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Who is a Peabody Winner?

Don’t care about who is and who is not a Peabody winner? Don’t read this post! (But if you know any Ephs who have won a Peabody, please tell us in the comments. As far as I can tell, there is not a single Eph who can honestly claim to be a “Peabody winner.” Correct me if I am wrong!)

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Eph Pulitzer Winners

How many Ephs have won a Pulitzer Prize? This seems like the sort of empirical question we ought to be able to answer. Indeed, perhaps it is time for a Wikipedia page on the topic. I see:

John Toland ’36
Professor James McGregor Burns ’39
Bernard Bailyn ’45
Hedrick Smith ’55
John Kifner ’63 (who wins (?) via his contribution to a collection of articles for the New York Times. I think that all the reporters in such a collection can and do describe themselves as Pulitzer-winners. Is that the convention? Or do you need to be cited by name to claim that honor?)
Edward Larson ’74
Stacy Schiff ’82
Sonia Nazario ’82
Former Professor Louise Gluck (not sure if a non-alum belongs in this list but she won the Pulitzer while she was at Williams).

Are there any others? Leaving aside Gluck, all of these Ephs have won Bicentennial Medals except for Smith and Larson. Surely they should be near the top of the list as the committee members consider nominations for next year.

UPDATE: Thanks for the comment below on Greg Jaffe ’91. Since he is the author of several of the articles for which the Wall Street Journal won, he is, indeed, a Pulitzer Prize winner. (Note the confusion here on that topic.) In the category of Williams alum Pulitzer winners who have not won Bicentennial Medals, we have 3 men and 0 women. Nothing to see there! Please, just move along.


Photo ID, #94

This isn’t at Williams, per se, but here’s hoping you can still identify where it is, even if you’ve never been there.



Boston Globe Article on Financial Aid for the Middle Class

At the moment, the most e-mailed article on the The Boston Globe’s web site ( is one entitled, “At elite colleges, new aid for the middle.”

Some excerpts:

“The misconception is you get financial aid only if you’re poor,” William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid at Harvard, told about 160 parents and their college-bound children last week at a recruitment event at a Worcester hotel also attended by admissions officers from Duke, Stanford, Georgetown, and Penn.

Fitzsimmons and the other officials said they are increasingly reaching out to families caught in the middle: those who are too wealthy to be eligible for federal grants, but not so wealthy as to be able to absorb the $50,000 a year for college, particularly with the rising costs of home ownership.

A decade ago, when the annual price for elite colleges hovered near $30,000, the five colleges gave little or no financial aid to families earning $100,000 or more, unless they had more than one child in college. Now, colleges say they typically cover between $20,000 and $30,000 of the $50,000 bill for comparable families.

At Harvard, the average need-based grant for families in the $100,000-$140,000 income range last school year was $21,693, up from $17,910 in 2004-05.

At Stanford, a family with an income of more than $100,000 with one child in college would get about $30,000 this academic year, compared with just $4,000 to $5,000 a decade ago. Stanford specifically targeted $5 million of its $10 million overall aid increase last year for middle- and higher-income families, its financial aid director said.

College officials define middle class as families who make $100,000 and more per year….

At the admissions directors’ presentation in Worcester, Fitzsimmons stunned many parents when he showed a slide of the income levels of Harvard’s 3,357 undergraduate aid recipients last academic year. About 40 percent of the recipients came from families who made more than $100,000, while just over 30 percent were from families making under $60,000. The highest income on the slide was $180,000 and above.


Gender Disparity in Bicentennial Medal Standards

My friend Jeff claims that I have been “soundly trounced” on the issue of whether or not the same standards apply for male and female Ephs in the awarding of Bicentennial Medals at Williams.

[Previous discussion here. Strictly speaking there are two separate issues. First, are the standards lower for female Ephs and for male Ephs in general? Second, does any particular Eph, male or female, deserve to win? The second questions is much more difficult and contentious than the first. Here, let me focus on the former. Only those naive to the ways of places like Williams and to the unyielding reality of the underlying demographics believe that standards for men and women are the same.]

Jeff provides a handy “proof” of his claim, illustrating, in his view, that there are female Ephs with credentials more distinguished than Earl Potter ’68 who have not won Bicentennial Medals.

By the way, Catherine Hill has better than “the same” achievements (President of a more prestigious institution, Vassar, as well as years of service to Williams) … she has not (yet) been awarded a medal. QED.

I do not think that QED means what you think it means.

First, Catherine Hill was awarded an Honorary Degree in 2006. An Honorary Degree is much more prestigious than a Bicentennial Medal. As a rule (counter-examples welcome), the College does not award both to the same person. Consider Nobel Prize winner Robert Engle ’64, awarded an Honorary Degree in 2007. We all agree that he has displayed “distinguished achievement.” Why no Bicentennial Medal for Engle? Because the College awards honorary degrees to the real stars.

Second, even if you want to compare Cappy Hill to someone, the natural comparison is to Steve Lewis ’60. Both are Williams graduates, Williams economics professors and Williams provosts. Both became presidents of elite liberal arts colleges. Why does Lewis only get a Bicentennial Medal after a decade of being a college president while Hill gets an Honorary Degree just as her college presidency begins?

But these are quibbles. The Lewis/Hill outcomes might have nothing to do with gender. Morty might just like Cappy and not like Steve. Instead, of looking at this difficult case, let’s take a simple test. Here are neutral descriptions of three alums in the same field.

1) Successful in business and owner of a minor league baseball team.
2) Successful in business and owner of a major league baseball team.
3) Successful in business and commissioner of Major League Baseball.

Which one of these three alums has most displayed “distinguished achievement” in his/her field? Now, it would be reasonable to say that none of them have, that baseball is such a trivial part of human endeavor that none of these Ephs deserve a medal. It would also be reasonable to think that baseball is so wonderful that all three Ephs should win.

But there is no possible objective criteria by which you can prefer Eph #1 over #2 and #3. What if I told you that, in fact, #1 had been awarded a Bicentennial Medal in 1994 while Ephs #2 (George Steinbrenner ’52) and #3 (Fay Vincent ’60) had never been so honored? What would your first guess be about the gender of Eph #1? That’s right! Eph #1 is female.

Tracy P. Lewis
Class of 1983
Awarded the Bicentennial Medal in 1994.

Business woman and entrepreneur – first woman to own a minor league baseball team.

I am happy to grant that Tracy Lewis is a wonderful person (more wonderful than me) who has achieved a great deal (more than me). But if she had not been a woman, she would not have been awarded a Bicentennial Medal.

One example not enough? Fine. Let’s play again! Which of these four Ephs deserves a Bicentennial Medal?

1) Elected District Attorney in Middlesex County, Massachusetts.
2) Elected Congressman from 2nd District of Hawaii.
3) Elected Congressman from 2nd District of Colorado.
4) Elected Governor of Minnesota.

Again, maybe all of these Ephs deserve medals because elected office is so important. Maybe none of them do because politicians are venal. But there is no objective criteria imaginable by which a fair committee would choose #1 over any of #2, #3, or #4.

Who won? Surprise! It was Eph #1 in 1999.

Martha M. Coakley
Class of 1975
Awarded the Bicentennial Medal in 1999.

Middlesex County District Attorney

Neither Eph #2 (Ed Case ’75) nor #3 (Mark Udall ’72) nor #4 (Arne Carlson ’57) have won Bicentennial Medals. If any were female, they would have.

I am happy to play this game all day long, but, please, just think about the demographic reality. Women have only been at Williams for the last 30 years. Bicentennial Medal winners tend to be older because it often takes a lifetime to demonstrate “distinguished achievement.” Many/most female Ephs take substantial time off from their careers for family reasons while very few male Ephs do the same. Given all these facts (and without even entering the wonderful world of Larry Summers), there is no way that objective criteria would produce a 50/50 split between male/female medal winners.

What would the split be if the committee were gender-blind? Excellent question! I don’t know. There is already more male than female winners. A rough guess would be that 25% of the winners are female. If there were not a concern to make the winners look like Williams, the percentage would be much lower.

And, as always, this discussion should take nothing away from the female winners who would have won even if they were male. For example, it seems (counter-examples welcome) that every Eph Pulitzer Prize-winner has won a Bicentennial Medal. Sonia Nazario ’82 and Stacy Schiff ’82 fully deserved their medals. The same can not be said for some other female Eph winners. They were chosen, not for “distinguished achievement” among all Ephs, but for success in comparison to other female graduates of Williams.

It is an empirical fact that the standards for awarding Bicentennial Medals for women are lower than those for men. That may be a good thing. (I don’t really object much, if at all.) That may be a bad thing. But people like Jeff who would prefer that reality were other than it is should try to do that pretending elsewhere. They will have better luck.


Yacht Club

Add Earl Potter ’68, president of St. Cloud State University, to the list of Eph college presidents. Is this news story a compliment or an insult?

But behind those achievements lie a man whose history is as complex and diverse as the list of schools he’s studied at and led.

Potter grew up in a small, waterfront town in Rhode Island along with his parents and younger brother and sister.

Potter described his past as one full of choices, of trying to fit in with the various social circles that ran rampant in his life in North Kingstown.

Church, high school and the yacht club were just some of the many directions the young Potter was pulled in.

But though it could be difficult at times to sort through those various circles, Potter said he learned to make up his own mind on what was right and wrong, and gained an independent streak which helps guide him through decisions he continues to make.

Ah, the pull of the yacht club. Beware the infernal temptations of youth!

To be fair, Potter seems like an interesting fellow. He spent many years in the Coast Guard, not dodging his military obligations like so many Ephs of his generation. Will the College be awarding Potter a Bicentennial Medal anytime soon? Maybe. A female Eph with the same accomplishments would be a shoe-in.



Amused Cynic (aka Driver), a 2007 parent, has thoughts on Commencement Speaker Katie Couric. Driver is not a fan.


Giving Up

Did you know that Anthony Kronman ’68, former Dean of Yale Law School, was a member of the Vast Right-wing Conspiracy, Eph division? Me either! Kronman’s new book, Education’s End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life, aims to be The Closing of the American Mind for 2007.

The question of what living is for — of what one should care about and why — is the most important question a person can ask. Yet under the influence of the modern research ideal, our colleges and universities have expelled this question from their classrooms, judging it unfit for organized study. In this eloquent and carefully considered book, Tony Kronman explores why this has happened and calls for the restoration of life’s most important question to an honored place in higher education.

The author contrasts an earlier era in American education, when the question of the meaning of life was at the center of instruction, with our own times, when this question has been largely abandoned by college and university teachers. In particular, teachers of the humanities, who once felt a special responsibility to guide their students in exploring the question of what living is for, have lost confidence in their authority to do so. And they have lost sight of the question itself in the blinding fog of political correctness that has dominated their disciplines for the past forty years.

Yet Kronman sees a readiness for change — a longing among teachers as well as students to engage questions of ultimate meaning. He urges a revival of the humanities’ lost tradition of studying the meaning of life through the careful but critical reading of great works of literary and philosophical imagination. And he offers here the charter document of that revival.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know that many readers will expect an ex-Marine, anti-big-government wingnut like me to eat this stuff up with a rich man’s spoon. Sorry to disappoint! This is 90% gibberish.

1) Just when was this golden age when “the meaning of life was at the center of instruction?” Was it when I was at Williams 20 years ago, Kronman 30 years ago or my father 50 years ago? I would take the other side on any of those claims. We talked endlessly about the meaning of life in Williams dorms 20 years ago. In classes? Not so much. Of course, there were some great discussions. I still recall arguing over Alistair McIntyre’s conception of virtue in a class with Philosophy Professor Alan White. But, surely, such class room debate still goes on.

2) I do my fair share of fighting against the “fog of political correctness” (fun examples here and here), but the PC ethos has no problem with prattle about the meaning of life. In fact, I bet that the more PC the teacher, the more such prattle there is. It is the “conservatives” in departments like English who insist on focusing on the actual works on the syllabus, who demand that students discuss what Shakespeare wrote and why, rather than on what 18 year-olds think about the “meaning of life.” PC prevents a discussion of actual facts (which might offend someone) rather than sophomoric musings. You can discuss the meaning of life all day, every day at Williams. No one will complain. Try to have a discussion about why there are no African American faculty in Division III. The PC’ers will be at your throat in minutes. Ask Larry Summers!

3) There is a “a longing among teachers” for this? Yeah, right! The faculty control places like Williams and Yale. If there was a real longing among a non-trivial portion of the faculty, we would see much more of this. We don’t, so there isn’t.

4) Is there any evidence that humanities professors in general have “lost confidence in their authority” to guide students on important questions? Not that I have noticed!

There is also an interview with Kronman here which I find much more congenial. Perhaps the book might make for an interesting CGCL. Thoughts?


Williams Connections to the 2007 MacArthur Fellows

Well, the MacArthur Foundation’s “genius awards” are out, and there are no Williams graduates in this year’s list. However, Peter Cole started out at Williams and then transferred to Hampshire College.

There is another Williams connection–Marlies Carruth ’80 is a Program Officer there. The Program Staff web page notes:

Marlies Carruth is a Program Officer in the Fellows Program.

After more than a decade with First National Bank of Chicago and Leo Burnett, Carruth turned her energies toward the creative arts and community development. As an independent film producer and director, she produced concept pieces, short films, and a feature-length movie, each exploring important contemporary social issues. In addition, Carruth co-founded Indie Day, a national grassroots film festival for cable television.

Carruth received her B.A. in Political Economy from Williams College and her M.B.A. from the University of Chicago, with a concentration in Finance.


Machete Ball

(d)avid points out this e-mail to Andrew Sullivan on the topic of the domination by Asian-Americans of evangelical groups at elite campuses.

Andrew, two things:

First, it is indeed true that Asians dominate Christian groups at elite US colleges. At Williams, my friends and I lived in a suite opposite six or seven Christian, Asian girls, very sweet and demure and renunciatory of things of This World: I know it bothered them living with four more or less Wild Men (like the figure of medieval popular mythology) who were constantly smoking pot, shouting, and carrying machetes (we used to play a game called Machete Ball, very wasteful and American; it’s pretty much baseball except one uses fruit for the balls and a machete for the bat — quite satisfying). Or rather, I do tend to think that along with the disapproval, there was a genuine amount of fear, which is not unreasonable.

So that statistic rings true.

Secondly, Harvard was not an evangelical institution in the 17th C., it was only in the 18th C., with the Great Awakening, that what we know as Evangelicals really came on the scene. The 17th Century types were much more grim and bloody-minded Calvinists, Cotton Mather style.

Sorry to be pedantic, but New England 17th and 18th C. History is my specialty.

(d)avid writes: “I can’t believe that Ephblog somehow missed out on machete ball. Definitely a trend that deserves watching.”

Indeed. Comments:

1) If you care about the history of Williams, you have to read Mark Hopkins and the Log by Professor Fred Rudolph ’39. Lots of good stuff on the Great Awakening.

2) Is Machete Ball still played at Williams? Pictures, please.

3) Are their evangelic groups active at Williams? What is their ethnic breakdown?



Wick Sloane ’76 writes about another day in the life of a community college English professor.

“Good prose is like a windowpane,” George Orwell warned the wordy in Why I Write. In the face of a confounding situation, squirt the Windex, wipe the glass, shut up and write. This is one of those times.

Read the whole thing.


Crush on Ahmadinejad

Dan Blatt ’85 reports that Left-Wing Lesbian Has Crush on Ahmadinejad. I shudder to think what Google searches will find their way to EphBlog as a result.


Eph 400

The Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans is out. How many Ephs are on it? Excellent question! I see:

1) Edgar M Bronfman Sr ’50 at $3.2 billion. Bronfman never graduated from (was kicked out of?) Williams. Surely there is a story to be told . . .

2) Herb Allen ’62 at $2.0 billion. By the way, Allen is listed as a college drop-out. Does he have a degree from Williams or not?

3) Robert Rich Jr ’63 at $1.5 billion. Note also this great article.

4) George Steinbrenner III, ’52 at $1.3 billion.

Non-Ephs on the list with Eph connections include Robert Kraft (father of several Ephs including Trustee Jonathan Kraft ’86) and Matthew Bucksbaum grandfather to a current Eph and father-in-law to Williams Commencement (Re-)Speaker Thomas Friedman.

Here is a handy alphabetical list of all 400. Are there any Ephs we have missed? (Why doesn’t this tool provide a Williams option?)

Unfortunately, Steve Case ’80 is no longer on the list. Alas, $825 million isn’t what it used to be! Eph most likely to make this list someday? Chase Coleman ’97.


Sani ’08 Scores

Just how good is women’s soccer this year? Pretty good.

Western Connecticut came to Cole Field with an undefeated record and a No. 9 national ranking in the latest Division III women’s soccer poll. The Colonials left Williams College with its ranking — but not the undefeated season.

Four different Ephs scored goals as they rolled over Western Connecticut 4-0 yesterday afternoon. The win improved Williams’ record to 5-0-0, while Western Connecticut falls to 4-1-1.

The visitors entered the game having moved up to the No. 9 ranking in the latest national poll. Williams was not ranked, but did receive some Top 25 votes.

Five minutes into the game, the Ephs scored a goal and made a statement that they belong in the poll. Williams netted three goals in the opening stanza.

“We have been starting our games strong and that has been very effective for us,” said Ephs coach Michelyne Pinard.

Williams’ Ana Sani had two goals, giving her a NESCAC-leading five for the year.

Longtime readers will recall that Sani appeared on the front page of the New York Times two years ago. Glad to see that her knee is feeling better!

By the way, another of my crazy ideas is to stop reserving the 1:00 PM time slot at Weston Field for the football team on Homecoming Week-End. Almost all alums come for fun and friends, not football. Attendance would be the same if, say, women’s soccer were playing.

So, instead of football, honor whichever team (male or female) has had the best fall season by giving them the 1:00 PM slot at Weston. If it isn’t football, then they could play either before or after. I realize that Weston is not (easily) set-up for soccer (or field hockey) but I am pretty sure that the players would rather be at the center of attention even if the field were sub-optimal.


$5 Million for Sustainability

To the Williams Community,

I am very pleased to announce the next important step in our effort to make College operations environmentally sustainable — the launching of a center to lead those initiatives, funded by a wonderfully generous gift of $5 million from Selim Zilkha, Class of 1946. full text

So starts a letter to the campus from president Morty. What does $5 million mean for the campus?

The Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives will work with students, faculty, and staff to incorporate principles of sustainability into the fabric of campus life — in learning, in our purchasing and operations, in capital projects, and in the daily routines of us all. It will lead the development and management of a strategic plan for sustainability to include energy management and greenhouse gas emissions reductions, waste management, environment-friendly development and purchasing, and student involvement and education. This work will complement the already strong academic programs of our longstanding Center for Environmental Studies.

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Football Webcast

Looking for a webcast of today’s football game? Try here. Let us know if it works. How many years before almost every Williams sporting event is webcast?


Contract Major

Erik Tillman has a question.

Can anyone offer some advice on whether it’s worth it, how to decide whether to pursue it, what it actually entails… anything? I’m thinking of maybe combining bio and philosophy into a bioethics-type program. Maybe.

Not worth it. First, why not be a biology major or a philosophy major or (even better) a double major instead? If you are really interested in bio-ethics then you ought to study a lot of both biology and philosophy at Williams. (I would especially recommend learning all the technical details associated with the BiGP program.) Second, even if you are not interested enough in, say, biology to double major, philosophy is still a natural home for a budding bio-ethicist. You can certainly do a bio-ethics thesis and might even be able to swing an independent study. (You should already be taking classes with an eye to establishing relationships with philosophy professors (who?) with an interest in the topic. Third, a contract major is a pain. There is a big bureaucratic process to go through and you need to sweet-talk professors to make it all happen. The College makes the process tough on purpose to weed out those who aren’t that serious or who would be just as well served by a regular major.

There is nothing wrong with a contract major, but the costs are high.

Are there an contract majors among our readers?


Photo ID, #93



Bookstore Monopolies

One might fulminate about the ridiculous prices and endless queues at Water St. Books during the start of semester, but at least they never tried a policy as brain-dead as this one:

The Coop, Harvard’s Barnes-and-Noble-run bookstore, has begun to throw out students who “take a lot of notes” about book pricing, stating that their prices are “intellectual property.” Apparently, no one with a Harvard Law degree is involved in formulating this notion, as factual matters (such as pricing) are not copyrightable.

Coop President Jerry P. Murphy ’73 said that while there is no Coop policy against individual students copying down book information, “we discourage people who are taking down a lot of notes.” The apparent new policy could be a response to efforts by–an online database that allows students to find the books they need for each course at discounted prices from several online booksellers–from writing down the ISBN identification numbers for books at the Coop and then using that information for their Web site. Murphy said the Coop considers that information the Coop’s intellectual property.

A policy like this only drives students further away from shopping at traditional campus bookstores. If comparison shopping is discouraged, students are probably better off making their purchases directly online, since that will almost always turn out to be cheaper in the end.

I wonder how long it will be until some tech-savvy college uses Amazon’s aStore bookstore-creator to offer a completely online campus bookstore. The primary value offered by traditional campus book stores is that they make it easier for students to navigate to the book list for their specific course. However, a well-made online campus bookstore could be even easier to navigate: students could enter their student ID number, which would be linked in to the college’s course registration and billing databases, in order to automatically receive a list of all books they need to get for their courses. They could then have the books they purchase delivered to the campus mail room, while the cost of the books would be added to their term bill. This would reduce the process of book-buying to a couple of clicks.

Perhaps Amazon could offer some bulk discounted shipping options to colleges; we would also need a user-friendly API that lets registrars upload courses and book lists easily using a spreadsheet. Are any developers listening?


New Center for Environmental Initiatives

Morty just sent out an e-mail to the college detailing a new full-time staff position within the office of the vice president for operations. The staffer will lead the Center for Environmental Initiatives, which will create and maintain a strategic plan for the college’ sustainability goals.

It looks like the Thursday Night Group just got a corresponding official within the college.

Read the whole letter at the link below.

Read more


Tell It To The Marines

Are you a patriotic, athletic Eph with some physical courage? If so, there is nothing better to do next summer then spend 6 weeks at Marine Corps OCS. Jeff Castiglione ’07 is here today to tell you why.

Have you considered becoming an Officer in the US Marine Corps? Meet 2nd Lieutenant Jeffrey Castiglione ’07, USMC on Thursday, 9/20 from 12:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m. in the OCC Library. Jeff will talk about his experiences in OCS and the Marine Corps Officer Programs. In October, Jeff will attend The Basic School in Quantico, VA for more specialized training before he is deployed. Pizza and beverages will be provided.

The great thing about OCS is that there is no obligation. You can try it out for a summer, head back to Williams and then have nothing to do with the Marine Corps for the rest of your life. More details here. Spending a summer at OCS was the second best decision I made at Williams.


IM Soccer?

We have an Office of Campus Life with a 7 figure budget and there is no IM Soccer at Williams. This makes me sad. Previous rant here. What are the OCL bureaucrats doing today that brings more to Williams than a decent IM Soccer league?

UPDATE: Note that I am not recommending that the Office of Campus Life do everything. Remember the Tablecloth Colors! Instead, OCL should make sure that some student, any student, is around to take over IM soccer. They should ensure continuity in student-run activities. They should double-check that whoever was in charge of IM Soccer (or whatever) last year has handed responsibility to someone for this year. And then, having done that, they should get out of the way.


The Wearing of the Green

How many Ephs will be wearing green tomorrow?

We should all be in support of fighting the injustice that the Jena 6 face. More importantly, we should be concerned with combating injustices everywhere. We ask, with your support, that students and faculty of Williams wear Green T-Shirts on this Thursday, Sept 20th. Green represents growth and solidarity in our efforts to surpass hate & injustice.

We are strongly anti-hate at EphBlog. Comments:

1) I have no strong opinions on the Jena Six although, as I rule, I am always suspicious of the power wielded by prosecutors, whether they be Republicans like Rudy Giuliani or Democrats like Mike Nifong. I would like to know more about the District Attorney in this case, Reed Walters.

2) One way for Williams students to get involved in this case is — Say it with me! — blogging. There does not seem to be a centralized location on the web for the latest news and information about the Jena Six. There should be one. A committed Williams student should create a Jena Six blog in the same way that former Williams professor KC Johnson created a blog about the Duke Lacrosse Non-Rape case. In fact, EphBlog would love to host such an effort. Given our 1,000 or so daily readers, long history and regular posting, such a Jena Six blog hosted here would quickly rise to the top of the Google rankings. I think that this is the single best way that a small group of Williams students could help the Jena Six. Who knows? It might even lead to a book, as with our Eph Dairiest from three years ago, Derek Charles Catsam.

3) Perhaps someone could pass along this suggestion at the meeting tonight at 7:00 p.m. in Rice House? Were any of our readers at the last meeting? Details, please.


What Agents Do


Gosh, those TV types can be snippy.

Snarky items have been popping up in the gossip columns about rival CNBC presenters Maria Bartiromo and Erin Burnett [’98]. It has been alleged that off camera, the two beauties do nothing except seethe with jealousy over each other’s success.

But some say one source of the stories is Burnett’s agent, Alan Berger.

“Berger started this feud with Maria to increase Burnett’s profile, because the Fox Business channel is launching and he wants to get her a spot there,” says one insider.

“The only thing the leaks are doing is hurting Burnett’s credibility as a newscaster.”


Yeah, right, that’s the key to getting the big money from the networks: “credibility.” (Hat tip to Dealbreaker.)


More Moms Than Dads

Williams Biology Professor Jason Wilder is quoted by New York Times columnist John Tierney on the subject of the sex differential in humanity’s family tree. Alas, the quote is in a blog post and not in the newspaper itself, but, rule #1 about publicity is that there is no such thing as bad face time!

I’ve run into all sorts of problems when explaining our finding that the breeding sex ratio is skewed in favor of women. (The most common response: “More women have children than men? Duh, of course.”) I’ll explain very briefly the methodology of our study and how we interpret the results.

In a nutshell, we examined the amount of genetic variability on the Y chromosome (which is inherited by males solely from fathers) and mitochondrial DNA (inherited in both sexes solely from the mother). According to population genetic theory, the amount of variation observed among any set of chromosomes surveyed in a population is proportional to two factors, the rate of mutation and the size of the population (in terms of numbers of reproducing individuals). If we factor out differences in the rate of mutation, then any leftover difference in the amount of variation between two samples of chromosomes should be due to differences in the sizes of the populations from which they are sampled. Applying this method, we were able to estimate the relative size of the female and male human populations (from mitochondrial and Y chromosome variation, respectively). We found that the breeding sex ratio is about two females per male.

On average (and over evolutionary time), any given human female has been more likely to reproduce than any given male. Said another way, males have had a higher variance in reproductive success than females. As a consequence, more different females have contributed to the modern gene pool than males. Rather spectacular examples of this phenomenon have been inferred from historical times using genetic data. Asian conquerors (such as Genghis Khan and Giocangga) and their male relatives appear to have made a vastly disproportionate contribution to modern Asian populations. Niall of the Nine Hostages seems to have had a similar effect on the gene pool of the British Isles. These types of events, where one person (or set of related individuals) experiences tremendous reproductive success, can have an effect on the gene pool that lasts for many generations. On the other side of the equation, we have to infer that there are many more males than females who do not successfully reproduce at all.

Cool stuff. See here for the scientific paper which forms the basis for Wilder’s assertion.

Research like Wilder’s will one day make some of the debates that we have had at EphBlog (examples here, here, here and here) seem truly stupid. Best of those discussion was this one. And whatever happened to “Moonwalk,” a smart commentator who I tried to recruit as an author? I hope that she doesn’t hold my cowardly refusal to answer her question against me . . .

Regardless, there is no stopping the accelerating train of genetic knowledge as it leaves the PC station.

Faster, please.


Do Not Go To Business School

At least 50% of the students from Williams who get an MBA are making a mistake. They would be better off saving their money and getting two years more of real work experience/connections instead.

I have had lunch twice in the last few weeks with a long time EphBlog reader. (He can chime in if he wants.) I have been advising him about how to get into finance. I have done this with many Ephs in the past (three Ephs now work at my old firm, Geode Capital) and plan on doing so for years to come. One thing that I have always emphasized is that, for most Ephs, an MBA is a waste of time. You don’t learn anything that you need to know or that you couldn’t learn on your own (especially through the CFA program). Even worse, you lose out on two years of experience/connections in the working world. About the only Ephs who benefit from an MBA are those looking for a career change, especially those coming from the non-business world. If you have just finished up five years in the Marine Corps or the Peace Corps, then business school may not be a bad option.

Anyway, having been given the do-not-get-an-MBA schpiel by me, this Eph was kind enough to forward a New York Times story from yesterday which makes the same point. Highlights below.

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Jena Six

A reader points to this WSO announcement.

This Sunday will be a special meeting about the Jena 6 issue that many may not be aware of. It is an important issue that deals with students of this school and throughout the country. The issue is injustice and is one that all of Williams should be concerned about. Be active outside the purple bubble. Come at 7:00 p.m. to Rice House (Morley’s Circle) and discuss the Jena 6 issue with other students and faculty. Come to learn about it if you have not heard of it. Get involved with the BSU and SSJ to discuss what should be done.

Meeting is in 30 minutes. If any readers attend, please let us know how it goes.

Never heard of the Jena Six?

Jena Six refers to a group of six African American teenagers who are charged with attempted second-degree murder after assaulting a white teenager in Jena, Louisiana, on December 4, 2006. Critics including civil rights leaders Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have claimed that their arrests were racially motivated.

Well, if Al Sharpton is involved, I am suspicious. Was the Tawana Brawley hoax only 20 years ago? Our anonymous reader notes:

I’m wondering what you make of this. How does an issue of black and white high school students in Louisiana fighting each other “deal with students of this school”? Is the Williams student poster saying that there is racial violence at Williams? Or injustice against black students at Williams? Just wondering.

Me too.


Stahl ’95 Weds

Jon Stahl ’95 just got hitched. See the link for a lovely photo. Jon looks like he can’t believe that this beautiful (Eph?) woman is about to marry him. I know that feeling well.

Congratulations to all.


Dean Dave Event

Why not produce a podcast of this event?

Please join us on the second floor of Paresky for Dean Dave’s favorite cookies- Chocolate chip! Dean Dave will share his personal story for what promises to be an incredible half hour.

Hundreds of alums would be interested in hearing Dean Dave Johnson’s story. Few Ephs better exemplify the Williams ethos of excellence in all things.


Mladenovic Tenured

The first edition of the Record came out this week in print and on the web. Kudos on a fine job. As a paying subscriber, I also appreciate getting the paper by Saturday. (If you aren’t a paying subscriber, you ought to be.)

Note that not everything in the print edition makes it to the web. For example, there was a note this week that Bojana Mladenovic‘s tenure appeal had been granted. Shocking news! How many tenure appeals have been granted in the last decade? I can’t think of any since Mark Reinhardt’s in the mid-90s. (Can anyone else?) Informed commentary welcome. EphBlog first reported Mladenovic’s tenure denial 2 years ago. The Record should dig into this one. There are many junior professors who would find this a fascinating topic! And, since Mladenovic is now tenured, she ought to be open to an interview on the topic.


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