Joe Thorndike ’88 writes about his father’s book about the Atlantic seaboard.

I was present for a lot of that first-hand research, especially in Connecticut, where I grew up, and on Cape Cod, where I visited my father frequently during the last 25 years of his life. I also managed to tag along for brief trips to Maine and Florida.

But for every trip I took, there were dozens that I skipped. Occasionally, my father would ask me — in his reserved, taciturn New England way — if I wanted to come along. But like many adult children of aging parents, I found reasons to say no.

Apparently I was busy, but in retrospect, I can’t imagine with what. My father has been dead for more than a decade, but I still regret, almost daily, the many trips I didn’t take.

Take trips with your father, every chance you get.

Still looking for a Father’s Day gift? EphBlog recommends Aidan’s Way by Professor Sam Crane. Excerpts here. More from an Amazon review:

Every now and then a book comes along that wakes us out of our drab routine lives and makes us reevaluate essential questions: what is important? Am I doing something worthwhile with my life? What is life’s meaning? Trite as it may sound, “Aidan’s Way” does just that, but in a way that is subtle and avoids self-indulgent breast-beating. At its core, “Aidan’s Way” is a resounding affirmation of life. Sam and Maureen Crane are the parents of Aidan, who is profoundly retarded mentally–he cannot walk, talk or see. At every turn, they face the possibility that he may die. Pneumonia assaults his lungs and grand mal seizures force him to rely on a feeding tube for sustenance. Adversaries come in human guise as well, with the Cranes heroically combating outrageous abuses by their HMO, doctors stereotyping Aidan as “one of THOSE kids,” and a heartbreaking moment of frustration when an indecisive nurse fails to administer a drug in time to stop Aidan’s seizures from permanently damaging his already fragile brain. There are heroes, too — a doctor with cerebral palsy who doggedly probes the causes of Aidan’s condition while others write him off, a younger sister who brings hope and joy to the family, and countless therapists, journalists, and teachers. Aidan touches hundreds of people.

Indeed. Sadly, Aidan is no longer with us, except in spirit.

Happy Father’s Day to all of Eph Dad readers, including to the loyalest reader of all:


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Provost Dukes Love gave a presentation (pdf) on “Access and Affordability in Higher Education” at the Alumni Leadership weekend in May. Thanks to popular demand, we will spend this week going through some highlights. Background reading: this 2016 overview of similar material from the previous provost, Will Dudley ’89, and our 2017 series about the Equality of Opportunity project. Day 5.

If your provost is an economist, his first instinct will to draw budget constraints. And so we get:

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1) If we fix our financial aid spending at its current level, then we can only slide up and down the curve on which the purple dot currently sits. If we want to give more aid to currently aided students, then we need to reduce the percentage who receive financial aid in the first place.

2) If we increase the financial aid budget, then we can work with a new budget curve, up-and-to-the-left of where we currently are.

3) Biggest surprise of the entire presentation is how “cheap” it would be to become as “generous” as Princeton. It looks like just $4 million of extra spending would allow us to match them. That isn’t much! There are 1,000 or so students who get no financial aid. Imagine that we raised the price of Williams from $67,000 to $71,000. There is your $4 million right there! EphBlog votes Yes!

4) However, the central problem with this presentation, indeed with almost all presentations at Williams, is its refusal to grapple with the key issue: the quality of the student body. I assume (hope!) that such presentations are created and presented to the trustees, that the people who run Williams worry about us maintaining our status as the #1 liberal arts college in the world, and that the key to that status is the academic quality of each new incoming class of first years. When will Dukes Love share that analysis with us?

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Provost Dukes Love gave a presentation (pdf) on “Access and Affordability in Higher Education” at the Alumni Leadership weekend in May. Thanks to popular demand, we will spend this week going through some highlights. Background reading: this 2016 overview of similar material from the previous provost, Will Dudley ’89, and our 2017 series about the Equality of Opportunity project. Day 4.

This is the most interesting and original slide in the presentation:

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1) Although not mentioned explicitly, this data probably comes from COFHE. It is a shame that COFHE is so secretive. There should be much more transparency among non-profits in general and in higher education specifically.

2) Each dot is a peer school. Williams is the big purple dot. The axes highlight the two major choices that elite colleges face in terms of financial aid:

  • What percentage of students should we aid? This is the y-axis. Williams, relative to its peer group, is about average. We give financial aid to about 50% of all students, a number that has been fairly stable (page 9 of the pdf) for more than a decade. Note that this percentage, alone, is a poor guide to how generous (or economically) diverse a school really is. Imagine a school that gives almost every student $100, even those who come from millionaire families. Such a school would have a high percentage of aided students, without giving much aid.
  • How much do aided students pay on average? This is the x-axis. This measures catches those schools who try to game the system, as above. (Note the two outlier dots at the top of the chart in the center. Which schools are these? Maybe Wash U? I would guess Emory, except that Emory is not a part of COFHE.) Williams does very well (?) on this measure. We charge aided students less than all but 2 or 3 other schools. This metric can, in isolation, be gamed by only aiding a handful of students but giving each of them free rides.

3) By combining the two measures, this chart does an elegant job of highlighting the schools that are truly generous. Kudos to Provost Love and his team! The more up-and-to-the-left you are, the more generous you are to more students. (Of course, this is really just a measure of how rich a school is. The people who run elite schools are very similar in their ideological preferences. They vary in the wealth of the institutions they control.)

4) Who are the two schools clearly more generous than Williams, i.e., the two dots above-and-to-our-left? Presumably Princeton and either Harvard or Yale. (I am not sure how Stanford could be included in this analysis given all of its athletic scholarships.)

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Provost Dukes Love gave a presentation (pdf) on “Access and Affordability in Higher Education” at the Alumni Leadership weekend in May. Thanks to popular demand, we will spend this week going through some highlights. Background reading: this 2016 overview of similar material from the previous provost, Will Dudley ’89, and our 2017 series about the Equality of Opportunity project. Day 3.

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1) This is the ugliest graphic I have ever seen in a Williams presentation. Eph (honorary degree in 2000) Edward Tufte would say:

  • Be consistent with your x-axes across the presentation. This (using academic years like 2016/17) is the third different choice you have made. Best is probably using “2018” to mean values for the 2017/2018 academic year. Also, there is no need to show every year. Doing so is too busy. Every 5th year, plus the start and end years, would be fine.
  • Don’t show regression models and summary statistics. How many people in your audience will know what R2 = 0.9138 means? Will you have time to explain it? Should you spend your/their valuable time trying to teach your audience about linear models?
  • If you insist on showing nonsense, then at least show a sensible number of significant digits for your nonsense. R2 = 0.91 would be more sensible, perhaps even R2 = 0.9.
  • Think harder about the substance of what you are trying to convey. Would even a statistically sophisticated reader care about the exact values of R2, much less for the values of the intercept from your linear regression? No! Your main (only?) point is about the slopes. And that is an interesting point! Including all the other statistical arcana hides the interesting facts you have discovered.
  • The purple/gold bars at either side of the graphic are very hard to interpret. I realize that you can explain them on the fly, but the need for explanation is often the sign of poor graphics.

2) Your key point is that Williams sticker price has gone up about 4 times faster than median income but only half as fast as 95th percentile income. Good stuff! And worth thinking about. This is why the regression lines are interesting, not because of the intercept for the R2‘s. But the exact coefficient values don’t really matter. All that you (and your audience) care about are relative magnitudes. So, perhaps better would be to just show a line graph of these two ratios directly. Graph the ratio of family income (median and 95th) to the Williams sticker price. That would make clear that former in falling very fast, i.e., that the cost of Williams has gone from a smallish portion of median family income to almost equal to it. (The ratio has fallen from about 3 to close to 1.) The ratio has also fallen for the 95th percentile but, in this case, the drop has been much less, from about 6 to 3. (You could also present this in percentage terms: The cost of Williams has gone from 30% (15%) of the median (95th percentile) family income up to 95% (26%).

3) Indeed, the best method would be to have two slides. The first shows the raw line graphs, so that people can see the actual numbers. You say a few words about how, yes, the price of Williams has increased. (Make a joke about the class of 1988’s class song with refrain “Sixty thou to live with cows,” the punch line being that this was the 4 year cost 30 years ago.) But the only people who pay full freight have seen their incomes increase as well. (Also make a few remarks about stagnation for the median family.) Then, next slide, show the ratios. People like more slides rather than fewer.

4) Math quiz for attentive readers: If family incomes at the 95th percentile have gone up twice as fast as the Williams sticker price, then how could the sticker price as a percentage of 95th percentile family income also increased from 15% to 26%?

5) All these numbers reinforce my claim that Williams pricing strategy, like that of other elite schools, is sensible. We are selling a luxury good to rich people. They are not deterred by price. In fact, they often (and not incorrectly!) view price as a signal of quality. We should continue to raise prices at a fast rate while, simultaneously, offering extensive financial aid to non-rich admitted students. Relevant New York Times analysis here. Worth spending time on?

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Provost Dukes Love gave a presentation (pdf) on “Access and Affordability in Higher Education” at the Alumni Leadership weekend in May. Thanks to popular demand, we will spend this week going through some highlights. Background reading: this 2016 overview of similar material from the previous provost, Will Dudley ’89, and our 2017 series about the Equality of Opportunity project. Day 2.

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This is a highly misleading graphic. It suggests that Williams is much more socio-economically diverse today than it was in 2005. This is untrue! (Note that I am not accusing Love of being purposely misleading. EphBlog loves Provost Love! I suspect that he has too poor (?) an opinion of his audience to confront them with the full richness of the data he has on this topic.)

1) Show us more data! Although it is useful to see the percentage of Pell Grants, Williams has, easily accessible, much more data on socio-economic diversity. If you really want to inform the audience, share as much of the data as you (easily) can.

2) Start with the percentage of each class that is “Socio-Ec 1,” also known as SEC1. Recall that, for decades, Williams has been tracking socio-economic diversity by tagging every applicant’s status as SEC1 if a) neither parent has a BA and b) the student applies for financial aid. This may not be the best measure of economic diversity, but it is the one that Love has the most data for and the one that has had the most impact on admissions. Alas, this time series won’t show nearly as happy a story as the one on Pell Grants, but Love owes his audience the whole truth.

3) Show a line graph of inflation-adjusted Eph family incomes for a couple of places in the income distribution. Williams has great data on family income, again going back decades, for all students who apply for financial aid. So, we know the 100th, 200th, 500th poorest families (out of 2,000) each year. Show us that data.

3) This five part series on Pell Grants (1, 2, 3, 4 and 5) from last fall is useful background.

4) Recall that Pell grant percentages of have been increasing for reasons unrelated to changes in the socio-economic diversity of the student body.

At Ivy-Plus colleges, the fraction of students receiving Pell grants increased from 12.1% to 16.8% between 2000-2011, an increase that has been interpreted as evidence of growth in low-income access at these colleges. In Online Appendix F, we show that the apparent discrepancy between trends in Pell shares and our percentile-based statistics, which show little or no change in low-income access, is driven by two factors. First, Congress raised the income eligibility threshold for Pell Grants significantly between 2000 and 2011, mechanically increasing the share of families that qualified for Pell grants. Second, as noted above, incomes fell sharply during the 2000s at the bottom of the distribution, further increasing the number of families whose incomes placed them below the Pell eligibility threshold. We estimate that the changes in eligibility rules mechanically increased Pell shares at Ivy-Plus colleges by approximately 2.9 pp from 2000-2011, while the decline in real incomes increased Pell shares by approximately 2.5 pp (Online Appendix Figure IX). Together, these changes fully account for the observed increase in Pell shares. Accounting for these factors, the Pell data imply that there was no significant change in the parental income distribution of students at Ivy-Plus colleges between 2000-2011.

The same is almost certainly true at Williams.

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Provost Dukes Love gave a presentation (pdf) on “Access and Affordability in Higher Education” at the Alumni Leadership weekend in May. Thanks to popular demand, we will spend this week going through some highlights. Background reading: this 2016 overview of similar material from the previous provost, Will Dudley ’89, and our 2017 series about the Equality of Opportunity project. Day 1.

Although dual y-axis charts are evil, this one provides some useful time series.

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Like all of Gaul, the last 60 years of applications to Williams can be divided into three parts. First, we have the single sex era, with 1,000 to 2,000 applications and an impressive yield of over 50%. Second, the initial 30 years of co-education, with applications mostly stable between 4,000 and 5,000. Third, the current era, with much higher raw application numbers, stable yield and falling admission rates. Comments:

1) Did Williams really yield around 65% in the mid-1960s? That seems implausible. Williams has been losing out to Harvard/Yale/Princeton for decades. I doubt that the 60s were much different. Perhaps Williams used more early decision? Perhaps there was more information sharing, allowing Williams to reject students who it knew would turn it down?

2) The shown yield rate is highly misleading. Students admitted early decision should not be included. They have no (meaningful) choice so it makes no sense to include them in a yield calculation. (Doing so also makes it harder to compare our yield with our competitors who don’t use early decision.) Yield should be measured only from the regular decision admittees. Doing this leaves our yield closer to 30%.

3) Stacked bar charts are not very helpful, especially with this color scheme. (Who can see the change in class size in the light green at the bottom?) Line graphs would be better. A better design for the same data:

  • Three separate panels, stacked on top of each other, each with the same x-axis. All feature line graphs.
  • The x-axis should be academic years, not class years. We want to know how many people applied to Williams in the fall of 2017. Telling us class year just forces us to do math in our heads.
  • The top panel should be raw applications. This is where the process starts. In addition to the raw numbers, we should have some shading or other indication of major changes like the start of co-education or the first time Common Ap usage was above 500. Even better would be to show multiple line graphs which broke total applications into a couple of different categories, like domestic versus international.
  • The second panel should be line graphs of admitted and enrolled students. Since the y-axis range would be much narrower than panel 1, we could easily see the increase in the size of the college (doubling with co-education and then increasing by another 10% since the 80s). Ideally, this panel would also include the number of students admitted early decision.
  • The third panel would combine the information from the top two to show us line graphs of percentage admitted and percentage yielded.
  • Throughout the three panels, we should see information associated with changes in the process. For example, I have a vague memory of applications rising/falling depending on how specific the supplemental essay was.
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I am in Williamstown for reunion week-end. Have coffee with me! I love to chat with readers.

dave . kane at

Also, look for me in the parade, at the Admissions meeting at 2:15 in Weston, and the Math/Stats reception at 3:30 in Bascom.

By the way, anyone catch that jerky question about the international quota at the Majumder/Mandel event yesterday? Who was that guy?!

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Opinions on design thinking at Williams?

DesignThinking@Williams offers techniques for solving social, cultural, and economic problems using creative thinking and human centered design. These tools can assist faculty in their teaching objectives; empower students in their social and entrepreneurial endeavors; assist the College as it continually improves the Williams experience; and prepare students to use the strength of their liberal arts education in purposeful ways in the work environment. A Design Thinker in Residence provides support in helping others learn these techniques.

Reality or another clever EphBlog parody? You decide. More background, “Design Thinking Is a Boondoggle,” from The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Design thinking, in other words, is just a fancy way of talking about consulting. What Miller, Kelly, and Hennessy are asking us to imagine is that design consulting is a model for retooling all of education. They believe that we should use design thinking to reform education by treating students as clients. And they assert that design thinking should be a central part of what students learn, a lens through which graduates come to approach social reality. In other words, we should view all of society as if we are in the design-consulting business.

Fawningly, Miller observes that the’s courses are “popular” and often “oversubscribed.” “These enrollment figures suggest that whatever it is the is doing, it’s working.” One social innovator Miller might look into is a guy named Jim Jones, who also had many enthusiastic followers.

That metaphor is a bit much. Yet design thinking is clearly 90% (?) or more tripe. With luck, Williams will use/discover the 10% that is of value. Conveniently enough, there is a seminar on design thinking on campus tomorrow:

1 – 3PM
Introduction to Design Thinking
Join alumni Marc Brudzinski ’93 and Dara Musher-Eizenman ’93 for an interactive introduction to Human-Centered Design. In this fun and creative 2-hour workshop, you’ll learn the basics of a proven method for collaborative problem-solving that was pioneered at design firm IDEO and Stanford University and is now taught at Williams. Piggy-backing on the Class of ’93 integrative well-being initiative, we will come up with creative solutions to the ever-changing problem of how to live a healthier lifestyle. It will be fun, it will be engaging, it will be useful, and it will be surprising! We will accommodate people on a first-come, first-served basis. Questions? Write to mtb242​@cornell​.edu or mushere​@bgnet​

If you attend, tell us about it.

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Funny Record article:

From Saturday through Monday, the Office of Student Life (OSL) held its annual general room draw for upperclass students. The lottery underwent several changes this year, including a move to the new, fully online Williams Housing Portal, the removal of Garfield House from the lottery for planned renovation and a new provision allowing students to pick into one half of a double room before all singles had been filled.

Despite the platform’s success, however, many students have expressed discontent with the outcome of the room draw, largely due to the change allowing students to pick into half of a double early in the process. In past years, students could not pick into doubles alone until all singles on campus had been filled.

Specifically, some students were frustrated with the way in which some students appear to have manipulated the system by way of the gender cap to ensure that doubles picked into early on would remain solo rooms. In some houses, such as Agard House and East College, many groups of doubles were selected early on in the process by large single-gender groups. The house would then hit the gender cap, ensuring that only students of a different gender could pick into it. Because consent is required from the first occupant for a person of another gender to pick into the second half of a double, some of the earlier occupants denied consent, thus keeping large doubles for themselves as singles.

Schiazza explained that he had feared this would occur if OSL allowed students to pick into half of doubles but made the change anyway due to increased pressure from students. “For the 15 years that I’ve been at Williams, rising seniors and juniors have expressed frustration to me about not having the option to take half of a double to keep their pick groups together, and then seeing rising sophomores with less seniority have that option later in the lottery after all the singles have been taken,” he said. “I’ve explained each time that my understanding of the reason for the rule was that rising seniors and juniors in the past would take a half-double, then put pressure on other students who would select or try to select the other half of the room later in the lottery not to take the room or to move afterward. The last few years, students have expressed to me that they thought today’s students wouldn’t do something like that and urged that we give it a try. So, we tried it this year – and I’d really hoped to be proven wrong in this experiment. Sadly, I’m disappointed to have instead been proven correct.”

As a result of discontent among both students and OSL over what occurred with these double rooms, OSL will likely be returning to its previous policy of not allowing half of a double to be picked into early on in the room draw. “We have been hearing of more situations than we’d want where students are putting pressure on each other about sharing rooms,” Schiazza said. “So it’s very likely that we’ll be returning to the ‘can’t take a half-double until all singles are gone’ rule for next year.”

Doug Schiazza knows what he is doing. If he is suspicious that students will behave selfishly, the rest of us should heed his warnings.

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Author Tom Wolfe passed away last month. The closest Eph connection I have seen is:

DdQt79ZV0AA2rmZ.jpg large

Halberstram was awarded an honorary degree in 2004, with a speech that was less-than-original for the occasion.

But, surely, there is a closer relationship between Wolfe and the world of Ephs! Help us out . . .

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My post of last Spring, 2017 White House Lawyers Up was viewed as ‘jumping over the shark’.

Please, Librarian Hammond, protect the Chapin Library’s printing of the Constitution of the United States from the conflagration. It may be needed for reference.

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Albert Tweedy ’42 died 76 years ago today.

twee1Albert Tweedy attended public schools in Winnetka, Ill., and Hingham, Mass., before he enrolled at Williams College, Williamstown, Mass., in the fall of 1938. In the summer of 1939, he completed Marine Corps’ Platoon Commander School at Quantico, Va., and, at the end of his sophomore year, left college to become a Marine Aviation Cadet. Following flight training at Squantum, Mass., and Pensacola, Fla., he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps Reserve on 14 October 1941 having been designated Naval Aviator #8899.

Assigned to the 2d Marine Aircraft Wing, Fleet Marine Force, he was stationed at San Diego and Hawaii before reporting for duty with Marine Scouter-Bomber Squadron (VMSB)-241 at Midway early in 1942.

Early on the morning of 4 June 1942, 2Lt. Tweedy took off from Midway in his “Dauntless” Navy dive-bomber (SBD-2). Minutes later, the Battle of Midway commenced as planes from the Japanese carriers pounded the Marine installations on Midway, and outdated American fighter planes based at Midway were bloodily dispatched by the newer and nimbler Japanese Zeros m the opening stages of the battle.

courts_of_the_missingOn that morning, 2Lt. Tweedy flew with Major Lofton Henderson’s division of VMSB-241. Although stripped of its fighter protection, this division nonetheless attempted a glide-bombing attack on Japanese carrier HIRYU. Despite a fearsome antiaircraft barrage and repeated attacks by the numerically superior enemy fighter planes, Lt. Tweedy dove his aircraft to a perilously low altitude before releasing a bomb over the enemy carrier. Japanese fighters then attacked and splashed his slow-moving bomber, killing 2Lt. Tweedy. He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his extraordinary heroism, cool courage, and conscientious devotion to duty.

The destroyer escort USS TWEEDY (DE-632) was named in his honor.

How many other Ephs have died in uniform? If we don’t remember their stories, who will?

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Happy Commencement to the class of 2018. Video stream should be here. Alas, I can’t figure out a way to embed it here. Or any readers at this morning’s ceremony?

By the way, is the move of Commencement to the library quad permanent? I was under the impression that it was just temporary, caused by construction of the new science buildings. But this is the second (?) year in a row, so . . .

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The following passage is excerpted from Russell Kirk’s Redeeming the Time and was recently published in this format in the Intercollegiate Review (original article).

Our term “liberal education” is far older than the use of the word “liberal” as a term of politics. What we now call “liberal studies” go back to classical times; while political liberalism commences only in the first decade of the nineteenth century. By “liberal education” we mean an ordering and integrating of knowledge for the benefit of the free person—as contrasted with technical or professional schooling, now somewhat vaingloriously called “career education.”

The idea of a liberal education is suggested by two passages I am about to quote to you. The first of these is extracted from Sir William Hamilton’s Metaphysics:

“Now the perfection of man as an end and the perfection of man as a mean or instrument are not only not the same, they are in reality generally opposed. And as these two perfections are different, so the training requisite for their acquisition is not identical, and has accordingly been distinguished by different names. The one is styled liberal, the other professional education—the branches of knowledge cultivated for these purposese being called respectively liberal and professional, or liberal and lucrative, sciences.”

Hamilton, you will observe, informs us that one must not expect to make money out of proficiency in the liberal arts. The higher aim of “man as an end,” he tells us, is the object of liberal learning. This is a salutary admonition in our time, when more and more parents fondly thrust their offspring, male and female, into schools of business administration. What did Sir William Hamilton mean by “man as an end”? Why, to put the matter another way, he meant that the function of liberal learning is to order the human soul.

Now for my second quotation, which I take from James Russell Lowell. The study of the classics, Lowell writes, “is fitly called a liberal education, because it emancipates the mind from every narrow provincialism, whether of egoism or tradition, and is the apprenticeship that everyone must serve before becoming a free brother of the guild which passes the torch of life from age to age.”

To put this truth after another fashion, Lowell tells us that a liberal education is intended to free us from captivity to time and place: to enable us to take long views, to understand what it is to be fully human—and to be able to pass on to generations yet unborn our common patrimony of culture. T. S. Eliot, in his lectures on “The Aims of Education” and elsewhere, made the same argument not many years ago. Neither Lowell nor Eliot labored under the illusion that the liberal discipline of the intellect would open the way to affluence.

So you will perceive that when I speak of the “conservative purpose” of liberal education, I do not mean that such a schooling is intended to be a prop somehow to business, industry, and established material interests. Neither, on the other hand, is a liberal education supposed to be a means for pulling down the economy and the state itself. No, liberal education goes about its work of conservation in a different fashion.

I mean that liberal education is conservative in this way: it defends order against disorder. In its practical effects, liberal education works for order in the soul, and order in the republic. Liberal learning enables those who benefit from its discipline to achieve some degree of harmony within themselves. As John Henry Newman put it, in Discourse V of his Idea of a University, by a liberal intellectual discipline, “a habit of mind is formed which lasts through life, of which the attributes are freedom, equitableness, calmness, moderation, and wisdom; of what…I have ventured to call the philosophical habit of mind.”

The primary purpose of a liberal education, then, is the cultivation of the person’s own intellect and imagination, for the person’s own sake. It ought not to be forgotten, in this mass-age when the state aspires to be all in all, that genuine education is something higher than an instrument of public policy. True education is meant to develop the individual human being, the person, rather than to serve the state. In all our talk about “serving national goals” and “citizenship education”—phrases that originated with John Dewey and his disciples—we tend to ignore the fact that schooling was not originated by the modern nation-state. Formal schooling actually commenced as an endeavor to acquaint the rising generation with religious knowledge: with awareness of the transcendent and with moral truths. Its purpose was not to indoctrinate a young person in civics, but rather to teach what it is to be a true human being, living within a moral order. The person has primacy in liberal education.

Yet a system of liberal education has a social purpose, or at least a social result, as well. It helps to provide a society with a body of people who become leaders in many walks of life, on a large scale or a small. It was the expectation of the founders of the early American colleges that there would be graduated from those little institutions young men, soundly schooled in old intellectual disciplines, who would nurture in the New World the intellectual and moral patrimony received from the Old World. And for generation upon generation, the American liberal-arts colleges (peculiar to North America) and later the liberal-arts schools and programs of American universities, did graduate young men and women who leavened the lump of the rough expanding nation, having acquired some degree of a philosophical habit of mind.

You will have gathered already that I do not believe it to be the primary function of formal schooling to “prepare boys and girls for jobs.” If all schools, colleges, and universities were abolished tomorrow, still most young people would find lucrative employment, and means would exist, or would be developed, for training them for their particular types of work. Rather, I believe it to be the conservative mission of liberal learning to develop right reason among young people.

Not a few members of the staffs of liberal-arts colleges, it is true, resent being told that theirs is a conservative mission of any sort. When once I was invited to give a series of lectures on conservative thought at a long-established college, a certain professor objected indignantly, “Why, we can’t have that sort of thing here: this is a liberal arts college!” He thought, doubtless sincerely, that the word “liberal” implied allegiance to some dim political orthodoxy, related somehow to the New Deal and its succeeding programs. Such was the extent of his liberal education. Nevertheless, whatever the private political prejudices of professors, the function of liberal education is to conserve a body of received knowledge and to impart an apprehension of order to the rising generation.


The Williams College Society for Conservative Thought is a non-partisan student organization dedicated to providing an academic space where students can freely engage with conservative scholarship in the tradition of Edmund Burke and Russell Kirk. Students of all varieties of political and social beliefs are invited to study, discuss, and challenge these ideas that are neglected in the College curriculum. We pledge to uphold the besieged principles of academic freedom and diversity of thought at Williams College. Website:

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Jim Reische provided this detailed information (pdf) about changes in majors over the last 30 years. Previous discussions here, here, here and here. Let’s discuss for four days. Day 4.

1) We should get rid of some majors. Removal is just as important as addition to the health of an organization. History of Ideas might have been a useful major 30 years ago. Yet Williams was correct to remove it in 2011. Indeed, any major that doesn’t regularly win over at least 10 students over, say, a decade should be removed. Start with astronomy, most of whose require courses are in physics anyway. I am also not sure that astrophysics is different enough from physics to justify its current major status. Maybe time to give up on German? And Classics?

2) Are Asian Studies and American Studies worthwhile majors? I doubt it. They are grab-bag collections of courses in actual academic fields like History and Political Science. Some students like them, to be sure, but student preferences in what majors are offered is not that important. (Student preferences in what classes they take are sacrosanct. It is up to the faculty to decide what is an academic field and what is not.)

3) Williams would be better off with fewer majors. There is a certain critical mass that you need, at a small school, in terms of size for departments/majors. Of course, you don’t want them to be too large, like economics, but they shouldn’t be too small either. Did splitting Art History into three parts — Art History, Art Studio and Art History and Practice — really improve things? I have my doubts. The department could just as easily give majors different options for fulfilling their requirements.

4) Is it too soon to judge the split up of Environmental Studies into Environmental Science and Environmental Policy a failure? Oh, wait a second! The College fixed this in 2016 (pdf). You can now major (or concentrate) in Environmental Studies. This seems a much better organizational structure. I do, however, object to the major requiring 11 courses. Majors should be tighter, with no more than 9 courses. (If you can’t design a major in 9 courses, then you don’t have a well-enough defined academic field to offer a major in the first place.)

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Jim Reische provided this detailed information (pdf) about changes in majors over the last 30 years. Previous discussions here, here, here and here. Let’s discuss for four days. Day 3.

There has been a decrease in the percentage of “humanities” majors at Williams over the last 30 years. The percentage of Div I majors has decreased from 30% to 21% of all majors. The more humanties-esque majors in Div II have seen a similar decline. For example, the average number of history majors from 1986 to 1988 was 94. From 2015 to 2017 it was 54. As a percentage of all majors, the fall has been even more dramatic. Comments (with some repetition from a previous discussion):

1) In 50 years, these sorts of worries will seem as absurd and parochial as the worries 50 years ago about declining enrollment in Latin and Greek. That was a big deal, back in the day. But the decline didn’t stop and couldn’t (really) have been stopped. The same is true of the move away from, say, English and toward Stats/CS

2) Majors (especially since they do not include information about concentrations) are a rough measure of enrollments and faculty workload. I haven’t found any data, but it would hardly be surprising of the total percentage of humanities (broadly understood) course enrollments at Williams has gone from 30% to 20%, or even lower. If so, big deal! Students should take classes in what they want.

3) Don’t the faculty deserve lots of the blame for the decline in student interest in the humanities? Let’s focus on history, and look at the courses on offer this spring at Williams. Much of this is good stuff. Who could complain about surveys of Modern China, Medieval England or Europe in Twentieth Century? Not me! I also have no problems with courses on more narrow topics. Indeed, classes on Witchcraft, Panics and The Suburbs are all almost certainly excellent, and not just because they are taught by some of the best professors in the department. But notice what is missing: No more courses on war (now that Jim Wood has retired). No courses on diplomatic history (RIP Russ Bostert). No courses in the sort of mainstream US history topics — Revolutionary Period, Civil War — which would interest scores of students. The History Department has chosen the form of its own destructor: a refusal to offer traditional classes, especially in military and diplomatic history, that students want to take.

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Jim Reische provided this detailed information (pdf) about changes in majors over the last 30 years. Previous discussions here, here, here and here. Let’s discuss for four days. Day 2.

From 1986 to 2017, the number of students with at least one major in Division III (math and sciences) increased from 93 to 255. The biggest change in majors (and, presumably, course enrollments) over the last 30 years is the move toward Division III. That movement shows every sign of continuing into the future. Comments:

1) There is nothing (reasonable) that Williams could or should do about the changing nature of student preferences. If a student wants to major in Statistics instead of English, then Williams should let her. If scores of students want to make that switch — and that change in preferences seems likely to be permanent — then Williams should adjust its staffing accordingly.

2) Note that dramatic increase in math majors that started in the 1990s. Emeritus Professor Frank Morgan arrived about then and quickly rebuilt the math department/major into, perhaps, the most impressive LAC program in the country. You don’t go from 5 majors in 1986 to 70 in 2017 without doing something right. I think Morgan had more of an impact on Williams than almost any other professor of the last 30 years. If not him, then who?

3) Computer Science has increased in the last few years, but the real pressures have come from increased enrollments in the intro courses.

4) The biggest recentish news in Division III is the creation of the Statistics Major, the very first such major at a liberal arts college. EphBlog has long praised and championed this move. All hail Dick De Veaux! The number of majors in the last four years has gone from 0 to 2 to 12 to 28. Statistics is now a top-10 major at Williams! The good news is that statistics is a wonderful field, interesting in-and-of-itself and also probably the most career-enhancing major at Williams. The bad news is that Williams is not really staffed with enough statistics professors. The major has partially tackled this by increasing the math requirements, thereby hoping to decrease the number of majors. First, I dislike when such considerations affect requirements. Second, I am not sure if it will work that well. How many years until there are 50 statistics majors at Williams? I put the over-under at 3.

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Jim Reische provided this detailed information (pdf) about changes in majors over the last 30 years. Previous discussions here, here, here and here. Let’s discuss for four days. Day 1.

From 1986 to 2017, the number of students with more than one major increased from 79 to 228. This is the most impressive single statistic concerning the academic engagement of Williams students. (Previous related discussions here and here.)

1) Back in the day, double majoring was unusual, if not a little weird. Why take an extra set of 300/400 level courses in a second major — courses almost guaranteed to be difficult and time-consuming — when you have the pleasant option of sampling 100-level courses in a variety of interesting topics?

2) Now, double majoring is common, perhaps even expected among the top 25% of the class academically. (I would bet that there is a high correlation between Academic Rating and double majoring.) Good stuff! The more students taking serious 300/400 level classes, the better. Perhaps the ideal of a Williams “liberal arts” education is the student who majors in two fields from different divisions, e.g., Chemistry/English or Statistics/Art or Economics/History.

3) The 228 may actual underestimate the number of students studying two different fields in depth because it does not include students who add a concentration to their first major. For example, a student who majors in Math and gets a concentration in Africana Studies is doing Williams right.

4) We should be careful about claiming that the high number of double majors implies that Williams students are more academically serious than students at other schools. Williams makes double majoring easier than it is elsewhere because a) most majors require only 9 classes and b) our non-major requirements are easier to fulfill.

5) But ignore 4 for now. This is good news! The more double majors at Williams the better, and this almost tripling over the last 30 years is a wonderful indication of intellectual engagement among the students.

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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 78 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.


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 Dick Pregent ’76, Bill Couch ’79, Peter May ’79, 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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An anonymous faculty member writes:

My father was a laborer all his life. Our entire home life was shaped by his weekly shift postings: one week, 0700-1600, the next 1600-1200, and the third 1200-0700. My parents grew up and married during the Depression and became solid FDR adherents. So our household was a solid Democratic bastion. And when I came of age, I followed my parents’ lead, registered Democrat, and voted Democrat. And I remain a registered Democrat, perhaps out of familial or working-class-origin loyalty. But, please note, I haven’t voted Democratic in more than 30 years because of the Democrats’ profound leftist lunge and its betrayal of its former constituents, like my parents and me.

I mention this because current party affiliation is not necessarily a reliable indication of one’s political sentiments. I remain a registered Democrat, simply because of my family history. I can’t affiliate myself with RINOs and/or country-club Republicans. I’m a proud Deplorable. Ironically, we owe the detestable HRC for our name. Do you know that there is a small, quiet, but stalwart confederation of Deplorables among Williams faculty members, who not only deplore the rapid (does any other word apply?) Democratic/media attack on President Trump, but who also deplore the radical leftist policies instituted by presidents/deans/administrators of Williams College?

Are there really? I like to consider myself a friendly acquaintance — mostly via e-mail but also in person — of many (most?) of the non-liberal/progressive members of the faculty. I have only met one who thought highly enough of Trump to vote for him.

More importantly, why is this “confederation of Deplorables” so quiet? Many (all?) of them have tenure. Why not speak up? Recall:

With Richard Herrnstein, the late Harvard professor, he [Charles Murray] was about to publish The Bell Curve. There were early warnings that the co-authors would come in for a rough time of it. Murray was in the Herrnstein home, having a nightcap. And he said to the professor, “Exactly why are we doing this anyway?” Herrnstein recalled the day he got tenure, and how happy he was, thinking what it meant: For the rest of his life, he was free to do the work he loved at a place he loved. “I said to myself, there has to be a catch. And I figured out what it was: You have to tell the truth.”


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Williams is hiring an assistant general counsel.

We seek a collaborative, strategic, and intellectually agile attorney to serve as Assistant General Counsel (AGC), reporting to the General Counsel. The AGC will provide legal support involving myriad legal issues to a wide array of college offices and constituencies and will help manage and operate the college’s residential mortgage benefit program. Over time the AGC will develop the ability to represent college before local boards, commissions, and agencies in a variety of permitting, regulatory, and policy matters.

1) Every administrator hired is another faculty member not hired. We need to understand not just the seen — a nice new administrator who is doing her best to make Williams better — but also what is not seen — the junior professor not hired because her salary has gone to the administrator instead.

2) If we must hire a new administrator, we should do everything possible to make it the spouse of a current faculty member. You don’t need a law degree to do (almost) any aspect of the job outlined above. None if it is rocket science. A smart spouse could learn what he needed to learn over time. Some of the best administrators at Williams — Associate Provost Chris Winters ’95, Director of Institutional Research Courtney Wade — got their first job at the College with no relevant experience. By hiring them, Williams has made it much less likely that their spouses — Professors Amy Gehring ’94 and Brent Heeringa — will ever consider leaving.

3) Why not allow current faculty to take on this work? We have lamented, for years, the continuing decrease in faculty governance at Williams. There are a dozen or more faculty members who would like to be considered for senior administrator positions when they next open up. How are those professors to demonstrate their talent and industriousness? How are they to discover, before they get tapped as Provost, that they really want to get into administration?

The best plan is to give them part time work doing administrative type stuff, like representing the “college before local boards, commissions, and agencies.” They will learn whether or not they like administration. President Mandel will discover if they are any good at it. And it would not cost Williams a penny. Professors would still be responsible for their full teaching loads.

Ancient readers will recall that Williams used to have two “assistant provosts,” both drawn from the faculty. Now we have zero. The old way was better.

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Provost Dukes Love kindly shared the slides (pdf) from the presentation he gave on Saturday May 5 to the muckety-mucks at the Alumni Leadership event. Thanks! Dukes is EphBlog’s favorite member of the Williams Administration because he is so committed to transparency, as every real academic should be. (Provost Will Dudley ’89, on the other hand, refused to share his presentations from similar events.)

Lots of interesting material, like this chart:

Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 4.16.19 PM

Worth spending a few days going through in detail?

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To the JA’s for the class of 2022:

oakleyAt the 1989 Williams graduation ceremonies, then-President Francis Oakley had a problem. Light rain showers, which had threatened all morning, started midway through the event. Thinking that he should speed things along, and realizing that virtually no one knew the words to “The Mountains,” President Oakley proposed that the traditional singing be skipped.

A cry arose from all Ephs present, myself included. Although few knew the words, all wanted to sing the damn song. Sensing rebellion, President Oakley relented and led the assembled graduates and guests through a somewhat soaked rendition of the song that has marked Williams events for more than 100 years.

Similar scenes play themselves out at Williams gatherings around the country. At some of the Williams weddings that you will attend in the future, an attempt, albeit a weak one, will be made to sing “The Mountains.” At reunions, “The Mountains” will be sung, generally with the help of handy cards supplied by the Alumni Office. It is obvious that most graduates wish that they knew the words. It is equally obvious than almost all do not.

We have a collective action problem. Everyone (undergraduates and alumni alike) wishes that everyone knew the words — it would be wonderful to sing “The Mountains” at events ranging from basketball games to Mountain Day hikes to gatherings around the world. But there is no point in me learning the words since, even if I knew them, there would be no one else who did. Since no single individual has an incentive to learn the words, no one bothers to learn them. As Provost Dukes Love would be happy to explain, we are stuck at a sub-optimal equilibrium.

mountainsFortunately, you have the power to fix this. You could learn “The Mountains” together, as a group, during your JA orientation. You could then teach all the First Years during First Days. It will no doubt make for a nice entry bonding experience. All sorts of goofy ideas come to mind. How about a singing contest at the opening dinner, judged by President Mandel, between the six different first year dorms with first prize being a pizza dinner later in the fall at the President’s House?

Unfortunately, it will not be enough to learn the song that evening. Periodically over the last dozen years, attempts have been made to teach the words at dinner or at the first class meeting in Chapin. Such efforts, worthy as they are, have always failed. My advice:

1) Learn all the words by heart at JA training. This is harder than it sounds. The song is longer and more complex than you think. Maybe sing it between every session? Maybe a contest between JAs from the 6 first year houses? If you don’t sing the song at least 20 times, you won’t know it by heart. Don’t be a Lord Jeff and settle for only the first and last verses. Learn all four.

2) Encourage the first years to learn the song before they come to Williams. There are few people more excited about all things Williams than incoming first years in August. Send them the lyrics. Send them videos of campus groups singing “The Mountains.” Tell them that, as an entry, you will be singing the song many times on that first day.

3) Carry through on that promise! Have your entry sing the song multiple times that day. Maybe the two JAs sing the song to the first student who arrives. Then, the three of you sing if for student number 2. And so on. When the last student arrives, the entire entry serenades him (and his family). Or maybe sing it as an entry before each event that first day.

4) There should be some target contest toward which this effort is nominally directed. I like the idea of a sing-off between the 6 first year dorms with President Mandel as judge. But the actual details don’t matter much. What matters is singing the song over-and-over again before their first sunset as Ephs.

Will this process be dorky and weird and awkward? Of course it will! But that is OK. Dorkiness in the pursuit of community is no vice. And you and your first years will all be dorky together.

For scores of years, Ephs of goodwill have worked to create a better community for the students of Williams. It is a hard problem. How do you bring together young men and women from so many different places, with such a diversity of backgrounds and interests? Creating common, shared experiences — however arbitrary they may be — is a good place to start. Mountain Day works, not because there is anything particularly interesting about Stone Hill, but because we all climb it together.

Until a class of JAs decide as a group to learn the words themselves (by heart) during their training and then to teach it to all the First Years before the first evening’s events, “The Mountains” will remain a relic of a Williams that time has passed by.

But that is up to you. Once a tradition like this is started, it will go on forever. And you will be responsible for that. A hundred years from now the campus will look as different from today as today looks from 1918, but, if you seize this opportunity, Williams students and alumni will still be singing “The Mountains.”

Congratulations on being selected as a JA. It is a singular honor and responsibility.


David Kane ’88

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Harry makes some (obtuse) comments about faculty hiring:

it’s against most state laws I’m aware of for asking about one’s political registration. Also, I’ve never heard this asked in any faculty interviews. Folks are generally hired without asking or discussing political views.

It is also against state law to ask about race. And race is never “asked” about in faculty interviews. D’uh!

Again, you can be against caring about political diversity on the merits. That is a reasonable position. But all these claims that — even if we want to do it we can’t — are just nonsense. Almost any method that works with regard to racial diversity can be used to increase political diversity.

No one would ever ask you directly if you are a “Republican” just as no one now ever asks you directly if you are an “Hispanic.” They look for markers, for the emphasis you place on your ethnic heritage, for the claims you make — in your resume, your personal statement, your cover letter and your recommendation letters — about it. The same would apply for political diversity. Candidates interested in highlighting their politics would do so. Candidates who choose not to do so may safely be presumed to not be planning on being engaged in the campus conversation about politics. And that is OK! But Williams would have no more problem identifying and hiring (openly) politically diverse Ph.D.’s than it does identifying Hispanics.

Do you list political club membership on your resume? Do you volunteer to help Republican/Libertarian/Conservative non-profits? Have you spoken to such organizations? Are you a member of Heterodox Academy or the National Association of Scholars or the Federalist Society? Have you written op-eds or blog posts about your political views? Are you active, at your current university, in the conversation about political diversity? And so on.

During your campus interview, no one would ever ask something as stupid as “Are you Hispanic?” or “Are you a conservative?” That would probably be illegal and, even worse, would be rude. Instead, you will be asked open-ended questions about how you see yourself, outside of the classroom, participating in the Williams community, about how your background prepares you for that role, about what viewpoints you think might be missing. You then get to tell Williams anything you like.

Again, you can argue that political diversity is not important and that Williams should no more care about the politics of individual faculty members than it cares about their astrological sign. That is a defensible position. But the suggestion that Williams could not, if it chose to, easily increase political diversity among the faculty is just nonsense.

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When was the last time an Eph made Page Six, the New York Post‘s gossip page? Thursday!

Save Venice, but trash our $52 million Central Park co-op!

A billionaire blue blood financier let guests vandalize his fancy Upper East Side pad with graffiti while playing beer pong following a swanky society gala.

The glamorous Save Venice masquerade ball has become a hotter ticket than the Met Gala among New York’s elite.

Masked guests this year included Sienna Miller and too many princesses to count, including Maria-Olympia of Greece , Marie-Chantal of Greece and Saudi royal Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz.

But while an official Save Venice after-party was held at high-end eatery the Pool, we hear the place to be was a fun-filled bash at Wall Street investor Chase Coleman III’ s apartment at an East 66th Street co-op near Central Park, where guests were invited to vandalize the French plastered walls with cans of spray paint as they partied into the early hours.

Coleman — who’s a descendant of Peter Stuyvestant — and his wife, Stephanie, purchased the pad in 2016 for $52 million.

It is vacant, waiting to be redone by hot architect Peter Marino.

The couple will reportedly combine the 15-room abode with the two units they own a floor above.

Demolition starts this week, so they offered the walls as canvasses for the arty crowd.

“A select group migrated to this vacant apartment,” a source told Page Six. “All the lights were off, and people were spray-painting the apartment and playing beer pong all night.”

See children! The skills you learn at Williams — like petty vandalism and beer pong — will be very useful as you enter the corridors of power. Study them hard!

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Mitchell Langbert writes about the dramatic lack of political diversity at elite colleges and universities. Previous discussions here, here, here, and here. Langbert kindly shared the data (faculty_registration) for Williams. Let’s spend 3 days discussing this. Day 3.

Nicholas Goldrosen ’20 reported in January for the Record that:

Over the course of 2017, faculty and staff employed by the College contributed a total of $20,325.22 to candidates and committees in federal elections, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) disclosures. All of these contributions went to Democratic or Democrat-leaning candidates or committees. The vast majority of contributions were modest, and individuals often made multiple contributions over the course of the year.

In 2017, 76 individuals who listed their employers as “Williams College” or some subsidiary – and did not list their occupations as “student” – made a total of 1240 contributions in federal elections. Of the 76 people who made contributions, 43 were members of the faculty and 33 were employed as staff members.


1) Goldrosen fails to quote a single person in this story. Why? Reporting 101 is: Go out and talk to people and tell your readers what they say. There are faculty who are experts in US politics. Ask them questions! There are students involved in political campaigns and fund-raising. Interview them!

2) I asked Goldrosen to share the data with us. He never responded to my e-mail. Advice to our readers: Always respond to (non-spam) e-mails. The more people you network with, the better your career will be.

3) The FEC data is public. Should I spend sometime going through it?

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Winner to get a “Welcome to College Town” coffee cup with a purple bulldozer on it. Betting starts now, and ends in two weeks. Final results to be tallied on 30 September 2019. The rules are simple- the person who names what will be built (has to break ground by 30 September of next year) wins. Tie breaker is done by correct guess of “top three” (there are going to be over ten) of what will be destroyed/built in order of cost.


PTC bet, in order-

(1) New Art Museum.

(2) New Field House.

(3) The new dorm to replace soon to be demolished Garfield House (start of demolition = breaking ground).

Betting closes at 0815 on 30 May 2018.


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Mitchell Langbert writes about the dramatic lack of political diversity at elite colleges and universities. Previous discussions here, here, here, and here. Langbert kindly shared the data (faculty_registration) for Williams. Let’s spend 3 days discussing this. Day 2.

Recall our previous discussions about which Williams professors might be considered to be on the non-left-wing side of the faculty as a whole. Of those candidates, here are the ones that appear in Langbert’s data:

  name       sex   rank      dob        field       distance registration   age
1 Miller     M     Associate REDACTED   Mathematics    0.800 R             44.0
2 Paul       M     Professor REDACTED   Political      1.90  NP            50.0
3 McAllister M     Professor REDACTED   Political      2.20  NP            54.0
4 Kirby      M     Professor REDACTED   Psychology     1.90  NP            55.0
5 Marcus     M     Professor REDACTED   Political      0.400 D             75.0
6 Jackall    M     Professor NA         Sociology     NA     NR            NA  
7 Lewis      M     Professor NA         Art           NA     R             NA  
8 Strauch    M     Associate NA         Physics       NA     NR            NA  

UPDATE: See below.

Mathematics Professor Steve Miller is the only registered Republican on the Williams faculty. He is the “1” in the 132:1 ratio that Langbert reports.

Having only one Republican professor at Williams is about as bad as an alternate reality in which Williams had only one African-American professor. I am comfortable with people claiming that neither situation is a concern because Williams faculty teach in an unbiased fashion: you can’t tell from their lectures or their grading what their politics or race are. I am also comfortable with people claiming that both situations are a matter of great concern that the College should work to fix. I am uncomfortable with the current Williams view: We desperately need to increase racial diversity and we don’t need to worry about political diversity.

dcat asks what we should do. That is easy!

Williams could have the exact same set of policies about faculty political diversity as it has about faculty racial diversity. For example, Williams could keep track of (and report) on political diversity in the same way that it does racial diversity. It could insist that departments go out of their way to advertise positions in ways likely to come to the attention of politically diverse candidates. It could require (or strongly urge) departments — as it now does — to have at least one fly-out candidate who helps with political diversity. It could create positions for which the hiring pool is much more likely to be politically diverse. And so on.

This won’t make Williams 50/50 anytime soon, but it would quickly lead to a Williams with 10+ republican/libertarian/conservative faculty members, thereby (one hopes!) creating a very different political environment on campus.

UPDATE: I redacted birthdays by request. Although birthdays are public information (else how did Langbert find them), we like to stay on good terms with our faculty readers! Separately, Michael Lewis reports to EphBlog that he is a registered Republican in Williamstown. So, the ratio of Democrats to Republicans among the Williams faculty is 66:1. EphBlog gets results!

UPDATE II: Professor Miller writes:

I’ve held many political affiliations over the years, often due to what party’s primary I want to vote in. I was a registered Democrat in MA for awhile until the Affordable Care Act was passed. I view myself as a Conservative Libertarian.

Thanks for the clarification!

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Mitchell Langbert writes about the dramatic lack of political diversity at elite colleges and universities. Previous discussions here, here, here, and here. Langbert kindly shared the data (faculty_registration) for Williams. Let’s spend 3 days discussing this. Day 1.

Langbert writes:

In this article I offer new evidence about something readers of Academic Questions already know: The political registration of full-time, Ph.D.-holding professors in top-tier liberal arts colleges is overwhelmingly Democratic.

Key table:

Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 12.48.49 PM

Am I truly a right-wing nutjob for wanting Williams to have more than a single Republican faculty member? I hope not!

The data is very interesting, not least because it includes date of birth and distance (or residence) from Williams. Here are the youngest and oldest faculty:

   name      sex   rank      dob        field       distance registration   age
 1 Friedman  F     Professor 1987-12-25 Language       0.900 D             30.0
 2 Heggeseth F     Assistant 1986-05-23 Mathematics    2.00  D             31.0
 3 Smalarz   F     Professor 1986-08-08 Psychology     0.400 D             31.0
 4 Simko     F     Assistant 1984-09-21 Sociology      0.900 D             33.0
 5 Leight    F     Assistant 1984-11-15 Economics      0.200 NP            33.0
 6 Phelan    M     Assistant 1984-12-10 Economics      0.400 NP            33.0
 7 Blackwood F     Assistant 1984-06-08 Mathematics    0.600 D             33.0
 8 Johnson   M     Professor 1937-05-22 Art           11.4   D             80.0
 9 Graver    F     Professor 1936-08-17 English        1.30  D             81.0
10 Beaver    M     Professor 1936-07-16 History        0.400 NP            81.0
11 Dew       M     Professor 1937-05-01 History        1.00  D             81.0

Immediately, we see some problems with the data. Friedman and Smalarz were not professors at such a young age. In fact, (Nicole) Friedman does not really belong in the data set at all because she was not tenure-track. I have reported these issues to Langbert. Overall, however, the data looks very good to me. Do other people see any problems?

Here are the professors that live furthest away:

  name     sex   rank      dob        field     distance registration   age
1 Pye      M     Professor 1953-09-06 English       47.0 D             64.0
2 Merrill  F     Professor 1963-12-02 History       58.3 D             54.0
3 Ephraim  F     Assistant 1978-12-03 Political     69.8 D             39.0
4 Campbell F     Assistant 1981-03-06 Music        132   NP            37.0
5 Limon    M     Professor 1951-08-29 English      159   D             66.0

Do John Limon and Corrina Cambell really live more than 100 miles away? I have my doubts. Also note that some other professors (e.g., Singham) who I think live in different states are shown as living near by. So, I am not sure I would trust the distance data that much.

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None of us are concerned with students being “brainwashed” — although never forget the saga of Jennifer Kling ’98. The issue is political diversity. If racial diversity is important for the faculty, then why isn’t political diversity?

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