HWC (who needs to join EphBlog as an author so that he can make interesting comments on the main page, rather than at the bottom of largely unread threads) throws out this.

Speaking of this new dean…

Is anyone else scratching their heads about how a Dean who lives in Amherst can be effective? It seems to me that being a Dean, especially at a liberal arts college, is pretty much a 24/7 job that needs to be very tightly integrated into the fabric of the school. Doesn’t the fundamental job function require taking the pulse of the community on a continual basis?


1) No. The fundamental function of the Dean, from Morty’s point of view, is to be the bad cop, to make things happen, to tell people No. Morty already has an excellent take on the “pulse of the community.” He doesn’t need someone else to retake the pulse for him.

2) The real time crunch for Professor Merrill is not, I think, living in Amherst. It is having two small children.

The next dean of Williams College lives within spitting distance of Amherst’s football field. (She also has an apartment in Williamstown.) But not even the daunting commute has tempered her enthusiasm for the projects coming to her new desk in Hopkins Hall starting July 1.

Outside of academia, Merrill spends much of her time with her two children, Theo, 10, and Dashiell, 2. She and her family reside next to the Amherst campus, where her partner Martha Umphrey is a professor in the department of law, jurisprudence and social thought. Despite the Amherst-Williams rivalry in their house, and her son’s discomfort with wearing his Williams sweatshirt to school, Merrill’s family tolerates her enthusiasm for the College. “I live in the belly of the beast,” she said. “But I’m totally Williams all the way.”

Readers with small children will recognize that having a 2 and 10 year-old is a huge time commitment — and well worth it, of course! Things that seem trivial pre-child (day care, doctors appointments, sports events, et cetera) suck up more time and energy that you might think possible. Almost every couple I know with at least one partner in a high-speed, demanding job solves this problem by a) having the other partner take primary charge of child issues or b) relying on extended family for support or c) hiring a full-time nanny. [EphBlog’s advice to expectant Ephs is to live in the same city as your mother-in-law.]

My guess is that Morty didn’t give a thought to these issues in the case of Merrill because he does not need her to attend every evening campus musical or cheer at Saturday sporting events. He already does that. Even if Merrill is only physically present on the Williams campus for 30 hours a week, that will be more than enough time to get done what needs to be done. Being the Bad Cop is hard, but not time-consuming.

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