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You Have Mail

A longtime hobby horse of EphBlog is the College’s refusal to be more open in its public communication. E-mails to the entire community, or large subsections of it, ought to be archived and available to all. Until that happy day, EphBlog will provide some highlights. Thanks to an anonymous reader, below are the latest from College Council.

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Photo ID, #22

Is it called beach volleyball if it’s only on a fake beach?


File Sharing 101

It was with some eagerness that I recently examined an opinions piece in the Record entitled “Ethics 101” by Noah Susskind ’07. Susskind is planning to major in Philosophy, which would hopefully make his commentary on ethics especially appropriate. My interest, of course, was that his piece dealt with file-sharing on campus.

He begins by stating the facts and offering a solution:

The average Williams student downloads songs without paying for them. Peer-to-peer file-sharing and downloading copyrighted works (without the permission of the copyright holders) is illegal (MGM et al. v. Grokster et al.) But students do it anyway. More alarming, perhaps, is that they don’t stop to consider the ethics of what they are doing.

Clearly, he’s alarmed by the lack of thought that most Ephs display through their usage of copyrighted materials. So where is his solution again?

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Four Letter Word

What is the stupidest, most out of touch statement by a senior faculty member to be published in the Record in the last year? Good question! Given all the misrepresentations concerning anchor housing, the competition is a tough one. But I am going with this.

To bring discussion [on racial incidents] to a more public arena, Schapiro and Roseman are hosting an open forum in Griffin at 8:30 p.m. tonight. Roseman said she felt that WSO blogs are ultimately limited in lasting value, despite the good content they sometimes contain. “They’re not really a dialogue,” she said. “They always degenerate over time.”

Pathetic. Roseman was also reported to refer to “blog” as a “four letter word” — i.e., something that she thought was not just useless but positively harmful. Rant follows.

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Does EphBlog Have a Soul?

Lest this title confuse you, M Esa Seegulam started a thread on the WSO boards entitled “6 Reasons Why I Think EphBlog Has no Soul”. I didn’t intend to post my reply on Ephblog, but given the fact that I took excessive amounts of time to write it (instead of working on my Bayesian Statistics problem set), I’d like to see something come of it.

Click to read my actual response on WSO.

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All Ephs Now

Jim Kolesar was kind enough to provide this background on Williams’s generous offer of help to Xavier. [Minor editing, comments and links added by me.]

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Not Rape

Before it disappears from the web forever, it is worthwhile to review the Boston Globe article that publicized the most famous alleged sexual assault at Williams in the last 15 years. Previous coverage here. Comments:

1) I continue to believe that the College could do much more to decrease the (low) rate of sexual assault on campus. Unsurprisingly, my recommendation is unlike anything you would read elsewhere. Make every male student at Williams vividly aware of the Foster case by showing him a picture of Foster at his arraignment, perhaps even having the first years try on a pair of handcuffs. The lesson that every male Eph should have drilled deep into his bones is that having sex with a female Eph is a risk unless you are 100% certain that she is a full and eager participant. A credible accusation of rape — an accusation that will turn your life upside down for a decade or more even if you are (found) innocent — requires only a credible accuser. And all Eph women are credible. Foster didn’t think that it could happen to him. Foster was wrong. Don’t make the same mistake he did. If if Foster is not a rapist, he is most certainly not a gentleman. The punishment for caddish behavior at Williams is much higher than you think it is. Don’t be a cad.

2) Gensheimer graduated last spring and Foster is in his senior year. This has been a painful topic to discuss while they were current students. By next fall, it may be easier for the rest of us to get some perspective.

3) Is the transcript for the trial available somewhere? From the excerpts that we have seen, I suspect that it would make for compelling reading.

Article below:

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Comment Frenzy

No one knows how to create a blog comment frenzy better than Professor Marc Lynch.

I really shouldn’t be this busy. I just shouldn’t. Discussion of how Arabs are talking about Katrina, or of the Arab media coverage of the Oil for Food Report – two items I had hoped to write today – will just have to wait, I’m afraid.

In the meantime, feel free to weigh in on this question of urgent, burning concern in the Aardvark household: based on your own memory or perceptions – not on a Google search or whatever – do you think that Big Bird is a boy or a girl?

Most of his commentators get it right.


Whiny Williams

“Pizza Jen” is not impressed with Williams students.

Located in the lower right corner of page three [of the Record], I spotted an article written by a college senior who had stayed at Williams over the summer to work as a psychology research assistant. I was captivated by the title. By the end of the article I wanted to slap the insepid debutante into the reality of the less fortunate.

First of all, let’s talk about lifestyle sacrifices. A lifestyle sacrifice is having to give up the second car your family needs because you can no longer afford the payments. A lifestyle sacrifice is having to tell a five-year-old she can’t have the yogurt drinks she wants because the family budget has been stretched to the limit due to rising gas prices and stagnent wages. A lifestyle sacrifice is not about the new enclosed parking garage you could have parked your car in, but weren’t allowed to.

Second, unless you live in a mansion, most of the “disparate housing” at Williams is ten-times better than affordable housing in North Adams. And I think I can find a few people who can put to shame her whine about inadequate transportation. Has she tried using the B-Bus. I’m sure she hasn’t, and I’m sure the people who do could give her an earful about being late to work because public transit doesn’t run on time.

I guess when your part of a two-parent family, where both parents work forty hours and you can’t afford to move your children out of subsidized housing, you earn the right to be cynical about the lifestyle sacrifices being made by the wealthy and pampered elitest children of America.

I hope she experiences real life, like the rest of us, as opposed to being the stereo-typical silver spoon trustfund baby that I’m sure she either is, or is striving to be. Somehow, I just don’t see it happening.

Read the whole thing. Alas, I can’t find the article she references on-line, although this is one by the named author. Comments:

1) Great stuff!

2) It is interesting to see how locals, especially locals with less money, perceive Williams students. I suspect that similar opinions have been voiced for over 200 years.

3) I would bet a fair amount of money that Marita Campos-Melady ’06 is not a debutante — not that I am stereotyping women from Santa Fe or anything. But how daring is she? A daring Eph would invite Pizza Jen for coffee. Excellent conversation would be inevitable.


Helping Hand?

One way that the College is helping out in the aftermath of Katrina is to accept students from effected schools. As long as those students are of similar academic talent to current Ephs, this is a win-win all around. The obvious match would be with students from Tulane, at least one of whom is attending Williams for the fall.

But the College is going further. Several students from Xavier University are already on campus and more may be on the way.

We are happy to report that special new members of our community began arriving today — five pre-medical students from Xavier University of Louisiana. Another arrives Thursday; still another has expressed interest. Through them, and through the University, Williams is reaching out to other Xavier pre-meds who may be able to join us for the fall. A similar group arrives soon at Amherst, which also is seeking more such students.

We’re still in the process of determining these students’ academic needs, but it looks at this point like those in Williamstown will largely take regular Williams courses. They’ll live in previously empty dorm rooms and be available to take full part in campus life.

A good idea?

The bottom 25th percentile of SAT scores at Williams is around 665. The 75th percentile at Xavier is 555. But given that only 50% of students at Xavier report their test scores, this 555 number is probably closer to the 90th percentile if not higher. In other words, even if the students that Williams accepted from Xavier are in the top 10% of the class there — there’s no word on how Williams selected which students would be invited to attend — we would still have a problem. The SATs of students at Williams do not go down very far below the 25th percentile.

In other words, there is almost certainly a dramatic mismatch between Williams students and the Xavier students who have joined them for the fall. Almost all the Xavier students probably fall in the bottom 5%, if not lower, of the Williams population.

I think that this has trouble written all over it. There is a reason that Williams rarely accepts students with below 1200 SATs. Such students have a lot of trouble at a place like Williams.

Are Morty and the rest of the folks that run Williams really helping out those Xavier students by putting them in a Chemistry class with a bunch of Ephs who are almost all much smarter than they are? Or are they mostly making themselves feel better by doing something, anything, in the face of such a calamity? Time will tell.

Addedum: Note that I could be wrong about these numbers. Perhaps Williams only offered positions to the half dozen Xavier students with 1400 combined SATs. I doubt it. I also suspect that Williams administrators have a sense about the mismatch; see the phrase “academic needs” in the quotation above. On the bright side, putting the Xavier students in a Williams science class will help out the curve for everyone else . . .



Why did EphBlog have a spike of readers yesterday evening and today? Why are there some, uh, unusual comments in this thread? Turns out that Lowell’s post led to EphBlog’s first ever Instalanche. The number of visits by new readers is, however, much less than it would normally be for such an event because we were only linked to in the 3rd update to the original post.

On the one hand, it is sort of fun to be noticed by the big fish of the blogosphere. On the other hand, the comments from strangers don’t seem to add much to the discussion. I would rather have EphBlog read by the thousand most engaged Ephs than by a hundred thousand not-so-interesting non-Ephs.


Indelibly Eph

Although there are many fine blogs in our ever expanding Eph Blogroll, none are better named than “Indeliby Eph” by Kenny Yim ’09. Perhaps EphBlog could use his opening entry as a motto of sorts.

This is the start of something good, isn’t it?

The Weblog – a necessary feature of the 21st century landscape. So, of course, I had to conform. As much as I resisted the first few years of its popularity, I yielded to temptation. The attic of my mind is becoming a little too cluttered.

I have yet to fully flush out the ultimate purpose (need there be one?) for this blog. It isn’t to network, as is the general pasttime for my friends (if you happen to be one, welcome and congratulations on finding the white rabbit!), or to unload adolescent angst on to a mindless piece of hardware. Perhaps, I’ll get a date out of this.

So, welcome friends, voyeurs and passing acquaintances. An Odyssey to rival Odysseus’ awaits us both.

Indeed it does — for all of us are indeliby Eph.


Gender Disparities in Higher Education and Incentive Effects

There has been quite a lot of talk in the Blogosphere of late about the overall gender disparity in higher education, with approximately 135 women in college for every 100 men overall. Despite the claims of the anti-Summers crowd, men still have an overwhelming majority in the G-heavy fields comprising computer science, math, all sorts of engineering, and the math-heavy sciences of Chemistry and Physics.

It might surprise some of you to discover that I am finding it quite difficult to get as worked up about this percentile disparity as I do about other areas in which men are discriminated against. For instance, I am a staunch opponent of the perverse Clintonian reinterpretation of Title IX that requires sports participation mirroring the gender ratio of the school to avoid gender discrimination claims. I find the argument “women on average earn less than men, therefore there’s systematic widespread discrimination in the workforce” to be both socially ignorant and logically flawed at best (if there is sufficient demand, I’d be happy to provide my reasoning in another post). I also am adamantly opposed to what Christina Hoff Summers called “The War Against Boys” — the very real discrimination against males in pre-college education. While this discrimination may discourage men from going to college in the first place, there is no way that it can explain the entire sex disparity in higher education. In fact, I would be quite surprised if this early discrimination were more than 25% of the cause of the disparity.

When presented with a numerical or percentage disparity, I generally have two sets of thoughts:
(1) Conditional probability and Bayes’ Theorem — Mere disparities don’t tell us anything. What is the relevant group and what is the relevant population? Figure out if there is still a disparity after comparing.
(2) People respond to incentives — What are the incentives elsewhere that might fully explain or sharply mitigate the perceived disparity?

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In the category of news to make fellow Eph Blogger Mike Needham ’04 happy, we have:

Williams College will be offering in its winter term a poli-sci cource called “The Gospel According to U2” (PSCI 11.) This may be the first course on the band’s theological significance at a non-Christian institution.

Perhaps Professor Paul will invite Mike up as a guest lecturer . . .


Asian URMs

Although College Confidential is a marvelous source of information, it is often totally wrong.

Q: Do asian applicants have an slight advantage or a disadvantage in getting admitted? Or neither?

A: Asians are considered a URM at Williams. It’ll help you, though probably not as much as being African-American or Latino.

Uh, no. For admissions purposes, Asians are not URMs at Williams. After all, they are 10% of Williams, double their fraction of the general population. The average SAT and/or high school record of Asian students at Williams is almost certainly higher than those of white students. Now, part of that is that many more white students benefit from athletic tips and legacy status, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the same were true for non-tips, non-legacies.


Photo ID, #21

What is this picture of, and where was it taken from?


Sports Illustrated Tailgate Nation

Alec Morrison contacted me in regards to this and I told him that I would repost the content here. If you have any suggestions for him, please contact him directly:

I work in the editorial projects department at Sports Illustrated, and I found your name and email info on My group creates a section in the magazine called “Tailgate Nation” — we just published it for the first time in last week’s issue (dated 9/19/05). We’re now working on TN 2006, trying to figure out what football games we might cover this fall.

I’m writing you because I’m wondering if you could help me identify some serious tailgaters. They could be students or alums, or even just townies who love the Ephs. We’re interested in groups who have a strong tradition of tailgating, in terms of how they set up, what food they fix, how they dress, etc. They could be hardcore fans with painted cars and so forth, or just a group that has a really good story. I figured if you or someone at the site could post this info on the website, people could contact me directly if they had recommendations, or wanted to recommend themselves.

I know the tailgate policy is fairly restrictive as of this year, at least at the football field and on campus. So I’m also wondering whether anybody comes into town a night or two before the game and sets up off-campus. Granted, it’s less likely at a Div. III school than at, say, an SEC powerhouse, but then again, this is a big game. So if there’s anyone out there who organizes a caravan, or travels in RVs, comes from far away, or — maybe even better — is part of a Williams-Amherst coupling, I’d love to hear about them.

In the next couple of weeks, I’m hoping to identify a group we could potentially talk to and photograph for the game. If you’re willing, could you post this request? Folks are welcome to email me at with any information they’d care to share. And if you want to email or give me a call for more details, please do so. My office line is 212 522-6390, and I’m usually around till 6 each night.

Last, if you have any recommendations for other groups, people or message boards I should contact, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for your time, Eric. Hope to hear from you soon.

Best regards,


Alec Morrison
Editorial Projects Writer
Sports Illustrated
1271 Avenue of the Americas, Rm 33-325
New York, NY 10020-1300
(212) 522-6390
(212) 522-0393 fax


Leave It to Beaver Beckons

A September 20th article in The New York Times entitled, “Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood,” notes that:

At Yale and other top colleges, women are being groomed to take their place in an ever more diverse professional elite. It is almost taken for granted that, just as they make up half the students at these institutions, they will move into leadership roles on an equal basis with their male classmates.

There is just one problem with this scenario: many of these women say that is not what they want.

Many women at the nation’s most elite colleges say they have already decided that they will put aside their careers in favor of raising children. Though some of these students are not planning to have children and some hope to have a family and work full time, many others, like Ms. Liu, say they will happily play a traditional female role, with motherhood their main commitment.

Having watched their mothers struggle to balance home and career, as a History professor at Yale puts it, “The women today are, in effect, turning realistic.”

An interesting side effect of this is that, for such elite colleges, including Williams, Alumni Fund and capital gifts may lessen. With fewer investment bankers, executives, lawyers, and physicians in the alumni mix, the number of $2,000, $10,000, and $1 million gifts will probably decrease. Williams has an interesting gift profile — it’s a rhomboid or cut off pyramid shape. We have very few alums who give $10s of millions of dollars (unlike Harvard, for example), but have a healthy group who give $50,000 here and $2,000,000 there. If that section of givers starts to shrink, the bottom of the pyramid — those who give $25 and $250 — will no doubt be asked to give more.

This year’s goal for the Alumni Fund is $9.6 million — a pretty hefty sum for a school with 23,000 alumni. So if you’re in the below $1,000 group, don’t be surprised if you’re asked to give a bit more in the coming years….


An Eph Living Room

One of the more banal cliches about the forthcoming Paresky Hall is that it will provide a “living room” for Williams, a place where Ephs can meet and congregate, talk and discuss. Whatever your opinion on the death of Baxter and the new construction, this notion of a living room is gibberish. The common areas in Paresky will function just as the common areas in Baxter did, as a place where many people pass through and hang out. But it will not be a place where people meet each other for the first time or where strangers engage in meaningful conversation.

But wouldn’t it be nice if Williams had such a place? Since WSO is meeting for the first time tonight, now is a good time to ask them to build a real living room. To some extent, the WSO blogs have served this purpose very well for the last few years. Blogs have hosted some amzing conversations, often between Ephs who would not have had a chance to meet/talk much in the real world. At times, these conversations have even included alumni and faculty. Best of all, the rest of us have been invited to listen in, to learn from what other people think and feel and say.

But more could be done. EphBlog tries to do a bit of this, of course. We have even played with forums in the past. Yet there are limits to the what we can do technically.

Moreover, I can’t even fully articulate what a (virtual) Eph living room would look like. It would have aspects of the blogs, so that people can write what they want. It would have aspects of a forum, so that discussion were easy to participate in and follow. It would allow for and encourage all sorts of Ephs — students, alumni, faculty, staff, town residents — to take part.

And it would do all of this in a cool, new, different way than has ever been done before, a way that I can’t even describe, much less implement. If EphBlog has demonstrated anything over the last few years, it is that there is a demand for a virtual community among the Ephs, a place where we can talk and argue amongst ourselves. If WSO builds it, then we will come.

[By the way, undergraduates really ought to consider joining WSO even if they aren’t experienced coders. The more experienced you are with any/all aspects of computers, the better off you will be after Williams. And, besides, WSO rocks!]


Tyng == Merit Scholarship

I am endlessly annoyed by the College’s claim that the Tyng is not a “merit” scholarship, that all the College is doing is meeting someone’s “demonstrated need” but with a nice, pretty bow on top. See here and here for previous discussion. The College continues to claim that there are no merit scholarships at Williams.

Any reader still naive enough to think that the College is telling the truth should take a gander at what Tyng scholars actually receive.

I’m a Tyng Scholar.

One of six to eight in each entering class.

The Stephen H. Tyng scholarship covers all four years of undergrad study, plus three years of further scholarship assistance in grad school– seven years total. Plus stipends for special research or internship opportunities, and a grant to embark on additional studies over one undergrad summer.

It’s all grants. No work-study programs. No loans that have to be repaid. Just grants.

Williams costs $38,000 per year.

For the 2004-2005 school year, the Tyng scholarship grants amount to $37,137.

Total cost of college next year: $863.00.

So, not only does the Tyng support graduate school, but it provides all sorts of stipends, grants and other goodies that are not really necessary for one’s Williams education. If this is not a merit scholarship, then the term has no meaning.


1) Does the College maintain a special endowment for the Tyng and, if so, how big is it? If there are about 28 Tyngs at any one time, then the total annual cost is over $1 million per year. That would suggest an endowment somewhere around $50 million.

2) How generous are the Williams Opportunity Scholarships?

3) Why does the College continue to dissemble on this? Is there some NESCAC or Little Three rule/agreement/policy whereby schools agree not to give merit awards?


Paging Doug Bazuin

This is pathetic.

Q: Does anybody know anything about when IM soccer is going to start, or who the student coordinators are?

A: As far as I know, the guys who used to do it left. I do not know if anyone is doing it right now. I would love to do it if I could get some partners to share the effort.

What’s going on? I certainly believe that intramural sports are one of the best and most popular activities on campus. Back in the day, we would be several games into the season by September 21st. Perhaps the organizers of that era — shout out to Brooks Foehl ’88 — were just more squared away that the kids today.

Or is this all part of a diabolical plan on the part of the administration to eviscerate the common life of Williams prior to anchor housing so that there is no place to go but up? Hmmmmm. More likely, of course, is generalized incompetence. If the Director of Student Life is not in charge of this, than who is? Previous rant on IM sports here.


Please Sign My Yearbook

Gul editor Carolyn Reuman ’06 was kind enough to reply to my previous suggestion that the Gul publish in May. She noted that the Gul sold 300 copies to seniors last year and a smaller number to other classes.

In retrospect, I should not have called the Gul a “failure”. Apologies. First, on its own terms, it may be quite successful. Do the yearbooks of other schools sell (unsubsidized?) copies to 20% of the student population? Second, whatever problems the Gul may have had in the past — I don’t know the details, but the Gul suffered a total meltdown several years ago — this fact says little about Reuman and her current staff. In the same way that it is unfair to talk about College Council in general, without recognizing that each year’s CC is made up of a very different set of people, it is unfair to tar the current Gul with the problems of Guls past. Third, since my claim is that everyone — Gul staff and Williams students — would be better off with a May publishing date, I am more likely to get someone to listen if I am nice rather than mean.

I meant to argue that the yearbook scene at Williams could be much better than it currently is, not because the Gul takes bad pictures today, but because not enough people look at the good pictures that it does take. My claim is not that the Gul is a failure, but that it could be much more successful.

Could Williams have a radically different yearbook tradition than other elite colleges? Sure!

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Merritt ’55, RIP

Travis R. Merritt ’55, former professor of literature at MIT, died a few weeks ago.

“Travis Merritt was a deeply committed professor of literature who ran the Humanities Office for many years where his devotion to Course 21 majors was legion. He was a superb undergraduate mentor,” said Philip S. Khoury, Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.

There is no better indication of the geekiness — and I mean that as a compliment — of MIT than that it numbers the majors and the buildings.

Merritt retired as dean of undergraduate affairs in 1996. At the time, he declared, he would spend more time with his family, travel to the Greek Islands and concentrate on his favorite hobby, creating leaded stained glass.

Within the year, he had become director of the Experimental Study Group, bringing his commitment and delight in MIT to yet another generation of students.

Merritt, like all great teachers, could no more stop interacting with the undergraduates he so loved than he could stop breathing the very air of Cambridge.

The Eph English professors of Merritt’s generation are passing away. Alan Casson ’53 died a few months ago. Are there Eph’s teaching English at places like MIT and USC from classes in the 1980s? I can’t think of any off-hand, but English is not my field, as the saying goes. Any Eph trying to get a job as a professor of English in this day and age faces very long odds indeed.

Condolences to all.

UPDATE: Edited to be less tacky. See comments below.


Social Engineering

IM softball is starting up. Yet, it seems to involve forming your own team rather than having fair teams formed by a central authority. Does anyone doubt that the latter would be better?

By the way, where can we find an update on IM sports for this semester? EphBlog readers would like to know what leagues are in season (soccer? ultimate?), how many teams are in each league, how many players have signed up and so on. Information/comments from students on campus are most welcome.


Sign My Yearbook

There is a meeting for the yearbook today. I’ve made this suggestion before, but the fundamental problem with the Gulielmensian is that so few students purchase it and/or look at it. Back in the day, this was not true for high school yearbooks, which were eagerly read and much passed around for signing.

Why is the Gul such a failure? Because it insists on including events for the whole year through graduation. You can’t look at it or buy it or pass it around for signing until its too late. (Although, uber-geek that I was, I got my friends to sign the previous years Gul.)

So, the Gul should publish in early May. Of course, this would mean that coverage would stop at around spring break. Too bad. If the Gul came out in the spring (and some efforts were made to jump-start a sign-my-yearbook tradition), then sales would jump several fold. (By the way, what were sales for the Gul last year?)

Alas, the problem is that the people who tend to run the Gul are more interested in making a full record of the year than in producing a book that everyone wants to read and keep and write in. So, I will probably be tilting at this windmill for years to come.


Marston ’73

EphBlog’s Oxford correspondant Noah Smith-Drelich ’07 sent in a link to this New York Times article (still available here) on Ward Marston ’73.

Ward Marston shut down his turntable, pulled off the record and said, “I’ll be singing ‘Night and Day’ for the rest of the week.” Mr. Marston’s compliment was for Cole Porter, who wrote the song, and for Fred Astaire, who recorded it in 1932. But not for the recording itself, one track on a remastered CD. “The sound is thin and the surface scratchy,” he said.

And Ward Marston should know. By almost any measure, he is considered one of the best in the small but worldwide group of music lovers and sound engineers dedicated to finding new life in old phonograph records.

Previous EphBlog posts on Marston here. Why not Marston as a Commencement speaker?


Crotty ’04 at Celtics

According to this snippet, Michael Crotty ’04 is now the directory of player development at the Boston Celtics. Lest you think that this is some huge EphBlog scoop, I should note that the Williams Sports Information page had this news three days ago. Director of Sports Information Dick Quinn also notes that this site is over 7 years old and has had more than 2,000,000 million visitors, although there are probably a few repeat guests in that measure.

As noted before, Quinn does good stuff on behalf of Williams, but I do have two comments.

First, I am concerned that all the fine work done by Quinn and his staff crowds out less good work that might be done by students. The more that Williams does things for students the less that students learn about doing things for themselves. I would rather have all the news releases about individual game results written by students on those teams rather than by Quinn and his staff. The students would not write as well, but they would learn to write better. And, any teams without coverage would have an incentive to provide some. Crotty would certainly be better off in his career if he had learned more about the PR side of the business while at Williams.

Second, it seems pathetic that Williams does such an incredible job of publicizing its athletic achievements while doing so poorly at bragging on its academics. For example, the Political Science department provides virtually no information on its students doing honors work, past or present.

A College that took its academic life more seriously would do more.


International Quotas

In commentary on this thread, “Semus” wrote:

I think that the biggest discrimination that exists in the Williams admission process is the one against international students. International students and US citizens are considered to be 2 separate pools by the admission office. The admission offce targets to fill about 6 % of the incoming class with internationals; this is about 30 ppl. Last year, about 900 international applied, and about 80 were accepted (these figgures are “almost righ”–I am quoting from my memory, but the accurate data can be checked in the previous editions of The Williams Record).

Thus, the admistions rate for internationals is about 1 in 10, while it is 1 in 5 for the general college population. Of course, this differs from country to country –Williams seeks to acheive as much “global geographic diversity” as possible. This effectively means that the admissions rate for somebody from China is, say, about 1 in 50 (my friend from China who goes to Williams told me that a bunch of his friend with Math SAT of 800 were rejected — and that’s only one (albeit elitish) high school in China [BTW, imagine yourself doing SAT in Chinese, or Burmese, or Russian, while you take all of your classes in English] . I have heard a person from the admission office saying that (I parafraze) “if we had a truly need-blind admission policy [read “citizenship-blind policy”], a third of the Williams students would be Chinese, a third Eastern European, and a third everyone else.”

Given the admission rate of 1 in 20 for an average intl. student, it is not surprising that although they constitute 6% of the student body, the valecitorians in the two last years have been intl’ students (in 2004, a student from China, and in 2005 a student from Bulgaria).

This is interesting stuff and, as always, I wish we knew more details. In particular, is there really a 6% quota? Are the grounds for this quota any better than the quotas that elite schools had for Jewish students 50 years ago?

But, I think that what little evidence we have contradicts Semus’s claim. For example, consider the juniors and seniors selected into Phi Beta Kappa (more or less than highest 12.5% of GPAs in the class).

If Semus were correct, we would expect that more than 6% of these students would be international. After all, if standards are higher (competition stiffer) then the typical international student should be smarter and/or harder working and/or more academically gifted than the typical US student.

There is some evidence in looking at the juniors inducted. By my count, 4 of the 25 (16%) are international. But, among the 42 seniors inducted, none were international. So, only 4 out of the 67 Phi Beta Kappa students in the class of 2005 were international students.

And, mirable dictu, 4 is almost exactly 6% of 67. There are exactly as many international students in PBK as one would expect if the null hypothesis — that the college does not discriminate for or against international students — were true.

Now, obviously, there are a lot of complications here, especially in terms of course choices and major selection. One could do more by looking at actual GPAs, or at least various latin honors. But, big picture, there does not seem to be discrimination against, or affirmative action in favor of, international students.

Now, if the Record really wanted to write a story that everyone talked about, they would investigate the distribution of alumni children, URMs or varsity athletes among the PBKs. I wonder what they would find?



Professor Sam Crane and I disagree on many, many things. Yet we both recognize the importance of duty.

I do not pretend to any special wisdom about marital bliss. But, as I think about how it is we have kept our marriage intact and happy and viable for twenty five years, it seems that some combination of duty and luck has kept us going.

Duty is not a popular idea in contemporary America: it tends to be overwhelmed by notions of fun and self-interest and frolic in our youth-oriented, celebrity-driven popular culture. But, beyond the bright lights and front pages, duty is what defines the lives of most Americans. We discover ourselves in our committed actions toward others, most often family members but also neighbors and community groups and ideals larger than ourselves.

Duty defines my life, or at least I aspire for that to be so.

If you’re not reading Sam’s blog every day (easily available via Eph Planet), you’re missing out.


WSO Blog Archives

Did something happen to the archives of WSO blogs over the summer? I was looking for some threads from last year started by Rondelle Trinidad ’05 and Matt Teschke ’06, but they seem to be missing. Note how the links in these posts no longer work.

What is going on? I suspect that these authors have just deleted the original threads. Is that so? (I am especially interested in Trinidad’s postings because the case is still unsolved.) Is there a Google-cache type trick for retrieving this little bit of Williams history? Or should I draw the lesson that EphBlog should quote more fully from anything it wants to save for future generations?


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