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Josh Mellon and Pier Friend

Josh Mellon and Pier Friend are wondering why you haven’t registered for the reunion yet.

Allay their fears. Register today.


Happy Mother’s Day! Any classmate

Happy Mother’s Day!

Any classmate whose wife/partner has 3 or more childdren and who hasn’t sent us a picture for posting, is a bad person.



Chris Jones’s Eph Blurb Comment:

Chris Jones’s Eph Blurb

Comment: Not all blurbs have words.


Note that Eph Blurbs do

Note that Eph Blurbs do not have to be long, see Nicole’s below, nor do they have to be in words, see Chris Jones’s coming this evening. But they should be here . . .

Both Nicole and Chris report that they coming to reunion. Presumably, Chris’s wife and my fellow philosophy major Cecilia Malm will be coming as well. With any luck, their daughter has already learned how to throw a frisbee (WUFO fans will recall that Chris was captain senior year) and will be able to teach my daughters.

I’ll take this as a sign that there are dozens of people who are coming but haven’t quite registered yet. If this means you, then register now. It will allow reunion impressario Jack Philips to sleep easier at night . . .



Nicole Melcher’s Eph Blurb Off

Nicole Melcher’s Eph Blurb

Off to Japan tomorrow for a week and will update afterward. Short story is I am Deputy Director for the Office of Japan at the U.S. Department of Commerce and work on U.S.-Japan trade issues. I have been in the Office of Japan since 1995. I just moved to Mount Pleasant about a block from the National Zoo and am awakened periodically by the gibbons (a kind of monkey).


One more week to register

One more week to register for the reunion before those pesky late fees kick in . . .


Ah, the old SU box

Ah, the old SU box combo…yeah, I tried it. When I moved back to Williamstown in the spring of 1991 to take a job in Jesup it was Spring Break. The place was pretty deserted so I gave it a try. 18-11-6 opened box 1246 just fine.


Of course, I had hoped

Of course, I had hoped at this time to be inundated by Eph Blurbs from the classmates attending the reunion. Alas, they must all be in the mail. I trust that no one is intimidated by the standard that Jody Abzug and Noreen Harrington have set. Just a few sentences about what you have been doing would be wonderful.

In the meantime, here is a piece of paper that may jog some memories.

I trust that they change these combinations every once in a while.

Am I the only one who, in the first few years after graduation, would occasionally try to open (successfully, I think) his SU Box?


A Sad Day

Sad to see that Gary Jacobsohn is leaving Williams for the University of Texas. I had Jacobsohn as a professor for Political Science 101 fall of freshmen year. I rememeber thing how cool it was to have the chair of the department as a professor. (Stephen Lewis, chair of the economics department at the time, was also my teacher for ECON 101.) It is simply inconceivable at a place like Harvard that a freshmen might know, and be known by, the chairs of two departments.

Jacobsohn, at least 18 years ago, did a great job in 101. His exams, a midterm and a final, were both masterpieces, clearly separating those who had done the reading from those who hadn’t while also forcing us to think hard about the issues in the course. His final was one of the few exams that I ever walked out of smarter than when I walked in. Don’t believe me? Well, jduge for yourself:

See here for the big version. Political science junkies will recongize the reference to “root method” as coming from Charles Lindblom’s classic article, “The Science of ‘Muddling Through'”. See a synopsis here. Looking back, the reading list for 101 was remarkably well-chosen, credit for which might go to the department as a whole as well as Jacobsohn in particular.

So, on one hand, I am sad to see Jacobsohn go. On the other, I think that being a Williams professor, attacking with relish and verve the classroom discussions that form the core of a Williams education, at least outside of Division III, is something that, after 30 years, one might grow tired of. So, to the extent that Professor Jacobsohn is looking for new challenges, I can only wish him well. If every Williams professor were as skilled as he at the art of teaching, the College would be a better place.


Jody Abzug’s Eph Blurb For

Jody Abzug’s Eph Blurb

For better or worse, as co-head agent for these past five years, the class of ’88 has learned quite a bit about my recent life, but never one to pass up an opportunity to spin a yarn I’ll go back to the summer of 1988. Like many classmates wanting to stall the inevitable “what to do with my life,” I chose graduate school for an advanced degree in art history. To get a leg up I spent that summer taking classes at Queens College and living at home. September found me at the University of Delaware in lovely (?) Newark, pronounced New Ark. My Williams experience prepared me little to be a # for the next years as a grad student, but I loved my coursework in American Art and most of my professors; and hey, I got to party with Richie Gannon (Quarterback of the AFC Championship Oakland Raiders) who was a recent Blue Hen alum. Yup only I (and Thayer Tolles ’87) could go from a purple cow to a blue hen [of course both beat a Lord Jeff any day.]

Following my first year of grad school I entered the real world working as a program coordinator for Art Horizons International, a behind-the-scenes, very upscale arts and cultural tour company. I worked my way up to vice president and left in July 1993 to finish masters thesis. I graduated from Delaware in January 1994. My four plus years at AHI were filled with Broadway premieres and post show talks with cast and crew, dinners, lunches and breakfasts at all the best restaurants, visits to artists’ studios and art collectors homes, behind-the-scenes tours at museums and galleries, etc.,

In September of 1991 I met the man of my dreams, and now husband Jim on a weekend visit to Choate Rosemary Hall. Jim had been teaching at Choate since 1988 and had been teaching since graduating from Holy Cross in 1983. My culturally Jewish parents were a bit concerned. In November 1993 I entered full-time the world of nonprofit fundraising. I began my career in corporate and foundation relations at Columbia University school of Law. , and left there after 18 months to start a foundations department at Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist organization of America (my parents were psyched!). I worked at Hadassah until June 1996 when Jim and I were married in a wonderful ceremony presided over by the God Squad — a rabbi and a priest (my parents lost their concern.) Following our wedding I found myself once again living on a campus, but this time a boarding high school, a very different experience.

I was a development officer at Wesleyan University which gave me a zillion more reasons to love Williams and left to become Director of Development at Hamden Hall Country Day School. My tenure at HHCDS was short-lived when I gave birth to twins in January 1999. Back in September before my first sonogram I had told a very pushy real estate agent on Cape Cod that my husband and I needed more time to decide on buying a second house on the Cape because I could be carrying twins. Be careful what you say, lo and behold, one week to the day I learned I was having twins. Jeremy and Jordana came along and completely altered my life forever for the better. Nothing prepares you for motherhood, especially when you have two (or more, my hats off to Teresa). I loved being able to be home full-time for the first two years, and have slowly returned to the fundraising world as a consultant. In 2001 I earned my certification as a fund raising executive. What began as writing a few proposals for a small theatre company has mushroomed into multiple tasks for multiple clients. Presently I am the Director of the Campaign for Neighborhood Music School, a grant writer for Creative arts Workshop and the Eli Whitney Museum, and a researcher for a book about New Haven artists.
My life is extraordinarily full. I am thrilled to say I am still in very close contact with Lisa Buxbaum and through the last decade have remained close with Sonja Lengnick, Helen Curtis, Nora Harrington, Jean Fox Hooks, Janet Mansfield, Jean Janson Fulkerson, Katie Gerber Kennedy, Sharon Burke, Annie Cordova, Rick Fearon, Kim Rich, Ellen Chase Salzman, Brooks Foehl, Katie Kessler and thanks to my involvement with the Alumni Fund I have periodically been in contact with at least 100 other classmates.

I look back and realize the past 15 years have flown by because they have been so wonderfully filled with love.


Ben Miller has sent in

Ben Miller has sent in this update on how the registrations are looking:

Big surge in the last week (well, big relative to where we were, we still have a long way to go) :-)

Updates as of 5/7/03

46 alums
77 adults total
56 kids
2 babysitters

Some basic stats:
Of the 46 alums who’ve registered so far,
29 sent in postcards saying they were LIKELY to attend 63%
3 sent in postcards saying they were POSSIBLY attending 7%
14 hadn’t sent in postcards at all 30%

There are still 41 alums who sent in Likely cards who haven’t registered. There are still 26 alums who sent in Possible cards who haven’t registered.

We’re basically on-track with our ‘guestimate’ of how many folks would come that didn’t send in any postcards, but we’ve just seen a lot lower registration to date of the folks that indicated that it was likely or possible that they would come. As of now, 59% of people (41 / 70) who sent in Likely cards haven’t registered and 90% of people who sent in possible cards haven’t registered (26 / 29). Our assumption was that 80% of the Likely’s and 50% of the Possibles would show up).

With any luck, there will be a surge of Eph Blurb submissions to the blog that will cause dozens more classmates to register . . .


For the 25th Reunion at

For the 25th Reunion at Williams, it is traditional to put together a “book” with a picture of each classmate and her family along with a paragraph or two of what they have been doing for the last quarter century. These blurbs run the gamut from dry resumes of jobs and dates to fond recollections of undergraduate life and adventure to philosophical musings on life its own self. The best advice that I have heard about these missives is that one is well advised to go for total honesty.

In any event, following Nora Harrington’s fine example below, we will be using this blog to collect blurbs from anyone who will send us one, whether or not you are coming to reunion. Of course, some of the updates that people have sent in already fit this bill, but we are eager for all interested to “revise and extend” their earlier remarks. I will also be doing my best to cajole/coerce the members of the reunion organizing committee into participating. People who have already registered for the reunion can expect a spam e-mail from me any day now . . .

My Blurb

After Williams graduation, I spent the summer hanging out at Jake House and making lunches for my then-girl-friend-now-wife Kay (Fang) Kane ’89. She was working on her thesis research and I managed to get through most of Robert Ludlum’s collected ouevre. The summer was filled with enough motorcycle rides and sunsets to last a lifetime. One of our favorite tricks was to watch the sunset from Williamstown, ride the motocycle up Blair Road, watch the sunset go behind the mountains again, and then ride up the base of Mt. Williams to watch our third sunset of the evening. It was an idyllic time, perhaps because we had no money and no money worries.

That fall, I went off to the Marine Corps. Of the handful of good decisions that I made at Williams, joining the Marines was one of the best. For the most part, it was an accident. The Marines ran (and still run) a program where they say to college students, in essence, “Hey! You’re an idiot. You have nothing to do this summer. Come down to officer boot camp. We’ll kick the living bull crap out of you, pay you a decent salary and then send you back to college. It’s like Outward Bound, except for tough guys. There is no further obligation. Once you graduate, you can become a Marine Officer, but if, instead, you want to be an investment banker, you’ll at least have a great line on your resume.” I signed up, and despite my mom’s attempts to pay Mark Solan and Blake Robison to talk me out of it, with no intention of anything more than a summer adventure. I had not even considered ROTC or a military academy. But, summer after junior year, I made it through boot camp and came back to Williams with a slightly more . . . uhhh . . . energetic vision of my role as right wing campus provocateur. I also fell in love with the Marine Corps. The details are too lengthy for this blurb, but I knew that I would never have another chance at the Marines if I passed up on this opportunity. I signed the paperwork at the War Memorial on top of Mt Greylock fall of senior year.

Post Williams, my Marine Corps career was uninspired at best. I spent time in Virginia, Florida and Mississippi. I attended flight school and got within 6 months of graduating, but was washed out for medical reasons. The highlight of my service was landing a jet aircraft solo on the aircraft carrier USS Lexington. Of course, I wish that my time in the Marines had been filled with more derring-do, but it was an honor to have served.

Throughout my Marine Corps service, I visited Kay, who was first a senior and then a medical school student in Boston virtually every week-end. Almost my entire income went to American Airlines. But it was money well spent. In 1991, I moved to Boston, taught all sorts of classes for Stanley Kaplan and applied to a variety of graduate schools. I ended up enrolling for a Ph.D. in Political Economy and Government at Harvard. Kay and I were married in 1993. From 1993 to 1997, we served as “tutors” — more or less JA’s for upperclassmen in Eliot House at Harvard. I had wanted to be a JA at Williams, but never had the chance. Being a tutor was a marvelous deal: hang out, argue philosophy, play intramural soccer. I taught some fun classes and still keep in touch with a handful of my students. Academic life, alas, was a big shock. I thought that everyone was more or less like me: getting their professor’s union card so that they could go and teach at a place like Williams. Alas, most of my peers cared little for students and less about undergraduate education. It was a rude awakening.

After a bit of back and forth, I graduated and ended up in finance. I am a portfolio manager at Geode Capital. The fancy terminology for what I do is quantitative investing in long/short global equities on a 1-6 month time horizon. The simple version is that I try to figure out if the share price of IBM is going up or down. If it is going up, I buy it. If it is going down, I sell it. Being a portfolio manager fits my personality quite well. It is a zero-sum game with a clear score card. Every year (quarter, month, week, day, hour and minute) my boss knows precisely how I am doing. He does not care how I dress, how I talk, where I went to school or who my Daddy is. All he cares about (more or less) is performance. I enjoy being judged by objective criteria, but, truth be told, the psychological pressure of being constantly measured is not for everyone. On many days, it is not for me. Those wondering if there is any social value in my niche may consider me to be the whiphand of global capitalism. I (try to) buy companies (thereby increasing their share price and access to capital) that are doing better than other people think and sell companies that are doing worse. If I am right, the rest of the market catches up with me in the near future, though my decisions have helped to move the market in that direction, thus making the market more efficient. Unfortunately, I am also right about 54% of the time, at best.

Of course, what I really want to do is teach philosophy at Williams, play intramural soccer and argue with smart people about the issues of the day. Alas, that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. I keep my hand in academics to some extent. I taught a class last fall, attend the occasional seminar and am a voracious reader of the academic literature on security valuation. I also hire undergraduate interns (5 this summer) to work for me. My boss and my wife think that this is mainly so that I can have a seminar to teach each day, but I am convinced that the students do great work for us. This blog is also a way to keep in touch with the academic world.

For the most part though, I am probably where Willa Morris and KK Roeder would have predicted I would be during our long walks 19 years ago. I live in the suburbs. I drive an SUV. I coach my daughter’s soccer team. The highlight of my day is coming home to Michaela (7), Cassandra (4) and Kay (35). Most every evening finishes with story time. We are on book 3 of the Chronicles of Narnia and look forward to the next Harry Potter.

And that is surely enough. Please send in your own Eph Blurb. Your classmates want to know what you have been doing the last 15 years . . .


Nora (Noreen) Harrington was kind

Nora (Noreen) Harrington was kind enough to send me all sorts of excellent advice about the blog. Noreen gave me good advice 15 years ago, and she gives me good advice today. More importantly, however, is the following update on what she has been doing. Noreen and I last saw each other on Mt. Auburn Street in Cambridge a decade or more ago. She writes:

I just about remember that we did meet on the street in Cambridge quite a few years ago. Soon after that, I embarked on what has felt like a very long career in the non-profit world here in Boston, doing fundraising for a whole slew of social service organizations. While it’s been great to work with so many great organizations, I’m burnt out on asking people for money (don’t think I can be a class agent again for a very long time), so these days I’m working part-time until inspiration strikes to do something else. I’m one of the secretly un-ambitious folks that Williams has produced… come on, I know there are more of us out there!

I’m living in Jamaica Plain (the crunchy, granola neighborhood of Boston) with my partner of three years. We’ve been renovating an old Victorian house that we bought (with 4 apartments in it!) and now that it’s almost done, we’re going to go help gentrify another neighborhood… Dorchester (which should fit my Irish blue-collar roots very well).

Life is great and we’re preparing for our commitment ceremony to be held this fall in our Episcopal church. We’ve managed to convince ourselves that getting married is more important than adding a sun-porch to our new house… although, we get a little wistful when we talk about that sun-porch!

I see a lot of Lisa Buxbaum, who had been a fabulous roommate a few years ago in Cambridge. I also see a ton of Ed Weiss… Ed was an entry-mate in Morgan East… who knew he’d be such a giant part of my life almost 20 years later. I miss Bennett Lee since he and his wife, Eun, moved to Atlanta. I’m still close with Helen Curtis, who’s doing very cool glass-art in Seattle (I’m going to try to get some web-sites that show her work and send them to you for the blog) and with Maureen Kelleher (we’ve been friends since high school) and all my old rugby pals (Sonja, Janet, Jody, Katie, Jean, etc.) pop up from time to time. I try to see Wolfie (who is known as Katherine now) about once a year when I’m in NY and I’ve done my best to
convince her to come to reunion.

I’m hoping to make it to reunion myself… and, if I do, I’ll look forward to discussing weighty matters with you over a beer! Thanks for all the blogging…


1) All you members of the reunion organizing committee who have failed to send in updates on your life, be ashamed! Each of you should do as Nora has done. How else are we to convince people to attend the reunion if we do not tell them a little something about the people that they will meet there?

2) If my own experience is any guide, marriage is a much better deal than a sun porch. Although a sun porch would be nice . . .

3) I promise that there will be few if any weighty matters discussed at reunion, but my adorable daughters are eager to learn some rugby moves from you and your buddies.


For inveterate web surfers like

For inveterate web surfers like me, the College provides a wealth of interesting reading possibilities. Of course, it takes a fair amount of bopping around to find the good stuff, but this is more a feature than a bug of the process. Today’s link is to the discussion papers at the “Williams Project on the Economics of Higher Education”, the WPEHE. (I wonder how they pronounce that acronym?) For those who don’t know, the WPEHE:

began in the summer of 1989 with a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. From the outset, the aim of the Project has been to do studies of the economics of colleges and universities that meet high analytical standards while staying close to the institutional realities and policy concerns that motivate interest in this sector. We intended that the research be relevant to managers and policy makers, as well as scholars.

The WPEHE is a nice example of how a small college like Williams can gather resources to both provide funding for its professors as well as research opportunties for its students.

Some of the results are even fun to think about and judge against your own experiences. For example,

The results suggest that, for two of the three schools used, students in the middle of the SAT distribution do somewhat worse in terms of grades if they share a room with a student who is in the bottom 15 percent of the SAT distribution. Students in the top of the SAT distribution appear often not to be affected by the SAT scores of their roommates.

So, instead of trying to get my daughters into the Williams C entry, should they be fortunate enough to attend Williams, I should be doing my best to ensure that their roommates don’t have bad SAT scores.


George Tolley claims that he

George Tolley claims that he “should know better than to debate with someone who controls the medium (and therefore the message?),” but he was still kind enough to send in these follow ups on our running discussion about admissions at Williams. George writes (with my comments interspersed):

Dave, you give me some credit, and yet I think that you don’t give me enough credit (when it suits your rhetorical position?).

First, perhaps we have a fundamental disagreement over the purpose of racial diversity on campus. In my opinion, so long as the mere fact of race in this country is a reason for people to be separated and treated differently, then it is a reason for people to be thrown together on campus. I recognize this as the-chicken-and-the-egg: who stops basing decisions on race first — schools or society at large? That’s a tough one, and I don’t have the knowledge, background, experience or time to debate it effectively.

Race does matter in this country, but I suspect that we disagree about how much it matters. In any event, recall that our precise diagreement is about whether or not my mixed race daughters should get preference over your non-mixed race sons. For all practicle purposes, my daughters are not “treated differently” than your sons in the America of 2003. Indeed, many people who see them don’t even realize that they are mixed race! (Actually, one daughter could probably “pass” and one couldn’t.)

If I had fallen in love with and married a Williams woman of African, as opposed to Chinese, ancestry then this would not be as true. Indeed, to the extent that any ethnic box checking is reasonable in the Williams admissions process of today, a preference for black applicants would be the least objectionable. I still think that people over-estimate how differently 17 year olds — at least the 17 year olds who are educationally and economically on the path to a Williams application — are treated based on the color of their skin.

But, at least when it comes to my daughters, it is simply untrue to say that they have been “separated and treated differently” from the sort of students who populate the Williams campus today. Indeed, by the time that they apply to Williams, the proportion of young women of mixed race ancestry from educated, affluent families will be much greater than their proportion in the larger society. Providing them with affirmative action (with regard to your sons) would be the functional equivalent of providing a Jewish applicant with this advantage. It is neither needed nor warranted.

You also ask, why use race as a proxy for a particular life experience, when the admissions office could simply use that life experience itself? In some instances, such as your (unfair) example comparing your daughters to a Chinese immigrant, it should be a simple matter for the admissions office to recognize the difference in the richness in cultural heritage, simply by comparing elementary school transcripts. I reiterate: “I trust the admissions people at Williams to assign a degree of preference to that element of their application that adequately balances the multitude of competing interests that come into play.”

Why is my example unfair? Indeed, an even better one would involve a Chinese immigrant from a place like Vietnam or Indonesia or any of the many countries in which the Chinese diaspora are discriminated against, both formally and informally.

I stand second to none in my admiration of the skill and dedication of the people in the Williams admissions office, and I certainly hope that they will recall these kind words in 10 years. I also suspect that, even though George thinks that my daughters deserve an advantage over his sons, the Williams admissions office won’t agree. My daughters won’t get an advantage because Williams will, based on merit, have as plenty of mixed raced students. Their race won’t affect their prospects.

I still object, as a matter of principle, to the college’s bean counting. Consider a reprentative quote: “And the community of students is becoming increasingly diverse. In the Class of 2006 alone, 27 percent of students identified themselves as black, Latino or of Asian descent, and 6.5 percent are from countries outside the United States. No entering class in Williams history has been as diverse.”

This is the sort of thinking that I find offensive. What if the class of 2007 looks just like the like the class of 2006, except that they removed 10 students who looked like George’s sons and replaced them with 10 that looked like my daughters? Would this new class, with 29% “minority” be more “diverse”? I don’t think so. It follows that the College’s claims to increasing diversity should be taken with a grain of salt. One of the problems with ethnic bean counting is that it makes it too easy for the College to claim increasing diversity without actually having achieved it in any sort of substantive manner. Non-white does not equal diverse.

But in other instances, can you see that it might be much more difficult to parse out important life experiences (e.g., achieving success despite having been the victim of discrimination in housing or employment). As a practical matter, how does an admissions office identify students with such valuable but intangible assets? There are only so many experiences that one can cram into even a well-written essay.

And what about the diversity of opinions? Some opinions are not politically correct, and others might be considered radical or dangerous, and as a result these opinions are never expressed on a college admissions application. Sometimes, I suspect that teenagers have such opinions, but they don’t know that they have them, or how to express them effectively. Should the diversity of such opinions simply be ignored as irrelevant to the college admissions process?

Of course not. I never argued this. Indeed, I think that Williams could be a lot more diverse on this metric.

And isn’t race just as legitimate a proxy for those opinions as anything else?

No. No. No. A thousand times no. Race is a horrible proxy for diversity of opinion and experience. Fortunately, the College has access to a wealth of information that matters as much if not more than race, starting with the applicant’s high school. In terms of real diversity, I would be much more interested in how many students come from families with incomes below the 10th percentile or attended high schools from which fewer than 25% of the students went on to college. I can imagine a case for giving applicants like this a preference over George’s sons. I can not see a case for so favoring my daughters.

I would also put a lot more credence in the College’s claims of increasing diversity if they were to provide statistics on these sorts of measures.

And what about the issue of future life experience? Does the college have an interest in training leaders, and if so, then isn’t it just possible that your daughters (even them!) could be role models in this country in ways that my sons never could be, simply by virtue of (the accident of) their gender and racial makeup? And in that case, shouldn’t the College pursue your daughters, and others like them, to fill some proportion of the admitted population?

No. While it would be great if the College could train future presidents, cure cancer and implement world peace, I would be happy if it were to just focus on (and succeed at) one goal: To provide the best liberal arts undergraduate education on Earth.


I used the WSO advice

I used the WSO advice page to ask a question about this blog. They suggested:

Email your classmates. Most of you fogies are probably on the web by now. ;) You might also put something about your blog into the alumni review — people read their class notes. Beyond that, get your friends interested, and try to get them to pass the word on to other alumns they know. If visitors can post to your blog, you might consider a section where people can write about what’s new in their lives. That would certainly generate interest for a reunion.


1) I realize that the “;)” indicates that the child-writer is joking, but, thinking back to when I was 20, I certainly thought of a man of mature age (37) as closer to fogie-land than he was to me.

2) Frequent blog visitor Mike Harrington has promised a mention in his next column.

3) I am not smart enough to get a comments section working.

4) I have meant to try something along the last piece of advice for some time now. Recall our short-lived “I remember feature . . .”.


Given his previous comments on

Given his previous comments on ethnic box checking, I asked George Tolley if he felt that my daughters should be given preference over his sons by the Williams admissions office. For those who don’t know, George and I, while not the two brightest stars in Carter House firmament, were smart enough to marry wonderful women from the class of 1989. Although both Kay and Kirsten are as American as apple pie, Kay (my wife) is of Chinese descent while Kirsten is of German ancestry — my guess, on the basis of Kirsten’s maiden name along with her blond hair and blue eyes. George replied as follows. I (unfairly!) interspersed my comments below. Of course, if I were really smart/geeky, I would be able to set up this blog with a proper comments section, but that will have to await the summer.

Let me be clear (and equally provocative): Yes, I do.

Further, I trust the admissions people at Williams to assign a degree of preference to that element of their application that adequately balances the multitude of competing interests that come into play. Thus, your daughters may get a large boost, because of a perceived need in that class year to check that particular box; or they may receive only an infinitessimal boost, because of the relative surplus of mixed-race marriages in our generation. In either instance, the admissions office can and should have the discretion to make those judgments — both to improve the class and to improve the four-year educational journey of the students offered admission.

George may be my buddy and ex-roommate, but I find this delusional. In what meaningful way will the race of my daughters — the shape of their eyes, the pigment of their skins — effect the education of their classmates at Williams? How will it change what they write in their papers or say in their classes or through out for discussion during the late night bull sessions? The answer, of course, is that it won’t. Pigmentation, in and of itself, does not matter.

George will respond that, of course, he (and the admissions office) is not interested in pigmentation for its own sake. He (and they) care about the experiences that are correlated with that pigmentation. And, certainly, my daughters have something of an exposure to Chinese culture. They eat Dim Sum. They get “lucky money” in red envelopes on Chinese New Year. But these attributes are about as important to who they are as my father’s preference for green ties on St Patrick’s Day is to who he is.

And that is the difference between ethnic box checking (EBC?) and meaningful diversity. An 18 year old who immigrated from China when she was 10 and speaks Chinese at home to her parents might (might!) deserve some sort of preference over George’s sons in applying to Williams. Such a woman would add more diversity of opinion and world view to a Williams classroom than my own daughters would, charming as they might otherwise be. To argue that my daughters deserve a preference over George’s sons — My but their eyes are so unsually shaped! And look at the color of their skin! — is to care more about appearence than substance.

In either instance, I approach the issue without believing that “getting into Williams” is the be-all and end-all that getting into the University of Michigan seems to have been for the plaintiffs in their case. Living with crushing disappointment is a valuable lesson — one that some of those Groton kids probably needed more than actually getting into an Ivy school. After all, I didn’t get into most of the Ivy schools where I applied, but I landed on my feet and turned out okay.

Mainly because you were smart enough to marry Kirsten! ;-)

Correspondingly, I fully expect that my boys will be better writers, clearer thinkers, happier people, and more comfortable with diversity or whatever after their college experience (as I certainly was), whether they attend Williams or Swarthmore or the University of Maryland (in this, perhaps I display a bias — I do expect my sons to attend college somewhere).

On top of that, I join those who believe that diversity of opinion and experience is a good thing in higher education. And in a country where the precise thing that would disadvantage my sons in college admissions grants them an advantage in virtually every other aspect of their lives, I add ethnic diversity to the list.

Perhaps George and I agree more than we disagree. Diversity of opinion and experience is good. But the experiences of my daughters is, for most practical purposes, no different from the experiences of George’s sons. Williams parents. Surburban living. Good schools. Soccer teams. Trips to Disney World. Given that, why should Willams favor my daughters?


Looks like Jack Phillips and

Looks like Jack Phillips and Cindy Nye (now Dr Jackson), with Mac Hines in the background. And the prize, Dave??


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