Zachary R. Wood
President of Uncomfortable Learning at Williams College and free speech advocate
Photo Credit: Kelly Campbell
About Zachary R. Wood
Zachary R. Wood, a senior at Williams College, is known for his dynamic perspective on free speech, race, and dissenting opinions. As president of the student group Uncomfortable Learning, Wood is committed to inviting speakers with controversial perspectives to speak freely on the college’s campus. Wood is an activist for free speech and a firm believer that civil debate is a crucial part of one’s education. He recently testified before the United States Senate on the necessity of ensuring that college campuses allow for a variety of viewpoints.
Through his work with Uncomfortable Learning, Wood found himself at the center of numerous campus controversies, many of which have turned into national news stories. When he invited former National Review columnist John Derbyshire to speak, Wood found himself accused of racism by his fellow classmates and the event was canceled by the administration. In the aftermath, there was extensive press coverage of Wood and his work with Uncomfortable Learning, including features in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Time, and The Huffington Post. This brought widespread attention to the issue of campus censorship and cemented Wood’s conviction that engaging with an opposing perspective is a catalyst for truly meaningful education.
Now, Wood is taking his message beyond his college campus, and is sharing the details of his own personal story and how his own experiences inspired him to be a crusader for open dialogue and free speech. His memoir, Uncensored, tells the story of his troubled upbringing, from a difficult early childhood filled with pain, uncertainty, and conflict to the struggles of code-switching between his home in a rough neighborhood and his elite private school. Arguing for a new way of interacting with each other in this deeply polarized society, Wood has cemented his position as a deeply necessary voice—not just at Williams College, but for his generation. Wood is currently a Robert L. Bentley Fellow at The Wall Street Journal, and will graduate from Williams in the spring of 2018 as a Herbert H. Lehman Scholar with a degree in political science.
Uncensored: How a Progressive College Student Began Fighting for Conservative Viewpoints
How does a self-described "liberal progressive" end up fighting for the right to host conservative speakers on his college campus? In recounting how the ability to communicate and engage with a broad array of people led him from a troubled neighborhood in Washington D.C. to an elite private high school and eventually, Williams College, Wood makes the case that in a divided time it is more important than ever for people of all backgrounds and viewpoints to interact.
From the Front Lines of Free Speech
During his time at Williams College, Zachary Wood brought numerous controversial speakers to campus as the president of Uncomfortable Learning. Wood details the backlash he received surrounding these events from students and administrators alike, and models what an ideal event with a controversial speaker should look like, equipping listeners to host and debate with people of all perspectives.
Race & Student Activism in Higher Education
For many individuals, including Zachary Wood, the fight against racism is deeply personal. In this talk, Wood draws on his experiences to assess the true state of anti-racist activism. He presents the resounding successes and opportunities for improvement of these movements and provides a blueprint for audiences wishing to productively discuss race going forward.
Books by Zachary R. Wood
Media About Zachary R. Wood
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- Zachary R. Wood travels from New York, NY