Letter: College, columnist wrong on ban of speaker

College, columnist wrong on speaker ban

To the editor:

I read with dismay that the president of Williams College banned John Derbyshire from speaking to a group by whom he was invited. I was equally dismayed about John Seven's Feb. 22 column agreeing with the banishment.

Prior to this controversy, I had never heard of Derbyshire and still have never heard or read anything the man has ever said or written. Assuming he is as controversial as John Seven and Williams make him out to be, I applaud the student and students who wanted to hear first-hand what this man has to say, even if it was to disagree with every word.

Every invited speaker is a decision on someone's part. The point is to have speakers who have something to contribute. We have a case here where a group wanted to hear a speaker and someone else said — you chose poorly and I'm overruling you. In a college setting, this is not a good thing, and here are two reasons why.

The first is directed at John Seven's commentary. I have been reading Seven's columns for quite some time. I disagree with almost every word he writes. (I scare myself on the rare occasion that I agree with him.) To use some of the words Seven used in his commentary, I find Seven's writings in general to be clearly offensive, inarguably bad, and misinformed. With this opinion, were I in authority, by Seven's logic I should banish him from writing. But I would not. I stand by his right to publish his clearly offensive, inarguably bad and misinformed ideas. I would fight for his right to do so even at my own peril. Such is way I was brought up that it should be.

The second reason is directed at the college. The line you have found that Derbyshire has crossed exists only in your mind. You would never be able to describe that line so concisely that everyone would know exactly where it is. Do you not, by your action, put fear in the mind of any student whose thoughts approach, run parallel to, or perhaps even cross that same line? What message are you sending students? That if you speak out or share some thought deemed to be over the line, which can't be described, you will be held up to ridicule or worse?

This is exactly how young minds are molded and made to march in unison. You are taking a step down a slippery slope. History is littered with good intentions gone bad.

Ronald King, Adams


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