foxWho is this Eph?

He is Myles Crosby Fox ’40.

Myles will not be in Williamstown to celebrate reunion with the Old Guard in two weeks, for he has passed away. He leaves behind no wife, no children nor grandchildren. His last glimpse of Williams was on graduation day 75 years ago. Who among the sons and daughters of Ephraim even remembers his name?

I saw the mountains of Williams
As I was passing by,
The purple mountains of Williams
Against the pearl-gray sky.
My heart was with the Williams men
Who went abroad to die.

Fox was, in many ways, an Eph of both his time and ours. He was a Junior Advisor and captain of the soccer team. He served as treasurer in the Student Activities Council, forerunner to today’s College Council. He was a Gargoyle and secretary of his class.

gargoyle

Fox lived in Wood House. Are you the student who just moved out of the room that Fox vacated all those years ago? Are you an Eph who trod the same walkways around campus as Fox? We all walk in his footsteps.

The years go fast in Williams,
The golden years and gay,
The hoary Colleges look down
On careless boys at play.
But when the bugles sounded war
They put their games away.

Fox wrote letters to his class secretary, letters just like those that you or I might write.

The last issue of the Review has put me up to date on my civilized affairs. I am enclosing the only other information I have received in the form of a letter from Mr. Dodd. Among my last batch of mail was notice of the class insurance premium, and if you think it will prove an incentive to any of my classmates you may add under the next batch of Class Notes my hearty endorsement of the insurance fund, the fact that even with a military salary I am still square with the Mutual Company, and my hope that classmates of ’40 will keep the ball rolling so that in the future, purple and gold jerseys will be rolling a pigskin across whitewash lines.

Seven decades later, the pigskin is still rolling.

Fox was as familiar as your freshman roommate and as distant as the photos of Williams athletes from years gone by that line the walls of Chandler Gym. He was every Eph.

They left the peaceful valley,
The soccer-field, the quad,
The shaven lawns of Williams,
To seek a bloody sod—
They gave their merry youth away
For country and for God.

Fox was killed in August 1942, fighting the Japanese in the South Pacific. He was a First Lieutenant in the Marine Corps and served in a Marine Raider battalion.

Fox’s citation for the Navy Cross reads:

For extraordinary heroism while attached to a Marine Raider Battalion during the seizure of Tulagi, Solomon Islands, on the night of 7-8 August 1942. When a hostile counter-attack threatened to penetrate the battalion line between two companies, 1st Lt. Fox, although mortally wounded, personally directed the deployment of personnel to cover the gap. As a result of great personal valor and skilled tactics, the enemy suffered heavy losses and their attack repulsed. 1st Lt. Fox, by his devotion to duty, upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the defense of his country.

How to describe a night battle against attacking Japanese among the islands of the South Pacific in August 1942?

Darkness, madness and death.

On Memorial Day, America honors soldiers like Fox who have died in the service of their country. For many years, no Eph had made the ultimate sacrifice. That string of good fortune ended with the death in combat of First Lieutenant Nate Krissoff ’03, USMC on December 9, 2006 in Iraq. From Ephraim Williams through Myles Fox to Nate Krissoff, the roll call of Williams dead echoes through the pages of our history.

With luck, other military Ephs like Jeff Castiglione ’07, Bunge Cooke ’98, Paul Danielson ’88, Kathy Sharpe Jones ’79, Lee Kindlon ’98, Dan Ornelas ’98, Zack Pace ’98, JR Rahill ’88, Jerry Rizzo ’87, Dan Rooney ’95 and Brad Shirley ’07 will survive this war. It would be more than enough to celebrate their service on Veterans’ Day.

Those interested in descriptions of Marine combat in the South Pacific during World War II might start with Battle Cry by Leon Uris or Goodby, Darkness by William Manchester. The Warriors by J. Glenn Gray provides a fascinating introduction to men and warfare. Don’t miss the HBO miniseries The Pacific, from which the battle scene above is taken. Fox died two weeks before the Marines on Guadalcanal faced the Japanese at the Battle of the Tenaru.

A Navy destroyer was named after Fox. He is the only Eph ever to be so honored. The men who manned that destroyer collected a surprising amount of information about him. It all seems both as long ago as Ephraim Williams’s service to the King and as recent as the letters from Felipe Perez ’99 and Joel Iams ’01.

God rest you, happy gentlemen,
Who laid your good lives down,
Who took the khaki and the gun
Instead of cap and gown.
God bring you to a fairer place
Than even Williamstown.

Note: As long as there is an EphBlog, there will be a Memorial Day entry, a tribute to those who have gone before. Apologies to Winifred M. Letts for bowdlerizing her poem, “The Spires of Oxford.”

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James DeutschJames Deutsch ’70 is a curator at the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage (residents of the DC area and summertime visitors will recognize the Center for Folklife as responsible for the massive outdoor festival on the Mall each summer which highlights cultural traditions from 2-3 countries or American regions every year).  In connection with Disney’s release of yet another version of Cinderella, he examined the continuing hold that the story has over us, in a piece at Smithsonian.com. It’s a nice piece, and fairy tales in general (and Cinderella in particular, aside from its metaphorical meaning in the context of athletic tournaments) have been badly neglected here at EphBlog, so here are some highlights:

Dozens of [] filmmakers have borrowed elements of the tale, starting as early as 1899 with a French version directed by the pioneering filmmaker Georges Méliès. And perhaps the best known is the 1990 Pretty Woman, a retelling of both Cinderella and George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, starring Julia Roberts as Vivian, who is magically transformed from rags to riches.

The appeal of Cinderella extends not only to filmmakers, but also to folklorists and early collectors of folktales, such as the Brothers Grimm—Jacob and Wilhelm—who included the story of Aschenputtel (Ash Girl) in their well-known German collection, Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children’s and Household Tales), first published in 1812. Charles Perrault included a similar tale even earlier—under the title of Cendrillon (Cinderella)—in his French collection of tales, Histoires ou Contes du Temps Passé, avec des Moralités: Contes de Ma Mere L’Oye (Stories or Tales from Time Past, with Morals; Tales of Mother Goose), first published in 1697. Going back even further, folklorists have traced the story to 9th-century China, in which Yeh-Shen overcomes an evil stepmother, thanks to a golden slipper that transforms her rags to beautiful clothes and enables her to marry a wealthy king.

Deutsch rightly links the enduring popularity of Cinderella to its association with basic premises underlying American society:

she is able to rise out of ashes and cinders to achieve a position of wealth and stature. This is the same basic story that fuels what some call “the American dream”—a belief that you too will rise to the top because you have the requisite pluck and need just a little luck—such as a pumpkin coach or a prince who finds you at long last with your glass slipper in his benevolent hand. This belief is reinforced by actual rags-to-riches cases, from Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln to Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and . . . yes, even Walt Disney himself…

Similarly, the story of Cinderella tells us that virtue is rewarded and evil is punished… Not only is virtue rewarded, so too is action. Cinderella is not a passive wimp who simply wishes upon a star. She makes things happen through her fortitude, perseverance, and wise decisions—albeit with some help from a magical fairy godmother. In similar fashion, Americans regard themselves as can-do people who take the bull by the horns, not letting the grass grow under their boots on the ground. By the way, all of those proverbial expressions are wonderful illustrations of folklore at work in the contemporary world.

Aside from presentations of “Into the Woods” by Stephen Sondheim ’50, is Williams doing its part to help American Cinderella stories? Notwithstanding the conventional wisdom, that top colleges and universities need to do more to recruit and admit low-income applicants (i.e. candidates with “the requisite pluck” but needing just “a little luck”), EphBlog has made the case that high-ability, low-income applicants are not underrepresented at Williams, that legacy candidates are not given excessively favorable treatment, and that, if Williams were to try to toss more “luck” in the wind, more honesty regarding graduation prospects would be required.

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Former Williams President Morty Schapiro wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in March on the “The New Face of Campus Unrest.” It is not good. Let’s spend a week dissecting it! Today is Day 4.

A decade or so ago, I returned from Shabbat services at my synagogue to learn that a student had hung posters mocking the Holocaust Remembrance Day posters distributed in the dorms. The message had been turned into a celebration of Hitler’s birthday; the picture of concentration camp victims had for some reason been replaced by a marijuana leaf. It is hard to imagine a more disgusting display.

Longtime readers will know that Morty is referring to Mary Jane Hitler, a controversy we covered in detail. Is Morty’s summary a fair one?

Remember.jpg

First, note that he elides the manner of distribution of the posters. The originally posters (example above) were “distributed in the dorms” — as if they had been left in a common room — while the Hitler posters were “hung.” In fact, both posters were distributed in an identical manner: hung on the doors of student rooms. Below is one of the parody posters.

poster2.gif

Second, “the picture of concentration camp victims had for some reason been replaced by a marijuana leaf” is wrong. The marijuana leaf replaced the Star of David symbol on the original posters. This is, perhaps, a small point and I am certain that Morty is not trying to be misleading. (Why would he?) But it does remind us all testimony is inherently unreliable, especially years after the fact.

Third, “celebration of Hitler’s birthday” is a misleading description of the intention behind the posters. Recall the Administration’s own description:

The student who admitted that she had produced and hung the second posters said that her doing so was intended as a use of her right to provoke discussion about the appropriateness of the first ones.

Indeed. These posters were clearly parodies of the original Holocaust Remembrance posters. They were, intentionally, nonsensical.

Fourth, note the Morty’s provincialism in the claim that “It is hard to imagine a more disgusting display.” Hard for whom? I can easily imagine many more worse displays! In fact, doesn’t Morty have some Northwestern colleagues who are, say, African American rather than Jewish? I suspect that they would find praise of the KKK or the Confederacy much more disgusting than these Hitler/marijuana posters.

Fifth, I am unimpressed with Morty’s empathy. Why turn this student into the other? She made a mistake. Wasn’t it Morty’s (and Williams’s) job to, you know, teach her? To help turn her into a better person? But why even try when it is so much easier (and profitable!) to turn her into the enemy.

And, eight years later, here she is!

cordray

I am leaving names out of this discussion, but surely our faithful readers will appreciate that the student is marrying someone connected to this saga but, not, fortunately, the original creepy boyfriend.

Back to Morty:

But here is the question we asked: Did the student hang those posters randomly, or instead single out the rooms of members of groups targeted by the Nazis such as Jews, blacks and gays?

“blacks?” Come on Morty! Although the Nazis were, obviously, no friends to blacks, any accurate accounting would put blacks far down on the list of Nazi victims. If you believe Wikipedia, any fair three word summary of Nazi victims would definitely not include blacks and might not include gays. But Poles and Ukrainians — much less Catholics, Communists and deaf people — are not major constituencies of a modern, major university president, so Morty does not list them.

If it had been the latter, it might have constituted verbal assault. But it was the former, and in our view that was protected free speech. This wasn’t an easy decision, or perhaps the most expedient, but it was the right one.

Tell us all how brave you are Morty! How, exactly, would it have possibly been “expedient” to punish this student, a student who was clearly exercising free speech in exactly the same manner as the students who put up the original posters? Any attempt to punish the student would — if she fought it — lead to disaster. And this student was a fighter.

Of course, this passage is just a throw-away story — meant to demonstrate the good sense (put him on your corporate board!) and bravery (nothing expedient!) of our fearless author. But I just couldn’t resist taking a guided tour through one of my favorite Williams controversies.

They don’t call me Nazi Hunter for nothing!

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Eric Dayton, with his brother, Andrew (r), as pictured in the Wall Street Journal

Eric Dayton, with his brother, Andrew (r), as pictured in the Wall Street Journal

Eric Dayton ’03 is one of the star young retail entrepreneurs of the Twin Cities.  His restaurant, The Bachelor Farmer, is one of those trendy locavore establishments with a farm on its roof, and has helped catapult the Minneapolis/St. Paul area to #5 on Zagat’s list of Next Hot Food Cities. His men’s clothing boutique, Askov Finlayson, has been named one of the best men’s clothing stores in America. And the renowned 1881 warehouse hosting these and his other businesses (including a speakeasy, sausage cart, and coffeehouse/café) features his own design inputs, including chairs and a rug from the apartment he shares with his brother.

But Dayton is also a leader in Minnesota’s attempt to rebrand itself as “The North” and thereby distinguish the state from the tendency of coastal-Americans to lump it in with the Midwest:

We’re Midwest if you’re looking at it from New York City or from anywhere on [the East] Coast,” Dayton told me. “But then again, that’s someone else’s definition. I think it’s time for us to claim our own.”

Dayton and his brother, Andrew, whose father is the state’s governor, are Minneapolis businessmen whose clothing store and restaurant have a decidedly local flavor. Eric Dayton, after touring Scandinavia (many Minnesotans are of Norwegian descent), became enthralled by the region’s strong identity. It proudly embraced its chilly weather, its food, its culture, its… Northiness.

So why, he questioned, didn’t Minnesota?

“The New York Times had done an article highlighting different Thanksgiving side dishes,” Dayton told me. “For Minnesota, they named grape salad as our signature side dish. And no one in Minnesota had ever heard of grape salad… it was kind of a harmless example, but if we don’t tell the rest of the country who we are, we end up with grape salad.”

I know. Arrogant Minnesota,” Dayton joked. “That’s what everyone thinks of when they think of Minnesota. Right? No, again, this isn’t about being better. It’s not a relative thing. It’s just I think there are a lot of great things happening in Minnesota. It’s not being recognized. I think it’s important for the reasons we’ve discussed that there is recognition of what we have to offer. And so it’s just putting forth our story. It’s not trying to make it look better than it is. It’s not comparing ourselves to anyone else.”

“The Midwest tends to be what’s left over after all the other regions are identified,” says Eric Dayton. “It’s so big and poorly defined, there can’t be unifying characteristics to identify with.”

Carving Minnesota out from the Midwest makes plenty of sense — the term is used to cover such a sprawling region that it’s almost nondescriptive. But is it reasonable for Minnesota to appropriate the term “the North”?

Askov Finlayson's "North" hat, as photographed by Joe Huber, and published in Macalester College's student newspaper, "The Mac Weekly"

Askov Finlayson’s “North” hat, as photographed by Joe Huber, and published in Macalester College’s student newspaper, “The Mac Weekly”

As an Eph, even if Williamstown’s chilly climate seemed moderate to a Minnesotan, Dayton should surely be cognizant of the desire of Massachusetts’ northern neighbors to be recognized as North-y themselves. Indeed, much confusion has been caused by the desire of both Minnesota and Maine to appropriate to their own geographies the term “North Woods.” Not to mention, where does this leave Canada? Alaska? Santa Claus?

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Former Williams President Morty Schapiro wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in March on the “The New Face of Campus Unrest.” It is not good. Let’s spend a week dissecting it! Today is Day 3.

As all the good Deconstructionistas at Williams have taught us, we should pay at least as much attention to the words left out of a text as to the words in them. What is missing from Morty’s op-ed? A clear thesis statement, as we discussed last time.

And that question leads to a second lesson from the Foucaultlians. Don’t read the text for what it says. Ask, instead, “Why was it written?”

Morty, not a man immune to the siren calls of Mammon, is smart enough to be planning his post-college-presidency life. He has been sucking on the generous teat of MMC for more than a decade. Corporate board service is one of the world’s easiest jobs. Consider Morty’s compensation:

mmc

$240,000 per year for a handful of board meetings! Nice work if you can get it.

But how do you get more of it? Simple: Write anodyne pieces in the Wall Street Journal which demonstrate that you are a sensible guy, someone who makes CEOs and other corporate honchos comfortable, someone who appreciates power and the people who wield it.

Now, don’t be too cynical, dear reader! I am sure that Morty was just sitting around one Tuesday in February, bored, without too much to do. Obviously, he doesn’t have more students to teach, faculty to meet or rich people to charm. It was either write a thesis-less op-ed for the Wall Street Journal or rewatch his DVD of USC’s Football Greatest Hits . . .

Morty may not have intended this — who among us likes to admit to our baser motives? — but anyone advising him on the best way to maximize his future income would advise him to write Wall Street Journal op-eds that rich guys will agree with.

Best part is MMC’s description of why Morty makes such an outstanding member of its board of directors.

We believe Mr. Schapiro’s qualifications to sit on our Board of Directors and chair our Directors and Governance Committee include his experience in managing large and complex educational institutions, which provides the Board with a diverse approach to management, as well as his 32 years of experience as a professor of economics.

Yeah, right! Morty joined the board of MMC before he became president of Northwestern or of Williams. He was just a random dean at USC, with no background in insurance or any of MMC’s other businesses. (Recall our discussion of the Morty/Marsh controversy a decade ago.) He was asked to join the board because (I am almost certain) someone already on the board had a USC connection.

Morty has kept that job because the people in power like having him around. Writing non-controversial op-eds helps as well.

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Among Berra’s truest aphorisms was this: “It’s so crowded, nobody goes there any more.”

In a recent profile of Lowry, an “anonymous” fellow museum director observed:

People remember the ‘good old Modern’ when it was smaller and more intimate… People wanted MoMA to be the greatest museum in the world, and for everyone to want to go there. Now everyone wants to go, but people say it’s too crowded.

The anonymous director is referencing the barrage of recent criticism of Lowry: complaints by leading art commentators such as Richard Woodward (of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal) and Jerry Saltz (of New York Magazine) about the museum’s current Bjork show, it’s renovation/expansion plans, and it’s overall direction. These critics complain that MoMA has replaced the contemplation of serious art with a celebration of popular culture.

Lowry is engaged in some of the finest work in the liberal arts tradition – building bridges between the intellectual and the commonplace – and it’s refreshing to see him pushing back against the frivolous and elitist complaints:

We were never founded to be a club… [MoMA founding director Alfred] Barr talked about the museum being both popular and populist. Of course, 80 years ago it was a much smaller public… Modern art suddenly became hot. We are both a beneficiary of the newfound interest and a victim of people’s discomfort with that interest.

Before the trendy thing in art circles was to criticize Lowry as a populist, the conventional wisdom celebrated him for his success at MoMA. Lowry shares the credit with a supportive board and a talented staff, but after twenty years, there can be no doubt who has driven MoMA’s ascendancy over that time:

When I first arrived, we started thinking about the fact that we could build a seasonal programme that relied on the aggregate of exhibitions [rather than lone “blockbuster” shows]. If you get that right, you have a really robust audience, because you’re speaking to a lot of different people.

And Lowry cites his initiatives at MoMA beyond the gallery:

The [Contemporary and Modern Art Perspectives in a Global Age Initiative] programme is pure scholarship and research that brings curators, artists, educators, critics, collectors and scholars from around the world to work with our staff… I come from a sufficiently academic background that I was interested in the idea of deep thinking with no expected outcomes. The end result is that our curators have a richer intellectual life, and that makes the institution more interesting.

Eight of the ten most visited shows in New York last year were at MoMA, and under Lowry’s leadership, its accomplishments have included staging numerous memorable shows, not just the numerical and fundraising successes often cited. So there won’t be much sympathy for the “Fire Glenn Lowry” movement here.

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Former Williams President Morty Schapiro wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in March on the “The New Face of Campus Unrest.” It is not good. Let’s spend a week dissecting it! Today is Day 2.

The explosion of social media has taken this disruption to a level unforeseen in the digital dark ages of 14 years ago. Dealing with campus community members on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Vine and Yik Yak has become a high-stakes challenge, and who knows what will emerge next? At issue, as it often is on America’s campuses, is the limit to free expression.

What does Morty believe about “the limit to free expression?” Reading this article, it is almost impossible to say. He mostly asks questions:

So where to draw that elusive line?

What’s a president to do?

If all you have are questions, then why are you taking up space in the Wall Street Journal? Let’s leave that suspicious question till next time and do our best to find a thesis statement. How about this?

The context of an incident matters, and it is near impossible for outsiders to glean the facts during the public battles that ensue after a high-profile event.

And that’s it! Morty could take one of several plausible clear stands on this issue. But he doesn’t. His only (extremely self-serving!) claim is that anyone not actually on campus X can not have an informed opinion on any “high-profile event” on that campus. Are you a concerned Northwestern alumnus with views on a campus controversy? Shut up, Morty explains. You can’t “glean the facts” the way that he can, so you should just be quiet and write Northwestern a check.

Note the nihilism in Morty’s position. Have you been to Iraq? No? Then you, obviously, can’t possibly “glean the facts” necessary to have an informed opinion about war. Have you run a private equity firm? No? Then you, obviously, can’t have a clue “during the public battles that ensue after a high-profile event” like a leveraged buyout.

I am sure that this opinion is popular among all Morty’s presidential buddies. Alas, he provides zero evidence in this article demonstrating that it is, you know, true . . .

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The hockey rink was vandalized this week-end.

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1) The most (in)famous graffiti vandalism of the last few decades was one some Tufts students spray painted J-U-M-B-O-S on the columns of Chapin Hall. If memory serves, they were caught — and forced to pay for the clean up — when the authorities figured out where they had bought the paint (with a credit card!) on their trip to Williams. Does anyone remember the details? Lesson for our current artists: Lose the paint now!

2) The graffiti has led to some discussion on Yik Yak. Example:

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3) What happened at Schow?

4) Some Yakkers are suggesting that this was directed at the hockey team. I doubt it. Very few of the people who care enough about Freddie Gray to vandalize in his time would ever bother with hockey, or with Williams athletics in general. They needed a big wall in an out-of-the-way (no cameras?) location.

5) Some Yakkers are complaining that the College ought to send out an all-campus e-mail. I disagree. If you want less vandalism, pay less attention to what the vandals write.

6) By the way, is the word “vandalism” racist? The Vandals were my peeps!

7) I doubt this controversy will last long enough to deserve an official nickname/category but, if it did, what would readers suggest?

8) Could someone more versed in leftist lingo explain the intended meaning?

9) I doubt this was either a Williams activist or, even less likely, someone trying to make Williams activists look bad. More likely is a local teenager. Is Buxton still a school for rich but troubled teenagers kicked out of places like Milton? Look there first.

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First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama was a featured speaker at the recent opening of the new, Renzo Piano-designed building at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Whitney Dedication Ceremony, as pictured on the Whitney's website

Whitney Dedication Ceremony, as pictured on the Whitney’s website

In her remarks, she suggested that art museums like the Whitney have done too little in the past to reach out to the poor and disadvantaged:

You see, there are so many kids in this country who look at places like museums and concert halls and other cultural centers and they think to themselves, well, that’s not a place for me, for someone who looks like me, for someone who comes from my neighborhood.  In fact, I guarantee you that right now, there are kids living less than a mile from here who would never in a million years dream that they would be welcome in this museum.  And growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I was one of those kids myself.  So I know that feeling of not belonging in a place like this.

Mrs. Obama also praised the inaugural exhibition at the new Whitney building, America is Hard to See, for inviting broad participation:

[W]ith this inaugural exhibition, the Whitney is telling [all young people] that their story is part of the American story, and that they deserve to be seen.  And you’re sending that message not just with the art you display, but with the educational programming you run here.  You’re reaching out to kids from all backgrounds, exposing them to the arts, showing them that they have something to contribute.
One of those young people said this about the Whitney — and this is a quote we pulled — said, “Having gone through the program, I’ve felt like the museum is home to me.  Even if I’ve never been to a particular museum before, I just know how to be in [that] space.”

Another young person going through one of the programs said, “I could rise above the negativity I saw around me every day within my community.”  Because of the work that you do here, that’s the impact you’re having on kids every day.

I think that every cultural institution in this country should be doing this kind of outreach and engagement with our young people every single day.

Although the Whitney’s top curators are not (to my knowledge) Ephs, Mrs. Obama’s praise does highlight the work of its Chair of Education, Kathryn Potts ’89 and Coordinator of Public Programs, Emily Arensman (M.A. 2010).  Congratulations to Kathryn and Emily — and other Ephs at the Whitney, including Brianna Lowndes ’05 (Director of Membership and Annual Fund — and photographer, see here).

(Mrs. Obama’s remarks have stirred some debate.  Here, a New York NPR reporter considers “Museums as White Spaces.” Political writer Jon Gabriel and philosophy professor Rachel Lu question that conclusion here and here).

 

 

 

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Former Williams President Morty Schapiro wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in March on the “The New Face of Campus Unrest.” It is not good. Let’s spend a week dissecting it! Today is Day 1.

In 2001 I co-wrote an op-ed, “When Protests Proceed at Internet Speed,” arguing that the Internet would make it much more difficult to maintain civility on college campuses. Economists have a dismal prediction record, but that one was spot on. Seemingly every day brings a new crisis, a new set of issues that threatens to disrupt the lives of students, professors—and college presidents.

This paragraph illustrates the truth of Mark Taylor’s (in)famous quip about Morty — “Williams needs a wise man, not a wise guy.” Has “civility on college campuses” really decreased over the last few decades? Of course not!

First, consider the public spaces at places like Williams and Northwestern, the dining halls and dorms rooms. Does Morty (or anyone) provide any evidence that these locations are less civil today than they were 25 years ago? No. And that is because they are, if anything, more civil, more polite, more solicitous of the feelings of others, especially less powerful others. You are much less likely to hear casual slurs — e.g., “Don’t be such a fag.” — in public today than you were then. (Of course, the Williams of the 1980s was a very civil place, but Morty’s argument depends on it being more civil today.)

Second, consider the classrooms. Were Williams professors like, say, Robert Waite or Laszlo Versenyi, much more civil than current professors? No. They were certainly different. (Who can imagine a current Williams professor requiring his male students to take off their baseball caps for class, as Waite always did?) But, if anything, they were much more ready to make students uncomfortable in class than any current professor would be. Now, “making students uncomfortable” in class is not the same thing as being “uncivil,” but it is a sign of Morty’s parochialism that his complaints is unmoored from actual lived experience, both outside and inside the classroom.

Third, are students (and others) any more uncivil in their private thoughts and conversations than they were 25 years ago? Again, the answer is No. Students back then had lots of horrible things to say about Williams presidents like Chandler and Oakley, especially about topics like divestment from South Africa or affirmative action.

Given these facts, why would Morty — a smart and keen observer — believe that civility has decreased? Because he and his fellow presidents are no longer the only ones with the megaphone.

The major change between now and then is that, today, students/faculty/staff/alumni with complaints about Williams are better able to make those complaints heard by the broader College community, and the world. Morty’s real complaint is not about a general drop in civility but about the increased power of non-presidents to make their voices heard.

When students in 1985 were agitating for divestment from South Africa, their options were limited. Contact all the alumni? Impossible. Update their supporters who didn’t live in Williamstown? Very difficult.

Students today arguing for divestment from fossil fuel companies have much more power. They can easily reach alumni all over the world. They can coordinate with peers at other schools.

In 1980s, students could make life X difficult for John Chandler. Today, students can make life 10 times X difficult for Morty Schapiro. Students, and others, are not any less civil now than they were then. They are simply more powerful. And Morty doesn’t like it.

Entire op-ed is below the break for those without a WSJ subscription.
(more…)

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Looking for an excuse to visit the Purple Valley this summer?  Green Mountain Live! in Pownal (the former Green Mountain Racetrack) will be hosting the Full Tilt Boogie music festival on August 22.fieldtest1

ZZ Top, the Marshall Tucker Band, and Gary Clark, Jr., are among the artists scheduled to perform.  Tickets ($87.50 general admission) go on sale May 20.

Stay in Williamstown, bike up to Pownal, hear some music, what could be better?

 

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Below the break is the recent divestment letter to Adam Falk and the trustees. Original is here, but we save our own copy for the benefit of future historians. It is week.

Should I spend two weeks critiquing it and the more detailed Williams Divestment Proposal?

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One of the great things about Division III athletics is that sportsmanship is usually valued as greatly as winning.  No one would draw the same conclusion about professional sports, however, and the release of conclusions about DeflateGate unfortunately confirms this.  Worse, two of the team leaders at the center of the misconduct are products of the Little Three.

The long-awaited Wells Report, investigating allegations that the New England Patriots cheated by deliberately deflating footballs used by their offense, has been released, and it doesn’t make team president Jonathan Kraft ’86 (a current Williams trustee) or Bill Belichick (Wesleyan ’75) look like effective leaders.

Kraft has been trying to step out of the shadow if his father, team owner Robert Kraft, as described in a somewhat-unflattering, mid-DeflateGate article in the Boston Globe:

He may lack some of his father’s charisma and taste for celebrity. His temper may run hotter, as those he has verbally accosted over perceived slights have discovered. And he has yet to embrace the virtues of forgiveness: He remains highly contemptuous of the politicians and pundits he believes have wronged him in the past 20 years.

But on the day of Jonathan Kraft’s succession, the dynasty will pass to a sharp-edged chief executive whose focus rarely wavers from his father’s passions: family, philanthropy, and making it big in business, whether it’s recycling cardboard or chasing Super Bowl titles.

Kraft declined to speak publicly for this story… [a]ssociates indicated he is wary of being portrayed as a prince-in-waiting.

Two Sundays ago, millions of television viewers could have misjudged Kraft as that silver-spooned prince when CBS zoomed in on the owner’s box during the AFC Championship game.

The camera caught Secretary of State John F. Kerry leaning forward from his second-row seat to share a few words with Robert Kraft. The younger Kraft was sitting next to his father, wolfing popcorn and displaying no interest in the conversation.

Kraft is the team president; it’s unlikely he was involved in decisions about whether to break the rules by altering game equipment.  But the Patriots repeatedly and publicly insisted that they would cooperate fully with the NFL’s investigation, as part of a media campaign that featured Robert Kraft demanding an apology from the league.  The Wells Report makes clear that the Patriots didn’t deliver:

[T]he Patriots . . . refused to make Jim McNally [the equipment handler at the center of the alteration of the footballs] available for a follow-up interview requested by our investigative team on . . . important topics, despite our offer to meet at any time and location that would be convenient for McNally.  Counsel for the Patriots apparently refused even to inform McNally of our request.  We believe the failure by the Patriots and its counsel to produce McNally for the requested follow-up interview violated the club’s obligations to cooperate with the investigation under the Policy on Integrity of the Game & Enforcement of League Rules and was inconsistent with public statements made by the Patriots pledging full cooperation . . .

Similarly, although Tom Brady appeared for a requested interview . . . he declined to make available any documents or . . . text messages and emails[] that we requested. . . . Our inability to review contemporaneous communications and other documents in Brady’s possession . . . limited the discovery of relevant evidence.

The Wells Report lays the blame for the Patriots conduct at the feet of Tom Brady and the team’s equipment personnel.  Its scope was limited to investigating the AFC Championship Game, in which the Patriots thoroughly dismantled the Indianapolis Colts, and would likely have done so without assistance from deflated balls.  Thus, it didn’t consider whether the Patriots also deflated balls the previous week, when they rallied from behind and narrowly escaped the Baltimore Ravens.

Understandably, Ravens fans are furious, and there are reasons to believe that the Patriots’ actions reflect a broader culture of cheating — for example, the opposing team alerted the NFL and its officials to the possibility of tampering with the footballs before the game, suggesting they (or other teams) had noticed a pattern of conduct in the past by New England.  And of course, the Patriots were disciplined a few years ago for breaking the rules by videotaping opposing teams’ signals.

As members of the Eph community, we like to root for the success of other Ephs, whether in politics, sports, science, or the arts. But we expect Ephs to meet our standards when they do. Kraft’s leadership so far has failed to meet those standards.

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I will take “News that makes the Development Office happy,” for $200, Alex.

rich_list

These are the top 10 earners on Wall Street. (This is a highly misleading list, as explained here and here.) But it mentions two Ephs, so EphBlog still likes it!

Are there other Ephs on the full list of 25 besides Andreas Halvorsen ’86 and Chase Coleman ’97?

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For reference, here are the two Eph tweets referenced in David Dudley Field’s post on the New York Times article, immediately prior to this posting.

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Jennifer Doleac ’03 and Arthur Levitt ’52 both tweeted about this New York Times article: “Why a Harvard Professor Has Mixed Feelings When Students Take Jobs in Finance”

This is a bittersweet time on campus. Seniors are beginning to find jobs, and while their enthusiasm is infectious, some of their choices give me pause.

Many of the best students are not going to research cancer, teach and inspire the next generation, or embark on careers in public service. Instead, large numbers are becoming traders, brokers and bankers. At Harvard in 2014, nearly one in five students who took a job went to finance. For economics majors, the number was closer to one in two. I can’t help wondering: Is this the best use of talent?

I suspect that this prejudice is common among the Williams faculty as well. Exploring it would make for an interesting Record article.

In the meantime, this view is absurd because it is impossible to make meaningful moral judgments about job choice between categories as broad as “public service” and “finance.”

First, I am not claiming that moral judgments are impossible. Consider two jobs that many people might reasonable judge as morally suspect:

  • Congressional staff who arrange for lobbyists to write big checks so that her boss will support their favorite tax loopholes.
  • Running the NSA computers which record all our phone conversations.

But notice what those jobs have in common? They are “public service,” positions in which your boss is the US Government. Does the author, Sendhil Mullainathan, “pause” when his students take jobs like these? Or are all public service jobs, by definition, morally praiseworthy?

Second, consider two (well paid) jobs in “finance.”

  • Protect online bank accounts from hackers and thieves.
  • Design better (cheaper) index funds.

Does Mullainathan experience “bittersweet” emotions when his students take jobs like these? I hope not!

Third, think about all the jobs that are the same in “public service” and in “finance.” Example:

Doing asset allocation at Calpers. Why is working for Calpers at job X more praiseworthy than working at Fidelity or Wellington or Vanguard and doing job X? Hint: It’s not, unless you think that California retirees are, as a class, more morally praiseworthy than people who invest with Vanguard.

Now, obviously, there are jobs in public service that are morally praise-worthy and jobs in finance that are morally suspect, but Mullainathan is only confusing his readers — and misleading himself? — when he claims that such broad categories provide meaningful evidence for moral judgment.

And don’t even get me started about the largely parasitic existence led by the public relations staff — oops, I mean the tenured faculty! — of the $30+ billion Harvard Hedge Fund, LLC . . .

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Apropos last week’s Decision Day post, John Spear ’92, the college guidance director at the Northwood School in Lake Placid, is among the Ephs offering advice and input in the college admissions process.  On Twitter, Spear shares interesting, admissions-related stories:

Spear also has a blog, College Guidance at Northwood, updated occasionally, on topics such as gap years and college fairs.

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Consider this criticism of my suggestions regarding how to decrease sexual assault at Williams. Let’s go through it point-by-point.

Should Williams also tell its female students to wear longer skirts and more conservative tops to help men control their unavoidable urges?

Please confront the argument I actually made, rather than the one you think (wish?) I had made. For example, I wrote the following (in bold):

[T]he College could tell female Ephs the truth about alcohol use and sexual assault. Women who stay sober (and/or drink in moderation) are vastly less likely to be sexually assaulted than those who don’t.

Do you agree or disagree? Once we settle these important issues, we can move on to a Williams dress code.

Yeah, totally, let’s blame the victim here.

Accusations of victim blaming are the laziest response of the censorious left. Imagine that I tell you to look both ways when using the crosswalk for route 2. Good advice? You bet! Of course, in a perfect world, you shouldn’t have to look both ways. You are in a crosswalk! You have the right of way. And, a fool might accuse me of victim blaming since, implicitly, I am suggesting that anyone who did not look both ways and was hit by a car was, at least partly, at fault. But “Look both ways” is still excellent advice. And so is “Don’t drink too much.”

You are completely uninformed about sexual assault (your “(all?)” parenthetical makes it seem like you doubt the very existence of male-male and female-female sexual assault).

This is an empirical question! I bet that all 14 cases of sexual assault at Williams last year were male-on-female. Want to take the other side of that wager?

By the way, I have never read of a female-on-female sexual assault report on a college campus. Have you?

Here’s an idea to increase yield that’s a little different than your previous post: the college should publicly disavow David.

The College is smarter than that! Always ignore dissident voices.

In the past two days of previews, I’ve been asked by no fewer than 7 prefrosh a variant of “did that crazy ephblog guy really go to Williams? Is he typical of Williams students? Because if so, I’m not going here.”

Only 7? EphBlog is slipping!

EphBlog is hardly “typical” of Williams students, but there are scores (hundreds?) of Williams students who share our concern over changes in sexual assault policy. You should meet some of them!

One can only guess how many matriculants ephblog has cost Williams over the years.

Anyone who would choose, say, Oberlin or Swarthmore over Williams because of a concern that the Williams community allows/nurtures non-leftwing views — even, gasp, a concern with due process! — is a student I would rather not have.

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Many people describe today, May 1, as National College Decision Day.  At most selective colleges, including Williams, today is the deadline to accept or decline an offer of admission and place a deposit for the first year of college.

A few years ago, Michael McPherson, the former Williams Dean of Faculty, economics professor, and, later, President of Macalester College, wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal defending the current debt-financing model for colleges and encouraging students and parents to continue to assume mountains of debt in pursuit of higher future earnings: Get Smart About College: Parents and students like to think they’re rational when it comes to picking a college and paying for it. They aren’t.

With co-author Sandy Baum, past Skidmore College department chair in Economics, McPherson writes:

For starters, a college education is really a joint production between both the college and the student, so “fit” matters greatly. The best college for one student might be a nonstarter for another. Second, both the benefits and the costs, at least for the two-thirds of students who borrow, are extended over a long period of time, requiring a kind of investment perspective.

Moreover, investing in college is not something families deal with frequently, so learning from experience is hard. Reliable information is hard to come by, and decisions aren’t reversed easily or without cost; transfer is possible, but it’s often expensive and risky.

This framing of the problem is reasonable.  But are McPherson and Baum correct in their conclusions?

[P]eople tend to overvalue current consumption relative to future opportunities. Small wonder: It’s always difficult to pay now, or soon, for benefits we won’t enjoy until years in the future… This myopic approach can lead people to opt for schools that offer better prices, regardless of whether the schools are the best fit—and that can be a huge mistake.

When people read news articles about students who borrowed $100,000 for undergraduate education and have been unemployed since graduating, they tend to believe that this will happen to them (and that it will last forever). Likewise, people put lots of stock in the recurring (and misleading) warnings that college is a bubble or that it isn’t worth the money in the long run.

These stories make for captivating headlines, but all the evidence is that college pays off better than ever.

To be sure, McPherson and Baum emphasize that college decisions must be made based on individual situations, and note that cognitive biases can lead to decisions that overestimate earnings potential and underestimate debt loads as well.  But underpinning their analysis is both the last statement: “that college pays off better than ever,” and the suggestion that the “best fit” is more important than the “best price.”  That may be true if your “best fit” is Williams College, or a handful of other top-brand institutions, but it’s increasingly dubious as you work your way down the ladder.  This is particularly true because “fit” often has little to do with the educational dimensions – formal or informal – and more to do with whether it was raining on the day you visited the campus, and what drink you ordered at the coffee bar in the fitness center.

The debate over educational choices, costs, and benefits has continued in the four years since McPherson and Baum wrote this article, and unfortunately, EphBlog’s hiatus has kept us out of that discussion.  But on this Decision Day and the next one, I encourage skepticism when eloquent writers and speakers — even those with deep Eph connections — from traditional academic backgrounds urge “Ignore the Cost, Go With the Fit.”

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One sentence in Abigail Wattley’s ’05 op-ed in the Record has generated some confusion.

We don’t disclose the list of our fund managers because of agreements we have entered that relate to confidentiality.

Unsophisticated readers might assume that Wattley meant, “Our managers require us to not reveal that we have invested in them, otherwise they would not want to do business with us.” That is, the managers insist on confidentiality and there is nothing the College can do.

This is absurd, at least for 95%+ of the managers the College invests with. If Williams asked them for permission to reveal their name on a list of all its managers, the vast majority of investment managers would say:

1) “Williams is the client! If Williams wants to include us on a list of managers, that is its right. Indeed, many of our investors, especially state pension funds like Texas Teachers, are required by law to reveal all their managers and even our fees!” See below (pdf) for an extract:

texas_teachers

Indeed, many (most?) of Williams managers are publicly identified by at least some of their clients.

2) “We hope that Williams reveals our name (if not our fees and performance)! Having smart, sophisticated endowments invest with us is great advertising! The more people that know that Williams trusts us, the more money we are likely to be able to raise.”

The easiest way to see that Williams could easily make its list of managers public is to take note of other institutions that do so. (Previous discussion here.) Consider the listing provided by The Boston Foundation (tBf):

tbf

If The Boston Foundation can provide a listing of its managers, then why can’t Williams? Note, also, that these managers are some of the most elite and sought after in the business. Some (Baupost?) are probably even closed to new investors. And yet they have no problem with tBf making their status public.

Should we expect members of the Williams Investment Office (like Wattley) and the Williams trustees to know about the practices of places like The Boston Foundation? Well, in addition to being a similar sized endowment in the same city, The Boston Foundation has a CEO (Paul Grogan ’72) and a board chair (Michael Keating ’62) who are both former trustees at Williams!

Not enough evidence? Consider the comments of Churchill Franklin, CEO of Acadian Asset Management and former chair of the board of trustees at Middlebury.

You are right (as usual) the answer is no we [Acadian] don’t care and are happy to have the advertising. Some fund of funds and outsourced CIOs are reluctant to share the names of the managers they select, because that is their “edge” and their value-add. Huge funds are sometimes reluctant to share the names of their managers if they are trying to protect limited capacity, but the managers are almost always happy to have their names shared.

I could produce similar quotes from Ephs in money management if I thought doing so wasn’t a huge waste of their time.

Is there any way that Wattley isn’t lying? The naive among you might guess that, perhaps, for historical reasons (or because our lawyers are stupid), there are stipulations in every investment contract along the lines of: “Williams agrees to never publicly reveal the name of the investment manager.”

But, if that were so, then how could I possibly know that all of these firms (pdf and pdf) have managed money for Williams in the last few years?

hintz

spo

summit

charles bank

If the College really had “agreements … that relate to confidentiality” and which prevented the College from reporting that its managers included SPO, Summit, William Blair, Charlesbank and so on, then how do I know about these managers?

The cynic in me is afraid that Wattley is purposely trying to mislead the Williams community. She (or her boss Collete Chilton . . . or her boss’s boss) don’t want other Ephs to know who we invest in. Of course, they don’t want to lie too obviously. They just want to string together a bunch of mostly-true-individually but misleading-in-the-aggregate sentences that give everyone the impression that the College’s hands are tied.

Other explanations?

If the Record were a better paper, it would find out the truth. Start by asking for some example language from one of these “agreements” about the required “confidentiality,” perhaps from one of the firms that are already public.

In fact, why not start with Charlesbank! It is perfect. First, it happily allows some of its clients, like The Boston Foundation, to report its involvement. Second, Williams already reports an investment. Third, a (the?) senior member of Charlesbank is Michael Eisenson, chair of the Williams Trustees, and Abigail Wattley’s boss’s boss.

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All-campus e-mail from President Falk:

To the Williams Community,

Given the broad interest in the work that the Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility has been doing to analyze the proposal that the college divest from 200 companies involved with fossil fuel extraction, I thought I’d let you know that the committee’s report on the matter is now complete and available online.

The report articulates those areas on which the committee reached consensus and those on which after careful deliberation there was not agreement.

The Board of Trustees began discussing the report at its meeting last weekend. The trustees’ deliberations, which will continue over the coming months, rest on the premises, which I share, that the climate is changing, that the causes of that change are almost assuredly human, and that Williams must develop a strong and broad-based response.

For now our thanks go to ACSR Chair Anand Swamy and the whole committee for their thoughtful work on this important issue—work that has modeled how people with differing viewpoints of how to achieve a shared goal can engage with each other in ways that are both vigorous and respectful.

First, kudos to the ACSR/Falk for making the report public. Williams needs more transparency. (But, since Williams has a history of making reports public and then disappearing them, I saved copies of the report and the appendix.)

Second, I am unimpressed with the report because it fails to provide the best arguments against divestment, even in the section labeled “The Case Against Divestment.” This is, frankly, pathetic. It is perfectly reasonable to conclude, as Stanford has done, that a college should divest. You or I may disagree, but that is OK. It is not reasonable to claim (believe?) that you are, for purposes of discussion, providing the best arguments against divestment when, in fact, you are not, either because of a desire to win the argument or a failure to even know what those best arguments are. (I am not sure which explanation reflects more badly on the ASCR.)

Third, there is much material in the report worthy of discussion. Who wants to see a 10 day EphBlog critique/discussion?

Fourth, as always, the underlying politics are interesting. I suspect that there are powerful forces at the College who do not want divestment and have pushed hard against it. Why else would the Investment Office go to the trouble of writing an op-ed in the Record? (By the way, this op-ed is filled with lies-by-omission. With luck, it will only take 5 days to unpack them.) Comments by insiders on the internal politics of divestment are welcome.

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Which Eph alum best puts his or her Williams education to use in the blog format? A leading contender has to be Nicholas O’Donnell ’97, a partner at the law firm of Sullivan & Worcester, and head of their thriving art law practice.  Bar associations and legal publications constantly encourage lawyers to promote themselves with a blog, but few do so decently, and hardly any with the verve of O’Donnell, whose legal career draws on his education as both an undergraduate and graduate student in art history at Williams.

The Art Law Report is O’Donnell’s blog, and 2015 is a timely point at which to begin reading because O’Donnell  is the lead counsel in one of the biggest cases in art law, and he’s been posting about his efforts to overcome — after eight decades — continuing wrongs perpetrated by the Nazis.

As O’Donnell explained two months ago:

I filed yesterday a new civil action against the Federal Republic of Germany and the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz (the SPK, which is responsible the administration of the Berlin museums, among other things) in the United States District Court in Washington, DC… The lawsuit seeks the immediate restitution to my clients of the collection held by the SPK known as the Welfenschatz, or as it is referred to in English, the Guelph Treasure. My clients Gerald Stiebel and Alan Phillip are the blood relatives and successors to the consortium of Jewish art dealers who were threatened and forced by the National Socialist government into selling the Welfenschatz in 1935.

A little quick background that the court documents we have submitted will verify: The Welfenschatz was sold to the Consortium by its previous owners in 1929. After selling about half the collection of their own free will before 1933, the situation for the Consortium changed quickly and drastically after the Nazi seizure of power. The Consortium was suddenly targeted by a concerted campaign of the National Socialists to acquire property they believed was of German heritage and not fit to be owned by Jews, though of course those Jews were until then German citizens too. There were many, many recorded instances in which the Jews of Germany were stripped of their property. And in this case, it was an organized effort that ran from the mayor of Frankfurt (where they lived) all the way up to Goering and Hitler personally. Eventually, the Consortium relented under intense pressure and sold the collection under duress for a fraction of its actual value. The proceeds were paid into accounts that were in actuality blocked, and the Consortium’s members were subjected to further intimidation and the infamous flight taxes, which are described in a Gestapo document included in yesterday’s court filing. After the acquisition, Goering made a great public gesture of presenting the Welfenschatz to Hitler as a personal gift, and was even featured in news reports at the time. It has remained in Berlin ever since, now held by the SPK.

Quite simply, the Welfenschatz belongs to my clients. The transaction forced upon the Consortium was illegitimate as a matter of German and international law, and it had and has no validity whatsoever. My clients attempted in good faith to obtain the return of the collection by participating in mediation with the Advisory Commission, but despite presenting conclusive and unopposed evidence of the oppression that they faced and the inadequate sum they received, the Advisory Commission refused last year to recommend restitution, and the SPK likewise refused to return it…

The SPK can only contest our claims by arguing that the 1935 sale was legitimate, a tactic that it regrettably has employed in the past. Since the Allied victory in 1945 the law has been clear, however: any sale by a Jewish owner after 1933 was presumptively under duress. That is to say, unless Germany proves otherwise, my clients win. But Germany cannot prove, and it should not try to prove, that a conspiracy to take the Consortium’s property—a conspiracy spearheaded by Hermann Goering—was in any way a non-coerced, normal marketplace transaction. It was not.

   

 

(O’Donnell on the left, as pictured at Art Law Report)

In a follow-up post, O’Donnell rounded up press coverage of the Guelph Treasure lawsuit (including in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, an interview on WBUR, and more), responded to public statements by defendants, and noted the remarkable leakage of anti-Semitic views into German press coverage of the lawsuit:

It bears noting that some of the coverage, regrettably (and all of it in German, none of it below) has perpetuated long-promulgated stereotypes with references about Jews and money, or questioned why my clients would want “Christian” art, or challenging their victimhood because they were in the business of selling art.  These should be beneath any serious discourse in 2015; no one would challenge the persecution of a factory owner who had to sell his or her inventory under duress.  Some reports even challenge the good faith of our case by relying on “experts” who refuse to identify themselves.

My clients want justice, and they would not have come this far if they could be dissuaded by name-calling.  Their quest will continue.

The Art Law Report is much more than coverage of O’Donnell’s own litigation, of course. Recent posts have covered the Detroit Institute of Art’s controversial deaccessioning decisions  and efforts to pass resale copyright legislation, among other issues. But the Guelph Treasure lawsuit is a great entree into the fascinating world of art law and a glimpse of the professional career of yet another star — albeit legal, not curatorial — in the continuing art world dominance of the Eph Art Mafia.


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A moving letter:

When one is sick with some sort of mental illness, it is incredibly difficult for them to seek help on their own. It can take friends and family to, at least initially, help them find treatment and care by a medical professional. In my case, a friend finally was able to get me to the health center to try to get some professional care. The student at the desk told me she could set up an appointment with the psychiatrist. Normally I’m a cautious person, but I was in no state of mind to check up on this myself – I was struggling simply to function.

As I learned after graduation, I was not sent to a psychiatrist, but rather to a nurse practitioner. I am sure she tried her best, but she was not at all qualified to treat my illness, as I now understand. She prescribed psychiatric medication and trusting she was a psychiatrist with a medical degree, I took it. For weeks my mood swung all over the place, but I was told that was normal. I continued seeing a counselor and things did seem a little better, until about a month before graduation, all services at the health center shut down. With that support gone, the medication made everything much worse and my mood spiraled. Ultimately during senior week I was hospitalized for alcohol poisoning. I couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone at the time, but it was not from partying too hard, it was from trying to harm myself, to make how I felt stop.

What I have learned since graduating and receiving proper care is this – things can get better. I should not be ashamed of myself, and one needs to see qualified professionals in order to get better. Those working at the health center are incredibly well meaning, but good intentions does not equal good outcomes. The doctor I have since begun to see on a regular basis was horrified by the care I received.

Read the whole thing, which also appeared (in shortened form?) in the Record. (Copy saved below the break.)
(more…)

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The Washington Post highlights a new study from the American Coucil of Trustees and Alumni on the absence of a Shakespeare requirement from the English Major at numerous top colleges.  Of 52 top national universities and liberal arts colleges reviewed, only 4 — including Harvard, but not Williams — required English majors to study Shakespeare as a requirement of completing the major.

Chairs of the English departments at Williams, Amherst, Swarthmore, and Yale were given space to respond. Prof. John Limon noted that he personally recommends to his advisees that they take at least one Shakespeare class, and emphasized the breadth of Williams’s offerings and requirements.

 we do have more courses devoted to Shakespeare than any other single author — usually four a year. In addition, we have a literary history requirement of one course before 1800 and another course before 1900…

And there are students who can make good use of the English major for all sorts of purposes, which lead them in many directions but not to a course in Shakespeare [e.g., techniques of cultural analysis]… That may be bad in several ways, but it does not invalidate that use if the major.

Compare the response by Geoffrey Sanborn,  Amherst’s English chair:

Sanborn said it’s important to remember that English is about more than its canon… we conceive of literature as a basic form of expression that’s taken as wild variety of forms, in a range of cultures and across time… We’re trying to create lifelong, engaged, animated readers … [and we] trust students to be adult enough to choose, with help from their advisers, a path through the college.”

57% of the 266 Amherst English grads have taken a Shakespeare course. I wonder what the comparable number, not provided, is for Williams.

Although both chairs raise the “bit we have advisers to steer them” trope, I favor Prof. Limon’s response, which seems more engaged with what makes an English major distinctive in a liberal arts curriculum.  And the authors of the study — who undoubtedly place a high value on the literary canon, are highlighting a very crude statistic. After all, if a student can satisfy a Shakespeare requirement with some course like “Reimagining Shakespeare as a Crypto-Anarchist,” or some such thing, does it really mater that it’s a requirement?

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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 7.

Over the 2013-2014 school year, the college received 14 reports of sexual assault, as well as one of dating violence and stalking. Of these 15 cases, five were brought forward for adjudication within the college’s disciplinary process. Four students were found responsible for violations of the college’s sexual misconduct policy, and one was found responsible for violations involving dating violence or stalking. All five of these students were separated from campus. Two students were expelled, and three were suspended. The average length of suspension was two years. One student brought a case forward through the police and the district attorney’s offices. Ten students who reported assaults during 2013-14 have chosen not to participate in disciplinary or legal processes as of this time. Of those, five worked with the Dean’s Office to arrange accommodations to increase their well-being on campus, including academic arrangements, housing changes, no-contact orders, and advisory conversations.

Comments:

1) Kudos to the College for providing this level of transparency. The more that the Williams community understands about sexual assault cases, the better.

2) We need more transparency, more details about each of these cases, about the exact complaint, the response and the judgment rendered. This is not hard to do! Consider one example from the latest report (pdf) from the Honor Committee:

A junior was accused of several dishonest actions relative to a paper. First, it appeared the majority of the paper was taken verbatim from a website without citation. Second, the student attempted several times to deceive the professor when he realized he had accidentally shared information that made it very likely that his plagiarism would be discovered. The student readily admitted that this was what he had done. The sanction was failure in the course with disciplinary probation of one semester.

Federal law (and common sense) require that the College not identify specific students. Agreed! But Williams could still tell us, for starters, the class years and genders of the students involved in sexual assault cases. (Isn’t the problem very different if all the accused are seniors than if they are all first years?) And more details on the cases would allow us all to judge whether or not the College is doing a good job. It would also provide guidance to students about precisely what sort of behavior is likely to get them in trouble.

3) Do readers find 15 cases shockingly low or shockingly high? If the 1-in-5 statistic were correct, we would expect over 50 cases a year.

3) Who remembers this wonderful piece of misdirection?

“No group, including varsity athletes, is over-represented among those accused of sexual assault,” Kolesar responded. He said the school’s athletic director, coaches and team captains “are very much partners in the broad campus work on the prevention of sexual assault.”

First, this is gibberish because, obviously, men are much more likely to be accused of (and guilty of!) sexual assault than women are. Second, the Record ought to follow up with Kolesar/Bolton to see if that claim is true for these 15 new cases. I would bet a great deal of money that male helmet sport athletes (football, hockey, lacrosse and (maybe) baseball) are overrepresented in this group. Third, it is quite possible that men from less elite backgrounds are over-represented, although this is more speculative. Certainly, the acceptable standards for interactions with young women at Andover and radically different than they are at big city high school.

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Reprinted from the Record:

The single most important thing that Williams could do to ensure the College’s success 100 years from now is to create a finance major. Since creating the major will take some time, we should add some key courses in accounting and investments right now, at small expense. But before examining the case for a finance major specifically, we should review the (unwritten) rules about new majors in general.

New majors should be in fields that a) are taught at a Ph.D.-level at research universities, b) would be popular, enrolling at least 25 students in each class and c) do not require significant investments from the College, either in facilities or staff. Most candidate majors fail at least one of these criteria. Sanskrit is taught at universities but would not be popular enough at Williams. Sports management would (alas?) be popular but is not a serious academic field. Engineering is a Ph.D. field and might enroll many students (see its success at places like Swarthmore and Tufts), but would require too much spending.

A finance major, on the other hand, easily clears all three hurdles. Universities like Stanford grant Ph.D.s in finance; dozens of students at Williams would major in finance if it were offered, thereby also decreasing enrollment in the economics and mathematics majors to more reasonable sizes; and because most of the building blocks of a finance major are already in the course catalog, very few, if any, additional faculty hires would be required.

The best analog to a proposed finance major is the current major in political economy. Imagine that Williams did not have the poli-ec major. The arguments for creating it – Ph.D.-level topic, popular with students, inexpensive to add – apply to finance as well. Moreover, the many virtues of poli-ec today are the yet-unseen benefits of adding finance tomorrow. Poli-ec brings together a community of Ephs – students, faculty and alumni – who are interested in the intersection of politics and economics and who would otherwise be scattered and disconnected. A finance major would do the same.

However, the major benefit of a finance major is that it would increase the size (in both absolute and relative terms) of the College’s endowment in 2115. Cut the Williams endowment by 90 percent and we would be Connecticut College with some lovely mountains. On a 100-year horizon, wealth matters most.

First, a finance major would attract higher quality applicants. Currently, virtually no high school senior interested in Wall Street chooses Williams over Harvard, Yale or Princeton. A finance major and the alumni network it would coalesce and nurture would make Williams more desirable. (Note that this is not a plea to increase the number of Wall Street “gunners” on campus. Fix that number where it currently is, or even lower it. I just want better gunners.)

Second, Williams does a poor job in preparing students interested in finance as a career. Alas, at this stage in the argument, many of my faculty friends will complain that career preparation is not part of what the College does or should do. We should ignore such voices just as we ignored the similar voices 100 years ago who complained when the College added majors in chemistry and physics, going beyond the then-accepted notion of the liberal arts. Williams students get fewer internships and jobs in finance than similarly talented students from places like Duke and the University of Pennsylvania because we fail to teach those students things they need to know. Fortunately, a finance major, and a couple of the courses that would come along with it, would make that problem go away.

Third, better and smarter incoming students interested in finance, along with the better courses that would come along with a finance major and the natural inclinations of Ephs to help each other would lead inexorably to a Williams Finance Mafia ready to rival the famous Art History Mafia of years gone by.

John Sawyer ’39 was the most famous and respected Williams president of the 20th century, not because he did what other college presidents were doing, only better, but because he did what few were willing to do: eliminate fraternities. Adding a finance major would, like banning fraternities, entail short terms costs in exchange for long term benefits, benefits all the larger because few to no elite liberal arts colleges would follow our lead anytime soon. Even just a handful of accounting and investment courses offered every year would be a major help, especially for students from less privileged backgrounds who lack the cultural capital or connections to compete with better trained students from other schools.

Does Williams already produce graduates that go on to success in finance? Of course we do, as the upcoming Capital Campaign will make clear. But we need more of them, making more money for their clients (and themselves) and donating ever larger gifts to the College, thereby ensuring our future as the premier liberal arts college 100 years from now.

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EphBlog is looking to bring on more bloggers. Are you a member of the Williams community (student, staff, faculty, parent, local resident, alumni, et cetera)? Do you have something to say about “All Things Eph?” If so, join us.

At our peak several years ago, we have 10+ regular authors, scores of commentators, and a thousand or so readers a day. Alas, our sabbatical cost us much of that community, but we are in the process of building it back. Here are some examples of successful bloggers from the past:

1) Tiny Dancer, who wrote a diary of her year as a JA in 2009 — 2010. Perhaps a JA for the class of 2019 would like to do the same?

2) Wrestling Fan, a parent of an Eph wrestler who covered the team for several years. If you are a parent who wants to cover some aspect of student activity (whether it be a team, a dance company, an a capella group, or anything else), you are welcome at EphBlog.

3) Derek Catsam ’93 used EphBlog as a host for his Red Sox diary. Example post here, and do read the comments! Note that, because EphBlog is good Karma, Derek started this diary in the spring of 2004. And look what happened that fall! Derek then turned those posts into a charming book.

And on, and on. Of course, in a better world, the College itself would provide a forum for these posts, would create a place where Ephs of all ages could write and reflect, discuss and debate. Until that day, however, EphBlog is all we have.

Join us and make it better! (daviddudleyfield at gmail).

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Here (pdf) is the academic paper which came out of Peter Nurnberg’s ’09 thesis.

This paper provides an econometric analysis of the matriculation decisions made by students accepted to Williams College, one of the nation’s most highly selective colleges and universities. Using data for the Williams classes of 2008 through 2012 to estimate a yield model, we find that—conditional on the student applying to and being accepted by Williams—applicant quality as measured by standardized tests, high school GPA and the like, the net price a particular student faces (the sticker price minus institutional financial aid), the applicant’s race and geographic origin, plus the student’s artistic, athletic and academic interests, are strong predictors of whether or not the student will matriculate.

1) Kudos to Nurnberg for doing some excellent work. All thesis students should aspire to publish their work in an academic journal. Kudos also to Nurnberg’s advisors: Morton Schapiro and David Zimmerman.

2) Brickbacks to Nurnberg (or should it really be to Schapiro and Zimmerman) for not making the full text of Nurnberg’s thesis available on line. (Prior discussion here.)

3) Want your economics and statistics thesis to be equally successful? Then write about Williams. Professor Steven Miller is eager to supervise thesis students (in math/stat) who want to analyze Williams data.

4) Should I spend a week or two going through the details of this paper? Reader requests are always welcome!

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Thanks to former EphBlogger Emily Flynn ’09 and the excellent members of the Boston Regional Association:

We profiled some of the area runners about why they’re running and to learn more about their training, their charities, and what they’re looking forward to on Marathon Monday. Read on and cheer for them today. Good luck to all the marathoners!

Courtney Asher ’09
Tim Sullivan ’90
Lauren Philbrook ’09
KK Durante ’11
Jessi England ’06
Shamus Brady ’04
Alex Roth: ’08
Matthew Simonson ’08
Ryan Ford ’09
Sean Hyland ’07
Bret Scofield ’10

1. Courtney Asher ’09 — bib number 29719

1) Who are you running for, and why?

I will be running this year’s marathon for Pine Street Inn (http://www.pinestreetinn.org/) I chose to run for Pine Street because ending homelessness is an often thankless and overlooked battle that they have been tirelessly and successfully waging in Boston for the last 45 years. Pine Street provides a safety net to those who need it most and a full spectrum of resources – from job training to healthcare to permanent housing – to ensure that everyone can get back to a place they can call “home.” I hope more people will consider getting involved with this fantastic organization and getting to know their fantastic set of guests, staff, and volunteers.

2) Why did you choose to run this year?

Thanks to many of my inspiring and athletic Williams friends, I took up running – and Patriots Day cheering – when I moved to Boston 6 years ago. The prospect of leaving Boston for graduate school later this year made me realize how badly I wanted to conquer this “hometown” challenge while I am still a proud resident of this resilient and running-enthused city.

3) What are you most looking forward to on Marathon Monday?

I am most looking forward to the crowds – especially my friends and Pine Street supporters – and the rush of taking that last left turn onto Boylston Street.

See below the break for the rest of the interviews. Good stuff!

By the way, is there a technically inclined Eph who could provide an easy way to view the progress of all our Eph runners?

(more…)

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Recall our previous discussion about suggested steps that students interested in reforming international admissions might take. Below are some more suggestions:

1) Remind Adam Falk about what he said/promised in his induction speech.

We now recognize that the future leaders of society will come from all its many parts, and that the highest manifestation of the public good we provide is to be a college for all of the United States, and of the world.

we must develop a deeper understanding of what it means for Williams to be an international institution. We must simultaneously be local and global, building a very specific, Berkshires-based Williams that could only be found in this valley, while reaching out far beyond to prepare our students to be effective citizens not only of this country but of the world. Many pieces of this process seem obvious – bring international students to Williams, send Williams students to study abroad – but our conception of a global strategy is still emerging. We are, after all, not a sprawling multiversity but a small college of two thousand students, each here for four years and some thirty courses. We cannot simply add every desirable experience to our curriculum or to student life. We must become global within our existing scale and scope, and without chasing fashions or being driven by our shifting anxieties about America’s geopolitical position. Grappling with this question will require the engagement of our entire community, as our strategies will encompass the curriculum and extend into so much of what we do. And we must think of the internationalization of Williams as something that happens here in Williamstown, capitalizing on what this campus and region can offer.

Many listeners to Falk’s words five years ago assumed that he was on our side, that he wanted to meaningfully increase the number of international students at Williams by, for example, easing/removing the current quota. So far, we have been disappointed. But it is never too late! If Falk still believes that “the internationalization of Williams as something that happens here in Williamstown,” then you can help him move forward.

I still think that Falk (and the rest of the senior administration) is more likely than not to be an ally. So, when speaking with them, you should not say, “Here are our demands!” Instead, you should ask, “How can we help you to make Williams ‘become global within our existing scale and scope’?”

2) Start working on the data. Of course, the first best option is the creation of a faculty committee that would bring the same sophisticated and thorough data analysis to the question of international admissions that the MacDonald Committee brought to the issue of athletic admissions. But that may not be possible right away. However, it is not too early to start your own work on these issues.

First, get some commitment from the Administration (ideally from Falk) that the College will make data available, in the same way that they have made data for senior theses available in the past (e.g., here and here). You aren’t looking for special treatment (or information about any specific student) but the Administration should be able to provide you with the same sort of access that Williams has provided to students like Jennifer Doleac ’03 and Peter Nurnberg ’09 in the past.

Second, get some commitment from a faculty member or two to “supervise” this work. Professors Miller and Stoiciu would be great choices, as would anyone else sympathetic to your cause. The Administration won’t like just handing data to students. But, with a faculty member in a supervisory role, it should be possible.

Third, try to find a junior who would be willing to write a senior thesis on this topic. Such a student, working for someone like Miller, would be perfect. There are 50+ juniors considering doing a senior thesis in economics or statistics. Surely one of them would like to tackle this topic, especially after they find out how many other people would be interested in the results!

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