Notwithstanding DDF’s concerns that the Record would not cover the the Bae ’17 rape verdict, the paper published a solid, if not particularly probing, story about it last week.  While many of the details reported in the Record have been reported elsewhere, I think it was useful for the Williams community to have it in the Record, as more community members are likely to see those details in the Record than elsewhere.

The paper gave a basic recap of the procedural history of the case, before giving a brief synopsis of the assault itself:

On Sept. 6, the Berkshire Superior Court convicted Yoonsang Bae ’17 on one count of rape.

Judge Michael Callan found him guilty, after a bench trial, of sexually assaulting another student while he was attending the College in 2014. His ultimate conviction was the product of several years of investigation, including his two-year suspension from the College between 2014 and 2016. Bae will be sentenced by Callan on Friday and he faces up to 20 years in prison.

In July 2014, Bae provided large quantities of alcohol to a then-19-year-old student while at a party. She became sick several times, and he ultimately led her back to his room, where she fell asleep. When she awoke, he was assaulting her, and he refused to stop despite her repeated insistence.

The Record also gave some details about the College’s procedures when investigating an allegation of sexual misconduct and/or assault.  While some of this is undoubtedly known to some EphBlog readers, I thought it interesting that the College hires an outside investigator, who then presents findings to a three-member panel of College staff (not students or faculty).  From this description, I assume anyone who is eligible to vote at faculty meetings is ineligible to serve on one of these panels, but that is not 100% clear from the article.

(Full details on the procedures are found here.  These are probably worth blogging about in the future.  Although interesting, I think it was appropriate for this Record article not to delve into the procedures, though it might make for an interesting investigative piece at some point).

Another interesting item from the Record article is the fact that Bae was offered a plea in which he ultimately could have avoided a criminal conviction.  If this is true, it was obviously a terrible mistake for him to turn that plea down.  I wonder why he did so?  Did he really feel as though he hadn’t done anything criminal, and didn’t want to admit to something he thought he hadn’t done?  Or was he sufficiently confident in his own ability to tell the story of what happened in a way favorable to him?  Or confident in the inability of the victim to tell her story persuasively?  Regardless of the reason for turning down the deal, he must be regretting that now.

Finally, the article provides this interesting quote from the District Attorney’s office about new prosecution priorities for the new Berkshire County DA:

“We did not necessarily change any formal office policies regarding sexual assault on college campuses [in the new administration],” said Andy McKeever, public information officer at the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office. “However, District Attorney Andrea Harrington has placed a priority on pursuing these cases aggressively. If a victim wants to go to trial we are going to fully support the victim and pursue justice.”

I wonder whether the DA’s office is really as passive as it sounds in making these decisions on whether (i.e. simply asking the victim “What do you want to do?”, as opposed to seeking to persuade the victim of a particular course of action in a particular case).  From my perspective, while the victim’s wishes are an important factor in whether to prosecute (and without a victim’s cooperation, prosecution may be essentially impossible), I would hope that the DA’s office will make those prosecution decisions independently, weighing all of the factors in making those choices.

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An interesting forum from back in 2010:

If you’ve considered going to graduate school in history, come to a History Graduate School Panel discussion on Tuesday at 7:00 pm in Griffin 7. Professors Dubow, Fishzon, and Kittleson will speak about their own graduate school experiences, and will answer any questions you might have.

Good stuff. Kudos to the professors involved for taking the time to participate. Comments:

1) Relevant discussion here and here. I second Professor Sam Crane’s remarks:

In fact, I tell them the academic job market is horrible, has been bad for a long, long time, and is getting worse. I tell them that getting a job like the one I have is unlikely. I tell them that they should go on for a Ph.D. only if they truly love the learning, because that is something they will be certain to have for a lifetime, regardless of what job they find themselves with. And for some of them, that is what it is about. Love of learning, regardless of whether they get an ideal academic job.

This was true in 2010 and is even more true now. It is true, not just in history and political science but in almost every academic field. If anything, areas like physics and biology are even worse, mainly because of the volume of Ph.Ds which they produce.

My only quibble with Sam’s comments might be to clarify that a love of learning is not enough of a reason to justify graduate school in history. With the internet as your oyster, you can pursue learning as much as your free time allows without going to graduate school.

2) Read Derek Catsam ’93:

[G]raduate students and those looking at entering this competitive world need to be cognizant of the realities. If you are planning to enter a field like, say, US history, it is probably incumbent upon you to know the odds. Further, it seems to me that it is pretty irresponsible of those of us with the ability to advise students if we emphasize the great aspects of intellectual life within the academy and do not point out the reality — your odds of getting the PhD are smaller than you think, your odds of getting a job are slighter still, and your odds of getting tenure at a place yet smaller, and then all of this happening at a place you would otherwise choose to live? Infinitesimal.

Also Swarthmore Professor Tim Burke:

Should I go to graduate school?

Short answer: no.

Long answer: maybe, but only if you have some glimmering of what you are about to do to yourself. Undergraduates coming out of liberal arts institutions are particularly vulnerable to ignorance in this regard. …

Just don’t try graduate school in an academic subject with the same spirit of carefree experimentation. Medical school, sure. Law school, no problem. But a Ph.D in an academic field? Forget it. If you take one step down that path, I promise you, it’ll hurt like blazes to get off, even if you’re sure that you want to quit after only one year.

Two years in, and quitting will be like gnawing your own leg off.

Past that, and you’re talking therapy and life-long bitterness.

Burke is right. I hope that the panelists back then, whether or not they agreed with Burke, made sure that students know what some historians believe. I worry that such an event might too easily have degenerated into a “You are all smart Williams students who should dream big and live large!” Nothing wrong with that advice when a student asks if she should try a difficult upper-level seminar, but Ephs need a more reality-based answer when leaving the Purple Bubble. Large numbers of students in the class of 2020 who are going to graduate school are making a mistake. Professor Sara Dubow is, no doubt, a wonderful, hard-working professor. But there is also a sense in which she won the lottery . . .

3) Key data would be a listing of all the Ephs who went to graduate school in, for example, history from 1990 through 2000. Where are they now? What happened to them along the way? If there were 50, I bet that fewer than 40 made it to Ph.D., fewer than 20 got any tenure-track jobs at all, and fewer than 5 got tenure. How many got tenure at a place that pays as well as Williams? I don’t know. In fact, I have trouble coming up with many Eph historians of that era, other than our own Derek Catsam ’93, Sara Dubow ’91 and Eiko Maruko Siniawer ’97. Pointers welcome!

4) There are some fields — like economics, statistics and computer science — in which supply/demand are more in balance. There are still nice academic jobs at places like Williams and plenty of opportunities in industry.

5) Never attend a Ph.D. program which is not fully funded.

6) The 2010 comment thread includes excellent discussion. I miss the old EphBlog!

7) Still want to get a Ph.D. even though you are fully aware of the likely outcomes? Cool! EphBlog fully supports informed decision-making. Our main point here is to encourage you to be fully informed. Graduate school in history can be fun and rewarding! Just be sure to have a back-up plan . . .

UPDATE: First version of this post went up 9 years ago. What is the academic job market like? Consider what happened to the professors who participated in the panel.

Roger Kittleson was already tenured at the time of the panel. Life at Williams is (I hope!) good. What sort of advice does he give to history students today?

Sara Dubow is now a full professor of history at Williams. She is our lottery winner.

Anna Fishzon is listed as a “Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia University in the City of New York.” But she still lists her Williams assistant professor position at the top of her profile, so it is not clear how much substance there is to the Columbia position. Even though she did great work in graduate school — which is the only way she got hired by Williams in the first place — there is no (stable) job for her in academia. Is there one for you, Dear Reader? Probably not.

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Bethany McLean ’92 on Elon Musk in Vanity Fair. Self-recommending.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth writes in the New York Times about safe spaces.

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In the comments on Whitney’s excellent post about Family Wealth at Williams, there was some discussion about a theoretical poor student and how their financial situation might impact their experience at Williams. I think DDF underestimates how hard it can be for someone from a different background and/or limited means to adjust to life at college.

Here is an interesting article from the New York Times (link) that gives some real world examples of how someone’s background can have a major impact on their student experience. I find it provides compelling reasons for schools like Williams (and amHerst) to be thoughtful, creative and thorough in providing support to students with these kinds of backgrounds.

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Thanks to an anonymous student:

Dear Williams Students,

It gives us great pleasure to welcome the Class of 2023 and all of you who are returning. We hope you all had summers that were both productive and restorative and we look forward to working with you in the year ahead. To that end, we want to share a number of updates and news items with you as we start the year.

Why does the College refuse to publicly archive these messages? Future historians will curse you!

Health and Wellbeing Updates:

We’re happy to announce some enhancements to our Health and Wellbeing programs and services. One important addition is our adoption of TalkSpace. TalkSpace is an innovative online therapy service that is now available, at no cost and effective immediately, to all enrolled students, twelve months a year and even while traveling abroad. TalkSpace connects users to a dedicated, licensed therapist from a secure, HIPAA-compliant mobile app and web platform. Their roster comprises more than 5,000 licensed clinicians from across the country, who collectively speak over forty languages. You can send your therapist a text, voice or video message anytime, from anywhere, throughout your time at Williams. We’re providing this service to students in addition to all of our existing on-campus offerings in psychotherapy, psychiatry and on-call crisis services, as well as the wellbeing promotion events, workshops and groups we organize throughout the year. Stay tuned for user-friendly instructions on how to use TalkSpace.

I wonder how many students these therapists will be helping at the same time. Deep learning has made automated therapy chat bots possible . . . and maybe easy. The word “dedicated” is . . . subject to interpretation.

Our team also has some wonderful new clinicians we’d love for you to meet. Please visit our website to learn more about our staff: https://health.williams.edu/what-is-integrative-wellbeing/.

We have also expanded the college’s Non-Emergent Medical Transportation (NEMT) system. The system is now available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week throughout the year, including summers. As a reminder, the NEMT provides transportation for all non-emergency off-campus medical needs, including doctor and physical therapy appointments, dental visits, urgent care visits, x-rays/blood tests/lab visits, etc. You may also call for pickup if you were taken to a hospital for an emergency and need a ride back to campus after you’re discharged. New this year, we’re also providing twice-daily shuttles to the Walgreens Pharmacy in Rite-Aid (Colonial Plaza) to pick up prescriptions. Please check here for details on how to make the most of this service.

None of this is, necessarily, bad spending. But I would prioritize matching financial aid packages from places like Harvard first.

Policy Updates:

Students have requested that we be as clear and transparent as possible in describing our policies around freedom of expression. We’d like to call your attention to three policies we’ve updated and edited for clarity over the summer. The policies provide guidance on campus postings (please check here), the use of campus facilities and related resources for campus speakers/performances (please check here), and campus protests (please check here). We encourage you to review each one, especially if you plan on posting fliers, hanging banners, or bringing speakers this year.

Good stuff! Maud seized her moment, just as we predicted she would.

The College would be wise to seek a Green Light designation from FIRE. This is the easiest way to demonstrate to skeptical alums that the College has turned the corner on Falk’s error.

The Log:

When we originally renovated and re-opened the Log a few years ago, it was managed by a different vendor with a more expensive menu. To encourage student business, we piloted a college-sponsored, limited 30% food discount for students with a current college ID. With our popular new operators and a much less expensive, more flexible menu, we’re shifting away from that early pilot program. Rather than provide an across-the-board Log subsidy, the college will provide an additional $50 in annual discretionary funds to every financial aid student, usable anywhere. For the 2020 academic year, this $50 will show up as a credit on the January term bill. Then in future years it will be added to the personal allowance. We’re excited about this opportunity to provide additional and flexible support for aided students.

There are seniors on financial aid who have already accepted job offers from Google or Goldman Sachs and whose families make more than $200,000. But, by all means, let’s give them $50 of extra spending money!

Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Updates:

First, you’ll notice that we’ve modified the office’s name to include inclusion – which is a key component of our work. We’re very excited to share that we’re in the process of hiring a Dialogue Facilitator, to be housed in OIDEI. The Dialogue Facilitator will partner with all constituents on campus and supplement existing efforts to foster a community in which all are welcome and can respectfully engage with others. We anticipate this work will be carried out by integrating restorative practices and mediation on campus. We also share several staffing updates in OIDEI. On the heels of her tenure as Director of Special Academic Programs, Molly Magavern joined our conflict resolution efforts as Assistant Vice President; Clinton Williams joined the team as the Director of Special Academic Programs; Bilal Ansari is leading our campus engagement work as Assistant Vice President while continuing to serve as Acting Director of the Davis Center; and Keara Sternberg recently joined us as Assistant Director of the Davis Center and Campus Engagement. All of these individuals look forward to working with you.

Let’s hire more bureaucrats! Just what the College needs. Leticia Haynes is way too busy — burning the midnight oil day after day — to possible handle her own dialogue facilitation . . .

Again, welcome back to campus! We wish you all an inspired, healthy, productive beginning to the new academic year.

All best wishes,

Leticia Haynes, Vice President for Institutional Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Steve Klass, Vice President for Student Life
Marlene Sandstrom, Dean of the College

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As long as there is an EphBlog, there will be a remembrance of the three Ephs who died on 9/11: Howard Kestenbaum ’67, Lindsay Morehouse ’00 and Brian Murphy ’80. Previous entries here and here.

Much of the trauma of that day lives on.

We are looking for Howard Kestenbaum. He was on the 103rd floor of the World Trade Center South Tower (the second building that was hit). If you have any information please contact me.

That link worked five years ago, a constant reminder of the turmoil of those blue September days. It has since disappeared, like so many of our memories. First years at Williams now were born the year the towers fell.

Kestenbaum_Howard1Howard Kestenbaum worked at the top of the south tower, the second to be struck. In the midst of chaos, his was a voice of calm and reason in the 78th floor sky lobby as people waited anxiously for the express elevators that were to take them to the ground floor. They could not know about United Airlines Flight 175, just minutes away from impact.

Wein and Singer joined three of their Aon colleagues: Richard Gabrielle, 50, Vijay Paramsothy, 23, and the group’s boss, Howard Kestenbaum, 56.

Two elevators in the north half of the lobby were out of service, but Wein’s group stood near one of the idle cars anyway; it was less crowded there than at the south end of the lobby.

I’ve left my purse, Wein recalls saying. I don’t want to go back up, but how will I get the bus?

“Here, take some money and go home,” Kestenbaum said.

Singer remembered something she had left at her desk.

No, Kestenbaum said. Don’t go back up. They stayed in the lobby.

Howard’s last moments were spent taking care of those around him. The College has done a fine job of memorializing Lindsay Morehouse, creating an award for the player at the New England Championship “who best displays the ideals of sportsmanship, friendliness, character, fair play, and hard work that Lindsay embodied until her untimely death 9-11-2001.”

Kestenbaum was an athlete and wrestler at Williams. The College should honor him in a similar fashion. Perhaps the class of 1967 might to do the same for Kestenbaum in conjunction with the planning for their 55th reunion. Do wrestlers at Williams today know about Kestenbaum’s bravery? Why not a Kestenbaum Award, given to the member of the wrestling team who best displays the ideals of teamwork?

And then the second plane hit.

A deafening explosion and a searing blast of heat ripped through the lobby. The air turned black with smoke. Flames burst out of elevators. Walls and the ceiling crumbled into a foot of debris on the floor. Shards of glass flew like thrown knives.

The blast threw people like dolls, tearing their bodies apart.

“Howard!” Judy Wein was yelling to Kestenbaum, her boss.

It was Vijay Paramsothy who called back: “We’re over here!”

Paramsothy was sitting up, scratched and bloody. Marble slabs had fallen onto Richard Gabrielle and broken his legs. Wein tried to move the slabs with her good arm, and he cried out.

Howard Kestenbaum lay flat and still. To Wein, he looked peaceful.

Dead and wounded covered the floor of the lobby like a battlefield after cannon fire. A ghostly dusting of plaster lay over everyone.

Wein was soon saved by Welles Crowther, one of the many heroes of that sad day.

Judy Wein of Aon Corporation had also been in the 78th floor. She too was badly injured and she too heard the voice: “Everyone who can stand now, stand now. If you can help others, do so.” He guided her and others to the stairwell.

Apparently Welles [Crowther] kept leading people down from the top floors to the lower ones, where they could make their way out. Then he’d go up to find more. No one knows how many. The fire department credits him with five saved lives.

He never made it home.

Crowther’s heroism is well-known, but there were so many other acts of courage that tragic morning.

“Vijay was trying to get Howard up,” Gran Kestenbaum said, recounting a story a witness had told her. “That was the last I heard of either of them.”

EphBlog remembers Howard and Linday and Brian. Who remembers Vijay Paramsothy, one of the thousands on hard-working immigrants who made and make NYC a city unlike any other? Who do you remember?


Howard Kestenbaum
was a Ph.D., a builder of models, a quant operating in the rarefied world of risk analysis. Yet only a modeller can know that models don’t really matter, that who we are and what we have done is much more to be found in the families we cherish than in the money we make.

From the very beginning — when he accidentally fell on her at a party in the West Village — he made her laugh. He walked her home that night but, amusing or not, she wouldn’t give him her phone number.

A few days later, however, she picked up the phone to hear someone say it was “Howie.” Not recognizing his voice, she asked: “Howie who?”

“Fine, thank you, and how are you?” Howie Kestenbaum replied.

For 31 years of marriage, Howard and Granvilette Kestenbaum of Montclair talked every day, and he always made her laugh.

All good husbands want to make their wives laugh. All of us should do as well as Howard. Gran Kestenbaum desribed her husband this way.

Howard was a really good man. That may seem an ordinary epithet, but Howard thought of himself as an ordinary man — an ordinary husband, an ordinary father and an ordinary friend… He loved and cared for his family, helped friends, visited with the homeless, lonely and infirm. His modesty and leprechaun smile belied how quiet and graceful, without fanfare, the shining spirit of an extraordinary good man can touch and transform others. He would have been surprised that anyone noticed him, for that is not what he sought. And that is why we who love him are so honored to have known him, if only for a moment.

Thirty one years of marriage and family, of trials and triumphs, does indeed seem like only a moment. May we all live our moments as well as Howard Kestenbaum lived his.

How will you be spending today? Please spare a thought for Gran, Howard’s widow.

Every year on the anniversary of Sept. 11, Gran Kestenbaum steers clear of morning memorial services, to avoid the media. Later in the day, she typically leaves roses by her husband’s name on the 9/11 memorial in Eagle Rock Reservation and in Watchung Plaza. Along with the flowers, she usually leaves a note saying something along the lines of, “We are family and we will always be family. This didn’t part us.”

Condolences to all.

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Williams is #1 in the US News ranking, for the 17th year in a row.

For the ninth straight year, Princeton University was named the No. 1 college among national universities, and Williams College was named No. 1 among national liberal arts schools for the 17th year in a row, according to the latest ranking from U.S. News & World Report. Every year, the news outlet publishes what many regard as the gold standard for college rankings in the United States.

Every time that we appear in a sentence like this (with Princeton!), the better for our brand. (And if you find that notion of the College’s “brand” to be distasteful, you are a child. Parents will not pay a quarter million dollars $300,000 for something with a less-than-amazing reputation.)

1) We did a detailed dive into the rankings three years ago. Should we revisit? If so, I would need someone to send me the underlying data. See here and here for previous discussions.

2) Kudos to Maud Mandel, and the rest of the Williams administration. Maintaining the #1 ranking is important, especially for recruiting students who are less rich, less well-educated and less American. There is no better way to get a poor (but really smart) kid from Los Angeles (or Singapore) to consider Williams than to highlight that we are the best college in the country.

3) Many schools do a lot of suspect/sleazy things to improve their rank. Does Williams? Morty, infamously, capped discussion class size at 19 to ensure that the maximum number of classes met this US News cut-off.

4) There is a great senior thesis to be written about the rankings, similar to this article on the US News law school rankings. If you write such a thesis, hundreds of people around the country will read it.

5) Any comments on changes in the rankings below us?

6) Below the break is a copy of the methodology, saved for the benefit of future historians.

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From iBerkshires:

Former Williams College student Yoonsang Bae has been found guilty of raping a classmate five years ago.

Bae ’17 graduated Phi Beta Kappa and played rugby. I suspect that the Bae case was among those discussed by then-Dean Bolton here.

Of the 13 individuals reporting these incidents, six have chosen to take part in investigation and adjudication through the college as of now (three cases regarding sexual assault, two cases regarding stalking, and one case regarding retaliation.) Investigation and adjudication through the college remain an option as long as the respondent is a member of the college community.

Two of the three cases of sexual assault resulted in findings of responsibility, as did one of the two cases of stalking and the case of retaliation. All students found responsible for these violations were separated from the college. One student was expelled, and the others were suspended for terms ranging from one semester to two years.

I think that the time line was as follow. Bae arrives at Williams in the fall of 2011 as a member of the class of 2015. He spends junior year (2013-2014) at Williams Oxford. The rape happens in July 2014. Bae is expelled for two years, which he spent in the Korean military. He returns and graduates in 2017.

Back to iBerkshires:

He was convicted on Friday in Berkshire Superior Court by Judge Michael Callan of a single count of rape relating to an on-campus incident in 2014.

The 27-year-old Bae will be sentenced on Friday, Sept. 13.

Is Bae currently in custody? I suspect not. Would you recommend that he flee? Tough call! He is a citizen of South Korea, so he has a place/family to go to. What are the extradition arrangements between the US and Korea? I suspect that short, young, Asian, foreign convicted rapists do not have a particular enjoyable stay in Massachusetts state prison.

The victim, who was 19 at the time, testified that after attending an event with Bae, she returned to his room for a drink. She then got sick from the alcohol and Bae placed her in his bed where she passed out. When she awoke, Bae was raping her. He refused to stop despite her protests. The two were both Williams College students at the time.

Given that it was July, the victim was probably either a rising sophomore or junior.

She reported the rape to New York authorities, contacted the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, and underwent a sexual assault examination at a hospital in New York. Williams College investigated the incident and suspended Bae for two years. The Williamstown Police Department conducted a criminal investigation.

“I want to thank the victim in this case for her strength and courage,” District Attorney Andrea Harrington said. “She is a hero for coming forward and sharing her story. My office will not plea rape charges down to lesser offenses when we have victims who wish to go to trial.

“When I took office in January, my first priority was to seek justice for victims by aggressively prosecuting violent crime. This is what being tough on crime should look like.”

Elections have consequences. We discussed Harrington’s campaign and her focus on sexual assault last year.

Bae was indicted on a single count of rape on Aug. 9, 2017.

Sorry for the delay in our coverage. Was this mentioned anywhere?

Will the Record cover this story? I doubt it! Prove me wrong!

Prosecutors say he had been offered an agreement by the prior administration that would have allowed him to plead to the lesser charge of indecent assault and battery and that the case would have been continued without a finding of guilt. Bae did not accept the plea agreement.

That looks like a bad decision now.

After taking office, Harrington said she did not extend any plea bargains and opted to pursue the rape charge instead, culminating in Friday’s guilty verdict.

The case was prosecuted by Stephanie Ilberg.

Is there anyway for us to get transcripts of the trial?

See below the break for lots of interesting details from this excellent Berkshire Eagle article:

(more…)

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Ethan Zuckerman ’93 resigns from MIT Media Lab.

Wall Street Journal coverage of USC development admissions.

(more…)

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Mika Brzezinski is class of 1989 and a co-host of “Morning Joe” on MSNBC. A little over 30 years ago Mika and I lived in the same dorm at Williams. These days I often start my day by watching her on TV. I thought it might be fun to occasionally quote something that Mika has said and see if that sparks an interesting conversation. Technically, the below quote is not from Mika, it is from her Dad Zbigniew Brzezinski, NSA to President Carter. However, it is on Mika’s twitter page.

“Bipartisanship helps to avoid extremes and imbalances. It causes compromises and accommodations. So let’s cooperate.” ~Zbigniew Brzezinski

This largely reflects my perspective as well. Recent political history presents evidence that this might be a bit naive. However, true that may be, I am hopeful that bipartisanship provides a way forward towards a better America.

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Two current students, Dysron Marshall ’20 and Kelvin Tejeda ’20, spent the summer building the new Williams Mobile app. The app is listed as developed by Williams Students Online, and accordingly it links directly with some WSO services (the Facebook, Factrak, etc). Its goal seems to be to unite services that currently exist in various places across the Williams website, on WSO, and elsewhere, into one service that makes them easier to access.

First of all–awesome effort by these two! They seemingly did this entirely for free and of their own accord (see later in the post for more on that). It’s a nice, snappy app, and they definitely deserve acclaim for their work!

I used a handful of apps related to Williams life while I was there. A lot of time, I just accessed Williams websites from my phone: Eats 4 Ephs to check the menus at dining halls and decide where I wanted to eat, PeopleSoft sites for records and logging work hours, LaundryView to save myself the walk down to the laundry room and check in advance if it was in use… Last year, Williams introduced the GET App ostensibly to unite some features, but which I only really used to add money to my ID when I’d go to do laundry and realize I was out of money. During my first year there was some sort of dining app, student-created I believe, that made Eats 4 Ephs a little prettier. And, of course, there was Yik Yak, the late and great app that really made sure I knew everything I needed to.

These students announced their summer’s-long work to students with Facebook posts: one, to Class of 202X Facebook groups saying the following:

And one with a meme, in the Williams meme group, Williams College Memes for Sun Dappled Tweens:

As the first post says, they’re hoping to get administrative support for their app, so that students can develop it and actually get paid. I don’t know what the status of WSO getting administrative support is, but I imagine the app itself could get funded in the same way if WSO does; I feel less confident about it being possible to get students paid for developing the app. That was always something that confused me, though; do WSO student developers get paid for providing an incredibly useful service, or is it treated as a club would be, where the service itself gets funded (hosting, servers, etc) but not the actual development?

Below the break, a quick look at the app!

(more…)

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The new Williams Inn had opened a little over 2 weeks ago. According to the above article:

The new Williams Inn is set to open with fewer rooms — the old inn had 125 rooms, the new one has 64 rooms — and more amenities, including 55-inch flat-screen televisions and Euro top beds in rooms that sport brilliant views of Spring Street and the surrounding hills. Each room also sports an assortment of energy-saving technology.

After more than a year of work, the $32 million steel and concrete structure now stands three stories tall, with about 58,000 square feet of interior space.

The structure is designed in three sections: the main house, bunk house and barn. The main house section includes the main check-in and greeting area on the ground floor with guest rooms above. The bunk house includes event space on the first floor and rooms above. The barn includes the bar/restaurant on the ground floor and guest rooms on floors two and three. The three sections can be distinguished with three different architectural styles and different siding, with red barnwood-style siding for the restaurant. There will be 64 rooms, including four suites on the top floor.

Connection with the outdoors figures prominently in the hotel’s aesthetic:

Scenic views are available from any window, and expansive windows are featured in the restaurant and event space. Panoramic views of the Spring Street corridor and much of the Williams College campus grace most of the guest rooms, which are all on the second and third floors.

Hurley said there was a fine focus on tying the interior into the exterior landscape with expansive windows and interior design and artwork.

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In a recent post, DDF wrote:

Take a tutorial every semester. The more tutorials you take, the better your Williams education will be. There are few plausible excuses for not taking a tutorial every semester. Although many tutorials are now filled, others are not.

Too many first years take a big intro class because they think they “should.” They shouldn’t! Even a “bad” tutorial at Williams is better than almost all intro courses. If you are a first year and you don’t take a tutorial, you are doing it wrong. Note that, even if you don’t have the official prerequisites for a class, you should still enroll. The pre-reqs almost never matter and professors will always (?) let you into a tutorial with empty spots.

By the way, where can we find data about how popular tutorials are? For example, do most/all tutorials end up filled? How many students attempted to enroll in each one? More transparency!

DDF asks, and we (collectively) can try to answer!

Williams has, very helpfully and very transparently, provided a list of tutorials for the Fall 2019 semester.  According to the list, 61 different tutorials were going to be offered this fall.  If each were full, that would allow for 610 tutorial spots (I think each tutorial has room for 10 students (5 pairs of two kids each)).  If each student were limited to 1 tutorial per semester, that would mean less than one student in three could take a tutorial this fall.  So there is no way for every current Eph to take DDF’s advice.  Moreover, of those 61 listed tutorials, 5 are shown as having been cancelled, presumably either for lack of interest or some issue for the faculty member running the course.  That leaves 56 tutorials for the fall.  Of the 56 tutorials being offered this semester, 10 currently have openings, though its not clear how many openings there are for each one.  That means that 46 are full.  If we assume that the open tutorials have anywhere from 6-8 students currently registered for them, then approximately 520-540 students are taking one this fall.  That’s about 1 in 4 students, which is a pretty good amount.

Tutorials were introduced at Williams in 1988, which was shortly after the Williams at Oxford program really got going. (My recollection was that the Oxford program began sometime after 1986, when I was at Williams, but according to this web page, the program dates to 1985).  I took a tutorial (Heterocylic Chemistry) in the Spring of 1990, right before I graduated.  I only did it because I thought I should (its the same reason I took a Philosophy class my junior year and an introductory tax class my second year at law school), because it was, at the time, a pretty unique educational opportunity.  But I liked the class, and it was a good opportunity to get to know the professor (Hodge Markgraff) in a way that never would have happened otherwise.  I’m not sure I learned more heterocyclic chemistry than I might have in a more traditional chemistry class, but I thought it was very valuable to go through the tutorial process.

I’m not sure I agree with DDF that taking a tutorial freshman year is necessarily a good idea, but I do agree with him that taking one or more tutorials is a good thing.  According to this page, “more than half of all Williams students take at least one during their time” at Williams, so I guess many students agree with me.  But obviously a pretty large chunk of the student body (presumably close to half) never takes a tutorial.  Should the College make taking a tutorial a requirement for graduation?  On the one hand, it is an excellent and, if not unique, at least an uncommon educational opportunity.  Williams might be justified in nudging (forcing?) those students who won’t take one on their own into trying the experience.  On the other hand, as laid out above, it might be difficult for students to get into a tutorial in a subject in which they have significant (or even any!) interest.  It could create some real scheduling dilemnas for seniors every year.  What do you think?

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Fall classes start tomorrow. My advice:

Your major does not matter! One of the biggest confusions among Williams students is the belief that future employers care about your major, that, for example, studying economics helps you get a job in business. It doesn’t! Major in what you love.

But future employers are often interested in two things. First, can you get the computer to do what you want it to do? Second, can you help them analyze data to make them more successful? Major in Dance (if you love dance) but take 4 or so classes in computer science and statistics. With that as background, you will be competitive with any of your Williams classmates when it comes time to apply for internships/jobs.

Take a tutorial every semester. The more tutorials you take, the better your Williams education will be. There are few plausible excuses for not taking a tutorial every semester. Although many tutorials are now filled, others are not.

Too many first years take a big intro class because they think they “should.” They shouldn’t! Even a “bad” tutorial at Williams is better than almost all intro courses. If you are a first year and you don’t take a tutorial, you are doing it wrong. Note that, even if you don’t have the official prerequisites for a class, you should still enroll. The pre-reqs almost never matter and professors will always (?) let you into a tutorial with empty spots.

By the way, where can we find data about how popular tutorials are? For example, do most/all tutorials end up filled? How many students attempted to enroll in each one? More transparency!

Take STAT 201 (if you enter Williams with Math/Reading SAT scores below 1300, you might start with STAT 101). No topic is more helpful in starting your career, no matter your area of interest, than statistics. Students who take several statistics courses are much more likely to get the best summer internships and jobs after Williams. Also, the new Statistics major is amazing.

Skip STAT 201 if you took AP Statistics. Go straight to STAT 202 instead. And don’t worry about the stupid math prerequisites that the department tries to put in your way. You don’t really need multivariate calculus for 201 or matrix algebra for the more advanced classes. Those math tricks come up in a couple of questions on a couple of problem sets. Your friends (and some Khan Academy videos) will get you through it. If challenged, just tell people you took those classes in high school.

Take CSCI 134: Diving into the Deluge of Data. Being able to get the computer to do what you want it to do is much more important, to your future career, than most things, including, for example, the ability to write well. You might consider skipping 134 and going directly to 136, but 134 seems to be a much better course than it was in the past, especially with the use of Python and the focus on data.

If a professor tries to tell you the class is full, just claim to be future major in that topic. Indeed, many students officially enroll as statistics or computer science majors sophomore year to ensure that they get into the classes they want. You can always drop a major later. Mendacity in the pursuit of quality classes is no vice.

See our previous discussions. Here are some thoughts from 12 (?) years ago about course selections for a career in finance.

What courses would you recommend? What was the best class you took at Williams?

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Via Facebook:

Hi all — could really use some help/advice here. My daughter (senior) is applying to medical school. She’s been given eight interviews thus far, and, for most of these, has not been able to pick a date/time. As a result, she — like thousands of premed students across the country — will have to miss class. One professor for a required class is refusing to authorise more than two absences. This means my daughter will not be able to attend medical school interviews. She spoke to one of the deans this afternoon and was told she would have to make a choice between medical school interviews (plus unexcused absences) and cancelling medical school interviews (so no medical school). I’m outraged that the school would not accommodate medical school interviews and require my daughter to make this choice. First interview is in two weeks so this is time sensitive — any and all suggestions are welcome, including for lawyers as we are prepared to file a legal complaint.

I bet a call to Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom from a lawyer might help along matters . . .

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Museum Data and the Novice Student.” A fun article about data hackathon at the Williams College Museum of Art.

Known quantities: The prolific numbers that have given Oklahoma State’s Sean Gleeson [’07] such a strong reputation.”

Oren Cass ’05 on “Economics After Neoliberalism

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This New York Times article reports on the College Board’s decision to “withdraw its plan” to use a “diversity score.” It is a short but interesting read. I am not in position to comment on whether the score was fair or would be useful but I certainly agree the goal (” …to provide colleges with a consistent way of judging the neighborhoods and schools that students came from”) is worthwhile.

Admissions is a complex process and the more information the committee has the better. Of course, some people (looking at you DDF) may say there is no place for this kind of info in the admissions formula but I would strongly disagree.

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Last week, I came across a thought-provoking article: “The Real Problem at Yale is Not Free Speech,” by Natalia Dashan, published in Palladium. While the article obviously deals with the author’s experiences and observations at Yale, I believe you could replace most of the occurrences of the word Yale with Williams and have an observation that, for me, remains true.

The article is not so much, in my opinion, coming down one way or another on the “free speech debate.” Rather, it’s a look at the same issues said debate takes up through a slightly different paradigm, one that rings more true to my own experiences at Williams than the paradigm of “free speech” ever did. The article’s thesis is this:

Student at “elite” colleges are increasingly rejecting the role of  becoming “the elite,” with all of the privileges and responsibilities that being in the elite comes with. Instead, students frame themselves as underdogs and fighting against the elite. The elite colleges themselves follow suit, purporting to be in line with the students in taking down an oppressive system that they are, inherently, representatives of, causing an identity crisis for colleges today. The result is “controversies about free speech” that are, at heart, more precisely rooted in powerful students at powerful universities presenting themselves as devoid of power.

Phew! If I presented that as a thesis of a paper for class, I’d probably get called out for some much-needed revision. But, the article is a hefty 10,000+ word piece, and it’s worth considering. I do recommend reading it in full, because I’ll be not always reconstructing the arguments as much as pulling out salient bits and considering how they apply to Williams. This week, I’ll look at the first half of the article: the phenomenon of how students present themselves as devoid of power, and why. Next week, I’ll look at the second half, of how that manifests in the “controversies” plaguing Yale/Williams.

A final note: I personally don’t agree with everything in this article. Though I think Ms. Dashan did a great job in terms of it being a feat of long-form publication, it is a bit all over the place, with some points tying into her argument less clearly than others. In other cases, my disagreements might come just from Williams being a different place than Yale. I’m certainly curious to hear everyone else’s thoughts.

After the break, Part One!

(more…)

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Via the excellent Williams Liberty blog, we have this announcement:

Direct link here.

Invited speakers will receive a $500 honorarium and will be guests of Williams College from the evening of Nov. 1 through breakfast on Nov. 3, with all paper presentations to occur on Nov. 2.

Is Williams on the hook for travel, lodging and meals in addition to the $500 honorarium? Who is paying for all this? I have no problem with the College providing in-kind support for a conference — free use of rooms, perhaps even box lunches — but every dollar spent on such activities is a dollar taken from somewhere else. I doubt that more than a handful of students will attend.

If Laura Ephraim and/or others raised the funding from somewhere else, then good for them!

The Science & Technology Studies Program at Williams College invites papers on any topic concerned with science and technology and their relationship to society for a day-long symposium showcasing the work of early-career scholars (ABD or recent PhD) from historically underrepresented groups. …

Individuals from underrepresented groups in the professoriate are specifically defined here as African Americans, Alaska Natives, Arab Americans, Asian Americans, Latinx, Native Americans, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders.

1) What is the current legal status of these racially exclusionary invitations? Honest question! Could a Chinese-American woman sue Williams?

2) Since when are “Arab Americans” underrepresented in college faculty? Are they more or less underrepresented than Irish Americans? Honest question!

3) I have never before seen a listing like this which included Arab Americans among the preferred categories. Is this common?

4) Taiwan and Japan are, last time I checked, islands in the Pacific Ocean. Do folks with ancestors from those islands not count as Pacific Islanders? I am semi-kidding about this one since, apparently, Pacific Islander is well-defined, although US-usage is different. What about the Philippines or Indonesia?

In keeping with the broad approach to Science & Technology Studies (STS) at Williams, we welcome papers from any disciplinary location — including but not limited to programs in STS or History of Science — so long as they offer new and significant insights into the imbrication of science and technology with society.

imbrication?”

Why use an obscure word when a simpler word — interaction? overlap? — would do fine?

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When I was at Williams, I had a general awareness that some kids had tons of money, and some kids had less, and some kids had a lot less.  I always kind of envisioned myself as being somewhere in the middle, where I usually had enough money to go to the snackbar if I wanted to, and was able to go on spring break trips with the rugby team.  Even today, I have no real idea where I fell on the student wealth scale, except that I was pretty sure I wasn’t at the bottom or the top.  I had friends who had to think more carefully about their spring break plans, and also some who seemed to be able to afford just about anything they wanted.  What I didn’t remember noticing back then was these differences in wealth having much effect on anyone’s day-to-day life at Williams.  It seemed like most parties and other events were free to students, and I’d never heard of anyone who couldn’t be, for example, on the rugby team because they couldn’t afford the dues.  There simply weren’t that many things that I wanted to spend money on.  (Because I didn’t turn 21 until just before graduation, I never spent a lot of time at the Purple Pub.  I suspect that one could have run up quite a tab there).

When I read this eye-opening 2016 article written by Zach Wood about the effects of his family’s poverty on his Williams experience, I wondered whether I was being completely naive and overlooking obvious effects of wealth on what people did every day.  Here is an interesting quote from article, which I would encourage everyone to read in its entirety: (more…)

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Here (pdf) are the rough draft notes for the May faculty committee. All my comments from last week apply here as well. Highlights from these notes:

Good stuff! Katie (maybe!) acted rudely. She apologized. And that is that. Those arguing for further punishment are the mob. Good to see Mandel drawing a line in the sand.

By the way, Mandel’s leadership on this issue provides another reason for making these notes public. The College has failed to make clear/public how strong a stand Mandel took in support of Kent. I can understand why they would not like to highlight this issue in the next Williams Magazine. And that is OK. Mainstream sources should (?) only tell mostly happy stories.

But other sources, like the Faculty Meeting Notes, can transmit other stories, especially to sophisticated parts of the alumni body, like EphBlog and our readers.

Me thinks that Professor Long doth protest too much! Don’t worry, Gretchen. The IP logs from your browsing history are safe with us . . .

1) EphBlog has, on many occasions, edited out material at the request of Williams faculty and administrators. (References available on request!) Want something changed, just ask us.

2) And, in fact, this is something that we did change! EphBlog initially reported the student’s name, as did the Record. After a request from a senior Eph, we voluntarily removed the student’s name and started to refer to him by just his initials.

3) I think that hard-working faculty secretary Chris Waters has made a mistake here. Gretchen Long has no problem naming (and shaming?) students who were/are “complained about Black Previews.” Professor Long objects to the naming of student(s) who were critical of College Council for not being as quick and enthusiastic to fund Black Previews as it ought to have been.

4) The “concerned about their safety trope” is utter nonsense. Williams and Williamstown is among the safest places on Earth (outside of really safe places like Japan), even (especially?) if you are in the habit of unleashing profanity-laced tirades at your fellow students.

Haven’t talked about faculty compensation in awhile. Worth revisiting?

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Could Trump do a deal with Senator Chris Murphy ’96?

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“Affirmative Consent” as a Legal Standard?” by former Williams professor KC Johnson.

Training the next generation of ethical techies” by Ethan Zuckerman ’93.

Check-in time arrives for new Williams Inn” in the Berkshire Eagle.

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In DDF’s post on Monday, he said the following: “We should accept the best students, those who did well academically in high school and are likely to do well academically at Williams. We reject 100s of AR 1s each year. We should never accept an AR 2 (or 3? or 4?) just because she is a veteran or older or has gone to a community college.”

In the comments there was some discussion about whether or not veterans and community college students should be admitted. DDF said, “I just want the same rules for everyone. Call me crazy! If you are AR 1 (and maybe 2), you get in. If not, you don’t.”

I have NO PROBLEM with the admissions team having different standards for different applicants. I trust the professionals on the team to make the nuanced judgment that a veteran who is an AR 2 (or a 3 or 4), would add a lot more to the Williams community (in and out of the classroom) than another AR 1 from a prep school or Shanghai. I also trust the professionals to keep an approrpiate balance among those two groups.

How about you? Would you admit the veteran or the community college student?

I realize that the admission process is complicated and cannot really be boiled down to this simple a question but I STRONGLY belief that Williams is a better place when the admissions team looks beyond the numbers. I do not want the 525 students who will get the highest GPA’s, I want the 525 students who can be successful at Williams individually and together make the Williams community a better place for all its members.

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According to Maud’s Instagram (@williamspresident, if you don’t follow her), Williams’ president attended the Princeton Regional Send-Off for new Ephs. I assume this is because she has roots in the area, having grown up in Princeton and attended elementary through high school there.

Meanwhile, I attended my first Regional Send-Off, going to a sadly Maud-less party recently. I never attended one of these parties when I was actually a new Eph, though I’m fairly sure my family received an invitation. There were a good number of new Ephs there, who seemed somewhat unsure about what exactly they were there to do, and many of them clumped together and met each other. That said, most of the alumni present were incredibly eager to engage the new students and give them as much advice as possible.

Seeing on my nametag that I had just graduated, some new students specifically came up and asked me if I had advice for them. I had an unexpected amount of trouble coming up with advice when asked for it. Maybe I’m still too close to my own Williams experience; I definitely feel that I haven’t yet fully reflected and synthesized it into a few easy things to tell them. Mostly, I turned it back on them, asked what classes they had signed up for, and talked about my experiences if I was familiar with the class or professor; I gave them some idea of what to expect during first days; and I plugged my club as one they should check out when they get to the Purple Key Fair.

Most students get to campus next Monday; first-generation and international students arrive tomorrow. What advice would you give to new Ephs as they’re about to step on campus for the first time as students?

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Reason Shall Prevail

The magazine Commentary has published an article about Williams titled “A Victory for Free Speech at a Liberal College”. Commentary is a very conservative news source, and the author of this article seems to be a free speech absolutist. The article itself is an interesting read. The author seems to view the committee report in a favorable light. What are people’s thoughts on it?

The full text is below:

(more…)

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The most successful women’s soccer coach in Williams history (I think) is leaving at the end of the coming season:

Williams announced on Monday that [Michelyne] Pinard will leave the school after the 2019-20 school year, her 18th at the helm of the program, to become the director of athletics at The Thatcher School, a private boarding school in Ojai, Calif…

Pinard finished her 17th season at Williams in 2018, guiding her team to an NCAA Division III national championship. It was Williams’ third NCAA title in the last four years.

Her record through 17 seasons is 257-46-34. That translates to a winning percentage of .813, the fifth-best active winning percentage in D-III.

That’s a lot of winning, and three NCAA titles in four years is very impressive.

The article is not 100% clear as to why Coach Pinard is leaving, but reading between the lines, it seems as though that after 18 years, she just wanted to do something else.

Going forward, I wonder what the impact on the women’s soccer program will be?  Coaching is, I think, an important factor in team success, but I guess that sheer talent is the most important ingredient.  Presumably Williams will still be able to attract very talented soccer players, simply because of the quality of the school and the program’s history of success.  In that regard, I wonder how many top tier Division III athletes pick their schools based on the quality of the school versus more athletically relevant factors (quality of facilities, level of competiton, prospects of playing after college, etc.).  Any Ephblog readers with insight on this?

(As the parent of a kid who hopes to continue on with his sport in college, but with very little chance of playing professionally, I am starting to wrap my head around how I would feel if he wanted to go to a less well known and/or significantly less “good” college just because he could play his sport there, or would have a better chance of getting playing time, for example.)

Anyway, getting back to Williams women’s soccer, I hope the next coach will be as good (and successful) as Coach Pinard.  Are there any Ephblog readers who played for her?  What other Williams coaches have seen similar success?  Women’s tennis coach Alison Swain ’01 won 8 NCAA titles in 10 years before leaving to coach at the University of Southern California.  Almost impossible to do better than that!   I think in recent years (decades?) the track/cross-country coach has been very, very successful.  Men’s basketball coach Dave Paulsen had a 0.762 winning percentage over 8 seasons, and a national title, which seems pretty good.  Any others?

UPDATE/CORRECTION:   I knew about – and should have remembered – Coach Pete Farwell, who is clearly one of the greatest Eph coaches ever.  He started as the men’s cross-country coach in 1979, and has served as the women’s cross-county coach since 2000.  He has also served as the head coach for the track team (he is currently an assistant coach for that team).  His 40-year coaching career has been incredibly successful.  Thanks to Anon88 for pointing out this omission.

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Here (pdf) is a rough draft for the official faculty meeting notes for April.

1) Make these public! Given that they are distributed to scores (?) of Ephs, and describe an event that 300+ people were invited to and that is (?) open to the public (or at least to Record reporters?), there is no plausible reason to hide them.

2) By not making them public, Dean of the Faculty Denise Buell just drives more traffic to EphBlog. Thanks! I guess . . .

3) I “worry” that, at some point, there will be a spoof/fake version of these notes which appear to be real but which have been altered for nefarious/pedagogical purposes. Without a public record of the real notes, how can we (or the Record!) know the truth?

4) On admissions:

I don’t like this.

We should accept the best students, those who did well academically in high school and are likely to do well academically at Williams. We reject 100s of AR 1s each year. We should never accept an AR 2 (or 3? or 4?) just because she is a veteran or older or has gone to a community college.

5) On graduate programs:

Meanwhile, President Mandel said that she had been reading the various suggestions she had received with respect to new academic initiatives. A number of those initiatives – twenty-three in all, ranging from the very broad to the quite specific – had come from small groups of faculty working together. Some, she said, would fall into the “teaching and learning bucket,” such as the suggestions both for a formal teaching and learning center and for the more adequate teaching of writing. Other academic initiatives, she said, focused on sustainability, development, and global climate change, with proposals for a graduate program, such as that offered by the Center for Development Economics.

One of the working groups should answer this question: How many graduate programs should Williams offer? This is an important strategic question which smart Ephs should study for 6 months and then report back to us. What is the history of such programs at Williams? How do such programs work at peer schools? What are the precise economics of current programs? And so on. This is an issue which merits the adjective strategic.

It is highly unlikely that the optimal number of graduate programs is two: precisely the number that we currently have!

Odds of this happening? Less than 5%. Williams does not seem equipt to ask, much less answer, such big questions.

My answer: We should drop our two current masters programs: Center for Development Economics and Clark Art. Neither makes any more sense than the old Chemistry Masters which we offered fifty years ago. We should have a laser-like focus on the quality of the undergraduate education we offer. Everything else is a side-show.

What parts of the faculty meeting notes stand out to you?

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Your weekly opportunity to argue about politics . . .

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Will the ABA Reject Due Process?” by former Williams professor KC Johnson.

They left their corporate jobs to write kids’ books in a barn. But a fairy-tale life is hard work” about Ephs Robbi Behr and Matthew Swanson.

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