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Dr. Krissoff Goes to War

Dr. Bill Krissoff, father of 1st Lt Nate Krissoff ’03, USMC, has joined the Navy.

Former East Grand Rapids resident Bill Krissoff never figured to be in a position to look President Bush in the eye and ask a favor.

But there he was, sitting in a room in Reno with Bush and several other families who had lost soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan.

His son, Marine Lt. Nathan Krissoff, had been killed in a December 2006 roadside bomb explosion in Iraq.

Months later, Krissoff came to a carefully considered decision: He would honor his son by leaving a flourishing orthopedic practice, a comfortable life, to join the Navy as a combat surgeon.

But his application for an age waiver was mired in paperwork.

Bush went around the room and asked if there was anything he could do.

“I said, ‘Yah, there is one thing. I want to join the Navy medical corps and I gotta get some help here,'” recalled Krissoff, 61, a 1964 graduate of East Grand Rapids High School who now resides in California near Reno.

Three days after that August meeting, the Navy called. His waiver had been granted.

Krissoff was commissioned a lieutenant commander Nov. 18, after which he expects to attend officer development school in January. Attached to the 4th Medical Battalion, he is on course to join a combat surgical team. He hopes to serve in Iraq.

Krissoff and his wife also appeared on a CBS Morning segment. CBS News picked up the story from People magazine. A scan of the article is below. The Krissoff’s other son is also a Marine officer.

His wife, Christine, 56, has made peace with his choice as well. But it doesn’t mean she won’t miss her husband.

“I am not fine with the amount of time he’s gone. But none of the wives of the military people who serve are going to be fine with it.

“That’s just part of the deal.”

His mother, East Grand Rapids resident Sylvia Krissoff, 88, said she was “shocked” when she learned what he planned to do.

Then it started to make sense.

“I think, for him, it really is great. It’s really an extension of his love for Nate and, in some ways, carrying on for what Nate would have done.

“Nate would have been so proud of him.”

As are we all. As the Marines he saves will soon start addressing him, “Welcome aboard, Doc.”

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People Familiar

Everyone catch the Eph in the lead story in the Wall Street Journal today on Citadel’s investment in E*Trade?

On Monday, Nov. 12, Kenneth Griffin was boarding a plane to New York when he received an urgent call from Joe Russell, a lieutenant at Mr. Griffin’s big hedge fund, Citadel Investment Group. Shares of online broker E*Trade Financial Corp. were plunging in value, and Citadel, a holder of E*Trade shares and debt, was losing money rapidly.

“We need to focus on this fast,” said Mr. Russell, Citadel’s head of credit investments, relaying word that an analyst report suggesting possible bankruptcy had sent shares of E*Trade reeling.

“Let’s go,” Mr. Griffin shot back, as he authorized a plan to begin buying up millions of shares of E*Trade.

Heroic hedge fund manager bestrides the world of finance, righting wrongs and buying distressed assets.

By late October, E*Trade had hired advisory firm BlackRock Inc. to assess the damage to its mortgage portfolio, according to a person familiar with the matter. And on Nov. 1, E*Trade’s Mr. Caplan made a key call: to J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. banker James B. Lee, also a bank vice chairman. “We need you to take a hard look at our options,” Mr. Caplan said, according to people familiar with the matter. By this time, Mr. Caplan had already retained longtime banker Jane Wheeler at Evercore Partners to work on a rescue plan.

That would be Jimmy Lee ’75, leading Eph banker of his generation. (Previous Lee posts here and here.) Who do you think these mysterious “people familiar” are and what is their motive for talking to the Wall Street Journal?

About a week later, on Nov. 9., Mr. Lee and a team of bankers flew to E*Trade’s Arlington, Va., offices to lay out the options. Two potential bidding groups were at the top of list. One was Citadel, and the other was the duo of brokerage firm TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. and private-equity fund J.C. Flowers & Co.

Also that day, E*Trade’s top executives huddled to assess their rapidly deteriorating mortgage portfolio. “We honestly can’t predict with any certainty where this is going anymore and we just shouldn’t even try to peg the bottom anymore,” a weary Mr. Caplan said to the executives. The firm then issued another profit warning and dismissed a top trading executive and members of his team.

Experienced finance people are wondering at this point about who is advising whom and how they are getting paid. Is Jimmy Lee getting paid by E*Trade? Whether or not a deal goes through? Does he need to split the fee with Jane Wheeler who is, fairly obviously, not a source for the story? Not being a banker, I am confused. Comments welcome from our Ephs in finance.

By the middle of November, the crisis was starting to wear on Mr. Caplan. The E*Trade executive, who lives on a sleepy tree-lined road in Bethesda, Md., took up temporary residence in New York on Nov. 9 and was working round the clock.

“I just really want this company to survive,” Mr. Caplan confided to J.P. Morgan’s Mr. Lee early last week. Mr. Lee, people familiar with the matter say, encouraged him to stay the course, telling Mr. Caplan, “You are doing the right thing.”

And, if you don’t do a deal, I don’t get paid! Or is that a cynical interpretation? Did JP Morgan get paid for this transaction? By Citadel?

But the best part is how a private conversation between Kaplan and Lee makes it onto the front page of the Wall Street Journal. You think Kaplan “confided” in Lee within earshot of anyone else? I’ll take the other side of that. I bet that only Kaplan and Lee know what was said, that one of them told their flunkies, those unnamed “people familiar,” to go talk to the Journal reporters. Was it Lee or Kaplan and, even more interestingly, why leak it?

Left as an exercise for the reader.


Panty Raid

Amherst grad Bess Levin’s jealousy of Erin Burnett ’98 is sad to see.


Debating Class Requirements and Public Speaking

In the WNY thread we recently had some argument over the usefulness of Williams’ requirements for graduation, namely the Quantitative Reasoning (QR) and Intensive Writing (IW) instituted in 2001, and the Foreign Language (FL) proposed but rejected then.

Not discussed as often is a fourth proposal then, that missed 2/3 acceptance by one vote: a Public Speaking (PS) requirement.

I’d like to reopen the debate on this issue. Should Williams have requirements for graduation beyond 32 classes and a major? David takes the con side of this.

For this argument, I’ll go pro for public speaking and division requirements but con for others. Prior comments show that others will take pro more generally, supporting FL if not other requirements. My opening points are below, and I’d love for others to join the discussion on this critical topic.

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How To Get Into Williams

There are many “chances” posts on College Confidential, requests from potential applicants for comments on their chances of getting into Williams and advice on how to do so. See here, here and here for recent examples. I am often tempted to reply: “Take a genetic genealogy test and, if it comes back black, join the appropriate clubs in your high school and check the right box on the Common Application.”

Good advice?

1) A recent New York Times article discussed the power and problems of these tests.

The authors said that limited information in the databases used to compare DNA results might lead people to draw the wrong conclusions or to misinterpret results. The tests trace only a few of a customer’s ancestors and cannot tell exactly where ancestors might have lived, or the specific ethnic group to which they might have belonged. And the databases of many companies are not only small — they’re also proprietary, making it hard to verify results.

“My concern is that the marketing is coming before the science,” said Troy Duster, a professor of sociology at New York University who was an adviser on the Human Genome Project and an author of the Science editorial.

“People are making life-changing decisions based on these tests and may not be aware of the limitations,” he added. “While I don’t think any of the companies are deliberately misleading customers, they may have a financial incentive to tell people what they want to hear.”

You think? If a particular company get a reputation for “finding” black ancestry in people who “look” non-black, I suspect that they might find an eager market for their services. (By the way, Troy Duster is an Eph, via honorary degree. Previous entries here.)

But even if the test companies don’t act on their financial interests, they still make mistakes. And, even when they don’t make mistakes, what happens when they start saying that you have “African” genes when it appears that some of your descendants came from north Africa? And, even when the companies a) Don’t act in their financial interest, b) Don’t make mistakes and c) Don’t count north African ancestry as “African”, there is still a big problem. A large percentage (can’t find a citation just now) of the “white” population in America has at least one ancestor from sub-Sahara Africa. Does Williams really want to provide them with affirmative action?

2) I covered much of this ground last year. Recall:

Note that the Common Application gives you almost complete latitude in what boxes you check. It states, “If you wish to be identified with a particular ethnic group, please check all that apply.” In other words, there is no requirement that you “look” African-American or that other people identify you as African-America or even that you identify yourself as African-American, you just have to “wish to be identified.”

Now, one hopes, that there isn’t too much truth-stretching going on currently. The Admissions Department only wants to give preferences to students who really are African-American, who add to the diversity of Williams because their experiences provide them with a very different outlook than their non-African-American peers. But those experiences can only come from some identification — by society toward you and/or by you to yourself — over the course of, at least, your high school years. How can you bring any meaningful diversity if you never thought of yourself as African-American (or were so thought of by others) until the fall of senior year?

The point here is not that the current admissions policy at Williams is bad or good. It is what it is. The point is that there are significant preferences given to those who check certain boxes and that cheap genetic testing will provide many people with a plausible excuse to check boxes that, a few years ago, they did not have. How much will the admissions process change as a result? Time will tell. It will be very interesting to look at the time series of application by ethnic group over this decade. I predict that the raw number (and total pool percentage) of African-American and Hispanic applicants will increase sharply.

3) Note that this is already happening. Color and Money: How Rich White Kids Are Winning the War over College Affirmative Action tells the story (page 82) of white parents scamming their way into San Francisco’s elite Lowell High School “by scouring their family histories for the tiniest hint of black or Hispanic blood.” That sort of “scouring” gets easier and cheaper each year.

4) Besides studying the trends in the number of applicants from different groups, the Record could have a lot of fun just by looking at the pictures of Williams students. There are, allegedly, 49 or so African-Americans in the class of 2011. Want to bet? I have no doubt that the admissions office is being honest — 49 students did indeed check that box. But, could an outsider look at pictures of all the members of the class of 2011 and pick out those 49 individuals? I doubt it. The Record ought to give it a try. Background information here.

5) Don’t forget that there are some administrators at the College who would actually welcome this development. The College loves to be able to claim that 10% of Williams is African-American, whatever the underlying “truth” might be. In this dimension, the College certainly practices a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell philosophy. Even better would be having a 10% African-American class with average SAT scores above 1400. Not hard to do if a lot of applicants start checking that box.

So, what should those poor applicants at College Confidential do? Suggestions welcome.


Gaudino Wikipedia Page

I started this Wikipedia page on Professor Robert Guadino seven months ago. Surely we have some readers who could add to it. Previous discussion of the importance of “uncomfortable learning” here.


Getting E-mail

Presidential primary politics is not my usual beat, but, apparently, many of the questioners on last night’s CNN/YouTube Republican debate were not the typical-unaffiliated-Americans that Anderson Cooper promised us. Bill Bennett ’65 leads the way.

Perhaps someone from YouTube ought to teach the nice people at CNN about Google. It works for EphBlog!


Williams Cameo on the Sports Guy’s Chat

For those of you who are fans of ESPN’s “Sports Guy” Bill Simmons, thought I would cut and paste this exchange with a Williams student (who, by the way, pretty much ended his chances of getting a date this year at Williams) during yesterday’s marathon chat to benefit the Jimmy V. Foundation. Dan forgot to mention that the Ephs beat Holy Cross the last time they played each other in hoops. (To be fair to Dan, Simmons is often cracking on the purported unattractiveness of NESCAC students, so Dan was probably just trying to catch his attention).

Dan Benz (Williamstown, MA): You mentioned in an article once that Holy Cross should consider joining the NESCAC, but as a student of Williams College I was just wondering if you’d also be okay with the fact that they’d be finishing no better than fifth every year? P.S. I know you’re familiar somewhat with NESCAC schools so maybe you can answer this for me–there are girls here right? I’ve been here three years and I’d just like to see one before my senior year.

Bill Simmons: I am totally fine with HC being in the NESCAC – that’s where we belong. We are fooling ourselves and I am not giving money to the school again until they address it.


Details and History for WNY

Many thanks to Professor Robert Jackall for providing these documents and history on the Williams in New York program in response to this post.

1. The WNY program is still officially a PILOT program, limited to eight (8) spaces a semester. But it is offered in both fall and spring and the College is committed to it through the academic year 2008-2009 no matter what happens in May 2008 (see below).

2. The program is under review by an ad hoc committee, chaired by Chris Waters. You might want to write him for more details. That committee will present its recommendations to the Committee on Educational Policy and the administration by early spring. In turn, a resolution will be presented to the faculty for a vote at the May 2008 faculty meeting. Although the exact form of the resolution is unknown right now, the thrust of it will be a vote to move the WNY program from its pilot status to permanent program status. There may also may a recommendation to increase the size of the program although this is unclear. In my own view, the optimum size of the program is between 16-18 students per semester.

3. The pilot program has now been offered in the following semesters: fall 2005; fall 2006; spring 2007; fall 2007. It will be offered in spring 2008; fall 2008; and spring 2009. Excluding the very first (fall 2005) semester when there were only 12 applicants, the pilot program has had about three applicants for every two spaces per semester.

4. It is important to note the origins of the program. It was first proposed in 1995, but died an ignoble bureaucratic death at that time at the hands of then president Hank Payne and Dean of Faculty Mike McPherson. It was re-submitted during the curricular renewal of 2000-2001 and was one of only three ideas that survived the CEP’s year-long review–the other two were a proposal for mandatory language instruction and an expansion of the tutorial program. Only the tutorial expansion and the WNY program survived the required two-thirds vote of the faculty in May 2001.

5. It is also important to note the particular definition of “experiential education” that distinguishes the WNY program from all other definitions of that term. Here’s a copy of a memorandum I wrote to Bill Darrow before the recent Lissack Forum on the topic of experiential education, which was noted in Ephblog.


1) See below for the memorandum, speaker roster from past years’ and syllabi for two fall 2007 courses: Social Life of the Metropolis and Arts & the City. All great stuff.

2) Kudos to Professor Jackall for being so open and transparent about the process. Although many faculty and administrators act with similar professionalism, many others do not.

3) Being a big believer in meeting student demand, I would be in favor of expanding the program. But it would be nice to have a better sense of the costs involved. Students appear to get their own room. Given the (implicit) cost of New York real estate, having roommates is not unreasonable. Also, the program currently uses about 1/3 of the available rooms. What sort of lost-income hit does the club take to provide the space? Does the College make up that money? Does the College also provide extra funding for faculty members associated with the program? All of these costs may be reasonable, but it is hard to have an informed opinion without a clear outline of the budget.

4) Comments from readers who have enrolled in WNY (or have friends who have) would be welcome.

5) One worry is the academic seriousness of the program. Although everyone loves a fun-filled vacation in NYC, I would expect these students to spend as much time on academics as their peers in Williamstown (or at Williams-at-Oxford). Do they? Perhaps their internships might replace one class, but two? [UPDATE: See the very bottom on the entry for details on the work expected in these classes. Although the website is fairly opaque on this topic, WNY students each take three classes and do fieldwork as their fourth class. The classes are at least as rigorous in terms of workload as typical classes at Williams. Apologies for implying otherwise.]

6) Huge kudos to whatever faculty members fought against a language requirement for Williams. The fewer requirements that Williams has (besides 32 courses and a major), the better.

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Tutorial Training

Please tell me that CNBC anchor Erin Burnett ’98 took several tutorials at Williams which prepared her for the likes of Jim Cramer.

Whatever they are paying Burnett, it is not enough.

UPDATE: As to the substance of the video, this is the sort of stuff that an EphCOI devoted to finance should talk about. My comment: Neither Cramer nor Burnett makes the obvious point that Andrew Cuomo does not care about the mortgage market. All he cares about is getting famous so that he can follow in the footsteps of Eliot Spitzer and be governor of New York (or a Senator). If beating up on Washington Mutual gets him in the New York Times, then that’s what he is going to do. Politicians respond to incentives, just like the rest of us.


Choose Education’s End

The Williams Reads program needs your help.

The Williams Reads initiative aims to foster new connections among students, staff, faculty, and community members by exploring diversity and community through a common reading experience. Williams Reads is offered during Winter Study as an opportunity for us to explore a book together that will help us to celebrate and deepen our appreciation of varying viewpoints and experiences. It is a goal of the CDC to select a book that will stimulate community engagement and challenging conversation. In addition, the college offers related discussions, movies, performances, and presentations. In 2007, 700 free copies of the chosen book are made available during the first week of Winter Study, with the intent that these copies will continue to circulate throughout the community.

How about Education’s End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life as the book selection? (Previous EphBlog discussion of this book here and of Williams Reads here and here.)



The website for Williams in New York is extremely slick. Kudos to all involved. W@NYC (is that acronym still in use?) seems like an amazing program. Can any readers provide more details? For example, how many people apply? Are syllabi available on-line?


Eph ’75 canopy walk connections in Florida

This week I have been down in Florida, visiting my parents for Thanksgiving. A few days ago, while visiting the Myakka Canopy Walkway, I was surprised to find not one, but two Williams connections!

First, on a map listing worldwide locations of forest canopy walkways, Hopkins Forest in Williamstown, MA was on the list. I always enjoyed looking for the canopy walkway while running in Hopkins Forest; it was nearly impossible to see in the fall and spring, but in the winter when the trees had no leaves, it was clearly there in the treetops. For those who haven’t seen it, you’ll find it on the gradual side of the lower loop. (By contrast, the other canopy walkway I have been on, in the cloud forest of Costa Rica, did not make the list — somehow Hopkins Forest precedes the jungle.)

Second, the project was partly financed by dedications of planks and columns, and a plaque on one of the columns read, “Robert and Lucy Beck, Williams ’75.” I was happy to see that.


Shepard at National Book Awards

Professor Jim Shepard may not have won the National Book Award, but he did get his picture in Gawker and they didn’t even make fun of him (directly).

“The NBAs are like the Oscars, except the acceptance speeches are longer and no one is attractive,” an agent observed as a burbling, mostly elderly crowd gathered for cocktails outside a ballroom at the Marriot Marquis last night. Au contraire! Author-hottie Josh Ferris was looking Hollywood handsome, decked out in a tux adorned with his Finalist medal. He and Jim Shephard, who was also in contention for the fiction prize, stood shoving each other playfully and talking about how thrilled each would be if the other won.

The College’s announcement about Shepard being a finalist is here.


Least Popular Eph

Douglas Shulman nominated as new IRS commissioner. (According to his bio, although strangely not Wikipedia, he also co-founded Teach for America, so we can’t be too hard on Doug …)


Two Kinds Of Lumps

Kim Daboo ’88, my fellow blogger for the class of 1998’s 20th reunion, reports:

It seems Oliver took a bit of a tumble at school today and landed on his face. He has a fat lip to go with the big lump on his forehead. As usual, he wouldn’t allow anyone to put ice on either spot for very long.

Sounds like my kind of kid. As we say in the Kane household, “Walk it off.”

Though I ordered our Christmas cards today, the family photo will have to wait a while. My PhotoShop skills are not up to snuff.

I think the smile is due to what I discovered seconds after taking this photo…a poop that was all the way down to his socks. This job really should come with hazard pay.



Open Source Chemistry

Geoff Hutchison ’99 has thoughts on open source and the small company.

People (and I also mean funding agencies) want to pay for the latest and greatest thing — whatever seems the most interesting. There’s rarely much money in maintaining software. Funding agencies don’t really want to fund bug fixes either.

I pay for science software and I also develop open source scientific software. I suspect the same thing is true for others. So what drives someone to pay or code yourself.

Read the whole entry and associated links. Those interested in open source should also read The Cathedral and the Bazaar by Eric Raymond (free version here). I write about open source finance here.


Thanksgiving Ephs

A Thanksgiving story from North Adams.

While other students were packing their bags and gearing up for a brief respite from homework and exams, 15 Williams College volunteers were preparing a full Thanksgiving dinner for the Berkshire Food Project on Sunday afternoon.

“It’s just so amazing how many volunteers showed up to help out,” said Valerie Schwarz, the executive director of the Berkshire Food Project.

Now in its 20th year, the BFP provides meals five days a week to anyone who wants to stop in at the First Congregational Church. Today, a special holiday dinner will be served, complete with turkey, turnips, cranberry sauce, potatoes and pumpkin pie.

The Williams volunteers – recruited to help cook and serve the meal by BFP volunteer co-coordinators Lauren Guilmette, a senior philosophy major, and Laura Huang, a freshman – spent the afternoon chopping potatoes and helping other community volunteers prepare for the festivities.

For Guilmette and Huang, bringing together the college with surrounding communities is a way to not only address the problem of hunger but also to make connections with those who live just around the corner.

“What really drew me to the program was how it is face-to-face, day-to-day and very hands-on,” said Huang. “The concentration is on what’s just down the road. We can help out and we should.”

“We can help tackle hunger here and help the worldwide effort,” she added.

“This is a pretty easy way to do something and it’s immediate and practical,” said Guilmette. “It’s not just a program about food justice and hunger issues. It’s a program for the North Adams community.”

Exactly right. Want to save the world? Start by saving North Adams. Kudos to all involved.


Paul Grogan ’72

Paul Grogan ’72 was honored by the Boston Architectural College this past summer with an honorary degree and selection as their commencement speaker.

When I lived in Boston, I had some dealings with Paul and his sister Janet (a Simmons grad). They are both impressive and dedicated to the public good. In fact, Paul’s name use to come up from time-to-time as a possible candidate for Mayor of Boston.


Driscoll ’05, RIP

Emily Driscoll ’05, daughter of David Driscoll ’73 and close friend of Walker Waugh ’02, was struck by a car and killed last Friday morning. The funeral is tomorrow. Emily was everything that an Eph should be: an athlete on the playing field, an artist in the gallery. Is there a father who does not hope and pray that his young daughter will grow into a woman like Emily? Not at EphBlog.

The message from Emily’s parents is heart-breaking.

to our friends and on behalf of her brother david, her sisters jessie and abby,

williams gave our emily a spot to shine
an arena that paid attention to her unique gifts
a community of friends and family that seeded in the years ’70-’73 when her father brought her mother from lynn over the mohawk trail into the purple valley to hang out with marty dogget and lenny vecchio ( whose son peter joined emily and struck friendship in the class of ’05) and andy harper and skip masback and john gallagher and robbie koegel and richard muglia and so many others like lester call me mark lesniowski and tommy hyndman aka spuds who gave us his sister in trade for another band of brothers for emily, her sisters and brother. patty hydman dogget ,who after 5 fun and feisty dogget boys took a real shine to our girls and son and shared some special times together for several summers on cape cod in eastham and wellfleet and truro. as if they didn’t have enough of us the doggets came to MA. checked out the north shore of boston and short beach in nahant. (emily’s home turf) then went to governors, kept us all connected with the greater community of friends and and all things eph and all things williams. at governors’ marty encouraged the smart boy to invite emily to the prom so he could get her on his arm for a night and take a few pictures with him in his evening best.

we fly the prayer flags she brought us from nepal, she is home and we have welcomed her back into our arms so small for her presence which is far and wide among all who met and shared her many gifts. her magic is freed now for all to share at one time instead of in installments …thanks to williams for all they gave our girl. she had a good run, she met her fella, her partner in art and love … williams made her a fellow and she and walker then stuck off to create WORK>.

walker we love you and all who knew and nurtured her growth, who watched her talents and passions unfold in this small, too small space of universe. we are the small paper cup. she is the universe. “nothing’s going to change our world.”

if it did change our world we would lose her forever. we will keep her in our hearts. carry her legacy, honor her in our world forever. rest in peace.

what’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?

with all love and devotion
mum and dad

Feel free to leave a message in the comments at EphBlog or at this guest book. The 50+ entries there hint at the impact that Emily had in her all-too-short time with us. Why is it the very best among us — Ephs like Bob Quay ’04, Shirin Shakir ’03, Katie Craig ’08 and Nate Krissoff ’03 — why are they called away too soon?

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility.

We passed the school, where children strove
At recess, in the ring;
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
We passed the setting sun.

The sun sets now on a Williams community bereft of one of its most promising young members. Emily could not stop for Death, and so He stopped for she. And we are all the poorer for it on this sad Thanksgiving week.

Condolences to all.


Find My Laptop

Another stolen laptop.

So I had my laptop stolen out of the library last tuesday night, and I guess I’m just a little shocked that someone would steal a laptop from someone, from their desk, in a library. I may just be naive to think that at a place like Williams there wouldn’t be students who would do something like that (I know it’s a student because it was turned on in Dodd at 1045am the next morning, on the second floor in a common room… the wireless network can trace that). But maybe I am wrong to assume that, even at a place like Williams, there aren’t a few bad apples out there who would steal something like this, but if there are people like that, I’m surprised they haven’t been found yet… anyway I was just wondering a. if my belief is too idealistic that people on this campus should have the morals not to steal something like that, especially from a library, or maybe I am just wrong for leaving my computer at my desk, I don’t know? and b. if anyone possibly knew anything about it that could help me get it back… it was taken from sawyer at 3:10am on Weds. Nov 14, yes that I realize that is after hours, it was then shut off at 4:20 and turned back on again at 10:30am in Dodd on the second floor, apparently in a common room… this is all from the wireless network tracking, unfortunately my computer is password protected so they couldn’t get into the computer (is my guess) and never signed on to the internet so the user name could not be traced… but if anyone could help or knew anything I would be gladly willing to give a reward for this… Thank you…

Previous interesting discussion of the technical details of tracking stolen laptops here. Comments:

1) My sense is that there is no problem at Williams with leaving your computer on a desk in the library while you get a coffee or even have dinner. True? But leaving it there overnight . . .

2) Shouldn’t Williams be able to find the perp? If the computer was really in the library (which library?) at 3:10 AM, then there are only so many people who had access to that area. The perp needed to get the computer and then carry it, ending eventually in a Dodd common room. How many people entered Dodd early that morning? Not many, I bet! Did any of them live near the common room in which the computer was turned on? Just asking!

3) This all happened a week ago and David Ramsay is only posting about it now. Does that mean that the investigation is over? If I were Ramsay, I would not be too pleased. I would, at least, demand to know who lived near that common room and who entered Dodd between, say, 3:00 and 6:00 AM that morning. Would the College give him that information if he asked? Should it?



Remember the WSO thread about the Moocow Band? I was pleased to see one of the football players, starting middle linebacker Jon Pritchard, step up.

I don’t look at these WSO blogs much and have never wrote anything, but was looking through this one and the other about espn gameday. I figured someone who is on the football team should probably say something about the band from that point of view. Playing at a D3 school, we don’t get huge crowds to play in front of, so we appreciate anyone who comes out to the games, including the band. Our last two games were played in rainy, cold, miserable weather and, understandably, not many people came. The band was there though, freezing their asses off, still playing. Tomorrow is my last game, and I look forward to seeing those guys there, I get a kick out of em, always have.

Good stuff. Pritchard does the right thing here, both for the band and for the team. I think that he, like so many of us, has benefited from his time at Williams. Congratulations all around.


Shock Me

Was it just a two weeks ago that the taboo topic of race and intelligence came up at EphBlog? Since then, the New York Times has mentioned, without criticizing it, the reading that I recommended then. Loved this quote:

”There are clear differences between people of different continental ancestries,” said Marcus W. Feldman, a professor of biological sciences at Stanford University. ”It’s not there yet for things like I.Q., but I can see it coming. And it has the potential to spark a new era of racism if we do not start explaining it better.”

You got some splainin’ to do, given the refusal of Feldman and other members of the scientific establishment to grapple with this difficult issue and given their tendency excoriate scholars like Jensen, Rushton, Hernstein and Murray.

Why post this today? Well, they are talking about it on WSO! (Hard to imagine this conversation even occurring 20 years ago.) The initial post cites this series by nice, liberal William Saletan in nice, liberal Slate. Several of the links provided by Saletan are similar to links that I have provided over the years on EphBlog.

Back on WSO, David Moore comments:

It would shock me if it turned out that humans lived as separate populations in different environments for tens of thousands of years and didn’t evolve a few genetic differences. On the other hand, it’s really tricky to objective measure things like intelligence across races since there are all sorts of cultural factors involved too, so it may be a long time before we can say for certain what those differences are.

All depends on what you mean by “long time.” Why won’t the Record follow up on this? Within ten years, the genetic basis of (some aspects of) intelligence, appearance, athleticism and other important parts of the human condition will become clear. The time to start having that conversation now. Is Williams ready? I have my doubts.

Previous EphBlog discussion here, here and here.


Pony Paying

Eric Smith ’99 donates money to Ron Paul.

The last election I was not living in the US, and so I was about as ambivalent as I could be about what was going on (that was probably an earlier and less successful version of the Army motto – “Be As Ambivalent As You Can Be… And Kill People”). My vote counted to where I had last lived, which was Massachusetts at the time (and is where I am now), and since they always go Democrat I really didn’t see much point in bothering to vote (in that I was voting Democrat – or rather “not Bush”).

This time around though, I am in the States and I get to see people’s reactions to it all right up close and personal. It is interesting – the thing that I am most surprised about (and really shouldn’t be) is that people really don’t seem to think any number of steps beyond “I WANT A PONY” as to how exactly that pony will be paid for, and who will pay for it.

Maybe living overseas did it for me, but looking at how much in taxes I pay out, I am totally fine with you having a pony and all – I just don’t want to pay for your pony. If I can use your pony sometimes, then I will help pay for it – but if you are going to use it for yourself (and worse yet, not feed it properly or give it a nice home), then I really have no interest in paying for your pony.

Me either.


Driscoll ’05, RIP

Sad news.

I did not know her well enough to write a proper obit, but a word should be said on ephblog that Emily Driscoll ’05 has passed away. She was apparently fatally struck by a bus yesterday – many people from the class of ’05 are in mourning. Perhaps you could put up a post with just the news inviting people who knew her to comment? I am sure that you have more experience in this than do I and will handle it appropriately, but it seems that a word should be said when the Eph community loses one so young and unexpectedly.

If anyone has more information, please pass it along.

Condolences to all.


Clay ’46, RIP

Another Eph Marine has passed away.

Lyell Clay, the former Daily Mail publisher who was known for his philanthropy and his love of music and the arts, has died after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Clay died about 1:30 p.m. Thursday at his Charleston home with his family at his side. He was 83.

For three decades, he was principal stockholder and publisher of the Daily Mail. In 1987, he sold the newspaper along with several other media properties and established the Clay Foundation with his brother, Buckner Clay.

Some say day I will be writing an obituary for a different Eph, a younger man than Lyell Clay, but, like him, a Williams man, a Marine and a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law. With luck that day is far, far away.

The newspaper, dating back to the 1880s, had been purchased in 1914 by former Alaska governor, teacher and reporter Eli Clark, who later married Clay’s widowed mother, Juliet Staunton Clark. At his mother’s death in 1953, Clay became a principal stockholder in the newspaper.

In 1958 Clay played a key role in the Daily Mail’s formation of a joint operating agreement with the Charleston Gazette. It was an arrangement that has preserved two distinct editorial voices in West Virginia’s capital to this day, when most American cities have only one newspaper.

Newspaper publishing was one of the great ways to make a fortune in the 20th century. Although it is nice that “two distinct editorial voices” were preserved, you can bet that those wanting to advertise or purchase a classified ad were ill-served to have to deal with a monopoly.

Early in the foundation’s work, Clay said to a Daily Mail reporter, “It’s hard not to sound pontifical, but I really feel that we are trustees for all that which we are given in life. If we’re lucky enough to make money instead of losing it, I think that charges us with a kind of fiduciary responsibility to do something with it.”

Indeed. Do we have any readers with memories of Clay? If so, please share them.

Condolences to all.



Brent Yorgey ’04 on perfect numbers. I hope my daughters learn to love math as much as Brent does. Suggestions for accomplishing this goal are welcome.


First Snow

Friday brought the first real snow of the school year, and although it didn’t stick much on campus, the snow did stick at the higher elevations of the Dome and the Greylock Massif. Here are two photographs, the first of the Dome and second of the Greylock Massif.



The photograph of the Greylock Massif shows a particularly nice detail of the view from Paresky: the mountains and Congregational Church’s roof line echo each other almost perfectly when seen from the second-floor balcony, from which I took this photograph.


Apply to JASC

Want more advice from EphBlog? Apply for the JA Selection Committee.

Applications are due tomorrow for a spot on this year’s JA Selection Committee. It’s incredibly fun and is an incredibly valubale service you can do for your school. The committee meets around 4 nights a week for the first five weeks of spring semester. It’s a legit. time commitment, but is eminently manageable.

Let your voice be heard! Make a difference! Join SelCom! Remember, everyone had different entry experiences and everyone has different visions of what a JA should be. Whether you hated your entry or loved it, we want a diversity of opinions so please don’t hesitate to apply.

Exactly right. Comments:

1) JASC represents everything that is best about Williams: a serious responsibility, lots of hard work, collaborating with your peers, and all student-run. Why is it that the less that the Office of Campus Life has to do with something, the more that students get out of the experience? Remember the tablecloth colors!

2) If Willipedia were to be good for anything, it should be good at telling us the details about the JASC. I do my best here, but I can’t edit it anymore. Perhaps someone else could add the co-chairs for this year and last.

3) Previous discussion here: 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. My opinions are the same as in past years.

We’ll know that something is wrong with the administration if they ever try to turn responsibility for JA selection over to the Dean’s Office, not because the Dean’s Office would do a poor job but because it would take a meaningful amount of power, and the responsibility that goes with it, out of the hands of students.

The JASC ought to expand its membership to include all credible applicants. More participation leads to better results. Now, there is nothing wrong with setting a high hurdle, with requiring a written essay with the application or kicking off anyone who misses more than 1 of the first 10 meetings. But, if someone really wants to participate in the process, a place should be created for them. To be inclusive you need to include people.

I realize that this will, perhaps, make the committee larger than it has been in the past. I see no reason that this will lead to better (or even different) decisions as to who is selected to be a JA. But it will lead the Williams community as a whole to view the process as more legitimate, as less incestuous. It will also cause those who are rejected to have more faith in the process since they are more likely to know, personally, someone on the committee who can vouch for its fairness.

I think that the JASC only gets about 35 applications for 25 spots, so expanding the committee is reasonable.


Grade Inflation/Deflation at Williams

I was bored and browsing the ephblogs archives when I came across a thread discussing tips at Williams. In this thread, someone mentioned the average gpa, claiming that it was 3.1. This got me to thinking; just what exactly is the average GPA and GPA distribution at Williams?

So far, the only hard numbers I have been able to find have been pre-1999 GPAs. From 1960-1999, the average GPA at Williams increased from a 2.67 to a 3.34. This is a staggering increase until you start considering how much more selective Williams is now than it was in 1960. Probably that doesn’t account for all of the change, but surely it accounts for much. Regardless of this increase, what I am interested in is the current average GPA at Williams; after all, 1999-2007 is a pretty significant period of time.

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