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A Collective Student Response to the “Chicago Statement” - The Feminist Wire

A Collective Student Response to the “Chicago Statement”

We, The Damned Collective, are delighted to host the work of The Damned. Below you will read and certainly be inspired by this collective statement from Williams College Students. This is their response to the “Chicago Statement.” We honor these students. We support them and their courage to #doitfortheDAMNED #doitfortheDAMMM


To the Williams community,

Recently, a petition has circulated throughout the faculty urging the College to adopt a statement released by the University of Chicago in 2015, which claims to defend the right to “free speech and free expression” on college campuses. The authors of the Williams petition assert that “while there is an understandable desire to protect our students from speech they find offensive, doing so risks putting down legitimate dialogue and failing to prepare our students to deal effectively with a diversity of opinions, including views they might vehemently disagree with.” We, the undersigned, take grave issue with the premises of this petition and the potential harm it may inflict upon our community.

 

 

We are at once angered by the context in which this petition has emerged and highly critical of its content. This process is not only engaged against Williams College’s Mission and Principles, but also against those of the petition itself. Not allowing students into the discussion and circulation of the petition limits the potential for conflicting viewpoints and is thus competely antithetical to a free speech premise. According to the college’s Mission Statement, “Faculty members invite students to become partners in the process of intellectual discovery.” We see none of this. With increasingly visible violence towards those most marginalized by our society, why is this discussion happening now? “Free Speech,” as a term, has been co-opted by right-wing and liberal parties as a discursive cover for racism, xenophobia, sexism, anti-semitism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and classism. The creation of this petition at Williams cannot be separated from those dehumanizing associations. Nor can it be separated from a national pattern where certain amendments are upheld and protected at all costs and others are completely denigrated, ignored, and targeted. Take the privileging of the 2nd amendment over the 14th amendment, for example. Mirroring this harmful prioritization, Williams’ sudden and urgent need to protect “free speech” over all other issues for students and community members is evidence of white fragility, ideological anxiety, and discursive violence. This petition and the Chicago Statement are purely semantics and posturing. Why can’t we actually have a campus-wide discussion on this issue, one that is not dominated by conservative and white faculty? Can this instead be an opportunity to take a critical eye to how free speech is constructed and weaponized at institutions like Williams?

 

We would like to draw attention to specific elements of the petition. The use of “controversy” in the piece is oversimplified and reductive. The petition prioritizes the protection of ideas over the protection of people and fails to recognize that behind every idea is a person with a particular subjectivity. Our beliefs, and the consequences of our actions, are choices we make. Any claim to the “protection of ideas” that is not founded in the insurance of people’s safety poses a real threat – one which targets most pointedly marginalized people. An ideology of free speech absolutism that prioritizes ideas over people, giving “deeply offensive” language a platform at this institution, will inevitably imperil marginalized students.

 

Liberal ideology asserts that morality is logical— that dehumanizing ideas can be fixed with logic and therefore need to be debated. However, oppression is the result of centuries of real emotional and material interests, and dehumanization cannot be discussed away. In truth, a liberal framework for “rational debate” rests upon a cognitive hierarchy that says intelligence equals morality and discussion equals good actions. The reality is that the academy has a dark history of enacting racism. Topics like eugenics, once debated as “civil rational discussion,” have now been acknowledged as indefensibly racist frameworks. Finally, those who dictate what gets to be debated are generally overrepresented folks from backgrounds of privilege. Therefore, this petition has grave potential to further silence the voices of people of color, queer people, disabled people, poor people, and others outside the center of power.

 

And while the University of Chicago statement says that students “may not obstruct or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject,” the issue is that these are not views we reject; they are views that reject us, and our very right to speak/breathe. The UChicago Statement, in failing to see this, has rejected our right to counter-protest, to “interfere.” Thus, our rights protected by the 1st amendment are eradicated by a petition that claims to support “free speech.” This document does not promote free speech: it punishes it. In a time when members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are asking for activists to be tried under the Patriot Act, and counter-terrorism legislation has continued to increase world governments’ abilities to violently deny the right to peaceful protest, the College cannot support and thereby strengthen such absolute, reckless, and dangerous policies.  We are also skeptical of the “free speech” debate more broadly. The faculty petition is based on the false premise that the free dissemination of viewpoints means that all speech has an equal chance of being heard. Simply letting all speech be spoken does not, in practice, accomplish the petition’s stated goal of ensuring that different and diverse viewpoints, particularly those of marginalized people, are heard. Ultimately, power determines whose speech is given space and taken seriously. By putting resources and publicity behind certain speakers, we affirm their thoughts and ideas, bolstering their reputation with the weight of our institution’s academic legitimacy. When it comes to the actual choice of who comes to speak or how we otherwise engage in discourse at Williams, we must curate those speakers carefully, because ultimately all speaking engagements on campus are curated. Giving one person space/time to speak on campus means that another person is not given that space/time. We have to become attuned to the absences that accompany people’s presence on campus.

 

Whom does this campus prioritize, and whom does this statement truly aim to protect? John Derbyshire is a self-proclaimed “racist” and “homophobe” who was invited to speak at Williams by Uncomfortable Learning in 2016. He wrote an article proclaiming, among many other atrocious, untrue things, that “the mean intelligence of Blacks is much lower than for whites” and adamant advice like “[do] not attend events likely to draw a lot of Blacks.” Adam Falk disinvited him to campus, but a free speech absolutism policy, like the one in this petition, would have limited the President and allowed Derbyshire to spew homophobia and anti-Black racism on campus. To quote Aiyana Porter at last week’s Black Student Union town hall, “John Derbyshire literally said that Black people are not humans. I’m not going to consider that in my classroom….Who are we okay with making uncomfortable? Why are we so driven to making those particular people uncomfortable? If we are so insistent on making them uncomfortable, then we at least need some institutional support to get through all of the discomfort that you are thrusting upon us.” Williams College continually fails to support its most marginalized students, staff, and faculty members, despite claiming to have a deep commitment to “diversity.” Cheryl Shanks’ letter to the editor states that “To sign on to this statement is not to reject safe spaces. The College should allow for, and even provide, safe spaces. In fact, it does.” As noted by dozens of students at the BSU town hall and the phenomenal letter, Lessons from the Damned, 2018; written by Professor Kimberly S. Love and Dr. G — this is simply untrue! Many students with marginalized identities feel as if the College does not provide adequate support for them. Students of color feel tokenized in entries, Campus Safety and Security has a history of racist actions, queer faculty of color are subjected to racism and homophobia/transphobia, minority students lack autonomous space, etc. If we are to engage in this discussion, let us take a critical lens to the ways that “free speech” has been leveraged to silence dissent, not strengthen it.

 

Signed***,

  1. Isabel Peña ‘19
  2. audrey koh ‘21, english & american studies
  3. Annalee Tai ‘21
  4. Abel Romero ’19, Political Science and American Studies
  5. Carlos Cabrera-Lomelí ’20, Political Economy & Latinx Studies
  6. Eli Cytrynbaum ’20, Mathematics
  7. Eliza Klein ‘19, History
  8. Vina Nweke ‘22
  9. Faith Rodriguez ’22
  10. Emma York ‘19
  11. Grace Fan ‘19, Sociology
  12. JS (Jason) Liu ‘20
  13. Karen Linares ‘18.5
  14. Kyle Walker ‘19, Economics
  15. Christopher Ochoa ‘20
  16. Liliana Bierer ‘19
  17. Maria Noya ‘21
  18. Leonard Bopp ‘19
  19. Moises Roman Mendoza ‘19
  20. Rocky Douglas ‘19, Economics & Africana Studies
  21. Olaide Adejobi ’19, English & Africana Studies
  22. Kaylen Smith ‘22
  23. Olivia Goodheart ‘18.5, Political Science and WGSS
  24. Onyeka Obi ‘21, Economics and Theatre/American Studies
  25. Phacelia Cramer ‘19
  26. Tania Calle ’20, Political Science & Public Health
  27. Tyler Tsay ‘19, American Studies
  28. Valeria Sosa ‘19
  29. William Chen ‘19, Economics & Mathematics
  30. Jasmine Jackson ‘20, Economics & Africana Studies
  31. Brandon Wingfield ‘22
  32. Jessica De Los Santos ‘22
  33. Isaiah Blake ‘21
  34. Shalya Powell ’22
  35. Emily Marquis ‘22
  36. Korinna Garfield ‘19
  37. Kate Roger ‘21
  38. Alejandra Patlán ‘19, Psychology and Latinx Studies
  39. Amari Yirgu ‘22
  40. Alyssa Perea ’21
  41. Jesus Payan ’20
  42. Maria Rodriguez Hertz ‘21
  43. katie manning ‘20, wgss & environmental studies concentration
  44. Jamie Kasulis ‘20
  45. Mirna Rodriguez ‘21
  46. Panalee Maskati ‘20
  47. Adna Mohamed ‘22
  48. Hamza Mankor ‘22
  49. Moiz Rehan ‘19
  50. Fernanda Gonzalez ‘22
  51. Samuel Ojo ‘22
  52. Rodsy Modhurima ‘19, Biology
  53. Rebecca Dodgson
  54. Leonel D. Martinez ‘20
  55. Anna Jackowski ‘21
  56. Alia Richardson ‘19
  57. Erin Hanson ‘19
  58. Nehemiah Wilson ‘21
  59. Astrid DuBois ‘20
  60. Anna Goldelman ‘19
  61. Crystal Ma ‘21
  62. Alexandra Krstic ‘19, Biology
  63. Surabhi Iyer ‘21
  64. Julia Blike ‘19
  65. Moss Brenner-Bryant ‘19
  66. Estefani Hernandez ‘19
  67. Inaya Payne-Wilks ‘20
  68. Meklit Tesfaye ‘20
  69. Kate Delgado ‘22
  70. Natalie Wilkinson ‘19 Comparative Literature
  71. Iona Binnie ‘19
  72. Fiona Keller ‘21
  73. Adrienne Banks ‘20
  74. Halle Schweizer ‘21
  75. Nelly Lin-Schweitzer ‘21
  76. Evyan Recinos ‘22
  77. Drew Cohen ‘20
  78. Elsa Bjornlund ‘20
  79. Emma Reichheld ‘19
  80. Philemon Abel ‘19
  81. Afoma Maduegbuna ‘21
  82. Forest Williams ‘20
  83. Anna Sun ‘19 Art History & Comparative Literature
  84. Arslay Joseph ‘20
  85. Kofi Lee-Berman ‘22
  86. Katelyn Harris ‘22
  87. Amber Lee ’21, Environmental Studies, SCST concentration
  88. Alexandra Griffin ‘19
  89. Louisa Goss ‘19
  90. Franklin De La Cruz ‘21
  91. Evan Chester ‘21
  92. Wendy Hernández ‘20, Comparative Literature
  93. Rachel Jones ‘18
  94. Belle Furman ‘20
  95. Sarah Fleming ‘17.5, Mathematics
  96. Jesús Estrada ‘20.5
  97. Ellie Sherman ‘20
  98. Brianna Rettig ‘18
  99. Connor Middleton ‘22
  100. Nakita VanBiene ‘15
  101. Marissa Lowe ‘14
  102. Natalie Turner-Wyatt ‘19, History
  103. Isabel Cushing ‘21
  104. Emily P. White ‘19
  105. Oluseyi Olaose ‘22
  106. Sarah Hubert ‘21
  107. Adrian Oxley ‘20
  108. Kimberly Andreassen ‘20 American Studies & Biology
  109. Ana Delgado Fernández ‘22
  110. Wintana Yohannes ‘21
  111. Josiel Aponte ‘21
  112. Tiffany Chhuor ‘22
  113. VanNashlee Ya ‘22
  114. Vanessa Quevedo ‘21
  115. Selena Castro ‘17; Chemistry & American Studies
  116. Sarah McLaughlin ‘19; Chemistry & English
  117. Madeline Rawson, ‘21; Environmental Studies
  118. Austin Anderson ‘19
  119. Michelle Lopez, ‘21
  120. Kerry Swartz ‘19
  121. Oscar Hurtado, ‘17
  122. Vannesa Gurrola-Mariscal ‘22
  123. Amy Garcia ‘22
  124. Paul Griffith ‘19
  125. Toni Wilson ‘19, WGSS & Africana Studies
  126. Blain Solomon ‘22.
  127. Kyle Scadlock ‘19
  128. Chelsea Romulus  ‘22
  129. Kevin Zhang Yang ‘22
  130. Dante Hirata-Epstein ‘20
  131. Neftaly Lara ‘19, French & Latina/o Studies
  132. Anqi Tang ‘19, Art History & Practice
  133. Caroline Weinberg ‘19; Chemistry & Environmental Studies
  134. Raquel Livingston ‘21
  135. Kenia Cruz Guardado ‘22
  136. Jaya Mallela ‘20
  137. Valentina Ostovary, German Dept. T.A.
  138. Liza Berg ‘21
  139. Tionne Townsend ‘21
  140. Bernal Cortés ‘22
  141. Lauren Menjivar ‘22
  142. Shadae McClean ‘21
  143. Jonah Goldstein ‘22
  144. Vanessa Quinland ‘22
  145. Angel Ibarra ‘21
  146. Kira Stanfield-Pazmiño ‘22
  147. Hannah Moore ‘22
  148. Aaron Stanton ‘22
  149. Justinas Banys ‘19
  150. Ivana Onubogu ‘21
  151. Suiyi Tang ‘20, American Studies & Comparative Literature
  152. Dara Etienne ‘22
  153. Andrew Bloniarz ‘18, Geoscience and Russian
  154. Loïs Umutesi Kayiranga ‘22
  155. Ryan Rilinger ‘20, Chemistry & Biology
  156. Aramis Sanchez ‘17
  157. Jaqueline Serrano Aguilar ‘17, Chemistry & Latina/o Studies
  158. Nathan Thimothe ‘22
  159. Amy Qiu ‘19
  160. Ayami Hatanaka ‘18
  161. Aniah Price ‘22
  162. Brian Valladares ‘21
  163. Abigail Sanchez ‘16
  164. Abigail Murray-Stark ‘22
  165. Sabrine Brismeur ‘22
  166. Ashay Naren Patel ‘18, Physics & Math
  167. Emma Larson ‘21
  168. Isabel Ouweleen ‘21
  169. Kailyn Gibson ‘22
  170. Andrea Alvarez ‘20, Biology & French
  171. Erin Lamberth ‘19, Psychology & English
  172. Emaun Irani ‘20
  173. Julia Randall ‘19
  174. Tiffany Zheng ‘20
  175. Aria Kim ‘19, Computer Science, Cognitive Science
  176. Joey Fox ‘21
  177. Yvette Perez ‘17, American Studies & Latina/o Studies
  178. Li Yu ’20 English & Art History
  179. Jacques Guyot ‘17, Biology & Comparative Literature
  180. Fernanda Lai ’17 English
  181. Aisha Abdrashitova ‘22
  182. Cassidy Charles ‘17 Asian Studies
  183. Cynthia Okoye ‘18 Chemistry
  184. Funmi Adejobi ‘17 Biology & English
  185. Aiyana Porter ‘20
  186. Elizabeth (Bee) Sachsse ’18, English & French
  187. Kristina Hwang ‘19, Chinese
  188. Julio Tavarez ‘19, Studio Art & Japanese
  189. Caroline McArdle ‘18, English
  190. Rhea Jiang, ’20, Art History
  191. Michael Crisci ‘21, Economics & Philosophy
  192. Alice Carnell ‘22
  193. Samuel Swire ‘17.5
  194. Arkey M. Barnett ‘19, Economics
  195. Kristen Bayrakdarian ‘20
  196. Sophia Robert ‘18, Biology & Philosophy
  197. Fred Wang ’20, Political Science
  198. David Krane ‘19
  199. Nohely Peraza ‘20, American Studies and English, Africana Studies & Latina/o Studies
  200. Madeline Kaplan ‘21
  201. Mira Sneirson ‘22
  202. Olivia Barnhill ‘19
  203. Calen Geiser-Cseh ‘22
  204. Sydney Jones ‘21, Religion & French
  205. Matias Korfmacher ’19, Political Science & Philosophy
  206. Serapia Kim ‘19, Political Economy
  207. Olivia Tse ‘19.5
  208. Lilianne Au ‘22
  209. Michelle Laker ‘22
  210. Mandela Namaste ‘19 Political Science & Africana Studies, Leadership Studies
  211. Ezekiel King Phillips ‘18, Geosciences, Chinese, & Africana Studies
  212. Hae-Min Jung, ‘17 Statistics
  213. Julia Gunther ‘20
  214. Spencer Carrillo ‘20, Computer Science, Economics, & Global Studies
  215. Devin Helle ‘19
  216. Zachary Fatihi ‘22
  217. Rosa Kirk-Davidoff ‘21, Environmental Studies
  218. Madison Onsager ‘21, Political Science & Psychology
  219. Linda Worden ‘19, Political Economy
  220. George Arrowsmith ‘21
  221. Erin Kennedy ‘19
  222. Jazmin Bramble ‘20, Statistics and American Studies, Africana Studies
  223. Sophie Lu ‘19
  224. Dominique Burgess ‘20, Political Science & Africana Studies
  225. Dong Joo Lee ‘20, Religion & Mathematics
  226. Yaznairy Cabrera ‘20 Economics & Africana Studies
  227. Germanie Louis ‘21
  228. Azar Dixit ‘20, Biology
  229. Tucker Lemos ‘19  English & Biology
  230. Jennifer Lederer ‘19.5 English & History
  231. Lindsay Avant ‘21
  232. Ariana Romeo ‘19, History
  233. Claudia Inglessis ‘22
  234. Maya Cords ‘22
  235. Katie Costantini ‘16
  236. June Han ‘19, English
  237. Alexandra Medeiros ’20, Music & Psychology
  238. Andrea Selena Treviño ‘19.5
  239. Rio Salazar, ‘20
  240. Alex Kling ‘16
  241. Brittany Chung ‘18
  242. Autumn Jocas ‘20.5, WGSS & French Language and Literature
  243. Claudia Reyes ‘18
  244. Nathan Leach ‘17, Religion & English
  245. Manami Díaz Tsuzuki ‘18, Chemistry
  246. Papa Freduah Anderson ‘21
  247. Francesca Eluhu ‘19, Mathematics and Economics
  248. Chelsey Jordan ‘21Political Science
  249. Emily Sundquist ‘18 Mathematics, Biology
  250. Justice Namaste ‘17, American Studies
  251. Leslie Garcia ‘22
  252. Harper Johnson ‘19
  253. Roberta (Bertie) Miller ‘18
  254. Ryan Buggy ’19, French & Psychology
  255. Phuong Vo ‘18
  256. Javier Robelo ‘22
  257. Jadon Cooper ‘22
  258. Mariane St. Juste ‘21
  259. Faith Rodriguez ‘22
  260. Christine Nyce ‘19, Art History
  261. Minh Tran ‘19, English
  262. Patrick Postec, ‘21
  263. Apurva Tandon ’17, English & Neuroscience
  264. Shane Beard ‘20, Political Science, Africana Studies & Leadership Studies
  265. Hannah Gruendemann ‘20, Music and English
  266. Morgan Richman ‘19, Psychology
  267. Alexa Walkovitz ‘21
  268. Sam Alterman ‘18, Physics
  269. Sofia Phay ‘19
  270. Kevin M Hernandez ‘18, Political Science & History
  271. Ian Outhwaite ‘17, Biology & Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  272. Yasmin Ruvalcaba ‘17, Political Science & Latinx Studies
  273. Anna Black ‘19
  274. Anna Kim ‘19, English & Philosophy
  275. Olivia Duarte-Loehr, ‘21
  276. Kayla Gillman ‘21
  277. Elizabeth Bigham ‘21
  278. gabe wexler ‘19
  279. Jane Shim ‘21
  280. Teiheim Edwards ‘20, Computer Science
  281. Ana Strong Garcia ‘22
  282. Kristen Park ‘19
  283. Tom Benz ‘19
  284. Yeojin Julia Choi ‘20, Psychology & Music, Neuroscience
  285. Jeromy DiGiacomo ‘20
  286. Jamie Nichols ‘21
  287. Louisa Kania ’19.5
  288. Gavin Li ‘22
  289. Story Ponvert ‘18.5
  290. Kara Hadden ‘22
  291. Amina Diop ’21
  292. Blaine Williams ‘20
  293. CJ Salapare ‘20, Art History
  294. Julian Smedley ‘19
  295. Lina Velcheva ‘19
  296. Sophia Millay ‘21
  297. Regina Fink ‘22
  298. Stephany Rivero ‘22
  299. Cecilia Xia ‘22
  300. Kwasi Fahie, ‘20
  301. Jay Schroeter, ‘22
  302. Kate Latimore ‘19
  303. Sofia Barandiaran, ‘20
  304. Skye An ‘21
  305. Abraham Eafa ‘21, Chemistry
  306. Fernando Villegas ‘21 Psychology & Biology
  307. Juan Peticco, ‘21 Chemistry & English
  308. Daisy Banta, ‘18 Biology & Neuroscience
  309. Kathy Bi ‘18
  310. Tressa Palcheck ‘17
  311. Emily Agreda ‘22
  312. Adilene Valencia-Sanchez, ‘20 Asian Studies & Comparative Lit.
  313. Keiana West ‘18
  314. Hannah Tager ‘20
  315. Anna Leonard ‘19, Psychology & Neuroscience
  316. Madeline Walsh ‘18
  317. Vince McNelis ‘21, Economics & Art History
  318. Jovana Calvillo ‘19
  319. Wylie Thornquist ‘20
  320. William Cozadd ‘21
  321. Claudia Forrester ‘18, WGSS & Biology
  322. Sierra McDonald, Biology, ‘16
  323. Kelly Tellez, Biology ‘17
  324. David Azzara ’19, Chemistry
  325. Rebecca Van Pamel, ‘19
  326. Nebiyou Metaferia ‘19
  327. Caleigh Forbes-Cockell ‘19
  328. Jane Tekin ‘19
  329. Anna Cuéllar-Parajón ‘20
  330. Wilson Lam ‘21
  331. Joseph Baca ‘15, Theatre
  332. Julia Simon ‘14 Theatre
  333. Irene Castillo ‘16 Theatre & Latinx Studies
  334. Aidyn Osgood ‘15, History
  335. Garrett Welson ‘15, Political Science
  336. Jesse Facey ‘19
  337. Marisol Sierra ‘17
  338. Katelyn Long ‘19 American Studies
  339. Aidan Dunkelberg ‘22
  340. Nick Gardner ‘19
  341. Leah Nadell ‘22
  342. Joseph Gentry ‘22
  343. Noah Andrew ‘22
  344. Magdalena Blaise ‘22
  345. Aida Sawadogo ‘22
  346. Mia Gancayco ‘18
  347. Rachel Porter ‘21
  348. Eman Ali ‘20
  349. Chanel Palmer ‘19 English & Political Science
  350. Karla De La Fuente ‘22
  351. Valeria Baltodano ‘20 WGSS, English, & Latina/o/x Studies
  352. Emily Loveridge ’14 History
  353. Isabella Salmi ‘17
  354. Andrea Quintanar ‘19
  355. Camille Nance ‘21
  356. Parmalier Arrington ‘15
  357. Soha Sanchorawala ‘19
  358. Emily Zheng ‘20
  359. Melissa Mendino ‘22
  360. Diana Gonzalez-Castillo ‘22
  361. Celeste Pepitone-Nahas ‘17
  362. Mia Herring-Sampong ‘20, Art History & Africana Studies
  363. Spencer Lee-Rey ‘18, Biology, Psychology & Neuroscience
    ***This list was modified on Dec. 5, 2018. We will keep you updated if further changes are made.

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