In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election as President, a group of faculty and staff came together out of concern over the fundamental threat his administration posed to the health of the planet, to democratic institutions, to the most vulnerable among us and to the shared principles and values on which the College depends. Nothing in the first one hundred days of the Trump presidency has alleviated those worries.
We find that President Trump and his administration hold in contempt what we value most: the pursuit of truth through evidence and reasoned arguments, and respect for human beings whoever they are, whatever their political and religious views might be. We are especially concerned about the Trump administration’s repeated attempts to impose a xenophobic and unconstitutional travel ban on people from certain Muslim majority countries; about inhumane, aggressive deportations of immigrants, some documented and some not, without due process; and about demonization of all kinds of people who appear “Other” to Trump’s administration and who are now increasingly becoming the victims of hate speech and sometimes even of hate crimes.
In rhetoric and in act, Trump and his administration have assailed protections for the environment and human health, often ignoring or flagrantly mischaracterizing the scientific consensus on the threats they are thereby exacerbating. Their irresponsible proposals for reform to health insurance and taxes would endanger the security and well-being of millions of Americans, including many in our community. Similarly, the administration’s current “Budget Blueprint” would, if implemented, hobble the work of vital agencies; it would decimate or eliminate many programs important to meeting people’s needs, serving the national interest, or pursuing the research and educational activities central to colleges and universities.
These vital issues by no means exhaust the scope of our concern; nor, obviously, are the problems noted above of merely local interest. As matters of national or even global reach, they are and will continue to be at the center of political discussion and struggle on a grand scale. We have focused on these issues because they directly contradict or undermine commitments essential to the mission of the College. Because of the threat they pose, a group of faculty and staff have written a Statement of Our Shared Values (http://williamsvalues.org/). So far, more than 60 faculty and staff members have signed it. We invite others to do the same, and we support the ongoing efforts of students to craft a statement of their own. We hope that these statements will serve as signals inviting all members of our community to join in long and probably frustrating resistance to the forces that threaten the values constitutive of functioning democracy, and of our own small community.
Here is the text of the Williams College Value Statement:
Williams College faculty and staff are happily united and divided across disciplines, fields, methods, modes of inquiry and political beliefs. Our differences are made possible by the shared values at the core of the College’s mission. At this moment, with the current U.S. administration espousing views and undertaking policies that endanger those values, it is important to say again what it is we hold in common.
This is what we share:
• We endorse the principles that the College announces as its mission and purpose: free inquiry, civic engagement, open-mindedness and concern for others.
• We unconditionally reject bigotry, discrimination and rhetoric and acts of hate, whatever the target: a person’s race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, class, religion, national origin, current citizenship, immigration status, disability, veteran status or political views.
• We uphold the principles of intellectual inquiry based on unbiased evaluation of evidence, reliance on reasoned arguments and examination of underlying assumptions, with truth and understanding as its goal.
• We believe that policy decisions ought to be based on the best available scientific evidence and that independent academic inquiry has a role in helping shape this evidence.
We are ready to help anyone at Williams who fears oppression or persecution. We pledge to work with students, faculty, staff and other members of our community to defend these principles today and in the times ahead.
Sarah Jacobson is an associate professor of economics; Bojana Mladenovic is an associate professor of philosophy; and Mark Reinhardt is a professor of political science and chair of American studies.