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Quote ID, #1

As a counterpoint to Diana’s interesting Photo ID series, which Williams graduate said the following? What was his/her name, class, and where did he/she say this?

The most versatile, the most durable, in an ultimate sense the most practical knowledge and intellectual resources which they [students] can now be offered are those impractical arts and sciences around which a liberal arts education has long centered: the capacity to see and feel, to grasp, respond and act over a widening arc of experience; the disposition and ability to think, to question, to use knowledge to order an ever-extending range of reality; the elasticity to grow, to perceive more widely and more deeply, and perhaps to create; the understanding to decide where to stand and the will and tenacity to do so; the wit and wisdom, the humanity and the humor to try to see oneself, one’s society and one’s world with open eyes, to live a life usefully, to help things in which one believes on their way. This is not the whole of a liberal arts education, but as I understand it, this range of goals is close to its core.


It’s 70s Deja Vu All Over Again

According to the North Adams Transcript, streaking, a 70s thing, has been revived at Williams.

I remember a mass streak down at Mission in the dead of Winter in 73/74. Believe me, it’s quite a sight to see 40 naked men and women running through the snow. The amount of flopping and bobbing of various body parts gets kind of overwhelming en masse.

In the same month or so, a male streaker wearing a mask zoomed through Phoebe Cramer’s class in Bronfman Auditorium. The Williams Record had been alerted, and so took a picture of the deed. I recollect female classmates complaining that the published picture was too blurry for them to figure out who it was.

It’s unclear whether the Springstreakers get student funding. Probably not, since the College Council is no doubt worried that they’d turn up in their club uniforms at the funding request meeting.



Andrew Sullivan comments here on a Weekly Standard article by Eric Cohen ’99, who also spoke at the Heritage Foundation two weeks ago.

For some, it is an article of faith that individuals should decide for themselves how to be cared for in such cases. And no doubt one response to the Schiavo case will be a renewed call for living wills and advance directives–as if the tragedy here were that Michael Schiavo did not have written proof of Terri’s desires. But the real lesson of the Schiavo case is not that we all need living wills; it is that our dignity does not reside in our will alone, and that it is foolish to believe that the competent person I am now can establish, in advance, how I should be cared for if I become incapacitated and incompetent. The real lesson is that we are not mere creatures of the will: We still possess dignity and rights even when our capacity to make free choices is gone; and we do not possess the right to demand that others treat us as less worthy of care than we really are.

I wonder if there are any professors at Williams who would agree with Cohen’s take on the issue.


From Limp-Wristed to Culture-Carrier

Just when you thought that only EphBabes like Ana Sani ’08 and Victoria Fang ’98 get their pictures in the New York Times, today we have EphHunk Bob Scott ’68.

[Sani and Fang look a lot better. — ed. Perhaps not to our female readers. No heteronormativity on EphBlog, please! — ed.]

The article notes that:

Three of the retired Morgan Stanley executives campaigning for the ouster of Philip J. Purcell met secretly with Morgan Stanley board members late last week and proposed splitting the company in two, according to people briefed on the meeting.

The talks were a major concession by Morgan Stanley’s board, which has previously spurned repeated requests by dissident executives to meet. The executives proposed that Morgan Stanley divide into two companies – one catering to institutions like pension and mutual funds and the other to individual investors. That would spell the end of Mr. Purcell’s vision of Morgan Stanley as a diversified financial services firm.

Previous EphBlog coverage on this story is here, here, here and here.

How is the attempt to force out Purcell going? Well, the betting seems to give Scott an almost 1 in 5 chance of success, at least before June 30th. I am rooting for Scott but find in these odds implausibly good, unless the market knows about some misdeeds by Purcell that aren’t public . . . yet. (Hat tip: BankStocks.)

The Wall Street Journal noted that

The alumni appeared self-serving, many investors say, by putting forward one of their own, former Morgan President Robert Scott, as their choice to succeed Mr. Purcell.

Mr. Purcell pushed Mr. Scott out in 2003. A spokesman for the alumni says it chose Mr. Scott because he is “a culture-carrier who would be capable of attracting back some of the talented professionals” who have left.

I think that the “dissidents” — note the rhetoric here; I bet that Purcell would prefer if they were referred to as “insurgents” — had little choice but to suggest a specific person to replace Purcell. They need to have a “plan” of some sort. Since the article does not quote anyone, even anonymously, on this point, it is hard to tell who Scott and his fellow grumpy old men appear self-serving to.

Yet, to the extent that this is a problem, Scott et al. could volunteer to work without pay for 2 years once Purcell was out. It seems clear that they hate Purcell enough that they would take this deal, although, given his generosity to the College, Williams would certainly be better off if Scott replaced Purcell but kept Purcell’s $20+ million salary.

For the board, the meeting represents a sharp concession. Ten days ago it wrote a cease-and-desist letter to the executives. It is not clear who initiated the talks, but people briefed on the discussions said that the directors met with the dissidents not knowing the details of their proposal. Since the meeting, there have been a few follow-up telephone conversations, but so far there is little evidence that the board is considering the proposal.

The talks with the employees, together with the secret meeting, cast additional doubt on Mr. Purcell’s position and demonstrated a renewed feistiness on the part of directors. Still, one independent director interviewed yesterday said the board stood behind Mr. Purcell. “As far as I know,” the director said, “the board is unified in support of Phil.”

The phrase “as far as I know” is one that should not give great comfort to Phil Purcell.

UPDATE: Thanks to some of the comments below, I have added the word “EphHunk” to the above. EphBlog, as always, strives to be an inclusive community. Cynics might argue that we at EphBlog are too quick to throw around terms like EphBabe and EphHunk. Surely, not all women at Williams, past and present, are babes. Surely, in some objective sense, Scott, for all his many virtues, is not a hunk.

We, respectively, disagree. All Ephs are purple. All Ephs are beautiful. If you disagree, read elsewhere.


‘The Hour’ looks at the Diversity Initiatives Self Study

“The Hour,” with Nathan Friend, WCFM’s only community news program, will be exploring the new Diversity Initiatives Self Study today from 4-5pm. Listen live on campus at 91.9 FM or online at

Guests for today’s show include:
Gail Bouknight-Davis – Director of the Multicultural Center
Richard Nesbitt – Director of Admissions
Scott Wong – Chair of the Committee on Diversity and Community

Feel free to join the discussion as well, on campus the extension is x2197, off campus it’s (413) 597-2197.

And please email me with any questions, comments or suggestions, my address is


Unconscionably High

Professor of Economics Emeritus Gordon Winston has a nice quote in a story about rising tuition at NYU.

Though few deny that the cost of attending a major private university like NYU is growing increasingly expensive, most economists and school administrators downplay the idea that escalating tuition prices signal a crisis. As they see it, the annual tuition hikes reflect the ballooning costs of providing a top-tier education in an industry where the competition for the best students and faculty is cutthroat.

The bottom line, said Gordon C. Winston, a political economist at Williams College and the director of the Williams Project on the Economics of Higher Education, is this: that private universities operate in the free market.

“If you’re talking about a bunch of schools that are charging $40,000 a year and have five people eager to buy the product for every spot, then it’s really, really hard to say that the price they’re charging is unconscionably high, or higher than it should be,” he said.

Indeed, economists note that high tuition is nothing new. Rather, the nature of higher education as an industry and the increasingly competitive college market have steadily driven prices up.

“Higher than it should be” is an interesting way to think about the issue.


The Cult of Kristi

A couple of weeks ago, the Williams Record had a great article entitled, “Campus Security’s good cop.” It was about Kristi Guetti, secretary of Security, and it described her upbeat manner, her wall of postcards from students, and “the cult of Kristi.” As proof of her ability to spread good cheer, she won the Campus Life Award for Staff Service last year.

Think about it. You’re stuck in the basement of Hopkins Hall, pestered by students who’ve lost their IDs and/or are looking for more favorable parking spaces, and you’re in a good mood?

Employees like this are just one more example of what makes Williams special. I thoroughly enjoyed my interactions with Security when I was there — not that I had a lot of dealings with Security, since I was, and am, after all, an upstanding citizen. (Of course, I did get nailed for the Sawyer Sign Caper, but that’s another story — assuming that the statute of limitations has run out.) It’s nice to see that Security continues its tradition of enjoying working with students.


Cato‘s David Boaz on Williamstown pharmacists

In this week’s Legal Affairs Debate Club, David Boaz (Executive Vice President of the Cato Institute) is debating Judith Waxman, a vice president at the National Women’s Law Center, on whether pharmacists can legally and morally refuse to dispense prescription medications such as birth control or morning after pills. While the question is poorly phrased — it should be can pharmacy owners refuse to carry/dispense such drugs or can managers of a chain pharmacy refuse if they’re given discretion by the chain’s management — the reason I’m posting this here is because in his very first salvo, Boaz provided an anecdote from when he last spoke at Williams (when IIRC John Phillips ’02 arranged for him to come to campus):

So the answer to the question is, Yes, pharmacists should be free to dispense and sell the products they choose. If you don’t want to offer medical marijuana in states where it’s legal, you shouldn’t have to. Health food stores don’t sell things they consider junk food. Some bookstores don’t sell Bibles, or right-wing books, or pornography. I remember being at a conference at Williams College a few years ago, and a friend went to the local Williamstown pharmacy and asked for a bottle of the mega-vitamins he was used to taking. The pharmacist said he shouldn’t take such a large dosage and refused to sell him tablets of that size. My friend was annoyed. But the pharmacist had a right to do what he thought best, just as my friend had a right to go to a different pharmacy.

The rest of the debate is very interesting, both from liberty and policy perspectives.


Rodriguez ’09 “figured it out”

Interesting report on teachers discussing how to do their jobs better at a school that it not a feeder for Williams or places like it.

They go back and forth, Ruiz pushing, Fischer pointing to the enormity of the challenge. He tells Ruiz that when he worked in Cherry Creek schools, his students assumed they would be going to Stanford.

“We don’t have that here,” Fischer says. “Some of our kids can only see as far as this weekend.”

“I know,” Ruiz says, his voice rising, impatient. “I know.”

“So, we have to do something,” Fischer finishes.

“Who’s we?” Ruiz asks.

“Me,” Fischer says. “And I do. From day one I talk to them about college, about low-paying jobs.”

Students do succeed. He tells Ruiz about North senior Alejandro Rodriguez won a full-ride scholarship worth $42,000 a year to elite Williams College in New York after graduation.

“And to what do you attribute his success?” Ruiz asks.

“He figured it out,” Fischer says.

“So, teachers had no influence? You’re telling me teachers in this building did not help him figure it out?”

“No,” Fischer says. “We did.”

“Then find out how you did it and do it again,” Ruiz says, emphatic. “We have the concept of college. Mom may have never graduated from high school. How can we expect her to share that experience? We have to do it. In the lives of these youngsters, sometimes we are the only difference.

$42,000 seems like a high number, but perhaps it includes travel and other expenses. I wonder if Rodriquez comes to Williams on a Tyng or via Questbridge.


Praise for the Diversity Report

Kudos to the Administration for their openness in the Diversity Initiative. I suspect that every memeber of the coordinating commitee deserves some share of the credit for making so much of the underlying data public, but this open trust in the good sense of the Williams community can only come from the top. Much of the praise should go to President Schapiro, Dean Roseman and Provost Hill. EphBlog praises all!

Alas, I have still not had time to digest the body of the report, although the Record provides this overview. But we can already see the benefit to discussions on campus. Students can now make direct reference to items like this table about the diversity of JAs relative to the student body.

A confident and successful scholarly community is always as open as possible with its data and its methods. How nice to see that Williams continues to be such a community.


Anchor Housing in Trouble

Still care about anchor housing? You are not alone! Updates, rants and wild speculation below the fold.

Read more


Berkshire Eagle Article on the ’62 Center

The Berkshire Eagle has an article on the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance, including a picture of the MainStage.


Big Time

Getting mentioned on a blog — other than EpHblog! — is one thing, But getting mentioned on a well-regarded blog, along with a link to your latest article and a picture, now that’s the big time.

Joe Thorndike ’88 has reached the big time. Perhaps I should forgive him for wanting to make my taxes harder to do.


College Isn’t Always a Williams Experience

As a counter-balance to the Williams-centricity of Ephblog, take a look at “Survival of the Fittest: The Undergraduate Experience” in The New York Times. Author John Merrow follows five undergraduates at the University of Arizona, of which only one is actively engaged in her education; as the reporter notes, “learning seems to be optional.” Two of the story sub-headings: “If This Is Boozeday, This Must Be College” and “When No One Knows Your Name.”

Some of the sobering stats cited: at the University of Arizona, 23% of freshmen drop out; at the University of Kentucky, 22%. After 6 years, 55% of the freshmen at the University of Arizona will have graduated. The student/teacher ratio at Arizona is 19.4 to 1, 18 to 1 at Penn State, and 22 to 1 at Texas A&M. The University of Arizona basketball team’s overall graduation rate is 25 percent.

I’m glad I didn’t pay thousands of dollars to be ignored.


Smartest Guys: The Movie

Here’s a nice review of the movie made from Bethany McLean’s ’92 wonderful book on Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.

What does Bethany McLean think?

“I have no complaints,” she told me in an e-mail. “It was thrilling just to have someone interested enough in our book to make a documentary of it. On top of that, I think Alex and his team did an amazing job.”

McLean also says the movie “conveys the fact that Enron isn’t just an isolated example of bad people doing bad things.”

“The Enron story wouldn’t have been possible without a lot of enablers — the banks, the accountants, even the press. And the mindset — short-term profits, meeting quarterly expectations, etc. — that caused the collapse of Enron is still all too prevalent in America.”

Perhaps. It is not clear precisely what the right “mindset” is for corporate America (I certainly want CEOs to care about profits), but Enron certainly didn’t have it. Others are not so impressed with the movie. There is no doubt that the book is excellent, however, and comes with no ideological baggage.


Photo ID, #13


What is this building? And where is it, and what do you think of what goes on it, and what do you think of its namesake? (Just some friendly discussion questions. CGCL, you know.)


Eph Divorce

The New York Times reported (hat tip: Left2Right) that

Women without undergraduate degrees have remained at about the same rate, their risk of divorce or separation within the first 10 years of marriage hovering at around 35 percent. But for college graduates, the divorce rate in the first 10 years of marriage has plummeted to just over 16 percent of those married between 1990 and 1994 from 27 percent of those married between 1975 and 1979.

About 60 percent of all marriages that eventually end in divorce do so within the first 10 years, researchers say. If that continues to hold true, the divorce rate for college graduates who married between 1990 and 1994 would end up at only about 25 percent, compared to well over 50 percent for those without a four-year college degree.

But what is the divorce rate among Williams graduates, especially Eph/Eph marriages? I don’t know. There was some fascinating data from a recent 50th reunion class (could have been 1954, but I can’t find the link) about how many divorces there had been among the subset of returning alums. It was a low number.

As always, looking into this closely would make for a fascinating senior thesis.


Excuse the dust

There is a new version of Movable Type available now (Movable Type is the software we use to manage EphBlog). I am in the process of upgrading the site to that. The process should be something transparent to you as the end user, but just in case – if you see some odd things – let me know about it since they might be a side-effect of this upgrade.

The upgrade process will begin in about 5 minutes.

Also note that there was an issue (unrelated to this upgrade) with our RSS feed, but it is fixed now.

UPDATE: Okay, should all be updated now.


Popp ’92 Wins Teaching Award

David Popp ’92, assistant professor in the Maxwell School at Syacuse University has won the Teacher Recognition Award.

Popp was inspired by his professors while he attended Williams College in Massachusetts.

“I was inspired by the opportunity to engage students and interact with them about interesting and current topics,” Popp said.

Currently, Popp has assigned his students to various groups that represent different business firms. He is using this simulation activity to give his students the opportunity to learn how the market works through hands-on experience.

It would be nice to know, and give credit to, the Williams professors who most inspired Popp.



In the midst of some interesting commentary on anchor housing, Paul Stansifer ’07 notes that

Some traditions die naturally when people move beyond them, as the house system did when students decided that it was a bad idea. Some traditions, like Mountain Day, are so tied into the spirit and uniqueness of a place and a people that they last for generations. The job of the administration is not to plant new traditions, but to insure an environment amenable to all sorts of human behavior, because both diversity and unity occur in surprising ways.

The spirit is right but the facts are wrong. As best I know, Mountain Day was not that meaningful a tradition prior to the 1990’s. Classes were not cancelled. A cappella groups did not sing on the top of Pine Cobble. Large numbers of students did not go hiking. I believe all those things happen today.

So, kudos to whoever started this tradition, whoever recognized that it was worthwhile to sacrifice some academics in order to build a better community and celebrate the wonder that is the Berkshires.

Does anyone know the story of how Mountain Day became the great event that it is today?



Geoff Hutchinson ’99 notes that:

In the 1967 movie, The Graduate, Dustin Hoffman receives the one-word advice “Plastics.” If Hollywood were to remake the movie right now, chances are that one word would be the hot buzzword “Nano” as in “nanotechnology” or “nanoscience.”

All good Ephs know that Charles Webb ’61 is the author of the book that the movie was based on. We also like to believe that Dustin Hoffman’s character went to Williams, although that is never stated (nor contradicted) in the movie.

Yet, for me, the 2005 version of “plastics” is definitely “statistics.” Learn statistics, young Ephs. Doing so will serve you well in more careers than any other single topic taught at Williams today.


Diversity Initiatives Update

Here is the latest missive from Morty on the Diversity Initiative:

To the Williams Community,

After much hard work by many people, to whom we are thankful, the Diversity Initiatives Self Study and Data Tables are now available on the Initiatives Web site.

The PDF versions are complete; the Web versions are being constructed but a growing number of chapters is available. The documents report actions the College has taken over this academic year and propose many more. We next will work with our outside visitors on condensing and prioritizing this expansive list. The first two visitors will be on campus May 1-3.

M. Schapiro

Thanks, as always, to our sources. The College ought to archive and make public these sorts of e-mails. For all practical purposes, they aren’t private and, for the most part, they put the College in a good light.

If it weren’t for the endless time sink that is cluster housing — EphBlog feels your pain, Will Dudley! — we would be spending more time on this Initiative.

For now, the key question in my mind concerns the ideological diversity, or lack thereof, of these “visitors”. If every one of them is a typical diversitoid, then we have the usual echo chamber of political correctness that Williams is as likely to descend into as any other elite school. If, on the other hand, the visitors represent a broad range of outlooks on the topic of “diversity” in higher education, then this effort might do some good.


Hoerman ’09

Meet Alex Hoerman ’09, future Eph runner.


Hurts So Good

Jocelyn Shadforth ’88 pointed out that our classmate Joe Thorndike had an op-ed in the New York Times.

With tax returns due today, we hear the usual complaints about the onerous tax system and the hassle of filing taxes. Certainly the tax code is incredibly complicated, but in fact filing taxes is too easy, not too hard. With paid preparers and sophisticated software, most Americans are protected from grappling with the worst features of the modern tax system. This may seem like a good thing, but it comes at a steep price.

Joe wants it to be harder for us to do our taxes? Say it ain’t so!


Eph Drinking Compared to Other Campus

There has been some interesting discussion on Ephblog of binge drinking recently (here and here).

Jeff Zeeman made the following claim:

re: state schools, I obviously can’t say anything definitive since I have no hard data. But based on experiences of friends at Rutgers, UMass, and Penn State, which I would imagine are pretty typcial, the big difference from Williams is that, at Williams, hardly anyone was drinking Sunday through Wednesday night, most people would go out Saturday and perhaps either Thursday or Friday as well. At the bigger schools I have visited or heard about, there seemed to be more people who were plastered on the weekends, and a LOT more who were drinking consistently 4-5 nights a week. Of course, the student bodies are so much bigger that it might have seemed deceptive, but talking to my friends, they just thought it was laughable based on their visits to Williams during their frosh year that Williams students considered the school to have a lot of campus drinking going on.

Well, I went to the US Dept. of Education site that HWC suggested and found the crime rates for the schools in question. I then divided the incidence rates by the number of students at the school and averaged over three years. You can download the small excel spreadsheet here.

Bottom-line (measured in incidents per 1,000 students):
Williams = 65
Penn State = 34
Rutgers = 21

So Williams has twice as many liquor law incidents as Penn State and three times as many as Rutgers.

Read more


Fight the Power IV

It seems highly unlikely that anyone wants to hear more advice from me on how to prevent cluster housing from coming to Williams. See previous editions here, here and here. But, I can’t help it. Read below for more ramblings.

Read more



The Record reports that:

A poll of CC members during the meeting showed that the vast majority felt cluster housing to be inevitable and that working with administrators would be the best strategy for Council to adopt.

“Stirring up more controversy at this point is not helping anyone,” said Michael Fairhurst ’07, Dennett-Mills representative. He said he thought the administration would be more responsive to specific concerns if conceptual opposition was kept to a minimum.

Cluster housing — whoops! The Williams House System — is not “inevitable,” although Will Dudley certainly hopes that College Council believes that it is. Now that every single member of the board of trustees has seen (because a copy was mailed to each) these objections, the debate is, as best I can tell, wide open. The Trustees and, to a lesser extent, the Administration, are looking to see how the newly elected College Council reacts. If CC kicks up a big ruckus, I think that the odds of cluster housing are only 50/50. If it doesn’t, well then cluster housing is indeed inevitable.


Perfect Conclusion

It is rare to read a feel-good article about George Steinbrenner ’52 in the New York Times.

George Steinbrenner no longer climbs on a tractor and rolls beneath the live oaks here to cut his grass. Now, he rides a golf cart and bumps along the pastures of his Kinsman Stud Farm, delivering sugar cubes to one cluster of horses after another.

Steinbrenner is a different kind of boss here. He has owned this 850-acre farm longer than he has the Yankees, and it has served as a reminder of his pastoral childhood, as the site of family gatherings and, during a few fortunate springs, a place where dreams of the Kentucky Derby take flight. This is one of those springs.

But even if Kinsman is not all about winning, father and daughter spoke last week about how nice it would be to win the Kentucky Derby.

Better than a 27th World Series title for the Yankees?

“Absolutely, in his eyes,” Jessica Steinbrenner said. “This would bring everything in his life to a perfect conclusion.”

Steinbrenner has four children, but the only other Eph Steinbrenner is Harold ’91. I am not sure if Harold is a old son or a young grandson or a nephew.



There is a webcam of the Paresky construction. Still not as nice as Diana Davis’s photographs, but fun anyway. Weather looks beautiful today.

As noted before, the wonders of technology will soon provide live pictures of many parts of campus, then live audio/video. At least a few professors will probably even allow such devices in their classrooms. In a decade or so, we will look back at the news of Williams as reported by EphBlog as I do now to the letters that my father sent to my grandparents 50 years ago.


Binge Drinking

I would like to reserve the thread on health center fact finding for specific questions and, I hope, answers about the laws and other issues that did and should affect the College’s decisions on keeping the health center open 24 hours a day. But, there was some interesting discusion on binge drinking at Williams in that thread that should be discussed somewhere. Why not here? HWC wrote:

I think Williams “binge drinking” rate is right around 45%, meaning five drinks in one sitting in the two weeks previous to the survey. Getting buzzed (but, stopping short of puking or a comatose ambulance ride) once a week on Saturday night is not the problem, IMO. However, according to national trends about half of those binge drinkers do so more than once a week. It’s this 20% of the campus, boozin’ two, three nights a week that creates a sense of an alcohol haze to those around them. I’m pretty sure that the lunkheads smearing feces on the walls come from this group. This is the group of admittees you really want to target. I’m pretty sure that today’s Ephs can look around and see who they are.

Small differences really change the campus culture. For example, the difference between a surveyed 30% binge drinking rate and a 45% rate is HUGE in terms of how the campus feels. There’s still plenty of booze, plenty of parties, but non-drinkers and occasional drinkers don’t feel like they are marginalized. It doesn’t seem like the whole campus is getting plastered.

My question: Is the data about the relative amounts of drinking at Williams and elsewhere publicly available? In a different thread, HWC mentioned data from COFHE and a Harvard study. What does this data tell us?


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