The Williams Free Speech Alliance (WFSA) is a non-partisan organization founded by a group of Williams alumni in January 2023 to protect and promote Free Expression, Viewpoint Diversity, Institutional Neutrality, and Academic Freedom at Williams College. An independent alumni-based organization, which includes faculty and students among our members, we hope to work with the President and Trustees of Williams College as well as with faculty, administrators, and students.
We share the college’s mission, noting that Williams’s purpose “is not to offer specialized or professional training, but to develop in our students strong writing, speaking, and quantitative abilities, as well as analytical and interpretive talents, tested in relation to a wide range of issues and disciplines.”
We embrace the college’s commitment to diversity, seeking “to develop in students the capacity to see beyond the limits of their own experience.” We agree that “[d]iversity is not an end in itself, but a principle flowing from the conviction that encountering differences is at the heart of the educational enterprise—differences, certainly, of ideas and beliefs, but also differences of perspectives rooted in the varied histories students bring with them.”
Importantly we support President Maud Mandel’s commitment to “talking across differences,” recognizing that these differences could be ethnic background, religion, nationality, or political opinion.
We fear that college has fallen short of these stated purposes, its noble goals and intentions.
We hope to become a resource for students, faculty, and administrators who fear they have been silenced because they have offered an opinion that might be uncomfortable. We will lobby the college to remove policies and procedures that make it difficult for student organizations to invite speakers. We also encourage the college to invite speakers who have been cancelled in the past and to discipline those who would disrupt speakers or the proceedings of student organizations. Finally, we hope that the college, including academic departments and programs, will become politically neutral, avoiding making political statements about the issues of the day.
Moreover, we encourage to the college to include intellectual diversity as a criterion for the hiring and promotion of faculty and administrators – and even in the admissions process.
While we are an alumni-based organization, we welcome all Ephs, including alumni, students, faculty, administrators, parents, and grandparents of students, staff, and others into WFSA. We encourage all who support freedom of speech, diversity of thought, and the open exchange of ideas at Williams to join us. We will respect the confidentiality of subscribers and supporters and will not share or otherwise distribute those names to outside policies. WFSA is an alumni-led organization, wholly independent from Williams.
Dialogue is at the heart of the Williams ideal, as President James A. Garfield 1856 put it, Mark Hopkins, on one end of a log and a student on the other. This ideal has been challenged in recent years with students disrupting meetings, talks cancelled, and professors advocating the further silencing of civil and intellectual discourse.
We, alumni of Williams College, have formed the Williams Free Speech Alliance (WFSA) to promote free speech and the expression of diverse ideas and opinions at our alma mater. At a small college like Williams, students, faculty, and administrators should welcome diversity inside and outside the classroom and should not shame or otherwise ostracize individuals with opinions different from their own.
We believe that everyone at Williams, faculty and administrators as well as students, benefit from hearing multiple viewpoints, including opinions marginalized on, if not excluded from, college campuses in recent years. This includes opinions that some faculty and students might find uncomfortable, controversial, or even offensive. We all improve our critical thinking skills when we engage with a variety of ideas, challenging with civil arguments those with whom we disagree. Iron sharpens iron.
We, the members of WFSA, stand for freedom of speech and urge the college to adopt the Chicago Principles as well as the Kalven Report on political neutrality. We oppose the cancellation of speakers and encourage the college to promote a more equitable representation of political opinions on campus. We ask the college, including academic departments and programs, to avoid taking political stands. We seek tolerance of, respect for, and a thoughtful response to all manner of ideas and to their advocates.
We represent alumni from many classes and with many viewpoints and welcome Ephs from all backgrounds, no matter their political opinions. While concerned with the future of Williams, we are independent of the college, and hope to work amicably, respectfully with faculty, administrators, and students to promote free speech and viewpoint diversity in the Purple Valley and among its many communities.
Our motto is, “Don’t Cancel, Engage.”