Let’s spend five days reviewing Professor Michael Lewis’s surprisingly sharp attack on President Falk concerning the banning of John Derbyshire from Williams. Today is Day 4.

Homogenous intellectual environments are not good at responding to new factors or conditions, as I learned from my own college experience. I went to Haverford, a Quaker college known for its extraordinary moral probity (with the country’s most rigorous honor code). I was there during the presidency of Jimmy Carter, throughout which time, in all my courses in political science, history and economics, I never heard the slightest suggestion that mighty shifts in American public opinion were underway that would lead to the Ronald Reagan landslide of 1980. My professors probably were unaware of their omission. But by being unable to give students a fair and well-informed summary of the basic tenets of the Reagan platform, other than a mocking caricature of it, Haverford failed in its duty to prepare its students for American life.

Something similar seems to be happening today with Donald Trump. We may write him off as a laughable neo-Napoleonic carbuncle, but if a sizable portion of the American population thinks otherwise, then our students need to hear the most articulate case for Trump – and hear it here, without having to drive to Renee’s Diner in North Adams. And if they cannot hear it from their professors, then they ought to be able to hear it regularly from outside speakers.

“[L]aughable neo-Napoleonic carbuncle” is great writing!

Recall that Lewis was writing in February. The case for Williams students being exposed to “the most articulate case for Trump” is even stronger now, obviously.

Is Lewis suggesting that his Williams colleagues in political science — like EphBlog favorites Sam Crane, James McAllister, Justin Crowe ’03 and Cheryl Shanks — can’t (or won’t) give the best case for Trump in their classes? If so, he should come right out and say it. That has never been EphBlog’s position. The problem is not that Williams faculty can’t teach or that their classroom teaching is biased. The problem is that the collection of speakers that Williams has invited to campus over the last few years includes exactly zero conservatives/libertarians/Republicans/Trumpians.

John Derbyshire, by the way, was one of the first Trump supporters among the chattering classes, back in July 2015. If Williams had more speakers like him than students/faculty/Falk would have been less surprised by the rise of Trump.

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Let’s spend five days reviewing Professor Michael Lewis’s surprisingly sharp attack on President Falk concerning the banning of John Derbyshire from Williams. Today is Day 3.

All this takes place against the background of a college that proclaims, ceaselessly and fervently, its commitment to diversity. But, as defined at the College, diversity seems to mean embracing the full variety of individual human differences – except for ideas and opinions. Here is why the Derbyshire and Venker incidents are so alarming. The College is fast approaching a state where the genuine exchange of serious ideas – in open public debate, with good will and mutual respect – is made impossible because a growing number of opinions are considered out of bounds. As Mary Detloff, the College’s director of media relations told The Berkshire Eagle, Derbyshire’s views on race, women’s rights, gay rights and sexual harassment render him “unsuited to discussions at Williams College.” Of course, once everyone’s views are homogenous, it’s hard to imagine what would be left to discuss.

Indeed. Lewis is exactly right about the danger and about the direction in which the College might go, might even be going right now. Recall the student who reported that although he supported Trump, he didn’t want to tell people that for (reasonable!) fear as to what that would do to his “social standing.” That seems like a problem to me! If the Williams student community chooses to ostracize someone merely because he will be voting for Trump, then honest discussion and debate becomes impossible.

But Michael Lewis, tenured member of the Williams faculty, is in a good position to do something about this! He could invite a series of speakers that agree with Trump (if not Derbyshire) on a variety of issues, thereby expanding the range of acceptable opinion on the Williams campus. If several Trump-supporters were to speak this fall, students who also support Trump would be less likely to be ostracized and more likely to speak out.

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Let’s spend five days reviewing Professor Michael Lewis’s surprisingly sharp attack on President Falk concerning the banning of John Derbyshire from Williams. Today is Day 2.

The excuse is the familiar platitude that “there’s a line somewhere” that divides free speech from hate speech. And speech that crosses this line must be squelched, even at the point of covering the ears of the listeners. But the notion that there is a line between free speech and hate speech is a curious one. Free speech is a principle that you can define in absolute terms. Hate speech is an accusation – frequently a moving one – which doesn’t lend itself to the drawing of neat lines. The only stable definition for hate speech is speech that makes someone hate you.

Isn’t that exactly backward? At Williams, and places like it, hate speech is not “speech that makes someone hate you.” Hate speech is speech that you hate. Perhaps I am confused by what a “stable” definition is? Perhaps I am defining hate speech descriptively — meaning a definition that an outsider could apply to Williams and use to predict what speech the community would define as “hate” — while Lewis is being more prescriptive, trying to come up with a new definition which we might all agree on and then use going forward.

You don’t have to agree with Derbyshire to believe that the College did something wrong in forbidding him from speaking here. Administrators can make blunders, but this isn’t a blunder; rather, it’s part of a larger and ominous pattern. Last October, the same students who invited Derbyshire were pressured into rescinding their invitation to Suzanne Venker. This itch to censor is not even limited to the present. Right now, a committee is tracking down “potentially problematic” historical art on campus. Its mission is encapsulated in a remarkable leading question (a question so artfully constructed as to yield but one answer): “What should be done about historical images that portray the College as less welcoming than we are or aspire to be?” Framed that way, it’s hardly a surprise that the mural in the Log depicting Chief Hendrick – the Mohawk ally of Ephraim Williams – has been found objectionable and whisked behind plywood.

Lewis was much too pessimistic with regard to the mural. Williams (and Falk, to his credit) has decided to keep the mural at The Log. Is Lewis also wrong about the “larger and ominous pattern?” I hope so! Certainly, across higher education, there is a move to greater censorship, especially of “conservative” views. But Williams has always been more mainstream than other elite liberal arts colleges and so, one hopes, less likely to slide down the censorship slope. Remove the Venker rescission (which was truly the decision/fault of the students who invited her) and the mural controversy, and the pattern becomes the single instance involving Derbyshire. Perhaps things are less dire than Lewis makes them out to be?

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Let’s spend five days reviewing Professor Michael Lewis’s surprisingly sharp attack on President Falk concerning the banning of John Derbyshire from Williams. Today is Day 1.

The title (chosen by Lewis?) of this Record op-ed is “A new blacklist: How the disinvitation of John Derbyshire reveals a troubling pattern of censorship on campus.” I can not recall a harsher public criticism of a Williams president by a Williams faculty member. Can anyone?

No one who really believes in free speech ever says, “Free speech is a value I hold in extremely high regard,” as our College’s president did last Thursday in a campus-wide email. If you believe in free speech, you simply practice it, which means going through your life listening to a good deal of cant, nonsense and occasional sheer vileness. One can always walk away; this is what it means to be an adult. But when someone sings a song of praise for free speech, you can reckon with mathematical certainty that there is a but circling in a holding pattern overhead, waiting to drop. It didn’t take long. President Falk’s paean to free speech ended with the inevitable: but John Derbyshire is not free to speak here.

I could not agree more. However, this being EphBlog, let’s engage in some small-minded editing suggestions. First, the “but” in “but circling” definitely needed quotation marks. Otherwise it reads too similar to “butt circling.” Second, planes don’t “drop” from a holding pattern, they “land” from one. Bombs drop but, when they do, they come from planes, not from holding patterns. Third, it is interesting to look at the Google search for Falk’s phrase. Turns out that no one has ever said this exact phrase before, which is not a critique of Lewis since he was obviously referring to sentiments like this in general.

But the uniqueness of the phrase makes it easier for us to find all the other critiques of Falk, like this one from Ken White at Popehat and this from Jonathan Adler at The Volokh Conspiracy. Lots of excellent material to get us through the dog days of August!

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natemergency

Most (70%? 90%?) Ephs would probably agree with Jon Lovett ’04 that Trump would make a very bad president. But who is the most pro-Trump Eph (other than your humble author, of course)?

Andy Grewal ’02, a law school professor, liked Trump’s speech.

gewal

By the way, if you don’t follow Grewal’s twitter feed, you should.grewal

Hah!

But I have not see Grewal endorse Trump. (Yet?) Oren Cass is a proud member of #NeverTrump but he at least recommends that conservatives not destroy themselves over the issue.

Can you ever again support Ayotte or Jindal, given that they are Trump supporters? If not, how about someone who does support them—how far does toxicity spread? And if you declare support for Trump not just incorrect but wrong, then aren’t the protestors shutting down his rallies on the side of justice? If supporting Clinton is wrong, are you prepared to go to bat for The Donald no matter what he says about her?

Disagreement is healthy. It sharpens and strengthens and teaches. Condemnation we should use only with extreme care. By all means, condemn the candidates; they are accountable for themselves. But spare those forced to grapple with the same terrible choice as you. For some, the balance tilts another way.

Mike Needham ’04 has said many kind and insightful things about Trump and, to an even greater extent, Trump’s supporters, but I don’t think he has formally endorsed anyone. I still hope for him to be the Chief of Staff in a Trump Administration.

What other Ephs are (publicly) pro-Trump?

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Scan 1

 

This early AM, a motorcycle with sidecar arrived at my front door with considerable clatter.A leather glove appeared attached to a messenger from an S&M-inspired delivery service. It was a letter from Quark Island, ME, the home of my old roommate Rechtal Turgidley, Jr.

Here are the contents:

Swart (he begins),

I listened on the radio to the speech of the Republican candidate last evening. I was re-examining certain Slovenian “chainbreaker” stamps from the first 1919 issue for perforation anomalies prior to a lecture I have been invited to give.

I knew I had heard this oratory style before and in fact that it connected to a particular commemorative sheet i had tucked away under  “One-Man Shows”.

Here it is. The issue is in celebration of A. Hitler’s 48th birthday. The cancellation date is the 20th of April, 1937. The very day indeed.

I have appended a translation. Some may question my use of “audacious” instead of “heroic”. “Audacious” contains the meaning of “new”, and ‘first-tried’ and ‘not yet tested’. This seems so much more descriptive of the man and the oratory than the rather dusty “heroic”.

I rather enjoyed being a Rockefeller Republican.

In the bonds, Beat Amherst and all that,

RTJr

 

 

 

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Adam Falk is making 2016-2017 the year of Confronting Climate Change at Williams. Let’s try to be helpful for a change and suggest some interesting speakers that he and head-Confronting Climate Change honcho Professor Ralph Bradburd should invite to speak. Today is Day 5 of five days of suggestions.

Last fall, Adam Falk wrote:

Williams has a long history of inviting controversial speakers to campus and no history of uninviting them, and this is a point of absolute principle. Ours is an institution of higher learning; such learning cannot occur without broad and enthusiastic exposure to a wide range of ideas and perspectives. And certainly the invitation of a speaker to campus isn’t in and of itself an endorsement – by the College or by individuals who invite a speaker – of that person’s views. Whatever our own views may be, we should be active in bringing to campus speakers whose opinions are different from our own.

Emphasis added. Let’s leave aside the Derbyshire controversy for now and focus on climate change. There are millions of people — including groups as divergent as the three university professors we have already recommended and the Republican Party and even a handful of Williams alumni — who are skeptical about climate change. Why isn’t a single one of them being invited to Confronting Climate Change? Even if Derbyshire is a bridge too far for Falk, surely he could not object to authors like, say, Matt Ridley or Bjørn Lomborg.

However, the cynic in me suspects that neither Falk nor Bradburd nor a majority of the Williams faculty actually believe in “bringing to campus speakers whose opinions are different from our own.” At Williams, racial diversity means everything. So, it is extremely important that we have speakers on climate change that look like this:

speakers

Nothing wrong with racial diversity, of course! And, as long as you look from the center to the left, there is some diversity among the speakers that Williams has already invited. But is there a single skeptic? No. Is there a single Republican? No. Is there a single conservative? No.

Ultimately, Adam Falk and Ralph Bradburd’s commitment to “speakers whose opinions are different” is an empirical question. If they are truly committed, they will invite at least two skeptics. I bet that they won’t.

What do you predict they will do?

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Adam Falk is making 2016-2017 the year of Confronting Climate Change at Williams. Let’s try to be helpful for a change and suggest some interesting speakers that he and head-Confronting Climate Change honcho Professor Ralph Bradburd should invite to speak. Today is Day 4 of five days of suggestions.

How about Richard McNider, professor at the University of Alabama, and author of articles like these:

McNider, R.T., Handyside, C., Doty, K., Ellenburg, W.L., Cruise, J.F., Christy, J.R., Moss, D., Sharda, V., Hoogenboom, G. and Caldwell, P., 2015. An integrated crop and hydrologic modeling system to estimate hydrologic impacts of crop irrigation demands. Environmental Modelling & Software, 72, pp.341-355.

McNider, R. T., G. J. Steeneveld, A. A. M. Holtslag, R. A. Pielke Sr., S. Mackaro, A. Pour-Biazar, J. Walters, U. Nair,and J. Christy (2012), Response and sensitivity of the nocturnal boundary layer over land to added longwave radiative forcing, J. Geophys. Res., 117, D14106, doi:10.1029/2012JD017578.

Seems pretty qualified to me! Alas, he has a very different view on climate change than, say, Ralph Bradburd.

Most of us who are skeptical about the dangers of climate change actually embrace many of the facts that people like Bill Nye, the ubiquitous TV “science guy,” say we ignore. The two fundamental facts are that carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere have increased due to the burning of fossil fuels, and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a greenhouse gas, trapping heat before it can escape into space.

What is not a known fact is by how much the Earth’s atmosphere will warm in response to this added carbon dioxide. The warming numbers most commonly advanced are created by climate computer models built almost entirely by scientists who believe in catastrophic global warming. The rate of warming forecast by these models depends on many assumptions and engineering to replicate a complex world in tractable terms, such as how water vapor and clouds will react to the direct heat added by carbon dioxide or the rate of heat uptake, or absorption, by the oceans.

We might forgive these modelers if their forecasts had not been so consistently and spectacularly wrong. From the beginning of climate modeling in the 1980s, these forecasts have, on average, always overstated the degree to which the Earth is warming compared with what we see in the real climate.

Interesting stuff! If Williams College is actually going to “confront” climate change than it should “confront” at least some of the people — or at least some of the research university professors — who claim that climate change is not a serious problem.

Are four scientists enough? Does Williams need more suggestions? Start with the authors of Climate Change: The Facts. Look at all the scientists quoted in “A Disgrace to the Profession”. There are many scientists skeptical of most of the rhetoric surrounding climate change. A serious college would invite at least a few of them to speak. Is Williams a serious college? Time will tell.

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Adam Falk is making 2016-2017 the year of Confronting Climate Change at Williams. Let’s try to be helpful for a change and suggest some interesting speakers that he and head-Confronting Climate Change honcho Professor Ralph Bradburd should invite to speak. Today is Day 3 of five days of suggestions.

Ross McKitrick is:

a Canadian economist specializing in environmental economics and policy analysis. He is a professor of economics at the University of Guelph, and a senior fellow of the Fraser Institute. He is a member of the academic advisory boards of the John Deutsch Institute, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, and the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.

Seems qualified to me! My first two suggestions, Judith Curry and Roy Spencer, are tenured university professors who come to the topic of climate change from a hard science perspective. But let’s not slight economists, like Ralph Bradburd himself, who have much to contribute to this debate. McKitrick is probably most famous for “Hockey sticks, principal components, and spurious significance,” (pdf) the article which kicked off the hockey stick wars. Since it was published in the (well-regarded and peer-reviewed) GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, Williams can hardly claim that McKitrick is less qualified to talk about climate change than the, say,

Van Jones – Author, lawyer, activist, and commentator, he is the President of Dream Corps and a regular CNN contributor. He served as President Obama’s Special Advisor on Green Jobs and is the author of The Green Collar Economy.

Of course, if Ralph Bradburd (and Adam Falk? . . . and the Williams faculty? . . . and the trustees?) only want to invite people who agree with them about climate change, they certainly shouldn’t invite Ross McKitrick.

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Adam Falk is making 2016-2017 the year of Confronting Climate Change at Williams. Let’s try to be helpful for a change and suggest some interesting speakers that he and head-Confronting Climate Change honcho Professor Ralph Bradburd should invite to speak. Today is Day 2 of five days of suggestions.


Roy Spencer
is:

a meteorologist, Principal Research Scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and the U.S. Science Team leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR-E) on NASA’s Aqua satellite. He has served as Senior Scientist for Climate Studies at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

Seems pretty qualified to me. Roy Spencer certainly knows much more about the science of climate change than many of the speakers that Williams is already inviting.

Spencer blogs here. He is most famous for his work on global temperature estimates using satellites. If you care about data and science, it is fascinating stuff! Here is the latest data:

UAH_LT_1979_thru_June_2016_v6

So, the temperature now is about the same as it was around 1998 to 1999. Doesn’t seem like much of a crisis to me!

However, I bet that Professor Ralph Bradburd won’t invite him because he disagrees (pdf) with the consensus view of climate change. Prove me wrong!

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Mike Needham ’04 on the rise of Trump:

So I think for the electorate right now, there are issues that they think about in their lives, and there’s issues that politicians in Washington actually govern on. People at home are worried about: Will I have a job in a couple of years? Why are my wages stagnant? How am I going to afford to pay my mortgage? Why has the price of ground beef gone from $2 a pound to $4 a pound? And people in Washington, D.C., move legislation to reauthorize the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program, to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, every year to go through and kind of do a Kabuki theater over tax extenders. We currently are in the midst of a fight as to whether or not you can call catfish that comes from Vietnam “catfish.” So there’s a disconnect between what people care about and what Washington, D.C., moves on, and that makes people upset. So that’s a problem that Washington, D.C., has with its voters and the Republican Party has with its voters.

I think you then have a mind-set problem where people feel like we are losing our country.

Exactly right. How might Trump (or Clinton?) capture that demographic, reach out to them in a way that might (might!) help to undo some of the destruction of the last few months/years? EphBlog recommends a new slogan/hashtag:

#AmericanLivesMatter

This is, obviously, a take off of #blacklivesmatter. Regardless of your views on the righteousness (or not) of the BLM argument, at least 75% of Americans would like to move beyond it, after the BLM-inspired tragedies of Dallas and Baton Rouge. The easiest way to do that is not with the neo-reactionary #whitelivesmatter or the traditional #bluelivesmatter but, instead, with a slogan that unites all of these while, at the same time, proving the (sadly) necessary other for people to unify against. The most natural such grouping, in the context of a US Presidential election, is Americans. Hence: #AmericanLivesMatter.

Although Trump is the most natural proponent of such a slogan, Hillary Clinton is due for a Sister Souljah moment and could (easily?) pivot to ALM from BLM at the Democratic Convention. Perhaps presidential speech writer Jon Lovett ’04 knows someone in the Hillary campaign?

Or perhaps #AmericansMatter would be better. Or #AmericaMatters. These shift the focus away from an implicit repudiation of the BLM movement while still using the key word americans/america. Readers should feel free to chime in! What slogan/hashtag is most likely to win the presidential election for the candidate who first embraces it?

Needham continues:

The Muslim ban is a kind of race-to-the-bottom solution to a real problem that it is insane to suggest letting in thousands of un-vetted Syrian refugees at this time, and that there’s a lack of a statesman-like policy proposal that either brings people together or, at the very least, makes sure every part of the party feels like it’s occasionally getting its due. And that creates anger, and I think Trump has found those policy issues that allow him to challenge.

Mostly right. The real issue is that 75% (?) of the American people think that the US should not allow further immigration from countries like Syria/Afghanistan/Somalia/etc. Call them crazy! Unfortunately, no Democratic candidate and no non-Trump Republican candidate supported that view. And that led us, sadly, to Trump. Why? Because #AmericanLivesMatter.

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Adam Falk is making 2016-2017 the year of Confronting Climate Change at Williams. Let’s try to be helpful for a change and suggest some interesting speakers that he and head-Confronting Climate Change honcho Professor Ralph Bradburd should invite to speak. Today is Day 1 of five days of suggestions.


Judith Curry
is:

an American climatologist and former chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Her research interests include hurricanes, remote sensing, atmospheric modeling, polar climates, air-sea interactions, and the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for atmospheric research. She is a member of the National Research Council’s Climate Research Committee.

Seems pretty qualified to me. Judith Curry certainly knows much more about the science of climate change than many of the speakers that Williams is already inviting. In fact, she probably knows more about climate science than all of the current speakers put together! (With luck, some hard scientists will soon be added to the current list of activists, writers and ethicists.)

Curry blogs here and has a homepage here.

However, I bet that Professor Ralph Bradburd won’t invite her because she disagrees (pdf) with the consensus view of climate change. Prove me wrong!

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Eric Dayton’s ’03 father is Mark Dayton, former senator from and the current governor of Minnesota.

(And, yes, I must admit that I came across this topic while reading Falk-banned would-be Williams speaker John Derbyshire. But since Derbyshire only discusses Dayton-père, I won’t quote him here.)

What other famous politicians (and/or celebrities) are Eph parents?

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Here is some one-year-old information about the Williams endowment, courtesy of Bloomberg.

endowment

endowment_williams

Remind me again why we have to pay Collette Chilton more than $1.2 million dollars a year? There is a great, juicy story here. Why won’t someone at the Record write it?

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cds

The College used to make its entire history of Common Data Sets available. Now it doesn’t. Am I the only person who finds this behavior pathetic?

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speakers

The Record published this nice collection. What an excellent article, much better than the biased tripe served up later (parts I and II) by Emilia Maluf ’18. Read the whole thing.

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Williams is #2 on the Forbes listing of top colleges.

forbes

Comments:

1) Any list with us between Stanford and Princeton, and with no other liberal arts colleges in the top 6, is a good list for Williams.

2) I suspect that the Forbes list is, substantively, mostly garbage. First, they do not (corrections welcome) make their criteria transparent. You should never trust any research which is not honest and open about its methodology. Second, some of the claims defy belief. Wesleyan at #9, the third highest LAC on the list? No way! There are no (reasonable) criteria of educational excellence on which Wesleyan is above Swarthmore and (it pains me to admit) Amherst.

3) Kudos to the College for ending up #2 on the list, even if the criteria is garbage. Williams needs to improve its brand among elite students, especially internationally, and these results can only help.

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A regular part of the conversation at the Williams board on College Confidential is a “chance” request. A high school student wants the community to provide feedback on her chances of being admitted to Williams. Unfortunately, many of these students are uninformed about the reality of elite college admissions so they don’t provide us with the necessary information to “chance” them correctly. (They also generally provide a mass of irrelevant data as well.) To make the world a better place, here is EphBlog’s Guide to How to Write a Chance Request for Williams. (The same advice applies to most elite colleges.)

First, estimate your Academic Rating and provide the key evidence behind that estimate. (Back information here and here.) Tell us your Math/Reading SAT scores (and/or ACT), your subject test scores and AP scores. Just tell us what you will be submitting to Williams. We don’t care how many times you took these exams or about the details of your Super Scoring efforts.

We also don’t need to know about the details of your academic program. Just provide an honest estimate of your Academic Rating and some background on your high school. (Telling us the name of your high school can be useful, but is not necessary.) We don’t care about your exact GPA. (If you did not take the hardest classes that your high school offers, admit that to us.) The best clue about the quality of your high school record can be found in the quality of schools that similarly ranked students have attended in past years, so tell us that. The Academic Rating is the most important part of the process, so focus your words on that topic.

Second, cut out all the other cruft. We don’t care (because Williams doesn’t care) about all your clubs, activities, volunteer work, et cetera. Despite what your high school and/or parents may have told you, such trivia plays a de minimus role in elite college admissions. For example, your sports resume is irrelevant unless you are being recruited by a Williams coach and, if you are, they will tell you if you what your chances are.

Third, tell us your nationality. Williams has a quota against international applicants.

Fourth, tell us your race, or at least the relevant boxes that you will check on the Common Application. (See here and here for related discussion.) Checking the African-American box gives you a significant advantage in admissions, as does checking Hispanic, but less so. Checking the Asian box hurts your chances at Ivy League schools. There is a debate over whether Williams also discriminates against Asian-American applicants.

Fifth, tell us about your family income and parents background. Williams, like all elite schools, discriminates in favor of the very poor (family income below $50,000) and very wealthy (able to donate a million dollars). There is some debate over the exact dollar figures at both ends. Might Williams favor applicants whose families make us much as $75,000? Sure! Might Williams be swayed by a donation in the six figures? Maybe! Tell us whatever other details might be relevant. For example, Williams cares about socio-economic status more broadly than just income, so having parents that did not graduate from a 4 year college can be helpful. Among rich families, Williams prefers those who have already donated to Williams and/or have a history of supporting higher education.

Summary: Almost all of elite college admissions is driven by Academic Rating, albeit subject to three broad exceptions: athletics, race and income. In order to provide you with an accurate chance, we need the details concerning these areas. Don’t bother us with all the other stuff.

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There was a Black Lives Matter rally (protest? march?) at Williams.blm

1) Could our readers provide some details? When was this event? Who organized it? Who spoke? What was it like?

2) When is the candle light vigil for the slain Dallas police officers?

3) If I were a BLM activist in Williamstown, the concrete change I would work towards is the disarming of the Williamstown police. Given how safe the area is, there is no reason why cops need guns on their hips. They are much more likely to be used in a tragic accident (a la Tamir Rice) than to save a life. Firearms would still be available, of course, in the car or at the station house for the very few situations that require them.

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All campus e-mail yesterday.

From: Haynes, Leticia
Date: Fri, Jul 8, 2016 at 4:32 PM
Subject: This evening at 7 PM in Hardy House – Supporting Each Other in the Midst of Tragic National Events
To: WILLIAMS-STUDENTS@listserv.williams.edu

Dear Members of the Williams Community,

This week our nation has again experienced a wave of tragic and disturbing events – events which are having a significant impact on our campus community.

This evening, members of our community are invited to gather in a safe space where we can reflect, listen, speak and support each other.

Members of the Dean’s Office, Davis Center, Chaplains’ Office and other supportive staff will be present and available – this evening as we gather, and in days ahead.

And those offices are open during regular hours through these summer weeks; students are always welcome to reach out. After hours, Campus Safety and Security can always help you connect with any of these supportive resources if you call 597-4444.

Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes
Vice President
Institutional Diversity and Equity

Marlene Sandstrom
Dean of the College

Steve Klass
Vice President Campus Life

Denise Buell
Dean of the Faculty

Rick Spalding
Chaplain to the College

Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes
Vice President
Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity
Williams College | Williamstown, MA

Did any reader attend this event? How was it?

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yak

Anti-rich prejudice is acceptable at Williams, at least judging by the lack of pushback against yaks like this. What other prejudices are acceptable? Anything remotely racist or sexist is immediately deleted from the Williams Yik Yak thread, which is a good thing.

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trump

1) Is it true that someone’s social standing at Williams would fall if they “came out” as a Trump supporter? My guess is Yes. I have heard that there was a Trump-related controversy on the Facebook page for the class of 2020. True? Tell us what happened.

2) Assume that it is true. Do you think it is a good thing or a bad thing that Trump support leads to a drop in social standing?

3) Assume a student is an excellent candidate for JA. However, she is a very public supporter of Trump, in the same way that many students were very public supporters for Bernie Sanders. Would the JA Selection Committee hold her political views against her? Should they?

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This comment from 2008 captures a part, I suspect, of why Nancy Roseman was such a failure at Dickinson.

An effective head of an organization has to be able to maintain good relations with a whole range of people, in this case including faculty, students, and parents. Being able to reliably kiss donor ass is not sufficient if you lack the personality to get faculty, students, and the larger community on board with your strategy.

Take a look at cluster housing. Would you say the implementation of cluster housing was an example of effective executive decision-making? That process was the most major project that Roseman drove during my time at Williams, and it bore her hallmarks: planned out in secret with little chance for outsiders to give any input, implemented in a rush with total indifference towards student or faculty opinion, and an utter flop within two years of implementation.

I believe that someone with better ‘marketing’ and ‘people’ skills would have been much more successful at implementing something like cluster housing. The plan might still have had substantive problems, but Roseman utterly and totally failed to generate student buy-in, primarily because it was obvious that she was basically indifferent to what students had to say.

There is a kernel of truth in what David has said. She does not welcome or respect student participation when it comes to any kind of major decision. Her publicly expressed contempt for blogs does, I believe, reflect a broader dislike for open discussion. While this might, in theory, make her more suitable as a high school administrator – I sincerely doubt that the kids at Exeter are the docile and passive type of high schooler who will take her high-handedness lying down.

To the trustees and administrators of PEA: While Nancy Roseman is a smart, competent person, she is not a great leader. You can do better.

Prescient! Prior discussion of Roseman’s failure at Dickison here and here.

The other finalist for the Dickinson job was Mark Burnstein, who went on to become president of Lawrence University. Bet the Dickinson trustees wish they had picked him instead!

Question: If Roseman is no longer president, when does her fat presidential salary stop? And what is her new professor of biology salary? These sorts of messy issues rarely come up because very few college presidents are fired. Given today’s academic job market — and Roseman’s obvious failure as a senior administrator — what sort of options will she have? Informed commentary welcome!

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Did you read Eph ’20’s excellent four part series on Windows on Williams (WoW)? You should! Part I, II, III and IV. Here (pdf) is the application, which is due August 1. My advice for those who want to get in (and who recognize the morally suspect nature of the college admissions process):

1) Make your family as poor as possible. (Nothing here is meant to encourage you to “lie,” per se, but you should understand what Williams is looking for and adjust your application accordingly.) income
Whatever you think your family income is, chop that estimate in half. After all, you don’t really know, do you? Also, if there is any reason to think that income is variable, tell Williams the story. Also, keep in mind that Williams cares a lot about whether or not you will be eligible for a Pell Grant.

The maximum award for the 2015-2016 academic year is $5,775. Your eligibility is decided by the FAFSA. Students whose total family income is $50,000 a year or less qualify, but most Pell grant money goes to students with a total family income below $20,000

Williams doesn’t care about that $5,775, and it doesn’t really care about exactly how poor you are. But it loves to brag about how many students qualify for Pell Grants. And Williams is also rated by other elites (here and here) on this criteria. So, I bet that applicants who report family incomes below $50,000 are much more likely to be accepted at WoW.

2) Make yourself as diverse as possible.race URM admissions at Williams is a fascinating topic. The two most relevant posts are probably here and here. Slightly modifying what I wrote 10 (!) years ago:

Note that the WoW application form gives you almost complete latitude in what boxes you check. It asks you to “indicate how you identify yourself.” In other words, there is no requirement that you “look” African-American or that other people identify you as African-America, you just have to “identify yourself” as African-American, just as, when she applied for a faculty position at Harvard, Elizabeth Warren identified herself as Native American.

Now, one hopes, that there isn’t too much truth-stretching going on currently. The Admissions Department only wants to give preferences to students who really are African-American, who add to the diversity of Williams because their experiences provide them with a very different outlook than their non-African-American peers. But those experiences can only come from some identification — by society toward you and/or by you to yourself — over the course of, at least, your high school years. How can you bring any meaningful diversity if you never thought of yourself as African-American (or were so thought of by others) until the fall of senior year?

The point here is not that the current admissions policy for WoW is bad or good. It is what it is. The point is that there are significant preferences given to those who check certain boxes and that cheap genetic testing will provide many people with a plausible excuse to check boxes that, a few years ago, they did not have.

Checking one of those boxes (other than white or Asian, of course!) will dramatically increase your odds of acceptance to WoW. Similar reasoning applies to the other diversity-lite questions, like first language spoken and language spoken at home.

3) Make your parents as uneducated as possible. (Relevant discussion here and here.) Back in the day, Williams measured socio-economic diversity on the basis of whether or not either parent had a four year college degree. I suspect that this matters much less now, but there is certainly no reason to exaggerate their educational credentials or, for that matter, socioeconomic status.

Good luck to all the applicants!

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Things I did not know about the world of Harry Potter:

The number of countries that have their own magical school is minuscule compared to those that do not. This is because the wizarding populations of most countries choose the option of home schooling. Occasionally, too, the magical community in a given country is tiny or far-flung and correspondence courses have been found a more cost-effective means of educating the young.

There are eleven long-established and prestigious wizarding schools worldwide, all of which are registered with the International Confederation of Wizards

And one is Williams College!

From the Berkshires to Boston, the muggle world welcomed the revelation Tuesday that “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling had chosen the state’s highest peak as the site of an ultrasecretive school of magic, “hidden by forest, cloud and spell.”

A new story Rowling released on pottermore.com tells the background of the Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, founded in the 17th century on the summit of Mount Greylock in the Berkshires.

OK, not exactly Williams per se, but we have a much better claim than Amherst. Perhaps some of the Harry Potter fans among our readers can chime in with a compare and contrast.

Long (!) time readers will recall our discussion 10 (!) years ago about mapping the Harry Potter houses to the then-new-and-now-defunct neighborhood system: here and here. Lots of fun reading there for a long holiday weekend. Happy Fourth!

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As someone who attended Windows on Williams and loved every moment of it, I’m still more than a little skeptical of its efficacy. A lot of the people I met at the program, point blank, told me they weren’t that interested in the school; for others, it was a better-than-average safety now that they pretty much knew they’d get admitted.

Ephblog has covered this question before, but, as a new author with a bit of personal experience, I’d like to take a crack at the topic myself. I shamelessly quote from the same Williams Magazine feature that lead our WOW post back in April:

The program is competitive; we get about 1,200 applicants. The students we select are very strong candidates for admission, and getting them here on campus dramatically increases the chances that they apply and will choose to enroll here if we admit them.

I agree with the first bit, I can nod along to the second, the third leaves me in want of proof. Sadly, there’s almost nothing public about WOW beyond what little the college deigns to publish, so, I leave you with my thoughts and more than a little anecdote:

1) The yield rate for WOW students might not be higher than our general yield. Again, we proceed w/o especially good data, but, the numbers I were quoted went thus: 70% of two hundred WOW students apply to the college, 85% of that number are admitted, and roughly 40% of those students matriculate at the college. That’s not a “dramatic” increase in the chances that a student will enroll; 40% is maintenance on our general yield rate.

Now, perhaps, a 40% yield is good considering that WOW students are alleged to be more talented, diverse, or otherwise just more valuable to admissions than your garden variety Eph. Perhaps that sort of student is more likely go elsewhere, and thus we have to work extra, extra hard to make sure they matriculate.

But none of that seems clear from the quoted block of text! The reasonable inference to make is that a “dramatic” increase in yield rate would mean one that at least exceeds our general yield. You can wax poetic about how a relative increase in the yield rate technically satisfies the quoted statement, but, that answer leaves me a little discomfited; it seems a deceptive way to represent the data. Of course, this wouldn’t be a point of contention if the college were to release its actual figures on WOW and not speak in generalities. I eagerly await the day.

2) Is WOW even competitive with similar programs? All of our immediate peers — Amherst, Swarthmore, Pomona — run their own fly-in programs. Further, because the total pool of students who attend fly-ins is pretty small, we can assume that out of the 200 students that attend WOW, at least a few will go to a program at one of our peer schools.

We could easily enough, and due credit here to regular commentator simplicio, send a survey out to students who attended WOW and ask them to check off what fly-in programs they’ve attended, as well as what school they plan to matriculate at in the fall.

If, out of students that attend both WOW and Amherst’s fly-in, we only get 20%-30% of them to matriculate here, then we know that WOW isn’t keeping pace. Of course, we’d be working with a fairly small sample size (likely no more than about ten students) but rough indicators would beat flying blind.

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Half of this year’s entering class is comprised of students who applied Early Decision. How many of those students, might you ask, went to WOW too? 13:

Thirteen students admitted through Early Decision participated in Windows on Williams, a Williams-sponsored program that provides talented, high-achieving high schools seniors from low-income backgrounds the opportunity to visit campus during the fall of their senior year.

We bring nearly two hundred students to campus for WOW and of those students that apply, we admit 85-90% of them. So how do we only have 13 students, about a 20th of the students we fly out here, applying ED? My best guesses:

1) They have no good incentive to apply ED.  That 85-90% number, while not promulgated, isn’t secret either; everyone who goes to WOW, by the end of it, has heard that number and knows that they stand a very very good chance at getting admitted to the college. Nothing stops these students from treating Williams as a safety. Those that hold the purple-and-gold dear would blanch at the thought, but, like it or not, there’s more than a few students on campus today who might have preferred an acceptance letter from Yale or Stanford to one from Williams.

2) They don’t think that they can afford to apply ED. If this is the case, then that’s something we ought to change. Perhaps WOW students, if interested in applying early, could have a “tentative” aid offer prepared by someone in the financial aid office?

Considering that we’re admitting 90% of them already, and we’ve already brought them to campus at some expense, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to close that last inch of distance and get them to apply ED. I’m sure many poorer WOW students, although not all, would jump at the chance to apply ED if they could be reasonably confident that Williams would give them enough aid.

3) They just don’t like the school that much. Decently common! You would presume that students who go out of their way to apply to WOW would be above-average in their love for the school, but, you wouldn’t be all that correct. I met more than a few people at WOW that didn’t plan to apply to the college at all; some liked other schools more, some were just in it for the free trip.

Perhaps, there’s some way we could get a slightly more enthused student body to WOW? The prompt for WOW, as it stands, is very general; perhaps we would be better off with something that’s more specific to Williams? Or, maybe, it’s just a matter of doing a better job at knocking some school spirit into our guests while they’re here.

My suggestion: teach visiting students to sing The Mountains. It’s never too early, or late, to learn.

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Welcome! We’re spending the week covering Windows on Williams. Today, I’ll be bringing you through the parts of WOW that stuck out to me as memorable:

Welcome Dinner and Introductions

Quite interesting! At the other fly-ins I went to, for the first night, you were handed a meal ticket and pretty much left to shift for yourself at one of the cafeterias. Williams, however, has a whole separate banquet type thing, with catered food and huge tanks of iced apple cider, where student interns in the admissions office mull around and answer any questions that visiting students might have.

I like this quite a bit. It gives the student hosts a break, it gives our visiting students more time in front of admissions office staff, and, it makes for a good venue to conduct introductions from.

Jamboree: Student Performance Showcase

Wretched. Awful. Needs to die, both at Williams and as a convention of the fly-in generally. For one, they almost always schedule the student performances on the first night — when everyone is jet-lagged, and cranky, and really not in the mood to watch a step routine. (And, might I add that attendance is usually mandatory.)

Any charms of the format wear thin by one’s second fly-in, usually. Mostly because there’s no variety between colleges. I visited three schools, hundreds of miles apart, in different athletic conferences and with radically different alleged styles of education; all of them subjected me to three acapela groups, two dance troupes, and some really maudlin, weirdly metered poetry.

Jamboree: Bad, Bad Trivia

What gave me the most hope for student showcase at Williams — the promise of trivia — ended up being the most disappointing. Here are the three of the questions they asked at my WOW: “What war did Col. Ephraim Williams fight in?” ; “Who is the director of admissions at Williams?” and “Williams is the second oldest college in the state of Massachusetts, what school is the oldest?”

Seriously? We, purport to, and in fact have, a very rich trivial tradition at Williams. And this is the best we can do?  I don’t want to put too fine a point on this (because WOW as a whole is great and my specific critiques should be read as footnotes to mountains of praise) but how fun is it to ask students to recall the name of an admissions director they’ve just met? And why the last question? Why are we bothering, even indirectly like this, to compare Williams to Harvard? It seems a slimy way to rub some of the Harvard prestige off on Williams. Why not ask a question about Pres. Garfield, or Leehom Wang? It might teach the youth something.

 Mountain Day

My WOW, the October session, ended up falling on Mountain Day. I couldn’t imagine a better time to be on campus; the idyllic, sexed-up Williams that we ought to be showing prefrosh comes out on Mountain Day. Can we bring future WOW classes to campus during Mountain Day without spoiling the surprise? It’s my hope we can.

Sample Classes

Very good! Surprisingly good, actually. I was worried that, at fifty students apiece, the sample classes would be overcrowded, but, evidently there exist members of the Williams faculty that can teach fifty student seminars. Prof. Leyla Rouhi, in particular, had a sort of rockstar quality; there was a line of people waiting to speak to her after she finished teaching.

Divisions Dinner

I won’t say much about it, because unqualified praise doesn’t need the space. Interestingly, two Ephblog favorites, Prof. Joe Cruz ’91 and Prof. Steven Miller, were both in attendance at the October WOW. Prof. Miller even gave the whole room a neat little demonstration of Benford’s Law.

That concludes our post today! Tomorrow, we return to the usual Ephblog listicle format as well as to reasonable standards of length.

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We’re spending a few days covering Windows on Williams, the college’s biggest little program that no one seems to know a thing about. If you, dear reader, are one of those people, best to consult our two other articles on it first before proceeding below. Today is day one, and we begin with the college’s own scanty description of the program:

WOW [Windows on Williams] gives high school seniors the opportunity to spend three all-expenses-paid days at Williams. WOW is a selective program open to high school students in the U.S. and Puerto Rico; preference is given to high-achieving students who couldn’t otherwise afford to visit Williams.

WOW participants stay in dorms with current students, attend classes, meet with professors, and learn about our admission process and our extraordinary financial aid program.

Where to start? General context first:

1) Williams is not unique, or particularly virtuous, in offering to fly students to campus. All of our peer schools — Amherst, Swarthmore, Pomona (even Bowdoin) — have similar programs. Why? Easy: because it’s one of the few ways elite liberal arts schools can counter punch when they, inevitably, scrap with larger universities for students. We can’t out-spend, out-market, or out-brand a financially massive institution like, say, Harvard. What we can do is target a few excellent students, bring them to campus, and make the case that a choice between Williams and Harvard is an easy decision.

1.1) Further, we can expect most of our fly-in students will know that. Personally, I went to three fly-ins. Talking to people, I got the sense that was pretty average. About half of the people I talked to attended less than that (usually two, rarely just one) and the other half attended more. (One girl I met planned to go to twelve fly-ins; she had applied to more.)

2) Williams is, however, not not virtuous. Williams, as it should, makes its application public and welcomes all sorts of folk to apply. Some schools either put their application on a part of their website that isn’t public facing, or, even better, require that you be “invited” to apply. The amount of sleaze required, to limit access to a program designed to provide access to the poor and disadvantaged, is staggering, yet, unsurprisingly, not uncommon among the admissions staff of fancy-pants schools.

3) But, Williams does run a good fly-inThere’s a few things that spell a good, or at least prestigious, fly-in: funded travel for all admits, relatively small size, selectivity and two-night length. Windows on Williams hits pretty much all of those benchmarks: everyone gets their travel paid for, each session of WOW is around 100 students, only 16% of WOW applicants get in, and, most importantly, the program is a luxuriant three days — two whole overnights.

Tufts, on the other hand, crams 250 students into one fly-in, that accepts roughly 50% of applicants, and only lasts two days (one overnight). That sort of program, at least to students who’ve attended better ones, are treated as minimally desirable (e.g, if you had a better fly-in to go to, you’d bump the Tufts one off your schedule.) Or, if you didn’t have anything to do that weekend, you might attend as a sort of blow-off trip because it was easy to get in and the application was short.

It’s important that our fly-in students have a good time here, but, because recruiting students is a zero-sum game, it is arguably more important that they have a better time here than they have anywhere else. Is that something the administration keeps in mind? I would expect so, but I’m really just guessing. Perhaps admissions officers are less savage than I imagine them to be.

Guesses, educated or otherwise, on that topic are more than welcome in the comments.

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Scan copy 2

… working on some thoughts of the campus*. Son and daughter came with me.. More fleece vests with numerals and a cow for all. I can only hope that all classes have the same spirit and conviviality that the Class of 1956 has. I did manage a short 7 minute stand-up at the Saturday night dinner to the amusement of  a few but the amazement of all.

Some readers may recall Will Slack ’11, a constant commenter here in the day. He made his way into the dotage of the Rogerson lunch in which Tink Campbell ’56 was awarded Joseph’s coat, to find me. A very nice man. I introduced him to son Garret as they seem to share that special level of computer nerddom (in the best sense of the word).

And I interested our only classmate member of ASCAP in trying his hand at a new Williams song. I was disappointed in the winner of the recent contest. I just got his lyrics and they are quite a different  and positive perspective of the Purple Valley and Mount Graylock. I am looking forward to hearing the music.

As an aside, I did observe that the spirit of the reunion was quite positive and fun-filled. Not like the acerbic observations and divisions which seem to proliferate on Ephblog. Here’s hoping that the Center for Disease Control can keep this virus isolated to this url.

Beat Amherst!

 

• i come late to the party …
http://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/topic/308502-taking-an-art-class-at-age-81-34/?p=3628150
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