Williamstown resident Nick Wright ’57 writes:

I appreciated the material from the blog you sent my way re: the Coffin episode of 1958. How times have changed! I can’t imagine that any undergraduates pulling the same stunt today would have been handled so gently. When I get a chance, I intend to review the Record, NA Transcript and Pittsfield Eagle microfilm on the incident.

Has there been any blog coverage of the PILOT (payments in lieu of taxes) scheme in any colleges in MA? I have been searching the internet, but so far can find that only Harvard and (I think) BU are involved in a regular payment scheme with their respective communities. Yale has such a deal with New Haven, but there the town was sinking fast, and I believe that CT subsidizes the arrangement worked out. Princeton, where I lived for over 20 years, had a deal with its Borough/Town for many years, and recently sweetened it, but I don’t know if Trenton was involved at all. Alum tend to not like these deals, but I think they are increasingly inevitable, especially in small towns like this one where the College is so dominant. Not that the College has not been helpful. They have, especially in the education area — where young faculty recruitment is a major concern, but the Town has to genuflect, etc., and the relationship tends to be less healthy than I tend to think it should be.

The Coffin incident was discussed here. More details, please! Whether or not the students were treated “gently” is a matter of some dispute. It would be great if Nick could add to the (weak) Willipedia page on the topic. Oh, yeah. Older alumni like him (and me) can’t edit it.

Payments to the town are a favorite EphBlog topic. Highlights here, here and here.

Short version: Williamstown is a richer than average town in a richer than average state. The College should do everything possible to be a good neighbor (share facilities, encourage tutoring by students) which does not involve writing a check. How much to spend on the schools of Williamstown should be left to the voters of Williamstown to decide. They, currently, think that the teachers’ union is guilty of ridiculous feather-bedding. Voters are using the blunt tool of budget limits to try (so far unsuccessfully) to reign in spending. The College should stay out of the dispute. The notion that this has any meaningful connection to “young faculty recruitment” is silly since there are thousands of excellent professors who would love to teach at Williams. Also, almost none of the faculty who Williams currently hires have a better option in terms of local school systems for their children. What? You think that the schools are much better in Amherst or Brunswick?

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