Currently browsing the archives for October 2006

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

Schiff ’82 on Susan B. Anthony

You know, you move out of the Berkshires for one second, and the next thing you know, Feminists for Life up and buy Susan B. Anthony’s birthplace in Adams. What are the odds?

Aside from being somewhat beside the point, the anti-abortion bonafides of Anthony have always been more imagined than real, as Pulitzer Prize-winning Eph Stacy Schiff ’82 pointed out on the New York Times op-ed page last week.

Like all healthy grudges, this one is entirely personal. Every morning the school bus carried me past Anthony’s birthplace in Adams, Mass.; it was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The green house at the bend in the road loomed as an official halfway point, the demarcation line between Captain Crunch and algebra. Nor did it help that Anthony’s portrait, firm-jawed and ferocious, hung in the catalog room of the town library. She may well have stood for emancipation, but from the child’s perspective, hers was the pinched, angular face of repression.

Appropriately, a decently-balanced treatment of the facts can be found on Anthony’s Wikipedia page.


Atmosphere at Williams

A question from College Confidential.

My daughter is very interested in Studio Art and Art History. She will be applying to Williams soon. We have not visited, yet. She was speaking with a friend who visited and she told my daughter that the dorms weren’t just coed, but had men and women in the same rooms!?! I find this difficult to believe. Please clarify this for me and any comments about dorm life in general would be appreciated. We have visited Dartmouth, Wellesley, Amherst and Middlebury and found the attitudes on campus to be very liberal to the point of significant animosity towards anyone who does not have a liberal outlook. This was the worst at Amherst to the point where she won’t be applying there. (Will apply to Mid and Williams). We are fairly conservative, but actually like diverse points of view without any animosity at all with people who think differently. What is the atmosphere at Williams?

Good question. The replies in the CC thread are encouraging.



Rebecca Cover ’00 (see here) has a nice website documenting her academic work on linguistics.

I do fieldwork on Badiaranke, an endangered Atlantic (Niger-Congo) language spoken in southern Senegal, Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau. Speakers of Badiaranke constitute an extreme minority, both ethnically and linguistically, in a region dominated by Fulacounda/Pularfuta and Mandinka/Malinke (Fulacounda and Mandinka in Senegal, Pularfuta and Malinke in Guinea). The ultimate goal of my research is to produce a comprehensive description and extensive documentation of the Badiaranke language.

Interesting stuff.


Murphy ’96 in Rolling Stone

Neal Hannan reports that

Chris Murphy was featured in this week’s Rolling Stone and it
mentioned that he was elected to the Connecticut assembly straight
out of Williams. He gets a photo and a writeup for being in one of
the hottest congressional races this fall. I’m not sure if you’ve
already posted about this race on EphBlog. Just saw it in passing
this morning.

We have mentioned Murphy in the past (e.g., here and here). Anyone interested in trying their hand at political blogging by covering Murphy’s race in detail should drop us a line. Write for EphBlog! Get famous!

UPDATE: Spelling fixed.


Off The Record

Any good?

Pick up your very own copy of “Off the Record”, a Williams satirical newspaper, in dining halls and Goodrich.

-The Editors

Why not put the pdf’s on-line for those of us far away?



Laura Lim Prescott ’92 does the celebrity look-a-like thing and asks, “Who are these people?! I’ve heard of Marcia Cross, but that’s it. And only one Asian? What’s with that? I thought I looked like Lucy Liu.” Laura is much prettier than Lucy Liu! That aside, I think that Laura underestimates the Asian influence in people of Russian/Central Asian descent.


Duct tape

From the Daily Messages:

Defy Gravity! After climbing Chapin Hall on Mountain Day, we will now suspend people from it! This Sunday, for every $1 that you donate to the Hurricane Relief Fund, you get 1′ of duct tape to suspend members of the Williams community from the wall. Stop by Chapin Hall from 12-2 to donate to this great cause – don’t leave our volunteers [hanging?]MORE

I spoke with one of the organizers of this event, who said that they wanted to get Morty to come so that everyone could tape him to the wall — who wouldn’t want to come to that event? — but Morty is unavailable that day. So I started to ponder, what other well-known campus figure could we get to come that everyone would want to donate $1 in order to get to tape him or her to the wall? Neighborhood presidents? Security officers?

Then it struck me: David Kane! Who wouldn’t want to tape everyone’s favorite alumni blogger to Chapin Hall to help out hurricane relief efforts?

Feel free to nominate others.

Note: I posted this a few days ago. Then I thought better of it and took it down and ran it past a committee. The committee thought it was funny, so here it is again.



Problems with the College network?

Ever since school started, the network has been relatively slow. I still remember freshmen year when my roommate and I considered getting Adelphia cable because the network was so unreliable.

I am shocked, shocked!


“There is no lovelier place on the planet…”

And, if The Boston Globe says so, it must be true! The longer version of this caption — “There is no lovelier place on the planet in October than Williamstown, Mass., especially on a football Saturday when the hometown Ephs (in purple) roll over Middlebury, 40-9” — sits underneath a large picture of Weston Field on page D16 of today’s Boston Globe.

The story, entitled, “Purple majesty reigns in Berkshires,” does the “Mayberry moment” thing:

Ephs football is an old-school (as in 1793) throwback, the Saturday game as it was played more than a century ago. The varsity operates on the same quadrangle of turf that it did in 1884. A third of the squad plays two sports. Admission is free; freshmen, old boys, townsfolk, and stray dogs are invited to wander in for a glimpse….

Yesterday afternoon, the sky was high and blue, the surrounding hills were turning crimson and orange and yellow, and everybody in town, it seemed, had dropped in to check on the Ephs….

The history and the rituals are a huge part of the attraction. If the Ephs beat Wesleyan in next month’s homecoming game, the squad will make The Walk up Spring Street to St. Pierre’s barber shop for celebratory sodas and creative haircuts for the freshmen. “It’s pretty much the same thing again and again every year,” says Kenney.

For those who didn’t make yesterday’s game and want to relive the sights and sounds of a fall Saturday in Williamtown, there’s also a multimedia slideshow. I could certainly smell the sausages on the grill. Enjoy!



In “The dog that is not barking in financial markets,” Dan Drezner ’90 argues that the lack of financial market turmoil after the collapse of hedge fund Amaranth is reassuring. Perhaps. Yet dogs never bark until they do. Beware the black swan.


Which School?

Daniel Klein ’06 has a philanthropy question.

But there is a form of charity available to me. I’m running in the Niketown 5k at Franklin Park on Sunday. … All of the entry fee (a whoppin’ $15) will be donated to a Greater Boston area school of my choice. Problem is that I don’t know my Greater Boston area schools. So, readers, to whom should I commit my entry fee? And more importantly, why?

Good question. My wife is an alum of Newton South and my children go to BB&N. Good schools both but neither in desperate need of funds. Where should Daniel’s money go?


Queer Bash

Queer Bash is tonight.


Project RunGay
The Objective: Retro-Fashion Show

Here’s your chance to test the limits of your style (and sexuality!). Come in your favourite retro outfits, and party the night away on our very own catwalk!

Goodrich Hall. 10pm – 2am

Sponsored by the Queer Student Union.

Want to know what the party is like? Go and find out. And post a video about it. There was an interesting discussion last year at WSO.

But on another note, from a heterosexual student’s perspective, the way Queer Bash is advertized through word of mouth, I wouldn’t have known at all that it is about queers and lesbians. It has devolved into a night (similar to Halloween parties) where you just wear the skankiest clothes you can, have an excuse to get extra drunk, and then be a hedonist in general(straight or gay). Hey…I’ve got nothing against that…fine by me. But like you’ve noted, it’s not at all a forum for “education” about queer life or a safe place for queers to be queer. It may be time for the QSU to really think about whether queer bash accomplishes or has at all accomplished what it is supposed to do.

Here’s another discussion.

I would like to add to the list however of something that personally appalled me. When the drag queen was brought out, she almost immediately pulled a guy from the crowd and threw him on a bed set up on stage. She kept pushing him down on the bed as he kept trying to sit up and then straddled his face and humped his face for at least a full minute as the drag queen went on about … [edited for family reading] … the drag queen mentioned something about having showing this guy his “secret.” Suffice it to say, the guy pulled up on stage didn’t seem pleased. I, and those in the audience around me, were shocked. Someone said that this guy was a freshman. Irrespective of my, or anyone else for that reason, sexual politics, this is inexcusable and reprehensible. While noone is to blame besides the drag queen, this type of action reflects poorly on the QSU and makes a mockery of your aims.

Read the whole thread.

On a related note, there were no e-mail controversies this year. In fact, the WSO e-mail list seems much less used this year. Any reason?

For the record, I still wish that the QBE (Queer Bash E-mail) controversy had continued. Williams needs a thorough debate about freedom of speech. Why didn’t Pritchard give this speech?

“I stand by the content of my original e-mail. Having been raised in a Christian home, I believe that there is a heaven and a hell and that certain people, because of the decisions that they make, are headed for the latter. Prior this controversy, I understood, because of my cultural background, the terms “faggot” and “queer” to be largely synonymous, both in terms of meaning and acceptability. It is since come to my attention that, for some people, the latter is much preferred to the former. If the Dean of the College provides me with a list of terms that are inappropriate for use on campus, either via e-mail or speech, I would be happy to adhere to it. It was not and is not my intent to harass any individual.”

“Williams make a strong claim to encouraging a diversity of viewpoints on its campus. This is an easy claim to make when all the viewpoints agree with your own. It is a much tougher to fulfill when the viewpoints expressed are ones that you find abhorrent. How Williams proceeds with a disciplinary action against me will tell us all a great deal about seriousness with which Williams undertakes its educational mission.”

By the way, were Pritchard or Lucien ever punished? I believe that Pritchard had to take time off for other reasons. No worries though! They are both helping Williams on the football field.

On second thought, this is weird. Both Pritchard and Lucien were listed in the roster early in the year, but now Pritchard is gone, despite being a starter on the team. What is up with that?

Perhaps the Record could write an update on this story, even interviewing Winstanley (the author of the original all-campus e-mail). It would be good for the historical record to know if Pritchard/Lucien were punished and, if not, why not.

More background here and here.



Brad Delong believes that “a healthy college has a well-diversified intellectual portfolio” including right-wingers. He mentions Dan Drezner ’90.

In Brad’s eyes, Williams is not a healthy college.


Baby Time

Fellow EphBlogger Kim Daboo ’88 is on to baby #2. Congratulations all around.=!


Teach Me

The 1960s come back to life?

An Iraq War Teach-in, sponsored by College Democrats and Historians against the War will be held Wednesday, Oct. 18, at 4 p.m. in Griffin Hall, room 3.

Historians against the War “oppose the expansion of U.S. Empire and the doctrine of pre-emptive war which have led to the occupation of Iraq.”

The event is free, and the public is invited to share their thoughts on the situation in Iraq and how citizens can make a difference. For more information, e-mail Shanti Singham.

I have asked Professor Singham if pro-war folks (or even not-excessively anti-war folks like James McAllister) are invited. What do you think she will say?


Photo ID, #54

Everyone loves architectural details. This particular detail is near an oft-photographed thing but is, I think, less photographed, and particularly less noticed even when it does end up in a photograph.


Where is it? What is it? And what is a few feet below it?



Leading blogger Instapundit does not have nice things to say about Donald Gregg ’51.

[D]iplomats tend to overvalue dialogue. I listend to former (Bush I) Ambassador Gregg’s Diane Sawyer interview on XM yesterday, and it made me very grateful that he no longer has a hand in formulating U.S. policy. Some excerpts from that interview can be found here.

And Gregg is a Republican!



Diana Davis writes on heroism.

Today math colloquium went brilliantly for the first 15 minutes. Around the 16th or 17th minute, a drilling noise began. It wasn’t that it drowned out the speaker; to the contrary, I could hear everything perfectly. The problem was that it was loud enough to be a significant noise in the room, and thereby was very distracting. I had heard the practice talk, and therefore knew that the part of the talk occurring now was key, as it linked the first and second halves together, and I was not able to focus whatsoever on what the speaker was saying, even though I knew the material, so I knew it must be even worse for the others.

I tolerated a few minutes of the drilling noise, glancing around, expecting a professor to do something about it. After it was clear that no one was going to do something, I decided that I had to do something. I weighed the relative interruptiveness of the noise versus my getting up and leaving the room, and decided that the noise was going on long enough that I needed to make it stop. So I got up, walked out the exterior door, put my glasses case in the door so that it wouldn’t lock, and sprinted away in search of the source of the noise.

Read the whole thing. Too many Williams students think that making the world a better place means something like working on global warning. Instead, they (and the world) would be better served if they just tried to help out those around them. Ask yourself: What Would Diana Do?


A Randomly Selected Article

Since neither WSO nor Williams cares that much about alumni/student interaction, I am unable to participate in this thread about a recent study in the Lancet on Iraqi mortality rates. If I could participate, I would point out that the Wikipedia article is a good place to start and includes a link to the actual report. I also spend absurd amounts of time on this topic at places like this and this.

But the interesting Eph-specific comment is from Ken Flax:

we read the 2004 study (lancet) for psyc stats as just an exercise in statistics….take-home point, the results are very robust and the study was peer-reviewed by other statisticians that belived it was sound. the guy from johns hopkins (les roberts?) is well-known for calculating war-time civillian deaths in places like the congo, etc.

1) Count me among the statisticians with serious doubts about both Lancet studies.

2) Interesting how this article was selected for an introductory stats in psychology. Would that be PSYC 201? Who was the professor?

3) Say what you will about the article, but it has nothing to do with psychology? It is the most famous Bush-bashing statistics article published in the last few years. Perhaps it was selected randomly! Did the professor offer any critiques of the article? Just asking!

4) For the record, I assigned/cajoled one of my summer interns into using the article/data for his STAT 201 project, so using the article is not, ipso facto, evidence of anti-Republican bias. If I can get his permission, I’ll post it here.

UPDATE: For those interested, here is an R package by Kyle Campbell ’08 created for STAT 201 with some of the underlying data and some nice graphics.


Zuckerman ’93 Interview

Interesting interview with Ethan Zuckerman ’93.

Why do you keep a blog? What are some of your daily reads?

I keep a blog because it makes me a better writer. Thinking about the different projects I work on and the demands on my time a few months ago, I realized that I had absolutely no regrets about the time I’d spent on writing, and more than a few regrets about meetings attended, trips taken and other ways I was spending my time. By writing almost every day – and getting feedback on almost every post – I find that it’s getting easier to write pieces I feel good about.

I also keep the blog because I’m the sort of person who’d otherwise shout at the TV. This is more productive. When I write about Congo or Somalia, there’s a decent chance that my post will end up being in the top 10 of search results on Google. That gives me a chance to share my opinions – well informed or otherwise – with folks searching for information on those topics. Perhaps it would be more productive to put the time into endless letters to the editor, but this seems to have a higher success rate.

Agreed. Although whether or not writing over 100,000 (?) words on EphBlog has turned me into a better writer is a matter of dispute. Read the whole interview.


Garfield’s Dorm

The Willipedia folks received this question:

What was the name of the dorm in which James Garfield (20th US President) lived during his tenure at Williams?

Your help is greatly appreciated.

J. Thomas Monk
PO Box 915842
Longwood, FL 32791-5842

Any ideas? Most of the dorms in existence today were not present in 1856. But didn’t many students start out by living in West? Weren’t at least some of the fraternity buildings in operation?

Wikipedia reports that Garfield was only at Williams for two years (1854 to 1856) as was common in that era. He was a member of Delta Upsilon. (There is a great senior thesis to be written about the history of DU at Williams.) At some point, I claimed that the building now known as Garfield was previously owned by the Delta Upsilon fraternity. Is that building old enough to have been used by President Garfield?

Comments welcome.


Amherst Grad Wins Nobel Prize in Economics

Edmund Phelps, Amherst ’55, just won the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Given the quality of Williams’ Economics department, I started wondering if a Williams graduate had won the same prize, and found that Robert Engle ’64 did, back in 2003. However, my Economics department theory was wrong — he was a Physics major. In the press release issued by NYU, it notes that his idea of a grand time as a teenager was to bike over to the Swarthmore College Library during the summer and read physics books.

Any other Williams College-educated Nobel Prize winners that people know of? Wikipedia doesn’t list any, although it does list Robert Engle as a winner.



A “neo-Marxist straw man” makes an appearence in this fun WSO thread on North Korean nukes. Perhaps I was just taught by old fashioned Marxists like Professor Kurt Tauber, but shouldn’t this be “neo-Marxist straw person?” Just asking!

See here for a related article by Mike Needham ’04.



Nick Wood ’04 confronts the third year of graduate school.

It was so hot in that room–the temperature topped out at 81 degrees, I think–and I don’t know what anyone is doing about it. How can it be 81 degrees in a classroom? How can it be 84 degrees in a computer lab?? It was not that hot outside, and there was no need for the heat to be on. But it was that hot. And I felt so bad for him. He was rushing as it was to get to the class on time, and he entered the room sweating, but as the time passed he was sweating more and more. It was showing in his stomach fold lines, and it was showing underneath his tie. Soon, it appeared in larger spots on his chest, and then it was on his face. Before long, his whole shirt was wet, and his hair was saturated. Slicking it back with his hand, the hair appeared as if he had just emerged from a shower. Poor guy. But it was just so hot, and we were hot too, but none of us was sweating as much as he, and he was the one that we all could see. Standing there in front of us, almost as if a caricature of a nervous professor, he dripped and grew wetter. Somehow, he persevered, and he even made no mention of it, acting as if he were not sweating.

That is the secret.


NY Magazine Math

In startlingly annoying equation form:

Sensational incident + prosecutor up for electionreportorial standards x ( crusading ex-Williams professor + contrarian former Spy honcho ) = Major, Major Dap in New York Magazine article.

Prof. Johnson’s money ending:

People assume he’s a right-winger. “I’m a registered Democrat who has never voted for a Republican in my life.” Not that he doesn’t wildly speculate–he is a blogger … For the past few years, I’ve tended to roll my eyes when people default to rants about the blindered oafishness or various biases of “the mainstream media” in general and the Times in particular. At the same time, I’ve nodded when people gush about the blogosphere as a valuable check on and supplement to the MSM–but I’ve never entirely bought it. Having waded deep into this Duke mess the last weeks, baffled by the Times’ pose of objectivity and indispensably guided by Johnson’s blog, I’m becoming a believer.

Hoo-hah. Not half bad.



Although I hate to interrupt the excellent conversation that Frank and HWC are having, I must dispute this assertion by HWC.

In simplified terms, these colleges are replacing the least engaged students from the traditional white, wealthy pool with the most engaged students from the pool of Asian American, Latino, African American and international students. The notion that this group of students, taken as a whole, reduces the academic quality or the level of classroom discourse is wide of the mark.

Some of this is true, but most of it is not, or at least it is highly misleading to anyone who can’t read the code words.

1) There is no evidence that Williams is replacing more “engaged” students with less “engaged” ones. None. Williams wants to have about 10% of the class be African-American and it finds, more or less, the most academically gifted and ambitious 50 African-Americans possible. Williams judges these applicants in the same way it judges all applicants, mostly by Academic Rank, a combination of scores and grades (and, maybe, a bit (5%?) of engagement thrown in).

2) Williams, at best, does not discriminate between white and Asian applicants. (There is some feeling that it discriminates against Asian applicants, but I do not think it is true.) Williams is not “replacing” white students with Asian students. Williams does not discriminate between whites and Asians anymore than it discriminates between Irish and Italians. Those categories are irrelevant for admissions. The reason that 10% of the students at Williams are Asian (as a against a national pool of, what, 2%?) is that Asian Americans do much better in terms of test scores and grades than non-Asian Americans.

3) The same is even more true of International students. As first reported by EphBlog, Williams has a quota for International students. Williams does not need to take active measures of any kind to “replace” white students by international students. It just needs to fairly apply the same admissions standards that it has used successfully for years.

4) It is a shame to see someone like HWC mislead our readers. Or perhaps we just disagree on the meaning of “academic quality.” Does HWC believe that, on average, the academic quality of the students at Williams is higher than that of the students at Bates or Bowdoin or wherever? Surely, he must say “Yes” to this, or the phrase “academic quality” has no meaning. But the URM students at Williams (not the Asian-American students nor the International students) have, on average, academic rankings more similar to students at Bates than to their peers at Williams. (The reason for this is that almost every URM with Williams-caliber credentials is accepted by (and attends) Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford.)


Ah, It’s That Time of Year Again — Fall Leaves and College Tours

There’s an article in The New York Times that talks about the rite of passage of taking college tours. Given that they’re together in the car for hours, parents and children actually have to talk.

I enjoyed the tidbits: the investment banker who liked the fact that his daughter could drive so he could thumb on his Blackberry and take conference calls; the prospective student who announced after a several hour drive to Colgate, “I am not going to a school on a hill,” and got back into the car; and the daughter who crossed Swarthmore off her list when she spotted a student wearing Birkenstocks.

When I was applying to colleges thirty-five years ago, I crossed Princeton off my list after an encounter with a rude tour guide; and Middlebury was out after a receptionist in the Admissions Office pointedly noted that, “Middlebury is highly selective; are you sure you want a catalog?” Any other war stories?


Beautiful Game

Discussions like this were unknown at Williams 20 years ago.


Coming Together

Did this deal come together in Mayo Shattuck’s ’76 skybox?

Several former executives from Alex. Brown & Sons, a firm that figured prominently in Baltimore’s history but whose ranks were decimated after being acquired several years ago, announced a comeback of sorts yesterday. Signal Hill Capital Group, a boutique Baltimore investment bank founded by former Alex. Brown workers, will expand its business while adding market research, trading and sales

The new group at Signal Hill came together with the help of Mayo A. Shattuck III, who helped engineer Alex. Brown’s sale to Bankers Trust Corp. in 1997, before it was sold again to Deutsche Bank. Shattuck is now CEO of Constellation Energy Group Inc.

Readers interested in investment banking as a career or industry should start with The Accidental Investment Banker.


Filthy Toes

Aidan, one of the best prose stylists to come out of Williams in the last few years, writes about 9/11.

That’s what I took away, from my 15 minutes in high school at the base of those skyscrapers, impossibly tall, impossibly graceful, the (seemingly) casual expression of commercial and financial dominance, the markers, at the prow of Manhattan of the greatest city in the greatest civilization on Earth. What grace, what elegance, what sheer engineering audacity–110 stories! I felt pride. Pride is what I feel whenever I fly, (well, now, pride maybe mixed with a little trepidation) at the mix of physics and engineering, the (now) casual achievement of launching hundreds of tons of passengers and luggage and carryons and personal items into the sky–the fucking sky–and within hours, halfway across the globe.

I never considered that anyone thought anything else.

I never thought that barbarians felt rage. Hatred. Disgust. How dare planes fly? How dare air travel be inexpensive and over-arching? How dare skyscrapers house thousands productively working, a thousand feet above a bustling city? How dare they can, when we cannot?

I’m sure the Visigoths felt the same way when their filthy toes touched the smooth marbles of the Forum. There’s something unseemly, the distance between civilization and barbarism, and there’s only one barbarian response: to smash and destroy.

Read the whole thing.


« Newer PostsOlder Posts »