Adam Falk, President of Williams College, Joins the Fight Against Free Speech

Roger Kimball, PJ Media, February 19, 2016

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 correct babies.

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In its way, Adam Falk’s campus-wide email is a thing of wonder, a chiseled, gem-like epitome of the self-righteous intolerance that has so blighted academic life for the last couple of decades. “Today,” Adam Falk wrote, “I am taking the extraordinary step of canceling a speech by John Derbyshire, who was to have presented his views here on Monday night. The college didn’t invite Derbyshire, but I have made it clear to the students who did that the college will not provide a platform for him.”

Free speech is a value I hold in extremely high regard. [Yes, of course you do, so long as it challenges no aspect of the politically correct dispensation.] The college has a very long history of encouraging the expression of a range of viewpoints and giving voice to widely differing opinions. [Right. That’s why, years ago, I was first invited and then disinvited from speaking there in a political science series and why, just a couple of years ago, the FBI was called when some unidentified person scrawled a racial epithet on a college dormitory.] We have said we wouldn’t cancel speakers or prevent the expression of views except in the most extreme circumstances. In other words: There’s a line somewhere, but in our history of hosting events and speeches of all kinds, we hadn’t yet found it. We’ve found the line. Derbyshire, in my opinion, is on the other side of it. Many of his expressions clearly constitute hate speech, and we will not promote such speech on this campus or in our community.

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I won’t keep you suspense any longer: John Derbyshire’s unpardonable offense is to have opinions about race that differ from those certified by the examining board of politically correct attitudes. {snip}

John Derbyshire inadvertently burned his bridges with the politically correct establishment back in 2012 when he published an article expressing some of his thoughts on the realities of race in contemporary America. You can read his offending column here and learn a bit more about his views from an interview he conducted with Gawker here. {snip}

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{snip} I am proud to have published many articles by John Derbyshire at The New Criterion, and will continue to do so. By his disreputable actions yesterday, Adam Falk has indisputably joined the ranks of the neo-McCarthyites who, basking in the conviction of their own virtue, present themselves as staunch defenders of free speech just so long as there is no cost to do so. As soon as anyone with a challenging opinion shows himself, their native intolerance rises up and they start babbling like a character out of Ring Lardner: “Shut up, he explained.”

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