Mon 1 Sep 2014
Wish that I had been invited to this party!
Mon 1 Sep 2014
Wish that I had been invited to this party!
Fri 29 Aug 2014
From Professor Joe Cruz ’91:
Here’s something for ephblog. I spotted the attached scanned add in a recent issue of National Geographic’s Adventure Magazine. Nikki Kimball — the athlete depicted — was class of ’93. Indeed, I was her JA. She was, then, as she apparently is now, a first rate athlete in addition to being smart and a successful scholar.
Thanks Joe and congratulations to Nikki!
This message came in to EphBlog Central 4+ years ago. We have a lot to catch up on!
Thu 28 Aug 2014
The Financial Times has nice things to say about The System Worked, the latest book by Dan Drezner ’90.
While reading Dan Drezner’s The System Worked, I kept thinking of the well-publicised conversation between Barack Obama and Tim Geithner that took place shortly before Obama’s inauguration as president in January 2009.
As related in Geithner’s book…
Geithner: Your accomplishment is going to be preventing a second Great Depression.
Obama: That’s not enough for me. I’m not going to be defined by what I’ve prevented.
Geithner: If you don’t prevent a depression, you won’t be able to do anything else.
Obama: I know. But it’s not enough.
For global economic governance, as opposed to Presidential legacies, avoiding economic catastrophe when catastrophe was a non-trivial possibility is enough.
That’s the case made by Drezner . . .
Read the whole thing.
Wed 27 Aug 2014
Economic ignorance rears its misshapen head on WSO. AB complains about a firm which bought some Zambian debt and expects, you know, the Zambian government to honor that debt. AB, despite writing beautifully about monsoons, does not seem to understand how markets work. If you prevent investors from making money on Zambian debt, then the Zambian government won’t be able to borrow again.
Andrew Goldston claims that
Buying debt to call it in is legal, but dishonorable. In a more civilized age, guys like Sheehan would have been shunned by their neighbors for this kind of crap. But as bringing home money has become its own goal, normative restraints seem to have eased up on using thoroughly evil means to do it.
Does Andrew Goldston actually know anyone who buys debt? He should meet some of the (many) Williams alums involved in this type of work. A great example would be Hans Humes ’87, legendary member of WUFO and big wheel in the Argentinian debt restructuring of a few years ago.
UPDATE: This post was drafted 7 years ago. So, the Argentinian debt restructuring it refers to is not the current one but the last one.
Tue 26 Aug 2014
From the Wall Street Journal several years ago:
Odds are California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger meant to deliver more than one message in a recent veto to the state Legislature, mathematicians say.
In the body of the message accompanying the veto, consisting of a four-line paragraph and a three-line paragraph, Mr. Schwarzenegger lamented that he was sent an “unnecessary” measure while “major issues are overlooked” in the cash-strapped state. But as the San Francisco Bay Guardian noted last week, the first letter of each of the seven lines spells out a profane rebuke that starts with “F” and ends with “you.”
The governor’s spokesman said the vertical vulgarity is a coincidence, which spurred mathematicians and statisticians to assess the probability that the coarse coded message could arise by chance.
Even if the profane message was intentional, Mr. Schwarzenegger deserves some credit for finding a creative way, outside the schools budget, to stimulate discussions of probability and language. “Let’s give the governor a break,” says Williams College mathematician Edward Burger. “If nothing else, he’s encouraging math education.”
Count on Ed Burger (now the president of Southwestern) to find the bright side!
If I were more clever, what would I have titled this post?
Everyone Prefers Hyptheses Because . . .
Mon 25 Aug 2014
The First Years arrive today. Welcome to Williams!
The 274 women and 272 men who make up the Williams College Class of 2018 will arrive on campus on August 25 for First Days, their official orientation to the college.
SATs for the cohort averaged 727 on the verbal test and 713 on math. The class is also diverse. Thirty-eight percent of students in the incoming class are U.S. students of color, and nearly 9 percent are international students. The 546 students in this year’s class come from 41 states and represent 38 foreign countries. Forty-seven percent of the class is receiving financial aid, with an average aid package of $47,285.
1) Here is the schedule.
2) Isn’t 1440 combined SAT scores a step up from the recent past? Classes of 2008 and 2009 were 1413 and 1425.
3) 9% are international. Regular readers will recall that the quota for international students is an EphBlog perennial. 9% is better than the 6% quota of 2005, but we were already at 9% in 2008, so there has been no progress over the last 6 years, despite the fact that Williams is no longer need-blind for international applicants.
4) Only 47% of the class is receiving aid. In 2008, it was 50%, but I seem to recall numbers in the low 50s a few years ago.
So, the class of 2018 is richer and smarter than . . . any Williams class in history?!
Not that there is anything wrong with that!
Fri 22 Aug 2014
Missed this New York Times letter from six years ago.
To the Editor:
“The Bruising Will Go On for the Party, Too” (news analysis, front page, April 23) says that Hillary Rodham Clinton’s substantial victory over Barack Obama in Pennsylvania, thus continuing the battle, is believed by many Democrats to hurt their (our) election chances against John McCain.
But I, as a Democrat, would rather find out now rather than later who would be the weaker candidate for the general election, given the advertisements and speeches I expect from the Republicans.
I would love to see the battle go on until the Democratic National Convention, restoring what conventions used to be, with the general public enthralled with the discussion.
Then, and only then, the superdelegates should do what they were set up to do — decide who the better candidate is to represent the Democratic Party in the general election.
Jay M. Pasachoff
Williamstown, Mass., April 23, 2008
In 2008, I was quite pleased that Obama won the primary and election. But I suspect that my reasoning was somewhat different from Pasachoff’s . . .
Thu 21 Aug 2014
Curious what his fellow physicists think about Williams President Adam Falk? An anonymous physicist friend told me five years ago:
Falk is definitely one of the best researchers of his age cohort. His work had a lot of impact, which led to his early career success. However, much of that work was done with more senior and more famous colleagues (e.g., his advisor Howard Georgi). I would guess that to, e.g., get tenure at a place like Harvard or Caltech he might have been required to do something of equal impact and by himself.
But I think all of this is irrelevant to his qualifications to lead Williams. For the type of ability you are asking about Adam is already at the level of diminishing returns when it comes to being a university president. He certainly is well above the intellectual caliber necessary to command the respect of Williams faculty. In fact, I doubt there are more than a dozen faculty on the Williams campus who are as bright as Adam. How he does there will be more a function of his people skills, judgement, strategic thinking, leadership ability, etc.
I’ve known Adam for many years and I would say he is a very good person, and very sincerely dedicated to the ideals of higher education. I think Williams made a great choice.
Some time ago (like 5-10 years ago, I can’t recall exactly), I heard through some common friends that Adam had lost “the fire” for research in theoretical physics, and was headed into administration. (Actually I already knew something was up because Adam’s productivity had dropped off.) Luckily for him he was taken on as a protege by the then-dean of arts and sciences at JHU, becoming assistant or associate dean. When that person left JHU for another position, Adam was (amazingly, given his age) promoted to the dean-ship.
I don’t know how long he’s been looking at the college president market, but it would be natural that after a few years as dean at JHU the recruiters would come around, assuming (which is quite likely) that he had a good reputation in that job.
I really do think Williams did well in getting Adam. So many college administrators are just “suits” — they lack passion, are risk-averse, not creative, etc. Adam is none of those things, at least as I knew him :-) It’s possible that these traits are inevitable outcomes of the pressures and incentives of the system, but for now I think it’s possible for him to do a lot of dynamic things.
What I would really be worried about if I were an Eph is that Williams is just a stepping stone for Adam on his way to an Ivy-level presidency!
That was written in 2010. Has Falk done “a lot of dynamic things” at Williams? Not that I have seen. My faculty contacts report that his main focus in the first few years was an attempt to upgrade the quality of the faculty (meaning the quality of academic research produced by the faculty, especially those coming up for tenure), an attempt that was largely beaten back by academic departments jealous of their own prerogatives.
What have you heard?
Wed 20 Aug 2014
Before they disappear down the memory hole, I wanted to archive these three documents from the Williams Speaks Up archives:
View incident reports from three different sources:
I have been meaning to provide a thorough Fisking for several years, but there is never enough day in the blog. Standard example:
Williams humor magazine, The Mad Cow, distributed an all campus leaflet on the “Goth Studies Initiative,” which poked fun at the Latino Studies Initiative. This disturbed many students who had been ardently working toward the creation of a Latino Studies program (MCC Annual Report 2000-2001).
1) Are the MCC Annual Reports on-line? I bet that they would make for interesting reading.
2) Don’t the writers at Mad Cow know that making fun of minority students/causes is verboten! Time for some re-education . . .
3) Now that Williams is eliminating the position of MCC Coordinator, who will be keeping track of these “incidents?”
Tue 19 Aug 2014
A blast from EphBlog’s past:
We never got around to finalizing a graphic for the Catch Mr. Bernard Moore scandal. But Dick Swart ’56 kindly created this one. Like all of Dick’s work, it is excellent! But, after much debate, it seemed like the best theme catch phrase was “Catch Mr. Bernard Moore,” inspired by the Tom Hanks/Leonardo DiCaprio film “Catch Me If You Can.” And don’t forget Jeff Zeeman’s inspiring lyrics!
UPDATE: I think that Moore is now out of prison. The Record should seek him out for an interview.
Mon 18 Aug 2014
Almost five years ago, WSO featured a discussion about Claiming Williams and the issue of White Male Althletes Who Drink (WMAWD). Alas, the link I used then does not seem to work. Fortunately, I saved much of the discussion.
Basic idea was that many people felt that Claiming Williams, as an institution, was actively hostile toward WMAWD and that, therefore, many WMAWD did not bother to attend WMAWD events.
I’m not even sure how to express how much I agree with all of the above. In many, many conversations I’ve noticed this trend of looking down on the idea of the white male (not even just white male athletes who drink) simply because of the history, and not necessarily because of specific examples. I think a lot of WM do feel the pressure to be ashamed of who they are though they themselves have done nothing.
But it sure doesn’t help when very few of the allegedly marginalized Straight White Male Athlete Drinkers show up to any of the events in which I participated (which are the only ones I can speak for). Their absence was noted by some of their coaches, who were present and contributed in valuable ways.
I would bet a lot of money that the reason there wasn’t a huge percentage of the white male athletes at the events is because of people like you, who in trying to fight against “abjection” and “exclusion” make the mistake of excluding those people from the process and creating an air of hostility. I think that the Claiming Williams events were wonderful and the people involved were earnest and open, but it’s people who create unnecessary conflict like this who keep the WMAWD away.
I’ll argue that I think CW this year made an effort to be unassuming and unhostile, but I agree that the general perception on campus remains that any time we talk about “diversity” we’re talking about the evils of the WMAWDs. How to change that perception, I don’t know – but I do feel that oftentimes, in an effort to find safety, security, and solidarity on campus, groups can create a feeling of “us vs. them.”
That being said, I think that the marginalization of the WMAWD is that he feels unwelcome and uncomfortable even attending and participating in these sorts of conversations. Is that “as bad” as the challenges associated with facing racism or classism on a daily basis? Perhaps not. But these types of discussions shouldn’t be about trying to decide who’s been the most oppressed – they should be about moving forward as a community
Do you honestly believe white male athletes who drink aren’t marginalized?
In my time at Williams, I have witnessed/heard just as much anti-WMAWD attitude as anti-gay, anti-(*), etc. attitudes. *Substitute race here. Not that my experience is necessarily representative of the whole school, but i think it definitely occurs. … So if they [white males] are made to feel unwelcome and are uncomfortable in the situation, they are cowards for not attending anyway? That just doesn’t make sense.
I’m a white straight male, and I after hours of conversations, I still don’t fully understand why people of various identities feel excluded from this campus. That doesn’t mean that I’m deliberately ignorant, or that issues don’t exist. It just means that there are some things that you can’t understand, or are reallyhard to understand until you experience the same thing, and that THAT IS OK, so long as we keep talking. … I guess I’m just bothered that you seem to think that you can treat people on campus differently because of worldwide trends and patterns. If there’s a problem on campus, then we should address that, but I don’t think you can cite what goes on outside of the Purple Bubble as a reason to treat a certain group of people differently within it.
On the other hand, I whole-heartedly agree that some WMAWD’s are misjudged, but getting to know them solves that (it’s really not that big of a deal). WMAWD’s who don’t fall into the stereotypes make an effort to not be what people think they are. I have WMAWD as friends, and some fall into their stereotype whereas others don’t. True, I do judge some WMAWD’s, but that may also be because they walk in herds and seem to have no awareness about the world surrounding them.
I really hope that this entire passage was intended to be as ridiculous a joke as it reads.
Let’s replace “WMAWD” with some other social/ethnic labels and see how we react.
1) While some black people are misjudged, getting to know them solves it, so prejudices don’t cause any damage. Anyway, it’s incumbent on the African-Americans who don’t want to be stereotyped to make an extra effort to show us that they’re different. Sure, I apply stereotypes to some black people, but that’s only because they congregate in groups and don’t try to reach out to me: their fault. . . .
If anyone had posted either of those absurd statements, they justifiably would have had the living shit Claimed out of them in a hailstorm of indignant criticism. Your identical post deserves no less.
shit man let them get a taste of what others having been getting/and will get.
Awesome. Thanks for assuming, based only on the amount of pigment in my skin, that I must have spent my nineteen years slinging racial epithets or embodying prejudice and therefore deserve to have this vindictive nonsense unleashed on me.
Making presumptions about the content of my character based on my ethnic and socioeconomic identity. . .man, if only we had a word to describe this kind of behavior: oh hey, neat! We do!
Cry me a river. Really? The fact that you automatically believe that none of the white students here ever had to “prove” themselves is exactly what this thread was about.
Your main point of argument seems to be that because history has shown that there were more white males with better jobs than any other subgroup in our society that it’s automatically going to be real easy for them to live life. You really don’t think that they don’t even have to try here because out there they’re not going to face the economy in the shitters, that they’re somehow more special and will not have to worry about being put under a certain image and treated unfairly when going for a job interview or applying for grad school? Or that none of the unemployed people in this country are white males?
Maybe in the hustle of I-had-to-overcome-so-many-disadvantages-because-of-what-I-look-like you missed the blaring sign– everyone hurts the same way. You think you’re so different from the WMAWD because of the color of your skin or where your ancestors might have come from? Cut everyone with a knife and see if we don’t bleed the same red blood.
I don’t believe it’s quite so that they [white males] don’t feel that they have things to contribute to a day devoted to diversity, as in so much that other people don’t expect them to be able to contribute to the talks because they are automatically assumed to have never experienced adversity because of color of their skin, their gender, sexuality, etc..
Why should the onus be on me to prove myself to you? Your assumptions about me are being made just by the groups of people that I walk with has to be one of the more baseless reasons for judging someone that there is out there. Because I am white and I am walking with other white kids I don’t see the world around me? Don’t get that logic. You said its not hard to get to know them, well then give “us” that chance. So maybe in large groups we act differently but that is a moot point. One on one everyone is different than they are in large groups, but that doesn’t just apply to white males, it applies to everyone.
So maybe I will get to know you once you give me a clean slate to operate with. But I won’t get to know you if you assume certain things about me right off the bat even if I try to get to know you. Don’t stereotype minorities, don’t stereotype white males either. It is not a hard compromise because equality doesn’t involve subjugating white people, that is revenge for historical wrongs that, while I admit would probably be fair, is not helpful. Equality isn’t turning the tables, it’s making sure everyone has a seat.
Do people really feel unsafe or discriminated on campus? Maybe I’m just oblivious to such things, but this seems a little ridiculous to me.
I feel like I’ve had different experiences than some of the other people posting. You may never have encountered the “I’ve had it bad, it’s kind of your fault, you bad bad white man” attitude here on campus, but I ASSURE you, I most definitely have. Whether this is as widespread as I have come to see it as, or if it is not as prevalent as I thought is a matter that I will leave others to decide. The most important thing for me is not so much the self-victimization as what is relatively undisputed: the bias against WMAWD that is pervasive on this campus.
As far as the word “privilege” goes, I think it can be misleading. I think Claiming Williams should encourage EVERYONE to reflect on the privilege they have, rather than assuming that certain groups are privileged while other groups are unprivileged. This may not be the fault of CW or anyone who participates in it, but it seems that we perceive privilege as only occurring within certain demographics. Again, I’m not denying any differences in “stark material realities,” but I’m trying to expand my notion of privilege beyond that.
Several posts have bemoaned the lack of WMAWD at CW, and several have offered hostile or disappointed takes on this. I speak only for myself, but I did not stay away due to laziness or hostility to any group of people. This WMAW (occasionally) D is very concerned about this kind of issue, but finds CW objectionable for various reasons and therefore elected to exercise his right to choose not to attend.
The issue for me is not that “no one knows what I’ve faced,” but that my being privileged should not impact your perception of me. The fact that I don’t know what it’s like from your perspective doesn’t make me irrelevant. My opinions can be valid without my being shaped by overwhelming oppression. I do frequently feel less welcome or less valued by some because I have had certain advantages. This is not crushing oppression; I am by no means marginalized, but it is an issue.
None of the people who wrote these words is still on campus. Has Williams changes much in the last 4 years? I doubt it.
Fri 15 Aug 2014
Most people are so invested in the idea of education-by-institution that it’s hard to imagine another way. There’s also a sense that for-profit schools are a little sleazy (and some of them are). Because Web-based higher education is still relatively new, and the market lacks information that allows students to compare introductory courses at one institution to another, consumers tend to see all online courses in the same bad light. “The public isn’t good at discriminating,” says Larry Gould. “They read ‘online course’ and they think ‘low quality,’ even when it’s not true.”
But neither the regulatory nor the psychological obstacles match the evolving new reality. Consumers will become more sophisticated, not less. The accreditation wall will crumble, as most artificial barriers do. All it takes is for one generation of college students to see online courses as no more or less legitimate than any other—and a whole lot cheaper in the bargain—for the consensus of consumer taste to rapidly change. The odds of this happening quickly are greatly enhanced by the endless spiral of steep annual tuition hikes, which are forcing more students to go deep into debt to pay for college while driving low-income students out altogether. If Burck Smith doesn’t bring extremely cheap college courses to the masses, somebody else will.
Which means the day is coming—sooner than many people think—when a great deal of money is going to abruptly melt out of the higher education system, just as it has in scores of other industries that traffic in information that is now far cheaper and more easily accessible than it has ever been before. Much of that money will end up in the pockets of students in the form of lower prices, a boon and a necessity in a time when higher education is the key to prosperity. Colleges will specialize where they have comparative advantage, rather than trying to be all things to all people. A lot of silly, too-expensive things—vainglorious building projects, money-sucking sports programs, tenured professors who contribute little in the way of teaching or research—will fade from memory, and won’t be missed.
But other parts of those institutions will be threatened too—vital parts that support local communities and legitimate scholarship, that make the world a more enlightened, richer place to live. Just as the world needs the foreign bureaus that newspapers are rapidly shutting down, it needs quirky small university presses, Mughal textile historians, and people who are paid to think deep, economically unproductive thoughts. Rather than hiding within the conglomerate, each unbundled part of the university will have to find new ways to stand alone. There is an unstable, treacherous future ahead for institutions that have been comfortable for a long time. Like it or not, that’s the higher education world to come.
Read the whole thing. What are the implications for Williams?
Williams is selling a luxury product. And everyone in such a business knows that you compete on quality, not price.
Williams should increase tuition by 50%, decrease the student body to 400 per class, guarantee every student a single room and eliminate lectures. Offer the most serious and luxurious college experience and you will occupy a desirable niche in the elite education ecosystem.
UPDATE: The above was written in 2010. (Alas, our delays from submission to publication can be lengthy at EphBlog.) Have the subsequent 4 years made them seem prescient or ridiculous?
Thu 14 Aug 2014
From the Bob Herbert in the New York Times five years ago:
That period right after college graduation is when young people tend to think they can set the world on fire. Careers are starting, and relationships in the broader world are forming. It’s exciting, and optimism is off the charts.
So the gloomy outlook that this economy is offering so many of America’s brightest young people is not just disconcerting, it’s a cultural shift, a harbinger. “Attention,” as the wife of a fictional salesman once said, “must be paid.”
Correct. If you can’t find a job doing X, listen to the market. The world is providing you with a (free!) reality check. Not enough people value X (or, at least, your attempts at X) to make it worth doing. Look elsewhere.
As jobs become increasingly scarce, more and more college graduates are working for free, at internships, which is great for employers but something of a handicap for a young man or woman who has to pay for food or a place to live.
“The whole idea of apprenticeships is coming back into vogue, as it was 100 years ago,” said John Noble, director of the Office of Career Counseling at Williams College. “Certain industries, such as the media, TV, radio and so on, have always exploited recent graduates, giving them a chance to get into a very competitive field in exchange for making them work for no — or low — pay. But now this is spreading to many other industries.”
Every time that Noble, or any College official is quoted in the New York Times, Williams wins.
These recent graduates have done everything society told them to do. They’ve worked hard, kept their noses clean and gotten a good education (in many cases from the nation’s best schools). They are ready and anxious to work. If we’re having trouble finding employment for even these kids, then we’re doing something profoundly wrong.
Well, the recession didn’t help. But, reading between the lines, the main problem, at least for elite students is a misunderstanding about the market realities for people, without any technical skills, interested in journalism and related fields. The jobs weren’t there in 2009, they are still not here in 2014, and they aren’t coming back.
Listen to the market.
Wed 13 Aug 2014
We need more videos at EphBlog. Who will post them?
Tue 12 Aug 2014
Grade inflation is a a scourge at many schools, including Williams. See our previous discussions here. In the last decade, the best hope for those interested in fighting grade inflation has come from Princeton. We discussed there efforts here, almost a decade ago. (EphBlog is old!). Alas, it appears that Princeton may be about to give up the fight.
A number of colleges and universities adopted policies designed to curb grade inflation. But one of the most prominent of those institutions — Princeton University — now appears poised to roll back the most controversial part of its policy: a limit of 35 percent on the A-range grades awarded in each course. A faculty report released Thursday made that recommendation, and it was endorsed by the university’s president.
See their recent report (pdf). I hope that the Princeton faculty stands firm.
Mon 11 Aug 2014
Forbes has ranked Williams the #1 college in the US.
1) This ranking, while nice, is not nearly as important as the US New ranking. If Adam Falk does not do everything he can to ensure that Williams stays on top there, then he is not doing his job.
2) Always remember that, at bottom, Williams is selling a luxury good. And the people in the market for luxury goods care both about actual quality — to the extent that they can judge it directly themselves — and about its perceived or reputational quality. The more often that Williams is ranked #1, the stronger our applicant pool will be and the more likely admitted students are to choose Williams over Amherst or various Ivies.
3) Always remember that the fundamental reason why Williams is a great school is not the quality of the faculty. You really think that, say, the average Williams faculty in, say, English is meaningfully better than the average English professor at, say, Connecticut College or any other NESCAC school? Hah! You’re deluded. But the average student at Williams is much stronger than the average students at lower tiered NESCAC schools, and that is what makes a Williams classroom, and therefore a Williams education, much better.
4) Rankings will be even more important over the next 20 years than they have been over the last 20 as the liberal arts college business becomes more global. High quality East Asian (read: Chinese) applicants and their families care a lot about rankings.
5) Details on the methodology are here or here. Score components here. Color me skeptical. The problems with these variables, and how they are measured, are almost too numerous to bother with. But the organization behind the data analysis, the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP) is credible, so I suspect/hope that there are not any glaring errors.
6) The main clue that these ratings are suspect is how variable they are from year to year. (Williams was ranked 8th last year and 2nd the year before that.) Whatever you think about the relative quality of, say, Williams and Harvard, your evaluation should be more or less the same next year as it was last year. Institutions change very slowly. But stasis does not sell magazines! So, these ratings are constructed to change much more often than they ought to.
What do readers think of the methodology?
Sat 9 Aug 2014
To the JA’s for the class of 2018:
At the 1989 Williams graduation ceremonies, then-President Francis Oakley had a problem. Light rain showers, which had been threatening all morning, started mid-way through the event. Thinking that he should speed things along, and realizing that virtually no one knew the words to “The Mountains,” President Oakley proposed that the traditional singing be skipped.
A cry arose from all Ephs present, myself included. Although few knew the words, all wanted to sing the damn song. Sensing rebellion, President Oakley relented and led the assembled graduates and guests through a somewhat soaked rendition of the song that has marked Williams events for more than 100 years.
Similar scenes play themselves out at Williams gatherings around the country. At some of the Williams weddings that you will attend in the future, an attempt, albeit a weak one, will be made to sing “The Mountains.” At reunions, “The Mountains” will be sung, generally with the help of handy cards supplied by the Alumni Office. It is obvious that most graduates wish that they knew the words. It is equally obvious than almost all do not.
We have a collective action problem. Everyone (undergraduates and alumni alike) wishes that everyone knew the words — it would be wonderful to sing “The Mountains” at events ranging from basketball games in the gym to hikes up Pine Cobble to gatherings around the world. But there is no point in me learning the words since, even if I knew them, there would be no one else who did. Since no single individual has an incentive to learn the words, no one bothers to learn them. We are stuck at a sub-optimal equilibrium.
Fortunately, you have the power to fix this. You could learn “The Mountains” together, as a group, during your JA orientation. You could then teach all the First Years during First Days. It will no doubt make for a nice entry bonding experience. All sorts of goofy ideas come to mind. How about a singing contest at the opening dinner, judged by President Falk, between the six different first year dorms with first prize being a pizza dinner later in the fall at the President’s House?
It will not be enough to learn the song that evening. Periodically over the last dozen years, attempts have been made to teach the words at dinner or at the class meeting in Chapin. Such efforts, worthy as they are, have always failed. My advice:
1) Learn all the words by heart at JA training. This is harder than it sounds. The song is longer and more complex than you think. Maybe sing it between every session? Maybe a contest between JAs from the 6 first year houses? If you don’t sing the song at least 20 times, you won’t know it by heart.
2) Encourage the first years to learn the song before they come to Williams. There are few people more excited about all things Williams in August than incoming first years. Send them the lyrics. Send them videos of campus groups singing “The Mountains.” Tell them that, as an entry, you will be singing the song many times on that first day.
3) Carry through on that promise! Have your entry sing the song multiple times that day. Maybe the two JAs sing the song to the first student who arrives. Then, the three of you sing if for student number 2. And so on. When the last student arrives, the entire entry serenades him (and his family).
4) There should be some target contest toward which this effort is nominally directed. I like the idea of a sing off between the 6 first year dorms with President Falk as judge. But the actual details don’t matter much. What matters is singing the song over-and-over again that first day.
Will this process be dorky and weird and awkward? Of course it will! But that is OK. Dorkiness in the pursuit of community is no vice. And you and your first years will all be dorky together.
For scores of years, Ephs of goodwill have worked to create a better community for the students of Williams. It is a hard problem. How do you bring together young men and women from so many different places, with such a diversity of backgrounds and interests? Creating common, shared experiences — however arbitrary they may be — is a good place to start. Mountain Day works, not because they is anything particularly interesting about Stone Hill, but because we all climb it together.
Until a class of JAs decide as a group to learn the words (by heart) themselves during their training and then to teach it to all the First Years before the first evening’s events, “The Mountains” will remain a relic of a Williams that time has passed by.
But that is up to you. Once a tradition like this is started, it will go on forever. And you will be responsible for that. A hundred years from now the campus will look as different from today as today looks from 1914, but, if you seize this opportunity, Williams students and alumni will still be singing “The Mountains.”
Congratulations on being selected as a JA. It is a singular honor and responsibility.
Dave Kane ’88
Fri 26 Feb 2010
Even with the economic troubles of the college and the beginning of another semester, Williams students are as busy as ever in their extracurricular activities. An idea has been proposed to create the Williams College Commons Club (WCCC) which will target the lack of variety of social activities that students often complain about on campus. Interestingly enough, two of the four candidates for my year’s Class Representative in the current CC election are involved in the start of this new club.
Chris Hikel ’13 described the Commons Club on WSO.
“The WCCC was formed in response to what we viewed as a general discomfort towards meaningful interpersonal engagement among students on the Williams College campus. In our view, this discomfort is not exclusive to social engagement, it also envelopes intellectual and political engagement. What does this mean, and how do we intend to address it?
Fri 26 Feb 2010
A question for the EphBlog brain trust, from Matthew Swanson ’97
I wonder if you’d be willing to raise a challenge to the Ephblog readership. Robbi [Behr '97] and I (the husband/wife, writer/illustrator team behind Idiots’Books) are going to be the subject of an article about creative collaboration that will be published in the spring in a popular online magazine I’m not yet at liberty to name. The guy writing the article plans to examine the mysteries of collaborative pairs, trying to answer the question of what makes them tick. He’s focusing on a number of famous collaborators throughout history, but is including Robbi and me because we have expressed a willingness to be his guinea pigs. In short, he’s going to subject us to a number of evaluations that run the gamut from fully scientific to downright whimsical, all in an effort to get at the question of how we do what we do.
Robbi and I have already undergone a number of evaluations, including some psychological surveys, a visit to our home/studio by a Feng Shui master, and an examination of our written correspondence by a psychologist. We are in the process of creating drawings of our ideal work space, creating a dictionary of our “private language”, and are anticipating a trip to an actual laboratory, where we will be hooked up with sensors and electrodes that will evaluate our unconscious biorhythmic utterances. We feel thoroughly investigated already, but the guy writing the article will not be content until he has examined our collaboration in each and every manner imaginable.
Here is where your readers might come in. The guy writing the article has asked us to turn to the smart people we know for additional ideas for ways in which our collaboration might be measured, analyzed, tested, or scrutinized.
If you’re willing, please ask Ephblog readers to put on their lab coats and take out their test tubes. To dig deep and see what they can come up with. No idea will be unconsidered.
As an added incentive, we will provide a free print of an illustration Robbi did for the Alumni Review last year to the person who comes up with the best idea. It’s a townscape of Williamstown, and can be seen at the following link: http://idiotsbooks.com/?p=1450
Thanks, Ronit (and thanks, Ephblog readers).
Fri 26 Feb 2010
Every Friday afternoon, this will be the space to post random links of interest / comments without any even tangential Eph connection at all (movie reviews, restaurant recommendations, naked self-promotion, weird photos, taxicab confessions, rants, raves, anything at all). Have at it!
Fri 26 Feb 2010
I was just checking out the Williams Schedule of Events and I can’t believe how many interesting choices there are, just for today.
Starting with Environmental Studies Lunch at The Log, to Math and Physics events, then a choice of a free film in the afternoon or French horn recital, on to dinner, another film or the Planetarium, the Theater, or dance performance. And from there one can wrap up the evening dancing to Latin music at Fiesta Dance Night. Who says there’s nothing to do in Williamstown?
Anyway, they all sound great, but I happen to love Dim Sum, so the dinner caught my eye. A little late to be posting about it, but nonetheless I thought I’d mention it as it’s put on by CASO, and will benefit Wokai, both of which I know next to nothing about, so I’m hoping some students will drop by and give us more information.
And, any Dim Sum lovers out there? My favorites are the little curry chicken empanada type tarts, chicken and rice wrapped in leaves of some sort, and those little gummy sesame plum balls. I don’t know the names for any of these tasty treats, so please someone, feel free to fill me in me.
Mmmm, might have to book a trek for Dim Sum very soon.
Fri 26 Feb 2010
Saturday will be a fitting punctuation to a spectacular winter sports season, as the Ephs are hosting NESCAC championship contests in four different sports: men’s and women’s ice hockey, men’s swimming and diving, and men’s basketball. For those off-campus, webcasts are available for all contests, which begin at 1:00 and last throughout the day. The hoops webcasts are free. Spring Street should really be buzzing, with fans from half of NESCAC (Hamilton, Bowdoin, Bates, Middlebury) in town for the team sport showdowns, not to mention fans and swimmers from all NESCAC schools for that championship battle. If watching, be sure to comment here!
Fri 26 Feb 2010
Their persuasions [addressed to Helen] by means of fictions are innumerable; for if everyone had recollection of the past, knowledge of the present, and foreknowledge of the future, the power of speech would not be so great. But as it is, when men can neither remember the past nor observe the present nor prophesy the future, deception is easy; so that most men offer opinion as advice to the soul. But opinion, being unreliable, involves those who accept it in equally uncertain fortunes.
Thus, persuasion by speech is equivalent to abduction by force, as she was compelled to agree to what was said, and consent to what was done. It was therefore the persuader, not Helen, who did wrong and should be blamed.
That persuasion, when added to speech, can also make any impression it wishes on the soul, can be shown, firstly, from the arguments of the soothsayers, who by removing one opinion and implanting another, cause what is incredible and invisible to appear before the eyes of the mind; secondly, from legal contests, in which a speech can sway and persuade a crowd, by the skill of its composition, not by the truth of its statements; thirdly, from the philosophical debates, in which quickness of thought is shown easily altering opinion.
The power of speech over the constitution of the soul can be compared with the effect of drugs on the state of the body: just as drugs by driving out different humors from the body can put an end either to the disease or to life, so with speech: different words can induce grief, pleasure or fear; or again, by means of a harmful kind of persuasion, words can drug and bewitch the soul.
– (remaining fragment)
Thu 25 Feb 2010
May I invite you all to please scroll down on the link below and vote for my student, Dennis Medina. He’s written his way to the finals of a Take America to College, a Gates Foundation effort to bring the voices and struggles of non-traditional students to legislators and policymakers in Washington. He’s a Boston police officer on the gangs squad and a student in my midnight College Writing II class this semester Bunker Hill Community College. Click and listen to his story. Heck, listen to them all.
Vote early and often for Dennis. Tell your friends. Post any and everywhere. Voting ends Tuesday, March 2. Thanks.
I shall continue my crusade to persuade the Williams trustees to open the doors for a few such students. BHCC has two students thriving at Amherst, one at Dartmouth, one at Columbia, three at Smith. The deadline for transfer applications is coming up, and BHCC has fine students applying now to all these and more. Never give up, and this is a tough one.
Dennis’s story (added by Ronit):
Thu 25 Feb 2010
The pure number and strength of the writing in the comments on David Kane’s leaving EphBlog are proof of what one person can create and grow.
Perhaps this outpouring of support, however grudgingly given in some cases, will persuade David to return to us in some manner.
However, there is no question that EphBlog is changing.
This is the time, as we move forward, for creative inputs from you on future direction, management style, and how to maintain our steady stream of writings.
This is the time for creative inputs in the form of postings from you who have something to say. but haven’t chosen to say it as yet.
This is the time for creative inputs from you with programming, formatting, and other technical knowledge and skills, to offer that particular expertise that only you can do.
This is the time for us all to move forward. A decision has been made that presents a challenge to us all.
But the decision and its background are not the focus that we need to have. We need to focus on moving forward to making EphBlog the best that it can be as a forum for many and diverse topics and points of view.
Please let us hear from you.
dick at swart.org
541 386 1061
Thu 25 Feb 2010
Thu 25 Feb 2010
I know…this isn’t high finance, and it isn’t dramatic, and it might get zero comments, but nonetheless, it is Eph related. Sherman Alexie, the author of the last Williams Reads, is a finalist for the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award. Now, granted, this isn’t even for the same book that Williams Reads chose, but, nonetheless, I do remember there was a lot of discussion about Alexie as an author choice, and so, I thought I’d post this.
For what it’s worth, one of the other nominees, is Barbara Kingsolver for The Lacuna. I happened to just finish reading her book and highly recommend it. As the quip in the quip says, it’s about “art, McCarthyism and post World War II America”, but in my opinion, is equally rich in how it deals with gender issues and love, in all it’s guises. In fact, I’d like to see it considered for the next Williams Reads.
Anyway, a hearty congrats to Sherman Alexie. And, it would be nice to get some feedback from Williams Read(ers).
Wed 24 Feb 2010
Like many, I was surprised at your decision!
You are the Father Founder of EphBlog, the most successful independent blog dedicated to one collegiate entity. This is one heck of an accomplishment. Thank you from all of us for giving so many a chance to chime in under the banner of Williams.
You have taken a well-earned vacation before, February, 2009, as a matter of fact. And those of us lazy and occasional scribblers suddenly knew what you had been doing from the inception of the blog: filling a month (thank goodness it was Leap Year) with interesting material.
My hope is that you will not desert these pages entirely. but will from time-to-time add an insight and create awareness of a particular situation that might go unnoticed.
The board knows of your desire to have EphBlog be a broader forum including more students, faculty, and members of the administration, in addition to the alumni and parents and other members of the Williams family at large.
We see this step on your part as a challenge to make this happen. And make it happen under our own steam.
Thank you, David, for giving us this strong base from which to expand to that greater audience you have envisioned.
Dick Swart 1956
Wed 24 Feb 2010
To our Dear Readers, active and inactive–
David Kane, the Founder of EphBlog, has agreed to withdraw from this forum, to allow the enterprise to take on a new and broader form.
This is a challenge to us all, particularly the silent and those who have withdrawn from participating — to help EphBlog reach its potential as a meeting place for exchange of ideas for students, faculty, alumni and the extended Williams family.
In the days to come, these changes will start to appear and we hope you will be joining in the new EphBlog.
Wed 24 Feb 2010
Honestly, WTF? Whether revoking need-blind was necessary or not, it seems like Bill Wagner picked the shadiest possible way to implement this.
Wait…they seriously already did it?
“begin to admit international students somewhat differently than we have in recent years, beginning with the class entering this fall.” -Bill Wagner, Feb. 16 2010
Holy shit. I missed that entirely. I feel absolutely violated.
Indeed. Here is what the College still says on its admissions webpage:
International students follow essentially the same procedures as all other students in applying for admission to Williams. No special admission form is required. A candidate’s cultural background and international experiences are highlighted positively in the selection process, as Williams continues its historic commitment to cultural diversity on campus. Williams is committed to a need-blind admission policy toward all applicants and will meet the full demonstrated financial need of all students, both domestic and international.
It is not a problem for Williams to delay updating its webpage if any changes will only apply to the class of 2015, i.e., those students applying next fall. The sleazy aspect is that Williams has changed this policy retroactively, applying it to members of the class of 2014, applicants who applied, at least partially, on a promise from Williams that their applications would be treated need-blind.
Breaking promises is sleazy and shady. If Williams is (correctly!) holding off on the change in loans to the class of 2015, why isn’t it doing the same on the change to international need-blind admissions?