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Williams Students and the Sudan Crisis

My latest piece on Rebunk is about the crisis in the Sudan. Williams students have taken a role in pushing a possible divestment campaign. As I say in the post, this is evocative of the anti-apartheid campaigns on US colleges in the 1980s. Good for them. My buttons are bursting just a bit.


World Series Trophy in Billsville

Prepare to bask in the glory, people!

According to the Williams home page:

Boston Red Sox 2004 World Championship Trophy will be on display Tuesday, Feb. 1, from 1-2:30 p.m. in Towne Fieldhouse.

Someone give it a kiss for me, please!


Photo ID, #2

This is the second round of the photo-identification game.


Your job is to tell
(a) What the picture is of, and
(b) Any recollections you have of this location.


Letter from Iraq Part XV

In an Ephblog exclusive, we bring you the thoughts of SPC Felipe Perez on the evening after Iraqi elections. As you can imagine, Felipe has been very busy preparing for the elections in Iraq. Thankfully, he thinks the hard work of everyone working in Iraq has paid off.

Date: Sunday, 30 January 2005
Subject: Democracy, Public Affairs, and Bad Haircuts

Mixed with shock, relief, and humility, I am mostly happy to say that elections here in Mosul are going well. With a few hours left before the polls close, turnout has been solid, the city feels more or less safe, and voters seem to feel genuinely priviledged to be participating in the democratic process. Had you asked me a week ago I wouldn’t have expected it, but I feel blessed to be able to bear witness here, and honored to have played a small part.

I hope I’m not jumping the gun- that day ain’t over yet, and the fat lady won’t sing until the votes are counted, but I gotta say I’m feeling pretty good right now. That’s my honest, initial reaction, which wanted to share while it was still warm.

Also, I finally got a few spare minutes to write, as I’m stranded for the night at a small base south of Mosul. Had to jump on a last minute mission to fly some time-sensitive, Iraqi official documents down here (read between the lines), and it turns my ride wasn’t heading back to Mosul after dropping the stuff off. I got no toothbrush, no razor, no sleeping bag, and no clean clothes, but at least it’s quiet down here.

Now I need to go and write a press release (was recently promoted to head Public Affairs, thereby doing the work of an officer for the pay of a private), where I walk the fine line between touting the Coalition’s (specifically, my battalion’s) role in making this happen and applauding the Iraqi government and people’s courage in pulling this off.

Anyway, I’ve been working lots lately, been pretty tired, been sometimes scared, been occasionally cranky, and often frustrated. But, all in all, the worst I can say that’s happened to me all year is the bad haircut I’m currently wearing (picture an anal Army buzzcut, minus the neatness). Can’t complain, really.

Much love-

Congratulations, Felipe. Keep up the good work and get back to us safely. We’re rooting for you and the success of your mission.


Sheil ’77 at Movielink

Peter Sheil ’77 has been promoted to executive vice president and general counsel of Movielink. In other words, Sheil is one of the folks who Jim Kolesar ’72 is worried might end up suing Williams students who, uh, have a loose interpretation of copyright law. Kolesar

said anyone sharing copyrighted material is at risk for being sued, adding that parents with teenagers at home might not realize what their children are up to.

Say it ain’t so Jim! Actually, I am fairly clueless about what my 8 year old is up to . . .


Rejection, snowplows and haiku-writing Marines

All that and more on Eph Planet.

Geoff Hutchinson ’99 notes that rejection is the sincerest form of flattery, Diana Davis ’07 advises you to beware of the snow plow and Eric Smith ’99 is going to re-read Cryptonomicon.

Careful readers will note that one of these entries features a subtle reference to this Robert Frost poem. The Kane girls, however, have been hearing a lot more of this one lately.


Duquette ’88 and Life’s Twists

There is an article in yesterday’s New York Times on New York Mets senior vice president of baseball operations Jim Duquette ’88 that has little to do with baseball. Instead, it is a story about the sudden twists a life can take:

After a few seconds of silence, Duquette wiped away the tears and talked some more about the frightening and tumultuous journey his life has taken since his daughter first felt queasy at a Mets game almost five months ago. Lindsay’s body was swollen and the Duquettes soon learned that she had nephrotic syndrome, a condition in which the kidneys do not adequately process protein.

Beginning with that day, Duquette watched his daughter face a life-threatening situation and, while on that horrible path, was replaced as the general manager of the Mets by Omar Minaya. To Duquette, the professional setback barely registered. He was worried about Lindsay and essentially numb to everything else.

Still, as Duquette drove to Montefiore one afternoon, he said, he thought about the twists his life had absorbed. In the middle of last season, he was the general manager of the Mets and had three happy, healthy children. Not long after, he had a sad, sick daughter and he had lost a job he had waited years to get.

“How did things go from being the G.M. of the Mets to having no thought about the Mets and wondering if I was going to have to make one of the ultimate sacrifices for one of your kids to stay alive?” said Duquette, who at one point figured he might have to donate a kidney.

The story has a happy conclusion, as thanks to the good work of the doctors and nurses at Montefiore Medical Center Lindsay Duquette is healthy again and will soon know if her condition is in full remission, clearing her to possibly join the class of 2024.


“Anchors Away” fight song

To unite our cause, I wrote us a fight song. It is to the tune of “Anchors Aweigh,” the U.S. Navy fight song and march.

Rise, good Ephs far and near — don’t stand idly by!
Free agency’s at risk and soon it well may die – ie – ie – ie;
Clusters will take its place, much to our dismay!
So stand up and raise your voice and write with us and fight with us today.

In his first speech to us, Morty once did say
That best was not good enough; so much to our dismay – ay – ay —
He said to the CUL, housing to review;
They thought up this cluster thing which is so bad, it makes us mad and blue.

There’s little time for us, and so much to be done!
Frosh, seniors, jocks, alumni — we need every one – un – un – un;
Write letters, tell your friends, give it your all:
For if anchors come to pass, you’ll lose your choice, forevermore, this fall.

Do try singing it to yourself. I recommend it highly.


Krens ’69: Limitless Ambitions

Thomas Krens ’69 featured prominently in a New York Times article on The

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum has lost its biggest benefactor.

Citing “differences in direction,” Peter B. Lewis, the Cleveland philanthropist who has been a trustee of the museum since 1993 and most recently its chairman, resigned yesterday. He has given the institution about $77 million, nearly four times as much as any other board member in its history.

He resigned during a three-hour board meeting. Last night Mr. Lewis said that he wished the museum would “concentrate more on New York and less on being scattered all over the world.”

For several years, Mr. Lewis has not been shy about the growing tension between him and Thomas Krens, the Guggenheim’s maverick director of 17 years, concerning Mr. Krens’s vision and the way he spends money. Most of the board members, however, back Mr. Krens and applaud his ideas for building an international network of museums.

Mr. Krens, declined to comment on Mr. Lewis’s departure. Through the years he has made no secret of his limitless ambitions, his vision for building Guggenheim Museums around the world, his passion for motorcycles that led to a blockbuster exhibition, and his genius for mounting popular shows, from the works of contemporary artists like Matthew Barney to Armani suits.

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Reaching Alumni

What is the best way for students to get in touch with alumni in order to get help with something going on at Williams? An interesting question! The students most wanting to do so right now are, of course, the Anchors Away folks, but this is a perennial issue so I’ll try to make my advice generic. Other alums are invited to offer their own suggestions.

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CGCL: Day 5

Back before Morty became President of Williams, he authored a paper with Michael S. McPherson, President of Macalester College, predicting future economic trends in higher education, specifically potential financial problems with liberal arts colleges.

Morty & Mike start off the paper by identifying what they view as two major roots of the problem:(1) increased competition in higher education as evidenced by the (earlier) rapid expansion of institutions of higher education and the (relatively recent) identification of higher education as a profitable area by venture capitalists and (2) the decline in the raw number of high school graduates between 1976 and 1993, which for those not versed in demographic history, is roughly the differences between the size of the Baby Boomers and Gen-X, respectively. Additionally, Morty & Mike note that the number of institutions that taught a liberal arts curriculum dropped sharply, though many schools continued to claim that they gave students a liberal arts education.

Morty & Mike note that demographic and economic trends bode well for demand for a liberal arts education in the future, but caution that the rapidly-rising cost of higher education in general, as well as questions of the ability liberal arts to meet the demands of modern technology relative to research universities, may start to cause students to seek cheaper and/or more job-oriented alternatives.

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Policy Plans and Policy Reality

The WSO thread on Anchor Housing is too nested for all but the most obsessive among us to follow. But there are some real gems buried in there, which EphBlog is pleased to bring to your attention.

This one is from Emily Steinhagen ’04.

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Delay, Delay, Delay

Although there is no evidence that anyone is listening [or should listen — ed. Thanks!] to my advice (pro or con) on the politics of cluster housing proposal, I can’t help but to keep giving it. Only read on if you really want to know the only plausible plan, in my view, for stopping the proposal.

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For The Anchorites

In the spirit of non-partisan kibitzing, here is my advice to students/faculty in favor of the cluster house proposal. Of course, this is mainly of use to those with some power (i.e., CUL) and they are all smart enough to know this without hearing it from me. Still, kibitzing is fun and, drat, I can’t make the forum. (Too bad WCFM isn’t broadcasting it.)

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A new game (Photo ID #1)

My high school’s alumni magazine has a rather popular game that I thought I would introduce here. Here is how it works: I put up a picture taken somewhere on campus. You tell (a) Where it was taken or what it is of, and (b) stories about it from your time at Williams. Part (b) is optional, but it is what makes this game fun. The first picture is this one:


So you your job is:
(a) What is the location depicted here?
(a.i) Where was this picture taken from?
(b) What are your memories of this location?

By the way, I took this picture yesterday morning, after we got about 9 inches of snow. It wasn’t the 18″ the weather people had promised, but it was still quite a lot of snow.


Lebeau ’91 Weds

Lest EphBlog turn into all housing all the time, it is nice to note that Dore Lebeau ’91 married Harry Toung on Saturday. Best part:

They began dating about a month later and were together for three or four months before breaking up.

About a year after the breakup they ran into each other, and began dating off and on.

Off and on, eh? That doesn’t describe many Eph relationships that I’m familar with!

Congratulations to all.


Question One

The very first question asked at tomorrow’s CUL forum on anchor housing should be:

Is there anything that any student or group of students could say at this point in the process that would cause you to delay implementation of cluster housing until the fall of 2006?

It would be very helpful to get answers from every member of the committee. (I can’t even find a listing of the members. Who are they?) Presumably, there is a wide range of opinion among committee members about how much more study the proposal requires.

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Come On, Eileen

The WSO blogs, as wonderful as they are, can be hard to follow when a big thread builds up. (Or maybe there is an easy way to see just the latest comments?) But that’s, of course, why you come to EphBlog. We read WSO so you don’t have to!

Anyway, David Ramos ’00 has a great comment, on the cluster housing proposal, reprinted in full below. This quote jumped out at me.

Ah yes, the Williams party scene. I have many vivid memories. Pretty bloody lame. Not the decorations, not the themes, just the notion of hanging around in some foetid puddle of congealing beer and vomit, screaming at the person beside me, as the DJ blasts “Come On Eileen” over scratchy speakers for the fifty-third time in one night.

Every once in a long while I worry that various correspondants (Needham, Finley, et al) may have a point when they claim that an old alum such as I can not know what College life is like today. But then I read something like this, something that captures with pitch perfect accuracy what it was like in Perry House in 1986, and I realize that college life is college life, whatever the decade we are in.

I probably differ from Ramos when he describes it as “lame” — and not just because I like “Come on, Eileen.” College parties are college parties. If Williams parties were lamer than those at Swarthmore or Amherst or whenever, then that might be cause for concern. But, as far as I know, they aren’t.

That aside, his entire comment is worth a read. The Anchors Away folks need to start collecting these gems in one centralized location.

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Fast Ship to NYC

Heh. Some intrepid Eph blogger ought to post a round-up of all the hilarious Eph posts on WSO and elsewhere. There are some funny Eph writers out there.


Fight the Power

Although I am certain that the current housing system, a campus wide lottery, is better than the house affiliation system of the 1980’s, I am open-minded on the cluster proposal. Will Dudley ’89 is a smart guy and my bias would be to agree with his suggestions.

But the purpose of this post is to offer advice to students, like Joe Shoer ’06 and my fellow EphBlogger Diana Davis ’07, who seek to stop the proposal.

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More Housing Reading

Dave Glick ’02 and other writers did a masterful job of summarizing the history of housing at Williams in a series of Record articles in 2001. Dan’s summary opinion piece, “Community Does Not Come Cheap,” is marvelous.

The history teaches us that restoring the type of community so many of our alumni remember fondly will require substantial payments of both monies and freedoms. The house system they recall evolved into the system of lotteries and room draws because Williams collectively decided to stop “paying” for its maintenance. Any new system which could even offer the potentiality of true residential community would require all of us to pay a substantial price, and not just financially. Community does not thrive on temporal programming but instead requires the durable foundation of genuine sacrifice, especially the collective sacrifice of individual freedoms.

Exactly right. In many ways, money — barring a complete redesign of the College’s physical plant — is almost besides the point. There is a trade-off between freedom and community — or rather a certain kind of community, one in which the different sub-communities are both diverse and of similar status.

Glick goes one to write:

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Question This

I have been quite the skeptic of the Alumni Office’s goofy “Question of the Week.” But if they can really find 111 people willing to log-in and answer questions like “Did you pass your swim test?”, they must be doing something right.

But who were these 111 alums? And people say that I had too much time on my hands . . .


Dudley ’89 on Anchor Housing

Thanks to Philosophy Professor Will Dudley ’89 (who I knew back in the day) for pointing me to useful background information on housing at Williams and for providing this presentation from CUL. Note that this presentation is merely an overview of some of the issues involved. It is clearly geared for a student audience.

There is much here worth considering. Special thanks to Will for helping we poor alums unlucky enough not to live in Williamstown to educate ourselves.


Anchor Me

For anyone concerned about the future of Williams, there is a must read thread started by Joseph Shoer ’06 on the anchor housing proposal.
It is damning.

Up until now, I had had trouble understanding what the anchor housing proposal was all about. Even this week’s Record article was not overly clear (to me). It seemed mostly to be about better parties, and who can complain about that? Moreover, given that a former student, Professor Will Dudley ’89, is heading CUL, I found it hard to believe that the proposal would be counter to students’ opinions/interests.

Turns out that there is something to worry about. The actual proposal, which seems to only now been revealed in its full extent, is quite radical. It would essential end the campus wide lottery that has, I believe, done more than anything else in the last 20 years to improve student interaction on campus. Housing, especially the pro’s and con’s of the current system, is a topic that we have covered at length on previous occasions.

At this point, the key issue is: How can those students, like Shoer ’06, interested in either stopping or delaying this proposal best accomplish their goals? I would start by organizing an all-campus debate. (Surely the Williams College Debate Union would be willing to sponsor the such an event.) The proponents, like Dudley, would hardly have a reason for not debating and the forum itself might serve to both highlight the flaws in the proposal and provide a focal point for the opposition to coalesce around.

Although students should, of course, take the major part in such a debate, it would be good if the pro-lottery (anti-anchor) forces could find someone with first-hand experience of what life was like before the lottery to argue on their side . . . someone, who, say, spent two years living in the house next to Dudley’s . . .

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CGCL: Day 4

One of the great moments in my life occurred about two weeks ago. On January 8th the Williams Men Swimming and Diving Team defeated Amherst in a dual meet 134-109. This victory came after two seasons of losing the dual meet to Amherst despite going on to finish ahead of them in winning the NESCAC championships. I understand that as a practical matter the world will little note nor long remember the results of Williams-Amherst dual meets. But I am pretty sure that I will personally never forget those meets. Being part of a team and pushing yourself to the limit to accomplish great things is an opportunity that you do not normally get inside the classroom, yet it is an experience that has formed a crucial part of my education.

Very few institutions can make a claim to having the overall athletic success that Williams has had throughout its history. From the very first intercollegiate baseball game, played between Williams and Amherst on July 1, 1859, athletics have had a profound impact on the shape and function of the college. Even back in 1859 that influence also extended beyond those actually on the playing field. Many years after that first baseball game, the Williams catcher, Samuel W. Pratt, received a letter from a young man he had taught at Sunday School who could often be found sitting on a nearby fence watching the Williams team prepare for that game. The young man had gone on to become a missionary in India, and in that post he was credited with leading thousands of new converts to the church and over a hundred young men to the ministry. In his letter he informed Pratt, “It was not your Sunday School teaching, but your baseball playing that brought me to Christ.”

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Diversity, Schmiversity

The more time that I spend on the Diversity Initiatives site, the more of a fan of the project I become. Indeed, another argument for making the site public is that it serves as marvelous advertising for the College. A community that can maintain this sort of intelligent conversation is a community worth joining.

That said, it would be nice for the College to be more precise about exactly what the point of the exercise is. For example, a recent suggestion noted that “It’s time to include a discussion of why the faculty at Williams is not politically diverse.”

Maybe. This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. It is an important problem. But does it fall under the rubric of the Diversity Initiatives?

Who knows? The problem is that the College, even Morty, is excessively vague about what topics should be included in this discussion and what topics shouldn’t.

Welcome to the Williams Diversity Initiatives Web Site.

As a special focus this year Williams is seeking ways to make the College as welcoming as possible to members of historically marginalized groups.

Which groups are considered “historically maginalized” and which are not? I am not asking this question for the relativistic reasons of the typical snotty conservative — i.e., my Irish ancestors were treated poorly too! — but for precision. That is, should we be talking about the issue of (the lack of) political diversity among in the faculty in the context of the Divserity Initiatives?

It depends, obviously, on the meaning of “historically maginalized groups,” which is an interesting phrasing, and not at all the same thing as “underrepresented groups”. After all, women students are no longer underrepresented at Williams, at least in aggregate, but there can be no doubt that they were “historically maginalized”.

I am not sure if we should be discussing the issues of gender and political orientation in the context of the Diversity Initiative. It is reasonable for the College to want to focus on some topics rather than others. But there is no excuse for sloppy thinking or writing. What precisely are the Diversity Iniatives about?

Inquiring minds want to know.


Giving it Up

Emily Thorson ’02 has some advice for the Alumni Office.

Yesterday I got the dumbest fundraising letter I’ve ever received from my school. The first paragraph reads “I know what you’re thinking: that there are better causes to give to than Williams and Williams doesn’t really need my money.” Then, it goes on to tell me that “These things are all true. But, you should give in spite of this, because…[bizarre justification about how awesome your education was].”

Look, I work for EchoDitto and am a Dean for America alum, so obviously I’ve been drinking the empowerment kool-aid, but this is too much even for me. You just don’t tell potential donors that their money isn’t needed, and you certainly don’t remind them there are more worthy causes out there (especially a month after a natural disaster).

Bizarre justifications are a regular theme, here at EphBlog, so we might be tempted to cut Steve Birrell ’64 some slack. I also suspect that this letter did not come from Williams, per se, but from the agents in Emily’s class. In any event, her advice makes sense to me.


A lovely snowy river

Did you think that was the end of the Hopkins Forest pictures? Well, you were wrong. Here is another.


There are two more in the extended entry.

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CGCL, Day 3: A hard look at varsity athletics

Did you hear? Williams is really good at sports. The Ad Hoc Faculty Committee on Athletics was formed at the behest of President Morton Schapiro to explore the status of athletics at the college. A part summary, part discussion of their report follows.

Varsity athletics have a profound impact on Williams College — even moreso than at Division I colleges, because there only 5% of the student body is composed of varsity athletes, and here 30% of students are varsity athletes. Over half of Williams students say that their status as an athlete or a non-athlete defines them at Williams, and 70% of students believe that athletics are significant or dominant in organizing social life — a feeling that is much more pronounced among students that are not varsity athletes. Only 30% of students feel that varsity athletics enhances the educational mission of the College.

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Everyone Spam

Any message that begins with:

This message is NOT SPAM. You are being contacted because you set up a free photo account at

is probably not telling the truth. In this case, however, I am guilty as charged, having wanted to look at photos from the reunion last year.

The College had promised that “[w]hen signing up, you will be able to opt in or out of EveryoneSmile e-mails and promotions”. Of course, I shouldn’t believe everything that I read on the web. I opted out, but to no avail.

I hope that the College will just post the pictures, as it did a few years ago. Why does it have to be any more complicated than that?


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