From Bloomberg:

Hollywood hasn’t released a notable female-led film set on Wall Street for 27 years. Not since Mike Nichols’s 1988 comedy Working Girl—starring Melanie Griffith as a plucky wannabe banker with “a mind for business and a bod for sin”—has a major film focused on a woman navigating the combative, competitive, and outright cutthroat offices at the center of the business world.

Now, two ambitious filmmakers aim to give the genre a much-needed update, and they’re soliciting feedback—and funding—from some of Wall Street’s biggest names. Equity, a movie about a female investment banker whose IPO is in jeopardy, is the product of interviews and meetings with dozens of former and current dealmakers, including James B. Lee Jr., a vice chairman of JPMorgan Chase, Barbara Byrne, a vice chairman of Barclays, muni bond maestro Alexandra Lebenthal, and Elaine La Roche, a former Morgan Stanley managing director who reigned as one of the most powerful women in finance in the 1990s.

The movie, which begins filming next month, is the brainchild of Sarah Megan Thomas and Alysia Reiner, actresses who met doing a play together a few years ago.

Thomas is class of 2001.

Byrne and Straight declined to disclose how much money they’ve put in, but Straight insists this isn’t a vanity project for her. “I’ve increased my investment level because I believe I’m going to make money on this film,” she says. Jimmy Lee, the storied dealmaker, offered ideas and brokered introductions for the film. Thomas graduated from Williams College, Lee’s alma mater, and he says he tries to help fellow grads who are trying to do something out of the ordinary. “I liked that they were getting dirt under their fingernails for this project,” Lee said during an interview in his Midtown Manhattan office, where he keeps a copy of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In on a book-laden coffee table.

This was the last news article mentioning Jimmy before his untimely death last month.

Kudos to Jimmy for helping out a fellow Eph! And the lesson to our readers: Use the Williams network!

Also, for all the future investment bankers among our readership, note how Jimmy ensures that the reporter sees (and reports on!) the prominent placement of Sandberg’s book. Keeping clients (and potential clients) happy is the secret to success in more industries than banking . . .

By the way, or any readers offended by my title for this post? I just copied it from the original title of the Bloomberg news article, which you can still see in the url. Since then, Bloomberg has changed the title to be — take your pick — less offensive or more politically correct.

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Announcement here.

This provides a nice occasion to review all the Eph presidents of elite colleges. My list includes:

John Simon ’79 at Lehigh
Cappy Hill ’76 at Vassar
Nancy Roseman at Dickison
Clayton Spencer ’77 at Bates
Morty Schapiro at Northwestern

Who am I missing?

By the way, Wikipedia has a listing of Lehigh faculty. Shouldn’t we have the same thing for Williams faculty?

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Latest from former Williams professor KC Johnson:

Since 2012, the New York Times has led the way in systematically biased coverage of on-campus sexual assault allegations and how colleges are responding. The paper has relentlessly hyped the issue, has smeared quite possibly innocent students while omitting evidence that they were innocent, and has cheered efforts to presume guilt and deny due process for the accused. It has also parroted egregiously misleading statistical claims used by the Obama administration and others to portray the campus rape problem, which is clearly serious, as an out-of-control “epidemic,” which it clearly is not. (In fact, the campus rate rape has plunged in the past 20 years.)

Now the Washington Post has joined a race to the bottom among the legacy media, in a June 12 package of two very long front-page articles and a third inside the paper that includes both the results of a Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll and detailed interviews of some respondents. The main headline: “1 in 5 women say they were violated.” The articles and the poll purport to confirm claims by the administration, its congressional supporters, most of the media, and campus activists that around 20 percent of female college students are sexually assaulted while at school. In this portrayal, the nation’s campuses are hotbeds of violent crime.

But like many other advocacy polls on sexual assault, the Post-Kaiser poll misleads readers—most of whom surely will assume that “sexual assault” means criminal sexual assault—by using that criminally charged phrase for shock value in the articles while deliberately avoiding it in the survey questions. As detailed below, those questions are so broad as to invite survey respondents to complain about virtually any encounter that they later regretted, including many that were not sexual assault or rape as defined by law.

Read the whole thing. Note, also, the ending.

KC Johnson is a professor of history at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center. Stuart Taylor Jr. is a Washington writer and Brookings nonresident fellow. In 2007, they coauthored Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case. They are preparing a new book about how the campus rape hysteria railroads innocent students.

Should we hope that Williams does or does not appear in this new book?

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One of a series of posts, as explained in “Williams & the Civl War: The Wrong Side – Introduction“:

At long last, 150 years after the Union prevailed “with a brave army, and a just cause” in the American Civil War, one of the most visible remaining markers of that conflict is on everyone’s lips and coming down…

Williams College, and most Ephs, reflect on the Civil War through a Union lens — correctly so, from both a moral and historical perspective… [s]o let’s use this occasion to learn more from and about Ephs on the subject of the Civil War and especially on the other side: the Confederacy.

When it was published, EphBlog took note of William Lowndes Yancey and the Coming of the Civil War, Eric Walther’s biography of Yancey, the first published since 1892.

Yancey entered Williams College as a member of the class of 1830, but did not graduate. As a lawyer and a congressman, Yancey was a powerful orator for the cause of rebellion and secession. His

“sweet” and “musical” voice was one of the secessionists’ greatest tools. One auditor said of Yancey’s speeches that they were “seasoned with the salt of argument, the vinegar of sarcasm, the pepper of wit, and the genuine champagne of eloquence.”

As a Confederate senator, he took a leading role in the legislative debates of the Confederacy, and eventually became known as a potential rival to Confederate President Jefferson Davis. And when he died of a kidney infection in 1863, shortly after the Union triumphs at Gettysburg and Vicksburg turned the tide towards the United States’s ultimate victory, the New York Herald reveled in the death of the “arch plotter of this terrible Southern rebellion,” and Harper’s Weekly editorialized that he was “the most virulent, but not one of the most able of the traitors who have conspired for the ruin of our country.”

At the time of EphBlog’s prior coverage, the EphBlog budget didn’t support buying a copy of his biography, and so we were left wondering:

Does anyone know if Yancey’s time at Williams is described in any detail? He was apparently a member of the class of 1833, but only stayed at Williams one year and never graduated… If there were a lot of material on Williams in this book, I (and other EphBlog readers) might buy a copy.

We need wonder no longer — it is! And it’s not quite a story of a one-year dropout whose principal experience was being in disciplinary hot water, as suggested by the post and by Guy Creese ’75, drawing on Professor Fred Rudolph’s work.

Based on research in the Williamsiana collection and other primary sources, Walther reveals that Yancey survived multiple disciplinary episodes, was readmitted following an expulsion, and left Williams after completing his studies in the spring of 1833, just six weeks shy of graduation.

Yancey's law office in Montgomery, Alabama.  "Yancey Law Office 02" by Spyder_Monkey - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Yancey’s law office in Montgomery, Alabama. “Yancey Law Office 02” by Spyder_MonkeyOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

As Walther recounts, Yancey’s road to Williams began with his stepfather, the Reverend Nathan Sydney Smith Beman, a one-year attendee (in 1803) of young Williams College, who soon withdrew in favor of Middlebury, where he financed his education with “odd jobs.”

Beman directed Yancey’s education, first in Chittenango, New York, then in Troy, then at the Brick Academy in Bennington, and ultimately, at the Lenox Academy, which led to Yancey’s arrival at Williams. As Walther explains, his tour of schools likely stemmed not from financial difficulties, but:

from William’s already troublesome personality. His aunt Louisa Cunningham once warned his brother, Ben, “Don’t you be led away by William’s wild notions, who could never rest satisfied in one place 2 months at a time.”

So it is hardly surprising that Yancey lasted less than a year at Williams. As Walther notes, however, a short stay in college in 1830 meant a lot more than it would today:

[I]n an era when even the shortest attendance in a college was exceptional, it promised to expand and to challenge his mind, to allow him to mix with other young men of great ambition and a sense of self-importance… [so] in the fall of 1830, Yancey entered Williams College

On its surface, Williamstown, in northwestern Massachusetts, a village of slightly more than 2,000 people where pigs and cows roamed the streets, offered little to excite new students… [but] the College [] enjoyed vigor and growth after some lean years in the 1810s and the students Yancey encountered exhibited seriousness and energy… [d]uring Yancey’s first year, the legendary professor Mark Hopkins began his career there.

President Griffin had a direct and powerful influence on young Yancey, but never proved a satisfactory mentor or father figure. In fact, Griffin was a close friend of Reverend Beman’s and a prominent evangelist in his own right. Religious intensity ran high… and included several revivals in Williamstown led by Beman at Griffin’s invitation. Williams, like most colleges at the time — even state-sponsored ones — mandated morning and evening prayer services. The campus also had two temperance societies and was home to the Williams Anti-Slavery Society, among the first antislavery organizations in the state. And Professor Griffin himself — like Beman — combined religion and anti-slavery.

Walther clearly suggests that Yancey’s political shaping was in part a rebellion against this alliance of stepfather and college president. And it began to play out while Yancey was at Williams.

His interest in public speaking drew him to Williams’s Philotechnian Society, a group that met for debate and oratory on philosophical, religious, and political issues of the day [where] he had an immediate impact on his peers… the society’s secretary commented on the unusual spirit of [his] first meeting… Regular classroom work proved too passive and its rules ridiculous. For Yancey, oratory quickly seemed the way to attention, camaraderie, distinction, even power and triumph…

A milestone occurred for Yancey in the fall of 1832 when the Philologicians sponsored a debate on the question “Would the Election of General Jackson tend to Destroy the Union?” Yancey argued the negative, likely in part because of his stepfather’s opposite views. Although Yancey lost this campus debate, his efforts captured the attention of local Democrats, [who] asked him to stump for Ebenezer Emmons, a Williams College professor and candidate for the state legislature… Emmons won [and] the experience proved exhilarating for Yancey.

Yancey also worked as an editor on the Adelphi, a biweekly newspaper in which, in contrast to his future role as a secessionist, Yancey laid out strong nationalist views:

As the dispute grew over tariffs and sovereignty between President Jackson and South Carolina’s John C. Calhoun, [Yancey] clearly favored a strong nationalist position [as did] his most vehement political editorial, [which] also concerned the relationship between state and federal powers. In 1828, Governor George M. Troup began a survey of Creek Indian lands in Georgia for redistribution to whites… The administration of John Quincy Adams had objected that the matter lay under federal, not state, jurisdiction. Troup threatened armed confrontation, citing state sovereignty, and when [in 1832 the redistribution proceeded], Yancey bristled at this defiance of federal authority and power. “It will be the duty of the Marshal of the United States for that district to summon to his aid a posse comitatus, and of the President of the United States… to place the Army and militia of the United States at the service of civil authority,” the young editor demanded.

What of Yancey’s failure to graduate? Walther has little light to shed:

The final year Yancey spent at Williams began auspiciously but ended prematurely and a bit mysteriously. Named Senior Orator by his class and First Orator by the Adelphic Union, Yancey had obviously established himself as the leading student speaker… He finished his coursework six weeks prior to commencement and qualified for a degree, but did not stay to take it and never returned for it. This was not terribly unusual… the sixty-two colleges in the United States in 1832 produced only 670 graduates. Contemporaries drew very different explanations for Yancey’s failure to graduate. His uncle [] blamed it on Beman. Beman’s biographer claimed that family financial burdens [led to Yancey’s withdrawal]… Another explanation had credibility mostly because of Yancey’s character and conduct later in life. Years later, after he began to gain a national reputation for violence, two newspapers [in Boston and Troy] ran a story asserting that Yancey’s premature departure from college resulted from disciplinary action.

But Walther discounts this last story — involving the tossing of a pickle barrel into a church window — because it resembles too closely the 1831 incident (for which Yancey was disciplined) for tossing a cask of water into a Methodist church meeting.

Walther’s discussion of Yancey’s time at Williams concludes by stating that “[a]fter his return south, Yancey extolled both the College and the town as superior to Harvard and Yale” (just as is true today), and assessing Beman as a greater influence on Yancey’s views and oration than that of Rev. Griffin.

Walther’s account repeatedly returns to the power of Yancey’s oratory and how it propelled him to leadership in the secessionist movement, and ultimately, the United States into a Civil War. From the Adelphic Union of Yancey’s day to the Debate Union of today, public speaking has long been recognized as an instrumental part of the liberal-arts experience, but the silver tongue of a persuasive leader can be a double-edged sword.

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From the Wall Street Journal:

Jimmy Lee was able to cross social circles from an early age.

Mr. Lee, a famed J.P. Morgan Chase JPM +0.88% & Co. dealmaker who died unexpectedly Wednesday, was part of several different social groups while a teenager attending the Canterbury School, a Catholic boarding school in New Milford, Conn.

As co-editor of the school newspaper, The Tabard, he ruffled feathers while also serving as co-captain of the varsity hockey and varsity track teams, and a member of the football squad.

“While at Canterbury, I was early on regarded as a jock…but I also chose to write for The Tabard school newspaper and became its co-editor,” Mr. Lee said in a 2009 commencement speech at the Canterbury School.

“It was a major unconventional choice as it went against the grain: A jock hanging out with hippies.”

Mr. Lee started at the Canterbury School in 1967, soon after his father – also a Canterbury School alumni – passed away.

“I felt terribly alone,” he told graduates in 2009.

Mr. Lee, who grew up in New Canaan, Conn., soon learned his first Canterbury dorm room, on the top floor of what was then called North House, had been Jack Kennedy’s when he attended Canterbury School in 1930. “Bunk beds, smallest room in the school, a true cubicle,” he said in the commencement address.

Mr. Lee, who graduated Canterbury in 1971, applied to just to one college, going against his counselor’s advice. Williams College in Massachusetts, “was my choice,” he said in the speech.

Around this time he played guitar in a band, a passion he’d continue to seek out while crafting some of the largest deals at J.P. Morgan.

“He was like a little kid” while playing guitar, one of his J.P. morgan band mates said. “It was something from his history.”

During Mr. Lee’s senior year at Williams, he took the place of his then-girlfriend (now wife) for a job interview at a legacy J.P. Morgan bank, Chemical Bank. The interviewer asked Mr. Lee if he wanted the job, and he responded “I definitely don’t want this job, I’m just trying to keep my romance alive here,” he said in the speech.

Mr. Lee said throughout his early years and into his career he made “trust your instinct” choices that sometimes were unconventional, and that defined who he was.

Keeping the romance alive with your Williams girlfriend is highly recommended! Well-done, Jimmy.

By the way, we need official nomenclature for the someone who is your “then-girlfriend (now wife).” Perhaps TGNW?

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A moving article from Professor Manigault-Bryant:

A text from my mother on the night of June 17, 2015 alerted me that something had happened in Charleston, and that “folks had gotten shot” at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Calhoun Street. Hours before it hit the mainstream media, my mother had prepared me—in her own news-like fashion—of the terror that has subsequently unfolded.

Yet again, the news driving the global headlines has struck close to home for me. Last month, the Walter Scott shooting left me reeling in part because of its close proximity to my family. Today, I sit stewing in rage, sorrow, and fear at the needless execution of black lives. That this moment so readily harkens to the 1963 bombing at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church (Birmingham, AL) that snatched the young lives Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley, and injured over twenty others is disturbingly surreal. Many are writing, tweeting, chatting, and posting about the devastating, injurious media loop that has numbed us to the overwhelming violence against black bodies. So too are we discussing the increasing sense of return to an era that looks and feels like the pre-Civil Rights period than to the twenty-first century. My conversation with my good friend and social media goddess Nyasha Junior a short while ago solidified the sense that, even though the outcries against this act are timely and meaningful, my cup of hope is far from running over. Rather, my storage is nearly empty.

I know Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church well. My familiarity with Emanuel AME is not just because I am a religious scholar of the American South and I know the church is among the oldest black churches in America (1817). It is not solely because I am from the South Carolina lowcountry and was taught at a young age how Emanuel AME was a space for Denmark Vesey and Gullah Jack to protest their conditions during the era of enslavement before they were hanged and the church was burned to the ground.[2] Nor is my familiarity with Emanuel AME because I have written about the religious practices of South Carolina’s Gullah/Geechee folks.[3] My relationship with “Mother Emanuel” is an intimate one, one that is framed by innumerable childhood experiences across the street from the church. For many years, my grandmother rented a large apartment above what was then Harleston-Boags Funeral Home.

Read the whole thing.

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Lovely remembrance of Jimmy Lee ’75 in Vanity Fair.

Remembering the Can-Do Charm (and Fierce Temper) of Wall St. Legend Jimmy Lee

Everybody on Wall Street has a Jimmy Lee story, mainly because he was the kind of banker who really doesn’t exist anymore. The JPMorgan Chase & Co. vice chairman, who died unexpectedly this morning of a heart attack at age 62, was the kind of investment banker who told you immediately what he could do for you, not what he could not do for you, and then, through his considerable will, forced his firm to make good on his myriad of promises.

He never seemed to get bogged down in the mechanics of deal-making, nor did he seem much concerned with the infernal political infighting that is part and parcel of every big Wall Street firm (even though he had nearly flawless political skills). Rather, he maintained a consistent air of euphoria about the prospect of doing deals. Not for nothing did Jimmy—always Jimmy, not the more formal James B. Lee Jr.—wear his signature suspenders with silver dollars depicted all over them. With his slicked-backed hair and Hermès ties, he looked every bit the part of an unabashed gung-ho, can-do investment banker. He had not the slightest bit of conflict about what he was meant to do, even in the years following the financial crisis when Wall Street bankers were increasingly depicted as unsavory types. That kind of soul-searching was not for Jimmy.

Rest of article is below the break. Read the whole thing. There is even an Adam Falk sighting!

Indeed, the last time I saw Jimmy was on April 9, the night before General Electric announced that it was getting out of most of its finance businesses. My wife and I were invited to a dinner with the president of Williams College, which our two sons attend, as did Jimmy and his three children. Jimmy loved Williams. He had recently joined its board—something he had long aspired to—and the dinner was one of the ways he ginned up financial support for the college. The dinner was a small, intimate affair—eight people or so—and it was held in JPMorgan Chase C.E.O. Jamie Dimon’s private dining room on the 42nd floor of the company’s headquarters at 270 Park Avenue. Jimmy was his usual charming self, extolling the virtues of Williams College and facilitating a dynamic discussion at the table about the virtues of a liberal-arts education.

Cohan’s sons are apparently Teddy ’16 and Quentin ’17. Regular readers will recall that Quentin wrote the best Eph April Fools article in several years and that Teddy was involved in the College Council election scandal this spring.

Rest of article below the break.


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Tad Read '81 (photo from LinkedIn)

Tad Read ’81 (photo from LinkedIn)

The Boston Business Journal takes time to interview Tad Read, the new (well, interim) director of planning for the Boston Redevelopment Authority. Tad (or, hopefully, the editors of the BBJ) – lets Williams College and Ephs everywhere down a little by beginning his story in Southern California (where he received a master’s degree a few years after graduating Williams) rather than with his liberal-arts education in Williamstown, where he majored in Spanish:

What got you started in planning, and how did you land at the BRA?
I got my start in Southern California, where I spent 18 years working on citywide plans and affordable housing development, mostly in Santa Monica. Living in Southern California, in a car-oriented culture, whetted my appetite for something a little more walkable, and I started thinking more about what good urbanism meant. That spurred me to think about this mid-career master’s program looking more into these placemaking issues, so I attended Harvard’s graduate school of design for a program in design studies. That led me to a job at the office of commonwealth development (what’s now called the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development), a state office in charge of smart growth policies for the state, and then the BRA.

Question: Would you characterize Williamstown or Williams College as a car-oriented culture in the late 1970s and early 1980s? For all the efforts to create/maintain Spring Street as the center of the community, surely it is today.

What’s your planning philosophy?
My own approach to planning is collaborative. I’m a strong believer that we think better collectively than we do individually. I’ve seen that over and over again. Our collective minds produce better results than our individual minds. The best ideas are not always coming from the people who speak the loudest. I’m a big believer in creating spaces for people who might not always speak out to speak out, because they might have some great ideas. I also think our role as planners is to help the public understand some of the challenges facing the city, so that we can be realistic going forward.

I doubt this is intentional, but here, Read echoes the language of critics of central-planners engaged in “redevelopment” as an activity. This includes both free-market critics, who are dubious that a government agency is likely to have the requisite information to make good decisions, and liberal critics, who believe that the dynamic of political power have historically, and will prospectively, slant “redevelopment” decisions in favor of the wealthy and influential and against poor residents and small business owners who see their neighborhoods classified as “blight” and redeveloped. (Those arrayed against the inevitable “redevelopment” disaster at issue in the Supreme Court’s decision a decade ago in the Kelo case in New London, Connecticut, include both.

Read wisely dodges the question of whether he “want[s] the job permanently”:

My focus is doing the best job I can every day, whatever the duration of this period is. The pace is even more demanding than I thought, but it’s also more manageable than I thought, and the reason is I find it really interesting. Kairos had a background in urban design, and had been trained in urban design and architecture. I’m trained as a planner. I have training in urban design, but I think I’m probably more inclined to defer to the judgment of the urban design team at the BRA.

According to the BBJ, there will be a nationwide search for a new planning director. Here’s hoping that Read is in the running and is successful — and that next time he’s interviewed, Read will tie in his experiences at Williams.

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The 35-star American flag, following entry of West Virginia into the Union in 1863

The 35-star American flag, following entry of West Virginia into the Union in 1863

At long last, 150 years after the Union prevailed “with a brave army, and a just cause” in the American Civil War, one of the most visible remaining markers of that conflict is on everyone’s lips and coming down.

Williams College, and most Ephs, reflect on the Civil War through a Union lens — correctly so, from both a moral and historical perspective. As Leverett Wilson Spring described, “[t]here was no hesitation or uncertainty in the response of Williams men to the calls of patriotism” during the Civil War, and 317 Ephs (from the classes of 1825 to 1870) fought for the Union. 3 of these Ephs reached the rank of General for the U.S. Army. And these brave men, living and dead, were and are honored by the Civil War Monument in front of Griffin Hall.

But that doesn’t mean that Ephs have nothing to say about the rebellious Confederacy. EphBlog has previously noted William Lowndes Yancey, a one-year member of the Class of 1833, who became a leading secessionist, and he was not alone. In the early 20th century, distinguished historian and Williams faculty fixture Theodore Clarke Smith authored the excellent “Parties and Slavery, 1850-1859″ as part of the 27-volume “The American Nation: A History,” assembled by Harvard Professor Albert Bushnell Hart, “The Grand Old Man” of American History as a discipline. More recently, led by Charles Dew ’58, the Ephraim Williams Professor of History, students and faculty in the Purple Valley have contributed greatly in their research to our knowledge of the South before, during, and after the Civil War.

So let’s use this occasion to learn more from and about Ephs on the subject of the Civil War and especially on the other side: the Confederacy. To forget the Confederacy is to forget an important part of our history as Americans, at the cost of misunderstanding our country today. As William Bennett ’65 has explained:

In the period right after the Civil War, the historian Shelby Foote reminds us, Americans ceased to speak of their country in the plural (“the United States are . . . “) and began to speak of it in the singular (“the United States is . . . “). The reason was plain: Like no other event in our history, the Civil War had brought home to every American the cost of irreconcilable division; from then on, we would speak of ourselves, and think of ourselves, as one. Curiously enough, however, it was in those same years that homegrown anti-American sentiments also began to manifest themselves with force and articulateness.

But there is nothing “curious” about this. The Civil War was fought not only to abolish slavery, but to keep the Union together. That is, to keep as Americans, not only the soon-to-be freed slaves, but their former captors. This assuredly shapes our present relationship with our country.

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Lest it disappear forever, here is a copy of the Report of the Honor Committee, 2007 — 2008. I recommend that students read these cases and learn from them. Example:

A junior was accused of not attributing ideas and writing from a family member who helped the student write his/her paper for an English class. The student noted that he/she was very challenged by the demands of the course and that he/she sought the family member’s help in the assignment. He/She nonetheless maintained that the work in the paper was his/her own. However, the student’s professor had access to a draft of the paper in which the “track changes” function in Word was still activated and thus showed
precisely where the family member had contributed text. The Committee imposed failure in the course and disciplinary probation until the end of the fall 2008 semester.

Either don’t cheat or, if you are going to cheat, try to not be stupid about it!

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Former Williams professor KC Johnson writes:

Yu and a fellow member of the crew team attended a party, had quite a bit to drink, and then returned to his room to have sexual relations. Yu’s roommate interrupted them, the accuser said she didn’t want to go any further, and she left—following this up with several Facebook messages, over many weeks, in which she expressed regret for how the evening had wound up. Then, on the last day allowed under Vassar procedures, Walker (whose father is a Vassar professor) filed a sexual assault complaint at the school; the timing precluded Yu’s filing a counter-claim. She further requested that the matter be handled for Vassar’s opaque Interpersonal Violence Panel (whose procedures aren’t public), on which three of her father’s colleagues would serve. (Vassar denied Yu’s request that the panel include a student.) The entire process—from filing of charges to the “investigation” to the adjudication to Yu’s expulsion—took less than three weeks.

Read the whole thing.

If Yu isn’t innocent, then no heterosexual male undergraduate is. And the single person most responsible for Yu’s persecution is, of course, Cappy Hill ’76, Vassar’s president.

Two Williams students were expelled in 2012-2013. Were both of them as “guilty” as Peter Yu?

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Why would any high school student, from a non-rich family, ever choose Williams over Stanford given this?

If a student’s parents make less than $125,000 per year, and if they have assets of less than $300,000, excluding retirement accounts, the parents won’t be expected to pay anything toward their children’s Stanford tuition. Families with incomes lower than $65,000 won’t have to contribute to room and board, either.

1) Recall EphBlog’s prediction from a decade ago: Elite education will eventually be free for all US families outside the 1%. Stanford isn’t quite there yet, but each year we take another step in that direction. You can be sure that Harvard/Yale/Princeton will soon meet (and surpass) Stanford, if they haven’t done so already.

2) Do any non-rich students choose Williams over H/Y/P/S? The standard data point that we here is that 10% of the students admitted to both Williams and H/Y/P/S choose Williams. Still true? (We need to get better data on this topic.) Even to the extent that it is, I suspect that the vast majority of these students are rich or, at least, not getting financial aid. I would never advise a student to go into meaningful debt in order to go to Williams instead of H/Y/P/S. Would you?

3) My sense is that Willams, while not as generous as H/Y/P/S, is as generous as other schools, both the lesser Ivies and our LAC peers. Anyone have first hand experience?

4) Williams should be moving millions of dollars from other parts of its budget and into financial aid, at least until it can match the offers that (some) students receive from H/Y/P/S, especially offers to highly desirable students, like African-Americans.

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As part of publicity for the recently-released Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets (Good lord — $65.00 and 920 pages to bedevil your sweet tooth!), Oxford University Press has shared seven minutes worth of interviews with Goldstein, the James Beard and Julia Child award-winning professor of Russian at Williams. Part one is below:

In all seriousness, this Goldstein-edited tome looks like the perfect coffee table book for someone who needs a coffee-table book for the breakfast bar, with entries that range from chiffon pie to Haagen-Dazs to regional tastes and recipes:


The Midwest (U.S.) is the area of the United States encompassing Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Long before this official definition, however, Midwesterners themselves were characterizing the region and its food. In 1842, for example, Mrs. Philomelia Ann Maria Antoinette Hardin published the wonderfully titled Every Body’s Cook and Receipt Book: But More Particularly Designed for Buckeyes, Hoosiers, Wolverines, Corncrackers, Suckers, and All Epicures Who Wish to Live with the Present Times, giving the Midwest its first truly regional cookbook. Hardin’s book, purportedly the first printed west of the Alleghenies, wasn’t a collection of recipes that she culled from cook sin the East Coast or England. She speaks to the stomachs around her, with recipes for “Hoosier Pickles” and “Buckeye Rusk.”

In an appendix, the Oxford Companion features a worldwide compilation of the best pastry shops and candy museums, as well as brief entries on the best songs and films about sweets. Sample:

Elf (d. Jon Favreau, 2003)
An endearing Christmas comedy about a 6’3″ man raised by Santa’s elves. With an elf suit, guileless charm, and childlike naivete, Buddy seeks out his real (and really reluctant) father in New York City, all the while subsisting on elves’ four main food groups: candy, candy corn, candy canes, and syrup.

As part of the book’s release, OUP previously promoted a list of “12 Sweets You Need to Know About… and Try,” featuring desserts ranging from the familiar (Whoopie Pies) to the exotic (Vinarterta – “an Icelandic rectangular delicacy comprised of five to nine layers of fruit jam and shortbread pastry”) to the sublime (Sicilian cassata).

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From the New York Post:

Stepping off their private plane at remote Auburn-Lewiston Airport in Maine, the 17-year-old boy and his family climb into the waiting Escalade that whisks them to the elite Bates College in less than five minutes.

The group spends the afternoon touring the renowned liberal arts school before jetting off the next day to Pittsfield, Mass., to visit the prestigious Williams College in nearby Williamstown.

“It’s becoming a bigger part of our business,” says Anthony Tivnan, president of leading private-jet charter company Magellan Jets, which organized the 12-leg, $150,000 trans-America tour for the son of a California-based financier and his relatives in August 2014.

“Dozens of families are taking advantage of the convenience by visiting colleges this way.”

1) Williams is selling a luxury good. The more that we appear in articles like this, the better for our brand.

2) Did any of our readers do this tour or know someone who did? Tell us about it!

3) Whether Pittsfield airport is “nearby” Williams depends on the amenities in the Escalade, I think.

4) EphBlogs advice: Don’t take your kid to visit 20 schools. (Last thing you want is for Willy Jr to fall in love with a school for a shallow reason.) Visit one or two that you are thinking about for early decision/action. Then, if needed, apply widely. Then, once accepted, visit as many as you like.

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McPhee at ACS ballHow could EphBlog pass up a chance to run this photo of singer, actress, and American Idol star Katharine McPhee?

At the recent American Cancer Society Birthday Ball, McPhee entertained guests with performances of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and other favorites.

Looking for an Eph link? Well, the answer is in who McPhee is singing to — the ACS’s guest of honor, 2015 ACS Mission Honoree Jonathan Fielding ‘64.

Fielding, the longtime LA County Director of Public Health, retired from his post last year, but remains Distinguished Professor of Health Policy and Management at UCLA‘s Fielding School of Public Health (named for Fielding and his wife, who contributed $50 million to the school in 2012).

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An 2001 article from the Wall Street Journal. How well has it held up? Note that, despite listing a half dozen issues that engage college students, they fail to mention climate change.

What omission will seem similarly surprising a decade from now?

When Protests Proceed at Internet Speed


In the 1980’s, U.S. higher-education institutions struggled over whether they should divest the stocks they owned in companies that did business in South Africa because that country engaged in apartheid. Colleges, including Macalester and Williams, where we serve as presidents, formed committees of faculty members, students, and others to deliberate and discuss what constituted socially responsible investments. Boards of trustees adopted statements of principle guiding their investment policies.

It’s difficult to determine how much influence the divestiture movement had on political reform in South Africa. But many corporations unquestionably felt the heat that colleges’ stock-divestment policies generated, and the white South African government worried mightily about the impact apartheid would have on that country’s economic future. Most observers have characterized the divestment moment as a remarkable example of effective collective action by higher-education institutions.

Although groups dedicated to the principle of social responsibility have remained active — often through churches and state pension funds — issues like apartheid, which affect people far beyond the boundaries of a campus, have faded from the radar screens of most colleges. Until now. The time may well have come to reawaken, or re-create, those committees and to dust off those policy statements. The second coming of social responsibility is upon us.

This time, however, social activists have different types of concerns and, more important, employ different methods of communication and consensus building. That means that college leaders must develop different ways to respond to those concerns.

Investments in tobacco, nuclear-energy, genetic-engineering, and other companies remain potential targets for student protests and shareholder action. Today, however, students are also questioning another significant aspect of higher education: how colleges raise and spend their cash. The issues include fair pay for campus workers and purchasing from environmentally aware companies.

But at the top of the list these days is the “sweatshop” issue: the role that colleges play in the marketing of clothing bearing their name or image. Because colleges license apparel with their logo on it, and that apparel can be made in overseas factories with abusive labor practices, higher-education institutions have become a focal point in the struggle to improve conditions for foreign textile workers. Student activists, worried about corporate control of the global economy, and spurred by labor leaders with their own complicated agenda regarding the relationship of workers and management, have employed a mixture of opinion mobilization and 1960’s-style protests and sit-ins to provoke responses from institutional leaders.

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From the New York Times:

James B. Lee Jr., a pioneering deal maker and among the most influential Wall Street investment bankers of his era, died on Wednesday. He was 62.

Mr. Lee, a vice chairman of JPMorgan Chase, died of a heart attack after working out in his home in Darien, Conn., the bank said.

Mr. Lee, who was universally known as Jimmy, was the behind-the-scenes consigliere to the world’s top corporate chieftains, hatching mergers and public offerings for companies as diverse as General Motors, Facebook and Alibaba. He was a constant presence in the lives of moguls like Rupert Murdoch of the News Corporation and Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric.

He was a throwback, part of a different generation of bankers on Wall Street who were trusted advisers to corporate America based on deep relationships and insights, even as much of investment banking had become commoditized.

Mr. Lee was a colorful character who was known for calling clients at all hours and signing emails “your pal.” More important, behind the trappings of Wall Street culture was a keen intellect. He was an early pioneer of syndicated loans and became a powerful force in the world of leveraged buyouts and private equity, financing deals for Henry Kravis of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Stephen A. Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group and the late Theodore J. Forstmann of Fortsmann Little.

Famous on Wall Street for the lengths he would go to woo a client, he bought a Corvette ZR1 to demonstrate his dedication to G.M. during its initial public offering and had hoodies made for Facebook’s I.P.O. as a sartorial homage to its founder, Mark Zuckerberg. He also looked the part of a high-powered banker, with slicked-back hair, pinstriped suits and two-toned shirts with cuff links.

He also often played the role of backstage mediator among companies and activist investors, helping to end contentious battles between Carl C. Icahn and Dell, for example, and mentoring Daniel S. Loeb, the founder of Third Point.

Inside JPMorgan, Mr. Lee was the firm’s rainmaker and one of its longest-serving executives. He often used the firm’s enormous balance sheet to finance complicated transactions. He was also a close friend and adviser to the bank’s chief executive, Jamie Dimon, whose office was just doors away from his. When the bank was under investigation by the Justice Department and Mr. Dimon was under pressure, Mr. Lee had Tom Brady, the quarterback of the New England Patriots, call Mr. Dimon to cheer him up and tell him to “hang in there.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Dimon called Mr. Lee “invaluable,” adding, “Jimmy was a master of his craft, but he was so much more — he was an incomparable force of nature.”

Mr. Lee was animated by the pursuit of the big deal, stoked by a competitive fire and a desire to be in the middle of the action.

In 2005, at a party honoring Mr. Lee, Mr. Dimon told a roomful of chief executives and buyout clients that “Jimmy Lee has probably lent a trillion dollars to the people in this room.” After pausing for effect, he added, “and almost all of it has been paid back.”

As word spread about Mr. Lee’s death on Wednesday, laudatory statements about him came pouring in from every corner.

“Jimmy loved Wall Street more than anyone I’ve ever known,” Mr. Loeb said. “He wasn’t driven by money or deals but by his passion for people. There was no more loyal friend to be had on Wall Street, nor anyone whose wise counsel I valued more. My last correspondence with Jimmy was a note from him titled ‘Bragging,’ where he told me about his son’s admission into a highly competitive securities analysis program at Columbia Business School. He signed off by telling me that despite his long and successful career, his ‘greatest accomplishment’ was his children” — his son, James, and two daughters, Elizabeth and Alexandra.

They survive him, as does his wife, also named Elizabeth.

James Bainbridge Lee Jr. was born on Oct. 30, 1952, in Danbury, Conn. His father ran the Frank H. Lee Hat Company and died of a heart attack when he was 47; Mr. Lee was 11 years old.

Mr. Lee talked about how his father’s death might have driven him to create special bonds and relationships.

“Jimmy was my closest friend in finance,” Mr. Schwarzman said. “It’s hard to explain. He always gave someone the sense — and it was true —that he cared desperately about you.”

Mr. Lee began his career with Chemical Bank in 1975 after graduating from Williams College. He played a key role in starting Chemical’s syndicated loan group in the 1980s, helping fuel a wave of buyouts, and built the investment banking business as the bank became a bigger player through mergers with Manufacturers Hanover and Chase Manhattan Bank. He climbed the ladder to run Chase’s investment banking business and eventually rose to become vice chairman of JPMorgan Chase after the 2000 merger that created the company.

He advised on some on the biggest deals, including United Airlines’ acquisition of Continental, General Electric’s sale of NBC Universal to Comcast and the News Corporation’s purchase of Dow Jones. He scrambled to help save the American International Group during the financial crisis and later helped underwrite its I.P.O.

He was fiercely loyal and considered leaving the firm only once. In his top desk drawer, he kept a copy of the term sheet to become the No. 2 at Blackstone. He most likely would have become a billionaire had he taken the job, because it was long before that firm went public. He would occasionally show it to friends, in part to demonstrate his loyalty to JPMorgan and his colleagues.

Mr. Schwarzman recounted how he had tried to recruit Mr. Lee away and nearly had a deal. “We had the press release ready,” Mr. Schwarzman said. Mr. Lee told him needed to speak with JPMorgan’s chief executive at the time, Bill Harrison. He called Mr. Schwarzman back and told him he couldn’t do it.

“I told him, ‘Don’t feel badly. You’re following your heart,’ ” Mr. Schwarzman said. “He had so much loyalty to the bank and the people there.”

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Twitter needs a jumpstart and a new CEO.

And, per the tweet above, the person in charge of finding Twitter’s new leader is Peter Currie ’78. A longtime Twitter board member, it’s been only a few months since Currie tweeted his support for outgoing CEO Dick Costolo:

Now, Currie must find Costolo’s replacement. Do you have innovative ideas for how to monetize a highly-interactive, dedicated, but touchy user base within 140 characters or less? Have a good track record in a Silicon Valley C-suite? Better get in touch with Currie — he’s going to need all the help he can get!

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Jason Hoch - 2014An Eph has been hired to replace longtime Williamstown Town Manager Peter Fohlin, who recently retired. Jason Hoch, celebrating the 20th anniversary of his graduation from Williams College, was named the unanimous choice of the Board of Selectmen on Friday.

Hoch was a Political Economy major while at Williams, and his work there put him on the road to Spring Street. As a senior, his thesis was entitled “Crisis on Main Street,” examining downtown Adams about two years after the opening of Walmart near the North Adams/Adams border in September, 1993. In the thesis, Hoch applied Albert Hirschman’s “Exit, Voice, and Loyalty” framework, a longtime linchpin of the Political Economy curriculum.

Hoch has been working his way around New England as a town manager ever since. From 1997 to 2004, he served as town manager in Littleton, NH, where he enlisted public school students in the planning and execution of a revitalization program that helped rejuvenate Main Street, construct an educational nature trail, and develop a GIS mapping system. His efforts in Littleton helped create an unusually walkable small town:

Hoch, Littleton’s town manager, has worked hard to make his town inviting to pedestrians, and he’s eager to show off some of the recent innovations.

Before him, a red-roofed bridge stretches across the water. The sign over the entrance reads “2004,” the year the federally funded bridge opened.

Hoch steps onto the bridge. Its wide planks and waist-high railings make it a place to linger as well as walk. Halfway across, an elderly couple has paused. She perches on the railing and he holds her safe. They kiss like teenagers…

In the early 1990s, Littleton was on a downslide. The vacancy rate on Main Street was up and the number of people coming into town was down. A non-profit Main Streets program sparked the commercial district back to life, but the task of bettering downtown remained…

On his walk through Littleton, Jason Hoch ambles on the western side of the Ammonoosuc, along a gravel trail the city developed last year. Green and quiet, aside from the burble of the river, it’s hard to imagine that the interstate is a fraction of a mile away. This side of the river hosts a farmers’ market every Sunday.

“People park downtown and walk over the bridge to the market,” Hoch says. “Businesses started finding there were more people downtown, and the farmers’ market extended hours.”

Hoch is proud of what the town has accomplished.

“Littleton was an old mill town, and over the past eight years, it has started to become a different place,” he says. “On Main Street, it feels like a real town.”

The gravel crunches beneath his feet. “Little changes like this make a difference,” he says. “A simple gravel path. This isn’t hard to make happen. People can do stuff like this.”

From Littleton, Hoch moved on to Plaistow, NH, where he purchased a home and started a family. After a two-year stint in Plaistow, some work as an independent consultant, and with the addition of a bear, Hoch became the town administrator in Litchfield, NH, in mid-2010. He quickly earned plaudits for helping the town become better organized and its administration more creative and more efficient:

“People are asking for my advice, and sometimes even following it,” he said, half-joking. “I’m not just pushing paper somewhere.”

He said one example was an addition of ground-speed salt dispensers to Highway Department trucks, which he recommended to road agent Jack Pinciaro. The electronic dispensers measure the speed of the truck and lay down the appropriate amount of salt.

“It was something I saw in my years in Littleton, and it makes work easier and saves us money,” he said.

Hoch said he also brought in “a completely different approach” to the town’s budget system. He reviewed the original proposal by the Budget Committee and then made adjustments and cuts that went beyond their recommendations. The process brought praise from taxpayers and town officials.

“That’s always a good validation that you’re in the right direction,” he said.

Other highlights from his first year include helping to negotiate a new police union contract, renewing the town’s cable franchise agreement and developing a more efficient financial system that led to the town’s “clean audit” this summer.

More recently, Hoch helped update Litchfield’s personnel policies, improved efficiency in the town roads department, and helped the town establish an annual “Winterfest” celebration.

During his time in New Hampshire, however, Williamstown has never been far from his mind. As news reports of his hiring note, he warned Litchfield at the time of his hiring that “You need to be concerned when the vacancy come up in Williamstown.” Previously, Hoch participated in an EphBlog survey on Twitter about “Courses to Audit” while at Williams:

Jason, Welcome back to the Purple Valley! May the town/gown divide ever be lessened with you on the town side.

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From former Williams professor KC Johnson:

Kafka was born too early to write about Amherst College. At campus hearings on claims of sexual assault, procedures are relentlessly stacked again males and evidence of innocence doesn’t count. Amherst expelled a student for committing rape—despite text messages from the accuser, sent immediately after the alleged assault, (1) telling one student that she had initiated the sexual contact with the student she later accused (her roommate’s boyfriend); (2) inviting another student to her room for a sexual liaison minutes after she was allegedly raped.

Amherst, on grounds that the accused student (who, per college policy, had no attorney) didn’t discover the text messages until it was too late, has allowed the rape finding to stand, even though the college’s decision relied on the accuser’s credibility (which is now non-existent). Amherst faces a due-process lawsuit in the case.

Johnson’s summary of the case is even more damning than the Globe article we looked at yesterday. Read the whole thing.

What advice do you have for Amherst? I would settle with the student by either re-admitting him or paying him to finish elsewhere. You don’t want to go to trial with facts like these . . .

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Among this year’s winners of the James Beard Foundation’s Leadership Awards is Eliot Coleman ’61, proprietor of Four Season Farm in Harborside, Maine, and one of the earliest popular advocates of organic, locally-grown food.

In an interview, Coleman says he is “flattered” to receive this “pat on the back.” “I’ve been fascinated by how rapidly the interest in local, quality food has grown,” Coleman added. “Back when I started this, I was talking another language. All of a sudden now, not only are there more producers, but there are more appreciators… Every time I’m out in the world, I’m just overwhelmed by how many young people there are [in organic farming].”

Wondering what an organic farmer studied at Williams fifty years ago? Well, according to this interview, “academics were a sideshow.” Mostly, Coleman focused on hiking, rock climbing, whitewater kayaking, skiing and skating. Williams was the perfect place!

Coleman, pictured with his wife, Barbara Damrosch, on his website

Coleman, pictured with his wife, Barbara Damrosch, on his website

I hope he enjoys the food at the Foundation’s gala dinner in his honor, scheduled for October.

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A commentator (who should be an author!) notes this story from the Boston Globe:

In December 2013, Amherst College imposed its first major sanction under a new get-tough sexual misconduct policy, expelling a 21-year-old senior after a disciplinary board concluded that he had forced a female classmate to perform oral sex during an alcohol-infused encounter nearly two years earlier.

In April 2014, however, the expelled student presented the college with new evidence — a series of text messages the woman sent to two other male students immediately after the alleged rape, according to a lawsuit. To one, a dorm counselor, she described the sexual encounter in language that suggested it was consensual and she wrote, “It’s pretty obvi [obvious] I wasn’t an innocent bystander.’’

Entire article is below the break. Sure seems to me like this student is a victim of a witch hunt. Would our readers disagree?

And, since this is happening at Amherst, does it also happen at Williams?


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Family photo, per Portland Press-Herald

Family photo, per Portland Press-Herald

In case you missed it, a great Eph singer/songwriter passed away on May 31.

Holt enrolled at Williams as part of the Class of 1951 but left, first to travel in Europe, and then to serve in the Air Force in the Korean War. His obituaries prominently feature his authorship of the song “Lemon Tree” (YouTube link), and his work on Broadway (he was nominated for a Tony for “The Me Nobody Knows”), I would place his most significant contribution to popular culture in his role in surfacing the song “Charlie and the MTA,” thereby giving rise to, among other things, the Boston subway’s reloadable “Charlie Card.”

Most people know “Charlie and the MTA” from its recording by the Kingston Trio in 1959. But Holt brought the song to the Kingston Trio’s attention after he came within a hair’s breadth of having a hit with it two years earlier, in 1957. According to a 2010 article in American Music, Holt learned the song in 1955 at a New York cabaret, the Purple Onion (undoubtedly popular with Purple Cows):

Holt added “M.T.A.” to his solo repertoire, changed the tune a little,
and recorded it as a single and as part of an album, The World of Will
Holt, for Coral Records in 1957. The song quickly began to receive airplay
on radio stations and seemed well on its way to becoming a hit. “It was
going to be a hot song . . . a novelty song,” Holt recalled. Life magazine
even sent a reporter/photographer team to Boston to do a feature story
on Holt, taking pictures of him at the various subway stops mentioned
in the song.

But soon after Holt’s recording of “M.T.A.” began to climb the music
charts, radio stations suddenly stopped playing the song. Stores stopped
selling the record. Life magazine abruptly pulled the story on Holt before
that issue of the magazine hit the newsstands. Holt says that the reason
for the sudden turnaround was that radio stations—particularly those
in Boston—had received complaints that the song “glorified” a communist,
because it mentioned Walter O’Brien [the Boston mayoral candidate for whose campaign
the song was originally written]. Sing Out! magazine corroborated
Holt’s account…

In a desperate move to salvage the song, Coral Records removed the
line about O’Brien. They literally cut it out—without replacing it—so
a careful listener can notice a gap in the subsequent version. Coral
rereleased the song without that line, but the damage had been done.
Holt’s new version of “M.T.A.” went nowhere. “My fame and fortune
was suddenly out the window,” Holt recalled.

Holt’s friends in the Kingston Trio picked the song up from him, revised it with the now-familiar introduction, recorded it, and, well, you know the rest.

Will, Ephs everywhere wish we’d known you longer and better. Rest well.

Obituary links:
Washington Post
New York Times
Portland Press-Herald

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Funniest professor at Williams? There are many candidates. But I laughed out loud when reading Nate Kornell’s CV.

Don’t see the joke? You need to read to the very end . . .



Any other candidates for funniest professor? Or, at least, funniest CV?

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A secret EphBlog vice is to identify faculty members who are on the right of the campus consensus. This tweet makes me think that (recently tenured!) psychology professor Nate Kornell may be a secret member of the not-crazy-left-wing Eph brigade.


As always, a retweet is not an endorsement, but it seems clear to me that Kornell is sympathetic to Pinker’s point: the campaign against campus rape, while laudable in theory, seems in practice to be deeply suspect.

If I were a male Williams student accused of sexual assault, I would seek advice from Kornell. He might be sympathetic to your plight.

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Saddest Wall Street story of the week concerns the Barclays banker who lost his job after writing a joke e-mail to the incoming class of Barclays interns. Matt Levine writes:

An analyst in the power and utilities banking group at Barclays named Justin Kwan sent an e-mail with a list of “10 Power Commandments” to his group’s incoming summer interns, and it is now “making the rounds on Wall Street,” because it is a list of jokes, and by the extremely low standards for this sort of thing, the jokes are funny. (“Our group dresses very conservatively. Given that it is summer, no socks is accepted and, in fact, encouraged.” “You are expected to allocate at least half your seamless web order for group appetizers/snacks for the month of June.” “Have a spare tie/scarf or two around. You never know when your associate will run out of napkins.” “When you need to leave your desk there will be a sign out sheet outside your cubes.”) Honestly by the standards for this sort of thing I would characterize these jokes as sweet and charming.

Exactly right. And, even better, there is an Eph connection! The letter mentions Michael Lomio ’14. Fortunately, being a smart Eph, Lomio did not write the e-mail, so he still has a job.

Lesson: Never put into writing any thing that you wouldn’t want to see in the Wall Street Journal, as interpreted by your worst enemy.

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Anon ’15 claims:

According to insiders, a faculty member on the honorary degrees committee refused to give anyone who worked for a corporation an honorary degree for the Class of 2016 awards! How absurd is that? I’d love to have a 10 minute debate with the professor on the topic, as I can see no logical reason for prohibiting the honor of anyone associated with for-profit endeavors.

I doubt we see another (let alone white) business speaker for a while.


1) Here is the current committee membership. I see three faculty members: Laylah Ali (ART), Laura Ephraim (PSCI) and David Dethier (GEOS). To whom is our tipster referring? Call me a stereotyper, but Dethier does not strike me as anti-business. (How many white male Div III professors at Williams are?) Ephraim is very new. How likely is a junior professor to raise such a stink? Ephraim also has the most limited Google presence of any Williams professor. Here and here are the only sample of her work that I could find. Laylah Ali, however, is safely tenured. I would give 80% odds that our tipster is referring to her.

2) Is the report accurate? I have my doubts! I bet that our tipster spoke with someone (a student?) on the committee and got a version of the discussion that went on. (Note that the Committee is sworn to secrecy.) I would not be surprised if a professor argued against any business person that the Committee considered. But I highly doubt that she would be so crude as to say, explicitly, “No Business People Allowed!” That would not be polite or effective. Instead, she just came up, again and again, for reasons why non-business person X was better than business person Y.

3) Would the lack of a business person prove that our tipster was correct? Not necessarily. My sense (corrections welcome!) is that it is often the case that no pure business person receives an honorary award at graduation. The College has always preferred academics, writers and politicians. In fact, the main business honorees that come to mind are either black (Burns and Otis) or trustees (and major donors) like Bob Lipp in 2008, Joe Rice in 2005, Alan Fulkerson in 2004 and so on.

4) Consider the following criteria:

a) Awarded an honorary degree from Williams College at graduation.
b) Neither African-American nor Hispanic.
c) Not a major donor to Williams.
d) Only significant success is in for-profit business.

Looking at the archives, I can’t find a single person, in at least the last 10-20 years, who fits all four criteria. When was the last one? Help us, readers!

So, if in 2016, there also isn’t such a person, don’t be surprised. Of course, our tipster is making a more extreme prediction: that there won’t be any business person in 2016. Do you believe him?

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Featured in the news coverage of the discrimination complaint filed by a coalition of Asian-American organizations against Harvard University is an Eph: Michael Wang ’17, who was denied admission to Stanford and six Ivy League universities despite his credentials:

Academically, he was ranked second overall in his class and graduated with a 4.67 weighted grade point average. He scored a 2230 on his SAT, placing him in the 99th percentile of students who took the exam.

He also stressed that he was not just academically driven, but also a well-rounded applicant who maximized his extracurricular activities. He competed in national speech and debate competitions and math competitions. He also plays the piano and performed in the choir that sang at President Barack Obama’s 2008 inauguration.

Wang had previously filed complaints with the Department of Education against Yale, Stanford, and Princeton, and spoke out against California’s Senate Constitutional Amendment 5 (SCA-5) in an op-ed in the San Jose Mercury-News:

Applying to college is an anxiety-filled rite-of-passage for students and parents alike. For Asian-American families, however, the anxiety is mixed with dread. They know that their race will be used against them in admissions, and there is nothing they can do but over prepare. I experienced this when I applied last year…

My disappointment [in rejections] turned into anger when I learned that Asian-Americans are being held to higher admissions standards by the selective schools. We have been the fastest growing minority group in America, and yet our presence on some Ivy League campuses has declined in the last 20 years…

Many [Asian-Americans] now appreciate the fairness of race-blindness. We have been driven to this understanding because the race-plus factor, which is supposed to help increase black, Latino and Native American enrollment, is being used as a minus-factor against us.

Wang deserves credit for standing up for his views and speaking out publicly, despite the press of conformism and the strictures of political correctness. Still, I wish he hadn’t said this:

[W]hile Williams consistently ranks near the top if not No. 1 in the US News and World Report’s rankings of liberal-arts colleges, Wang still feels as if he was unfairly rejected from the Ivies.

“I think I deserve better than what I got,” he said.

As EphBlog regularly extols, “Choose Williams Over Harvard.” As an Eph, Wang is being taught by professors who know his name and give feedback on his work, can continue his life as a well-rounded person rather than focusing on one thing, and focus on managing his own affairs as a student, rather than surrendering all control to the Harvard bureaucracy. I hope in the next two years, Wang will come to recognize that no Eph should ever give the impression that an undergraduate education from an Ivy League school would somehow be “better” than four years in the Purple Valley.

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Today is Commencement. Congrats to the members of the class of 2015!

UrsulaBurns_thumb2In the spirit of Robert Gaudino and “uncomfortable learning,” let’s send off the graduates with one last fact that is both undeniably true and deeply troubling:

Ursula Burns, the Commencement Speaker, would not have been chosen if she were not African American.

Since this true claim will give our liberal readers the vapors, let’s take it one step at a time.

1) Ursula Burns is an immensely talented and successful business executive. You don’t climb the greasy pole at a Fortune 500 company without being extremely smart and ambitious (and lucky). Kudos to Burns for her many successes!

2) Williams never selects a Commencement Speaker whose main accomplishment is business success. Here is a listing of the speakers of the last 50 years. There is not a single speaker whose main/only accomplishment is in business. (Counter examples welcome!) The main categories are politicians/writers/academics.

3) There is nothing wrong with Williams not choosing business executives for Commencement Speakers. Maybe Williams thinks (wrongly) that executives make poor speakers. Maybe Williams does not value and/or want to honor success in business. Maybe Williams just values other things more. Whatever!

4) If Williams never chooses business executives, and then chooses Ursala Burns, we can conclude that Burns was chosen for some reason other (or some reason in addition to) business success. That reason is almost certainly the color of her skin (and maybe her gender).

This is the sort of truth that no Williams faculty member or administrator will ever say, which is why we have EphBlog!

Quibbles and Complaints:

1) This conclusion would be falsified if Williams started to select speakers whose main/only accomplishment was in business, perhaps because of the increasing financialization of the trustees/college. Who wants to make that bet? Not me! I wager that, for the next ten years, there will be no non-black, non-alum business executive chosen as Commencement Speaker.

2) What about business executive Michael Bloomberg from 2014? Bloomberg was also mayor of NYC. Williams often has prominent politicians as speakers, including former NYC major John Lindsay in 1970. In other words, Bloomberg would have been chosen even if he were not a success in business.

3) What about Clarence Otis ’77, speaker in 2009? It is true that Otis’s main/only accomplishment is in business, but, first, he is also black! And, second, he is an alum. If Burns were an alum it would be hard to know if her skin color or her alumness was the key factor.

4) Surely there must be other business executives chosen over the last 50 years! Nope. Look at the list.

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Six Ephs have won MacArthur (“Genius”) Awards.


Source: pdf. I am pleased that (by chance?) Williams is listed at the top of the page. I am annoyed that Amherst has seven winners. I am not surprised that Oberlin has nine, given the left-wing and artsy skew of what “genius” means to this organization.

But the key question is: Who are the Eph winners? EphBlog has covered three of them: Kirk Varnedoe ’67, Camille Utterback ’92 and John Sayles ’72. Who are we missing?

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