Letter to the Editor: The problem with censorship

December 9, 2015 by Herbert Allen

To the Editor:

President Falk has committed a serious error by censoring a painting in the Log and convening a tribunal to judge the moral value of art objects on the campus. The committee members will be serving on the College’s edition of the old House Un-American Activities Committee. Around the United States, terrified college presidents are running for their lives to stay ahead of intellectual lynch mobs. The Falk effort is an attempt at preemptive escape from the fire of the new righteous.

Paintings and sculpture will always displease, alienate or offend someone. There is no object of art that can’t be attacked for whatever reason. The right to criticize objects exists for all. Also, the right of groups to have representation through the placement of art on the campus is reasonable.

All of that vastly differs from the act of boarding up a painting and appointing a committee to destroy the past. That practice when done by communists, fascists or the Taliban leads to endless destruction and thought suppression, and, ultimately, backfires.

My suggestion is that President Falk disband his committee on moral appropriateness and focus on broader representation of groups who feel underrepresented. Raise some money for new artworks and be done with running from the mob.

Herbert A. Allen ’62

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

HC December 11, 2015 at 12:25 pm

Williams has censored a historic representation of community. The college has covered a depiction of Native American and Anglo service in war. That concerns everyone. How art makes people feel matters. The discussion matters. That is the point. This is bigger than Williams. You are better than this.

What will be done with what you created during your time at Williams? Will it be viewed in context? Will your work be learned from or demonized? Will it be banished? Will it be censored?

Mr. Allen is correct. Don’t start this trend. It never ends.

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Peter Crotty January 20, 2016 at 4:36 am

You can’t blame Falk for wanting to avoid an embarrassing spotlight from CNN, especially after the “Uncomfortable Learning” fiasco. Herbert Allen hit the nail on the head: this is what college presidents do these days. If not, then refer to the U. of Missouri. Context is everything. Last month I was stunned to find out that “Merry Christmas” is now a politically incorrect expression. I’ve given up thinking that it can’t possibly get any more ridiculous: it can.

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