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Class

This quote doesn’t have much to do with the rest of the posting that it came from, but I couldn’t resist it.

“It is not enough that there be a Williams College,” writes Paul Fussell in his book Class (1983); “there must also be a University of Southern Mississippi to give it value.”

I don’t think that I agree with the sentiment here, but it is certainly good to see Williams rather than Amherst as the reference. But, then again, if I could change only a single word in 20th century cinema it would be “Williams” for “Amherst” at a key point in Animal House. [Classy — ed. Perhaps we’ll do poetry tomorrow.]

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Weather in Williamstown

No one writes better than Aidan.

beautiful day today in Williamstown, as they say, “spring has sprung.” Scattered clots of prefroshies and parents are roaming about, lead by bored tour guides, and what, the disaffected youth unfortunate enough to visit this vampire-corpse of a campus right now, do they see Williams in the spring? There’s no action on Chapin beach, there’s no frisbee playing in the frosh quad, nobody has their windows open and Nelly pumpin’, pumpin’…it is all rather quiet, rather still. Do we give these visitors an accurate view of this school, now? Where is Williams in this jewel-like silence, perfectly cast shadows, warm spring light strongly accenting the greens?

[Shouldn’t Aidan be writing something here? — ed Maybe someday.]

I am sad to hear that the tour guides are bored. I always found giving tours to be great fun. [Because you like to hear yourself talk? — ed Hey! That’s too cruel.]

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Not Big Brother — responding to market pressures

David, why are you consistently surprised that the college is trying to solve collective action problems and market failures in order to attract faculty? Williamstown has a very small population and is surrounded by very poor towns. The few developers in the area are smart and make their living building very expensive vacation homes where the profit margins are higher. Most of the rental units in town are either run down or more suited to students.

Williams could wait and hope that suitable apartments are built for faculty by a private developer. In the mean time, they will have disgruntled junior faculty members (who don’t want to buy a house because they might be leaving in a year or two), but don’t really appreciate living in an apartment last inhabited by the rugby team. Believe it or not, academics with more than one job offer (i.e., the quality people Williams hires) care about their community surroundings. Why shouldn’t Williams solve the problem directly and quickly?

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Reunion Web Sites

Reunion is only 10 weeks away and some of this years classes have done some fine web work. Those with too much time on their hands should surf on over to sites for the classes of 1954, 1979 and 1999.

Certainly the coolest feature among these sites is the Freshmen Facebook pictures from the class of 1979. Kudos to whoever took the time to scan and collate all of these individual photos.

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Williams REIT

The College, which does a very good job of handling the always tricky town/gown relationship, gave tours of some new faculty apartments.

Williams College opened the doors of the tall, red brick 100-year-old former Williamstown High School and elementary school building, which has undergone a $5.5 million renovation into 15 apartments for college faculty and staff. The college paid the town $100,000 for the school, which was no longer needed as a school once the new elementary school on Church Street was completed.

In my Massachusetts town, there are hordes of private developpers who tackle projects like these. Perhaps these developpers are somehow prevented from operating in Williamstown?

By all accounts, the College did a fine job with this renovation. I was surprised to learn, however, that

Apartments at Southworth will rent for between $900 and $1,350, according to a letter the college recently sent to faculty members. Their completion brings the college’s holdings of apartments to 115, according to Helen Ouellete, Williams vice president and treasurer. Occupants will be chosen through a housing lottery next month, she said.

115? Is this a College or a property development company? Of course, we all know the arguments about how the College needs to ensure that there is good housing for faculty [and staff? — ed]. Don’t forget about all the money spent of the housing development at Pine Cobble. But surely there comes a point when the College has done enough . . .

Of course, the cynic [realist? — ed] says that the best way to understand most actions by the College is to see how those actions benefit the faculty.

The 15 new units join the roughly 100 other faculty units at Williams. Faculty may rent from the college until three years after they receive tenure, and administrative staff can rent for their first three years of employment.

Those terms seem, uh, generous.

The college has seen a jump in demand for rental units in recent years as the faculty has grown.

Or, the College has seen a jump in demand as it’s rental fees drop further and further beneath market rates.

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Shades of Purple

The Eagle has an article on Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts’s (MCLA) efforts to increase minority enrollment. Gina Coleman ’90 is featured at the end.

Recruiting academically viable minority students can be a difficult process, even for a school like Williams College, which draws on an international pool of applicants. The college has a minority enrollment of roughly 25 percent.

As always, this 25% figure is as interesting for what it leaves us and for what it includes. If you are an Orthodox Jew or an observant Catholic then you are certainly in the minority in America (and at Williams), but aren’t counted as a minority in this tabulation.

Of course, at some point, the whole notion of “minority” will become untenable as the percentages inexorably and naturally climb. Indeed, if the trends of the last 20 years just continue, then Williams will be majority minority in 20 years or so.

Gina Coleman, Williams associate director of admissions and director of minority recruitment, said it takes considerable time and money. She attended Williams as an undergraduate, and has a master’s in education from MCLA.

“If they’re serious about having a diverse community, then they’re somehow going to have to figure out how to garner the financial resources to go all-out and seriously pursue those students,” Coleman said.

The break-up of the pricing cartel of elite education 15 years ago has benefitted no group more than extremely talented minority (not including Asian) students. Although the issues faced by MCLA and Williams are no doubt different, Coleman is certainly correct to point out the importance of resources.

And I am pretty sure that the key issue is not how many flyers a high school student gets in the mail. Resources means money devoted to making college cheap for these highly sought after students, regardless of their family’s financial status.

Williams identifies potential applicants through a variety of means, including standardized test scores and recommendations from alumni. The college pays for them to visit the campus in the fall to meet with students and professors and learn more about the school.

I am curious about how this interacts with rules about athletic recruitment, which are quite stiff in Division III and NESCAC. Presumably, anything that the College can do when recruiting minorities it can do when recruiting athletes, otherwise all sorts of weird conflicts would arise, i.e., we can take you out for dinner, as long as you are not a football prospect.

Coleman said these visits are key to getting potential students to think about Williams. “The present students really sell the place,” she said.

Indeed.

But she said competition for those students can be fierce. “Nationally, there’s just not a lot of students of color going on to four-year colleges, period,” she said. “What makes us so successful is that it is an institutional priority here to have students of color on our campus. And [the administration] has put their money where their mouth is.”

When Coleman says “students of color” here she almost certainly means “under-represented students of color.” There are plenty of Asians at elite universities; Harvard is around 20% Asian. I would be very surprised if Williams gives any preferences at all (or special financial deals) to Asian students, but would be eager to know about evidence to the contrary.

Coleman said it is important that the campus agree that minority enrollment is a priority. “It can’t come from one point on campus, everyone has to buy into it,” she said. “Everyone in your campus community has to feel the urgency there.”

No doubt true. While I used to get quite agitated about this issue, it seems clear enough that, within my lifetime, Williams will reach a stage where it spends as little time worrying about the shades of purple among its students as it now spends worrying about how many students are Greek or Italian or Irish or . . . .

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Unseemly Pay

Jerry Useem ’93 has an article on (excessive) CEO pay. He notes that :

If the market for CEO talent is based on artificial scarcity, it also suffers from a serious information problem. For a winner-take-all society to work, you need a reliable way of knowing who the winners are. In baseball that’s easy: A player cannot claim to have hit 60 home runs last season when, in fact, he hit 16. In the movies, there’s the incorruptible accountant of box-office returns. In business, however, it’s remarkably difficult to assess how much an executive has contributed to an organization’s success — which, after all, depends on a host of external factors and the input of hundreds if not thousands of employees.

Williams College, as an institution, probably benefits from excessive pay for CEO’s and other senior executives in business since so many generous alums do so well in the business world.

It is also worth noting that much of what Useem says about CEO pay also applies to the pay of senior executives in academia, as ephblog occasionally points out.

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Final Four

Assistant Professor of Economics Victor Matheson has a nice article on how much hosting the Final Four portion of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament benefits (actually, fails to benefit) the host city.

But can these numbers be trusted? Independent economists studying sporting events uniformly find that booster estimates routinely overstate the effect of these games on local economies.

Matheson makes all the correct arguments on this point, although he fails to cite Bastiat on the fallacy of the broken window while doing so. Of course, that might not be the best rhetorical tactic given his expected audience.

Unless things have changed much in the last 20 years, ECON 101 at Williams features too few classic essays, like those by Bastiat, that will still be read 50 years from now, and too much expensive textbook fluff. But that is a rant for another day.

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Bovino ’75 Celebrated

A nice article celebrates the accomplishments of Rosemarie (Tortorello) Bovino ’75.

While growing up, Bovino observed that many more men had college degrees than women, and she desired that status, too. She was among the first women to attend Williams College, where she studied both Eastern and Western religions, which her father thought ridiculously futile. Asserting her individuality, Bovino pressed on in her studies.

I am pleased to note that my own lovely daughters are cut from the same cloth as Bovino since asserting their individuality — “Mom! I don’t want to wear that!” — is a key point of everyday’s activities.

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Property Values

The Transcipt article on the school budget features Professor of Economics Ralph Bradburd

Committee member Ralph Bradburd defended the committee’s budget saying it had made difficult choices and $139,833 cuts that it would have preferred not to.

“I think we would be foolish and the town’s would be foolish if they didn’t recognize that property value is contingent on the value of the education at the high school,” Bradburd said.

He added that he didn’t believe that townspeople would want to see the value of their home decrease.

No property owner wants to see the value of her house decrease, so Bradburd, in his push for a larger school budget, is smart to appeal to her self-interest. But the good citizens of Williamstown are no doubt hopeful that Williams will come through for them again, as it did last year.

The budget approved Tuesday includes the cost of 5.9 full-time teaching positions currently funded by Williams College and the Greylock Assistance Project Fund, restores 3.6 full-time teaching positions cut from the current budget, adds a special education teacher, restores mid-level administration, funds 50 percent of athletics and activities costs, and includes $60,000 in tuition costs for students enrolling in the Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter School.

I believe that readers interested in providing charitable gifts to the schools in Williamstown can do so directly via the Greylock Assistance Project (GAP). Cuts out the middleman, I’d say.

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Match Day

An article on Match Day — when medical school students around the country find out which residency program they will be attending — featured John and Kathleen (O’Connell) Pope, both ’98.

Medical school grads John Pope and Kathleen O’Connell, another couple married to medicine, learned they will be moving to New York City.

“I’m a little stressed. We rent a house here, said 28-year-old Kathleen. “Now, we will be renting a shoe box in New York.”

Small shoebox, probably.

Kathleen’s residency will be at Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan; her husband’s is in the Bronx at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Both said they will find somewhere to live between the Bronx and Manhattan.

Traveling down the long road of becoming a doctor — the 80-hour weeks and sleepless nights — is something John and Kathleen always planned to do together.

“A lot of couples have trouble dealing (with one spouse in medical school), so it’s nice to have someone who understands what you are going through,” John, 27, said. “It has made things easier for us.”

True for others as well. But there is also something to be said for the one-spouse-a-doctor or even one-spouse-with-high-speed-career strategy. Someone, after all, needs to get the dry cleaning and do the laundry. [You? — ed. Yes, for 2 years of medical school and 4 years of residency.] And when children come along . . .

Kathleen said the hard part is yet to come. The couple has had flexible class schedules and worked rotations together at St. Vincent.

“We won’t have that luxury as residents,” she said.

I wonder what sort of residencies they will be doing. All the surgical residents certainly think that the demeratology residents live in the lap of luxury. It is also worth noting that most residencies — now that rules about maximum hours and the like have been implemented — are much easier than they used to be.

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Fight against Cancer

Cliff Leaf ’85 is the author of the cover story in the latest Fortune about the fight against cancer. Unfortunately, the article does not seem to be on-line, although you can read an introduction here.

At age 15, Cliff fought and won a desperate battle against Hodgkin’s disease. Much later he lost his mother, Louise, to a rare liver cancer. In the course of interviewing dozens of experts over three months, Cliff phoned Dr. Bruce Chabner at Mass General. In mid-chat they realized the good doctor had been part of the National Cancer Institute team that had helped Cliff beat Hodgkin’s. “Cancer doctors and researchers are always so upbeat,” says Cliff, who then flew to Boston to meet Chabner in person. “But at some point in my interviews they’d inevitably start venting their frustrations with the way this war’s being fought.”

The article looks like good reading for the current crop of pre-meds at Williams.

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L.L. Bean yelling at J. Crew

As long as we are on a clothing theme, I should point out that the quote of the month certainly comes from an unnamed Williams official:

There is no love lost between these schools, although one Williams official likened the back-and-forth razzing at games to “L.L. Bean yelling at J. Crew.”

Question: Are we L.L. Bean or J. Crew? I think the former, but am no expert on current [Or past — ed] fashion trends.

The three senior captains of the Williams team, however, posted a note on the school’s website this week, urging fans to desist from obscene chants or wearing objectionable T-shirts.

“Williams College, as an institution, is about excellence,” said the note from Chuck Abba, NESCAC Player of the Year Ben Coffin, and Mike Crotty. “Our behavior, on the court and off, should reflect this. In no way do we want to diminish your school spirit and support. But we do want to represent the lasting qualities of class and excellence that have become a hallmark of Williams. Let’s be creative and clean in our support.”

Another reason why everyone should learn The Mountains. Of course, another creative solution would have been to shout “Amherst Sucks” in latin. [Which would be? — ed. All I remember is “amo, amas, amat.” Not what we’re looking for here — ed]

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Home Eph

Connie Sheehy ’75 was quoted in the Boston Globe in an interesting article about home schooling.

Williams College admissions officer Connie Sheehy says, “We read home-schoolers’ applications just like any other application. They don’t get any special consideration, but they’re not discriminated against, either. Their applications are interesting, and they’ve certainly done independent work their whole lives.” The acceptance rate of home-schoolers at Williams is 20 percent.

Since Sheehy will probably be considering the applications from my daughters in 10 years or so, I have nothing but wonderful things to say about her.

;-)

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Poor Greylock High School

The school committee has voted on a budget for Mt. Greylock Regional High School (attended by students from Williamstown and Lanesboro) and it looks like there may be trouble. Long time readers will recall that the College’s relationship with the local high school is a favorite topic on ephblog.

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Setting the Bar Higher

Very nice Eagle article on Williams athletics and the superb job that Harry Sheehy has done.

Let’s face it. None of us knew that Harry Sheehy was going to be as good an athletic director as he was a coach.

Enter Dave Paulsen, formerly of Le Moyne College.

Nobody knew much about the guy, although he would have gotten, probably, two or three years on the schnide, because after all, Harry hired him.

Instead, Paulsen turned out to be a better coach than Harry Sheehy. Well, maybe not better, but there is no denying that Paulsen has raised the bar up there in Billsville.

Read the whole thing. There’s no mention of the fact that both Sheehy ’75 and Paulsen ’87 are alums. I think that this matters a great deal.

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Scattered

As sympathetic as I am to the spirit of the editorial in the latest issue of Scattershot, I am more skeptic than supporter. Where are the specifics? What, precisely, would the editors like the College or the students or the alumni to do differently?

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Ephs Gone By

Mike Needham’s op-ed piece on campus community referenced house pictures.

When I look at the house portraits hanging in Greylock, I don’t just see people who lived together for a year, but rather people who shared an experience with each other that we do not share any longer.

I am not sure if this portrait still hangs in Carter House, but it did 15 years ago.

carter87.jpg

Highlights in this picture include potential 15th year reunion folks Gillian Lad, David Nadelman, David Bentley, Mary Ilif and Kirsten Hasenfus (now productively married to the fellow next to her).

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Eph Zen

Cliff Leaf ’85 has a fun article in the New York Times on the week-end he spent at the Zen Mountain Monastery.

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Williams Goggles

Zach Blume ’02 uses the phrase “Williams Goggles” in his description of a recent trip to Las Vegas.

Personally, I was wearing the thick pair of Williams Goggles I picked up during my days as an undergrad and thought she was the gorgeous.

Blume’s implication — that the average female Eph is less attractive than a typical female of the same age — is clear enough.

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Cass Hiring

Oren Cass ’05 notes that

If I ever run my own company, I’m going to have an explicit policy of not hiring anyone who participated in student government while in college.

There is, of course, a grain of truth here. On average, the types of Ephs on College Council (I was one) are different from other Ephs. Some of the ways that they are different are bad and some are good. But I hope that Cass is not serious here. The College Council Presidents (back in the bad old hierarchical days we had Presidents and Vice Presidents) around my graduation year (Amy Jeffries ’87, Carter Zinn ’88 and Trace Blackenship ’89) were good and serious people. Cass would be fortunate indeed to have them as employees.

Although I know that a lot has changed in the last 20 years, I would suspect that the type of Eph attracted to CC is not one of them.

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EphBlog mobile access

For those of you that like to check up on your Eph news while out and about, then you might be interested in our mobile access page.

I like to think of it more as what EphBlog would’ve look like 10 years ago.

There are no images, no styles, no replying, and no right-hand sidebar. It is just straight up HTML formatting, so your mobile platform can do with it what it likes.

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Cyll Blogging

There was a nice overview article on blogging in The Transcript yesterday. Topher Cyll ’04 gets lots of good press as the creator of the WSO blog tools.

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JA Decisions

JA letters have been mailed, and Joseph Shoer ’06 wasn’t accepted.

I really didn’t think I was going to react this badly, but then again, the full impact of the rejection letter has only been hitting me slowly. I’m not over it yet, not gonna be over it till after spring break at least. It’s funny how we never realize how much we wanted something until we can’t have it.

So true. I am certain that Shoer is not the only rejected applicant who feels this way.

One nice thing to note is that they seem to still be doing interviews as part of the process. In my day, there were no interviews, which tended to make rejected applicants feel even more bitter about the process. (How could they reject me? They don’t even know me.)

Jim Reichheld ’87 was the key person in adding these interviews to the JA selection committee’s deliberations. There are very few people who changed Williams for the better, both while they were there and for decades thereafter. Reichheld is one of those lucky few.

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Harvard versus Williams

One of the recurring themes of this blog is that the typical high school senior who is admitted to both Williams and Harvard (or a place like Harvard) would better off going to Williams. Of course, this isn’t true for all such students, but it is true for many more than actually make the right choice.

Diana Davis ’07 has an Ode to Harvard on this theme. It begins with:

If Williams had rejected me, I wouldn’t be an Eph;
I’d have had to go to Harvard, source of everlasting grief.
I’d be living down in Cambridge, in that hallowed Harvard yard
Where orgueil is the assumption, even more than working hard.

Harvard. I didn’t go to Harvard.
I didn’t go to Harvard. I didn’t go to Harvard.

The whole piece is a fun read.

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B-ball loses in final

Men’s basketball lost in the NCAA final, 84-82. I only caught the first half of the game in Fox Sports New England. I had never seen an Eph men’s basketball game before, but it was quite fun to watch. [Never? — ed That’s right, never. Why spend your college years watching people do things instead of doing them yourself?]

Congratulations all around.

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More Blogroll

Aidan has picked out some more Ephs that should be added to our blog roll.

Sam VanVolkenburgh ’05 features some interesting formatting choices, but he’s a runner, which will make Eric Smith happy.

John Phillip ’02 is getting a Ph.D. in Political Science, which will make David Nickerson happy.

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B-ball wins

Mens basketball just beat Amherst 86-81. I missed the live cast, but am catching the tail end via WCFM on the web [From the middle of the ocean! — ed Technology is cool.]

Championship game is tomorrow at 4:30.

Special thanks to “Pidge” for manning the station in Billsville.

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Post Senior Theses On-line

Why doesn’t the College post all senior theses on-line? It should. All seniors writing a thesis should be required to both turn in a hard copy to the library (as they are now) and to submit an electronic version in a suitable format (preferably pdf, but html would also work). The College, or even WSO, could then store these for posterity and make them available to all comers.

I hesitate to highlight the advantages of such a scheme because they are so obvious and uncontroversial. Most importantly, it would be another small step in making Williams an even more intellectually serious place than it already is.

As an example, here is the senior thesis for John Morrison ’01. Professor Joe Cruz deserves credit for maintaining this himself, but the immortalization of a student’s academic career at Williams should not rely on the efforts of one’s advisor. Another example is Nate Foster’s ’01 thesis for computer science. Williams would encourage current seniors to take their work more seriously if it mandated that their work would live on, publically, for years to come.

It is especially nice to note that Morrison’s thesis builds on the work of Jon Burstein ’98. Professor Kim Bruce deserves great credit for creating a research agenda that enages year after year of Williams students. Alas, an interested reader [Who else besides you?–ed One should be enough.] can’t easily see how Morrison’s work relates to that of Burstein because, as best I could discover, Burstein’s work is not easily browsable on-line.[Here?–ed Gzipped postscript is not easy to browse! For you–ed And the link doesn’t even work!]

Because resources are invariably constrained, it is tough to know if a given proposed improvement to Williams is worth the cost of doing so. But there are some items that cost (almost) nothing and which everyone should agree will be an improvement. Posting theses is one of these.

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Rapper Cass

Oren Cass ’05 takes the Record to task for insensitivity.

Perhaps the Record thinks it is funny to make a “joke” about white people having difficulty rapping. I only wish they had stopped first to consider the damage that such a seemingly innocent jab can do to the delicate relations between races on this campus and the fragile psyches of those caught in the middle.

Cass’s mockery is pitch-perfect precisely because it is indistinguishable from the usual earnest drivel from the typical suspects.

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