Across the country, in living rooms, at kitchen tables, Americans are talking about the Hamas’s terrorist attack on Israel. Twitter is aflame with all manner of individuals providing facts and offering commentary.
Yet there are some places where people are afraid to share their opinions openly. And those places include the very places where such conversations should be taking place.
The recent FIRE ratings show that students across the country are wary of talking about the situation in the Middle East. In their report on the NESCAC schools, they share this about our alma mater:
A notable portion of Williams students identified the Israeli/Palestinian conflict (44%), economic inequality (41%), and affirmative action (40%) as topics that are “difficult to have an open and honest conversation about on campus.”
44%, nearly half of Williams students believe it difficult to talk about one of the most important issues of the day.
Conversations with students confirm this.
At a recent meeting of the Williams College Jewish Association, students were afraid to express their views lest they be seen to be on the “wrong side of history”. One student said that her peers fear speaking out because they are “terrified of getting ‘cancelled’’ or being seen as “too political.”
There is a problem on campuses across the country. There is a problem in the Purple Valley. Students should not fear sharing their opinions. We set up WFSA not just to make the Williams community aware of the problem, but also to develop solutions.
We do not need the administration to take a stand on Israel. We do need the administration to take a stand on difficult conversations. They should be concerned that students are afraid to speak out. And they need explain why it is wrong to “cancel” someone for having an opinion at odds with their own.
We grow intellectually by having those difficult conversations, by listening to those with whom we disagree and responding to their arguments with thoughtful rebuttals of our own.
We’ve been saying that here for some time. We’d like the college administration to say it with greater force.