Letter to the Editor: On campus controversies

To the Editor:

There is no greater asset in the possession of the College (and, of course, of other colleges and universities) than the interest and loyalty of its graduates. This is not primarily a matter of material support, but rather of the constant renewal of a community of grateful memory.

It is understandable that alumni and alumnae would be drawn to participate in campus controversies. I have done so myself — usually without being asked and surely, for the most part, without being paid the least attention.

I now regret doing so. I should have recalled my own experience as member of faculty at Amherst (1968-79) and the Georgetown Law Center (1979-2001) and, before that, at the London School of Economics and Oxford. Administrators, faculty and students at these very different places had quite a lot to contend with, and the interventions of graduates often only constituted evidence for their remoteness, at best, and their ignorance, at worst.

I am glad to leave the College’s current problems in the very capable hands of those actually in Williamstown. They certainly will not do worse than preceding generations and very probably will do better.


Norman Birnbaum ’46

Comments (3)

  1. You may be underestimating the degree of dysfunction at Williams College. It doesn’t take all that much attention and effort to realize that the college has entered a dark and dangerous time where a lack of intellectual diversity and outright censorship have compromised its mission. If anything, now is the time for alumni to speak up to defend freedom of speech on the campus. I think it is worth fighting for as you can see in my recent article for Campus Reform, http://www.campusreform.org/?ID=6956

  2. John claims extraordinary powers of vision at a distance. Every day in Williamstown courses meet, students talk with their teachers and work at individual projects, students converse amongst themselves, organisations hold meetings. I cannot recollect if the Museum has one of those paintings of night by Ensor—but Williamstown to ordinary perception at a distance still seems to alternate light and shadow.

  3. Norman-

    First- thank you for your opinion.

    I live “here” and I object to “a person in authority” covering up a mural of the founder of the town and the college. Especially without constructive debate and under the auspice that we should all somehow know that a depiction of Williams with Chief Hendrick meeting before a battle in which they both died as allies is somehow inherently “evil.” Evil enough to warrant censorship from a open to the public (although owned by Williams for profit) space.

    I don’t think you need to be here to have an opinion on matters such as this. Consideration of covering the soldier monument, the haystack monument- and other town relics should not be left in the hands of “the capable few.” These things warrant discussion outside the auspice of Williams College’s dictatorial censorship. That includes your voice.

    Does Williams College have “the right” to destroy historical representations of this towns past? Sure “the college” has the legal authority to cover historical art- they own the place, but that does not make it right. That does not make it moral. Williams College should not dictate such nuances of what is ethical- that is the point.

    Censorship is the attempt to silence people. Don’t be silenced.

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