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Springtime for Hitler

What is it about Hitler and April in Williamstown? Consider this article from April 27th in the New York Times.

Adolf Hitler, in brown-shirted effigy, disappeared suddenly from the Williams College campus this evening as a group of pro-fascist conservatives made off with an image of Der Fuehrer which had been prepared for destruction at the stake.

In the first riot at Williams in several years, over 500 mauling undergraduates broke up efforts to protest the failure of the German Government to act on an offer to buy all the Vienna Library books which have been condemned.

April 27th, 1938, that is.

The article’s title is “Hitler Effigy Saved From Williams Fire; Then Student Battle Rages Over Burning of Swastika.” Those were the days, eh? The last time there were “500 mauling undergraduates” at Williams was when? The Vanilla Ice concert?

Every Eph’s Hitler reading list should include Adolph Hitler: The Definitive Biography by Pulitzer Prize-winner John Toland ’36 and The Psychopathic God: Adolf Hitler by Professor Robert G. L. Waite. If Professor Waite (my teacher in HIST 301) were still alive, he would have much to say about Mary Jane Hitler. Want to understand what the world was like 7 decades ago? Start with the Anschluss. Are there any historian readers who can educate us about the Vienna Library, circa April 1938?

The article continues:

Piles of pine coughs, boxes, crates and rubber tires blazed up in the midst of the Sophomore Quadrangle as floodlights played from dormitory windows. Fire houses were pulled out to flood the gathering and help preserve a Nazi swastika which had been brought on to supplant the Hitler image.

Are you an Eph undergraduate who cares about the past? Go look up the stories in the Record from the spring of 1938 and tell us what you find.

The student mob swayed up and down the field for half an hour in a fight over the swastika. Then its rescuer made off down the hill, while on a crowded balcony a moustached, undergraduate simulated Hitler in a brief appeal amid cheers and jeers.

And who was that nameless undergraduate, engaged in a stunt that — with the benefit of knowing what was then to come — seems much worse than that of Julia? What life did he go on to lead, which woman did he marry, what children did he raise? Should he have been marked, for the rest of his life, by one foolish moment of undergraduate stupidity? Was he not an Eph, like you, like me, like Julia?

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Thanks to Fark and the Hitler posters…

FarkViewsApr07.gif This is a graph of the visitors and page views per day for the past month. That big spike you see in visits to EphBlog is due to the greenlit link on Fark a few days ago. The smaller spike is when Julia identified herself on EphBlog and everyone went to see.

I like this kind of data. You can find more at the site meter. Note that EphBlog usually has a very obvious weekly pattern — more people on weekdays, less on the weekends — but this is not so at all in the monthly view above.

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Compare the first image to this one that I captured two years ago because I thought the weekly pattern was so interesting. (Also note that EphBlog now gets about three times as many visitors per day as compared to two years ago.)

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The Postress

Via Greylock News, a (not very active) blog discussion about Mary Jane Hitler. Comments:

1) This is the second independent use (first here) of the phrase “Mary Jane Hitler” to describe the controversy. That makes it official! False modesty aside, all scandals need names. A name for this scandal needs to include the word Hitler. Mary Jane is a useful double entendre since it captures the fact that marijuana references were involved and that the main protagonist, Julia, is female. The absurdity of the combination of Mary Jane and Hitler also captures the lack of threat here. Julia may be confused and clueless but she is obviously a basically good person. The phrase (due to HWC?) “Bong Hits 4 Hitler” is not a bad formulation, but now that two other media sources are using the Mary Jane Hitler terminology, it is time to settle on this.

2) The site, Watching the Watchers, has a copy of one of the posters but lists no source (and no mention of EphBlog either). Now, not everyone knows about EphBlog (shocking but true) but odds are he got the picture from us. Credit where credit is due, please.

3) The author, Lee Russ, refers to Julia as The Postress. I am not sure why he doesn’t just use her name, now that it is the Record. In any event, following the standards outlined in our FAQ, we have removed all references to Julia’s last name in our posts. Soon, we hope to do the same in our comments. (Future comments which mention Julia’s last name will be either edited or deleted.) We do this at Julia’s request.

Now, as you might imagine, this is a tough call. On the one hand, EphBlog is not just a news source. We are a community. We seek to be friendly and accommodating. We do not want to cause anyone unnecessary grief. On the other hand, this is the biggest story at Williams in the last several years. We need to cover it and discuss it. Although we do delete posts (most recent one concerned an Eph charged with child pornography), we would be hard-pressed to delete the posts and associated discussion surrounding this topic.

Fortunately, in the end, it was easy to both maintain our news coverage and discussion while not highlighting Julia’s last name in our coverage. Reader comments on this decision are welcome.

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Public Scandal

Former Williams professor KC Johnson writes:

Tomorrow afternoon Group of 88 stalwart Grant Farred will give a talk on the lacrosse case entitled, “Public Secrets, Public Scandals: The Event of Duke Lacrosse.” The talk is scheduled for 4.30pm, at Griffin Hall, Room 3, Williams College.

One “public scandal” of this case, of course, was Farred’s behavior–the Literature professor published a pre-election op-ed accusing hundreds of Duke students of “secret racism” for the offense of . . . registering to vote in Durham.

Given that Farred’s talk seeks to expose “Public Secrets,” it would seem that he would be eager for as much publicity as possible. Yet it is my understanding that he rejected a request for his talk to be taped.

I would invite anyone who attends the talk to take notes, which I will post.

Indeed. Perhaps our readers can leave their notes in the comments to this post. We are all curious. Previous coverage of Farred here. The College likes to podcast interesting faculty lectures. Why not podcast this one? Would Professor Farred be reasonable to turn down a request from the College to do so?

There are a lot of great questions for an enterprising Record reporter. Just what is Farred doing at Williams anyway? He is only here for the spring semester. How much is Williams paying him? Did his class, “Writing Africa from Beyond: The Novel of the Diaspora,” go well?

Even better would be to quiz Professor Joy James, chair of the Africana Studies department. What does she think of the Duke Lacrosse Non-Rape, about Farred’s role a member of the Gang of 88? Does she think that people like Farred belong on the faculty at Williams? Does she plan to invite him again?

And, just a little trip down memory lane, I liked these two comments on a post pointing out what was obvious from the start: there was no rape.

In regards to the alleged rape case, you seem very sure about something that isn’t clear at all. This is a perfect reason why the KaneBlog will never speak for me.

Good to know! Welcome to the reality-based community.

Tell that to Prof. Joy James.

She would run circles around you.

Do tell. It was on my to-do list to interview Professor James and other members of the Africana Studies department about this case last year. Alas, I never did. But it’s never too late. The Record ought to give them a call.

And what lesson should Williams men (of all races) learn from this sad case? Never hire strippers. Never go to a strip club.

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Dumb Thing To Do

A good overview of the Cole Field bombing from iBerkshires: “A Really Dumb Thing To Do

If charged and convicted on the felony charge, the students could face a maximum state prison term of ten years.

Police declined to disclose the type of bomb and the materials used to create it but McGowan did say that an inadvertent mingling of the substances would not have generated in an explosion.

“These materials – even if they combined during transportation – did not pose a threat,” he said during an early afternoon interview at the town police station. The device required assembly before an explosion could result, he said. The device police found was assembled.

A search warrant was issued and executed for a student room at the Pratt resident hall as part of the investigation, McGowan said.

It’s probably been an interesting three weeks for the JAs of these misguided (but almost certainly harmless) first years. That’s why they pay JAs the big bucks. Just like bloggers!

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Meet Robert Shvern, Creepy Boyfriend

Who is “Rob S.”, Julia’s creepy boyfriend? Inquiring EphBlog readers want to know!

Our treasure hunt begins with an anonymous tip from a loyal reader and the site (anonhost.org) that Rob S. used to communicate with the Williams community. (Note that the site no longer features the posters or Rob’s commentary. Here is a cache. Did anyone save a more recent version, especially one with the threats against Noah? Check your Firefox buffers!)

1) Here is the domain information associated with anonhost.org. Note that the registrant’s e-mail address is anonhost@throne.net.

2) Throne Networks controls throne.net and is a defunct(?) company according to the Virginia Department of Corporations. However, their 2000 annual report is available online. Search here to discover this (pdf). Robert Shvern is listed as the President of Throne Networks. Ross Mueller is the Vice President. Ryan Cruse is the Director of Technology.

3) A Google search shows that “Robert Shvern” was arrested for (but not convicted of) computer crimes at George Mason University. Consider this story from 1998:

An alumnus and a current student who say they were falsely accused of
hacking into the computer system at George Mason University have filed a $4.5 million lawsuit against the school for defamation of character and false imprisonment.

An attorney for Robert Shvern, 24, of Fairfax County, and Ryan Whelan, 25, of Centreville, said the two men suffered great embarrassment and damage to their reputations and lost jobs and money as a result of charges filed against them last summer, which were later dropped.

If Robert Shvern were 24 in 1998, then he would be 33 now, the same age as our Rob S. And living in Virginia. These pieces seem to be aligning nicely, don’t they? But, to really connect “Rob S.” to Robert Shvern, it would be nice to find a link to Ryan Whelan, who would be about 34 now.

4) Conveniently enough, there is a Ryan Whelan listed on Friendster, a 34 year-old living in Virginia. And he is “friends” with Rob S. (Oh, wait. How clever! Rob S. changed his name to “Roberto” and deleted all the nasty stuff. No worries. Here is an original version.) What a coincidence! Also, two of his “friends” (Ryan Cruse and Tyler) are also friends with Rob S. Glad that they have stuck together all these years.

Not enough evidence? Recall that the Vice President of Throne Networks was Ross Mueller. Shockingly enough, there is a Ross Mueller on Friendster. Who’d a thunk it? Ross’s friends include Ryan Cruse and Peter Beckman, both friends of Rob S. It’s a small Friendster world after all. Now, it is possible that the Ryan Cruse, Ross Mueller and Ryan Whelan listed above are not the same men that Robert Shvern has known for years. Rob S. just happens to have friends with the same names. Yeah, riiiiiiight.

5) So, we can conclude (corrections welcome!) that Julia’s creepy Hitler-poster-designing boyfriend is 33 year-old Robert Shvern of Virginia, proud graduate of George Mason University, and once (and current?) President of Throne Networks.

But the somewhat scary part is that Throne Networks appears to be the host of a number of very nasty websites. Check out domain information on nazi.org, fuckgod.com and amerika.org. I do not know if Robert Shvern is still associated with Throne Networks. Perhaps the Record will interview him! If I lived in the same dorm as Julia, then I might have some concerns about Robert Shvern coming to visit.

UPDATE: This post originally included a picture of Shvern retrieved from his now-closed Friendster page. Schvern has noted that this image is his property and that we have no right to use it without his permission. He is correct. We mistakenly assumed, since the image was on a public Friendster page, that it was in the public domain. EphBlog regrets the error.

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Uncomfortable Learning

Professor Sam Crane writes :

I talked yesterday, and had a pleasant dinner with, a group of alumni from my college. They were students of a famed teacher, Robert L. Gaudino. He was an immensely dedicated teacher, committed to the idea of “uncomfortable learning,” challenging fundamental assumptions and, even, identities. I was impressed by the deep effect this teacher had on his students, evident still forty years later.

Gaudino was one of the most important professors at Williams in the last 50 years. (I just created his Wikipedia page. Who will add to it?) We all agree on the importance of “uncomfortable learning,” of being confronted by strange and disquieting views, of learning that not everyone thinks as we think and acts as we act. Don’t we?

Alas, we don’t. Some are too quick to sacrifice a diversity of viewpoints in the name of “promoting acceptance.”

In reaction to the racial slur that was directed at a student in May 2005, President Schapiro asserted that “hateful behavior lies well outside the boundaries of this community’s standards.” Last Friday, a misguided student ignored that message and crossed those boundaries. An incendiary poster campaign promoted a pro-Hitler message and mocked the remembrance of genocide. Cognizant of recent events at Virginia Tech, some Williams students were terrified by the message and afraid to participate in ordinary activities.

The behavior that promoted this kind of fear among community members was unacceptable. Williams must be a safe and accepting community. All students have the right to walk around campus and participate in activities without feeling threatened. No student has the right to make a member of the Williams community uncomfortable. As your elected officers, we condemn the posters and ensure the community that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.

No, no, no. A thousand times No. Not only does Julia have the right to make the students around her “uncomfortable,” she has an obligation to do so. We all do, particularly members of the Williams faculty and those alumni with a devoted interest in our beloved alma mater. If you are “comfortable” at Williams all year long, then the College is doing something wrong. A comfortable liberal arts education is an oxymoron.

Now, of course, we don’t want students to feel “terrified” (as some no doubt were by Julia’s posters); we need to ensure that everyone can participate in the Williams conversation; we need ground rules for maximizing effectiveness and inclusion. Yet Julia’s decision to put up posters featuring Hitler as a satire of, and comment on, the WCJA’s Holocaust Remembrance Day campaign is well within the framework of a Williams education, of “uncomfortable learning.” Say what you will about Julia, but this Record article makes clear that she is intelligent, thoughtful and well-spoken. There is no doubt that she belongs at Williams, that she is a part of the community, that her speech has educated others. She might want to cultivate some more empathy for those around her, especially those students who “felt threatened” by the posters. (Much the same was said, correctly, of me 20 years ago. Surely, loyal EphBlog readers know that I was the Julia of my day at Williams.) But empathy will come with time, as it comes to all of us.

Surely at least some members of the faculty would agree with this sentiment, would recognize that posters like Julia’s, ideas which we find offensive, are an integral part of our education. Or are there no Robert Gaudino’s left at Williams? Consider this description of an event at Williams 25 years ago, before Julia had even been born.

Steve Lewis [’60, former Economics professor] began by discussing three events that had occurred at Williams which were “created” by Gaudino. In essence, Gaudino responded to certain situations and transformed them into educational “events.” Steve introduced the events by referencing one of Gaudino’s questions: “Isn’t education really one big upset stomach?”

Indeed it is. Read the whole thing. If Bob Gaudino were at Williams today, he would be turning this into an “event,” defending in the strongest possible terms Julia’s active participation in the intellectual life of the College, asking all of us to consider (and appreciate) the stomach ache that these posters have created.

Where have you gone, Professor Gaudino?

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Eph 88

A reader notes:

Fri, Apr 27, 2007
Students Faculty Staff
PUBLIC SECRETS, PUBLIC SCANDALS: THE EVENT OF DUKE LACROSSE Monday, April 30 – 4:30 PM – Griffin 3. A lecture by GRANT FARRED, Williams College Sterling Brown Visiting Professor of Africana Studies and Associate Professor of the Program in Literature at Duke University. from Linda A Saharczewski, Africana Studies Program

Farred is one of Duke’s Group of 88. Here is a piece that KC Johnson wrote about him a few months ago. Professor Johnson also mentioned a talk that another Group of 88 member, Mark Anthony Neal, gave at Williams last fall. What is it with Williams inviting all these Group of 88 members?

I would expect that Professor Joy James controls the funding for these talks. Someone should ask her. Perhaps the College could create a podcast of the speech. More on Farred here and here. Please tell us how the talk goes.

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MJ Hitler on the Radio

We are getting a lot of hits from Scottie on the Air (barely safe for work), the website of a local radio shock-jock. Compliment or insult? [Note that he uses the “Mary Jane Hitler” phrasing (at the bottom of the page). — ed. I know my audience . . .]

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Photo ID, #80

Sheafe Satterthwaite once described this space as the college’s “advertisement” to those driving by on Route 2, as an example of the studying that goes on at Williams. (Too bad no one is studying there in this picture.)

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No Juden

Rob. S from Reston, Virginia is Julia’s 33 year-old creepy boyfriend. Think that “creepy” is not a fair description?

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Think again. Here is his Friendster page.

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Worse part? How about this:

Who I Want to Meet:

i like smart, cute, pale, sweet girls

please no djs, ravers, juden

Or maybe this cartoon?

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Thanks to an anonymous tipster. More details welcome. I agree with HWC that Rob’s threats against Noah give Williams a perfect excuse to ban him from campus. He should be prevented from ever setting foot on Williams property again. Julia should be informed of his status and told that inviting him on campus, much less into her dorm, would lead to her own expulsion as well.

Julia can say anything she wants. I, and others, will defend her, no matter how hateful her opinions might be. (And I have yet to offer my own views on the posters.) But she has no right to invite a Nazi [Or, at least someone who doesn’t like “juden.” — ed. Whatever.] who has threaten a Williams student with violence on to campus. Ban him.

UPDATE: This post originally included two pictures of Rob and a cartoon with strange Swastika-like symbol, all retrieved from his now-closed Friendster page. Rob has noted that these images are his property and that we have no right to use them without his permission. He is correct. We mistakenly assumed, since the images were on a public Friendster page, that they were in the public domain. EphBlog regrets the error.

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Punishment Today

Julia’s creepy 33 year-old boyfriend Rob is not pleased with Noah’s misidentification of him as Nazi Robert Lindstrom.

Noah has made the accusation that I am a nazi. Noah doesn’t know my family’s history or understand why that is insulting, but should be warned that those are fighting words. While it is easy to post thoughtless insults on blogs so you can “win” irrelevant arguments and show how clever you are with ad hominems, if you say something like that to me in person next time I’m on campus, it is likely that I’ll respond to such libelous insults with violence.

Good to know!

Calling someone a Nazi = “fighting words.” Putting a poster of Hitler on someone’s door = “nothing event”. Let me ponder those equations for a few moments . . .

But the real news is that, according to EphBlog surveillance cameras placed all around Hopkins Hall, Julia is due to receive her “punishment” from Dean Roseman today. Confirmations of this poorly sourced rumor are welcome.

My hope is that Dean Roseman is smart enough to realize that the appropriate punishment for Julia is nothing. (Long time readers will also wonder why Roseman is so eager to punish Julia while doing nothing to stop students from participating in the St. Anthony Hall fraternity.) As discussed in the QBE controversy, the College has few ground for punishing such students (which is a good thing). The student handbook is clear.

Williams College does not discriminate on grounds unrelated to its educational objectives; it is committed to being a community in which all ranges of opinion and belief can be expressed and debated, and within which all patterns of behavior permitted by the public law and College regulations can take place. The community is varied, including people of diverse races, religions, national or ethnic backgrounds, gender expressions and gender identities, and sexual orientations, and its members may from time to time disagree with one another’s ideas and behavior. The College seeks to assure the rights of all to express themselves in words and actions, so long as they can do so without infringing upon the rights of others or violating standards of good conduct or public law.

The College can not punish students for speech, however immature/hateful/obnoxious that speech might be. It can not punish Julia for postering doors while allowing, even praising, the WCJA for doing so. I am all in favor of having a dean scream (literally) at Julia and turn her into a blubbering mess. (Are there any deans at Williams with the ability/desire to the play the bad cop like that? There should be.) But the College can not use its formal powers to punish Julia (no “warning letter” or anything else that becomes a permanent part of Julia’s record at Williams) while, at the same time, not punishing the students behind the Holocaust Remembrance Day posters. If Roseman is so foolish as to issue such a punishment, and Julia wants to fight it, free-speech-absolutist alums (like me) will have no choice but to fight at Julia’s side. First they came for Mary Jane Hitler, but I was not . . .

Let’s hope that it won’t come to that.

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Teacher of the Year

Former Williams professor Jerry Reiter was named Undergraduate Teacher of the Year at Duke. Why did Reiter leave Williams in 2001 after just two years?

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Choose Williams

An accepted student on College Confidential asks:

Anyone facing the choice between Williams and an Ivy?

What are your considerations? What kind of advice have you heard (and from whom?)

My answer on this is the same now as it was three years ago. Choose wisely.

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Eph Athletes in the News

As a break from all things Hitler on this blog, today’s Boston Globe features two articles on Eph scholar-athletes: Maddy Outman ’08 and Tim Kiely ’11.

A few others Ephs are also mentioned in the Outman feature.

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Go Away, Creepy Nazi Boyfriend

Julia’s 30 (?) year-old boyfriend “Rob” is not a particularly constructive part of the campus conversation. But, like a jack-knifed tractor-trailer filled with squawking befuddled chickens, his thoughts demand attention.

I can appreciate the difficult position the administration is in. They are being pushed by wealthy donors to enact great harm over parody fliers created by an non-student. Making this worse is that the people who claim to have felt threatened show signs of mental illness. How can one adequately satisfy crazy people armed with absurd demands?

Comments:

1) Is there any evidence that “wealthy donors” (Is that code for Jews?) are involved in this dispute? Not that I know of. And, to the extent that they are involved (and certainly we have hundreds of wealthy alums — Jews and gentiles! — who read EphBlog) is there evidence that they are pushing for “great harm?” Not that I have seen. Indeed, I have yet to see anyone argue that Julia should be punished (expelled or officially warned) by the College.

2) Accusing your opponents of “mental illness” is just pathetic.

3) His description of the immediate aftermath of the postering paints a good picture of Williams. Short version: Jean Thorndike/security acted quickly and thoroughly to ensure that there wasn’t a physical thread to students. Once she determined that this was nothing more than garden variety stupidity, she let everyone go on their merry way.

4) Noah reports on WSO that the boyfriend is Robert Lindstrom. (I know that he is referred to as “Rob”, but can’t confirm this.) If the boyfriend is the Robert Lindstrom associated with nazi.org (go here but only if you have a strong stomach), then this is a sad, sad day for Williams. My (forlorn) hope is that the boyfriend is a different “Rob.” In my experience, Eph women have much better taste than this.

UPDATE: Evidence that boyfriend “Rob” is Robert Lindstrom the Nazi can be seen on this page of the “Libertarian National Socialist Green Party.” Note that the Hitler photo is one of the same ones used one of the Williams posters. Other confirmations welcome.

UPDATE II: Julia reports in the same WSO thread that her boyfriend is not that Robert Lindstrom. I apologize.

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Looks Like Me

Was it just three years ago that we were praising AB ’07 for beautiful prose about monsoons in India? These kids, they grow up so fast. AB is now producing excellent videos. Consider his montage of international student life at Williams.

Two best lines:

“Sometimes I think: Why didn’t I go to a place where everyone looks like me?”

“Being different is not all that I’m about.”

Me either. Watch the whole thing.

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23 Laps for Adrian

I received the following e-mail due to my affiliation with the Williams cross country team. I hope that anyone in the Concord, MA area would consider attending this event.
AdrianMartinez'06.jpg

Celebrate! Remember! and Honor!
The Life of Adrian Martinez
Monday, April 30th (rain or shine)
7:00 pm Emerson Track, Concord, MA.

Adrian Martinez ’06, who would turn 23 this Monday, April 30th, graduated from Concord-Carlisle High School in 2002 and Williams College in 2006. He was an avid and accomplished runner and athlete who valued family, friendship, and above all else, citizenship.

Friends are invited to participate in ’23 Laps for Adrian’ by walking, running, talking, sharing, and signing a guest book which will be sent to the Martinez family. In addition, donations will be collected for the Adrian A. Martinez Memorial Scholarship Fund, a fund established in 2006 by Adrian’s family to commemorate his passion for learning and distance running.

Read more

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CC Meeting on MJH

Kudos to College Council for devoting tonight’s meeting to Mary Jane Hitler. The more discussion, the better. Perhaps someone will live-blog it. Better would be a podcast by WCFM. I certainly hope that the secretary (Remington Shepard ’08) takes Landsmanian quality minutes. (Alas, there seem to be no minutes posted since 2005. Or am I looking in the wrong place?)

Most productive, I suspect would be a review of current College policies and suggestions for changes. More below:

Read more

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HRD Poster Details

Alex writes on WSO:

Of all the horrible things that happened during ww2, the mass murder of Jews in Germany stands out because it is one of the few examples where in a society much like ours, people much like us were complicit in the killing of millions of their neighbors and friends — that is truly frightening…

Instead of approaching the issue from this angle, however, the WCJA decided to put up posters with descriptions of the violent deaths of individuals. This IS offensive, because it sends the implicit message that what distinguished the crimes against Jews from others was the age of the victims and the gruesome death method. This is not true. The ~25 million that died in Russia and the hundreds of thousands that were brutally killed in 6 weeks in China are only two examples of other groups that suffered similar, if not worse, fates in terms of the parameters on the posters. In those terms, the holocaust was accompanied in both time, location, and planning by other massacres. There is no day dedicated to remembering them, although these groups are well represented on campus.

As I said, remembering the holocaust is for many of us the only link to ww2: if you are trying to raise awareness of the brutality of the Nazis by exposing the barbarity of their actions, I find it difficult to rationalize “remembering” only their Jewish victims– never mind that many historians view the gays , Soviet POWs, and other groups the Germans murdered en masse in concentration camps to be part of the death toll of the holocaust. Members of half of my family died in ww2 as Russians, members of the other half died because they were Jews — why do I have to ignore half?

The whole point of remembering the holocaust is that everyday citizens of civilized countries, like all of us, can become complicit in a crime of this scale and horror. It is to understand WHY it happened, not to feed yourself lies about why it can’t happen again.

We still need to gather more facts about the WCJA’s Holocaust Remembrance Day posters. Questions:

1) Who put up the posters? If the WCJA was the driving force (as I have heard elsewhere), then was it a group project or just a few dedicated individuals? If so, what are their names? Or do they want to remain anonymous? I have no opinion on what answers to these questions might be considered “right” or “wrong.” I just want to know the facts.

2) Can we please see a copy of one (or more) of the posters? Why is this so hard to accomplish?

3) There is some dispute about whether or not the posters included pictures of “dead babies.” Can someone clarify? My best guess is that some posters included pictures of living children (and infants?) who were later killed by the Nazis but that there were no pictures of corpses.

4) Alex implies that all the posters featured Jews. True?

5) Where did the pictures and individual details come from? I assume that the WCJA (if they were behind the project) did not individually research 2,000 individual cases. They must have gotten the pictures/stories from somewhere else. Where?

6) Were College staff/funds used in creating the posters? Not that there would be anything wrong with that.

7) Are their rules against putting up posters on student doors? Rahul argues that there are.

Security is not going through WSO taking down your posts. (Cowardly? She did, as Ronit pointed out, identify herself). Security did, however, go about removing the Hitler posters. People were offended by them, yes. As were people offended by the Holocaust Remembrance Days posters. Security didn’t go about removing those posters. Were they unaware of those being put up? Because the only college rules that were violated were violated by both the HRD posters and the Hitler posters – unsolicited posters posted in prohibited places. I wonder if I complain about say, a poster put up which says (no offence to anyone, just the first thing that popped into my mind) “The Best a Capella show in the world, tonight at 8 in Currier Ball room”, would security remove it? I suspect not. Thus by removing the Hitler posters security and the school administration has taken a stance on what is acceptable free speech and what isn’t. If they showed respect for the rules equally, I wouldn’t care. Otherwise, they are putting themselves in a difficult position morally and legally in trying to decide what can and can’t go up.

It would be nice to get confirmation on the actual rules. And on the claim that security took down all the Mary Jane Hitler posters and none of the Holocaust Remembrance Day posters. And who ordered security to do so?

Again, I don’t have a strong feeling on what the answers to these questions “should” be. I just want to know the facts.

UPDATE: This post was edited for context and better clarity, so some of the comments no longer directly apply.

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Mary Jane Hitler Clarifications

EphBlog’s ace team of reporters has been hard at work gathering information on Mary Jane Hitler. I think that all of the below are true, but clarifications and comments are welcome.

1) Partly inspired by hwc’s “Hitler Girl” riff, the phrase “Mary Jane Hitler” as applied to this scandal (or to Julia specifically) is spot on. Trust me. Or ask around. There is no better name for this contretemps.

2) I was somewhat afraid to write this yesterday:

The author of this manifesto(?) is her (male?) friend. (Am I sexist for thinking that this was written by a man?)

And specifically edited out my suspicion that it was a boyfriend, as opposed to some random male friend. Turns out it was. The much older (30?!) boyfriend lives in DC and was visiting last week. I dislike this aspect of the dispute since I want to view Julia as autonomous, as acting largely on her own, driven by her sincere convictions. I don’t like the fact that he designed the posters, that he wrote the screed here, that, for all we know, the entire exercise was his idea. Fortunately, Julia’s later postings on WSO make it more plausible to view her as an agent in this and not merely as an accomplice. But I still hope that the boyfriend disappears from the story. Alas, the continuing updates to his site make that less likely. [Not that there is anything wrong with older guys spending too much time on Williams controversies, right?!? — ed. Errr . . .]

3) Julia was identified by security via the use of her student ID since she used that ID to enter all the buildings in which she placed the posters. Students at Williams should realize that big brother is watching and remembering. Julia did not intend to have her involvement known so easily and would have just waited for people to enter/leave her target dorms (so that she wouldn’t have to swipe) if she had anticipated that the College would go to so much trouble to track her down.

4) Security came looking for Julia in her room, couldn’t find her and then went hunting for her around campus, including wandering through Paresky with her picture.

5) There is a (supposed) picture of Julia in this Fark thread. Is that her? UPDATE: Not her.

6) Julia, as you might imagine, has spent some fun time with various members of the Dean’s Office in the last couple of days. Good times! Apparently, they told her that if her identity became know, Williams could not “guarantee her safety” and that, therefore, she should consider taking time off. UPDATE: Not true.

Again, the above are from sources of various levels of reliability. Clarifications are welcome!

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Distasteful and Ridiculous

Here is one of the four (?) posters put up in our recent Mary Jane Hitler scandal.

poster2.gif

The other three, along with, uh, interesting commentary, are available here. The associated argument is not dissimilar, at least in attitude and in-your-face-to-PC-Williams elan, from the stuff I wrote 20 years ago. I have, I hope, matured since then

Many people on campus took offense when tasteless and sickening “Holocaust Remembrance” posters were taped to dorm doors with the intent to invade personal space and make students uncomfortable. A few days later, 4/20 parody fliers were posted and most students were not bothered, but a few were so outraged that someone dared to express an idea they disliked that they demanded censorship as a response.

They’ll serve the corporate world well one day as they crush anything they dislike.

The parody fliers contained images of a marijuana leaf for the unofficial 4/20 holiday recognized by pot smokers and images of Adolf Hitler who had a birthday on 4/20. In addition, these posters featured historically accurate quotes about the Autobahn, National Socialist social concerns, rejection of materialism, and the goal of unity and cooperation. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that Hitler and marijuana aren’t a traditional pairing or one of shared ideology, but apparently the formation of that thought never arose in the duller minds on campus.

The idea that someone could post these fliers so offended a handful of weak-minded people and caused them to react like Hitler Youth and demand censorship and repression. Authorities were summoned. Campus security was immediately dispatched and removed the fliers, perhaps to throw them into a bonfire, while the obnoxious but sacrosanct “Holocaust Remembrance” fliers remained posted on doors of students who mostly found them distasteful and ridiculous.

Wow. I think that we have found the main topic of conversation for the remainder of the spring term. Julia was the student who put up (and designed?) the posters. (See comment toward the end of this thread.) The author of this manifesto(?) is her (male?) friend. (Am I sexist for thinking that this was written by a man?)

Rationalism was notably lacking in much of the commentary posted in the Williams student forum. One student called the parody posters “hate speech” as if such a thing existed in law rather than fantasy. In the United States, all opinions and ideas are legal to express, whether unpopular, ignorant, or hateful. Calling an idea “hate speech” is just a mendacious method to marginalize another person’s right to express ideas that differ from those of the person who wants censorship.

The spectacle snowballed as people who had not seen the fliers began to discuss how outraged they were as they imagined a bogeyman that captured all of their fears and weaknesses. There was no reality check because these people live far from reality and logical evaluation. They might be good at repetitive work where they operate like machines designed to perform a function, but when something new emerges the machine is unable to handle it and sadly breaks.

One day they can be the brutal and unempathetic bosses that stick to the company line despite the harm caused to individual workers. They are the deciders, for your best interests of course.

I actually think that the WSO thread displayed a lot more nuance than this description. Read the whole thing and decide for yourself.

Those who called the fliers “hateful” were only projecting their own hatred and small-mindedness. To be a self-centered zombie who claims to be “offended” at anything disagreeable is a hallmark of immaturity and ignorance. It is ironic when a liberal environment is lacking in open-mindedness, tolerance, and diverse viewpoints — and many politely sit silent without concern.

If a college campus is not a suitable environment for free speech, but instead we hear only calls for self-censorship and lockstep obedience, what future can this generation offer? If students are so weak-minded that they are afraid of ideas, even hating any idea with which they disagree, but can only respond with anger and calling security for censorship instead of rational consideration or discussion, what have they learned for all of their time spent pursuing education? These are people soon to enter the adult world after spending years evaluating grammatical structures, molecular balances, and Renaissance art, yet they are unable to evaluate a flier sensibly?

Surely there are also students who still have enough youth left in them to laugh at absurdity, and enough self-confidence to not desire other ideas censored when they find them disagreeable.

More to come, no doubt. I am still trying to figure out if this is a serious political viewpoint or an elaborate theatrical spoof of campus discussion. Opinions welcome! I am still thinking through my own thoughts on the matter.

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Message Regarding Recent Posters on Campus

This message was sent from Morty at 6:00 this evening.

To the Williams Community,

Having had time to consult and reflect on the recent appearance of Hitler posters on the doors of many students, we would like now to give you our fuller sense of the matter.

The posters, which appeared in at least seven dorms, were designed to mimic ones put on student doors and elsewhere earlier in the week raising awareness of the Holocaust.

The student who admitted that she had produced and hung the second posters said that her doing so was intended as a use of her right to provoke discussion about the appropriateness of the first ones.

Williams, like all colleges, needs to grant wide latitude for speech, even speech as repulsive as this, as long as it does not represent verbal assault.

While this second round of posters seems not to rise to the level of verbal assault, it certainly does offend us and all those who value the well-being of our campus community and its members.

Many students who viewed what appeared as a pro-Hitler poster on their door felt threatened — understandably so, especially so soon after the horror at Virginia Tech. This sense of threat was not limited to Jewish students, though not surprisingly they were the most effected.

Adding to their sense of violation was both the anonymity of the Hitler posters and the degree to which they mimicked the ones for Holocaust remembrance, to the point of replacing the Star of David with a marijuana leaf.

The result was pain and fear for those who felt threatened and deep
disappointment for all of us who care about them.

There were many ways to foment discussion that would not have been outrageous, would not have made members of our community feel threatened, and would have resulted in dialogue of a healthier nature.

We understand that some students found the Holocaust posters too strident, especially in their placement on student doors, but the two are not equal. One drew attention to the plight of victims, the other had the understandable effect of making people feel victimized.

The student has said she will address the community about this matter. When she does, we encourage the College community to rise to its highest values — affirming free speech, to be sure, but also identifying outrageous speech when we encounter it, and caring about the well-being of all community members.

Regards,

Michael Reed
Vice President for Strategic Planning and Institutional Diversity

Nancy Roseman
Dean of the College

Morty Schapiro
President of the College

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Show Us The Posters

Andrew Goldston ’09 has more thoughts on the Mary Jane Hitler controversy. (Again, I am looking for better names than this! But, still, this one isn’t bad. The word “Hitler” needs to be there, obviously, but the “Mary Jane” part is a double entendre, referring to both marijuana (a marijuana leaf was in the center of the poster) and the (unknown) Williams female who posted them. (Previous commentary here.)

That said, we’re past the 72 hour mark and I haven’t heard anything more about this from official sources. I figured there’d be a big staff meeting in Hopkins Hall this morning to come up with a PR strategy for this, but I’ve heard nothing so far. It will be unfortunate if we don’t get a fuller public statement from College officials within the next day or so.

I’m not going to say that the campus Jewish community deserves swift justice, retribution, or whatever against the perps here. I don’t know the circumstances, and I’m not clamoring for anyone to be burned at the stake. But what we do deserve is more information about what this was, and what happens now.

Perhaps. But, instead of just demanding that the administration supply him with information, Andrew ought to also supply the rest of us. Please post a copy of both the Holocaust Remembrance Day poster and the Mary Jane Hitler poster. Or mail me copies and I will post them. It is hard to have a fully informed opinion without seeing the posters. Also, Andrew ought to post (or at least crosspost) these entries at EphBlog. He has just the sort of insider’s perspective that hundreds of EphBlog readers are eager to consider.

Jesse Levitt ’08 was kind enough to pass on this description:

[T]hey reflected an imitation of our REMEMBER poster, substituting a marijuana leaf where we used the infamous yellow star, and quotes from Hitler, with photos, where we remembered specific persons who perished at the hands of the Nazis.

Andrew also reports that “[A]pparently most people at the town meeting actually thought they were just ‘yay Hitler’ posters, with a serious pro-Hitler component.” Really? I can understand being furious that someone would be so insensitive/cruel/anti-Semitic to put up such posters. But I can’t imagine seriously believing that someone on campus was pro-Hitler. What does it even mean to be pro-Hitler? In favor of the Holocaust? Are there people at Williams who really believe that some Williams students are pro-Hitler? That seems absurd (to me). If anyone else was at the meeting, please let us know your thoughts.

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Eph on PBS

Mark Orlowski ’04 might be old news to ephblog readers. His work on sustainable endowments while at Williams and much more so after is worth bringing up again, though, especially when its captured in the soft glow of a PBS camera.

Mark is currently touring the country with Guster. The Campus Consciousnes tour will be stopping in the purple valley this Thursday. Members of the band will be at a town hall forum at 2:30 in Brooks-Rogers before the concert to talk about environmental consciousness and giving out backstage passes for the show.

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2004 Commencement Speaker Dies

David Halberstam, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, author, and 2004 commencement keynote speaker, was killed in a car crash on Monday. Writing for the NYTimes in the 60’s, Halberstam reported on the Vietnam War, including the self-immolation of Thํch Quảng Đức. Some of us ’04s may also somewhat bitterly remember that he delivered a nearly identical speech at Skidmore’s commencement the day before speaking at Williams.

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A Hypothesis on Yield

An anonymous comment awakened me to the fact that this is the year to test a prediction regarding matriculation at Williams that I have had for a while: that weather during Previews weekend is a significant factor in an admittee’s decision to attend. Bad weather will lower yield on admittees. This year is the first chance I have to test my hypothesis since 2001. Read on for details and musing.

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Infernal Machine

More on the Cole Field Three.

Three freshmen at Williams College out to shock the school face felony charges for reportedly attempting to detonate a homemade bomb on campus less than a day before the massacre at Virginia Tech.

A dean at the prestigious western Massachusetts college alerted parents yesterday in an e-mail lamenting the bomb scare. Police said if the explosive device had worked early Sunday, the campus would have been rocked.

“At this particularly sensitive time, I thought I’d take the risk of over-reporting,” Dean Nancy Roseman wrote in a stern e-mail obtained by the Herald. “We all long for the time when such things don’t jangle our nerves quite so much,” she added in the missive sent home to parents. Williamstown police Sgt. Scott McGowen told the Herald the three 19-year-old males each face charges of possession of an infernal machine – a felony – and disorderly conduct. The names of the three students will not be made public until Monday, McGowen added.

Police were called at 12:42 a.m. Sunday to a practice field at the bucolic campus, where they spotted the explosive device, McGowen said. “They failed to detonate it, thankfully,” McGowen said, adding that if the bomb had gone off it would have resulted in a loud explosion but probably no injuries. An investigation assisted by state police and FBI led to the charges against the three freshmen, who face “sanctions” from the college, the dean said.

Comments:

1) The Herald has a copy of the e-mail and we don’t?! Could a parent reader please post it in the comments? UPDATE: See comments. Thanks!

2) The intent of the students was to “shock the school.” Interesting. Our previous discussion assumed that this was more of a (drunked?) lark than an attempt to create discussion on campus. Note the difference between this description and the previous claim that their “intent was not to cause damage or injury but to pursue their curiosity about such a device.”

3) Doesn’t this raise a whole host of interesting legal questions? I think so! Assume that the students (or at least one of them) had some sort of political intent. They wanted to “shock the school.” (I am not sure how, but leave that to one side.) Isn’t political speech protected? Even speech involving fire? If the students had decided, instead, to burn an American flag (or a copy of Mein Kampf or whatever) then there would be no punishment from the police or the college. Now, obviously, if you burn a flag in a dangerous fashion (in the middle of a crowd), then you may be liable for endangerment. But it seems (?) like the students took every (most?) reasonable safety precautions. Lawyer opinions sought!

4) We need someone to provide some relevant Massachusetts case law on infernal machines. If the Williams Rocket Club can launch from Cole Field (presumably without checking with the Williamstown police) then why can’t these students set off a bomb? (The College might still have grounds to act against them and not the rocket club since the latter (I assume) seeks permission.

Berkshire Eagle
coverage below.)

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Students enjoy the summer-like weather

If you’re looking for an exciting video, you will not enjoy this one, but if you’d like to see a bunch of Williams students hanging out on a beautiful summer-like evening, playing horshoes, croquet and kicking a ball around, this is the video for you.

There was music on a boombox, but unfortunately it was too far away to be detected during most of the video. As always, apologies for the low resolution.

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Virginia Tech Vigil

From: Jonathan.N.Misk@williams.edu
To: williams-students@williams.edu
Subject: Virginia Tech Vigil

To the Williams Community,

Tomorrow–Monday, April 23rd–marks the one-week anniversary of the horrible events at Virginia Tech. In remembrance of the victims, Williams College Council, in conjunction with Rick Spalding and the Chaplain’s Office, is planning a day of remembrance and a candlelight vigil in which we hope you can all take part.

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