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?

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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.

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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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In 2015-2016, it will cost $63,290 to attend Williams. Comments:

1) Full e-mail from President Falk is below the break. (Thanks, as always, to our student sources.) What do readers think about Falk’s tone?

2) The class song for the great class of 1988 featured this chorus: “Sixty thou, to love with cows.” Of course, in that era, the total 4 year cost of Williams was around $60,000. For the class of 2018, it will be more than $250,000. At this rate, the class of 2048 will be paying more than $1,000,000 for their Williams education. I don’t see anything that will prevent this from happening. Do you?

Williams is a luxury good and few luxury goods are hurt by raising their prices. Indeed, among luxury good buyers, high prices are often perceived (correctly?!) as a sign if quality. I expect Williams to increase its price by more than the rate of inflation for decades to come. What would stop it from doing so?

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Big news on campus in the last week is the annulment of the College Council election results for CC co-presidents. Below the fold is the all-student e-mail which summarizes the main details. The Record provides excellent coverage here. Kudos to their live streaming via Twitter. Comments:

1) Nothing wrong with a little election controversy! It gets everyone involved and talking. We now have another election with a more competitive set of candidates.

2) Nice job by the Administration to stay (completely?) away from the issue. Administrators are always tempted to “step in” and fix things when student government spins out of control. Wise administrators know that it is precisely these out of control situations that provide the best learning experiences for students. So, the best course of action is to let the students figure things out themselves.

3) The Elections Supervisory Committee seems to have done a good job and handled their responsibilities in a mature fashion, giving no preferences to the CC insiders.

4) Credit is also due to the drafters (who? when?) of the current CC Constitution, who wisely provided a mechanism (which worked!) to handle election irregularities.

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Fireworks at Williams on Saturday night to celebrate Ephraim Williams’s 300th birthday.
fireworks
(Nice video here. This was not your Uncle Harold setting off a couple of bottle rockets.) Comments:

1) All historically-minded Ephs are suspicious of celebrating on March 7th. That was not what the calendar said on the day that Ephraim was born. That day was February 24, 1714, not March 7, 1715. (Read about the changes associated with the Gregorian calendar here.)

2) We spent two weeks analyzing/critiquing the WBUR report about ever-increasing costs at Williams. A recurring complaint was WBUR’s utter failure to challenge Falk/Williams about the many luxury additions that have been made to the College. Allowing Falk to get away with the string quartet analogy was journalistic malpractice. Maybe one reason that Williams is more expensive now than it was 25 years ago is that, instead of just having a string quartet, we now have a string quartet with fireworks. Think that might add to expenses?

3) And note that this is the second fireworks show at Williams in 2015. The first was the “traditional” show at Winter Carnival — and when did this traditions start?

4) EphBlog endorses the fireworks! Williams is selling a luxury good and (excellent!) fireworks are one part of that luxury. What bothers me is the College’s hypocrisy in pretending that rising costs are beyond its control.

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From the Huffington Post:

As soon as Bill Krissoff glanced out the front window during breakfast to see who had rung his doorbell at eight on a Saturday morning, he knew. Three Marines, ramrod straight in their dress blues, stood next to an Army chaplain.

Nate, Krissoff’s elder son, twenty-five years old, had deployed to Iraq with an elite reconnaissance battalion as a first lieutenant in the Marine Corps.

“We regret to inform you,” one of the Marines began saying once Krissoff opened the door. He doesn’t remember the rest. His head spinning, his body seized with shock, he stumbled through the house to wake up Christine, his wife. Soon they were sitting together on a living room sofa as the Marines explained, with grim solemnity, what had occurred a half day earlier half a world away from their home in Reno, Nevada.

Nathan M. Krissoff, a counterintelligence specialist, had been returning to his base from a village near Fallujah when his Humvee drove over a bomb buried in a dry riverbed. The brunt of the blast hit the vehicle’s right side. Nate had been in the right rear seat.

The Marines sat stoically, awaiting the next question Bill or Christine would ask.

The Krissoffs wanted to call their other son, Austin, at the Marine Corps’ Officer Candidates School in Quantico, Virginia.

Less than three years younger than Nate, he was following his brother’s trail from an elite prep school in Pebble Beach, California, to a small New England liberal arts college, and then into military service.

Read the whole thing.

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Most interesting new group on campus? Uncomfortable Learning. Read more about them here.

One of the most concerning trends on college campuses over the last several decades has been the increasing monopoly over academic culture by an orthodox ideology. Although all collegiate institutions are vulnerable to this, the absence of intellectual diversity is felt particularly strongly at small, liberal arts colleges. The rise of one-sided, partisan thought has ultimately drowned out reasoned discussion and suppressed opportunities for conversation of alternate opinions. Professors and students are unwilling to comment on what they see at Williams and across universities due to the current culture that views diversity of thought as a threat.

Uncomfortable Learning was started by Benjamin Fishberg ‘14, David Gaines ’15, and James Hitchcock ‘15 in Winter of 2014 as a guest lecturer series seeking to facilitate further discussion of topics that are often one sidedly supported on campus.

Kudos to all involved!

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wdpFor the benefit of future historians, here is a permanent copy of the Williams Divestment Proposal, produced by the Williams Endowment Initiative, the most impressive Eph political movement in a decade or so. (What other examples would readers cite? Perhaps Stand with Us and Anchors Away?)

Divestment, of any kind, is a bad idea because we should not mix investment policy with political views, lest it generate endless rancor.
Why these companies and not others? Investing in a company with oil fields is evil but investing in a company which makes oil rigs is not? Gas companies are verbotten but gun companies are OK? What about companies that do business in Darfur? What about companies pillaging the rain forest? What about private equity firms who make money by buying companies in trouble, laying off thousands of workers, and then reselling them? And on and on and on.

The best way to avoid this trap is not to play. Leave the investment decisions to the investment professionals.

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The recent College Council elections have sparked controversy.

Last Saturday, on the last day of the 2015 Spring College Council (CC) elections, co-president elects Teddy Cohan ’16 and Meghana Vunnamadala ’16 made a last-minute campaign push, in which they claimed to have real-time inside election information. However, they did not actually have access to this classified information.

Vunnamadala and Cohan confirmed to the Record that they sent out multiple text messages on Saturday claiming the race was tight, though they initially said that those claims were purely speculative. “We had no access to information,” Cohan said. “The whole goal of everything we were doing was to just to make sure that people voted. We were just saying that the election was going to be close. It seemed like a lot of people were voting for Grant [Johnson ’17] and we wanted to make sure that everyone who wanted to vote for us voted … We had no idea whether we were winning or losing.” Vunnamadala added, “We said we might be losing, the polls were tight. It was all speculation.”

However, Vunnamadala later confirmed to the Record that she sent out a text message on Saturday to multiple people that explicitly claimed that she and Cohan had knowledge of election results. Vunnamadala confirmed that she sent a text that read: “I’m not supposed to know this so don’t tell people but teddy and I are losing rn.”

The Record editorializes:

We at the Record believe that College Council (CC) co-president elects Teddy Cohan ’16 and Meghana Vunnamadala ’16 violated the CC bylaws by deliberately misinforming the student population, in sending messages to multiple students claiming that they were losing the race on the final day of the election.

Although the candidates have since clarified that they did not, in fact, have premature inside information about the results, they still intentionally misled the community in order to garner additional votes and therefore failed to adhere to the election procedures and campaigning guidelines, as outlined by CC.

I doubt that there will be a new election since the arbiters are CC members who will be disposed to a) Not want to bother and b) Wish Cohan and Vunnamadala well since they are the establishment candidates.

What do readers predict will happen? What do readers think should happen?

Hat tip to Yik Yak which was buzzing about this controversy over the week-end.

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Judging from the Record, there are students interested in revisiting international admissions at Williams. Advice:

1) Create an organization, something like “Ephs Against Quotas” or “Ephs Interested in International Admissions” or whatever. The name does not matter. But you need a place to stand, an official group that can organize petitions, seek support from the faculty and meet with the administration. Just two members are enough to start. Although you can seek help from other existing organizations — International Club, College Council and so on — you need a separate organization to build your movement around. Best recent example of such an effort is the Williams Endowment Initiative. (You don’t need to be nearly as professional as they are, although tools like NationBuilder make professionalism (look?) easy.)

2) Have a clear goal: The creation of special faculty committee to study international admissions. This might seem like a modest aim, but a) It is harder than it looks and b) Committees are the method by which the College has made its most important changes, .e.g., the end of fraternities and the decrease in admissions advantages for athletes.

3) Create a webpage that includes the name of your group, key members, contact information and a one paragraph statement of your goal. Again, you don’t need a professional looking site, but you do need at least one simple page.

4) Recruit to your cause. Create a “Board of Directors” or some similar leadership group. Appoint yourself and your 2 or 3 key student organizers. Then add a faculty member and/or prominent alumni. (I have been told that former trustee Jack Wadsworth ’60 and current trustee Joey Horn ’87 would be sympathetic to your cause.) Many faculty members would be supportive. At this point, it does not matter how many faculty/alumni you recruit (or what they do), as long as you get one of each who are willing to add their names to your Board. In this way, you are no longer just a student group; you are a student/faculty/alumni group.

5) Write up your one paragraph goal as a formal petition. Get College Council to support it. Table for a day or two in Paresky and get a few hundred student signatures. Try to get a dozen (or more) faculty. You aren’t asking these people to do anything more than sign the petition, but those signatures give your proposal heft. Note how the reasonableness of your goal — Who could be against a faculty committee to study international admissions? — maximizes the support that you can gather.

6) Focus on the issue of the quota against international students not on financial aid. First, the quota — so reminiscent of the Jewish quotas at elite schools in the 1920s — is much less defensible. Consider two rich students, neither requiring any financial aid. Why should Williams accept a weaker applicant born in San Diego over a stronger applicant from Shanghai? Second, there are significant problems with financial aid for international students because such students sometimes/often misreport their financial situation. (Not that we should blame them! Only a foolish Chinese citizen makes clear to the Chinese government just how wealthy he is.)

7) Now that you have an organization, a Board, a goal and some signatures, you are ready to approach the Administration. And, good news! Lots of people in the Administration, perhaps even Adam Falk himself, will be in favor of your idea. The faculty, uniformly, love international students. Most think that the College ought to have more rather than fewer.

By seeking the formation of a faculty committee you are giving the Administration cover (against the alumni/trustees?) for something that it probably wants to do anyway, just as similar committees in the past served to help the faculty achieve its own goals, like the elimination of fraternities and the decrease in admissions preferences for athletes.

Good luck!

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The latest from Dean Bolton:

From: NESCAC Deans
Date: Thu, Feb 26, 2015 at 4:19 PM
Subject: We need your help! An important message from the NESCAC Deans
To: X

Dear X,

Williams, along with the other institutions in NESCAC (Amherst, Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, Conn College, Hamilton, Middlebury, Tufts, and Wesleyan), is conducting its second-ever survey to understand current students’ alcohol use and the alcohol culture on each of our campuses. Your participation in this project, whether you are a drinker or non-drinker, is critically important. Your response will be completely confidential, so please answer all questions honestly. On Sunday, you will receive an email with a link to the online survey, and we hope that you will take 10-15 minutes of your time to answer the survey when you receive it.

Your contribution is crucial for us to obtain an accurate picture of the role of alcohol in the student experience on our campuses. The results of the common survey will enable us to assess the current state on our individual campuses and then be able to compare those results to true peer schools. Our hope is that the results will help reveal best practices, allow us to develop and implement better services, programs, and policies to meet your needs, and suggest innovative initiatives for our campuses. The survey, which we have developed, is one that we will aim to administer every three years, allowing us to measure changes in the alcohol culture on our campuses.

We want to assure you that your responses to the survey will be kept strictly confidential. All data collected will be shared in aggregate form only.

We hope we can count on your participation in this important project and want to thank you in advance for taking the time to do so. If you feel uncomfortable answering any question, please feel free to skip that item. If the survey does bring up any questions or concerns for you, please contact your Dean’s Office or your Student Health or Counseling Center.

Thank you for your assistance in completing this important research project. Your honest responses to the survey questions will enable us to develop programming, policies and services that further promote and safeguard student health and well-being.

Sincerely,

Sarah Bolton
Dean of the College
Williams College

NESCAC should make the aggregate data public. Transparency is a hallmark of serious academics. Will they? I doubt it.

If I were a student, I would ask Dean Bolton. If she/NESCAC refused (or even refused to say), I would campaign against the survey by encouraging students to answer it with extreme responses.

Below the break is the (poorly formatted) list of other NESCAC signatories.

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From Matt Levine last October:

Earlier this week, two bitcoin-related companies hired former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Arthur Levitt as an adviser to “help them understand the imperative of a robust approach to regulation.” Yesterday Levitt robustly approached a regulator on their behalf, spending an hour with Ben Lawsky, the New York State Superintendent of Financial Services, who has proposed rather strict regulation of bitcoin infrastructure providers. We know this because Lawsky tweeted about it, calling Levitt a “very special and wise man.” Levitt returned the love, calling Lawsky “a good, fair, reasonable regulator.” It’s somehow fitting that bitcoin lobbying takes place in public, on the Internet.

Kudos to Arthur Levitt ’52 for continuing to rake in the influence peddling dollars in his mid-80s. Impressive!

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Perhaps EphBlog needs more sex blogging? Or sexual assault blogging? Reader requests are always welcome! In the meantime, here is former faculty member KC Johnson writing last September:

The Times and the Nation have both published articles on California’s “affirmative consent” bill, the litigator’s dream signed into law Sunday by Governor Jerry Brown. One piece was responsible journalism; the other was agitprop. Given that Richard Pérez-Peña co-authored the Times article, it’s not hard to guess which was agitprop.

We reviewed a different article by Perez-Pena last year. Calling his work agitprop gives him too much credit. It takes real intelligence to produce agitprop! Read KC’s article for a thorough Fisking.

Who among our readers thinks that the affirmative consent standard would be a good idea for Williams?

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How different was Williams one hundred years ago? This different:

At the conclusion of World War I, a proposal was made on 15 July 1919 to Williams President Harry A. Garfield and the Williams trustees:

“The war record of both graduates and undergraduates of our college is one of which all Williams men are justly proud and has, wherever it has been made known, brought deserved prestige to the college as standing for the highest traits of American manhood. We think it would be a fitting and gracious thing if the college were to show its gratitude to its soldier and sailor sons and its pride in their achievements by some public corporate act. We suggest that a Peace Celebration be arranged for some time in October, at which there shall be one or more addresses commemorating the achievements of Williams men in the war, and that the Trustees should, at that time, confer honorary degrees on such Williams men, whether graduate or undergraduate, as have won special distinction in the service; or, in lieu of academic degrees, should award a commemorative medal which could be struck for the occasion, and which might be known as the ‘Williams Loyalty Medal.'”

This proposal resulted in the Victory Celebration and the Williams Medal. The celebration was the first commemoration of its kind at an American college, and was covered in news publications outside of the Berkshires such as the Boston Transcript.

Could something like this happen at Williams today? Should it?

With speakers Major General Leonard Wood, a 1902 Williams honorary degree recipient, and Bliss Perry, a graduate of 1891 and professor of English at Harvard University, the Victory Celebration was held 1 October 1919. It was an occasion infused with gravitas. At ten in the morning, students gathered in the Berkshire Quadrangle and marched to Hopkins Hall where faculty members joined the procession. The larger group then proceeded to march to Grace Hall (now Chapin Hall) for the ceremony where those who had served were duly recognized. Men were asked to wear their uniforms to the ceremony, and Doring’s Band of Troy played.

If Adam Falk were to propose a similar occasion when the last US soldier leaves Afghanistan, what would the faculty say?

The medal itself is cast in bronze, and was designed by James E. Fraser of New York. Fraser is also known as the designer of the Victory Medal given by the U.S. Congress to members of the American military, and the buffalo nickel. On the obverse, or front, of the medal is depicted a line of doughboys, or infantrymen in the U.S. Army, going over the top, the inscription “For Humanity, 1918″ behind them. On the reverse, the College’s legend, “E Liberalitate E. Williams Armigeri, 1793″ [Through the generosity of E. Williams, soldier] and the text “The Williams medal” flank a representation of Colonel Ephraim Williams in continental uniform on horseback. The recipient’s name and his rank at discharge were engraved on the medal’s edge.

The medal was awarded to those alumni and undergraduates who had served in the war, and was deemed a fitting and proper recognition of the “Williams Warriors” of World War I, the “dream sons” of Ephraim Williams, who himself was a soldier.

Williams men and women have been fighting our wars for more than a decade now. How many have been awarded a Bicentennial Medal by the College? Zero.

The “dream sons” (and daughters) of Williams today are very different from their counterparts a century ago. Progress or decline?

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Fred Thys ’80 reports for WBUR about the cost of Williams College. Fred is a knowledgeable and sympathetic alum but this story, at least, painted an incomplete picture. Perhaps later stories will flesh out the scene? In the meantime, let’s spend 10 (!) days dissecting this article! Today is Day 10.


But are the best-paid professors necessarily the best teachers?

Answer: No. Not even close.

Not Thys fault (?) but asking this question — and then failing to answer it! — pushed a variety of EphBlog buttons.

First, the College knows the answer! Why didn’t Thys ask Falk et al, and, if they declined to answer, report that fact? Williams collects a variety of information about teacher performance at the end of each semester, the famous Student Course Survey (SCS) forms (pdf):

Student opinion and peer review are both important in the evaluation of teaching. On the student side, the College mandates use of the Student Course Survey (SCS) for every course. It consists of a page of questions to which students give numerical ratings and a page inviting descriptive commentary (“blue sheets”). Some departments substitute their own list of questions for the generic blue sheets, and individual faculty members can choose to substitute for or supplement the blue sheets with their own more specific questions. Each faculty member receives the blue sheets as well as an analysis of his or her own quantitative results after their course grades have been submitted.

The College knows the exact SCS average score for every professor last year. It could easily calculate (and probably does calculate) those measures by level (lecturer, assistant, associate, full) or by pay-grade or by any other factor. What does the data tell us? (The College might not want to tell Thys that data by salary group, but it has no excuse not to release it by faculty rank, which is highly correlated with salary anyway)

Second, the College probably already knows the truth: after the first few years, there is no correlation between teaching quality (at least measured by SCS scores) and teacher experience/salary. The “best-paid professors” are not “necessarily the best teachers.” Highlights (based on conversations over the years — corrections/pointers welcome):

a) SCS scores have consistent course/major/division biases. It is much easier to score higher in, say, Division I than in Division III.

b) There is improvement over the first few years at Williams. It takes a while to get into the swing of a Williams classroom.

c) There is no further improvement (or decline) after year 4. Your student evaluations at 32 are the same as they are at 65.

Third, some might reasonably complain that “best teachers” does not equal “highest SCS scores.” Agreed! Then why doesn’t the College collect better data? Why doesn’t it hand out prizes for the best teachers? The College could collect better data, could try to identify the professors that do a particular good job at, say, supervising a senior thesis or supporting/mentoring students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Why doesn’t the College do these things? The major trend in faculty recruitment/appointment/retention/promotion at Williams over the last 30 years has been to decrease the weight placed on excellent teaching and increase the weight placed on research.

I don’t like this trend, but it does help to explain why, if you want to talk about excellent teaching, the SCS is all the data you are going to have to use.

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Fred Thys ’80 reports for WBUR about the cost of Williams College. Fred is a knowledgeable and sympathetic alum but this story painted an incomplete picture. Perhaps later stories will flesh out the scene? In the meantime, let’s spend 10 (!) days dissecting this article! Today is Day 9.

Leach questions whether what Williams values is what its students value. To him, so much of what he thinks he’s getting out of Williams are intangibles that have nothing to do with the professors or the classes or the degree. He says that much of what he’s getting out of Williams is meeting new people and being in a place where he’s forging his own identity, figuring out what matters to him and learning how to use his time.

“When most of what I’m learning is really about how to live and how to be myself, is it really worth all that money?” Leach asked.

Leach wonders whether he could be learning the same lessons striking out anywhere away from home.

This is the worst part of the article.

First, why is Thys spending valuable time on a not-overly-insightful undergraduate? His story is, allegedly, about ever-increasing costs at places like Williams. That is a very different topic then whether or not attending Williams makes sense for Leach.

Second, of course “what Williams values is what its students value.” This is why the College devotes endless resources to surrounding Leach with high intelligent peers from a variety of backgrounds. Leach will rarely/never have such a diversity of interactions after Williams. Leach probably met more people with, say, above 1500 SAT scores (M + V) in his first year at Williams than he will in his first decade after graduation, if not in the rest of his life. Of course, there is more to people (and to life) than high intelligence. But if Leach does not value such interactions, both inside and outside the classroom, he may have made a mistake in selecting a place like Williams.

Third, “forging his own identity, figuring out what matters to him and learning how to use his time” is straight out of a Williams admissions brochure or a speech to a first year class meeting. Williams spends as much (more?) money and effort on this as it does on academic instruction. The $80 million Stetson/Sawyer reservation is explicitly designed to provide Leach with a pleasing backdrop for forging/figuring/learning.

Fourth, “is it really worth all that money?” Is not an unreasonable question, but I wonder if Leach (and Thys?) are thinking about the problem in a serious fashion. Williams is a luxury good. Sensible people don’t ask if, say, a Rolex is “worth all that money.” After all, a Timex will tell you the time just as well. Luxury, fundamentally, is not about price. It is about desire.

Leach (and his parents!) wanted a Williams education in the same way that rich people want Lamborghinis and Gucci handbags. Maybe they should have wanted something else. But that is a topic for another day.

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Fred Thys ’80 reports for WBUR about the cost of Williams College. Fred is a knowledgeable and sympathetic alum but this story painted an incomplete picture. Perhaps later stories will flesh out the scene? In the meantime, let’s spend 10 (!) days dissecting this article! Today is Day 8.

What Williams wants to deliver is tenure-track professors teaching small classes.

Agreed! But just how much the people who run Williams really “want” this is a matter of some dispute.

First, note the continued existence of large lecture classes like PSYC 101 and Introduction to the Novel. A school that really wanted small classes would stop all large classes. We have more than enough professors to cap all classes at 19 students. Why don’t we do this? Because professors don’t really “want” to.

Consider an all-too-typical class of 38 students in ECON 110 and 120. If the College really wanted to make that class small, it could. It could require that the class be split into two sections, each with 19 students. The cost to the professor would be fairly minimal, just another 3 hours of class sessions each week. There would be no extra class preparation work, no increase in the number of papers or exams to grade. But the College does not really want to do this, and so small introductory classes in the Economics Department are largely the stuff of legend.

Second, note again the ever-growing administrative state, taking excellent faculty away from the classroom. As a concrete example, consider

Karen Swann
Associate Dean for Institutional Diversity, Morris Professor of Rhetoric
Williams College
VP for Strategic Planning & Institutional Diversity Office
English Departme

Professor Swann is, I am sure, an excellent teacher, precisely the sort of faculty member who ought to be leading at least two of the “small classes” that Williams (allegedly) wants this semester. Instead, she is teaching no classes and spending her time doing whatever it is that Associate Deans for Institutional Diversity do all day.

And note that Swann’s position did not exist a decade ago. No professor was pulled away from the classroom. How much can Williams truly “want” small classes taught by tenured professors if it is constantly increasing the number of tenured faculty who are teaching no classes in a given semester?

Third, recall our dispute yesterday with Chad Orzel ’93 about whether or not the panoply of Visitor This and Lecturer That at Williams should be termed adjunct or not. Yet for purposes of seeing the absurdity of the WBUR quote, it does not matter if Chad or I am right. We both agree that the visitor/lecturers/whatevers that teach more than 20% of Williams classes are not tenured. If Williams really wanted “tenure-track professors teaching small classes” it would not have dramatically increased the role/importance of non-tenure-track faculty over the last 25 years.

I might claim that I “want” to be thin. But if you saw me eating honey buns for breakfast, lunch and dinner, you would (rightly!) question my commitment. The same applies to Williams when it claims to want “tenure-track professors teaching small classes.” If Williams really wanted that, it would act very differently than it does.

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Fred Thys ’80 reports for WBUR about the cost of Williams College. Fred is a knowledgeable and sympathetic alum but this story painted an incomplete picture. Perhaps later stories will flesh out the scene? In the meantime, let’s spend 10 (!) days dissecting this article! Today is Day 7.

Williams hires no adjunct faculty, and like other top liberal arts colleges, it has a low student-faculty ratio. Amherst College has eight students per professor, Wellesley seven. Williams has one faculty member for every seven students.

How many misleading claims can Thuys stuff into one paragraph? First, Williams has dozens of “adjunct faculty.” Let’s list some!

English: BARRETT, CLEGHORN, PETHICA, K. SHEPARD, de GOOYER, PARK, LEE, HOWARD

Economics: : M. SAMSON, M. FORTUNATO, J. HANSON, P. HELLER, K.
HONDERICH, M. ROLLEIGH

And so on. The exact standing of these professors varies. Most are some flavor of lecturer or visitor. But none have tenure at Williams or on the tenure track. At every other college, they would be referred to as “adjunct faculty.” That Thuys lets Falk get away with such a lie is embarrassing.

Second, more than 20% of the classes at Williams last year were taught by non-tenured or tenure-track faculty. (This factoid is from a conversation with a faculty member.)

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