Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Spying on College Confidential: Is Williams Safe for Conservatives?

I had some fun this week commenting at College Confidential regarding the recent story in which the student organizers of the Uncomfortable Learning series dis-invited their guest speaker, anti-feminist Suzanne Venker. Apparently, the mere thought of her appearance on campus was thought by at least some of the students to be the cause of actual physical damage. I thought it would be fun to harvest some of my comments from the site and share them with my regular readers. As I feared, College Confidential shut down the thread and apparently blocked me from their site. As they say, "You can't handle the truth." 

At any rate, I saved a lot of my comments. I might pull them together later to create an article about how difficult it is to present independent conservative ideas in our new environment of liberal fascism.

Comment #1: Williams College is in the news after liberal students prevented the appearance of an anti-feminist speaker, Suzanne Venker. Unfortunately, the students who sought to bring her to campus felt there was inadequate security for the event. For my take on what it was like to be a token conservative professor at Williams in the 1980's, see my recent article in The Campus Fix

After I did that post, someone suggested that there was never really any security concerns. I simply reported what was written about the matter. I also thought it was silly to suggest that ex-MA governor Jane Swift was a conservative.

Comment #3: I should point out that one of the students organizing Suzanne Venker's visit indicated that security concerns were a concern when it came to cancelling the Venker event in comments he made to Josh Logue at See,

Second, Williams College has a rather long standing record of hostility to conservatives. For my take on what it was like to be a conservative college professor at Williams in the late 1980's please see my recent article in Campus Reform.

Third, I don’t think it is accurate to label Swift a conservative. After all, she is basically a pro-choice moderate. As you may remember, she was on the cutting edge of liberal Republicanism when she picked the openly gay Patrick Guerriero as her running mate for lieutenant governor. Given Swift’s political history, we shouldn’t pretend she is the MA version of Sarah Palin.

Comment #7: Part of my job as a consultant to colleges and universities is helping them secure funding to predict and stop violent behavior through the use of behavioral assessment teams (BATs). It would be extremely difficult for BAT programs to work on school campuses if administrators ignored the fears expressed by vulnerable, outnumbered students like Zach Wood. Gavin de Becker teaches us that we should learn to trust our fear instinct as a reliable tool for self-protection. I recommend his book, The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence.

Later, I responded to the suggestion that resistance to Venker was limited to a small, extremist group of students by referring the reader to the comments Zach Wood's peers made in their own school newspaper.

Comment #8: To understand how the majority of students at Williams College view freedom of speech for conservatives, I think it is useful to read what their opinion leaders are saying. Check out this opinion piece written by the editor of the campus newspaper, The Williams Record.  Then, check out this opinion piece written by the Williams Record EditorialBoard.  The comments are worth reading too.

Comment #12: I have read Zach Wood's comments in his recent article in the Washington Post, "I ran a speaker series to expose Williams students to unpopular ideas. It was deemed ‘too offensive.’"

The negative response to inviting Suzanne Venker was not limited to "some of the extreme elements on campus." As Zach Wood writes:

Recently, Uncomfortable Learning invited Suzanne Venker to campus. Venker, a noted anti-feminist, has argued that feminism turns women into victims, devalues motherhood and makes male-female relationships a battleground. Just minutes after I invited people to the event via Facebook, my Uncomfortable Learning partners and I started receiving incendiary attacks.
Our peers called us sheltered, privileged men’s right’s activists endorsing hate speech, white supremacy and misogyny. One person accused me of a calculated attack on women at Williams. Another said I had blood on my hands. That post received over 50 likes. I also received a phone call from a private number. 
The person on the line said, “I used to have respect for you, but now I know you’re a sexist. Go to hell.” Then they hung up.
A few days later, after a torrent of online bullying, our board canceled the event because of security concerns. I worry about the message this sends. To outsiders, it may seem like Williams doesn’t believe in free speech. And it makes our student body seem like we need to be coddled and given “safe spaces” that prevent us from having to face views we find offensive.

The fact that a Facebook post accusing Zach Wood of having "blood" on his hands got 50 likes should be a powerful indication that there is something seriously wrong with the state of free speech at Williams College. We should honor and value Zach Wood's statements regarding the way he and his fellow organizers were the victims of online bullying. All the evidence I have gathered about this situation indicates that a lack of free speech is still a profound problem at Williams College. For my take on what it was like to be a young conservative professor at Williams College in the late 1980's, please see this post at my Anonymous Political Scientist blog site.

Finally, one of the commentators started going after me for why I left Williams College in 1989. I hit back with the truth and some snark.

Comment #14: I should briefly respond to comments by Ephman. According to Williams College the only reason I was taken off the tenure track was the supposed low quality of my research work. There were no other reasons ever suggested for this unprecedented action. As Ephman has indicated, he was not on campus at that time so I do not think he is a reliable source for understanding my brief tenure as a Williams College professor.

I have maintained a strong interest in studying the events taking place at Williams College over the years and have been an active participant on the most important website regarding the school, Ephblog, since 2010. I remain in touch with my former Williams College students, many of whom are still dissatisfied with the treatment of conservatives at the school. I made the following points: 

  1. Although there have been conservative speakers at Williams College, there are no conservative professors.
  2. Jane Swift is a liberal Republican who does not, and has never, represented the GOP base.
  3. Absolutely no administrator at Williams has indicated the slightest support for Venker's anti-feminist perspective.
  4. Zach Wood has repeatedly indicated that a lack of security in the face of a massive amount of threatening on-line posts was the motivating reason for rescinding Venker's invitation.

Finally, I am not hiding my identity from anyone. My views have been published in reputable publications by editors who have checked my information and experience. I am certainly a more credible, honest and unbiased source than those who may be currently employed by Williams College or whose jobs/careers are dependent on maintaining untruthful information about it.

Comment #19: jersey454, I respect Zach Wood's sincerity when it comes to his report that the Venker event was cancelled for security reasons. If I had been subjected to the same on-line bullying that he experienced, then I would have shared his deep concern for Ms. Venker's safety.

Although you may be friends with those who bullied him (or may have been one of those bullies yourself)
it is difficult to predict violent behavior unless you know key details about these folks including their past criminal histories, use of drugs and alcohol, and ideological leanings. Unless you can provide more detailed information about those who bullied Zach Wood, then I do not think it is fair to suggest there was zero basis for his fears of violence.

There are plenty of conservative thinkers who are skeptical about each of the issues -- anti-feminism, gay rights, discrimination in the workplace -- which you seem to think are completely settled in an intellectual sense. Your apparent unwillingness to even entertain the idea that you might be wrong is part of the reason that so many of us are appalled by the lack of intellectual diversity at Williams College.

A responsible liberal arts education should include a scientific look at the most controversial issues of our day. That is certainly the sort of education I provided when I was teaching in the political science department at Williams College. Much of my own research, for example, destroyed years of liberal settled science on the exact causes of the U.S. welfare state. To see how my research impacted the field of welfare reform, please see this excerpt from Paul E. Peterson, Mark C. Rom's book Welfare Magnets.

Ideally, Williams College should be a place where students confront liberal orthodoxies and make up their own minds based on evidence and independent thought -- not peer pressure or on-line bullying. Williams College should be a place where students benefit from Uncomfortable Learning provided by conservative scholars who are smarter and better read than liberals who simply hang on to the Democrat party's line-of-the-day.

Comment #20: Again, I should point out that Ephman seems to lack basic knowledge of how tenure decisions are made regarding junior faculty members at Williams College who have recently completed their dissertations. In my case, my department read chapters of my doctoral dissertation as their primary assessment of my skill as a researcher. On the basis of reading my thesis - which I completed while I was still teaching at Williams - they decided that the research work done in my dissertation was of low quality.

The error of that determination, however, became apparent only a few months later when this same body of work was judged by a panel of independent political scientists associated with the American Political Science Association (APSA). These readers had the exact opposite reaction. They believed my work to be so exemplary that they awarded me the William Anderson Award for having written the best doctoral dissertation in the nation in my field. This award demonstrated that Williams College gravely underestimated the quality, significance, originality and relevance of my research. I think it is perfectly obvious that I was a victim of racial/ideological discrimination.

The quality of my doctoral dissertation research was so great that it is still cited by authors. To see how my research impacted the field of welfare reform, please see this excerpt from Paul E. Peterson, Mark C. Rom's book Welfare Magnets.

To highlight the extent to which I research skills were disparaged, I should point out that my dissertation was eventually published, almost word for word, exactly as I wrote it as part of an edited volume. You can judge the quality of my research work yourself by using this on-line resource.

As far as I can tell, the extraordinary quality of my research was recognized by both national-level experts in my field, by national-level authorities appointed by the APSA. The only folks who didn't seem to appreciate the extraordinary quality of my work were the left-wing professors at Williams College, the professors who saw me and my opposition to affirmative action as a profound threat to their liberal orthodoxy.

Pushing on, the liberals defending Williams College ran out of steam. They demonstrated an intellectual laziness which seemed epidemic on the left.

Comment 22: I suspect you are the only one in the world who believes that Williams College's hostility to conservatives is negated simply because it imports a tiny number of conservatives to speak to its students once in a while.

Comment 31: The real lesson here is that liberals are lazy and mean. They are unable to respond intelligently, logically, or coherently when confronted with tough evidence that shows how their outmoded leftist ideology is inconsistent with reality, unable to predict the future, and a dead end that leaves them isolated and powerless in the real world.

It makes me worry you are delusional if you sincerely hold to this utterly ridiculous defense. Given the William's long-standing hostility to conservatives -- as reflected in its hiring practices -- I do not think you have made the case that Williams is a realistic choice for conservative, Christian students seeking a quality liberal arts education.

Sadly, Williams is also a poor choice for liberal, secular students who are not being challenged in the classroom with a powerful conservative perspective.

For my advice to conservative students at Williams College, please see my recent opinion piece in Campus Reform.

Comment 24: Ephman, you are delusional and full of it. At the national level, the views taught at Williams College are irrelevant to modern life. The silly, childish leftist ideas taught on that campus are a joke to those of us making a good living in the real world. As a former professor, I'm more proud of the fact that I live near the beach than that I once taught at frosty Williams.

Comment 27: Jersey454, you are so brainwashed you are making me laugh. Given the liberal bias of Williams College, I am not surprised at the extremely unhealthy people it attracts. While I was on the campus, no less that two of its professors committed suicide. 

I think you are naive if you think you and your fellow students are fine examples of mental health. I don't see how anyone can be healthy and happy while still holding on to delusional, unrealistic liberal beliefs. The willingness of you and your fellow students to engage in on-line bullying is quite disturbing and potentially an expression of psychopathic tendencies.

  1. You would be exposed to even more challenges to your comfortable left-wing orthodoxy. If you had a conservative professor like me you would learn that affirmative action causes incredible resentment and anger and that anger and resentment does not subside over time.
  2. You would learn, for example, that twin studies show there are more ex-gays than current gays.
  3. You would read studies that demonstrate low IQ is correlated with both poverty and criminal behavior and that this fact makes it difficult to solve problems related to both poverty and crime.
  4. You would read studies that indicate how, in Europe, a tolerance for gay marriage actually undermines the prevalence of traditional marriage.
  5. You would learn more about why women under perform men at the highest levels of math and the consequences of this difference between the sexes.
  6. You would learn the details about how Protestant Christians were the pre-eminent enemies of Hitler's totalitarianism and investigate why atheism is highly correlated with mass murder and genocide in the last century.
  7. You would study and read the Qu'ran to help you understand why it is the cause of so much conflict and blood shed. You would review passages in the Qu'ran to help you understand its hostility to gays, women, Christians and Jews.

In other words, you would receive a completely different education. A more valuable education which would put you in touch with higher quality scholarship, a more realistic view of the world, and give you the tools needed to create a fulfilling life for yourself based on the latest and most significant research. You would be studying under a professor who is on the cutting edge of social problems, active in reforming the Republican party, and fearless when it comes to expressing independent thought. Right now, all you get is a pale reflection of the inadequate decisions you made in high school.

As this thread illustrates, leftists also tend to be gutless conformists. Here, they post in complete anonymity. They quickly, almost immediately, fall into vicious, unsubstantiated personal attacks. They cannot be bothered to do the hard work needed to even partially address an intelligent conservative critique of their old-fashioned views. They too lazy to investigate the latest peer reviewed studies which contradict their cherished ideology.

The truth is that the liberal ideology taught routinely at places like Williams College represents a dumbed down education, an education more suitable for sheep than proven leaders. I expect that students and parents searching for a quality liberal arts education will search out alternatives like Hillsdale College which preserves the best of a traditional, demanding liberal arts education. See,

As I digest all of this, I think I'll do more to shape it into a coherent article that will help clarify the politically correct sickness that has take over places like Williams College. For now, however, I am glad I rescued these comments before College Confidential completely deleted them.

John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.

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