‘Uncomfortable’ Talk Censored at Williams

From FIRE’s site (The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) 

Williams College has disinvited a second speaker from
its student-run “Uncomfortable Learning” speaker series, a program specifically developed to bring controversial viewpoints  to campus. Unlike the first disinvitation (Conservative writer Suzanne Venker), which came at the behest of the speaker series’ student organizers, this order came directly from the college president.

Williams President Adam Falk said in a statement to the university community this morning that he was canceling next Monday’s speech by writer John Derbyshire, whose views have previously been called racist and sexist.

Falk blamed “hate speech” for the disinvitation.

From Roger Kimball (PJ Media) Feb. 19:

Yesterday, Adam Falk, the president of Williams College, disgraced himself, the college that he leads, and the institution of free speech that he has claimed to support. He did this by disinviting John Derbyshire, the mathematician and commentator, from speaking at Williams for a student-run program called “Uncomfortable Learning,” a series specifically designed to bring serious but alternative points of view to the expensive (this year’s tab: $63,290) and coddled purlieus of Williamstown, Massachusetts, where nearly all the faculty are left-leaning and the students, with rare exceptions, are timid if irritable politically.

Exchange on Facebook Feb 19

John Leo: This problem is easily solved, Ask President Falk to compile a list of 5 people he disagrees with that he feels would not seriously damage the minds of Williams students, and just keep inviting those 5. Easy, no?

Facebook commenter: if you read Falk’s email, and as a parent I was sent a copy, he makes it clear that there are boundaries–and Derbyshire crosses that boundary. Derbyshire’s work has disappeared from reputable conservative publications and web-sites for the same reason that William F. Buckley, Jr. decided to ban Pat Buchanan from National Review– he is a racist. We should not be in the business of supporting racists– not politically correct reasons but as Falk points out there are bounds of decency that an educational institution should not cross– and Derbyshire, I agree, is on the other side.

John Leo: I know who Derbyshire is. I think universities should trust their students and not censor any speaker.

Facebook commenter: Fred Luecher, for example?

John Leo There are many terrible people I would not invite, but once invited by people with the right to choose, I wouldn”t censor. If you wonder what happens when censorship is encouraged, just look at the campuses today.


One thought on “‘Uncomfortable’ Talk Censored at Williams”

  1. Well, obviously there’s “Uncomfortable Learning” — which is the learning associated with topics/perspectives that we’re comfortable feeling just a tad uncomfortable about (kinda like going to Grandma’s house to sit on the plastic-wrapped furniture and smell mothballs — we don’t really look forward to it, but she is our Grandma after all). And then there’s “Uncomfortable Learning” that makes our tummies feel all woozie.

    And how can we tell the difference?
    Clearly anything that violates what I already know is true makes me feel bad. “Why would anyone tell such lies?” I would ask. “Why should we invite a liar to campus????”

    And of course anytime someone wants to tell me something which I know to be a lie…well, that’s because they’re a liar AND a racist AND a sexist AND a homophobic cisgenderist fascist. How could they be otherwise?

    And so we condemn Derbyshire as Racist (We said it’s so, therefore it must be so) and ask, “Where is the Inquisition when you need one??” And remove him from the menu. I feel better already. This Uncomfortable Learning Thing really works!

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