When Williams College President, Adam Falk, cancelled John Derbyshire’s campus speech, many in the school community hailed the decision. The controversially conservative writer is known for his strong, and sometimes abrasive, stances on issues like multiculturalism and immigration.
But unlike his classmates, sophomore Zachary Wood called the President’s decision “not merely injudicious, but undemocratic, irresponsible, and frankly, pathetic.” Wood is the president of “Uncomfortable Learning,” the student-run speaker series playing host to Mr. Derbyshire.
In a recent article he wrote for The Torch, Zachary talked in depth about the cancellation of the Mr. Derbyshire’s appearance, calling the move “antithetical to the principles of free speech and intellectual freedom…”
But how can Zachary Wood say these things when the speaker in question so obviously holds views that his classmates, and even himself, find segregating and offensive? He answered that for us as well:
“For me, it begins with my commitment to and love of the life of the mind, which for me is founded on my insatiable desire to gain a deeper understanding of the world and of humanity—including John Derbyshire and Suzanne Venker.”
Wood, who describes himself as an “intellectual purist” goes so far as to say that hearing these controversial views first hand is the only way to fully understand them, and therefore conclude that they are in fact “racist” and invalid.
So, could hate speech actually present an opportunity to learn, absorb, and form arguments against itself? Tom Bell, a professor at Chapman University School of Law, says yes in this Learn Liberty video: