Williams Releases Statement on Free Inquiry and Inclusion

November 15, 2019

Williams College on Thursday released a statement affirming its commitment to free inquiry and inclusion. The move follows student protests over a faculty drive to adopt the Chicago Principles on free speech, which critics say ignore issues of inclusion. Williams’s statement says, in part, that “we will continue expanding ways to offer support to all individuals and groups within our community, as part of our mission to equip every community member with the tools they need for effective discourse, debate and dissent. We also recognize that free expression has its limits: speech that threatens, incites violence, or constitutes harassment has no place in our community.”

Amanda Wilcox, professor of classics and chair of the Faculty Steering Committee behind the statement, said in an announcement that the document is the “product of a sustained, thoughtful consideration of both general questions and the specific circumstances and commitments” of the college. The “whole process has been an exercise in speaking and listening to one another respectfully and openly, as members of a community whose idioms are quite various,” she said, “and who have serious differences of opinion and even, sometimes, of values, but who are united in a shared mission to teach and learn from one another.” Colgate University released its own statement endorsing both rigorous inquiry and respectful debate last year.

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