Unless financial markets recover substantially, Williams will need to cut costs. The Record reports:

This changing fundraising climate and declining economic conditions will play an impact on the College’s spending and use of the endowment next year. “It’s hard to imagine that we won’t have to alter spending for the coming year. But it’s too soon to know how much alteration and what kind,” said Jim Kolesar, assistant to the president for public affairs.

What would readers suggest be cut? I would start with the Bolin Fellows.

Williams College has appointed three graduate students as Gaius Charles Bolin Fellows for 2008-09. Established in 1985 in honor of the college’s first black graduate, the Gaius Charles Bolin Dissertation Fellowships are awarded to members of under-represented groups in the final stages of finishing their Ph.D. requirements.

Bolin Fellows join the college’s academic community as faculty members but, in addition to teaching one course each year, devote the bulk of their time to the completion of their dissertation work. The program was enhanced this year so that fellows are now appointed to two-year residencies rather than one.

Ridiculous! Why is the College spending my alumni donations on something with, at best, a tangential relationship to undergraduate education? Now, of course, I have some political issues with the Bolin, but my basic complaint would apply to any sort of boondoggle for Ph.D. students. That is, even if these fellowships went to Algebraic Topologists or Applied Statisticians, I would still end the program.

“The Bolin program has always provided advanced graduate students with a valuable introduction to a faculty career,” said Associate Dean of the Faculty John Gerry. “But even with the time allowed for dissertation writing, many former fellows have felt the pressure of searching for a tenure-track faculty job at the same time. Now that the Bolin Fellows can stay for two full years, we expect that they will more easily complete their degrees in the first year, leaving the second year more open for career development. And given that we aim to appoint three fellows each year, the size of the Bolin cohort on campus will increase to six starting in 2009-10.

Gerry is a smart guy, so he doesn’t even try to pretend that this program is focussed on directly improving the education of Williams undergraduates. Instead, it is all about the Fellows, what helps them, what improves their “career development.” Who cares about the careers of people who (overwhelmingly) did not graduate from Williams and will not stay here? Not me.

Spend that money on something that directly affects student life.

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