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Mad As Hell

Interested in Paris Hiton? You are reading the wrong blog.

It was Peter Finch, in the 1976 movie Network, who first played a newsreader suffering an on-air breakdown. Driven to madness by poor ratings, Finch’s character snaps and tells viewers to shout: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more.”

It’s hard not to think of Finch, who won an Oscar for his performance, when watching a similar implosion by the newsreader Mika Brzezinski on the cable news channel MSNBC on Wednesday morning.

Despite goading from her co-hosts, including the former Republican congressman turned rightwing talkshow host Joe Scarborough, Brzezinski stood her ground and refused to read her segment’s lead news item on Paris Hilton.

After a media frenzy that saw even arch-publicist Michael Moore elbowed off CNN’s Larry King show to make way for Hilton’s first post-jail interview, Brzezinski has become a cyberspace star. Clips of her shredding the script were the lead item on the Technorati search, while the blogosphere was alight with praise. “I have a new hero, and her name is Mika Brzezinski,” wrote one.


Mika Brzezinski
, daughter of former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, is class of 1989. Her brother Ian is class of 1986. The video is fun.

Staged or spontaneous? Anyone who knew Mika back in the day will go with the latter. (Thanks to a reader for the tip.)

UPDATE: Class information added. Thanks to alert reader DHT Kane.

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Post Graduate

An update on Charles Webb ’61, author of The Graduate. (Hat tip Newmark’s Door.)

It has taken Charles Webb 40 years to write a sequel to ‘The Graduate’. He made no money from the film, has sunk into the deepest poverty and now lives in a hotel in Eastbourne. ‘I wouldn’t have had it any other way,’ he tells John Preston

Sometime in the mid-1970s, several years after he wrote The Graduate and gave away all his possessions, Charles Webb was working as a clerk in a branch of Kmart.

One day he noticed that there was a new product on the shelves, designed to help children become potty-trained.

It was called The Graduate.

‘I think that’s when I realised this thing was never going to waft away into the distance.

“Although the film wasn’t my hit, my whole life has been measured by it.

“I’ve no idea how life would have turned out had it not been for this phenomenon, but everything would have been very different. That’s for sure.’

Read the whole thing.

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Cole Field?

Construction of a new all-weather football field and track forced graduation exercises at St. Helena (Ca.) High School off the field, where they had been held for 34 consecutive years. Freshly minted grad and “running star” Brian Cole didn’t think much of how his district handled the situation.

“The area where they had graduation wasn’t as big a deal as how the district went about the graduation planning. That’s the only thing that peeved me,” said Cole, who added he plans to attend Williams College in Massachusetts, possibly to study environmental science. “I think someone needs to start calling them on the way they do business.”

Better get used to it, fella!

Cole finished 4th in the mile (in a smoking 4:11.74, mind you) at the California state championships earlier this June. Here’s a nice little Q&A from the local paper, where Cole said he’ll run both cross country and track for the Ephs.

Whitt: What is the biggest lesson you have learned in your four years at St. Helena High School?

Cole: To not worry about what other people think of you. To do what you feel is the right thing to do whether other people believe it is the right thing, whether other people think you are doing the right thing or not.

Does somebody have a lot to learn, or what?

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Sigma Xi

Congrats to the 53 students elected to Sigma Xi from the class of 2007. (Does this award go to every Williams science student who writes a thesis? 53 seems like a big number.) For those interested in more data on the topic of international quotas in admissions, (accurate?) hometowns are conveniently provided. Sure seems like more than 6% of the winners were born outside the US. Just saying! Alas, I have been sidetracked by other projects and don’t have time for a full analysis. More verbose Ephblogging (from me) returns in August. Contain your excitement.

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Williams in Fiction

Recently reading Sinclair Lewis’ novel It Can’t Happen Here written in 1935 about a fascist takeover of the United States. Lewis writes the following description of one James Buck Titus:

James Buck Titus, who was fifty but looked thirty-eight, straight, broad-shouldered, slim-waisted, long-mustached, swarthy — Buck was the Dan’l Boone type of Old American, or, perhaps, an Indian-fighting cavalry captain, out of Charles King. He had graduated from Williams, with ten weeks in England and ten years in Montana, divided between cattle-raising, prospecting, and a horse-breeding ranch. His father, a richish railroad contractor had left him the great farm near West Beulah, and Buck had come back home to grow apples, to breed Morgan stallions, and to read Voltaire, Anatole France, Nietzsche, and Dostoyefsky. He served in the war, as a private; detested his officers, refused a commission, and liked the Germans at Cologne. He was a useful polo player, but regarded riding to the hounds as childish. In politics, he did not so much yearn over the wrongs of Labor as feel scornful of the tight-fisted exploiters who denned in office and stinking factory. He was as near to the English country squire as one may find in America.

Titus is a friend of the of the protagonist Doremus Jessup. While the college is only mentioned once of twice more in a very cursory way, Titus is one of the novel’s heros and does Williams proud, even if only in fiction. (Sinclair Lewis lived in Williamstown for a time and perhaps saw knew of a “James Buck Titus”.)

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Investment Office Update

The College’s latest list of hires includes Bradford Wakeman in the Investment Office. (Previous discussion of the investment office and Wakeman here. Note that we are the top two hits on Google for Collette Chilton. Beware the power of EphBlog.)

Regular readers, of course, knew about Wakeman’s hiring three months ago. More recent news, judging from this handy list of the Investment Office staff, involves the addition of two Investment Analysts to the Boston office: Abigail Wattley ’05 and Claire Woolston. (Congrats to Wattley on her upcoming Eph wedding.)

Sources in the old, rich Eph-boy network report that the plan is for the Investment Office in Boston to have a staff of 6 besides Chilton. With Corrigan, Wakeman, Wattley and Woolston, the hiring is almost complete. These folks will soon have a large amount of control over more than $1.5 billion. The Record ought to write on this topic.

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Potential Econ Thesis in Western Mass.

BerkShares” are becoming more popular. Now, if only Williams accepted them (and they expanded to the Northern MA Berkshires…), tuition could be 10% cheaper, and those late night food runs/orders would be cheaper too.

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Participate

More on the move to not participate in the US News ranking process (previous discussion here and here).

But even some colleges that have expressed a dissatisfaction with the U.S. New rankings are not necessarily ready to stop participating in the survey.

“We have always participated in the past, and we haven’t decided if we will participate” in the future, said Jim Kolesar, spokesman for Williams College in Williamstown, which is perennially ranked near the top of the magazine’s list.

Asked why the college would continue to participate in the survey if it wasn’t happy with the system, Kolesar said “because the argument could be that the magazine will continue to rank colleges anyway . . . so you would want the data to be accurate.”

Kelly said U.S. News’ rankings wouldn’t be significantly affected by a defection, since it gets thousands of responses. Smaller colleges at the bottom of the rankings might get bumped off, however, if there are fewer respondents, he said.

There is so much stupidity and hypocrisy in this whole discussion that it is tough to know where to begin.

1) Colleges can’t (meaningfully) choose to not participate. US News does not need their permission to rank them. It’s a free country! Moreover, much of the information that US News uses for ranking is publicly available — and disclosure is mandated by the Federal Government. Rankings will always be with us.

2) Even the colleges who are claiming that they will no longer participate are posturing. The main concrete action that they are (claiming) to take is to no longer return the US News reputation survey. But colleges themselves don’t participate, individuals do. And it’s a free country. If US News sends a survey form to Dean Roseman, she can fill it out if she wants to. Williams can’t stop her.

3) Now, I suppose that most of the faculty/administrators at the colleges that are declining to participate will probably go along with the wishes of their employer. Yet, they don’t have to. Moreover, there is no mechanism to ensure that they do. In fact, the incentives run the other way. One way to move up in the rankings is to get everyone else to stop sending in the form while you (and your buddies) do so and rank yourselves highly. Don’t think that this sort of collusion goes on? I’ll take the other side of that bet.

4) My thoughts on Lloyd Thacker, a prominent opponent of US News ranking and other trends which empower students, are the same as always.

5) Anyone who is honestly interested in providing more and better information to potential students would work on, you know, proving more and better information. Want to make US News less important? Build something better. Here is one approach. If Colleges were to release more detailed input data (high school grades and standardized test scores) along with any output data (graduate employment, graduate school admissions, GRE/LSAT/MCAT/GMAT scores, student satisfaction), then it would be possible to compare colleges directly, if imperfectly.

6) But the Lloyd Thackers and Annapolis Groups of the world are not really interested in empowering you, dear reader. You are an idiot. You can’t be expected to use information thoughtfully, to weigh the pros and cons of rankings like that of US News. You are unqualified to judge colleges, just as you are too stupid to weigh competing financial aid offers.

Instead, colleges are here to judge you.

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More on College Rankings

U.S. News has a new blog by Robert Morse, their director of data research, called Morse Code, which promises to “provide[] deeper insights into the methodologies and is a forum for commentary and analysis of college, grad and other rankings.”

Comments are moderated, probably very much so, but it should be interesting reading.

Also, our discussion of last week gets cited and linked-to in Morse’s post on the Annapolis Group’s statement.

UPDATE – 4:05 pm. Professor Michael Lewis also comments at Commentary Magazine‘s blog, Contentions.

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Agbra

EphBlog reader Marc writes:

I have not been following Ralph White’s ongoing appeal very closely, but I spoke last Friday to my friend who is a Williams coach and learned that the alleged problem is Ralph’s master’s degree and the African family he brought over from Benin. I don’t know much about the appeal, but I CAN speak about the Agbra family.

I used to see Antoine frequently when I went to Stop ‘n Shop, or Spring St., or the track. I had the family over for dinner before they moved back, and Antoine spoke at length about how thankful he was to Williams, and to Ralph and his wife for changing his life. Since he returned to Africa, I have received emails from Antoine describing how he has become a savior to literally hundreds, because he had money for food and medicine. You could never hope to meet someone more dedicated to making a better life for his family and village. As you can see, life in Africa is not easy. Most recently, I heard from Antoine that schools have been closed down because there is no money, and he is out of a job as a school-teacher. As for Ralph’s role in extending such extraordinary generosity, I am horrified that this could be turned against him.

Antoine recruited students from Africa during the narrow window of time he had to do so — and now he is being criticized for inactivity because those students weren’t admitted to the college.Unfortunately, Africa doesn’t have too many fancy prep schools. He took pride is being able to contribute, and was disappointed that he was notable to get anyone admitted. SOMEONE had to approve the hire — African families don’t walk down Spring St. every day, it’s not as if you could hide them if you even wanted to. White’s dismissal sounds suspiciously like one of Morty’s vindictive personal whims (i.e. Dave Barnard, Joe Milan, the mystery expelled egg-thrower, etc. just to name a few). As far as my friend told me, Ralph is still inexplicably supportive of Morty, and believes this is a misunderstanding that still could be resolved. In an act of class, he stopped protests and sit-ins that were planned on his behalf, including a minority rally during which minority and socio-ec kids intended to demonstrate, and other protests planned for graduation and the trustee’s meeting. For all his trouble, all the thanks he got was a contract non-renewal notification in FEBRUARY, and an appeal with a kangaroo court! Notifying someone so late is an excessive punishment.

How could anyone find another job at this point in the year? And more to the point, has Morty ever even talked to Ralph about this? Then again, perhaps Morty’s growing reputation for arrogance and vindictiveness is turning out to be true, playing out before our very eyes. No wonder he didn’t get the job at Harvard (ouch!) Why should the students be punished for someone else’s pride? The Agbra family was here in 2004; isn’t it strange that it suddenly became an excuse 3 years later, right after the track was redone? The obvious solution, voiced by dozens, would be to grant a year-long extension: either give Ralph a year to seek an acceptable master’s, or to find a suitable position for his stature. But DON’T use the Agbras as an excuse. Morty needs to step up to the plate here, because this one will not die down.

Pictures below the break. Comments:

0) Previous items here. As I said at the start, White is probably doomed.

1) I do not think that the various committees that have met on this topic are kangarooish. Although there are no skeletons in White’s closet, he is not the perfect candidate (leaving aside the diploma mill and Agbra family). I hope that the last committee reviewing his appeal (which either has finished or will finish this week) will decide that the irregularities with regard to process (mainly with regard to Harry Sheehy’s statements about on-line degrees) will justify a 1-3 year extension of his contract. Given White’s undisputed contributions to the Williams community, that would seem a good outcome.

2) The reason that Morty was never even considered for the Harvard job has nothing to do with vindictiveness. I don’t think (hope!) that Morty is vindictive, moreover, some toughness (which will inevitably appear as “vindictiveness” to outsiders) is a requirement for the job of college president. You need to be willing to be the bad guy. Morty was never in the running for Harvard because of the quality of his academic CV.

3) Who is Joe Milan?

Read more

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StudentsReview

Spam or not spam?

Mr. Kane:

Your name had an email address attached to it when I perused the ephblog authors section.

I am emailing you and attempting to prevail upon your person for a few questions.

It has come to my attention in examining websites on College Admissions, that through the studentsreview.com website, Williams College does not receive an overall favorable impression.

Are the students at Williams unhappy or is the process of admissions flawed in that those who choose to attend at Williams are unhappy about their decision?

Is there misrepresentation?

Why does Reed College and Dartmouth ranked as #1, 2 or thereabout by the student reviews whereas Williams is not even in the top 50, top 100, top 150?

Perhaps the students who chose to write a review took an interest in seeing that their negative views prevailed.

With Williams ranking so highly on several rankings throughout the web, why is there the wide disparity between the high rankings by institutions and the low student satisfaction numbers in studentsreview.com?

Perhaps you have a better understanding of this issue than I have answers.

Any comments would be greatly appreciated given your schedule and time.

StudentsReview seems like dreck to me. Have fun wasting that VC funding. (Just like NESCAC Nation!) See here for the Williams entry. Reader comments welcome. I have seen 4th graders design better websites.

The writer also has a friend in the Nigerian Ministry of Finance. More updates on that later.

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My Heart Country

Another Eph who should probably not go to law school is Andana Streng ’08.

Andana Streng is hoping that her time in the Berkshires is the first stop of a personally motivated “world tour.”

“After graduation, I want to start in New York City and eventually end up in Paris,” said Streng, a 20-year-old Williams College junior whose home is in Oradea, Romania. “France is my heart country, my soul country.”

The Berkshire Hills Internship Program provides Streng with an opportunity to explore the Berkshire region’s culturally rich and diverse arts arena. The experience will enhance her political science and history education, and boost her effort to become an arts lawyer.

“I always wanted to be a lawyer. I saw [television program] ‘Law and Order’ when I was 9, and I was hooked,” Streng said.

Too many would-be-lawyer Ephs don’t really understand what lawyers do all day or what law school is like. If your pashion is art, you should go into art. It is wise to pick up skills (especially tech skills) that will help you get ahead, it is even smarter to work the Williams network for alumni connections. But if you care about X, don’t go to law school to become an X lawyer. It probably won’t work out that way. At the very least, you should spend a day at, say, Albany Law School sitting in on first year classes in torts and contracts. Guaranteed to be an eye-opening experience.

Streng said art lawyers are few and they work primarily on copyright laws and intellectual property litigation. Combining her love of art with her childhood desire to be an attorney, Streng sees her internship at the Office of Cultural Development in Pittsfield as a way to learn more about the people whose issues she plans to champion.

“I’ve wanted to do an internship like this for a long time,” she said. “At a larger museum, I’d just be stuffing mail and not getting any real work experience.”

In Pittsfield, Streng works with the office Director Megan Whilden to promote, support and initiate cultural activities and events for residents and visitors, all responsibilities that require multi-taking.

“Megan is definitely a jack of all trades, so that makes me a mini-jack of all trades,” said Streng. “You can’t get bored there; it’s a rule of thumb.”

During a typical work day, Streng tackles various projects simultaneously, rotating between helping develop a newsletter and website for the office and working on artistic projects for the city.

Streng wants to use what she’s learning this summer to create a bridge between her college and the larger Berkshire cultural community outside of Williamstown.

Good stuff. Streng seems smart and organized. (Tough to get into Williams from Romania without being both.) No doubt, she will do well. But her career in the arts will probably go much better if she devotes the time and money which would be consumed by law school to something more direcly art related.

Streng said she doesn’t think of herself as an “artist,” she prefers to call herself a “dabbler.” She hopes to use her B-HIP internship to gain skills.

“I hope to have a better understanding of what arts management really is and how the arts world actually works,” Streng said. “I want to make connections and apply what I’ve learned either at Williams or in the future.”

“My philosophy is ‘I’ll help you become the best you can be and I hope to learn something in the process,'” she said.

An excellent philosophy. Just like EphBlog!

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Girls Gone Mild

Generally flattering review in the Wall Street Journal of Wendy Shalit 1997’s new book, Girls Gone Mild.

Fortunately for Wendy, she attended Williams prior to the age of Facebook and Myspace — otherwise, all those incriminating topless, thong-revealing kegstand photos from Armstrong basement would come back to haunt her. That’s a joke, of course. Regardless of my disagreement with many of her opinions on, and characterizations of, society-at-large and Williams in particular, I can confidently assert that, while in college, Wendy’s behavior was 100 percent consistent with everything she espouses (which is more than can be said for that other prominent Eph moralizer, Bill Bennett).

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Complete 180

What sorts of students are able to transfer to Williams? Students like Chris Millen ’08.

Sometimes, things don’t work out the way you thought they would.

And sometimes that’s a good thing.

Take Chris Millen.

After a standout swimming career at Holy Ghost Prep, the 2004 Courier Times Swimmer of the Year headed to the University of Florida.

But things weren’t what he’d hoped they’d be.

“It wasn’t really working out for me, athletically or academically,” said Millen, a resident of Richboro. “I was not seeing improvement athletically, and it’s hard to go to a state school when you’re not from that state. It’s like you never quite fit in.

“It just wasn’t right for me, so I just decided to cut my losses and try somewhere else.”

After spending two seasons at Florida, Millen moved on to Division III Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., for the 2006-7 school year.

“It was a school I’d considered in high school when I was first looking at colleges, and I just came back to it,” he said. “I did a complete 180. It was a drastic move, but it’s one that I’m happy with.

Good luck to Millen for senior year. But don’t go to law school (mentioned later in the article) unless you really understand what being a lawyer is all about . . . Too many Ephs make that mistake and end up wasting three years and lots of money.

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Cougars, Tigers and Ephs — Oh My!

This Deal Breaker entry features two Ephs.

To be honest, if the headline involves Katie Couric we’re probably not reading the story. That’s why we skipped Page Six’s scoop on Katie Couric’s new “boy toy” Brooks Perlin. But we shouldn’t have. The thirty-three year old Perlin is a three-time hedge fund washout, according to the Sixers.

Not only has Perlin worked for three Connecticut-based hedge funds in the last five years, he hasn’t had a full-time job since September, a source told the Post’s Marianne Garvey. He last worked at Keel Capital Management in Stamford but left to start a Queens-based company that creates environmentally friendly, green-building products. Before that, the spin-class-obsessed triathlete worked for a short time at both Pequot Capital Management and Grange Park, a hedge fund that’s now closed.

The Sixers also note that Perlin has a history of dating older women so it may be slightly inappropriate to apply the “urban cougar” label to her. After all, cougars are predators and Couric may just be aging prey. But we have to admit we enjoyed underthecounter’s extended metaphor: “Dangerous animals stalk all corners of Wall Street. Tiger Cubs come to mind, and although Chase Coleman might be hitting the ball out of the park, not all Tiger Cubs are quite so fearsome. The latest big hunt on the Street involves a cougar.”

Note to UTC: next time include sharks, dogs, hogs, cows, vultures and John Mack.

Not John Mack! To complete the Williams trio, you want the Eph who should have gotten Mack’s job as president of Morgan Stanley: limp-wristed Williams trustee Robert Scott ’68. See previous coverage of Perlin ’96 and Coleman ’97.

Today’s puzzler: Which is more impressive, dating Katie Couric or making a 9 figure income? Bicentennial Medals will be awarded in just 3 months . . .

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Deployed Eph has a Birthday !

Bill Couch ’79 will be turning 50 on July 9th!

Please consider joining me and sending him a birthday card.

Captain Bill Couch
2030 Addis Ababa Place
Dulles, VA 20189-2030

It only takes a regular stamp.

Why did the Navy give him a Virginia address? I don’t know. Maybe there is a Virginia somewhere in the Mideast.

Thank you.

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Chalk and Talk

Economics Professor Robert Gazzale has an interesting review in the latest issue of the Journal of Economic Literature.

Let us start with an observation. We (i.e., economics professors, particularly those of us who teach undergraduates) spend a lot of time writing on the blackboard and lecturing (“chalk and talk”) (Watts and Becker 2005), probably more than most of our colleagues in other disciplines (Allgood, Bosshardt, van der Klaauw and Watts 2004). To this observation, let us add an assumption. Let us assume that our students are not learning and retaining what we believe they ought to. As with all decent assumptions, our assumption is not groundless, particularly at the principles level (Walstad and Allgood 1999).

You might well believe that there is a connection between our observation and our assumed state of the world. You might even believe that there is a causal relation, in particular you believe that chalk and talk is an ineffective way of imparting economic knowledge to a large proportion of our students. Now, let us make an additional assumption, namely that student outcomes enter (positively) into your utility function. If you have followed me this far, you might then reach the conclusion that it would be a desirable state of affairs if more of us experimented with alternatives to chalk and talk, most of these alternatives falling into the “active learning” methods catch-all. You might even reach the conclusion that you ought to experiment with these so-called active learning methods of instruction.

Not so fast.

No. Faster, please. If Williams had No More Lectures, if every class were limited to 15 or fewer students, it would be a much better college. Chalk and talk is the worst way to teach. Recall Mark Hopkins:

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.

Chalk and talk does not feed the flame. Gazzale makes clear in the rest of the review (do read the whole thing) that he is sympathetic to this point of view, that he welcomes research into better ways of teaching. And EphBlog is here to help! Over the last 4 years, we have demonstrated that there is a large demand among undergraduates and alumni for on-line interaction in the context of news and events about Williams. So far, so good. But I hope that the next four years will demonstrate that there is much more that can be done, that an economics class which opened itself up to alumni participation (via the posting of the syllabus, lecture notes, student papers, and so on) would be a much better class than one which did not. It is an empirical question.

Further comments on Gazzale’s review are welcome. Surely we have some academic readers with opinions on this.

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Sour Grapes

Apparently, a growing number of liberal arts colleges have decided to protest the US News rankings by declining to fill out the US news surveys.

The commitment, which some college presidents said was made by a large majority of participants, represents the most significant challenge yet to the rankings, adding colleges like Barnard, Sarah Lawrence and Kenyon to a growing rebellion against the magazine, participants said.


“We really want to reclaim the high ground on this discussion,” said Katherine Will, the president of Gettysburg College and the incoming president of the Annapolis Group. “We should be defining the conversation, not a magazine that uses us for its business plan.” The association did not take a formal vote and each college will make its own decision, Dr. Will said.

With the exception of Kenyon (#32), I don’t think many of these schools will be hurt by this decision.

Barnard is essentially the homely younger sister of Columbia, and can and will always benefit from that association. (As somebody who was at Columbia for 2 years, I can say that with at least a bit of knowledge). Barnard’s median (i.e., 50th percentile) SAT is 1360 (670m/690v) for the class of 2010; by contrast, the 25th percentile student admitted to the age-normal undergraduate programs through the Columbia admissions office has a combined 1380 v+m SAT. SEAS (the engineering school, where I spent my 2 years in the 3-2 program) and Columbia College share an admissions office and an admissions program.

Barnard is essentially a backdoor to the Columbia experience for some women who don’t make the cut at Columbia but still want to go there. Between its association with Columbia, “Seven Sisters” name recognition, Manhattan location, cross-registration with Columbia, and high percentage of observant Jewish students, Barnard doesn’t need a particularly high ranking to draw students. Because of these factors, Barnard’s acceptance rate is much lower, due to much more interest in attending than a school not associated with Columbia would have.

Judith Shapiro is signing onto this because she can score points with other liberal arts college presidents without taking anything more than a marginal hit in the admissions process.

As for Sarah Lawrence (#45), it’s an Art school that I doubt seriously competes for students with interests elsewhere in the academy. Based on the students at my high school who went there, I didn’t know that Gettysburg (#45 as well) was even liberal arts — it’s the drunken fratboy Yang to Sarah Lawrence’s Yin. I doubt that schools that are ranked where they are in the US News Rankings have much to lose from their “protest”. What they hope to accomplish is to shame or cajole the rest of us — the top 25 liberal arts schools (or top 30, sans Barnie) — to drop out as well, and thereby pick up some of the higher-quality students who wouldn’t know just how good we are without a tip-top US news ranking.

Notably, even the AmHerst Marxist is not contributing his school’s ability to others’ needs.

Other college presidents who attended the meeting were more cautious. Anthony Marx, the president of Amherst, which is ranked second among liberal arts colleges, said he was not ready to stop cooperating with U.S. News and wanted to continue to discuss the issue.

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Peeved

Someone to make trouble for the Williams administration from the class of 2011?

While congratulating seniors was the main focus of the ceremony, the change of location came in a close second among spectators, several hundred of whom stood and observed graduation from a distance.

The school district and board decided to install a new all-weather football field and track this summer, and the work forced graduation to move from the football field — where it had been held for the last 34 years — to the front of Vintage Hall.

The board decided doing the work during the summer would cause the least disruption to student activities, but many high school seniors objected, with more than half signing a petition unsuccessfully requesting the board delay the project until after the ceremony.

St. Helena High School running star Brian Cole was one of the most outspoken critics of the decision.

“The area where they had graduation wasn’t as big a deal as how the district went about the graduation planning. That’s the only thing that peeved me,” said Cole, who added he plans to attend Williams College in Massachusetts, possibly to study environmental science. “I think someone needs to start calling them on the way they do business.”

I like that attitude! Welcome to Williams. Previous entry on Cole here.

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John Nelson III

Sad news story about the mysterious death and last days of John Nelson III, 1970. Anyone, even a popular, athletic, Williams alum, can fall through the cracks of our society. Reach out today to an Eph who may be alone out there.

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Calendar

The New York Times reports on 2007 Commencement speeches.

Then, too, a number of speakers worried aloud that they might be going on too long. The presidential historian Michael Beschloss reminded graduates at Lafayette College that former Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey was known for giving speeches that lasted as long as three hours.

“Once Humphrey did this, and even he knew he was overdoing it,” Mr. Beschloss said. “He yelled at the audience, ‘Anybody here got a watch?’ and someone yelled back, ‘How about a calendar?’ ”

Beschloss is class of 1977. The secret to a good Commencement address, as with any speech, is good jokes.

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Witty, Clever, Haunting

Even the vast right wing conspiracists at the Corner like Foutain of Wayne.

Fountains of Wayne is the name of my favorite pop-rock band, whose new album Traffic and Weather is almost as good as their last, the spectacular Welcome Interstate Managers. The songs they write — witty, clever, haunting, and resolutely about middle-class suburban life and its discontents — are invariably interesting even if they don’t knock you over. Adam Schlesinger, the band’s chief lyricist, is writing occasional pieces for The Onion’s AV Club (the part of The Onion that isn’t parody) about the band’s tour for Traffic and Weather. Here’s the first one. It’s hilarious (warning: there are a few dirty words). Sample:

Anyway, about a week ago, we started our first tour in several years in typically grand fashion, playing at a computer store in New York City. We had to cut down on the pyro effects for this show, due to the low ceilings. But I think it was a nice way for people to get to see us up close and check their e-mail at the same time. We played a short set which was billed as “acoustic” because at least one of us played an acoustic instrument. The after-show debauchery included intense discussions with the sales staff about the upcoming release of the Apple phone.

If John Podhoretz likes FoW then you will too!

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Perfect

A member of the class of 2012?

Like any typical high school junior, Matthew Richey did not enjoy taking the SAT. So Richey, 17, felt relieved when he realized his first shot at the 225-minute test had been his last.

The reason? He received a perfect score.

Richey, a student at St. Francis High School in Athol Springs, scored a 2400 on the college entrance test he took May 5. His point total represents perfect scores of 800 on each of the test’s three sections: critical reading, mathematics and writing.

“I was like, ‘Is that a possible score?’ ” Richey said. “I expected to do well, but not that well.”

The College Board, which administers the SAT, will not announce overall test scores for Richey’s class, the Class of 2008, until next year.

But the most recently released results, those for the Class of 2006, show almost 1.5 million members of that class took the exam. Only 238 of them received perfect scores of 2400, St. Francis guidance director Bob English said.

Richey hopes his high score will open doors for admission to the colleges he is considering: Boston College, University of Rochester, University of Virginia, Williams College and Canisius College.

“He’s going to get an extremely good scholarship,” said the Rev. Michael Sajda, president of St. Francis High School. “He’ll be a very busy young man this summer opening up mail.”

First, how did Williams end up in that list? Second, Richey may be getting “scholarship” offers, but not from Williams (other than need-based).

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Surly

Jen Mattern has advice for surly teen-age boys.

Stop with the surly. You have nothing to be surly about yet. Yes, pimples suck. Yes, homework sucks. Yes, wanking with your mom’s Skin-So-Soft is not the same thing as doing it in the back of a rebuilt ’78 Mustang with Jessica Alba.

But your parents give you a room with a bedroom door and they let you keep that door AND keep it closed. They let you have in that room GameBoys and Wiis and Xboxes and other things my aging brain files under the “ATARI” category. They let you hide out for endless hours in that stanky room with those things and they let you slam that door they let you keep. I am here to tell you that this would not be so at my house, because Ma Ingalls here would never put up with that kind of crap.

Aside from school, you are blessed with nearly unlimited freetime and very limited responsibilities. Yet you are surly. You are surly when you load my groceries into my cart. You are surly when I have to ask you to wait so I can find out whether or not Sophie wants chocolate milk or apple juice with her Unhappy Meal. You are surly when I finally pull up to the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-through for my whole-milk latte with Splenda and I am not half as cute as my voice was through the speaker.

Read the whole thing.

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Queer Theory

How many “queer theory” courses are there at Williams? Good question! (Related thread here.) Now, obviously, there will be very few if any that are only about queer theory. But there are several classes with “queer” in the description. They are:

ENGL 341(S) American Genders, American Sexualities
LATS 235(S) (formerly 335) Latina/o Theatre and Performance, 1950-2000
LATS 230(F) Approaching Performance Studies
ENGL 373(F) Modern Critical Theory
THEA 104(F) World Theatre History I: Performance in Oral, Written and Print Cultures

All these courses are offered in 2007-2008. Now, just because one puts “queer” in the description does not make an intro course like, say, THEA 104 into a class on “queer theory.” But every minute spent in queer theory is a minute less spent elsewhere.

If five courses enough? Perhaps not. Perhaps Williams needs 10 or 20. Perhaps every class needs to mention sexuality — or race or gender or class or (we can dream!) all four.

As for me, I wish the history department would offer classes in the history of US foreign policy and military history. I think that lectures class like PSCI 120 should be turned into discussions. Call me crazy.

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British Invasion at the Clark

The Clark Art Institute landed a huge donation yesterday, one of the largest in the museum’s history, valued at somewhere around $90 million. In addition to a whopping $50 million in endowment money for the Clark’s research and academic programs (cha-ching!), the gift includes a priceless haul of British art including big-time paintings and drawings from Turner, Constable and Gainsborough.

The AP (via the Transcript) and the NYT (scroll down in article) report the sugar daddy is the Manton Foundation, the legacy of AIG honcho Sir Edwin Manton. Manton, a British expat, was a power in British art collecting and the second-biggest donor to the Tate after, well, ol’ Tate himself. He had other reasons for donating to a sleepy museum in Williamstown.

“The family knew the Clark,” said Michael Conforti, its director. “They had one daughter, Diana Morton, who was raised in America and who heads the foundation. She realized the gift would make a significant addition to what was a very thin area of our collection.”

In recognition of the gift the Clark will name the building housing its research and academic program the Sir Edwin and Lady Manton Research Center. It will have a gallery dedicated to British art that will show both the Manton gift and other works from the Clark’s collection.

The collection went on display today. Quite a fine development for Williams art historians, not to mention anyone who attends the Clark.

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Donations

Why not a senior thesis about this?

Conventional wisdom has it that if an alumnus wants to help his kids’ chances of getting into the old alma mater, he should step up his contributions to the college for a few years before a child mails out an application.

Parents and college admission experts debate whether the strategy is effective, but “Altruism and the Child-Cycle of Alumni Giving,” a study released this week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, uses data from one anonymous research university to confirm that it is a common practice among alumni whose children are getting ready to apply.

Interesting. Williams has all the necessary data for a great senior thesis on this topic. Interested? E-mail Morty! I am sure that he would be willing to discuss it with you.

By the way, I think that there was a senior thesis written by someone in the class of 2005 (Abigail Whitbeck?) about some aspect of alumni giving, but I have never been able to track it down. Pointers anyone?

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Skeptical

Think that global warming is a major problem and that, therefore, the College’s Climate Action initiative is a good idea? Read this (pdf) for a contrary view.

My complaint is not so much that the science of global warming is oversold or that the College has as much (or as little) responsibility toward climate change as it does to other issues (say, malaria). The issue is the rampant hypocrisy which pervades the Williams community. If the College were really concerned about carbon emissions, the faculty offices in the new Stetson would not be huge (300 square feet). Previous discussion here.

Also, stuff like this is absurd.

Amy Johns, environmental analyst at the Center for Environmental Studies, has been crunching the numbers to determine the environmental impact of travel by families and friends to attend Commencement ceremonies.

“A rough estimate of CO2 associated with running the campus for Commencement is 118 tons,” Johns said. “The estimated impact of family and guests’ air travel is about 650 tons and car travel about 50 tons.”

“One way for the college to promote sustainability is through the purchase of carbon offsets for the energy expended in running the campus during, and for family and guests’ travel to, Commencement,” said Boyd.

The college will purchase approximately $8,600 worth of offsets from Owl Feather War Bonnet Wind Farm, a 30 megawatt wind farm being developed by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota and from the Wanner Family Dairy Farm Methane Project in Narvon, PA. The anaerobic methane digester on the dairy farm is estimated to produce approximately 2,000 kWh of electricity a day.

Alas, time constraints prevent me from investigating these offsets (see the original article for links) but 95% of this stuff is bunk. At least, that is what my smart left-wing sources tell me.

Carbon offsets are the modern day indulgences, sold to an increasingly carbon conscious public to absolve their climate sins. Scratch the surface, however, and a disturbing picture emerges, where creative accountancy and elaborate shell games cover up the impossibility of verifying genuine climate change benefits, and where communities in the South often have little choice as offset projects are inflicted on them.

This report argues that offsets place disproportionate emphasis on individual lifestyles and carbon footprints, distracting attention from the wider, systemic changes and collective political action that needs to be taken to tackle climate change. Promoting more effective and empowering approaches involves moving away from the marketing gimmicks, celebrity endorsements, technological quick fixes, and the North/South exploitation that the carbon offsets industry embodies.

Think that sending money Owl Feather War Bonnet Wind Farm — I swear, I am not making that name up! — helps the environment? Educate yourself. Read the report. Anyone know anything about the two projects that the College just sent your alumni donations to? Interested readers would like to know.

If the College were serious about this topic, it wouldn’t have 1/3 of the meetings of the Executive Committee of the Society of Alumni in locations like Portland. Think of the carbon that this sort of air-travel generates! Two years ago, everyone went on a fun junket to London. Cry for Mother Gaiea!

Now, my position is that global warming is neither certain nor necessarily harmful, but I have been having that fight with fellow Ephs for two decades. Maybe my opponents will be right someday! Stopped calendars and whatnot. In the meantime, the College should not involve itself in partisan disputes outside of its core mission.

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The Limits of Reflection

Professor Joe Cruz is blogging.

In the wake of half chagrined confessions that I am a philosophy professor, not infrequently — and positively reliably on cramped airplanes — I’m asked what my personal philosophy is. It’s not an entirely unreasonable question. Philosophers are expected to have developed, or at least be on the way to developing, an articulate view of the world, of right conduct, and of the good life. Moreover, having come to expect it, it would be easy to think that I would by now have honed my response into something precise and stable, even if not necessarily pithy.

I could, of course, say something about my political views or my feminism or my vegetarianism or my admiration for Buddha. But this is not what the question aims for. Indeed, the question is as deliciously ambitious as philosophy is.

Read the whole thing.

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Not Stopping at $400 Million

Williams, via Ephnotes, just sent out an e-mail saying that even though The Williams Campaign has raised its stated goal of $400 million (18 months ahead of schedule), it’s going to keep raising money for the capital fund for the next 18 months.

For those of you who figure the college said, “Hey, we’re on a roll, let’s keep going”–which it did, of course–I can tell you that this was a considered decision. Over a year ago it started to become clear that the fundraising was taking a hockey stick trajectory that was not in the plan. At one of the Vice Chair meetings of the Alumni Fund, Steve Birrell described how well the fundraising was going. Since it was clear that the Campaign would hit its goal at least a year ahead of schedule, I asked the question, “So what’s the college going to do? Declare victory early or keep going?”

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