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Eric Smith ’99 had some

Eric Smith ’99 had some extensive comments on athletics and Williams.

In previous posts you had made it clear that you aren’t thrilled with the idea of tips (the students that get in due to sports) in the Williams world. I like to see viewpoints on many issues that differ from my own, so it is interesting for me to read about this. I must say that I am biased on the tips issue at Williams since I ran XC/Track while I was there and for all I know I was a tip when I got in early decision.

But one thing that stood out in this recent post was that you mentioned the students that would not be allowed to play basketball for Williams because a better athlete (but presumably worse off academically) had taken their place, would presumably be missing out on that experience. Which is interesting since you had in the past essentially said that if an athlete isn’t good enough academically, then they shouldn’t be at Williams. So with that comes a similar argument, that person might enjoy being at Williams with an academically diluted student body (presumably due to athletics letting in those horrific 1200-1300 SAT scores) more than being a big fish in a small pond (at a school of less prestige).

From there you could even perhaps argue from the viewpoint of Harvard’s Howard Gardner in that the SAT is biased and only accounts for a fraction of the possible intelligences of any given person. So would you rather have a school full of people that are good at taking the SAT (which is all that the SAT measures by his argument), or would you rather the experience of a pool of multiple intelligences? Of course that is a loaded question since Howard Gardner’s whole point is that there are multiple intelligences – arguing that the basketball player with lower SAT scores than the person that didn’t make the team (in our theoretical situation in discussion on the blog) has high strengths in other intelligences beyond the heavy math, logic, and language stresses of the SAT test. The obvious strength being towards the “physical” from Gardner’s intelligences (I believe there are 7 or 8, and don’t recall what they are exactly off of the top of my head).

Now, were we talking about MIT’s graduate math program, I think you could make a very solid and convincing argument that sports shouldn’t have any say in whether someone gets in. If you are going to be studying in a math specific program that is at the graduate level, you should be at the top for that – at least at MIT – and there is no real need to ensure those people are exposed to some good athletes too while at MIT.

But at a liberal arts college level, where you are encouraged to broaden your horizons and the whole experience is more important than any one class – I would argue that you would want the athletes in there. Just as you would want a representative pool of all of the different types of intelligences argued by Gardner.

Of course, all of this is greatly weakened if you don’t feel that Williams is truly liberal arts, or if you feel that Howard Gardner is way off base.

These are all good questions. My bias would be to believe that the basic assumption of Williams — make high school grades and standardized test scores the key criteria for admissions — is correct. But, if you don’t make that assumption, then all sorts of options become available.


The Record has a fun

The Record has a fun follow-Morty-for-a-day piece this week. Best part was:

I found out that Morty also likes to set up students and alums on blind dates.

Morty and his wife Mimi met on a blind date orchestrated by mutual friends, so Morty says he feels an obligation to help someone else find his or her future spouse. On one of the matches Morty made, he actually accompanied the couple on their first date to the restaurant and picked up the tab. That couple is now married with two children.

We are at the Williams Blog are inveterate matchmakers ourselves, so this is another reason why Morty rules. Morty was even in the vicinity when my wife and I got together 16 years ago, although I don’t recall him actually setting us up. However, he did remember (more than a decade after the fact!) our coupledom, which I found truly amazing.

Perhaps I am a bad person for giving Morty such a hard time about his salary . . .



Everyone’s winter break reading should

Everyone’s winter break reading should include Dave Barnard’s piece on admissions and athletics at Williams. Barnard claims that:

What we have witnessed since the publication of The Game of Life is a major unilateral shift in Williams’ policy pertaining to athletic priority admissions standards. With the rest of the league, including Amherst, now matriculating more athletes per sport at lower academic levels – unless we act to correct the situation – it is simply a matter of time before our teams are significantly less competitive.

As always, my concern is not just with the Williams athletes that we see today, but with those students who wanted to be athletes but were not good enough to make the team because of the presence of “tips.” Where are the 3 students who wanted to play mens varsity basketball but where not good enough to make the team? Without tips, they might be playing for Williams today. I have little doubt that they would rather play for a .500 team than cheer for a national champion.

But a more important point is that, agree with him or not, Barnard demonstrates in this piece as well as his other writings that he is a serious thinker and more than an intellectual peer of the students he coaches and the (few but vocal) academic faculty who sneer at him. Williams needs more faculty, both academic and athletic, who are publicly engaged with controversial issues of concern to the Williams community.


Here is an interesting take

Here is an interesting take on the St. Anthony Hall situation.

St. Anthony Hall members don’t deserve our anger. They deserve our laughter.

By becoming outraged at their presence on campus, we make them a legitimate concern unnecessarily. Until secret fraternities actually threaten the social life of the College, the College does more harm than good by treating them seriously.

I still claim that the College could get rid of St. Anthony Hall relatively easily, if it wanted to.

Perhaps the dog that isn’t barking here can be explained by powerful alums who are former members of St. Anthony Hall. Anyone know where Herbert Allen ’62 hung out for his fours years in Billsville?


Beer Street

Although there are many excellent writers at Williams today, I know of none better than Aidan. His latest Record Op-Ed piece, on alcohol among the Ephs, is a gem.

This article is so good that you really ought to read the whole thing. Indeed, I can’t even pick out just one passage to quote.

Perhaps the only thing that I can add is a link for the artist that Finley mentions. Below are “Gin Lane” (what Williams is now) and “Beer Street” what we all want Williams to be.

Maybe its just me, but I could swear that a couple of my old roommates are pictured in the above . . .


Eric Smith ’99 sent in

Eric Smith ’99 sent in these thoughts on banning hard alcohol at Williams.

It is amusing that Williams has a stellar set of profs and a bright student base . . . apparently those people that actually make decisions that reach the press though border on mentally retarded. Are they in total denial of the problems they have had since they cracked down on the party policy in the late ’90s? Are they ignoring what historical prohibitions in general have done? Have they at all cut down on the issues — not at all. Hell, the Bronfman family — one of the largest donors to Williams had their start from bootlegging — so they might be good ones to ask in terms of the likelihood of this working at Williams. I would imagine that Williams is more likely trying to cover their asses legally for the cases that do come up than they are about anything actually happening. If a parent sues them because his Muffy drank too much and hurt herself, the college can wave their hands and say “Hey, we don’t allow that stuff.”

When I was in college at Williams the party scene was very lax and it was surprisingly successful. They changed it around when MIT frat boys started killing each other via drinking and the state cracked down. The immediate result was an increase in younger students drinking hard and heavy before parties — and then ending up in the infirmary — I was a JA that year and I recall it vividly. I had several frosh go and it is never a pleasant thing to go through (although I think it is only fair to admit that I went myself that year as well).

When I was a JA, they brought a doctor in and tell us that it has been a very long time since a student has died from drinking and that as time goes by they are just pressing their luck. If this is the case, then it is all that much more likely to happen under their prohibition stage — so maybe that (inevitable fluke or not) will get them to wake up and try another avenue.


If any Eph can claim

If any Eph can claim to have an unusual role in life beyond the Purple Bubble, surely it is John Small ’86, Martha Stewart’s “Number One Fan.”

Small makes media appearances all over the place. A good overview is here.

In his role as self-appointed cheerleader for Martha Stewart, John Small adopts the mission of mail carriers: to deliver, regardless of the climate. So this week’s frigid temperatures find him waving banners outside the federal courthouse in Manhattan, as criminal proceedings against Stewart begin. And Small’s outlook remains sunny, even when he and just one other fan brave bone-chilling cold to cheer the goddess of good things on her trial’s opening day. “I’m surprised there’s not more fans, but it’s 12 degrees with the wind chill,” he says. “It’s keeping fair-weather friends away.”

He adjusts a chef’s hat emblazoned with a “Save Martha!” logo and ponders the comment.

“I guess,” he laughs, “that makes us the foul-weather friends.”

Lest anyone think that Small is (too) kooky, the article makes clear that there is a method to this (apparent) madness.

If his schedule permits, Small plans to be at the courthouse most days during the expected six-week trial.

It’s a show of Stewart solidarity, of course. But it’s also to gather more information for his book, which he’s starting to pitch to publishers.

He’s already got a title: “Saving Martha.”

Both he and Stewart are still waiting for an ending.

Those looking for more information should check out Small’s website on the topic. His main business seems to be Sunday Media.

Any snarkiness in the above should be attributed to jealousy on my part. Small clearly makes a lot more money from his web efforts than I do from mine!


Bryan Garsten may be new

Bryan Garsten may be new to the Williams College political science department, but he’s getting some nice face time in The New York Times:

The crucial question for Edwards is whether he can move from charisma to character. Bryan Garsten, a Williams College political theorist whom I met at an Edwards speech, points out that Aristotle believed that the greatest speakers don’t just persuade audiences to accept an argument — they get people to trust their judgment. They use emotion and logic to establish their character, which leaves a deeper impression than the momentary thrill of a standing ovation.

Garsten is teaching “Modern Political Thought” and “Rhetoric and Democracy: Three Debates” this spring.


The Berkshire Eagle is reporting

The Berkshire Eagle is reporting that the College is considering banning hard liquor.

The college administration is considering a ban on hard alcohol after a spike in excessive on-campus drinking.

Some students say that banning alcohol on campus would make the situation worse because it would drive student drinking parties underground and cause those who were sick from drinking not to seek help for fear of being disciplined.

No administration officials are quoted.

How could anyone who remembers what it was like to be an undergraduate think that banning a legal substance (at least for those Ephs older than 21) would be enforceable or effective?

I suspect that the people who run the College are too intelligent to ever try something like this.


Shimon Rura ’03 sent in

Shimon Rura ’03 sent in these thoughts in relation to some of Mike Needham’s recent comments on the state of the technology infrastructure at Williams.

Hi Mike,

In a recent post on the Williams Blog you mention that “a hacker broke into the system in September and completely escaped notice up until now. The consequence is a large percentage of the campus has had their passwords compromised and are having serious trouble accessing the Williams network and most importantly e-mail.”

I just wanted to point out to you that, although I (’03) am not on campus, I believe the breach you’re referring to was on systems run by WSO, not on the college’s own systems. WSO (Williams Students Online) is a student group, funded by college council and run entirely by student volunteers. Though it is often lumped together with “official” college IT under the umbrella of computer stuff you can access at Williams, it is an independent entity.

In particular, the staff of Williams OIT do not have any access to or responsibility for WSO servers. OIT gives WSO some network plugs, electricity, and a cage in the basement of Jesup. WSO procures, sets up, programs, and maintains their own systems. WSO and OIT have a healthy cooperative relationship, and OIT has even contributed some funding for certain WSO equipment.

Therefore, even if you believe this security breach was only made possible because of negligence (I am doubtful here), that negligence would be on the part of the students who run WSO, not the staff in OIT. If you think about this, WSO is actually a remarkably effective, sophisticated, innovative, and reliable service considering that it is run by student volunteers.

Personally, while I cannot deny that OIT’s service record leaves some things to be desired, I will agree with Kimberley that the staff does well given
their resources. IT is a generally risky discipline because the systems involved are enormously complex and change faster than most humans can learn. In large part, IT failures at Williams have been the results of bad luck, not preventable errors.

I wish you great success in advocating for better technology services at Williams.

As always, it is tough to know from a distance what is going on, but, to my mind, recent events demonstrate once again that WSO is a great organization and that Williams should be praised for allowing and encouraging its students to embrace these sorts of responsibilities. Of course, it is too bad that WSO was hacked (I am a WSO user too), but, as a result of this experience, the students who run WSO have learned much about life its own self, at least in the business world. They now know much more than most 20 year olds about security, service, back-up plans, customer support and so on.

Williams is a better place because of its willingness to allow its students real responsibilities even though some mistakes will always be made.


The latest Record is, as

The latest Record is, as usual, filled with all sorts of fun stuff for close watchers of all things Eph. For example, this article provides an update on the College’s “Climb Far” fund raising campaign. The most interesting parts deal with the strategy behind the campaign.

During what is called the “nucleus phase” the period before a fundraising campaign is publicized, the campaign hit its target, collecting approximately $100 million of its $400 million goal.

“Our focus prior to kick-off was targeting key alumni leaders, those closest to the College and those that could contribute the largest gifts,” Birrell said. By reaching the 25 percent benchmark during this test period, the College moved into the next phase of fundraising.

A great project for one of David Zimmerman’s thesis students would be to look at the economics of fund raising at Williams. I am especially curious about the distribution of total giving by gift size. For example, it is clear in the above that only a handful (25?) of individuals were needed to raise 1/4 of the total target. These are the wealthiest of the wealthy. One reason why the College might not be concerned about high pay to senior officials is that, for a key part of the donor base, that pay level would be considered peanuts.

The only component of the campaign that is not continuing as expected is the growth of the Alumni Fund and the Parents’ Fund, which the College has placed at the center of its efforts. Officials are asking alumni and parents to donate $56 million over the next five years.

It would be nice to get a better sense of the breakdown among the different categories. I read this, so far targeting $100 million from the super-weathly and $50 from the hoi polloi.

The regional committees Schapiro referred to will attempt to secure major gifts from alumni in their local areas. A major gift consists of $100,000 or more over a 5-year period.

The College expects to receive gifts of over $1 million from only about 65-70 donors. They are asking most committed donors to give between $20,000 and $50,000 over five years. “We are asking people for the next five years to place Williams at the top of the list or as close to the top as they feel able in terms of philanthropy,” Callahan said.

It seems from this summary, that a majority of the fund-raising ($250 million?) might come from people for whom $400,000 in annual income is neither peanuts nor so far away as to be somehow abstract. Are those sorts of people put off by the fact that the College, despite seeking our philanthropy, still feels wealthy enough to pay its top administrators so lavishly?

I know that my wife is.


Welcome aboard to David Nickerson

Welcome aboard to David Nickerson ’97, the latest addition to the Williams Blog. Regular readers know that David has been an occasional contributor to these pages in the past. Because he has real responsibilities (graduate school on political science at Yale), David will probably not be an active poster, but he now has the power to post directly, without the filter of my commentary.

As always, we would welcome other bloggers to this effort as well. If you have something to say about Williams, why not say it here?


Kimberly: As I acknowledged in

Kimberly: As I acknowledged in my December letter following the major Internet and network outage during final exams (which David linked to at the time), I truly have no idea what the cause of the woeful state of our IT situation at Williams is. I am perfectly willing and happy to accept the idea that it is a question of funding and not competence. That said, it is undeniable in my estimation that the state of IT at Williams does not currently support the academic mission of the College in the manner in which it must at a school of Williams’ caliber.

In the interest of fairness, I’ve been informed that the cause of the hacker situation lies with WSO (a student-run group) and not with the Office of Information Technology. I’ve been traveling around the country for the last 10 days and therefore missed that crucial fact. So OIT should be let off the hook for this situation.

OIT cannot be let off the hook, however, for the dismal state of our network. I am told that last week the network was down again for a couple of hours. Indeed, the outage was apparently 24 hours long in Poker Flats, according to a friend of mine who lives there (again, I was off campus). He tried calling 12 networks and systems administrators during that time and not one was in their office, he tells me. This is simply not acceptable.

As I said, I’m perfectly willing to accept the argument that OIT is poorly funded. If that’s the case the administration needs to give it the funding it needs to get to the level it must be at. If it’s not a question of funding, then changes at OIT need to happen.



Shimon Rura ’03 sent in this message.

Today I found guidestar, a site that makes available a bunch of data on nonprofits. If you register with them (for free) you can view wonderfully informative things like the Williams form 990 for fiscal 2002, which I’ve mirrored for your convenience here.

According to this document, two of Williams’ most highly paid independent contractors are investment managers, ringing in at $2.3M and $1.2M. Aside from the top 5, 37 other contractors received over $50k for services.

On the other hand I am pleased to say Williams incurred no expenses for lobbying. :)

Thanks to Shimon for making this data so easily accessible. Of course, the College should, in the spirit of transparency, make this form available for easy downloading from its web site. I’ll try to ask about that. This year’s form should be out soon.

One item that jumps out, from the first page of “Schedule A” is that Professors Goethals and Hill made more than $200,000. Since Hill is also Provost, there is presumably a rationale for why her compensation is higher than other professors. I am not sure how Goethals ended up so high on the list, although I think that he served as Provost in the past.


As a former Jesup employee

As a former Jesup employee (two years as an undergrad and three years of being in the trenches full-time) I have to jump in here. This is a classic example of getting what one pays for. I haven’t seen the current budget, but unless things have changed dramtically, technology at Williams is severely under-funded. I expect the professional staff is doing the best it can with the resources it has.


It will come as no

It will come as no surprise to those who follow the woeful state of our Internet technology services at Williams to learn that a hacker broke into the system in September and completely escaped notice up until now. The consequence is a large percentage of the campus has had their passwords compromised and are having serious trouble accessing the Williams network and most importantly e-mail.

The Record had an excellent article last week on the sorry state of IT at Williams, including this gem of a quote from a “professor in Division II”:

“After the Dec. 11 crash, I spoke with colleagues at several rival institutions, asking them if their schools’ networks broke down often. All were surprised by the question because they expect, and get, dependable Internet access at their institutions. All wondered how a college experiencing recurring problems with what is now an essential intellectual tool got ranked as the best in the nation.”

Words truly escape me whenever I try to describe how miserable the technology situation is at Williams. It’s gotten to the point where you just simply expect to not be able to check e-mail at various points throughout the day, expect that the Internet may inexplicably cut out, or that the Internet will just be painfully slow. I work off a 56.6 dial-up modem at home and sometimes feel that it is less of a nuisance.

The question for the College is whether anything is going to be done about it. Senior staff at the College seems to think that the Office of Internet Technology does a fantastic job. That is, frankly, not true.


Salary Foolishness

David Nickerson ’97 has several comments on the topic of salaries at Williams. I’ll start with the one most directly related to Mike’s post below.

Suggesting a set pay scale for professors is foolish.

Well, someone has to set a pay scale of some type. We can be sure that the President and the Dean of the Faculty spend a great deal of time on this. As best I can tell from a distance, they do a fine job. I am especially impressed to hear, from a faculty source, that Williams explicitly sets its junior faculty salaries to be, in general, no less than 45% or so of those for senior faculty. Prior to hearing about Morty’s salary, I didn’t think that compensation at Williams was in any way a problem. I now consider the President’s salary to be, potentially, the proverbially canary in the coal mine.

Imagine that the College announced tomorrow that it was doubling the salaries for all members of the faculty. After all, Williams wants to attract and retain the best professors, the faculty is the most important resource for current and future students, the College has a significant endowment, blah, blah, blah.

I am not saying that Williams will do that. I am just pointing out that there is a potential conflict between those who work at Williams currently and those whose primary concern is Williams’s success over the very long term.

If Williams wants to attract the best educators in a field, it will have to bid against other schools for the candidates. Market forces will push salaries well above national average (indeed, my father was impressed that a small college could pay its professors more than he makes at a state research university).

It is not clear to me that the “market” is a meaningful construct with which to consider faculty salaries at Williams. How many tenured members of the Williams faculty, especially in the humanities, could get a similar job (tenure with the same pay) at another institution? I would guess that 20% would be a very generous estimate. There are simply way too many (highly qualified and dedicated) professors out there chasing too few jobs. The true “market clearing” salary would be much lower than it is now.

This is less true for junior faculty, of course. In that case, there is a job market in which Williams does compete. And part of the competition in that market is about how Williams treats its senior faculty. But, big picture, there are dozens and dozens of applicants for virtually every opening at Williams.

Adding a few disadvantages in geography (finding a job for a spouse is not easy) and the premium price for professors only increases.

This is a fair point. Of course, I would turn this around into a virtue and try to recruit faculty couples. (The College already does this, to some extent. I think that there are at least a couple of married faculty members.) Many faculty spouses (does anyone know how many?) also work for the College.

Again, it would be one thing if Williams were really having trouble hiring excellent teachers. But as Morty notes, “The caliber of our newest hires is extraordinary, as we have been able to attract our first-choice candidates in one field after another.”

Again, my point is not so much that Williams’s faculty pay is out of line. From a distance, it seems reasonable. My concern is with the top end and the effect over time that largesse there will have on the institution.

The pay scale would not even work within the college. Chemists have numerous and lucrative exit options, while historians are more or less confined to the academy. In order to pay all assistant professors the same salary, the College would either have to hire mediocre chemists (a la lower tier liberal arts colleges) or pay history and literature professors salaries well above the market rate (ala Caltech). Idiosyncratic academic salaries are a sign of efficient pricing not institutional waste.

Again, this is a fair point. Perhaps Williams does need to pay the chemists more than the historians. This will certainly be a popular opinion in the chemistry department. For the most part, though, I suspect that the differences that Williams actually has are so small that the costs (in terms of rancor) are less then the benefits. If a chemist would rather go to school X than to Williams because school X pays all its chemists 15% more (and more than its historians), then good luck to her. Williams should focus on getting faculty who think that Williams is special.

Indeed, just as an idea, I would suggest that the College consider the pay philosophy of another very successful 200 year old non-profit institution: the US military. In the military, two things are true about pay, with very few exceptions. First, pay is public. Everyone knows what everyone else gets paid. Second, pay depends on rank and time of service. If you are the best colonel in the Marine Corps, you’re reward is not to get paid what a “similar” civilian job would pay or to get paid more than other colonels. Your reward is to get promoted and/or to get the coolest job that a colonel can get.


David: Your suggestion below that

David: Your suggestion below that Williams fix the salary of an assistant professor to national norms of $50,000 and then cap full professors at twice that is highly problematic. Williams will always have to compensate its professors much more due to its location in the middle of nowhere. Jobs in cities that have vibrant intellectual and cultural communities, where the weather is warm, or where the local population is more diverse will all offer potential candidates reasons to shy away from Williams. In order to compete with Harvard or Duke and a dozen or so other schools that are intellectually as strong as Williams, we have to show candidates the money.

The President of the United States gets $400,000 a year plus some pretty nice perks (the White House, Air Force One, interns), incidentally.


I’m not sure why, but

I’m not sure why, but I just love business press releases. Perhaps it is a psychiatric disorder. In any event, here we have a classic of the genre, featuring James Heekin ’71. Although I am no expert in advertising, I think this means that Heekin has just landed one of the 25 or so top jobs in the industry worldwide. He has clearly had a very successful career. Yet the release quotes him as saying:

I see tremendous upside potential for the company and a very talented and committed management team. Our core vision to generate Creative Business Ideas(R), which directly impact our clients’ business, is both compelling and unique. Furthermore, we believe our reorganization of our many marketing communications assets into fully integrated Power Of One business units, allows us to attack client business issues both quickly and with maximum impact.

I have read this quote several times and still can’t understand what it means, even in the context of the entire press release. Few people read these releases, of course, and, as often as not, the “quotes” in them are crafted by some PR flack. Still, I would have hoped that an ad firm would do a better job.

Any student interested in advertising as a career should certainly reach out to Heekin. As best I can tell, there is no more important Eph in the industry.


Morty’s Salary

I got to ask my question about Morty’s salary at the Boston area alumni event last week. Unfortunately, I failed to prepare the precise wording of the question ahead of time — operating under the delusion that I can speak coherently off the cuff — and so jumbled things a bit. I tried to ask something along the lines of:

Grant for the moment that Morty’s $400,000 annual package is fair and appropriate. But, certainly at some point, the President’s salary would be too high. How high is too high? At what point should I, as an alum asked to donate time and money, start to worry that the College is paying its President too much? If I am at this same event five years from now, would there be any problem with the President’s salary being $500k or $800k or $2 million?

I got two answers, both of which are true and reasonable but, to my mind, unconvincing.

1) Morty’s pay is similar to that of other presidents at peer institutions. This is true, but just because Amherst overpays its president is no reason for Williams to do the same.

2) Morty has a very complex job. Someone in the business world with similar responsibilities (in terms of number of employees and annual budget) would make much more. Again, this is true but irrelevant. The Governor of Massachusetts, the Secretary of State and the Commanding General of the First Marine Division all have jobs that are at least as complex and, almost certainly, more important than Morty’s, yet they each get paid much less. If Morty wants to make the big bucks, he should go into business.

Again, I stand second to none in my praise for the excellent job that Morty has done and in my expectation that he will continue to be an outstanding president. I know of no one who has written more public words of praise of his performance than I have. But $400,000 is too much. Why should I give charity to an institution that is so wealthy that it can afford such a lavish package?

Of course, Williams does have to pay its President something, just as it needs to pay its professors. But as a non-profit, it must take issues of compensation very seriously. If it were me, I would set assistant professor salaries at national norms, call it $50,000 and have full professors max out at 2 times that, with the presidents salary set at 2 more times that.

Anyone, after Morty, who does not think that being President of Williams is the job of a lifetime, even at $200,000 per year, is probably not the person that you want for the job.


SAT scores

Although I’ll care a lot more about this 10 years from now (my eldest daughter is in the second grade), the Record reports that 214 applicants were admitted early. Highlights included:

The average score of the applicant pool was 1402, with 697 verbal and 705 math. Accepted students averaged 1427, with 709 verbal and 718 math.

Those admitted via early decision for the Classes of 2007, 2006 and 2005 had average scores of 1412, 1411 and 1401, respectively, with average scores for the entire applicant pools generally in the 1380 range.

The SAT was rescaled a few years ago, so 1420 now is not like a 1420 back in the day. Graduates from more than 10 years ago should think of this as closer to 1320. Still, the trend over the last few years is clear and the jump from 1401 to 1427 is impressive by any measure.

Applicants also showed prowess in other areas. According to Nesbitt, the group was “very good right across the board — [with] lots of non-academic talent as well.”

Of the accepted students, 15 are talented musicians. Three have high ratings in theater, three have won national writing awards and two have top studio-art portfolios. Additionally, 14 are research-oriented science students.

Thirty-six students are athletic tips, although the entire class will include 66 athletic tips in total. This number is similar to those of previous years; last year, 37 tips were admitted early.

Of course, the general claim is that the College treats all sorts of non-academic talents in a similar fashion. Alas, we know that this is not true. Most, if not all, of those “talented musicians” would have been accepted regardless of their abilities. Almost none of the athletic tips would have gotten in without skill on the field. Perhaps a case can be made for this double standard, but the first step would be admitting that a double standard exists and quantifying the magnitude of it. For example, compare and contrast the average SAT score of the 36 admitted athletic tips versus that of the 23 (15 + 3 + 3 + 2) artists. Without knowing the facts, I would bet that the average tip score was below 1250 while that for the artists was pretty close to the 1427 average for the whole group of accepted applicants.


It is tough to judge

It is tough to judge from a distance how well the system of matching student athletes to specific colleges works in the rarefied world of elite colleges. The Boston Globe reports on Dave Glynn, a star Massachusetts high school hockey player.

Glynn had a choice to make. He was put on a waiting list at Harvard, his first choice, and was accepted to Williams College. Instead he decided to spend the year at Phillips Exeter.

“Academics have always been a pretty big deal for me,” he said. “I want to get in the best school possible, so it seemed like this was the right choice.”

Glynn may be making a mistake. As a rule of thumb, you want to be at the best school possible that you will “fit into” academically. It is tough whether or not Glynn would fit into Harvard, or Williams for that matter. But you do not want to be the dumbest kid in your Harvard or Williams class. Of course, “dumbest” at places like Harvard and Williams usually means pretty darn intelligent, but being at the bottom is still a slow, hard slog. Although I would love for my own daughters to go to Williams, the admissions office won’t be doing them or me any favors if they don’t really belong there.

So, where does Glynn belong? Again, it is impossible (for me) to know about Glynn specifically, but Williams coaches certainly claim that places like Harvard admit too many athletes who really “belong” at Williams. On average, it is almost certainly true that a student athlete who barely gets in to Harvard would have been better off going to Williams. If I can find Glynn’s e-mail, I’ll try to make the case to him myself.


The latest issue of the

The latest issue of the Record is out and, as usual, it is packed with good stuff. The highlight for late 80’s alums is the tenuring of two of our classmates, Tom Smith ’88 and Will Dudley ’89, in chemistry and philosophy, respectively. Six others were awarded tenure while two were denied.

The more alumni that Williams hires (and tenures) as professors, the better off the College will be.


Morty and some Trustees are

Morty and some Trustees are coming to Boston tonight for a meet and greet. The Williams Blog will be there. Alas, this is a standard all-the-hoi-polloi event — not an exclusive dinner for the movers and shakers (read: rich folks) of the alumni world — so I am not sure how much time I will get with the powers that be. However, I do expect to get in my fair share of questions.

Are there any questions that readers of this blog, especially current students and faculty, would like answered?

I will be pushing two issues, at least. First is the case of baseball coach Dave Barnhard. Williams should have more faculty (both athletic and academic) like him, so it is distressing to see how he has been bullied by the administration. Second is the issue of Morty’s pay. If $400,000 per year is OK (I don’t think it is), how much would be too much? This is a big and complex topic, but I am will be curious to hear the trustees’ thoughts on the issue.


Hal Wells ’88, who has

Hal Wells ’88, who has been avoiding me lo these 16 years, checked in with the sad news that the College, sometime ago, had converted the marvelous seminar room in Perry into bedrooms. Such is the price of progress.

Hal also reported that, after getting a Ph.D. in history, he “jumped ship” to the law. He is now at Wilmer Cutler. He notes that he:

still can’t believe we got snookered by the Bowen Report into believing there would be jobs for us! And at least I wound up in a good-paying career, so I am not completely trapped by student loan debt. Think about classmates who borrowed to go to grad school, got a PhD, and then weren’t able/willing to do stuff like law, or managing money — they will really be paying for the PhD for a long time.

Quite true. One reason to be suspicious of Bowen’s work on the college athletics is that he was so completely wrong about the evolution of the academic labor market over the last 20 years.


Award for Garrity

It is nice to see that Tom Garrity has won a teaching award. Colin Adams’ nomination noted that:

Garrity’s classes are notorious for being some of the most difficult on campus. There is a certain cachet in having survived them. And yet students flock to them. Students adore him. They say, ‘He is sooooo smart, such a great teacher and he is hilarious. You will fall in love with him, trust me!’

Tom Garrity’s catchphrase is “Functions Describe the World.” The students have picked up it. It appears chalked on the sidewalk, it appears on posters and it appears in innumerable student talks. Tom stands out as an exceptional teacher, as someone who can take math phobic students and turn them into mathematicians. He draws them into his world, where thinking about mathematics is as natural as breathing, and in the process, he instills in them a lifelong love of all that is mathematical.

There is, perhaps, more than a little bit of mathematical incest in the sense that Garrity is the fourth (!) math professor at Williams to win this particular (nation-wide) award. At some point it starts to get like Nobel prizes at the University of Chicago Department of Economics — you feel inferior if you don’t have one. Of course, the math department at Williams is one of the College’s great success stories over the last 20 years. I don’t know the exact numbers, but my sense is that the number of majors has tripled in that time and that Williams has many more math majors, as a percentage of each class, than comparable institutions. I often use the math department as an example of the wonderfulness of Williams when talking to prospective students.

Although I never had Garrity as a professor, I have relatives who report that he is everything that Adams makes him out to be and more. I certainly would have benefitted from reading his book before graduate school, and any current Williams student who is even considering graduate school in economics or political science would be well-served to take as much math as they can stand. But that is a rant for another day.


Aiden Finley has a thoughtful

Aiden Finley has a thoughtful piece, soon to appear in the Record, on the nature of religious dialogue at Williams. He writes:

However, although many self-described people of faith have written bemoaning the lack of respect or opportunities for sectarian study on this campus, they have not addressed a far more glaring problem: the systematic lack of critical thought about religious faith by those who attempt to practice it.

Many years ago, Newman Catholic used to organize an amazing retreat toward the end of Winter Study at a local (Carmelite?) monastery for both members and non-members. Curious and open-minded non-Catholics were encouraged to attend. If such an event still occurs, Newman should invite Finley and he should go. It would be a win/win for all concerned.


Beebe ’68 and Salman Nation

The Oregonian features a nice profile of Spencer Beebe ’68, environmentalist with a capitalist tinge. Williams seems to do a good job of producing people who are both serious environmentalists and aware of the economic realities underlying a free society. The article begins with:

The sky was turquoise the day Spencer Beebe chartered a helicopter to fly Portland heiress Marie Louise Feldenheimer to the Olympic Peninsula.

They landed on a beach fringed with old-growth cedar. Sitting on driftwood, they nibbled Swiss chocolate and marveled at the basalt stacks and dramatic arches rising along the shore. Then Beebe popped the question: Would she be willing to write a $500,000 check to make sure this place remains just as it is, forever?

Yes, she said.

But Beebe is not your typical environmentalist.

And now Ecotrust, the nonprofit Beebe created in 1991 to preserve Pacific Northwest rain forests, is launching the latest manifestation of his unconventional conservation: It will go into the timber business.

A new investment fund, Ecotrust Forests, is seeking investors to buy lands that turn a profit through logging. The twist: Along with harvesting timber and creating employment for nearby communities, the forests will be managed to profit from other values, such as clean water, recreation and wildlife habitat.

It may be surprising, then, that Beebe’s most strident critics come from the conservation community. He is arrogant, some say. Not a team player.

Others, including longtime environmental activist Andy Kerr, say Beebe is misguided in his attempts to marry capitalism and the environment.

“While you can make a living off nature,” Kerr said, “you can make a killing off of exploiting nature.”

The best quote from the piece is Beebe’s aphorism: “No money, no mission.”

Beebe’s organization, EcoTrust, has an impressive website. Its latest newsletter, “Taking Stock,” has a nice interview with Beebe, including his comments on “Salmon Nation,” the idea that the Pacific Northwest from California to Alaska constitutes a integrated ecological community.

“There’s a certain mystery to it. People ask ‘what is this?’, and that draws them in,” Beebe says. Further, he says, the clear, simple concept of Salmon Nation encourages an “opening of peoples’ eyes, rather than the typical glazing over” that can happen with the daunting feel of some environmental messages.

On a more personal level, Beebe says the organization’s role in spreading the Salmon Nation message has widened his own worldview as well. “The Salmon Nation idea has a duality that touches on the deadly serious while also being playful and whimsical,” he says.
“Frankly, it’s been very freeing.”

That sense of freedom resonates in people who hear about the idea, Beebe says, because Salmon Nation doesn’t pigeonhole people into one
way of thinking through its inclusive citizenship sign-up campaign. “It lets us find ways to get at where peoples’ values are,” Beebe says.

It also seems that Beebe might be the father of Heidi ’91, Silas ’96 and/or Robin ’97. (The alumni directory does not make familial relations clear, so I am guessing, but using geographical clues as well. It certainly seems likely that someone recorded as “Beebe, Silas Spencer Biddle” by the alumni office might have some connection to “Beebe, Spencer Biddle.”)

The College ought to consider Beebe for one of its Bicentennial Medals.


The College’s “In The News”

The College’s “In The News” page often mentions interesting stories. One example was a December 30th article from the Wall Street Journal about effect of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Michigan affirmative action cases on policies surrounding minority scholarships.

In the months since the rulings, Williams College, Indiana University, Carnegie Mellon University and other schools have opened minority scholarships to all races — even at the risk of alienating some minority students, alumni and donors.

Since 1985, Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., has annually awarded the Bolin Fellowships for Minority Graduate Students, named after the school’s first black alumnus. This year, Williams changed the scholarship’s name to the Bolin Dissertation Fellowships, and for the first time applicants of all races will be considered as long as they belong to an “underrepresented group.” That could include academic rarities such as female physicists of any ethnicity or Caucasian researchers in Asian Studies, according to acting dean of faculty William Lenhart.

“The college thought it was a reasonable change” in light of the Supreme Court’s decisions, Mr. Lenhart says.

There is absolutely no upside for me in making any comments about “Caucasion researchers in Asian studies.” If only that had been a major back in the 1980’s! In any event, the Federalist in me thinks that Williams should be left alone to run its fellowships in whatever ways it sees fit. The skeptic in me wonders about just how many white males will be getting Bolin Fellowships over the next ten years. (My bet is 1 or less.) The optimist in me hopes that the College recognizes that other “academic rarities” would include “outspokenly conservative English Ph.D. students.”


Whatever your political/sports persuasion, it

Whatever your political/sports persuasion, it would be hard to complain about the effort to gather pictures of olden Williams for web display. Of course, the Williams Blog has tried its hand at this on various occasions, but the effort being led by Professor Henry Art’s winter study course looks to be much more substantive. You can read an overview about the project here, check out a College news release or go directly to the project homepage. Basic idea is that:

Students in Art’s course, “Picturing Our Past,” are asking residents to bring in images that are more than 25 years old to be scanned by students between Jan 10 and Jan. 22 for incorporation into a digital image database and public exhibition. The owner of each image will be asked to provide information about it, along with an audio caption for inclusion in the database. The images will then immediately returned to the owner, along with computer-printed enlargements.

The digital copy images will reside in a database available on the World Wide Web and at the Williamstown House of Local History and the Williams College Archives.

With a daughter in the 2nd grade, my favorite should be obvious. The project looks well thought out. I am especially impressed with its cross-referencing capabilities. Having decided that I was interested in this picture of WW I soldiers, featuring Lewis Blake, it was just a single click to pull up all the pictures with keyword “Blake” associated with them.


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