Currently browsing the archives for November 2003

Older Posts »

If you have a few

If you have a few spare thousand dollars lying around, you might want to participate in this auction.

On a hot July day in 1859, the great collegiate sports rivalry between Amherst College and Williams College was born in the first intercollegiate game of ”base ball” ever played. Amherst won the game, 73 to 32, and also defeated Williams in a chess match the next day.

A newspaper account of the historic event is up for auction in New York City next month. The auction copy of ”The Amherst Express Extra” extolling the contests of ”Muscle and Mind” has a presale estimate of $4,000 to $6,000, according to the catalog of the Swann Galleries for the Thursday auction.

Do Williams and Amherst still play chess matches? In any muscle/mind contest, I would certainly bet on our baseball coach over their baseball coach . . .

;-)

Facebooktwitter

One of the best Eph

One of the best Eph blogs is by Aidan. In particular, his blogroll (list of other blogs that he links to) has an entire collection of “Williamsania” links including ones that I have linked to before (Mike Needham ’04 and Daniel Drezner ’90) and ones that I didn’t know about (Miles Klee ’07 and Godfrey Bakuli ’07).

One common feature of the Blogoshere is that a particular blogger will sometimes take up a particular topic and become the source on that topic, the one place you need to go to find anything and everything about it. Finley has become that source on the St. Anthony Hall controversy. The best place to start is probably with his op-ed in the Record. The key paragraph is:

One of the reasons I applied to Williams, and one of the reasons I wanted to come to Williams was precisely because this place was fraternity free. I didn’t want my social life intertwined with pledging, hazing, racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and the rest of the “community values” fraternities’ offer. I embraced the College’s elimination of these pernicious organizations from campus. I am not happy to discover that I have been duped, that the College has tacitly allowed an “underground” fraternity for thirty years, negotiating with its national board over purchasing the goat room, looking happily the other way as class after class of Williams students graduated with “secret” fraternity members, making a yearly lie of our paper pledge.

Although it is not clear to me that St. Anthony Hall is currently racist, sexist or anti-Semitic (I believe that it has female, non-white and Jewish members), it is tough to argue with Finley’s main point.

He has other thoughts on the topic here and his latest posting features some great history on the fraternity, formerly known as Delta Psi.

Although my sources are not nearly as good as Finley’s, they are older, so I can report that Delta Psi (“The Saint’s House”) had non-white members more than 40 years.

Facebooktwitter

Ellis Wrapup

Just to wrap up the Joseph Ellis matter from September, I’ll note:

1) Pulitzer Prize winner Joseph Ellis lectured at Williams in September as part of a series on the Founding Fathers. (The original news announcements about this have disappeared from the Williams server.) Ellis was paid for his time. My problem with Ellis is that he has, for years, lied about his past to the undergraduates he teaches.

2) No one at the College would tell me what fee was paid to Ellis. Although this is a small matter, I’ll note that the easiest way to run an honest institution is to be as transparent as possible in your affairs.

3) Jack Rakove, another speaker in the same series, declined to say how much the College paid him, but suggested that a) academics don’t get much for these sorts of talks and b) Ellis probably got more than he did.

4) Other academics that I talked to suggested that a “typical” fee for something like this would be anywhere from 0 to $2,000 with really big names commanding much more.

In any event, my main concern is that Williams, by the very act of inviting Ellis to speak, honors him. The money is a secondary concern. By honoring Ellis, Williams implies that lying to undergraduates — or perhaps lying in general — is no big deal. I think that this is not a good message to send to either undergraduates or to the larger community.

Surely there was an honest and responsible scholar who could have lectured in Ellis’s place . . .

Facebooktwitter

Thanks to a posting on

Thanks to a posting on Mike Needham’s blog, I have discovered Scattershot, “The Williams College Journal of American Politics and Society.”

Scattershot seeks to present ideas and opinions on these and other topics in an ideologically balanced publication. We expect you will disagree with much of what is written within – indeed, we can find little to agree on amongst ourselves – but that is the goal. This collision of different beliefs can hopefully improve dialogue and raise the level of political consciousness on campus.

The first issue looks to be chock full with good stuff, nicely presented. Although the articles are little too non-Williams-centric for purposes of this blog, the piece by Robert Henn ’04 entitled “Fighting Words: Hate and Speech on Campuses” seems well done and relevant. He begins:

“Why can’t you faggots keep to ur [sic] god damn selves…You’re all goin [sic] to hell.” These words, sent by a first-year student via e-mail to the social director of the Queer Student Union and then forwarded to a large potion of the student body, kicked off the latest iteration in a cycle that seems to occur here at Williams once or twice a year. The cycle usually goes like this: Something happens that a minority group on campus finds particularly offensive, which leads to a strong reaction that pulls the community into the conflict. Next follows a series of belligerent newspaper editorials and a discussion forum in which a plea for better understanding and communication between campus groups gets supplanted by opposing polemical forces, one demanding protection from the injurious scourge of bigotry, and the other defending free speech and lamenting the ever-increasing imperialism of political correctness. Like any good Greek tragedy, these little melodramas always end the same way: The discussions get nowhere, a new generation of ‘leaders’ voices the same concerns that were voiced last year, general frustration abounds and finally the upcoming midterms bury the issue as everyone goes back to the rat race.

Having participated in more than one of those melodramas myself a few years ago, I can report that this cycle has been going on for at least 20 years.

Facebooktwitter

Here are the blurbs on

Here are the blurbs on the two new Eph Rhodes Scholars.

Jeffrey Ishizuka is a senior at Williams College majoring in chemistry. A varsity wrestler, he has done volunteer work for children with HIV/AIDS in Honduras. Jeffrey spent his junior year at Oxford, and wants to pursue research leading to a vaccine for HIV/AIDS. He intends to do a doctorate in medical sciences at Oxford.

Emily P. Ludwig is a senior at Williams College majoring in history. In addition to her work in history, she has won distinction in genetics and immunology and was a research assistant at the Whitehead Institute. A varsity soccer player, she also played soccer at Exeter College, Oxford, where she spent her junior year. She will do the M.Phil. in social and economic history.

Given Cecil Rhodes preference for “physical vigor”, it is nice to see that both Ludwig and Ishizuka are varsity athletes. A surprising number of the other winners have no athletic activities listed in their biographies.

Facebooktwitter

Two Williams students, Emily Ludwig

Two Williams students, Emily Ludwig and Jeffrey Ishizuka, just won Rhodes Scholarships. Congratulations to both.

Facebooktwitter

This week’s main controversy in

This week’s main controversy in the Record concerns the existence of a “fraternity” at Williams.

Amidst growing awareness of the Lambda Chapter of St. Anthony Hall, a secret fraternity and literary society at Williams, Dean Roseman has announced the College will forego disciplinary action against students involved in an underground fraternity if members come forward and agree to adhere to College regulations.

All the descriptions that I have read about St. Anthony Hall make it seem like almost an anti-fraternity. At least I don’t remember my father talking about all the poetry slams that they had at the DKE House back in 1958.

Jacob Eiser notes in his blog:

The ones who are [in St. Anthony Hall], according to my informants (that is, not the Record) strike me less as the truly intellectual honest and more as the very deliberately and aesthetically ‘tortured,’ who ask the ‘deep questions’ and are primarily interested in projecting a particular image of angst which is immature and self-indulgent.

I don’t know if Eiser is being fair, but the main motivation for the College’s prohibition against fraternities is the conflict between “traditional” fraternities and the intellectual values that Williams holds dear. How such concerns would apply to a co-ed literary society is unclear to me. The Record reports:

Sources have confirmed that members of St. Anthony Hall generally meet once a week to share literary works and personal experiences. Unlike other fraternities, alcohol is not central to the function of St. Anthony Hall’s weekly meetings, they said. These meetings take place at a variety of off-campus sites, including a meeting space located in Vermont, known informally to members as “The Barn.” It is uncertain whether St. Anthony owns the Barn or is given access to it by a friend of the fraternity.

Even though this particular “fraternity” — literary society and therapy group would perhaps be a better description — seems harmless, I think that Aidan is correct when he argues that the

Trustees of Williams College are very (crystal even) clear on the position that frat membership is unacceptable. In fact, let’s quote them:

…Williams students may neither join nor participate in fraternities during their time at the College.

I think that’s clear enough. Moreover, the statement, that we all had to sign to matriculate at Williams College, goes on to clearlyenunciatee punishments for those found in violation:

The College will take disciplinary action against students who are found to be participating in such organizations. Penalties may include suspension or expulsion from the College.

I don’t see a lot of wiggle room or ambiguity here. I don’t see any “amnesty” clause. I understand that the administration is willing (wants to) downplay this whole situation, but they are really softpeddaling on an issue of vital importance, in fact, what the Trustees deemed the “central goal” of the college:

the sustenance of a community characterized by openness, academic vitality, and equality of opportunity.

I ask, can we really fudge on this? Can we jocularly joke about “the ‘secret’ frat” and chuckle that funny people like Amir Wyne were asked to join, and remember those whispered stories about “the football frat” up in Vermont, and in short, ignore this. Well, I don’t think so.

[…]

The only explanation, as far as I can see, is that St. Anthony Hall members are wealthy, donors, rich alums, well connected, and have been, as long as there haven’t been “fraternities” on the campus, tacitly allowed.

[…]

cut the crap–end the frat.

Note that Finley’s whole posting is well-worth a read. I think that he overestimates the impact of wealthy alums on issues like this, unless of course someone like Herb Allen ’62 is a former member.

UPDATE: My own advice to the members of St. Anthony Hall at Williams would be to take the deal that Dean Roseman is offering. You can still be exclusive (think Gargoyle). You can still meet in secret. You can probably still maintain a relationship with the national organization. Not taking the deal, on the other hand, would be to run a significant risk. Don’t underestimate the degree to which Williams takes its anti-fraternity position seriously. If the administration lets you (continue to) flaunt the rules, they won’t be able to stop the sorts of fraternities that don’t read poetry.

Facebooktwitter

The Transcript reports on how

The Transcript reports on how “Conscience Guides Some Williams Funds.”

A group of Williams College alumni, students and professors are promoting the Williams Social Choice Fund, a growing aspect of the college’s endowment that invests both in socially responsible programs and community development.

The only Eph quoted in Daniel Shearer ’05. I’ll try to get some more information from him. The article noted:

Last year, the trustees accepted the social choice funds under the terms that 90 percent of the money would be invested in socially screened mutual funds and the remaining 10 percent be invested in local community development — for low interest loans for organizations such as area businesses and non-profits.

[…]

Help is being given through the college’s Development Office by sending out letters to alumni, asking for donations to the Williams Social Choice Fund.

The investment policies that the College uses to in managing its endowment have been a controversy for many years, at least back to the 1980’s disputes about divestment from South Africa. For the most part, the College has tried (wisely) to shield these policies from political disputes. At some point, the College created the Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (ACSR) which

advises the Finance Committee of the Board of Trustees on matters pertaining to the College as a stockholder. Chaired by one of its faculty members, the Committee consists of two students, two faculty, two alumni, the Vice President for Administration, and the Provost. Student members are elected by the student body at large; faculty and alumni members are appointed by the President.

I always felt that this was a brilliant ploy for making controversies fade away. Those interested in a thoughtful analysis of the issue by two Williams students (and former ACSR members) should look here.

What’s most interesting about the story is the fact that the College is, apparently, allowing (even facilitating) alumni to donate money outside of the main alumni fund process. It has always seemed to me that the College was loath to go that route.

After all, you could run fund raising in a very different, more decentralized, way. Right now, for all practical purposes money from alumni all goes through the College administration before it gets spent on all manner of items. Imagine, instead, a world in which students (even faculty) are encouraged to raise money from alumni for projects that they care about. Students at the Record could solicit for new computers. Football players could raise funds for better equipment. And so on.

I am not certain that this would make for a better process, either in terms of total funds raised or the distribution thereof, but I have always heard that the College has no interest in such a scheme. This article is the first (tiny) evidence to the contrary that I have seen.

Facebooktwitter

Sad to see that Richard

Sad to see that Richard Squires ’53, captain of the squash and tennis teams, has passed away. Although I never met Squires, I must have looked at his picture (along with all the squash players and other athletes from years gone by) many times along the passageways of the old gymnasium. Those pictures provided, for me, one of the most powerful connections to the Williams of the past. Shades of “carpe diem” from The Dead Poet’s Society.

Of course, there is something more than a little strange about linking to the obituaries, but perhaps it is the Irish in me. (The obituaries are occasionally referred to as the “Irish Sporting Pages” — I have no idea if this is a slur (Oh no! I have violated the “community standards!”) or a compliment or something in between. I don’t know if Squires made it back for his 50th reunion last June, but I know that my own father’s 50th reunion is just over 4 years away. It makes you think.

Ben Stein spoke at Williams a few weeks ago. The Record notes that

After discussing the values his father learned at the College, Stein stressed the importance of keeping in touch with one?s parents. He discussed how he spent more and more time with his parents as they grew older. One of his most prized possessions is a fax from his father expressing his gratitude for this attention. “What really matters is how you treat those close to you,” Stein said.

Long time fans of Stein will recall his many articles in the “Ben Stein’s Diary” series — a blog before there were blogs — in the American Spectator on this theme. I could not find any of those articles on-line, but Stein hits on a similar note here.

It is that it’s just past Father’s Day. But when you love your father and he is gone, and when you have a magic moment to evoke him, to conjure him up through the eyes of those who knew him, to play a movie of him, a holograph on the carpet in the White House, where he had his happiest days, you do it.

I also spoke to former secretaries of his and statisticians who worked with him 30 years ago and are still at the White House, and it all made his absence less keen for a moment.

But that is not the real lesson: Most of the readers of this page are younger than I am. You still have your parents. Treasure them. Value them. Be with them.

The day will come, soon enough, when you, too, are begging your parents’ friends for a word of remembrance, and getting tears when the word comes.

I suspect that Squire’s family and friends know this feeling all to well. With any luck, it will be many years before I do.

Facebooktwitter

Double Standard

Attentive readers will have noted that the “quote” from Music Professor David Kechley was a parody — not of Kechley but of the claim that Williams treats exceptional-in-other-than-academic-skills students similarly. Varsity level athletes, especially, impact athletes that have the talent to make the list of “tips,” are treated completely differently from similarly talented musicians. The real Kechley notes that:

As far as the “quote” it appears to be all in fun all right except that some people actually think that the music department gets tips which in fact we do not, at least not in any form one might associate with athletics. Perhaps you know this and this “quote” is a way of making that point. However, I am not sure that it does. So what I am saying is fun is fun, but this subject is something of a sore one with me since I have a hard time justifying the double standard that now exists.

I do too. Recall President Schapiro’s claim on this point:

“We look for students with very good records who are going to contribute to life here,” Schapiro said. “But why make more of a concession for an athlete than for a great violinist? We don’t. We’re rededicating ourselves to making no greater tradeoffs for athletics than for anything else.”

Kechley, at least, failed to get the word that great violinists are treated just the same as great football players.

Again, I don’t think that President Schapiro is the bad guy here. Note his use of “rededicating.” I think (although I have no evidence for this claim) that he played a part in the recent decrease in the number of tips and that we will see a further decrease in coming years.

Facebooktwitter

It is always fun to

It is always fun to see what Ephs are up to. This story features a nice description of the life of young staffers on the presidential campaigns in Iowa. Jamiyl Peters ’02 and Jonathan Pahl ’03 earn a brief mention:

Jamiyl Peters, 23, who had driven to Des Moines from Washington two days earlier, made his way through the smoky, crowded room. At the bar, he ran into a classmate from Williams College he hadn’t seen in over a year. “What are you doing here?” Mr. Peters asked. The friend, Jonathan Pahl, it turned out, was working for Senator Edwards in Sioux City, Iowa. “It’s good to know there is still a familiar face so far away from home,” said Mr. Peters, who until recently had worked on the Kerry campaign in Washington.

Howard Dean, of course, has the savviest internet operation of any candidate. I don’t know if any Ephs are involved.

Facebooktwitter

Rachel Davis ’06 corrected some

Rachel Davis ’06 corrected some misconceptions that I had about financial aid and debt burdens. She writes:

I stumbled on your blog, as I’m always interested to learn what people feel about Williams. I have on comment to make on your post about tuition. You said:

It is good to know that Williams does whatever it can to ensure that low family income is no barrier to becoming an Eph. I am a little suspicious of the $1,683 figure. Don’t students from low income families end up with a lot more debt than this? I would guess that this is just the actually out-of-pocket expense and doesn’t include the value of any loans.

Actually, you’re wrong. My family is in the lowest income bracket, with my mother being an early childhood education teacher and my father being retired for medical reasons. In my case, that “$1,683 figure” is an OVERestimate. Other than the $350 I paid for books as well as miscellanious expenses like entry and rugby dues, my family paid absolutely nothing last year, depsite the fact that my financial aid bill stated that my parents’ contribution would be $400. In fact, the final statement from the bursar last year said that I had a $1400 CREDIT, due, I speculate, to the fact that the total college budget from which they calculate your and your parent’s contributions has books/personal/travel added in. There were no loans.

This year, I have a $700 loan, my parents owe nothing, and my resources were tallied as $800. I highly doubt the college will charge me anything for this year either, since that $800 will fall under the $2150 that the school budgets for books/personal/travel.

So, I am quite happy to say that your worries are unsubstantiated. For low-income bracket students like me, the college expects as little as they possibly can from us, with loans being the last monetary resource they choose to add into our financial aid assistance calculations. They do whatever possible to make sure we don’t get into trouble.

I am very glad to have been wrong about this.

Facebooktwitter

Tim Layden ’78 Article

Nice article by Tim Layden ’78 in Sports Illustrated on Coach Farley’s retirement. Williams has, for many years, gotten good press in Sports Illustrated and it is nice to see the trend continued. Highpoints included:

In response to these defeats, Farley took a decidedly un-Gagliardian approach: For 15 to 20 minutes a day, he lined up his first-team offense against his first-team defense and let them play football. It was the same thing he did 17 years ago. “I remember that first season like it was yesterday,” he said Friday morning, the day after making his official retirement announcement. “I asked the kids, ‘What do we need to do?’ They said wanted to be challenged. We didn’t beat the s— out of them, but for a few minutes every day, we played like it was Saturday. Best against the best. Somebody said to me, ‘What if somebody gets hurt?’ I said, ‘Maybe if the right guy gets hurt, we’ll start winning.'”

These sorts of sentiments are, of course, classic football. I suspect that Cheryl “Nike Camp” Shanks would not be impressed.

“I missed a lot of birthdays and I missed a lot of funerals because I was locked in a stupid office,” Farley says. Last Saturday, when he finished his career with the win over Amherst, his daughter, Colleen (a national-class track athlete), finished her high school soccer career with a 2-0 loss in the Western Massachusetts finals. “She was in the right place. I was in the right place,” Farley said. “But we weren’t in the same place. I’ve always preached to my players that family comes first, but I haven’t lived it in my own life. Now I’m going to try to do that.”

As always with Farley, there are lessons here for all of us.

It’s funny that Farley was in his office on Friday morning, checking up on early decision recruits.

And, in related news, Music Professor David Kechley was in his office Friday morning checking up on early decision music applicants. (We all know that Williams admits great musicians just like it admits great football players.) “It’s tough,” reported Kechley, “since this year the admissions department has restricted us to just 66 ‘tips.’ In between the demands of the a cappella groups, the orchestras need for some better percussionists and some key graduations from the Jazz Band, I am quite worried. I sure hope that the admissions department comes through for us.”

;-)

Facebooktwitter

Salaries

Turns out that our readers are a knowledgeable bunch when it comes to things like salaries. With reference to this post on college president salaries, a reader who (wisely!) prefers to remain anonymous sent in this information.

[Apologies for the formatting, but my HTML skills are pathetic. If any of my more technically skilled readers could fix the source for this table and send it to me, I would appreciate it.]












































Institution Employee 2000-1 Pay 2001-2 Pay 2001-2 Benefits 2001-2 Total Compensation
Williams College Morton Owen Schapiro
president
$290,000
$307,400
$84,095
$391,495
Williams College Winthrop M. Wassenar
design consultant, theater and dance center; former director, physical plant

$257,436
$59,425
$316,861
Williams College Harry C. Payne*
former president
$238,000
$238,000
$8,750
$246,750
Williams College Helen Ouellette
VP, administration; treasurer
$165,000
$174,250
$39,001
$213,251
Williams College George R. Goethals II
professor, psychology

$183,151
$26,267
$209,418

Several items jump out from this table.

1) Morty makes $400,000 per year (he presumably got at least a small raise for 2003-2004). Whether this is a lot of money or a little money depends on your point of view. I wonder if the large benefits package includes some measure of the housing value of that modest place on Route 2 that he has?

2) Winthrop Wassenar has done pretty well for himself. I wouldn’t have guessed that running the physical plant was that remunerative. Presumably, there is some sort of back story here. I wish that I knew more.

3) The College is still paying Hank Payne! Or, at least they were 2 years ago. Wasn’t that 2 years after he had left? Doesn’t he have, you know, another job now?

4) Note the difference between Schapiro and Payne’s ($290,000 versus $238,000) base pay. Although this might be complicated by Payne’s departure (maybe he only gets, say, 75% of his base pay as a golden parachute), it appears that the trustees have decided that Presidents are worth 25% more than they were just a couple of years ago. Or perhaps this was the amount that they needed to entice Morty away from sunny California.

5) Helen Ouellette has a nice gig.

Another reader, Ben Roth, was kind enough to send in a link to an article, from November 2000, that mentions Hank Payne’s pay windfall. The article notes:

The former president of Williams College, Harry C. Payne, topped the list with $878,222 in salary and benefits when he received a special package related to his departure from the school. His base salary was $232,550.

Hmmm. It is unclear whether Payne’s golden parachute included the hundreds of thousands that the college was still paying him in 2001-2002. Perhaps there is some double counting going on. Does anyone besides me find this all . . . troubling?

Ben also pointed out an article from the New York Times on the same survey.

Shimon Rura ’03 sent in a link to this Chronicle of Higher Education story on the same topic. The article ends with:

“It’s not going to be good for higher education if it becomes seen, at a time when tuition is going up, that college presidencies have become a new route to being a millionaire,” says Patrick M. Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, in San Jose, Calif.

Even so, The Chronicle’s annual surveys of the compensation of public- and private-college leaders show that presidents have not been bashful about accepting raises, nor have boards stopped handing them out.

Again, anyone familiar with how the unholy trinity of pay consultants, peer comparisons and lackluster governance led to an explosion in executive compensation over the last 25 years should worry about these trends, both for academia as a whole and at Williams in particular. Shimon notes that “But, you know, it’s just money. Williams is too good to worry about things like that, which probably contributes to your feeling that they could cut costs quite a bit.”

It’s not really the cost that I worry about. It is the culture. Morty now makes twice as much as any other professor and, rough estimate, around 5 times more than recently tenured professors. If that doesn’t worry you, how are you going to feel when it is 4 and 10 or 10 and 25? This is precisely the sort of relative growth that CEO’s of public corporations have seen.

For the record, I’ll note (and not just because I want a job from him someday!) that, if any College President is worth $400,000, then Morty definately is.

;-)

Facebooktwitter

Although the WSO Blogs have

Although the WSO Blogs have not been a roaring success, there are some interesting rants. Here is one from Chris Douglas on the notion of “community” at Williams. It is worth quoting extensively.

On many levels, death row has a more stable population than Williams College. A quarter of the largest (and most self-absorbed) demographic cycles every year and we’ve no implicit responsibility or interest in each other unless we conjure it from some specter of association (in other words, to assert that “community” springs from the idea of community begs the question).

[…]

However, the “community” that Gerald and Oren speak of extends association. They speak of a set of individuals committed to the refinement of a culture in which each is invested. Oren scolds MinCo for “dividing” the community. Gerald trumpets the “good faith” of “minority activists” attempting to mold the campus for everyone’s benefit. Setting aside- for a moment- the laughable identification of anybody on this campus as an “activist,” both imbue this bazaar of sycophants with the nobility of a cloister of monks. The college doesn’t have a mission statement, let alone a mandate to foster either social justice or enlightenment. The inevitable reduction of any campus debate to platitudes and meta-analysis is evidence enough that the uniformity, parasitism, and ultimate irrelevance of discourse at Williams College renders the phrase “campus culture” more appropriate as a pun than as a description of any legitimate entity. We thrive in a petri dish- bacteria feeding on bullshit- under the warm light of intellectual elitism and the benevolent supervision of bureaucrats. To assert that this accidental collection of individuals cradles even a feigned interest in unity or truth requires the most painstakingly maintained “Pollyanna” optimism or violent head trauma in early childhood.

Reserve your sensitivity and indignation for a real community; this one isn’t.

Say what you will about the sentiments expressed above, this kid can write.

Conveniently enough, Aidan hits just the right note in a comment to Douglas when he writes:

[A]ll communities have their dullards, their slackers, their go-getters, their smarmy pseudo-leaders, their everyday worker bees. All communities have their faults, fault lines, tensions, problems. I firmly believe it does no good to imagine an ideal community; utopias, Rev. More, are a waste of your time.

If I were better educated, I would recognize the reference to “Rev. More.” In any event, Finley is exactly correct about every community (Marine Corps, graduate school, large firm, small firm, neighborhood, soccer team parents) that I have been a part of since Williams. My experience is unlikely to be unique.

UPDATE: Aidan kindly educated me on Thomas More, “author of Utopia, was a monk before he became chancellor. I think that would be a fudge on whether he’s actually deserving of the title ‘rev,’ but the hollywood depictions (A Man for All Seasons) have certainly stressed his religious angle. ”

Facebooktwitter

Here is an eye-opening article

Here is an eye-opening article on the salaries of college presidents.

A survey of college presidential salaries revealed Monday that the compensation packages given the leaders of four private universities in the 2002 fiscal year topped $800,000.

The Chronicle of Higher Education’s annual salary report also said that the top officials at 12 public schools are scheduled to earn more than $500,000 in 2003-04.

There’s no discussion of Williams or even schools like Williams. Perhaps it is rude of me, but I wonder what Morty’s salary is. Long time followers of the Williams scene will recall that there was some sort of controversy along these lines during Hank Payne’s term in office. I don’t recall the details, but would be glad to be reminded of them.

If you are a trustee, this is of course a tough topic. On the one hand, you want to be frugal and reasonable. You can’t imagine that paying the President several multiples of what you pay other tenured professors is a good thing. You also probably suspect that the ideal candidate will want and love the job so much that you shouldn’t need to pay her much more than a typical professor’s salary. After all, the military has no trouble finding highly qualified folks to command it’s battalions and battle groups while paying low salaries because the jobs themselves are so amazing and challenging and rewarding.

On the other hand, once you have decided that, say, Morty is the guy for the job, you don’t want money to be an issue. And you certainly don’t want to be a cheapskate and pay your president less than peer colleges pay their presidents. Moreover, because you are probably rich (and certainly hang out with lots of rich people) — you’re a trustee at Williams, after all! — you might have trouble how people make ends meet at professor salaries. You also know that part of the president’s job is to spend a lot of time hobknobbing with rich people, a skill that may come easier if she is rich as well.

Of course, there is a direct parallel between public corporations and their boards setting the salaries for CEO’s and other senior executives and private colleges and their trustees setting the salaries for Presidents and other senior administrators. I don’t have any magic solutions, but I would never get in a bidding war for a potential Williams president. If she didn’t recognize that Williams was a special place and that it is a very cool job to be Williams President — even if you give up the opportunity to make $200,000 more at Some Other College — then I think that this revealed preference would be reason enough to suspect that she wasn’t the right person for the job.

Link courtesy of Invisible Adjunct, a great blog if you’re interested in higher education.

Facebooktwitter

Sad to see that Dick

Sad to see that Dick Farley is retiring as Williams football coach. As has been noted several times in this space, Farley is a straight-shooter who tells it like it is. (Perhaps knowing that retirement is just around the corner helps one in this regard.) Best part of the article:

“I’ve said over the years about looking out for other people, but in some ways I haven’t been a very good example in that regard,” said Farley. “For 32 years, I’ve put nothing but football and track first and foremost and everything else second with this guy, this lady and this lady,” pointing to his son Scott, wife Suzanne and daughter Colleen.

“My family was put in a bind to see my last football game or my daughter’s last soccer game,” he continued with obvious emotion in his voice. “[Colleen] doesn’t need any help when she’s a New England champion, she doesn’t need me to be there then. I don’t think she needed me to be there the other day either, but I have a little guilt complex in that regard. I told her that morning that I know she’d rather be at my football game, and I’d rather be at her soccer game.”

I suspect that there are lessons here for all of us. Partly, of course, it is a loss to Williams for Farley to retire. But the example that he sets by knowing when to bow out, by going out a winner and by realizing what is truly important in life may have as profound effect on those around him (and those of us at a distance) as his continued coaching would have had.

The article notes that “A nationwide search to find Farley’s successor will begin immediately.” Nationwide search? I have this vision of dozens of Williams staff and faculty, fanning out across the country, looking in every nook and cranny for the ideal Eph football coach.

My own preferences in a football coach are for someone 1) Smart enough to intellectually engage both his players and the larger campus community on topics of the day, 2) Likely to want to make a career out of Williams and a home out of Williamstown, 3) Aware that his players should be students first, Ephs second and football players third and 4) A good football coach.

I think that 4) is far and away the least important criteria. In many ways, an alum of the College would make for a natural fit — think of men’s basketball coach Dave Paulsen. And surely a couple of the current assistants in football (Dave Barnard?) will make for strong candidates.

Facebooktwitter

In terms of Williams alum

In terms of Williams alum activities, I am a sucker for stories in local newspapers on the theme of hometown girl (boy) makes good. An example is this article on the recent success’s of Kristen Forbes ’92. The article notes that Forbes, besides having a high speed position as a junior professor at MIT, was recently nominated to the President’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Besides which, you have to like someone who puts a picture of herself on an elephant on her homepage.

The article notes:

Early on she decided that the rough-and-tumble world of Wall Street was not for her. Sure, there were the private cars, the bigger paychecks and the lavish expense accounts. But something didn’t click for her there, Forbes said.

“There’s some people who thrive in that environment,” Forbes said. “But I was never very excited about helping a very wealthy company get even wealthier.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

;-)

Facebooktwitter

An article in the New

An article in the New York Times entitled “Five Truths About Tuition” features a quick quote from Professor of Economics Gordon Winston,

Gordon Winston, an economist at Williams College, told Congress that poor ”stars” were doing well — through scholarships awarded by private colleges — but ”the good-but-not-great low-income kid, and the average, are being lost.”

You can read the full text of Winston’s Congressional testimony here, albeit poorly formatted. All of what Winston’s says is perfectly sensible stuff, although I still suspect that Williams, at least, might do a better job in controlling its costs. My favorite quote from the testimony is:

We recently did a study of the prices actually paid by Williams students, relative to their family incomes, and found that kids who come from families in the bottom national income quintile — less than $24,000 a year — pay on average just $1,683 for a year at Williams. (The sticker price was $32,470). In this, Williams is typical of those high quality schools that use need-blind admission and give full-need aid — Princeton, Harvard, Swarthmore, Yale, Amherst, Stanford, etc.

It is good to know that Williams does whatever it can to ensure that low family income is no barrier to becoming an Eph. I am a little suspicious of the $1,683 figure. Don’t students from low income families end up with a lot more debt than this? I would guess that this is just the actually out-of-pocket expense and doesn’t include the value of any loans.

Thanks to the handy Williams in the News for the reference, although I do wish that they would provide some links.

Facebooktwitter

Shimon Rura ’03 has a

Shimon Rura ’03 has a thoughtful post on the value of research at Williams. He concludes:

On the other hand, getting papers published is not really a good measure of research relevance; it is just something possibly related that is easy to measure. This metric is also easy to manipulate by people who build the right connections. Thus I’d say publishing is commonly overrated, but one of the unique strengths of places like Williams is that a professor actively engaged in specialized research can contribute to the learning of many kinds of students, from apprentice to dilettante.

I am not so sure that the publishing process is “easy” to manipulate, but Shimon is certainly correct in his point that value of “research” at Williams should be measured by the direct impact that the research has on Williams students. An article or book that is never read by a Williams student, that generates no funding for research for a Williams student and that is not directly connected to any class taken by a Williams student should count for nothing in the tenure process.

Facebooktwitter

Visiting CC

Wednesday mornings are Record mornings, here at the Williams Blog. Morty Schapiro visited College Council last week and said all sorts of sensible things.

The fact that Morty takes the time to visit CC — I don’t remember a similar visit during my time on CC 15 years ago — is further evidence about how smart he is about the art and science of running Williams. The good will that he generates among campus opinion leaders by such a visit is more than worth an hour of his time. The Record reports:

Godfrey Bakuli ’07 asked Schapiro how he planned to address the drinking problem on campus. Schapiro advocated that while the administration could help, much of the responsibility for addressing the problem lies in the hands of the students. “You have to look after each other,” he urged. “If you tell somebody you’re making a mistake, [your] risking a friendship because you look like or seem paternalistic, but if you don’t, and you know in your heart they’re making a mistake, you risk your friend’s life . . . When in doubt, protect your friends.”

Who could disagree with this? Schapiro seems to consistently recognize that one of the things that makes Williams better than other schools is the trust that it places in its students and the maturity and sense of responsibility that this trust engenders.

Schapiro also spoke about the Stand Against Hate Rally and the incidents that sparked it. “Williams College is never going to figure out exactly where to draw these lines, when do you erase the chalk, when do you kick somebody out for an e-mail, when do you censor a faculty member or a coach, these are difficult things,” he said.

Although it is always tough to say exactly what you mean off the cuff, I have some issues with this. “When do you kick somebody out for an e-mail”? For a single e-mail? Never. “When do you censor a faculty member or a coach”? For (allegedly) hateful speech? Never.

I believe that, for all practical purposes these are the College’s policies? Has Williams ever kicked out a student for e-mail or for expressing hateful thoughts in any other medium? Has Williams ever censored a faculty member for her speech? I think that the answer to both is No, but would appreciate hearing otherwise.

Note that the inclusion of “coach” in the above smells like a reference to baseball coach Dave Barnard. I may have to start the Barnard Anti-Defamation League.

;-)

“If you don’t have a really good reason to censor speech that some people think is hateful, you should allow it to air; if you keep it underground, it never sees the light of day, and I think it’s useful, if someone says something that’s really inappropriate, to talk about it; not to just embarrass somebody but to make it a teaching moment.”

All very good stuff. I actually don’t think that this is that hard a line to draw at all. Any speech that is legal on Spring Street should be allowed, even encouraged, on the steps of Chapin. Harassment is illegal on Spring Street and should be punished by the College.

But in all the cases that have come to light recently (Lucien, Pritchard, Barnard) as well as every similar controversy that I know of over the last 20 years, the speech in question is perfectly legal. Speech at Williams should be at least as free as speech in Williamstown. My personal opinion is that some of this speech is despicable, some is suspect and some is completely correct. But all of it must be allowed.

Facebooktwitter

Research and Teaching

Kathy McDonnell ’88 writes:

I read the blog infrequently — but . . . back in October you wrote:

“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. ”

I must disagree. Research is an important part of being a professor. And research directly affects teaching. If you do not continue to do research after you hand in your dissertation, you essentially teach your students only what you learned in grad school and you do not stay current with new ideas and new evidence in your field. I bring my research into the classroom everyday! And sometimes my students change how I look at my research; the two are — should be — inextricably linked.

It is important to keep in mind two different uses of the word “research” in this context. First, “research” can mean “keeping up with the latest developments in your field and using them in your teaching.” I suspect that we all agree that this is a good thing. Almost all good teachers do this. Of course, as in all things, there are tradeoffs involved. I would rather have a teacher that was very good at leading a discussion about The Republic even if she doesn’t keep up to date on the latest classics research than one who spent lots of time reading the latest journal articles but who can’t competently lead a seminar.

Ideally, of course, you would like to have both. But the key point is that “research” in this context is subsumed under the general category of “teaching.” There are many aspects to excellent teaching and keeping abreast of developments in one’s field is one of them, although not nearly as important as other aspects, especially at a place like Williams.

The second meaning of “research” is “publish articles and books in your field.” This is the aspect of research that is overrated at Williams, and places like Williams. Tim Burke, professor at Swarthmore, has some great commentary here. Read the whole thing if you really care about what “research” should mean at Williams. The key paragraph is:

A liberal arts college, on the other hand, should be encouraging exactly the opposite path of development in its faculty. Rather than rewarding professors for their increasing detailed expertise in a highly specialized area of research, it should reward them for broadening outwards from their initial base of knowledge, reward them for forging connections between disparate areas of knowledge, reward them for extending their work as intellectuals beyond the campus and beyond academia.

How can we possibly ask our students to gain an appreciation of the whole structure of knowledge if we ourselves rarely glance beyond the confines of a narrow specialization? If our students have distribution requirements and the like, then so should the faculty.

There is a lot more to discuss here and I suspect that Kathy and I don’t disagree that much on the topic. My main point is that it does not matter to the quality of the education that Williams students receive whether or not Williams professors publish specialized articles in obscure journals that few people (and virtually no Williams students) read.

Facebooktwitter

A NYT article (registration required)

A NYT article (registration required) on preparing for the SAT’s features this advice from Richard Nesbitt.

College admissions officials tend to play down the advantage of commercial test preparation. ”My advice always is, rather than wait until the last minute and do some sort of remedial work, read a lot, and read with a dictionary,” says Richard Nesbitt, director of admissions at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. ”Instead of spending $875 for a course, pay $15 for an SAT booklet or go online to the College Board to get used to the idea of being timed and to know the types of questions. People think, ‘I’m going to be at a disadvantage because so-and-so is doing that.’ It’s unfortunate the test companies are preying on people’s angst.”

Does the college presume that most students have had test prep and consider that in their decisions? Mr. Nesbitt answers indirectly, saying only that the college presumes that disadvantaged students have not had test prep.

Now if Nesbitt only had some advice for me on how to get my daughter to read Junie B. Jones with a dictionary, I’d be all set.

Facebooktwitter

Hmmmm. Does Nate Winstanley have

Hmmmm. Does Nate Winstanley have an alibi, I wonder?

;-)

Facebooktwitter

Insular

This Berkshire Eagle editorial, “Williams Steps Up,” on the NARH gift from the College deserves comment.

Williams College has demonstrated exemplary generosity by contributing $1 million to the $12 million campaign now under way to renovate North Adams Regional Hospital. The college is no doubt acting in its own self-interest to an extent. A modern hospital is an essential component of a thriving, progressive North County community, and in order to attract high caliber faculty and students, up-to-date health care facilities are a compelling feature.

This just isn’t true. Prospective students have no idea whether the local hospital is the best or worst in Massachusetts (although most are smart enough to know that it is unlikely to be the best). How often did you think about hospital quality when you were 17?

Prospective faculty members are, by and large, so happy to have a tenure-track position at a decent school that hospital quality is the last thing on their minds.

But in a larger scale of things, Williams has recognized, as have other traditionally insular institutions of higher learning, that its fortunes are closely tied to the condition of its extended neighborhood. In so doing, the college has become a model of community leadership for others, especially in the corporate community, to emulate.

Who you calling “insular,” Berkshire Eagle? And, as long as we are looking for “leadership,” I wonder how much the Eagle has contributed to NARH?

Facebooktwitter

It’s always nice to see

It’s always nice to see Williams getting good press in the New York Times.

Inside St. Pierre’s Barber Shop on Spring Street in Williamstown, Mass., they are preparing for one of the most unusual traditions in college sports.

If Williams College beats Amherst, its biggest rival, in football this afternoon, Roger St. Pierre will draw his shop’s blinds and lay out about 80 cigars.

Immediately after the game, all 75 members of the Williams football team, still in uniform, will march a quarter-mile down Spring Street toward the shop. With their cleats scraping the pavement, they will belt out the college’s fight song.

What is the College’s “fight song,” I wonder? “The Mountains”? “Yard by Yard”?

If all 75 (!) members of the football really knew either by heart, I would be impressed.

Facebooktwitter

Barnard Wins

After issuing my challenge, I sent an e-mail to all the interested parties. Barnard wrote back:

[N]ot sure any of the offended parties are really interested in the subject matter. I have publicly offered to discuss my remarks with anyone seriously interested in baseball and Latino culture. Two weeks later no one has taken me up on that offer. Since no one other than the Dean – who admitted he wasn’t a baseball fan – wanted to discuss the matter with me one on one, I would have serious reservations about the sincerity of any person from this community claiming to be interested in a debate.

All perfectly reasonable. Of course, I have more faith (perhaps too much) in Barnard’s opponents. Or, at least, I used to. Here is what Lisha Perez had to say.

I no longer have any interest in pursuing the matter further or debating with anyone who fails to recognize cultural essentialism for what it is. Please refrain from sending me further mail. Thank you.

Isn’t that pathetic? It isn’t like I (or Dave Barnard, for that matter) went out looking for a fight with Lisha Perez and her fellow VISTAistas. She is the one who started things. She is the one who went to the Record. She is the one who made several serious and (potentially) career-damaging allegations against Barnard without either talking with him first or even getting a basic clue about the facts of the matter. Now she wants to just wander away.

Back in my day, the Leftist on campus were much more serious.

Moreover, I can’t help but marvel at the closed-mindedness of Perez’s sentiments — although I should confess to not knowing what “cultural essentialism” is. In essence, she doesn’t want to debate (talk with? meet? be in the same zip code as?) people who disagree with her.

Perhaps Bill Lenhart should have a “frank exchange” with her about how one of the purposes of a Williams education is to be confronted with ideas and perspectives different from one’s own.

Side Note: I try to always ask permission before posting an e-mail like this. Alas, since I don’t want to get accused of harassing Perez by e-mailing her again, I can’t ask her. Catch-22.

Facebooktwitter

A Challenge

I have a challenge for Dave Barnard, Lisha Perez and Nina Smith.

You seem to have a strong disagreement about, at least, two topics. First, does the fact that Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa are Latino have any bearing on their behavior during the recent Major League Baseball playoffs? Second, what role, if any, should there be at Williams for discussion of the influence of culture on behavior?

I, for one, have enjoyed reading your statements in the Record. It is wonderful to read such pieces. You are fortunate to be at a place like Williams that relishes passionate and informed discussion.

The perfect place for such a debate would probably be a Gaudino Forum. Presumably, it would not be hard to change the format so that each of you had an opportunity to first present your views, perhaps question each other and then involve the audience. I have no doubt that a good time would be had by all. Bill Lenhart, he of the “frank exchange,” might make for an excellent moderator, or perhaps even a full fledged participant. Harry Sheehy might also be included.

The cynic in me wonders, however, if any of the three of you are really ready for the rigor of such a public exploration and examination of your views. Perhaps Barnard is no more than a simple jock, intellectually incapable of participating in such a debate and best left to wallow in his own unexamined prejudices. Perhaps Perez and Smith are nothing more than shallow campus activists, unable to do more than be offended and issue demands.

My guess, however, is that the cynic in me is wrong.

On a personal note, I participated in a debate or two like this during my own time at Williams 15 years ago. They are among my fondest memories.

Facebooktwitter

Long Knives

One of thing to be aware of in the Barnard/VISTA dispute is that the long knives are certainly out for Barnard. Note how the article in the Transcript ends:

Williams spokesman James Kolesar said the college had no plans to take any formal action against Barnard.

Williams Athletic Director Harry Sheehy also ruled out disciplinary action right now.

“I know Dave is not a racist,” Sheehy was quoted as saying in the Record. “My guess is if Dave felt like students were upset, he would take that to heart.”

Barnard is the winningest coach in Ephs history. The Williams College baseball team has no Latin American players.

Of course, everything here is the “truth,” but note how the Transcript’s framing implies that one of the reasons that the College is taking no action against Barnard is because he has been so successful. A reporter more sympathetic to Barnard would have either omitted this fact (how is it relevant?) or placed it somewhere else in the story.

However, if you believe that Barnard’s record is not irrelevant to how the College handles this matter, then the placement makes sense.

I also wonder how the Transcript knows that the College has no Latin American players. Of course, you can see last years roster on the web, but just because someone’s current hometown is, say, Acton, MA, one can’t assume that he was born and raised there.

Moreover, what possible relevance does the lack of Latin American players on the baseball team at Williams have for the issue at hand, unless you want to imply that Barnard is a racist who not only makes despicable comments but also actively discriminates in organizing the Williams baseball team? How many Latin American students at Williams play on other teams? How many Williams students were even born in Latin America?

As a side note, this all might provide a perfect opportunity for Barnard to go a get some Latin American players — perhaps similar to the set up whereby men’s soccer brings in students from Jamaica. I, for one, would be eager to see my alumni fund contributions. meager though they are, spent on a full scholarship for some poor kid from, say, the Dominican Republic who was a) smart enough to go to Williams and b) able and eager to play baseball for Barnard.

Actually, a) would be enough for me, but one way of finding such 17 year-olds in out of the way places is to incentivise a guy like Barnard to go out and look for them. I wonder how the men’s soccer Jamaican connection was originally set up . . .

Facebooktwitter

Frank Exchanges

Baseball Coach Dave Barnard’s statement to the Record does not deserve a Fisking, at least from me, since most of it seems spot on. However, there seems to be a fair amount going on behind the scenes, so perhaps some deconstruction is in order. As background, note this tidbit from the Record article:

Bill Lenhart, dean of the faculty, said he had a “frank exchange” with Barnard about his comments. “Balancing the fundamental values of respect and freedom of expression is a challenge for all communities, including ours,” Lenhart said.

Harry Sheehy, director of athletics, indicated that no disciplinary action was being taken at the present time.

“I know Dave is not a racist,” Sheehy said. “My guess is if Dave felt like students were upset, he would take that to heart.”

Since much of what Barnard writes is reasonable, I’ll just quote and comment on some highlights. Barnard begins with:

On a recent local radio call-in program entitled “The Opinion Show,” I made some remarks about the relationship between Latin culture and recent pitcher/batter confrontations in Major League Baseball. The incidents discussed involved Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez, New York Yankees outfielder Karim Garcia, New York Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens, Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez, Marlins pitcher Josh Beckett and Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa. The following rationale constituted the basis for my comments.

This is certainly a much better opening than VISTA’s confused beginning. The central issue at hand is precisely the (alleged) connection “between Latin culture and recent pitcher/batter confrontations.” Barnard then notes:

Latin-born players make up roughly one-third of major league roster spots yet comprised two-thirds of the people involved in the recent events in question.

This may be true but it doesn’t take a statistician to point out that a sample size of 6 doesn’t allow for very sound inferences. It is reasonable for Barnard to point this out, but he really ought to directly acknowledge the number problem.

[T]he possible linkage of culture in these altercations seemed a perfectly legitimate topic of discussion for talk radio given the proportion of Latin-born participants involved in both these recent occurrences and historically well-known baseball events.

Who could possible disagree with this? Of course, my guess is that VISTA might object to any comment that suggested that any aspect of Latino culture was associated with something undesirable. If so, they need to learn that a, perhaps the, central value of a place like Williams should be open-ended intellectual enquiry. Barnard might be wrong in his original claim that Latino culture played a causative role in some of this behavior, but there is nothing wrong with him bringing up the topic.

Indeed, I am heartened to see how smart and eloquent Barnard is. It is marvelous to see a Williams coach who combines talent in sports with skill in debate. Even if there were another baseball coach that Williams could hire that would be 20% better at the art and science of coaching baseball than Barnard is, I wouldn’t want Harry Sheehy to hire him instead. Better to have a less-good coach who is intellectually engaged in the life of the college, than a much-better coach who is not.

On this point, it is interesting to note that this is not Barnard’s first foray into the pages of the Record. Although Williams seems to have no more than a handfull of conservative professors, at least the athletic coaches provide some measure of ideological diversity!

If I was definitive in my response — stating my opinion as if it were fact — I misspoke, as that was certainly not my intention. What I should have said was, “Maybe there is a relationship” versus, “some of this is,” “it is,” or “there is clearly.” My purpose was to invite discussion, not to make a statement of fact that I did not know to be true.

My bet is that the “opinion versus fact” issue is a direct result of Barnard’s “frank exchange” with Bill Lenhart, Dean of the Faculty. That is, Lenhart probably berated Barnard and told him that he had no business offering his opinions as if they were fact.

But whether or not I am correct in this deduction, the entire topic is somewhat asinine. You don’t have to be a post-modernist to see that the distinction between “fact” and “opinion” in a discussion of the causal relationship, if any, between an individual’s culture and his actions is specious at best. Although there are certain “facts” involved here (many of them conveniently captured on videotape), we have nothing better than opinions (whether Barnard’s, VISTA’s, Lenhart’s or mine) about the relationships among these facts.

Opinions are all that you have in any discussion of this type. Some of those opinions are better — more informed, more persuasive, better supported by the evidence — than others, but it is stupid to play the naive positivist game.

Again, I don’t think that Barnard is doing so. I think that he was coerced into making a distinction which he actually recognizes to be meaningless in this context.

Although I have twice visited Mexico on baseball trips and have been a casual observer of Latin culture within the sport of baseball for many years, I am not a cultural anthropologist or sociologist.

Although I don’t know any of the individuals involved here, I can’t help but to see Lenhart’s “frank exchange” in this admission. I bet that Lenhart told Barnard that it was suspect of him to offer facts/opinions outside his area of expertise. Either way, the whole notion that you need to have the union card of a Ph.D. in anthropology or sociology in order to offer an opinion on behavior in a baseball game is ludicrous. Now, though it might be wise to put more credence in Barnard’s ideas if he did have a Ph.D. in these fields, the ideas themselves stand or fall independent of the speaker.

I was simply offering an opinion based on more than two decades of coaching experience and observations watching a few thousand major league baseball games over 35 years.

Read: “Screw you, Ph.D. geeks.” I love the use of the word “simply” in this sentence. Barnard is subversively pointing out that, in all likelihood, no one at Williams is more qualified than he to offer an opinion on the cultural component, if any, in the actions of Martinez, Ramirez and Sosa. If you want to be an “expert” on this topic, then you probably need to be an expert on both baseball and Latin culture. Does anyone at Williams know more about the former than Barnard? Certainly there are some faculty members (5? 10?) who know more about Latin culture than Barnard knows, but I would wager than none of them know nearly as much about baseball as Barnard does.

Baseball, “machismo” (masculine pride) and Latin culture have long been a part of public discourse. During the Major League Baseball playoffs, the topic has been much discussed on talk radio and other journalistic mediums around the country. There is also a significant body of sociological and cultural research, in addition to other print articles, about the topic. In fact, if you plug in “baseball” and “Latin culture” into your search engine you’ll discover over 33,000 web sites and articles; if you search “machismo” and “baseball,” you’ll find in excess of 2,100 hits.

Barnard makes two points here, one good and one weak. The good point is to point out the (obvious) fact that anywhere else but in the sheltered harbor that is the world according to VISTA, a discussion like the one he had on radio would be unremarkable. The weak point is that he can use Google. Glad to hear it! I would expect Barnard to, at a minimum, highlight a reference or two that was directly relevant. If I plug in “Barnard” and “idiot” into Google, I get 3,350 hits.

The number of hits produced has little bearing on this discussion. If Barnard believes that other well-informed people of goodwill make the sorts of points that he was trying to make, he should point us toward those people.

To suggest that cultural or sociological explanations of pitcher/batter confrontations shouldn’t be discussed because an individual or group may take offense, runs contrary to the ideals of the college learning experience.

What possible response can VISTA make to this argument?

The well-respected Harvard political science professor, Harvey Mansfield, had it right when he stated in a 1991 article entitled, “Political Correctness and the Suicide of the Intellect,” “The purpose of academic freedom is to further inquiry, inquiry means being more aware, not being more sensitive. . . . Giving and taking offense is especially inappropriate to a campus. It is perhaps part of politics but certainly not part of inquiry.”

Again, it is a pleasure to see a Williams coach demonstrate this sort of intellectual engagement, regardless of whether he is right or wrong about the issue at hand. Barnard finishes with:

For those seriously interested in studying the relationship between baseball and Latin culture, I welcome the opportunity to discuss, inquire and learn.

It is tough to judge from a distance whether or not this offer is made in good faith; note the snarky use of “seriously.” Fortunately, I believe that I have a way of testing this, which I’ll save for tomorrow.

Facebooktwitter

Older Posts »