For anyone who cares about the past, present, and future of Williams College, this video is a vital historical document of campus life in 2019. College Council’s decision to remove it from their Facebook page was, I assume, an unfortunate concession to student activist demands that all this stuff be kept under the table. I’m a current student who luckily saved a copy of the livestream from that meeting just before they took it down this weekend.

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The great Darel E. Paul, professor of political science, published a well-researched and thoughtfully organized article at Areo on how the new identity politics has taken hold at schools across the nation. He connects the dots which show how identity politics has become a staple at schools as different as Williams, Sarah Lawrence, Evergreen State College and Yale.

Listening at the Great Awokening

Colleges and universities across the English-speaking world are caught up in the enthusiasm of a Great Awokening. Its dogmas are structural violence, systemic racism, racial stress, white privilege, white fragility, implicit bias and microaggressions. From the University of Missouri to Evergreen State College to Sarah Lawrence College and beyond, faculty and students are ablaze with the fire of social justice.

In Paul’s view, liberal arts colleges are particularly likely to get wrapped up in the dogma of critical race theory because they lack – by definition – traditional STEM programs like business, medicine, engineering and agriculture. He reports that predictably “…this spring the Great Awokening finally came to my home institution, Williams College.” Unfortunately for Williams, Paul writes that the school seems unpleasantly close to being another Evergreen State College.

Administrators and other campus leaders have encouraged white members of the college community like myself to listen. Over the past two months, I have striven to do exactly that. In fact, I’ve done quite a lot of listening (and reading). I have spent dozens of hours listening at meetings and reading copious documents produced by activist students and faculty. I have also watched videos and read documents resulting from the racial blowups at Yale University in 2015, Evergreen State College in 2017 and Sarah Lawrence College in 2019. Listening to these views from multiple campuses helped me realize that what seems to be a local discourse responding to local issues is actually a local manifestation of an international social, political and ideological phenomenon. All the accents and cadences of critical race theory can be identified. Williams, Sarah Lawrence, Evergreen and Yale could really be Any Residential College in Any Town.

Paul notes that the folks promoting critical race theory are ultimately leading us into a Soviet Union style educational system where truth matters very little. All that matters is whether research and teaching supports the dominant ideology.

Just as critical race theory can destroy knowledge, it can likewise destroy institutions premised upon the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge. Thanks in large part to the influence of critical race theory, Evergreen State College melted down in Spring 2017. The concrete results of that meltdown included numerous faculty resignations, a catastrophic collapse in enrollments, layoffs, budget cuts and worldwide humiliation. Every institution of higher education should learn the lessons of Evergreen, for history is wont to repeat itself―the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

Areo is an opinion and analysis digital magazine focused on current affairs — in particular: humanism, culture, politics, human rights, science, and free expression.

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The College Council has removed from its Facebook account a controversial video. This video captured an example of profane, incendiary, anti-white bigotry directed at white student representatives by one of the most prominent black student leaders at Williams College on June 9, 2019.

The video featured a long, stream-of-consciousness rant saying, in part, “…to be here is like sucking white d*** every f***ing day.”

“You want a discussion and dialogue. Here’s the f***ing dialog. We don’t have dialogue, because every time we try to talk to you we get shut down by the white moderate, white liberal bull***t.”

A link to the video was published on Ephblog on April 15, 2019. A partial transcript appeared at the Anonymous Political Scientist blog on that same day. Finally, The College Fix published a link to the video on April 19, 2019. The College Fix is a national-level conservative website where student journalists write on topics in higher education.

NOTE: A heavily redacted transcript of the June 9, 2019 meeting is still available at 4_9 Minutes.

According to the Williams Record, black student activists planned a demonstration to protest their treatment by the College Council. It was canceled, however, after links to the video rant were published at various on-line sites.

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For those who have not seen yet, The College Fix published an article the other day on the recent College Council meeting, which featured an, er, interesting exchange between fellow students. The article contains a partial transcript and link to the video feed from the meeting.

We ought to frame this meeting in its larger context: Students requested money for a Black Previews event from CC. These students were questioned thoroughly about the nature of the event and the money requested. They were ultimately granted the money necessary. That is, these students went through the same process as all do when requesting money.

I can’t imagine anyone would regard navigating the bureaucracy of College Council to request funds a particularly delightful experience. Many clubs have been the cause of the creation of subcommittees to monitor their funding, and many, too, have seen their budgets slashed. Let us disregard, then, the fact that Black Previews is an event that merits its own debate–these black activists were angry because they faced the same process as every other student does, and they responded with what can only be described as the verbal abuse of their classmates.

There may be some very real problems with College Council, but to discuss these with the rhetoric of racism is irresponsible and exploitative: Irresponsible because it is a disservice to the real instances of institutional and intentional racism both on campus and beyond. Exploitative because it takes advantage of the social norms in place and the average student’s desire to be agreeable and, well, not racist. Any disagreement, any objection to this abusive diatribe would have immediately been deemed racist, and this was no subtlety in the rhetorical strategy of the two speakers. “You want to have free speech? You want to have a debate?” Isaiah says at one point. “You want to be racist? Say some s*** now.” They then correct themselves to say that their offer to respond was sincere, and when someone does respond to them–to express his remorse for their struggle–the activists proceed to liken the heads of their fellow students to a bunch of reproductive organs. Tough to respond when the person you’re talking to believes your speaking up (even if you’re on their side!) is also an indication of your being racist, and they respond with puerile (but perhaps still hurtful) insults.

What is most lamentable about this whole debacle, however, is that the students not only accept this kind of attack, but dignify it. One student cites the “moving” nature of the speech as a reason to discuss it further. Another merely says he is glad the activists received their money after the quality of his eyesight is called into question (“Are you blind?!”). Another claims the CC bylaws are violent to people of color. Dignifying students like these grants power to this type of discourse. Students at Williams have a responsibility to preserve a respectful exchange of ideas among a student body that contains some of the brightest minds of our generation. As the political climate becomes dominated by tactics of intimidation and antagonism, we sacrifice perhaps the most noble quality of our campus: its ideological diversity and the exchange of those ideologies.

It is a fascinating time of political discourse at Williams and similar institutions. Coming from a hometown that was plagued with conservative and religious dogma, I realize now the parallels between the radical left and evangelicals of the south. I do hope this is a short-lived fad rather than the beginning of a longer trend, though history would indicate otherwise.

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Over at The College Fix this morning, there is an article by Rory Walsh reporting on the  shocking livestream video posted on Facebook by the College Council.

Black students explode in anger at white students in vulgarity-laced rant (VIDEO)

In his article, Walsh provides us with redacted examples of the profane language used by I.B. as he called out liberal white student representatives for the way they dealt with an earlier request by S.O. for funding for a preview event for black students.

“… It’s time for you’all to figure this sh*t out and check yourself because I’m really losing it,” he said. “We are f***ing tired of having to come and beg and suck d***. And of course when we come and do it we face problems all the f***ing time.”

“… Every time to be here is like sucking white d*** every f***ing day,” he said. “Closing our mouths every f***ing day just to be here. And if we dare ask for a little bit of time, money and space we gotta suck some more d***. … It is so frustrating. It’s so tiring … to be here. To deal with you’all.”

“We keep our heads down, it don’t work,” he said. “We try to create space for us, it don’t work. We want some money to f***ing cook some fried f***king chicken and be n*****s for once, it don’t work. I just don’t get it.”

Walsh cites comments I made at my Anonymous Political Scientist blogsite too. He notes I had observed the video “…is an excellent example of the sort of political abuse that tore down Evergreen State College.”

Walsh reports that The College Fix attempted to reach several members of the College Council as well as administration for a statement. They have yet to respond.

The comments on Walsh’s article are generally adverse to the student activists.

Another tasty serving at The Left Eats Its Own Café.

What the Alt Left doesn’t understand is that white people aren’t out to get black people; they are just exhausted with them. They are exhausted by the social pathologies, the violence, the endless complaints, the blind racial solidarity, the bottomless pit of grievances, the excuses, and the reflexive animosity.

Williams is about as left wing as a functioning college can be. Blacks need to move across the river to SUNY Albany.

You’re not trying to create a community. You’re trying to create a segregated, black racist bubble. The campus in its entirety is your community, and if you don’t like it, you can always transfer.

Just for the record: I’m not Black and I love fried chicken.

According to his biography, Rory Walsh studies industrial labor relations, American politics, and business at Cornell University. He has interned for former New York Congresswoman Claudia Tenney. After completing his undergraduate degree he plans to study law and business.

 

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From The Wall Street Journal last month:

While opinions differ sharply about President Trump, everyone can agree he speaks plainly. On Thursday he issued an executive order supporting free speech on campus.

It is too early to say how much good the president’s executive order will do, but it was long past time for the federal government to face up to the rot of political correctness and intolerance that is subverting the American educational establishment. There are some points of light. The so-called Chicago Statement, for example, named for a declaration of principle from the University of Chicago, embraces open and robust debate even about subjects that “some or even by most members of the University community [find] offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed.” Several institutions have endorsed that document.

But many others, including some of the most prestigious, reject it outright. Students and professors at Williams College, confronted with an initiative to adopt the Chicago principles last year, took “grave issue” with its “premises” and warned of “the potential harm it may inflict upon our community.” You might have thought that supporting free speech was an obvious good. Not so fast. The Williams activists declared that the notion “has been co-opted by right-wing and liberal parties as a discursive cover for racism, xenophobia, sexism, anti-semitism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and classism.”

The authors of the Williams counterpetition made a show of demanding greater diversity at the 226-year-old Western Massachusetts school. But it’s long been obvious that calls for “diversity” usually amount to demands for strict intellectual and moral conformity on contentious issues. By that inverted standard, a campus is more “diverse” the fewer voices it tolerates.

This is precisely the situation that the president’s executive order promoting free speech on campus is designed to address. That its effect is likely to be more hortatory than coercive may be an advantage, not a liability, since serious reform of these institutions will come about not from the imposition of a law but a change of heart. The prospect of losing federal dollars is one sort of incentive. The spectacle of those passionate, articulate and besieged young students may prove to be an even greater one.

The only “change of heart” I have seen at Williams over the last 30 years is an ever-increasing restriction about what students, or their invited guests, are allowed to say. Will Maud Mandel change that? I don’t know. Any rumors on how the process is going?

Meanwhile, things have gone from bad to worse at Middlebury:

Middlebury College has canceled [yesterday] a campus speech by conservative Polish Catholic philosopher Ryszard Legutko in response to planned protests by liberal activists.

A professor of philosophy at Jagiellonian University and a member of the European Parliament, Legutko was scheduled to speak Wednesday at the Vermont college’s Alexander Hamilton Forum, delivering a lecture entitled “The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies.”

The liberal activists took issue with Legutko’s pointed critiques of multiculturalism, feminism, and homosexuality, calling them “homophobic, racist, xenophobic, [and] misogynistic.”

“Inquiry, equity, and agency cannot be fostered in the same space that accepts and even elevates homophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic discourse,” they demand. “Bigotry of any kind should not be considered a form of inquiry.”

The chairmen of both departments denied the activists requests, defending the event on grounds of academic freedom. But hours before the event was scheduled, Middlebury Provost Jeff Cason and Vice President for Student Affairs Baishakhi Taylor sent a campus-wide email indicating the lecture was canceled.

NESCAC schools may have started by banning people like John Derbyshire. They are now banning (right-wing) members of the European parliament. Where will this end?

I am having breakfast with one of the most powerful Middlebury alumni on Friday. What questions should I ask him?

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In celebration of previews, reasons why you should choose Williams.

There are several hundred high school seniors¹ who have been admitted to both Williams and Harvard (and Yale and Princeton and Stanford and . . .). Fewer than 10% of them will choose Williams over these more famous schools. Some of them are making the right choice. They will be better off at Harvard, for various reasons. But at least half of them are making the wrong choice. They (you?) would be better off at Williams. Why?

1) Your professors would know your name. The average Harvard undergraduate is known by name to only a few faculty members. Many students graduate unknown to any faculty. The typical professor at Harvard is primarily concerned with making important contributions to her field. The typical professor at Williams is primarily concerned with educating the undergraduates in her classes. Consider this post by Harvard professor Greg Mankiw, who taught EC 10a/10b, the equivalent of Williams ECON 110/120, to over 750 students each year.

Being an ec 10 section leader is one of the best teaching jobs at Harvard. You can revisit the principles of economics, mentor some of the world’s best undergraduates, and hone your speaking skills. In your section, you might even have the next Andrei Shleifer or Ben Bernanke (two well-known ec 10 alums). And believe it or not, we even pay you for this!

If you are a graduate student at Harvard or another Boston-area university and have a strong background in economics, I hope you will consider becoming a section leader in ec 10 next year. Applications are encouraged from PhD students, law students, and master’s students in business and public policy.

Take a year of Economics at Harvard, and not a single professor will know your name. Instead, you will be taught and graded by (poorly paid) graduate students, many with no more than a BA, often not even in economics! But, don’t worry, you will be doing a good deed by providing these students with a chance to “hone” their “speaking skills.”

2) You will get feedback on your work from faculty at Williams, not from inexperienced graduate students. More than 90% of the written comments (as well as the grades) on undergraduate papers at Harvard are produced by people other than tenured (or tenure track) faculty. The same is true in science labs and math classes. EC 10 is a particularly egregious example, but the vast majority of classes taken by undergraduates are similar in structure. Harvard professors are too busy to read and comment on undergraduate prose.

3) You would have the chance to do many things at Williams. At Harvard it is extremely difficult to do more than one thing in a serious fashion. If you play a sport or write for The Crimson or sing in an a capella group at Harvard, you won’t be able to do too much of anything else. At Williams, it is common — even expected — that students will have a variety of non-academic interests that they pursue passionately.

4) You would have a single room for three years at Williams. The housing situation at Harvard is horrible, at least if you care about privacy. Most sophomores and the majority of juniors do not have a single room for the entire year. Only at Harvard will you learn the joys of a “walk-through single” — a room which is theoretically a single but which another student must walk through to get to her room.

5) You would have the opportunity to be a Junior Advisor at Williams and to serve on the JA Selection Committee and to serve on the Honor Committee. No undergraduate student serves in these roles at Harvard because Harvard does not allow undergraduates to run their own affairs. Harvard does not trust its students. Williams does.

6) The President of Williams, Maud Mandel, cares about your education specifically, not just about the education of Williams undergraduates in general. The President of Harvard, Larry Bacow, has bigger fish to fry. Don’t believe me? Just e-mail both of them. Tell them about your situation and concerns. See who responds and see what they say.

Of course, there are costs to turning down Harvard. Your friends and family won’t be nearly as impressed. Your Aunt Tillie will always think that you actually go to “Williams and Mary.” You’ll be far away from a city for four years. But, all in all, a majority of the students who choose Harvard over Williams would have been better off if they had chosen otherwise.

Choose wisely.

¹The first post in this series was 15 years ago, inspired by a newspaper story about 18 year-old Julia Sendor, who was admitted to both Harvard and Williams. Julia ended up choosing Williams (at least partly “because of the snowy mountains and maple syrup”), becoming a member of the class of 2008, winning a Udall Foundation Scholarship in Environmental Studies. Best part of that post is the congratulations from her proud JA.

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This is some of Zach Wood’s ’18 best writing:

“Confidence is the memory of performance,” he told me. I didn’t realize it then, but this pithy observation was just another of many memorable aphorisms from George E. Marcus.

We were hanging out in Professor Marcus’ den, arguing over Kobe Bryant’s rightful place in NBA history and watching playoff basketball. His was a man cave populated with hardcovers, mineral specimens, and substantial artifacts acquired from foreign travel with his wife. I had recently received galleys of the manuscript for my first book, “Uncensored,” a memoir about my life and naturally Professor Marcus was among the first people with whom I shared a copy.

Per usual, he finished it a few days later and sent me an attentive email that reminded me of how lucky I am to have him in my corner. This was the second time we’d had an opportunity to chat about “Uncensored” and knowing some of my concerns, Professor Marcus told me about his time at Columbia University, rowing as an undergraduate. He explained what being an oarsman meant to him as a young man — how the rigors of sport fostered fraternity, spurred strain against physical reach, in turn, bolstering self-confidence. “Confidence,” he said, “is neither fixed nor immune to changing circumstances.”

Indeed. Any readers with George Marcus stories? EphBlog has always been a fan.

“Every opportunity can be used to exercise a particular muscle.” He reclined on the backrest of his sofa, fingers interlaced behind his head, ankles crossed over the coffee table — as I digested the subtler implications of what he said.

I first met Professor Marcus, professor of Political Science, Emeritus, at Williams College, during the fall of my sophomore year. I was the only student that semester who signed up for his tutorial, “The Holocaust: Challenges of Knowing.” Rather than canceling his course and dismissing my interest, he welcomed me. He proposed that each week we write and present papers to each other. One of us would write a five to seven-page paper, the other a two-page critique. Once a week we would meet in his office to read our papers aloud, take our gloves off and swing with abandon. The following week we would alternate.

How many Williams professors would do that? Have many have? Tell us about them! They deserve all the praise we have to offer.

I had never had so much fun in my intellectual life. Surgical and concentrated in print; Professor Marcus argued energetically and good-naturedly in person. He gloried in playing devil’s advocate as much as I did, and he was singular in his ability to capsulize complex ideas and distill them using real-world examples. I remember once asking him if there was an upshot of the territoriality theories in environmental psychology and he gave the example of seating behavior in a typical classroom. “You see people voluntarily sit in the same seat every day and people begin to notice and tacitly accept the arrangement,” he remarked. “It’s a way of trying to regulate and control our relationships with other people in shared spaces.” Possession and predictability usually comfort us, so we seek them, he said.

Intellectually, however, Professor Marcus enthusiastically sought discomfort. He encouraged me to look at the data, to be suspicious, and qualify my interpretations of reality. He taught me that while evidence matters, many theories are underdetermined, so our conclusions should be framed as tentative, provisional, measured and context-dependent. Though not infrequently, Professor Marcus harbored zero misgivings about entertaining extraordinary leaps of the imagination, so long as they were subject to debate. After all, he still believes Bill Russell is the greatest basketball player of all-time. Not to worry: I’ll persuade him eventually.

When we finished watching the Celtics (his favorite team) beat the Cavaliers, we made our way to the kitchen for dinner where his wife, Lois, enriched our conversation with humorous insight. The three of us discussed culture and politics over white wine and delicious fish with mixed vegetables before devouring some of the finest chocolate chip cookies I’ve tasted. Soon enough, I gathered that while I had learned much from Professor Marcus, I could learn even more from his wife. Two hours later, it was almost 10:30 p.m. and we seemed to grudgingly concede that sleep should count for something.

Williams should care much less about research productivity in its faculty hiring and promotion, and much more about a willingness to engage with undergraduates.

On my way back to my dorm, I thought to myself: those eight hours spent with the Marcuses in their beautiful home had to have been among the most meaningful of my experiences at Williams. As I make my way through life after college, I think often of my teacher, mentor, and friend. In class, his command of material was keen and ruthlessly composed; his nonverbals even and deliberate, but impactful — the way a large animal moves slowly. I hope that beyond his weighty contribution to political science, George Marcus will be remembered for the difference he made in the lives of his students.

Exactly right. As long as a single student remembers me, I will never die.

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I have loaded a partial transcript of some of the most offensive and extreme comments made at the CC meeting. I created it by leveraging the Word document posted on Ephblog and then reviewing the video. It is shocking stuff. There is evidence in this video of a lot of dysfunction including the efforts of one speaker to shame student representative Tristan Whalen for seemingly not listening respectfully enough to a stream-of-consciousness tirade of anti-white bigotry.

To his credit, Whalen defended himself. He requested that he be treated in a courteous manner as he responded to the attackers. He pointed out that he had been listening and that what he was writing up were his own notes on the attacker’s comments. At any rate, I will not post the transcript here. It is quite offensive. You can access it over at my Anonymous Political Scientist blogsite here.

The only other thing I would like to add to the discussion is the manner in which the speaker, Isaiah, is permitted, without any complaints, to use the N-word, use foul language, articulate racial stereotypes, and endlessly refer to ****-sucking. In Isaiah’s view, simply being polite and following normal procedures is tantamount to working as a cheap prostitute on a busy thoroughfare. My sense is this was all an expression of his power over the group. It is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine that a white student saying the exact same things would be given such deference.

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Nishant writes:

Can we have a post on that crazy video that anon eph frosh posted? It needs multiple daily posts from David. I am serious.

Video here. (Is there a way to embed this? Or at least make it accessible for readers who don’t use Facebook?) The action starts, apparently, at the 30 minute mark. Here (doc) is a (heavily?) edited transcript.

Background seems to be a (successful attempt?) to get CC to partial fund some events at Previews this week which are focused on African-American admitted students. Alas, there were still some CC critics with more to say:

Isaiah: I know that the funding for this has already been supported, but I am appalled by how this was handled. *many expletives* I’m looking at this budget and I’m seeing all the ways white men are getting resources and community afforded to them, and whenever black students come and try to make spaces for students on this campus, we are stopped at every. single. Level.

Oluseyi: you, Tristan Whalen. Why aren’t you listening?

Isaiah: now we are writing. Every time we start speaking, ears close. *many more expletives* You have half a million dollars. How many % of the budget is black previews? .42% Every time we start talking to you we get shouted down by the white moderate, white liberals. You come here, you have $3billion dollars to your name. Why is CC not diverse? Because if we dare try to run, try to be in this space… we have to be with people like you. I just don’t get it. We keep our heads down. Yeah, we got the money, but we are tired of this. I refuse –– no more. You want to have free speech, you want to be racist, open your mouth now.

Since my fan club wants a series on this, a series is what you will be getting! Although probably not this week. What should the scandal controversy name be? “Black Previews”?

Could our readers tell us who the dramatis personae are?

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How can faculty — even one professor — create significant change at Williams? Most of this advice applies to any topic, but, for concreteness, let’s assume a professor who is concerned about the decline of faculty governance at Williams and the rise of administrator numbers/power/salaries.

First, educate yourself on the topic. The Provost’s Office produced this wonderful report (pdf) on college staffing. Read it more than once. See EphBlog’s 9 (!) part series of faculty governance: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. Talk to some retired faculty members (e.g., Frank Oakley) about how the College used to be run. If you want to change policy about topic X, then you need to be as well-informed about X as anyone at Williams.

One tidbit on the history of faculty governance: Just 25 years ago, there were two assistant provosts, both members of the faculty. They assisted the provost in all her duties. (One of those assistants was Morty Schapiro!) There is no reason why the faculty could not be much more powerful than they are, no reason why Williams could not revert back to arrangements of that era.

Second, schedule an appointment with Maud Mandel. She is still (I hope!) eager to chat with faculty. The goal for this meeting is not to harangue her with your views. Instead, find out what she thinks! Is she concerned with the growth of administrative power? Did she witness similar trends at Brown? What does she think the correct ratio is of faculty to administrator hiring? And so on. At some point, ask her: “Interesting point, Maud! Would you mind if I followed up with Dukes Love and his folks in the Provost’s Office to gather more information?” She will probably encourage you to do so. And getting that permission/encourage was your goal from this meeting.

Third, meet with Dukes Love or Chris Winters ’95 or someone else in the Provost’s Office, ideally whoever was the lead person on the Staffing Report. Again, your goal is not to bore them with your views. Be realistic! They don’t really care what you think. You are just one of the 250+ faculty members they have to deal with. Instead, your goal is to get access to their data on staffing, or at least as much of it as they will share. It is one thing to read their report. It is another to have a copy of their Excel spreadsheets, to be able to work with the raw data that they work with. The rules are such that they can’t share with you the salaries of individuals, obviously, but they can share anything else. And since you seem so reasonable — and since Maud Mandel encouraged your efforts, as you casually mentioned to them — they might be quite accommodating. Data is power and, the more you have, the more likely to are to accomplish something.

Four, write a 5 page report, expressing your concerns. Your goal is not to bombard readers with your views, much less with your proposed solutions. Instead, you are highlighting key facts. Of the 20 highest paid people at Williams, 18 used to be faculty, now only 10 are. The ratio of spending on faculty versus administrator salaries used to be 5:1 now it is only 2:1. There used to be 7 faculty for every administrator, and now there are only 3. Much of this information is already in the staffing report, but much is not. (And the staffing report pulls a few fast ones as well. Should I spend a week going through it?) The goal of the report is to highlight that things have changed dramatically in the last 20 years and that this topic merits further exploration.

Five, gather faculty support. Most faculty agree with you that the Administration has grown too big and too powerful. Show them your report. Get their feedback. Ask them if they would be willing to join you in working on this problem. Present the report to various committees, perhaps all the way up to a full faculty meeting. Key at this stage is to identify your core supporters, the 5 (10? 30?) faculty members who are willing to work hard on this topic, even if it means going against the College Administration.

Six, start thinking about goals. What, precisely, do you want to accomplish? What policy change would make Williams better off 10 or 50 years from now? This is not about an individual administrator or even a class of positions. My recommendation is that you want a non-faculty net-hiring pause of 10 years. You certainly don’t want anyone to be fired. Current Williams administrators are, overwhelmingly, good people, working hard to make the College better. You just want to bring Williams back “in balance,” to where it was 20 years ago. Since many people leave the College each year, the Administration would still have a great deal of flexibility in terms of shifting resources around. But, right now, Williams has 200 (?) administrators. That is enough. Other plausible policy changes include a (more draconian) hiring freeze which would, over time, decrease the administrative bloat at Williams, or a freeze on total spending on administrators.

Seven, lobby to create a committee. Major changes at Williams come via two mechanisms — presidential fiat (Falk’s alignment) or major committees (the end of fraternities, the decrease in admission preferences for athletes, neighborhood housing). You want President Mandel to form a committee — preferably faculty only, but maybe to also include students and alumni — charged with examining administration growth at Williams. You would not presume to demand that this committee come to a specific conclusion. Instead, your only point is that there are few more important issues to Williams over the next 100 years than the role of faculty in college governance. Therefore, we need a committee to examine this topic.

Eight, keep Mandel/Love/Buell informed as you proceed. Perhaps one or more of them might be an ally! You never know. At the very least, keeping them informed is probably politically wise since only they can create the committee. You just want to maneuver them into situation in which, from their point of view, giving you your committee is the best option.

That is enough for today! More advice available, as requested.

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Why are some Ephs allowed to send e-mails to the entire Williams student body and other are not?

From: Modhurima, Rodsy <rm8@williams.edu>
Date: Fri, Apr 12, 2019, 10:25 AM
Subject: Calling on trustees as a campus community
To: <WILLIAMS-STUDENTS@listserv.williams.edu>

Dear Williams College Community,

This February we joined as a campus to March for the Damned. We showed our love for each other and brought attention to the ways in which our campus community needs to support minoritized members of this community- staff, faculty, and students.

Many of the demands which have been circulating recently (including, but not limited to, affinity housing, increased accountability of CSS, improved sexual assault prevention and response, and increased support for faculty of color and queer and trans* faculty) have either been ignored or sent to committees to stagnate. These are largely the same demands students have been making for decade.

Today, the Williams trustees are having a full board meeting on campus to approve fiscal budgets for 2019-20. We have called on them to respond to a list of twelve concrete objectives by April 17th. We invite the whole Williams community to join us to build a community of love and compel the trustees to support us in this mission by responding to our asks.

These are not the extent of our demands but are the ones most relevant to the role of Trustees.

In love and solidarity,

CARE Now

Their letter to the trustees:

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE TRUSTEES OF WILLIAMS COLLEGE

We are the Coalition Against Racist Education Now (CARE Now), an active and growing collective of student activists born out of resistance to the 2018 faculty petition on free speech. We garnered over 300 student and alumni signatures in protest of predatory and hate speech. We organized a 200-strong March for the Damned on February 25th after the departures of Professors Kai Green and Kimberly Love due to the violent practices of the College.

We hold the truth of discursive and institutional violence to be self-evident. This year alone, there has been a mass exodus of faculty of color. Many junior faculty of color are considering medical leave due to the unmitigating stress of living in an unsupportive and callous environment; staff are similarly unsupported by the institution with a lack of growth opportunities or access to basic living necessities; and too many students are admitted to the Jones 2 Psychiatric Ward each year.

Dozens of faculty of color leave campus each weekend to avoid the emotional detriment of existing here at the College. The College has proven incompetent in fulfilling its fundamental mission “to provide the finest possible liberal arts education” by failing to support those responsible for educating, mentoring, and supporting students. College administrators have sat on a ‘Faculty-Staff Initiative Report’ from the last mass exodus of faculty of color in 2009, and yet the administration has not adequately addressed the findings of this report over the past decade:

“We understand that improving the professional quality of life for staff and faculty of color, and thus the institutional culture at large, would only improve the experience of Williams students. We have witnessed how departures of staff and faculty of color or their absence in particular fields/sectors impact negatively upon the lives of students—both students of color and white students who turn to staff and faculty members of color for curricular and/or extracurricular support. This negative impact ranges from the disruption/suspension of research projects to an increased sense of isolation. We, therefore, hold that a sizable and long‐term community of staff and faculty of color is vital to the studies and lives of students across the College” (Faculty-Staff Initiative, 2009).

We remind the Trustees of their obligation to the well-being and safety of its students, faculty, and staff. The present moment demonstrates a managerial and fiduciary failure to provide a safe, respectful, and livable school community. The Trustees must respond thoroughly and with haste to this failure with tangible, monetary investment.

Therefore, we compel the Trustees to accomplish the following:

A complete process of reparation and reconciliation to Indigenous peoples including the increased hiring and admittance of Indigenous faculty, staff, and students as well as the reallocation of property back to the nations impacted by the College’s active participation in settler-colonialism.

Approve the request for $34,000 additional funding to the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity in full for the purpose of supporting student-led Heritage Month events, as well as the increase of $15,000 additional funding for incoming Minority Coalition groups.

Commit to improving community spaces by establishing affinity housing for Black students (and all other marginalized groups), ensuring all college buildings be in compliance with ADA guidelines, and fully renovating the Davis Center buildings.

Fund permanent networks of support for faculty of color, such as weekend faculty-staff shuttles to New York and Boston, a community space of gathering, and additional housing resources.

Immediately approve and fund the two requested hiring lines for Asian American Studies. Additionally, immediately use opportunity hires to fill critical gaps left by departing faculty of color.

Recognize that the Davis Center is currently operating with only two full-time underpaid and overworked staff members. As such, immediately hire sufficient staff members to ensure the efficient operation of the Davis Center.

Hire additional therapists, with a focus on trans therapists and therapists of color.

Increase hiring and pay for staff at the Office of Accessible Education and streamline support for students, staff, and faculty who take medical leave and/or time off.

Fund a thorough external independent investigation into the practices and interactions CSS has with students, namely minority students.

Increase diversity and pay for staff in Dining Services and Facilities.

Hire an independent advocate specialized in survivor support, effectively removing the no-contact order (NCOs) investigation responsibilities from Dean Marlene Sandstrom.

Hire three more Title IX coordinators who will meet the demonstrated needs of survivors.

We, CARE Now, demand a formal and public response by the Board of Trustees to this open letter addressing all twelve objectives by April 17, 2019

I love you ・ I love me ・ I love us ・ I love we

Contact us at carenowradicallove@gmail.com | Literature of The Damned: https://bit.ly/2Gi7drK

Photo Credit: Sabrine Brismeur, Photo Editor at The Record

Lots to consider here. Could we start with a single concrete example of the “discursive and institutional violence” which CARE Now considers to be “self-evident?”

If CARE Now is serious about trying to change Williams, they should follow this advice.

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New York Times opinion columnist David Leonhardt linked to EphBlog in his column a few weeks ago about the enfolding admissions bribery scandal. Thanks! Alas, Leonhardt is one of the more clueless education reporters, a not particularly clued-in breed, as we have documented again and again and again. Is a link from him something to be proud of? Either way, his article merits 10 days of discussion. Day 10.

The Times’s editorial board notes that the indictments do not challenge the legal uses of money to influence the admissions process: “What the government actually is defending is private property — the right of the colleges to make their own decisions about admissions, and collect the payments.” And my colleague Frank Bruni weighs in as well.

The Times is correct. There is nothing wrong with writing a check to get your child into Williams, c.f., Hollander Hall. But you must write the check to the correct person.

Matt Levine explains it well:

The deep point here is that the law is pretty good at protecting property interests, but not so good at protecting fairness. If there’s a thing, and someone owns it, and you take it, the law can deal with that: It’s relatively straightforward to figure out what happened and explain why it was wrong and identify the victim and assign blame to the perpetrator and so forth. Fairness is a much harder concept to pin down and enforce; my “unfair advantage” might be your “deserved reward for hard work and innate skill.” What’s odd is not that insider trading law is about theft; what’s odd is that it almost looks like it might be about fairness, and that people think it is.

There can be no separate college admissions system for the wealthy, except for the extremely well-known one where you donate a building in exchange for getting your kid in! “Lol just donate a building like a real rich person,” the U.S. Attorney almost said.

It is not about fairness; it is about theft. Selective colleges have admissions spots that they want to award in particular ways. They want to award some based on academic factors; they want to award others based on athletic skill; they want to award others in exchange for cash, but—and this is crucial—really a whole lot of cash.

Read the whole thing. Williams wants you to give it, or rather Megan Morey in the Development Office, $5 million. Williams does not want you to give $500,000 to women’s soccer coach Michelyne Pinard. The former gets your AR 3/4 (even 5?) child into Williams. The latter gets you arrested.

Heed EphBlog’s wisdom!

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New York Times opinion columnist David Leonhardt linked to EphBlog in his column a few weeks ago about the enfolding admissions bribery scandal. Thanks! Alas, Leonhardt is one of the more clueless education reporters, a not particularly clued-in breed, as we have documented again and again and again. Is a link from him something to be proud of? Either way, his article merits 10 days of discussion. Day 9.

“Recruited athletes not only enter selective colleges with weaker academic records than their classmates as a whole but that, once in college, they ‘consistently underperform academically even after we control for standardized test scores and other variables,’” Edward Fiske wrote in a 2001 book review for The Times.

This might have been true in 2001, but, even then, I have serious doubts about the quality of the statistical work underlying these claims. But it was never really true at Williams. The 2002 MacDonald Report (pdf) concluded that “Athletes, to summarize, achieve lower grades than other students overall, but achieve about the same grades as students with similar academic ratings.”

It could be that Williams was a different sort of school than the others used in “The Game of Life: College Sports and Educational Values,” the book reviewed by Fiske in the Times. I think it more likely that authors Shulman and Bowen just did sloppy empirical work.

But, wouldn’t you know it, we now know more than we did 20 years ago! Consider this 2009 Report (pdf).

We find that the gap in academic performance, as judged by grade point average, has narrowed substantially overall and has essentially disappeared for female athletes and for male athletes in low-profile sports. The gap for male athletes in high-profile varsity sports (which we defined as football,ice hockey, basketball, and baseball; other studies include different sports, such as wrestling and lacrosse) appears to be narrowing, but persists even after we adjust for 1) academic qualifications prior to enrolling at Williams College, 2) socio-economic status, and 3) the individual’s year (e.g.sophomore, senior). Thus academic under-performance by male varsity athletes in high-profile sports continues, and cannot be attributed to academic credentials prior to Williams or to socioeconomic status.

The narrowing of the overall academic performance gap since 2002 could be due to any of number of factors (perhaps including changes in team culture during the past decade) but one likely factor is the change in admissions standards for athletic “tips”. The minimum qualifications required for admission to Williams have been raised during the intervening years, and are continuing to rise.Thus varsity athletes’ academic preparation for Williams College is increasingly similar to that of the rest of the student body. Our data indicate that academic under-performance by male varsity athletes playing high-profile sports can largely be attributed to those who are less well-prepared academically for Williams, and thus it is our sense that the “raising of the floor” for admissions tips may have been an important factor in reducing overall difference in the GPAs of varsity athletes and non-athletes.

This is somewhat sloppy and confusing. But the key point is that, for 28 of the 32 varsity sports teams at Williams, the average academic performance of athletes is indistinguishable from that on non-athletes. That is a fairly different message from “consistently underperform academically.”

Again, there are a lot of subtleties and we would all like more recent data. And it could be that Williams is different than other schools. But for Leonhardt and others to continue to pretend that athletes in general are some weird outlier group on campus, academically disconnected from their peers, is just nonsense. Might there have been, and still be, issues with the football team and men’s ice hockey? Sure! Yet those are precisely the high profile sports which were not involved in the current scandal.

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New York Times opinion columnist David Leonhardt linked to EphBlog in his column a few weeks ago about the enfolding admissions bribery scandal. Thanks! Alas, Leonhardt is one of the more clueless education reporters, a not particularly clued-in breed, as we have documented again and again and again. Is a link from him something to be proud of? Either way, his article merits 10 days of discussion. Day 8.

It has taken 8 days, but we have finally come around to EphBlog!

At some colleges, like Williams, nearly one-fifth of first-year students are recruited athletes, EphBlog explains.

1) Thanks for the link! But who should we really thank? I doubt that Leonhardt reads EphBlog or remembered this post. It was more likely turned up via a Google search. But by whom?

2) The link is, sadly, not the best that could have been used. First, this is an annual post on How Admissions Work at Williams, and the latest version is always best. Second, the topic here is athletic admissions, covered in much more detail in this post.

3) Why “some colleges?” Large admissions preferences for athletes is an almost universal practice at elite colleges, Caltech being the most prominent exception. (There is occasional nonsense that MIT does not use athletic preferences. That is garbage. Here is the link for athletic recruiment.)

4) Also misleading is “nearly one-fifth.” Williams probably has a lower percentage than most other NESCAC schools, mainly because we have a somewhat larger student body. That is, in most of NESCAC, the percentage is higher than 20%.

5) Note the correction that Leonhardt added to the column.

An earlier version of this newsletter misstated the share of students at Williams College who are recruited athletes. It is about 30 percent, not nearly one in five.

This is just nonsense. Leonhardt has apparently decided that, since 30% of Williams students play inter-collegiate sports, every single one of them must be a recruited athlete. That is a fantasy.

Wikipedia tells us that:

The Gell-Mann amnesia effect describes the phenomenon of an expert believing news articles on topics outside of their field of expertise even after acknowledging that articles written in the same publication that are within the expert’s field of expertise are error-ridden and full of misunderstanding.

Why should I believe Leonhardt when he talks about the US budget when he can’t even describe the admissions process at Williams accurately?

But a NYT link is still much appreciated!

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New York Times opinion columnist David Leonhardt linked to EphBlog in his column a few weeks ago about the enfolding admissions bribery scandal. Thanks! Alas, Leonhardt is one of the more clueless education reporters, a not particularly clued-in breed, as we have documented again and again and again. Is a link from him something to be proud of? Either way, his article merits 10 days of discussion. Day 1.

I’m a sports fan and long-ago high school athlete. I have a lot of admiration for students who are talented enough and work hard enough to play sports in college. But they are not a different species. It’s time to end the extreme special treatment that colleges give to so many of them. College sports can still exist without it.

EphBlog agrees. The place to start is with increased transparency, as we have discussed before.

NESCAC schools should measure and make public the academic accomplishments of their student athletes, both in high school (AP/SAT scores) and in college (GPA, majors).

Suggestions:

  • In the first (trial) year, allow each school to present the information in whatever way it prefers. (Smart presidents will simply delegate the task to their athletic directors and institutional researchers.) Since no (?) athletic conference has done this before, it is not clear what the best approach might be.
  • Any statistic should be presented in three different ways: for the entire student body, for the team as a whole and for the team weighted by playing time. (The last measure discourages coaches from stacking teams with academically accomplished benchwarmers.) FERPA prevents schools from releasing data about an individual student, but there is no law against making aggregate data available.
  • Include data from both high school and college. We want to demonstrate both the affect of athletics on admissions and, even more importantly, how athletes perform in college.

There are several benefits to greater transparency about the academic performance of NESCAC athletes. First, it would publicly demonstrate a fact that many non-athletes doubt: On the whole, athletes are similar in their academic qualifications and accomplishments to non-athletes. Second, it would encourage coaches to make academics a bigger focus in both their recruiting and their mentorship. If you (partially) measure coaches by the academic performance of their teams, you will get better academic performance. Third, it will prevent coaches/schools from complaining, inaccurately, about the behavior of their peers. Right now, coach X loves to claim that school Y unfairly lowers standards for its recruits. Who knows? With transparency, we can observe institutional behavior easily.

Leonhardt wants to decrease the admissions advantages for athletes. The first step in that politically-fraught process is greater transparency about exactly what the admissions advantage is, and its effect on subsequent academic performance.

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New York Times opinion columnist David Leonhardt linked to EphBlog in his column a few weeks ago about the enfolding admissions bribery scandal. Thanks! Alas, Leonhardt is one of the more clueless education reporters, a not particularly clued-in breed, as we have documented again and again and again. Is a link from him something to be proud of? Either way, his article merits 10 days of discussion. Day 6.

“Athletic recruiting is the biggest form of affirmative action in American higher education, even at schools such as ours,” as Philip Smith [’58], a former dean of admissions at Williams College, has said. It’s a relic of the supposedly character-defining role that sports played in elite colleges a century ago.

Why should we trust anything that Leonhardt says when he demonstrates his dishonesty so clearly here? You, naive reader, probably think that this quote from Smith is “true,” that Leonhardt called up Smith, discussed the recent news and Smith said these words to Leonhardt. But that is not what happened! (The “tell” is in the use of “has.”)

In fact, this quote is from 18 years ago. Leonhardt wants you to think that he is performing the ancient and time-honored craft of “reporting” when, in truth, he is just slapping things together in order to fit a pre-arranged narrative. EphBlog does that all day long, but at least we are honest about it!

The good news here is that I am glad that Phil Smith is no longer (one hopes!) talking to New York Times reporters. Anyone who took showers in the men’s locker room during the 1980s knows that there are certain parts of Williams history that are best left unexamined in this MeToo era . . .

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On April 3rd, the Society for Conservative Thought hosted “Considering the Case for Campus Free Expression.” In light of recent campus and national discourse concerning the roles of free expression and open intellectual inquiry in liberal education, this event provided students the opportunity to listen, learn, and voice their perspectives on these vital matters. More than 70 students, faculty, administrators, and local community members attended.

Guest speaker Nico Perrino (pictured left), is Director of Communications at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. He is the creator and host of “So to Speak: The Free Speech Podcast”, and his writing has been published in USA Today, Politico, and The Guardian. He regularly travels across the country to speak about the rights of students and faculty on college campuses.

Professor Luana Maroja (pictured right) is Associate Professor of Biology and Chair of the Biochemistry Program at Williams. She has advocated in online and campus publications for the free exchange of ideas on college campuses.

Professor Steven Gerrard (pictured center) is Professor of Philosophy at Williams. He has offered classes on both free speech and related controversies on college campuses.

After introductions, Professor Maroja and Mr. Perrino gave opening remarks in support of campus free expression. Professor Gerrard then led a discussion panel that led to further interrogation and articulation of these ideas. The floor was then opened for an interactive Q&A session between audience members and the speakers.

The Society is deeply grateful for the support of the Class of 1971 Public Affairs Forum, and the Department of Political Science. Thanks to our sponsors, 12 Society members were able to dine with the speakers prior to the event.

Learn more about the Williams College Society for Conservative Thought by visiting our website.

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New York Times opinion columnist David Leonhardt linked to EphBlog in his column a few weeks ago about the enfolding admissions bribery scandal. Thanks! Alas, Leonhardt is one of the more clueless education reporters, a not particularly clued-in breed, as we have documented again and again and again. Is a link from him something to be proud of? Either way, his article merits 10 days of discussion. Day 5.

I thought of that study yesterday, after the Justice Department announced it had indicted 50 people for trying to rig the admissions process. The alleged scam involved payments funneled from parents to college coaches, who in return would falsely identify applicants as athletic recruits to the admissions office. Just like that, the students then become virtual shoo-ins for acceptance.

If the accusations are true, they’re outrageous.

I admit that I was shocked to see this happening at Yale. (The coach at issue is married to the Wesleyan head women’s soccer coach.) But why is this “outrageous” when, every single year, families write million dollar checks to Williams (and Yale and Harvard) to get their children accepted? Leonhardt expresses no outrage about that common practice.

But they also highlight a larger problem that has somehow become acceptable: A scam like this could exist only because competitive sports occupy a ridiculously large place in the admissions process.

First, what, precisely, is the “scam?” Leonhardt has no problem with Development Admissions, in which you write a check and your kid gets in. That is OK! But writing a check to the wrong person at Yale is a “scam?”

Second, how does Leonhardt know that other parts of the admissions process don’t have similar scams? Sports matter in admissions, no doubt, but so does race. Is Leonhardt certain that there are no similar racial scams yet to come to light?

The situation is different for other extracurricular activities. Great musicians are more likely to be admitted to a college than similar students who don’t play an instrument — as is only fair, because musicians deserve credit for their accomplishments.

Uhh, no they are not, or at least not in anything other than trivial numbers. Richard Nesbitt explained this to us 15 years ago.

As for the comparison with music, here’s a reality check: We are able to admit roughly 120 top rated musicians each year from the top of the academic reader rating scale–what we refer to as academic 1′ and 2’s (broadly defined as 1500+ SAT’s and very top of the class).

In other words, even if you only used academic standards, you would gets tons of great musicians. And that means that being a great musician does not matter much.

But the musicians don’t generally receive a 30-percentage-point boost on their admissions chances. Stage managers for the high school theater don’t, either. Nor do student body presidents, debaters, yearbook editors or robotics competitors.

Athletes do. Their extracurricular activities are not treated merely as an important part of a college application, but as a defining part.

True. If you are on the coach’s list, you are in — subject to meeting certain minimum academic standards, which the coach knows about ahead of and, so, would not put you on her list if you did not meet them. If you are not on the list, you are rejected.

But race, for 100+ students at Yale each year, also serves as the “defining part” of their application. If they did not check that box, they would be rejected. I can’t figure out if Leonhardt is too ill-informed to know that all his complaints about athletics also apply to race or if he knows and is too cowardly to report the truth. Which would be worse?

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New York Times opinion columnist David Leonhardt linked to EphBlog in his column a few weeks ago about the enfolding admissions bribery scandal. Thanks! Alas, Leonhardt is one of the more clueless education reporters, a not particularly clued-in breed, as we have documented again and again and again. Is a link from him something to be proud of? Either way, his article merits 10 days of discussion. Day 4.

With the last three days of discussion as background, we can now go through the article line-by-line.

Getting a peek inside the college-admissions process isn’t easy.

What nonsense! There are a dozen or more excellent books on the college admissions process. (EphBlog recommends The Gatekeepers and A is for Admission.) We provide a detailed summary of how admissions works at Williams, updated each year for your convenience. There are scores of academic articles.

But a team of academic researchers managed to do so several years ago.

Leonhardt is such a hack! What does the word “several” imply to you, dear reader? Three? Six? Eight? Try 14! And that is just when the book was published. The underlying information is from the (impressive!) College and Beyond database, constructed in the mid 1990s. Leonhardt uses the phrase “several years ago” to describe a study conducted with data more than 20 years old!

It helped, no doubt, that two of the researchers were former college presidents — William Bowen of Princeton and Eugene Tobin of Hamilton.

Bowen has made a nice post-presidencies career of writing books with suspect empirics and minimal replicability. Nice work if you can get it.

The researchers were given access to anonymous admissions records at 19 elite colleges and then analyzed how admissions offices treated different groups of students. Low-income students, for example, were no more likely to be admitted than otherwise similar students with virtually identical academic records. So-called legacy students — those whose parents attended the same schools — received substantial boosts. So did underrepresented minorities.

Much of this was probably true in the 1990s. But Leonhardt is passing it off as being true today when, on many dimensions, things are vastly different. First, legacy advantage matters much less today than it did in the 1990s, for reasons that we have explored ad nauseum. Second, there has been a big push in favor of low-income students. Third, note how Leonhardt pretends that legacies and URMs both received “substantial boosts,” when, in fact, the boost for URMs was much bigger in the 90s than that for legacies, and that is even more so today.

The average legacy at Williams has a higher SAT than the average non-legacy. The average African-American at Williams has an SAT score 200+ points lower than the average non-African-American student. These two things are not comparable!

But the biggest boost went to recruited athletes: An athlete was about 30 percentage points more likely to be admitted than a nonathlete with the same academic record.

I realize that the academic research uses terminology like this, but it no longer captures how admissions works, to the extent it ever did.

Assume that Williams has a 20% admissions rate. The only way for that “30 percentage points more” formulation to make sense is if someone (who?) puts together 200 athletes that they (who?) want to come to Williams. This list of 200 goes to Admissions, and 100 are accepted. This 50% acceptance rate is, indeed, 30% more than the 20% baseline, but the theoretical process which allows that statement to make sense is not how Williams (or Yale) athletic admissions work. This is how they work.

Summary: If you are on the coach’s list, you are (almost) 100% going to get in. Any statistical model which does not account for that process will produce nonsense numbers.

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New York Times opinion columnist David Leonhardt linked to EphBlog in his column a few weeks ago about the enfolding admissions bribery scandal. Thanks! Alas, Leonhardt is one of the more clueless education reporters, a not particularly clued-in breed, as we have documented again and again and again. Is a link from him something to be proud of? Either way, his article merits 10 days of discussion. Day 3.

As we have discussed over the last two days, Leonhardt — and every elite college president, including Maud Mandel — does not want a system in which only academics is used for admissions because it would admit too few African-Americans. Nor do they want a system with explicit racial norms, even if such a system is the easiest way to solve that problem. This is the necessary background to any discussion of athletic admissions. Leonhardt writes:

It’s time to end the extreme special treatment that colleges give to so many of them. College sports can still exist without it.

EphBlog agrees, at least in the context of making Williams the best college in the world. But EphBlog also wants to decrease the (even greater!) advantages given to racial minorities. Leonhardt doesn’t want to do that. Leonhardt still wants Yale/Williams to have non-trivial numbers of African-Americans, without making it overly obvious how academic talent varies across races. Large admissions advantages for athletes achieves that goal. Consider the latest Williams common data set:

The bottom 20% of the Williams class, about 100 students, is overwhelming composed of three groups: recruited athletes, Blacks/Hispanics, and low income. (To be honest, I am not sure how large that last group is and, certainly, there is a great deal of overlap among racial minorities and low income students.) What would happen if Leonhardt’s proposal were instituted at Williams, if recruited athletes got no more of an advantage in admissions than great violin players?

1) The bottom of the Williams class would become dominated by racial minorities, in a way which made the magnitude of the preferences they receive obvious to everyone. Athletes, who are overwhelming white, now add a highly desirable degree of racial diversity to the set of students who struggle academically at Williams. Look at the students on academic probation, the bottom 5 students in a given introductory course, students with GPAs below 3.0, today, you will see white/brown/black (and a handful of Asian) students. And that is a pretty desirable state of affairs.

2) The gap between the average academic performance of black/Hispanic students and white/Asian students would increase. With athletic preferences, the average white/Asian academic credentials (high school grades and test scores) and Williams performance (GPA, thesis honors) is X above the average credentials/performance for black/Hispanic students. If we get rid of athletic preferences, X gets (much?) larger because we replace all the 1350 athletes with 1450 athletes. Since there are 100 recruited athletes, only a few of whom are black/Hispanic, this will have a big impact on X.

Leonhardt is correct that we can still have college athletics with much smaller athletic preferences in admissions, especially if all the schools in a given league (e.g., NESCAC, Ivy) change their policies at the same time. But he has failed to confront the implications for that change in the racial variation in academic credentials/performance. Does David Leonhardt really want a Yale at which 90% of the students in the bottom of the class academically are black/Hispanic? If he does, then fine! But he ought to explain to his readers that this would be the inevitable result of significantly decreasing the preferences given to athletes.

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New York Times opinion columnist David Leonhardt linked to EphBlog in his column a few weeks ago about the enfolding admissions bribery scandal. Thanks! Alas, Leonhardt is one of the more clueless education reporters, a not particularly clued-in breed, as we have documented again and again and again. Is a link from him something to be proud of? Either way, his article merits 10 days of discussion. Day 2.

Leonhardt, as we discussed yesterday, does not want an academics-only admissions system because such a procedure, however “fair” it might be, would lead to, at least, 40 Asian-American students at place like Williams and Yale for every 1 African-American student.

A simplest way to avoid that fate would be with racial quotas. Is Leonhardt in favor of that? Just specify that 10% of Yale would be African-American and use objective academics-only criteria to fill those slots. (This is, in fact, more or less what Yale/Williams do.) No need for anything else, whether it be athletics or music or legacy-status. No need for the rigamarole of holistic admissions.

My guess is that Leonhardt would be against this plan for several reasons. First, it is definitely illegal, at least for public universities like Michigan and Berkeley. Second, it is probably illegal even at private universities like Yale and Williams. Third, it would make the discrimination against Asian-Americans too obvious. There would either need to be different standards for whites and Asian-Americans or a place like Yale would be 40% to 50% Asian.

Most importantly, it would make too obvious the difference in academic credentials across races, something that people like Leonhardt prefer to hide. Under this plan, the average African-American would have SAT scores 150 to 200 points lower than the average Asian-American at a place like Yale, and 250 points at a place like Williams. (The difference arises from Yale “stealing” all the African-American candidates with Williams-caliber credentials.) Unless we use the smokescreen of holistic admissions, the disparities become impossible to miss.

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New York Times opinion columnist David Leonhardt linked to EphBlog in his column a few weeks ago about the enfolding admissions bribery scandal. Thanks! Alas, Leonhardt is one of the more clueless education reporters, a not particularly clued-in breed, as we have documented again and again and again. Is a link from him something to be proud of? Either way, his article merits 10 days of discussion. Day 1.

The problem with folks like Leonhardt is that they have failed to think clearly about what sort of admissions system they favor in place of the current system of holistic admissions. Let’s help them over the first three days of this series before diving into the confusions of the article itself.

What system does Leonhardt (a Yalie) prefer? One option would be the test-only procedures of countries like China, France and Japan. You take one (long) test and then the top 1,600 go to Harvard, the second 1,600 go to Yale and so on down the chain. (If Leonhardt wants to include high school grades and create an overall measure of academic talent/achievement, then that is straightforward as well.)

The problem with this system is that, under it, only 1% or so of Yale would be African-American. Would that be OK with Leonhardt? Would it be OK with Yale President Peter Salovey? Would it be OK with the Yale faculty? Of course not! The faculty would go insane, just for starters.

Consider the expert testimony (pdf) from the recent Harvard admissions trial. Key table:

The ratio of Asian-American to African-American students in the 10th (best) academic decile is almost 70 to 1. The current situation at places like Williams is even worse because (almost?) all the African-Americans with Williams-caliber academic credentials are enrolled at Harvard/Yale/Princeton.

Leonhardt has never, that I have seen, mentioned this inconvenient truth. Is he so ignorant as to be unaware of it? If not, then why not explain reality to the readers of the New York Times? Isn’t that, you know, his job?

Entire article below the break:

(more…)

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Professor Nate Kornell tweeted a link to this article:

Saying that such a dialogue was essential to the college’s academic mission, Williams College president Maud Mandel confirmed Monday that the school encourages a lively exchange of one idea. “As an institution of higher learning, we recognize that it’s inevitable that certain contentious topics will come up from time to time, and when they do, we want to create an atmosphere where both students and faculty feel comfortable voicing a single homogeneous opinion,” said Mandel, adding that no matter the subject, anyone on campus is always welcome to add their support to the accepted consensus.

This year, the one idea will center around the benefits of immigration, especially undocumented, from formerly colonized countries. The College will explore this one idea through a required reading of Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario ’82, via the Williams Reads program.

Developed by the Committee on Diversity and Community (CDC), Williams Reads is an initiative offered as an opportunity for us to explore a book together that will help us to celebrate and deepen our appreciation of diversity.

Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom noted that “Although we appreciate diversity quite deeply at Williams, we can never appreciated diversity enough. Every day, every month, every year, we must work harder to deepen our appreciation. This is all the more true in the aftermath of the recent Taco Six incident, in which 6 undergraduates failed to demonstrate sufficient depth to their appreciation of Mexican Culture.”

“Whether it’s a discussion of a national political issue or a concern here on campus, an open forum in which one argument is uniformly reinforced is crucial for maintaining the exceptional learning environment we have cultivated here,” continued Mandel. She also told reporters that counseling resources were available for any student made uncomfortable by the viewpoint.

Here at EphBlog, we have been praising Enrique’s Journey for more than a decade. Too cheap to buy the book? Nazario won the Pulitzer Prize for the newspaper articles that form the core of the story. Read them here for free.

Highly recommended.

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Evan Miller ’06 writes:

Every computer programmer ought to read Frankenstein. It is the story of Creation, with a capital C, and contains perhaps the best description of monomaniacal flow-state in the English language.

Frankenstein, as any decent pub-trivia player knows, is the name of the scientist, not the monster. Young Victor Frankenstein creates a horrible monster; the monster wants to know why he was born, and why so horribly. Reasonable questions, both. Can there ever be an answer?

Makers, of course, can’t help but to make things; ask a 10X engineer why they do what they do, and you won’t get a convincing reply. They get an idea and have to see it through, every night, until 4 or 5 in the morning. They just can’t help themselves.

Just like we bloggers!

Read the whole thing.

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Future historians may be interested in the housing rules for 2019. Here they are.

There are some good changes this year, but where is the visionary who will implement this genius plan?

There is a strong consensus within the Williams community about the main assumptions underlying housing policy: the importance of the freshmen entry/JA system, the success of co-op housing for seniors, the lack of funds for major new construction, and the desirability of both house community and diversity. Given those assumptions, the best housing policy would involve three major structures. First, a Student Housing Committee — modeled on the Junior Advisor Selection Committee — should run most aspects of the housing process. The more that students have responsibility for managing their own lives, the more they will learn from the process and the better the outcomes will be. Second, students should, as much as possible, live in houses with other members of their Williams class: sophomores in the Berkshire Quad; juniors in Greylock; seniors in row houses and co-ops. Third, non-senior rooming groups should be as large as possible and of fixed size, but subject to diversity constraints. For example, sophomore rooming groups would be any number less than 5 or exactly equal to 15, with restrictions on both gender balance and organization membership. Allowing students to group themselves has two main advantages: it creates genuine house community and it provides major incentives for large groups to “pick up” less popular students. The more that students sort themselves into houses and the more incentives they have for being both diverse and inclusive, the better the housing experience for everyone. The best first step would be to change the co-op process so that groups have to be large enough to fill a house.

Perhaps we should spend time going through the details?

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Too few Ephs achieve the career dreams that Williams nurtured. Williamstown Town Manager (and EphBlog favorite) Jason Hoch ’95 is one of the lucky ones. Read his senior thesis, “Crisis on Main Street: understanding downtown decline and renewal through Exit, voice and loyalty.” Note the acknowledgement:

How many of us have followed so closely the dreams we first dreamt in Williamstown?

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The CARE Now folks have, to their credit, been collecting and publicizing documents related to their grievances. Here are some of them:

1) Record Op-Ed on “Violent Structures”. Worth reviewing in detail?

2) A pamphlet (pdf) entitled “The Time Has Come for White Women to Move Beyond Lip Service: Toward an Anti-Racist Professional Ethics for White Women’s Studies Directors.” This does not seem to have a direct Williams connection, but is a great example of Steve Sailer’s point about the tensions inherent in any “coalition of the fringes.” I can think of more than a few white women on the Williams faculty — strong liberals all! — who will grow very tired, very quickly of their POC colleagues telling them to shut up and listen.

3) Pamphlet (pdf) associated with the march a few weeks ago.

4) The 2009 Faculty Stuff Initiative report (pdf) on “retention and recruitment of faculty and staff of color.” Worth reviewing in detail?

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I saw an excellent article in the Tablet today from one of my favorite former Williams professors, K.C. Johnson, on the successes enjoyed by those fighting against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement on college campuses. In particular, he applauds the presidents of Pitzer, Cornell and the University of Michigan for standing up to the BDS movement.

Nevertheless, Johnson thinks it is foolish to depend on college presidents to stamp out the BSD movement. Instead, he recommends more aggressive actions by faculty and students. Among faculty, he notes:

On the faculty side, after several minor academic organizations had adopted resolutions committing support to BDS, the American Historical Association seemed poised to follow suit. But the Alliance for Academic Freedom, an organization championed by high-profile professors such as Maryland’s Jeffrey Herf and David Greenberg of Rutgers, engaged the BDS advocates on a variety of grounds, and helped to persuade more moderate AHA members to decisively reject the BDS resolution. The 2016 vote blunted the momentum of BDS activists in targeting academic organizations.

Likewise, Johnson also sees great hope in encouraging students to show courage in combating the BDS movement on their own, potentially with the help of legal talent.

Earlier this week, meanwhile, San Francisco State University settled a lawsuit filed by two Jewish students who alleged religious discrimination in one of the nation’s most virulently anti-Israel campus environments. The university agreed to spend $200,000 on “educational efforts to promote viewpoint diversity (including but not limited to pro-Israel and Zionist viewpoints).” The school also released a statement reiterating “its commitment to equity and inclusion for all—including those who are Jewish,” and affirming “the values of free expression and diversity of viewpoints that are so critical on a university campus.

It is, of course, a great shame that K.C. Johnson saw his excellent research demeaned while he was a junior faculty member at Williams. According to a report he gave to an Ephblog correspondent, he bailed out rather than endure what looked like a fruitless, upcoming tenure battle. It warms my heart to see such a courageous fellow sticking it out in the academic world, promoting the freedom of speech standards which once made our elite institutions truly elite.

 

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A Senior Williams Professor and I will be debating the following resolution: Resolved: Williams is disintegrating. Each Monday, one of us will make an argument. One week later, the other will respond. We will debate until we grow bored with the exercise. Readers are welcome to chime in at any time. This week, I respond to Senior Professor’s second argument. (His words in blockquotes.)

President Mandel’s embrace of “diversity and inclusiveness” as her agenda for her presidency is, quite simply, sophomoric.

I am very sympathetic to the general point that Williams ought to spend much more time worrying about excellence and much less time working on diversity. But nonsense is nonsense, whatever the ideological predilections of its proponents. And this is nonsense.

What evidence is there that Mandel has made “diversity and inclusiveness” the “agenda” for her presidency? Here is her induction speech. Although she mentions items about diversity and inclusion, they do not occupy a central place in her speech, nor in any of her talks since assuming the presidency. Yes, she cares about these things, but there is no evidence that she cares about them more than, say, great teaching or superb extra-curriculars or any other item which might, plausibly, be part of the “agenda” of a Williams president. If anything, the evidence points the other way, suggesting that Maud’s main agenda, at least in 2019, is to fix the Falk/Derbyshire disaster.

And her ‘agenda’ is a tired repetition of the mantra of our past several presidents, beginning with Frank Oakley, our last intelligent dean of faculty, who in 1978 proposed a fantastic Great Books program, but who then abandoned that idea as he saw that he might become President, which indeed happened.

You think the focus on diversity began with Oakley? Hah! Diversity was just as much a focus under Chandler, even going back to Sawyer and the increase in black enrollment in the 60s.

By the way, Oakley’s new book, From the Cast-Iron Shore: In Lifelong Pursuit of Liberal Learning, is available. Worth discussing?

Beginning with the College’s bicentennial, we’ve heard constant paeans to the supposed goals of diversity and inclusiveness.

I sometimes worry that Senior Professor is revealing too much about when he came to Williams! Although diversity has been with us for 30 years, these efforts go back, at least, to the Hopkins Hall takeover of 1969. Has Williams been disintegrating for 50 years? What is taking so long?

And what the College has wrought are dreadful programs in Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies, African-American Studies, and Anti-American Studies, along with an assortment of other supposed ‘majors,’ all of which pander to the interests of various identity groups.

I agree that these programs are pernicious nonsense. Recall the wisdom of AF:

I think the value of identity studies should be actively questioned: I find it troubling that many students come to Williams only to major in themselves, as it were. In many of these departments there’s a emphasis on ideology and a paucity of facts — it is not unreasonable to say the only identity tradition that is critically studied is the Western one.

Exactly right. But the nonsense of identity studies is not our debate topic today.

Senior Professor finishes with:

I have little hope for the College’s future. I think that only when and if the College re-commits itself to intellectual excellence, first and foremost, shall it survive.

I will take the other side of that bet! The position of elite US colleges like Williams has never been stronger. They have a product to sell — and you can bet that “diversity” is part of what they are selling — and the demand for that product has never been better.

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