Currently browsing the archives for January 2005

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Historical Footnote / Bo Peabody

Two randoms bit of Williamsana to report.

First, from a library of congress archive, a twelve year old tribute to Williams from the man who could have been President:

Second, of a more recent vintage, a USA Today article about the new book from Bo Peabody:


Ridley ’60, RIP

John True Ridley, ’60 has passed away.

Mr. Ridley taught English at Mt. Greylock Regional High School in Williamstown. In 1965, he began working at Houghton Mifflin. In 1991, he was appointed vice president of the school division. Then he became vice president of the school marketing division and corporate vice president of educational strategic development. He retired in 2001.

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Coleman ’97 Weds

Chase Coleman ’97 was married today.

Stephanie Anne Ercklentz, a daughter of Mai V. Hallingby-Harrison of Palm Beach, Fla., and Enno W. Ercklentz Jr. of New York, was married last evening to Charles Payson Coleman III, a son of Kim and Charles Payson Coleman Jr. [’72] of Old Brookville, N.Y.

Mr. Coleman, 29, is known as Chase. He is the founder and managing partner of Tiger Technology Management, a New York investment firm. . . . The bridegroom is a descendant of Peter Stuyvesant, the last Dutch governor of New York.

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Croft ’72: Time for One World

Fun article about architect Parker Croft’s ’72 vision of Time for One World.

Bricks and boards are the usual building blocks for Middlebury architect and sculptor Parker Croft, but one of his latest creations features minutes and hours. As the ball dropped at a New Year’s Eve party five years ago, Parker overheard a conversation about how the year starts at different times around the globe. He realized he found that idea absurd.

“When something happens in Africa, it’s happening right now, in the same time we are presently experiencing, not on a different temporal plane,” he says. “There is only one time, and the way we’re measuring it is a modern urban construct.”

A fun concept. Go here from some background reading. Best part of the article is that, although the whole project has a bit of goo-goo internationalism about it [Not that there is anything wrong with that! — ed], the criticism comes from the left.

Most commentary has been positive, he says, but the project is not without controversy. Generally, when the clocks are installed. He heard one complaint that it promoted globalization.

In other words, Croft is being a no-good imperialist to travel the globe and impose his vision of time on the innocent local populations. Or (worse?), by providing a vision of global time, Croft is leading us to recognize our common humanity and, therefore, think more globally and, presumably, act less locally. Or something.

There is just no pleasing some people, as we here at EphBlog know all too well.


Learn Some History

Focussing on the positive with regard to the College’s Diversity Initiatives, I am trying to make a few minor suggestions. Thanks to Jim Kolesar ’74 for including the first on an Eph Style Guide. Here is the second.

There should be chapter in the report, perhaps in the Context section, about the history of diversity issues at Williams. This would be wonderfully informative as well as serving to set the stage for the analysis that follows. It is very hard to have an informed opinion about the issues involved with diversity unless one knows the history. Although it is always interesting to hear about older controversies — the exclusion of certain types of Ephs from fraternities in the 1950’s, say — I am much more interested in the last 35 years or so.

So, give us 5 or so pages about every significant diversity-related event from the takeover of Hopkins Hall through Nigaleian. Recent examples from what should be included would be Barnard/VISTA, the KKK cookout and Madcow. Quote the original materials. Reprint articles from the Record, both news and opinion pieces. Interview the participants. Tell us the history.

Williams can’t move forward unless it knows where it has been.

UPDATE: The suggestions section of the Diversity Initiatives site is surprisingly good. One Eph notes that “Robert Gaudino, widely regarded as one of the best educators ever to be part of the Williams faculty, published a paper on “Uncomfortable Education,” explaining why he always kept students off-balance . . . ” It would be good if the report included prominent essays like this from Williams’s history.


Hopkins Forest

Last Sunday I took my camera along when I ran in Hopkins Forest (explanation for Jeff Dwyer here) and took this picture of my favorite place on the trail:

(click for 1042 x 768 version)

This is about half a mile past the top of the upper loop going counter-clockwise. For the whole rest of the 5-mile forest loop, there are tall, mainly deciduous trees on both sides of the trail, but at this one particular spot, there are these beautiful little trees, often (as here) covered in snow. To see this spot, you have to be quite a dedicated runner/hiker/skier, since it is about four miles, and quite a lot of vertical elevation, from the college.


Robison ’88 to Lead Round House

Blake Robison ’88 has been chosen to lead Round House Theatre in Washington DC.

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Early Decision Results

Interesting article in the Williams Record about early decision results:

A few interesting things to note:

1. 26 students admitted from the lowest socioeconomic band, more than double the usual early decision figure. That is certainly an outstanding development. The Questbridge program discussed in the article looks like a fantastic way to increase true diversity on campus. Given that one in ten ED admissions came through the Questbridge program, the program has certainly had a substantial impact, most likely for the better, on the admissions process.

2. 45 (!) out of 66 athletic tips admitted early. The good news is, with an average SAT at 1417, the bulk of the 20 percent of the ED class who are athletic tips can’t have SAT’s much below the 1300 range. Either that, or nearly every non-tip had really amazing numbers. I’d imagine that with only a few tips left to admit, the regular decision class might have feature even stronger numerical credentials.

3. 14 international ED admittees as opposed to 6 in past years. Again, I view this as a positive development. When you’re talking about increasing true diversity of viewpoints and experience on campus, I’d say increasing the number of students growing up in foreign cultures, and, perhaps even more-so, the percentage of students from poor families, has a far greater impact than increasing the number of American minorities from the upper-most socioeconomic bands.

All in all, sounds like a very strong, diverse, and balanced ED class.


CGCL: Day 2

Lee Altman ’93 provides this discussion of “Tenure Issues in Higher Education“.

Schapiro and McPherson offer a solid examination of tenure from an institutional efficiency perspective, but I do not see explicit mention of tenure as the great non-monetary equalizer of postgraduate life. Doctors, lawyers, M.B.As can point at their paychecks and proudly display their degrees. By contrast, professors can point to their job security and “academic freedom” as the rewards for their years of preparation. For institutional efficiency, tenure’s greatest value may be in equalizing perceived professional status with other careers requiring advanced degrees.

According to the government-sponsored national 2002 Survey of Earned Doctorates, the median years spent in graduate school is 9.0 for the humanities, and the median age for earning a doctorate is 34.7. Prior to finding a tenure-track slot, it is common for candidates to spend years in postdoctoral fellowships, adjunct or non-tenure positions. While it is harder to find statistics on the median age of professors receiving tenure, 40+ years seems a fair estimate.

Where does the real value of tenure lie? Does it primarily serve the needs of institutional efficiency? Is tenure the paramount motivation for enduring many years of arduous doctoral and post-doctoral preparation? Are liberal arts colleges more or less friendly to tenure systems, with their focus on quality of teaching? And can colleges like Williams maintain their quality of education, if tenure declines nationally as an institution?

Good questions all.


There are some really cool WSP programs out there…

… so let’s hear about them! If you are currently engaged in an interesting, unique, or otherwise great Winter Study class/project (which we hope they all are!) everyone at EphBlog would love to read about them. You can write a daily or weekly update of what you are doing, or just a one-time synopsis of something interesting that’s happened; anything you want to do is fine.

If you are already an author, blog away! Otherwise e-mail Eric Smith ’99 and ask him to set you up as an author, or just send your post via e-mail to me and I will post it for you.


Runner’s World Daily interview with Greg Crowther ’95

On January 10, Runner’s World Daily interviewed Greg Crowther ’95, who has a marathon best of 2:22:32 and wrote lots of parodies for Williams Cross Country (which the team still listens to before Little Three) when he was here. An excerpt:

The Williams cross country team has many traditions, and one is the freshman talent show, which is sort of our politically correct version of initiation. We have the freshmen perform onstage for the amusement of the upperclassmen. As my “talent,” I wrote a poem called “The Night Before NESCACs,” NESCAC being our athletic conference. That was basically a parody of “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” which we all know as “Twas The Night Before Christmas.” I remember little bits here and there: “Twas the night before NESCAC, and all throughout the Northeast/ eleven cross country teams sat down to feast/ They ingested something something and spaghetti/ To make sure that their carbo reserves would be ready.” Eventually, I get them to bed, and they wake up the next morning and there’s a section where I’m trying to mimic the calling out of various reindeer by name. I used everyone’s nickname: “On Strapper, On Doggie, On So and So.” But just before that I said “A little man called to them as they approached/I knew in a moment it must be their coach,” which was funny, because our coach, Pete Farwell, is a little man, sort of the opposite of Santa Claus, 5’6″ and 120 pounds.

Crowther has moved on to writing songs about muscle physiology and metabolism for his students at the University of Washington, which you can listen to here.

Anyone who yearns for the days of Williams Men’s cross country and T-Bear, read on for the full interview…

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Lynch Article

Political Science Professor Marc Lynch has a mostly optimistic article on Arab media that is worth a read.

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CGCL: Day 1

For Day 1 of our experiment in creating a Cross Generational Community of Learning, our assigned reading is “The Blurring Line” by Michael S. McPherson and Morton Owen Schapiro.

Today’s discussant is Richard Dunn ’02. He comments:

What is the role (are the roles?) of universities in the United States?

I would argue that higher education is institutional, in the same sense that the military or the Supreme Court is institutional. It is straight-forward to describe what universities do, but the institutional aspect relates to what “the university” means. The military is the institutional form of bravery and honor; the Supreme Court is the institutional form of fairness and wisdom (quite a separate trait than intelligence); the university may be the institutional form of progress, discovery, honesty, truth, opportunity, etc.

What does the university mean to American society? What does Williams or Harvard mean to American society and to us? If universities establish society’s desire for the honest pursuit of knowledge, what does it mean when universities twist financial aid decisions? Surely universities are entitled to tailor policies, but shouldn’t these policies be explicit? And is the pursuit of knowledge antithetical to the mission of universities as the great equalizers in our very unequal society? How can a leading college like Williams be both a place that educates the “most talented” (I leave that to you to decide how talent is measured) and enables those from otherwise disadvantaged backgrounds to attain for themselves and for their children the advantages associated with a degree from Williams? Can it? Should it?

Should universities be meritocracies? How is financial aid a tool to accomplish the goals of the university and if you had to decide between funding merit or funding need what would you choose?

Good questions all. Many thanks to Richard for taking the time to read the article and for providing this start to our discussion. Others are encouraged to answer Richard’s questions in the comments and/or to provide their own thoughts on the article.


The cloud was briefly a rainbow

Yesterday when I was running in Hopkins Forest, I happened to look at the sky just at the moment when a most amazing thing happened: A small cloud near the sun was colored like a rainbow! I happened to have my camera along, and snapped this picture (the color was much better in real life):

(click for 1024 x 768 version)

When I made a similar post on a WSO blog, Jono Dowse ’06 informed me that what I had seen was a sun dog, which occurs when the sun reflects off of ice crystals that are exactly 22° to the left or right of the sun, and at the same elevation.

For me, this sun dog lasted only seconds; the wind soon blew the cloud apart, so it was a very ephemeral rainbow.



EphBlog will be running an experiment in creating a cross generational community of learning during Winter Study. See the syllabus for details. All readers are welcome to participate. Day 1 is here. Day 2 is here. Day 3 is here. Day 4 is here. Day 5 is here.

Special thanks to Richard Dunn ’02, Lee Altman ’93, Diana Davis ’07, Kevin Koernig ’05 and Lowell Jacobson ’03 for serving as discussants.


Needham ’04 All Blogged Out

Mike Needham ’04 has decided to retire his hugely successful personal blog and focus all his energies here at EphBlog, or perhaps elsewhere. He notes that:

I just spent sometime going over my posts here, and am actually more pleased with what I found than I expected to be.

Funny, that’s exactly the same reaction that I have looking over my old EphBlog posts! Is this excessive self-regard a function our Williams education — All our profs told us that we were wonderful! — or our political leanings? [In your case, not excessive professorial praise. — ed. Too true.]

Mike is too modest to mention his funniest post, preserved on EphBlog for all eternity.


Eph Public Interest Lawyers

There is a program in Boston, new as of 2003, in which eight attorneys are chosen from applicants throughout the city as Public Interest leaders. Two of the eight selected for fall 2004 are from Williams, pretty impressive. Good to see that Williams is instilling more than the pursuit of the almighty buck in its undergrads:

Belated congrats to Susan and, in particular, to my classmate Nick!


Interesting NYTimes Article

Not directly relevant to Williams, but I think this article the NYTimes Magazine provides an interesting perspective on the drinking culture on college campuses. It sounds like what is happening at frats is very similar to what has happened at Williams: an administration crack-down on social keg-party style consumption, which creates a very different campus culture, in some ways for the better (the freshman girls t-shirt is one I hope would never make an appearance on the Williams campus), but in others, to the detriment of campus social life. In light of our long debate about drinking on campus, it’s an interesting read. One thing the article does not do, however, is make me sorry I missed out on the frat experience — Captain Crunch and Beer is a combo I’ll happily forsake.


New About EphBlog

Following the draft posted a few weeks ago, I have updated the “About EphBlog” section of the site. This is still somewhat of a draft. I’ll be adding items over the next week or so. As always, comments and suggestions are welcome. I would be especially interested to hear about other links that should be included. I have tried to be clearer about my personal opinion about the manner in which EphBlog tries to fill several goals, most importantly as both a source of Eph news and a forum for Eph discussion. Readers/commenters/authors who think that EphBlog should be something different, should speak up now and make a positive case for what EphBlog should be.

This update is a part of the general clean up of the site. Special thanks to Eric Smith ’99, the Eph who really makes EphBlog possible.


Bennett ’65 on the Dialectic

Bill Bennett ’65 has thoughts on “The Democratic Dialectic, the Democratic Problem.” Unless you already agree with him, you are unlikely to be convinced by the argument.


Does Affirmative Action Hurt Black Students?

Many will remember that in early 2003, Williams joined 27 other private, highly selective residential colleges in filing an amicus brief with the Supreme Court supporting the University of Michigan’s position in two highly publicized affirmative action cases (Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger, which deal with the University’s affirmative action admissions policies in the undergraduate and law school, respectively).

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Williams in the snow

David put in a plea for some current photos, so I thought today’s snowstorm was the perfect opportunity.

For more pictures, keep reading…

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Get Thee to the Registrar

Todd Gamblin ’02 complains that getting a copy of your transcript distributed is a bother.

I guess this depends on the school, but at Williams you have to fax in a signed form saying you release your grades to some institution. There has to be a better, faster way to do this. I mean, schools could scan in your transcript and make it available on a secure page in PDF format. I know I submitted a preliminary version like that to the NSF last year. I figure someone could make at least a little bit of money by starting, and relieving me of all this extra crap I have to do to get my information sent out places.

His point is well-taken, but for me the more interesting question concerns what is public and what is private about our time at Williams. I can’t, I guess, call up the registrar and get a copy of Todd’s transcript without his permission. But I think that I can call up and determine, without his permission, whether or not he did in fact graduate in 2002. I wonder, also, what other information — like major(s) and/or latin honors — is “public” in this sense.

To the extent that graduation data is public, then the College ought to make it very public. It should provide a web page, for each year, of every graduate and her major(s).


Wangari Maathai

From the November issue of EphNotes:


Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 8 for her efforts to promote ecologically viable social, economic and cultural change. She received an honorary degree from Williams in 1990.

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Ephs Hoops in SI Online

An Eph hoops mention on, number ten on the 10 spot.

McEntegart notes that he is an Eph alum with an interesting Dave Paulson connection. I think Williams probably gets about as many mentions in SI and on as the rest of Division III combined.


CGCL Syllabus

EphBlog’s experiment in creating a cross-generational community of learning (CGCL) starts next week. Here is the syllabus. This project, like EphBlog itself, is goofy beyond words, but there is no stopping it now.

Want to help me out? As you can see, I need 5 discussants. Your only obligation, should you accept this mission, is to write a paragraph or so of commentary on the article. (Looking for motivation? If I get no volunteers, I’ll be serving as the discussant for all five articles.)

Like any good professor, I made sure to include one of my own articles . . .



Information Overload

Todd Gamblin ’02 has interesting thoughts on information overload in the modern world.

All of this leads to a feeling of distraction and inability to concentrate, because you can’t think about what you’re doing at the moment when you know there could be some interesting bit of news popping up somewhere, or that you might have email, or that someone might have updated their blog. I don’t really know how I get anything done.

As far as I know, Todd doesn’t even have a wife, much less any children. Distractions, indeed.


WSP 0: CGCL Update

Thanks to the dozens of Ephs of all ages who have expressed an interest in EphBlog’s own attempt to create a cross-generational community of learning in the form of a virtual Winter Study seminar. [Dozens? — ed. I am rounding up from 1. Your father doesn’t count. — ed. Oh.]

But, like any good professor trapped in a classroom without comments, I’ll soldier on. Next step is to select the scholarly work. I have reduced the choices to two:

  1. The draft of Dan Drezner’s ’90 latest book.
  2. A collection of brief articles on various topics in higher education, probably to include:

    and perhaps a few others.

The main advantage of the Drezner work is that it is a large, cohesive body of cutting edge scholarly work. That’s also its main disadvantage since the cost of entry into the discussion will be somewhat high.

Right now, I am leaning toward option 2, but looking for feedback.

UPDATE: Other possible articles include this and that.


Ephs Fundraising for Tsunami Relief

Around the world people are coming together in one way or another to try to help out with the Tsunami. Amazon and Apple both made the front pages of their sites dedicated to ways to contribute towards the related relief efforts and agencies coordinating them.

I received an e-mail today from Zahie El Kouri (sorry, the alumni search page yielded no class info Class Secretary for ’93) today which describes an Eph effort to raise money for the disaster.
The e-mail was a forward from someone named “Pete” Pete Kirkwood ’93. Pete and Liz Rosan Kirkwood ’94 are environmental lawyers who moved to Thailand a few years ago.

I am a Williams alum, class of ’93 and for the last two years my wife (Liz Rosan Kirkwood, ’94) and I have lived and worked in Thailand- she as a consultant in environmental policy in Bangkok and me as a property developer in the village of Kamala, Phuket (one of the areas in Thailand hardest hit by the recent tsunami). We chanced to have been in the US for the holidays when the waves hit, and by some miracle our home and my project ( were both untouched by the destruction. Many of our neighbors, however, were not so lucky (see,for example: As you will have seen on the news, many lost their homes, many lost all of their possessions, and many lost their loved ones or even their lives.

Upon hearing the news of the tragedy, Liz and I, like most others, were at first paralyzed by the enormity of it all. Then we thought of rushing back to join in the relief efforts. But then, in the face of a huge outpouring of support and concern from friends, colleagues, family and even complete strangers, we realized that we have a unique opportunity to turn that support and concern into concrete assistance for our devastated neighbors.

So we began an online fundraising campaign. Since we began that campaign about four days ago, we have raised over $15,000. When I return to Phuket on Thursday, I will immediately begin using these funds to offer hands-on aid to the injured and bereaved. But I’d like to do more than $15,000 enables me to do, so it occurred to me to give Williams alums the chance, if they are so inclined, to take part in this campaign, and to help maximize the impact of my efforts.

On Phuket (and nearby areas of the mainland), I can mobilize vehicles for transporting supplies and the injured, and I have access to houses for sheltering the displaced. I speak Thai, I know the island, I understand Thai culture, and I will personally see to it that all funds donated to the Shawnee Institute have maximum real-world impact. The large aid organizations are doing excellent work in the affected areas, and we look forward to working hand-in-hand with them, but our efforts will be special, personal, and particularly effective: we are residents of the area, we are accustomed to getting things done Phuket-style, and we have no organizational overhead- every dollar will go directly where it’s most needed. Because I speak Thai, English, Spanish, and French, I know that I can provide invaluable help both to local families and to stranded and bereaved tourists.

If you are inclined to give, our secure online donation site is here:

If you want to pass the message on to friends, this page enables you to do that:

If you just want to drop me a line, my email address is:

In any case, please know that we are safe and that the people of Thailand are showing their indomitable spirit- pulling together, focusing on the future, and working hard to put their lives back together. Despite the destruction, Thailand is still a warm and beautiful place, and the economy needs your dollars So don’t cancel next year’s Siamese vacation- and if you weren’t planning one, then I suggest you start! Despite the sensational news reports you have probably seen, many hotels and resorts have come through the destruction practically unscathed. It is by and large Thailand’s working people- fishermen and villagers living in humble houses- that have been harmed and displaced, and it is these people that the Shawnee Institute is focused on helping.

I donated to the American Red Cross International Relief Fund a few days ago via Amazon’s One-Click system, mainly due to its convenience. Incidentally, any discussion of American tax dollars already going towards the efforts should probably be held off for another time/place since that could likely lead to more of an argument and less constructive efforts.


EphNotes and Nigaleian

Ted Gilley does a good job with EphNotes, the monthly e-mail summary of Williams news that is mailed out to alums.

Alas, the web site for EphNotes seems to always be an issue or two behind. The archive is also in Microsoft Word, an unfortunate and unnessary choice given that the e-mails themselves go out as text. The November issue notes:


With support of the trustees, and from campus and alumni leaders, Morty Schapiro is rallying Williams’ governance structure to focus this year on proposing ways to make Williams as open and welcoming as possible for members of historically marginalized groups. A coordinating committee is overseeing the effort, which is modeled on the structure that so successfully led to concrete proposals in the College’s 2000 strategic planning process. There will soon be a Web site to keep all interested parties abreast of developments. Ephnotes will let you know when it’s available.

My own modest contribution to the diversity discussion is here.
Future college presidents should note that Morty has handled the entire Nigaleian matter quite well. By including the entire community — especially those members most likely to complain the loudest about the current status quo — in the discussion about how Williams might do better, he has ensured a warm and fuzzy-feeling outcome for all concerned. Whatever their other faults, committees and process decrease discord.

This is true even if you, like me, think that this entire exercise is a waste of time. As Oren Cass ’05 argues, Williams is already about as open and welcoming as a community of imperfect humans can be. To pretend that anything more than marginal change is possible is to deceive oneself.

Moreover, the main change that might actually have prevented Nigaleian (doing away with tenure) isn’t even under discussion. Nor have we had a thorough airing of the reasons why Williams hired, promoted and tenured a person like Aida Laleian in the first place. As best I know, all of those folks still have as much say in personnel decisions as they have always had. But perhaps they have learned their lesson . . .


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