Former Williams head football coach Aaron Kelton was in the news recently, taking over as Howard University’s interim football coach after Howard head football coach Ron Prince was placed on administrative leave:

In his first season running the Bison’s football program, Prince had reportedly been accused of abusive behavior by at least one parent of a Howard player. Howard is “committed to completing our internal investigation of the allegations involving concerns about the football program,” Athletic Director Kery Davis said Wednesday in a statement. Davis added that Director of Football Operations Aaron Kelton will serve as the football team’s interim coach “until further notice.” “Howard University is committed to ensuring our athletic programs reflect Howard’s core mission and values,” Davis said, “and to ensuring the well-being and success of all student athletes.”

I think its rare for a coach to come back from administrative leave like this (but I don’t know for sure, so informed correction welcome), so I would guess that Howard will be looking for a new coach for next season.  If so, I wonder if Kelton will get a reasonably opportunity to get the head job.  Based on this very interesting article from 2018, Kelton is definitely interested in being a head coach again:

There is no telling how long Kelton will remain on the Morgan State staff. One thing is for sure, he wants to have his own program again at some point.

“My time will come, and I’ll get back into it. Right now is not the time for me,” he said. “I’m enjoying football, continuing to be a football coach and a football fan.”

Based on the 2018 article, it appears that Kelton did not burn any bridges when he left Williamstown, despite the fact that (as far as I know), his departure was not entirely voluntary:

Things did not end well for Aaron Kelton in Williamstown, but the veteran coach did tell me that he is keeping an eye on how Mark Raymond’s Ephs are doing.

“I have a ton of players who we are regularly in touch through social media. I do follow the teams,” he said. “I wrote a note to the [Williams Sideline] Quarterbacks Club. I just wanted to let them know thank you for the time they have given me.”

I wonder whether Kelton has hired former Eph players as assistant coaches since his departure from Williams, or former players from his other coaching stops.  In any event, best of luck to Coach Kelton as he finishes up Howard’s season and progresses on in his career.

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sealEphraim Williams was a career soldier who died in battle. For most of its 200-year history, the College has had a comfortable relationship with the armed forces. Williams graduates and faculty served in times of peace and war. Even the College’s motto, E Liberalitate E. Williams Armigeri, makes reference to the benefit we have all derived “From the generosity of E. Williams, soldier.”

Over the last 50 years, the connection between Williams and military service has atrophied. Virtually no active member of the faculty has served in uniform. Only a handful of graduates enter the military each year. If one admits that the military plays an important role in society and that having an informed opinion concerning the use of force in international relations is a critical part of being an educated citizen, then the failure of Williams to have a substantive connection to military life and culture is troubling.

ar_1991And, unfortunately, unavoidable. Williams-caliber high school seniors are unlikely to consider serving prior to college. Williams-caliber Ph.D. recipients almost never have a military background. There is little that anyone can do about this state of affairs. But I think that we all have an obligation to be cognizant of it.

The estrangement of Williams from things military first struck me during a mini-controversy in the pages of the Alumni Review. The Summer 1991 issue featured a cover photo of a graduating senior, Jonathan Dailey, being commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. Former Professor Mark Taylor, one of the best, and most opinionated, teachers on campus was so incensed by this affront that he felt compelled to write to the editor. His letter, published in the subsequent issue, is worth quoting in full.

I was deeply disturbed by the photograph of three Marines in uniform standing besides the Declaration of Independence in Chapin Library that was on the cover of the most recent Review. Many of us at Williams have struggled throughout the year to raise the critical awareness of our students about the disturbing implications of the glorification of military power in the Gulf War. In my judgment, this photograph sends precisely the wrong message to our students and alumni. taylor_emeritusIt is little more than another example of the reactionary flag-waving mentality that has run wild in the wake of our supposed “victory” in the Gulf. Such an attitude runs directly counter to the ideals of a liberal arts education. I would have hoped that the editor of the Review would have been more thoughtful and more sensitive to the power of images to communicate cultural values.

Taylor is a great proponent and practitioner of deconstruction, of looking for the meaning behind the simple words of a text. Let us deconstruct his letter.

First, it is unclear what, precisely, has made Taylor “deeply distressed.” Is it the very existence of the Marine Corps? Or does Taylor except the need for some sort of military establishment and simply object to the tradition of clothing members of that establishment “in uniform”? Or is it the juxtaposition of these Marines and the Declaration of Independence, which, after all, contains the first claim by these United States to have “full power to levy war”? Or was Taylor distressed that this scene was chosen as the cover shot for the Review? I suspect that it was the last of these which moved Taylor to write. The military, while perhaps necessary, is a distasteful part of modern life. According to Taylor’s “cultural values,” it is worthy of neither celebration nor respect.

Second, note the reference to “students and alumni” as opposed to the more common trio of “students, faculty and alumni.” Obviously, Taylor is not concerned that faculty members will receive the “wrong message.” Presumably, they are smart enough not to be swayed. He worries, however, that the same may not be said for the rest of us.

Third, consider his concern over the “reactionary flag-waving mentality” which “runs directly counter to the ideals of a liberal arts education.” Did 2nd Lt Dailey USMCR and Williams ’91 missed out on some important lectures? Is Taylor suggesting that individuals like he and Dailey, who aspire to the liberal arts ideal, should not wave flags or that they should not do so in a reactionary manner. Perhaps lessons in progressive flag-waving are called for.

The typical comment which a former Marine (like me) should make at this point involves the irony of Taylor’s denigrating the very institution which secures his freedom to denigrate. Or perhaps I should note that Marines like Dailey stand ready to sacrifice themselves for causes, like protecting Bosnian Muslims, which Taylor might find more compelling than combating the invasion of Kuwait. But, in this case, the irony is much more delicious.

parishBefore moving to Columbia, Taylor was the Preston S. Parish ’41 Third Century Professor of Religion. In other words, an alumnus of the College, as his contribution to the Third Century Campaign, endowed a chair which Taylor now holds. And who is Preston S. Parish? Besides being a generous alumnus, he is a former officer in the United States Marine Corps and veteran of World War II. He won a bronze star for leading infantry units from the First Marine Division in combat on Guadalcanal and Peleliu.

For Marines fighting the Japanese in World War II, combat looked like this:

Not much “reactionary flag-waving” going on there . . .

In the beginning of his book Tears, Taylor reminds us of Kierkegaard’s aphorism that it is not the job of an author to make a book easy; on the contrary, it is the job of an author to make a book hard. Reading a good book, like attending a college which aspires to the ideals of the liberal arts, should be difficult. It should challenge us. Taylor was one of the best professors at Williams precisely because of his ability and inclination to challenge his students — question their preconceptions and to encourage them to question his. When my sister-in-law entered Williams in 1994, I told her that the one course that she shouldn’t miss is Religion 101 — or, better yet, 301 — with Mark Taylor. He made things hard.

It is supremely fitting, then, that Williams, via the medium of the Review has challenged — or at least “deeply distressed” — Mark Taylor. It has made him think, however fleetingly, about the worth and purpose of military preparedness in an unfriendly world. A great college, like a great book, should challenge, not just its “students and alumni” but its faculty as well. Ephraim Williams’ generosity, like that of Preston Parish ’41 and Jonathan Dailey ’91, is of money and blood and spirit. They make things hard for all of us.

—–
Originally version published in the Spring 1995 Williams Alumni Review, by David Kane ’88. Modified since then by EphBlog.

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Today marks the 244th birthday of the United States Marine Corps, celebrated around the world at the Marine Corps Birthday Ball. On many dimensions, the Marines are the Williams College of military organizations: elite, steeped in history, less well-known among the hoi polloi, athletic, cultish and intellectual. Or perhaps Williams College is the Marine Corps of American high education? Either way, there is a special bond among we few, we happy brothers of Williams and the USMC. Traditionally, Marines offer each other birthday greetings this day, and so, to my fellow Ephs Marines: Happy Birthday!

The earliest Eph Marine I have been able to find is Joseph Fairchild Baker, class of 1864, who attended Williams in 1860 — 1861 but never graduated. He was the son of a United States Senator and served as a lieutenant and captain. Does anyone know his story? If we don’t remember his service 150 years ago, then who will remember ours in the decades to come?

Joel Iams ’01 sent us this letter 14 years ago.

Iams_01.jpg

The roads of Fallujah were eventually cleared, but not until we lost Nate Krissoff ’03. Will those roads need clearing again? If the President calls, I am sure my Marines will be willing, with Ephs at the forefront.

Below is a list of Eph Marines. Who am I missing?

Myles Crosby Fox ’40
Preston Parish ’41
Joe Rice ’54
TB Jones ’58
David Kane ’58
Jack Platt ’58
Carl Vogt ’58
John McGonagle ’84
Brad DuPont ’86
Jerry Rizzo ’87
David Kane ’88
Tony Fuller ’89
Phil Knecht ’89
Jonathan Dailey ’91
Bunge Cooke ’98
John Bozeman ’98
Lee Kindlon ’98,
Zack Pace ’98
Ben Kamilewicz ’99
Joel Iams ’01
Rob MacDougall ’01
Nate Krissoff ’03
John Silvestro ’06
Jeff Castiglione ’07
Brad Shirley ’07
Jeff Lyon ’08
Hill Hamrick ’13
Julius Kindfuller ’19

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The New York Times has an interesting article on amHerst and their efforts to increase diversity on their athletic teams. The article has a lot of good information about the recruiting process and the efforts that amHerst has made to find student-atheletes of color, especially in sports that are traditionally dominated by white students. I think the article presents a realistic and balanced look at what amHerst is doing. For example, they point out that amHerst has the resources to dedicate to this goal that other schools do not possess.

I think the article is worth the read but if you don’t have the time or the interest, here is the closing quote from the men’s soccer coach, “I want someone who makes us different. Because that’s how everybody gets better.” I believe he is talking about on the field and off and I applaud him and amHerst for this kind of thinking.

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The Record has a nice, thorough article on the call for a boycott of the English department, by Danny Jin, Samuel Wolf, and Kevin Yang. Some passages, and thoughts, from the article.

The original petition said the boycott will not end until the College searches for a senior-level woman of color from outside of the College to chair the English department, immediately runs searches for tenure-track faculty members specializing in African American, Latinx, Native American and Asian American literature, and conducts an external investigation of English. The petition revised the demand for a chair, calling instead for the hiring of a senior faculty member specializing in ethnic literature.

Any thoughts on why the petition-writers reversed their demand for a chair? How do you think they came to that decision to revise their demands down? To me, the original demand just seems unnecessarily and unproductively specific, so that would be my reasoning,  but after publishing something like this and having it get such a large amount of traction, it seems odd to backstep like that.

The petition calls out what its creators see as a “racist culture” in the department.

My anecdotal evidence doesn’t and shouldn’t mean much, but from my perspective as a student, this view that there’s some degree of a racist culture in the English department, while not necessarily a mainstream or majority view, certainly wasn’t a controversial one. Even before the whole Kent-Wang altercation came up at the end of last year, it was the sort of thing that you’d hear from relatively non “radical” or politically engaged English majors, just your typical students–that English classes were unexpectedly conservative in many ways, that many professors were behind the times and used their subject matter as an excuse not to consider the importance of a world beyond the white literature that might have been their specialty. This all to say, yes, it’s news that there’s some level of organized “boycott” happening now, but for students, I don’t think this is adding so much new to the conversation as it might seem to be from the outside.

Kent also emphasized the range of professors in the department with experience in “scholarship of underrepresented groups.” She cited Owen, Love, Associate Professor of English Anjuli Raza Kolb (who currently teaches at the University of Toronto), Associate Professor of English Bernie Rhie and Franny Choi, a Bolin Fellow in English who will teach next spring.

This made me laugh a bit, that Kent’s great defense of the range of professors dealing with diverse scholarship involves so many notable absences–Love’s from last semester, Choi who isn’t even here yet, Raza Kolb who left for Toronto even after getting tenure.

From an article last year, “A closer look at departures of College faculty of color”:

Although Raza Kolb received tenure this year, she began applying for other jobs when she became worried about a possible negative outcome of her tenure decision. “The process is not designed to adequately assess the work of scholars in what are still considered marginal fields,” said Raza Kolb, who specializes in postcolonial literature. She chose to pursue the position in Toronto after she received tenure.

Raza Kolb also cited issues mentioned in the FSI report, such as a lack of recognition for the increased service burdens of faculty of color and comments from peers that she would not fit in the College community. Indeed, according to Raza Kolb, the College is hostile to faculty of color in many ways that are at first easy to miss. “In addition to issues of culture and community, the college has deep problems of discrimination and bias in many places that are hard to see at first – benefits, disciplinary and grievance procedures, sexual misconduct and harassment policies and protocols, evaluation and promotion, support for research and special projects, retention and merit recognition.”

Raza Kolb also pushed back against narratives for her departure that are centered around the geography of the Berkshires. “It’s easy to tell ourselves a routine story about why faculty of color leave,” she said. “It often comes down to location. I’m not stepping away from my position because I’m uncomfortable in Western Massachusetts. I’m reevaluating my relationship to the institution because I haven’t been treated fairly here, or seen through my pre-tenure years in a reasonable, above board way.”

During my time at Williams, I took classes with Raza Kolb, along with Rhie, who was mentioned in Kent’s list of great diverse professors. Both Anjuli and Bernie taught my absolute favorite courses at Williams, English courses which really changed the way I see literature and its role in the world. Both engage substantially with texts of all kinds–including many, many texts by white, canonical authors. Bernie’s area of scholarship is largely on Wittgenstein; Raza Kolb deals just as much with colonial literature (literature by those who colonized–think Kipling and Conrad) as with post-colonial (literature by the formerly-colonized). They deal with these texts with care and intense scholarly interest; what makes these classes so interesting, and so valuable to students, is that the texts by white canonical authors are not the only texts they treat as such. Rather, they recognize, and embrace, the fact that English literature comes from many non-white, non-canonical authors, and bring those texts as intensely into the literary conversation. That’s what made those courses so fantastic for me, and the fact that great professors like Raza Kolb are disappearing from the college seems like such a shame to me.

Finally, in yesterday’s post on the topic of the boycott, DDF wrote:

I believe that EphBlog, although unmentioned in the article, is fundamentally responsible for this turning into a national story. A comment from a longtime reader about the boycott appears on November 1. This led to blog posts from John Drew and Jerry Coyne on November 3. This led to right wing coverage at places like Breitbart and the College Fix yesterday. (I could be wrong about the causative chain. Perhaps the same person who tipped us also tipped Coyne and others.) How long before this story breaks into the New York Times?

Do we really take ourselves that seriously? Coverage by right-wing blogs desperate for any sort of story that fits their views of college students as snowflake liberals doesn’t necessarily make this a national story, and no matter how frequently EphBlog wants to declare every little controversy at Williams to be fundamental in the national collegiate political landscape, I really doubt Williams’ small-scale petitions and open letters quite warrant New York Times coverage.

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Inside Higher Ed has a thorough article on the Boycott English movement at Williams.

Williams College built its reputation on the liberal arts. Now students at the college are calling for a boycott of the English department, saying the program has long had a racist underbelly. Their comments echo those made by some past and present professors of color.

“We, the undersigned students of Williams College, pledge to an indefinite boycott of all English classes that do not take seriously the matter of race — that is, those classes which do not include more than a token discussion of race and more than a token number of writers of color,” reads a boycott pledge that is a part of a detailed pro-boycott website. The names and identities of those taking the pledge are not yet public.

Entire article below the break, for the benefit of future historians. Comments:

1) I believe that EphBlog, although unmentioned in the article, is fundamentally responsible for this turning into a national story. A comment from a longtime reader about the boycott appears on November 1. This led to blog posts from John Drew and Jerry Coyne on November 3. This led to right wing coverage at places like Breitbart and the College Fix yesterday. (I could be wrong about the causative chain. Perhaps the same person who tipped us also tipped Coyne and others.) How long before this story breaks into the New York Times?

2) Do we need a controversy nickname? Depends on how long this will go on and how much we plan on covering it. Suggestions?

3) The metaphors to the French Revolution are almost too easy.

By June 1794 France had become fully weary of the mounting executions (1,300 in June alone), and Paris was alive with rumours of plots against Robespierre, member of the ruling Committee of Public Safety and leading advocate of the Terror. On 8 Thermidor (July 26) he gave a speech full of appeals and threats. The next day, the deputies in the National Convention shouted him down and decreed his arrest. He was arrested at the Hôtel de Ville, along with his brother Augustin, François Hanriot, Georges Couthon, and Louis de Saint-Just. The same guillotine that on 9 Thermidor executed 45 anti-Robespierrists executed, in the following three days, 104 Robespierrists, inaugurating a brief “White Terror” against Jacobins throughout France.

Katie Kent ’88 is almost a parody of the campus left, an activist who came of age in the 80s and who was the leading social justice warrior on campus during that time. She was the revolutionary of her era. And now the Revolution has come for her.

Should I spend a week or two going through the news in detail? Or are you, dear reader, already bored with this nonsense?

UPDATE: Corrections made. See comment thread for details.

(more…)

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A recent article by the Williams Record discusses a recent town hall-style meeting discussing the future of the College Council:

College Council (CC) held a town hall in the Dodd House dining room on the evening of Oct. 22 as part of an internal review in the wake of a contentious spring semester. Last spring, CC faced criticism for its hesitance to fund Black Previews, its decision not to recognize the Williams Initiative for Israel and its low-engagement election in which Papa Smurf was elected as a representative for the Class of 2021. The organization also faced a one-semester drop in approval from 22 percent to 7 percent, according to a May 2019 Record survey.

According to the article, a number of proposals were discussed, including complete disbandment of the Council and allocation of its funding functions to the Office of Student Life.  I thought one of the more interesting ideas was to pay College Council members:

As an alternative to greater administrative power, several students suggested compensating CC or Financial Committee members. “There’s a lot of unpaid student labor on campus,” Morgan Whaley ’20 said. “For the administration to see institutions like CC or JAs [Junior Advisors] or housing as such integral parts of the tradition of this college, but then also not [care] about the students who actually run those, I think is problematic.”

I don’t agree that College Council members should be paid because they are providing “unpaid labor” to College.  In many areas of life, people volunteer their time for the betterment of their communities, both private organizations and public commissions.  Different people volunteer for all kinds of reasons:  wanting to help others, wanting to have influence on policy or programs, wanting to network in hopes of getting benefits down the road, wanting to build a resume, etc.  College is a good time for members of the community to get into the habit of making these judgments about what is a good use of their time.  In the case of College Council, it appears as though there is little interest in its work in the student body as a whole.  This should allow those who are interested in influencing how it works the opportunity to get involved and have a real say in what happens.

What do you think?  Is the College taking advantage of students by not paying them?  Or are the non-monetary rewards sufficient in your view?

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More than fifty years ago, Ephs took the field against Amherst.

Saturday, they do the same. And ten years from now. And one hundred. Do our Eph football players recognize their history? Do you?

TB Jones ’58 (my father’s roommate) played varsity squash at Williams. I remember seeing his picture in one of the many team photos that used to line the walls of the old gym. Walking by those old photographs each day for practice provided me with a great sense of the history that I was becoming a part of. Years later, those emotions were perfectly captured by Robin Williams in “The Dead Poet’s Society” when he takes his class to view the pictures of past students at their fictional New England prep school.

From the script:

Keating turns towards the trophy cases, filled with trophies, footballs, and team pictures.

KEATING: “Now I would like you to step forward over here and peruse some of the faces from the past. You’ve walked past them many times. I don’t think you’ve really looked at them.”

The students slowly gather round the cases and Keating moves behind them.

KEATING: “They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you. Their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because you see gentlmen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in.”

The boys lean in and Keating hovers over Cameron’s shoulder.

KEATING (whispering in a gruff voice): “Carpe.”

Cameron looks over his shoulder with an aggravated expression on his face.

KEATING: “Hear it?” (whispering again) “Carpe. Carpe Diem. Seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”

The boys stare at the faces in the cabinet in silence.

Decades from now there will be another young man at Williams who will walk down those halls on his way to practice. Perhaps he will play squash like TB Jones and I did (although I hope that he plays more like TB than like me). Whatever his future might hold, I hope that he sees our pictures and wonders about us, about where we went from Williams and how prepared we were for the journey. I hope that he realizes how fortunate he is.

Does football coach Mark Raymond remind his players of the history of those who have gone before? Does he know their names and their stories?

I hope so.

Williams may win or lose on Saturday. Did Frank Uible ’57 win or lose the games he played against Amherst more than 60 year ago? In the longer sweep of history, one game, one loss, is as dust in the corridors of memory. What matters is the day itself, and the place we each occupy within the traditions of the Williams community.

No one remembers the score of the game these men played 100 years ago. But we look in their faces and see ourselves.

I am Frank Uible ’57. Who are you?

[Thanks to EphBlog regular “nuts” and Williams Sports Information for the photos. Note that the original post in this series did not include a YouTube clip because YouTube did not exist. Old Time is still a-flying.]

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Two weeks ago, the Record released a pseudo-satirical opinion piece, a bullet point list of what are being called “Hot takes from a white guy with an annoying mix of confidence and insecurity” written by Nate Munson-Palomba ’21. The list, touching on a wide range of Williams social issues, has caused quite a stir to say the least, because it isn’t perfectly clear which points are jokes and which are serious opinions of the author. Conversations about the piece have gone around on Facebook, Instagram, and in dining halls across Williams. The full list can be seen below:

● The athlete-nonner divide is driven by nonners (insecurity).

● “The Williams Swivel” says the most about Williams social life.

● Attractive white female athletes run this school.

● White guys should try to wear clothes when they’re going out that aren’t checkered button-downs, basketball jerseys or Hawaiian shirts.

● Endurance athletes are essentially nonners.

● The lack of bars has made social life better and more inclusive.

● CC will be the comeback story of 2022.

● Comedy is the clout of nonners.

● 66 is underrated.

● About half of Williams’ problems are intractable because of geography.

● You haven’t seen Williams until you’ve been exercising in Lower Lasell when the entire football team is there.

● The phantoms are having more fun a ton of the time.

● A refrigerator door could be a housing coordinator.

● Class defines Williams.

● Adams Falk’s I am Williams poster that says, “Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you” actually defines Williams.

● If you’re doing all your reading, most Div. II majors are as hard as Div. III; the only thing is almost nobody is doing that.

● OSL is the shadow government of Williams.

● The only enemy that will unite humanity is non-human.

● Rugby is the last frat.

● Male helmet sport athletes are smarter than everyone else thinks they are and less attractive than they think they are.

● One of the worst social places to be at Williams is a short, unattractive guy who likes sports but isn’t good at them.

● Juul culture is the most communitarian Williams gets.

● The only true protest act of Williams is to unenroll.

● There’s no better way to torpedo your social clout at Williams than to write a sendy op-ed.

The following week, the Record included a second list written in response, called “Confessions from a Black Lesbian with a powerful mix of Confidence and Security” written by Rachel Porter ’21. It is a roughly line-by-line response to the points made in the earlier article:

● The athlete-nonner divide is driven by athletes who like to shout at parties something along the lines of, “If you aren’t on one of these three sports teams, or I can’t sexually objectify you because of my toxic masculinity and my inability to see women as people, then get out of this space that was formerly used as a social meeting place for a variety of people because I am insecure, sexist and enjoy bigotry.”

● “The Williams Swivel” isn’t limited to Williams. It’s called having situational awareness.

● Women/Femme-identifying people of color do the most for this miserable school and look absolutely fierce while doing so. Whether or not they fit the confining and limiting criteria of “attractive” is irrelevant to me. Because I don’t value people solely based on their physical appearance.

● Haouxsey is overrated.

● Sometimes you have to wear your worst clothes to parties when there’s a good chance of mysterious filth being spilled on you at any moment.

● My brief foray into syndicated athleticism has led me to believe that running is one of the most intellectually and physically challenging sports to participate in. You know, because it actually requires concentration and tenacity. Weird.

● The lack of bars in this town is the reason why there is a dispensary down the street. Trends follow the money.

● The College’s many bureaucratic groups fight over the definition of inclusion every day. Because apparently not being complicit in structures of oppression isn’t an easy task.

● The Williams Record will be the comeback story of never.

● Shoutout to College Council for giving us the take the money and run option.

● Houcksey is overrated.

● The Williams Record is officially the Pastiche of Williams. (If you know, you know).

● Try to lock me up for being funny. I’ll film you. You better Mirandize me first.

● Black people are underrated. Period.

● We go to school in the middle of some mountains. Ahem.

● You haven’t seen Williams until it’s 3 a.m. at “X dorm close to Mission” and “INSERT BLANK HERE” team is ready to blast Mo Bamba and scream the N-word until they get tired (they don’t really emphasize cardio at this school).

● The world and even sad little Williams can be a fun place when you have friends that you aren’t forced to hang out with. There are many people at this college that value the happiness and the pleasure of building platonic relationships that aren’t solely transactional or based on doing some particular thing. Crazy right?

● Houckxsoeuy is overrated.

● But can a refrigerator door provide emotional and even physical labor to adult children? I don’t think so.

● The definition of inclusion might also lead you to a definition of intersectionality. Take note.

● There are a lot of things that define Williams. That’s why they have those cute little posters in Schow.

● The only thing almost no one is talking about is which major is harder than the other. Because there’s a good chance they’re doing their work.

● Hockeysee is overrated.

● The gay agenda is the shadow government of Williams.

● I respect people who believe in aliens. Takes a lot of courage to admit that.

● How do you quantify being attractive, and how do you quantify being smart? Can you be both, or is it one or the other? Will I get the answers on reddit?

● One of the worst social places to be at Williams is a tall “athletic” male that is decent at sports but can’t pursue them after college because he’s not actually that good. Road ends here pal (insecurity).

● Sometimes people read books to learn how to make the world a better place.

● Sometimes they don’t have the opportunity to read as many books as they want and they still make the world a better place.

● Hiouuxseauy is overrated.

● So is poorly disguised satire that merely acts as a way for certain people to say the strangely nefarious, coded thoughts in their head they are too afraid to say out loud. Yes it’s okay to not know everything, but if you can read and you have access to the internet, you should know that there is a powerful tool called an internet search engine. Yes, you can use it to find the definition of satire AND what constitutes as offensive.

● Yes, people deserve to have their own opinion, but know some people cannot be silenced when attempting to express theirs (security). Trivializing serious matters related to race, gender, class and sexuality can result in some pushback. Know that.

Both lists provide an interesting window into the kinds of discussions taking place at Williams College in 2019.

Alumni of all ages, how many of these “hot takes” were true in your days at Williams? If at all, to what degree have things changed?

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In honor of Halloween, I thought it might be interesting to look back on some controversies related to the holiday. The obvious Williams example is, “The Taco Six.”

However, the controversy I want to look at in more detail occurred at Yale in 2015. Here is the email from the wife of a College “Master,” that sparked the  controversy. Towards the end of the email she quotes her husband in making one of her main points:

“..if you don’t like a costume someone is wearing, look away, or tell them you are offended. Talk to each other. Free speech and the ability to tolerate offence are the hallmarks of a free and open society.”

Also, here is a link to an article on Vox.com that does a fair job summarizing the controversy and some of the immediate fall out. Here is a quote from the article that I thought was interesting,

“In the balance between sensitivity versus critical thinking and academic freedom, students are increasingly emphasizing the former over the latter.”

A good example of this is when a student at Yale says,

“I don’t want to debate. I want to talk about my pain.”

I had some preconceived notions about what happened at Yale but as I read the article, those changed and I became convinced that both sides had good points. For example, the Yale student is NOT talking about an academic setting, they are referring to interactions when they might go to the Master or his wife for support. In that setting, it seems perfectly reasonable to not “want to debate.”

My conclusion is that it is not an either/or choice. We can be sensitive (if someone feels a need to talk about their pain, listen and try to empathize, do NOT debate) and have academic freedom (if you disagree with a position, an action or a costume, engage with the person who holds that position).

What do you think? Can college communities be both sensitive and have academic freedom?

 

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Today is Halloween, so a post about a graveyard seems to be in order (h/t EphProf!).

Interesting article in this week’s Record on the College Cemetery, which is located just outside Mission Park.  I had no idea about this particular perk offered to some College faculty and staff:

“Guess where I’m going to be buried,” said Professor of Philosophy Joe Cruz ’91 to his cognitive science class as the last few students filed into the classroom. “The cemetery next to Mission.”

Cruz is one of dozens of current faculty members who will be buried in the campus cemetery, an opportunity afforded to select members of the College community including, according to the faculty handbook, “the immediate lineal descendants of those currently interred there, trustees, the president, the treasurer, the college librarian, senior staff, and those with emeritus or retired status in any of the above categories; tenured faculty and faculty emeriti; and the spouses or domestic partners and unmarried children of all the above.”

I especially liked this quote from Prof. Gene Bell-Villada, who noted that, with respect to the cemetary perk, ““There’s a kind of a joke that goes around the faculty, we call it the final perk.”

The rugby team used to hold beer practice in what we termed “the graveyard” during my freshman and sophomore years.  Eventually, the College chased us out, sending us down past the football practice fields.  In hindsight, this was clearly the correct move, so I was a little surprised by this quote from the article:

For students, who are neither eligible for burial in the cemetery nor frequently faced with the question of where they will be buried, the cemetery often serves as a hangout spot after dark. Regina Fink ’22 planned a 20th birthday celebration in the cemetery, calling it “a funeral for my teenage years.”

Lydia Duan ’21, who is a junior advisor, said she might think twice about being buried there herself knowing what students get up to in the cemetery. “If I were a tenured professor, I would not want to be buried there because I wouldn’t want stoned frosh dancing over my dead body.”

The article also includes interesting discussions on the significance of allowing tenured faculty to be buried there.  I recommend reading the entire article.

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Here are the latest filings in the Safety Dance sexual assault case: 178-main, 182-main, P reply to D opposition, D opposition to P motion to file, 178-6, 178-4, 178-5, 178-2, 178-3 and 178-1.

Any comments?

I think that, over the last year, nothing has gone well for Williams. (Their lead attorney Daryl Lapp, on the other hand, has been running up the billable hours and raking in the dollars. So, some good news!) Doe’s case is getting stronger, with more support from the court. Perhaps more importantly, the overall legal landscape is changing, with major set backs for colleges in the Boston College case.

Maud: Settle this case! It is a sure loser for the College.

Williams Record: Cover this case! Your readers would find it interesting and you might even get some attention from media outside of Williamstown.

Reminder:

Why do I call this case “Safety Dance?”

And the lyrics from the song “Safety Dance”:

We can dance if we want to
We can leave your friends behind
‘Cause your friends don’t dance and if they don’t dance
Well they’re no friends of mine.

I say, we can go where we want to
A place where they will never find
And we can act like we come from out of this world
Leave the real one far behind
And we can dance

Alas, John Doe has discovered that, leaving the real world far behind, is not so easy when it comes to the sexual assault bureaucracy at Williams . . .

Key facts:

This is nuts! Does anyone disagree? Read the full document for details, but it is not disputed that Smith only complained about the alleged assault after her attempts to get Doe thrown out for a never-happened honor code violation failed.

I am honestly curious to know if there are readers who agree with the College’s decision to throw Doe out, denying him his degree even though he has completed all the requirements for graduation.

Recall my question from last year:

How many times has Maud Mandel sexually assaulted her husband since arriving at Williams?

I am 100% serious in asking this question. Consider:

The Williams College Code of Conduct requires affirmative consent for all sexual activity.

Consent means that at the time of the sexual contact, words and conduct indicate freely given approval or agreement, without coercion, by all participants in the sexual contact. Consent may not be inferred from silence or passivity.

Williams also defines “sexual activity” very broadly, as “any sexual touching, however slight, with any body part or object, by any person upon any other person . . .”

So, if Maud Mandel, without asking (and receiving!) explicit permission, has ever kissed her husband goodbye in the morning, or given him an affectionate pat on the behind as he walked out the door, or . . . anything really — then she has committed sexual assault and should, like John Doe, be kicked out of Williams.

This is, of course, nonsense. No normal person thinks that people, like Maud Mandel, in a relationship need to get permission for every single sexual activity ahead of time. But that is still the official policy at Williams, a policy which is used as a stick the ruin the lives of men — many of them poor and/or minority — much less powerful than Maud Mandel.

If John Doe deserves to be kicked out of Williams, than Maud Mandel is guilty of sexual assault.

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I’ve been getting emails recently about our upcoming 30-year reunion.  The people that organize the event deserve major kudos, as it can’t be easy keeping all of the trains running on time and to everyone’s satisfaction.  I remember our 15-year reunion when were based at Tyler (and boy was it hot!), and there were tons and tons of little kids, so the organizers made sure we had plenty of milk available for the kids to drink (thanks Megan!).

This will be our 6th reunion, and I’ve managed to make it to each one, except our 10-year, which conflicted with a trial I was involved in.  I make a significant effort every 5 years to go, because its the only time I can (or at least do) see many of my friends from Williams.  I am Facebook friends with many, but don’t often manage to see many of them.  It always surprises me (in a good way!) how easy it is, and how much fun I have, talking and spending time with people I haven’t spoken with in 5 years.  It seems as though we just pick up right where we left off at the last reunion, finding out what has been going on with our lives, and comparing notes as we “grow up.”

I’ve usually tried to stay on campus, though for recent reunions I’ve noticed more and more people staying elsewhere.  The rooms aren’t super comfortable (especially when its really hot out and the upper floors of the dorms feel like ovens), but I like being right there.  I’ll be curious to see how many people come this year.  I’m sure the College has statistics about average attendance for each of the years (5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, etc.), but I’m not aware that they are published anywhere.

While poking around on the Williams website, I did come across a document entitled “Reunion Code of Conduct,”  which starts off with:

Purpose

Williams College believes our community should be truly open for everyone. As such, we are committed to providing a friendly, safe, and welcoming environment for all, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, ethnicity, race, or religion.

This code of conduct outlines our expectations for participant behavior as well as the consequences for unacceptable behavior while on campus.

We invite all staff, volunteers, attendees, local community members, and other participants to help us realize a safe and positive Reunion for everyone.

The documents describes in some detail “Expected behavior,” “Unacceptable behavior,” “Consequences of Unacceptable Behavior,” as well as drug and alcohol policies.  I wonder if there was a specific incident which prompted the creation of this document.  I know there was at least one incident involving alcohol and possible sexual assault/misconduct in the past, but I don’t know if this had become a pervasive problem every year, or whether the single incident prompted creation of this document/policy.

In any event, I strongly recommend that everyone attend their reunions. You won’t regret it!

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A regular part of the conversation at the Williams board on College Confidential is a “chance” request. A high school student wants the community to provide feedback on her chances of being admitted to Williams. Unfortunately, many of these students are uninformed about the reality of elite college admissions so they don’t provide us with the necessary information to “chance” them correctly. (They also generally provide a mass of irrelevant data.) To make the world a better place, here is EphBlog’s Guide to How to Write a Chance Request for Williams. (The same advice applies to most elite colleges. Please read How Admissions Works at Williams.)

First, estimate your Academic Rating and provide the key evidence behind that estimate. (Background information here and here.) Tell us your Math/Reading SAT scores (and/or ACT), and your AP scores. Just tell us what you will be submitting to Williams. We don’t care how many times you took these exams or about the details of your Super Scoring efforts.

We also don’t need to know about the details of your academic program. Just provide an honest estimate of your Academic Rating and some background on your high school. (Telling us the name of your high school can be useful, but is not necessary.) We don’t care about your exact GPA. (If you did not take the hardest classes that your high school offers, admit that to us.) The best clue about the quality of your high school record can be found in the quality of schools that similarly ranked students have attended in past years, so tell us that. Even if your high school does not officially rank students, you must have a rough sense of where you stand (#2, top 5, top 10%, whatever). Tell us where the students at about your rank in the previous year’s class went to college.

The Academic Rating is the most important part of the process, so focus your words on that topic.

If all you do is just a big copy/paste of all sorts of blather (examples here and here) — the exact same 1,000 words that you might paste into other discussion boards, don’t be surprised if the only feedback you get is generic.

Second, cut out all the other cruft. We don’t care (because Williams doesn’t care) about all your clubs, activities, volunteer work, et cetera. Despite what your high school and/or parents may have told you, such trivia plays a de minimus role in elite college admissions. For example, your sports resume is irrelevant unless you are being recruited by a Williams coach and, if you are, they will tell you what your chances are.

Third, tell us your nationality. Williams has a quota against international applicants.

Fourth, tell us your race, or at least the relevant boxes that you will check on the Common Application. (See here and here for related discussion.) Checking the African-American box gives you a significant advantage in admissions, as does checking Hispanic, but less so. Checking the Asian box hurts your chances at Ivy League schools. There is a debate over whether Williams also discriminates against Asian-American applicants. It is also unclear whether or not checking two boxes or declining to check any box matters. So, for example, if you have one white and one African-American parent, you are much better off checking only the African-American box.

Fifth, tell us about your family income and parents background. Williams, like all elite schools, discriminates in favor of the very poor (family income below $50,000) and very wealthy (able to donate a million dollars). There is some debate over the exact dollar figures at both ends. Might Williams favor applicants whose families make us much as $75,000? Sure! Might Williams be swayed by a donation in the six figures? Maybe! Tell us whatever other details might be relevant. For example, Williams cares about socio-economic status more broadly than just income, so having parents that did not graduate from a 4 year college can be helpful. Among rich families, Williams prefers those who have already donated to Williams and/or have a history of supporting higher education.

The College loves to brag about two categories of students: Pell Grant recipients and “first generation” students, defined as those for whom neither parent has a four year BA and who require financial aid. If you can show the College evidence that you (will) belong in either category, your chances improve.

Summary: Almost all of elite college admissions is driven by Academic Rating, albeit subject to three broad exceptions: athletics, race and income. In order to provide you with an accurate chance, we need the details concerning these areas. Don’t bother us with all the other stuff.

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The football team’s strong season continues. Many of the trends Whitney noted in his post at the beginning of the month have continued. The defense is strong, giving up less than 10 points a game. The offense has continued to be a power house – over 30 points a game. amHerst also is having a good season with a 4-2 record. Both teams have lost to Middlebury, who is 6-0 and seems to be headed to a conference championship. While a conference championship seems like a long shot for the Ephs, the little three title is right in front of them and more importantly, they can be happy for ever by beating amHerst on 11/9. Good luck to the team and all the athletes representing Williams this Fall!

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From the Record, by Joey Fox, “Student Course Survey undergoes changes.”

Following a years-long process that went through four separate faculty committees and multiple all-faculty votes, changes to the Student Course Survey (SCS) which were first approved in 2017 will be implemented at the end of this semester.

Interesting opening line! Sounds like Joey spent a lot of time interviewing people who think this was an overly protracted process, for all that ultimately ended up changing.

What’s changing: Professor evaluations used to be two sheets, the “White Sheet” and the “Blue Sheet.” The White Sheet was a scantron-esque form that was 23 questions long, and also had you fill out information like your year, whether the course was a major requirement/pure elective/etc, and the grade you expected you’d get in the class. The Blue Sheet was for comments directly to our professor, to be received after they’d submitted grades, and you could put your name on it if you wanted to. In the last or second-to-last class session, the professor would end class 25-ish minutes early, ask for a volunteer to bring the envelopes down to the drop-off boxes in Paresky, and would leave the room for students to fill out the sheets. Depending on the class, students would either fill them out in silence, or talk with each other about what they were writing.

According to Provost Dukes Love, the vote on the second motion revealed significant disagreements among faculty over the changes.

“It was a relatively close vote,” Love said. “I wouldn’t say that this is one of the most controversial issues on campus. But really smart faculty have different views about the most effective ways of evaluating teaching performance, effective teaching.” Love clarified that some faculty wanted only one of the two main changes – reducing questions and moving online – while others wanted no changes whatsoever.

Wade agreed, adding that still others wanted even more drastic changes. “Some faculty feel that we should get rid of student evaluations altogether — that they’re biased, and that they’re measuring student satisfaction more than teaching quality,” she said. “Others feel that while flawed, student course evaluations are the one opportunity for all students to weigh in on their experiences in the classroom, and that involving fewer people in the evaluation process might lead to even more bias.”

I don’t have much of a perspective on the best way to evaluate professors, though I do think that students should have at least some way of voicing their opinions on classes–getting rid of student evaluations altogether would be absurd.

In my experience, students tended to take the evaluation forms pretty seriously. Evaluations happened at the end of the semester, when people tended to be fairly stressed with final projects being due and final exams about to start. Some had feedback that they’d been saving all semester to put on the blue sheets, and spent the entirety of the period filling out that blue sheet; others didn’t fill it out at all. Most professors would claim that they didn’t care that much about the White Sheets, and just wanted our feedback on the Blue Sheet, sometimes asking specific questions of us to put in the Blue Sheets like what we thought of the curriculum, what we thought of their method for teaching something, etc. If we knew that a professor was new and in consideration for tenure, and if they were reasonably well-liked, I think many students would overlook flaws that could otherwise be spaces for feedback, and give high marks on the White Sheets.

Experience and thoughts on end-of-course evaluations?

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Family Days start tomorrow.

1) When did Freshmen Parents’ Day become Family Days? Back in the 80s, there were two family weekends each academic year. The fall event was for Freshmen. The spring (April?) event was for all families. Also, when did a single “Day” become “Days?” If EphBlog won’t keep track of this history, who will?

2) Where were you, dear reader, 65 years ago?

I know one reader who was having trouble writing essays as polished as those from the boys who had prepped at Deerfield! How do Maud’s communications with first year parents compare to those from Phinney Baxter ’14? You can be sure that she doesn’t use the word “boy” to describe male first years!

3) Will any first year entries be throwing cocktail parties for the parents? I hope so. I still remember the hard work that our JAs put into hosting a such a party, 35 years ago. I also remember how the mom of one of the students from the entry made the female students seem like little girls . . .

Stacy’s Mom by Eph band Fountains of Wayne was probably the most commercially successful song by Williams alumni during the 2000’s. (If not, what was?)

I don’t think that either Chris Collingwood ’89 and Adam Schlesinger ’89 have been awarded Bicentennial Medals yet. Consider this EphBlog’s nomination.

I will resist the urge to see if there are any current Williams students named Stacy . . .

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A student-authored email sent to the WILLIAMS-STUDENT email group, which has limited access (my short thoughts on the matter below):

Hello everyone,
Yesterday, October 20th was the 100th day of the stand for Mauna Kea, and we are circulating an open letter in solidarity with Kiaʻi Mauna, the protectors of Mauna Kea in Hawai’i. Please sign our letter to Williams College alumna Suzanne D. Case, Chairperson of Hawaiʻiʻs Board of Land and Natural Resources. Stand with us to protect Mauna Kea and all other sacred spaces.
WE ARE MAUNA KEA: PETITION TO SUZANNE D. CASE
Thank you for your support!
The use (some, including me, might call it abuse) of the all-student email group by individual students or unofficial/official student organizations has skyrocketed in the past couple of years. Without commenting on the subject matter at hand (another author can do so), I just don’t find this petition or many of the other emails sent to the student body by students relevant to the campus community or campus life at all. A few years ago, the emails we got were from ACE announcing Spring Fling or other all-campus events…now, we frequently get emails pertaining to petitions, talks, etc. Rumor has it the College Council (Co-)Presidents have access to and can give out this email group to students (i.e., to people and causes they deem worthy…). Now, I’m not saying there’s any (*cough* far-left *cough*) bias or subjectivity to these types of emails…but I have a bunch of them that may indicate otherwise.
Update: Last night, 371 people had signed the petition, and now it is up to 501. I don’t know if that increase has anything to do with circulating this petition to the student body, but I suspect it (at least in part) does.
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Another all-campus email from today:

Dear Members of the Community:

 

I write to share news of a grant, Towards Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (TIDE), the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion will give out.  The purpose of the grant is to help facilitate the infusion of inclusion, diversity, and equity into all aspects of our campus by leveraging the creativity and passion of the members of our community.

 

All members of the community are encouraged to apply, as we look forward to supporting campus- and community-wide efforts.  Collaboration between and among faculty, students, and staff is strongly encouraged, as are projects designed to have a positive impact on multiple stakeholder groups on campus and in the surrounding community.

 

Information about applying for the grant, including the deadline, is available here.  We also invite you to learn more about it, including hearing from past recipients, at an information session in Hardy House at 4:00 on Wednesday, October 30.  Should you have additional questions, please don’t hesitate to send an email to diversity@williams.edu with the subject “TIDE Grant”.

 

We look forward to working and learning with you.

 

Best,

Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes, Ph.D.

Vice President

Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Williams College | Williamstown, MA

(P) 413.597.4376

https://diversity.williams.edu

 

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Also, an email about Family Days (this weekend):

Dear Students,

I hope this note finds you well.  As you may know, this coming weekend is Family Days.

If your own family plans to visit this weekend, we greatly look forward to having them here at Williams and expect it will be a great opportunity for them to gain a better sense of your own undergraduate experience.

And if your family won’t be attending, please know that you’re in good company with the vast majority of your fellow students. While many families enjoy family days, a great many more don’t attend. For some, the time and expense to travel to Williamstown are too great. (And let’s face it: though Williams is a beautiful place, it’s far away from where most people live!) For others, there are other points in their students four years at Williams—from a special sports event or musical performance to Commencement—when a visit make more sense.

In any case, it’s a great weekend packed with lots of things to do, with family members or just with fellow students. View the entire weekend program here and enjoy!

All best,
Dean Sandstrom

 

Marlene J. Sandstrom
Dean of the College and Hales Professor of Psychology
Williams College
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From President Mandel:

To the Williams community,

I’m writing to share two pieces of news. The two are related, so I appreciate your patience with a longer message than I’d usually write.

First is the bittersweet announcement that Vice President for Campus Life Steve Klass has informed me of his plans to retire in June.

When Steve came to Williams in 2006 from the University of Chicago, initially as our first-ever Vice President of Operations, he brought with him a transformative approach to leadership and management; an enlivening, compassionate spirit; and a wonderfully off-kilter sense of humor. For evidence of the latter, see the student-produced “Between Two Slabs” video. For evidence of the rest, there are Steve’s many contributions to Williams, which include, for starters: leading the reorganization and expansion of our health and mental health services; overseeing major construction projects, including Stetson/Sawyer, Hollander, Schapiro and Paresky; helping launch CLiA, the Zilkha Center and the college-managed Children’s Center; and, following retirements of long-time campus leaders, hiring Director of Student Health Services Deb Flynn, Director of Integrative Wellbeing Services Wendy Adam, College Chaplain Rev. Valerie Bailey Fischer and Director of Dining Services Temesgen Araya.

On top of that are the many years’ worth of board and committee service Steve has devoted to local schools, healthcare providers, financial institutions, town government and churches.

Steve is somewhat famous among my senior staff for his unconventional career path. He started his post-college life playing in bands at CBGB’s and managing restaurants in New York City. Few of his professional peers could match his breadth of experience, or the level of empathy and organizational insight he gained from his adventures. Williams has been a grateful beneficiary of Steve’s talents, and I look forward to announcing a campus thank you event next spring.

Steve isn’t the only member of Senior Staff to whom we’ll say farewell. As you may know, Dean of Faculty Denise Buell recently announced to the faculty that she plans to end her term as dean next June and return to her teaching and scholarship as Cluett Professor of Religion. Denise has been a wonderful partner, and I’ll send a separate message honoring her later this week.

In the meantime, today’s second piece of news has to do with our plans for Campus Life. As part of the Strategic Planning process I’ve begun looking at the organization of peer institutions and thinking about how our administrative structures can best help us with our goal of realizing residence life as a central component of a Williams education. With that goal in mind, after Steve’s retirement we’ll shift some of his offices to report to the Dean of the College, and others to report to the Vice President for Finance and Administration.

Steve, Marlene, Fred and I have already begun conversations with those whose direct reporting lines will change, and we’ll be meeting with people from all the relevant areas in the coming weeks. In case you’re asked, I want you to know that all positions are being retained, and all staff will continue in their roles. The change is solely in reporting lines.

Meanwhile, here’s a simple description of the new reporting arrangement, which will go into effect on July 1, 2020:

  • The offices of OSL that oversee residence life, student leadership and student orgs; Health Services and Integrative Wellbeing Services; the Chaplain’s Office; and CLiA will become part of the Dean of the College’s team.
  • Dining, Campus Safety and Security, Mail Services, and the Conferences office will become part of the group managed by the Vice President for Finance & Administration and Treasurer, also as of July 1, 2020.

More details will be available as we work on implementation with the staff. The changes will support collaboration among colleagues who work with students in various ways and help college operations run as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

We’re in a position to pursue these opportunities because of the outstanding work Steve and his team have done over many years. Indeed, when I asked Steve what he was proudest of from his time at Williams, he instantly said “the amazing people I’ve worked with since day one.”

Please join me in thanking and congratulating Steve for his contributions to Williams, and in supporting our colleagues during the months ahead.

Maud

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The purpose of this post is to provide a guide to athletic admissions at Williams. Read Playing the Game: Inside Athletic Recruiting in the Ivy League by Chris Lincoln for all the messy details. (Despite the title, Lincoln covers NESCAC athletic admissions thoroughly.) See this three part series from the Bowdoin Orient. Williams is no different than other elite schools when it comes to athletic recruiting. Check out EphBlog’s prior coverage. See also last month’s review of Williams admissions as a whole.

1) General athletic ability/accomplishment does not matter. No one cares if you won the high school Judo state championship because Williams does not compete in Judo. No one cares if you were captain of your high school soccer team if you aren’t good enough to play for Williams.

2) Only the coach’s opinion matters. Even if you play a sport that Williams cares about at an elite level, it won’t matter unless the coach wants you. If the field hockey coach already has 2 great goalies, you could be an amazing goalie, perhaps even better than the current Ephs, and it would not matter for your chances at Williams because you would not be on the coach’s list. (She only has so many spots and wants to use them for positions that need more help.)

3) There are approximately 100 students in each class who would not have been admitted were it not for an Eph coach’s intervention. There are 66 “tips,” students whose academic qualifications are significantly below the average for the class as a whole. There are also 30 or so “protects” — perhaps currently terminology is “ices”? — who also would not have gotten in without coach intervention, but who are only slightly below average for the class as a whole in terms of academic ability. I believe that protects are academic rating 3s, while tips are academic rating 4s and below.

4) The number of tips/protects varies by sport as do the minimum standards. Football gets the most, by far, followed by hockey. Certain sports — crew, golf, squash — receive much less leeway. Football and hockey can let in (some) AR 5s. Other sports can’t go below AR 4 or even AR 3. Coaches have some flexibility in terms of using these spots, taking 4 people this year but 6 next year.

5) The biggest change in athletic admissions in the last 20 years followed the publication of the MacDonald Report, with support from then-president Morty Schapiro. Those changes both decreased the raw number of tips and, perhaps more importantly, raised the academic requirements, especially at the low end. In particular, there are very few athletic admissions below academic rating 4 — top 15% of HS class / A – B record / very demanding academic program / 1310 – 1400 composite SAT I score.

6) Despite coach complaints and predictions of disaster, Williams athletics have been as successful in the last decade as they were in the decade prior to these changes.

7) My recommendation to President Mandel: Create another committee to revisit this topic. Fewer preferences given to athletes would raise the quality of the student body as a whole. The MacDonald Report made Williams a better college. Do the same again.

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Lt Col Bunge Cooke ’98 brings football film analytics to the Marine Corps.

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DDF’s post on Wednesday got me thinking. I am a strong believer in the benefits that a diverse population brings to virtually any situation – from the classroom to the boardroom. I have no hesitation in extending that philosophy to include idealogical diversity in appropriate situations. This includes seeing a wealth of benefits to having a faculty with diverse political beliefs. Of course, using a “political beliefs” litmus test when hiring a professor sounds like a bad idea (and could be illegal). So, I am not sure what the remedy is to achieve a more politically diverse faculty but I know I want to get there.

Do you think it is a goal that Williams should strive for?

What would be the best way to get there?

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I’m curious about the answer for many of you: Why did you start reading EphBlog? How did you find it, and what has kept you here?

The question is particularly interesting for readers who are students, or who started reading it when they were. I don’t remember many students having heard of EphBlog when I was a student.

I first found EphBlog in my first year, when my first Williams “scandal”/hot issue–The Taco Six, for those who remember it–happened. I was so intrigued with following the development of the issue, and reading everyone’s thoughts on it. Yik Yak was big then, and I loved using it, not to post, but just to read what everyone was thinking, and to see people with different viewpoints talk amongst each other. I didn’t totally know how I felt about the issue myself, but I wanted to hear what people who seemed to feel, very strongly, whatever they felt about the issue, talk about it and express those positions.

Of course, there’s only so much intelligent discussion that can happen on a platform like Yik Yak, but there were a few other places I could go for my fix of opinions. There was Facebook, of course, but as a first year I wasn’t well connected at all to many people who were having those discussions on their own walls. That’s what I liked about Yik Yak more than places like Facebook–it was completely public, based on location, so anyone could read and join without having to be socially connected enough to get to witness the conversation. But either linked somewhere through Facebook, or on Yik Yak, I was able to find a few places that were expressing more long-form opinions of the sort I was interested in.

There was the Williams Alternative, which hosted a good number of pieces about that specific incident and which I don’t believe lasted much longer as a platform. And there was EphBlog, which I think I might have found at yet another remove, linked from a comment or post on the Alternative. My memory is hazy, but in any case, I remember finding myself on EphBlog at some point.

I wasn’t very impressed, to be quite honest. The opinions seemed vitriolic and provocative just for the sake of being provocative, which didn’t really interest me. I also remember opinions being somewhat acerbic towards specific people, calling out students who were writing opinion pieces and whatnot in a way that felt fairly inappropriate for older people to do to current students.

I got the sense, from other platforms, that EphBlog was viewed as kind of reactionary and, to put it mildly, crazy, old alumni who were obsessed with the opinions of 18 year olds. That was the general feeling I got of the student body’s views of EphBlog.

So it was fun, in a way, to look it up every now and then, wondering what sorts of wild opinions were beings spouted over there. It made me angry to read a lot of what was being written, and getting angry in that way is a little bit addictive. Every time there was some new scandal or hot issue on campus, I’d find myself wondering what those wild people over there at EphBlog were saying about it, and I’d read the posts, and they’d make me mad. A lot of the time, there were comments that expressed exactly why things were making me mad, seemingly regular readers who, without fail, would respond to the things I found ridiculous about the posts more clearly than I could. I myself never commented, so that was respectable for me. But then the scandal would pass, and I’d forget about EphBlog again until another few months.

Last year, though, felt like hot issue after hot issue, which is why I found myself on EphBlog more and more. Especially as there felt like fewer platforms to discuss that weren’t my own Facebook feed which really only featured the opinions of people I agreed with on it, I just wanted to read views about what was happening–any views, even if I really disliked them.

An amusing conversation happened near the end of the year, where I was eating dinner with a professor and several other students, and somehow, EphBlog came up. It was something along the lines of the professor saying, there’s some alumni blog that has really conservative and offensive takes on campus events; it was rather funny to be the one at the table who could say exactly what they talked about, what they’d discussed over the years I was there. For one, I was one of the least likely people they would have expected, and two, EphBlog was just so removed from campus life and general student consciousness, that any student being so familiar with it just seemed very, very bizarre to everyone at the table.

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A New York Times op-ed two years ago:

Faculty members in New England are far more liberal than their counterparts anywhere else in the nation, even controlling for discipline and school type. In 1989, the number of liberals compared with conservatives on college campuses was about 2 to 1 nationwide; that figure was almost 5 to 1 for New England schools. By 2014, the national figure was 6 to 1; for those teaching in New England, the figure was 28 to 1.

I cannot say for certain why New England is so far to the left. But what I can say, based on the evidence, is that if you are looking for an ideologically balanced education, don’t put New England at the top of your list.

Who are the Republican/Conservative/Libertarian professors at Williams? The Record had an excellent article on that topic last week:

Several professors at the College, however, openly profess conservative views. Their presences in Williamstown have the potential to elucidate political dynamics at the College that may be invisible to the student body’s liberal majority.

Four professors agreed to go on the record for this article: Professor of Mathematics Steven Miller; Professor of Art Michael Lewis; Professor of Political Science Darel Paul; and Visiting Professor of American Foreign Policy Chris Gibson, who will depart the College and begin teaching at Siena College, his alma mater, at the end of the academic year.

While they all fit under the umbrella term of “conservative,” these professors hold a range of beliefs.

Read the rest for an intelligent and nuanced discussion.

According to campus gossip (and EphBlog reporting), the basic zoology of Republican/Conservative/Libertarian professors at Williams is as follows:

Republicans: Steven Miller and Michael Lewis. Lewis is perhaps the most famous “conservative” professor at Williams, known for his writing at the Wall Street Journal, Commentary and other outlets. He was a strong critic of Falk’s decision to ban Derbyshire. Are there any other faculty members that are registered Republicans? Tell us in the comments!

Libertarians: Kris Kirby and Fred Strauch. The Record ought to seek them out for a second article.

Curmudgeons: This is the category of professors who are not registered Republicans and almost certainly did not vote for Trump, but who care about ideological diversity and/or are conservative (or at least anti-leftist) in the context of the Williams faculty. James McAllister, Darel Paul and Luana Maroja come to mind. Others?

Former faculty of a similar persuasion include: Robert Jackall, George Marcus, Chris Gibson and Jane Swift. (I realize that Gibson has not left yet, but visitors shouldn’t even be part of this conversation. They are at Williams for too short a time to matter.

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Interesting article in this week’s Williams Record on the virtual disapperance and possible extinction of JV sports at Williams.

Currently, only three JV teams remain: men’s JV soccer, men’s JV basketball and women’s JV basketball. This fall, the longstanding women’s JV soccer program was converted into a physical education class, after years of difficulties with participation and finding other teams to compete against. The women’s JV lacrosse team underwent the same transition last spring, but was ultimately cancelled after receiving no sign-ups. There are no plans to bring back the program this spring, [Athletic Director Lisa] Melendy said.

While I doubt many students get excited about going to see JV sporting events, I still think its a little sad for those students who would like to compete and be on a team, but cannot participate because they are not good enough for the varsity team.  There apparently are a number of causes for the decline in JV sports.  Happily, from my perspective, budgetary concerns are not among those reasons.  First, there are fewer students interested in playing on the JV team.  According to AD Melendy:

This decrease is, in part, a result of the change in student population that has occurred on campuses in recent decades, Melendy said. “We recruit more broadly now, for diversity of all kinds and for diversity of experience,” she explained. “The student body looks different than it did. I think we have fewer students for whom that was a central part of their high school experience. They did a lot of other things.”

I am guessing that there was never much recruiting for JV sports, but those spots were filled by students who enjoyed those sports and who could play at a high enough level.  One of my best friends at Williams was such a student.  He was a high school soccer player who played a season or two of JV soccer at Williams before deciding (correctly in my opinion!) to come play rugby instead.  According to Melendy, there are fewer athletically inclined students arriving on campus, making it harder to field enough athletes to make up a JV team.  I’m mildly surprised that the change in the applicant/admittee pool is so profound that it affects the ability to field JV teams, but I suppose it may be additional evidence that many youth sports today are dominiated by (relatively) wealthy kids, whose families have the money to become invested in the Youth Industrial Sports Complex.  (For the record, for good or for ill, I am definitely a part of the YISC).

In addition, according to the article, increased athletic specialization has reduced the number of students who, in the past, might have played on a JV team because fewer kids want to play a second sport.

Another reason given in the article for the demise of JV sports is the difficulty of finding opponents.  The teams have been forced to schedule games against prep school teams.  But those teams, in many cases, are too talented for the JV teams:

Difficulties in finding other teams to compete against have also hindered the College’s JV program in recent years. Until the early 2000s, JV teams competed against other teams in the NESCAC, often travelling with their varsity counterparts. More recently, they have competed against nearby private high schools. As more and more of high school athletes become highly competitive, it has become challenging for JV teams to compete against opponents who will soon be playing at the varsity level.

In order to maintain some options for JV-level players, the College has instituted PE classes which mimic the JV experience.  One of the problems with this is that those classes don’t have access to all of the resources of the athletic department, particularly trainers.  This, I think, is a problem which can be solved with money, by simply budgeting for the athletic department to be able to service non-varsity athletes.

Ultimately, the demise of JV sports seems to be a function of long-standing trends over which the College has little influence.  Like AD Melendy, I think this is too bad:

As JV teams become rarer, fewer students will have access to the experience of playing on a team at the College. “The lessons that you get from being on an athletic team, which I think are valuable and worthwhile, fewer students get to have,” Melendy said.

I agree with the AD here.  I think participating on an athletic team provides great memories and lessons to all participants, regardless of the skill/talent involved.  When I started with the Williams Rugby Football Club in the fall of 1986, I played on the D, E, and F-sides.  We weren’t good, but it was fun.  Over my four years I gradually moved up the ladder, eventually playing regularly on the B-side, with a few appearances on the A-side.  I had fun playing broomball with Bryant House in the intramural sports program (I still use the name of our team “The Killer Aardvarks” as the name of my rotisserie baseball team), as well as IM ice hockey.  But I recognize that perhaps much of this stemmed from my high school experience, where I played baseball, hockey, and soccer at relatively low levels.  Its too bad, in my view, that the JV option appears to be disappearing from the Williams campus.  Hopefully club and intramural sports can fill in the gaps.

 

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From the Berkshire Eagle two years ago:

Williams College celebrates its last Columbus Day

In ending the Columbus Day off at Williams College, it came down to accounting.

Sure enough, the current calendar makes no mention of Columbus. Would you, dear reader, have predicted that a decade or two ago? Me either! What changes will come by 2029? There is no longer a reference to either Veteran’s Day or Christmas in the calendar. I am not sure when those disappeared. “Thanksgiving” is still mentioned, but for how much longer?

The faculty voted to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a holiday for faculty, staff and students about six months ago.

How long before the #MeToo movement comes from MLK?

The human resources department determined the college would trade off another holiday — Columbus Day — rather than adding another holiday to the calendar.

“This was just a simple trade-off,” said Jim Reische, chief communications officer at Williams College. “We didn’t do anything with Columbus Day. It was just a three-day weekend.”

Could this be (just!) about holiday bookkeeping? Perhaps! The College is a business and needs to track vacation days.

Administrative staff still had the day off on Monday, but that will change come next year. Classes still met.

Administrative staff will still be allowed to take the Columbus Day off next year if they choose, but they’ll have to use a floating holiday day. There will be classes on that day.

“The major driver was — we needed to consider MLK Day a holiday,” Reische said. “There was a strong push to make that a day off, to recognize it.”

“Push” from whom? I doubt that the typical dining services worker cares which holiday she gets. If anything, I bet that the preferences run the other way. The vast majority of Williams employees (below the faculty) are white working class, many of them Italian-Americans. An enterprising Record reporter would interview them . . .

And isn’t a holiday in the Berkshires in the fall much more desirable than one in January?

More important to the college in terms of programming is Claiming Williams Day, which began in 2009 after a series of racist and sexist incidents on campus in 2008, Reische said.

Can we please get our history straight? There was one key incident that drove Claiming Williams.

Claiming Williams Day includes a full roster of programming exploring what it means to be a diverse and inclusive campus, he said.

“It’s much more about academic and community-building than anything we ever did with Columbus Day,” he said.

Well, sure. But aren’t these separate issues? Issue one: Which holidays does Williams officially recognize and give staff members a day off for? Issue two: What events does Williams schedule on which days? The former has little to do with the latter.

The town of Williamstown took a different direction on Columbus Day earlier this year.

In May, town meeting voters agreed to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.

Williamstown Elementary School labeled Monday’s holiday Indigenous Peoples Day on its website as of Monday morning.

If I were Trump, I would make a huge deal out of Columbus Day: big celebration at the White House, perhaps a speech about how Democrats consider Italian-Americans to be deplorables, an (outrageous) proposal that any town/city/state which wants federal funds must celebrate Columbus Day. There would be few better ways of motivating the voters he, and the Republicans, will need in November.

Political Science 101 at Williams taught me that, he who picks the issue to fight over, wins. In any fight between “Columbus Day” and “Indigenous Peoples Day,” Trump wins easily.

Trump reads EphBlog! Last year, two hours after this post went up, he tweeted:

How long before Democratic activists start to attack Columbus?

Or maybe Trump is saving this as a fight to have in the fall of 2020?

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Ephblog has had several posts on the Harvard Admissions case (here, here, here). Today I want to look at a specific quote from judge’s decision:

Every student Harvard admits is academically prepared for the educational challenges offered at Harvard…In other words, most Harvard students from every racial group have a roughly similar level of academic potential, although the average SAT scores and high school grades of admitted applicants from each racial group differ significantly.

The key phrase in this quote is “roughly similar level.” In the past, there has been a lot of discussion on Ephblog about Academic Ratings and the role they play in the admission process. The judge in the Harvard case and I agree that as long as the admitted student is “academically prepared,” 50 points here or there on the SAT are not that big a deal. I would wager that DDF would disagree – anyone want to take that bet?

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The Record published a two-part series on Integrative Wellbeing Services, Williams’ counseling/mental health services program. Given that this is one of my favorite Williams-related topics, I’m excited to pick out a few interesting bits. Article 1, and Article 2.

On the name and philosophy:

PCS [Psychological Counseling Services] is now known as Integrative Wellbeing Services, a change that [Wendy] Adam [the director of IWS] says represents a substantive shift in the College’s philosophy toward mental health. The therapists at the time were already well-prepared to treat mental illness, according to Adam, so her approach centered around broadening the range of services to include options aimed at fostering students’ general wellbeing in addition to providing clinical psychological services.

To me, this has some pretty clear upsides, but the downsides should certainly be acknowledged; for me, those downsides were pretty clear as a student.

The benefits, of course, are making therapy/counseling more accessible to all students and de-pathologizing therapy. Therapy can benefit everyone, and belief that you have to have a mental illness to seek therapy is a detriment. Says Adam:

“In my private practice, if someone came to see me, I had to justify their appointment to their insurance company using a diagnosis,” she said. “One of the things I love about this job is that you don’t have to have a serious diagnosis to work with us. I don’t have to worry that, if you’re having a hard time but you don’t meet all the criteria for depression, I’d have to stop seeing you after a certain time even if it would have been more effective for you to stay longer.”

“We’ve got tons of groups and offerings, where we want to meet students where they’re at,” Adam said. “That’s why there are so many ways of inviting students in. We don’t want that old story of ‘You have to be mentally ill to see a therapist’ to get in anybody’s way.”

The downside—which I experienced—is that, if you do have a genuine mental illness and need specific treatment for a mental illness, Adam’s statement that the school was “already well-prepared to treat mental illness” might have felt like a pivot away from that treatment. “Broadening the range of services” doesn’t have to mean decreasing the efficacy of mental health treatment, of course; in practice, however, given that IWS is training the new clinicians (and students in the two-year training program make up a large amount of the staff, after all), the likelihood that you’ll start therapy and see someone who’s been trained in more of a “holistic” way than a “mental-illness-focused” way is pretty high.

The effect of that can be seen from quotes in the second article:

“Charlotte Jones ’22 started seeing a clinician at IWS last year while continuing to regularly check in remotely with the therapist she has worked with for several years at home. She hoped to use the IWS sessions to process recent traumatic life events, but both of the therapists she was paired with took approaches that she found unhelpful.

“At times, it felt as though they were babying me,” she said. “It could be very demeaning… Maybe they would have been fine for a smaller issue, but for me, they were not ready to handle what I had.”

She said that she does not plan to try again at IWS – “Two times was hard enough,” she said – though she has found the crisis call line helpful for instances when she could not get in touch with her therapist from home.”

The article, and clinicians during therapy, make clear that switching therapists is always a possibility and is encouraged to find the right fit for you. But two times is hard enough! It can be really hard to keep divulging your trauma over and over, trying to find the therapist who’s most helpful in processing it.

The articles also discuss some programs that are new this year at IWS. We talked about those earlier here on EphBlog with a post by DDF (http://ephblog.com/2019/09/12/welcome-and-new-year-updates/),  namely, new therapy options through the online platform TalkSpace, and new non-emergency transport options including twice-daily shuttles to get prescriptions from Rite Aid. At the time he wondered if these were the best uses of Williams’ money, or if we should “prioritize matching financial aid packages from places like Harvard first.”

My comments at the time were responding to this thought specifically, but are relevant to my general defenses of spending on IWS more generally:

Sure, in terms of optics of making Williams more appealing to prospective students, spending on matching financial aid packages from places like Harvard might be better. But I believe this is spending on making Williams actually more competitive with placed like Harvard in terms of actual student experience. In Cambridge there are places within walking distance, or using public transit options, where you can get things like x-rays and blood tests on the school’s insurance. In Williamstown, if you don’t have a car, the one bus most likely doesn’t go where you need it to, to get those medical services done…so you’re absolutely reliant on the medical transport system run by the college, which helps bridge the gap of accessing medical services resulting from Williams’s location.

As for the twice-daily pharmacy runs…I am incredibly jealous. I wasted so much time, up to my very last week at Williams, finding solutions to what should be the very simple issue of picking up prescriptions at Rite Aid. There’s prescription delivery to the health center, but the health center is open fewer hours than Rite Aid is; moreover, prescription restrictions exist. I remember one particular situation where I was prescribed a new medication that was restricted in such a way that I had to pick it up in X days, and they would not let me have it delivered; I had to pick it up in person. So I walked in single-digit weather to Rite Aid, taking a couple of freezing hours during a particularly busy week. Not a life-threatening situation, no, but one that, after a few times, definitely found me wishing I went to a school that wasn’t so darn remote.

Is this the sort of thing that prospective students will think about when debating Harvard and Williams? No, of course not, so if that’s your metric then sure, this is a waste of money. But it’s absolutely something that helps bring quality of life up to par with places like Harvard, and for that I see it as immensely valuable.

At what point do improvements to IWS become a selling point for the college? As knowledge and perception about mental health shift, I’m hopeful that a strong offering of counseling services becomes much more of a plus. And, as the Record article highlights, we really are fairly top-of-class:

“According to Klass and Adam, the ratio of students to therapists across higher education nationally — including both colleges and universities — is around 900:1, while the College’s peer institutions tend to be closer to 400:1. In contrast, the current ratio at the College is slightly lower than 145 students per therapist.

Last year, there was no waitlist for accessing therapy through IWS.

Meanwhile, the total number of scheduled psychotherapy session hours has grown by 260 percent over the last decade. That increase is due in part to the fact that students can schedule as many visits to IWS as they need. “Unlike other colleges and universities, we don’t cap our sessions,” Grinnell said. “I love that about Williams. We can really spend time building relationships with our student population. Therapy may not always feel linear — it might take some time to feel like consistent progress is being made.”

This is all really good, important stuff.

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