Thursday, October 29, 2015

Uncomfortable Nostalgia: Intellectual Diversity Still a Casualty at Williams College

As a former Williams College political science professor, I got nostalgic this week as I read how student protesters secured the cancellation of a speech by conservative author, Suzanne Venker. Her announced topic, “One Step Forward, Ten Steps Back: Why Feminism Fails” inspired a cacophony of on-line hostility which caused a student organizer, Zach Wood, to share with her that Williams College “has never experienced this kind of resistance” to a campus speaker.

According to Wood, at least one student labeled Venker as a “misogynistic, white supremacist men’s rights activist” whose anticipated presence was causing “actual mental, social, psychological, and physical harm to students.”

What surprised me the most was Wood’s impression that this sort of bizarre, over-the-top, anti-conservative hysteria was unprecedented at Williams College.

As I shared in a recent interview with Jennifer Kabbany, the editor of The College Fix, I witnessed the considerable hostility of Williams College students, faculty and administrators to conservative ideas first-hand when it was directed against me while I taught on the campus from 1986 to 1989. At the time, I was one of only three registered Republicans on the faculty. My status as a registered Republican became public knowledge when I decided to help out the local party officials by running for a state representative seat in the area. Although I was not expected to win, party officials convinced me that my appearance on the ballot would help keep one of Gov. Michael Dukakis’s top allies, Rep. Sherwood Guernsey, from working out-of-state to support the governor’s 1988 presidential campaign.

Within a couple of months, the female students were boycotting nearly all my classes and at least one member of the campus black student organization was denouncing me as a racist. In the spring of 1989, my department chair informed me that I would not be allowed to continue on my tenure-track career path. He told me that this genuinely unprecedented decision was due to the poor quality of my research. Ironically, a few months later, I won a prestigious national award from the American Political Science Association for having recently completed the best doctoral dissertation in the nation in my field. In protest, I resigned from Williams that summer rather than accept an additional year of employment.

Students and faculty at Williams 
College figured out I was a 
Republican when I ran for a 
state representative position 
in Massachusetts. 
As I recall my final year at Williams, I remember how I used my status as a faculty member to make a modest contribution of the preservation of traditional marriage. To satisfy my own curiosity regarding how to achieve a happier life, I developed a special one-course winter study called "Decisions, Decisions."  I remember that course with particular fondness because I added to the syllabus the politically incendiary topic of how to pick an appropriate marriage partner.

Much like Suzanne Venker, I was eager to provide a common sense critique of feminism coupled with a practical understanding that most, if not all, of my students would go on to marry and have children. The class, a surprisingly even mix of young men and women, clearly enjoyed the course. It ended up impacting my own decisions about how to find a suitable wife.

You can sample Venker’s recommendations for living happily ever after by reading the text of her planned speech. It is now available on the Fox News Opinion website. The gist of her message is that feminism fails “...because it denies the existence of biology and teaches that equality means sameness, which is a losing proposition when it comes to planning a life—particularly if that life includes marriage and family.”

As I consider what happened to Venker, I am most interested in understanding why the organizers of this student-run, alumni-funded speaking series would give in to threats of violence. I think part of the problem is that the students who established the Uncomfortable Learning Speaker Series are so isolated that they do not have a faculty adviser.

While I was at William College, I helped the conservative students create their own radio and television shows. I remember that later on some administration officials threatened the conservative students who were seeking to establish an alternative newspaper that would print their articles and opinion pieces. I remember advising them to persist even if they were kicked out. Those young conservatives won that fight. I would have counseled student organizers like Zach Wood to go ahead with their event even if their fellow students threatened to behead the participants.

After all, I applaud the creative realignment contained in the theme of "Uncomfortable Learning." I expect this theme will catch on elsewhere. I think will be a short and simple way of reminding people that an environment of liberal fascism is no substitute for a proper education. If young people need to pick their battles, then this one looks okay to me.

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

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The College Fix Asks About My Time as a Token Conservative at Williams College

As you may know, Williams College is in the news this week because radical students on campus successfully prevented the appearance of an anti-feminist speaker, Suzanne Venker. Venker is a fixture on Fox News and is the author of a number of compelling, common sense books including The War on Men and The Flipside of Feminism. 

Since I still pay attention to news about Williams College by checking in on the entirely unrelated Ephblog, I had an on-line, ringside seat as students, faculty and alumni battled out the intricate details of protecting young people from the apparently horrific physically and emotionally dangerous consequences of simply anticipating Venker's appearance on campus.

Given the over-the-top craziness of the resistance to Venker's speech, I did an interview with the editor of the The College Fix regarding my take on what it was like to be the token conservative at Williams College in the 1980's. The title of the article is "Former Williams College professor speaks out: Campus hostile toward conservatives for decades" and here is the link:

It has been a while since I was in the public eye and I was clearly a little rusty. Nevertheless, I am reminded of the large extent to which Thomas Sowell's book, A Conflict of Visions, helped me better understand not only the extreme hostility of the left to conservative thought, but also why being a college professor itself became less interesting to me as I became more conservative. Since leftists believe that human beings are incredibly frail and malleable they are much more protective of the young. This is why the left is always in the business of policing our language, calling attention to our conscious and unconscious biases, and hypersensitive to anything that even looks like a critique of their views. Since people are so easily harmed by free speech, the left has virtually no tolerance for it.

From the conservative perspective, however, our success is largely due to genetic factors which are immune from the impact of language, ideology or even teaching. If success is mainly due to genetics, then it is silly to get overly concerned about whether or not someone feels included in Halloween or not.

While I still enjoy teaching adults at my grant writing workshops or undergraduates, at times, at nearby Soka University, I found I completely lost interest in teaching young people within a year or two at Williams College. Since I was confident that my Williams College students would succeed with or without me, I was completely okay with leaving the teaching field entirely. In fact, the lure of big money in the real estate world was more than enough to cause me to resign from Williams College in 1989.

Nevertheless, I do miss the great things conservative students did on the Williams campus in the late  1980's. They set up a conservative student newspaper that allowed them to present their ideas in an uncensored fashion. They set of a conservative television show on the local public access station that taught them how to appear on camera and in debates. They even set up a conservative talk radio program in which I occasionally helped with voice overs and sound effects.

I sincerely expect that the current attention devoted to the plight of students with non-conforming thoughts reaches the general public. I think more should be aware of how intellectual diversity would improve the quality of the academic research being done at places like Williams College. At the very least, no one should invest in Williams College as a donor until conservatives are allowed to speak freely and criticize affirmative action, feminism, and the considerable dangers of leftist thought.

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

Friday, October 23, 2015

Update on Trish Drew: Recovery from TBI is Possible

As you may know, Trish suffered a number of falls this year and ended up doing some damage to her brain. She had three subdural hematomas which are basically pockets of blood that end up between the brain and the skull when the dura layer covering the brain is torn by the impact of a blow to the head.

In her case, the hematomas caused her to experience nausea, vomiting and dizziness. The dizziness, in turn, led to more falls and consequently more subdural hematomas. By the time I figured out that I needed to call 9-11, she was unable to walk and largely unable to speak.

The good news is that modern medicine apparently works. Although we could not work with Dr. Ben Carson (he is, of course, retired) we nevertheless found a surgeon who drained the blood that was putting pressure on her brain. The frightening thing was that after this operation there appeared to be little or no reduction in her symptoms.

If you have ever lived with someone suffering from traumatic brain injury, then you will know that the symptoms of traumatic brain injury impact everything about the person from their moods, their aggressiveness, their activity levels.

As we managed this medical challenge, we have not been alone. Since June of this year, we have had a steady stream of visitors to our house. We had visits from an occupational therapist who taught Trish how to move safely around the house. We had a physical therapist who helped Trish regain her strength. We had a social worker and a nurse visit us as well. On top of the professional help, my mother came down to stay with us as did my sister-in-law Michelle and her daughter Joy.

Now, almost five months later, Trish appears to be slowly getting better. This slowness in recovery is apparently normal for folks with brain injuries since no one really knows how to treat them except to let the patient sleep and slowly get better.

At this point, however, Trish seems more like her old self except for some troubling sleep disorders and a persistent form of aphasia -- a fancy word for being unable to find the words you want to say.

All in all, we are grateful for the medical treatment she received and for the outpouring of support we received from our family, friends, and church group.

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

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Triumphant Individualism: The Architecture that Inspired Ayn Rand

Halliburton House-Laguna Beach, CA. 
I suddenly got interested in local architecture this weekend. My primary motivation was the desire to find a local icon that would be easy to paint. Trish seemed interested in the adventure of it all so we started out by looking for the famous Horizon House in Laguna Niguel, checking out the Pynes Castle in Laguna Beach, but ended up most intrigued by the Halliburton House in Laguna Beach. 

The coolest thing about this house is that it was visited by the young, yet-to-be-famous Ayn Rand. Reportedly, it was the inspiration for the fictional Heller House that appears in Ayn Rand's novel The Fountainhead. The real life Halliburton House is indeed built on a cliff and seemingly arises out of it in a manner consistent with the novel protagonist Howard Roark's vision that a building should be a natural expression of its location. 

As Tore Boechmann writes in The Fountainhead as a Romantic Novel,” Roark's architectural principles are outlined in the novel’s opening chapter:

Here are my rules: what can be done with one substance must never be done with another. No two materials are alike. No two sites on earth are alike. No two buildings have the same prupose. The purpose, the site, the material determine the shape. Nothing can be reasonable or beautiful unless it’s made by one central idea, and the idea sets every detail. A building is alive, like a man. Its integrity is to follow its own truth, its one single themse, and to serve its own single purpose....Its maker gives it the soul and every wall, window and stairway to express it.
This pleasing consistency is evident to me even as I observe the Halliburton House in photos, in part, because it is made of reinforced, poured-in-place concrete boxes that blend into the colors of the exposed rock in the neighborhood. The home strikes me as a Hellenistic monument to the excesses of human idealism. It has views of both the ocean and the canyon below. It also features cantilevered stairs that hug the southwest corner of the home from the driveway up to the entry door. Although we did not go inside the house, I understand it contains a gallery, living and dining rooms, a small kitchen, two baths and three bedrooms. There is a deck on the roof that boasts unobstructed 360 degree views. 

Although I knew that it was also named the "Hangover House," Trish is the one who found this booze marinated title exhibited in the retaining wall near the entry.

At a time in our nation's history when collectivism and group
-think appear to be on the rise, I find it useful to be reminded of Any Rand's fierce, uncompromising faith in individualism. I am kind of proud to be living so close to the architectural achievement which apparently inspired a book like The Fountainhead and an iconic, independent character like Howard Roark. 


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

Most Popular Posts