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’62 Center

The ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance has a new (to me) web site. Very slick.

But the logo is either edgy on purpose (with the bottom of the “62” and “Center” cut off) or poorly displayed on the site. I wonder who designed the logo? The color choice is also, uh, not what I would have predicted. Not that there is anything wrong with industrial grey, of course.

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Prep-School URMs

In a previous thread, HWC claimed that

The bidding for middle and upper class Af-Am and Latino kids this year has taken my breath away. Colleges, including several of our favorites, have no shame in courting these kids. It’s really quite embarrassing as the top schools fall all over themselves chasing the same 1000 students. College admissions is sweet for prep school URMs these days.

Of the top 3 LACs, Amherst appears to be the most..ahem…”creative” when it comes to ciphering a “need-based” aid package (aka hidden merit aid), but even that pales to the offers being thrown around by places like U Chicago to URM applicants.

I don’t have enough facts to comment much, but I suspect the Questbridge folk have a sweet little deal going for themselves, charging a pretty penny in exchange for turn-key diversity stats. I know that Harvard was one of the first schools to sign on after Questbridge was started at Stanford. But, Harvard dumped ‘em a couple of years later.

Having looked at their federal filings, I don’t see any red flags at Questbridge, but it is always hard for an outsider to tell these things.

But I would like to hear more details, from HWC or anyone else, about the competition for talented URMs among Williams and its peer institutions. I believe that the Tyng plays a part in this, but don’t have good data on what percentage of Tyngs go to URMs. Anyone with details is invited to comment.

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Need Blind

In an earlier thread and connected to our discussion a few days ago, HWC noted that

On “need-blind”: There is a bit of Alice in Wonderland used in the definitions of these words. What “need-blind” means is that the admissions office doesn’t know the precise amount of financial need for each student and, if necessary, there is the authority to increase the finanicial aid budget. However, make no mistake, the entire budget is predicated on knowing exactly the percentage of students who will pay full sticker price.

I hate to use Swarthmore’s numbers, but I know where to easily find them. Their percentage of full sticker price customers over the last five years has been 49%, 49%, 50%, 50%, 50%. Williams, I am quite certain, shows the same kind of “fortuitous” consistency, although Williams’ number is a somewhat higher percentage of full-fare customers. Wait…I found the Williams full-fare numbers for the last seven years: 59%, 58%, 60%, 61%, 59%, 58%, 58%.

Now, does anyone think this consistency happens by accident? It asks right on the application if the student will be applying for finanical aid. Nesbitt has stated in print that they look at parent education, parent jobs, and even zip codes. Of course, they are not “need-blind” in the true sense. They know how many full-fare kids they need and they get them, year after year after year, like clockwork. Any admissions director who misses his financial aid target is going to be looking for a job.

Amanda gave a very well written presentation of the “official” line on affirmative action. However, there is considerable Alice in Wonderland language associated with that topic, too. Schools are able to maintain the charade that it is not a quota-driven process only because they are unable to hit the desired quotas for Af-Am and Latino kids. For now, the operative quota is “as many as we can get”, so they can say, with a straight face, that there is no “firm” quota in place. I have no doubt that, should Af-Am enrollment ever hit 10% or 12% or whatever the number is within that range, Williams would stop paying Questbridge to find more. Alas, that’s not likely to happen anytime soon. There were aggressive affirmative action schools that hit the 10% number 25 years ago, and have never been able to get back there. As more elite schools jumped on the affirmative action bandwagon, the competition for a very small pool of applicants became overwhelming. There just aren’t enough “prep school” URMs to go around.

Actually, I, for one, am ready to believe that “this consistency happens by accident.” Or, rather, that the law of large numbers works well in both theory and practice. That is, with thousands of applicants and hundreds of acceptances (and assuming a stable distribution of wealth and SAT scores — and the correlation thereof), it is completely plausible that Williams might always end up with 60% full-price students even though no one in Admissions is trying to hit that precise number.

But, as always, it would be nice to know what goes on behind the admissions door . . .

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Callan ’39, RIP

Curtis Gove Callan ’39 has passed away.

Born on Staten Island, N.Y., he moved to Little Silver in 1958 and lived there for 41 years before moving to Hightstown in 1999. He was married for 59 years to the former Frances R. Neyland of Williamstown, Mass., who died May 21, 2001.

A graduate of Staten Island Academy and Williams College, Class of 1939, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1940. A member of the First Officer Candidates Class in Quantico, Va., he marched in President Roosevelt’s inauguration parade. Active duty during World War II included operations in the Pacific, followed by service in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves from 1945 to 1957.

Hired by Chase Manhattan Bank in 1945, he worked in the credit and trust departments until his retirement as a vice president in 1982. Mr. Callan served on the boards of the Little Silver Public Library and the Little Silver & Red Bank Regional Schools. A voracious reader of history, biographies and the classics, he was also a world traveler, avid walker and birder.

I never knew Curtis Callan and now never will, but reading his obituary I see my own life as well. Fall in love in Williamstown. Marry forever. Feel the call of service. Get a job. Raise a family. Pay a mortgage. Visit the grandkids. Read everything. Pass away.

We all walk in the footsteps of Curtis Callan. May we all walk as well as he.

Condolences to all.

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Impressive Eph Hoop Recruit

This individual sounds like an impressive guy. I read elsewhere that he had over a 1400 SAT. Another example of the type of student / athlete / human being Williams’ dual excellence allows it to attract. The article can be seen here. As there is (free) registration required, the article is also pasted below:

Grant Thomas Meyer, 18, Fullerton Union High School

During a routine basketball drill, a teammate knocked Grant Meyer to the ground. When he got up, the world was spinning.

Coach Bill Czech rushed him to St. Jude Medical Center.

There, neurologist Dr. Jack H. Florin told the junior he’d had a stroke caused by patent foramen ovale, or PFO, a common malformation in the heart that sometimes causes stroke in young people.

But when Florin went in to operate, the PFO had corrected itself – not a miracle, but rare. Meyer was not at risk for another stroke, but Florin didn’t know whether he’d be able to play basketball.

Meyer couldn’t turn left or make any quick movements. When he returned to school, he needed nine hours of sleep instead of six. Teachers said he could nap during the day, but he refused.

“I had no doubts I was going to get back into basketball by the end of the season,” Meyer said.

Before he’d had the stroke, Meyer hadn’t planned to play basketball in college. But with the challenge before him, he was motivated to push himself. Slowly, he regained strength. But his coordination was still off. On the court, the toughest thing to do was the defensive side-to-side motion.

At night, he would practice sprinting in his back yard. On weekends, he’d take his bike out to the trails.

Florin watched as Meyer recovered.

“He was very tough and very motivated,” Florin said.

By the end of the season, he played in the last three games and the playoffs.

He trained all summer, pushing himself to his physical limit. Senior year, not only was he was back on the team, but he made first team all-league, all while managing to graduate today with a 4.62 GPA.

Next fall, he’ll head to Williams College in Massachusetts, where he’ll play Division III basketball.

“I just remember playing and feeling really good about where I was and how far I’d gone,” Meyer said. “I felt like I could even go farther than before.”

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Coombe ’70 Named Chancellor at UD

Robert Coombe ’70, has been named as the new Chancellor at the University of Denver.

“Bob Coombe is the best person to lead the University of Denver forward at this promising time in its history,” said Burns. “His keen ability to identify and develop opportunities for DU to gain academic stature convinced the board that he should be our next chancellor. He will have the trustees’ full support.”

“The enormous changes that have happened at our University have been supported by a culture of open-mindedness and creativity, a culture of integrity rooted in solid values, a willingness to embrace change as opportunity, and an uncompromising demand for the highest quality in all that we do,” noted Coombe, who is in his 24th year at DU. “The great University that Chancellor Ritchie has always spoken of is truly within our reach.”

Coombe looks to be the younger brother of John, ’68. More on Robert here and here. Those interested in academic life will have fun checking out the minutes of a DU faculty meeting here and here.

Note in paticular the reference to merit scholarships. The smart folks at DU realize that the more that they can attract talented students the better off the university will be. If that means scholarships for rich kids, then so be it.

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Cycon ’75 on the Death Train

Dean Cycon ’75 runs Dean’s Beans, a place “where social activism, ecological responsibility and great coffee meet.”

One of the more interesting parts of the site is “DEAN’S zine”, which is a series of essays by Cycon. Alas, although it is quite blog-like, I don’t see an RSS feed so we won’t be able to add it to the always popular Eph Planet. Cycon’s latest essay is Tracking the Death Train, reprinted in full below.

Long time readers og EphBlog will recognize that Cycon’s piece describes scenes similar to those so movingly portrayed by Sonia Nazario’s ’82 in her Pulitzer Prize winning articles. See especially chapter 3.

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Quasi Anti-Semitic

In a different thread, Jacob describes one of my previous posts as “quasi anti-Semitic”. This is a serious charge and, while we try to keep the amount of navel-gazing within limits at EphBlog, I want to formally challenge Eisler to back up his claim. I believe that he is referring to this post, but perhaps it is to this one instead.

And, lest our other readers think that this is a waste of everyone’s time, I’ll note for the record that I engaged in a similar dispute with Esa Seegulam ’06 a year ago. Since then, Esa and I have become e-mail friends; we had dinner together in Williamstown and I helped him find a summer job in Boston. We’ll be having lunch soon.

So, Jacob, bring it on. I am certainly guilty of “arrogance and intransigence,” but an anti-Semite I am not. Worst case is that we’ll end up as buddies. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

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Baradit ’09

Interesting story on Stacey Baradit ’09.

Her spine curved and she wore a brace on her back. Her unsettled family was forced to move regularly, shifting like sand from house to house. Once, Stacey Baradit, her mother and young brother had nowhere to live in Danbury except a small, dark basement in the home of a friend.

Three years ago, they were forced to turn to a temporary center for the homeless in Danbury, where they say other tenants stole food and money from them. “We were there for two months but it felt like two years,” Baradit, now 18, said this week. “I’ve never lived in such an environment. They had no scruples.”

There are a bunch of interesting details in this story. For me, the most striking aspect concerns the different ways one can view Baradit. On the one hand, she is a poor Hispanic with signficant medical problems who has overcome all sorts of adversity. In this view, she adds a great deal to “diversity” at Williams. On the other hand, she went to a private school in Connecticut for most of her life, played on the state champion golf team in high school, was born in the US and would never be described as “Hispanic” by anyone who did not know what country (Chile) her parents were born in. Pale-faced golfers from Danbury are generally not thought to add much “diversity” to Williams.

The truth, no doubt, is somewhere in between.

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More Housing History

One of EphBlog’s favorite windmills to tilt at is the history of housing at Williams and, in particular, how Mission went from being 40% sophomores in 1985-86 to 90% by 1989-90(?). See previous discussion here. The main progress we have made is to determine the classes of 1990 and 1991 seem to be key to the story. By the class of 1992 (sophomore year 1989-90), Mission was already mostly sophomore.

Derek Charles Catsam ’93 was kind enough to send in these memories.

I honestly am a bit blurry about the whole housing situation during my years. It changed at least once in a major way in terms of how affiliation worked, and then was in the process of changing my senior year, when i lived in a coop. I took a fairly representative Williams path through housing, going from the Quad to mission to Greylock to a co-op. I affiliated with one of the Graylock houses in the end-of-frosh-year lottery, but traded into Mission for sophomore year. Asd i say, it was a system very much in flux, and the rigorous affiliation system that once prevailed had given way to what i recall as being a bit of a mishmash. Some people who had no interest in Mission did end up going and affiliating with houses with more character and rose through the ranks to get better and better room sin the most desireable places. I just wanted to be near a lot of my friends. I doubt this will be of much use.

Can anyone from the classes of 1989, 1990 and 1991 help us out?

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More Money Elsewhere

Consider this claim by President Schapiro:

Most of the people who work at Williams could earn more money elsewhere.

This just isn’t true or, at least, it isn’t true in any meaningful way. For starters, most of the 2,000 or so employees at Williams are in support jobs that have close comparables elsewhere in the Berkshires. Is Morty claiming that Williams pays its custodians less than they could earn at Mass MOCA, its dining hall workers less than those at MCLA? I doubt it, and I hope not! While I don’t think that Williams should pay more than the market wage for such jobs, I can’t think of a good reason to pay less.

So, presumably, Morty is referring to faculty. But a (vast?) majority of the Williams faculty could not get a better paying job elsewhere. Indeed, most tenured faculty could not get tenure at a place anywhere near as nice (in terms of salary, benefits, teaching load, research resources) as Williams. Of course, this is by no means true for all faculty. Indeed, each year Williams loses professors — recent departures include Gary Jacobsohn, Tim Cook and Kim Bruce — who are certainly getting paid as much if not more by their new employers as they were by Williams.

I don’t intend this to be a mean-spirited post. As the link to Jacobsohn above demonstrates, I still look back fondly on the education that the Williams faculty provided to me. In fact, I think that some more money should be directed toward the faculty.

But, if you want to think clearly about how Williams is run and how it ought to be run, you need to get your facts straight. Morty certainly knows the facts. He would be better off levelling with the rest of us.

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Jewish Quotas

In an earlier thread, HWC commented:

On “Jew Quotas”: Yes, Williams had a “Jew Quota” in place well into the mid-1960s. In fact, I believe a sometimes reader of the blog was the student who officially exceeded the “Jew Quota” for the first time, being admitted off the waitlist after initially being told that he “wasn’t exactly what the school was looking for”. He was a top, top student at a nationally recognized big-city public magnet school with heavy Jewish enrollment.

Can anyone provide some more details/references to the history of admission restrictions on Jewish applicants to Williams? What were the restrictions? When did they start? When did they end? How many applicants were affected? All I could find on the Web was a brief discussion of the history at Harvard.

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Corn Dumping

All hail Chaplain Rick Spalding! Although I have aimed more than a few blogshots at Rick Spalding and many of the other leftists on campus, I am pleased to give him and them credit for protesting against government involvment in agriculture. See below for the details. Perhaps there are fewer critics of capitalism at Williams than I sometimes claim . . .

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Rich Kid Quotas

In an earlier thread, HWC noted

BTW, I just wanted to point out that full-fare customers are also subject to a quota cap. Both Swarthmore and Williams could fill their entire enrollment with full sticker-price customers if they wanted to. But, the remarkable year-to-year consistency indicates pretty clearly that both schools have set a quota for full-fare customers at roughly 50% and 58% respectively — a target set by each schools administration balancing the need for a particular revenue mix (think filling an airplane with tickets at all different prices) and other institutional goals (diversity, international, socio-economic, etc.).

These hidden admissions “quotas” go a long way towards explaining why people think elite college admissions is so random. It may not be that random when you realize that, if you are asking for financial aid, you are already competing for less than half the available slots. That’s before we even start looking at some of the other quotas.

I don’t think that this is true but would be happy to see some evidence of it. I’d wager that the average SAT of a non-legacy, non-athlete white student on financial aid is quite close to that on a non-legacy, non-athlete white student not on financial aid. I guess that there might be a small difference (50 points?) to adjust for the fact that the Admissions office thinks that growing up rich causes higher SAT scores, but I suspect that the amount is so small that it makes no sense to talk about Rich Kid Quotas.

Or am I naive?

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McLean ’92 on CSPAN

Bethany McLean ’92, co-author of The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron, is on CSPAN right now. Go watch her and stop surfing the web.

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Eph Throat?

Whitney Wilson ’90 sent in this commentary:

Steve Brody ’90 (an entrymate of mine from Williams A) has been an important part of the trial team for the U.S. government in its pending suit against the tobacco companies. The suit received some publicity recently when the government ignored the testimony of its own experts and requested damages totalling $10 billion dollars, which is less than 10% of the $130 billion the experts thought appropriate. This last minute change of heart predictably brought about claims of political interference by Bush political appointees at DOJ. Yesterday’s NY Times had an article describing a memo co-authored by Steve which argued that lowering the damage demand would at least look like political
interference:

Senior Justice Department officials overrode the objections of career lawyers running the government’s tobacco racketeering trial and ordered them to reduce the penalties sought at the close of the nine-month trial by $120 billion, internal documents and interviews show.

The trial team argued that the move would be seen as politically motivated and legally groundless.

“We do not want politics to be perceived as the underlying motivation, and that is certainly a risk if we make adjustments in our remedies presentation that are not based on evidence,” the two top lawyers for the trial team, Sharon Y. Eubanks and Stephen D. Brody, wrote in a memorandum on May 30 to Associate Attorney General Robert D. McCallum that was reviewed by The New York Times.

Although Ms. Eubanks and Mr. Brody said in their May 30 memorandum that the lower penalty could create a perception of interference, they gave no direct evidence to show that the decision was politically motivated. Still, the disclosure that career lawyers strongly objected is highly likely to provoke further accusations by antismoking advocates and Congressional Democrats.

Since the memo must have had limited distribution and is obviously quite sensitive, I think that whoever leaked it must have been pretty upset, since there is a decent chance that they could be found out. I’d be surprised if Steve were the source, but you never know.

EphBlog always knows.

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Eph in Red

Must-read article on Amy Butler Greenfield ’91, author of “Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire“.

”It [lupus] came on like a steam train,” Greenfield said, ”and for a while it wasn’t clear that I was going to make it. I lost the ability to walk or use my hands. I couldn’t feed myself, could barely chew, and couldn’t lift a spoon. If it hadn’t been for my husband, I wouldn’t have made it.” Her doctors told her that if one survives the first couple of years, the prognosis is fairly positive. But at first, she did not respond to treatment.

”They were telling me that if I lived to be 30, that would be great,” she said, ”and it was at that point that I had an epiphany. Life doesn’t always last as long as you want, and in my heart of hearts I knew I wanted to write books that people would read for pleasure, not a dissertation. It was a surprising thing, and yet it was absolutely clear to me.”

I especially like her story about how she came to the topic.

It was in the winter of 2000-2001 that cochineal came back into my mind again. Here in Massachusetts, the ground was covered with snow for months, and every few days the weather forecasters warned that another storm was on the way. One gray day in the midst of that white season, I found myself staring at the rose-red geraniums on my kitchen windowsill, thinking, “What if that were it? What if that were all the red we had in the world?” And I suddenly understood, at a visceral level, how hungry people could be for a color. I could even imagine why they might risk their lives for it. That got me thinking about cochineal again, and I started digging through research libraries for more details, to see if there might be a story there. And what a story it turned out to be — four centuries and more of desire, rivalry, and empire, with the color red at its heart.

The History Department ought to invite Greenfield out to Williams for a lecture.

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Hurl

Is Ken-ichi Ueda ’03 channelling Harvard President Larry Summers?

For a male of our species, drinking too much and vomiting usually represents a private conversation between the drinker and the nearest porcelain throne. The conversation is not discrete, to say the least, and hopefully one-sided. At worst, perhaps the male must direct his effusion toward a walkway or lawn, but I think generally, in ditch or domicile, when a man hurls, he hurls alone. This is not true of the females. They conduct their nocturnal excursions and libations in packs, and when a member’s innards become too doused in ethanol, group support accompanies the pursuant yacking. Someone deals with the hair, another holds a hand or rubs the back, while the remainder chat and make small talk, occasionally responding with encouragement to the few drunken moans that fall on the comprehensible side of the word/gurgle spectrum. To hear about such behavior is surreal in the extreme, but imagine my startled fascination to witness it in person. Girls are so weird.

You have no idea. Wait till you have some daughters . . .

UPDATE: Spelling fixed, thanks to comment below.

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Sears Cup

Yawn … Williams won yet another Sears Cup:

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/other/2005-06-17-directors-cup_x.htm

Congrats to the student-athletes who made it happen. Publicity like this certainly doesn’t hurt the school. And to the critics of the Williams athletic program, I note that nearly all the points scored by athletic teams were by teams generally associated with high academic achievement: cross country, swimming, tennis, crew, track and field, etc. While Williams may have come back to the pack somewhat in recent years in the sports generally associated with stretching for athletic recruits (football, ice hockey, etc.), it is still able to establish overall excellence in the arenas where tips are less of a factor.

Although, it’s only a matter of time before Middlebury passes Williams in the Sears Cup given how many truly dominant programs Middlebury now has (Midd’s men’s and women’s ice hockey, men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s tennis, women’s field hockey, and women’s cross country are all among the top 2 programs in the country). I imagine that Middlebury’s SAT-optional policy doesn’t exactly hurt its coaches ability to recruit …

I’d say that Williams has a pretty good balance right now. The school is not taking in Division I refugees like Trinity (just check it’s football and basketball rosters over the last five years, not to mention the concessions it clearly makes for Squash) and can’t mask sub-par athletes with SAT optional policies like Bates, Bowdoin or Middlebury, but at the same time, the school’s reputation for excellence seems to attract a ton of dual academic/athletic achievers.

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Schiff ’82 in the New York Times

Stacy Schiff ’82 is writing an op-ed column in the New York Times for two weeks. With any luck, her future columns will be better than this first attempt. I can’t do better than this commentary.

Stacy Schiff whines in the New York Times about too many toothpaste options. Don Boudreaux takes issue with a few letter-writers who echo her complaints.

I’ll say it again: Critics of capitalism once predicted that free markets would wreak mass starvation, depletion of resources, pollution, and death.

They’re now reduced to bitching about too many flavors of mustard.

We’ve won the debate.

Perhaps. But do you think that “critics” of capitalism out number its fans on, say, the Williams faculty? I suspect it depends on the definition of “critic.”

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Dance Time

Is Professor Marc Lynch this funny in class?

True story, this conversation happened last night between me and my two year old cub:

Abu Aardvark: It’s bath time! Let’s do the Bath Dance! [dancing begins
Cub: No, Daddy, no dancing
AA: What’s wrong with dancing?
C: Daddy dancing scary!
AA: Is Daddy’s dancing really that bad?
C: Yes!
AA: Oh, okay… I guess Daddy won’t dance.
C: That is a good idea, Daddy.

If so, then he is an even better professor than I thought! [Maybe he saves his best material for the blog. — ed. Hmmm.]

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Sarah Hart ’02 Gets Engaged

In a move that David Kane has been advocating for quite some time, the person known as “Josh” has finally proposed to Sarah. Congratulations to both of them! (She said yes.)

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Who Doesn’t Like EphBlog?

For a long while, EphBlog was linked to from the Wikipedia page on Williams. No longer. Who removed it and why?

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Victory for the Limp-Wristers

Although Trustee Robert G. Scott ’68 did not get a mention in the lead article in the New York Times today, he must be a happy Eph indeed.

Philip J. Purcell, a Wall Street outsider whose leadership of Morgan Stanley has been marked by a series of legal clashes and bitter internal dissent, said yesterday that he would retire as soon as his successor was named.

The announcement yesterday ended an unorthodox public power struggle between Mr. Purcell, 61, and dissident former executives that laid bare deep divisions harking back to the 1997 merger of Dean Witter and Morgan Stanley and tore at the fabric of an investment bank that was originally part of the House of Morgan, the grandest name on Wall Street.

See previous EphBlog commentary here, here, here, here and here. There is no victory dance yet at the site set up by Scott’s group. They may want to see how the search for Purcell’s successor goes. They probably don’t like it that the search, before it even starts, is excluding them from consideration. There just aren’t that many people on Wall Street with a resume like Scott’s and an interest in the job. You can bet that the Alumni Development office is rooting for Scott to get the job. Another $20 million per year would help fund a bunch more Robert G. Scott ’68 professorships.

Congratulations to Scott on a hard-fought and surprising victory. The odds at Tradesport had been running 20-1 against just 2 days ago.

The opponents of anchor housing should take heart. The odds against them are no worse than the odds faced by Scott.

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Kazan Blacklisted

This article has a brief mention of Elia Kazan ’31.

Director Elia Kazan, who named names to the House Un-American Activities Committee in the ’50s, had been persona non grata in Hollywood for decades when the Academy decided to present him an honorary Oscar in 1999; despite masterpieces like A Tree Grows In Brooklyn and On the Waterfront, the American Film Institute had refused to approve a proposal to similarly honor Kazan some ten years earlier.

There is a great senior thesis to be written about Kazan and his decision to name some names.

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SAT Scores

Sasha Gsovski ’06 gets a brief mention in this article about college admissions.

At Williams College this week, junior Sasha Gsovski, 20, said parents who take tours of the Williamstown, Massachusetts, campus often ask her what her SAT scores are so they can gauge their children’s chances.

“I’ve been asked my G.P.A.,” said Gsovski, who said she never tells. “They all just want to know about how to get in.”

No kidding. I was never asked those questions during my tour guide years, but perhaps times have changed. The article begins with:

In the latest sign of escalating anxiety over college admissions, a pair of consultants is offering a three-day “boot camp” in New York City that costs $10,000 — more than tuition at a mid-sized state university.

“I was stunned,” William Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said yesterday in a phone interview. “It does say a great deal about the anxiety out there, and it’s sad.”

Give me a break. People like Fitzsimmons spend a career telling people that Harvard, and places like it, are wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. Is is any wonder that students and parents get a little anxious? How can I not hope and strive to provide such wonderfulnesses to my daughters?

Now, there is nothing wrong with Fitzsimmons claiming, correctly, that such boot camps are almost certainly a waste of money. There is nothing wrong with noting, correctly, that people are anxious. But don’t cry crocodile tears about how “sad” it all is unless you are willing to also point out that there is little if any evidence that, holding all else constant, attending Harvard is actually that wonderful, that many (even most) students would be better off going elsewhere. If you do this, then you can remark on the sadness of the remaining frenzy for Harvard.

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Drunk Girls Kissing

Just when you thought that Williams students weren’t learning anything practical nowadays, there this article on the latest Williams start-up, also covered in the Record.

For students more interested in networking at the real party rather than the cyber party, iVenster is coming to a terminal near you. Four Williams College students founded the site in March. This online grapevine spreads the word for parties and events.

And there are plenty of pics of flushed faces crammed cheek-to-cheek, way too close to the camera. From the usage so far, Hussain has gleaned a profound conclusion: “Drunk girls kissing gets people really excited.”

Same as it ever was.

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Williams Information Packet

A few months back, an undergrad (forgive me, I forget who) posted here that he/she was working on creating a packet of information about Williams to distribute to guidance counselors throughout the country, particularly to the (unfortunately, many) schools where knowledge of Williams is very limited. I think this is a fantastic idea. I particularly feel that information that is not generated by Williams, either objective lists or news stories, would tend to be particularly compelling, as many students and guidance counselors rightfully discount college-generated materials as marketing propoganda. Sure, include a prospectus / course catalog, but otherwise, keep it to external sources. So, the Friedman Opp. Ed. made me think, what would you suggest including in such a package?

I would say: definitely the latest U.S. News Rankings, the Wall Street journal list / article on feeder schools, and lists of relative ranking of liberal arts colleges in terms of number of national merit finalists enrolled, number of Rhodes Scholars graduated, number of National Science Fellowship winners over the past ten or fifteen years, endowments of liberal arts schools, and number of CEO alumni. These are all of limited value in terms of painting a realistic picture of Williams, but kids and guidance counselors tend to respond to objective data, and Williams fares incredibly well across nearly all of these criteria.

In terms of selecting news stories about Williams, that is a far more difficult task. Some that come to mind include, for certain, some sort of article on tutorials (I know there was a big Chronicle of Higher Education piece, that would be a good one), the latest Friedman Opp Ed, the New York Times article a year or so back on the basketball team, I’d say an article on Sudan divestment would be interesting (as well as any other interesting community service related stories), I’m sure there have been lots of others. Definitely one of the many stories out there on the trivia contest. Perhaps folks on Ephblog could, with their collective memory, suggest a few others for the folks leading this project, which I think is a really great idea. Also, a list of prominent alums would be good to include. Basically, a combo of articles that emphasize Williams’ academic reputation and the success of its alums (for the “Williams and Mary” crowd) and a group of article that focus more on what makes Williams truly uniqure / the school’s quirks (trivia, tutorials, winter study, athletic / academic combo, art history, mountain day, etc.) for the more educated applicants is what I would suggest. Also definitely something on financial aid to stress need-blind policy for those who would be scared off by sticker price.

Not that Williams is hurting for super-qualified applicants, but I think the school still has trouble drawing many applicants from certain types of schools, geographic backgrounds, and in particular, socio-economic strata. Anything that can help broaden its appeal to a more diverse crowd, I think is a bonus.

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Interstitial

Although the Williams faculty now seems to have at least one serious blogger in Marc Lynch, we still lack anyone who blogs about what Williams is and what Williams should be.

Consider Swarthmore historian Tim Burke’s thoughts on planning for more faculty.

What do we need that we don’t have? Not more specialists in various fields, however urgent those specializations might be. We need people who help to knit us together, people who connect specializations, people who create connections as an instrinsic result of the kinds of research and teaching they do. “Science studies” or science policy scholars. Big-picture specialists on human evolution, population genetics, sociobiology (of the subtle kind). Broadly humanistic intellectuals whose specific areas of interest range over philosophy, literary criticism, history, linguistics, and so on. Cognitive scientists. Experimental economics. Fields of research that are interstitial and connective by their nature, pursued by individuals whose own projections of their development are towards generalization and broadening.

Great stuff. As much fun as it is to read Lynch’s often sly commentary on academic life:

Or, to be more precise, that’s for you. For me, off to yet another meeting which should manage to waste much of my morning

readers of EphPlanet want more, either from Lynch or someone else.

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Eph Governor

Who knew that governor of the Federal Reserve Ned Gramlich is class of 1961? Not me. Thanks to the latest issue of the Alumni Review for mentioning this. Why not Gramlich as Commencement speaker? For those who forget their ECON 101, being a Fed governor is one of the dozen or so most powerful economic policy making positions in the country.

By the way, kudos to whoever has done such a great job with the Williams alumni page at Wikipedia. And people say that I have too much time on my hands . . .

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