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Taylor VI: Financial Aid

This last post on Lindsey Taylor’s ’05 senior thesis concerns the amazing table on page 46. (Previous posts here, here, here, here and here.) Taylor provides a summary of the number of applicants for financial aid and their average award among admitted students in the classes of 2005 and 2007. Fascinating stuff. Highlights:

1) Although two years isn’t much of a sample, it is quite possible that the College made significant policy changes in this time, due both to Morty’s arrival and the changing landscape of admissions at elite schools. Students today have many more/better choices than they did 20 years ago. If Williams wants to maintain the quality of its student body, it may need to pay up.

2) Note the dramatic increase in the number of applicants (and awards) in the highest income grouping. Among families with greater than $125,000 in income, the number applying/awarded went from 103/51 to 212/90 in just 2 years! What better indication could there be that the College is giving out merit aid in all but name?

This isn’t to say that a family making, say, $150,000, couldn’t use some help, even if they have been making this much for years and years, even if they fully expect to make this much for years to come, even if they have (wisely!) followed EphBlog’s advice and used their savings to pay off the mortgage rather than putting it in the child’s name. Money is always tight, no matter how much you have.

The point is that, as recently as two (much less twenty) years prior, Williams had claimed to be need blind, to take care of the demonstrated financial need of every student. The College was either lying about this policy before or it has expanded the definition of need since. I’ll bet on the latter. Moreover, I predict that we will be seeing much more of this in the future. Excellent students are an input to the production of an elite education. If Williams wants to keep attracting them, it will need to pay for them.

3) The number of applicants/awards in the lowest income category has dropped from 57/55 to 44/42. Part of the decline, perhaps, is due to the tougher economic times of 2001. But that doesn’t make too much sense since, I think, applicants would have been required to submit income tax forms for 2000 versus 2002, and 2000 was a good year for economic growth. Perhaps the decline is too small to matter, but I still find it surprising. Imagine the Record headline: “Admissions of Poor Students Drop by 20% in Two Years”.

I suspect that both years represent a significant overestimate of the number of applicants from low income families. Note the 2 students each year who were denied any aid. One can probably divide the sub-$25,000 families into two categories: Those who are truly low-income year after year and those that just happen to have had low (reported!) income in the year of application. I don’t know how big this second category is, but the two applicants who were denied any aid presumably come from it. Divorce is probably a major part of the second category, but wise/sleazy financial planning might also play a part. Self-employed individuals have a great deal of flexibility in moving income from year to year.

4) It is simply amazing how little in loans Ephs today are required to take out. Or am I clueless about how things worked back in the day? Current students are seemingly required to take out no more than $10,000 in total loans over four years. I think that, 20 years ago, students on financial aid took out at least this much in loans, in an era when total tuition was half as much (and a dollar was worth twice what it is today).

5) As further evidence on the rise of merit aid, note that the average annual loan requirement dropped from $2,800 to $2,000. (I take this as the difference between total total award and average grant. It is not clear to me how campus jobs factor into this.) I predict that this trend will continue, that soon Williams and other elite schools will compete by offering to meet all demonstrated financial need without any loan requirements. You read it here first.

In any event, kudos to Taylor for presenting so much interesting information in one thesis. Kudos also to Morty for advising her and to Williams for making the data available. The entire project reflects well on Williams as a community of scholars.

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Google Hit

If you Google “Fisher DeBarry”, EphBlog is currently number 1 on the list of links, thanks to Derek Catsam’s post two days ago. Cool or weird or pathetic? I don’t know.

UPDATE: Ahhh. It’s because we misspelled DeBerry! Hmmm. Perhaps misspelling in the search for hits is no vice . . .

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Willipedia

The latest coolness for WSO is a wiki devoted to Williams. For those not familiar with Wikipedia, WSO notes that:

A Wiki is a site with many informative articles that anyone can edit. Feel free to contribute! We want this site to become a definitive source of information about Williams. Articles, biographies, stories, and how-to’s are welcome, and on nearly any subject: buildings, people, organizations, classes, computing, hiking, anything of, about, or near the college.

Ambitious. The entry for Amherst begins with:

A school filled with scalliwags, villains, and other low-lifes. They stole half of Williams College’s library when they began their misadventure, and they’ve only gone downhill from there.

Not bad, but Aidan could do a lot better . . .

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Family Days

It’s Family Days at Williams this week-end. How different are things now from what they were like 50 years ago?

Probably different on the surface but just the same underneath. I suspect that these parents had similar dreams for their son (who would now be 70) that today’s parents have for their own little Ephs. Note that our previous use of this picture was the first inkling of what EphBlog would become today.

Trivia question: Who is the pictured Eph, class of 1958, I think?

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The Fisher DeBerry Case (With a Self-Indulgent Williams Perspective)

“It just seems to be that way, that Afro-American kids can run very, very well. That doesn’t mean that Caucasian kids and other descents can’t run, but it’s very obvious to me they run extremely well.” These are the words that U.S. Air Force academy football coach Fisher DeBerry said in remarks broadcast Tuesday night by Denver television station KWGN. Given that his comments were about race, and may have been courting a stereotype, I suppose we should not be surprised that he is in hot water. I hope that my civil rights/anti-apartheid historian credentials are enough that what I am about to say does not get me in hot water, but I hope Air Force does not punish DeBerry, who, in addition to being a very successful coach, also did not really say anything wrong.

Now don’t take me the wrong way – I would not place DeBerry as the most eloquent spokesman on race in America. But look at what he said – from his years of coaching football, in general black kids run well. There are white ids and others who run well, but black kids run well. Now I do take issue with the implied inclusion that “all ” black kids run well. They do not, of course, and I am sure DeBerry knows this.

Let me illustrate my argument by way of two anecdotes, both related to my own years as a track athlete in college, one of which may not make me look all that great, so I will tell it first:

I competed in events that Fisher DeBerry might associate with black success: The jumps, especially the long and the triple jump. Williams had a very good track team, and one of the great things about track and field is that you get to find out exactly where you are in the global hierarchy. In addition to being very numbers driven, if you are good enough at a lower level you will qualify for bigger meets. Williams is a division III school, but we routinely competed against DI schools. I was a good enough jumper to compete against the big boys, but I was well aware of where I fit into the overall world of track and field. In any case, when I would get to bigger meets where I may have known fewer of the athletes, or if I competed away from New England, say in the South, I would look around and scout out the competition. When I was trying to size up the other jumpers, when I was looking at strangers wearing university of Miami or Florida State or Christopher Newport or whatever other jerseys, I would tend to focus more on the black jumpers than the white guys. I am not proud of it, but I am also not ashamed. And I certainly would not say that it was an illogical conclusion to draw. I would guess that I have a batter grasp on track and field than most of my readers, but even acknowledging that, I think I am on pretty firm ground to ask anyone who would criticize me the following question: Name five truly great white American long jumpers in the last ten years. Twenty years. Now the irony, as I discovered many times, is that there were times when I should have been watching out for the big white guy from Western Carolina or Albany State or the University of Miami (at the biggest meet I ever competed in, the Florida Relays in 1993, I got beaten out for third place by a Miami [Florida] guy on his last triple jump who was, if it is possible, paler than I am. There were even times when those guys maybe should have been looking out for me, as I ended up winning.

Anecdote #2: When my fellow jumper and teammate “Boogie” (His name was Stuart, but we called him Stu, and then it became “Boogie” after the Led Zeppelin song “Boogie With Stu”) would get to the really big meet, the DI/All New England meet, say, we’d always joke as we watched the early rounds of the sprints about the white guys and how they had better enjoy their time, because they would be watching the finals. Boogie was also a sprinter. He was also black. And lo and behold, once the finals of the 60 or 100 rolled around at the All New England meet or the Florida State relays or nationals, the finals were overwhelmingly African American. We were always joking, but the joke, like many jokes, had an element of truth to it.

I have no idea why this is so. There are certainly fast white guys. And Asian guys. And Hispanics. And most people, black, white, Asian, and Hispanic, are slow, cannot jump, cannot lift things and so forth – when you are looking at college athletes you are already talking about a genetically exceptional subset, so drawing widespread racial differences from the whole population seems foolish. But I will double down my bet on the long jumpers. I’ll grant you Jeremy Wariner, the 2004 Olympic Champion in the 400. I’ll even give you the Greek 200 runner who won in 2000 (and who failed a piss test in 2004 . . .) And I will remind you exactly what DeBarry said about white athletes: “That doesn’t mean that Caucasian kids and other descents can’t run.” And then I will ask a simple question related to the one I asked earlier: Howe many white medalists have their been in the Olympics and World Championships in the 100, 200, and 400 since 1968? That is 10 Olympics, times three events, times three places in each event. I’m not much at math, but that is 90 possible medals. Even keeping in mind that the United States, the world’s most dominant sprint nation for most of that period, boycotted the 1980 Olympics, is there anyone out there who wants to bet that thirty of those medals went to athletes who were not black? Anyone want to bet on whether or not twenty did?

Now let’s bring it back o football. Jason Sehorn made some waves for the very fact that he was a decent white starting cornerback in the NFL. And in some attempts to explain why that was so, there was one compelling argument made: That one factor is that coaches simply steer black athletes toward certain positions and white athletes toward others so that irrespective of actual abilities, black kids in integrated high schools will play corner, their white teammate safety. That makes at least some sense. But whatever the case, can anyone honestly say that however anecdotal, and however clumsily stated, Fisher DeBarry was actually wrong? And can his desire to recruit more black athletes to the Air Force Academy actually be something we want to condemn? Especially when DeBarry’s black players have rallied around him? It would seem patently unfair to punish him for his comments. There is lots of very real, very serious, very disturbing racism out there. There are coaches who certainly are racists. But it would be absurd to punish Fisher DeBerry for the current reality of the nature of the sprinting and jumping events and the skill positions in the NFL (and anyone who has been to a college track meet knows that these two things are fungible).

Cross-posted from dcat.

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Xavier News

Although Williams only gets a brief mention, this CNN article discusses students displaced by Katrina.

Accustomed to low and flat New Orleans, Tameka Noel finds herself huffing and puffing as she walks the hilly campus of Amherst College near the Berkshire Mountains. And though it’s just October, it already feels like winter to her.

She misses friends, and Cajun food, and Bourbon Street, which puts small-town Amherst’s nightlife to shame.

She and the six other students from Xavier University who wound up here this semester won’t lie and tell you Hurricane Katrina was the best thing that ever happened to them, just because they get to spend time at an elite liberal arts college. They will, however, say they are grateful for the hospitality, and that — when all is said and done — their time at Amherst might have broadened their education.

“Some days are difficult and others aren’t,” said Noel, a senior from New Boston, Texas, who is part of Xavier’s well-regarded premed program. “But I think being outside your comfort zone is something everybody should experience.”

Amherst took its visitors shopping for the winter clothes they suddenly needed, and is even paying for them to fly home for Thanksgiving. In the classroom, it organized tutorials to help them catch up after missing the first two weeks of class. College officials say the students are doing fine academically.

For the Xavier students, it’s a way to get the courses they need to stay on track to medical school. But it’s also a chance to try some new things. At Xavier, they said, most classes are in a lecture-and-drill format. Their Amherst seminars have been a nice change of pace in both structure and content.

“We discussed homosexuality, which is definitely a big taboo at Xavier, being Catholic and all that,” said Noel, who added an elective on “cross-cultural constructions of gender” to her science coursework. The different classroom experience “is something I’ve enjoyed,” she said.

Worth reading, and thanks to David Rodriquez ’06 for the link.

EphBlog, of course, specializes in taking people outside their comfort zone, at least on this topic.

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More on File Sharing

Noah Susskind ’07 sent in these further thoughts on the topic of file sharing.

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Photo ID, #26

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I thought it was time for a picture of people instead of just buildings and scenery. Who are these people, and what did they (try to) do? (This question is not open to students in the classes of 2005-2008.)

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Taylor Thesis V: Academic Rating

On page 82, Taylor provides some interesting background on the meaning and distribution of the academic rating (AR) system used at Williams.

The academic rating is a vital number that is gleaned from a student’s application. As seen in Table 6.3.l.a, the greatest percentage of students in this study falls in the “academic 2″ category, with 27.1 percent of students qualifying for this rank. There are approximately the same proportions of students in the ranks above and below this one, as 15.7 percent of students are academic 3’s and 15.3 percent earn the distinction of being an academic 1. Again, it is important to remember that the students being studied are those who have applied, been admitted, and matriculated to Williams, thus this information is not indicative of the characteristics of the applicant pool. One of the most interesting findings is that over 16 percent of students were ranked as an academic 6 or below. Academic 6’s and 7’s are so close to the bottom of the scale as to be nearly off the Williams’ admission radar, to say nothing of the academic 8’s.

I think that Williams would be a much better place — and a more academically serious one — if the vast majority of academic 6’s and 7’s were denied admission. I also suspect that those students, though denied admission at Williams, would do quite well at a Hamilton or Connecticut College. Applicants who are academically mismatched at Williams should be careful what they wish for.

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Taylor Thesis IV: Questbridge

Taylor provides some interesting details on Questbridge in pages 29-30.

A very new initiative for Williams is participation in the QuestBridge Program, which is a third party service that matches low-income, high-ability students with the top colleges and universities in the nation. The QuestBridge Program actively targets low-income students with the promise that if these students are able to become QuestBridge scholars, they will be given the opportunity to attend a prestigious university for no fee. QuestBridge rigorously chooses their scholars, and then matches the students with appropriate institutions based on their academic qualifications and their ability to qualify for a full ride. The program is effective because of its simple advertising campaign, which is easy for low-income students to understand, and because it takes a lot of the work out of the college search for these students. Since many low-income students are the first in their families to attend college, they are unfamiliar with the college application process, and the QuestBridge program simplifies the process for them. QuestBridge is attractive to colleges and universities because it identifies qualified low-income applicants, saving these institutions the trouble of finding these students themselves. It is helping these institutions reach out to low-income students by increasing awareness about the feasibility of attending a selective school.

The program is relatively new, as it was started in 2003, but seems to be valuable and effective thus far. For the 2004-2005 applicant year, Williams received 8 1 “matches” from the QuestBridge program. The college determined that 14 of these 8 1 actually qualified as needing a full ride under Williams’ financial aid equation, and all 14 were accepted. Of these students, 6 were male and 8 were female, and at least 9 of them were minority students. The students came fi-om all reaches of the United States, fi-om Hawaii to Texas to New York. In addition to these admits, Williams also contacted a number of other students from the QuestBridge list, telling them that the College could not offer them a full ride but that it could give them a great aid package and encouraging them to apply. Of these, seven students applied to Williams and accepted the offers of admission. Only one of these students was male, and five were minorities. With the QuestBridge program, Williams is essentially contracting out some of its admissions work, and this year received 21 students that otherwise inight not have applied. The college pays QuestBridge a $15,000 annual fee, then pays $4,000 for each student obtained through the program that completes his or her first year at Williams.

See here for previous EphBlog posts on Questbridge.

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Taylor Thesis III: Experiments

On page 28, Taylor writes:

Meanwhile, Williams has decided to experiment with recruiting low-income students through specifically targeted letters. In the past, Williams has used its list of low-income students from the College Board to simply send out information about the college. Now the college is using two recruiting letters: one that specifically targets low-income students and one that does not. This recruiting year, the college randomly sent out one of the two letters to all low-income students. The number of students who respond to these letters and ask for more information about Williams will be recorded, and the college will use the results of this experiment to determine whether the targeted recruiting letter is effective.

Cool stuff. There are many interesting papers to be written with this data. One of the great advantages in hiring economists (Morty, Cappy Hill) to run Williams is that they are much more likely to appreciate the power of randomized experiments in generating knowledge. There is much more that the College should be doing (and, perhaps, is doing behind the scenes) along these lines.

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Diversify This

The WSO thread mentioned yesterday got better and better. (Don’t tell Dean Roseman! She thinks blogs are bad news.) Best post was by Ryan Harper.

Have you ever been in a class when a “racial issue” came up and you could feel other students eyes shifting ever so slightly, waiting to see what the colored kid’s response is? Or perhaps, on much rarer occasions, the instructor might blatantly ask her for her input. She’s just giving you a chance to defend yourself right? Or is she giving the rest of the class (realistically, more like a few students) a chance to see how ignorant and presumptive their comments are? It’s certainly a close call, but I’m more inclined to think that these little skirmishes aren’t engineered just for me to brush up on my rhetorical abilities to deflect covert racism. We ARE here to educate the white kids. What else is “diversity” supposed to mean?

Read the whole thing.

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Jackall on Moore ’36

As a follow up to our obituary on Barrington Moore, Professor Robert Jackall provided this paper on “The Education of Barrington Moore, Jr.”

Moore’s wide-ranging grasp of different epochs is the product of a lifetime of feeding the flame of his curiosity, kindled by the classical liberal arts education of his youth, about how the intricacies and subtleties of language, culture, social structure, and history shape institutional forces and biographies to create sometimes fantastic social worlds.

Read the whole thing. More Williams students should do this sort of research, using the reseources of the College to explore the interesting lives of prominent graduates.

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Taylor Thesis II: Progressive Tuition

Continuing our review of some of the highlights on Lindsey Taylor’s thesis, we come to page 17.

Prior to this study of COFHE institutions, Hill and Winston wrote a paper focusing exclusively on Williams College that also addressed net prices relative to family incomes. They found that the percentage of quintile median family income paid at each quintile during the 2000-2001 school year at Williams, starting with the lowest, was as follows: 41 percent, 24 percent, 23 percent, 21 percent, and 21 percent. This regressive pricing changed dramatically the next academic year, when the percentage of quintile median family income paid, starting with the lowest quintile, was: 11 percent, 16 percent, 14 percent, 18 percent, and 20 percent.

By increasing grant aid, and thus reducing net price, Williams was able to change their pricing to be gently progressive. Over this two-year period, the students in the 95th income went from 21 percent to 20 percent, while the average overall student payment fell from 29 percent to 26 percent.

Comments:

1) The paper cited by Taylor is here. She also discusses a related work. Both papers look interesting, but I haven’t had a chance to go through them.

2) The abstract to the Hill and Winston paper notes “One usefully concrete number: the average student in the bottom twenty percent of the income distribution pays $1,683 while the full tuition is $32,470.” I think that “pays” here includes any loans taken out. In other words, the average student from the bottom quintile graduates with no more than $6,500 in total loans. I think that this is a fairly radical change from the 1980’s. As far as I can recall, there were plenty of Williams students in that era from poorer families who graduated with much more debt. Is that right?

3) I think that Morty played a major part in the decision to change Williams pricing. Now, to some extent, Williams had no choice but to do this since all its major competitors are actively recruiting less wealthy students. If Williams does not offer these students more grants and fewer loans, they will just go elsewhere.

4) In other words, although Taylor and Hill/Winston seem to talk about these changes in terms of redistribution (making tuition bills more “progressive”), I think that the real issue is not one of justice so much as competition. The people who ran Williams 20 years ago had similar political beliefs to those who run it today. But they didn’t worry too much about loading up some young Eph with a bunch of debt because they knew that that young Eph would, after graduation, have the opportunity to earn a bunch of money. (The fact that colleges colluded also removed any worry that the young Eph would find a better deal and go elsewhere.) Now Williams, if it wants to have any students from families with bottom 20% income, has no choice but to offer huge grants, even to a student who has every intention of becoming a rich investment banker.

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Stupid Athletes

Here is a fun WSO thread on stupid athletes. It is the same stuff that we have discussed before, but I love this handy summary from Julianne Shelby.

To recap:

Relatively low test scores/poor academic performance AND Got into Williams –> Legacy, Tipped Althete, Member of Socioeconomic/Ethnic/Geographic Minority

Legacy, Tipped Athlete, Member of Socioeconomic/Ethnic/Geographic Minority -/-> relatively low test scores/poor academic performance.

Well put! Of course, she forgot to include fat-cat donor status in her listing. See here for a (possible!) example of her first case and here for an example of her second. It’s also worth remembering that the size of the advantage is significantly different for different groups. Tipped athletes, especially football players, got much more of a preference than legacies. Certain racial minorities get more of a preference than geographic minorities.

These may be good policies. They may be bad ones. But it is always surprising to see how many Ephs are misinformed about the actual facts of the matter.

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Taylor Thesis I: Abstract

This week’s project is to highlight the most interesting aspects of Lindsey Taylor’s 05 thesis “Low-income students and college admissions : a case study of Williams College,” advised by President Schapiro. Thanks again to College Librarian David Pilachowski for making this work electronically available to all. Although the readership of EphBlog is not large, it is in the hundreds. Disseminating the best writing/research of Williams students is one of our goals. The five posts this week are an example.

Each day, I’ll be quoting portions of the thesis and providing brief commentary. Let’s start with the abstract.

Low-income students are severely underrepresented at elite institutions of higher education like Williams College, and any demand that their population be increased must consider the value of having low-income students at such an institution. This study examines low-income students that were admitted and matriculated to Williams based on data from their college applications, comparing their qualities and characteristics to their more affluent peers to determine where these students fall in both the academic and nonacademic spectra of Williams students. The performance of low income students once they arrive at Williams is analyzed in relation to the rest of the student body. An explanation of the College’s policies toward and history of admissions and financial aid as well as of new initiatives undertaken by the College to actively recruit talented, low-income students provides a context for this study. It appears that having socio-economically disadvantaged students at Williams is in no way lowering the standards set by the more advantaged students. Most low-income students are a valuable addition to the campus, possessing a respectable array of academic and non academic characteristics that place them solidly in the upper middle range of students in most respects.

Comments:

1) This is a great topic. More economics theses should be written about Williams. The smaller your focus, the better the result. The fewer your predecessors, the more valuable your contribution.

2) It is nice to see an abstract. Not all economics theses at Williams seem to have abstracts. (At least Jen Doleac’s ’03 did not.) They all should.

3) Spectra? I need to brush up on my Latin, obviously.

4) Taylor somewhat buries the lead when she notes that “It appears that having socio-economically disadvantaged students at Williams is in no way lowering the standards set by the more advantaged students.” This is true, as she demonstrates, but it suggests that the lack of more representation from low income students at Williams is appropriate. In other words, if Williams were unfairly discriminating against low income students, then we would expect these students to do better then their peers. Since they do about the same, Williams is not discriminating. This means that the current proportion is about “right.”

5) Taylor claims that low income students are “solidly in the upper middle range of students” at Williams. I know that she wants this to be true, but I don’t see where she demonstrates this.

6) Annoyingly, the pdf version of the thesis that the College provides is 77 (!) meg. Of course, I should not complain since I have pushed so hard for any access. Also, given that the College had no option other than to scan in the pages and the turn those scans into pdf’s, it isn’t clear that it could make the file smaller. But the CEP ought to change the thesis requirements so that students need to hand in an electronic and hard copy of their theses (whether public access is provided is a different question).

Although you should of course all read the Taylor’s thesis for yourselves, I hope to highlight some of the more interesting bits over the course of the week.

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Red Sox Diary (Shameless Self-Promotion Alert!)

As if we needed further evidence that they will let anyone publish a book, Bleeding Red: A Red Sox Fan’s Diary of the 2004 Season, has officially been released. For reasons beyond my understanding, it is not yet up on Amazon (believe me, I’ll let you know when it is), but it is available (in mistitled form, with no cover image yet posted — these are clearly all intended as reminders of my place in the hierarchy) at Barnes and Noble, here. If you are interested in seeing the publicity material (with the cover image, a picture of yours truly, and blurbs from historian Charlie Alexander as well as from Saturday Night Live’s Red Sox fan and Kerry impersonator Seth Meyers) go here, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and click on the cover image of the book.

I’d like to thank Ephblog readers and especially Dave Kane for inviting me to post my Sox diaries on Ephblog last year. There is an irony attendant in all of this of course — in terms of the historical profession, my Red Sox book does not help and in some circles may actually hurt my marketability. Soon enough I’ll have one of my “real” books out, but for now, let it be known that my Sox book may be a trifle, but it was a labor of love and I’ll always be glad that it was my first (you always remember your first, after all).

Now what are you waiting for? Go buy the book (or wait until it is paired with ESPN’s Sportsguy, Bill Simmons’, book in the next week on Amazon).

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Ethan Brooks (’96) is a Cowboy

Ethan Brooks (’96) was signed by the Cowboys last weekend, which is pretty cool, as whether I like it or not, I get all of their games. After the Jets inexplicably let him go this summer, he was unsure as to how things would go. It was a weird situation for him, because his stock was most likely to rise only after someone suffered an injury. When Flozell Adams tore up his knee a couple of weeks ago, that opened a door for Ethan. Even though he was only signed last Monday, he was active and in uniform yesterday, as Bill Parcells twice raved about Ethan’s retention of the Cowboys’ scheme (there’s that Williams education at work!). He is listed as the swing tackle, the backup for both the starting right and left tackles. I saw him on the sidelines yesterday, but do not believe that he got into the game in that punch to the gut loss to the Seahawks.

For those of you who would like to read a bit more about Ethan, I would strongly suggest John Feinstein’s newest book, Next Man Up: A Year Behind the Lines in Today’s NFL, which provides a fascinating look at a season of the Baltimore Ravens (yes, Billick is the most shameless self-promoter in the history of professional sports — roll over Bill Veeck, tell Charlie Finley the news). Ethan gets seven pages of his own plus many references throughout the book, and he emerges as a truly good guy. This also is the most honest he has ever been about his wife’s tragedy. My guess is that getting the treatment from Feinstein is the rough equivalent of having Halberstam, Turkel, or McCullough feature you prominently — they are not the best at what they do, but they are damned good and might be the most popular.

Congrats to Ethan, who is now only five hours from me, a blink of an eye in Texas terms! I’m eyeing that November 20th game at Texas Stadium against the Lions. Maybe I’ll even get a #70 jersey if they sell them. (My rule is that I wear no pro gear other than for the Boston teams except for the teams on which Ethan plays — so I have the Falcons hat he wore on the sideline of his first NFL game, I have a Rams hat, etc.)

Crossposted on dcat.

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In A Bazaar

Want more slap-dash mockery from me on financial aid policy/politics? This is the post for you! US News reports (hat tip: Steve Sailer) that

The [568] group, named after a law that waives antitrust provisions to allow the members to meet, wants to lessen the confusing variation in offers by requiring aid officers to use the same method for determining need. Applying for aid “should not be like bargaining in a bazaar,” says Morton Owen Schapiro, president of Williams College in Massachusetts and a member of the group, who worries that the existing hodgepodge of policies tends to keep aid dollars from going to the neediest students. Critics fear the new approach will reduce competition.

D’uh! How many times do we have to go through this?

1) Maybe I am just drinking too deeply at the PC-infected waters of the College’s Diversity Report, but isn’t this usage of the word “bazaar” a little offensive? Is a bazaar a naturally an unpleasant place to shop? Are shop owners in a bazaar less fair or friendly to deal with? Is the universal and ideal shopping experience to be found the North Adams Walmart rather than those dirty, sleazy bazars in Istanbul or Tehran? Just asking!

2) Yes, I realize that Morty is using “bazaar” to mean a place without set prices, a place where bargaining occurs. Fine. But is there a single free market transaction with a price tag greater than $5,000 (much less $160,000) which does not involve bargaining? I can’t think of one.

3) Big thanks to Morty for wanting to save me and all the other idiot parents from all those “confusing variations!” Why, if Williams offers my daughter a different financial aid package than Amherst, I’ll be so flummoxed that even blogging may have to stop.

4) If collusion — whoops, I mean reducing the “existing hodgepodge of policies” — works for financial aid, think of all the other applications. Car shopping, for example, features all sorts of variations and much nasty bargaining. Perhaps the 568 Group could establish precisely what each family should have to pay for any given car. Come to think of it, buying a house was a big bother. We need a 568 Group for this as well.

Call me old fashioned, but I’ll take the “confusing variations” of a free market every time.

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Moore ’36, RIP

Sam Crane notes that “Barrington Moore’s passing should be noted. For many academics, he would be seen as among the 3-4 most important intellectual Ephs of the 20th century.”

Barrington Moore Jr., a Harvard sociologist whose studies of the contemporary human condition led him to dissect the totalitarian society, particularly as it evolved in the Soviet Union, died last Sunday at his home in Cambridge, Mass. He was 92.

His death was announced by the university, where he taught from 1951 to 1979. He had also been affiliated with the Russian Research Center at Harvard since 1948.

Dr. Moore followed an interdisciplinary approach, always placing social change in its historical context. He distrusted models of social behavior that ignored politics, economics and a multiplicity of other possible factors and events that helped determine it.

His methodology had its roots in years he spent as a wartime strategic analyst for the O.S.S., the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency, and a stint at the interdisciplinary social science division of the University of Chicago.

His best-known book, “Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World” (Beacon, 1966), remains in print. J. H. Plumb, in a review for The New York Times, called it “a profoundly important book.”

I am such an ignoramus that I had never heard of Moore. Thanks to Sam for the pointer. Perhaps more educated Ephs than I could provide some more background on Moore and his work in the comments.

Condolences to all.

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Grade Inflation

Princeton began a serious fight against grade inflation a few years ago. The results so far are encouraging.

In 2004-05, the first year under the new policy, A’s (A+, A, A-) accounted for 40.9 percent of grades in undergraduate courses, down from 46.0 percent in 2003-04 and 47.9 in 2002-03. In humanities departments, A’s accounted for 45.5 percent of the grades in undergraduate courses in 2004-05, down from 56.2 percent in 2003-04. In the social sciences, there were 38.4 percent A grades in 2004-05, down from 42.5 percent in the previous year. The natural sciences, at 36.4 percent A’s, essentially held steady. In engineering, the figures were 43.2 percent A’s in 2004-05, 48.0 percent in the previous year.

Basic strategy seems to be to encourage/force individual departments to meet university wide targets. The departments are then left to their own devices as to both how to distribute the limitted number of A’s among introductory and advanced courses and how to encourage/force faculty members to do the right thing.

What does the distribution of grades look like at Williams today? Comments:

1) A lot of grade inflation has occured since the 1980’s. Back in the day, A+’s were virtually unheard of. [By you! — ed.] It now seems that they are almost common. See this 1998 Record article for background.

2) I am still waiting for Peter Siniawer’s thesis, “When A=average : the origins and economic implications of grade inflation at Williams College and other elite institutions”, to be posted on the College library’s website.

3) Williams has acted on grade inflation recently. The Record reported in 2003 that:

The steady rise in student grade point averages (GPA) observed over decade the past appears to have halted since the implementation of a proposal by the Committee on Educational Policy (CEP) in 2000 that encouraged faculty to cap GPAs at set levels for each course level.

At the time the proposal was made, the CEP Subcommittee on Grading reported a significant increase in average grades since 1990 from a 3.19 to a 3.34. This upward trend reflected a trend of grade inflation from the 2.67 average recorded in 1960. Thus, in February 2000 the CEP voted to set a maximum target GPA and disseminate GPA statistics on how each individual department fared in comparison to the targets.

Where can I find the latest statistics?

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Eph Rock Star

Trivia Question: What Eph’s singing voice has been heard by the most people around the world? Answer: Probably Lee-Hom Wang ’98. Like every plugged in rock star, Wang has a homepage and a blog. Wang has a busy schedule.

It was great to see so many of you last Saturday when we had tea together with Xin Bao. The atmosphere was quite mellow and relaxed, not at all like work, but more like just meeting with friends. It was also great to chat with many of my fans online last week. The greatest thing about the internet is that I can chat with fans from all over the world; unlike other forms of media, it is completely international. Thank you all for the support you have given me as I continue to shoot the two movies CSF and TEKKEN, while also promoting my new album, “Forever’s First Day”. It sure is keeping me busy!

Strange. I have never found album promoting to be too time consuming, but maybe that’s just me!

UPDATE: Graduating class fixed thanks to comment below. I got the wrong year from Wikipedia, which I have also fixed.

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Cat Borrowing

Surely there is an EphBlog reader out there who would be willing to borrow Diana Davis’s ’07 cat?

So, I ask you now: Would you or your family, or anyone you know, or anyone anyone you know knows, be willing to take Tigger in? If you, or your parents in most cases, would not mind having an unobtrusive little cat around, who likes being petted and held, I would be most appreciative. If you or anyone else you could put me in contact with might be interested in borrowing a cat, PLEASE let me know. We will happily deliver her to any location on the east coast (broadly defined), from Maine to Florida. I kid you not.

My daughters would love this, but, alas, my mother-in-law would not.

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Porkbusting

Fellow Eph Blogger Mike Needham ’04 is quoted in the Record on the Porkbuster campaign.

“Citizens should recognize that the 2005 transportation bill is more expensive, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than the Marshall Plan and interstate highway system combined,” said Michael Needham ’04, chief of staff at the Heritage Foundation and former Record editor in chief. “And none of the projects contained within it are as urgent as those two priorities, nor as spending to rebuild after Katrina.”

Reducing earmarks in transportation bills is one of the few political topics — like not nominating Alberto Gonzalez for the Supreme Court — that bring together EphBlog participants from across the political spectrum.

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Duquette ’88 to Orioles

Jim Duquette ’88 has been hired as the vice president for baseball operations at the Baltimore Orioles.

“Anytime you get this type of responsibility and authority in one of the more heralded organizations in the game, it’s exciting,” Duquette told The Eagle last night.

Duquette, 39, ended a lengthy tenure with the New York Mets. He spent most of his 15 previous seasons in baseball working for the Mets.

See here for previous EphBlog posts on Duquette, but, of those, this is the one to read.

Williams ought to invite Duquette back for a talk. It would be fun to see him on a panel with Baseball Coach Dave Barnard, long time Red Sox fan Bob Bell, and a statistician or two. (Do any of the math/stats folks at Williams follow Sabermetrics?)

I am not sure what they would talk about, but it would be fun to listen in.

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Photo ID, #25

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This hallway is not quite this dim in real life.

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Mountain Day

It’s Mountain Day! In our continuing effort to archive the College’s official communications, below are two e-mails from Morty on the topic. Comments:

1) Readers should submit their stories and observations in the comments below. Many Ephs who are too far away from Williamstown would like to live vicariously through you.

2) Many pictures will be taken and posted today. Please provide links in the comments.

3) Carpe diem and falling in love are recurring themes at EphBlog. Today is a good day for both.

Read more

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Charm, Money and Pedigree

Jeff Zeeman pointed out this article about Eric Dayton ’04 in an previous thread.

With his photogenic good looks, charm, money and pedigree, Eric Dayton could have been Minnesota’s own John F. Kennedy Jr. But for most of his 25 years Dayton has kept a low profile, seeking challenges where success hinged on physical skill, intelligence and courage — not family connections.

Yet, as the scion of two prominent, wealthy American families — the Daytons and the Rockefellers — the connections were always there.

Connections are a good thing.

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Play Dolls All The Time

Jenn Mattern, perhaps the funniest Eph Blogger, is also often one of the most thoughtful.

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More outreach to Katrina victims

It seems that Williams isn’t the only school I’ve attended that has opened its doors to Katrina victims. An excerpt from my high school alumni news:

In response to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Regis has broken a 91-year tradition and accepted our first transfer student, a young man from Jesuit High in New Orleans.

Kudos to the admnistrators involved in what was not likely to be an easy decision, and, of course, kudos to those at Williams as well.

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