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Would Williams College exist without Williamstown?

“Williamstown was established in 1753 as a plantation called West Hoosac and renamed Williamstown in 1765, when Col. Ephraim Williams bequeathed his estate to the town to establish a free school. (Williams now costs more than $40,000 a year). Students of Williams College, which was chartered in 1793, call themselves the Ephs, pronounced “eefs,” in his honor.”

Simple answer. No. It was given to “Ephs” by the town, from a townie. It is named after a townie. So are all of you alum.

All the banter in recent posts that the town somehow owes the College for its existance and hence the college has a right to do whatever it so desires, damn the town, is just pointless.

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#1 Comment By frank uible On August 26, 2007 @ 10:16 am

Though strictly speaking both a Williamstown townie and also a Williams College alumnus, I consider myself to be sui generis and choose not to be defined by the Town, the College or Ephraim Williams.

#2 Comment By Anonymous On August 26, 2007 @ 12:54 pm

Boy, where’s the pride, the passion, the “Esprit de corps” PTC?

Life is great. The town, its people and the greater college community. Are we suggesting that there is an underlying bitterness here? How pervasive is this, or are we listening to one melancholic voice?

Each one of us exists by virtue of the life we live through time and space. Honor that life and savor each moment. Jealousyly guard the honor of our body, our school, our town and our country as a whole.

#3 Comment By current eph On August 26, 2007 @ 2:59 pm

Ephraim Williams was was from West Hoosac? I didn’t know that…

#4 Comment By Anon ’89er On August 26, 2007 @ 3:18 pm

Williams was born in Newton, MA, but he went west with his family to become preeminent citizens in what would become Berkshire County, settling in Stockbridge, much as collateral branches of the family had been instrumental in resettling the Deerfield river area some 30 years earlier. Col. Williams became Commander at Fort Hoosuc, extending his family’s influence to the very arse-end of the colony.

The only map I have ever seen showing the birthplace of ol’ Eph himself is reproduced on the wall of the McDonalds on Needham Street (across from the Mobile Book Faire) in Newton.

At some point a pilgrimage to that spot can be undertaken, with a visit to the lucky homesteaders now living in the very location where the Williams farmstead once stood.

#5 Comment By Anonymous On August 26, 2007 @ 3:58 pm

Very well put Frank. I myself am not defined by Wiliamstown. It is a part of me, though. No doubt about it.
What bothers me, is that the College is re defining the town. Change is not a bad thing, per say, but the changes I see with the town gown relationship reflect in some odd way the general transformation to excess in our society. There is an arrogance there that was once much less pronounced, even shunned.
Why tear down perfectly good old beautiful buildings to build new ones when you do not have to? Because you can? Why displace people?
Sometimes, a reminder of our roots is a good thing. Without them, what do any of us have, really?
No, I am not the only one. I am not sure bitterness is the correct term. For some perhaps. For some disgust. For others, just laughter at the foolishness of it all. Yes, many are just plain laughing at the College, and moving on.

#6 Comment By Noons On August 26, 2007 @ 4:36 pm

…the changes I see with the town gown relationship reflect in some odd way the general transformation to excess in our society. There is an arrogance there that was once much less pronounced…

It’s class warfare, the way it’s always been played: the rich against the poor. If it is showing its face more openly – well, look no further than recent structural transformations in our political economy that have resulted in the ever-greater concentration of wealth and power in few hands.

As Gogol Bordello would say, “of course there is no us and them, but them they do not think the same.” Williams, sadly, is and always has been part of “them.”

#7 Comment By ’10 On August 26, 2007 @ 4:39 pm

Why tear down perfectly good old beautiful buildings to build new ones when you do not have to?

Are you proposing that the College should have left Baxter standing and simply built Paresky adjacent to it on the lawn? That would be quite a scene.

#8 Comment By Anonymous On August 26, 2007 @ 6:07 pm

“Why tear down perfectly good old beautiful buildings to build new ones when you do not have to?”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but hasn’t the new student center been a positive thing for the local economy? I believe it was mostly local firms who did the construction and a lot of the materials (stone for the fireplace, etc.) were from the region as well. Other than aesthetic objections that some clearly have, how could Paresky be a negative for the town (or at least more so than the Baxter)?

#9 Comment By Guy Creese ’75 On August 26, 2007 @ 8:35 pm

Over the centuries, the college has been tearing down buildings and putting things up. For example, it bought the site of the Greylock Inn and eventually put up the Greylock Quad. So I can’t see how putting up new buildings is a huge change.

I think part of the dynamic is that since the 1960s Williams has become a national college. Before it was a NY/NE college, so it did things in a smaller way. However, now it’s competing with a broad range of liberal arts colleges. Middlebury and others put up grand student unions and Williams now has to compete in the arms race.

I still think Morty’s decision to put the ’62 Theatre on Main Street was much more community-friendly than Hank Payne’s plan to put it at the bottom of Spring Street. Or have we already forgotten that piece of history?

Like it or not, a town/city and the local industry are inexorably intertwined. Look at Newton, IA as Maytag ups and leaves, or North Adams, MA when the mills vanished, or Lowell, MA when Wang Laboratories grew like a weed in the 1980s and then collapsed in the 1990s. You can’t separate the two.

Happily, unlike the above examples, the college has done well and offers relatively steady employment. However, that doesn’t mean it should run roughshod over the community–which I don’t think it does, by the way. Steps on some toes, perhaps.

#10 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On August 26, 2007 @ 11:50 pm

North Adams, MA when the mills vanished, or Lowell, MA

It’s a little more complex a story, isn’t it? NA and other Mill Towns collapse for a variety of reasons:

1) “50’s-style” top-down management which fails to meet the challenges facing the textile industry (Richard Florida);

2) A misbegotten “urban renewal” which guts the strengths of downtowns like NA (Jane Jacobs);

3) Kennedy’s failed FDR like attempts at using state economic intervention to “help” and “revive” the region. (Sorenson);

And of course, it’s more complex than that.

#11 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On August 27, 2007 @ 12:14 am

Noons:

It’s class warfare, the way it’s always been played: the rich against the poor. If it is showing its face more openly – well, look no further than recent structural transformations in our political economy that have resulted in the ever-greater concentration of wealth and power in few hands.

What happens, in a ‘society’ where 3% of the population holds 97% or so of the available money supply, if we slice away one or two percent of the ‘wealth’ of the rich, and use it to double the ‘wealth’ of the poor?

(At the very least, we should learn the differences between money supply, ‘capital’, and ‘wealth.’ Put another way, a $2M house in Palo Alto is an $80k house in East Nashville, is a $250k house in Williamstown; they are each roughly equivalent wealth by some reasonable definitions of wealth.)

#12 Comment By frank uible On August 27, 2007 @ 4:04 am

North Adams contained all the necessary elements (i.e. expensive labor, lack of scale, lack of vision, outmoded technology, highly worn fixed assets, lack of capital, inefficient infrastructure) for textile industry and other economic collapse, irrespective of future management, by the time the 50s arrived.

#13 Comment By Anonymous On August 27, 2007 @ 8:12 am

Speaking of williamstown, any update on the purple pub? is it moving to the hopkins store garage? will it be open this fall?

#14 Comment By Derek On August 28, 2007 @ 12:46 am

Has anyone actually argued: “the town somehow owes the College for its existance and hence the college has a right to do whatever it so desires, damn the town, is just pointless.”

It’s always easy to beat up Straw Men. Since they do not exist, it’s tough for them to fight back. Perhaps I’m wrong and someone has argued not only what PTC says they have, but in the way that he has presented their arguments, which is not unimportant.

dcat

#15 Comment By PTC On August 28, 2007 @ 4:37 am

Dcat- Not a straw man. Refer to “The Vatican” and other posts. The fact that some in here think the town owes the college for its existance, is well documented by multiple posters (Ephs) on this blog.

#16 Comment By PTC On August 28, 2007 @ 4:54 am

Dcat- Several posts from “The Vatican” on this blog that reflect this line of thinking denoted here. Of course, there are others found in most town v gown topics throughout the years. I think it is fair to say it is not a straw man.

“Townies need to understand that without the college no one would ever know WILLIAMStown even existed.
Get over it and be thankful the college is here.”
Posted by: ’67 at August 17, 2007 10:52 PM

“It may be true, but how rude and arrogant to say it!”
Posted by: frank uible at August 18, 2007 08:18 AM

“I agree. Better to say that the if college wasn’t there, you’d just have a different set of villains to worry about. The devil you know and the devil you don’t are both devils, after all, adn there are no Edens out there.”
Posted by: ’91 at August 18, 2007 11:14 AM

“cause for the pleasure I will have in leaving”
Could it be the $400,000 (a tidy “financial profit”) that the Williams College President and Trustees paid for the Warners’ “two-story Williamstown house”?
(I wonder what use the college will make of this and any other Meacham Street residences it eventually purchases. Offices? Co-ops?)”
Posted by: at August 15, 2007 11:33 PM

“The deck is stacked: in the long run, we’ll all be dead, and the college will own everything.
If you don’t like college towns don’t retire to one.
If you don’t like college jobs, find another.”

#17 Comment By Anonymous On August 31, 2007 @ 1:06 am

Like asking, would a femur exist without a torso, or would Williamstown exist without Massachusetts or the United States.

What is the point to this banter?

Whoever wrote this blog has underlying sentiments outside of the relationship of the college to the outlying community.

In other words, is Willy getting a bit ahead of its immediate geographical political area?

The local public demands an answer from the denizens of Willy.

We are all inextricably linked to one another by the prejudices we are defined by. They create the demarcation line that defines the cultures found within it. And within those cultures, the values we live by.

We are a community where we each define our relation to one another. I for one am fond of it, yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Make the best of it.

#18 Comment By frank uible On August 31, 2007 @ 1:54 am

I’m a denizen of Williamstown and am indifferent to this whole subject. In the argot of my ungenteel boyhood neighborhood, I don’t give a shit.

#19 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On August 31, 2007 @ 2:20 am

Dead horse, out of the the gate, meets whip. Audience yawns. Horse subsequently fails to produce middens.

#20 Comment By Derek On August 31, 2007 @ 5:41 am

Oddly, PTC has cited quotations that don’t actually say what PTC says that they said.

I feel like I am dealing with obtuse undergraduates, but if that is the case, that is the case. Here is what PTC wrote as an assertion of Williams’ mindset: “the town somehow owes the College for its existance and hence the college has a right to do whatever it so desires, damn the town.”

As proof PTC cites a number of commenters who actually argue quite different things, but we are supposed to believe that they all mean the same thing. Because apparently we are all incapable of, like, reading stuff and differentiating what that stuff means.

Yet I differentiate because I understand that at the heart of differentiation is the idea that there is difference. Crazy that. Keep in mind that these are PTC’s own examples. His own allegedly probitive examples.

Example One (or should I say, probitive example #1): “Townies need to understand that without the college no one would ever know WILLIAMStown even existed. Get over it and be thankful the college is here.”

Arrogant? Undoubtedly. Untrue? Questionable. But not an assertion that “the town somehow owes the college for its existence.” What this argues is that the town owes the college for its status. These are different arguments. Let’s not conflate them. Let’s be honest about their difference. That Williamstown existed prior to the college’s founding is not — say it together — IS NOT — the same as saying that Williamstown would have the same status without the college. If anyone would like to argue differently, I’ll have that argument. But a dishonest presentation of that argument is, oh, what is the word? Oh, yes: dishonest.

Example 2: “It may be true, but how rude and arrogant to say it!” Without knowing the precise “it”

I have to assume that the response is to the quotation from above. And thus my argument is the same as above.

Example 3: “I agree. Better to say that the if college wasn’t there, you’d just have a different set of villains to worry about. The devil you know and the devil you don’t are both devils, after all, adn there are no Edens out there.”

I’m not sure whose case this proves. I’m certain it does not prove PTC’s.

Example 3: “cause for the pleasure I will have in leaving” Could it be the $400,000 (a tidy “financial profit”) that the Williams College President and Trustees paid for the Warners’ “two-story Williamstown house”?
(I wonder what use the college will make of this and any other Meacham Street residences it eventually purchases. Offices? Co-ops?)”

Ditto. I have no idea how this could possibly prove PTC’s outsize assertion above. I can come up with many reasons, however, why it does not.

Example 4: “The deck is stacked: in the long run, we’ll all be dead, and the college will own everything. If you don’t like college towns don’t retire to one. If you don’t like college jobs, find another.”

Again, this is the supposed example for PTC’s assertion that, and I quote so as not to misrepresent: “the town somehow owes the College for its existance and hence the college has a right to do whatever it so desires, damn the town.”

Not a single one of the quotations that PTC excised shows in any way, shape, or form an example of what he asserts is a common view of Williams, Williams’ students, or Williams’ alums. And I am going to assume that PTC did not pull out his weakest examples. Not a single assertion that the town owes the college for its existence. And certainly not a single argument that the college can “do whatever it desires. damn the town.” Not one. Is PTC fundamentally dishonest, or is he incapable of reading? Not one of the arguments that he cherrypicked argued the thing he said they argued, though one did argue that Williamstown overwhelmingly owes its reputation to – wait for it in all of its controversial glory — the number one liberal arts college in the country.

So, as I said, Straw. Fucking. Man. Some have asserted – Frank, Ken, eg. — that they do not care about the substance of the argument, and fundamentally I agree. But I would be concerned if they are not worried about the argument being presented dishonestly. In this case it has not been.

dcat

#21 Comment By PTC On August 31, 2007 @ 8:58 am

Derek- ok, ok, semantics. Substitute exist for status… or the very nature of the town being worth a damn?? Fine. Would Williasmtown be worth anything without Williams?? Do we owe the college something, for gracing us with its presence?

Shame on me for not having a Williams education and using the word exist to denote a state of existance. Continue on with your outstanding control of the english language and intillectual bullying of the poor town folk, my lord. I am at our mercy! Thanks for the english lesson.

#22 Comment By PTC On August 31, 2007 @ 9:51 am

Dkat stated- “Not a single one of the quotations that PTC excised shows in any way, shape, or form an example of what he asserts is a common view of Williams, Williams’ students, or Williams’ alums.”

I never asserted “The town owes the college” was a common view of students or alums either. Frankly, I doubt they think much about it while they are bulldozing things.
“The Vatican” (think about that title for a second, does it suggest anything to you, arrogance, perhaps??) is a great post. It is the only post I took the examples from, but there have been many more, over the years… at least in the mind of this simple townie, anyhow.

So no dude, I do not think the majority even thinks about it much at all, until they are confronted with it while ripping apart the town, then the defense mechanisms kick in, and you get comments like “break out the bulldozers, I’m bored”. Comments like that suggest to simple folk like me, that some at the college think the town exists because of the college. Simple rhetoric, simple people, simple quiet rural new england town. Simple mind!

#23 Comment By Anonymous On August 31, 2007 @ 9:53 am

“I feel like I am dealing with obtuse undergraduates, but if that is the case, that is the case.”

You are, and we outnumber you! lol

#24 Comment By current eph On August 31, 2007 @ 10:04 am

PTC–no, not just semantics. Meaning. dcat’s arguments have substance to them, substance that, yes, is derived from the specific words he uses. However, in dismissing this substance as “semantics” (implicitly as “mere semantics”), I fear you miss his point.

#25 Comment By PTC On August 31, 2007 @ 10:19 am

Current eph- I get the point. My simple use of the language is not up to his speed. Got it. To me, a townie, it is semantics, to you, an elite Williams student, you eat sleep and drink it.

My question is, do you get my point? If so, why is his point more important than mine?