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Latest Hume Paper

Here is Laura Specker’s latest paper, “The Inherent Uncertainty of Reason,” for Joe Cruz’s Hume Tutorial.

Alas, I am too far behind on the readings to provide sensible comments. However, much better commentary might come from other Eph philosophers. Indeed, Joe’s tutorial provides an interesting opportunity to try and create an Eph Philosophy Mafia as an analogue to the much-praised Williams Art Mafia. If I were a better person, I would drop an e-mail to all those listed and invite them over for a visit.

The idea of EphCOI (Eph Communities of Interest) providing a virtual location for Ephs to discuss/collaborate/network within specific fields will arise one day at EphBlog, but not today.


Big Stick in Harlem

Ben Fleming ’04 points to this New York Times article on Mat Levine ’74:

Early one Saturday in the basketball capital of the world, the echoes of whistles and sneaker squeaks bounced off the gymnasium walls at A. Philip Randolph High School in West Harlem.

Under the watchful eye of their instructor, Mat Levine, and several coaches, a few dozen athletes in uniform scrambled around the court, taking part in ball-handling, shooting and passing drills, and learning how to box out opponents.

“We have been getting better,” John Vargas, a 14-year-old Randolph freshman, said. “With the season approaching, there is a lot of energy pumping through our team.”

Since Dec. 17, Vargas and his teammates have been preparing for a spring season like no other at the school, and they are going about it with a different sort of bounce in their step.

Next month, Randolph will field Harlem’s first public high school lacrosse teams. As developmental programs, the boys’ and girls’ squads will compete in the Public Schools Athletic League at the junior-varsity level.

Read the whole thing. Levine’s program, CityLax, is reminiscent of Greg Zaff’s ’84 Squash Busters.


Mystic Monday #3: Food, glorious food!

Sep. 14-20 082.jpg

Students at Williams-Mystic cook all of their own food, and so we had frequent get-togethers, especially in the early part of the fall when it was pleasant outdoors. It was like a 1950s pot luck, including even an occasional pasta casserole, but often we made quite haute cuisine, such as sliced avacadoes. The above picture is in the combined back yard of three of the student houses, with the main parking lot for Mystic Seaport in the background.


Occasionally we had themed food events, like brunch or, pictured here, Minnesota Night. One student was from Minnesota, so he and his girlfriend (who was visiting from her college) made two kinds of jello salad called Green and Orange, a hot dish called Hot Dish, red drink, scalloped potatoes, and Special K bars.


Of course, with all this delicious food, we often had leftovers. We would eat it for lunch, but sometimes it was just so delicious that we had some left over, and then leftover from that… The table in this picture shows you how much food my house had left over at the end of the semester, when we invited the other houses over to eat it. So you see, the food budget is quite sufficient at Williams-Mystic. (The girl in the picture is actually an Amherst student.)


The Mission of Williams is . . .

Richard Dunn ’02 was afraid that his comment toward the end of the Marxism thread would be lost to all and sundry. There’s no need to fear, EphBlog is here! Underdog references notwithstanding, my favorite part of Richard’s comments is:

If you really think you have a definitive answer to this problem, you are simply arrogant. If you think you are approaching a solution, then you are merely delusional.

Delusional arrogance is my specialty! The rest of Richard’s comment is below, but the point he raises is an important one: What is the mission of Williams College? For me the answer is easy:

The mission of Williams is to be the best college in the world.

1) I am looking for a better, more catchy way to phrase this. Suggestions are welcome.

2) Note that, as with so many other topics, Morty and I are in agreement. Recall this phrase from the Diversity Report: “The College’s mission to provide the highest quality liberal arts education . . . ”

3) Richard (and others) seem to disagree, to believe that the College has other missions (to decrease inequality, to strengthen the country, to enhance the knowledge of mankind). I agree that many of these other goals are desirable and that, as a consequence of having a great college, some of them will be furthered. But none of these is the central mission of Williams. Those who disagree should provide us a similarly concise mission statement.

Richard’s armada analogy below.

Read more


Hagy ’82 FAR at Wyoming

Think admissions and athletics is tricky at Williams? Imagine what these issues involve at the University of Wyoming.

Alyson Hagy, a member of the University of Wyoming English faculty, a published author, and a lifelong athlete, has been named by UW President Tom Buchanan as the university’s faculty athletics representative (FAR) for a three-year term. Hagy replaces Janet Contstantinides, who will retire from university service this summer.

As FAR, Hagy will serve as liaison between the UW president’s office and faculty and the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, verify the eligibility and academic progress of student athletes, chair the university’s Athletic Planning Committee, act as liaison with the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, assist in institutional certification and recertification processes, attend Mountain West Conference and NCAA meetings, and participate in investigations of NCAA and conference rules violations.

The College ought to invite Hagy ’82 to give a talk. She’d probably have some stories to tell.


Layden on Knight

Great on-line article in Sports Illustrated written by one Eph alum about another:

DK’s favorite topic, Eph marriage, even gets a mention!

Unlike many on this forum, I relish Williams’ image as a Division III athletic power. I sort of like the idea of Williams as a place where academics are top-notch, but where leadership/service/social development, athletics/outdoors activities, and excellence in the arts are all valued in equal measure. I’ll admit that right now, athletics may be a little bit TOO prominent in this equation, and I hope that the new arts facilities will be accompanied by a corresponding increased emphasis on students with artistic talent. But I don’t think the formula on campus, with the new restrictions on low-band admits, is that far off. Eliminate some of the admits in just a few problem sports, whose members are disproportiantely responsible for the bad image of athletics on campus, and I think Williams could achieve the proper balance. But the school certainly gets a lot of great publicity from its overall excellence in athletics, and attracts a lot of applicants who appreciate being in an academic environment where many students maintain an intense focus, and attain great success, in other arenas.

On another athletic topic which perhaps deserves its own post at some point, it’s kind of amazing, given Williams’ reputation for athletic excellence, that the only campus facilities to receive little attention in recent years are some of the badly-outdated athletic facilities. The Williams track facilities are apparently in terrible disrepair, and except for Chandler and the new squash courts, the remainder of the indoor athletic facilities are reaching the end of their usefulness. In particular, the weight room/fitness center, which is utilized by a huge percentage of campus, is (last I saw) far, far inferior to similar facilities at Williams’ prime competitors. Middlebury and Amherst, to name two, both have huge, gorgeous fitness centers, which make the Williams’ facility look like a high school junior varsity weight room by comparison. Given the enormous capital investment in a professional-caliber theater and art studio, two new student centers, and a new academic quad, I’m surprised a relatively modest sum has not been set aside to renovate and expand the cramped, overused fitness center and improve the condition of the fieldhouse and outdoor track. I imagine some creative reengineering of Lasell could find room for an expanded fitness center without anywhere near the costs of the other major campus projects. Otherwise, Williams may soon begin to lose talented student-athletes to Midd and Amherst despite its reputation for athletic excellence.


FOW Interview

Here is a fun interview with Adam Schlesinger ’89 and Chris Collingwood ’89, members of rock group Fountains of Wayne.


Donors and Legacies

More on Amherst Dean of Admissions Tom Parker ’69:

Since [President Anthony] Marx came along, Parker has been speaking out about a virtually taboo subject: how top universities already bend their standards for all kinds of kids. There are the affirmative action programs for minorities, which most elite schools still run. There are also so-called legacy admits, for whom Amherst reserves roughly 10% of its seats, says Parker. Alumni kids get red-carpet treatment, often including a personal audience with Parker. Yet they rank as twos, on average, he says — meaning that some score three or less and wouldn’t be admitted on their academic credentials alone. But top universities simply can’t ignore legacy donations. “The way you finance a place like this is with alumni contributions,” says Parker.


1) Affirmative action programs which “most elite schools still run.” What is with the “most”? I can’t think of a single elite school that does not practice affirmative action for URMs. Should we trust what the writer tells us on other “facts” when she gets this one so wrong?

2) Amherst reserves (precisely?) 10% of the seat for legacies? Interesting. Recall that Williams has approximately 12% legacies for many years. I think that the increasing ratio of graduates to students since the doubling of the size of the college 30 years ago means that legacies today are much more qualified than they were 20 years ago. The fact that Amherst has an explicit 10% quota make it more plausible that Williams does the same. I bet that the international quota of 6% was set to be exactly half of the legacy quota, if there is one.

3) It is not clear if legacy applicants or legacy enrollees have AR 2 on average. I think it is enrollees. I heard from a fellow representative at a college fair last fall that the average SAT score for Amherst legacy accepted students was, like Williams, very high. We have done the math on this before. Short answer is that legacies get some special preference, but nowhere near what URMs and tip athletes receive.

4) Parker knows, and should admit, that fund-raising provides a very tenuous rational for legacy preferences. Consider the current campaign at Williams. Note (page 2) how $200 million out of the $400 million in total money is projected to come from 20 donors. (These families and ones like them get special admission advantages, whether or not they are legacies.) Note the 20,000+ donors (almost all alums) who give less than $100,000. None of these donors matter much to the overall health of the campaign. As long as the College takes care of the big donors, its financial health is not significantly impacted by legacy preferences or the lack thereof.

Recall our post, from Michael Lewis, on this topic in the context of Harvard.

But here’s the rub: Unless they fork over a sensationally huge pile of dough, donors are unlikely to get anything in return from Harvard. A few thousand bucks is unlikely to impress anyone. Even 50 grand won’t improve their children’s odds. (The Harvard application from the legacy whose parents have given less than millions goes into the same pile as the one from the legacy whose parents have given nothing.)

The issues of preferences for big donors (alum and not) is a largely separate issue from those for alums who give less than $1 million. Parker does a disservice by conflating the two.


Photo ID, #36

To current students, this is a very familiar scene. To alums who grew up, as it were, with Baxter, you’ll just have to guess what’s going on here. Where is this place? And what’s going on there now?


There are two more pictures in the extended entry.




Academic Credentials

I am drawn to the article on Amherst President Marx like a rugger to beer.

The centerpiece of Marx’s crusade is to change what happens in the converted 19th century farmhouse where Amherst’s 14 admissions officers work. Marx is convinced that the process is stacked against poor kids. But changing that threatens the entire admissions rationale of elite colleges. The key issue: how much to lower academic credentials. Amherst got to No. 2 in the rankings in part because of its incoming students’ stellar grades and test scores. Those factors are just one part of college rankings, so Amherst might slip only a few spots if other selective colleges don’t follow its lead. Still, that could hurt. “If Marx lets in more low-income kids, he’s going to risk his school’s reputation,” cautions Anthony Carnevale, a senior fellow at the National Center on Education & the Economy.

Letting in smart low-income kids does nothing to Amherst’s reputation (except to improve it). Letting in not-so-smart low-income kids has the potential to be devastating to that reputation.

Bringing in more low-income kids would require added compromise. To meet Marx’s 25% goal, Amherst would have to take more threes [on a 1-7 scale], says Parker, meaning those who may have straight As but SATs as low as 1360. Even though Amherst already does so for minorities, legacies, and athletes, faculty members are worried. “This could be a radical departure that fundamentally changes the character of our institution,” warns physics professor David Hall, who heads the Faculty Committee on Admissions & Financial Aid.

Hall is right to be worried. If you think that, on average students with 1360 SATs do as well as though with 1560s, then you don’t know what you are talking about. People like Marx like to tell stories about specific students who come to Amherst with low scores and then thrive, winning academic awards, writing excellent theses, being named to Phi Beta Kappa. And such stories are certainly true. But they do not represent the average result. In fact, the typical academic performance of 3s is certainly worse than that for 1s, even during senior year (by which time any disadvantage in terms of preparation should have been alleviated).

The only way to meaningfully increase the percentage of students from the bottom quarter of the income distribution is to admit a bunch of applicants that you currently reject, applicants that are not as academically talented/focused as your other students.

Marx hopes to ease such concerns by finding more top-notch low-income applicants. Certainly, many students have never even heard of Amherst. So Marx is asking his admissions officers to visit more low-income high schools. And he’s enlisting Amherst students in a tele-mentoring program in which they walk seniors from those schools through the college application process. Marx also started using QuestBridge, a Palo Alto (Calif.) nonprofit that has enlisted 8,000 high school teachers to identify talented low-income students for elite colleges.

More delusions! But, of course, it depends on what you mean by “top-notch.” There are thousands of low income students with, say, 1250 SATs and high school grades to match who would love to come to Amherst, especially for free. Let them all in and Amherst will be a different place.

Although the competition for talented low income students is not as tough as that for URMs or helmet sport athletes, it is getting there. Does Marx really think that more visits to bad high schools are going to help? Amherst (and Williams) might be able to accomplish something on the margin, convincing a smart low income kid that she is better off at an LAC than at an Ivy. But the tyranny of numbers remains. There are just not enough low income applicants to go around, just as there are not enough URMs and hockey players. Amherst might be able to steal a couple from its competitors, but not enough to meaningfully change the overall distribution.

Unless, that is, Marx succeeds in changing the admissions criteria in use. If I were a Amherst faculty member, I would be worried.


Anza Pioneers

During Winter Study, six Williams runners ran and biked the distance of the Anza Trail in the desert southwest. We last heard about them here about a month ago, when hwc doubted the intellectual seriousness of the adventure and frank uible suggested they should try to make it a “boondoggle.” Unfortunately for both of them and fortunately for the six men, both alums were wrong. It was a journey of intellectual seriousness and certain growth for each of them.

The “Anza Pioneers,” as they call themselves, have set up a wiki-formatted web site with pictures and information about their journey. There is a profile of each of them, and pictures and narrative from each of the 31 days of the trip. David Rogawski ’08 wrote a thoughtful reflection on the trip here, which skeptics and anyone else who is interested should certainly read. Rogawski writes:

We started in the desolate Sonoran desert and traversed seemingly endless, pancake flat roads, some of them paralleling highways, others cutting through wide expanses of sand and cacti. Some of the roads were quite sandy, making biking very difficult, especially with the BOB [trailer]. What was really amazing was that the transition from hot, dusty desert to cool highlands was accomplished in one day. After our long hike through Coyote Canyon, we arrived in a totally different highland environment with grass, trees, and cooler temperatures. A few days later, we climbed over the mountains and decsended to the Pacific Ocean at Laguna Beach, where there were tons of people, stores, roads, and palm trees. … We traveled through some rural areas before we got to San Francisco around Paso Robles and Salinas, but nothing as extreme as the Arizona desert.

And for those who yearn for intellectual seriousness, you can read their final papers. In the order of the men in the picture below: Stephen Wills ’07, Grant Burgess ’08, Bill Ference ’07 (pending), Colin Carroll ’07, Corey Levin ’08 (pending), and David Rogawski ’08 (doc).


As an aside, EphBlog can never get enough of Professor Joe Cruz, so you will be happy to note that his bike also went along.


Thumb on the Scale

The article on Amherst President Marx does a good job of illustrating how radical he really is.

Since Marx, now 46, took over in 2003 as Amherst’s youngest president ever, he has waged a ceaseless crusade to make the college a leader in welcoming more lower-income students.

We are all in favor of making Amherst (and Williams) more welcoming, for rich and poor, dark purple and light purple, foreign and domestic. Yet Marx is after much more.

It’s a formidable goal considering how programmed the place is to seek out the best and the brightest: A record 6,300 students applied for just 431 spots in last fall’s entering class.

Jarring, eh? Why does a commitment for seeking out “the best and the brightest” create problems in creating a “welcoming” environment? If anything, the opposite is the case. If you have clear and objective criteria, applied to all applicants, for academic talent, then everyone should feel equal precisely because everyone is equal. Problems arise, of course, when different standards apply to different groups.

Now, Marx is challenging everything from an admissions process tilted toward affluent students to social customs that divide rich and poor students on campus. Essentially, he has set in motion a new affirmative action initiative, this time based on class rather than race.

Good luck with that! Again, I think that this is the best news for Williams in its competition with Amherst in a generation. Give them the less smart (but “poorer”) applicants. We’ll take the smarter (but “richer”) applicants. No prizes for guessing how this will turn out in a generation or two.

And what does it mean to claim that the admissions process is “tilted toward affluent students?” I don’t think it is. Does Amherst Director of Admissions Tom Parker ’69 discriminate against poor kids? Penalize them if they apply for financial aid? Decrease their academic rank if they go to a lousy public high school?

No! People who see tilts and other injustices in elite admissions have a highly naive view of the possibilities once a student hits 17. These modern day Marxists have a (stupid) a priori belief that the abilities which lead to academic success at Amherst are uniformly distributed across the population. Alas, these abilities — high IQ, a love of learning, disciplined work habits — are very non-uniformly distributed. The children of people in the top half of the income distribution are much more likely to have these abilities than the children of people in the bottom half. This effect is magnified in the top and bottom income deciles.

Smart people have smart children because intelligence like height is largely inherited. People who love learning have children who love learning because they teach them to do the same, both directly and via example. You can bet that children who are read to by their parents each day are much more likely to end up at Amherst than children who are not so fortunate. Hard-working people have hard-working children because these parents make their children work hard, thereby teaching them the value of hard work, of ambition and striving.

Now, it turns out that high IQ, a love of learning and hard work — for shorthand, let’s call these attributes “merit” — are also correlated with wealth. Or, rather, it is unlikely that someone blessed with these three attributes will end up in the bottom 25% of the income distribution.

But people like Marx seem blind to this reality. They really want to believe that there are thousands of undiscovered gems lying in the bottom income quartile, just waiting for open-minded souls (like Marx) to discover them and, Professor Higgins-like, transform them into polished stones.

Marx already has won over many of Amherst’s largely liberal professors to the basic concept. He’s hoping that by the fall, faculty and trustees will approve a formal plan to give more of Amherst’s coveted slots, perhaps as many as 25%, to students poor enough to qualify for a Pell Grant (usually meaning a family income of less than $40,000 a year). Doing so would vault Amherst far ahead of other elite privates such as Harvard University, where 10% of undergrads are low-income. “If we are sufficiently aggressive, we will force the rest of elite higher education to be much more serious about this,” says Marx.

Delusional! There is no way that Amherst, just by letting in a group of students that it used to reject — and who used to, after rejection, go to perfectly nice albeit less competitive colleges — is going to “force” Harvard or Williams to do anything. Newsflash: As long as the students who Harvard and Williams want still go to Harvard and Williams, they won’t care what Amherst does.

Now, Amherst could change the game by being much more generous in terms of financial (read: merit) aid. For example, it could create something like the Tyng and use it to convince 50 poor students who would have gone to Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford to choose Amherst instead. (Even though such students get full rides at HYPS, the allure of free graduate school would have an appeal.) If Amherst did that, HYPS might be forced to respond. Yet that is not the (public) plan

Bowen, who now heads the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a big funder of higher-education research, is on a crusade to win over admissions officers with statistics showing that low-income students succeed at elite colleges. “America’s most selective institutions need to put a thumb on the scale” in favor of these students, Bowen argues.

Consider the case of two students, Jane and Sarah, who attend the same high school. Both have fathers that make $40,000 a year. But one (Jane) is smarter, works harder, gets better grades and test scores than the other. Shouldn’t Jane be accepted into Amherst in preference to Sarah? Currently, she presumably is. But what if Jane has a mother who also teaches high school while Sarah’s mother is a home-maker. Since this extra income puts Jane’s family outside of Pell-grant range, should Amherst accept Sarah instead?

The only way to meaningful increase the percentage of students from the bottom 40% of the income distribution is to accept more Sarah’s and reject more Jane’s. I am almost glad that Amherst is apparently about to start doing so. It makes it all the more likely that Jane will become an Eph.


Hume Tutorial Update

Professor Joe Cruz sends this update on his Hume tutorial:

The Hume tutorial is underway and we are having a splendid time. The students who are keen to participate in Ephblog’s presentation of the tutorial have asked that I be the host of their work. Thus, I’ve mounted Laura Specker’s first paper and Noah Susskind’s first paper on my server space.

I have also asked Laura and Noah to say something brief about themselves. Laura has written, “Laura Specker is a sophomore philosophy major whose interests include cinema, existentialism, cognitive science, and journalism.” Noah writes, “Noah Susskind is a junior philosophy major with a concentration in legal studies. He is interested in writing, negotiation, and deliberative democracy.”

Let me say something about how I envision the tutorial assignments. Firstly, we are placing equal emphasis on the written work and on the oral presentation of ideas during the supervisions. It is my sense that oral presentation is a sorely undernourished skill at Williams, and I hope that the tutorial program can go some away toward remedying that. Secondly, the reading assignments of my syllabus sit somewhere between now-traditional Williams tutorials and tradition Oxbridge supervisions. That is, I do assign particular readings — the primary text — for each week, and I urge that students concentrate on these. I also make available a reading list from which I expect students to draw ideas and themes for discussion. The books on the reading list are on reserve in Sawyer (since we don’t wish them to be checked out for very long), but the journal articles must be tracked down by the participants in the tutorial. This, I hope, will give them a taste of doing archival research. In the best cases, students will then use the references in the books and journal articles to track down additional secondary literature. Indeed, this has already happened, as Noah showed up yesterday with a collection of papers , Reading Hume on Human Understanding: Essays on the First Enquiry, edited by Peter Millican (Oxford, 2002).

I will shortly send some material from the critical remarks made during each of our two meetings.

Incidentally, in a common error, you’ve listed the title of Hume’s book as A Treatise ON Human Nature rather than A Treatise OF Human Nature.

Thanks to Joe for the correction. Instead of participating in our discussions on Anthony Marx, motivated readers should check out these papers and provide some comments here.



Fascinating, must-read article on Tony Marx’s campaign to remake Amherst. (Hat tip to an anonymous Eph parent.)

When Marx finally met the [presidential search] committee, he made an impassioned appeal. Elite U.S. colleges such as Amherst, he said, are perpetuating deep inequalities in American society. They equate success with serving the privileged elite and have largely abandoned talented youth from poor families, he charged. This deepens the country’s growing class divisions and exacerbates the long-term decline in economic and social mobility. Feeling he had nothing to lose since he hadn’t sought the job, Marx exhorted the trustees to tackle the problem head-on. “I’m not interested in being a custodian over a privileged place,” he remembers telling the gathering of wealthy alums and academic stars that day.

There are lots of amazing details here. More later. In the meantime:

1) Whenever I get frustrated with Morty, I should just step back and thank my lucky aim-high stars that we are not stuck with Marx. He would drive me nuts.

2) Does this mark the start of the downfall of Amherst? The basic thrust of the article is that Marx is going to start letting in lots of 1350 SAT students from lower income families while rejecting more 1550 SAT students from higher income families. (Actually, the story is more complex than that, but let’s save it for another day.) This may or may not be moral. It may or may not improve the quality of the education at Amherst. But it seems inevitable that it will reduce Amherst’s ranking, at US News and elsewhere. Right now, Williams and Amherst split 50/50 in head-to-head competition over students. I would predict that if Amherst’s academic selectivity goes down far enough, Williams’ winning percentage will increase.

If, in a decade, Williams worries as much about competition from Amherst as it does today about competition from Wesleyan, the reason will certainly be Anthony Marx’s egalitarian notions of merit and higher education.


Racial Unknowns

A reader sends this link to a story on nose couting.

Over the past decade and a half, the number and proportion of college students opting not to reveal their race when asked have shot up, to 5.9 percent of all students in 2001 from 3.2 percent a decade earlier. The increases have raised two major questions: Who are these students, and why are they declining to identify themselves? The answers have implications for college officials and policy makers on a wide range of issues, including affirmative action and student life.

In a Williams context, the interesting thing is that the College, officially, has no racial unknowns. See page x for the latest breakdowns. How can that be? Surely at least one student refuses to provide the College with her race . . .


Tip Details

How could we have missed this fascinating article on the details of admission preferences for athletes at places like Williams? I blame CGCL! Highlights included:

Tom Parker has been involved in the Division III athletic recruiting process at small, elite liberal arts colleges for 25 years, long enough to remember when civility and common sense were the rule.
”Now absolutely everything in athletics has to be regulated, in detail,” said Parker, the dean of admissions at Amherst College since 1999. Before that, he spent 19 years in the same position at Williams College.

”Everything,” Parker added.

Not to cast aspersions or anything, but isn’t this as least partly because Williams’ preferences for athletes were out of control in the 1990’s (i.e., when Parker was running the show)? That’s what my sources tell me. Parker was (in)famous for helping coaches get most every player they were interested in. For example, if a football star with weak academics were a legacy or URM, does he count as a tip? Not during Parker’s era at Williams.

The other admissions directors don’t like rules and meetings for their own sake. Hard experience has taught them, however, that without rules, there will be problems.

Several years ago, the 11-member New England Small College Athletic Conference (Nescac), which includes Amherst and Williams, adopted systematic restrictions on recruiting.

”The real danger was in not acknowledging that we give preferential treatment to athletes,” Parker said. ”It engendered a corrosive cynicism. When it was on the table exactly what we do, it wasn’t as bad as some faculty thought.”

Maybe. But that certainly isn’t the impression I get when reading The Report on Varsity Athletics.

The New England Small College Athletic Conference uses slots, although its members refer to them as athletic factors. Parker said the maximum number of athletic factors was determined by the number of varsity teams each college fields in the conference.

The formula multiplies the number of teams by two, then adds 14 if there is a football team. A typical total is in the 70’s; Amherst, Williams and Wesleyan University have agreed to a limit of 66. Parker said that as recently as the late 1990’s, Amherst was admitting 96 athletes.

I think that this 66 number was instituted for the class of 2004, but whose idea was it? We like to get these sorts of details correct at EphBlog.

Parker said athletes at Amherst were admitted in academic categories called bands. A certain number of recruited athletes (19 in the current freshman class) are permitted to fall into the lowest band, for students with strong high school records in challenging courses and with scores of 1,250 to 1,310 on the two-part College Board exam. The next-highest band required a very strong record and course load and SAT scores from 1,320 to 1,430.

At Amherst, the mean SAT score for athletes filling slots was 60 to 75 points below the mean for the current freshman class, which was 1,442, Parker said.

Note that this is consistent with what Dick Nesbitt ’74 told us about tips at Williams, although he cited a gap of 100 SAT points, but perhaps that was for tips versus non-tips while Parker is comparing tips to everyone (including tips).

”The key is that we share all this data with one another in the conference to make sure everyone is in line,” Parker said. ”Transparency is critical to making it work.”

If there is one concept that does seem to unite the small elite colleges of Division III, it is this: Football is the biggest recruiting challenge.

”You just need so many football players to have a competitive team,” said Les Poolman, athletic director at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa. ”And some of them you want to be 260 pounds with good grades and high test scores. It’s often a lot easier to get distance runners.”

More excerpts below.

Read more


Mystic Monday #2

Last week I dispelled the myth that Williams students live on a boat by displaying pictures of the houses they live in. This week I am going to dispel the myth that Mystic students just have fun all the time and never work.


Mystic Seaport, the museum “campus” that Williams-Mystic uses, has a library that is essentially one big rare books library, in the sense that every book in it is rare. Thus, it is an invaluable resource, and people come from all over the world to use it.

This picture shows a Williams-Mystic student doing research with a rare book in the library. Each student does a history research paper using the primary source documents in the library, and that is what is happening here.

For example, my paper was about “sea mail” in the 1800s, which was the way that wives on shore wrote to their husbands at sea and vice-versa. I wanted to see how the fact that the system was so unreliable (many letters never arrived) and took so long (often six months to a year) affected what people wrote in their letters. So my research consisted of wearing white gloves to carefully read the fragile letters, written in brown ink with a fountain pen and often illegible nineteenth-century handwriting. It was awesome. I read love letters for research purposes. What could be better than that?

David is all about advocating for student papers to be available online, so I wouldn’t dream of telling you that Williams-Mystic is academically rigorous without providing proof. In each of four classes (in addition to a final exam) we had to write a final paper, three of which were original research papers. My final papers appear below. I hope you enjoy them. I am putting them in order of how interesting they will probably be to you: Oceanography first because it has entertaining pictures and diagrams, history second because it has lots of fascinating primary source quotes, and policy last because it has 74 footnotes.

Oceanography: Analysis and models of a micromarsh at Mystic Seaport

History: A study of whether the fact that sea mail was unreliable and slow in the eighteenth century led letter-writers to write differently

English: A defense of Captain MacWhirr, the main character in Typhoon by Joseph Conrad

Policy: An analysis of aquaculture on Deer Isle, Maine (where I live)

By the way, these papers received, not in this order, B, B+, A-, and A (so now you know the standards are not just “everybody gets an A”).


More Quotes

I have been adding quotes to our EphBlog Quote Wall recently. Comments, complaints and suggestions are hereby solicited. I am also considering adding some more quotes, listed with discussion below. If you have thoughts on these, please tell us.

1) “Shaping hearts and minds is actually an important part of what we do here.” — English Professor and former Dean of the College Peter Murphy. The problem with this quote is that I just made it up. Or, rather, I just gave it from memory. I am almost certain that I read something along these lines in the Record a decade ago. The context was some sort of student misbehavior, perhaps with regard to the proto-fraternities that arose in the mid-1990s around various sports teams. Regardless of the context, Murphy’s point — that a goal of the College is to change the students, to turn them, sometimes against their will, into better people — resonates today and throughout our history. Murphy was responding to the, in his opinion misguided, view that what students did outside of class was no business of the College.

2) “It is the object of the College to make men.” — President Mark Hopkins ’24. This gem is from page 45 of Fred Rudolph’s indispensable Mark Hopkins and the Log.

3) “Intellectual honesty is the highest value at Williams.” — English Professor and former Dean of the College Stephen Fix. This quote is also from memory, spoken by Fix during a speech at the Boston Alumni Society meeting in December 2003. The context was a speech about the tutorial system but I can’t recall if Fix related this quote to that topic somehow.

4) “The ideal college is Mark Hopkins on one end of a log and a student on the other.” — President of the United States James Garfield ’56.

5) “We are to regard the mind, not as a piece of iron to be laid upon the anvil and hammered into any shape, nor as a block of marble in which we are to find the statue by removing the rubbish, or as a receptacle into which knowledge may be poured; but as a flame that is to be fed, as an active being that must be strengthened to think and to feel-and to dare, to do, and to suffer.” — President Mark Hopkins ’24. This quote is second only to Garfield’s in terms of its wider fame.

6) The Williams Alumni Society was originally organized for “the promotion of literature and good fellowship among ourselves and the better to advance the reputation and interests of our Alma Mater.” This is, more or less, the purpose of EphBlog.

Several of these quotes have an interesting history behind them, but I’ll leave that for another day.


New Look for WSO?

WSO is experimenting with a new look, including a nice link directly to EphBlog in the lower left. Perhaps if I buy Evan Miller and the other WSO’ers more pizza, they’ll give us even better placement . . .


Nice Guy

What a nice announcement!

Spencer House, Saturday 3 am. You came back to apologize for your friend’s unseemly behavior. I don’t know your name, but I wanted to thank you again for such a thoughtful and unnecessary gesture. You seriously restored my late-night faith in the goodness of mankind :) I hope you had a fun night.

And kudos to Emily Ente ’06 for taking the time to say Thanks. Even the wonderful world of the Ephs could use more Thankyous.



Over at Gay Patriot Dan Blatt ’85 (aka GayPatriotWest) reviews Norah Vincent ’90‘s excellent Self-Made Man. I also ordered and received Norah’s work about a month ago, and cannot recommend it highly enough!


Come Hume with Us

What is the most exciting educational innovation at Williams this spring semester? Easy! Newly tenured professor Joe Cruz is teaching a tutorial on David Hume’s Treatise on Human Nature. What’s different this spring is that two students have volunteered to have their essays posted on the web. We will be linking to them from EphBlog and, perhaps, commenting as well.

Sceptics will claim that no one cares, that no one could possibly be interested in what a couple of undergraduates have to say about Hume. Maybe. These sceptics also doubted that thousands of readers would regularly come to EphBlog, that our virtual Winter Study seminar would attract dozens of participants and that hundres of people would find (portions of) senior theses like Jen Doleac’s ’03 and Lindsey Taylor’s ’05 worth reading. Sceptics are always sceptical.

I think that the sceptics are wrong, that there is a huge demand from alumni and others for greater participation in the intellectual life of the college, that current students would enjoy and appreciate alumni involvement, that these demands will increasingly be met via the classroom and that tutorials form a natural starting point. I predict that, in a few years, we will all be able to listen in on one of Joe’s tutorial sessions and even, someday, to watch as well. You read it here first.

Long time readers will recall that EphBlog tried something similar three (!) years ago. Perhaps this attempt will work out better.


Williams Recording Council

Wouldn’t it be great if Williams had something like this?

The Amherst Recording Council was founded by Nick Doty in the Spring of 2004 to record lectures and events on the Amherst College campus. We do this so that the College might have a record of the various and interesting goings on — and so that we might remember as an intellectual community including students, professors, and alumni, the richness and diversity of opinion, polemic, reflection and creativity that we are so fortunate to possess.

In less grandiose terms, we are passionate about recording things. Various academic departments, student organizations and College offices pay or otherwise convince a wide range of speakers to come to the campus and give lectures on their various specialties. But we don’t just record visiting lecturers, as you can see from a complete list of our recordings on this website. For example, we make a point of recording the fortnightly Coffeehouse hosted at Marsh House which showcases the wide range of talents, humour, music and poetry which characterizes our student body.

Surely there is an audiophile Eph willing to do the same at Williams. If there is an applicant for the class of 2010 who currently does stuff like this at her high school, I hope that the admissions office looks kindly on her application.


Zook ’73 to Amsterdam

Chris Zook ’73, certainly one of the most successful Eph consultants of his generation, is moving abroad.

Bain & Company, the global business consulting firm today announced that the leader of its Global Strategy Practice and growth expert, Chris Zook, will relocate his base of operations to the firm’s Amsterdam office. Zook, ranked by Consulting Magazine as one of the world’s “Top 25 Consultants” in its annual 2005 survey, will make the Dutch capital his pan-European base as he continues to help Bain clients around the globe uncover new sources of profitable growth.

During his 20 years at Bain, Zook’s focus has been helping Bain’s clients solve growth dilemmas in an environment where the average holding period of stocks has declined by 700% since 1960, and repositioning their core businesses to transform operations and processes to maximize profits.

His work across a wide range of industries, led to his best-selling business book, Profit from the Core: Growth Strategy in an Era of Turbulence (HBS Press, 2001) which built on the analysis of thousands of companies to provide a blueprint for finding new sources of growth from inside a core business. His sequel Beyond the Core: Expand your Market without Abandoning your Roots (HBS Press, 2004) outlines how companies can systematically expand beyond their core businesses into related or “adjacent” areas using distinctive, repeatable formulas for success. His findings are being implemented by many successful companies and he is now working on a third book on growth, due out in spring 2007.

More on Zook here. Frank Uible ’57 had some harsh but funny comments on consultants in this thread.

First, Boston Consulting Group would have made sure that its representatives dressed better than any of the representatives of Williams. Secondly, BCG would have insisted on receiving and would have received from Williams a large, non-refundable initiation fee in advance. Thirdly, BCG would have broadly interviewed members of the Williams communuty for the “facts”, summarily inconveniencing all in sight, including Williams’ President and members of its Board of Trustees. Fourthly, BCG would have assembled and regurgitated these “facts” as the applicable facts contained in its recommendation of action to Williams. Fifthly, its recommended action to Williams would have been stated in such general terms that in hindsight no one would be able to criticize BCG, irrespective of the outcome. Sixthly, BCG would have presented a much larger final statement to Williams. Seventhly, Williams, intimidated by arrogance and the process, would have unquestioningly and promptly paid the statement. Eighthly, the recommended action might or might not be taken, in whole or in part, but BCG would have its money and would have positioned itself to be free from blame should anything have gone wrong.

I am sure that this does not apply to Zook. He is at Bain, not BCG!


History of Four Neighborhoods

One of the purposes of EphBlog is to report on and capture bits of Williams history in the making. With any luck, these bits of ephcana will be useful to future historians.

One mystery of the new neighborhood plan is where the idea of four clusters and first years in Mission Park came from. It was not mentioned in any public discussion that I can find (although my fellow social engineers and I discussed housing freshmen in Mission 20 years ago). Fortunately, Dean Roseman was on Straight Talk (WCFM talk radio show hosted by Andrew St. Louis ’09 yesterday, so I called in with a question. See below for the details.

Read more


Photo ID, #35

Here is a picture that I like because it is so complicated. There is a lot going on in this picture, what with the trees, and the lights, and the reflections, and… perhaps that is beside the point. There are enough clues that you can figure out where this is. So, what is this establishment? (There’s a pink building in Williamstown?)



Calling Williams Towner!

The problem with excellent but anonymous commentators like Williams Towner is that there is no way for us to reach them other than via shout out. Consider this such a shout. Hey Williams Towner! We need you to either confirm or deny these comments:

Hmm, whats the real issue that you want the Record to report on? I know there has been lots of noise about the fact that two of the tenure denials were both working mothers. Maybe there is a story here that the Record should write about?

Has there been “lots of noise” or not? This empirical claim came up again in the context my letter to the Record this week. Now, there are problems with this letter that I will get to later — Thanks for bad editing Record editors! — but, for now, I just want to focus on whether or not there is discussion/debate over the working-mother status of the tenure denials. Can Williams Towner or anyone else shed light on this?

Now, most readers of this blog do not have access to private discussions among the faculty. But the rest of us can still get a sense of the plausibility of these claims but considering other facts.

1) Am I correct in assuming that Mladenovic and Bean have children? If not, than Williams Towner is obviously misinformed.

2) Am I correct in assuming that the three newly tenured females (Ali, Johnson and Velazquez) do not have children? If they do, then Williams Towner’s claims would also seem suspect.

But if all the newly tenured females have children and all the denied females do not, I would be surprised if this were not a topic of conversation.

I apologize for belaboring this point, but I faculty friend challenged me on it (after seeing my Record letter) and I want to ensure that I did/do not put too much faith in Williams Towner. This faculty member had not heard any such working-mother-related discussion.


Support the Record

If you are an alum who reads the Record on-line, then you really ought to contribute. I just did and I feel better about myself already.


McGuire ’10 from Delbarton

Delbarton has a serious high school football program, with one graduate heading to Williams next year.

Football season ended in early December, but Delbarton football coach Brian Bowers has been a busy man ever since. The Green Wave roster was loaded with good football players who also excel in the classroom, which can only mean one thing: College recruiters have been making constant contact with Bowers.

Delbarton has always had strong inroads to Ivy and Patriot League schools — both of which emphasize academics as well as football. Those relationships have only been strengthened over the last few months.

Offensive lineman Michael McGuire (6-4, 225) will attend Williams College, where Bowers coached for a season before coming to Delbarton and where former Green Wave coach John Kowalik attended.

“I know that program well and Michael will be a great fit there,” Bowers said.

Kowalik ’83 is now the Headmaster at the Peck School. (You know that Kowalik is a smart Eph because he’s married to his classmate, Carolyn (Coombs) Kowalik.) Despite all my crazy ideas, the Eph Football Mafia is not as well-organized (at least publically) as it ought to be.

Reader reports about the 13 other lucky tips for the football program for the class of 2010, as well as the 52 tips in other sports, are always welcome.



I received this e-mail from a current Williams student. She gave me permission to print it here (anonymously) and was even surprised that I wrote back to her.

You don’t know me as we have never met, but I am a sophomore at Williams and recently discovered After reading all of your comments on the Mark Foster/Maryl Gensheimer case, I have only this to say to you: You should be ashamed of yourself.

I don’t care what you have to say about the facts or the outcome of the case. Your response to the entire situation is truly shameful. I love everything about Williams College and would be hard-pressed to find something negative to say about it. You, Mr. Kane, made me feel ashamed of this school for the first time in my life. I resent the fact that we share this great school in common, because to me you represent everything that Williams is not.

I don’t know who you think you are, or what right you think you have that allows you to so readily judge the moral character of a man whom you do not know. I am also in no position to judge your own character, and won’t presume to be. What I can say with absolute certainty is that I despise the way you have handled yourself in this situation.

I would assume, or at least hope, that the motivation for your frequent blogs is a continuing interest in and love for your alma mater. If that is the case, and you truly care about this institution and its students, then do what is best for us all and find something more useful to write about. It is people like you that make it so difficult for our community to recover from incidences like these. No one has benefited from anything you have said, but many have been hurt.

In all honesty, I expected more from a Williams graduate. The extent of my disappointment you do not even know.

Heartfelt stuff. Strangely enough, I actually take more pride in my writings on this case than 99% of my other posts. If this doesn’t strike you as a balanced, honest and thoughtful account of the issues involved, than you should never bother with my drivel again. It won’t be getting any better, and most days it will be much worse.

Some of my other commentary has, at times, been edgier. See here and here.

I am sure that this young Eph believes that Foster is completely innocent, that he was unjustly accused by a vengeful and/or confused ex-girlfriend. And, she might be right! It is more than possible that Foster is completely innocent, that any of us viewing a videotape of the night in question would conclude that he did nothing wrong.

I do not think that this is likely, but it is certainly possible. I also believe that Gensheimer and her family/friends have a very different perspective on the matter.

So, I can understand why this Eph takes exception to me writing about the case, why she is infuriated with me for bringing this up time and again. I’d wager that she probably knows Foster (who will graduate this spring) and can’t believe that he deserves the appellation “accused rapist” for the rest of his life.

But her fury is not reason enough to end discussion and debate. Indeed, once Foster graduates it will be easier to ponder this case in all its messy reality. Sexual assault is a real problem, even at Williams. If you don’t want to know about it, don’t read EphBlog.


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