2015 at 2:08 pm

Simply wrong. There is no reason to accept that the organization is acting in good faith or wishes to expand discourse. Rather, on its face, this appears to be exactly the opposite: they’ve created an incident, purely to cry foul and whine in the spotlight of media attention.

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Michael La Porte October 22, 2015 at 2:25 pm

If it wasn’t the intent, it certainly has been the effect.

UL invited and then rescinded. And Venker and Instapundit lay the blame at the feet of “Williams College” and “the protesters.”

Put the responsibility where it lies – with the two UL members who voted to invite/rescind.

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Andy Grewal October 22, 2015 at 5:00 pm

If the concerns expressed about this fiasco related solely to UL’s decision to cancel the event, then you would be right. Only the UL members who decided to cancel the speaker would be responsible.

However, the broader concerns, expressed not only by Venker or Instapundit, but in numerous other fora, relate to the students’/protestors’ apparent inability to handle the airing of ideas that violates their “safe space.” Whether or not the event the event was cancelled, it is unfortunate that some college students in the Purple Bubble are so fragile that they fear “physical harm” and make veiled threats of violence when a speaker is allowed on campus who expresses a viewpoint different from theirs. It is also unfortunate that a faculty member would rather generate conspiracy theories than encourage students to challenge and question Venkers’ or any other speaker’s viewpoints. I thought that was, after all, one of the main points of higher education — hear/challenge/analyze different views and become a better person for it.

Regarding my thoughts on Venkers’ viewpoints — I’m on the same page as the students. To me, her analysis of the relevant issues seems silly or, at the very best, woefully incomplete. But I do not feel violated when someone expresses policy preferences different from mine, and I wonder how these students will handle reality when they feel so easily violated. There is a world outside of Williamstown.

N October 22, 2015 at 5:45 pm

Sure Michael and Kenneth Let’s all criticize the scared 19 year olds more. Like you have nothing better to do than pick on children. Some kids who were trying to do the right thing, panicked and cancelled an event. It’s not enough that the media spotlight has been on them. We need to make sure grown men and alumni of the college pour it on.

The only thing we need now is empathy. Let’s grow up.

WuzYoungOnceToo October 23, 2015 at 2:00 pm

– “Sure Michael and Kenneth Let’s all criticize the scared 19 year olds more. Like you have nothing better to do than pick on children.”

Legal adults are “Children” in your world? Young men and women that age are braving enemy fire, IEDs, etc in combat zones….but college students of that age are “children” who are frightened by Facebook posts? Way to further enable the infantilization of our young adults.

– “Let’s grow up.”

Yes, I agree…you should certainly do that.

Louis October 23, 2015 at 12:19 am

How did they create an incident? They invited a speaker, got harassed over it, and gave up. Quit with the victim blaming. Those that didn’t like it could have ignored it, she probably would not have had a lot of audience and then it would have been done.

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WuzYoungOnceToo October 23, 2015 at 2:02 pm

– “Quit with the victim blaming.”

I realize that among the terminally PC crowd the very concept of holding people responsible for their own actions is so terrifying that you need to use idiot euphemisms to refer to it….but here at the grown-up table there is no such need.

Kerry Murphy October 22, 2015 at 4:12 am

Professor Crane’s exchange with Mr. Grewal provides much needed context to this outsider who left campus life long ago. The good professors unwillingness to understand the issue, coupled with his use of the time honored but irrelevant funding canard, confirms in a truly scary way what I had previously discarded as an overly tidy little narrative about campus thought policing.

Gosh, it’s all true. How did we come to this place and how can reform, or chase away, the mean spirited simpletons that isolate our young people from thought, challenge and opposing views. I am stunned.

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A '15 October 22, 2015 at 9:59 am

Wood et al canceled the event because other students exercised their own perfectly valid right to free speech and objected to the speaker’s beliefs. In other words, they chickened out because they feared ridicule from their classmates.

Perhaps if Uncomfortable Learning is so dedicated to its eponymous premise, its leadership should welcome the opportunity to everyone being made uncomfortable, themselves included.

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Michael La Porte October 22, 2015 at 2:21 pm

Agreed, except that Wood voted to go ahead with the lecture. Just to clarify the record.

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Louis October 23, 2015 at 12:07 am

No, you don’t get to treat people so poorly and then once you win you blame them for giving in to you. That is victimizing them twice. Stop the victim blaming.

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Michael October 22, 2015 at 10:24 am

Very disappointed in my alma mater. I recall when ardent anti-abortion Phyllis Schlafly spoke at Chapin. There were protests, but she spoke to a large and mostly respectful audience.

The academic experience should be about hearing alternate points of view and respectfully debating them. Not censoring and shutting them down. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time in the mountains.

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A '15 October 22, 2015 at 12:26 pm

Michael, that’s precisely what would have happened in this case, had the folks at Uncomfortable Learning not gotten cold feet.

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Michael La Porte October 22, 2015 at 2:22 pm

+1

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Neil Sagan October 25, 2015 at 5:09 am

+1

By the by, Phyllis Schlafly and Suzanne Venker co-wrote “The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know — and Men Can’t Say.” But this book “How to Choose a Husband: And Make Peace With Marriage” by Suzanne Venker could be a campus best seller. Phyllis and Suzanne have strong opinions about how people should organize their lives which are informed by traditional family values.

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Robert October 24, 2015 at 12:36 pm

Let’s say that the entire story is that there was a healthy, civil pushback of Venker’s ideas and that, for some inexplicable reason, the wimpy organizers were too thin skinned to withstand it (I personally don’t believe this is a balanced perspective). The editorial in this same publication, though, still tells me that the story is about more than just the organizers. The *editors of the paper*, unfathomably, articulate the view that perhaps the talk would be “harmful” to some students, and that not harming people’s feelings is as critical to Williams as free speech, and that canceling it might have been the right move. This is unbelievable and indicates that this way of thinking (censorship of ideas to protect feelings) has some acceptance on campus. Scary.

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jehanne October 24, 2015 at 7:46 pm

I think what you say is a good insight, and you might be right. But, for me, that would be an even more sad reason than why I think these folks backed down.
I think it is simply many folks in this nation are hard fast on their ideologies and if they feel threatened by being shown up they do what they can to prevent it. The White House covers up and lies about Benghazi or the IRS or x, y, z. The mainstream media (esp. the left) underreport stories that make their side look bad. It’s dishonest. Documentaries are biased if they have an agenda to push. Everybody is slanted. As are us posters on the internet. Even when they/we know they are wrong people rarely give in on almost any point of contention. Nobody changes. It’s shameful. Ego trumps right, and honesty.

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WuzYoungOnceToo October 22, 2015 at 12:28 pm

– “Uncomfortable Learning is…”

…a disingenuous misnomer, obviously.

Another triumph for the heckler’s veto.

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Odysseus October 22, 2015 at 12:53 pm

You want an outside perspective? Williams looks like a bunch of special snowflakes. Devalues the worth of a degree from an institution that many thought respectable.

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PersonFromPorlock October 22, 2015 at 1:09 pm

Gosh. So on one of the highest branches of American higher education, we find… a troop of howler monkeys?

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Mike Allen October 22, 2015 at 1:09 pm

The Left never could stomach having their ideals publicly shown to be bankrupt. Welcome Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Castro, Che, Pol Pot. Punish the conservative thinkers for daring to expose my little bubble world.

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anonymouse October 22, 2015 at 1:11 pm

@A ’15, if by free speech you mean the right to anonymously harass people over social media, sure.

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Michael La Porte October 22, 2015 at 3:18 pm

Well, here’s what the students of Williams college “missed.”

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2015/10/22/what-wanted-to-tell-students-at-williams-college.html

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Steve October 22, 2015 at 4:14 pm

Oh, you poor little things! Go hide under the sheets and Daddy will make the bad woman go away. Go ahead, have a good cry and get it all out. Then I’ll bring you a warm glass of almond milk and tell you the story about the fluffy bunnies.

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John October 23, 2015 at 10:04 am

Whenever one wants to make certain of clear, open dialogue, that of shared, above all differing position, dignity and tolerance, without the slightest degree of close-mindedness – inclusive of couched venom dripping animus………, you can always count on the darling liberal. Ever the darling liberal…………………….

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John C. Drew, Ph.D. October 23, 2015 at 10:18 am

I taught in the political science department at Williams from 1986 to 1989. At the time, I was one of only three registered Republicans on the faculty. One of my favorite memories is that I offered a special one-course winter study called “Decisions, Decisions.” I remember that course with particular fondness because I added to the syllabus the politically incendiary topic of how to pick an appropriate marriage partner.

Much like Suzanne Venker, I was eager to provide a common sense critique of feminism coupled with a practical understanding that most, if not all, of my students would go on to marry and have children.

As an ex-Marxist and an ex-feminist, I thought I had a special obligation to remind students to honor their common sense. It was, I believed, absurd to suggest that men and women were interchangeable or to deny their natural differences in aptitudes and interests. I can still imagine the howling in the faculty lounges.

During my brief time at Williams College, the conservative students established a conservative radio show, a conservative television show, and a conservative newspaper. We tried to reach out to alumni for contributions, but had little success. I am proud that intellectual diversity had a brief renaissance during my tenure on the campus.

From a distance, I appreciate the way these young students have adopted the theme of “Uncomfortable Learning.” I expect this will catch on elsewhere. It is a short and simple way of reminding people that an environment of liberal fascism is no substitute for a proper education.

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Neil Sagan October 25, 2015 at 5:16 am

I never thought of conservatism as an intellectual movement. I thought of it as a political movement.

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ertdfg October 27, 2015 at 3:42 pm

He didn’t call it an intellectual movement; he said that promoting a variety of different viewpoints (viewpoints that are mainly political in this case) promotes intellectual diversity.

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Marc October 23, 2015 at 10:22 am

Students who feel they must be protected from speech or ideas that challenge their prejudices and assumptions have no place in higher education. College students do not need “safe areas”, the entire campus and every class should be uncomfortable spaces where student’s thinking is challenged.

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jehanne October 23, 2015 at 11:45 am

Yes, I was first made aware of this via foxnews.com. I must say the irony here is almost too much to bear. I would think those students who are devout on their views and were the main principles in getting Ms. Venker banned have done themselves and their reputation a great disservice. They did “cave” or cower. Sorry, but you people think too highly of yourselves. If you want to demonstrate to the ignorant, the less informed, or the ambivalent students and onlookers why your ideas of are so much more honorable and justified than Ms. Venkers — then this was your moment!!!

Instead, you choose to go bravely into the night thinking you have done the world a great favor. This is how Christianity in general is now being treated at so many universities, in government, by the ACLU, in public schools, etc. We are apparently biased and intolerant and not worthy of a voice. And I suppose if one tunes in only to the mainstream media and the entertainment media — then I guess I cannot blame them for holding such a view. But oh so tragic. America is afraid of death and reality, IMO.

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Franklin October 23, 2015 at 5:19 pm

You have made yourselves the reviled laughingstock of every single freedom loving person on the globe.

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Neil Sagan October 25, 2015 at 5:22 am

Does the media coverage get the story right, that the sponsor voted to cancel the invitation?

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CW October 26, 2015 at 3:20 pm

This whole situation is really unfortunate for a variety of reasons. It makes the administration look weak, the student body looks foolish and it threatens Williams’ reputation as being less politically charged than its peer schools.
To be sure, this was a student run event. This is a convenient fact for the administration but it is hollow. Imagine if a member of the Black Lives Matter leadership was to speak on campus and a group of students raised a similar ruckus using equally harassing language toward the student sponsors. In addition to be called racists and bigots, the administration would find the time to intervene and make sure the speech happened. There is no dispute about that. Also, there is the chance the student protesters would be called to account for their online harassment of other students. Focus groups would be convened to bridge the gap between the protesters and sponsors with the implicit suggestion that the protesters were in the wrong. One needs to look at the New York Times this past weekend for an example of how university leadership is really handled. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/25/world/europe/cardiff-university-rejects-bid-to-bar-germaine-greer.html?_r=0
Turning to the student body, this event is really an eye-opener. The editor of the Williams Record who recently commented students should be able to invite speakers to campus “provided of course that these speakers do not participate in forms of legally recognized hate speech.” Are you kidding me? There is no such thing. Like it or not, hate speech is protected by the First Amendment. President Falk, please disband classes immediately and demand the students take a seminar on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights immediately! This is embarrassing. How are these people graduating, let alone being admitted to Williams, with such an apparent lack of educational basics?
Equally alarming is the student who penned the broadside against UL and Mrs. Venker using these words “When you bring a misogynistic, white supremacist men’s rights activist to campus in the name of ‘dialogue’ and ‘the other side,’ you are not only causing actual mental, social, psychological and physical harm to students, but you are also — paying — for the continued dispersal of violent ideologies that kill our black and brown (trans) femme sisters … you are dipping your hands in their blood, Zach Wood,” Is this person for real? Is this how he or she communicates with people he or she disagrees with? Did he or she get an advanced copy of Mrs. Venker’s speech? Wow!! From where I sit in the real world, this person does not need a Williams education. He or she needs counseling and therapy. Until they get this trigger hatred under control, they will have a hard time being a productive member of civil society where some modicum of respect is required.
Finally, Williams has/had a reputation among college counselors, parents and alumni as being less politically charged than many of its NESCAC schools and certainly the Ivies. The student experience was different than say at Brown, Swarthmore and/or Wesleyan, where liberal fascism and the assault on free speech is so commonplace it is no longer noticeable. Protest is full time student experience at these schools. Some have suggested that Williams benefited from a large percentage of student athletes on campus who are a) are too busy balancing work and sports to find time to protest and b) likely to be more centrist in their social and political views. Maybe the administration was effective in weeding out such blatant forms of incivility in spite of an overwhelming liberal bent. I am not sure, but this “view” may be shattered. At a minimum it is compromised. Unfortunately for Williams, this event is now national news with the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, writing about it. Who knows whether this will impact the Teach it Forward capital campaign but it might.
Williams deserves better. Its leadership can and should develop more programs with ‘controversial” speakers coming to campus to further more learning and debate. Claremont McKenna has done a magnificent job with this and offers a model. Perhaps a member of the faculty should step up and provide administrative support. I am not close enough but I know that the way it is now, Williams’ reputation is impacted by ill-informed students making national news. That’s a bad thing.
CW

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Angel Torres October 26, 2015 at 5:34 pm

Better redefine uncomfortable! Maybe someone from Disney world can read you a bedtime story.

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ertdfg October 27, 2015 at 3:37 pm

If we have the decisiveness to silence and oppress anyone who commits badthought or badspeech we might not end it; but we’ll drive it underground.
Then the crazies who buy it will be forced to extreme measures, like violence to get any message across.
As we definitely want to cause fringe groups to get violent, destructive, and murderous whenever possible; we must support silencing them whenever we have the ability.

Anything else is terrible. That whole “the response to bad speech should be more speech” require us to be minimally intelligent on a topic; to know what we think and to express it. We can’t manage that. We’ve only got idiots screaming on cue; they don’t actually know what they think, or why they believe something… they believe because they’re told to. That’s it.

Ragequtitting society, ostracizing others, and fostering a system for fringe violence is just easier for everyone. And it lets us keep our idiots in line following us and parroting what we say.

Why would we want less violence and to let people think for themselves?
How do we gain power and control if we don’t force people to think, act, and do as we tell them?

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jehanne October 27, 2015 at 8:40 pm

no new comment, just watching.

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Robert Hall November 3, 2015 at 6:28 pm

My challenge to Williams College is that every student, faculty and staff member simply read Amazon’s free sample of fellow liberal Kirsten Power’s new(-ish) book, The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech. Really you should read the whole thing but… Evil is always sneaky. Evil is nearly always carried out by those who’ve convinced themselves that they’re somehow morally superior to their victims.

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DrRST November 14, 2015 at 8:53 am

Like Jeff Thaler, I have found it hard to stay removed from this volley of discussion around S. Venker’s “dis-invitation” by the group calling themselves “Uncomfortable Learning.” First of all, I think Gaudino would be jumping for joy around the discussion generated in response to this event, turned non-event. He believed that important learning takes place in the context of tension and opposition, exactly the kind that was aroused by her anticipated attendance, as well as her non-attendance. It is in this tension, seeing ourselves in opposition to others, that we get to know who we really are. How open are you to free speech if you cannot allow others, with different opinions, the opportunity to speak? It becomes not just a challenge to know and understand their ideas in the abstract, but it challenges us, emotionally, to set aside our own sensibilities, long enough that we can begin to see the “other.” Whoever these people may be who have drastically different perspective, beliefs, and values from our own, can we approach them as human beings, with their own interests, motivations, fears, and desires, who are equally worthy of our interest and understanding. Mr. Gaudino was an equal-opportunity listener, excluding no one from being the beneficiary of his interest and understanding. If someone’s ideas represent even a small segment of the population of people who inhabit the earth, he would want to know and understand their perspective, their ideas, their values.

Some of the participants in this discussion seem to advocate that the college should only allow on campus those with reasoned, and methodologically-proven, ideas or concepts. But our world is not filled with people who only espouse ideas that have been proven through scientific discovery, and systematic investigation. People take positions that are not rationale, and that are derived from irrational belief systems, founded in their emotional experience and development. Are these components of who we are as individuals to be cordoned off from the college campus? Is it not equally important to understand the basis for behavior that is driven, not by science, or rational thinking, but by the emotional dynamics that lie beneath the surface? While recognizing that a liberal arts education has the tradition of focusing exclusively on reasoned, analytic and critical thinking, Mr. Gaudino also believed that simply “seeing” and “experiencing” others, and being aware of our thoughts and reactions to them, was valuable, hence his introduction of the use of ‘film’ in his early attempts to broaden his course structure in a manner that reached beyond a purely academic approach to learning. Gaudino saw the world as an vibrant, but “messy” place, that threatened the sense of organization and order typical of our well-controlled academic environment, but believed that part of the learning process involved a capacity to move in, and around, such a world. One of the things I believe Mr. Gaudino would revel in is the idea that the college is bringing the outside world to the college, rather than requiring the student to go ‘off’ campus to “see” and experience all that exists in it.

Central to this debate is the conflict or tension around “discomfort” and “safety.” Which of these do we choose? Should the college be a “safe” environment, or should it be an avenue toward “uncomfortable learning.” Those who advocate for “uncomfortable learning” might laugh at the idea of “trigger warnings” and the need for “safe space,” and yet this begs the question of how we create learning environments that recognize the needs of all our students. Current concerns about creating a ‘safe space’ for students should be recognized to the same extent and at the same time that we may advocate for creating discomfort. One question I think we are forced to ask is whether these are mutually exclusive propositions? Can we have it both ways, i.e. introduce ideas that are uncomfortable and emotional dangerous, while allowing for discussions and reflections that occur within an environment where all ideas are permitted, and respected.” While challenging from a pedagogical perspective, I believe we can. This does not have to happen all at once, all in the same place, or all with the same people. In my mind, the discomfort posed by Suzanne Venker can become the stimulus for discussions later held in ‘safe’ environments, where everyone’s ideas can be voiced and heard and understood, without the threats, and the devaluing and demeaning responses to which such discussions are prone, especially on the anonymous environment of the internet. There can be opportunities for discomfort, freely selected by those who want to attend, followed by those moments of reflection, with faculty who are able to create a safe environment in which people can speak freely and honestly, while respecting the views and ideas of others. While I do not believe Mr. Gaudino would have shuttered his students from the controversy and discomfort posed by such a talk, he would have insisted, if not demanded, that any discussion subsequent to it would have taken place in an environment where students respected the perspectives of their peers, in fact cherished them, as a means of both knowing themselves as well as knowing the “other.” He would have loved the idea of the students getting to know each other in a more intimate way, and that the learning environment was supporting the understanding of such differences. I think that he would have seen here, that the real threat to the students and their learning was not in Venker’s attendance, but rather that the college environment could not allow her voice to be heard, while supporting the respectful reflection on her ideas, and the feelings these ideas evoked.

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Nancy D. January 4, 2016 at 1:11 pm

How is the desire to treat all persons with Dignity and respect in private as well as in public, and thus not desire to condone the engaging in or affirmation of any act, including any sexual act, that does not respect the inherent Dignity of our beloved sons and daughters, anti feminist? Is virtue no longer believed to be consistent with femininity? Certainly the desire to engage in any type of act that demeans our inherent Dignity as human persons does not change the nature of the act. Do we no longer desire to raise young men and young women who are respectful of themselves and others in private and in public? Has being a young gentleman or young lady become counter cultural? How does identifying persons according to sexual desire/inclination/orientation, which objectifies the human person, respect the inherent Dignity of our beloved sons and daughters, who have the inherent unalienable Right to be treated with Dignity and respect in private as well as in public?
Why are we so afraid to tell our beloved the truth? We Love you, and because we Love you, we desire that you will always be treated with, and will always treat others with Dignity and respect in private as well as in public. We will not tolerate the engaging in or condoning of any behavior, including any sexual behavior that does not reflect the upmost respect for the human person.

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