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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?”

Steve grimaced and made some comment like, “Geez, Guy, I knew you were going to ask that question”–along the lines of, I was hoping I could dodge that question this time, since it’s a bit early to say.

But, to give Steve his due, he didn’t duck it. He said, “At this point, we aren’t sure.” He went on to say that the college had the two options. On the side of continuing the fundraising was the fact that the college’s goals had become more aggressive over time, and that it would be worthwhile to keep going with the apparatus in place. If the fundraising is going well, and there are valid uses for the money (not just putting more in the bank), it would be a shame to put the brakes on.

Nevertheless, stopping the fundraising would give the alumni a breather, an important point since part of what gives a capital campaign its urgency is the fact that it is a special occasion and doesn’t go on forever. Furthermore, the college is well aware that a lot of people think the college has enough money already, and stopping the fund early would give those folks less ammunition to claim that.

So, after some internal debate, Williams has decided to keep going.

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#1 Comment By & On June 14, 2007 @ 9:56 pm

&, if they are going to continue the full-court press, I’d like to see plans for what they need/will use the “extra” money for.

I could, for example, get behind providing even more tutorials/research opportunities/experiential education and other academic enrichers, improving the track and field facilities (justifiable not only because of the program’s success but also because of its very broad enrollment and the fact that such facilities could largely also be used for recreational purposes) and general fitness facilities, environmental initiatives, and innovative programs to create jobs for faculty members’ significant others and otherwise continue to make Williams an appealing place for the very top professorial candidates. Parking money for a rainy day or totally eliminating any financial contribution for financial aid students interests me much less.

That’s just me, but, although we might disagree on what we individually would want to fund, I’ll bet that there are plenty of other alums out there who will want to know how the money is to be used. I have so many other institutions screaming for my mite.

#2 Comment By current eph On June 14, 2007 @ 10:14 pm

I’m a big fan of Steve Birrel…he’s a good guy and I’m glad he’s heading things up.

#3 Comment By how about that:? On June 14, 2007 @ 10:34 pm

How about using the extra money to stop discriminating agains the international students and finaly lift the shameful quota of 6%?

#4 Comment By David On June 15, 2007 @ 2:40 am

Here is the only mention of financial aid and international students.

Vastly expanded need-based aid — in the form of larger grants and smaller loans to
middle- and upper-middle income as well as lower-income students — makes Williams
more affordable to a wider range of outstanding students. The College now aids families
with incomes ranging from below poverty level to over $190,000. Extending need-based
aid to international students means that Williams undergraduates now better reflect an
increasingly globalized society. New residential life initiatives help all students create a
powerful learning community — bridging class years, interests, and backgrounds through
a broad array of extracurricular activities.


1) Glad we are helping out those families who are only making $190,000! Nowadays, even the middle class needs help . . . Joking aside, where will the trend of every-higher-family-incomes for finacial aid recipients end? I don’t have a handy citation, but this maximum used to be closer to $125,000. My answer: When Williams is free for all.

2) Note that the international quota of 6% (background here) is not driven, I think, mainly by money issues. Even though international students are, on average, much poorer than those from the US, the main issue involves just how international the powers-that-be want Williams to be. If not 6%, is it 10%? 30%? 80%? Don’t forget: There are a lot of very smart English-speaking 18-year-olds in China and India.

3) There may be some progress on the international quota. The Record reported:

Those accepted include 49 African Americans, 50 Asian Americans, 45 Latinos, two Native Americans and 39 international students. International students hail from such places as Finland, Nepal and Kuwait.

With 33 international deposits at this time last year, and only 24 the year before, the admission office has faired well with students from other countries. The office will probably go to the waitlist for five or six more.

(39+5)/538 is 8%. Maybe the College is following my advice (?!) and slowing moving the percentage up. Good for them!

#5 Comment By Guy Creese ’75 On June 15, 2007 @ 6:39 am

The official statement of what the college is planning is at: http://www.williams.edu/alumni/campaign/climbfar.pdf

#6 Comment By & On June 15, 2007 @ 7:51 am

Just received the email with the statement. I found it far too vague. I’d like to see plans: projects with $$ values attached.

#7 Comment By frank uible On June 15, 2007 @ 9:03 am

How about the College’s granting an appropriate rebate to each of those families who in prior years paid full tuition in sending its student to Williams when the family’s annual income was not in excess of $190,000? I’d even be so generous as to waive on behalf of both my long deceased father and also myself the receipt of our rebates in return for the waiver constituting my entire lifetime contribution to the Alumni Fund – provided the College would have refunded to me my theretofore donations to it.

#8 Comment By MikeyD223 On June 15, 2007 @ 9:37 am

I generally agree with what others have said.. They don;t really given any compelling reasons why alumni should continue contributing. What are they going to do with the extra money?

Furthermore, why did they set such a low goal? How do they calculate how much money can realistically be raised in a capital campaign, and why were they so far off???

#9 Comment By BHC On June 15, 2007 @ 1:48 pm

Can anyone estimate what the current size of the Williams endowment is? Last estimate I heard was 1.5 billion $, but I think that was 2005 or 2006

#10 Comment By Jeff Z. On June 15, 2007 @ 2:47 pm

I refer you to an excerpt from the best speech ever given at any graduation weekend, Conan O’Brien’s 2000 class day speech at Harvard:

There is also sadness today, a feeling of loss that you’re leaving Harvard forever. Well, let me assure you that you never really leave Harvard. The Harvard Fundraising Committee will be on your ass until the day you die. Right now, a member of the Alumni Association is at the Mt. Auburn Cemetery shaking down the corpse of Henry Adams. They heard he had a brass toe ring and they aims to get it. Imagine: These people just raised 2.5 billion dollars and they only got through the B’s in the alumni directory. Here’s how it works. Your phone rings, usually after a big meal when you’re tired and most vulnerable. A voice asks you for money. Knowing they just raised 2.5 billion dollars you ask, “What do you need it for?” Then there’s a long pause and the voice on the other end of the line says, “We don’t need it, we just want it.” It’s chilling.

(For the whole speech, check
http://www.february-7.com/features/conan.htm )

#11 Comment By David On June 15, 2007 @ 4:48 pm

The usually sensible MikeyD writes:

Furthermore, why did they set such a low goal? How do they calculate how much money can realistically be raised in a capital campaign, and why were they so far off???

Any time you raise money, you set a goal that you think that you can reach but which, you hope, will push your donors to be as generous as possible. You don’t want it too high or too low.

I am sure that our friends in the alumni office did the best that they could on this. I, for one, could not have done better.

If it were me, I would continue the campaign but add a new specific goal ($500 million?). Ephs need to stars to aim for.

My guess is that one reason that they are continuing is that several big donations ($25 and $50 million) have not come in and the alumni office wants to ensure that they do.

#12 Comment By Jeff Z. On June 15, 2007 @ 5:18 pm

How much would it cost to bury Route 2 (the little dig)?

#13 Comment By NO DOGS NEED APPLY On June 15, 2007 @ 7:32 pm

Want another example of how Williams discriminates against the internationals? Suppose you are an int’l student at another school and you want to apply to Williams as a transfer student. You go to


which gives the admission info for transfer students, and you see the following statement in BOLD letters:

“We do not accept applications for transfer from International, non-US citizens, only from U.S. citizens and permanent residents.”

The Williams basically says: don’t even bother appllying.

Now, imagine if instead it said that Williams does not accept the aplications from Blacks, Jews, Asians, Eskimos [ insert your favorite minority her]. There would be an outrage, would it not?

But, noone cares about the internationals.

Two years ago, I recommended Williams to a ridiculously smart frend of mine (an int’l student), who was a sophmore at a large, nonelite, US university, and who was looking to transfer. She emailed to the Williams admissions office, but they bluntly told her not to bother applying because of “our policy of not admitting int’l transfers.” I even emailed to the admissions office myself to make sure that it is indeed the case that they WILL NOT EVEN CONSIDER HER APPLICATION, and I got the same response. This episode left me extremely bitter about our school (BTW, my friend is now a senior at MIT, which admitted her as a transfer student).

But, again, all this is to no avail. I prdict that within 15 minutes Rory will write here that I am having a pipe-dream, and that Williams is NOT discriminating agains the internationals.

#14 Comment By Guy Creese ’75 On June 17, 2007 @ 5:40 am

Capital fundraising is an art with a lot of gut feel tossed in. The previous capital campaign (in the 80s I think) had a smaller goal. So while the college wanted to raise more money, it didn’t want to blow completely past what it had done previously (e.g., stretch too far by making the Climb Far goal $1 billion).

I think several things have helped. First, the administration did a good job of making the request grounded in data (e.g., we need $X to fund tutorials). Second, the campaign did a good job of staying “on message” over the years. Third, Williams’ fundraising apparatus is more professional now–not up to the level of Harvard, perhaps, which is in a different league from everyone, but certainly better than it was 25 years ago.

If the college had its druthers, I suspect it would have been happier with a plan that more closely mapped to its fundraising ability. Still, if you’re going to deviate, it’s better to raise more than less.

#15 Comment By rory On June 17, 2007 @ 9:28 am

to “no dogs need apply”

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, you have misread my criticism of your methodology for proving that there is an admissions cap on internationals. I criticized your proof, not yout claim.

I’d be shocked, SHOCKED, if williams were treating international admissions identically to domestic admissions. Of course they don’t. And i’d be surprised if any of the differences were particularly beneficial to the international students. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a rough target number for international students in each class. I just think looking at phi betta kappa to prove your case is an inappropriately self-selecting and narrow sample. And if you want to prove a case, its best not to misinterpret people who you could convince.

#16 Comment By no dogs… On June 17, 2007 @ 11:18 pm

“And i’d be surprised if any of the differences were particularly beneficial to the international students. ”

How very understated. Since Kolesar already made that point abundantly clear in the email published on this blog, your surprise would indeed be surprising.

#17 Pingback By Notes on Foxboro » EphBlog On March 5, 2008 @ 6:54 am

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