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1988 Yearbook: Page 128

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“Let’s Purple Cow this …”

Yeah, I’d never heard or seen of one being used as a verb until this article in The Atlantic on John McCain, lobbyists, and the FCC.

Here’s the potential trouble for McCain: intervening with the FCC to force a vote on a lobbyist’s behalf is a lot like a self-dealing lawmaker earmarking money on a lobbyist’s behalf. In fact, what McCain admits to doing on Iseman’s behalf can be thought of as the regulatory equivalent of an earmark.

Here’s why. Every year the FCC gets about 3,000 letters, many from people in a bind similar to Bud Paxson’s, and many of them generated by lobbyists. An FCC friend says his colleagues are so experienced at dealing with this mail flow that they joke about whether a given piece of mail is a $10,000 letter, a $20,000 letter, and so on. Most of the letters the FCC receives are not acted on. McCain’s letters were.

So the first thing that should stand out about the Paxson case is not the FCC’s eventual ruling but the fact that McCain sent six letters and wrote to each of the commissioners individually (this is unusual) demanding immediate action. The second thing that was unusual was the legal situation. Paxson was asking the FCC to allow an educational license to be purchased by a commercial interest. The FCC had never allowed such a deal.

The third thing that should stand out is the unusual breakdown of how the FCC voted. Susan Ness, a Democratic commissioner, took the rare step of breaking with her fellow Democrats and voting with the Republican commissioners to approve the Paxson deal.

There is a colorful FCC expression for such an unusual decision: it’s called a “Purple Cow.” If an FCCer says “Let’s Purple Cow this,” what he means is “Let’s a make a rule that only applies to this particular case.” Within the FCC, the decision, and Ness’s vote in particular, is widely considered to have been a Purple Cow.

But I can tell you anyhow, I’d rather be than see one!

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Trickiest Year

Some of our readers will soon find themselves on the Williams wait list.

Like jittery investors scrambling to hedge their bets, selective colleges and universities are placing far more applicants than usual on their waiting lists this spring as a safeguard against an unusually murky admissions season. But while the policy gives colleges some peace of mind, it plunges students into an admissions purgatory that could string out the stressful selection process for weeks to come.

Colleges have typically been able to estimate the percentage of accepted students who will enroll in the fall with a fair degree of confidence. This year, several factors have conspired to thwart their projections: a shaky economy, record numbers of applications, and sweeping financial aid expansions that make it harder to predict what colleges middle-class families will choose.

Faced with so many variables, colleges are wait-listing more students to fine-tune the numbers and makeup of their incoming freshman class. Lengthening the waiting list creates a crucial buffer of students in a year of deep uncertainty about how many will eventually show up, college officials say.

“It’s always tricky to predict, but this is probably the trickiest year yet, because the landscape has shifted so radically,” said Dick Nesbitt, director of admissions at Williams College.

For colleges, “it’s like picking the brackets in college basketball,” Nesbitt said. “You might think you’re being scientific, but then you get blindsided.”

Williams, which received more than 7,500 applications for a class of 538, will accept about 100 more students than last year, but will not significantly increase its waiting list beyond last year’s 500 students, Nesbitt said.

Comments:

1) Newton North is the alma mater of Esther Mobley. Was that discussion only a year ago? Good times! Hope that Mobley likes Smith.

2) I think that, back in the day, the official story was that predicting acceptance levels was relatively easy. College officials had lots of experiences and things were mostly stable from year to year. I think that this was true then but that the world, as Nesbitt describes, is now a different place.

3) Five hundred seems like a huge number to me. Were the lists anywhere near that long five or ten years ago? There has been discussion in the past of ensuring that the College took enough students off the waitlist to ensure that people saw the list as “credible.”

4) I think that the ending of early admission at Harvard and Princeton is playing particular havoc with the Williams process. There are, literally, hundreds of students who, in past years, would have been accepted early by these schools and not bothered to apply to Williams who are now being considered by Nesbitt and Co. What are they to do? They would love for these students to come to Williams but don’t want to admit them all given the knowledge that they are very unlikely to accept. I suspect that this one of the reasons for the 100 extra acceptances. Williams would love to “steal” some of these students from Harvard/Princeton.

5) I heard a story last year that the valedictorian from Newton South was rejected by Williams while being accepted by Harvard. The implication was that Williams had rejected her, not because they did not want her but because they fully expected her to be accepted elsewhere and then to turn down Williams. I suspect that this is a real danger for Williams applicants with superb credentials who don’t give the College at least some hint that they really want to come. For example, if you live in Newton but never visit Williams, I’ll bet that your chances of getting in are much reduced.

6) The best way to think about this brave new world is that there are now three major waves of Williams admissions. First is early decision. If you really want to go to Williams and you are either poor or rich, then apply early. Your chances are, I think, much improved if you do (although there is some debate on this point). The only cost is less power in negotiating financial aid (but that only applies to “middle class” students) and the lost opportunity of applying elsewhere. Second is regular decision. The usual rules apply, but you are even more advised now than in the past to indicate to Williams that, if you are accepted, you will attend. How to do that is left as an reader exercise for the comment section. Third, and this is new, is the wait list. It seems that Williams and schools like it will be taking many more students off the wait list than they have in the past. I hope to do more reporting on this topic. Do we have any readers who came in off the wait list? Tell us about your experience.

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1988 Yearbook: Page 127

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1988 Yearbook: Page 126

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Lawrence Interview

Interesting podcast interview with Trustee Frederick Lawrence ’77 on hate crimes.

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Discretion To Make Adjustments

Provost Bill Lenhart’s recent letter on changes in financial aid (hat tip to EphNotes) is a model of clarity. Read the whole thing but note this part:

Until two years ago there was no limit to the amount of home equity taken into account, though financial aid officers could use discretion to reduce it when doing so seemed to treat a family more fairly. This might be when a family long ago acquired a home in a market that has since boomed or when a family’s home equity is the only form of retirement savings.

Two years ago we set a limit on how much home equity would be considered at 2.4 times parent income, though aid officers still could make adjustments in circumstances that called for them. Last year we reduced this to 2 times parent income.

We’ve decided this spring to reduce it further to 1.2 times, with discretion to make adjustments when called for. This is the level suggested by financial aid directors at private colleges and universities that practice need-blind admissions, who meet to work toward a common understanding of how to measure financial need.

This change goes into effect in the coming academic year for students in all four classes. For returning students it will be reflected in the aid awards mailed this summer. This latest move will cost the College an estimated $800,000 and affect about 320 Williams families.

As Lenhart hints, almost all of this is driven, not by Morty and the Trustees suddenly realizing that rich families need a break, but by competition from other schools. Williams wants the students who it accepts to choose it and not some other school. Since those schools are lowering prices for the best students, Williams has no choice but to follow. Isn’t competition cool?

I suspect that the phrase “financial aid directors at private colleges and universities that practice need-blind admissions” is an oblique reference to our friends in the 568 group. Classic post here.

The Record really ought to do a story on financial aid at Williams, specifically how many “adjustments” are made and for whom? If you call up the Financial Aid Office in April and claim that your “circumstances” are special, what happens? Does Paul Boyer just say, “No problem! Your expected family contribution is cut in half.” Does he want to know if you have been accepted to other schools? Does he ask you to send him the details of their offers? I have heard that some bargaining and/or offer-matching goes on, but the Record ought to tell us some stories.

EphBlog’s Advice: If you want to go to Williams and you are either very poor or very rich, then apply early decision. Your financial aid package is highly unlikely to be affected by whether or not you are accepted at other schools. If you are in the great “middle class” — roughly family income of $60,000 to $250,000 — and you want to minimize your college costs, then apply regular decision to many schools. Your odds of getting in to Williams are probably a little lower (unless you have a hook) and your leverage in negotiating some “adjustments” is much higher.

Do any readers have experience with negotiating with the Financial Aid Office at Williams? Tell us your stories.

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1988 Yearbook: Page 125

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1988 Yearbook: Page 124

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Bloody Morning Scout

One of my side projects this year will be collecting information on the Bloody Morning Scout, the battle in which Ephraim Williams died. Here is a brief account from Montcalm and Wolfe by Francis Parkman. There is an amazing senior thesis to be written, not so much about the Bloody Morning Scout itself, but by the various descriptions of it over the last 200 years.

It was soon after eight o’clock when Ephraim Williams left the camp with his regiment, marched a little distance, and then waited for the rest of the detachment under Lieutenant-Colonel Whiting. Thus Dieskau had full time to lay his ambush. When Whiting came up, the whole moved on together, so little conscious of danger that no scouts were thrown out in front or flank; and, in full security, they entered the fatal snare. Before they were completely involved in it, the sharp eye of old Hendrick detected some sign of an enemy. At that instant, whether by accident or design, a gun was fired from the bushes. It is said that Dieskau’s Iroquois, seeing Mohawks, their relatives, in the van, wished to warn them of danger. If so, the warning came too late. The thickets on the left blazed out a deadly fire, and the men fell by scores. In the words of Dieskau, the head of the column “was doubled up like a pack of cards.” Hendrick’s horse was shot down, and the chief was killed with a bayonet as he tried to rise. Williams, seeing a rising ground on his right, made for it, calling on his men to follow; but as he climbed the slope, guns flashed from the bushes, and a shot through the brain laid him dead.

The men in the rear pressed forward to support their comrades, when a hot fire was suddenly opened on them from the forest along their right flank. Then there was a panic; some fled outright, and the whole column recoiled. The van now became the rear, and all the force of the enemy rushed upon it, shouting and screeching. There was a moment of total confusion; but a part of Williams’s regiment rallied under command of Whiting, and covered the retreat, fighting behind trees like Indians, and firing and falling back by turns, bravely aided by some of the Mohawks and by a detachment which Johnson sent to their aid. “And a very handsome retreat they made,” writes Pomeroy; “and so continued till they came within about three quarters of a mile of our camp.

This was the last fire our men gave our enemies, which killed great numbers of them; they were seen to drop as pigeons.” So ended the fray long known in New England fireside story as the “bloody morning scout.” Dieskau now ordered a halt, and sounded his trumpets to collect his scattered men. His Indians, however, were sullen and unmanageable, and the Canadians also showed signs of wavering. The veteran who commanded them all, Legardeur de Saint-Pierre, had been killed. At length they were persuaded to move again, the regulars leading the way.

Did the experienced Colonel Williams really not have scouts out that morning? Why? I have always thought (hoped?) that there was more to this story . . .

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1988 Yearbook: Page 123

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1988 Yearbook: Page 122

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Alternate Spring Break

Bloomberg reports on students using Spring Break to do community service:

Williams College, in Williamstown, Massachusetts, has seven public service field trips this year, involving about 65 students, said Rick Spalding, the college’s chaplain and community service coordinator. The ranks of student volunteers swelled after Katrina, and the numbers have remained high because of students’ awareness of their own impact on issues such as climate change, he said.

“This is not a selfish generation,” Spalding said. “If their parents — people in my generation — had been as conscious, we might not be in the mess we’re in.”

I was drawn into my first such trip during freshman year because I was told that dorms would be closed over spring break, and I needed an inexpensive way to spend two weeks 8000 miles from home. Cabo was not an option, but going on a service trip was free. It turned out to be one of the most worthwhile things I did during my time at Williams.

I would be extremely wary of for-profit companies such as STA Travel who “market community-service themed trips”. Given the generosity of existing institutions at Williams, you really shouldn’t have to pay much out of pocket in order to do community service; our trip was funded entirely by a combination of an alumni gift and the Chaplain’s Office.

I also found a tremendous amount of help from Rick Spalding in getting funding to spend a summer working for SOME in Washington, DC. As this was a mostly-unpaid position with a small charity, I remain grateful to Rev. Spalding for his support. Students interested in doing similar projects, whether over spring break or summer or during the academic year, need only approach the Chaplain’s Office with their idea.

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Pub Update

Yesterday’s North Adams Transcript ran an article with an update on the Pub reopening and the former home of Subway et. al.  Last I read, the Pub was all set to reopen in January, now it has been pushed back to the start of next school year, anyone know the cause of the delay (the Transcript really should have provided insight into this …)?  With Goodrich, the Pub, and the Log (I believe) all out of commission, that really limits the social options for upperclassmen … three amazing venues, in particular the Log, which really deserves better. 

I’d love to see photos of the interior of the new Pub if someone can gain access … Diana, planning a return trip to campus anytime soon?

Regarding the former Subway building, I can’t imagine why that building wouldn’t be demolished and replaced with something (a) with a second story providing additional housing / office space and (b) far more attractive (even before the fire, it was an eyesore).  The building offers neither historic, aesthetic, nor pragmatic value as currently designed. 

If that does happen, I hope the architects follow the lead of the very attractive and interesting (yet still site-appropriate) building that houses Tunnel City rather than the ugly, boring, strip-mall-esque design of the Spice Root / Thai Garden building …

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Happy Birthday Ephraim!

Ephraim Williams’ birthday was three weeks ago. I am sorry to have missed the party. Were any readers present? EphBlog author Morgan Goodwin ’08 certainly looks dashing in a tricorner hat. I liked this part:

Williams College traditionally recognizes the birth date of founder Colonel Ephraim Williams, Jr., as March 7, 1715, but a February 24 birthday nod to Williams wouldn’t be a full faux pas. When Williams was born in Newton, Mass., most Protestant-led countries ignored Catholic Pope Gregory’s Gregorian Calendar, which had been initiated about 270 years earlier. With an 11-day span between the Julian and Gregorian calendars, Williams’ birth date is believed originally recorded as February 24. But when Great Britain and the American colonies switched to the Gregorian calendar in 1752, Williams suddenly found that he had not only a new birth date but also a new birth month!

And a new zoological sign. Is it prurient of me to wonder about this?

Williams was killed during the French and Indian War Battle of Lake George in 1755. The 40-year-old bachelor Colonel met his demise during what became known as “The Bloody Morning Scout,” after he and his troops were ambushed. Historic lore asserts that Williams’ horse was shot from beneath him during the attack. When he ascended a rock to gather and direct his troops, Williams was fatally shot in the head.

How many rich men in 18th century New England were never-married “bachelors?” Not that many, I think. Take it away Professor Chris Waters!

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1988 Yearbook: Page 121

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1988 Yearbook: Page 120

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Susan Schwab ’76 Pushes Hard for Free Trade with Colombia

 

United States Trade Representative Susan Schwab ’76 is pushing hard for Congress to ratify the free trade agreement with Colombia and warning economic illiterates about the dangers of gutting NAFTA by “renegotiating it” or imperialistically and unilaterally demanding that other countries adopt our labor, wage, and environmental standards.Read the excerpts from the U.S. News & World Report interview for more detail.

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Fear of Repaying

Director of Financial Aid Paul Boyer is an excellent guy but a lousy spinmeister.

“There have been a number of colleges and universities recently, with enough endowment, to be able to afford to eliminate loans from their financial aid packages and that’s what Williams has done,” said Williams College public affairs assistant director Jim Kolesar.

It’s a decision that, they say, was based on a lot of factors.

“It probably had most to do with what we have discovered student loans do in terms of impacting decisions after Williams, students not wanting to go to graduate school for fear of repaying more students loans,” said Williams College financial aid director Paul Boyer.

As if dozens of my classmates back in the 1980’s did not have to think long and hard about the cost of graduate school because Williams had saddled them with tens of thousands of dollars in loans! Williams just discovered, in 2007, that graduate school is expensive and debts are burdensome! Hah! If the College really cared about impacting certain student choices, it could just forgive the loans to those students and let the Goldman Sachs Ephs keep repaying their loans.

Of course, even if not one single Williams graduate went to graduate school, Williams would still have eliminated loans because of compeition from other elite schools. Would you really choose Williams over Amherst if Williams required that you borrow $15,000 and Amherst did not?

Is it too much to ask that College officials, when speaking with the media, give mostly truthful answers?

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1988 Yearbook: Page 119

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Ephs, meet Mary Beard

In my Ides of March post, I mentioned that it would be an excellent thing if Williams were to be able to convince Mary Beard to come speak on campus. Those who heard my interview with her know she is one smart and very witty woman. Here is the beginning of her latest post on her blog: 

Lets get rid of the fascist Olympic torch I don’t quite understand how we have forgotten that the “Olympic Torch” ceremony was invented by Hitler and his chums. If ever there was an “invented tradition” well worth stamping out, it is this ridiculous, Fascist-inspired waste of money – which sends a Bunsen Burner around the world at tremendous cost for several months before the Games, manned (and womanned) by people dressed up in pseudo-ancient Greek costume, no doubt feeling very silly.

Read the rest of her post here. Whom do I need to speak with to get this woman on campus?

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1988 Yearbook: Page 118

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Yalta Conference

Some WSO comments are brilliantly concise and well-written. Like this one from Eric Maier about Willy E. N-word:

Is anyone out there saying there isn’t a problem? This is a problem. The question is how to DEAL with the problem, i.e. what the response should be. It’s not about ‘waiting around for something bad to happen’ versus ‘taking action'; this is a simplistic viewpoint. Instead, it’s about asking WHAT we want to do. There’s a difference between indifference and tact, and those of us who feel like, in this situation, the megaphone/rally vibe makes things worse rather than better shouldn’t have to feel like we’re the enemy. I don’t want to implicitly support racism by not taking action, but I also don’t want to take myself so seriously that nobody listens to me. The best way to convince people that race is something they should be thinking about is not to act like this is the Yalta Conference. Instead of posting 600 mission statements across campus in a tone that suggests that people who haven’t seen the light are stupid, how about 600 stories, or even jokes, that subtlety and gently push people in the right direction? This tongue-in-cheek approach seems to me to be a much more practical way to reach the people whose minds you want to change; otherwise you’re just preaching to the choir, and at that point the whole thing becomes rather self-congratulatory.

What mission statements were plastered all over campus? Who did the photocopying? Who paid? Who put them up? Did anyone take pictures?

And, yes, if I were clever I would have photoshopped the Yalta picture in some fashion. Left as an exercise for our readers.

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1988 Yearbook: Page 117

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1988 Yearbook: Page 116

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Man With a Plan

Lots of interesting background on Hal Steinbrenner ’91.

Hank and Hal Steinbrenner agree that they hold equal power atop the Yankees’ organization. They just express themselves differently.

Both Hank, 51, and Hal, 39, are general partners of the Yankees and the sons of principal owner George Steinbrenner. Despite wielding the same ability as Hal to make decisions on all things Yankees, Hank has effectively served as the lone public voice for the entire family (including their sisters, Jenny Swindal Steinbrenner and Jessica Lopez). Hank has dealt with late-night phone calls from the media and held impromptu news conferences, winding up on the back page with some regularity.

Hal, on the other hand, has steered clear of the public eye as much as possible. His Friday interview with Newsday in his expansive Legends Field corner office marked only the third sit-down interview he had agreed to in nearly 20 years (the others were with GQ and The New York Times’ Play Magazine).

“That’s what Hank’s for,” the youthful-looking Hal Steinbrenner, wearing khakis and a white Corvette polo shirt, said with a smile. “He’s perfect. He’s everything you guys want. How many more papers can you sell?”

He said he occasionally will do interviews but has no plans to match his brother on the chatty front, saying Hank is “naturally gifted” at that. “I’m never against sitting down and doing this once in a while,” he said, “but nobody’s going to have my cell phone number. Nobody’s going to be calling me at night. That’s just not going to happen.”

Several people who know Hal had suggested the chances of his agreeing to an interview were nil. The descriptions most often applied to him are “quiet,” “focused,” “brilliant” and “reserved.”

Funny how many people use words like “brilliant” when they are being quoted by name about their boss.

Those words seem to fit, but Hal is no recluse. He is a pilot, is an NFL fan (he has multiple Vikings jerseys in his office) and likes classic rock music and the original Star Trek. In person, he is engaging with a dry sense of humor and careful opinions. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said: “It seems like he’s always in deep thought, so I look forward to those conversations.”

Team president Randy Levine described him as “very smart, very competent, has a nose for details and he’s a team player.”

Ray Negron, a longtime assistant to George Steinbrenner [’52], said: “He’s his own man. That’s what I admire most about him.”

It’s just that Hal has no desire to adopt the public persona that his father has relished since buying the Yankees in January 1973. Hal said growing up in the spotlight was “difficult at times” and added: “I don’t ever want to be somebody who walks down the street and somebody recognizes. I’m a pretty private person.”

Yet that is not why Hal minimized his Yankees involvement until last year. The primary reason, he said, was that he did not want to be an absentee father. The other reason was that working beneath his father was no picnic. Said Hal, who refers to his father by his first name: “Working for George was not the easiest thing in the world, and one would get the impression that you really weren’t needed sometimes.”

I never once got that impression from my father, class of 1958. There will never be a field at Williams named after my father, but my memories of him, from youth, adulthood and those still to come, are as warm as memories can be. I only pray that I am half the father to my daughters that he was to my brother and me.

But Hal also wanted to be around for his kids. He is divorced with three daughters ages “10 and under.” Said Reggie Jackson, “His family’s everything to him.”

“I was worried – my kids mean a lot to me, and my dad wasn’t home much when I was a kid,” Hal said. “I’m sure if he had a choice, he would have been, but the way things were back then, 20, 25 years ago, in order to conduct business somewhere, you had to be there.”

No, you didn’t. We all make choices. George Steinbrenner ’52 spent X amount of time with his children and Y amount with his businesses. He could have chosen differently. What choices are the readers of EphBlog making?

Hal’s children still are young, but he’s realized that he can do much of his work via cell phone and BlackBerry without being in New York.

Even so, Hal’s role would not have increased so much if not for necessity. His father, 77, no longer can run the team on his own. Sister Jenny’s then-husband, Steve Swindal, had been tabbed as the successor to The Boss, but those plans dissolved as the couple headed for divorce last year.

So Hal and Hank moved into a triumvirate of ownership with their father. Jenny is deeply involved with building the new Yankee Stadium. Jessica’s husband, Felix Lopez, is involved with the Yankees, but she spends more time running the family horse farm in Ocala, Fla.

If any opponents of the Yankees had hopes that the free-spending Steinbrenners might sell the team, Hal nixes those thoughts. “There’s no plans to sell,” he said before strengthening his words, saying: “None. No chance of selling.”

And they don’t plan to pull back on payroll either, he said. “I think we proved in the offseason that that hasn’t changed. Look, it’s New York. We all realize that fans demand and deserve a championship-caliber team, and we’re going to continue to do that every year. You can bet on it.”

Because Hal has a business background (finance major at Williams College and an MBA from the University of Florida), many have speculated that he will try to rein in payroll.

Much as I wish that Williams had a Finance Department, I suspect that Steinbrenner was an economics major.

Hal Steinbrenner and Cashman were on the same page about Santana, but Hal isn’t quite ready to commit to whether he wants to bring back Cashman after his contract expires this fall.

“I think he’s done a tremendous job,” Hal said, “but I’m a year-by-year guy. So when it’s time to really sit down and analyze the facts and make a decision, I’ll do it then, not a year before.”

Surely EphBlog readers of all political persuasions will agree that the Yankees should fire Cashman. Has another sports GM wasted more money for more years?

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Women’s Hoops Recruits

Three recent articles have focused on future women’s basketball players Jill Greenberg (a Boston Globe all-scholastic selection as a Junior), Lisa Jaris, and Laura Renfro (who is caoched by Jim Tildsley, father of former Eph Kaylan ’07).  Congrats to all three.  

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Unwell

Middle of Spring Break. Admit it. You are going through a cappella withdrawal. EphBlog is here to help!

Great solo. And thanks to “ephvazquez” for posting so many videos.

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1988 Yearbook: Page 115

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Impassioned Plea

Who knows about this story?

Mr. and Mrs. Prince: How an Extraordinary Eighteenth-Century Family Moved Out of Slavery and Into Legend tells the tale of the Princes as a story-within-a-story. Shortly after moving to Guilford, Vt., Gerzina and her husband, Anthony, were surprised to learn that in the early 1800s a pair of freed black slaves had owned a farm near their own home.

It turned out that legends of the couple abounded. Lucy (who was born in Africa and kidnapped into slavery) was lauded in various sources as a “prodigy in conversation,” a confident, charismatic, educated woman who wrote verse, excelled as a storyteller, and who “captivated all around her” with “the fluency of her speech.”

But that wasn’t all. Local lore further indicated that she had learned to argue for her rights in a court of law, ultimately taking a case all the way to the US Supreme Court. She was also credited with once making an impassioned, albeit unsuccessful, plea to see her son admitted as the first black person to study at Williams College.

I really hope that this is a true story, but the authors were not able to substantiate it. Can EphBlog help?

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