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Sox Diary: 9-30-04

Thursday, September 30, 2004: Well there were a number of possible scenarios for yesterday’s games. The best was for us to win and for the Twins to sweep the Yankees. The worst was for us to lose and for the Yankees to execute a sweep. Anything in the middle would have been of varying utility.

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Letters from Iraq Part IV

Only a two week delay in my posting this time around. Email may ensure that soldiers can communicate home instantaneously, but my procrastination allows the good readers of Ephblog to experience the excruciating wait that folks back in WWII must have felt. [Of course, procrastination on paper writing is the only reason that I am posting the letter now — so I guess it all balances out.]

Thursday, 16 September 2004

Subject: Sandstorms, Naps, and Halliburton


Much love from scenic Kuwait. Been here about ten days now, and, oddly enough, I’m itching to get to work up North (we rarely use the “I” word).

First, the sandstorms. I guess they’re not real deal sandstorms, but they suck nonetheless. From about 9am to 6pm, the sand blows more or less sideways. Blowing sand hurts. I now understand why all those guys in those Lawrence of Arabia movies are covered head to toe in hundred-plus heat (107F yesterday).

To cope, we’ve pretty much become nocturnal, which is easy since our stated task of acclimatizing is not too rigidly scheduled. Boom hours around here are 4-8am, and 7-12pm. The rest of the day we nap. Or snooze. Or catch 40 winks. Or rest our eyes.

Amazingly, life in the middle of the Kuwaiti desert is not as harsh as you’d expect, due in large part to the efforts of the civilians who run this place. We live in tents, but not of the plastic tarp, bungee cord, and two sticks kind you’re probably picturing, but big circus tent things that fit 30, have wooden floors, and have AC. We use our sleeping bags at night, cause the thermostats are a little screwy. Other circus tents contain the game room, the gym, and the Ice factory. The computer lab, bank, Burger King, and cafeteria are in Air-conditioned trailers. For breakfast this morning I had a kiwi grown in Chile and a Mango from Malaysia, along with bowl of Frosted Flakes and a cup of coffee with Hazelnut creamer.

But, I’m still in the desert, and now thoroughly bored stiff. I’ve acclimatized (sorta like the dry heat, actually), my M16 still works, and I’m ready to get to work. Word has it we’re scheduled to fly to Mosul sometime next week, where I may end up working as the military liasion for the elections. Could be kind of cool, actually.

So, there you have it. I’m not only safe, but bored. But looking forward to some good work. I’ll make sure and post some boring pictures very soon.

Lotsa love to everyone, keep sending me nuggets from your far more interesting lives, and I’ll be in louch.


I’ll confine my inane commentary to the extended entry. Keep on keeping on, Felipe!

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Drezner ’90 in NYT

Leading Eph blogger Dan Drezner ’90 notes people wonder about the trade-off for him between blogging and his real job.

I will admit to some apprehension about this perceived tradeoff. However, blogging and academic scholarship are like apples and oranges. I love the academic side of my job, i.e., the researching and writing about international relations theory. But I’m also a policy wonk. And since the New York Times op-ed page mysteriously refuses to solicit my views, the blog lets me scratch that itch.

No longer true! Drezner had an op-ed on outsourcing in yesterday’s New York Times.

John Kerry is making the outsourcing of jobs by American companies a centerpiece of his campaign, telling audiences that “because of George Bush’s wrong choices, this country is continuing to ship good jobs overseas.” President Bush’s team has in turn accused the senator of hypocrisy, noting that many of Mr. Kerry’s supporters in the business world run companies that are sending jobs offshore. Yet as each side angles for votes, neither is addressing the real issue: is the outsourcing of jobs a problem? The answer, surprisingly, is no.

For those who want even more details about this fascinating topic, Drezner supplies some footnotes on his blog.

Congrats to Drezner for this coup. Someday, he may even be lucky enough to publish a piece in the Record . . .


Sox Diary: 9-28-04

(Note: Posted on Wednesday the 29th due to *&^%&$# computer problems)
Tuesday, September 28, 2004: Let’s hear it for your 2004 Boston Red Sox, playoffs bound again. It is stunning to think about, but the Sox are going to the postseason for the second consecutive season for only the third time in their history. 1915-1916, 1998-1999, and 2003-2004. That is shocking. One of the arguments I have always made about the tragedy of the Sox is that unlike, say, the Cubs, the Sox have almost always been good. Since the 1920s they have not had an entire decade when they were dreadful. Yet only thrice have they gone to the postseason back to back. What is heartening is that two of those have come in the last six seasons. Obviously that is attributable to the Wild Card, but also to our consistency.

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Nigaleian Updates

The latest Record is chocked full of updates on the Nigaleian controversy, but the quotes from Professor of Art Ed Epping are key:

“All of the faculty who witnessed what happened at the meeting were stunned,” said Ed Epping, professor of art. “The force of the statement directed at Professor Ali was such that there was no way for Professor Ali to remain in the room.” Epping is on sabbatical in New York this semester, but was in attendance at the department meeting last spring.

When asked if he had been troubled by any public misconceptions of the incident, Epping said, “What I believe is not being discussed as fully as is required…is the vehemence with which this phrase was spoken and the directness of its intent.” It may read otherwise on paper, he said, but “the word ‘nigger’ was not used in that situation as a metaphor.”

Damning stuff. If others present at the meeting saw things the way that Epping (and Ali) did, then it would seem that a Rooney defense is out for Laleian.

Key Question: Was Lalelian’s husband, Professor of Art Steve Levin, at the fatefull meeting?

Note that EphBlog is continuing to honor Dean Lenhardt’s request that the community not speculate on the grievance procedure as it is unfolds. Let the College do its work, but let us hope that that work is done quickly.


Obtuseness in the Eagle

Could the editorial, “Only Words,” in the Eagle on the Nigaleian controversy possible be more obtuse? In full, it says:

The flap at Williams College over, as The Eagle story gingerly puts it, “an art professor who may be the victim of a racist comment from a colleague,” is straight out of Philip Roth’s novel “The Human Stain.” Professor Aida Laleian faces the ruin of her career for a thoughtless remark in a heated faculty meeting. Though she did not actually call Professor Laylah Ali by the N-word, what she said, misconstrued or not, violated the college code and Ms. Ali is pursuing the matter even though the college has imposed sanctions on Ms. Laleian. She could face a star chamber proceeding with no right to counsel or transcript. To be a university professor one must give up not only the right to free speech, but to due process as well, all in service to an institution dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge and truth.

1) “Faces the ruin of her career?” Give me a break. Laleian has tenure. Barring stupidity of inhuman proportions, her job is safe. She will be able to keep teaching photography, in the same department as her husband, at a very nice salary for decades to come. While her chances of moving to another College are now slim to none, it isn’t clear that they would have been any better prior to this incident.

2) “Ms. Ali is pursuing the matter even though the college has imposed sanctions on Ms. Laleian.” I think that the technical term for thinking in this way is “blaming the victim.”

3) Most delusional is the claim that “To be a university professor must give up not only the right to free speech, but to due process as well.” Your “right to free speech” does not include the right to say anything in a professional setting and expect your employer to put up with it. If Laleian had pulled that stunt in almost any other workplace in Berkshire County outside of Williams College, she would already be out on the street. You have a right to free speech — meaning the government should leave you alone — on the corner of Spring Street. You do not have a right to free speech — meaning that your employer needs to keep sending you a paycheck no matter how offensive/idiotic you are — in the workplace. Is that distinction really so hard for the Eagle to understand?


Letters from Iraq Part III

Well, I’ve almost caught up posting Felipe’s correspondence. His next letter annouced his departure for the Middle East and his engagement to his girlfriend. David, I am sorry to say that Felipe’s fiance is not an alum.

Date: Sunday, 05 September 2004

Subject: A Time to Fight, a Time to Love

Dear All-

Tomorrow night I set off for the middle east. When all is said and done, I’m ready to go, ready to do my part, and as anxious as the next guy to come home. The love, concern, prayers, pocket battleship, cards, phone calls, decks of cards, e-mails, hugs that I’ve gotten from you all during these last many weeks are what keep my sprirts high in the face of this next challenge. All I can say is thank you.

And I want to share wonderful news with all of you. Erica Gonzalez and I are engaged. She has been a tremendous part of my life for the last few years, and she will be my loving companion for all the years to come. I love her deeply and am blessed to be loved by her.

I wish everyone a wonderful year while I’m gone. I look forward to hearing from all of you during this time.

All my best and all my love,

Congratulations to Erica and Felipe. We at Ephblog wish you many years of happiness once Felipe safely returns from Iraq.


Students Against Bush

Stephen Hunter ’07 has created an excellent page, Students Against Bush 2004, in which he clearly explains why he believes Bush is the wrong man for the job. An excerpt from his introduction:

Why are students valuable in the upcoming election? Because our generation is more liberal and more progressive than any generation before. Our classes have taught us to analyze the world in such a way that social conservatism just doesn’t make sense. A grasp and understanding of logic is the key to a better world.

My name is Steve Hunter, and I find myself continually angered by the Bush administration. It’s my future that he’s messing with, and quite frankly I don’t appreciate it.

He also has pages devoted to an explanation of how logic should lead us to reject Bush, and essays about Islamic fundamentalism and a discussion of whether the ends justify the means in the war in Iraq.


Gomes Speech

If you didn’t have the pleasure of hearing Peter Gomes speech at Baccalaureate last spring, you really ought to read it before it disappears into the ether. Gomes is the most impressive speaker that I have ever seen in person.

So, I envy you for the blank slate upon which it is now yours to write. Think of it: after nearly fifty thousand dollars you can reinvent yourselves, for people will look upon you with a Williams degree and will not inquire too closely. That is to your distinct advantage, and you should be grateful for it. I envy you having a blank slate before you, for when I sat where you now sit, in my college now over forty years ago, I was as you are now — totally, blissfully, completely uncomprehending. I, like you today, had not a clue; and so I approach my task this afternoon with an uncharacteristic degree of modesty for a Harvard professor, because I know that what I say to you and what I hope for you will be as toast within forty minutes of the end of these proceedings, and that some of you will even so arrange it this evening that you will not even remember these proceedings. We will watch you stagger across the stage tomorrow, and will be sympathetic and empathetic.

Moreover, as best I can tell, Gomes actually took the time to write a speech that was largely original to the occasion, unlike some other 2004 speakers that I could name. Other examples of Gomes speaking in an academic context can be seen here and here.



Michelle Kurkul ’08 has a funny first posting at WSO on “You know you’re from Boston if you… ” My favorites:

The person driving in front of you is going 70 mph and you are cursing him for going too slow.

You have never been to Cheers.

You remember exactly where you were when the ball rolled through Buckner’s legs. (not really, i was a baby)

She was a baby!?! I was a junior, making fun of all the poor Red Sox fans in the Carter House common room. Please forgive me Derek Catsam.


Sox Diary: 9-27-04

Monday, September 27, 2004: Even if we end up taking second in the AL East for the seventh season in a row (adding to what was already a rather bittersweet record for Major League Baseball) we can relish in one fact: We beat the Yankees eleven times this year, which we have not done since that joyous season of 1975, and of course we took the season series from them 11 games to 8. We took a game off of their lead, bringing the margin down to 3.5. And of its own right, yesterday’s was a pretty nice win, 11-4 with Schilling continuing to pitch masterfully as he gears up for the postseason, in which he will be our number one guy. Obviously the bats were roaring, and obviously the Yankees have much to fear when it comes to choosing a number four pitcher. Yesterday Kevin Brown lasted 2/3 of an inning as we ping-ponged his ineffective pitches all over the little bandbox. Schilling, meanwhile, gave up two runs but only one hit and we were never in jeopardy. He is our ace right now, which is why we pursued him to begin with last offseason.

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Public 99

Independent projects during Winter Study (WSP 99) provide an opportunity for interesting/original work while running the risk gut-orama-hood. Judging from this all-campus message, the frequency of abuses may have been increasing recently.

Last year’s WSP Committee revised the guidelines and forms to improve attention to intellectual merit and methods of inquiry

As best I can tell, the new guidelines are here. One simple improvement that would increase the seriousness with which students took these sorts of classes, as well as improve the quality of the work produced, would be to require that the final paper/project be made public. That is, it should be a requirement for any WSP 99 that the final result of the work be posted on the web.

For the most part, this will mean a paper. Perhaps these papers would be grouped together each year. Not only should the papers be on-line, but the name and department of the sponsor should be listed. Better yet would be to include the written comments, if not the grade, that the sponsor provided.

The great benefit of public scholarship is that it raises the seriousness of all concerned. No student wants to have shallow, slapdash work with his name on it displayed for all to see. No faculty member wants to have her name associated, especially repeatedly, with sub-par scholarship.

There are many problems at Williams that are tough and/or expensive to solve. A lack of intellectual merit in WSP 99’s is not one of them.


Rich Ephs

Herb Allen ’62 and Steve Case ’80 are both still on the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans. Case is number 363 on the list with a net worth estimated at $825 million while Allen is at 106 with a net worth of $2 billion.

Strangely enough, Allen is listed as a college drop out. Doesn’t he have a degree from Williams?

Trivia question: Are there any other Ephs on the list? I see at least one more . . .

On a sad note, it seems like all the Ephs on the list (as well as many, many of the other men) have been divorced at least once. It is better to be married to a good Ephwomen for the rest of your life than to be a billionaire. More useful advice from EphBlog.


Tenure Is Not the Point

Responding to Dave’s earlier post (“Nigaleian Updates,” below):

I am not sure giving Ali tenure will (or should) remedy the situation. Given Ali’s strong teaching record and her outstanding professional achievements in the contemporary art world, it seems rather likely that she would have gotten tenure anyway.

One thing that seems to be missing from the current conversation on campus is the fact (clear to anyone who’s been following the contemporary art scene for the last few years) that Ali is a highly regarded up-and-coming artist. I am not sure how her accomplishments compare to that of the other faculty in the Studio Art department, but they are very substantial (representation by a major New York gallery; several solo shows at major museums, including MOMA; inclusion in the Venice and Whitney Biennials; etc).

Ali could probably get a job in almost any Studio Art department in the country — tomorrow. Williams needs to do more to address this situation than “give” Ali what she’s already earned.

Jane C. Penner ’90


Get Well Soon

Best wishes for speedy recovery to Andrew Goldston ’08. On the good news front, it looks like he’ll have lots of time for blogging!



Sox Diary: 9-26-04

Sunday, September 26, 2004: Barring some sort of Yankees collapse and the Sox running the table, we are likely not going to win the American league east. Or only realistic hope would have been to sweep this series and then hope that they lost and we didn’t on a couple of occasions in the next week or so. After a galling loss on Friday night, the reality became clear: We will win the Wild Card, we will play either Minnesota or the winner of the West on the road (Go Rangers!) and we will not see home-field advantage until the World series if all goes as it should.

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Nigaleian Updates

The Eagle and Transcript provide updates on the latest twists and turns of the Nigaleian controversy. See also this article from the Eagle on Friday.

I still haven’t gotten around to finishing my parsing of the previous set of articles, so I hesitate to dive into these right now. (Hold back those bitter tears of frustration and disappointment, faithful EphBlog readers!)

None of the articles mention this line from the faculty handbook.

If the respondent [Laleian] chooses not to appeal, the executive officers shall then act to remedy the harm done to the complainant [Ali], to protect the College community, and to take appropriate disciplinary action against the respondent.

In other words, as part of the formal grievance procedure — unlike the sanctions process that Dean Lenhardt completed over the summer — the possibility of a “remedy” is explicitly provided for. What can the College do for Ali to “remedy the harm” done to her? If I were her, tenure would be the answer.


“One of my concerns is that she might leave,” [Professor of Political Science ALex] Willingham said of Ali. “That’s almost my Number One issue.”


James G. Kolesar, director of Williams’ office of public affairs, said the procedure allows for the possibility of a resolution of a complaint that is mutually agreeable to the parties involved.

“It is important to create an environment in which this possibility can be explored productively,” said Kolesar. “Engaging in pubic discussion of aspects of the complaint does not help to achieve this goal.”

I think that we are seeing hints of a (partially) public negotiation between Ali [along with her friends/supporters] and the College over what it is going to take to keep her happy.

Now that I know — if four Factrak entries count as knowledge — that Ali ’91 is a good teacher, and given EphBlog’s longstanding support of hiring and tenuring alumni, I am in favor of this solution.

The College should tenure Ali. She should drop her grievance complaint and assent to the sanctions already imposed on Laleian. And then we can all move on . . .



Whatever happened to Factrak? It does not seem to be available, by design, outside of the College.

The whole article above is worth a read and commentary, but, given the Nigaleian controversy, I have a more pressing request. Could one of our on-campus readers please post the reviews for Professors Laleian and Ali in our comment section? I am quite curious to know whether or not they are talented teachers . . .

UPDATE: Comments on this posting seem to be broken for some reason, but thanks to two readers, below are the relevant Factrak entries:

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More mafias?

We have blogged about Eph Art Mafias and Hoop Mafias before. How about a football mafia?

Blame UMass offensive coordinator Kevin Morris if Richmond upsets the Minutemen this week.

Morris helped Spiders coach Dave Clawson get his first college coaching job with the University of Albany in 1989, assisting Morris as quarterbacks and running backs coach. The two were teammates at Williams College.

“Kevin helped me a lot to get into this profession at Albany when I was a (graduate assistant),” said Clawson.

They’ve met across the field before. Clawson was head coach of Fordham and Morris offensive coordinator at Northeastern when the Rams went into Brookline and upset the Huskies in the first round of the 2002 playoffs.

Any Eph with an interest in coaching football should reach out to both Clawson ’89 and Morris ’86.


Sox Diary: 9-24-04

Friday, September 24, 2004: Derek Lowe went five innings, gave up five runs, four earned, and exited after 5 down 5-3, though the Sox scored two in the fifth to tie it up and take him off the hook. From that point on, the game was the bullpen’s, which given the overtaxing from the night before, was probably way too much to ask. The O’s went up 7-5 and scored two runs in the ninth off of Byung-Hyun Kim, making his first appearance since he went insane, I mean, got hurt, months ago. We got back two in the 9th, but it simply was not enough, and the Orioles continued their spell against us. They lead the season series 9-6 against us. We close the season with four more against them. Ugh.

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Sanction History

I still haven’t been able to nail down prior examples of the College sanctioning any professor for any reason. The iBerksires article notes that

Williams spokesman James G. Kolesar said he could not think of an instance of the college’s specifying what sanctions had been taken against any faculty.

But I can’t even come up with an example of the College actually sanctioning someone, much less announcing what those sanctions were. Has it happened in the last 20 years?

As noted, the biggest faculty scandal that I can recall, Professor of Philosophy Rosemary Tong’s plagerism in the early 90’s, did not seem to result in sanctions. A source with a good memory writes:

The Tong incident was not a case in which the College publicized either the remprimand or the sanctions. Instead, Tong outed herself, by means of a letter of apology placed in (at least) all faculty mailboxes. Why she did so has never been clear to me, but it may be because her plagiarism had been reported in the press (a local newspaper somewhere in CT, to be best of my recollection). Again to the best of my recollection, she said nothing about sanctions.

Perhaps the College did sanction Tong. Perhaps the College has sanctioned several faculty over the last two decades. But, so far, I can find no evidence of it. This implies that the sanctions applied to Professor Laleian are not a slap on the wrist, IMHO.


Letters from Iraq Part II

Sorry for the delay in posting correspondence from Felipe Perez ’99. While Felipe is off risking his life, I’m busying throwing together experiments for political groups and writing papers. Not really the same type of thing.

Felipe’s next email was short and sweet.

Thursday, 15 July 2004
Subject: Fort McCoy

Gotta make this quick, but just wanted to send my best to all from beautiful Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. I’m not kidding, either. It’s surprisingly lush and green here. If not for all the spent ammunition and unexploded artillery everywhere, this place would be a great big park.

Also, I wanted to send a big thanks for the great outpouring of love and concern I’ve received over the last few weeks. At this point, I’ve seen, spoken with, or e-mailed with many of you, and it really is a big source of strength right now.

I’ll be here for a month, and during that time I should have regular (if infrequent) access to e-mail and my phone. Would love to here from y’all.

Much love,


I am a little concerned that the US military is training troops for Iraq in Wisconsin. Not qute the same type of environment. Actually, the two climates are about as similar as my work with Felipe’s. Both are building towards an election, but one election is a little hotter/more crucial than the other.


IM Soccer History

Lest EphBlog turn into all Nigaleian all the time, here is a brief history of IM soccer in the 1980’s, brought to us by Brooks Foehl ’88 and occasioned by the start of this year’s IM season.

One of the purposes of EphBlog is to serve as an informal institutional memory for topics like intramural sports, topics that are an important part of the Williams experience and whose rituals and practice tend to pass down from generation to generation. I don’t know if IM soccer today is better or worse than IM soccer 20 years ago, but I know that it matters. And the only way to have an informed opinion is to know a little bit about both.

If you have a memory of Williams that you’d like to see preserved or even just a fun Eph story to share, please send it in.

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Sox Diary: 9-23-04

Thursday, September 23, 2004: Twelve innings. Another ill-timed home run off Foulke in the ninth to tie the game. Another bases loaded, no runs lack of capitalization by the Red Sox. Another hero stepping on to the main stage to help us pull of an epic win – this time Cabrera with a blast over the Monster on the 400th pitch of the game, but also an unheralded group of relievers parading one after the other after the 9th to hold down the fort and give us a chance to win. This is the sort of litany of the improbable and the unexpected that characterizes the 2004 Red Sox.

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Laleian is the One

The following e-mail was sent by Dean Lenhardt to all students this afternoon.

September 23, 2004

To the Williams Community,

I am writing to update you on the matter of the sanctioning of a faculty member, as I reported to you in my letter of September 10.

At yesterday’s faculty meeting I announced that a discrimination grievance has been filed regarding the matter and the procedure for resolving it has begun.

Since that meeting, Aida Laleian, Professor of Art, has asked me to make public three things:

First, that she is the faculty member who made the remark.

Second, that she is identifying herself in order to free her colleagues from being the subject of any further speculation.

And third, that there is more she would like to say about this matter but that the College Administration has asked her not to do so at this time, so as not to jeopardize the internal procedure underway.

As I also said at yesterday’s faculty meeting, the College’s policies call for such procedures to be conducted as confidentially as possible and I ask all in the College community to honor that intent.


William J. Lenhart
Acting Dean of the Faculty &
A. Barton Hepburn Professor of Computer Science


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iBerkshire on Nigaleian

Linda Carman adds some new material to everyone’s favorite controversy in the latest iBerkshire. Carman doesn’t start out to well — her “swirls of controversy like acrid smoke” and “N word used at that meeting last spring continues to hang in the air almost as visibly as graffiti scrawled across the picture-perfect buildings” seem over the top to me — but she still advances the story.

In her e-mail, Ali said, “What is missing from the dean’s letter — and indeed the later discussion of this incident — is a sense of the malice with which the racist comment was delivered. The tone and manner of expression were so extreme that I felt forced to leave the meeting. It was extremely disruptive and upsetting.”

This is the first description that I have seen of the actual tone of the meeting from a participant. For Laleian, it is damning. This would make the Rooney defense much more difficult. I wonder if the other particpants in the meeting saw things the same way?

Question: Why did Ali provide this information to iBerkshires while choosing not to for the Record and the Transcript? Hmmm. There is stuff going on behind the scenes here that we don’t know about. Ali can make like very difficult for the College for a very long time. Williams needs to satisfy her that justice has been done — or satisfy everyone else that her demands are unreasonable.

She added, “I do not believe that the college administration has responded properly to the gravity of this incident.”

But we still don’t know what Ali wants. Laleian fired? At some point, Ali will need to specify what she thinks should be done. Of course, until makes “officially” public the sanctions, that might be tough to do.

But she said she is “refraining from more commentary at this time because I am currently involved in further internal action about this matter.”

Hmm. Can this be anything other than a formal grievance committee? As best I can tell, this is the only official internal action that Ali could be involved with (given that Dean Lenhardt as already imposed the sanctions that he thought appropriate), unless it is something else having to do with her own tenure decision. Is Ali’s goal to help herself or punish Laleian or both?

Williams spokesman James G. Kolesar said he could not think of an instance of the college’s specifying what sanctions had been taken against any faculty.

“There are legal and ethical considerations about how much can be said about a situation,” Kolesar said.

I still think that the College did something official in the Rosemary Tong citation scandal a decade ago, but perhaps that was only a statement by the faculty and not an official College sanction. Doesn’t anyone remember this case?

Also, we need our EphBlog legal team to determine exactly what legal constraints the College is operating under. I am suspicious of the claim that the College can’t, for example, official announce the sanctions even if Laleian’s identity is kept secret.

But both the chairman of the African-American studies department [Alex Willingham] and a co-chairman of the Black Students Union called upon the unidentified woman professor to step forward and attempt to justify her remark.

Willingham called on the unidentified professor to step forward and publicly acknowledge her action.

“I think that would be a major step towards clearing the air,” he said.

Good for them. I agree that Laleian should come forward, or at least release the College from whatever legal/ethical constraints prevent it from naming her and her punishment.

Just as with the Record article, there is more interesting stuff here, but that will await another post.


Penner ’90 on Nigaleian

My Carter housemate Jane Penner ’90 sent in these comments on the Nigaleian controversy.

In response to recent EphBlog posts debating whether or not Laleian’s use of the word “nigger” can fairly be called “racist”:

I’m all for semantic sleuthing, but the use of “nigger” in the context described by Dean Lenhart’s memo seems clearly racist to me. The memo states that sanctions were imposed because the administration determined that the slur was uttered in order “to provoke and/or hurt” Laylah Ali during a heated discussion. While it is certainly true that “nigger” can be spoken and written in non-racist contexts by people who are not expressing racist sentiments, the usage described in the memo is obviously malignant rather than benign.

You suggest that Laleian may be more accurately characterized as a “jerk” than as a “racist.” But if a jerk resorts to using racial slurs in order to gain tactical advantage in an argument, isn’t it fair to call that person a racist jerk? A garden-variety jerk may use words as weapons, but only a racist stoops to “nigger.” Let’s not mince words in characterizing Laleian’s actions that day. If it’s not racist to use the word “nigger” in order to hurt and provoke an African American, what IS racist, for goodness sake?

To be a racist, in my view, you actually have to believe racist things. I have more thoughts on this in the forums.


Sox Diary: 9-22-04

Wednesday, September 22, 2004: It is that time of year when the phrase “Magic Number” appears on lips across this great land of ours. It is a phrase that is thrown around a lot, but most people do not really understand it. I’ll admit that every year I have to re-learn how to calculate it. There are actually a couple of ways, but here is one of the easier: take the number of games remaining and add one; subtract the number of games ahead in the loss column your team is from the opponent against which you are trying to figure your magic number.

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Oren Cass ’05 hits the nail on the head with his latest column.

Bad things happen. Communities in which no one ever says or does anything offensive – ever – only exist in dystopic 10th grade novels and John Lennon ballads. In a community of 2000 students and hundreds of faculty and staff, in which literally millions of interactions occur every week, there will be prejudiced individuals and instances of offense. Anyone who believes otherwise is headed for a long life of frustration and disappointment.

Taking the case of the unnamed faculty member, how could we have “done better”? Is it plausible that the faculty member thought the phrase “used as a nigger” would be accepted as appropriate discourse, particularly if used with the intention of antagonizing an African-American colleague? Did anyone read Dean Lenhart’s letter and think “I am surprised that this matter was dealt with so harshly?”

Put more directly: How could a committee, or other College initiative, have possibly prevented the incident that occurred? Would the seventh seminar on sensitivity have made a difference where the first six did not? Would one more push for diversity, perhaps an extra percentage-point or two of minority students or faculty, been the clincher?

More likely, for whatever reason, this particular human being snapped on this particular day in this particular way. She didn’t think about what she was about to say, and she said something that she should not have. She knew the community standards, she knew the consequences, but at that moment, for whatever reason, none of it mattered. That doesn’t excuse her; it just excuses the rest of us.



Letter to Alums?

A perhaps reliable source suggests that the College will be sending a letter to alums about the Nigaleian scandal in the near future. I am not sure if I would spend the money on such an exercise if I were Morty. A statement on the webpage and a link in EphNotes and/or a reprint in the Alumni Review might be notification enough. Morty might even cover the topic in his Alumni Review column. There is no rush, I would say.

This is especially true if the sanctioning (or any other internal) process is not complete. Then again, Morty has much better judgment on this sort of issue than I do. [D’uh! — ed.]


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