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Main Problem at Williams according to Alumnus

The following is an email sent from Steve H Corkran to Society of Alumni President Tom Gardner

Hi Tom -

Happy New Year.

Given our prior conversation about Williams, free speech and inclusion, I read your well written essay in the Williams Magazine People January 2020 edition with great interest. I am replying with comments presenting a different point-of-view. As President of Society of Alumni, you lead an important constituency in shaping opinion and policy at Williams.

My hope is that you would agree with enough of the below points to adjust your course, and advocate for free speech and civil discourse at Williams, as a foundation for superior liberal arts education.

  • The problem at Williams: There is a sickness at Williams today, just as there was in the era of fraternities. During the fraternity era, there were included (Greek) students, and excluded (non-Greek) students. During current times, there are included (Woke) students, and excluded (canceled) students. The reality at Williams is that students and faculty often self-censor non-PC opinions. Otherwise they are condemned by the cancel culture on campus.

  • The solution at Williams: Free speech and civil discourse are what is needed at Williams today. To enable productive discussions between progressive/socialist and conservative/traditionalist students and faculty and to end the cancel culture, first there needs to be free speech. Students and faculty should be able to discuss non-PC topics such as Trump, climate change, and Kavanaugh without reprecussion. Free speech on campus should also be voiced with respect and civil tone (civil discourse). Free speech should not be thought of as an opportunity to disrespect an individual, a group, a culture, or a point of view. Free speech and civil discourse need to be promoted in a Mission Statement and Code of Conduct, and even taught on campus, because many students come to Williams without these skills.

  • "Access and inclusion" are not the biggest problems at Williams. Access is already largely achieved. The campus is splendidly diverse by standard metrics. However, intellectual and political diversity is needed as well, to promote vigorous discussion of issues and beliefs. Williams admissions department, however, does not track intellectual and political diversity. Instead, they should monitor a wider range of diversity metrics including intellectual and political metrics, and admit on that basis.

  • Free speech and inclusion are not compatible. An educational institution has to prioritize between them. The University of Chicago has chosen free speech, even when it may offend some. Williams should do the same if it wants to critically examine deeply held beliefs. Or Williams could continue on its present course of becoming a welcoming comfort college. Therefore Williams' mission priority should shift from "access and inclusion" to "free speech and civil discourse", in order to preserve Williams as a premier liberal arts college. Otherwise, over time, the best students will go where they get the best education, not where they feel most comfortable.

Please let me know your thoughts.

Regards, Steve

Steve H Corkran,


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