To the Williams community,
In November 2018 I charged an ad hoc committee with recommending to me “a set of speaker invitation guidelines that would demonstrate our full commitment to both inquiry and inclusion.” The committee has delivered their report, and it’s my pleasure to direct you to it on the Committee’s website. I accept their recommendations in full and will see that the college pursues them in a prompt and timely fashion.
The report proposes actions intended to support a climate of inclusive freedom at Williams. This term, which the Committee adapted from the work of political theorist Sigal Ben-Porath, expresses the idea that, to quote Professor Ben-Porath, “inclusion and free expression are not directly opposed but rather mutually reinforcing”—an ideal echoed in Williams’ own twin commitments to academic excellence and inclusion.
Many of the Committee’s recommendations toward that goal are straightforward, like offering workshops on effective event planning and clarifying how our freedom of expression policies apply to campus activism. I’ve tasked Senior Staff members with directing work on these issues in time to have results in place for the Fall 2019 semester.
More ambitiously, the Committee recommends that the college “publish and affirm a statement on expression and inclusion.” I strongly agree that Williams would benefit from such a statement, and I’ll develop a draft this summer in consultation with the Faculty Steering Committee and the Ad Hoc Committee itself. The statement, too, will be available for discussion next fall.
Happily, the report offers good ideas for such a statement, including many drawn from community input. Committee members held more than 30 meetings with groups ranging from the Committee on Diversity and Community to Dining Services to Society of Alumni volunteers; circulated an online student survey that attracted responses from more than 25 percent of undergraduates; launched a postcard campaign inviting comments via an open web form; and held six days of open office hours in Sawyer Library and seven days of tabling in Paresky. I want to thank them for their energetic outreach efforts, as well as everyone who shared a point of view.
I look forward to the many discussions and debates the report will spark. In an intellectually rigorous community like ours, the question is not whether we’ll disagree about the central ideas, but how. As both college president and campus citizen, I hope we’ll do so in ways that embody Williams at its best.