Information wants to be free, or so all the cool Ephs tell me.

One of my favorite recurring crusades is to encourage/cajole/force Williams into being more transparent. Too much information is too restricted to too few people. A central hallmark of an academic community is openness, a willingness to consider evidence and discuss policy. To that end, I have sought and received permission to publish important documents like the Report on Varsity Athletics (thanks to Professor Mike McDonald) and the Report on Williams in New York (thanks to Professor Chris Waters). It is truly pathetic that the College does not make these reports available on its website. Also of interest (but perhaps reasonable for the College to exclude since they are the statements of individual faculty members rather than official Williams committees) are commentary on athletics from former Coach Dave Barnard and commentary on WNY by Professor Robert Jackall. It seems a shame that, were it not for EphBlog, no one would have easy access to these important documents.

Yet, in all these cases, I received permission from someone in authority to publish this work. What about cases where I do not receive permission? We had this problem during our CGCL seminar two years ago on the Diversity Initiatives. The actual Diversity Initiative report was never made available to the general public. You needed (and still need) a password of some kind. Any high school students considering Williams (or their parents) can’t get in. And, since I did not have permission to make the information public, I did not. The same was true (after an initial tease) in the case of the Alcohol Task Force report from 2005.

But just because I am too fastidious to publish something without permission does not mean that every Eph is, nor does it mean that I won’t ask others to do so. Information wants to be free, after all. A kind-hearted Eph put the Alcohol Report on the web three years ago. Another Eph (could be the same person but the formatting looks different) has done the same with the Diversity Initiatives (portions of) the recent Self-Study. Great stuff!

Williams College should make these all documents public, on its own website. A scholarly community is defined by a openness and transparency. When former Dean of the College Steve Fix spoke at the Boston Alumni Society annual meeting a few years ago, he insisted that “Intellectual honesty is the highest value at Williams.” Exactly correct. When will the administrators who run our College live up to this claim?

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