Not exactly the perspective you’d expect to hear at Williams, with its award-winning math department.

But that’s what Susan Engel, Director of the College’s Program in Teaching, writes in a recent op-ed:

American children keep scoring poorly and arriving at college woefully unprepared. Just as bad, if not worse, too many students think they hate math.

I propose a solution: Stop requiring everyone to take math in school.

To be sure, she’s talking about the years between arithmetic (through 3rd grade), and high school (when interested students would be encouraged to take further math).  And she makes clear that she’s not suggesting that we abandon the math teaching embedded in other parts of the curricula, that we might encounter in, say, discovering our inner scientist.

What do you think?

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Interested in improving Williams? Then you should join Gargoyle. Some notes:

1) Below the break is the e-mail that went out earlier in the month. Here (doc) is more information.

2) Gargoyle provides a platform on which students committed to improving Williams can stand. Obviously, you don’t need Gargoyle to try to improve Williams. But, for good or for ill, the Gargoyle name carries weight, both with the Administration and with the Trustees.

3) Any Gargoyle member interested in trying to change policy X at Williams should network with alumni interested in policy X, especially alumni who worked on changing policy X when they were undergraduates. Such alumni are also likely to know which members of the administration/faculty/trustees are most interested in X and most sympathetic to your proposal.

And the best place to start is at EphBlog. No one (who does not work for Williams) knows more about the College then we do. And no one, including those who work for Williams, is better placed to explain to you how things really work.

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The most recent annual report on sexual assault is out. Let’s spend 10 days talking about it! Today is day 6.

(For more information on our current policies, see titleix.williams.edu or the dean’s office website.) Now that we have had these new processes in place for more than a year, we will be assessing them carefully and inviting feedback to learn how we might improve them further.

1) I am not expert enough to know how these policies compare to those of other elite schools. Comments from readers? My sense is that Williams is following the standard set of best practices that the Obama administration would like to see all colleges follow.

2) This is a good sign:

For the purposes of this description, the person who reports an experience of sexual assault or sexual misconduct is called the “complainant”. The person who is accused of committing sexual assault or sexual misconduct is called the “respondent”.

Too many colleges use the term “victim” to describe the person who files a report. The Williams approach is better because, until the investigation is complete, we can’t know if this person is a victim or not. Even at Williams, people do make false accusations.

3) The College, I think, is doing everything it can for students who have been subjected to a sexual assault. But what about students who have been falsely accused? (And false accusations have happened at Williams in the past.) What advice do we have for them?

First, do not underestimate how much trouble you are in, even if (especially if!) you are completely innocent. (See former Williams professor KC Johnson on the railroading of Peter Yu at Vassar.) If you were alone in a room with your accuser (and you probably were), then it will be her word against yours.

Second, call a lawyer. Andrew Miltenberg seems active in this area. In particular, he seemed to do a good job in helping Taylor Carmola fight against the accusations from Lexie Brackenridge. But the main point is not that Miltenberg is a good or bad attorney. The main point is that you need a lawyer now.

What advice do our readers have for a student falsely accused of rape?

4) For the benefit of future historians, I have copy/pasted some of the material from these links below the break and saved a copy of others here.
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The most recent annual report on sexual assault is out. Let’s spend 10 days talking about it! Today is day 5.

The changes we implemented included using a professional investigator for every case (so that complainants, respondents, and witnesses are all questioned by someone with deep expertise in doing this work), as well as creating a hearing process in which students who are raising or responding to a concern never have to discuss their experiences in front of other students or their professors.

If this is such a good idea, then why doesn’t the College do the same thing with regard to the Honor and Discipline Committee? Williams could, easily, use a “professional investigator” to examine cases of alleged plagiarism, someone with “deep expertise in doing this work” — much deeper than current committee members like, say, Quamrul Ashraf or Cheryl Shanks. Williams could, easily, arrange a process that did not force accused students to “have to discuss their experiences in front of other students,” like, say, current committee members Tyler Sparks ’15 or Adam Pollack ’18.

The reason this would be a bad idea, obviously, is that the more that the Williams community governs itself, the better. Faculty like Ashraf and Shanks will always have a better sense of the standards of the Williams community than any “professional investigator.” Students like Sparks and Pollack will always be better judges of their peers. (And, as a side benefit, students on the committee almost always view this service as one of the most valuable parts of their Williams education.)

Adam Falk is often guilty of prattling on about the importance of “faculty governance” at Williams. But he has done more to undermine such governance, to make faculty less powerful and less involved in the running of Williams, than any president before him. Removing faculty from investigating, judging, and punishing accusations of sexual assault is another slip down the long slide toward faculty irrelevance.

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The most recent annual report on sexual assault is out. Let’s spend 10 days talking about it! Today is day 4.

And, we must work relentlessly on prevention, doing everything we can to reduce the prevalence of assault on our campus until it ceases.

Really? “[E]verything we can?” This is such utter hooey, I am embarrassed to be quoting it. There are many things that the College could do to reduce sexual assault on campus that it chooses not to do, for reasons both practical and ideological.

First, the College could go back to the days of single sex dorms with no opposite gender visitors in the rooms. This clip from Animal House gives a flavor of what that was like 50 years ago.

The vast majority (all?) serious sexual assaults at Williams occur when a male and female student are alone together in a Williams dorm. Make such a situation a violation of college policy, and the rate of sexual assault at Williams would decrease significantly. The College will never do that (nor should it, since such a rule would decimate admissions from elite applicants) so Dean Bolton should stop blathering on with gibberish about doing “everything we can.” She isn’t.

Second, the College could tell female Ephs the truth about alcohol use and sexual assault. Women who stay sober (and/or drink in moderation) are vastly less likely to be sexually assaulted than those who don’t. In fact, the College could just point female students to this Emily Yoffe article in Slate:

College Women: Stop Getting Drunk

But we are failing to let women know that when they render themselves defenseless, terrible things can be done to them. Young women are getting a distorted message that their right to match men drink for drink is a feminist issue. The real feminist message should be that when you lose the ability to be responsible for yourself, you drastically increase the chances that you will attract the kinds of people who, shall we say, don’t have your best interest at heart. That’s not blaming the victim; that’s trying to prevent more victims.

Third, the College could do a better job of explaining that men and women are different and that, therefore, women may not have an accurate idea about what their male classmates are thinking when he brings her back to his dorm room. Hint: He does not want to discuss Plato!

Now, of course, she may not want to discuss Plato either! And that is OK. But, unless she has the benefit of a non-PC upbringing, she may not be aware of just how different the male outlook is from her own. If the College really wanted to do “everything” it could to reduce the frequency of sexual assault, it would tell female Ephs not to go back to a male Ephs dorm room unless she has a good deal of evidence to conclude that he is of high moral character.

But discouraging women from getting drunk and encouraging them to make better judgments when it comes to sexual relationships is something that the College, mainly for ideological reasons, is unwilling to do. And that is a shame.

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Previews are going on right now. Comments:

1) Below the break is the e-mail that Bolton/Nesbitt sent out. Best part:

In general, students visiting for previews are not looking to make intimate connections during their visits.

Wouldn’t the Administration be more effective if it were more truthful? The vast majority of male previews would love nothing more than to make (several!) “intimate connections” with cute female Ephs. Surely Nesbitt, at least, remembers what it was like to be 17? Of course, few/none will act on this desire, but denying its existence is another example of the College’s willful blindness to biological/cultural reality.

2) Here (pdf) is the official schedule. Best part:

STONE HILL MIDNIGHT HIKE
Departs from Greylock Hall Lobby
Join the Williams Outing Club for a short hike that will include s’mores and great views of campus.

This is genius. First, it shows off Williams beautiful setting in an unforgetable way. Second, it keeps the future-Ephs from getting in too much trouble! No time to party before the hike and too tired to party afterwards. How long has this been a part of Previews? And who thought it up? Kudos!

3) The single biggest improvement that could be made to Previews is to make hosting it a part of the JA application process.

Inform freshmen and sophomores (during the fall/winter) that any experience they have hosting overnight visits from applicants will be considered when they apply to be JAs. No JA wanna-be is forced to participate, but many/most would. There is a huge demand for JA spots at Williams. Would-be applicants know this and will act accordingly. The Admissions Office (or is it Purple Key?) would keep track of how many applicants each student hosted (I assume that it already does this), survey hosted students on the quality of their visit, and then report the results to the JA Selection Committee. The JASC would be under no obligation to use the survey results. Such a scheme would:

a) Dramatically improve the overnight process. If you motivate a Williams students to show off the campus in the best possible light, then she is likely to do a marvelous job. I bet that applicants under this scheme would have much more fun during their visits and, therefore, be more likely to select Williams.

b) Make the typical overnight visit for non-athletes as fun as those for athletes. I believe that most (all?) overnight visits involving athletes that a coach is interested in are handled outside of the standard system. In those cases, the coach (who wants to applicant to have a good time) ensures that the visitor is placed with player on the team (who both wants to make the coach happy and improve the quality of the athletes she plays with), thereby generating fun-filled visits. No one can sell Williams as well as an undergraduate who wants to.

c) Provide would-be JAs with some insight into what they might be getting themselves into. Although the vast majority of JAs perform superbly, some discover (once it is too late) that the sacrificing their own time and GPAs for the benefit of selfish, annoying and socially-awkward 18 year-olds is not for them. Alas, once they are a JA, it is too late, much to the chagrin of the students in their entry. By ensuring that these Ephs have some experience with hosting overnights, the College will decrease the likelihood of such mismatches.

d) Provide the JASC with more information. The JASC would be under no obligation to use that information, but, if I were a member, I would certainly be impressed with an applicant who hosted 5 or 10 high school seniors, devoted a lot of time and energy to their visit, and received lavish praise from those visitors. I would suspect that, all else equal, such students make for better JAs than those who don’t host visits and/or don’t do a good job of it.

e) Any applicant who, after such a visit, doesn’t like Williams probably shouldn’t come. The fit just isn’t right.

2) Besides JA-applicants, we should incorporate the enthusiasm of sophomores who have already been selected for JA by having them host during Preview Weekends. [I think that the first (of two?) such week-ends is coming up. Can anyone confirm?] This might be tough to do this year (although I bet that Dean Dave could swing it if he wanted to), but, in future years, JA applicants should be told that, if they are accepted, their first obligation will be to host visitors during Previews.

I don’t anticipate many objections from the future JAs. After all, they have just been selected and are very excited. Moreover, these visitors will, in 5 short months, become their freshmen, so there is every incentive to get to know them. Moreover, the Admissions Office could ensure that the students it most wanted were placed with JAs with similar interests.

Imagine that you are a high school senior choosing between Yale and Williams. At Yale, your visit consists of sleeping on the floor with four other students while your “host” ignores you. At William, your host is someone with the same interests as you (whether that be an academic subject or an extra-curricular activity), someone who spends the week-end with you, someone who will be a JA next year, already giving you a direct connection to Williams.

After two such week-ends, aren’t you much more likely to choose Williams than you otherwise would be?

I first suggested this 5 years ago. Alas, like most of my genius ideas, it has been ignored by the College. There is always next year!

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The most recent annual report on sexual assault is out. Let’s spend 10 days talking about it! Today is day 3.

She [Meg Bossong ’05] also led the development of the CASA (Community Attitudes about Sexual Assault) survey, which got broad response. The CASA assessed the prevalence of sexual assault, stalking, and relationship violence at Williams as well as the helpfulness and availability of support resources and the community’s understanding of our policies. Nearly 1,400 students completed the extensive survey, and about 200 more answered some of its questions.

Really? I am surprised. A few days after the survey came I asked a dozen students what they thought about it. Not a single one had even bothered to open it! Any student who did open it would have been overwhelmed with the number of questions that it asked. It is shocking (to me) that 1400 students would have spent the 30 (?) minutes that completing this survey would actually require. If I were the Record, I would try to do some reporting on this claim, rather than continuing to serve as stenographer for the Administration. Comments:

1) Below the break is the e-mail announcing the survey.

2) Am I the only one surprised by the 1,400 number? Here (pdf) is the survey. It is 17 pages long! Here is a snippet:

survey

Since you are expected to consider a potentially different answer for each square in this grid, you need to make 60 different judgments for just this one question.

3) This wording smells of puffery. Why tell us “nearly 1,400″ instead of providing the actual number? I also have doubts about the distinction between “completed” and “answered some of its questions.” If a student answered every question except that crazy matrix, does that count as “completed” or not? I suspect that there was a lot of “rounding up,” that a student only needed to answer 80% (or 60% or . . .) of questions to count as “completed.”

4) In the spirit of transparency, the Administration ought to make the (aggregate) responses to this survey public. Once it does so, we can all take a look at the data ourselves.

5) None of this should be taken as criticism of Meg Bossong ’05, of whom I am a huge fan. There is no one better than she for the job of Director of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response at Williams.

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An alum e-mailed me this week:

I am hearing (unconfirmed) rumors that Malia Obama is on her way to Williams. Back in the day I could have confirmed this on EphBlog…

Sad part was that he did not realize that EphBlog has been up-and-running for more than 6 months. Alert the media!

A second alum mentioned the Malia rumor as well. The source for both was this story by Quentin Cohan in the Williams Alternative:

In a surprise announcement Tuesday night, Richard L. Nesbitt, Williams College Director of Admissions, said that the College had gone against its standard admissions procedure and accepted the President’s eldest daughter, who is a junior in high school, a year ahead of schedule–making her the first member of the College’s class of 2020. “Our goal every year is to create as talented and accomplished a class of 550 young men and women as we can,” Nesbitt explained, “and, though we do not normally deliberate on students before their final year of high school, there were considerations in this situation which we deemed allowed for circumventing the usual process.”

Needless to say, Malia Obama ’20 would give Williams 4 years (at least) of great publicity. Alas, as the April 1 publication date should make clear, this was a (brilliant!) April Fool’s joke. Well done Quentin Cohan!

Saddest (funniest?) part is the comments that followed the article, including some that were made after earlier comments that pointed out date/joke.

Most interesting was this comment:

I wager that none of you is old enough to remember when the daughter of Vice President Spiro Agnew was a freshman at Williams. Her father had been involved in some less than acceptable doings. The press decided to descend on the child who had just moved into her dorm space. The women in her entry united to protect her from the press– they even went so far as to LIE about her whereabouts. I’m not certain that an entire college community at a larger institution would do as much.

Likewise, there was a time when all was bleak for Shah of Iran. His children enrolled in various schools in this country: the heir apparent came to Williams and his younger sister enrolled in one of the local private schools. The children were easily protected in Williamstown and the prince was a formidable addition to the soccer team.

The Williams community is known for its cohesion and care. Some of the contributors to this thread appear to have forgotten that.

A true story? The Record should do a retrospective on Ephs from famous families and how they spent their time at Williams.

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humans
Humans of Williams is a cool project. Background from the Record:

“One story at a time,” is the unofficial motto of the new online project dominating campus, Humans of Williams, an innovative vehicle through which the stories of the College’s students, faculty and staff are told. Via a Facebook page that has racked up well over 1000 likes, Humans of Williams offers snapshots celebrating the diverse individuals of the Purple Valley, from College faculty and staff, to athletes, mathletes and activists.

I sat down with its founder Susie Paul ’16, an amiable, energetic student who revealed she carries her signature Canon camera in her bag most of the time, to chat about the idea whose actualization has generated much hype and provoked thoughtful dialogues within our community since its launch.

Great stuff! Read the whole thing.

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Not that there is anything wrong with that!

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There are several hundreds high school seniors¹ who have been admitted to both Williams and Harvard (and Yale and Princeton and Stanford and . . .). Fewer than 10% of them will choose Williams over these more famous schools. Some of them are making the right choice. They will be better off at Harvard, for various reasons. But at least half of them are making the wrong choice.² They (you?) would be better off at Williams. Why?

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

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

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

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

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

3) You would have the chance to do many things at Williams. At Harvard it is extremely difficult to do more than one thing in a serious fashion. If you play a sport or write for the paper or sing in an a cappella group at Harvard, it is difficult to do much of anything else. At Williams, it is common — even expected — that students will have a variety of non-academic interests that they pursue passionately. At Harvard, the goal is a well-rounded class, with each student being top notch in something. At Williams, the ideal is a class full of well-rounded people.

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

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

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

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

Choose wisely.

¹The first post in this series was 11 years ago, inspired by a newspaper story about 18 year-old Julia Sendor, who was admitted to both Harvard and Williams. Julia ended up choosing Williams (at least partly “because of the snowy mountains and maple syrup”), becoming a member of the class of 2008, winning a Udall Foundation Scholarship in Environmental Studies. Best part of that post is the congratulations from her proud JA.

²In the spirit of open discussion and/or trolling, I posted a link to this essay at the College Confidential threads for Williams, Harvard, Yale and Princeton. Any comments there worth highlighting?

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The Honor and Discipline Committee is a wonderful institution at Williams. Here (pdf) is a copy of its latest report, from the academic year 2012 — 2013.

The Honor and Discipline Committee is made up of eight students, eight faculty, and the Dean of the College. The secretary to the Dean of the College assists committee members with their work, helping to schedule hearings, find rooms and equipment, collate evidence, and maintain records.

Student members are elected by their peers in September. There are two seats per class year. The Dean designates one student as chair. The Faculty Steering Committee appoints eight faculty members, striving for a balance among divisions and a mix of experience levels with the committee. The FSC designates a FacultyChair.

Honor hearings include eight student members, four faculty members (including the faculty chair and the Dean), who act as questioners, advisors, and the recording secretary. Only the students may vote. The faculty members rotate.

Discipline appeal hearings include four students and four faculty, including the two chairs. All members vote. Who is selected depends on scheduling and rotation, not on any other characteristics. As a party to any appeal, the Dean does not sit on the committee.

Comments:

1) I love that only students vote on honor violations. Is this true at other schools? The more responsibility that Williams places on its students, the better their education will be. And don’t think that this means that the Committee is easy on other students. If anything the reverse is true. By all accounts, students are much harsher judges of their peers than faculty would ever dare to be.

2) Is there a reason that faculty get to vote on discipline appeals? Has that always been true? The cynic in me thinks that it is a way for the Administration to minimize the chance that the students will, in a fit of jury nullification, overrule a decision made by the Dean of the College.

3) Note the amazing increase in the number of honor violations in the last few years. There were 31 cases! In 2005 — 2006 (pdf) there were 8. What explains the increase?

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I love local news stories like this.

In a large signing ceremony at Bernards High School on Feb. 18, 20 Mountaineer athletes signed letters of intent.

Carter Gilpin will play lacrosse at Merrimack College, while lacrosse teammate Declan Swartwood signed with St. John’s. Emma TenBarge will play lacrosse at Williams College.

1) Of course, there are no “letters of intent” from Williams College, as there are in Division I. This sometimes flummoxes high schools intent on holding these ceremonies, so they hand out pretend pieces of paper to Williams-bound students while other students sign actual documents.

2) “TenBarge” is a cool name. Unfortunately, Ancestry.com has so polluted the Google search results with their SEO that I can’t find any references to its etymology. Pointers?

3) Welcome to Emma TenBarge ’19! Women’s lacrosse has had a tough start to the year and could use some help.

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Excellent essay from Evan Miller ’06.

In retrospect, learning stick shift was a prudent investment of time, even though I’ve never had to prove it to society by (for example) driving a stick-shift ambulance full of orphans while avoiding heavy gunfire. Driving stick is just a good skill to have. More people should have it, in my opinion.

The astute reader will have surmised by now that I am not telling you all this in order to establish my credentials as a driver of low-end convertibles, or to hinder the ineluctable onslaught of automatic transmission in the automobile industry. I bring it up because I see important parallels between the move to automatic transmission in cars and the rise of Python in the computing world.

Python is convenient, and in many ways, a great advance over the C programming language. However, just as teaching teenagers to drive automatic transmission is a practical guarantee that they’ll never learn stick, advising neophytes to learn Python is creating programmers who will never bother to learn how to code in C. And that, I believe, is a bad thing.

Read the whole thing.

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Good to see Williams taking a lead on sexual assault prevention. Read the whole article. I was especially pleased with this portion.

College sexual assault is a serious problem, both at Williams and across the country. Although the oft-cited statistic of 1 in 5 women being sexually assaulted during their college years is highly misleading (c.f., Emily Yoffe’s reporting in Slate), even a single rape is one too many.

Good stuff! No one denies that sexual assault is a problem. But it is nice to see Williams avoid the inaccurate statistics and out-of-control moral panic that is all too common on other campuses. Yoffe (a liberal reported writing in a liberal news outlet) provides an excellent overview of the issue. Kudos to the Alumni Review for framing the problem correctly.

Much more commentary below . . .
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Speaking of former Record editors-in-chief, here is Mike Needham ’04 with a reform agenda for Congress.

But the failure of the president’s agenda is a consequence of progressives’ intellectual bankruptcy, not evidence we cannot solve our problems. Republicans can tackle these challenges head-on this Congress, and in so doing unite both their party and the country.

There’s no lack of ideas in the House Republican conference for leaders to pick from to address the concerns of the Americans left behind by the Obama recovery. Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), for example, has introduced the RAISE Act, which would raise the wage ceiling union contracts have imposed on 8 million Americans. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) has an exciting agenda for housing and financial services reform. Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) has proposed the HERO Act, which would go a long way toward driving higher education innovation while curbing costs to students. And the congressional reconciliation process provides Congress with the opportunity to repeal Obamacare, then work in an orderly fashion to replace it with a patient-centered alternative.

Who doesn’t think “exciting agenda” when they read “housing and financial services reform?”

I kid, I kid.

If Needham is one of the most energetic Eph voices on the right, who is an Eph counterpart on the left?

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Latest article from former Record editor-in-chief Ainsley O’Connell ’06.

Earning a Yale degree will no longer require moving to New Haven, Connecticut, thanks to an online program for would-be physicians’ assistants that the university plans to launch early next year. The graduate program, developed in partnership with software-as-a-service provider 2U, will grant Master of Medical Science degrees exactly equivalent to those of on-campus students.

“This is a Yale degree,” Lucas Swineford, who oversees the university’s digital strategy, told The Wall Street Journal. Online education, he said, is “coming of age.”

Read the whole thing. A PA degree is not very relevant to most Ephs, but what about something from HBS?

Most elite universities continue to tread carefully as they experiment with online learning. Last month, for example, Harvard Business School announced that it would be formally launching its new CORe (Credential of Readiness) program online this summer. For now, at least, CORe is a milquetoast compromise between MOOC and accredited degree: It comprises just three courses, focused on business fundamentals, and grants students a certificate, rather than a diploma. That said, it will still make a multi-million-dollar contribution to Harvard’s bottom line: Bharat N. Anand, faculty chair for online learning at HBS, told Fortune that he expects to enroll 3,000 students, each paying $1,800, this June.

Adam Falk (and the rest of the Williams faculty?) have shown nothing but a troubling-lack-of-enthusiasm-for-if-not-disdain for the rapid changes coming to higher education. What advice would O’Connell have for him?

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Longtime reader AF points out this Wall Street Journal op-ed from former Williams president Morty Schapiro. Lest it disappear, the entire article is below the break.

The entire article deserves a week’s worth of deconstruction. Let’s save that effort until after spring break. In the meantime, note that Morty has changed his personal branding! For many years, his byline was “Morton Owen Schapiro.” A bit pretensions, perhaps, but not ridiculous for a college president. Now, he is just plain, old Morton Schapiro (here and on his Northwestern page). Of course, this is probably just random and/or a function of WSJ policies. Still, if I were advising on his post-presidency career plans, I would recommend a little less pretension in order to increase his opportunities for lucrative service on company boards . . .

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More highlights Steven Miller’s presentation slides (pdf) about the benefits of recording lectures at Williams.

  • WHO watched WHAT and HOW MUCH?
  • Does watching help students?
  • Should lecture recording be broken into smaller segments?
  • YouTube or not YouTube?

Again, this is all good stuff. Have you watched the whole video? You should!

However, I think that Miller fails to mention the most likely (and best) path forward for most Williams professors: being a curator rather than a creator of lectures. Miller is a fine lecturer, but is he the best lecturer in the world, on every topic in all of mathematics? Unlikely. Better for whom to collect and organize all the best lectures and then direct his students toward them. This frees up his time to do all the things for his students that they can’t get from video, especially working with students on projects.

There are only so many hours in a day, even for someone as productive as Steven Miller. Every hour spent lecturing is an hour that could have been spent working with students either one-on-one or in small groups. That is a Williams education at its finest, that is our comparative advantage.

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Another highlight from Steven Miller’s presentation slides (pdf) about the benefits of recording lectures at Williams.

Local Student: Multivariable Calculus
The partial flipping was a successful, interesting twist to c
lass (though I think it worked in large part b/c of Prof Miller’s way of teaching). Your website with many different kinds of practice problems, lecture notes, and additional comments with various links played an influential role to my performance in this class. I watched all the videos you sent via email and on GLOW. I watched some of the optional videos on the webpage when I had time or something I wanted to learn more about.

Most of the time, however, I watched the mandatory videos after class b/c I viewed the online videos as good reviews of the lecture for that
day rather than as previews since I prefer learning new material in
person. Also, I watched all of the lecture videos for that class day
when I got back to my room and took more notes for things I missed
or wanted to emphasize b/c I found them important. You don’t know
how helpful these recordings were since we cover so much material
in such limited time. As a student, I really appreciated this partial
flipping system and the available online resources – it really worked.

All good stuff. Surely there must be another professor at Williams who records her lectures. Or is Miller the only one?

But, again, recording lectures is a second best solution because the best future for Williams is no more lectures.

[T]here would be no better way for Williams to demonstrate to potential applicants that it is a different place, with different values, than by drawing a line at 15 students or so per class. If Williams had no lectures, then there would be less doubt about its educational superiority. The tutorial program already provides Williams with a leadership position in undergraduate education. Abolishing lectures would do even more.

Williams would be better off if every class taught by Steven Miller, and the scores of other excellent professors we have, were 15 students or fewer. There would be no need for recorded lectures if there were no lectures in the first place.

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Did you watch Steven Miller’s video yesterday? No? Bad reader! Here (pdf) are his presentation slides about the benefits of recording lectures at Williams. Highly recommended! One highlight:

What is the purpose of recorded lectures?

  • More material (both at home and in class).
  • Aids absent students / students who want to review.
  • Use material as review / supplement in other classes.
  • Easier to travel.
  • Remote students.

Good stuff. I love it when Williams professors experiment, when they try to push forward the frontiers of pedagogy.

However, I predict that lecture recording is not the future of elite liberal arts colleges. The future is no more lectures.

[Former Williams President] Schapiro claimed that, while discussion sections and tutorials in fields like philosophy and English are wonderful, it would be “stupid” to have discussion-sized sections for introductory classes in economics and the like.

Nothing could be further from the spirit of Mark Hopkins. There are no lectures on the log.

First, lectures are inefficient for students. Anything that a professor says in a lecture, as opposed to a discussion, could just as easily be typed beforehand and read by students at their own convenience. Reading is much quicker than listening and, more importantly, allows different students to focus on the parts that they don’t understand and to skim the parts that they do.

Miller’s recordings are better than live lectures because it allows students who already understand topic X to fast-forward through that part of the lecture while students who have difficulty with X can easily repeat the same portion several times.

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My fellow EphBlogger, Professor Steven Miller, gave a talk at the 150th Anniversary of Phi Beta Kappa At Williams.

Watch the whole thing! Is there a professor at Williams more engaged in attempts to improve/rethink undergraduate education than Miller? If so, tell us about her!

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Scott Shane ’76 is an reporter for the New York Times. Comments:

1) Our Eph Brigade, Wikipedian Platoon needs to do a better job of ensuring that every Eph with a Wikipedia entry, like Shane, is tagged with the Williams College alumni category. This might be a useful project for an intern at the Alumni Office.

2) Here is a fascinating CSPAN interview with Shane.

BRIAN LAMB: Scott Shane, back in January, actually it was January 6 you said something unusual something on the front page of the New York Times were you lead the paper with not per se a new story but something you’d been working on for a long time. Would you start to fill us in on what this was about?

SCOTT SHANE: This was a very unusual story from several points of view. And one that the New York Times allowed me to write it in the first person which was actually the only way I would be able to write it because I was involved in the story, and normally I would have had to recluse myself, and they agreed to my pitch that there was an unusual story about journalism and how journalists cover sensitive national security topics and that this was the best way to tell it. Essentially it was the story of John Kiriakou, former CIA officer, who was a source for me and for any number of National Security reporters around Washington after he’d retired from the CIA and how through a lot of twists and turns he ended up being the first CIA officer to be in prison for leaking classified information to the press. Never happened before, he is now at the Federal Prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania.

Read the whole thing.

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Michelle Hernandez writes:

I would argue that attending a top college is not worthwhile because of the brand name of the institution, but rather because of the resources and opportunities for high level scholarship, access to top professors, alumni networking and motivated classmates. College is about the education, not the job one gets upon graduation.

Granted, matriculating at Harvard or Williams or Princeton will not automatically make you a scholar or lead you to high levels of introspection, but for a student who wants to study a particular academic field at a high level, the opportunities available at top tier colleges are unparalleled for those who are poised to take advantage of them . . .

True.

More importantly, every time the College appears in a phrase like “Harvard or Williams or Princeton,” the power of the Williams brand increases.

Not all graduates of elite colleges continue on to banking and business. Many apply to law school, medical schools and doctoral programs from these colleges. Williams College underscores that they have the highest acceptance rate to medical school of any college.

Really? Cool, if true. Where is the data?

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The most recent annual report on sexual assault is out. Let’s spend 10 days talking about it! Today is day 2.

The most important improvement that could be made to these annual reports is to provide much more detail about the facts surrounding the (alleged) assaults. The Honor and Discipline Committee does it right. Consider the first item from their latest report (pdf).

A sophomore was accused using extensive material from SparkNotes in a paper, without citation or attribution of any kind. The student argued that he had done nothing wrong, stating that he had read SparkNotes but that the discussion in the paper was entirely his own, and also that the paper submitted was not his final draft. The committee felt this explanation was insufficient in two ways. First, the Honor code applies to all work submitted, whether final draft or not. Second, the discussion in the student’s paper exactly followed that in SparkNotes, sentence by sentence, idea by idea, which made it highly unlikely that the student had generated it without some significant intellectual debt to SparkNotes, which thus needed to be acknowledged. The sanction was failure in the course, with disciplinary probation for two semesters.

Perfect. There is no way to possibly identify this student (which is important, and probably legally required) but we still have plenty of information about what he was accused of doing and what his explanations were. Compare this to the almost complete lack of details provided in the Sexual Assault Report. More transparency is better because:

1) It informs students, in the clearest possible terms, about what is allowed and what is not. A handful of public punishments transmit cultural norms much better than a hundreds workshops or role playing exercises.

2) It allows the community to judge whether or not the process is fair. Do the punishments fit the “crime?” Is the College handling sexual assault appropriately? Until Williams makes clear what happens to student X when he does Y, there will always be Ephs who worry about the seriousness with which we deal with sexual assault.

3) It discourages sexual assault. Williams students are smart! If they see that action Z results in suspension/expulsion — and that students are being caught when they engage in Z — they will do less of Z.

4) It provides information about risks, allowing students to modify their behavior (if they want to). If 10 students were assaulted after getting drunk at parties at Dodd, other students may decide that getting drunk at Dodd parties is a bad idea.

The Record ought to seek out more information and/or ask the Administration why the standards for reporting are so different between plagiarism and sexual assault.

So, next year, more details!

Since the topic of sexual assault at Williams is so important, I will delay the remaining 8 parts in our series until after Spring Break.

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The most recent annual report on sexual assault is out. Let’s spend 10 days talking about it! Today is day 1.

1) Below the break is the version mailed to students. I think that this is the same as the web version. And, as always, thanks to our sources!

2) Why isn’t Meg Bossong ’05, Director of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, the author of this report, rather than Dean Bolton? Bossong has been at Williams for almost a year and has, by all accounts, committed herself fully to the job. Bolton is a busy person, so why doesn’t she delegate this important and time-consuming work?

3) This gets to the question of Dean Bolton’s attitude toward sexual assault at Williams. Being a charitable person, I want her attitude to be a good one: Williams should fight to decrease the incidence of sexual assault, but not at the cost of due process for accused students. If an informed observer, like former faculty member KC Johnson, thinks that Bolton is balancing these concerns in a reasonable way, than kudos to her! But I am concerned — and more than one (male) student has echoed similar sentiments — that Dean Bolton is more of a social justice warrior (SWJ) Dean, someone less interested in due process than she ought to me.

Comments from readers?

(more…)

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A new edition to our collection of Annual Events covers the (now annual) Sex Assault Report from the Dean of the College, currently Sarah Bolton. Below the break is a copy of last year’s letter (in case it disappears from the web). Initial comments:

1) If Williams needs to have a full time “director of sexual assault prevention and response,” then I am glad that it is Meg Bossong ’05. After all, Meg is a former EphBlog correspondent! No doubt her engagement with the EphBlog community helped her get the Williams job. We have nothing but friends in Hopkins Hall!

2) Yeah Transparency!

Following the recommendation of the thirty students on the original Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness group (2011-2012), we make known to the community the number of sexual assault and sexual misconduct reports from the previous year each winter or spring, and also summarize the disciplinary outcomes of those cases

Good stuff. The more transparent Williams is, the more likely we are to be successful. Was this recommendation part of a written report? If so, where is it?

3) The (excellent) model here are the reports from the Honor and Discipline Committee.

(more…)

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PBKEph3

Join us Wednesday, March 18th for a day of activities celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Williams Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest academic honor society (and one of the last, if not the last, Greek society still standing on campus). Main events are a lunch at the Faculty House at noon and talks by the national PBK president and secretary, our visiting scholar William Arms of Cornell, the president of the NY PBK Association, and others from 4-8pm in Griffin 4 (refreshments and dinner provided). All are welcome; if possible please email Steven Miller (sjm1@williams.edu) so we can get an accurate headcount. A complete schedule of the talks is online here: http://web.williams.edu/Mathematics/sjmiller/public_html/pbk/ (videos of the talks will be posted later on YouTube and linked to this page). For Williams alumns in general, and PBK alumns in particular, we’d love to hear your stories below about how your education has continued since your days in the Purple Valley.

PBKEph2

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The annual election of Alumni and Tyng Trustees is in full swing. Here pdf is the ballot, for the non-alums among our readers. The election is, obviously, a farce, mainly because the College refuses to allow candidates to address substantive issues in their write-ups, much less to campaign in any meaningful fashion. Over the next five years (the term of an Alumni Trustee) the College will face a variety of challenges, difficult decisions — about international admissions, alumni giving, academic departments, and so on — that the Trustees will be asked to weigh in on. Why can’t we know what the candidates think before we are asked to choose among them?

The reason, obviously, is because the College does not care what you think and would prefer not to solicit opinions from, much less rile up, the alumni. You should all write your checks and shut up. And that goes double for the alumni trustees! The last thing that the Administration — and the controlling trustees with terms of 10+ years — want is to have an Alumni Trustee join the board, convinced that she has a mission to change X about the College.

So, go ahead and cast your ballot, selecting someone because she was “the general manager of a residential and commercial property company” rather than the candidate who “serves on the executive committee of the music and entertainment industry chapter of the City of Hope National Medical Center” or the candidate who is the “chairman of the board of directors of The Carter Burden Center for the Aging” because, obviously, the first candidate is the most qualified!

The elections for 6th grade president in my daughter’s elementary school were more substantive than the election for Alumni Trustee at Williams College. At least those candidate actually told the voters what they thought about the proposal to change the schedule for recess!

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Here is an interesting presentation of the results/positioning of Viking, the wildly successful hedge fund run by Andreas Halvorsen ’86, Williams trustee and billionaire.

viking

See the link for more details. Comments:

1) The Eph Business Association (EBA) ought to do a better job of forging connections between Williams students and prominent alumni like Halvorsen. (By the way, having talked to some of their leaders, I can confirm that the EBA is an impressive organization. Students with any interest in finance/business ought to join.) One way would be to have a small group that followed each major Eph firm and commented on their public material. EphBlog would be eager to host such a group here.

2) There is a great thesis to be written, in either economics or history, about the rise of Viking, an interesting story in-and-of-itself but also emblematic of the changing landscape of finance over the last 25 years.

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