Conservative Privilege on Campus – Sam Crane, W. Van Alan Clark ’41 Third Century Professor in the Social Sciences

The “Uncomfortable Learning” brouhaha has subjected Williams College to a torrent of national media criticism. Most notably, conservative news outlets have shouted charges of censorship and liberal intolerance and general decline of Western civilization. Lost in the right-wing screaming match are the specific dynamics of this case, especially the fact the College administration itself, and the faculty, had nothing whatsoever to do with this particular disinvitation. Such evidence is irrelevant, however, to the pre-determined narratives of conservative critics of academia.

This whole affair has been driven by a group, one that involves Williams students but is not a formal Williams student organization, that has privileged access to tens of thousands of dollars from conservative alumni, allowing them to transgress established college fund-raising rules that all other students and faculty must follow. The rest of us cannot, by rule, raise money from alumni or foundations without going through College channels. Yet one group gets money, unavailable to the rest of the community, and that money lends them power to transgress other rules regarding political activity on campus.

My interpretation of the “Uncomfortable Learning” group, based on the speakers it has brought to campus over the pasts couple of years, is the same as that advanced by the right-wing media: Its purpose is to promote conservative arguments and ideology. The group might claim that they are politically neutral but, in fact, they are being used by conservative forces nationally. Thus, the question I want to consider here is: Why should a very small conservative group have privileged access to outside resources that other Williams students and faculty are denied?

The first answer could be the entrenched liberal bias of American colleges and universities. This is a familiar critique that has attracted mountains of publications. I’ll just state from the start that “liberal” and “radical” viewpoints tend to be more prominent on campuses than “conservative” perspectives (all of these labels are complex and dynamic). This is not news. Some years ago Dinesh D’Souza came to Chapin Hall and told us how bad we were. It must noted, however, that the liberalism of academia is not the result of active ideological discrimination. Thus, the correct response is not some sort of affirmative action for conservatives. If explicit ideological criteria were used in hiring of faculty and other curricular decisions, Williams College would very quickly slide into academic irrelevance.

Though Williams, as most colleges, runs more liberal than conservative, that is not to say there are no “conservative” arguments on offer here. We often invite outside speakers who put forth conservative arguments. Last year I bought an autographed copy of Andrew Sullivan’s The Conservative Soul after his talk here. Had a nice chat with him. This week two experts will debate the merits of the Iran nuclear deal, for and against. For those who feel we secular liberals have an anti-Christian bias, they might want to go to the Croghan Lecture, an annual, endowed event, which this year focuses on “Paul and the Five Gospels: Multiple Origins of Early Christianity.” An interesting Winter Study possibility might be Ambassador Donald Gregg’s (class of 1951, former National Security Advisor to Vice President George H.W. Bush) course on the CIA, or Father Michael Sullivan’s (class of 2003) class on “Pope Francis and the Problem of Evil.” And so on.

The issue, then, is not whether conservative ideas circulate on the Williams campus, but whether there is enough conservatism here. The “Uncomfortable Learning” group appears to assume that a shortage of conservative thinking justifies their privileged access to outside resources.

We do not, however, face a significant shortage of conservative perspectives if we consider a fundamental mission of a liberal arts college: to present a wide range of ideas and arguments that might be unavailable in the wider society. Our mission is not to proportionally represent the current political debate, but to produce and experiment with various ways of thinking, some of which might be challenging to existing political or cultural norms. There are many political arguments out in the world, some that hardly exist outside of academia. Conservatism is one of many, and it is neither absent on the Williams campus, nor endangered in American discourse.

In carrying out our mission, we face certain constraints–there are only so many courses that can be taught. When we make a decision to hire, we do not use the current “liberal” versus “conservative” distinction, which misses so much of the more detailed intellectual debate. The unsurprising truth is that academics take academic criteria into account when making decisions about academic appointments. There are certainly political implications of our decisions, but those are secondary to one of our purposes, which is to present students with ideas they may not find elsewhere.

When placed in a broader national and global context, the apparent imbalance between “liberal” and “conservative” perspectives on campus diminishes. Conservatives will argue that they are a minority, and thus require some sort of special attention or treatment. If they are a minority on campus, however, they are a minority that enjoys significant political power outside the Purple Bubble. Indeed, the Bubble has a highly permeable membrane. We live in an intensely saturated media environment, instantly connected to national political debates. When presidential candidate Jeb Bush utters the sentence, “I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues,” those words circulate through and around Williamstown. In this case, feminists are not shielded from anti-feminist thinking; rather, they are confronted on a daily basis with challenges to their standpoint.

Let’s push a little further on feminism, the topic that upended “Uncomfortable Learning”.

Women in the US have a constitutional right to abortion. This is a core tenet of liberal feminist thinking, demonstrating a woman’s capacity to have autonomous control over her body. It is a politically contentious issue and the anti-abortion position is represented on the Williams campus by Williams for Life, a duly constituted student group. Beyond Williams, if, as feminists might argue, the anti-abortion position is anti-feminist (arguments are more complex than that and I do not mean to suggest that Williams for Life is necessarily “anti-feminist;” I will let them represent themselves), it is clear that anti-feminism has access to political power that serves to limit women from exercising their constitutional right. This is not simply an academic debate; it is a lived experience that does not stop at Hopkins Gate. Even though Massachusetts and Williams are liberal in this regard, the restriction of abortion rights nationally is a direct attack on feminists locally.

The gender pay gap also surrounds the Purple Bubble. When they graduate, female Ephs know they are walking into a national economy where women face career obstacles that men do not. There are plenty of contrasting explanations for this, but even a skeptical analyst has difficulty avoiding the conclusion that: “It’s the deeper, more systemic discrimination of inadequate family-leave policies and childcare options, of women defaulting to being the caretakers.” Anti-feminism, it seems, is written into the economy and culture.

Some might want to argue that Williams women will enjoy advantages in the work force and the culture because that’s what graduating from a leading liberal arts college gets you, but, there is evidence that in STEM fields women face significant discrimination and harassment. Whether a woman chooses to “Lean In” or, as Eph Elissa Shevinsky suggests, “Lean Out,” the problem remains: big tech firms like Amazon, Google and Facebook have a “brogrammer” problem.

These sorts of issues are not external to the Williams experience. They are part and parcel of the national context within which Williams operates. Indeed, the feminism found on the Williams campus is articulated precisely as a counterweight to these sorts of powerful political, economic, and cultural forces. Whatever imbalance between “liberal” and “conservative” arguments might be found within the narrow confines of the Purple Valley, it pales in comparison to the larger discourses of “liberal” and “conservative” that flow around, through, and beyond Williams. In the specific case of anti-feminism, it is all around us. Extraordinary efforts to bring more of it on campus are superfluous.

To get back to the issue at hand, then: Is the need for conservative perspectives on campus so great as to justify the circumvention of established College rules by means of privileged access to large amounts of external money?

The answer is clearly “no.”

To recapitulate: conservative arguments are present at Williams, in both curricular and extra-curricular ways, and, more powerfully within the political discourse and actions that surround and permeate the campus. If conservative students wish to increase the presence of their views on campus, there are regular procedures and rules that can be followed, as has been done by Williams for Life and other groups. It appears that a certain apathy has afflicted conservative students of late with the disappearance of the Garfield Republican Club from the list of formally recognized student groups. That would be the first place to start. If conservatives want to press their claims, they can organize the way other groups do.

“Uncomfortable Learning” does not do this. Apparently, when organizers initially approached the college, it was suggested that they work with other groups on campus in developing their agenda. They demurred and, instead, they were able to connect with conservative alumni who were willing to provide funding, perhaps tens of thousands of dollars (one organizer mentions a “five-figure budget”). This is where the problem, and the privilege, arises.

All student groups at Williams are limited in how they can reach out to alumni for support. The Dean of the College’s policy on fund-raising states: “Students who wish to raise money for any campus activity by soliciting alumni, foundations, or other sources of funds must receive advance approval.” That approval is supposed to come from the Dean’s Office, the Provost, and the Vice President for College Relations. Similar rules apply to faculty. From what is known at present, the “Uncomfortable Learning” group has not followed this policy.

Additionally, “Uncomfortable Learning” is not a formally recognized student group, which could raise questions about their access to college facilities and resources. It might be the case that this campus rule applies: “Any political activity on campus should be sponsored by a college office or group.” That would depend, of course, on whether we understand their project as political or not. At the very least, they have been recognized as such by the conservative media that has entered into this mess.

What we are left with then is something rather familiar: a group of conservatives, most notably conservative alumni, who are able to use significant amounts of money, unavailable to others, to advance their ideology. All of this is couched in the language of “fair and balanced” discourse–but we’ve heard that before.

Most disturbing in all of this, to my mind, is the power this money has provided, to transgress rules that all other student groups and faculty must follow. Conservatives might want to argue that their mission is of such great importance that breaking the rules is necessary to save liberal academia from itself. This is false, and we can see that falseness when we recognize the broader contours of power and knowledge nationally and understand the mission of a liberal arts college.

At the very least, the Williams College administration should disallow the use of external alumni funds to promote the “Uncomfortable Learning” project and they should enforce all rules for student groups equally.

Beyond that, we can hope that the students involved in “Uncomfortable Learning” will come back into the fold and work through the established rules, or work to change those rules, to create an organization that allows them to express themselves fully on campus. They may run into opposition, even harsh words, and that may be uncomfortable, but that is, after all, the point.

70 thoughts on “Conservative Privilege on Campus – Sam Crane, W. Van Alan Clark ’41 Third Century Professor in the Social Sciences

  1. KC Johnson – Democrat
    Richard Vedder – Republican
    Greg Lukianoff – Democrat
    Jonah Goldberg – Republican
    Mike Needham – Republican
    Ron Unz – Republican
    Randall Kennedy -Democrat
    Richard Sander – Democrat
    Norman Finkelstein – Democrat (maybe even further left?)
    Robert Jackall – ????
    Alan White – ????
    Casey Mulligan – Chicago Economist

    Prof. Crane,

    What are you talking about?????

    I have no idea what you wish to accomplish with establishing a personal vendetta against a bunch of 19 year olds who are trying to do the right thing. I don’t understand why you want to bully students by claiming their motives aren’t pure. I don’t understand why you have such a deep issue with having more lectures on campus. I don’t understand how you can be a Williams Professor and write an article that is so contrary to the very spirit of the college.

    • Prof. Crane never said anything about Republicans and Democrats – his article is about liberal and conservative viewpoints on campus. The vast majority of Uncomfortable Learning’s speakers are staunchly conservative, even the ones you identified as Democrats. For example, Richard Sander is a vocal opponent of affirmative action. Greg Lukianoff’s talk at Williams was about supposed suppression of speech on college campuses. KC Johnson is a critic of affirmative consent standards and has written articles with titles like “Weaponizing Title IX.” Regardless of these speakers’ allegiances to political parties, Prof. Crane is correct in pointing out that they were brought to the college via substantial conservative alumni contributions in order to espouse conservative ideas.

      Prof. Crane isn’t “bullying”; he’s contributing to an intelligent, informed discourse, which is very much in the “spirit of the college.” Don’t confuse the two.

    • Dear Facts,

      I make no claims about the party affiliation of the speakers. My point is that the project of the group can accurately be described as “conservative.” The national politics that has emerged around this issue certainly seems to corroborate that characterization. That is neither a “vendetta” nor a bullying assault. It is an observation, an interpretation, an assertion. I do not have a “deep issue with having more lectures on campus.” What I object to is the fact that a group of students and alumni, which claims an affiliation with the College, goes about their business outside the established rules that all other student groups and alumni are bound to follow, and they are empowered in that transgression by access to significant amounts of money unavailable to others in the community. Indeed, I believe that such access to outside money puts this group in a privileged position. And that, I hold, is precisely out of keeping with the very spirit of the college.

      Please notice, too, I have taken no position on the intellectual value of any particular speaker. My argument is: “Extraordinary efforts……are superfluous.” It is the “extraordinary efforts,” by which I mean breaking of rules, that is the key problem. I disagree with the apparent assumption that some sort of shortage of conservative viewpoints justifies a kind of privileged access to resources. I would not object to students working within existing rules and financial constraints to bring whatever speakers they want. I have never publicly criticized giving a platform to any particular speaker (thought I have publicly protested the awarding of honorary degrees, which is an action beyond speech), nor have I in any way ever obstructed any speaker from speaking here.

      • Professor Crane,

        1. Do you have any evidence that the group circumvented the rules of the college? You make a flurry of accusations about the group circumventing the rules yet you have not established for a fact that this group has gone out and “fund-raised” (being a verb) at all. What happened to innocent until proven guilty? The way this comes off does not strike me as the work of a social scientist.

        2. Do you take such objections with club sports teams? It is widely known that they often actively solicit funds from Alumni, yet we don’t see you writing articles about how the “x” team gets access to better equipment than the “x” club.

        3. I believe you intend to use the term “conservative” as a way to discredit the student’s intentions. Zach Wood has actively identified himself as a liberal democrat. Yet you continue accuse these students of having a conservative agenda. Have you considered the possibility they believe in “free speech” or perhaps they believe they are trying to open the dialogue for discussion. No, you do not. You assume the worst (or what you believe to be the worst).

        The way you actively disregard what the students have said and then you continue to make accusations and assumptions about the students motives is why one could believe you to be a “bully”. The fact that you do not give the young people who you are supposed to be educating the benefit of the doubt is why one could believe you not to be in line with the spirit of the college.

        4. Do you not find it somewhat inappropriate the way you have singled out a group of students who hold stated beliefs of free speech and diversity of opinions, label them as conservatives and disregard any legitimacy of their argument and cause from a position of power (that of a professor)?

        Now that you have so clearly identified yourself as someone who is opposed to conservatism (“Williams would fall into academic irrelevance”) do you feel that any conservative student should feel comfortable in your classroom? Would you grade a conservative argument lower than a liberal one? As you clearly stated you believe arguments from the political right to be less correct.

        • Dear 91,

          1. Yes, I have spoken directly to organizers and they tell me that the money comes from alumni. There is a clear rule about this, as stated in the piece. Now, we can argue Clinton-like about what “fund-raising” might mean, but I am confident there is evidence of rule-breaking.

          2. I have not heard anything about sports teams, and sports teams have not created a national attack by conservative media that embarrasses the College as this episode has.

          3. Please see my response to “Robert” below. Conservatives understand “UL” as “conservative.” I do not consider that term a “discredit.” It is simply a fact that conservatives understand “UL” as “conservative,” and they see that as a good thing.

          4. I have not said anything about the legitimacy of any argument. Indeed, I have not made any argument about any particular ideology. I have suggested that “extraordinary efforts” – i.e. rule-breaking efforts – to bring more of certain conservative views to campus are “superfluous.” The OED defines “superfluous:” “That is present in a greater quantity than is desired, permitted, or required for the purpose; abundant or numerous to the point of excess; more than sufficient.” That superfluity speaks to the efforts, which are more than is permitted.

          The full sentence is: “If explicit ideological criteria were used in hiring of faculty and other curricular decisions, Williams College would very quickly slide into academic irrelevance.” My meaning here is that any “ideological” as opposed to “academic” criteria for, especially, faculty hiring, would be detrimental, as I try to make clear here: “When we make a decision to hire, we do not use the current “liberal” versus “conservative” distinction, which misses so much of the more detailed intellectual debate. The unsurprising truth is that academics take academic criteria into account when making decisions about academic appointments.” This is not a statement about the value of conservative thought, but the use of conservative ideology in rather specific contexts.

          As to my power as a professor, why do you assume I am unprofessional? Of course, I interact with many students who hold political ideas different from mine every day. And, of course, I do not let those sorts of political differences invade my professional academic duties. Your implication of unprofessional behavior on my part is serious; please do not assert such a thing without evidence.

          • “1. Yes, I have spoken directly to organizers and they tell me that the money comes from alumni. There is a clear rule about this, as stated in the piece. Now, we can argue Clinton-like about what “fund-raising” might mean, but I am confident there is evidence of rule-breaking.”

            Professor Crane,

            Why are you so confident of this? Did they specifically tell you that they solicited money? Your implication that they’ve broken this rule–that they solicit the funds that they use–as it is written is serious. Any evidence would be appreciated, because otherwise you’ve made some fairly damning assertions without evidence to support them.

          • To the other ’18

            The fact that Uncomfortable Learning is alumni funded is very well documented information, even published online in stories covering the organization.
            “The speaker honorariums at Williams were supported by generous private funding”
            As I see it, there are two possible scenarios:
            1. Every year, the students in Uncomfortable Learning requests money from alumni to pay for the group’s five-figure budget without receiving approval from the relevant offices within the College. In this case, the students are clearly violating college policy on fundraising from alumni.
            2. Every year, the students in Uncomfortable Learning receive an unsolicited check from a group of alumni to pay for the group’s five-figure budget. In this case, the alumni are clearly violating college policy on alumni donating directly to student groups.
            We can get into a Clinton- esque argument about whether this is technically soliciting donations or not, but doesn’t that entirely miss the point? Whether the donations are solicited or unsolicited, they still go against college policy.

          • Hello fellow ’18! Thanks for the response.

            I never questioned that UL is alumni-funded. As you mention, they seem to have made it clear from the get-go that that’s they’re source of revenue.

            You’re definitely right with what you’re bringing up in the first scenario. The College seems very clear there.

            However, playing devil’s advocate… the second link you’ve provided only applies, from what I understand, to alums contributing to the Alumni Fund (capital A and F… a discrete pool of money that, after perusing their fundraising pages, certainly doesn’t appear to be the only way Williams alums are allowed to donate). So entertaining the possibility that they’re not soliciting donations, could it be that what they’re doing is actually kosher?

          • To my fellow ’18,

            You are correct in that the rules posted there being specifically for the Alumni Fund—that was a misreading on my part. I guess in that sense it might be kosher in a very very lawyerly reading of the rules. However, I think these two rules make it pretty clear—to me at least—that the college doesn’t want groups to be funded this way without administration approval and knowledge, which is pretty understandable. You shouldn’t be able to spend tens of thousands of dollars on campus without the administration having some documentation of it.

            Also, I think that if we’re gonna assume that this isn’t solicitation or fundraising in some sense, it leads to a fairly comical imagined situation where a check in the neighborhood of $40k just magically appears in the mailbox of someone associated with Uncomfortable Learning every year.

  2. Was the irony that Professor Crane opted to publish this tirade on a website similarly unrecognized by the College and explicitly designed to push back against “intellectual conformity” simply lost upon him, or am I missing some brilliant meta-commentary?

  3. 1. Stop the press. ‘Facts’ has all the answers, clearly there is no need to continue this debate since you have done all the work for us. But in all seriousness, it does not take a fancy degree to understand that belonging to a political party does not define one’s stance on an issue.

    2. ’15, did you seriously miss the point about the rule breaking? There is a difference between being “unrecognized” and disregarding the rules while still using resources of the college. Or am I missing your “brilliance” when you yourself begin criticizing a renowned scholar and professor?

  4. The College Fix just published an interview they did with me regarding what it was like to be the token conservative on campus in the late 1980’s. See,

    I have no doubt that if there were more conservative faculty advisers at Williams , then the student organizers of the Uncomfortable Learning Speaker Series would have gone ahead with Suzanne Venker’s speech. I would have advised them to go ahead even if their fellow students threatened to behead them.

    As a former conservative faculty member in the political science department, I can assure Crane that there was outright discrimination against conservatives at Williams College in the 1980’s. I saw it with my own eyes. It will take awhile for Williams College to recover from its self-inflicted wounds and the damage caused by its myopic view of reality.

    • I am sincerely happy that you are not a professor at Williams right now, sir. I do not care for your “have no doubt” and “I assure you” – you seem to not be able to follow what Prof. Crane was writing about, and you seem to come from a position of knowing about things without needing to persuade someone either through your arguments or by citing facts.
      I am sure the leaders of UL would have been happy to have you, if only because you seem to share the same disregard for widely shared policies for good discourse, all in favor of making yourself – and no one else – heard.
      I would invite you to rely on something other than your status as a PhD holder to make sure your arguments are heard, and that your presence is meaningful, because, frankly, your comment would get a current Williams student a D+, and that’s only because now we give points for participation in class.

      • I hope you say that to a professor’s face one day so you can be disciplined. I am embarrassed to know that a classmate treats people like this.

  5. Dear Uncomfortable Learning,

    I highly encourage you to:

    1. Challenge yourself to operate with the speaker budget that the average student organization at Williams has access to.

    2. Be uncomfortable and sit with the criticisms of your actions. This would mean following through with your events instead of abandoning your principles and rescinding an invitation simply because you received a phone call and social media comments and made you *surprise* uncomfortable.

    3. Collaborate with other students who disagree with the political leanings of your financial backers.

  6. “the restriction of abortion rights nationally is a direct attack on feminists locally.”

    Professor Crane, do you mean ANY restrictions?

    All the states and the federal government restrict abortion to within 24 weeks as per Casey’s point of viability established nationally in 1992. Is it an attack on feminists locally if a white woman gets an abortion, say, in the 31st week since an amniocentesis revealed a few day previously that she is carrying an African American fetus of color rather than a white fetus (she thought it was from the other guy) and she claims that having to give birth to such a fetus of color is a danger to her mental health?

    I look forward to your answer. If you don’t, then it would lead me to understand that you are unable to answer the question.

  7. Dear yoyoyo!

    Thank you for the comment.

    I notice that one of the links above is wrong. For the phrase “limit women from exercising their constitutional right” I meant this link:

    When we consider the surge of regulation against abortion rights nation-wide, it is clear that a good portion of that effort is driven by a campaign to purposefully limit access to abortions generally:
    It is that political motivation, which stands behind many (though perhaps not all) of the many restrictions in recent years, that I am referring to as “anti-feminist.”

    I understand the ethical problems here. So, to directly answer you question: no, I do not mean any restriction. I mean restrictions within the spirit of existing constitutional law. I am comfortable with Massachusetts law here:

    “Section 12M. If a pregnancy has existed for twenty-four weeks or more, no abortion may be performed except by a physician and only if it is necessary to save the life of the mother, or if a continuation of her pregnancy will impose on her a substantial risk of grave impairment of her physical or mental health. ”

    Of course, the problem comes with who gets to decide what “a substantial risk of grave impairment of her physical or mental health” is. My sense is that an absolute, blanket restriction of all abortions after 24 weeks would be too blunt a policy: there might be circumstances where, unfortunately, an abortion might be necessary at that period. Each case has its particular details that cannot be know beforehand or anticipated by a single, all-encompassing restriction. The final determination of the particular circumstances should rest, in my opinion, with the individuals directly involved: the woman, her partner, her doctors, etc.

    The specific circumstances you mention seem to be a trap of sorts: a question designed to catch out a “liberal” with contradictory points. In any event, were I some sort of third party involved in this decision, my first impulse would be to counsel the woman not to go forward with an abortion and to have her seek whatever sort of help she might need for whatever mental health issues she might be facing, and I would ask that medical professionals be consulted to determine the authenticity of the mental health claims. But, ultimately, even were an abortion to happen under these circumstances, I would not use this kind of case to justify a blanket ban. There will always be hard cases, and there will always be certain bad outcomes, but, again, my sense is that it is generally best to allow those closest to the actual circumstances make a decision in hard cases.

    Since I have endeavored to answer your question, perhaps you will do me the honor of answering one of mine: are the circumstances you describe associated with an actual case? Can you provide a specific citation for them?

    • Yet you still ignore what the students have said about themselves. You take their word in bad faith and you decide to label them conservative. I think that is unbecoming of a professor

    • Professor Crane, you wrote, “Each case has its particular details that cannot be know beforehand or anticipated by a single, all-encompassing restriction.”

      True, but that cannot stop us from making laws. With all due respect, you sound like a NRA member who requires granular specificity before considering any restriction whatsoever. Do we make laws, say, for gun control but then virtually ignore those laws claiming all details can’t be anticipated, and the gun owner and seller, etc. together should find the right solution in hard cases?

      You now clarify (to your credit) that all restrictions on abortion are actually not an attack on feminism, and claim you agree that an elective abortion of a viable post-24 week fetus should be a felony under MA law, but then hedge by writing, “The final determination of the particular circumstances should rest, in my opinion, with the individuals directly involved: the woman, her partner, her doctors, etc….it is generally best to allow those closest to the actual circumstances make a decision in hard cases.”

      So a prosecutor should have no say in a cabal of racists, i.e., the patient, her partner, and physician who elect to kill a post-viable and sentient fetus which is a virtual human because she or he is a fetus of color, and because the woman claims she’ll go crazy if she’s charged with a felony under MA law. Wow…

      To answer your question: No specific citation. Academics are supposed to pose interesting questions that challenge the orthodoxy. Do you agree? It’s reasonable that people sometimes have questionable motives for their actions, even for having an abortion among the perhaps 50+ million in the U.S. since 1973 whether for racist motives, or sex selection (often a preference for a male), or the partner has left the woman after fetal viability, or because one has simply changed her mind, etc. Do you agree? There are lots of examples of post-24 week elective abortions that could be justified as “No patriarchy” or “It’s my autonomous body” or “I’ll hate” having that (now) bad man’s child. That you won’t answer squarely if such women should _generally_ be charged and convicted under the MA law for a post-24 week elective abortions without a conference, and that you would generally defer to their decision, is telling indeed.

      However, I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s fascinating that conservatives and progressives hedge in the same manner on virtually ANY restriction on what they see as religiously sacred, whether gun rights or abortion rights, respectively.

      Thank you for your prompt reply. I forgot to check back until today.

  8. I would also be concerned if a donor attached funds to a curriculum (or even speaker series) to promote a specific political viewpoint.

    When you say “My interpretation of the “Uncomfortable Learning” group, based on the speakers it has brought to campus over the past couple of years, is the same as that advanced by the right-wing media: Its purpose is to promote conservative arguments and ideology”.

    Are you sure that this is the guidance the group gets from its funding source, or is it possible that the students making the speaker choices have complete autonomy over speaker choices? These two scenarios are very different. You speak as though you are sure it is the former, but you give no real evidence (maybe you know some way that you are not willing to reveal?).

    I personally really like the aims of UL, but I agree the organization should invite people with extreme viewpoints across the political spectrum. That would also help give the organization greater credibility across campus.

  9. If the smooth functioning of the college bureaucracy is more important than the free exchange of ideas, then we’ve really lost the plot. No one is forced to attend these lectures, and nothing’s stopping other groups of alums from sponsoring their own (all without adding a cent to the student activities fee). I’m not saying you have to agree with these speakers, but if you don’t, the answer is more speech, not less.

  10. Dear ’15,

    Yes, there is something that stops “other groups of alums from sponsoring their own” – a College rule that says they shouldn’t.

    • There is no rule that stops alums from sponsoring events at Williams. The rule prohibits students from soliciting funds from alumni. Alumni are free to sponsor events of their own volition, as I’m sure the UL alumni will do if the administration succumbs to your absurd demands.

      You urge the upholding academic standards, yet appear to have lousy reading comprehension. Please refrain from accusing your own students of rule-breaking without proper evidence. You need to prove that they solicited, and you have not.

  11. Dear Robert,

    As I argue in the piece, my characterization of “UL” as “conservative” is based on my own understanding of their project as well as the perceptions of conservatives in the national media. Perhaps the clearest example of the latter comes from one of the speakers “UL” brought in, Jonah Goldberg ( In considering the name, “Uncomfortable Learning,” her writes:

    “I gather that the group is called this because, at Williams, if your group sounds conservative or libertarian, then lots of students will simply tune out, shun, or dismiss you. I get it, but I can’t say I love this sort of thing in principle. Indeed, it’s a bit ironic given that I was there to give my Tyranny of Clichés talk, which puts a lot of emphasis on the importance of owning labels and not hiding behind clever euphemisms.”

    He goes on:

    “”Uncomfortable learning” appears to be working because while kids find it easy to be closed-minded about conservatism, they are intrigued by “uncomfortable learning.” It sounds so subversive. It’s like when Chief Wiggum won’t let his kid Ralph play in his gun storage room. When little Ralph tries to get in, egged on by Bart, Wiggum exclaims, “What is your fascination with my forbidden closet of mystery?”

    So, it seems that a conservative ideologist (I consider Goldberg an ideologist, not an intellectual) sees the project of “UL” as conservative and the name a euphemism that veils that project.

    • Instead of relying on the words of someone you dismiss as an “ideologist,” at any point did you consider reaching out to the students running the program to get their own thoughts on how they characterize the program? If not, it may be disappointing to other members of the Williams community that you opted not to bother communicating with members of a tiny campus of 2000 students before writing such a critical piece on them.

    • The students themselves in every periodical that has been written about themselves 1. Disagree with the speaker and 2. Clearly identify themselves as not conservative. Yet the good process persists in name-callin, not taking his own students word. I find this highly inappropriate,

  12. Prof. Crane,

    It’s great to see your eloquent writing. I hope the Purple Valley is treating you and your family well.

    I want to table the issue of the funding for this particular lecture — your questions seem totally valid — and engage you in conversation about the broader question of double standards.

    I want to respectfully push back on two of your points in particular.


    You argue that the Purple Valley has so permeable a membrane that conservatism’s national political relevance can *substitute* for discussing conservatism on campus.

    But any current or recent Eph will recognize this line as exactly the opposite of the conventional story offered by left-leaning activists or administrators when a controversial guest aligns with their views. In those (much more common) instances, the “purple bubble” is described as a hermetic seal that needs proactive puncturing. Hence the controversial content.

    But now that the controversial speaker is vaguely conservative, the script flips, and Williams is suddenly so wide-open to the national discourse that we need not bother to cultivate diversity on campus.

    This inverts the commonsense logic that brought speakers on behalf of racial diversity or feminism to Williams throughout the past five decades. Those issues merited extensive discussion on campus precisely *because* they were nationally consquential ideas and philosophies.

    Do you view conservatism as a special case, where its national relevance is a reason not to discuss it (“They can read about it on POLITICO!”) instead of a great reason *to* discuss it?


    You close by suggesting that students in the intellectual minority simply own vindictive personal criticism as the cost of engaging in a freewheeling discussion. I actually admire this “toughen up!” directive, but only if equally applied to all. And I think we can agree that an old-school, rough-and-tumble discourse is not what Williams has cultivated for itself over the past decade.

    Instead, like many campuses, Williams labors to cultivate a “safe space” — an environment where personal reports of emotional discomfort are accepted as a socially-enforced emergency brake on otherwise valid and respectful debate.

    When this is the dominant environment, when institutional forces actively fuel a social culture that protects members of the liberal supermajority from any criticism that hurts their feelings, then it is manifestly unfair to tell conservatives to simply suck it up. This is disparate treatment on its face. This disparate treatment turns only on the students’ ideology — the fact that they align with a mainstream American creed that the leaders of Williams happen to personally dislike.

    Take the incident last spring, reported by the Record, when a secular student decided to mock and harrass pro-life tablers in Paresky by wearing a rosary and screaming about Satan. The stated goal was to silence the pro-lifers.

    I’m sure almost any individual administrator or faculty member would call this regrettable. But what was the institutional response? Did this incident yield an all-campus e-mail blast addressed “To the Williams Community”? Will there be a pro-Catholic panel at the next Claiming Williams Day, or a special summit to remind everyone that religious tolerance actually does extend to Christians?

    Nope. There seems to have been no response from the administration whatsoever.

    Deeply orthodox Christians are a tiny religious minority on campus. They face the same struggles, the same tricky and painful balancing act between religious authenticity and social acceptance, that an equally orthodox Muslim or Jew would face. But if orthodox Muslims or Jews were tabling on a moral cause of their own and were met with similarly cruel protest, I am extremely skeptical the administration would have remained equally silent.

    This again is disparate treatment, and again, the only variable is that some students’ particular creed is identified with conservative politics (forget all the ardently pro-life liberal Jesuits!) and therefore worthy of less institutional protection. This is not “privilege”; it is its opposite.

    Right now, Williams offers some students “safe spaces” and offers other students only tough love. The left-leaning supermajority and groups it approves of get to set the thermostat; the tiny minority on the ideological margin is told to either tolerate the heat or get the hell out of the kitchen.

    This, too, strikes me as a dangerous double standard, and the farthest thing from “conservative privilege.”

    • Dear Andy,

      Good to hear from you! And thank you for your good questions. It’s also nice to know who I am talking to for a change.

      Quick responses to your questions (because other duties are calling):

      1) I do not mean to imply that conservatism is a special case in the way you describe. I am not saying that there should be no conservative ideas on campus. I am objecting to the way in which “UL” has gone about it. They have access to money that others do not, and I do not feel that the current situation justifies that “privilege”. Now, we could argue (as someone has stared to do somewhere) that we should have a Citizen’s United approach to how speech is managed on campus, and my first response would be to resist that. But we could argue about it. As it stands now, the funding issue is key to me because it is unfair.

      2) I knew my title, “conservative privilege,” would raise some hackles. But, again, I mean it here in a very specific sense: access to resources denied to others. I agree with you that we could handle difference on campus better. I think sensitivities have risen in recent years for a variety of reasons. I’m remembering the “black lives matter” protest last year that was mocked on Yik Yak in ways that heightened animosities against the protesters. On the other hand, I think we have to be open to strong speech, speech that objects strenuously with strong words. So, we have to be careful but open at the same time. I thought President Falk’s piece in the Record was a good start for thinking about this (I’m not sure it’s on line yet; I will post it when I can).

      I’ll try to come back to this again, because I can’t do your points justice just now.

      • Young conservatives are at an extreme disadvantage at places like Williams College because there are so few professors and administrators willing to challenge leftist orthodoxy on issues like affirmative action, speech codes, anti-white bias and welfare reform.

        I think we are making conservative students more vulnerable to leftist bullies when we fail to allow conservative students to tip the scales back to a more healthy and humane balance by winning the support of well-meaning alumni, alumni who share their mainstream conservative political views. I do not think you can cure what is wrong about Williams — as indicated by the cancelling of the Venker event — if we shame students for seeking outside financial support.

        To follow up on this conflict in the world of Twitter, please check out

  13. It just seems appalling to me how we as a student body (or at least those of us who contribute to these discussions) at one of the top institutions in the country, seem utterly unable to remain objective when analyzing an argument. I’ve followed a number of these threads now, and almost always the comments quickly devolve into condescension and belittlement (apparently even towards individuals of higher academic standing – our professors). I think discourse on this campus would be a lot more productive and efficient if we could just leave out the snide remarks that add nothing beneficial to the discussion.

  14. Dear Professor Crane,

    A lecture on “Paul and the Five Gospels: Multiple Origins of Early Christianity” will only confirm that institutions like Williams have an anti-Christian bias in the minds of very conservative Christian readers, for whom “anti-Christian” means “anything that challenges Biblical inerrancy”.

  15. Professor Crane,

    I have recently been informed that you have been incorrect with many of your accusations. The students at UL receive their funds through a 501(c) non-profit and not any alumni.

    I would assume such contributions would fall under the same category as grants or scholarships as far as the College’s rules work. I don’t believe that you would argue students funded by the NSF should be regulated by the school or that such students possess an unfair advantage.

    • New Fact,

      First of all, myself and several other students made a significant effort to search through the IRS’ public database of 501(c) non-profit organizations, and failed to find anything named Uncomfortable Learning or Uncomfortable Learning at Williams. If you happen to have the name of this 501(c), I would love to hear that information.

      As for the relevance of this to the issue at hand , this would still violate college policies on student groups fundraising—note that the relevant college policy states, “Students who wish to raise money for any campus activity by soliciting alumni, foundations, or other sources of funds must receive advance approval.” I believe that a 501(c) organization would count as a foundation, and if it did not, I’m certain it would fall under “other sources of funds.”

      I’d also like to, briefly, push back strongly against equating a possible Uncomfortable Learning 501(c) with the NSF. The National Science Foundation is an organization that gives grants primarily for academic research. These grants are a matter of public record due to the NSF’s status as a government-funded institution. That’s a bit different from alumni funneling money into a 501(c) to fund speeches on a college campus.

  16. This whole discussion seems quite odd to this Harvard Law School honors graduate, who was admittedly turned down for admission by Williams, and who now works in State government as an appointee of a Democratic Governor.
    Many positions that Professor Crane tries to label as “conservative” would more accurately be described as “centrist,” in fact being held by a majority of Americans and a majority of Democrats as well. Professor Crane appears to be a specialists in China, and true, the Chinese government certainly agrees with him on abortion. But the US is not China.
    The whole discussion about speakers’ expenses seems odd too. Why is there a restriction on student groups raising money to pay speakers’ expenses, on either side? We are in an age where speaking fees, and fees for accepting honorary degrees, are absurd, and college administrators are allocating tens of thousands of dollars to pay for a hour of a single establishment politician’s time. Why not allow a student group to raise funds to bring in a Bernie Sanders or a Ben Carson?

    • The whole discussion seems odd because it IS odd. Professor Crane is being misleading. As you have pointed out, he has painted a broad spectrum of political opinions with a broad brush as “conservative” in an exhausting, somewhat incoherent essay whose point nonetheless (as Mr. Christopher Weihs ’15 notes) helps further the partisan divide at Williams. The College, though overwhelmingly left-leaning in its student body, has nonetheless for a long while been among the more reasonable small liberal arts schools in terms of the partisan strife found on campus. Professor Crane seems intent on changing that. That he cites Andrew Sullivan (noted by Forbes, whose first-place award Williams celebrates every year, as among the most prominent liberal thinkers in America) and Dinesh D’Souza, who visited the College over ten years ago in 2004, as examples that Williams in fact does host conservative speakers should tell you all you need to know about how serious this argument is. There is a reality that Williams has resources available to students, through (unless the school has changed dramatically since my graduation) myriad byzantine committees far more interested in bringing porn stars than, as Professor Crane puts it, “ideologists” such as Jonah Goldberg (I say this sincerely). Although he raises the very reasonable point that Uncomfortable Learning needs to be more transparent with its funding, it makes perfect sense to me why a group of students frustrated by this unavailability of resources would look elsewhere.

      Speaking of which, Professor Crane, you have twice now referred to other students being “denied” resources to which UL has access. Do you have specific examples of other groups attempting to do as UL has and being shut down by the College? I have a sneaking suspicion that any other group of similarly committed students could have attempted and gotten away with it just the same. I suspect the College does not want to involve itself in this conflict and would thus not do so, and that would apply to other groups as well.

      Other pertinent questions that have gone unanswered in the comments section here so far: Professor, do you have any evidence that UL has solicited the money? You now seem to concede that you are simply “confident” that they did, having acknowledged that you know the money originated with alumni. It would seem bizarre to me (and to other members of the Williams community–past, present, and potential applicants were they to see this) that you would make that charge without a.) having explicit evidence and b.) without having even attempted to ask members of the group firsthand.

      • Dear 09,

        I have asked the organizers directly and was told funding came from alumni who wished to remain anonymous.

        As to others being “denied,” the existence are clearly stated rules would effectively obstruct, and thus deny, most rule-following students from working with external sources of funding outside established College procedures. It might be true that “…any other group of similarly committed students could have attempted and gotten away with it just the same.” That is unknown. What is known is that “UL” has bee funded by external alumni sources in apparent violation of stated college rules. Seems rather straightforward to me.

        • Dear Professor Crane,

          To clarify: you are acknowledging that you have no proof that the organizers of UL solicited that funding as you have claimed, correct?

          • Dear 09,

            Why do you doubt it when I say I spoke directly to the organizers and they told me alumni donors wanted to remain anonymous? Obviously, you don’t trust me. Perhaps this published statement by an early organizer might help: “Students interested in creating a chapter of Uncomfortable Learning at their college should reach out to alums and foundations like the Charles Koch Foundation and Young Americans for Liberty,” (

            I suspect this will not be enough and you will continue to disbelieve me. You are free to do that. But the facts speak for themselves.

            So, there is evidence. But you are right, there should be more. And that is why, on other threads, I have asked for transparency in “UL” funding. A list of donors and the amounts they have give would help clarify just what is going on here and just how much privilege is being exercised.

          • Dear Professor Crane,

            I have not once doubted that you spoke to the organizers of this program, which I think you know and are deliberately misstating. I do not contend that you at some point met with them and that they told you that the resources that UL expends are provided by alumni. I am questioning your claim that the organizers of the series solicit this money. I think you know this and are sidestepping acknowledging it because you know that you have made a significant, false accusation against your own students.

            The quotation you’ve brought up clearly will not quell fears among the more imaginative members of the Williams community of a massive, right-wing conspiracy, but it’s also irrelevant to your repeated claim that this money has been solicited at Williams College. If you’re not prepared to defend that accusation, please be forthright and say so.

  17. Were other Uncomfortable Learning speakers allowed to speak? If so, then the argument about the funding rules don’t hold up, Dr. Crane. Venker was silenced based on her ideas, not the funding.

  18. Professor Crane,

    You have not established that UL has solicited funds nor have you established that those funds were denied to other students. The students themselves have said they do not hold in a conservative agenda, yet you insist on calling them conservatives and basically tell them to go start up a republican club.

    I find your behavior disgraceful

    • Zach Wood has repeatedly identified himself a liberal democrat who is passionate about free speech and public discourse on campus. Crane, a a professor on a campus of just 2,100 kids deliberately chose not to engage with the people he sees everyday in order to shoehorn his own hostile agenda. It is pretty sadto see this at my college. I hope other kids applying here have chance to see this kind of smear (from professors!) before they make the decision to come

      • Excuse the digression from this interesting debate (and your point is well taken) but since when did college students start referring to themselves as kids? It seems so odd to an outsider.

      • Dear 18,

        I do not want to engage in discussions about individual students involved. I will just say I know some of the organizers, I respect them as students and individuals, and their right to define themselves politically as they please and engage with whatever political speech they want. My criticism has focused on the means they have chosen to engage in that speech (apparently transgressing fund-raising and other rules) and the implied justification of those means (there is not enough conservative speech on campus). I have not objected to conservative speech per se; rather, I am arguing that I do not believe that there is such a dire shortage of conservative speech as to justify actions that transgress College rules. That is my argument.

        What constitutes a “smear” in all of this? I have made statements about rules and procedures and suggested that some have been broken. On the face of it, from what we know of published rules and published accounts of this situation that is true. I do not see how that can be construed as a “smear.”

        Perhaps you are suggesting that my characterization of “UL” as “conservative” is a “smear.” You might be assuming that any time I utter the word “conservative” I mean it pejoratively. That is not true. I mean it as a description, admittedly broad and indistinct, for a certain trend of political thinking. I believe that in this case it is an accurate description. I provide some of the material that bolsters my belief in a comment on Christopher Weihs’s post and will not repeat here. But here’s another thought.

        “UL” is, I believe, understood by conservatives as conservative, and that is seen as a good thing by conservatives, as the title of this piece suggests: “‘Uncomfortable Learning’ – How 3 Students Changed Their Elite College for the Better.” ( So why should “conservative” be seen as a “smear”?

        Perhaps because some of the organizers do not consider themselves, nor want to be defined as, “conservative.” That is fine, and that is their right. But even if the are not self-defined as “conservative” they could still be engaged in a project that serves conservative political ends, by increasing conservative views on campus, and thus the group could be understood as “conservative.”

        Christopher makes a good point: political labels are narrow and overly blunt. Political beliefs and actions of any individual will stretch across conventional categories. Yes. I see this as supporting the notion that, whatever the particular beliefs of some of its members, “”UL” can still be considered “conservative” because its primary purpose is to increase conservative speech on campus and it is recognized as conservative by conservatives. None of which has any necessarily pejorative connotations.

        • You have yet to establish the “solicitation” of any funds. You have not established that the students circumvented any rules. You have dismissed such questions repeatedly. Yet make you continue to make accusations against your own students.

          I do not believe you have been fair in your characterization of students. “conservative” is one interpretation of the students actions. There are others, however. They have been clearly stated by the students. Yet you still dismiss the Williams students own words, and continue to label their cause “conservative.” Do you consider the ACLU conservative, do you consider FIRE conservative?

          You do not wish to engage in any other nuanced argument. Rather it seems that you wish to push some political agenda, by choosing to caste the students in a light they have repeatedly denied, instead choosing to cite outside sources AS OPPOSED TO THE STUDENTS OWN WORDS.

          You have done nothing to add to the college in this personal vendetta against your own students. This show has been disgraceful and I will strongly consider not donating to the college in the future.

          • Dear 91,

            I must strenuously reject the your mischaracterization: I do not have a personal vendetta against anyone.

            I have simply pointed out that “UL” is “conservative” and that in pursuing their goals they have transgressed College rules. You obviously believe those statements are wrong. Let’s assume you are right and I am wrong. To be wrong does mean to one has a personal vendetta. It might mean that other facts exist that have not yet come to light. That is always possible. Indeed, it would be very helpful if there were transparency in this case to get at more facts. But given the facts we have now, I believe my position is correct.

            I further believe that I can engage in public, political debate with students who have different views than I have. Indeed, I believe that I should engage in such public, political debate, especially when Williams is attacked in the conservative media in a distorted and ideological matter (please note: I am saying certain conservative media are “ideological,” not others who have engaged in this debate.) My College and my colleagues, Williams faculty, have been maligned as censors. That is false, and it is countering that falsehood that has motivated me. Yes, some Williams students are on the other side of my arguments. I respect them and look forward to continuing the conversation with them.

            It would seem that productive exchange with you has come to an end as you have decided to threaten to punish me for my speech: you will withhold your donation to the College because of your misunderstanding of my professionalism. That is your right, of course. But in light of such a threat, I will step back and let you think and do as you please.

        • “I do not want to engage in discussions about individual students involved.”

          Professor, I’ve followed you on a lot of this, but please spare us this piety. You’ve written a piece several thousands of words long attacking (and now it seems mischaracterizing) three (3!) students at Williams. You were wrong in your assumptions of at least one of their political identities, and now you refuse to admit it because he’s an “individual student”? Give me a break.

          • Dear current student,

            I am aware that everything written here circulates out in the wider world. It is in that sense that I am trying to avoid using personal names or referring to specific individuals. I understand that in the Yik-Yak fever of Williamstown, names are named and shamed and all the rest. I want to stay out of that swamp. Yes, for most of the people here, all of the individuals are known. But for people out in the world they are probably not known, or, at least, they can reduce their visibility if they so choose. I am not being pious about this. Just recognizing the reality of how distortions on the internet can run wild. I want to engage in the debate, but not put names out there unless those involved want their names out their more prominently.

            Most importantly, for me, this is not a personal thing. It is a political thing. And I believe we can have public political debates without personal insult. When I argue that “UL” is “conservative” I am simply trying to characterize the political function and effects of its actions. It seems that many people assume that when I use “conservative” it carries some sort of pejorative connotation. It does not. It is simply a political tendency or ideology or aspiration: some may aspire to be conservative, some may not; but some may tend to be conservative, or serve conservative political ends, even if they may not understand themselves to be “conservative”. I have found myself in that position at various moments in my life, especially in my experience in local public service.

            It’s interesting that you use the term “political identities.” It could suggest that the passion that surrounds the conversation is rooted in a kind of identity politics. When someone says “conservative” it could be taken as an essentialist assertion: that a person has an indelible and unchanging identity of “conservative.” This is not how I am using the term. I do not mean to suggest an essentialist identity. I agree with Christopher Weihs that such names are multifaceted and dynamic. And it is with that understanding that I believe the term “conservative” is useful for understanding the project of “UL”.

          • So, I obviously left out a “not” in the sentence above, in response to ’91. The sentence should read: “To be wrong does NOT mean one has a personal vendetta.”

            I’ve been trying to keep up with comments (since I put this post out there), at least for a while, and mistakes will happen. Hope the correction is seen before somebody might take the initial error as a Freudian slip that proves Crane is a maniac (humor!)

  19. Sam,

    I’m not sure you are the right guy to determine whether or not there is a “dire shortage of conservative speech” at Williams. I know that when I taught there in the late 1980s an objective, outside evaluation group did report that there was a lack of intellectual diversity in the political science department.

    From what I can see, it does not look like Williams College has ever made serious efforts to balance the scales so that students have an opportunity to learn from conservative as well as liberal professors.

    I’ve uploaded a brief article regarding what it was like to be a token conservative at Williams College which you can access through the following link


    • Seriously, John Drew, seriously?

      You taught at Williams for three years about three decades ago. Your chiming in as some sort of expert on the current political climate at a college that asked you to leave before the students who are there now were even born is self-serving at best.

      Please stop embarrassing yourself.

      • Why don’t you give me a list of existing faculty members at Williams College who are registered Republicans. I’d like to interview them for

        Meanwhile, if you Google “conservative faculty at Williams College 2015” you will see that the #1 ranked article to appear is a story regarding my experience as a token conservative at Williams in the 1980’s. For better or worse, I appear to be the our nation’s primary, subject matter expert on Williams College’s long-standing hostility to conservative faculty members.

        • I was unaware that “long-standing” could reference a period of three years.

          Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go write a piece about bell-bottom trends at Our Lady of Perpetual Self-Promotion during the time I was a student there. I’m certain that if I link to it enough times that I can get my Google ranking high enough to be the leading expert on the subject.

          Like you, I’ll be basing my self-proclaimed expertise on decades old information and I’ll have to assert that nothing of significance has changed during that time. And, like you, that will undermine my credibility.

  20. As someone who hasn’t read for like two days and is kind of uninterested in running through all the bickering, I have to ask: did Crane ever actually provide proof of solicitation, or did he just keep very clearly ignoring that question?

  21. Professor Crane,

    This is rather late, but I still wanted to thank you for taking the time to write this. Many of us wondered what had happened on campus. Many of us were concerned that students were able to pressure the administration to disinvite an unpopular speaker.

    I probably would have been one of the students to protest it, because that was what I felt I was learning to do at the time. In hindsight, I see that you were teaching us something much more valuable than having a voice and an opinion. You encouraged us to seek what had not been said and challenge the popular opinion- even if it were seemingly the moral one. (I remember distinctly the time JJ wrote what I thought was a horrific, amoral position on Han Feizi and you loved his daring and creativity.) Learning with you was not about our egos, being heard, and being right, but engaging in discourse and keeping an open mind.

    Knowing your teachings, I’m disappointed to read many of the comments. They seem to be missing the point that you are advocating for more diversity in voices. Their refusal to see the common ground and mission makes me question their sincerity. I hope their comments are reflective not of a lack of sincerity, but of a sensitivity to having their conservative efforts seemingly thwarted on campus.

    You wrote, “Our mission is not to proportionally represent the current political debate, but to produce and experiment with various ways of thinking, some of which might be challenging to existing political or cultural norms.” You do exactly that for Williams students. Thank you so much.

    With so much respect,

    • The point of Uncomfortable Learning is to provide a voice for voices that would otherwise not be heard at Williams. There is nothing wrong with students seeking to give a voice to minority opinions. The professor is correct to say “Our mission is not to proportionally represent the current political debate,” since our mission is to over-represent students to under-represented ideologies. Williams is not supposed to be an echo chamber.

      If professor Crane were merely raising issues with their funding, then so be it. But he goes beyond that. He goes against idea of diversity: giving a voice to groups that are underrepresented on campus.

  22. 1) Donald Gregg was a career public servant (CIA officer) who worked under multiple democrats and multiple republicans. The fact that he happened to reach the pinnacle of his career during Bush 41’s tenure does not make him or his winter study a voice of conservatism.

    2) The CIA is not, and should not be, considered a conservative organization, if that was your implication. What about the CIA’s mission makes it politically biased? Do you not teach international relations?

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