Looking for a place to argue about the election? This is your thread!


But, first, some comments from two of our favorite Ephs:

Jon Lovett ’04, a straight shooter respected on all sides, tweets:


In response to Donald Trump’s statement that he will wait and see whether the election is fair before promising to accept its results, MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski narrates a montage of statements from Democratic politicians calling the legitimacy of the 2000 and 2004 elections into question.

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Record reporter Daniel Jin’s ’20 excellent article on the first diversity and equity forum of the year merits discussion. Today is Day 3.

Matthew Hennessy ’17 then provided an update on the Committee on Campus Space and Institutional History (CSIH). CSIH spent the spring semester of 2016 investigating the history of the Log mural and surveying students about the mural, he said. The committee concluded that the College should keep the mural but add written contextualization.

President Adam Falk praised CSIH for its work and stressed the importance of student engagement with complicated issues. Hennessy said this semester CSIH will continue to look into objects, spaces and names on campus that no longer align with the College’s current institutional beliefs.

1) The CSIH is one of the great wins at Williams in the last year. See our previous coverage here and here. I am still hopeful that readers will want us to spend a week on this topic . . . No takers so far!

2) Can’t we start calling this the “Merrill Committee?” That would be much catchier than CSIH.

3) The CSIH ought to tell us exactly which “objects, spaces and names on campus” they are looking at. Perhaps they are planning another open forum? We have tried (and failed!) to come up with issues that might enrage the student SJW crowd. Perhaps the Haystack Monument?

In the spring of 1806, Samuel J. Mills matriculated at Williams. The son of a Connecticut clergyman, Mills was eager to spread Christianity throughout the world.

One Saturday afternoon in August 1806, Mills and four other students gathered for one of their regularly scheduled prayer meetings. On this particular day, it is said that the skies opened up and the students sought refuge in the shelter of a large haystack. While gathered at the haystack, the students conceived of the idea to found an American missionary movement focused on spreading Christianity worldwide, particularly to the East.

Whoa! I just realized, after writing about Williams for 13 years, that “Mission Park” refers to the religious missions that these white male cisgendered Christians launched 200 years ago. Could be problematic!

Mills House is named after Samuel J. Mills who, after leaving Williams,

engaged in missions in the Ohio and Mississippi valleys, in the Southwest United States, and in New Orleans. He influenced the founding of the American Bible Society and the United Foreign Missionary Society before he died in 1818 while returning from a short-term mission trip to Africa with the American Colonization Society.

I suspect that the activities of the American Colonization Society might not meet with the approval of the current Williams faculty . . .

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Record reporter Daniel Jin’s ’20 excellent article on the first diversity and equity forum of the year merits discussion. Today is Day 2.

Wilkinson also asked that counseling services be more available. Students with mental illness often do not know how to access help, she said.

Wilkinson, who is on the Mental Health Committee, added that the College’s geographic isolation makes on-campus psychiatric services the only option for students. The availability of those services, as a result, is essential.

Vice President of Campus Life Steve Klass said that the College has greatly improved its mental health services in recent years and is looking to hire a new director of counseling services in the near future. The College has doubled the number of counselors on staff in the last six years.

“We’re paying attention, and we’re moving in the right direction,” he said.

The Record provided more coverage of his topic yesterday.

This week, Erin Hanson ’18 launched a petition on change.org titled “Williams College: sell 4–5 marble slabs to pay for a new therapist at the Health Center.” In the petition, which is directed at the College administration, Hanson references the multi-million dollar renovation and quad project.

Hanson also quotes the Williams Committee of Transparency and Accountability, a new committee on campus: “There are only eight therapists and one psychiatrist who serve a community of 2200. At least one in five college students … have some kind of mental illness. Even if all eight worked full time, there would not be enough time for all students with need to be served. Furthermore, three of eight are fellows, who [are not licensed, paid less, and on short term contracts]. Of the three people of color on staff, two are fellows. There are few LGBT staff, and no transgender staff.”

1) I am always in favor of moving a dollar from other stuff to student spending. For example, the College ought to close the Children’s Center and spend that money on students.

2) This is clearly a topic that many students feel strongly about. The Record should report more about it. Are there really 9 full time employees working as therapists? How many students are treated? How many total hours of treatment are provided? How does all of this compare to peer schools? Without knowing more facts, it is hard to make an informed judgment.

3) The total number of non-faculty employees at Williams should stay constant. Williams has enough employees. Anyone making the case for more employees in category X should be challenged about which category Y of employees should be cut. The marginal dollar of spending should be devoted to matching the financial aid packages provided to students at Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford, at least for admitted students who are accepted by those schools.

4) Does therapy for Williams students work? I have my doubts! I am ready to believe that hundreds (?) of Williams students today will make use of therapy if it is free and convenient, just as they will make use of free massages and other luxuries. Ten or 20 years ago, only scores (?) of students made use of the (less free? less convenient?) therapy that was available. But what is the causal effect of that therapy?

5) Never forget The Tablecloth Colors! Ainsley O’Connell ’06 warned us a decade ago:

I am frustrated by many of the ways in which the campus has changed, most particularly the sudden prominence of the well-intentioned but detrimental Office of Campus Life [OCL], which is locked in a stagnating cycle of its own design. By in effect naming itself “the decider” when it comes to student life, the campus life office has alienated the College’s best leaders. As a result of this rift, the office has become inwardly-focused, self-promotional and deeply resistant to constructive criticism. Student life is student-driven no longer.

The more therapists the college hires, the less room there is for students who fulfill similar roles. Should Williams replace RASAN, for example, with paid employees? I hope not! But, the more counselors we hire, the more likely that outcome. Back in the day, a melancholy first year would talk to her JA. Do we really prefer a Williams at which this JA is told (required?) to send her student to a paid therapist?

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Record reporter Daniel Jin’s ’20 excellent article on the first diversity and equity forum of the year merits discussion. Today is Day 1.

On Thursday, students and administrators discussed major campus issues at the first diversity and equity forum of the year.

The forum was held in Griffin 3 and was hosted by Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity Leticia Haynes. Haynes began hosting the forums last year and plans to continue them this year.

The article is well-done but not perfect. First, tell us how many people were there! The picture that goes along with the story shows 15, but perhaps it was taken early or late in the proceedings.


Of course, even a forum with 10 (?) students may be worth running, but Record readers (especially trustees!) need to know if this is a topic that truly engages the student body. As best I can tell, it doesn’t. Students don’t really care about diversity/equity, or at least they don’t care enough to show up at a forum.

Students raised concerns about the high standards and expectations brought on by the student culture. They said that many students feel the need to aim for perfection in all facets, a pursuit that can cause unnecessary and unhealthy stress.

“It’s an absurd ideal, and it’s not achievable,” Natalie Wilkinson ’19 said.

Recall Brandi Brown’s ’07 work on Eph-ailure almost a decade ago. (EphBlog has been around so long that a student who participated in that discussion is now a Williams professor!) My thoughts have not changed much.

First, it is unsurprising that Williams students are stressed, competitive and fear failure. That’s what Williams selects for. If you are comfortable getting a C on a paper in high school, then you don’t get into Williams. You may be a happier, more well-adjusted person, but you won’t be hanging out with Natalie Wilkinson in Paresky.

Second, I don’t mind a little stress and competition. I want students to be worried when taking a math test from Steve Miller. I want them to think twice before handing in something sloppy to Joe Cruz. Moreover, stress and competition require failure (or at least low grades). There is much less value in getting an A from Bill Wagner for a well-done paper if even sloppy work gets the same grade.

Third, I worry much more about problems where one can make a plausible claim that Williams is worse off than other schools. Is there any reason to think that this is more of a problem here than elsewhere? I doubt it.

Fourth, stress and failure are a part of life. Want stress? Try losing your job and still having a big mortgage to pay. It would be a bad thing if the first stress/competition/failure that Williams students encountered happened after they graduated.

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Dear Students,

I hope this email finds you all well, and that you are enjoying this beautiful beginning of fall. With fall comes the changing of leaves, crisp mornings, and of course, Halloween celebrations.

Halloween is traditionally a time for gathering with friends, donning costumes, slipping into a different persona for a few hours, and eating candy with wild abandon. There can be great joy in planning costumes, gatherings, and celebrations. In the midst of the excitement, however, students can lose sight of their usual sensitivity and good judgement about how their behavior will impact others. In particular, students sometimes choose costumes that misrepresent, marginalize, or poke fun at particular racial or cultural groups, religions, socioeconomic classes, sexual identities, or other groups. Although students who choose these costumes often do not intend to offend anyone, their costumes can make others feel offended or marginalized.

If you are planning to dress-up for Halloween, or will be attending any social gatherings planned for the weekend, please think carefully about your costume. Williams is committed to being a supportive and safe community for all of its members. So please do be safe and thoughtful, and have fun in a way that doesn’t impinge on the fun of others.

All best wishes,

Dean Sandstrom

Marlene J. Sandstrom
Dean of the College and Hales Professor of Psychology
Williams College
Phone: (413) 597-4261

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Oren Cass ’05 writes:

In the new print issue, I’ve written about Our Medicaid Mess: the extraordinary misallocation of anti-poverty funds to one of our least effective government programs. Total anti-poverty spending relative to the population in poverty has nearly doubled over the past forty years, from $12,000 per person to $23,000 (2015 dollars). More than 90 percent of that increase has gone to health care – almost entirely Medicaid. Thanks to Obamacare, the spending growth and prioritization of health care will continue in the years to come. Medicaid now costs almost $600B per year, on par with our public education system and our military and responsible for the majority of all anti-poverty spending This overwhelming emphasis on health care would be a questionable approach to alleviating poverty even if it delivered impressive results for the health outcomes of recipients. But the larger problem is that Medicaid fails to achieve even that. Many policy wonks are familiar with the Oregon Health Insurance Experiment, in which low-income residents of the state were randomly assigned to receive or not receive Medicaid coverage. The study’s critical conclusion: “Medicaid coverage generated no significant improvements in measured physical health outcomes in the first 2 years.”

Read the whole thing.

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Here (and saved copy here pdf) is data on the last 10 years of admissions data from Middlebury. Sample:


Williams should be just as transparent. For example, has the percentage Williams students admitted via early decision gone up at Williams as much as it has at Middlebury?

Record op-ed writers have called for more transparency. EphBlog agrees! The simplest way to ensure transparency is to expect/require Williams to be at least as transparent about topic X as the most transparent elite college. So, if Middlebury makes public ten years of admissions data in this format, Williams ought to as well. This does not require Williams to arrange the data in exactly the same format as Middlebury does. That would be too much work! But Williams has a report that is very similar to this, one that the President/Provost/Trustees use as a basis for discussion and debate. Motto: No school more transparent than Williams.

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EphBlog loves new Williams Provost Dukes Love. Why? Recall our recurrent complaints about transparency with regard to already published College documents, like the Common Data Set reports. Formerly, Williams only provided the reports back to 2011. Now, it provides an archive back to 1998. Well done Provost Love!

But because this era of Perestroika might end, EphBlog has taken the precaution of saving permanent copies: cds_2010-11, cds_2009-10, cds_2008-09, cds_2007-08, cds_2005-06, cds_2006-07, cds_2004-05, cds_2003-04, cds_2002-03, cds_2001-02, cds_2000-01, cds_1999-00 and cds_1998-99.

It is especially nice to see a provost committed to transparency as Williams begins the re-accreditation process. Long time readers will recall that we devoted the month of January 2009 to going through the last re-accredidation report. Alas, we did not save a copy! Is one available somewhere?

UPDATE: A loyal reader points to this archive of material related to accreditation. Thanks! And kudos to Williams for making this material available even a decade later. Anyone interested in following this round of accreditation should study the last round closely.

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The Committee on Transparency and Accountability is, potentially, an important movement, especially if they follow our advice from yesterday. But they also run the risk of descending into childish irrelevance if they insist on going forward with their current set of poorly conceived demands. Time for some constructive criticism!

The repeal of the 50 year lock on meeting minutes and the release of all minutes in a timely and accessible manner.

This is an absurd demand, both because it will never happen and because there are other options which accomplish the same goal.

First, it will never happen because the trustees need to speak freely about difficult topics, especially the hiring/firing of presidents and senior staff. Second, there are documents which would provide 95% of the information you need and which could be made public: board/faculty meeting presentation materials. (The College can’t make public materials which mention a specific person (especially a specific student) but almost none of the materials in this category do so.)

At every board meeting (and at many faculty meetings) presentation materials are distributed, documents which outline and summarize all the relevant information about topic X. If you are interested in changing College policy, than this is the information you want. These documents, especially the materials at faculty meetings, are semi-public anyway, since so many people see them. Indeed, EphBlog has published some of them from time to time. Making these materials public is a reasonable goal to start with.

That minutes be taken at subcommittee meetings and be readily available to all members of the Board.

Be careful that you don’t appear to be idiots. Do you actually know for a fact that minutes are taken at every subcommittee meeting? I have my doubts! There 10 board subcommittees. Who takes all these notes? And, even if notes are taken, are you sure that they aren’t already made available to all members of the board? I would be shocked if they weren’t! Of course, you could be right about both these things, but make sure that you are! If you go to the trustees and ask for something which either doesn’t exist or already happens, they will assume that you are spoiled, clueless children.

That the current College Council presidents and Minority Coalition chairs will sit in on trustee meetings as student representatives.

Don’t be babies! It is reasonable to ask for a student member on the board. Indeed, EphBlog has described the step-by-step plan by which this might be achieved. There are other schools with student trustees. But to demand 4 (?) students on the board is absurd! That will never happen. Asking for it makes you seem irrational and uninformed. Better, now, to ask for one student representative, perhaps appointed jointly by College Council and the Minority Coalition, to join the Executive Committee (EC) of the Society of Alumni (SoA).

That the Board of Trustees create and present a yearly report on the work of the Board . . .

Again, it is counterproductive to ask the Board to do more work. Instead, you want access to more information so that you can do the work yourself. You should write an annual report on progress made and goals for next year. You should deliver it each year to the Board. You should drive the conversation. Also, once the College makes public (almost) all presentation material distributed at trustee and faculty meetings, you will be as well informed at the trustees are about items like “major financial and investment decisions.”

Most importantly: There are many faculty/alums/staff who are extremely well-informed about how Williams works. Talk to them! Get some feedback before you go to the trustees. Educate yourselves. EphBlog is here to help . . .

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Hello Ephs,

We wanted to reach out to you all about an important upcoming event. As hopefully most of you know by now, the Board of Trustees will be on campus this upcoming weekend. They will be hosting an Open Forum for all students this Saturday from 1-2:30pm in Griffin 3. The aim of this event is to foster engagement between the student body and the Board of Trustees, and will allow opportunities for questions, storytelling, and listening. In sharing our personal experiences, we hope members of the Board will be able to better understand what Ephs need and want from our institution today.

This forum will be the first of three events hosted by the Board of Trustees for students this year. In order for CC to best represent you, we invite you to fill out this quick and anonymous survey. Additionally, you can find the Facebook event here.

In preparation for this event, we encourage you to think carefully about your time at Williams. This is a great opportunity for us to share our stories, and learn from one another about the issues and realities our classmates are facing. We urge all who are able to take this opportunity to strengthen our relationship with the Board and work towards positive and lasting change at Williams.

All the Best,

The College Council Executive Board

Michelle Bal and Caitlin Buckley
Alex Besser
VP for Academic Affairs
Ben Gips
VP for Student Affairs
Chetan Patel and Ava Anderson
VP for Student Organizations
Suiyi Tang
VP for Community and Diversity
Michael Rubel
VP for Communications
Web Farabow
Allegra Simon

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ctaMost interesting new student movement this year is the Coalition for Transparency and Accountability. Good stuff! EphBlog’s advice:

1) Focus this week-end on transparency rather than accountability. You can always come back to accountability at the next Trustee meeting.

2) With regard to transparency, focus on the general principal rather than too many specific examples. You want to get the trustees to agree to the following:

EphBlog’s Maxim #9: William should be as transparent about topic X as any other elite college unless the Trustees explicitly decide/explain otherwise.

Perhaps this could be worded better? The advantages of this focus include:

a) A clear rule. If Amherst or Harvard or Berkley are transparent about course ratings, endowment investments or faculty meetings, than Williams should be transparent as well. No need to adjudicate every possible topic ahead of time.

b) A default toward openness. The trustees have already committed to greater transparency. You want to make such transparency the explicit default unless there are compelling reasons to be secret.

c) A burden on the trustees. Your current proposal asks the trustees to do a bunch of work. That is a mistake. The trustees are busy people! They don’t need any more assignments. Instead, you want them to have to do work only if they block transparency. As long as Williams is transparent, the trustees shouldn’t have to do anything.

d) A strong standard. You don’t want Williams to be as transparent as other elite colleges in general or on average. The College could meet that standard by being more transparent than Amherst on topic X and less on topic Y. Instead, on each item separately, Williams must be at least as transparent as the most transparent school is on that topic.

3) Be collaborative. The trustees are your friends. They love Williams as much as you do. (Even if you don’t believe that, you should act as if you do. Such tactics are much more likely to achieve your goals than mindless confrontations.) In that spirit, you should compile items that Williams is less transparent about relative to peer schools. (Again, your advantage is that the trustees have already committed to transparency. You are, therefore, helping them to achieve the goal that they themselves set.)

My favorite example is student course evaluations. At Harvard, for example, students can read every comment that every past student has made (in the Harvard equivalent of our SCSS forms) about every class. Very transparent! Williams should be equally transparent. Another example is endowment transparency. Wellesley provides many more details about its endowment management than Williams does. That shouldn’t be the case. We should be at least as transparent as Wellesley. A third example involves grading. Middlebury provides more details than Williams does. There is no reason for that, assuming that the trustees are really committed to greater transparency. More examples under the EphBlog Transparency tag.

A copy of the current version of the CTA’s demands is below the break. Worth going through item by item?


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Dear Students,

I hope you’ve all had a great start to the fall semester. I know that this is a busy time for all, but I wanted to take a moment to let you know how excited I am to be starting my term as provost and to update you on some of the work going on in the Provost’s Office.

But first, what on earth does the provost actually do? Fundamentally, the provost is responsible for strategic planning and for allocating the resources of the college to advance our educational priorities. In practice, this means evaluating budget requests, taking part in discussions of current and proposed building projects, and generally making sure we’re making wise resource decisions in support of our mission. As an economist, this work is dear to my heart.

The provost is also responsible for eight critical functional areas of the college: the libraries, WCMA, the Science Center, OIT, the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives, admission, financial aid, and institutional research. These are all complex operations, and they are run by a talented and dynamic set of directors. It would take pages to provide even a thumbnail description of the full portfolio of activities across all of these areas, but it’s worth highlighting some the most visible and important changes that are currently taking place in these areas.

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Trustee Board Chair Michael Eisenson ’77 writes in the Record about climate change and green finance. Since Eisenson is speaking on behalf of the trustees and the Administration, we should spend a week deconstructing his article. Today is Day 2.

The divestment movement at the College and at other institutions has inspired many to consider climate change more urgently and fully than ever before. In response, we are endeavoring to invest the College’s endowment in projects, companies and technologies that benefit the environment. As President Falk described in his letter to the campus earlier this month, we have already committed to significant investments in two solar projects that will enable a substantial reduction in fossil fuel use in Williamstown.

The problems with this approach are the same as they have ever been: priorities, accountability and transparency.

First, why is climate change more important than other problems, like police violence, war in the Middle East or income inequality? Climate change might — and even strong believers must allow some uncertainty, I hope — be a bigger threat on a hundred year horizon, but ending police violence (assuming it is possible) would save thousands of more lives over the next decade or two. Why spend dollars on public policy problem X and not on public policy problem Y?

More importantly, why should Williams spend dollars on climate change rather than its fundamental mission of providing a quality education? Every dollar spend on solar power is a dollar not spent on financial aid or more faculty. The easiest way for the Williams community to reach agreement on priorities is for us to focus every dollar of spending and ounce of intellectual energy on our fundamental mission: To be the best college in the world. Everything else is a virtue-signalling distraction.

Second, where is the accountability with regard to past Williams spending? Recall the College’s installation of solar panels almost a decade ago. That project was supposed to pay for itself in 10 to 20 years. Has it? If not, has the Administration learned a lesson? If not, why should anyone think that Williams, as an institution, is competent about spending money to fight climate change?

Don’t forget that the absurd carbon offsets that the College bought almost a decade ago (here and here).

The central point is that the whole carbon offsets business is 95% scam, a scam to which the College has fallen (willing) victim. We wanted to believe that, by writing someone else a check (especially a nice PC someone?), we could reduce the amount of carbon that would have been emitted had we not written the check. But that check just went in to some hustler’s bank account.

Where is the accountability? How much did the College spend? What paperwork did it receive? What follow-up was done? Thousands of dollars and all we seem to have gotten is a few feel-good lines in a graduation press release.

Again, this is not an anti-Boyd or anti-Johns screed. I want Boyd to go from “Acting” to permanent Director of the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives. (The College should do more to hire faculty spouses and promote from within.) I want Johns to work on my special projects, environmental and otherwise, for the College. (The more alumni that work for Williams, the better.) I am just tired of the College’s endless gaze into a green tinted mirror of fantasy.

Amy Johns ’98 is now the (excellent!) Director of the Zilkha Center. I don’t (necessarily) blame her for the embarrassment of the Owl Feather War Bonnet — Not making up this name! I swear! — scandal, but there is no excuse for the College covering up what happened. (Great story for the Record, assuming that they have the cojones to stand up to the Administration.) We need an accounting of what the College has spent on climate change in the past.

Third, if the College is going to spend money on items not directly related to its fundamental mission, it should provide complete transparency about that spending in the future. Are the Trustees committed to providing that transparency? Is the Administration? Please start with all the relevant details — including the budget and revenue projections — for these two solar projects.

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Trustee Board Chair Michael Eisenson ’77 writes in the Record about climate change and green finance. Since Eisenson is speaking on behalf of the trustees and the Administration, we should spend a week deconstructing his article. Today is Day 1.

To the many members of the community who have urged the College to lead in the fight against climate change: Thank you. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to express my appreciation for your passion and your conviction that the College must make a serious commitment to address this urgent crisis.

Global warming is many things. An “urgent crisis” is not among them. Consider the latest satellite data:


Is the Earth warmer today than it was five years ago? Definitely! EphBlog believes in data. But temperatures today are not meaningful different than they were in 1997-1998, almost 20 years ago. And “climate change” has been a crisis at Williams since at least the mid-80s. Recall that Professor Ralph Bradburd was hosting discussions about climate change in 1998! If we had told Bradburd, in 1998, that the average temperature in 2016 was going to be the same as it was then, would he still have claimed that there was a crisis? Perhaps. If I could guarantee than the temperature in 2034 would be the same as today, would you still think there is a crisis?

Of course, I realize that these arguments are largely pointless. Trying to convince the Williams faculty/trustees that climate change is not an “urgent crisis” is about as productive as, in 1866, trying to convince the Williams faculty/trustees to doubt the divinity of Christ. So, I will spend the rest of this week arguing that, even if we accept the danger of climate change, Williams is acting sloppily. Contrary opinions welcome!

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Professor Justin Crowe ’03 speaks with high school students about Donald Trump. He is a braver man than I!

Got views on the election or tonight’s debate? Share them in this thread.

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T-RUMP 1.3 copy


When he’s miked on a bus to the set,

You’d think he’d be quiet, but yet …

He says he’s a star

And can go very far

With ladies he hasn’t yet met.

While the word in this headline is lewd,

It is the word that Trump spewed.

He’s taking a beating,

The word’s worth repeating!

No ‘sorry’ from me, John C. Drewd!

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The mountains call us
In their sun-dappled splendor.
Let’s get out and play!

Adam Falk
President and Professor
Williams College

From Scott Lewis, Director of the Outing Club:

Visit http://woc.williams.edu to see the list of hikes and on-campus events AND to check for any updates should the weather suddenly change!

A quick summary of the day:

10 a.m. – hike to Stone Hill for singing and donuts

11 a.m – 1 p.m. community picnic on Chapin Lawn
Administrative offices should consider closing for an hour to enjoy this campus-wide celebration.

12:30 p.m. – bus transportation to Stoney Ledge and Hopper trailheads (buses parked along Mission Park Drive behind Chapin Hall). Since the bus will not bring you directly to Stoney Ledge, please be prepared for changing weather and temperatures as you hike up AND down the mountain 2 miles each way. You should have hiking shoes for wet, muddy, slick terrain and bring a filled water bottle!

2:45 p.m. – performances by student groups, refreshments provided

4:45 p.m. – bus transportation from Stoney Ledge and Hopper trailheads to Mission Park Drive

Hope you can all seize the day and take a time out to be out!!

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A regular reader sent us (pdf) these details behind this year’s US News rankings. Let’s spend five days discussing them. Today is Day 5.

Our previous four day’s of discussions have hit the most important points. To summarize the highlights:

1) The gap between Williams and its competitors is bigger than it has ever been. Unless US News substantially changes its methodology (something that it has done less and less over the years), we should be safely #1 for several more years.

2) It is hard for us to be certain of the exact sources of our advantage, although faculty resources and financial resources are obviously key. How can we get more details? Recall this lovely bit of virtue-signalling from a decade ago.

Statement on College Rankings

I, and the other undersigned presidents, agree that prospective students benefit from having as complete information as possible in making their college choices.

Since college and ranking agencies should maintain a degree of distance to ensure objectivity, from now on data we make available to college guides will be made public via our Web sites rather than be distributed exclusively to a single entity.

Doing so is true to our educational mission and will allow interested parties to use this information for their own benefit. If, for example, class size is their focus, they will have that information. If it is the graduation rate, that will be easy to find. We welcome suggestions for other information we might also provide publicly.

Is that promise still operational? The Record should try and find out.

3) Any move that would increase our ranking (and would be good/neutral to the quality of the education Williams provides) should be implemented. The most important of these is decreasing the number of large lectures.

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Given that the forecast is for 75 degrees and sunny, it is almost certain that Mountain Day will be tomorrow. Comments:

1) This is a great chance for those who want to participate in Mountain Day to do so. Many years, the weather is too iffy to make firm plans. Highly recommended.

2) We still don’t know enough about the details behind the history of Mountain Day, especially those unsung heroes among the faculty who supported the idea of cancelling classes. The Record reports:

This year [2000], Mountain Day was dramatically changed, from being a small event held on a Sunday to an official campus-wide celebration. Spearheading the efforts to reinstate the tradition of Mountain Day celebration were Heather Williams a professor of biology, and Bert Leatherman ’00, former College Council co-president.

As last year’s chair of the Calendar and Schedule Committee, Williams brought the proposed changes to the rest of the faculty at a faculty meeting.

In the April faculty meeting, the Mountain Day proposal sparked a heated debate among the faculty. The faculty members were divided over supporting the proposal until Leatherman stepped forward and helped get the proposal approved.“I think that it would have failed in the Faculty meeting if [Leatherman] hadn’t gotten up and made a speech about how important Mountain Day is,” said Williams.

Do any readers remember that debate? Would be great to see the notes from the faculty meeting.

One of the major changes made this year was that Mountain Day is no longer scheduled on a set weekend day. Instead, it is a spontaneous celebration announced on a Friday in October.

“Spontaneity is definitely what makes it that much better,” said Keiller Kyle ’03. “I didn’t go on a Mountain Day last year and I think the reason was that it wasn’t spontaneous and it wasn’t something that I was anticipating and looking forward to, and all of this anticipating is coming out in this hike in the form of energy.”

Frank Morgan a professor of mathematics, said, “The advantage is that we are guaranteed good weather and it also means people don’t already have other plans so everyone is free to come. So that’s really nice.”

Unsurprising that friend of EphBlog Frank Morgan was on the right side of that debate.

As one of the co-leaders of the Hopper Trail hiking trip, Morgan was an active participant in Mountain Day.

“I don’t think that we have begun to realize the possibilities of education in the most general sense,” said Morgan. “We think about being in the classroom, but I think a mix of different kinds of activities is what being at Williams should be about.”

“To have this chance to be out here today with other faculty and a lot of my students, I think is not only fun but I think is probably one of our more valuable days, too,” added Morgan.

Furthermore, the presence of faculty helped attract students to participate in Mountain Day events.

“I came because of professor Morgan,” said Nishibayashi. “He’s really been contacting us beyond the classroom, which is great, I think.”

Indeed. I bet memories of Mountain Day are some of the most poignant and important for many of the members of the class of 2001.

Mountain Day was probably the most important change made by President Schapiro Vogt. What should Adam Falk do?

With the success of this year’s Mountain Day celebration, many members of the College community are already looking to next year’s event.

“This year, Mountain Day. Next year, Mountain Day, River Day, Tree Day. . . we’ll celebrate every biome there ever was,” said Lewis in a speech atop Stony Ledge. “This has just been just wonderful.”

More Record coverage here.

Sad that this hasn’t happened yet. Since we all agree that Mountain Day is wonderful, why not a similar day in the spring, one Friday in April? We could easily sacrifice Claiming Williams Day so as to not lose another day of classes . . .

3) Shout out for the Mountain Day miracle of 2009, also known as Siberian Mountain Day, perhaps the event that will be most remembered about Bill Wagner’s interim presidency.

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Professor Darel Paul has some questions about the College’s claims about faculty/staff growth since 2002. Let’s spend 3 days answering them. Today is Day 3.

I can say definitively that the faculty of the Political Science Department has not grown 31% since 2002. In fact, since the 2002-03 academic year it has grown either 7% (# of tenured and tenure-track professors) or 0% (# of tenured, tenure-track, and visiting professors, plus visiting fellows) depending on your definition of faculty.

Can we confirm Professor Paul’s numbers? From the 2002–2003 course catalog (pdf), we have:


I count 20 faculty members: 15 tenured/tenure-track (TTT) and 5 other. Compare that to 2016–2017 (pdf):


I count 19 faculty members: 16 TTT and 3 others. That sure doesn’t look like the 31% faculty growth that the College is bragging about. Instead, in Political Science at least, there has been a 5% drop in faculty. Comments:

1) Not sure why Professor Paul sees total political science faculty as steady whereas I see a 5% drop. Suggestions?

2) Notice how top-heavy (old?) the Political Science Department has become. We have gone from 7 to 10 full professors. This is consistent with the analysis we looked at last winter. For fun, we might use that code department-by-department. I would not be surprised if the average age of faculty members in political science has increased from 45 to 50 since 2002. Not that there is anything wrong with being 50!

3) The basic story is the same as it has been for 50 years. Recall my rants from 6 years ago (start here, finish there). Key point:

EphBlog’s Maxim #6: Every hire of a senior administrator weakens faculty governance.

If Professor Paul and other faculty members want to truly “govern” Williams than they should draw a line in the sand. No increases in senior staff! My guess is that they don’t truly care. They like to complain and whine (nothing wrong with that!) but, when push comes to shove, they will roll over for this increase just liked they rolled over for the hiring of Steve Klass, Collette Chilton, Mike Reed and on and on.

4) Should we spend more time on this topic?

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Professor Darel Paul has some questions about the College’s claims about faculty/staff growth since 2002. Let’s spend 3 days answering them. Today is Day 2.

How are faculty defined here? Does it include visiting faculty? Visiting fellows, lecturers, and teaching associates who frequently teach only part-time?

My experience with the (highly competent!) people in the Administration who keep track of this data — folks like Courtney Wade, James Cart ’05 and John Gerry — is that there are sensible answers to Paul’s questions. The Administration needs to answer all sorts of related queries from various outside organizations — US News, the NCAA, the US Government — so it keeps careful track of these details. Perhaps the College could clarify for Paul?

Although there nothing wrong with diving into these details, they miss the central debate: Should the faculty have more or less control over what happens at Williams? The major move over the last 50 years — perhaps accelerating during the Falk administration? — has been to make the faculty less powerful relative to the administration/president. The Record‘s reporting is particularly blind to this dynamic. (Actually, the whole article deserves a thorough fisking. Would readers be interested?) Consider just one sentence:

In addition, faculty governance will remain intact because the new dean will report to the provost, a member of the faculty

Faculty governance at Williams is about as intact as Iraqi sovereignty. Just because someone reports to some other person does not necessarily make the reported-to more powerful than the reportee, especially when the provosts come-and-go while the senior staff stays put. (Essay assignment: Compare “faculty governance at Williams” with Yes, Minister.)

Ignore the new position and consider the reality of the power wielded by, say, Steve Klass, vice president for campus life. He gets paid 100% more than the typical faculty member at Williams. He has had orders of magnitude more conversations with Adam Falk (and powerful trustees) than even the most senior of Williams faculty. (Don’t believe me? Ask them!). In theory, Williams has “faculty governance” because Klass “reports” to Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom. But does he really? Does she evaluate his work? Have a meaningful say in his compensation? I have my doubts.

But, as always, the dollars tell the tale. Steve Klass was paid (pdf) a total of $367,428 in fiscal year 2014. Then Dean of the College Sarah Bolton was paid $278,656. Who do you think reports to whom in that relationship?

If the Record were a competent paper, it would do a story about who is paid how much at Williams. There is a lot to write about!

UPDATE: A reader points out that Klass does not now report to the Dean of the College. In fact, he has always reported directly to the president, first Schapiro and now Falk. Of course, this makes claims about “faculty governance” at Williams even weaker! The College has a bunch (5? 10? 15?) of well-paid professionals who report to no member of the faculty other than the president. This was not the case 30 years ago . . .

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Professor Darel Paul has some questions about the College’s claims about faculty/staff growth since 2002. Let’s spend 3 days answering them. Today is Day 1.

It would be nice to see comparisons of the numbers of full-time equivalent faculty to full-time equivalent senior staff over the 2002-2016 period. I don’t think anyone suspects the number of custodians or dining service workers per student is ballooning across American higher education.

Indeed! Faculty like Paul are not overly concerned about the number of custodians that Williams employs. They are concerned about the ranks of senior staff. The trick (?) that the College pulls is to mix the senior hires — like the proposed Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid — in with the custodians and use the overall total as the divisor.

Doing some math, we can calculate that the college increased the faculty by 81 since 2002 and the staff by 138. So, a different (better?) summary would be that staff has grown 70% more ((138 – 81)/81) than faculty. It makes less (?) sense to divide both these numbers by their starting values since what we really care about is the absolute level of growth. Every new staff member hired means that we can hire one less new faculty member. Those 138 staff could have been, say, 100 new faculty members (given that faculty members make, on average, more than staff).

Given that scores of faculty members (like Paul) object to this trend, why is it continuing? Why is Williams about to add to its bureaucracy even though, by all accounts, the current heads of admissions (Nesbit) and financial aid (Boyer) do a fine job?

1) Bureaucracies always grow. This is not a Williams-specific phenomenon or even just a high education phenomenon. This happens everywhere. Fighting this tendency would be my number one priority if I were a Williams trustee. The easiest way to fight it would be to institute a cap on the total number of employees. Williams has 1204 (!) faculty and staff. That is more than enough!

2) Adam Falk wants to hire more senior administrators. He did this when he started (Steve Klass, Fred Puddester, Angela Shaeffer and so on). He has promoted these people, slowly giving them more and more power, relative to the faculty. Creating a new position like Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid is just another step down that road.

UPDATE: A reader points out that this very sloppy, for several reasons. First, Steve Klass was already at Williams. Falk did not hire him. Second, it is, at least, disputable whether or not the power of the senior staff has grown during Falk’s tenure. Puddester does, more or less, what Helen Oullette used to do. Schaefer was a replacement, first for Jo Proctor (who EphBlog misses!) and now for Jim Kolesar. Fair points!

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Most interesting sentence in the Record this week:

Under the tenures of President Morton Shapiro and President Adam Falk, full-time positions at the College have greatly increased. That said, the growth of faculty has been 10 percent higher than staff since 2002.

Anyone who follows higher education closely (like our friends at Dartblog) would find this claim shocking/unbelievable. Director of Media Relations Mary Dettloff kindly provided these details to EphBlog.

1. Since 2002, there has been growth throughout the college — staff AND faculty. Schapiro grew the faculty dramatically from approximately 259 in 2002 to 306 in 2009. That represents an 18 percent increase. Falk further increased faculty to approximately 340 (our current number/2016). That is another 11 percent since 2009. So, total faculty growth since 2002 is 81 positions or 31 percent.

2. Since 2002 non-faculty staff has grown by 138 FTEs or 19 percent. This includes about 24 daycare workers that we brought on when we in-sourced the childcare center.

3. Growth in non-faculty staff occurs partly as a lagging response to growth in the faculty and the demands that places on the institution (more faculty means more demands on staff at all levels — daycare, faculty housing, science center technicians, as examples). Staff growth also has occurred as an investment in a changing student population. Today, we have a professionally staffed academic resources center, the Center for Learning in Action (community engagement), a Muslim chaplain, and increased staffing in the health center, just to name a few. None of those existed in 2002.

To sum it up, since 2002, the faculty has grown 31 percent while the non-faculty staff has grown 19 percent.

Good news! Williams should have more faculty (and smaller classes and more tutorials). It does not need any more staff. But there is still a lot to unpack in those details. (Thanks to Dettloff for providing them.) Worth three days to do so?

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To the Williams Community,

The College’s Annual Security and Fire Safety Report was published on-line in September 2016 and can be viewed at – http://security.williams.edu/files/2010/04/Clery-2016.pdf

The Annual Security Report discloses information concerning campus safety and security policies and procedures, as well as statistics regarding certain types of crimes reported to the campus and local law enforcement during the calendar year 2015.
This report includes:

Policies and procedures
Security awareness programs
Crime Prevention
Security of and access to College facilities
Campus Safety Authorities CSA
Possession, use and sale of alcoholic beverages and illegal drugs
Sex offenses and the sex offender registry
Violence Against Women Act VAWA
Reporting of crimes and emergencies
Emergency notification systems
Crime statistics for the years 2013, 2014 and 2015

The Annual Fire Safety Report includes:

Fire safety policies
Fire statistics for on-campus student residences 2013,2014 and 2015
Fire safety systems, alarm monitoring and sprinkler systems
Fire drills
Polices relating to portable electrical appliances
Evacuation procedures
Fire safety training

Together, these reports provide students, prospective students, employees, and prospective employees with key information regarding the security of the campus and surrounding areas, and ultimately, create a safer, more secure campus environment. To request a paper copy of the current Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, please contact our Associate Director for Clery Compliance and Training, Alison Warner at 413-597-4444 or by email at awarner@williams.edu



[Editor — Permanent copy here (pdf).]

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What advice would you give to Williams students preparing for life after graduation?

Find your passion and stick to that. If you want to work in a smaller community and work one on one with people, you might not get rich monetarily, but you’ll benefit in other ways.

The other thing is: be open to new experiences and understand that you can only control what you can control. There are outside influences like my injury that no amount of planning in the world can account for. If you only have one plan like I did, it’s damaging. Control what you can control but be willing to be flexible and roll with the punches because they’re coming. With a Williams education you should always be able to dust yourself off and get back in the game.

Read the whole article here.

An interesting perspective on mulitculturalism from Chief Wynn here.



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A regular reader sent us (pdf) these details behind this year’s US News rankings. Let’s spend five days discussing them. Today is Day 4.


Continuing our discussion of the underlying data, I am most suspicious of the Financial Resources information. Recall the methodology:

Generous per-student spending indicates that a college can offer a wide variety of programs and services. U.S. News measures financial resources by using the average spending per student on instruction, research, student services and related educational expenditures in the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years. Spending on sports, dorms and hospitals doesn’t count.

The problem is two-fold: First, spending on dorms should count! Williams is a better college, at least partly, because our dorms are much nicer, especially the number and quality of our single rooms. A similar argument applies to our spending on sports. Second, lots of spending is suspect:


Nothing wrong with whales, of course. We are in no way Cetacea-phobes at EphBlog! However, the money spent here (which presumably helps Williams ranking) would have been better allocated to matching the financial aid awards from places like Harvard and Stanford.

2) Any thoughts on how much better Williams (93%) does in percentage of high school students in the top 10% of the class compared to colleges like Middlebury (79%) and Wellesley (80%)? This has, for years, been a strange statistic since so many high schools (especially elite prep schools) no longer report class ranks, both to decrease competition (the surface reason) and to make it easier for colleges to accept their students (the real reason). For Williams, the data looks like:


How long before US News gets rid of this component of its rankings? Middlebury, for example, no longer (pdf, page 10) reports high school ranks. Is about 80% what schools who don’t report get stuck with? Or does Middlebury report this data secretly to US News but not in its common data set?

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Dear Members of the Williams Community,

During the past few weeks our nation has again experienced a wave of tragic and disturbing events – events which are having a significant impact on our campus community.

Tomorrow evening, members of our community are invited to gather in a safe space where we can reflect, listen, speak and support each other.

Members of the Davis Center, Chaplains’ Office, Dean’s Office and other supportive staff are available – today, tomorrow evening as we gather, and in days ahead.

Those offices are open; students are always welcome to reach out. After hours, Campus Safety and Security can always help you connect with any of these supportive resources if you call 597-4444.


Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes
Vice President
Institutional Diversity and Equity

Molly Magavern
Interim Director
The Davis Center

Rick Spalding
Chaplain to the College

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A regular reader sent us (pdf) these details behind this year’s US News rankings. Let’s spend five days discussing them. Today is Day 3.

We talked yesterday about the importance of Faculty Resources to Williams’ dominance of the current rankings. Here are some more data points:


1) There are two components to the Faculty Resource score that don’t appear in this summary: percentage professors who a) have the highest degree in their fields and b) are full time. Any readers interested in a detailed analysis of the complete data set? The Record ought to partner with some other college papers to see how consistent elite LACs are in their reporting to US News. For example, does Williams count Winter Study instructors as faculty members? On one hand, they probably should since these instructors teach/grade required courses. But I bet that Williams doesn’t, not least because doing so would hurt these metrics.

2) Why does Williams do so well on the Faculty Resources score when compared to other elite schools? It is a mystery! We do relatively well on the percentage of classes below 20 (thanks Morty!) but (equally?) poorly on the percentage of large classes. (Are 3% of the classes at Williams above 50? That seems high.) I am also curious about the details associated with counting classes. Does a tutorial count as one class of 10 or five classes of 2?

3) What should Williams do? No More Lectures!

4) I am impressed with Amherst’s SAT scores. But are they still cheating? I think they are (pdf)!


Recall our discussions a decade ago (which, alas, I can’t seem to find). Honest college report the scores for all the students who take the SAT and all who take the ACT. Since many students take both, the data usual looks like this (from Williams).


How could it possibly be that 30% fewer students at Amherst take the SAT relative to Williams? I bet that the proportions are similar, but that Amherst cheats and does not report 30% of its SAT scores, for all those students whose ACT scores are better than their SAT scores. There is a great story here for a talented Record reporter.

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