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Cost Cutting

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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#1 Comment By frank uible On October 15, 2008 @ 7:26 am

Not you, not me, it must be someone behind the tree.

#2 Comment By JeffZ On October 15, 2008 @ 7:48 am

Sigh.

#3 Comment By David On October 15, 2008 @ 7:52 am

Jeff (or anyone else),

Assume for the sake of argument that the College needs to cut $1 million from its operating budget because of the financial crisis. Where would you begin the cutting rather than with the Bolin?

#4 Comment By frank uible On October 15, 2008 @ 8:08 am

David: Make the faculty start paying 7 cents per cup for their coffee in the Stetson faculty lounge, raise the price of gelato in Paresky by a nickel, only shovel the sidewalks around campus after every other snowfall, have the football team bring their own jock straps and charge 2 cents per six inches for TP in the college restrooms – all that ought to cover at least $1,000,000.

#5 Comment By JeffZ On October 15, 2008 @ 9:12 am

— Auction off one admissions slot per yer to the highest bidder.

— Goodrich Casino Night once per month (are there any folks in Williamstown we can trace to the tribes that were at odds with Ephraim?)

— Sponsorships, sponsorships, sponsorships (Poly Sci 101 — brought to you by Coca Cola!)

— increase fines for hotpots — 50 dollars first offense, 50k second offense …

#6 Comment By Rory On October 15, 2008 @ 9:41 am

David,

wait–so you get to take a potshot at the bolin fellowship program and then before anyone bothers to defend it, now instead we have to actually find $1 million in a budget we don’t know well? smh.

I’m not going to play that game. It’s not my job to cut money from the budget…but how about cutting the student life bureaucracy you so love to hate (except when you’re hating anything related to faculty of color or students of color and their critiques of williams)? Does Williams admissions really need to go to place X (Hawaii maybe can miss its upcoming visit) it was planning to go to? Maybe some budget tightening would be good for a school that’s been living well for many years–who knows how many superfluous things could be cut or shrunk with no real effect on student life. I certainly don’t. It’s an unfair game you set up “I critiqued a program you like–don’t bother defending it, just find another program that’s worse.”

No. Instead, I’m going to go directly to your (short-sighted and foolish) arguments about Bolin not affecting undergraduates.

First, that’s incorrect. Bolin fellows TEACH…maybe not much, but you’re proposing cutting classes out of the curriculum.

And not just any classes, when I was at Williams, the classes taught by some of the Bolin fellows were very popular with students. Particularly important: they were popular with students who were somewhat dissatisfied with the course selection at Williams because it lacked much in the way of contemporary race studies in some departments. Surprise: it was non-white students who liked the Bolin fellows so much. And worked with them even outside of class. And saw them as mentors and supporters. So the Bolin fellows provided a key niche for a group of students that are traditionally less satisfied with their Williams experience.

but cut them! Screw it! Williams can find young faculty of color willing to live in Williamstown for multiple years without such a program, right? It in no way works as a recruiting tool to get at least a year or two from some members of the least recruitable faculty demographics for a school like Williams. But screw that! If they aren’t willing to make a tenure-track commitment to Williams, then we don’t want them, do we! NO!

A program like this in no way is a signal to other faculty of color that Williams is committed to diversifying its faculty. And that would never be important to anyone else–no prospective faculty would ever care about the diversity of their colleagues when considering a job placement! I’d never be interested in having a rotating group of high level graduate students in related fields coming to campus and acting as scholars in residence with whom I could share ideas and learn/teach. No. That would never be something that would interest other faculty, and especially faculty of color and/or faculty who work on race. That would never be appealing as even a small means of convincing a faculty who wants to continue to be connected to the research world that it is feasible to do so at a remote liberal arts college with no graduate programs in their field. of course not. how silly of me.

The Bolin fellow was expanded to two years to make it a more attractive fellowship to get more and more impressive graduate students. A one year fellowship that includes teaching at Williams (which is very different from teaching at a research university as a TA) is a surprisingly short time. That first semester would be spent almost entirely on finding a job for the next year, leaving it a one semester fellowship to work on the dissertation. It’s not as appealing. Two years (and the second year still includes a class, btw, so the undergraduates aren’t missing out on that benefit) offers them the ability to worry about job placement after completing the dissertation, making it a much more appealing fellowship. Williams students also gain from having extended opportunities to work with the Bolin fellows and do so while the fellows are on a somewhat less stressful timeline.

#7 Comment By frank uible On October 15, 2008 @ 10:08 am

Rory: Lighten up. David is pulling your chain. Don’t take him seriously.

#8 Comment By David Kane On October 15, 2008 @ 10:08 am

1) I am happy to leave aside the issue of cost cutting. I still want to end the Bolin Fellowship and, then, spend that money elsewhere.

2) I am always willing to learn more. Rory writes that “the classes taught by some of the Bolin fellows were very popular with students” and that Bolin Fellows served as “mentors and supporters.” Good to know. But how about some more specific examples. I am not asking to hear bad things about Bolin Fellows and their classes, just good things. Which specific classes were over-enrolled and/or highly popular? Which specific fellows acted as mentors?

(One test of a mentor would be someone you stayed in touch with. Has any EphBlog reader kept in touch with a Bolin Fellow?)

3) Although I am ready to hear good things about Bolin Fellows, I am a skeptic because I know the pressure that young Ph.D. students are under. (Every good adviser would tell her Ph.D. student that every minute he spends talking to Williams students, being a mentor, adding extra comments to a paper and so on is a minute not spent on finishing the Ph.D., looking for a job, sending out a paper for publication. A good adviser (like mine in graduate school) tells her Bolin Fellow students to focus 90% of his energy while at Williams on his research and 10%, at most, on his Williams classes, much less the broader Williams community.

4) Bolin Fellows, because they lack experience and are not chosen for their teaching ability, are likely to be much worse teachers than other professors at Williams. Contrary evidence welcome!

5) Rory notes the “extended opportunities to work with the Bolin fellows.” Evidence, please. There have been scores of Bolin Fellows. (Does anyone know the total number?) Has any every, say, authored an article with a Williams student or, say, directed a Williams students thesis or independent study?

6) The key issue, as always, is the opportunity cost. I don’t know the exact economics but Williams could end the Bolin Fellowship and hire, instead, 2 (maybe 3?) junior professors instead. Those professors would teach more (8 versus 6) classes, teach them better and be more accountable/incentivized for their impact on Williams undergraduates.

7) In order to kill the Bolin, I am happy to promise Rory that these permanent replacements would be in whatever department he wants. Indeed, they can be whatever color he wants!

#9 Comment By Sam On October 15, 2008 @ 10:11 am

Precisely what Frank said. We should never take Kane seriously. He is not deserving of our serious consideration.

#10 Comment By ronitb On October 15, 2008 @ 10:15 am

– Make tuition charged a linear function of family income/wealth. Why cap it at $40k-odd, when there are many wealthy families who are willing and able to pay more? Lower income students would obviously still get financial aid based on the same equation.

#11 Comment By David Kane On October 15, 2008 @ 10:18 am

Sam,

As long as you have a moment to comment, perhaps you can settle an empirical aspect to this dispute:

I bet that classes taught by Bolin Fellows received lower scores in students evaluations and have lower enrollments than classes taught in the same departments by permanent Williams faculty.

True or false? If true, then that would be a reason for shifting resources away from the Bolin, as opposed to the current plan which is adding resources to it.

#12 Comment By David Kane On October 15, 2008 @ 10:24 am

Sam,

Although I would not expect you to have the time or inclination to address this topic in an EphBlog thread, why not write something at your blog? There are a lot of alumni interested in this topic and, perhaps alarmingly, plenty who think that the College’s spending priorities are not what they should be. Why not educate them? We would certainly link to anything you write on the topic.

Most interesting would be an essay in which you addressed the optimum size of the Bolin Fellowship. It used to be 3. Now it will be 6. I would prefer 0. But surely others think that 9 or 12 or 20 would be better. Explain to us the cost/benefit calculation that leads you to think that the best size is 6 (or whatever you think the best size is).

There are a thousand Ephs here who want to read what you have to say on this topic.

#13 Comment By Sam On October 15, 2008 @ 10:40 am

Why in heaven’s name would you suppose that I would share with you confidential personnel information in a public forum? Indeed, given your horrendous track record of ideological attacks on the life of the college, why would you presume that I would engage in any sort of debate with you? It’s not worth the time and bother.
The Bolin program is great. Fellows bring an infusion of new ideas, they are immersed in what is going on in graduate programs right now. They add to the intellectual life of the college in many ways. I learn from them and that learning enlivens me and, thus, benefits my students, who do not want a brain-dead teacher. Fellows also directly benefit students, as Rory makes clear. We are an institution of higher learning and Bolin fellows contribute significantly to our mission.

#14 Comment By laura On October 15, 2008 @ 10:41 am

I had a completely terrible class with a Bolin Fellow. It too was quite popular and over-enrolled, and I was really looking forward to it based on the course description. It was a complete disaster and a waste of tuition dollars (she cancelled 5 classes and we spent 2 others at the dance studio learning cultural dances). The classes that we did have were often interrupted by her 10 minute smoking breaks. She often didn’t respond to emails, wouldn’t give feedback on papers, and never learned the names of half of our 25 person class. It was so bad that I typed up several pages of blue sheet comments for her and expressed my concern to the Dean (or someone appropriate, I can’t remember who).

Of course, I am sure that my experience is not necessarily representative of Bolin Fellows as a whole, but at least once of them has been the worst professor I had at Williams, by a long shot.

#15 Comment By current eph On October 15, 2008 @ 10:53 am

David,

I am sure you believe that having a racially diverse student body is important to Williams’ mission, if only because the best students (whether they be white, asian, or URM) will shy away from a college that is 96% white/asian. Furthermore, I am sure that having a racially diverse faculty goes a long way to keeping the student body racially diverse–the best URMs generally would rather go to a school that has classes and teachers that not only reflect their interests, but will provide a support network if necessary.

Given that, it does make sense to recruit a diverse faculty…and the Bolin fellows work to that end. Besides providing diversity by adding several top URM PhD students as teachers, I am sure the fellowship is a very effective advertisement for prospective URM faculty–even if the fellows don’t ultimately end up teaching at Williams (although I suspect that some do), bringing a number of top URMs to teach Williams serves to “get the word out” and serves as an indicator of Williams’ commitment to diversity. Like it or not, indicators like this matter, both for prospective students and for prospective faculty.

#16 Comment By David Kane On October 15, 2008 @ 11:13 am

1) I am not asking for “confidential personnel information.” I am asking for information about averages, not for any specific teacher or class. James McAllister has shared such information with us in the past. (Teachers who give higher grades do not received better evaluations.) Perhaps Sam should have a talk with James about what belongs on a public forum . . .

2) I thank Laura for her comments (and not just because they reinforce my point!) and seek other testimony. Who else has taken a course with a Bolin Fellow? Who has been mentored by one?

3) I disagree with most of the causal claims made in current eph’s comment, but, instead of getting into those details urge him to step back and consider what else could be done with the Bolin money that would achieve the goals that he supports. Want more African-American students at Williams? Use the Bolin money to expand the Tyng (and target it more toward African-Americans). Want more African American faculty? Use the Bolin money to hire them. I would love to see Williams offer a big raise to, say, Craig Wilder to get him to come back to Williams.

The Bolin is an incredibly inefficient means of achieving the (reasonable) goals that current eph (and others) share.

#17 Comment By Derek On October 15, 2008 @ 12:48 pm

I’d like to respond to two of the points David makes in post 8:

“3) Although I am ready to hear good things about Bolin Fellows, I am a skeptic because I know the pressure that young Ph.D. students are under. (Every good adviser would tell her Ph.D. student that every minute he spends talking to Williams students, being a mentor, adding extra comments to a paper and so on is a minute not spent on finishing the Ph.D., looking for a job, sending out a paper for publication. A good adviser (like mine in graduate school) tells her Bolin Fellow students to focus 90% of his energy while at Williams on his research and 10%, at most, on his Williams classes, much less the broader Williams community.”

In this day and age, this is simply untrue. Any advisor who recommended that students not commit themselves to the parameters of a postdoctoral fellowship, especially one at a place like Williams, would be guilty of negligence at best. In the humanities fellowships are a respected and important part of the academic process. Yes, these fellows, as with any academic, will be expected to be productive. But in this job market, an opportunity like a Bolin fellowship is one not to be taken lightly, and if Williams is doing its job, these folks are immersing themselves in the community and the opportunity. Today colleges and universities hiring candidates are looking for everything — teaching, scholarship, service, and things on the record like a Bolin fellowship are not merely a feather in the cap, they are also an indicator of the ability to produce, teach, interact and so forth. A bad advisor might advocate not doing what one is supposed to do in a fellowship environment. Fortunately, most advisors are not bad ones and care about the students they advise.

“4) Bolin Fellows, because they lack experience and are not chosen for their teaching ability, are likely to be much worse teachers than other professors at Williams. Contrary evidence welcome!”

I disagree with this as well. Williams values teaching, of course, but I would be willing to bet that a large percentage of hires at the junior level come from newly minted PhD’s with little if any more teaching experience than the typical fellowship recipient. The hiring process tries to identify those with great potential as teaching and scholars, but hiring is inexact and there is no reason to believe that a fellow hired with an understanding that there will be teaching responsibilities is going to be any less capable of teaching well than a newly minted PhD hired on a tenure track post.

dcat

#18 Comment By hwc On October 15, 2008 @ 1:15 pm

David:

Good luck voicing objections to an affirmative action program. It should be apparent that affirmative action is firmly entrenched at the highest levels of American life.

I made peace with it long ago, accepting it as one of those things that is what it is. Ironically, the widespread mis-use of affirmative action in everything from low income housing development in Chicago (where politically connected developers have young lawyers scurrying around to find minority “partners”) to mortgage lending quotas has terribly undermined the communities it sought to serve and corrupted the politics of these communities almost beyond recognition.

BTW, this fellowship program may not be cuttable at Williams. It could be an endowed program with restrictions on the use of the money.

Swarthmore has a similar program, but uses it most often for post-doctoral teaching fellows. I can’t find a full list, but it has included African Americans and Asian Americans. Two current African American tenured professors at the College came to Swarthmore as “Minority Scholars in Residence” following their PhDs. Of course, they were both Swarthmore graduates. One was the son of an alum and board member.

The recent Supreme Court Michigan cases have probably forced colleges to broaden and rename these programs since a “Minority Scholar in Residence” would now be unconstitutional by name alone, just as Swarthmore was forced by threat of legal action to enroll white students to their summer enrichment program for admitted students. Of course, they will all be able to go back to business as usual with the appointment of the next Democratic appointed Supreme Court justice.

#19 Comment By JG On October 15, 2008 @ 1:17 pm

I echo everything Rory said above. I took two classes with Bolin fellows. Both were wonderful in terms of content. Teaching ability, one was solid middle of the pack and one was high-middle. I had MUCH more difficulty with the handful of short-term “visiting” positions (little connection to the town or school, no real chance of them being permanent so very little engagement on average) and honestly also with tenured faculty. I also had great experiences with some tenured, some visiting, etc. You can’t take one whole category and call them bad teachers. Doesn’t work that way.

I also interacted with Bolin fellows through various student activities I was involved with – had dinners, met for drinks, saw them at presentations/speeches, and saw them be very involved with MinCo groups. They were generally a visible and engaged presence on campus. Regardless of what any dissertation advisor may recommend, realistically ANYONE working on a PhD spends plenty of time doing things other than research and writing – in fact, it’s probably healthy to get away from the computer sometimes.

Cutting the budget should not come at the expense of academic resources, and in my experience the Bolin Fellows added tremendously to the academic environment, but in and out of the classroom. But David, again, thanks for an opnion on cutting anything viewed as benefiting URM students and faculty.

#20 Comment By Ronit On October 15, 2008 @ 1:21 pm

Goddamn minorities. Always causing financial crises and investment losses and boondoggle construction projects and terrorist attacks and whatnot.

#21 Comment By hwc On October 15, 2008 @ 1:24 pm

BTW, if you want to cut a couple million from Williams’ budget, you’ll need to actually find more cuts than that. Going “loan free” will cost the College a couple million a year in lost revenue. Heating, energy, and food costs have all increased signficantly adding to the annual operating budget.

Colleges are going to be looking for savings just to offet these unavoidable cost increases.

On the plus side of the ledger, the sudden unattractiveness of investment banking jobs probably means the colleges can stop hiring new Economics professors!

#22 Comment By Soph Mom On October 15, 2008 @ 1:34 pm

“Of course, they will all be able to go back to business as usual with the appointment of the next Democratic appointed Supreme Court justice.

Oh, puhleeze. Stop and consider the alternative…especially if we end up with a ‘President Palin’. And while you’re at it, keep in mind the words of Sinclair Lewis…

“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”

#23 Comment By hwc On October 15, 2008 @ 2:26 pm

Yeah, you could be right. With a Democratic justice replacing a Democratic retiree, the majority of the Court should remain as it was when deciding Gruter v Bollinger and Gratz v Bollinger — a decision that sent colleges scrambling to bring their affirmative action programs into compliance.

On the other hand, an unfettered Democratic controlled White House, Congress, and Senate, with no checks and balances, should push minority set aside programs into uncharted territory.

#24 Comment By Ronit On October 15, 2008 @ 2:30 pm

Soph Mom, I think the quote actually comes from the great public intellectual Jonah Goldberg (author of “Liberal Fascism” and co-author of “Everybody Poops”), who said:

When fascism comes to America, it will be brought by a HALF BLACK LIBERAL CHICAGO MUSLIM AFFIRMATIVE ACTION TERRORIST HAWAIIAN SHARK-GOD WORSHIPPING FANNIE MAE LOVING FRIEND OF JEREMIAH AYERS.

#25 Comment By JeffZ On October 15, 2008 @ 2:41 pm

I see HWC, as usual, echoes verbatim the Fox News / GOP talking points — now that no one, least of all HWC, can continue to argue that Palin was anything but an impulsive embarassment borne out of political expedience rather than actual ability to govern, or that McCain is anything but erratic and self-promoting in a crisis situation, the new line of attack (when not accusing Barack of being no different from Osama Bin Laden) is that we need a divided government. No one is buying that one — the GOP had it’s chance and blew it.

#26 Comment By David Kane On October 15, 2008 @ 2:49 pm

1) Future posts on this thread unrelated to the topic at hand will be deleted.

2) Derek and I agree that faculty advisers will tell their advisees to adhere to the “parameters of a postdoctoral fellowship.” We disagree on what those parameters are in the case of the Bolin. Note:

The Bolin Fellowships are two-year residencies at Williams, and three scholars or artists are appointed each year. Fellows devote the bulk of the first year to the completion of dissertation work—or in the case of MFA applicants, building their professional portfolios—while also teaching one course as a faculty member in one of the College’s academic departments or programs. The second year of residency (ideally with degree in hand) is spent on academic career development while again teaching just one course.

The words “bulk” and “just” are important here. Note also that there is zero mention of any community involvement or interaction with students beyond “teaching just one course.” These parameters are, to me, perfectly consistent with spending 10% of your work time on Williams students/teaching and 90% on your research. If you had a student who won this award, how would you tell them to split their time?

3) I agree with JG that visiting professors are a problem at Williams. I would end (90%) of such appointment as well.

4) I am glad that JG “solid middle” and “high-middle” Bolin Fellows. (The distinction between “solid” and “high” is somewhat unclear.) But we can do much better than that! Compare your Bolin professors to your tenured/tenure track professors. How many of the latter were worse than the former?

Again, the issue is not: Bolin Fellows are bad teachers. They are not! The issue is that they are worse teachers than other Williams permanent professors, both because of the incentives/pressures they face and because of their lack of experience.

Would you rather have Bolin Fellows or Craig Wilder? To me the choice is obvious. If the College had not hire Joy James, we could double the size of the Bolin Fellowships. That seems a lousy trade-off to me.

#27 Comment By hwc On October 15, 2008 @ 3:10 pm

I agree with JG that visiting professors are a problem at Williams. I would end (90%) of such appointment as well.

I don’t know anything about visiting professors at Williams and, therefore, can’t comment on that. As a more general proposition, visiting professors provide a small liberal arts college the opportunity to offer its students a broader range of academic interests. There is no way that any liberal arts college can cover every area of specialization with a small tenure-track faculty. Visiting professors can be chosen to augment the offerings.

#28 Pingback By Dude, Downsize … » EphBlog On October 15, 2008 @ 3:10 pm

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#29 Comment By hwc On October 15, 2008 @ 3:14 pm

PS: I did not even mention Gov. Palin in this thread, let alone “argue” fer or ag’in her as suggested in #25. My comments in this thread have been limited to the topic at hand, specifically affirmative action hiring practices and affirmative action by colleges and universities. It is difficult to discuss those issues without a working knowledge of Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger.

#30 Comment By JeffZ On October 15, 2008 @ 3:19 pm

Your comment that “On the other hand, an unfettered Democratic controlled White House, Congress, and Senate, with no checks and balances, should push minority set aside programs into uncharted territory” has nothing to do with the topic of this thread, HWC. Nor did my comment, but I was just responding to you. I am happy to leave it at that.

#31 Comment By JG On October 15, 2008 @ 3:25 pm

I’d rather have Craig Wilder than just about any other professor I’ve ever had at Williams, in law school, or any that I’ve heard of anywhere. That is not exactly a fair comparison. I’d rather be taught by Craig Wilder than many of the other tenured faculty at Williams as well, but I don’t think they should be fired or their classes eliminated.

If you read my comment fully David, you would see that I mentioned having classes with tenured professors that were worse (indeed, some much worse). I won’t name them here, but they were tenured and at least a couple were known to be bad (or at least on the lower end) of professors, but taught classes whose content or pre-req status kept them reasonably full anyway. Also, you’re ignoring the point that having Bolin Fellows is a means to recruit more professors and students who care about new ideas, a diverse community, etc. I don’t know if any Bolins have become full or tenure-track professors, but I would assume that it would be an ideal result if there was an opening and the Fellow was well-received. I don’t get why you’re so bent out of shape about this one program that I think has dedicated funding from an endowment and therefore can’t just be folded into the general operating budget. Don’t all schools hire post-docs and other such types?? Are you against hiring any new/young professors or just those brought in through a targeted program for URM academics?

As to the difference between “solid middle” and “high middle” – doesn’t seem hard, but I’ll elaborate. Think of a 5 point rating scale, roughly bell-curve shaped, although skewed a bit ot the higher rating. 1s are bad, 2s are passable (perhaps low middle), 3s are in the middle/average (solid middle), 4s would be better than average but not quite the best (high middle), and 5s would be the best. I am pretty sparing in the profs that I would give that rating. Of those that I personally had or whose classes I worked in and got to observe (off the top of my head): Craig Wilder, Bill Darrow, Zirka Filipczak, and Colin Adams. That isn’t many for 8 semesters of class…there might be a couple more. There were quite a few that I would puts as 4s and lots of 3s. Not many down in the 2 and 1 categories, but there were some. Having Bolin Fellows as 3s and 4s in their first year of teaching I think is pretty damn good actually…being as good as the average Williams professor or in the upper echelon of them is a high standard. On the whole, we have an impressive faculty, and I know that splitting hairs about an average to just below average Williams prof still puts them high above many others in teaching ability.

To your point about engagement on campus, I think it speaks volumes that these Fellows have been actively engaged in the community when they weren’t somehow forced to do so by the program requirements. They are then giving even more to the Williams community than expected – even more return on the investment then, which is a good thing (at least to me).

Finally (long comment, sorry I’m doing that a lot today) – while I had some bad visiting profs, blanket statements of eliminating 90% of them doesn’t solve the problem. It sledgehammers a more complicated problem. There are those that come to teach one class because of expertise, then there are some brought in for a year as a (sometimes) desperate fill-in for a full professor on sabbatical, then there are those hired for 3-year terms but are not tenure-track. The 3-year types I had pretty great experiences with (and was sad to see some like Brad Verter not be renewed).

#32 Comment By Rory On October 15, 2008 @ 3:34 pm

holy oblivious jesus, david.

1. The Craig Wilder comment was a complete fallacy. his leaving was not because of bolin or because williams couldn’t find the money. complete non-sequiter. but thanks for making me sad again that he left!

2. “extended opportunities to work with the Bolin fellows”. If you had read about the fellows, you’d realize it just got extended–in other words, we don’t know if the 2 year fellowship will offer that opportunity. i certainly expect that it will.

3. Another benefit for some students is that you never see what graduate school is like at a LAC, except from programs like bolin (or really, really recently hired new faculty). the undergrads who work in the cneter i spend my time in have a lot of interaction with me and some have asked some penetrating questions about grad school. it’s a benefit.

4. the idea that all grad students should do 90% work on dissertating and 10% with students is not true and not good advice. For one, they should be networking while at Williams for both selfish and non-selfish reasons. In addition, for me, spending some time with undergraduates is a great way to be recharged as an academic. The idea that the two must be polar opposites or that time must be divided between the two is an oversimplistic way of considering how one can fulfill a fellowship while also engaging the academic community of williams. In short, you’re wrong.

:)

#33 Comment By David Kane On October 15, 2008 @ 3:44 pm

JG claims that I am “ignoring the point that having Bolin Fellows is a means to recruit more professors and students who care about new ideas, a diverse community, etc.”

No, but I am happy to explain again why this point is completely unpersuasive. Compare two scenarios: Williams with the zero Bolins and Williams with 6 Bolins. How many African-American students would come to Williams with 6 Bolins but would not come to Williams if Bolin were eliminated? How many African-American Ph.D.’s would accept a tenure-track job offer at a Williams with Bolins versus a Williams without?

Round numbers: Zero.

As we have reviewed again and again, there are dozens of things more important in the faculty job acceptance decision than the Bolins. And, moreover, if you eliminated the Bolins you could spend some of that money on stuff that directly impacts a candidates decision. Giving a candidate who is on the fence an extra $30,000 in salary or an extra semester off can make or break a deal. Giving an admitted student a financial aid package that matches Yale could easily be the difference between acceptance and rejection.

Dropping Bolin gives some flexibility for doing these things.

By goal here is not to say that Williams should be spending less money on things that produce a more “diverse community,” although, obviously, I am somewhat suspicious of this as a priority relative to other priorities. My goal is to claim that there are much more efficient ways to spend the money.

It is exactly the same point I have tried to make in arguing against spending money on the local high school or hospital or art museum as a way to improve faculty recruitment. If money were limitless, then there would be nothing wrong with such boondoggles. But money is short. We should spend it where it is most likely to accomplish our goals.

Want more URM students and faculty at Williams? Show them the money!

#34 Comment By hwc On October 15, 2008 @ 3:45 pm

Actually, government policy and the courts have everything to do with Williams’ minority teaching fellowships. As things stand today, any such program restricted to a specific race or races is unconstitutional. I doubt that Williams’ program would survive even the the threat of a challenge, assuming they haven’t already changed it.

#35 Comment By Rory On October 15, 2008 @ 4:07 pm

except that williams’ program already changed to not being race exclusive (I believe we’ve already had a white woman bolin fellow). get your facts right, hwc.

David, the faculty hired via that extra X dollars or Y semesters off will be a qualitatively different faculty member (one willing to live in/around williamstown as a potential career location) as opposed to the Bolin fellows. While it might not be the maximally efficient means of getting faculty to come (of course, your argument is absurd. the second one faculty finds out another faculty made $10,000 more as a new faculty, you can bet your ass there will be a lot more raises in the future. cmon. it’s not that simple AGAIN), it is an efficient way to get young faculty who might never consider williams before coming for a temporary program working on issues that Williams does not have a particular strength in.

#36 Comment By Rory On October 15, 2008 @ 4:08 pm

an addendum:

David continues to see this in black/white. (“how many african americans…”). Bolin is much, much broader than that.

#37 Comment By frank uible On October 15, 2008 @ 4:22 pm

As one of my fellow gandee dancers on the Pennsylvania Railroad used to say from time to time, “you people must be overfed and underfucked”.

#38 Comment By Aidan On October 15, 2008 @ 4:40 pm

Some people read Ephblog for the posts. Some people watch television for the commercials. I read Ephblog entirely for Frank Uible’s comments.

What I wouldn’t give to have him in the booth instead of Madden or Costas?

#39 Comment By Vermando ’05 On October 15, 2008 @ 7:55 pm

That DK would choose for cost-cutting something related to African-Americans is not even surprising. Both sad and predictable.

#40 Comment By Derek On October 15, 2008 @ 8:09 pm

David —
You wrote: “The words “bulk” and “just” are important here. Note also that there is zero mention of any community involvement or interaction with students beyond “teaching just one course.” These parameters are, to me, perfectly consistent with spending 10% of your work time on Williams students/teaching and 90% on your research. If you had a student who won this award, how would you tell them to split their time?”

I would say that you are making an argument that does not reflect the way most serious academics think. We do not think of allotting our time in quotas. Most of us work to teach and write as well as we can. Indeed, when I talk to people about why I would consider a job elsewhere, I explain my preference for a lower teaching load as a matter of grammar and punctuation: I do not want to teach less well, I would just like to teach less, well (or teach well less. Or teach, well, less!) .

For instance, Williams is certainly no less committed to good teaching than my current institution, yet Williams has a much lower teaching load, as does any elite liberal arts school, because they know not to create a false dichotomy between research and teaching.

dcat

#41 Comment By David Kane On October 15, 2008 @ 8:14 pm

Vermando,

Is that really fair? I know it is fun to see racists on every mountain top, but my history of cost-cutting recommendations does not remotely support your calumny. I have wanted to cut money spent on:

the local high school
the local hospital
the local art museum
administrator salaries
campus life bureaucrats

These are, easily, the largest dollar cuts that I have recommended. Are these really “related to African-Americans?” If not, don’t you owe me an apology?

In fact, it was more than 5 years ago that I first recommended:

Perhaps the safest policy would be for Williams to give no cash contributions of any kind. This doesn’t prevent Williams from being a good neighbor (letting the Mount Greylock tennis team use our courts for its big tournament, for example), but it would certainly decrease any potential for problems.

If it were me, that $250,000 would have instead gone to merit scholarships for under-represented minorities. Surely that is a better use of the College’s limited resources . . .

Has any other alumnus specifically recommended giving high quality black and Hispanic applicants merit scholarships? Not that I know of.

And, yet, if you object to the faculty’s Bolin boondoggles, you must be one step away from the KKK. Sigh.

#42 Comment By ronit On October 15, 2008 @ 11:32 pm

David – the calumny both is and is not unfair. To you as a person, it is probably unfair. But the style of argument deployed here is all too similar to the kind of thing that less well-intentioned people would take advantage of. Perhaps I’ve spent too much time in the fever swamps of the right, and have become overly suspicious as a result. This kind of argument fits too conveniently with the kind of racial code that Republicans have used to such great effect over the years. Yes, some people may genuinely object to minority programs for budgetary reasons (though the Bolin fellowship hardly seems big enough to be worth any outrage on those grounds alone). However, this kind of thing is too often deployed as a veil for racial sentiments.

Look how quickly hwc made the jump from your relatively reasonable argument to “affirmative action” (as if the Bolin fellowship were an example of such) and how Democrats in general would push for more welfare and preferences for minorities. Voila, you’ve gone from an arguably innocent budget cut to a racially charged slam on liberals.

It’s the pattern that’s the problem, not the person. Minorities, and programs related to minorities, are always the easiest target; even when made in good faith, the kind of argument you’ve put up in this post, the easily-made jump from general budget cuts to targeting the Bolin fellows, just smells wrong. Why not present this as one bullet point out of, let’s say, 4 or 5 different things (like the other suggestions you’ve made in previous posts)? Absent any mention, at least initially, of those other, much larger, expenditures that could be cut, one could be forgiven for suspecting something odd about your motivation. You posted only about the Bolin fellows, and given that the fellowship forms such a puny part of the overall budget, your focus on it is weird, to say the least. Your case would have been much stronger if you had mentioned some other ideas instead of just this one.

I mean, there are a million places you could have gone to. Maybe hold back on some big-ticket technology upgrades, or slow down construction, or something. Why did this come to mind first, of all the damn things?

#43 Comment By Soph Mom On October 16, 2008 @ 12:51 am

So well said, Ronit. Kudos.

Thanks for putting into words that which has been ‘stuck in my craw’…especially since reading comment #18.

#44 Comment By Derek On October 16, 2008 @ 12:58 am

And again — aren’t the Bolin fellowships endowed? Doesn’t this mean they come from money separate from the Williams budget? I could be wrong, and if I am, well, nevermind. But if they are, then the entire point of the argument becomes utterly moot and does then come across as an example of ax-grinding-by-proxy.

dcat

#45 Comment By hwc On October 16, 2008 @ 1:02 am

Are you arguing that the Gaius Charles Bolin Dissertation Fellowships are not an affirmative action program?

I happen to support affirmative action from time to time, but I hate when academics try to pretend it is not what it is.

#46 Comment By David Kane On October 16, 2008 @ 11:40 am

1) Whether are not the Bolin Fellowship is an example of affirmative action is irrelevant to my point. I would object even if the award was restricted to Marine veterans writing about military history. The issue is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on something that has, at best, a tangential relationship to undergraduate education.

2) Obviously, if there is a dedicated endowment that can only be spent on the Bolin, then we are stuck with it. But I doubt that there is. Evidence, please. If there were, I suspect that someone would have heard about it. Also, if there were, it would have to be quite large. And, even if there were and it was large, how did it suddenly become so much larger that it can now support twice as many fellows as before.

3) Ronit asks:

Why not present this as one bullet point out of, let’s say, 4 or 5 different things (like the other suggestions you’ve made in previous posts)?

So, every time I recommend cutting any College program I should include a list of all the other cuts I want to make? Funny, you did not tell me to do that when I recommended all the other cuts listed above.

Note also that I did not wake up one morning and think to myself: “Let’s find a budget item to cut.” I woke up and discovered via Google News, the article about the latest change in the Bolins. That is the news hook. Now, it seemed useful to embed that issue in the larger context of the College budget problems, but I am, obviously, against the Bolin even when the stock market is rising.

If my goal were to prevent some of my EphBlog critics from accusing me of racism, then the only way to do that is never discuss (or at least never provide my honest opinion about) programs like Bolin.

#47 Comment By Ronit On October 16, 2008 @ 11:53 am

Fair enough, David. I don’t suspect you of nefarious intentions, and I don’t think you should hide your honest opinion. I was just pointing out that the manner of presentation of your argument could lead to a conclusion like that reached by Vermando above.

Basically, I think people would take your arguments more seriously if you were more conscious of the optics. Assuming your intention is, in the long-run, to persuade (otherwise, why post?), the more comprehensive bullet-point approach would work better, and would probably lead to a more constructive discussion.

#48 Comment By Rory On October 16, 2008 @ 12:44 pm

wait…whoa…called you a racist? David, let’s not make accusations like that when no one did here.

#49 Comment By David Kane On October 16, 2008 @ 1:18 pm

“That DK would choose for cost-cutting something related to African-Americans is not even surprising” == “DK is racist”

#50 Comment By hwc On October 16, 2008 @ 1:45 pm

Post deleted for being unrelated to topic at hand. Please see warning above.

#51 Comment By JG On October 16, 2008 @ 1:55 pm

RACIST CARD ALERT!! Someone can critique your argument as having a disproportionate impact on a particular group without calling you a racist actually. Nobody on here has said that you think less of people of any particular race or that you judge people based on it or hire people based on it (i.e. called you a racist). You do have a tendency to post about programs aimed at URM students with recommendations that they be cut. You do, therefore it is unsurprising. Likewise, it would be unsurprising if you posted another rant about needing disclosure of every record of every meeting had by any person working at Williams. Read Ronit’s comment – I think it actually makes pretty clear that nobody is calling you a racist but rather pointing out how your arguments can appear based on the choices you make in topic and focus. Not the same as calling you a racist.

Now – for anyone who wants the actual details on the Bolin program, here is the link. The page does not say how it is funded, but since a dedicated endowment is not mentioend, it is unlikely though not impossible. However, $33,000 per year plus benefits is just not that much money, and I’m unclear how that gets anywhere near a savings of $250,000, especially since other faculty would have to be paid to make up for the courses that these 6 individuals will teach. Completely ignoring the other value-added benefit of these fellows, 6 courses per semester is (I think) 2 professors or at least the equivalent of 1.5 – I don’t think we’re talking about a real savings here, and if there is a little bit it doesn’t come near the amount you claim.

#52 Comment By Rory On October 16, 2008 @ 2:18 pm

JG: thank you for eloquently calling out the “racist card”. Further, it’s quite convenient to find one possible insinuation (and I can see where that insinuation is coming from) and talk about “some of my critics”. It was one person who made a one liner. Let’s not paint with too broad a stroke, DK.

To be fair, it’s actually one course per fellow per year, so there would be a savings. not necessarily a dramatic one, but a savings.

#53 Comment By David Kane On October 16, 2008 @ 2:35 pm

“You do have a tendency to post about programs aimed at URM students with recommendations that they be cut.”

Evidence, please. I have written tens of thousands of words on programs worthy of cutting (see above links) and, at most, 5% of those proposals (whether measured in dollars to cut or words I have written) could fairly be described as “aimed at URM students.”

Read Ronit’s comment – I think it actually makes pretty clear that nobody is calling you a racist but rather pointing out how your arguments can appear based on the choices you make in topic and focus. Not the same as calling you a racist.

Well, if you define as racist anyone who wants to cut Bolin Fellowships, then you might have a point. The same thing happened to me 20+ years ago at Williams when anyone who objected to affirmative action was also defined as racist — no matter the structure or substance of his argument — simply because all non-racists were in favor (or at least quite about) AA.

Here is my claim: Assume that a non-racist wanted to write a post in which he claimed that the Bolin Fellowship should be cut. (He, unlike me, does not want to cut other stuff at Williams. He just wants to cut the Bolin and use that money to hire 1 to 2 permanent professors teaching the same students in the same sorts of classes.)

What words would he need to change in my post for you (and Ronit and Rory and Vermando) to not say that his arguments “appear” suspect?

Rory notes that “It was one person who made a one liner.” True. But, first, I believe that Rory and JG agree with that one-liner. (Corrections welcome!) and, second, this issue has arisen on other threads.

#54 Comment By Ronit On October 16, 2008 @ 2:39 pm

Assume that a non-racist wanted to write a post in which he claimed that the Bolin Fellowship should be cut…. What words would he need to change in my post for you (and Ronit and Rory and Vermando) to not say that his arguments “appear” suspect?

I think he’d have to present actual evidence, based on, let’s say, student or faculty feedback, that the Bolin program is ineffective, or at least not worth the marginal cost to Williams, or that it does not, in fact, provide any benefits for undergraduate education at Williams. I don’t think you presented any such evidence in your original post – only insinuated that it couldn’t possibly be deserving of funding, and therefore should be cut.

#55 Comment By Rory On October 16, 2008 @ 2:52 pm

wow. putting words into my mouth, david.

no, i’m not surprised by the post/you’re views. but i also don’t think you’re a racist. Nor do I think it’s because of any “racism” on your part.

I simply believe you have not come to appreciate the subtler aspects of the importance of race and the need to be aggressive to fight for racial equality through a variety of means that may appear to (mostly white) Americans as violating some core beliefs about opportunity and merit.

so while i agree with the one-liner, i in no way agree with any interpretation of it that posits that you hold any racist values or thoughts.

#56 Comment By Parent ’12 On October 16, 2008 @ 9:30 pm

Here are the recently appointed Bolin Fellows:

http://www.williams.edu/admin/news/releases/1689

Based only on this press release, I think they have the potential to enrich the Williams community.

#57 Comment By Alexander Woo On October 17, 2008 @ 7:13 pm

David,

Williams pays well enough that paying more won’t entice folks.

Most academics just don’t care that much about money.

I wager that, for most African American political scientists, whether or not there is another African American in the department is more likely to influence whether they come to Williams and stay than an extra $50,000 a year. Even having a Bolin Fellow about two years out of every five (which should be about par, since political science is one of the larger departments likely to hire one) will have almost the same impact.