Currently browsing the archives for October 2003

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Donations

It is nice to see College professors involved in national politics. According to the Transcript, Political Science Professor George Marcus was the biggest donor to John Kerry’s campaign in Berkshire County, having given $3,000 this quarter. Chemistry Assistant Professor Mark Schofield gave $300 to Howard Dean.

Those who want to do their own research on the political giving habits of people associated with Williams College can try entering “Williams College” (without any quotes) here. Schofield’s donation is not listed, presumably because of timing issues.

There might be a good Record article in here somewhere. I would wager that the Williams faculty, as a group, will contribute much more to Democratic candidates/causes than to Republican ones.

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Rumor

There is a new campus webzine (on-line magazine, for all you older readers) called the Williams Rumor. It is “dedicated to encouraging conversation, identifying common interests, providing feedback, and fostering a community of ideas.” Alas, it does not (yet) have permalinks so there is no way to link directly to particularly interesting articles. However, the very first article, “10 things to do if you get a homophobic email” by Alexandra Grashkina ’04 is so good that I can’t resist quoting the entire piece.

1. Homophobic opinions are part of our campus life and it is better that people speak them out rather than bottle them up inside their homophobic self. So, next time are told that you will go to hell, take it as a friendly expression of different opinions.

2. DO NOT, under any circumstances, tell other people who sent you the email: they might hate and ostracize the person who called you a faggot instead of patting him on the shoulder and giving him candy as they duly should. After all, if someone offends you via email, you are not supposed to tell other people at all.

3. Think about how you provoked the email. I mean, you played porn at the Queer Bash. No other groups on campus do that. I mean, think about it: if the Garfield Republican Club had played porn, they would not get away with it.

4. Remember that the person who sent you the email is not the problem. The problem is that homophobia does exist in all of American society and individuals are not to be punished. It is kind of like global warming, it’s everybody’s problem.

5. Remember those chalkings you wrote all over campus? Well, not everybody likes them. Even some gay people do not. And you are not supposed to write stuff people do not like (unless it’s a homophobic statement, of course)

6. Now that this person has sent you an offensive email instead of bottling up their feelings about homosexuality, you can try to change their opinion. So when they say “You disgust me,” you can say, “But I like you,” for example.

7. You should welcome people’s opinions about your sexuality. In fact, you should urge all of campus to send you one and tell you what they think.

8. You should apologize to the sender for making his name known to the community.

9. You should keep watching porn but only when you get together with the Garfield republicans.

10. And if you write chalkings, next time put, “Excuse us if you don’t like it, but we, oh, well, we are gay.”

11. For more tips, read the Record.

Of course, to get some of these references, you need to have read the coverage in the Record. Number 4 had me laughing out loud.

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There is so much interesting

There is so much interesting stuff in this week’s Record that it is hard to know where to begin. Moreover, I still haven’t finished going through all the material from last week’s issue. In any event, a nice place to begin is with Aidan’s thoughts on standards of conduct at Williams. Aidan concludes that:

Williams is teaching us a very dishonest lesson: the content of your beliefs doesn’t matter as long as you keep your mouth shut, your smile fixed and your trite banalities close at hand. William Blake once said, “opposition is true friendship,” and how can we grow if we are afraid to disagree? Free speech might sometimes be uncomfortable or even offensive, but it prevents Williams from becoming a dead community, one that does not tolerate dissent.

The whole article is worth reading. Of course, some opinions have always been more equal than others at Williams. It is hard to worry too much about this when the editor of the Record is an out of the closet conservative, but the cases of Pritchard and Lucien are still important. Any disciplinary action that the College takes against them, especially Lucien, could not help but to have a chilling effect.

Finley’s concerns are further evidence, as if any were needed, that the intellectual life of the College would be richer if there were more ideological diversity within the faculty.

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Charitable Giving

Helen Ouellette, Vice President for Administration and Treasurer, was kind enough to provide this summary of the College’s charitable giving:

The past year’s contributions include $250,000 to the high school to save teaching positions that, even with the override that was voted, would have been lost due to the drop in state funding; $16,000 to the ambulance service (which Williams students tend to monopolize!); and $15,000 awarded competitively in Olmstead grants to local teachers for curricular and professional development. As you know, we also announced last week a $1 million contribution to the North Adams Regional Hospital, though that will be paid out over a number of years.

Because we are ourselves a public charity, we can only direct the money we steward outside the College if such a contribution is in support of our core mission of education. Consequently such gifts tend to be to local schools, the hospital, and core civic infrastructure, all of which are vital to our ability to recruit and retain the quality of people we need. This usually plays out in the press as philanthropy, but its actual motivation is a narrow self-interest in the needs of Williams.

Thanks to Helen for so quickly providing this run down. It seems like almost everyone that I deal with at the College is kind and competent and quick to answer my questions.

I am somewhat mollified by this information. If the College is spending less than, say, $500,000 per year on charity, out of an operating budget of over $100 million, then there is nothing outlandish going on. Gifts to the ambulance service are more of an operating expense than a charitable gift.

At the same time, I simply do not believe that these gifts are: “vital to our ability to recruit and retain the quality of people we need.” The College hires two sorts of people: those who already live in the area and those who need to be induced to move there. The latter are overwhelmingly faculty.

Those already in the region have made the choice about the costs and benefits living in a place like Williamstown. Although it is nice for them if the College spends its endowment on making their local hospital better — just as it would be nice for them if the College spent money on better roads, nicer parks, more police officers and every other item near and dear to residents of any town — there is no benefit to the College per se in doing so.

The (mostly junior) faculty that the College is recruiting to come to Williams are, in general, so thankful to have a tenure track job that the issue of the quality of the local hospital is essentially irrelevant. Moreover, those that have options other than Williams are much more likely to be concerned about Williams’ isolation, and the effect that this has on things like partner employment opportunities, than about NARH.

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Aidan sent in

Aidan sent in these comments on Williams’ contribution to North Adams Regional Hospital (NARH):

I think you underestimate the real value of NARH’s contribution to the College Community. Without the patient efforts of hospital staffers Thursday and Saturday nights, I’m sure Williams would have some alcohol related fatalities, and maybe even would have lost a couple prefrosh this year. So, 1 million dollars is a small price to pay for a clear conscience, and who knows, better stomach pumps might benefit all the community, not just college kids who can’t hold their liquor. In any case, 1 million dollars is a good deal less than the wrongful death lawsuit that would result from an alcohol-related fatality.

To be honest, I can’t quite tell if Aidan’s comments are serious or satirical or both. If the former, the key point is that, even if Williams didn’t contribute, there would still be a NARH with an emergency room and stomach pumps. The probability of an alcohol related fatality and/or a wrongful death lawsuit is not meaningful influenced by this contribution.

But, again, the question is one of scale. There is a temptation in any organization with significant financial resources, like Williams, to find too many worthwhile projects to spend money on. If a hospital is so important, why shouldn’t Williams give $2 million or $10 million or a $100 million? To my mind, the best answer is that Williams should give no cash gift to ant charity greater than, say, $100,000.

It goes without saying, but I’ll mention it anyway, that Williams has an affirmative obligation to be open and forthright in its giving. Once I can determine how much the College gives and to whom the College gives it, I’ll post the information here.

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It is nice to see

It is nice to see that Jim Duquette ’88 has been hired as general manager of the New York Mets after having served as interim GM for the last few months. For those non-baseball fans out there, the general manager is, for most purposes, the person who runs the team. The article notes that:

Jim Duquette started the remaking of the Mets this past summer, dumping several big contracts and bringing some minor league players up to the big club to see if those players can cut it.

“I’ve been using the word retooling. In our market, in New York, I’m not sure there’s patience to rebuild,” Duquette said earlier this summer. “Rebuilding is more of a four or five-year plan. We have a plan for this year and next year. That’s what I’m hoping to [implement].

“We need to get younger, get more speed and get a blend of players who can play in New York.”

This is worrying. Of course, Jim Duquette knows much more about baseball than I ever will, but a central point made by the Sabermetricians — baseball number crunchers — is that speed is an overrated ability in baseball. But since almost all my knowledge on this topic comes from Moneyball, I’ll defer to Jim’s judgment.

As a side note, there is great material here for a senior thesis, in either economics or math/statistics. I’d wager that Jim, being a nice guy, would be willing to share lots of good data with a Williams student doing a project on Sabermetrics. Another idea is for a Williams students to do a Sabermetrics inspired study of Williams baseball. Of course, in doing that, the major headache would be in gathering and inputting the data, but it would still be a great thesis.

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On the charity front, Brooks

On the charity front, Brooks Foehl ’88 was kind enough to point out that the Alumni Fund actually raised $7 million last year, not the $1 million that I claimed. Either way, I am still suspicious of the College’s gift of $1 million to North Adams Regional Hospital for the same reasons that I was suspicious of the College’s gifts to Greylock High School.

The article quotes Helen Ouellette, Vice President for Administration and Treasurer of Williams College, as saying:

“For more than a century, North Adams Regional has been where members of this community have come to give birth, receive critical help, treat emergencies, and, more recently, be guided on how to keep themselves well. A healthy hospital is essential to a healthy community.”

All of which is true. The problem is that there are many, many things that are essential to a healthy community. Should Williams be paying for them all? Just how “unhealthy” would the hospital be if Williams declined top contribute?

When I initially blogged about charitable giving in the context of a $250,000 gift to help Mount Greylock High School, some might have accused me of churlishness. “Come on Dave, who cares about 250k?” But, $1 million raises the bar quite a bit. My next research project will be to find out how much the College gives to charity. I would hope that this information is not secret.

I’ll also note that the College’s extensive and well-organized collection of new releases features nothing on the topic of the College’s charitable giving.

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Soccer Room

Here is a nice story from the Boston Globe on Hannah Stauffer ’05, captain of the Williams soccer team. The article notes that Hannah wears Matt Stauffer’s ’96 number 10. Matt died from leukemia in the winter of 1998.

For anyone with children, the article is a poignant reminder of how fragile life can be.

The article notes that:

Stauffer wants to be a teacher and mother someday and hopes soccer will always be a part of her life. “I love the sport so much,” she said, “but what I love most is being part of a team, being out there sweating together and supporting each other.”

Women’s coach Michelyne Pinard, whose team is ranked sixth in the region with a 7-3-2 record, said Stauffer’s decision to come to Williams has been a pleasant surprise.

“To be voted a team captain after being here for one season says it all,” said Pinard. “Hannah is the engine who runs our attack. She sees everything and makes people around her better. She’s a creator who combines a love of the game with a love to compete, and although I never knew Matt, I hear that was his trademark as well. We’ve talked about Matt, and she is just so proud of him and honored to be associated with him. And I know how proud she is of her sister’s success.

“But I also wanted her to know that we wanted Hannah to be Hannah. And that’s pretty impressive in itself. One of our first-year [players] said it best. That being around Hannah just makes you a better person.”

I actually knew Hannah’s sister Emily (also a star soccer player) while she was at Harvard. My favorite Stauffer family story is that the basement in their house was used by all the kids for playing soccer, with much loudness, flying soccer balls and fun all around. Our own basement now features a similar room, much to my wife’s chagrin. Although, genetics being what they are, my own daughters are unlikely to ever play for Williams, I hope to inculcate in them a love and appreciation of the game. I have few memories of Williams more fond than games of intramural soccer under the purple mountains.

If my own daughters turn out as well as Emily and Hannah, then I will have been a very good father indeed.

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More Charity

On the local charity front, we note that Williams has given $1 millions to the North Adams Regional Hospital CARE Campaign for “hospital renovations.” The Transcript notes that:

Helen Ouellette, administration vice president and treasurer of William College, announced its contribution to the campaign, saying communities are built through caring, with the hospital being a central part of that care.

The donation was made in honor of those Williams College alumni who work at and utilize the hospital, she said, as the care at the hospital is often “delivered through the hands of Williams alumni.”

“And our community is incalculably stronger as a result,” she said.

The last time we blogged on the topic of the College’s acts of charity, it was with regard to $250,000 given to help Mount Greylock High School. Highlights of that discussion are currently unavailable because of the patheticness of Blogger. In any event, the problem with this is the same. When I given money to Williams, I want the money to go to helping Williams as directly as possible. I, because I don’t give the big bucks, give the College wide latitude in deciding how to spend that money. But if I wanted to give money to help the hospital in North Adams, I would do that directly. I don’t need/want the College to do it for me.

How much is $1 million? Well, it is around 15% of what the Alumni Fund raises in a typical year.

It isn’t that Williams shouldn’t be involved with charity and with the local community. For example, it is a good thing that the College allows the use of its facilities, presumably gratis for charity events. It is a good think that the College encourages students to be involved in local charity work and also, presumably, supports these efforts with things like van rides.

It is not a good thing when the College writes a big check to a charity/cause which does not have a significant connection to the lives of Williams students. This is not why I and, I think, the vast majority of alumni give money to the school.

UPDATE: Thanks to Brooks Foehl ’88 for pointing out that the Alumni Fund raised $7 million in 2002, not the $1 million that I mistakenly concluded from looking here.

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It’s a beautiful day for

It’s a beautiful day for First Year Family Days, although a bit chilly with a high of 50 degrees. Of course, 49 (!) years ago, they called this event “Freshmen Parent’s Day.” Nowadays we have “First Years” instead of “Freshmen” and “Families” instead of “Parents,” but even an old curmudgeon like me doesn’t mind the evolution of terminology. I hope, however, that the someone at Williams tries to take a picture like this one.

Indeed, it would make for a great project to trace the history of fashion over the last 50 years, at least in the Eph subset of US society, by looking at pictures from events like this. If I were a rich, powerful alumnus, I would give a bunch of money to place the Williamsiana collection on-line.

The idea to make this blog into something more than just a tool for last spring’s reunion started when I discovered this history.

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Ben Isecke ’02, a WSO

Ben Isecke ’02, a WSO alumnus sent in this information on the WSO e-mail system and the College’s.

Anyone may unsubscribe from WSO’s all campus emails – anyone who is on and wishes to remove themselves can email campus-off@wso.williams.edu, and they will cease receiving student all-campus emails.

So, Pritchard and Lucien, to the extent that they don’t want any more e-mails from the Queer Student Union, should opt out. The more that I interact with WSO the more impressed that I am by the organization and its members.

In contrast to ours, Williams College’s student all campus system is required — you cannot unsubscribe from it. But it is used just a few times a year to communicate to the whole student body, usually with very important information, such as in response to particularly nasty weather, or the announcement of Mountain Day.

Good. It is nice to see the College exercising restraint in its communications while allowing the students themselves to design and implement other systems.

WSO’s student all-campus was created by WSO (a completely volunteer student organization) with no particular oversight by the administration as a way to allow student groups to advertise what they are doing electronically. There are a fair number of complaints about how the list is run, which come in two flavors. The first complaint that we regularly get is that the moderating process is too stringent – this usually comes from people who cannot get their messages through. . . . The second regular complaint is that the list receives too many messages, because it is constantly filled with garbage. These usually come from people who don’t care about many of the messages they are receiving. Unfortunately, these complaints taken together don’t lend themselves to very easy modification of the system.

This is great stuff. Although people sometimes refer Williams as a “Purple Bubble” cut off from the trials and concerns of the “real world,” this balancing of competing interests is precisely what goes on, day after day, in the real world (or at least in all the corners of the real world that I have visited.)

A structure that allowed you to opt in or out by topic would be better. The idea has come up several times over the years, but as it is rather
involved to set up, no one has yet done it. At some point, I’m sure WSO will tackle this and improve the structure of the list. And seeing how competent, devoted, and involved the current group is, that might be sooner rather than later.

Speaking selfishly, I would much prefer that these resources be devoted to improving the features of the WSO Blogs, but maybe that’s just me!

It also isn’t clear that a group specific opt-out is even desirable. When you choose to come to Williams, you choose to expose yourself to a wide range of people and view points. Getting confronted (via a moderated e-mail list) by things that make you uncomfortable is probably more of a feature than a bug. And, if you are such a tender flower that even the smallest hint of something that conflicts with your world view throws you into an ungrammatical tizzy, then you should probably opt-out of the system all together.

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Options

Continuing our parsing of the Record article about the QBE (Queer Bash E-mail) controversy, we read, with regards to “action,” presumably disciplinary in nature, that the College might take with respect to Pritchard and Lucien,

What that action might be is unclear, since Lucien could not be reached for comment, and Pritchard declined to comment. “I already offered my point of view,” he said, stating explicitly to the Record that he stood by his original e-mail.

Lucien and, especially, Pritchard have some important decisions. One option would be full scale apology/groveling. They’re sorry. They’ll never do it again. Alcohol might have been involved with the original e-mail, especially with Pritchard. As best I can tell, this is not the route that they are going to take.

Option 2, which might be termed the modified, limited hang-out non-apology. (Older readers will recognize the Watergate terminology.) Lucien might say, “I am sorry that Winstanley took offense at what I wrote. It was not my intention to harass him. It was not my intention that our private communication be broadcast to the larger community. In the future, I will continue to strive to adhere to the Williams standards of conduct.”

This is, obviously, not an apology at all in that Lucien is not expressing regret for the content or style of his e-mails, but only for Winstanley’s reaction to them. Moreover, he is not even admitting that his prior conduct failed to live up to the standards of the Williams community. But, it is still something. I am sure that the College administration would prefer option 1, but I suspect that they might declare victory with option 2, at least in the case of Lucien.

Option 3: Full throated opposition. Imagine that Pritchard said something like:

“I stand by the content of my original e-mail. Having been raised in a Christian home, I believe that there is a heaven and a hell and that certain people, because of the decisions that they make, are headed for the latter. Prior this controversy, I understood, because of my cultural background, the terms “faggot” and “queer” to be largely synonymous, both in terms of meaning and acceptability. It is since come to my attention that, for some people, the latter is much preferred to the former. If the Dean of the College provides me with a list of terms that are inappropriate for use on campus, either via e-mail or speech, I would be happy to adhere to it. It was not and is not my intent to harass any individual.”

“Williams make a strong claim to encouraging a diversity of viewpoints on its campus. This is an easy claim to make when all the viewpoints agree with your own. It is a much tougher to fulfill when the viewpoints expressed are ones that you find abhorrent. How Williams proceeds with a disciplinary action against me will tell us all a great deal about seriousness with which Williams undertakes its educational mission.”

Of course, I find option 3 to be highly unlikely, and not just because neither Pritchard nor Lucien appear to be that eloquent!

;-)

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JA Selection Committee

From today’s Daily Adviser comes the opportunity to serve on this years JA selection committee. Although I never served on that committee, friends who did reported that it was one of the more intense experiences on campus. Choosing 50 JA’s out of 150 well-qualified applicants, many of whom you know personally, is not an easy job. But it is another good example of how many opportunities Williams provides for doing serious jobs with real consequences.

We’ll know that something is wrong with the administration if they ever try to turn responsibility for JA selection over to the Dean’s Office, not because the Dean’s Office would do a poor job but because it would take a meaningful amount of power, and the responsibility that goes with it, out of the hands of students.

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Ben Roth ’04 was kind

Ben Roth ’04 was kind enough to send in some information about how all-campus e-mails work. All the details can be found here. Ben writes:

The most important thing to note is that there is a screening process, if an extremely fallible one. The current moderator, Eric Engler ’04, checks submissions by the listed content and then sends them on (so he is trusted, but not every organization representative). I believe only students receive the emails, and that you cannot remove yourself from the list (as I think you can for Daily Messages). I would guess that an average of about ten messages go out a week, and each has a preface of “[campus]” in its subject line. The service is maintained by WSO (with some CC involvement), not the administration. I don’t have any administration announcements in my box to check, but I’m pretty sure they use a completely different system.

Sounds reasonable enough. Again, Williams does a marvelous job of empowering its students so that they can make important contributions to life on campus. Many larger schools would not trust an organization like WSO nor give screening responsibility to a student.

Of course, it might be nice to allow students to opt-out of this system. From a technical point of view, that would not be difficult. It would be much harder to provide the option of not receiving e-mail from specific groups, as Pritchard and Lucien seem to want. But, being confronted by some amount of (moderated!) exposure to viewpoints and events that one does not like is part of what an education at Williams is all about. So, Pritchard and Lucien had better get used to it. No one is going to force them to go to Queer Bash, but no one is going to shield them from e-mails that they may find troubling.

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Williams has a snazzy new

Williams has a snazzy new home page. Regular web surfers will recognize the layout as being similar to the look that the alumni pages went to a few months ago. My comments:

1) Note that instead of having the latest news, we now have an “Of note . . .” section that is more, uh, advertising in focus. Today’s version include stories on Robert Engle’s ’64 Nobel Prize (side note: Are there any other Eph Nobels?), Louis Gluck’s Poet Laureateship and the, somewhat dated, (puff?) piece on tutorials. I think that this is a fine idea since the first introduction to Williams for high school students often comes from this site and their is nothing wrong with putting our best foot forward.

2) The page is too big. I think that some material should be cut out so that you can see the entire thing when you first open it up. Moreover, it (like almost all computer monitors) should be wider than it is taller and not the reverse. Without a 20 inch monitor, I think that I would have trouble seeing the entire page at once.

3) There are still some kinks to work out. For example, the copyright infringement link goes nowhere.

4) Overall, Williams does a fine job in communicating with the outside world. I am not sure who is in charge of the web page, but I think that the office of public affairs, run by Jim Kolesar, deserves much of the credit.

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Appropriate Action

We need a short hand description for the queer bash e-mail controversy. Suggestions are hereby solicited.

For lovers of campus politics, the Record provides lots of marvelous details. Continuing with the article, we read:

President Schapiro and Dean Roseman both assured Winstanley at that time that the College would take appropriate action.

“I’m glad that the College is taking action, and I trust that it will act appropriately,” Winstanley said.

I suspect that Schapiro/Roseman may have a different interpretation of “appropriate action” than Winstanley. Reading through the College’s Policies, Procedures and Regulations in the Student Handbook, it is not clear what specific rules Lucien and Pritchard have violated. The best (from the point of view of Winstanley) section that I can find is:

Accepting membership in this community entails an obligation to behave with courtesy to others whose beliefs and behavior differ from one’s own; all members and guests of this community must be free of disturbance or harassment, including racial and sexual harassment.

Now, if Pritchard and Lucien had gone out of their way to harass Winstanley, if they had sought him out and sent him repeated offensive e-mails, if they continued this behavior even after being asked to stop by Winstanley or others, they would clearly be in trouble according to any reasonable definition of “courtesy” and “harassment”. Yet, they did none of those things. Recall the actual content of the e-mails in question. Lucien’s two e-mails are certainly rude (but note that Winstanley hardly gets points for politeness), but it is hard to describe them as harassing. In fact, I would disagree with the Record’s characterization of them as “abusive.”

Pritchard, mostly because he uses the term “faggots,” is in a very different category. But, even though his words are beyond the pale for polite society at Williams, it is not clear that a single e-mail can meet the standard of harassment. Although the College can come down hard on a student for the style of his speech, it must be very careful in punishing the content of that speech.

So, if Winstanley thinks of “appropriate action” as involving something out of:

disciplinary warning (a letter from the dean, a personal interview, or both); disciplinary probation for a specified period (sometimes with specified conditions, e.g., loss of eligibility to represent the College, restrictions of extra-curricular activities); suspension for a specified time; or permanent expulsion.

he may be disappointed, unless he will be satisfied with the personal interview. After all, the College might have a tough time punishing Pritchard’s speech, hateful though it may be, if it would be perfectly legal of him to say exactly the same thing on the corner of Spring Street.

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Actual E-mails

In order to better evaluate the current campus controversy, it is helpful to see the e-mails in context. Here is Winstanley’s original all-campus e-mail. (Note that all quoted sections below are accurate, with misspellings and bad grammar unchanged.)

Do you find David Bowie incredibly sexy?

Do you still wear leg warmers and fishnets?

Do you have more bracelets than Madonna in Like a Virgin?

Are you not a virgin?

Do you want to see Williams students shed their fleece jackets in favor of semi-nudity?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you definitely want to come down to the glam-rock fantastic QUEER BASH – TONIGHT at GOODRICH from 10-2. Rockin music and wild wild people… It just doesn=B9t get any better.

All of which seems reasonable. Pritchard’s response, however, is not.

Why dont u faggots keep to ur god damn selves. You people disgust me. I keep my heterosexuality to myself. Why dont you queers keep to yourselves. I almost threw up when i saw all that crap you people wrote on the sidewalks last week. You’re all goin to hell. It was adam and eve, not adam and steve.

-Jon Pritchard

Winstanley responded to Pritchard with:

Your email has been forwarded to the deans office, the president and the committee on diversity. You should have done a better job on your grammar.

Do not email me back.

-Nate Winstanley

It is unclear to me whether Pritchard and Lucien were aware of each other. Campus civility is, obviously, under much more threat if two students, acting independently, both thought to respond to Winstanley in a similar manner. In any event, Lucien, in reply to the all campus mailing, wrote:

i thought of an idea, an email such as this one must NEVER be sent to me again, never. therefore, i am saying: take me off of the queer bash party list and all other queer events.

most grateful,

luc

Winstanley responded with:

It was an all campus email, filtered by WSO for content.

If it offends you, delete it.

I’d rather not get emails from a lot of groups, but I deal.

And so should you.

-nate

Lucien seems less than pleased with this suggestion. He responds with:

or another idea: send ur flippin emails ta all ur queer friends and no one
else…BINGO (the light goes on)

deal that

And that is the record of events, as best I can determine.

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Fear of God

There is so much interesting stuff in the Record this week that it is hard to know where to begin. As previewed in Mike Needham’s ’04 Blog last week, there is an article, QSU Reacts to Abusive E-mails, which overviews the incident. Here is some of it along with my commentary.

A series of e-mails sent to Queer Student Union (QSU) social coordinator Nate Winstanley ’04 rocked the queer community and incited heated discussions on campus last week.

Three e-mails were sent between Oct. 10 and 14 by two first-years, John Pritchard ’07 and Brandon Lucien ’07, in response to the all-campus e-mails Winstanley sent out to publicize the annual Queer Bash party on Oct. 11.

All-campus e-mails are probably a source for some debate on campus, although I can’t find any commentary about it on-line. My understanding is that any representative from a student group can send out all campus e-mails as often as they like. I wonder how many get sent out. I wonder if any/some/many/most people would prefer to not get them. The administration certainly needs the ability to send out all-campus e-mails, but is it wise for every student to have that ability?

Of course, at larger schools like Harvard, students are not entrusted with this sort of power. The ability to send all-campus e-mails is one of the many ways that Williams does a better job than most places of treating its students like adults. It would be a shame to see that end.

The first two e-mails, sent by Lucien, objected to receiving e-mails about queer events.

So far, so good. There is, presumably, nothing wrong with not wanting to receive e-mails on a particular topic. Some Williams students would certainly prefer to not receive e-mails about (hypothetical!) campus rallies on divestment from Israel or about Marine Corps recruitment on campus or about meetings for the Williams chapter of NARAL. In the end, of course, the College might decide that the benefits to free-flowing communication outweigh the costs of unwanted e-mails, but not-wanting e-mails on specific topics seems reasonable.

Of course, it would also be reasonable of Winstanley to conclude that Lucien’s request demonstrated a certain less-than-ethusiastic embrace of the QSU and its events. Assuming that Lucien was polite in his request, there is nothing wrong with him asking to not receive such e-mails in the future. I am also curious about how many e-mails were sent about the event. It would be helpful to see the text of Lucien’s e-mail, if only to have a better sense of the facts of the case.

The third e-mail, written by Pritchard, provoked Winstanley to forward all three e-mails, with the names of the writers still included, to the Dean’s Office, President Schapiro, the Committee on Diversity and Community and the Queer Student Union (QSU), College Council (CC) and Junior Advisor (JA) listservers by Tuesday afternoon.

I think that there may be some non-trivial legal issues here in terms of what I can do with an e-mail that you send me, but, since I am not a lawyer, I won’t address them.

The text of that message, which has since been cited in an all-campus e-mail sent out by CC included the following excerpt: “Why don’t u [sic] faggots keep to ur [sic] god damn selves. You people disgust me…i [sic] almost threw up when i [sic] saw all that crap you people wrote on the sidewalks last week.”

This is clearly beyond the pale. Pritchard should be ashamed of himself. His parents should be mortified that any son of theirs would behave in such a fashion. Pritchard’s JAs should have a strong “talking to” with him about the standards of behavior that are expected in the Williams community. Someone in the Dean’s office, perhaps Dean Roseman, perhaps someone she chooses (Is Renzi Lamb available?), should sit down with Pritchard and put a little bit of the fear of God into him by outlining all the very bad things that can happen to him (both at Williams and beyond) if he doesn’t behave better.

There is much more interesting material in the article, but the above will have to do for now.

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There is a nice New

There is a nice New York Times article on the efforts of Richard Sarkis and David Kinsley (both 2001) to arbitrage the international market in textbooks. The article begins with:

Richard Sarkis and David Kinsley were juniors at Williams College, surfing the net for a cheap source for their economics textbook, when they discovered a little known economic fact: the very same college textbooks used in the United States sell for half price — or less — in England.

Just like prescription drugs, textbooks cost far less overseas than they do in the United States. The publishing industry defends its pricing policies, saying that foreign sales would be impossible if book prices were not pegged to local market conditions.

Sarkis and Kinsley have set up a company, BookCentral.com to try to take advantage of the pricindiscrepancycy. I tried to use it to find an accounting textbook that I am about to spend $130 on. Alas, it wasn’t available, perhaps because it is so new.

The article ends by noting:

Mr. Sarkis said Williams’s campus bookstore made the high costs all too visible. “They really rubbed it in,” he said. “If you were the highest spender of the day, they’d ring this little bell and say they had a new winner, and give you a lollipop. I got the lollipop twice.”

Who was the owner of the old bookstore, back in the day when it was on Spring Street? I think that he would have appreciated this tradition.

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Shimon Rura ’03 has more

Shimon Rura ’03 has more thoughts on the Williams alumni network. He asks:

Would anyone claim that, in contemporary America, a very small system of cronies (old boy network) could be as influential a force in a zillion new industries as it is in finance?

Rura misunderstands what the alumni network is. There is “no small system of cronies” — or I, at least, haven’t gotten an invitation to join up yet. The benefit of being an Eph consists of three main parts:

First, the people who make decisions about hiring and admissions in elite businesses/schools all around the country know, for the most part, that Williams students are, on average, of Ivy League quality.

Second, there are hundreds of Ephs that have signed up with OCS to be career advisers (although that may not be the correct title). These are self-selected alums (I am one) who are happy to be contacted by other Ephs looking to break into and/or advance in a specific field or geographic region. I would urge Rura to contact the folks in his area.

Third, the vast majority of Ephs, even those who don’t sign up with OCS, are eager to help out a fellow Purple Cow. Although that sentiment isn’t unique to Williams (most college graduates are happy to help out fellow alums), it’s been my experience that your typical Williams graduate is more predisposed to look out for fellow Ephs than your typical Harvard graduate. Purple blood runs thicker than Crimson, or something along those lines.

The correct way to think about the original question — Is Williams too anonymous? — is to compare Rura’s (hypothetical) outcomes in terms of admissions/careers if he had gone to a different, presumably more famous, school with his actual outcomes having gone to Williams. Of course, this is difficult to do since Rura would have ended up as a different person if he had gone to, say, Princeton, instead. But, for the most part, his “surprisingly unsuccessful attempt to get into some huge science/engineering schools outside New England” would probably not have turned out any differently, I would guess.

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Speaking of Williams-related blogs, Kathryn

Speaking of Williams-related blogs, Kathryn Cramer maintains a lively blog and, although not an Eph herself, is married to David Hartwell ’63. She has a nice posting on her family’s activities at David’s 40th reunion this past spring. She writes:

We’ve been away at David’s 40th Williams College reunion in Williamstown, Massachusetts. (David is Williams class of ’63.) The kids and I were something of a novelty item. I’m 41. I guess that makes me a trophy wife in this context.

My lovely wife (and her Jake House sisters from the class of 1989) are always happy to point out how lucky we (their husbands) are. We got trophy wives and first wives all in one convenient package!

;-)

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I am always on the

I am always on the lookout for Ephs who blog. One who does, anonymously, is at Brooklyn Bridge User Group. Although its doesn’t take a detective to figure out who she is in the class of 1991, she clearly values her privacy, so I’ll just direct you to her own information, in case you care to get in touch.

She has a thoughtful posting on “Google Grief,” discovering via Google or some other web tool that someone you knew well but have lost touch with has died, often a while ago. This happened to her with regard to another Eph. She notes:

Normally when someone dies, at least a couple of people are mourning at once, and you alternately get to weep and comfort whoever’s weeping. You reminisce about the person, and while overall it’s sad, occasionally something funny comes up. You eat, drink, and mourn intensely but socially, and then you get worn out and stop. I was alone in this, so I kept crying for a couple of days. I remember sitting at my desk at work crying–as I’m doing right now–and someone coming up to ask me something, seeing my state, and walking away. There were people there who would have asked what was wrong, and cared, but none of them caught me crying, and I wasn’t about to go up to them and say, “I just found out that a friend of mine died a year ago. Pity me.” That would just be weird.

[…]

Another thing it’s like is that you build your story of who you are on this stack of experiences and memories and people, which you think are supporting you, and at some point you look down and see that one of the blocks in the stack is missing. But you’re still just floating there.

Read the whole thing, as they say.

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It is nice to see,

It is nice to see, especially as he comes up for tenure, that Tom Smith ’88 has won an NFS award.

The National Science Foundation has announced the award of a grant of $177,308 to Assistant Professor of Chemistry Thomas E. Smith for a program and study of “Asymmetric Synthesis of Pyran-Based Natural Products.”

Smith’s program on chemical synthesis research was designed to engage approximately 12 undergraduate students over the next three years and to train them in techniques of modern synthetic organic chemistry. One postdoctoral research fellow will also be supported by this grant.

A grant like this makes it clear that “teaching” ability needs to be broadly understood in the context of a place like Williams. I often claim that “research” — publishing scholarly articles and books — should play almost no part in the College’s hiring/tenure/promotion decisions.

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Moody’s Investor Service (a rating

Moody’s Investor Service (a rating agency) has downgraded Williams’s credit rating to Aa1. It appears that this is more of a reflection of the general state and direction of elite liberal arts institutions (Wesleyan was also downgraded) then anything related to Williams specifically. Moreover, with a $1.2 billion endowment, the College is in fine shape financially. Still, it is a reminder that (presumably!) the College can not keep doubling its fees every 20 years forever . . .

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Professor Dunn was kind enough

Professor Dunn was kind enough to forward my query about Ellis to Jim Kolesar, Director of Public Affairs at Williams. He politely declined to provide any details, as they are part of a “private contract” between Ellis and the College.

This is not unreasonable. The College faces a continuing dilemma is how open it should be about its affairs, both on location and at a distance. My prejudice (and not just for want of material!) would be for more openness. The more open the College is about the (almost always sensible) way that it conducts its affairs, the more likely it is to appeal to both prospective students and alumni.

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Mike Needham ’04 has a

Mike Needham ’04 has a thoughtful post on the controversy du jour. I’ll only note that debates about the chalkings have been going on for almost 20 years . . .

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It is nice to note

It is nice to note that Jack Rakove will be giving a lecture on James Madison in a couple of weeks. The reason that this is nice is that, as best I know, Rakove is a honest academic, unlike the previous lecturer in this series, admitted liar Joseph Ellis.

Again, it is perfectly reasonable for the College to spend money to bring speakers to campus. But when the College spends money on someone like Ellis, it sends a (bad) message to both the students and the larger community.

I have an e-mail into Professor Susan Dunn to try and determine how much money was spent on Ellis.

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Jocelyn Shadforth ’88 sent in

Jocelyn Shadforth ’88 sent in these thoughts on Williams’s (alledged) anonymity.

I agree completely with your reply regarding concerns that Williams may be too anonymous. Certainly in academia, Williams is very well-known and respected, so I doubt that application to grad programs will be hindered in any way. Moreover, it has been my experience that a Williams degree enhances your chances on the job market and in your eventual position. First, people on hiring committees have definitely heard of it, want their kids to go there, and, in a few cases, may have gone there themselves. At my previous position an emeritus professor who was an alum made a special trip to campus to hear my talk. The provost there was also an alum and became something of a mentor to me. At my current position, one of my best friends, with whom I team-teach every year, was Williams ’68. Also, he acts as our Study Abroad advisor and the initial Williams connection led to him seeking me out for various international opportunities. (As an Americanist, I’m not an obvious target.) This led to my spending last fall in London as a study abroad program director. Of course, we’ve had to deal with the College president being an Amherst alum, but there’ve been many opportunities to gloat for the past few years, so it’s not a problem.

Most importantly, when applying to small liberal arts colleges, a Williams education makes it clear to hiring committees that you know what is involved in the job, as discussed in this link. This came up in every interview for an academic position I’ve had, to the point where hiring committees have said that it was a deciding factor in bringing me to campus.

Of course there are trade-offs involved in being at Williams rather than some well-known university. Your Aunt Sally would definitely be more impressed if you went to Princeton. But the vast majority of people who make important decisions in academics and business know what it means to be an Eph.

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All good Ephs know that

All good Ephs know that Fall Break coincides with peak leaf-peeping in Billsville. If one of our Williamstown readers could e-mail me a digital photo of the colorful foliage, I would gladly post it for global viewing.

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Although the blogs hosted by

Although the blogs hosted by WSO have not produced an unreadably large amount of great commentary this year, there are often worthwhile tidbits. Shimon Rura writes:

You’ve probably heard this complaint before: Williams is too much of a secret. It’s easy to imagine that if we had a silly-sounding name like “Swarthmore” or something more obviously pretentious like “Amherst”, more people would kinda remember that Williams is a fancy school full of smart folk. But this all sounds pretty inconsequential. Or does it? Maybe the unflashiness of the name “Williams” actually is hurting us. I’m most concerned with two areas: jobs and grad schools.

You don’t need to be concerned. In fact, my impression is that coming from Williams is actually a slight advantage (holding intelligence/ambition constant) over coming from a more famous (read: Ivy League) school in terms of graduate schools and jobs.

Of course, Williams’s obscurity among the general public is real. Your Aunt Sarah probably still thinks that you go to William and Mary.

But, in terms of most graduate schools (especially large programs in medicine/law/business) and corporate jobs (especially in banking/consulting), there is no disadvantage in coming from Williams rather than, say, Princeton. All these places get many applications from Williams each year. All have Williams students currently present. All are able to compare/contrast how students from various schools have done. Since Williams graduates are, typically, quite comparable to graduates from Princeton, applicants from Williams are not disadvantaged in the process.

Of course, your mileage my vary. An Ivy League names does count for something, especially among people who are impressed by the Ivy League. The further one is away from elite US education, the more that the “name” matters. But, big picture, the people in charge of the hiring/admissions process know everything that they need to know about Williams.

Moreover, I often find that Williams alums, though fewer in number, are much more interested in helping/hiring fellow Ephs than their counterparts from larger schools. I know that I am. The “cult” of Williams extends far beyond the Purple Valley.

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