Jim Reische, Director of Communications at Williams and friend-of-EphBlog, wrote a lovely New York Times essay titled “The Importance of Dumb Mistakes in College.” Let’s unpack it for a week. Day 5.

Note the casual slurring of non-elite Americans.

[T]he arresting officers also marked me as a white University of Michigan student. Had I been someone else, I might have learned a different lesson.

Because cops are racist! Get it? But, in reality, non-white Williams students are probably treated better than their white peers. Shall we review the story of Jess Torres ’12 one more time?

A certain acknowledgement of the shibboleths of the day are expected, both in the Times and by anyone in charge of “Communications” at an important part of the Cathedral. Reische probably believes, and is certainly expected to pretend to believe, that white students at places like Williams are treated better than black students, that he has more “privilege” than his black Williams colleagues. (Even the ones with tenure? Even the ones that are paid more?)

But the real problem comes next:

A commitment to learning isn’t synonymous with freedom from accountability. And it can’t extend into areas like sexual violence or racial hatred.

All dumb mistakes are equal, but some are more equal than others.

This is where we see the iron fist within the velvet glove. Reische is concerned about “college kids,” about “[o]ur children” committing “innocent mistakes.” But not when it comes to “racial hatred!” Nothing wrong with regular hatred of course. Thirty years ago, Reische hated corporate America (or capitalism? or just McDonald’s?) and that was OK. That sort of hatred, just like the hatred for Trump which drove the Griffin Hall vandals, is understandable, event “innocent.” You can hate things that Reische hates, and he will be the soul of understanding, eager to help you play some cool jazz with Miles Davis afterwards.

But if you hate in a unapproved manner — perhaps objecting to immigration, or affirmative action, or political correctness in general — then Reische and his ilk will have no sympathy for you.

What about the perpetrators of “sexual violence?” Perhaps Jim Reische, and the Williams administration, is omniscient, never making a mistake, never charging, much less punishing, any innocent student. Sadly, here in the real world, the new preponderance of the evidence standard means that a large percentage of the men punished by Williams for “sexual violence” are, in fact, innocent. How much mercy in his heart does Reische have for them?

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Jim Reische, Director of Communications at Williams and friend-of-EphBlog, wrote a lovely New York Times essay titled “The Importance of Dumb Mistakes in College.” Let’s unpack it for a week. Day 4.

If a Williams student spray-painted “Corporate Deathburgers” on a local building today (not that they ever would), it wouldn’t be hard to imagine someone posting the security footage online.

Why the hypothetical? Williams has, in fact, had several graffiti incidents over the last few years, the latest being Griffin Hall. Was any security video ever published? No! Why can’t Reische discuss things that actually happened, at Williams or elsewhere?

The reality is that things have not really changed in 30+ years, at least when it comes to how powerful institutions (campus security, local cops) protect the powerful (children of the elite). What happened to Reische is, more or less, what happens to current students who commit vandalism for political ends.

And the video would live on: another student weighed down by the detritus of his or her online life.

Note the lack of specific examples. Around 8,000 students have graduated from Williams since EphBlog started. I can not think of a single student whose life is meaningfully “weighed down” by her “online life.” If Reische can’t come up with a single example of the problem, then what is his point?

The point, obviously, is to titillate the readers of the New York Times, many of whom worry about the on-line activities of their children.

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The NYT’s David Leonhardt writes on misconceptions about the flu and college tuition initiative to help clear up misconceptions about college costs:

Screen Shot 2018-01-17 at 6.21.48 AM

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/17/opinion/flu-shot-college-costs.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fopinion-columnists&_r=0

MyinTuition, a revolutionary online tool, ensures that students and their families have quick and easy access to the information they need to make decisions about college affordability.  MyinTuition shows the projected cost of college once financial aid is factored in, helping students understand and plan for what college will actually cost.

https://myintuition.org/

Give it a trial run. The information for input may yield some clue to the questions of admission policies so hotly debated in these columns. In English and Spanish.

 

* The original group of 16 colleges has now expanded to 31, The calculator and impetus for the development of this initiative come from Wellesley College.

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Jim Reische, Director of Communications at Williams and friend-of-EphBlog, wrote a lovely New York Times essay titled “The Importance of Dumb Mistakes in College.” Let’s unpack it for a week. Day 3.

But when it comes to college kids, my worry is that we’ve become unwilling to tolerate innocent mistakes — either that or we have drastically shrunk our vision of innocence.

Is the world really all that different in 2018 than it was in 1985? Perhaps not. The Griffin Hall vandals suffered, more or less, the same fate as Reische did for his act of vandalism 30+ years ago. In fact, they may have been treated even better. I doubt that they were even arrested, much less that they spent the night in jail. Their identities were never revealed. It is telling that Reische fails to mention this incident to his Times readers. Might confuse the narrative.

Does Reische really want local police to have more or less discretion? The more that we have official written policies about how to handle vandalism (and arrests therefrom), the more that the logic of the carceral state will take over. Less discretion will (always?) yield less room for error, less understanding from the agents of the state for “dumb mistakes.”

But Reische also does not trust the state, arguing that he was treated differently because of his race/status than another vandal would have been. This suggests that he does not want to give, say, the Williamstown police more discretion about who they arrest and who they don’t. Did this tension even occur to Reische?

Is it just me, or does this talk of “innocent” and “innocence” reek of hippy-dippy 60s liberalism? Reische, in 1985, was not innocent. He was a vandal. He knew what he was doing, just as the Griffin Hall vandals did. That doesn’t mean that their lives should be ruined, but using this terminology robs adults of their agency.

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Jim Reische, Director of Communications at Williams and friend-of-EphBlog, wrote a lovely New York Times essay titled “The Importance of Dumb Mistakes in College.” Let’s unpack it for a week. Day 2.

These days I work as the senior communications officer at another college, where I spend a healthy fraction of my time dealing with students who’ve made mistakes of their own. I recognize myself in them: intellectually adventurous, skeptical, newly aware of life’s injustices. They’re also different from me in many ways: less Grateful Dead and Dead Kennedys, much more technology.

That’s the important bit. Because for all of the supposed liberating power of their digital devices, they might as well be wearing ankle monitors. Technological connectedness has made it much harder for them to make mistakes and learn from them.

This is an empirical claim. Does it have any connection to reality? Consider 7 specific incidents of graffiti at Williams: Griffin Hall (2016), hockey rink (2015), Paresky (2014), Mission (2012) Prospect (2011), Dennett (2009) and Willy E (2008). Most people would agree that these are the most important such instances at Williams over the last decade. Note:

1) Only two perps were caught: Griffin and Dennett. It is not obvious that students who commit vandalism today are more likely to be caught than they were in Reische’s era. Mistakes (without meaningful consequences) are still possible!

2) It is not clear that the students who were caught were punished at all (Dennett) or were punished in a way that Reische would disagree with (Griffin). Certainly, no one was arrested or charged. Again, Reische is making an empirical claim: dumb mistakes (like acts of vandalism) have worse outcomes for students now than they did 30 years ago. But, if anything, Reische seems to have been more punished than students today! (Getting arrested is no fun!)

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Jim Reische, Director of Communications at Williams and friend-of-EphBlog, wrote a lovely New York Times essay titled “The Importance of Dumb Mistakes in College.” Let’s unpack it for a week. Day 1.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Not so much afterward, when I got driven downtown in handcuffs for spray-painting “Corporate Deathburgers” across a McDonald’s.

I earned myself a long night in jail for my lack of judgment. But my family and friends — and perhaps most important, my college, the University of Michigan — never learned about the episode (until now). Because in 1985, a college student could get a little self-righteous, make a bad decision, face consequences and then go home, having learned a “valuable lesson.”

A nice story. At this point, anyone informed about Williams would hope/expect that Reische would connect this story about youthful vandalism to any of the similar stunts at Williams over the last decade, perhaps starting with the Griffin Hall graffiti of November 2016. Yet, he doesn’t mention that hate hoax, nor any of the similar events over the last few years. Why?

Reische, allegedly, is concerned that the vandalism (the “dumb mistake”) for which he was not meaningfully punished 30 years ago would generate a different result today, and yet he declines to discuss any similar recent incident, despite (because?) of his insider knowledge about them. Explanations for this lacuna?

Key question: Are college students children or are they adults? We all agree that people less than 18 should face less severe sanctions than those 18+, and we act on those beliefs via the juvenile justice system. If you, say, vandalize Griffin Hall at 17, the state (Williamstown police, Berkshire County prosecutors) will treat you very differently than it will if you do the exact same thing at 18. Does Reische want to change that? He doesn’t tell us.

Note his ending:

Our children deserve the opportunity to play the music for themselves.

Reische (and the rest of the Williams Administration? and the Williams faculty?) think of the students at Williams as “children.” Is that a bug or a feature of elite education in 2018?

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On Wednesday, January 10th, the Society for Conservative Thought held its inaugural public event featuring Chris Gibson’s presentation,“What it Means to Be a Conservative.” Dr. Gibson previously served as a U.S. Army colonel and U.S. representative, and is currently Stanley Kaplan Distinguished Visiting Professor of American Foreign Policy in the Williams leadership studies program.

Addressing the audience of 45 students, administrators, and community locals, Dr. Gibson asserted the importance of the “conservation of the founding principles” and the recognition of their enduring value in the modern world. With many references to American history and European political philosophy, he described the miracle of the American political experiment and the critical need to maintain “the spirit of Philadelphia” which conceived of it. Students then stayed for over an hour to participate in a Q&A session in which Dr. Gibson outlined concrete legislative actions to improve the American political system, drawing upon his experiences from serving in Congress.

Following the discussion, the Society offered complimentary copies of Dr. Gibson’s most recent book, Rally Point: Five Tasks to Unite the Country and Revitalize the American Dream, courtesy of the Society’s budget.

The invitation of distinguished guests to voice conservative principles on campus is essential to the mission of the Society for Conservative Thought. If you can refer such individuals who would be interested in contributing to a future event, please contact jjd6@williams.edu.

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I thought the color Coca-Cola (Red RGB #E41E2B) might catch attention among the gray columns.

Of interest to me, my work included branding, was the introduction of a bespoke typeface for that giant venerable international brand Coca-Cola— its very first in their 132 years. 

https://www.dezeen.com/2018/01/12/neville-brody-designs-coca-colas-first-ever-typeface-tccc-unity-graphics/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily%20Dezeen%20Digest&utm_content=Daily%20Dezeen%20Digest+CID_a883105a6e82fc754c325037b7b3cd41&utm_source=Dezeen%20Mail&utm_term=Neville%20Brody%20designs%20Coca-Colas%20first%20ever%20own-brand%20typeface

Typefaces, and there are thousands, are designed for aesthetics and communication. For a look at this interesting field, the P22 site:

https://p22.com/

Now, for those inspecting for the Williams link, here ya go …

Michael Blanding ’95 *, author of The Coke Machine: The Dirty Truth Behind the World’s Favorite Soft Drink, in a Log Lunch on campus, discussed three case studies in which Coca-Cola factories were accused of taking water away from local community sources and infecting their leftover reserves with illegal levels of pesticides and metals.

https://ces.williams.edu/log/michael-blanding-talks-water-wars-and-coca-cola/

*  This is not Mr Blanding’s first appearance in Ephblog. See the link below to the 2004 story of his engagement. Catch up with the last 14 years of the Blandings’ with your password for the Alumni Directory. So far he has not built his Dream House.

http://ephblog.com/2004/07/03/blanding-95-to-wed/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr._Blandings_Builds_His_Dream_House

And from my own local experience within Hood River County, Oregon: the defeat of a plan to sell water rights to Nestle for yet another of their bottled water plants capitalizing on the names of local water sources. In our case it was the springs from Mt Hood and the river town of Cascade Locks. Nestle, whose own home is on Lake Geneva, CH, keeps fighting . And they recently purchased San Pelegrino and Evian. Water, I don’t need to say but will, is the oil of the XXIst century.

 

 

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Doug writes:

Can you explain why the neighborhood system is the “single biggest failure” at Williams in recent memory? I’m a student here now and the neighborhood system is totally fine with everyone — I’ve never actually heard anyone bash it before. People generally seem to like neighborhood events and not having RAs But there’s also no institutional memory at this point about what it replaced. Curious if you could point me in the right direction to learn about this.

Start with a definition.

Neighborhood Housing: students are randomly assigned to one neighborhood and can’t transfer.

The central aspect of Neighborhood Housing — what made it different than the system today or the system pre-2005 — was that students were assigned to one of four “Neighborhoods” and were not allowed to change. This was similar, indeed it was explicitly designed to be similar, to housing systems at places like Yale and Harvard.

It is true that lots of other things were also changing around this time. Some changes — gender caps — pre-dated the implementation of Neighborhoods and are still with us. Some changes, like moving First Years to Mission, actually had nothing to do with Neighborhood Housing per se. Some of these changes were good. Some bad. But, in this post, I am just discussing Neighborhood Housing at its core: the random assignment of students to housing groups.

Consider some background reading from 2005. Summary:

1) From 1995 to 2006, the Williams housing system was “free agency.” There was a campus wide lottery more-or-less identical to the one in use today. The system was popular and worked well.

2) “Neighborhood Housing” — also known as “Anchor Housing” — was the replacement. It was 100% driven by the Williams administration, mainly then-President Morty Schapiro, but with significant help from faculty on the Committee on Undergraduate Life, folks like Charles Drew ’58 and Will Dudley ’89.

3) The fundamental goal was to prevent student self-segregation in housing selection, especially racial segregation (all the black students in Weston) and athlete segregation (all the male helmet-sport athletes in Tyler/Tyler Annex). At that time, the Berkshire Quad was universally known as the “Odd Quad” and served as central location for those students outside the Williams party/alcohol/athletics “mainstream.” My sense is that administrators were not anti-Odd Quad, but they were certainly more than willing to sacrifice the special character of the Odd Quad for their larger goals.

4) Neighborhood Housing worked, at least according to Morty’s goals. Student self-segregation decreased. It was tough for the whole football team to live together if 1/4 of the team was assigned to each Neighborhood.

5) Neighborhood Housing was certainly the biggest non-academic change at Williams in the last 20 years, and perhaps back to co-education. (Does anyone disagree?) And, given how constant academic life has been at Williams (and/or how gradual any changes have been), Neighborhood Housing may have been the biggest change at Williams in a generation. Other candidates?

6) Neighborhood Housing failed, which is why students are no longer randomly (and permanently) assigned to a neighborhood. It failed for all the reasons we predicted and just as we documented for a decade. It is to Williams (and Adam Falk’s? And Steve Klass’s) credit that we ended Neighborhood Housing a few years ago and went back to the traditional campus wide lottery.

7) There are residues of neighborhoods that are still with us, like the word “neighborhood” itself and some of the changes that went along with their creation and then destruction. By far the most important of these is the move of First Years to Mission Park.

8) One occasionally reads strange revanchist views like this from abl. I have trouble understanding them. If words have meaning then “Neighborhood Housing” means “students are randomly assigned to one neighborhood at random and can’t transfer.” Both opponents and supporters agreed that this was the heart of the debate. No one cared about “campus social life/planning.” The Administration could have changed any aspect of that and no student would have complained.

abl claims:

Moreover, the neighborhood system in its conception and its execution represents the sort of Democratic social engineering that DDF and his libertarian/conservative leanings detests.

Untrue! I am in favor of competent social engineering, as here. The CUL was incompetent, as we documented/predicted at the time. Neighborhood Housing was doomed from the start, mainly because certain Williams traditions (JAs and entries, and co-ops) and the reality of our diverse housing stock.

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Interesting (but old) article (pdf) from Professor David Zimmerman.

I use data from Williams College to implement a quasi-experimental empirical strategy aimed at measuring peer effects in academic outcomes. In particular, I use data on individual students’ grades, their SAT scores, and the SAT scores of their roommates. I argue that first-year roommates are assigned randomly with respect to academic ability. This allows me to measure differences in grades of high-, medium-, or low-SAT students living with high-, medium-, or low-SAT roommates. With random assignment these estimates would provide compelling estimates of the effect of roommates’ academic characteristics on an individual’s grades. I also consider the effect of peers at somewhat more aggregated levels. In particular, I consider the effects associated with different academic environments in clusters of rooms that define distinct social units. The results suggest that peer effects are almost always linked more strongly with verbal SAT scores than with math SAT scores. Students in the middle of the SAT distribution may have somewhat worse grades if they share a room with a student who is in the bottom 15% of the verbal SAT distribution. The effects are not large, but are statistically significant in many models.

Should we spend a few days going through this?

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8083cfe4cf33441e64e1c0083e066078--painted-fireplaces-white-photographyJames Van Der Zee (American, 1886–1983), Nude, Harlem, negative 1923, printed 1974. Gelatin sepia-toned print, 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in. Museum purchase, Otis Family Acquisition Trust, M.2017.9.6

… in the Reading Room of the WCMA at 5:30 pm. The focus is ‘In Context’.

Two further salons will be held at WCMA on this photograph, ‘In Process’ on January 25th, and ‘In Theory’ on February 8th.

James Van Der Zee is one of the artists closely associated with the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s-1930s.

The Otis Family Acquisition Fund has made this acquisition possible as a part of the purchase of  James Van Der Zee: A portfolio of 18 Photographs presented with new prints in 1974 as a part of the renewed interest in the photographer as a part of the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Arts Movement.

https://wcma.williams.edu/news-item/gift-from-the-otis-family/

 

See the 18 photographs!

 

(more…)

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Williams staff, faculty and students,

I wanted to take this moment to point out that, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Williams will treat next Monday, January 15, as a day of no classes. Administrative offices will also be closed.

variety of activities are planned throughout the week. Please join me in taking the time to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy, and to dedicate ourselves to continuing his quest for equality and justice.

Just a few weeks after MLK Day will come the tenth anniversary of Claiming Williams. Both events offer important opportunities for us to reflect on the connections between a Williams education and our responsibilities to the world in which we live.

Thank you to the faculty for setting aside next Monday from the academic calendar, to the many people involved in planning this year’s events, and to all of you for your important contributions to our campus community and the wider world around us.

Tiku Majumder

Interim President
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We have not done a good job of archiving various College reports over the years. (And, of course, it is beyond pathetic that Williams itself mostly fails to do so.) So, as a reminder, let’s review some of them here.

1962: The Angevine Report (pdf). This is the single most important Williams document of the last 100 years. It led to the elimination of fraternities at Williams. Isn’t it embarrassing that the College doesn’t to host a copy of the report on its own servers?

2002: The MacDonald Report (pdf). This led to a dramatic decrease in the admissions preferences given to athletes. The College actively refuses to make this report publicly available.

2005: The Dudley Report (pdf) which led to the creation of Neighborhood Housing, the single biggest failure at Williams in the last few decades. Note also the CUL reports from 2002 and 2003 which paved the way to this disaster.

2005: Williams Alcohol Task Force Report. Sadly, I don’t have a pdf of this report. Does anyone? The issue of alcohol is a perennial one at places like Williams. Whatever committee tackles it next should start by reading this report. I think that this report was a follow up to the 2004 Report on Alcohol Policy (pdf).

2005: Diversity Initiatives. I think (but can’t find it right now) that the College does maintain a (pdf) of this report. The Record should do a story about what has happened in the last decade.

2008: Waters Committee Report (doc) which led to the elimination of the Williams in New York program. Professor Robert Jackal, creator of WNY, wrote this response (doc) and this memorandum (doc). See the October 2008 faculty meeting notes (pdf) for more discussion. Future historians might argue that this report was more important than the MacDonald report since it highlighted a turn inwards by Williams.

2008: A Report from Williams is a summary/celebration of the Claim High capital campaign.

2009-2010: The Neighborhood Review Committee began the process of dismantling the Neighborhood system. There were two interim reports (part I and part II) and two final reports (part I and part II).

There are other reports that should be added. Suggestions? I think that I will turn this into an annual post, with updates as needed. Would any readers like to spend a week going through the details of one of these reports?

If we won’t remember Williams history, who will?

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Lovely essay from a Pomona professor about the depressing changes at elite liberal arts colleges over the last 30 years. Extract:

At my little college, notwithstanding the national noise to the contrary, I find myself surrounded by incredibly hardworking, conscientious, bright, creative, curious students—anything but the slacker or snowflake or sheep-like images of college millennials you see portrayed by professional cynics and anti-education propagandists. I’m also surrounded by many fellow professors who are intensely dedicated, principled, broad-minded classroom teachers who see their job not primarily as a job but as a vocation (even as that term clinks antique elsewhere). My on-the-ground, in-the-hallway reality thus contravenes the prevailing narrative depicting professors as a bunch of pampered partisan prigs. Go ahead, troll me, if you must. But I know what I know. Something tremendously right, something inextinguishable, something akin to a spark of sacred sentience or thereabouts, abides in many out-of-the-way college classrooms today, and methinks we need to dwell and build on those quietly catalytic encounters.

An autonomous managerial class has emerged whose immediate and ulterior interests are occupational as opposed to educational (a distinction that ought not to be collapsed), and whose mission is to serve administrative purposes as opposed to teaching purposes (another distinction that ought not to be elided). Perhaps worst of all, the management model of organization, in trying to bring small colleges into the fold of purportedly national “best practices” and procedures, is destroying the distinctiveness, the localism, the teacherliness, the very raison d’etrê, of small colleges, one by one, all across America. Those colleges rich enough to compete for students and brand recognition with the likes of Stanford and Princeton may survive the last shakeout, but I’m afraid it will be at the expense of, as it were, their institutional souls.

There are many connections to EphBlog themes over the last 15 years. The story that Seery tells about Pomona is similar to what we have documented at Williams. Worth reviewing in detail?

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Greetings from the President’s Office, and happy new year!

I wanted to let you know, as I finish my first week in my new role as interim president, how much I’m looking forward to working with you all. Adam Falk set Williams on a strong path back into fiscal health; supported our curriculum through investments in our faculty, programs, and academic buildings; and strengthened our community through his commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Even considering the financial health and strong foundation he established, there’s much we’ll need to accomplish together. With that in mind I’m particularly eager to begin discussions with faculty and staff colleagues to inform the agenda for my tenure. While this undertaking will certainly involve close attention to the academic program and our support for students, the ways in which we choose to approach it must be informed by conversations with you who are engaged with this work every day.

Students have an essential role in defining this community. So I’m also eager to step beyond my more familiar role as teacher and advisor, to partner with College Council, MinCo, the JAs, and others to create a Williams that’s both welcoming and enriching, in ways that will foster the best possible education.

Even after more than two decades on the Williams faculty and many years as director of the Science Center, the presidency is showing me a side of the college that I’d previously had little opportunity to observe firsthand. Indeed, the view from my new office is quite different in many ways! I feel fortunate to step into my new job with the support of an outstanding leadership team, and the benefit of close relationships with so many of you. I look forward to strengthening those bonds and forming new ones in the months to come.

Sincerely,

Tiku Majumder
Interim President and Barclay Jermain Professor of Natural Philosophy

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Perfect response to Jim Reische’s New York Times article:

To the Editor:

Since we just served as editor in chief and senior editors of The Williams Record, Williams College’s independent student newspaper, Jim Reische’s article struck a chord with us. His reference to “a campus newspaper editorial that grapples with balancing free speech and appropriate behavior” was likely informed by a controversial Record editorial published in October 2015. We were on the board that composed that editorial, which advocated limitations to hateful but legally protected speech at Williams. We were widely and justifiably criticized for it, including in national media.

That mistake transformed how we tackle polarizing issues. The following semester, we published an editorial criticizing Williams’s president, Adam Falk, for canceling a controversial student-invited speaker. We saw tangible improvements in the board’s navigation of those difficult conversations: We respectfully challenged our peers’ opinions; we critically considered our own. Our editorial decisions, as the paper’s leaders for 2017, were not governed by fear of criticism, but rather an appreciation of it.

What we learned stuck with us as editors, and as young adults. We echo Mr. Reische’s hope that other students have the same opportunity to make mistakes — and be better for it.

MARIT BJÖRNLUND
EMMY MALUF
FRANCESCA PARIS
WILLIAMSTOWN, MASS.

Great stuff! Comments:

1) I have had my problems with Emmy Maluf in the past, but the tone of this letter (and her leadership of the Record) both deserve high marks.

2) Although they are too polite to mention it directly, these students are directly contradicting Reische’s thesis. Reische argues that it is a bad thing that outsiders pay attention to what students write, especially when that writing includes “dumb mistakes.” The students argue that the exact opposite is true, using the same example that Reische cites. They learned from their dumb mistake because outsiders criticized it.

Needless to say, EphBlog agrees. When we criticize students, we are helping them, or at least trying to. We pay them the (ultimate) compliment of taking their ideas seriously. Jim Reische, on the other hand, wants us to treat college students like children. Who is right? The leaders of the Record, at least, agree with EphBlog!

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The latest Common Data Set (pdf) shows that the 25th-75th percentile spread on the SAT (math + reading) is 1400–1570 for the class of 2021. This is a big increase from the class of 2020, which was (pdf) 1330–1540.

Note that there are two ways to report the 25th/75th percentile spread on math + verbal. First, in some years/schools, you are given this number. For example, for the class of 2020, Williams just tells us that this is 1340–1523. Second, you can calculate it yourself by adding the 25th (75th) percentile of math to the 25th (75th) percentile of reading. For the class of 2020, this gives us 1330–1540. These two methods should be fairly similar. The difference, obviously, will depend on the correlations between scores across students. I use the second method for both years since Williams does not (why?) give us the “true” range for the class of 2021.

A commentator writes:

Something is not right with the SAT numbers. Scores don’t change as dramatically as these. Williams, like a few other schools, seems to be using the SAT concordance tables to conflate old SAT and new SAT scores to arrive at artificially high numbers.

An easy way to see why I am skeptical of thee number is to look at class of 2021 data for Stanford and Princeton and compare to Williams. Here are the links.

https://admission.princeton.edu/how-apply/admission-statistics

http://admission.stanford.edu/apply/selection/profile.html

Princeton’s middle 50 is 1380-1540
Stanford is 1390-1540

If you compare Williams’ middle 50 to Stanford and Princeton’s you can see something is amiss. Otherwise Williams is suddenly more selective than Stanford and Princeton.

And it is not that the new SAT is producing higher SAT scores. Most of the more competitive schools which have current data appear to have new SAT scores which are lower than the old SAT. The best comparison I’ve been able to make is to compare the 2015-16 (pre new SAT) scores. That is pretty close to where the new SAT scores come in.

I find this argument fairly compelling. But, at the same time, Director of Institutional Research Courtney Wade (and her staff) are smart and careful. Did they make a mistake or did Stanford/Princeton?

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Il DunceActually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart,” he added. He said he was a “VERY successful businessman” and television star who won the presidency on his first try. “I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius….and a very stable genius at that!”

         NYT Jan 6, 2018

A very timely article on the fascist state development appears in this article at Williams.edu:

https://sites.williams.edu/cthorne/articles/fulfilling-the-fascist-lie/

 

 

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Any opinions about the quality of information at CollegeData? Here is Williams:

cd

Any service that does not even bother to gather race/ethnic data should not be taken seriously.

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What is the real purpose of Winter Study, especially for male undergraduates?

The real purpose of Winter Study is to fall in love.

You will never, ever, be surrounded by as many smart, pretty, eligible women as you are right now. Life after college is, comparatively, a wasteland. Of course, as you pass into the great beyond, you will meet other women, but they are unlikely to be as wonderful, physically and mentally, as the Eph women you are blessed to know now. More importantly, the best of them will choose mates sooner rather than latter. Exiting Williams without a serious girlfriend is not necessarily a one-way ticket to permanent bachelorhood (as several of my co-bloggers can attest), but it is not the smart way to play the odds. The odds favor love now.

It isn’t that your classes and papers, your theses and sports teams, are unimportant. But finding a soulmate to grow old with, someone to bear your children and ease your suffering, someone to give your life meaning and your work purpose — this is a much more important task than raising that GPA enough to make magna cum laude.

So, stop reading this blog and ask out that cute girl from across the quad. I did the same 30 years ago and have counted my blessings ever since.

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hmm writes:

Williams just posted their CDS which could be worth looking through: https://provost.williams.edu/files/williams_cds_1718.pdf

Massive surges in test scores this year than from any other year. Changing admissions strategy?

Another interesting points: Williams hit a 6:1 student to faculty ratio, which will likely be the lowest of any LAC. Good move. Most peers are 8:1.

Of Williams’s peer schools, only Pomona has posted their 2018 CDS as well:

https://pomona.app.box.com/s/p5wp4fuwww32ii3nn8kdijkcddcmgsuh

The test score gap between the two is gigantic this year; in the past, Pomona has had equal or higher test scores than Williams. Pomona is more racially diverse and has a higher percent of students ranking in the top 10%, as well as a higher yield, so it seems they deliberately made test scores a weaker factor.

Would be interested in seeing what people think. Kudos to Pomona for attracting a super diverse student body (even Stanford doesn’t have the same %), but is that worth significant declines in testing? It’ll be interesting seeing the long-term implications of this for graduation rates.

hmm should join us as an author. As should others! Make EphBlog Great Again!

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first gen

This is a photo of the first generation students in the class of 2021, taken this fall by departing Dean Rosanna Ferro.

What is the racial breakdown of first generation students? The biggest problem that the college faces in admissions is getting “enough” qualified African-American and Hispanic students. (The term “NAM” is sometimes used for brevity. It is an abbreviation for Non-Asian Minority.) Broadly speaking there are two ways to handle that problem. First, take the very best NAM students you can find, using Academic Rating, the same scheme used for white/Asian students. Second, worry less about Academic Rating and more about checking more than one box at a time. This approach would put an emphasis on NAMs that were also first generation or alumni or athletes since admitting them also allows the College to fulfill its other goals.

I don’t have a good sense of which approach, if either, the College prefers. But this picture does not appear to be as white or Asian as the rest of Williams . . .

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Alumni and Friends of Williams College,

I am pleased to announce that the student representatives of College Council have formally approved the incipient Society for Conservative Thought as a registered student organization. This milestone has been made possible through the tireless and earnest contributions of faculty members and many students, to all of whom I am deeply grateful.

Since my arrival at Williams as a freshman this fall, I have become increasingly alarmed by the extent of the liberal intellectual uniformity of the curriculum and campus community. Fellow students upholding all varieties of political and social beliefs have confided to me their concerns that the explicit liberal bias is inhibitive to the attainment of a well-rounded liberal arts education, and that alternative views are frequently neglected, misrepresented, and ridiculed without basis. This close-mindedness breeds a shallow and hegemonic intellectual environment in which students do not feel able to freely express non-conforming ideas. As asserted by the campus administration during the First Days presentations, it is a mission of the College to promote diversity “in all its forms.” Diversity, however, should not be restricted to classifications of racial, sexual, and socioeconomic identities—at an educational institution, it must include diversity of thought. Though the administration has openly acknowledged the problem of liberal homogeneity in the official 2005 Diversity Initiatives Self-Study, in which students described “a lack of tolerance of diversity of thought” regarding conservative philosophies (pg. 10), the College has taken no meaningful measure to improve the situation and there are no existing student organizations dedicated to the study of conservative beliefs.

The Society for Conservative Thought is the product of the current student movement to broaden the intellectual diversity of the College and establish an academic refuge where students can engage with the rich intellectual tradition of conservatism in the vein of Edmund Burke and Russell Kirk. As a non-partisan and non-activist organization, we invite students of all varieties of political and social beliefs to expand their academic horizons and study, discuss, and even challenge ideas that are underrepresented in the Williams curriculum. Unlike other student organizations which have attempted to prompt dialogue through spectacle and incendiary controversies, the Society will foster a genuine understanding and appreciation of conservative principles through group readings and discussions, debates, and invited speakers. The Society is sponsored by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a prestigious and well-endowed organization founded by William F. Buckley Jr. in 1953 for the promotion of conservative ideas on college campuses. Through ISI, the Society has access to educational resources, a bureau of distinguished speakers, and special off-campus events, all free of charge.

I understand that there is a strong contingent of alumni who are rightfully disaffected with the intellectual climate of the College. To alumni: may this message inspire you with the knowledge that there are many among the student body who share your concerns and are striving to right the situation. The Society will be a liaison between the student and alumni communities, and we look forward to hearing your advice as we forge lasting bonds of friendship in our joint effort to establish true diversity of thought at the College. Please contact me to learn more and become involved in our mission—Williams needs you.

At this moment the intellectual affairs of the College face a fateful crossroads of critical importance. By the end of this academic year, the two most prominent campus advocates for free thought will have retired and graduated, and a new president will be taking office. For over two centuries, Williams has formed the minds, hearts, and souls of generations of students who have effected incredible and outsized impacts on our nation and the world. Will the College endanger this legacy by continuing to stifle the holistic intellectual growth of its students? Perhaps, but I promise that the Society will do everything within its power to provide Williams students with a refuge for free thought and the unprejudiced study of the true, good, and beautiful.

Society activities will commence during the Winter Study period. We will read selections from William F. Buckley Jr.’s God and Man at Yale, Roger Scruton’s The Meaning of Conservatism, and Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind, as well as host a number of speakers drawn from distinguished faculty members and alumni. Those with questions or interest in our efforts may contact me at jjd6@williams.edu.

Sincerely,

John J. DiGravio ‘21

President, Williams College Society for Conservative Thought

“Veritas Vos Liberabit”

 

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Last week, I told the tale of the Ghost of EphBlog Past. Read that stave or continue no further. Today: A visit from the Ghost of EphBlog Present.

Touch my robe and away we go!

For anyone who remembers our humble beginning, the EphBlog of today is an amazing place. There were 187 posts in January 2010 by at least 18 different authors: Norman Birnbaum ’46, Dick Swart ’56, Jeff Thaler ’74, David Kane ’88, Derek Charles Catsam ’93, Ken Thomas ’93, Wendy Shalit ’97, Jeff Zeeman ’97, JG ’03, Rory ’03, Lowell Jacobson ’03, Ben Fleming ’04, Diana Davis ’07, Ronit Bhattacharyya ’07, Andrew Goldston ’09, Torrey Taussig ’10, tinydancer ’11 and PTC.

Also note these contributions from Williams officials: Wayne G. Hammond, librarian at the Chapin Library of Rare Books, an anonymous faculty member, Professor Gabriela Vainsenche, Tyng Administrator Jeff Thaler ’74 and Professor Peter Just. Note that all of these were just in January! If we looked at 2009 as a whole, we would find contributions from a dozen or more current Williams faculty/staff. We have even been retweeted by a trustee!

Several of our authors posted only once or twice during the month, but the diversity of contributions — including spectrum-spanning politics and a 65 year range of graduating classes — make EphBlog the most successful independent (alumni/student/parent) college website in the world. There were 2,388 comments during the month, from dozens of readers. None of the similar student/alumni blogs at Dartmouth, Middlebury, Amherst or Wesleyan come anywhere near this level of participation. Although readership is hard to measure, we had over 1,000 visitors a day in January, with at least 200 from the Williamstown area. Although the vast majority of students/faculty do not read EphBlog, many of those most concerned with the past, present and future of Williams as an institution do. I write for them, and for my father.

Alas, EphBlog is not without its critics. Consider this Williams professor:

But let’s look back over the last few weeks (or the last few years for that matter) and think about what DDF has been saying about Williams and the Williams faculty. We’re racists. We’re intolerant. We’re sleazy (indeed, any of you who know Bill Wagner will understand just how bizarre it is to use that adjective in connection to him). This list goes on and on and on, with depressing and debilitating regularity and continuity.

There is an ineluctable fact to all internet commentary: No matter how many wonderful things you write about a person, no matter how many things you both agree on, no matter how polite and open-minded you are in discussion, if you challenge someone’s deepest beliefs, they will often despise you.

And this is all the more true if you do so from the “inside.” I disagree with many professors and administrators about what is best for Williams. And that should be OK! Discussion and debate are at the heart of a Williams education. But because I do so with credentials of an elite education (Harvard Ph.D.) and Williams College insider (Winter Study adjunct instructor, knowledgeable alumni volunteer), I am a danger. And so is EphBlog.

And this is not just about one Williams professor, nor is it just about debates over financial aid policy. He is not an outlier. His opinion is common, even majority, among our faculty and administrator readership. They do not like EphBlog when it criticizes the College or its faculty. They do not like me. When they read a description of the College’s affirmative action policy or complaints about the lack of ideological diversity among the faculty, they see an unfair attack. I am accused of calling the Williams faculty “racists” or “intolerant,” when my only sin is to have a different view of policy at Williams from him and most of his faculty colleagues.

Yet the conflict between reform and stability, between outsider and insider, is as old as Williams itself. Henry Bass ’57 tells a story about Professor Robert Gaudino:

Knowing how radical Gaudino was, I knew early in the fall of ’55 there was only an amount of time, before there would be a public confrontation between Gaudino and President Baxter. Lively discussions of campus issues then took place in the new Baxter Hall. We did not have long to wait. I don’t remember what the argument was about. I do remember that it was quite heated and that Phinney soon showed signs of losing his temper. And acrimonious debates with the president of Williams did not happen in those days.

Nor today. What is most interesting about the complaint about me is how it conflates two criticisms of Williams: 1) Wagner is sleazy and 2) Wagner did a sleazy thing. We all agree that Bill Wagner is a good man and excellent professor. Indeed, he has been answering my questions (for publication on EphBlog) for many years. But even the very best Ephs among us occasionally do sleazy things. I am not without sin. Are you?

And, if EphBlog is not that place at which Williams students, alumni, parents, faculty and staff might come together to discuss College policy, then where is that place?

Gaudino is one of my two Williams heroes because he was not afraid to get in a public fight with the president of Williams. Nor am I.

What is especially annoying about these complaints is that they try to delegitimize the many voices of criticism at EphBlog by calling it “KaneBlog.” Ronit replies:

I think it’s nice that Will and Sam use the term Kaneblog to refer to this site, when Kane does not own the site, does not own the domain, does not own the server, does not run the site, does not have any kind of final editorial authority, and is not on the board. That is really fucking respectful to all the dozens of other commenters and authors who participate here and who have contributed to the site over the years. I’m glad the opinions of people like Henry Bass and Aidan Finley can be dismissed simply because they’re posted on EphBlog (I’m sorry, “KaneBlog”) and they happen to disagree with the latest sacred (purple?) cows.

Indeed. Yet note that the discussion that we have fostered at EphBlog for almost eight years includes more than just College policy. We also seek to engage in broader discussions, about both student life and alumni lives. Rory notes (correctly) that this makes me and other EphBlog authors unusual:

i still find it weird that an alum from the 80s reads wso posts. … I doubt any of the many professors I interact with at Williams and at my current institution read forums like wso. they certainly don’t copy and paste from them.

The difference between Rory’s friends on the Williams faculty and me — and the many other EphBlog authors, alumni and students both, who quote from WSO — is that we care about the opinions of Williams undergraduates. They, judging from Rory’s testimony, do not or, at least, they only care about those opinions when they are paid to, in the context of either classroom discussion or papers assigned for a Williams course.

And that is OK! My point here is not to criticize or praise the choices made by individual Williams faculty members. I just want to make clear that I seek to intellectually engage with Williams undergraduates. The first step in doing so is to consider their arguments and observations, to read their prose, to comment on their ideas, to present them with my own positions. The electronic log has room for all of us.

Jeff writes:

But I think students are perfectly capable of finding their own ways when it comes to their day-to-day lives in college. Indeed, I find it ironic that you find it so troubling (and I agree) when the administration tries to entangle itself too intimately in arenas best reserved for students to find their own way (and even occasionally screw up, as 19 year olds are prone to doing), yet you seem perfectly willing to insert yourself in much the same fashion.

Indeed. Key here is the meaning of “insert.” Consider the second of my Williams heroes, David Dudley Field, class of 1825, and, in the words of Williams professor Fred Rudolph ’39, a “instrument of interference” in the affairs of the College.

Field is the patron saint of alumni trouble-makers, an Eph who believed that “The only men who make any lasting impression on the world are fighters.” As a student, he was thrown out of Williams over a dispute with the faculty. As an alum, he led the way, both in fund-raising for Williams and in inserting himself into college affairs. (See this overview on the Field family (pdf) by Russ Carpenter ’54.) Field argued passionately that Williams should require military drills of all students during the Civil War, admit women and abolish fraternities. He won some of those battles, lost others and was vindicated by history on the most important questions. He inserted himself in the debate over the future of Williams 150 years ago just as I, and other EphBlog authors, do today.

Although Gaudino and Dudley are no longer with us, I feel certain that they are looking down on EphBlog and smiling. We are an agent of interference, engaged in public confrontation and acrimonious debates about what is best for Williams.

Would a Williams professor in the tradition of Gaudino and Dudley have it any other way?

Originally published in 2010.

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Arch Stanton ’62 writes:

Is it wishful thinking, or does the prospectus have several clues that the search committee is looking for someone who will be more supportive of intellectual diversity and free speech on campus?

Should we draw an inference from the fact that the word ‘debate’ appears four times?

Could the phrase ‘where all voices are invited and heard” be a reference to Derbyshire? I would be surprised if the drafters of this document would use the verb ‘invite’ if they did not intend readers to make a connection to that incident.

“Be an inspiring and trusted leader and convener with the ability to drive a sense of inclusiveness and respect – even in the face of controversial issues. Model civil discourse and openness to different points of view, and set high expectations for respectful discussions.”

Does this bullet point indicate a desire that the next Williams president be open even to conservative points of view?

I hope so! Other comments?

By the way, we need more authors on EphBlog! Please join us (anonymously, as I do or otherwise.) Just leave a comment on this thread and I will contact you.

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mika2

Article here: “Brzezinski questions Franken accuser: ‘Playboy model who goes on Hannity, voted for Trump'”

I was told that you must believe the women.

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From The New Republic:

In Against the Grain, [James C.] Scott [’58] argues that we still think of our world as the fruit of a series of undeniable advances: domestication, public order, mass literacy, and prosperity. We chide the ancient Greeks for relying on enslaved labor and the Romans for their imperial wars, but our own story, as we imagine it, still starts with those ancient city-states and their precursors in the Mesopotamian Middle East (basically modern Iraq), when some clever primates first planted rows of seeds, built mud-brick walls, and scratched cuneiform on a crude tablet. In our own minds, we are the descendants of people who couldn’t wait to settle down.

The truth, Scott proposes, may be the opposite. What if early civilization was not a boon to humankind but a disaster: for health and safety, for freedom, and for the natural world? What if the first cities were, above all, vast technologies of exploitation by a small and rapacious elite? If that is where we come from, who are we now? What possibilities might we discover by tracing our origins to a different kind of ancestor?

Interesting stuff.

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From Twitter:

xmas

Merry Christmas one and all!

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An anonymous comment in the thread on presidential searches provides occasion for me to give my view on EphBlog’s past, present and future. Come join me in navel study . . . Dickensesque it will not be.

Here are portions of the comment, with my thoughts interspersed.

Alright, permit me to offer another perspective that may clarify Todd’s frustration.

Essentially, DDF has admitted that he’s interested in a particular market anomaly — the relative overcompensation of a specialized type of employee in an extremely complex market. That’s fine, and if this were PresidentialCompensationblog.com, or HigherEducationFinanceblog.com, his perseveration might be suitable or even admirable. But that’s not the case — this is supposed to be a blog about all things Williams, and currently there seems to be a bit of digression.

I have heard this same complaint many times before. Some didn’t like it when EphBlog was too much NigaleianBlog.com or BarnardVistaBlog.com
or MGRHSFunding.Blog or EphBlogBlog.com or DDFsRandomThoughtsBlog.com or whatever. Soon I will be getting complaints about EphBlog being too much CGCLBlog.com.

Now, like any writer, I appreciate feedback. I am curious to know what other people think. I hope that people enjoy EphBlog, both all the postings/comments taken together and my own contributions. But, it should be clear by now that I often become very interested in a small aspect of “all things Eph” and pursue that aspect in mind-numbing detail. Few can compete with me in the category of dead-horse-beating. When I tilt at these windmills, and I plan on tilting for years to come, I try to segregate my posts, clearly stating the topic and leaving much of the commentary below the jump so that only readers truly interested need be bothered. If you don’t want to read any more of my posts about presidential compensation, well, I have a solution: Don’t read them.

Yet the commentator misses the point when he opines about what EphBlog is “supposed to be”. It is not for him alone to define what EphBlog is “supposed to be” — nor is it for me or Eph ’20 or Dick Swart ’56 or Professor Steve Miler or any other author/commentator/reader. EphBlog is a collective effort. It is “supposed to be” whatever we make of it.

We do have an official EphBlog motto — “all things Eph” — which provides a three word summary about how many of us think about EphBlog. The motto should be interpreted as broadly as possible. We are interested in anything and everything related to any Eph. Of course, there is a sense in which this is impossibly broad. Since Ephs are everywhere and involved in everything, it would be hard to come up with a topic that was not Eph-related somehow. We try to always have a “hook” — some connection, however tenuous, to something that another Eph has written or done.

The best way to understand what “all things Eph” means in the context of EphBlog is to look at the body of posts over the last year or so. The range of topics that we have covered is representative, I think, of what “all things Eph” means to us as a collective. I predict that 2018 will see a similar collection of posts and comments. Adjust your bookmarks accordingly.

What is EphBlog “supposed to be”? As the founder of EphBlog, allow me to state authoritatively the answer: EphBlog is supposed to be whatever the community of Eph authors, commentators and readers wants it to be. If you want it to be something else, then join us and contribute. To the extent that you’d like to remain anonymous, we are happy to have anonymous authors, including me. EphBlog is supposed to be whatever you make of it.

Granted, I’m not being completely fair, because DDF has located his interest in the more general question of ‘What were the qualities of the presidential search a few years back, and what can we learn from it?’ Honestly, I don’t find this question especially compelling, and my guess is that many ephblog readers wouldn’t either.

I don’t care. Really.

Now that may seem harsh, and I do value people’s comments and we all have something to add to the conversation and I am a sensitive guy and blah, blah, blah. But . . .

I am not writing for you. I am writing for me. Even more, I am writing for my father, class of ’58. I spent about as much time on EphBlog in the summer of 2003 as I do now, even though we had very few readers then. Yet I knew that my dad was one. As long as he reads, I will write. Feel free to join us on the trip.

I would argue that the real problem is that more germaine issues are being ignored. I can name a couple really quickly — the issue of race relations on campus and the paucity of minority faculty; the degree of involvement of Williams students in activist causes and the local community; and, as one studly dude recently posted on the WSO forums, the federal cuts to Pell grants and what Williams’ reaction might be.

As a good economist, DDF might say, if you don’t like what I’m doing, go found EphraimBlog.com and do it your way.

Calling me an economist is like asking me if I was in the Navy: they are fighting words. ;-)

More importantly, this is not what I say. I agree with you that all those topics are interesting. I think that someone should write about them, either at EphBlog or elsewhere. If anyone did write about them, I would be eager to read what she has to say and to comment on it.

But if you think that “more germaine issues are being ignored,” I am afraid that you are missing the point. EphBlog, as a collective effort, doesn’t ignore anything. We don’t have a morning editorial meeting at which agendas are discussed, assignments given and plans made. If you think that that Eph student activism is interesting, then write about it. Whatever you write, I will post. Just don’t tell me what to write about.

That’s fine — but I would argue that as someone who has founded ephblog as a specifically *public* forum, you have a bit of a responsibility to at least attempt to reflect the interests of the larger Eph community, and not pursue your own vanity projects. This isn’t Kaneblog, it’s Ephblog. Kaneblog would be fine, but don’t use Ephblog as a facade for it.

I have zero, zip, zilch “responsibility to at least attempt to reflect the interests of the larger Eph community.” Even thinking about the issue in this way is mostly unhelpful.

  1. Does the “larger Eph community” include the thousands and thousands of Ephs who do not read EphBlog and have no interest in doing so? Morty Schapiro, to cite just one example, does not read blogs (and more power to him). Why should EphBlog attempt to reflect Morty’s interests?
  2. To the extent that the “larger Eph community” means the current (and potential future) readers of EphBlog, I would argue that we are doing a pretty good job of interest-representation. How else would you explain our increased readership? Someone’s “interests” are being represented quite well, thank you very much.
  3. Perhaps you really mean to claim that I should “attempt to reflect” your interests. I am afraid that we are just going to have to agree to disagree on that one.

The days before Christmas are a time for summing up and looking forward. The above is my view on what EphBlog has been. Everyone else can decide for themselves what EphBlog will be in 2018. My own hope is that it will be less blog and more discussion, less of my writing and more of everyone else’s. Time will tell all.

Original version published in 2004.

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The 2017 Investment Report (pdf) is available. Worth going through in detail, like we did last year?

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