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Even More JA Cluster Stuff

The op-ed in the Record from the JA Advisory Board includes even more fun stuff.

It is our understanding from the CUL that the main (if not only) reason that the old system of random house affiliation failed was because students complained of being limited to just one house for their remaining three years.

Hmmm. Has CUL actually said this publicly? Moreover, don’t the members of the JA Advisory Board read the Record? Virtually everyone agrees that the affliation system never really failed. Students just started trading their spots like crazy. They did not trade because they had a desire to move each year. They traded, I think, because a tipping point was reached wherein most sophomores — even those with affliation to Greylock or the Row Houses — decided that they wanted to live in Mission. This led to an active market in swaps (what senior in Mission wouldn’t trade her pick for a Row House room?) that benefited all concered.

Free agency arose from the natural interactions of students seeking the best possible housing system. An emergent system, right there in Williamstown.

Once it became clear students wanted this — wanted a world in which sophomores congregated in Mission, juniors in Greylock and seniors in the Row Houses — it was obvious to all concerned that crazy trading was a stupid, inefficient and unfair method of running things. A campus wide lottery would clearly lead to the same outcome at lower hassle and more fairness for all concerned.

The missing piece of history in all of this is what happened in Mission from 1988 to 1993. Do we have any readers who know the story? How did Mission go from 30% sophomores to 90% sophomores in just a few years? How was the tipping point reached and when did it occur? There is a great story to be told on this . . .

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Photo ID, #6

I am especially fond of this one.

DSCN2117.JPG

So, what is this picture of?
Why does this building have such a unique window?
And how do you get into it from the inside? (I’m actually curious about that.)

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Who, What, When, Where, Whatever

It’s been more than 20 years since I wrote a Record news story, but I seem to remember something about “Who, What, When . . .” That lesson comes to mind in reading this Record article about an academic advising fair.

Seniors representing every academic department filled Goodrich Hall the evening of Feb. 7, eager to advertise their major or concentration and answer questions from inquiring first-years and sophomores.

How many students showed up to be advised? Why doesn’t the Record tell us this? Dean Roseman has a variety of sensible things to say later in the article, and we all know that the quality and quantity of academic advising is a perennial concern. But, as a Record reader, I want to know if dozens or hundreds of students showed up to be advised. If only dozens did, then I would safely conclude that, whatever problems there might be in academic advising, there isn’t that much to worry about.

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Local Coverage

The Transcript and the Eagle provide good coverage of the cluster housing debate. Most interesting sections include:

“There isn’t any sense of continuity in the houses,” Dudley said. “There’s no sense of belonging to a community, you just happen to be living in the same building that year.”


According to Dudley and others, the roots of the idea [for cluster housing] lie in earlier living arrangements at Williams. For generations, fraternities dominated the housing system, and when the college chose to eliminate them in the 1960s, it established a residential housing system that was designed to maintain a sense of small communities within a larger community. Students lived in the same house for most of their time at Williams.

Dudley, who graduated from Williams in 1989, said the system worked well up to the 1980s. Until that time, most houses had their own dining facilities, which fostered a stronger sense of community. But in an effort to provide more dining options more efficiently, dining facilities were concentrated in a smaller number of dining halls around campus.

Eventually, the disparities in the types of housing on campus — from modern complexes like Mission to former fraternity houses on Main or South streets — led to more vocal calls for change from students.

“Increasing number of students in the less physically desirable houses felt they were stuck in the same building for three years,” he said.

Dudley said housing systems that are similar to the new one proposed by the CUL have been implemented at colleges like Bowdoin and Middlebury.

“This will probably be the biggest change in student residential life at Williams since the abolition of fraternities,” said Charles Dew, committee member.

“What we’re trying to do is combine the best of the old house system with at least some of the flexibility of the current system,” said Dudley. “The central goal is to create the conditions in which real residential communities that have some spirit to them can re-emerge.”

Dew said that means most people live in a different house each of their final three years, not developing the friendships they might have had they lived in the same house during that time. Instead of being part of a community, he said the residence halls serve as “buildings where disparate people live.”

As students move from building to building each year, Dudley said none have any sense of connection or affiliation to a house. “So instead of having a house that functions as a residential community, they’re really like dormitory buildings in which small groups have apartments.”

The 75-year-old tradition of freshman entries will not change, said Dudley. The committee began working on the plan about four years ago, and made recent adjustments in the proposal as students offered suggestions.

“There’s an awful lot of stuff that grew out of the houses that evaporated when the house system went away,” said Dudley. “I think the expectation is that a lot of that activity can be encouraged to come back. We’re not trying to recreate the past, but I think that we can learn from it.”

Dew believes the administration will act swiftly on the matter. He expects a decision — to be made by Roseman, President Morton Schapiro and college trustees — to be announced sometime in March.

“My sense is that they agree with us,” he said.

All interesting stuff, much very wrong, very suspect and/or very worrying. More commentary to come.

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Shout Out

Todd Gambin ’02 provides “a shout out to my boys in West College, 2001-2002″ here.

Back in the day, you could just walk into someone’s room and chill out or talk about whatever, because everyone had their door open and was cool with taking a break and goofing off a bit. Now, such is not the case. People are working, and you don’t talk to people if they’re working, because they’re all stressed. Besides, they’re probably not even home anyway: they’re holed up in their office somewhere until 4 in the morning or so. It’s just not the same kind of atmosphere. . . . I’m not saying it’s bad now by any means, but not much is the same as Williams.

And never will be, alas. [Isn’t the phrase “back in the day” an official EphBlog trademark? — ed. Yes it is. But we are nothing if not open source/creative commons here at EphBlog, so Todd is welcome to use it.]

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Cluster Commentary

Some of the WSO threads on cluster housing are fun, not just because of the quality of the arguement that they contain, but also because the little asides are so well-done. Consider:

  • I’m going to number my points, simply because I’m lazy and don’t feel like making a coherent argument out of the whole thing.
  • Alcohol and blogging do not mix.
  • I probably won’t post anymore. I need to do other things. Like find a job.
  • [U]nderclasspeople should listen to me, especially when it comes to discussing the Williams residential life.
  • Curse you, rambly brain!

Readers can argue amongst themselves over which ones apply best to EphBlog.

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Openness

A regular reader noted this thread on College Confidential which references our discussion of the 13% statistic and suggests that there is a price for openness, that the College should not be excessively honest in reporting accurate data about itself.

I could not disagree more.

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Conference Call

What was the most interesting tidbit in the Record this week for any of the leaders of Anchors Away? This:

Schapiro said that the final CUL proposal will be the subject of his monthly conference call with the trustees on March 9, but the decision of whether to implement the system ultimately rests with him and Roseman.

I think that Anchors Away would be well-served to try to involve themselves in this conference call. Since Morty is unlikely to invite them to participate, I think that a single well-written e-mail to each of the Trustees on March 7 would do wonders.

I have covered before the general topic of reaching out to alumni and what Anchors Away should be working on previously. Perhaps now is too soon to reach out to the Trustees, but I think that the correct approach might still work. It would certainly be useful for Anchors Away to start framing the debate.

All of this advice is conditional on the type of report that CUL submits. I see no indication that they are going to submit the sort of report that I have argued elsewhere they should. If this comes to pass, if CUL submits a report that spends most of its time talking about implementation details and very little time talking about the evidence for believing that anchor housing will accomplish its goals, then Anchors Away may have standing for e-mailing the Trustees directly at this stage.

The purpose of the e-mail should not be to complain about the CUL or about anchor housing or about the administration. The purpose would be to point out the complete lack of evidence and reasoning provided by CUL. (Again, if CUL does provide good evidence than an e-mail to the Trustees denying this fact would be a mistake.) The e-mail would ask the Trustees (politely!) to ask for this evidence and reasoning. This is precisely the sort of oversight responsibilities that the Trustees have and take seriously. With luck, this would lead some of the Trustees to ask Morty questions, not about CUL’s conclusions, but about CUL’s evidence, or rather lack thereof.

I am not sure that this is the right tactic. The Trustees do not want to be contacted by students directly too often. But I suspect that, framed as a plea for more evidence and accompanied by a clear overview of how the CUL report provides no evidence, it might be useful.

Of course, if the CUL report is filled with this sort of analysis — as I hope it will be — then my suggestion is moot.

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Blog More

Eric Smith ’99 asks, “Anyone have suggestions for ways to overcome burnout at/in one’s job?” Well, blogging more works for me . . .

As always, there is lots of fun stuff over Eph Planet.

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More JA Cluster Stuff

The op-ed in the Record from the JA Advisory Board has lots of great stuff, even if their claims about the decrease in the quality of the selected JAs are suspect.

We understand that the CUL worries about whether a three-year system would have enough “glue” to hold;

CUL is right to worry. Without drawing in first years and seniors, anchor housing will not accomplish its goals. Note that the JA advisory board should be able to forecast the future on this score. They should not be deceived into thinking that, just because CUL has left entries/JAs out of the plan today, CUL is committed to doing so in the future.

In fact, if/when anchor housing is implemented, I would gladly wager that, in 4 years, almost everyone will agree that — Surprise! — just as at Bowdoin and Middlebury, cluster identity has failed to arise at Williams.

What happens then? Well, the great and the good on CUL will look aroud and ask themselves, “How can we improve cluster community?” You can bet that the first answer to come to mind will be to attach entries to clusters — Just like Yale! — and enforce JA/cluster matching.

You read it here first.

however, a three-year system seemed to work in housing models from the past.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again. THIS IS NOT TRUE! Apologies for the shouting and, perhaps, it depends on what you mean by “work”. Perhaps the JA Advisory Board as a group is as uninformed on this topic as one of their members, David Seligman ’05.

Again, Carter House in the 1980s “worked”. I find it hard to believe that Carter House today does not “work”. But all those who claim that the affiliation system was some sort of Cheers bar scene where everybody knew your name and free time was spent on house projects like Trivia and snow sculptures are either clueless or disingenuous.
[Aidan could have written this paragraph much better — ed. I know, I know.]

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Trends in Snow Sculpture Participation

As a follow up to yesterday’s request for information about trends in Trivia participation over the last 20 years, I want to revisit the topic of snow sculptures, already covered in some detail here. (Note especially David Nickerson’s description of the mid 1990’s.) For now, I want to focus on this claim:

As I recall (and it’s really sad that I’m not sure about this), Sage F took the snow sculpture prize during Winter Carnival ’03. Our entry, Fire and Ice, featured an entire living room set, including sofa, coffee table, and a stone fireplace with icicle flames. We were up against 4 or 5 other groups, I think, some of which were pretty good. We started the night before, and must have had at least 7 people put in a good 8 hours.

My first question: Is this accurate? The Record reports that Sage F did indeed win in 2003, but does not mention how many other teams participated. If, in fact, 5 or 6 teams did make serious efforts, then this would be consistent with my memories of 1984-1988. That is, there might have been years when there were 10 real sculptures, but there were certainly never as many as 15.

Second question: Was 2003 an outlier year? If so, why were there so many sculptures then? Good snow and nice weather presumably played a part.

My big picture question: Is there any good evidence that snow sculpture participation was lower from, say, 2002 to 2005 then it was 10 or 20 years ago? I guess that I am really looking for testimony from someone that has been judging it that long. Who would that be?

In terms of other reading, the WOC history is fairly interesting. It claims that there were typically 15 sculptures made during the fraternity and house dining era (with a keg going to the winning house), but that “Snow sculptures have, unfortunately, become scarce in the last two decades.”

I am always ready to grant that, in a world of fraternities, there is much more house bonding and camraderie. I would not be surpised to see this cohesiveness manifested in something like snow sculptures. I am deeply suspicious, however, of claims that there was a lot of house pride during the affiliation era of the 1980’s. Outside of some row houses and, perhaps, Dodd, there wasn’t.

So, what evidence is there that snow sculpture participation is down signficantly from the 1980’s?

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JA Cluster Housing Math

There is a must-read op-ed in the Record from the JA Advisory Board about the interaction between entries and cluster housing. They want the JA/entry system to have no meaningful connection to anchor housing. There is a lot of good stuff here, but, for now, I want to focus on some math.

The integrity of the JA selection process depends upon the ability to look at all applicants and choose those qualified individuals who will be part of an effective and diverse class of JAs, not those who are relatively more qualified than others in their geographic area. A particular affiliation should neither automatically guarantee nor preclude an individual’s position as a JA.

This provides another chance for CUL to do its job and gather some data. For example, how evenly dispersed were this years JA’s in terms of first year entries?

Ignoring actual data, this is still a fairly interesting statistical problem. Assume that we can rank all 150 JA candidates accurately. Assume that men and women are ranked interleavedly — meaning the best candidate is women, second is a man, third a women and so on. Assume that they are randomly distributed among 5 clusters. Assume that the JA selection process, now that it can select anyone (while keeping gender balance) gets the top 50 candidates. On average, how suboptimal would the JA’s selected under a cluster regime be, relative to this ideal?

In other words, the worst ranked male and female are 50 and 49 in this, the optimal world. What rank to the worst male and female have with cluster restrictions.

Where are my MATH/STAT/COMPSCI friends when I need them?

Actually, my intuition is that the JA advisory board is wrong and that, on average, the results would not be much less optimal than under the current pick anyone process. I might guess that, on average, the worst selected might be around 75. (Of course, it is a value judgment as to the cost of having a JA ranked at 75 instead of one ranked 50.) But there will almost certainly be years in which it is 100. But this is an empirical question!

Don’t make me start posting R code again . . .

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Trends in Trivia Participation

In all our many discussions about Williams housing, a recurring claim (see Mike’s comments here) has been that, back in the misty past of affliation, “Williams traditions” were more robust and important in campus life. A subsidiary claim is that one of the primary reasons for this robustness is that seniors living with sophomores passed on these traditions.

Color me skeptical.

But, rather than polemics, I am interested in data. The two most commonly cited examples are the decrease in participation in snow sculptures and in Trvia. Leave aside snow sculptures for now. Question: Is is true that participation in Williams Trivia is lower now than it was 10 or 20 years ago?

A priori, I am certainly ready to believe that it is. Students today, what with all this technology stuffery, have many more entertainment options than we had back in the 80’s. But consider the Williams Trivia site.

Compare the final scores from Spring 1992 and Winter 2004. As best I can tell, Trivia was as about as widely played in these two eras. As best I can recall from the 1980’s, Trivia was no more popular then. I certainly don’t recall anyone playing in Carter House during my three years there.

To do a thorough study, we would need to know more, of course, about the size of the teams, the number of current students who were playing and so on. But, poking around the site, I see no evidence that would support the claim that Trivia today is much less widely played than it was 10 or 20 years ago. See also David Ramos’s ’00 comments here.

If there is such evidence, I would appreciate knowing about it.

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A Vision for Williams Housing

UPDATE Feb 2008: See at the bottom for modifications caused by the switch in freshmen housing to Mission.

I have been bombarded with requests to provide my own vision of housing for Williams. Well, perhaps “bombarded” isn’t the mot juste. In any event, if I were CUL, here’s how I would think about housing . . .

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Sani ’08 in NYT

When was the last time an Eph was pictured on the front page of the New York Times?

Today!

Ana Sani of Scarsdale, N.Y., a 13-year-old budding soccer star, practiced daily until she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her knee.

Among Mr. Sullivan’s pupils is Ana, the soccer player, who came for help as a 13-year-old after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee. The injury occurred without contact from another player as she was running down the field. She had recently stopped playing other sports to concentrate on her soccer.

“Ana is a phenomenal soccer player, but her hamstring muscles were much weaker than the rest of her leg structure,” Mr. Sullivan said. “Her body hadn’t developed anything but the muscles to play soccer.”

After a 10-month rehabilitation, Ana returned to playing soccer – on three teams at the same time no less – and at 18, she just completed her first season at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. She recently tore the meniscus cartilage – which helps distribute body weight evenly – in the same knee she hurt when she was 13.

“I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or not,” said her mother, Ana Cristina Sani, “but she hadn’t been in her injury prevention program while at college, and that’s when she hurt her knee again.”

Hmmm. I don’t think that we’ll be seeing that quote highlighted here anytime soon.

Thanks to David Kane ’58 for the pointer. Perhaps there is a lesson here for me and my soccer room. . .

Trivia Question: When was the last time, before today, that an Eph was pictured on the front page of the New York Times?

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Fight the Power II

Now that anchor housing has been delayed, what can Anchors Away do to achieve its goals? Excellent question! Consider this follow up advice to previous offerings.

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Photo ID, #5

This is the third picture in a week, but this one has nice color.

DSCN2113.JPG

So your job is to tell where this picture was taken, and any memories or random knowledge you have of this location.

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Shiller on Levitt ’52

Economist Robert Shiller mentions Arthur Levitt ’52 in a New York Times op-ed on “How Wall Street Learns to Look the Other Way.”

I like to assign my finance students “Take On the Street,” an account by Arthur Levitt of his efforts, as chairman of the S.E.C. in the 1990’s, to clean up the sleazy side of Wall Street. I wish more professors assigned it. But most of my colleagues tell me they do not have time for it; too many formulas to cover.

Shiller’s claim is that an excessive focus on formulas and a reverence for the “market” makes business folks blind to things, like Richard Grasso’s wildly excessive pay package. See other commentary here.

Perhaps. Although I have yet to make it through Levitt’s book, I think that Shiller’s students would get a lot more out of classics like Where Are the Customer’s Yachts? and “Where the Money Grows.”

Moreover, I have already published the simple solution to excessive executive compensation. Alas, it has yet to catch on.

Entire op-ed below:

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Bakija on Social Security

A Transcript article on Democratic reaction to President Bush’s plans to revamp social security reports that:

John Bakija, an assistant professor of economics at Williams College, backs the view that borrowing money to finance a Social Security overhaul leads the country down a road of piling up more debt. The key for the country’s financial success in the long run is to save money, not borrow it, he said.

I’ll leave commentary on the substantive point for another day.

Bakija is clearly a serious scholar. It is nice to see that the Econmics Department, despite having seen massive turnover in the last 20 years, continues to attract such strong economists. Perhaps his syllabus for ECON 120 is not as biased as it could be, but there are clearly many more left wing items in the reading packet than their are right wing ones — although perhaps that claim depends on how one classifies The Economist not optimal. I would certainly like to see both left and right with equal representation as well as a broader selection from across the ideological spectrum.

As always, the problem is not that Williams has professors like Bakija, professors who are active participants in the public square from the non-right-wing side. Williams needs more professors like Bakija! It just needs some professors who disagree with him, professors who would assign work from Heritage Hoover as often as they do from Brookings.

UPDATE: Having had the chance to review the syllabus more closely, and thanks to some of the input in the comments below, I rephrased the above. Upon reflection, I should not have used the word “bias”. Special thanks to Professor Bakija for providing some background information. I was especially pleased to hear that his “students frequently say that they like that they can’t tell what my views are, which I think is important for promoting critical thinking and lively debate in class.” I could not agree more.

Again, Williams needs more professors like Bakija. I hope that Williams tenures him and that he stays for 30 years. But perhaps I am just biased in favor of professors who contribute to EphBlog! ;-)

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Photo ID, #4a’ (swastika update)

My mystery photo generated a lot of talk about fraternities and swastikas — specifically, that the design on the front used to be a swastika.

Todd ’02 said:

I’m pretty sure the swastikas are still there — they’re just on the sides and not the front, where this picture was taken.

So I took a picture of the one that appears on the side, facing the Admissions office:

DSCN2138.JPG

Some people mentioned rumors about anti-Semitism in fraternities; it is important to point out that this swastika is the mirror image of the one the Nazis used.

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Data, Data

I had hoped to take a break from anchor housing blogging, but there is just so much good discussion at WSO that not-linking is impossible.

My favorite new factoid is that only 4% of William students are “dissatisfied” with residential life. Is there another elite college that has fewer dissatisfied students than Williams? Not that I know of. I lived in a Harvard undergraduate house — under a form of anchor housing quaranteed to make CUL swoon with delight — for four years. Much more than 4% of my students were dissatisfied with residential life.

I think that a big reason for the discrepancy is the existence at Williams of the Odd Quad, of a location (with its own dining hall) at which a self-selected group of students who see themselves (correctly or not) as different from the mainstream can create their own community. Odd Quaders at other schools, with no such location, are much more likely to be dissatisfied.

This is one of the key points of the current system. Although there are definitely students that would be happier with anchor housing (my guess is that they would be the more popular, out-going, mainstream students), many other students will be worse off.

If the CUL is intellectually honest, they will provide a thorough discussion of this point in their report. It is reasonable to conclude (although I disagree) that the typical student will be better off with anchor housing. It is reasonable to conclude that anchor housing, on balance, is a good idea. It is simply not true that no one loses with the change. The CUL needs to recognize this and discuss it openly.

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More Football Mafia

Kevin Gilmartin ’94 will be the new football coach at Nipmuc High School in Massachusetts.

When Nipmuc Regional athletic director Jim Grant was interviewing Kevin Gilmartin for the school’s head football coaching position, things didn’t start smoothly.

Strike one, according to Grant, was when Gilmartin noticed a picture of Grant’s sons Michael and Kevin.

“They had their Amherst baseball uniforms on, and that’s when he told me he went to Williams,” joked Grant.

But things worked out in the end. Note also that:

In the college ranks, Gilmartin was often on the road recruiting, which made it challenging to spend time with his wife Kelly and the couple’s 10-month-old daughter, Lainey.

Kelly (Faucher) Gilmartin is also class of 1994. Kudos to Kevin for recognizing that time spent with wife and daughter is much more important than time spent on business travel. Thanks to Diana Davis’s ’07 handy math trick, we know that Lainey (born in the spring of 2004) will be class of 2025, unless she skips a grade so that she can be on her parent’s reunion cycle.

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Winter Carnival Parties

There are always complaints at the social life at every college. But, as Winter Carnival kicks off, I was amazed to read about the ACE events for this week-end:

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Marginalized

Alas, the debates are happening so fast on the WSO blogs that some of my questions haven’t gotten answers. So, I’ll ask them again here.

Noah writes:

As it stands, self-segregation and marginalized minority issues seem to surface with significantly more frequency at colleges with systems similar to ours.

I do not believe this is true. What evidence do you have of it? It is, perhaps, fine for CUL to keep secret all of its mystical information about other colleges. It is not fine for CUL to keep the data secret and also repeatedly site these secrets as reasons for believing that anchor housing will work.

In fact, I do not know of any college with a system like Williams. At what other College do 70%+ of the sophomores and juniors live together by class with largely dedicated dining halls? What other colleges have free agency? At what other college is there an institution like the Odd Quad?

The more that I have read about other systems, the more unique the Williams system seems to be.

But regardless of how unique Williams is, I would like to see evidence for the claim that these problems are larger at schools without cluster-like housing arrangements.

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CCCP Me

Ronit Bhattacharyya ’07 — noticing that Ephs “wear shirts and sweatshirts embroidered with the hammer and sickle or the ‘CCCP’ logo, or printed with a picture of Mao Zedong or Che Guevara” — asks the same question that I did 20 years ago.

If it is unacceptable to endorse the Nazis, why is it acceptable to wear clothing that bears the symbol of an even more murderous ideology?

Of course, this was much less of an academic question back in the 1980s, what with the Cold War and all. Williams even had an actual Marxist — Kurt Tauber and proud of it — on the faculty. I can’t comment on why students wear such emblems now (although the discussion that follows Ronit’s posting is fascinating), but, back in the day, it was often because they were, you know, not overly enamored with Ronald Reagan and capitalism and other aspects of Americana.

I remember as if it were yesterday arguing with a young women who claimed that the Poles had chosen to live under communism; and who was I to force them to use America’s system?

She was completely serious.

I like to hope that, in 20 years, those who thought that the Iraq war was a bad idea will be judged in the same light as those who favored a nuclear freeze 20 years ago. Both groups are certainly much more likely than their opponents to favor CCCP as a fashion statement.

UPDATE: Broken link now fixed.

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Hooray for CUL

I have written my fair share of criticisms of the CUL over the last few weeks. I do not think that they have made any sort of case that the worthy goals they seek will be accomplished by cluster housing.

But, credit must be given where it is due. The CUL’s new website is wonderful! It gets the basics right (list of members, feedback form) but does an even better job of being scholarly in its social engineering. Note the listing of its annual reports, including (all?) the raw material from the 2003 survey. This is great stuff. I commend the CUL for being so transparent in its operations.

I believe that other material, especially the details behind the famous 13% statistic, will be forthcoming.

At the end of the day, I may still disagree with the answer the CUL comes up with, but I am running out of reasons to fault their process. I look forward to reading their proposal. I hope that they will be as thorough and comprehensive as the authors of the Report on Varsity Athletics. Of course, that report is not immune to criticism, but it still provides a pitch-perfect example of how to make a case for policy change in an academic community.

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Class Identity

In a different WSO thread, AB ’07 writes

Greylock is attractive to Juniors because most of the junior class lives there. Ditto for Mission and the sophomore class. The row houses still do have a monopoly on the good rooms on campus but the number of people they hold in total is much smaller than the populations of Mission, Greylock or even Prospect. That’s what the CUL is trying to do — break the class year identity that is so ingrained in Williams.

Why would you want to break the class year identity that is so ingrained at Williams? Again, I can understand why the College does not like theme or special interest housing. I do not want all students of type X (and only students of type X) to live in Tyler. This is, I think, bad for both the X’s and non-X’s. (Others might disagree.)

But if 70% of the sophomores at Williams want to live together in Mission and 70% of the juniors want to do the same in Greylock, why is that a bad thing? As long as all the X’s and non-X’s are mixed up together — and with a majority of the class there it would be hard for them not to be — I think that this is a fine idea.

Note that I do not think that this is CUL’s primary motivation, although some of the language they use about creating more intra-class connections would be consistent with it.

I think that the thing that AB and folks like him have failed to come to grips with is that there are only so many hours in the day, so many meals in the dining hall. Cluster housing will not, I think, increase the number of people that a typical Eph meets, shares a meal with or gets to know. (I would actually predict that cluster housing will decrease this, but ignore that for now.) Cluster housing will at best simply change who those folks are.

Now, AB may believe that, on the margin, he would rather meet a senior instead of another sophomore. Well, bully for him. He should choose to live someplace other than Mission. But he has no business telling the other sophomores at Williams that they should not be allowed to live together if they choose to.

Williams has a legitimate interest in mixing (by force of necessary) students of different types (where “type” is race, wealth, major, activity, politics, gender, sexuality, whatever). Williams has no interest in forced mixing along academic class lines.

The juniors who choose Greylock have demonstrated, by that choice, that, whatever Will Dudley might think, they do not need to meet anymore sophomores or seniors beyond the ones that they already meet in class and during extra-curriculars.

Does anyone disagree with this? Now, if even the sophomores who wanted to live with seniors were prevented from doing so, then AB might have a case. But, as far as I can tell, free agency provides a menu of class diversity for students to choose from.

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Photo ID, #4a

If you like houses so much, then tell me which one this is!

This is for Amarnath, who told me that my photos have been too easy.

DSCN2109.JPG

So: Identify where this picture was taken, and what it is of. Be as specific as possible. I already gave you a hint…

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Quotation Game

Miles Belknap ’05 started an interesting quotation thread on his WSO blog.

My hope is that other readers of this blog will think about things they’ve read and find a contribution that either represents their perspective or offers an interesting one, even if they dont necessarily agree with it. This is conceived as an opportunity to think about these questions that doesnt involve people arguing with one another. Its not a matter or proving or disproving but of filling out a picture and discovering some contours of the issue.

But, I think to really work, it needs more structure; perhaps the quote you submit should be either by the previous speaker or on a related topic.

I would suggest doing something like this on EphBlog, but our last exercise in quotes and quoting caused more than enough trouble.

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Near and Far

The WCDU debate on cluster housing is going on right now. Alas, I can’t make it. But, looking back over the last few weeks of this controversy, it is amazing how easy it is for an interested alum with too much time on his hands to be connected to Williams.

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