Campus Free Speech

Williams College Students Claim 'Free Speech Harms,' Fight Efforts to Adopt the Chicago Principles

"Students were just screaming that we were trying to 'kill them.'"

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A group of faculty members at Williams College met to discuss a proposal for adopting the Chicago principles, a commitment to free speech that has now been accepted by some 60 institutions.

About 15 activist students attended the meeting, which occurred back in November, and brought signs that read "free speech harms." These students continuously disrupted the meeting, and even instructed white male professors to "sit down," according to an eyewitness, Dr. Luana Maroja.

"Students were just screaming that we were trying to 'kill them,'" Maroja, chair of Williams biochemistry program, told Inside Higher Ed.

Maroja, who is working to muster support for bringing the Chicago principles to campus, wrote about the incident recently for the blog Why Evolution Is True. She writes:

I explained how censorship hurts the very cause they are fighting for, noting that because I am Hispanic, people often assume that is the reason I got into Cornell, got a job, and got grants, and that students of color will face the same fate in the outside world. Thus, I added, students need to be able to defend their positions with strong reason and argumentation, not by resorting to violence or name-calling. …

While most professors at the meeting were highly supportive of free speech and many sent me grateful emails, I was shocked at the behavior of some of my colleagues. For example, one professor turned to the students and said that they should read the names missing from our list of signatories, as "those were professors that were with the students" (an appalling tactic that created an "us vs them" atmosphere). Another professor stated that she was involved in creating violence in UC Berkeley for Milo Yiannopoulos's disinvitation and would be ready to do the same at Williams.

The students' reaction to the idea of adopting the Chicago principles had an immediate effect. Jana Sawicki, the chairwoman of Williams' committee on free expression, initially signed the petition in support of adoption, but later took her name off the document due to student-led fury. "What needs to be bolstered here is trust in the institution, and the institution needs to deserve that," she explained to Inside Higher Ed.

What really needs to be bolstered at Williams is support for freedom of speech. That activist students think speech they disagree with is actively harmful—akin to violence against them—is a worrying trend, and one I have chronicled extensively for my forthcoming book, Panic Attack: Young Radicals in the Age of Trump (pre-order here).

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  1. If they don’t like free speech then whoever is hosting the event should tell them he controls the speech in that room and they should shut the fuck up and sit down.

    1. Ooh, a joke! Not bad, but of course free speech shouldn’t be allowed to devour itself, hence the concept of taking one’s turn at the podium (taking one’s turn is supposedly taught in kindergarten, not that all college students seem to have learned it).

      So long as everyone gets a turn, and can speak without getting shouted down, voila! – free speech.

      1. No, Tony is right Just as shooting someone in self-defense is a valid reason for killing, so is shutting up someone disruptive who won’t let others talk.

        1. I thought Tony was making a funny, sorry if I misunderstood.

          1. Isn’t Tony allowed to be right once in a while, even when he does so as the result of a bad joke?

            1. That’s either the best thing Tony has said or his brother hacked his account.

            2. I thought the joke was OK, for the Internet.

              1. He’s not Dave Barry, that’s for sure.

            3. Tony is generally pretty good and consistent about free speech.

              1. Ahahahahahahahahahahaahha
                Ahahahahahahahahahahaahha
                Ahahahahahahahahahahaahha
                Ahahahahahahahahahahaahha

                Ahahahahahahahahahahaahha
                Ahahahahahahahahahahaahha
                Ahahahahahhahahahaajjajajajjhajlololololo

                1. It may be funny, but it’s also true as far as I have seen. I can’t think of any examples of him supporting censorship or hate speech laws or doing anything but mocking these sorts of college idiots.

                  1. Ahahahahahahahahahahaahha
                    Ahahahahahahahahahahaahha
                    Ahahahahahahahahahahaahha
                    Ahahahahahahahahahahaahha

                    Ahahahahahahahahahahaahha
                    Ahahahahahahahahahahaahha
                    Ahahahahahhahahahaajjajajajjhajlololololo

                    1. Thanks for the well reasoned and thoughtful response.

              2. Tony is generally pretty good and consistent about free speech.

                Yes, he consistently loathes it.

          2. Tony is right there. It does happen sometimes.

            1. I thought it was sarcastic since it made no allowance even for brief outbursts of cheering/booing.

        2. It’s just that the kids don’t seem to understand that they may not be the ones in power once speech starts getting suppressed. Especially not by acting like babies.

          1. Well said.

          2. Even a blind squirrel can find a nut. I’ve been saying for years that Tony has potential.

          3. Absolutely true Tony.

            Also the same with who’s in power managing their health care if it’s moved to the government. Or anything else where the government gets to make the decisions.

            1. Ask him about enforced cake baking, or Citizens United.

          4. I agree whole heartedly with this point

    2. If they don’t like free speech then whoever is hosting the event should tell them he controls the speech in that room and they should shut the fuck up and sit down.

      Well said, Tony.

  2. I can’t even.

    I have two boys, 14 and 12, and I really worry for their future. I can only hope that these Williams students have their influence limited by others with common sense. That’s going to happen, right?

    1. I can only speak from my own experience as a parent, of two daughters, now adults [24 and 31]; they grew up in a loving and caring home and we did our best to instill common sense by example. They both call bullshit on such nonsense as this.

      Point being, YOU raise your kids, not the “village.”

      1. we did our best to instill common sense by example

        In other words, you’re a white supremacist who wants to turn this country into the handmaid’s tale.

      2. I get that. I’m definitely raising my kids with common sense, and I don’t want a village raising them, but at what cost to their freedoms?

        Will we have to wait decades as Square = Circle suggests? And with the way things are spun through almost all media, how will it change? Almost all of academia share the same opinions or is fearful of this minority.

        I’ll try to be optimistic, but it’s tough when common sense has you labeled as a racist, sexist, etc.

    2. I can only hope that these Williams students have their influence limited by others with common sense. That’s going to happen, right?

      Eventually, yes, but not right away. This thing has a life-cycle, but it’s measured in decades.

      Back in the 1960s, students were protesting real things worth protesting (like protesting for free speech and against the Vietnam War) and they were getting tear-gassed, beaten with clubs, fire-hosed, and, that one time, shot. It was a bad look and the universities had egg on their faces with a large generation of people for a long time.

      By the time I got to Berkeley in the early ’90s there were still protests (or they were making a comeback), but they were on the order of protesting the tyranny of not having a Hmong Studies department. At that point, the UC administration was very accommodating out of fear of being accused of having learned nothing from the ’60s.

      Nowadays, it’s starting to become clear, even to administrators, that these current movements consist of a very small number of very loud people. There will come a time, eventually, when the memory of the ’60s will be faded enough that people will wonder why we continue to tolerate these mobs.

  3. “About 15 activist students…”

    And they are given so much as the time of day? I suspect this is about the same proportion [15 out of a student body of 2100 = .007] at other schools. And yet so many “professors” agree with their agenda to squash dissent and support them.

    1. The entire point of students claiming to fear for their safety is to give activist faculty and administrators justification to act as they desire but cannot reasonably defend. These activists are training the students to act this way.

  4. students need to be able to defend their positions with strong reason and argumentation, not by resorting to violence or name-calling

    Why should they be different from everyone else?

    1. Because they’ll be serving your coffee, and you want them to be able to make the case for their product.

      1. They’ll certainly expect to be paid at least a minimum wage of $25 and hour for that; not fair that persons who earned a degree in electrical engineering should get so much more. From each according to their ability…

        1. You joke, but when they vote for the people with guns to take your shit…

      2. Because they’ll be serving your coffee,

        Or they will be VPs of diversity in your school or business with the power to fire or expel you.

        1. Ask the people questioning the future power of these SJW’s to sign their real names to their comments, and you’ll see what they really think about it. Your point is dead on.

    2. At least you’re finally admitting it.

  5. Seriously, students should be able to defend their position (or even, for the sake of intellectual exercise, someone else’s position) in a public disputation – for academic credit as a prerequisite for graduation.

    Whether it be defending a mainstream position against an “extreme and hateful” opponent, or defending the “extreme and hateful” position oneself, it will be an education in how to master the details of a controversy so at the very least you’ll understand the Other better.

  6. “””Students were just screaming that we were trying to ‘kill them,'” Maroja, chair of Williams biochemistry program””

    Yeah, and we suppose to pay for these people’s college tutition?

    1. And health care…

      1. Mental health at that. You can tell they are going to need it.

      2. After all, an irrational fear that people are out to kill you is paranoia.

    2. I can’t believe that the administration is willing to put up with this nonsense. You identify those students and suspend them for two weeks or for a semester, and then expel them for a second infraction, and this shit goes away in a hurry. It’s like the liberal institutions don’t even believe in their own values.

  7. “Students were just screaming that we were trying to ‘kill them.'”

    I don’t know what the answer is here. Maybe another World War I, with millions of Americans standing in trenches with rats and dead bodies– you know… SOMETHING that would help remind these kids what someone trying to “kill them” really looks like.

    1. The “15 students” thing makes me wonder if maybe we’re dealing with the proverbial vocal minority of students – who happen to have the ear of the administration despite their lack of numbers.

      1. They have the ear of faculty whose field is so banal and useless that all they have left to struggle for is power almighty. Faculty with useful degrees and actual problems to solve don’t have time to waste on management struggles.

        1. ” Faculty with useful degrees and actual problems to solve don’t have time to waste on management struggles.”

          This is both wrong and stupid. The faculty with useful degrees and problems to solve rely on the rest of the faculty to bring in sweet government cash to fund them.

        2. They have the ear of faculty whose field is so banal and useless

          Based on the remarks of Camille Paglia, I believe this to be untrue. The faculty are largely neutral and apathetic to these things, it’s a mandarin class of administrators that has risen to prominence, and it’s the administration that drive this stuff, not the professors.

          1. I had forgotten about the invisible mandarins. They are the ones whose every incentive is to grow their burrocratic fiefdoms.

            1. Well you’re stupid, no one is surprised you overlooked a hugely important point.

      2. It is always a vocal minority of neurotic misfits who have learned that they can bully people.

      3. What difference does it make if it’s only 15 students if they are successful in driving the political agenda?

        1. It doesn’t. That is why they do it.

          1. And this is how they do it.

    2. The response I would have gotten in boot camp would have been along the lines of “if I were trying to kill you, you’d fucking be dead”.

  8. …brought signs that read “free speech harms.” These students continuously disrupted the meeting…

    See?

  9. How do you manage to deal with people who are irrational on purpose?

    1. Laugh at them. These people are so earnest and full of their own shit, they are defenseless in the face of ridicule.

      1. Air horns. Pocket air horns.

        1. Garden hoses and cold water.

          1. See? We’re getting somewhere now.

          2. Bolivian telephone?

      1. “The very existence of flamethrowers proves that sometime, somewhere, someone said to themselves, ‘You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I’m just not close enough to get the job done.'” — George Carlin

        1. exactly. ha.

    2. How do you manage to deal with people who are irrational on purpose?

      Expel them.

      1. This! Basic behavior: If you reward a behavior it increases and intensifies. If you punish a behavior it decreases and lessens. As long as schools continue to appease SJW, the situation will only get worse which is really the opposite of what they want.

  10. “Tut…tut…the right does it too”

    1. Man, you need to step up your game. You’re just phoning it in lately.

  11. For an insightful analysis on the dangers of “free speech” absolutism, see Reason contributor Noah Berlatsky’s piece Is the First Amendment too broad? The case for regulating hate speech in America.

    Mob violence is, of course, not the correct response to hate speech. But a truly tolerant, inclusive society should make clear that the most repugnant views — transphobia, opposition to open borders, etc. — are punishable by law.

    #BringBackBerlatsky

    1. Christ what an asshole.

        1. Berlatsky is who I mean. Google that guy and read some of his stuff. He is just an unbelievable asshole.

          1. So, under this Berlatsky doctrine, civil rights can be infringed if its exercise hurts people’s feelings.

            Same-sex marriage hurts people’s feelings. Why not ban same-sex marriage?

            What about gay pride parades? Do they not hurt people’s feelings? Why not ban gay pride parades to protect their feelings?

            What about shutting down Islamic mosques because they hurt the feelings of terrorism survivors? Or shutting down Catholic churches because they hurt the feelings of sexual abuse survivors?

            And, of course, is not public safety a greater interest than protecting people’s feelings?

            Why not arbitrary searches and seizures at the whim of the police?

            Why not reducing the burden of proof in criminal trials to a preponderance of the evidence?

            The question is not what civil rights violations could be justified under the Berlatsky doctrine.

            The question is what could not.

  12. >>>That activist students think speech they disagree with is actively harmful—akin to violence against them—is a worrying trend

    it’s not a worrying trend it’s a goddamn affront to humankind. the little bugs’ idiot ideas need to be stamped out hard

    1. … with words just words … i’m not getting all punchy or anything

      1. Might help if someone sat them down and explained the difference between speech and violence. With plenty of examples.

        1. i would get punchy for that … lead by example

    2. I watched a TED talk where a professor called education violence. It was…comical.

      1. yikes. how does he reconcile himself?

        1. Didn’t. Just moved on like his point was unquestionable and began explaining why he accepted Social Justice’s premises as a whole.

          1. TED jumped the shark about 5 years ago.

  13. I really don’t see what the schools would lose if they just started expelling students who pull idiotic stunts like this. There are plenty of qualified people applying to Williams and similar colleges. Why do they put up with this shit?

    1. I think you are right Zeb. And the fact that they don’t expell people who do this stuff is pretty strong evidence the administrators support it.

    2. Because they agree with it.

      1. I’m not sure how it’s even possible to agree with such a incoherent and shrill group of activists. But it seems like you are right.
        It is true that a lot of these small liberal arts schools market themselves as places where you can go be an activist (I went to such a school like 20 years ago and it was plenty ridiculous then). So I have to wonder, do the administrators think that tolerating and even encouraging behavior like this is a good path for their school’s long term success, or do they really think they are changing the world in some positive way?

        1. It is much like the Zuck calling for regulation of Facebook. He knows it will make him more money in the long run. Every time they have one of these outbursts, it makes a case for a new department of hurt tushie that expands the fiefdom. Most of these schools have billion dollar endowments that they need to justify pulling from.

    3. They don’t have a set of balls to share amongst the lot of them?

      1. Their balls have been placed in safe storage under the custody of the Women’s Studies department.

  14. This isn’t what the president meant when he said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

    1. Prime Minister. I believe it was Churchill.

      1. Oops, my bad. Twas roosevelt

        1. Lincoln. Everything with uncertain attribution is by Lincoln.

          1. “You can fool some of the people all of the time…”

            1. but you can’t fool all the people all the time. and now we’ve seen the light we gotta stand up for our rights.

        2. Which one?

  15. Sounds like we need some new asylums and offshore, supermax for-profit prisons.

    1. I think more study abroad programs. In Yemen.

      1. Or Venezuela.

  16. How quaint that right-wingers — who turn every campus at which they obtain control into a weak, censorship-ridden, academic freedom-rejecting, nonsense-teaching, science-disdaining, dogma-enforcing, speech code-imposing, fourth-tier (or unranked) yahoo factory — figure they are good candidates to offer pointers to strong, liberal-libertarian schools.

    What’s next? Another invitation to their betters to emulate the bottom-scraping right-wing schools by hiring more movement conservatives?

    1. Your insights are admirable, but do not hide your light under a bushel. I hope you make campaign appearances throughout the country, speaking on behalf of the Democrats. I’m sure you can sway some undecided voters to make good choices for their country.

    2. Hey, Rev, just for the hell of it, do you want to name one of these colleges that has been taken control of by the right?

      1. He’s so far left he thinks Evergreen is right wing.

    3. You must just cut and paste every time you comment. I’d think that a liberal such as yourself would be more creative, but now I remember you’re not really a liberal… you’re a fascist progressive.

      1. Actually just a fucking troll; best to not even feed it with responses. I understand they hate, in fact loathe, being ignored more than anything you can possibly say to them. Except perhaps being laughed at.

  17. “Students were just screaming that we were trying to ‘kill them,'”

    Not very effectively trying to kill them, unfortunately.

  18. I love it! This is exactly what a Massachusetts college deserves. It’s the best that The Evergreen State College is on the brink of bankruptcy. It’s fantastic USC is a bunch of cheaters. Missouri is still reeling from their fiasco. Isn’t it funny these stories never come from Texas or OU? College kids away from the coasts are fine.

    1. Pretty much everything, of course with Islands of exceptions [Oberlin comes to mind], is better away from the NE and West Coasts.

  19. Who decides what speech harms and what speech does not? These idiots will love censored speech, until their speech is censored.

  20. “Students were just screaming that we were trying to ‘kill them,'”

    Sounds like a good idea, now that you bring it up.

  21. Who allegedly is the victim of freedom of speech?

    I wish these students could explain how freedom of speech harms people.

  22. “‘Students were just screaming that we were trying to kill them,’ Maroja, chair of Williams biochemistry program, told Inside Higher Ed.”

    1. If you think someone advocating free speech is trying to kill you, you need a therapist, not a professor.

    2. If I were a biochemist and wanted to kill you, said death would be messy and uncomfortable, and you’d be in an ICU quarantine ward, not a conference room.

  23. This is Bullshit, the Democrats are full ofnshit and Tony is full of shit.

    The Democrats easily could end this shit overnight, butnjnstead, they actively encourage it. They’ve deliberately weaponized their extremists and empowered them in order to bully people out of wrong think. The universities could easily expel students who do this shit and make out like a bandit (they get to keep the tuition and they’re down the costs of a student), but instead they act like there’s nothing they can do.

    The de facto position of the modern Democrat party is that there should be no free speech.

  24. I think this is great.

    It clearly draws a line between those who support free speech and those who don’t.

    The former open to listening to all viewpoints before making an informed decision and the latter forcing uninformed decisions upon us.

    It’s a perfectly good reason for a civil war to reaffirm the constitution. I wonder if the fascists really want it bad enough.

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