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This the first show done as a collaborative project with students in an Art History/Museum class.
(see story below)

Robert Rauschenberg: Autobiography brings together 26 original works of art with 56 archival objects primarily on loan from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation and centers on the artist’s monumental print, Autobiography, 1968. The exhibition will be on view at the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) from March 17 through August 20, 2017.

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Rauschenberg created Autobiography with Broadside Art Inc., founded by arts patron Marion Javits and graphic designer Milton Glaser (more…)

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The first time I came to Williams was the fall before my freshman year – my eighth stop in my college tour, and by then, I’d discovered that the best way to truly learn about a school, skeletons included, wasn’t through admissions tours or glossy brochures, but by dropping in on a class, looking at the person beside me, shaking my head, and declaring “Oh my god, I heard that problem set was so hard.” Fortunately (for me at least) this proved quite effective when I visited because it happened to be midterm season then. I sat in a physics lecture, looked to my right, and said: “Oh my god, I heard that midterm was so hard.” The girl seated beside me, Jaime, enlarged her eyes and nodded in agreement, and to my delight, began speaking in earnest, generous detail about her packed (to put it lightly) week: a dance show just three days for which she had daily rehearsals, some RA work that was due with the statistics department, planning a surprise birthday for her entrymate (Willy D!), holding office hours for a CS class she was TA-ing, and, of course, the lab element of her physics midterm. Jaime looked exhausted and sleep deprived, and had the bloodshot eyes to prove it. As she was about to say more, to my surprise Jaime stopped herself and shrugged: “Sorry, I shouldn’t be complaining. Forget what I just said.” Perplexed with this realization following her rant, I asked her what she meant. “Everyone at Williams is so lucky to be here. Sometimes it gets overwhelming but what makes this all so worth it, what makes this place unique I guess, is that everyone really cares.” She packed up her things, and in the face of a mountain of commitments the following day, proceeded to old Sawyer, where her tutee would be waiting. I was sold – no one in any other school said anything remotely as powerful.

It didn’t take long after I first arrived to realize how true Jaime’s words (and so, so much more!) are. Coming from the other side of the world, coming to Williams was a huge leap of faith; now, some years later, my roots are firmly planted in this fertile, Purple Valley. Some of my most cherished memories and most powerful moments include the all nighters I spent with fellow classmates studying for that last bio final in Science Quad; the conversations I’d have with professors-turned-mentors, where their passions exude in their excitement; the many times I’ve seen both friends and strangers drop everything to help a fellow classmate in need. As time went by, the four years here I once considered a mere stepping stone slowly became an end unto itself. As with the many who read and write for this blog, I’ve come attribute much of who I am today to the people I’ve met, befriended, learned from, and mentored (you go full circle at Williams!), and the ideas that I’ve explored with them here in the Purple Valley.

It’s for these very reasons that I, along with two friends from the class of ’18 and ’19, have taken to EphBlog as students who are very concerned with the state of matters in the college. As our affinity and affection for Williams grew, so did our awareness of the institution and internal workings behind the name. As many of my fellow upperclassmen will agree, the more time one spends at Williams, the more one begins to notice the disturbing cracks in the well: fellow classmates unceremoniously ignored or stonewalled by administrators, the rude and unfair treatment of students who want to start clubs (some elements of Williams make this shockingly difficult if they do not agree with you!), backwards and arbitrary use of policy, rampant and potentially systemic Honor Code violations, and so much more! It was a deeply sad and distressing moment for all of us when we realized that the Williams to which we aspired wasn’t the Williams we thought it was.

Unfortunately, Williams students are not ideally placed to solve, let alone notice, these problems. We students come and go every year, the Record is unable to report anything substantive (for good reason, which we’ll get to in a future post!), and no student will have any reasonable measure of institutional memory to draw on. What’s more is that in our efforts to get answers to issues, it’s been made quite clear to us that there is no place for questions, debate, and opinions (esp. if you do not agree with Williams) in the Purple Valley. Sometimes, these concerns may initially seem isolated to individual cases. However, as we began investigating and hearing more and more Hopkins Horror Stories (as they’re known among students) and other disturbing events from fellow students and professors, patterns just as perturbing started emerging that we could no longer ignore – especially since many of them are quite structural (and thus here to stay) in nature! Many of our professors, especially those who’ve been here longer, pointed (some willingly, most unwillingly) to EphBlog as a means of cataloging, reporting, discussing, and connecting these issues – where else can Williams students earnestly, meaningfully do this? It’s our hope that these efforts help usher a more transparent, fairer Williams that all of us can proudly call their alma mater. At the end of the day, we all play a role in shaping what Williams is, and what we ultimately want it to become.

All this said, though, we also love talking about issues at Williams separate from these concerns – to alums, please let us know what you’d like to hear! We’re very into Ephs doing cool things (so we’ll post a bit about that every now and then!), career advice for younger underclassmen (such as getting that internship), and which classes to take/professors to meet. Otherwise, if you have any tips or issues you’d like to discuss (other current students especially!), shoot us an email at concerned.ephs@gmail.com – we would love to hear from all Ephs!

Happy Friday!

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Welcome to those admitted to the class of 2021! If there are any aspiring writers in the class, please contact EphBlog. We would love to host your prose. (Could a reader post this offer to the class of 2021 Facebook group?)

From the news release:

Of the [1,253] admitted students, 95 are international students representing 47 different nationalities. Among American students, 50 percent identify as students of color: 220 students are Asian American, 214 are black, 175 Latino, and 17 Native American. Thirty-seven percent identify as white and five percent opted not to identify. A total of 274, or 22 percent, are first-generation college students, and seven percent (86) have a parent who attended Williams.

Note that all these numbers include the 257 students admitted via Early Decision in December.

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Is there public information about how many Williams students go to law school? The LASC publishes this report (pdf) on the top feeder schools. Amherst has sent an average of 63 students each year over the last 5 years, which seems a surprisingly high number. But the report only lists schools that sent at least 54 students last year, a number which many elite liberal arts colleges, like Williams, do not meet. I ask LASC to release the numbers for Williams, but they refused because they have a (reasonable!) policy against such a release. Questions:

How many Williams students have gone to law school over the last decade? EphBlog hopes that the number is much lower than the 63 student average for Amherst.

Why does Amherst send such a high percentage of its graduating class to law school? Do they admit more would-be lawyers? Do more would-be lawyers choose Amherst over other schools? Does something about Amherst encourage students to become lawyers?

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quote-sir-you-are-giving-a-reason-for-it-but-that-will-not-make-it-right-you-may-have-a-reason-why-two-samuel-johnson-385030

Ephblog as Weston Field.

See ‘comments’ in Richard Spencer post (below).

Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 4.14.52 PM… from the Williams Rugby Club website

JCD jostled by all and sundry …

 

 

 

 

 

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University Chicago President Robert Zimmer was interviewed in the Wall Street Journal:

A growing number of colleges around the nation are taking steps to protect their students from ideas and words some find hurtful or upsetting. That protection includes a broad blanket of administrative support for things like safe harbors and bias response teams designed to investigate “micro aggressions” and “micro invalidations.”

The University of Chicago has taken a different tack.

WSJ: If Richard Spencer—who attended the University of Chicago and has become a leading white nationalist—was invited to speak at the university, would you have a problem with that?

MR. ZIMMER: Faculty and students invite all sorts of people, and we don’t restrict who they invite.

I don’t invite people. We offer no restrictions to student groups and faculty. What they want to do is hear, discuss and potentially argue with the people they invite.

WSJ: So, if he was invited to speak there, you’d be OK with him coming?

MR. ZIMMER: It would be fine if he came to speak, just like if anyone else came to speak.

Uncomfortable Learning should invite Spencer to Williams. Adam Falk has, we hope, learned his lesson from the Derbyshire disaster and would not ban another speaker, would he?

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Latest from Bethany McLean ’92:

When F.B.I. director James Comey reopened the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mails in the final days of the campaign, many saw it as a political move that cost Clinton the presidency. But some insiders suspect Comey had a more personal concern: his own legacy.

Read the whole thing.

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As noted by sigh, Williams has announced its 2017 Honorary Degree recipients:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nigerian writer and recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, will be the principal speaker at Williams College’s 228th Commencement Exercise on Sunday, June 4. The day before, former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins will be the Baccalaureate speaker. Both will receive honorary degrees at Commencement, as will former Williams College provost and current president of Washington and Lee University Will Dudley; public health and environmental advocate Gina McCarthy; and Gavin A. Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

I thought it was a very interesting group of people.  I appreciated that it was not solely academics (with apologies to Prof. Will Dudley!), but included figures from “the real world,” including the former head of the EPA in the Obama administration and a NASA scientist.  Presumably the selection of these two is intended to make a policy point that the College favors (and, of course, is not favored by some of EphBlog’s more prolific authors and commentors).

I think the choice of Ms. Adichie as the commencement speaker could turn out very well, if she gives a speech geared directly to Williams.  While not the highest profile commencement speaker (at least outside of literary circles, I guess), her profile suggests she is very accomplished and may have some very interesting ideas to communicate with the graduates and their families.

More complete bios of the honorary degree recipients may be found here.

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The latest from Oren Cass ’05:

The best statistical estimate for the number of lives saved each year by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is zero. Certainly, there are individuals who have benefited from various of its provisions. But attempts to claim broader effects on public health or thousands of lives saved rely upon extrapolation from past studies that focus on the value of private health insurance. The ACA, however, has expanded coverage through Medicaid, a public program that, according to several studies, has failed to improve health outcomes for recipients. In fact, public health trends since the implementation of the ACA have worsened, with 80,000 more deaths in 2015 than had mortality continued declining during 2014–15 at the rate achieved during 2000–2013.

Read the whole thing.

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… than Sean and the Drumph.

 

NB  I would have put the following below the fold but couldn’t figure out the app specific. (more…)

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But, don’t worry! EphBlog will still have new material every weekday.

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… older readers from the days of required Chapel may recall visits to St Pat’s.

 

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http://www.williamstowncatholics.org/parish-history

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Harvard has unveiled a summary of its involvement with slavery. I don’t know enough about this aspect of Williams history as I should. Fortunately, our readers do!

I thought it was fairly well known that Eph and other prominent Williams family members, including founding trustee Elijah Williams, owned and traded slaves. Eph left brothers Elijah and Josiah his slaves in his will, the founding document of the college.

A considerable source of Williams family wealth, including Eph’s, in Berkshire County was in land that they had systematically cheated Stockbridge Indians out of.

Amos Lawrence, the most important early benefactor to the college, made his fortune in cotton–therefore on slave labor– before the Civil War. Late in life he supported forced resettlement of enslaved African Americans to Africa as a way to solve the slavery issue. His name graces Lawrence Hall, now WCMA.

[H]ere’s a heartbreaking document of indenture binding a 6-year old girl to Elijah Williams without any consent. If she lived to 18 out in the wilds of Berkshire County, she got some clothes. But she would have been free, unlike Elijah’s black slaves.

Slavery and an active program of displacing indigenous people aside, the Williams family were in large part Loyalist. There’s no indication at all that, had he lived, Eph would have fought for the Continental Army.

Tell us more about this history!

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The most non-PC research at Williams is probably conducted by associate professor of economics Quamrul Ashraf. (Fortunately for him, his research output (pdf) is deeply impressive and, if he can ever stop co-authoring with his Ph.D. adviser Oded Galor, a tenure offer from a leading research university will probably become available for the asking.) His latest (pdf):

The importance of evolutionary forces for comparative economic performance across societies has been the focus of a vibrant literature, highlighting the roles played by the Neolithic Revolution and the prehistoric “out of Africa” migration of anatomically modern humans in generating worldwide variations in the composition of human traits. This essay surveys this literature and examines the contribution of a recent hypothesis regarding the evolutionary origins of comparative economic development, set forth in Nicholas Wade’s A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History, to this important line of research.

“[G]enerating worldwide variations in the composition of human traits” is code for, Asians are (genetically) smart and obedient, which is why South Korea is rich, while Africans are (genetically) dumb and violent, which is why Nigeria is poor. Of course, Ashraf puts it much more politely:

Recently, in A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History, Nicholas Wade advances an intriguing hypothesis regarding the evolutionary origins of comparative economic development. Citing a wide range of evidence from evolutionary biology on the nature and pace of recent genetic adaptions in human populations, as well as evidence from evolutionary psychology and behavioral genetics on the association between somatic traits and social behaviors at the individual level, Wade argues that variation in selective pressures across regions of the globe has given rise to enduring differences in social behaviors across groups, thereby differentially shaping the nature of their institutions and, thus, their level of economic development. In particular, his hypothesis of comparative development suggests that in regions of the world that were historically characterized by higher population density and early statehood, favorable genetic traits (e.g., nonviolence, cooperation, and trust) that were initially concentrated among the rich elites gained an evolutionary advantage, proliferated over time, and contributed to the emergence of growth‐enhancing institutions and a superior development trajectory.

In the end, Ashraf and his co-author argue (unpersuasively) against Wade’s hypothesis, but, from the point of view of the typical Eph social justice warrior, the issue is not their conclusions but the fact that they were willing to even entertain such racist pseudoscience. PC restrictions are not just, or even mostly, about the conclusions you draw, they are about the questions you ask. Fortunately, tenure protects (?) Professor Ashraf. Right?

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Did the Ad Hoc Committee on International Educational Initiatives (led by Professors Darrow and Rouhi) ever complete the final version of this report 2009 (pdf)? Not that I can find. Perhaps that is all to the good, since one of their recommendations would have been a very bad idea:

The College should work towards instituting a language requirement by 2020.

The COFHE survey from 2006 showed that 51% of Williams students surveyed did not think studying a foreign language was a worthwhile goal during their college career. We recommend every effort to change that perception, not least because more international job opportunities are open to those who can demonstrate proficiency.

1) Although this is just a draft, it is absurd to suggest a new requirement while providing zero discussion of the details. Just what sort of requirement are we talking about? Would one year of Japanese 101-102 be enough? Or do you need two years? Three? Without at least an overview of the issues involved (and how those issues are handled at other schools), there is no reason to take the authors seriously. They should either do some real work or drop this section.

2) A foreign language requirement was almost implemented at the start of Morty’s term. (Who knows this history well?) Morty was glad that it failed because of the opportunity costs involved. We all agree that it would be wonderful if student X learned Japanese. But, assuming student X does not want to, which 4 courses do you think he should drop in order to fit in JAPN 101-102 and 201-202 into his schedule? Morty’s point, obviously, is that Williams students only get to take 32 courses and the vast majority of them are wonderful. We should think long and hard about forcing them to sacrifice the courses they want to take for the courses that we want them to take. (See here for the contrary view.)

3) Morty also mentioned that the language faculty were against the requirement because they knew that there are few things worse than having students in your class who do not want to be there. Have the authors surveyed the Williams language faculty about this proposal?

4) I believe (contrary information welcome) that at every elite school with a language requirement, you are allowed to pass out, either by scoring at a certain level on the AP or the Achievement Test for the language or by passing an exam given by the school. Williams would, almost certainly, offer the same option. And virtually every rich student at Williams would be able to take advantage! Almost every prep school and high quality public high school offers four years of foreign language instruction while guiding/insisting that students bound for elite colleges/universities take advantage of the opportunity. Almost all such Ephs would be able to pass out easily. So, this is not a requirement that binds Williams students equally. It only binds those who did not go to Milton or Newton North. Not that there is anything wrong with screwing over the poor kids!

5) But even those Williams students who did not go to fancy high schools will often have studied several years of foreign language. Many of them would be able to pass out of the requirement as well. How many students would that leave? 200? 50? I really don’t know, but it is a much smaller number than 500.

6) Call it 100 students who could not pass out of the requirement. But some number (25?) of them would take a foreign language anyway. After all, many Williams students want to learn a new language. And bully for them. So, now we are down to 75 students who did not have the opportunity to take a foreign language in high school (or turned down that opportunity) and who don’t want to take a foreign language at Williams. And all of these students will have a very good reason for the decisions they make. Maybe they are very poor at languages. Maybe they are indifferent to learning a language but there are just too many other wonderful Williams courses that they want to take. Do you really think you are doing these (mostly low-income) students a favor by forcing them to take a foreign language? Write a paragraph to them explaining why.

7) The 51% of Williams students who “did not think studying a foreign language was a worthwhile goal during their college career” are almost certainly correct for them. These students do not argue that other students should be prevented from learning Japanese. They just don;t want to learn Japanese themselves. Can you blame them? Learning Japanese is hard! Especially if you have trouble with languages in general, especially if you are taking other serious courses. Do you really think that you know better than them?

8) This sort of sloppy thinking does not belong in a Williams report:

We recommend every effort to change that perception, not least because more international job opportunities are open to those who can demonstrate proficiency.

Of course, if two otherwise equal candidates are applying for a job at the IMF or McKinsey and one of them speaks English and Japanese fluently while the other is English-only then, obviously the former has an advantage in getting the job. But that is not the question relevant to whether or not Williams should have a language requirement. In this case, do any of the 75 students who can not pass out of the requirement and would not otherwise study a language improve their chances of getting a job? Almost certainly not!

First, the vast majority of Williams student never compete for jobs in which speaking another language is a meaningful advantage. Second, even for those jobs where it is, the key distinction is between fluency and non-fluency. McKinsey won’t care if you took a year or two of Chinese at Williams. If you can’t talk to the client fairly fluently in language X then, for most practical purposes, your knowledge of language X is irrelevant to the job. If you just take two years of X at Williams (and then stop), your knowledge of X will be mostly useless as far as the IMF is concerned. And the IMF knows this. Third, the sort of student (recall the characteristics of the 75 students actually effected by the requirement) who did not study a foreign language in high school and does not want to study it at Williams is highly unlikely to want to study the language for more than the absolute minimum he is required to at Williams. Moreover, this sort of student, untalented and resentful, is unlikely to try very hard in the class or do very well. And won’t he be fun to teach!

Summary: A foreign language requirement at Williams would only impinge on mostly poor students from below average high schools with no talent or interest in languages. Forcing them to study a foreign language will not materially improve their job prospects or life outcomes.

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Readers often ask us, “What is virtue-signalling?” Wikipedia reports:

Virtue signalling is the conspicuous expression of moral values by an individual done primarily with the intent of enhancing that person’s standing within a social group.

Consider a concrete example:

urm

This is a retweet from tenured William Economics Professor Sarah Jacobson. Now, to be fair, retweets are not necessarily endorsements, but one does not need to perform a close textual analysis on Jacobson’s twitter feed to know that she agrees with the sentiment expressed.

Here is the Williams economics department:

Department_Photo_Spring2016_v4

Jacobson is on the left. Questions:

1) When was the last time that the economics department hired a tenured or tenure track professor that was a URM? (In economics, neither Asian nor Indian would count under this designation. The department has had plenty of both over the years, especially the latter.) The main focus of URM hiring, at least in economics, is African-American. The department had one such member in the 80’s and, more recently, Kaye Husbands Fealing (pdf), who left in 2009. (Was there a backstory on that departure? I have a vague recollection that it was a family issue.)

2) Hispanics are, as always, harder to count. The department’s webpage suggests no obvious candidates, but, since all you need is a great-grandmother who was born in Spain, there is no simple way of determining who is Hispanic and who is not. I certainly can’t recall any discussion of Hispanics in the department. Pointers?

3) If this is really a correct summary of Fealing’s CV in the 90’s, then the only reason she got tenure at Williams was affirmative action:

pubs

I can’t even remember the last economics professor tenured at Williams with so few (any?) meaningful publications. Maybe in the 50s?

4) Jacobson, although tenured, is still a junior member in a department dominated by non-URM men. So, perhaps she is fighting the good fight from the inside and should not be accused of empty virtue-signalling. Department gossip is always welcome on EphBlog! My sense is that Economics takes demonstrated research quality even more seriously in making hiring decisions than most Williams departments and is, therefore, less likely to be swayed by the diversity apparatchiks in the Administration. Contrary opinions welcome.

5) Consider the CVs of two junior professors (neither white men) in the department: here and here. Trying to find an African-American with similarly excellent credentials (and willing to come to Williams) is about as difficult as finding a white man qualified to play cornerback in the NFL.

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… not to be taken “literally”. Other words for “Air Quotes” … “Impeachment”, “25th Amendment”, “What hath God wrought”.

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Williams Basketball

 

In a story which has been woefully un(der)reported on Ephblog, the Williams men’s basketball team upset Middlebury 79-75 last weekend to advance to the Division 3 Final Four.  The win, after Middlebury crushed the Ephs in the NESCAC title game a few weeks ago by 22 points, must have been very satisfying to the team (as evidenced by the picture above, courtesy of the Men’s Basketball page on the Williams website).  A complete rundown on the game may be found here, but it appears that the Ephs rode hot 3-point shooting and tough defense to this weekend’s event in Salem, Virginia.  Congrats to the team!  Anyone planning on going?

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The College’s Fiscal Year 2015 Form 990 is now available (pdf). Day 5 of a 5 day discussion.

Imagine that it is 2050 and Williams has suffered a dramatic reversal of fortune. We are no longer among the top 10, or even 20, liberal arts colleges. What is the most likely cause of this fall from grace? Financial mismanagement. What is the most common cause of financial disaster? Too much debt. Consider Williams today:

form990f

bond2

We have borrowed about half a billion dollars. The markets are at all time highs. The endowment earned -1% last year. What could possibly go wrong?

Details:

1) Are we really $500 million in debt? I am not sure. These Form 990s are confusing! Some debt may have been paid off already. And, most importantly, the endowment is, by now, probably over $2.5 billion. So Williams is still $2 billion or so in the black.

2) Why is there so much debt? Thirty five years of an equity/bond bull market and federal incentives for borrowing will make even the most risk-averse institution aggressive. In 1998, Williams had $72 million in debt. Increasing that by a factor of 7 can’t possibly lead to trouble, can it? Now, to be fair, as a percentage of the endowment, the increase has only been from 7% to 20%, so only a factor of three increase. And, if Williams had been more levered over the last 17 years, we would be much richer today. And borrowing lots of money to buy houses in Florida was a great strategy from 1998 through 2007. Until it wasn’t. Also, note how federal tax incentives (and loose regulations) encouraged such borrowing, both for speculators in Florida a decade ago and Williams today.

3) Is this too much debt? Tough to say! If we could be certain that the endowment, over the next 10 years, was going to go up by 7% (as it did over the last decade or two), then we ought to borrow billions more, since we only pay a few percent on the debt. (By the way, how much do we pay? Fixed income is confusing.) Most professionals, however, expect returns to be much lower going forward. If the endowment is flat over the next decade, then this debt will prove to have been a major mistake.

Recall these wise words: Leverage is a dangerous thing, for both hedge funds and small liberal arts colleges. It would have been a bad thing for Williams to reduce debt in the depths of the financial crisis a decade ago. Reducing debt now would be prudent.

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Thanks to ace Institutional Research Analyst James Cart ’05 for sharing a copy (pdf) of the 2017 enrolled student survey (ESS) with EphBlog. Much appreciated! James points out that this survey is administered by COFHE, with more information available here. Comments:

1) Yeah, transparency! The more transparent that Williams is, the better. Kudos to Cart, his boss Courtney Wade, her boss Dukes Love, and his boss Adam Falk.

2) Sadly, EphBlog has provided very poor coverage of COFHE surveys/data over the years. Partly, this is because the data is not publicly available. But, surely there is a whistleblower who would share it with us . . .

3) What data from the ESS would you most like to see?

4) Is it worth a few days to go through the survey in detail?

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frawwtvids27zulb

 

As the Department of Homeland Security prepares to officially launch the RFP for Trump’s proposed border wall on March 6, the Architecture Lobby is calling on all architects and engineers across the U.S. to participate in a national day of action to boycott the project on Friday, March 10 — the same day that the first round of submissions in the RFP are due.

 http://archinect.com/news/article/149994713/the-architecture-lobby-calls-on-architects-engineers-to-protest-border-wall-on-march-10-day-of-acti

The Trump Mexican Border Wall may be the 11th wonder of the world of walls. If it gets built. Several large construction companies capable of building such a wall have not answered the RFP (Bechtel, Boeing, CH2M).

https://www.citylab.com/design/2017/03/heres-what-global-building-companies-say-about-designing-trumps-wall/518475/

 Architects of famous walls  seem to be unknown … many were military engineers. Here are the ten walls awaiting the arrival of McTrumps Golden Arches:

http://www.wonderslist.com/10-most-famous-walls-in-the-world/

… and a haiku:

A thirty foot wall

stretching 1900 miles .

Keep those in, those out.,

 

 

 

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From David Boyer on March 8:

To the Williams campus community,

Earlier today the college learned that a current student, Nathaniel Whittle ’17, was missing from campus. Staff and family are trying to determine his whereabouts. Nathaniel owns a 2013 Gray Toyota Tacoma truck with Texas license number CBJ0333, and local authorities are extending the search beyond campus.

We are concerned about Nathaniel and ask your help to make sure he is safe. If you have information that may aid the search, or if you have been in contact with Nathaniel since last Friday, March 3, please call the Williamstown Police at 413-458-5733 or Campus Safety and Security at 413-597-4444 immediately. We will share further information with campus if appropriate.

Nathaniel’s directory picture is below.

whittle

Hopes and prayers for Whittle, his family and friends.

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The College’s Fiscal Year 2015 Form 990 is now available (pdf). Day 4 of a 5 day discussion.

Perhaps the best news is that the College did not, I think, waste a lot of money on local spending, at least in 2015.

form990c

1) I have no objection to the College donating small sums, especially for items like the local ambulance since these “donations” are really “payments” for services rendered. (The ambulance transports many students each year.)

2) I object to large donations. Alumni give to Williams to support Williams. If they wanted to give to other non-profits like the local hospital or MASS MoCA, they would. Again, the best way to understand the actual behavior of Williams is to imagine that it is controlled by a cabal of selfish insiders, intent on devoting the College’s own resources towards their personal use. Classic example of such selfish behavior include giving $1 million to North Adams Regional Hospital, $250,000 to Mount Greylock Regional High School, and $2 million to MASS MoCA.

3) Although some of the individual donations are reasonable, the total of around $250,000 is way too much. That money should be spent on items that directly impact the quality of the undergraduate experience at Williams. For starters, hire some visiting lecturers so that students aren’t kicked out of popular classes like CSCI 135.

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hall

How did last Thursday’s march on Horn Hall go? The above image was sent by a reader.
Below is an image from Divest Williams.

hall2

1) Which faculty/staff were involved in this march? It would be fun to set up a debate with them make fun of them!

2) From the Facebook page:

On Thursday night, we gathered at a town hall discussion to assert student power and rededicate Horn Hall to two student activist movements of the past: 1969 Afro-American Society occupation of Hopkins Hall and the 1993 hunger strike for Latino/a studies.

Not bad reasoning. Few love Williams history more than EphBlog. And we certainly need someone to write a history thesis about the 1993 hunger strike. That all said, ’69 & ’93 Hall as a name for a building just does not work for me. Why not something simpler like Bolin Hall?

3) Should we be surprised at how heavily female (70%? 80%?) the march was?

hall3

I am surprised, but perhaps that just reveals my old-fashioned misogyny? Are other social movements at Williams so gender-skewed?

4) The pictures show that the Haystack Monument might be a source of controversy, as we discussed back in October. When will the Merrill Committee report on this topic?

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Dear fellow Ephs,

Spring is in the air but the weather is still as brutal as always. Why not take a professor or staff member to a nice dinner and get to know them a bit better before Spring Break?

The Nutting Family cordially invites you to ask a professor or staff member (administration, chaplains, health services, Davis Center, campus life, CSS, facilities, dining services, etc.) to a partially subsidized, three-course meal at the Faculty Club for this special dinner. This Lyceum Dinner will be held at the Faculty House at 6:45 pm on Wednesday, March. 15th, 2017

Due to popular demand and to accommodate everyone’s busy schedules, this dinner will be flexible in terms of how many people can be in each party. 1, 2, 3… up to 7 students may invite any ONE member of the faculty or staff to dinner. (We are trying this out still so things may revert in the future.)

Another important clarification: if selected to attend Lyceum, it WILL take away your meal swipe for dinner on 3/15/2017. If you are a senior and not on a meal plan, don’t worry you can still attend! Just clarify on the form that you don’t have a meal plan and the Nutting Fund will also cover your meal!

Spaces are given on a first-come, first-served basis, with preferences given to:

1) those with parties of 4 (3 students and 1 faculty/staff)

2) those who have not yet attended a Lyceum dinner

The entrée options for this dinner are:

-Honey Glazed Grilled Salmon with cranberry relish

-Mustard Crumb Chicken

-Vegetable Strudel

As always, forward a confirmation email from your guest; your registration will not be considered until we receive the guest’s confirmation email.

The online registration form will close as soon as all spaces have been filled. If you have any questions, please email WilliamsLyceum@gmail.com.

Cordially,

Lyceum Coordinator

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The New York Times reports:

Hundreds of students at Middlebury College in Vermont shouted down a controversial speaker on Thursday night, disrupting a program and confronting the speaker in an encounter that turned violent and left a faculty member injured.

Read the whole thing. Those who don’t trust the Times can find coverage in The Boston Globe:

When Murray was unable to speak because of the protesters’ interruptions Thursday night, administrators took him to a video studio in the same building and broadcast the event online.

But some protesters began pulling fire alarms, temporarily shutting off power to the live stream. When Murray finished his speech, he left the building with Allison Stanger, professor of international politics and economics, and other college officials, but was met by a group of protesters who wore bandanas to cover their faces.

College spokesman Bill Burger said he believed they were “outside agitators” who had been barred from the event, rather than Middlebury students. Flanked by security officers, Murray, Stanger and Burger moved toward Burger’s car.

By that point, more than 20 demonstrators had gathered. One threw a stop sign with a heavy concrete base in front of the car Murray was in, and several others rocked, pounded, and jumped on the vehicle. One protester pulled Stanger’s hair and injured her neck. She was taken to a hospital, where she was treated and released.

1) What explains the disparate treatment of Murray at Williams (respectful listening) and Middlebury (violent attack) that we discussed last week? As much as I would like to credit Williams for being a higher quality institution than Middlebury, my guess is that the key explanatory factor is Trump’s election. Last year, the Alt-Right was a punchline among the elite. Today the Alt-Right runs (?) the federal government. That is going to make some people very angry. Those people can’t (?) attack Trump/Bannon/Miller. Charles Murray (and John Derbyshire) are softer targets.

2) Uncomfortable Learning should invite Murray back to Williams to give the exact same talk he was scheduled to give at Middlebury. Murray’s talk last year was about the coming revolution in social science, rather than his book Coming Apart, which was to be topic last week. Murray reflects:

A college’s faculty is the obvious resource for keeping the bubble translucent and the intellectual thugs from taking over. A faculty that is overwhelmingly on the side of free intellectual exchange, stipulating only that it be conducted with logic, evidence, and civility, can easily lead each new freshman class to understand that’s how academia operates. If faculty members routinely condemn intellectual thuggery, the majority of students who also oppose it will feel entitled to say “sit down and shut up, we want to hear what he has to say” when protesters try to shut down intellectual exchange.

That leads me to two critical questions for which I have no empirical answers: What is the percentage of tenured faculty on American campuses who are still unambiguously on the side of free intellectual exchange? What is the percentage of them who are willing to express that position openly? I am confident that the answer to the first question is still far greater than fifty percent. But what about the answer to the second question? My reading of events on campuses over the last few years is that a minority of faculty are cowing a majority in the same way that a minority of students are cowing the majority.

Sounds like he would say “Yes” to another Williams speech. Let’s invite him!

3) Uncomfortable Learning should invite Middlebury Professor Allison Strahger to Williams to talk about what it was like to be assaulted by the crowd.

I want you to know what it feels like to look out at a sea of students yelling obscenities at other members of my beloved community. There were students and faculty who wanted to hear the exchange, but were unable to do so, either because of the screaming and chanting and chair-pounding in the room, or because their seats were occupied by those who refused to listen, and they were stranded outside the doors. I saw some of my faculty colleagues who had publicly acknowledged that they had not read anything Dr. Murray had written join the effort to shut down the lecture. All of this was deeply unsettling to me. What alarmed me most, however, was what I saw in student eyes from up on that stage. Those who wanted the event to take place made eye contact with me. Those intent on disrupting it steadfastly refused to do so. It was clear to me that they had effectively dehumanized me. They couldn’t look me in the eye, because if they had, they would have seen another human being. There is a lot to be angry about in America today, but nothing good ever comes from demonizing our brothers and sisters.

4) What will Middlebury do now? President Laurie Patton has a lot of options, ranging from nothing to suspending the scores of students who prevented Murray from speaking, in violation of the Middlebury code of conduct.

5) What should Middlebury do? Needless to say, the whole situation is a nightmare, generating more bad press for Middlebury than any event in the last decade. Indeed, when was the last time that a NESCAC school had such a lousy week in the national press? (The coverage of Falk’s cancellation of Derbyshire was not nearly so negative nor so widespread.)

One option is to use this riot as an opportunity to rebrand Middlebury as the most intellectually open elite liberal arts college, the U Chicago of the NESCAC. A lot of parents (and applicants?) might find that desirable. Invite a different speaker from the right every week until the protestors get tired of protesting. Suspend any student who tries to prevent a speaker from being heard. Fire any faculty member who sought to silence views she disagrees with.

The odds of Patton (or any NESCAC president) following that course of action is low. But it sure would be interesting!

6) Professor Stanger writes:

To people who wish to spin this story as one about what’s wrong with elite colleges and universities, you are mistaken. Please instead consider this as a metaphor for what is wrong with our country, and on that, Charles Murray and I would agree. This was the saddest day of my life. We have got to do better by those who feel and are marginalized. Our 230-year constitutional democracy depends on it, especially when our current President is blind to the evils he has unleashed.

Blaming the victim much? None of those protestors voted for Trump! Blaming him for the mob that attacked her would be like blaming W.E.B. Du Bois for the Tulsa race riot of 1921.

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The College’s Fiscal Year 2015 Form 990 is now available (pdf). Day 3 of a 5 day discussion.

We talked a bit about compensation on Day 1. Here are the details for 2015:

form990d

comp2

Again, the meaning of total compensation in the Form 990 has, I think, changed over the years. The requirements for who should be included has certainly evolved, with more and more employees getting caught up in the reporting net. One needs to be careful about mixing up permanent compensation with one-time payments tied to early retirement. (For example, both Eva Grudin and Michael Brown received large one-time payments associated with their retirements.) All that said:

1) Spending on administrators is out of control. Williams has, over the last 20 years, gone from being a faculty-run college to an administrator-run college. Although Adam Falk continues to talk a good game about “faculty governance,” who do you think has more power at Williams: Steve Klass making $367,000 and talking with the President almost every day or some random (full!) professor making $180,000 and never having shared a meal with Falk?

2) There are 7 people (Reed, Sousa, Puddester, Chilton, Crosby, Klass and Wakeman) whose jobs did not exist at Williams just ten years ago. How did Williams manage to be the #1 liberal arts college without someone doing these jobs? The answer, of course, is that other people (mostly members of the faculty!) did this work a decade ago and they were paid much less for it. The total annual compensation for this group is almost $4 million. Again, the best way to understand the actual behavior of Williams as an institution is to imagine a conspiracy of insiders seeking to maximize their own power and compensation.

3) The need to give one-off payments to encourage retirement is absurd, the fault of out-dated tenure arrangements and the (new) illegality of forced retirement. The best solution is for Williams, going forward, to award tenure as a 30-year (rather than life time) deal. From age 35 to 65, you have the same tenure as Williams professors have always had. But, at age 65, you become an at-will employee, just like the rest of us poor schlubs. Anyone who argues that such a change would materially impact Williams ability to hire high quality junior professors is clueless about the actual state of the academic job market.

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lower the cone of silence

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295

 

Keystone pipeline exempt from “Buy American”.

http://www.fox10tv.com/story/34661703/despite-trump-promises-keystone-pipeline-wont-have-to-use-american-steel

Didn’t THE SPEECH have an applause line set-up for the assurance of “Buy American”?

 

 

At least his tie was better …

UPDATE from DDF: Dan Drezner ’90 tells a story about buying American:

Economists are just now beginning to appreciate the power of narrative in explaining how people believe the economy actually works. These narratives are not always the truth, and certainly not always the whole truth. But a compelling narrative can profoundly influence how people think the economy functions. Robert Shiller, the new president of the American Economics Association, pointed this out in his recent presidential address: “President-elect Donald J. Trump is a master of narratives.”

So sit right back and let me tell you a story about one of the hidden costs of Donald Trump’s economic motto: Buy American and Hire American.

Read the whole thing. My main takeaway is that there is a lot of fat to be cut from the US budget!

 

About the above addition to my post by Dave:

Constant Readers of Ephblog know that my posts are rarely done for intellectual discussion and/or an in-depth look at a stance or belief. They are done simply as head turners, as head-turners about the particular issue.

This is the case on “Steel Yourself”. I am pointing out the chicanery of the speech itself with its set-up applause lines.

I must add that while I have no problem with Dave’s reference to Drezner’s article, I have trouble from an editing point-of-view with adding an extension to a post obviously done for brevity. His addition is what “comments” are for.

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Charles Murray, perhaps the most important social scientist of the last 50 years, was prevented from speaking at Middlebury last night.

Jeering and chanting Middlebury College students disrupted a planned talk Thursday afternoon by controversial author and lecturer Charles Murray.

Murray is the author of the 1994 book The Bell Curve, which sought to link social inequality to genetics.

As he took the stage in Wilson Hall, students booed, rose and turned their backs to the stage before reading a statement in unison. Students broke into chants of “Hey hey, ho ho, Charles Murray has got to go,” and “Racist, sexist anti-gay, Charles Murray go away!”

Murray, wearing a suit and tie, stood at the lectern and waited to be heard. The shouts continued:

“Your message, is hatred; we cannot tolerate it!”

“Charles Murray, go away; Middlebury says no way!”

After about 25 minutes, and when it became clear the chants would not abate, faculty came onstage and announced plans to move the lecture to a different location. The administrators said Murray’s speech would be live-streamed so he could speak without interruption. Questions for Murray to answer could be submitted using a Twitter hashtag, they said.

Every time we members of the vast right-wing conspiracy, Eph Division, complain about leftist agitprop at the College, we should remind ourselves that Williams is probably the most conservative elite liberal arts college in the country. Of course, “conservative” in that sentence means “not extremely left wing” but the fact remains that Murray spoke at Williams last year and was given a respectful hearing. The photos tell the story:

Charles Murray at Williams:
031616_UncomfortableLearning_GraceFlaherty_GF_C

Charles Murray at Middlebury:
Charles-Murray-Protest--600x375

Perhaps this means that we were wrong to criticize the Administration for arranging counter-programming to Murray’s visit last year, that the leadership of Williams is much smarter than the leadership of Middlebury (Falk is smarter than Patton?) and knew just how to defuse the situation. Or maybe is just means that Williams students, even (especially?!) the social justice warriors, are more open-minded than Middlebury students. However you slice it, Williams has less campus disruption and/or attempts to silence the “right” than any other elite liberal arts college. Hooray for us!

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