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Administration at Williams College Goes Around Student Government to Recognize Pro-Israel Group

Administration at Williams College Goes Around Student Government to Recognize Pro-Israel Group

Williams Initiative for Israel “is now an RSO [Registered Student Organization] with the full rights, privileges and responsibilities that label entails.”

A pro-Israel student group at Williams College called ‘Williams Initiative for Israel’ or WIFI, has struggled to gain recognition on campus.

Until now. The student government at the Massachusetts school blocked WIFI, but the administration went around them in order to provide recognition for them.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) deserves a tremendous amount of credit for bringing this situation to light and for the outcome.

Earlier this week, FIRE reported on the situation:

Pro-Israel group denied recognition by Williams College student government, administration’s response falls short

The president of Williams College says she is “disappointed” that the student government refused to grant official club recognition to a student group based solely on its pro-Israel viewpoint. She’s expressed concerns about the group’s treatment — but more must be done.

Today, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education called on President Maud Mandel to grant club status to the group and take steps to combat viewpoint discrimination.

“Student governments should encourage more students to speak and debate ideas rather than hamper their ability to do so,” said FIRE Senior Program Officer Sarah McLaughlin, author of FIRE’s letter to Williams. “President Mandel must immediately remind the College Council and the entire campus community that viewpoint discrimination is wrong — especially at a campus committed to free expression.”

FIRE pointed out that the student government review of WIFI had problems:

The student newspaper noted several anomalies in the student government’s review process: members voted anonymously, speakers’ names were not included in the minutes, and the meeting was not livestreamed. What is known about this process is that members of the student government objected to the group’s pro-Israel views. The editorial board called on the student government to “reevaluate its bylaws, whose complexity and discretionary nature allow for them to be selectively applied.”

To recognize WIFI, the administration relied on a procedure outlined in the student handbook.

Sarah McLaughlin of FIRE reported:

After viewpoint-based denial, Williams Initiative for Israel finally receives recognition

On May 7, FIRE wrote that Williams College needed to do more to protect students’ free expression in light of the College Council’s April 23 vote to deny recognition to student group Williams Initiative for Israel because of its pro-Israel stance. We reiterated that call in a letter sent to the college yesterday, writing that “Williams may not delegate functions to a student government that uses that authority to violate the expressive rights Williams promises all students.”

Late yesterday afternoon, Williams Director of Media Relations Gregory Shook informed FIRE via email that, as of Tuesday, WIFI has received recognition as a registered student organization, or RSO. Shook wrote:

After the College Council’s vote, college administrators discussed the fact that the college’s Student Handbook described a parallel path to RSO status that had not been engaged in this case. This involved a committee made up of administrators and CC reps.

Under Massachusetts state law, a college’s student handbook is a binding contract between students and the institution. Therefore, we had a legal obligation to offer that process if WIFI requested it, which they did.

We notified College Council of the process described in the Handbook, and asked them to designate a representative for the committee.

On Tuesday, May 14, the committee considered WIFI’s request, as required by law, and voted to grant RSO status to WIFI. WIFI is now an RSO with the full rights, privileges and responsibilities that label entails.

Congratulations to WIFI on their new status at Williams and congratulations to FIRE for helping secure another victory for free speech on campus.

Featured image via YouTube.


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“but the administration went around [the student government]”

Who the h-e-double-toothpicks is actually in charge of that joint? 🙁

    casualobserver in reply to barbara. | May 17, 2019 at 11:18 am

    Not sure I agree with the premise that the school “went around them..”. Seems more like they exercised their authority and refused to accept the student government’s decision.

      Albigensian in reply to casualobserver. | May 17, 2019 at 12:36 pm

      I would argue that the only authority any student “government” has is granted by the school.

      This is at least recognized at the high school level, where it’s acknowledged that the purpose of student government is is not governance but education. And if it’s a public high school, taxpayers would not ever be so foolish as to cede control to their own teenaged children.

      Yet college students seem sometimes to get the idea that the school they attend is actually theirs, to do with as they please.

    Gremlin1974 in reply to barbara. | May 17, 2019 at 3:03 pm

    I think these “Student Governments” (What basically amounts to a High School Student Council) have been given far to much authority, especially today when the average maturity level of most college students is somewhere around Middle School.

“Intellectuals,” “academe,” lol. The school administration was embarrassed into following it’s own contract. They ignored their own rules and allowed the cockroaches in the student body to openly violate those rules until the kitchen light came on. Then, everybody scuttles to the nearest hidey-hole. Free speech dies in darkness, and can only flourish in the bright light of day.

The administrative state has been metastasizing throughout most, if not all, public institutions, and many private ones. The boldness and hubris of these lefties has manifested itself to the point that the Obama administration and its minions felt safe in committing what may be treason. FIRE and Judicial Watch are doing great work. Thank God we have a President who fights back.

    Valerie in reply to bear. | May 17, 2019 at 10:52 am

    We certainly have had a lot of people absorbed into our higher education system that are playing “F**k the System.”

    I view it as part of the problem of having a positive-feedback system. Out of the goodness of their hearts, the adults in the United States have supplied lavish amounts of money for schooling, but nowhere near enough fiscal oversight. In return, we get creeps in teaching positions, social “science” publications that are nothing but babble, indoctrination instead of teaching, and systematic screening for useful idiots.

    It’s like using a sponge to clean the kitchen counters, and then leaving it wet overnight.

Perhaps someday, though not likely in my lifetime, college administrators will realize and act upon the obvious reality that college students are customers of the institution, not owners.

    Edward in reply to Obie1. | May 17, 2019 at 2:41 pm

    It would also be good if colleges and universities treated students like customers instead of acting as if they were the sole source of the product and can command any price they wish (which they essentially can as long as Uncle Sugar is underwriting student loans and issuing grants and contracts for research, etc.).

healthguyfsu | May 17, 2019 at 1:12 pm

I wonder if this has anything to do with that recent court decision at UCCS.

What it REALLY sounds like is that the administration was going to do nothing, but some sharp person at WIFI read the handbook and noticed that they could ask for this alternate process.

It also sounds like the CC members on the committee may have voted against WIFI again, but they got shut down by the administrators. Well whatever. This is the only possible outcome, and it’s good that there was no more difficulty in getting here.