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Finance Major

I like this working paper, and not just because it reinforces my prejudices.

“This data suggests that the presence of an unrestricted-entry business program has a positive impact on the satisfaction levels of economics majors,” the authors write. “When such programs exist, the economics major is not forced to balance both the goals of students who would rather be in business programs with the goals of students who would study economics either way; therefore the economics major can more easily suit all of its students’ demands.”

Admittedly, this work is based on a broad universe of schools but the central message is that it is a bad idea to put students who are interested in economics (because they like economics) in the same major as students who are taking economics because they are interested in business/finance careers. Now, we would no more want a “business” major at Williams then we would want a major in bookkeeping. But splitting the economics department into two parts (Economics and Finance) would make both parts better off. Both departments would have a critical mass of majors and would be better able to tailor their requirements and course offerings for their students. (A Finance Department would also steal away more than a few math majors.) Any department with more 50 majors is too big.

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#1 Comment By hwc On November 2, 2008 @ 11:33 am

According to President Schapiro, it’s now well less than a zero-sum game. Where will the College find the budget increases necessary to fund a new Finance Department?

I believe the more pressing concern might be finding the budget necessary to continue the Arabic program and expand the Chinese program to meet demand.

I’m not sure the demand for vocational training as investment bankers will be quite as strong going forward now that several of the largest investment banks are either dead or on life support, victims in part of a generation finance managers who cared more about inventing paper instruments than running businesses or building widgets.

#2 Comment By hwc On November 2, 2008 @ 12:51 pm

BTW, one issue that is going to rear its head again during the belt-tightening is whether or not to finally kill off departments like classics that generate little or no student interest.

One of the reasons college budgets have spiralled upwards is that every new program is an incremental add-on rather than a replacement for programs that have lost their relevance or demand.

The operative thinking is that “we’ve always had a classics department; therefore, we must have a classics department.”

#3 Comment By Ronit On November 2, 2008 @ 2:55 pm

Memo to college administrators: Please don’t ever take advice on anything from either David Kane or hwc.

#4 Comment By David Kane On November 2, 2008 @ 4:09 pm

1) How much is the marginal cost of adding a Finance Department? I am not proposing hiring new faculty, just splitting the current faculty into two parts. I guess that there might be some very small costs (does each department get its own secretary; does each chair get released from a class or two during her service), but those are costs that ought to be cut anyway, not just in a new department but across the college.

2) I bet that Williams has as many secretaries today as it did 20 years ago when, in fact, there is much less need for them now.

3) Similarly, is there much money to be saved by eliminating departments? Assuming that we won’t be firing any professors, I don’t see the big cost savings. Am I wrong?

4) I think that describing this as “vocational training as investment bankers” is stupid on several levels. First, how many investment bankers do you know who have studied, say, Ito’s Lemma? A well-designed, rigorous Finance Major would actually screen out many of the folks who end up in investment banking.

Second, the issue in any decision about a new major is not whether you (or I) like it. Williams should offer a major in any well-defined academic field with wide student interest. Now, reasonable people may argue about just what “well-defined” means in this context, but any field with Nobel Winners and Ph.D. programs meets the threshold.

If 25 students per year wanted to major in Finance, who are you to prevent them?

#5 Comment By hwc On November 2, 2008 @ 4:19 pm

The desire on the students’ part for vocational training as investment bankers is a reason the Econ Department has been oversubscribed with majors. My point was that this demand for investment banker vocational training may subside, thus eliminating the critical mass necessary for dividing the department.

#6 Comment By hwc On November 2, 2008 @ 4:34 pm

As for cost, it would require more faculty to staff two departments rather than one more general department because you lose the flexiblity to have professors teach on either side of the aisle to meet demand and cover for leaves in a given year.

#7 Comment By hwc On November 2, 2008 @ 4:55 pm

How about this as a “pay as you go plan”?

Ditch the political economy major in exchange for Finance.

So you would replace three majors (Political Science, Economics, Political Economy) with three majors: (Political Science, Economics, Finance).

#8 Comment By Henry Bass ’57 On November 2, 2008 @ 5:12 pm

In the 50’s Economics as a major was not oversubscribed as a substitute for an undergrad business major. The department was small since Emile Despres and Kermit Gordon kept the major so tough that the career business types stayed away. William Bowen who was a member of the department then has expressed his opinion of the current department in one of his widely respected books on American education. Bowen left Williams to become president of Grinnell. He prefered the smaller more elite department.

#9 Comment By hwc On November 2, 2008 @ 5:58 pm

In fairness though, Williams is right at the top of American colleges and universites in Economics PhD production per 100 undergrads — tied for second with Grinnell and Carleton, ahead of all the Ivy League schools. So, clearly the rigorous academic side of the Williams Econ Dept. is not chopped-liver. It’s Williams top department by the metric, helped of course by the large percentage of Williams students who major in Economics.

The other two departments where Williams is top-10 in per capita PhD production are Political Science and English. Just missed in Psych. which is also a large department. It’s a little suprising that they miss in Art, which is an unusually large department at Williams…although the terminal degree is often an MFA.

#10 Comment By eph ’07 On November 2, 2008 @ 7:39 pm

I expect, and hope, that there is no way they’ll get rid of departments like Classics! Lay off several tenured professors, try to redirect established funds (thanks to early donations establishing department-specific prizes and scholarships – just look in the course catalogue listing), eliminate all those “foundations of Western civilization” courses that are expected in any liberal arts institution (many of which are cross-listed and taken by non-majors), and get rid of a department that produces Herchel-Smith fellowship winners just about every year? Not the best cost-reducing measure, if you ask me.

…or maybe you were just trying to provoke a reaction. In which case you succeeded. Why’s everyone always picking on Classics? Having taken courses in the department quite recently, it seems pretty healthy to me.

#11 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On November 2, 2008 @ 7:49 pm

It also looks like interest in the Classics and Latin is experiencing somewhat of a comeback…

#12 Comment By hwc On November 2, 2008 @ 7:55 pm

Morty said “everything is on the table” at a $1.3 billion endowment.

Suppose it came down to either getting rid of football or getting rid of an academic major? Which major would go?

The five-year average distribution of majors, 2003-07:

American studies 16
Anthropology 7
Art 56
Asian studies 4
Astronomy 1
Astrophysics 5
Biology 52
Chemistry 23
Chinese 5
Classics 5
Comparative Literature 7
Computer Science 7
Economics 87
English 68
French 4
Geosciences 11
German 3
History 54
Japanese 2
Literary Studies 2
Mathematics 42
Music 6
Philosophy 12
Physics 12
Political Economy 12
Political science 66
Psychology 68
Religion 8
Russian 2
Sociology 5
Spanish 9
Theatre 6
Women’s Studies 4

Classics? Religion? Soc-Ann? Theater? Music? Ditch some other languages instead of Greek and Latin?

#13 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On November 2, 2008 @ 8:12 pm

… & to follow up on that, (not directed @hwc), one argument for the Classics (outside the obvious ones) are that they’re necessary to a rounded and complete curriculum– a poor metaphor is that it’s hard to build a house without someone who understands window- and door-frames, or else you’re going to get something quite different and more limited.

Or more what I’m thinking about is that “a constitution does not embody or favor an economic theory:” and if you make it through Economics without some understanding something like Solon, distribution as dike and justice as discussed in the Odyssey, you’re unequipped to think about a nation’s economic policies and possibilities.

But don’t let me get myself started.

#14 Comment By kthomas On November 2, 2008 @ 8:21 pm

hwc: I wouldn’t want to touch that one without a lot of thought. But sure it’s much, much more complex: we’d want to look at cost-per-major, number of tenured professors, down to exact arrangement and individual academic fields (are French and German supported by comp lit? Can a tenured professor in X be transferred to department Y?)

Equally, this distribution of the curriculum is only about forty years old: look back another forty, or to Europe, and “arbitrary arrangement” comes to mind. It may be time for a little “change” (do I remember MS whispering something about “unilateral action” close to a decade ago?).

#15 Comment By hwc On November 2, 2008 @ 8:25 pm

One of the tensions in higher ed is that the curriculum no longer matches the labels established when all we studied was our European roots.

For example, “English” departments are mis-named today when they include the study of literatures far beyond the borders of England and the US. There’s no reason that the Odyssey couldn’t be studied in a redefined “Literature” department along with classics from China and Japan.

Although in reality, my daughter had already studied the Odyssey in a so-so public high school and read it once for fun. I don’t know that studying it again in college, at the expense of an introduction to Japanese or Indian literature would have been critical to a proper education.

The problem is that the playing field has expanded so much in a world of globalization that it is impossible to keep everything at its former level AND add Asian, Japanese, Indian, African, and Middle Eastern topics into the mix. Something has to be re-prioritized, not just from a budget standpoint but from a student curriculum standpoint.

#16 Comment By kthomas On November 2, 2008 @ 8:30 pm

We are hardly in disagreement here; the question indeed is ‘how?’

#17 Comment By hwc On November 2, 2008 @ 8:31 pm


It’s tough when you start looking at the list of departments/majors and think about actually having to make signficant budget cuts, isn’t it? And that’s before we even think about the three or four professors it takes for a decent Arabic/Middle Eastern program and the heavy demand to ramp up Chinese studies. We can replace some of the old Cold War Russian guys. Probably think about a bit less investment in WWI and WWII guys. It’s still tough.

Personally? I’d dump football. But, Williams would close down the Biology Department before that ever happened.

#18 Comment By ronit On November 2, 2008 @ 8:46 pm

Why not cut Computer Science instead of Classics? They get about the same number of majors, and CompSci is a terribly expensive department to support, what with their huge air-conditioned computer labs. And I dare you to tell me that giving students the option to learn Java, wonderful as it is, is more important than giving them the option to learn Latin.

#19 Comment By ronit On November 2, 2008 @ 8:48 pm

Another expensive department, in terms of both capital expenditures on equipment as well as faculty salary, and one that gets hardly any majors: Astronomy.

#20 Comment By current eph On November 2, 2008 @ 9:10 pm

Virtually all Williams students take most of their classes outside of their major. Thus, judging a department’s “importance” by the number of its majors is misleading; Williams may only get 1 astronomy major per year on average, but I would wager that there are more students enrolled in astronomy classes than theater classes (6 majors/year) every year.

#21 Comment By Ronit On November 2, 2008 @ 9:55 pm

current eph – my posts were not serious recommendations to cut astronomy or compsci altogether. I was really only pointing out the fact that, if cost-cutting is paramount, surely you could accomplish much more meaningful cuts in the sciences than in departments like Arabic or Classics, which require nothing more high-tech than blackboards and wastepaper baskets, and where you could hire a baker’s dozen worth of instructors for what they pay Pasachoff.

Also, I find it rather odd how everything remotely connected to the Sciences is seen as sacrosanct by our society, and any recommendation to cut these programs is seen as tantamount to intellectual treason, while we blithely talk of cutting languages and humanities and the arts, the core of the ‘liberal arts’, and hardly anyone protests.

#22 Comment By current eph On November 3, 2008 @ 1:30 am


I was just trying to make the point that budget decisions shouldn’t be based off of the number of majors in a department. Astronomy just seemed like an obvious example of a fairly popular department with relatively few majors. Philosophy would have worked just as well (it’s a department that has more general interest than majors).

#23 Comment By eph ’07 On November 3, 2008 @ 1:37 am

In terms of majors, it looks like every language department is tiny and expendable. And yet I knew lots of people who took foreign languages at Williams without majoring in them. The ones I’m close to would certainly say that graduating with the ability to converse in Spanish, Chinese, or Russian made them more well-rounded Economics or Psych majors, as well as giving them an additional skill to make their job applications stand out. (Incidentally, the foreign language professors also teach the majority of comparative lit classes.) As current eph pointed out, the number of majors is not the only indication of the value of a department to a liberal arts college. After all, the point of choosing a school like Williams instead of a straight business program is that taking courses outside of your major is valued and encouraged!

Also, hwc, how would you recommend we “replace some of the Cold War Russian Guys,” considering that there are three of them and they all have tenure (and are not, in fact, guys)? I’m not asking for names, I just can’t imagine what kind of “replacement” process you envision for tenured language professors, unless it involves telling them to take a year to do immersion in Arabic and then come back and teach it.

#24 Comment By hwc On November 3, 2008 @ 2:06 am

I was refering to Cold War Russian specialists in the Political Science department.

Not being able to respond to evolving curriculum needs is the big downside of tenured faculty. The only real option is early retirement.

#25 Comment By kthomas On November 3, 2008 @ 2:10 am

“Retooling?” Personally I have a great affection for Cold War Russian specialists….

#26 Comment By Soph Mom On November 3, 2008 @ 2:12 am

This is HWC’s primary objective…and probably the main reason he bothers with this discussion to begin with. He doesn’t like the athletics program, and in particular, targets football. One might even call it a ‘bias’, considering he refers to these athletes as ‘neanderthals’.

*Comment #2 “View From the Bottom”

“If, indeed, “everything is on the table” at $1.3 billion, would you consider discontinuing the football program at Williams College?”

*#28- Morty’s Minutes”

“”For example, I don’t think it would be justifiable to spend down the endowment out of equilibrium while continuing the highest per capita varsity sports spending in Div III athletic. Is another Sears Cup worth jeopardizing the future endowment?”

*Comment # 17, “Finance Major”

“Personally? I’d dump football. But, Williams would close down the Biology Department before that ever happened.”

#27 Comment By hwc On November 3, 2008 @ 2:13 am

Me, too. What are you going to do? A political science department has to beef up the China specialists. Has to beef up the Middle East specialists. Everything can’t be an “addition” or you would eventually end up with more faculty than students.

#28 Comment By hwc On November 3, 2008 @ 2:33 am

Soph Mom:

Do NOT put words in my mouth.

#29 Comment By Soph Mom On November 3, 2008 @ 2:37 am

But hey…might as well cut the ‘Cold War’ professor while nixing football. After all, I believe ‘HER” other areas of expertise are Vietnamese and French…easily expendable subject matter.

#30 Comment By Soph Mom On November 3, 2008 @ 2:38 am

Those are your words, HWC. They are quotes. Take a trip through the last several threads and find out for yourself.

#31 Comment By hwc On November 3, 2008 @ 3:14 am

Again, do NOT put words in my mouth. I have never called sober college athletes neanderthals.

We were having a perfectly civil adult conversation about how a college balances limited resources against an ever expanding curriculum. What exactly are you trying to accomplish with your drive-by comments?

#32 Comment By Soph Mom On November 3, 2008 @ 4:21 am

Oh, c’mon, hwc…In every recent thread having to do with the financial issue, you have voiced the ‘cut the football team’ cry. In fact, it has been the most consistent of the cuts you would like to see. I just happened to notice the ‘echo’…

As for the ‘neanderthal’ term, I didn’t realize you had such a good method of drawing the distinction between those athletes that are, and those that aren’t. How specifically do you determine that? What level of sobriety keeps an athlete from acquiring that lovely label?

Nah, no need to answer that anyway. Because if you cut the whole team, the problem is easily solved.

#33 Comment By nuts On November 3, 2008 @ 7:07 am

Don’t cut the football team now! We’re 5-2 and poised to beat the defectors Saturday in the season finale, thereby winning the Little Three and finishing #2 in NESCAC to Trinity, a loss in week 2 by 3.

#34 Comment By frank uible On November 3, 2008 @ 8:32 am

If Bates is not financially or programmatically dissatisfied with its having intercollegiate football, then Williams probably should not be.

#35 Comment By David Kane On November 3, 2008 @ 9:42 am

Soph Mom writes:

considering he [hwc] refers to these athletes as ‘neanderthals’.

In a perhaps fruitless attempt to referee this dispute, I am trying to determine if this is a fair accusation. Here are the 4 uses of the word neanderthal that I can find. Only one is by HWC. (Two are by Soph Mom.) In context, the full quote is:

It is really not fair to make the 75% to 80% of Williams students who aren’t regular neanderthal drinkers pay $40k a year for a premium educational experience to put up with such disruptive behavior. I mean, honestly? Cleaning feces off the walls? At a school with a 1425 average SAT score? Stop with the closing the health center and security walkthrus and just get rid of the misfits.

In context, it seems obvious to me that HWC is referring to drinkers, and not athletes as a class. Does Soph Mom have a different citation? If not, I think that she has, no doubt honestly, mistakenly remembered HWC’s usage from 3+ years ago.

Now, it is also true, I think, that HWC thinks that Williams gives too much admissions preference to athletes, especially helmet-sport athletes. And it is also true (see here for endless discussion) that certain Williams students (males from tip-heavy sports teams) are much more likely to end up with disciplinary problems at Williams, many alcohol related.

I hope that we can have a civil discussion on these important issues.

#36 Comment By Soph Mom On November 3, 2008 @ 10:47 am

HWC’s Comment #21 from one of the Willy E threads:

Morty’s admissions problem is that he continues to recruit and enroll a significant minority of students who engage in a pattern of social behaviors (alcohol abuse, property destruction, feces spreading, visible bigotry, and general neaderthalism) that is highly disruptive to the college community.

Dave, I guess it was the word “recruit” that had me thinking that hwc thinks athletes and neanderthals are one and the same. My mistake. So. let me see if I have it right from here on out:

Not all athletes are neanderthals…but all neanderthals are athletes?

And just so I don’t make an incorrect assumption again…am I also to understand that wanting to cut the football program has nothing to do with his general disdain for athletes in general?


#37 Comment By David Kane On November 3, 2008 @ 11:02 am

I have never seen HWC assert that “all neanderthals are athletes.” But he does believe, and it is true, that male tipped helmet sport athletes are more likely to act in a neanderthalic fashion than other students.

I do not think that it is fair to ascribe to HWC (or me!) a “general disdain for athletes in general.” It is perfectly reasonable to want to reduce the advantage given to athletes in the Williams admissions process to, say, the same level as the advantage given to legacies. (And it is perfectly reasonable to want to increase the advantage back to what it was in the 90’s.)

Reducing the advantage might make it impossible for Williams to field a football team that could play against other NESCAC schools.

Again, these are all difficult issues on which reasonable Ephs will disagree. I just hope that, following Dick Swart’s lead, we can have a civil discussion. Doing so means that each of us has an affirmative obligation to understand and accurately describe describe the opinions of of fellow Ephs.

#38 Comment By Whitney Wilson ’90 On November 3, 2008 @ 11:08 am

I don’t know whether HWC has a general disdain for athletes of any particular stripe. I’m pretty sure he has a strong “bias” against heavy drinkers. I can’t see that a horrible character flaw, even if I don’t agree with it (as most who knew me as student might attest).

I also think that HWC believe that sports currently forms a core part of the Williams “cultural identity” and that it could be embraced as part of the College’s “marketing” program. If HWC were dictator-in-chief of Williams, I think he would like to change that part of the identity.

It seems clear to me that HWC would not be opposed to getting rid of the football program, which I suspect is fairly expensive to run. If that is his position, I would disagree with it, but I don’t think you can say that it is a view which is totally off the wall. If the financial situation is dire, virtually everything should be at least considered. I wonder what the relative annual savings of a one-year pay freeze would be versus cutting the football team?

I guess what I’m saying is that HWC has as much right to his views as anyone else.

#39 Comment By Soph Mom On November 3, 2008 @ 11:13 am

Dave, it’s nice that you’re sticking up for HWC. Consider that I am doing the same for the football team.

My main point was to put out in the open, his constant references to cutting the football team.

So, if you want to delete from comment # 26, the sentence:

“One might even call it a ‘bias’, considering he refers to these athletes as ‘neanderthals’.“,

and the subsequent comments about “recruiting” neanderthals, be my guest.

#40 Comment By Henry Bass ’57 On November 3, 2008 @ 11:28 am

There have been 3 eras of football at the University of Chicago. When Chicago was young and unknown it hired Amos Alonzo Stagg, America’s most famous football coach. And became a big 10 power house. After becoming a famous football school it abolished football under Robert Hutchins and became even more famous. Recently it started a low level football team without recruitments that plays a bunch of small bush league schools that no one has ever heard of. If Williams were to adopt the new Chcago approach, I think, its rivals would follow.

#41 Comment By nuts On November 3, 2008 @ 1:30 pm

In a perhaps fruitless attempt to referee this dispute, I am trying to determine if this is a fair accusation.

I don’t see how you’re a referee in this dispute, if anything you’re taking a side and making an argument.

On another matter, I’d like to ask you to re-post my comments from the thread you deleted them. They were not political questions, they were policy questions.

I don’t see how in good conscience, you can claim to referee impartially while enagaging in debate. Is it still your call to delete comments you dislike or is that for less partial moderators to determine? My post, three questions, was respectful.

Your passion for Ephblog is commendable. Your heavy-handed “moderation” is not. It is inappropriate.

Some party. The cool kids make the party rules, whimsically.

#42 Comment By Larry George On November 3, 2008 @ 1:59 pm

Nuts –

I’d like to read your questions.

How about starting a thread and posting them there, together with details about their having been removed (and where they were removed from, including what comment # they would have been in that thread)? I take it that they must have been posted in Stew’s thread about a fourth Williams graduate being deployed.

If you do that, 1) we can read your questions and comment about them, 2) we can discuss whether they should have ben deleted, and 3) we can have a broader discussion of what’s appropriate where and what the policy “enforcement” mechanism should be (and who should be the enforcer), all away from that thread. I think the discussion might be better that way, and the points won’t be hidden away in a thread for another subject, nor will we be hijacking Stew’s thread. That would be in keeping with your history of respectful comments and questions – you are a good citizen on this blog.

#43 Comment By Arjun On November 3, 2008 @ 2:08 pm

I was a prospective Econ major. I got edged out by the terrible atmosphere in the classes. Knowing my predisposition against certain muscular demographics at Williams, it shouldn’t take you too long to guess who exactly was causing the terrible atmosphere.

It got to the point where asking questions that pushed the level of discussion elicited angry whispers from the back bench, and loud sighs whenever a mathematical equation was brought up. The professor had to dumb down every quantitative analysis, and Econ 251 turned out to be the most pathetic course I have taken – even though I really liked the professor, because he/she tried hard to cater to… every demographic in the classroom.

Econ 251/252/255 have become absolute drudgery and there is no way out if you truly enjoy the subject. The helmetheads have to take those courses, (major requirements) and so those classes themselves suffer.

I don’t know what the solution is – starting a separate department for finance won’t solve the problem – it will just make finance the unbearable major instead of economics. It might spare some economics-inclined students, but it still makes some poor finance-geek suffer their company in the classroom.

#44 Comment By Soph Mom On November 3, 2008 @ 2:37 pm


Have you ever stopped to think that maybe your known predisposition to the muscular demographic, is contributing to the terrible atmosphere in the classroom? You make it very clear you don’t like them, so how do you expect them to react to you?

#45 Comment By Ronit On November 3, 2008 @ 2:56 pm

Arjun – did they get rid of 251M? That was a more math-intensive version of the class (ie, it required Math 106 and Stat 201), and tended to screen out the slackers.

Soph Mom – Some football players I knew were among the nicest, most hardworking and sincere people I ever met at Williams, so I hate to generalize about helmet athletes in general. Individually, they were almost always perfectly decent people.

In large groups, however, they tended to a herd-like behavior, and large concentrations of (male) athletes from a single sport in a single class was usually a warning sign, to me, to ditch the course as early as possible.

So, I can testify that the phenomenon Arjun describes is very real, though I was fortunate not to encounter too much of it in Econ. The highest concentrations tend to be in the intro “gut” courses. At least two different football players told me that there is a “list” of “recommended” (ie, easy) courses circulated amongst football freshmen, and this produces the large concentrations Arjun describes. I am not sure if the list actually comes from the coaches (though this was the insinuation when I was told) or from senior members of the team; either way, at least 3-4 years ago, football athletes were given a list and told that these were the courses to take if they wanted to get grades good enough to maintain minimum academic standing at Williams. I have no idea if this practice still exists, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

On a couple of occasions, I ended up at the first class meeting of one of these courses, and the tone and content of class discussion on the first day convinced me to drop said courses immediately.

#46 Comment By Soph Mom On November 3, 2008 @ 3:27 pm

Fair enough, and unfortunate that it results in a less challenging atmosphere for those that want it.

But keep in mind, that intelligence of the kind that Arjun has (I take this impression from a comment that a contemporary of his made on site once), can be intimidating enough, even when not accompanied by a known predisposition and demeaning terms like “helmetheads”, and the “muscular demographic”.

#47 Comment By eph ’07 On November 3, 2008 @ 3:57 pm

I think being intimidated by your obviously intelligent classmates is (or should be) a known risk of going to college!

#48 Comment By Ronit On November 3, 2008 @ 4:08 pm

SM – there was hardly a single class at Williams where I did not encounter students who were vastly more intelligent than myself. Being “intimidated” by others’ intelligence is a ridiculous excuse for acting like a douche.

#49 Comment By Soph Mom On November 3, 2008 @ 4:11 pm

eph ’07:

It should be, I agree. And it stands to be inspiring rather than intimidating, if it isn’t accompanied by name-calling and attitude… from any and all of the parties involved.

#50 Comment By frank uible On November 3, 2008 @ 4:14 pm

In my judgment, the opposition on the University of Chicago’s football schedule is at least as stiff as, and probably stiffer than, the opponents on Williams’ football schedule – just to keep the record straight. If Chicago’s current football is bush league then so is Williams’.

#51 Comment By Soph Mom On November 3, 2008 @ 4:18 pm


There is no excuse for the behavior that you and Arjun describe, I agree.

But there is also no excuse for the demeaning terms.

#52 Comment By Ronit On November 3, 2008 @ 4:51 pm

SM – I hardly think it’s plausible to imagine that anyone called these athletes demeaning names in class. What Arjun chooses to say on this blog is not a post-facto exculpation of the persons in question.

#53 Comment By Ronit On November 3, 2008 @ 4:56 pm

Not to mention, “helmethead” is pretty innocuous as far as demeaning names goes. While I understand your sympathy for athletes, it is ridiculous to conclude that the coterie of jocks who disrupted Arjun’s classes were the “victims” in that particular situation.

#54 Comment By Soph Mom On November 3, 2008 @ 5:13 pm


So it’s okay to call them names here on EB, but not to their faces?

LOL… I’d say that would be the smarter choice, especially given their size, and the above testimony that they move in herds…but it still doesn’t make it okay. And believe me, they are fully aware of the attitude, and derogatory terms, whether it’s verbalized in their presence or not.

Again, it doesn’t condone what you call ‘douche’ behavior. In fact, let me at them. I promise I could nip it in the bud right quick. Remember the old term ‘Finishing Class’?

#55 Comment By Soph Mom On November 3, 2008 @ 5:40 pm

And hold the fort. I never said they were victims. I said that the terrible atmosphere can’t be helped by the attitude of name calling.

Using terms like ‘helmethead’, ‘muscular demographic’, ‘dumbing down’, etc, is derogatory, and could be classified as ‘douche’ behavior as well.

#56 Comment By Soph Mom On November 3, 2008 @ 5:57 pm

I will concede, however, that my experience on EB, has given me a new understanding of how name-calling can be incited by ‘douche’ behavior.

And then the vicious cycle begins!


#57 Comment By ’10 On November 3, 2008 @ 6:00 pm

What would be the net loss in alumni donations if the football program were eliminated? My conjecture is that it would probably be more money than would be saved by the cut.

#58 Comment By Ronit On November 3, 2008 @ 7:14 pm

Using the phrase “dumbing down” is not derogatory in the least, because that is precisely what professors are forced to do.

#59 Comment By hwc On November 3, 2008 @ 7:25 pm

Upon further reflection, I’m inclined to think that DKane’s suggestion of a Williams finance department is a good one, at least from a marketing standpont.

It would strongly differentiate Williams in the marketplace. It would also createt the opportunity for a major naming rights endowment gift. The Jimmy Lee or Herbert Allen or Lehman Department of Finance.

#60 Comment By rory On November 3, 2008 @ 7:39 pm

it would also be a pre-professional program at a liberal arts college. the antithesis of what a LAC claims to believe education should be about.

There’s no way to spin a finance department to make it a liberal arts major.

#61 Comment By current eph On November 3, 2008 @ 7:41 pm

Would it differentiate Williams in a direction Williams wants to be going in? Williams is about as academic as colleges come, and adding a “finance” major takes it in a decidedly pre-professional direction. Would we rather be the LAC equivalent of Chicago or Northwestern?

#62 Comment By frank uible On November 3, 2008 @ 8:26 pm

A department of cosmetology would also differentiate Williams.

#63 Comment By David Kane On November 3, 2008 @ 8:26 pm

Calling something “pre-professional” does not make it so.

Consider the Computer Science major. It is good that Williams has a CS department/major because 1) CS is an academic field (fancy schools give Ph.D.’s in it) and 2) plenty of students want to take classes/major. These are the two criteria that should be met.

“But,” shout the old conservatives, “Computer Science is too pre-professional. It is not a liberal arts major. Too many Computer Science majors go on to work as software developers.”

Fine. It is a perfectly consistent position to be against both Finance and Computer Science as majors/departments at Williams. It is perfectly consistent to agree with me and want both as majors.

It is inconsistent to be in favor of Computer Science as a major and against Finance.

#64 Comment By Soph Mom On November 3, 2008 @ 8:29 pm


Nuh uh!


Frank: Love the idea of the Cosmetology Dept.

Maybe they could do something about all that unwanted fur.

#65 Comment By Derek On November 3, 2008 @ 8:42 pm

Dave —
That’s just a silly analogy. It is simply absurd to assert that Computer Science and Finance are analogous in the firmamemt of academic structures. A finance major is by definition a preprofessional class, a computer science class is not. Put it another way: Theconsensus on academia agrees. Finance is always part of undergraduate business schools where such a school exists. I would be willing to bet that you cannot find a finance major outside of a business school where there is a business school. Computer Science, meanwhile, is most often found in schools of arts and sciences.

A finance major would make Williams not Williams, and certainly would toss into serious question is role as a leading LAC in the US.

Jesus — not the freaking football players-as-neanderthals discussion again. Ugh. Maybe, just maybe, some of the jocks disdained some of you people because you deserved it. (And if you have to parse to establish whether you called someone a neanderthal, you probably need to learn to write better or else have the courage of your convictions and stand behind what you damned well meant.)


#66 Comment By Anon ’89er On November 3, 2008 @ 9:02 pm

If football players are Neanderthal drinkers, what would that make rugby players like me?

Wait, don’t answer that question.

#67 Comment By Parent ’12 On November 3, 2008 @ 9:13 pm

Frank (#62): That’s great. My husband’s even laughing.

Finance Major? Learn Creative Accounting? Is someone going to suggest P.E. major… that would be an insult to the athletes.

Rory & others are absolutely right– Isn’t the point of choosing to go to Williams the desire for a liberal arts education.

#68 Comment By Soph Mom On November 3, 2008 @ 9:25 pm

Anon ’89er:

Damn! Do you walk on ‘all fours’?

(Listen, you may very well be banned after this disclosure, but as a board member, I’ll see what I can do)

#69 Comment By ’10 On November 3, 2008 @ 9:33 pm

Computer Science as it is taught at Williams really has very little to do with the “software development” curricula that you’d find at, say, most engineering schools. It’s probably not far off to make the analogy that theoretical computer science is to software development as econ is to finance.

#70 Comment By Soph Mom On November 3, 2008 @ 9:34 pm

Also ’89er,

Before I work my board connections, I need you to pull out your Williams diploma…

Do you see a tiny double D anywhere? It stands for ‘dumbed down’, and it will be somewhere next to the official seal.

#71 Comment By David Kane On November 3, 2008 @ 9:36 pm

“Isn’t the point of choosing to go to Williams the desire for a liberal arts education.”

No. That’s absurd. For 90% of applicants, the algorithm is something like: Want to go to the most competitive college/university possible. Prefer either college or university depending on the standard differences (class size, undergraduate focus, breadth of offerings) between them.
Throw in a bit of location. That’s about it.

No one chooses Williams over school X because Williams is “liberal arts” and school X is not.

Derek writes:

It is simply absurd to assert that Computer Science and Finance are analogous in the firmamemt of academic structures. A finance major is by definition a preprofessional class, a computer science class is not.

Assertion is not argument.

Finance is always part of undergraduate business schools where such a school exists. I would be willing to bet that you cannot find a finance major outside of a business school where there is a business school. Computer Science, meanwhile, is most often found in schools of arts and sciences.

I am willing to grant this but not sure how relevant this is. It is certainly true that no (?) elite liberal arts college has a finance major and the many of the universities that offer finance majors do so in conjunction (in some sense) with their business schools. But so what?

Consider the argument at Williams 25 (?) years ago about whether or not to create a Computer Science department. At that time, there were no computer science departments at elite LACs. (Assume that this is true. It was certainly true that one LAC was first.) At that time, most computer science departments at universities were deeply connected to schools of engineering. There were no doubt voices making the same argument against Computer Science (not really part of liberal arts; too pre-professional) as you are making against Finance.

Why, when Williams first considered adding a Computer Science department, would you have been in favor of it? Whatever arguments you use are the same as the ones that I use for Finance today.

A finance major would make Williams not Williams, and certainly would toss into serious question is role as a leading LAC in the US.

And the sun wouldn’t rise in the east.

Consider another analogy. I hope that Williams has a Statistics department someday, even though no other elite LAC has one and even though many students who majored in statistics would, shockingly, go on to work as statisticians. Statistics is not a part of the traditional understanding of the liberal arts. Would you object to such a department (assuming student interest)? If not, then why object to Finance?

#72 Comment By Anon ’89er On November 3, 2008 @ 9:50 pm

Thanks, Soph Mom. There is a reason I am anonymous, after all. A/K/A A. Robustus Anonymousus.

There was a strong political and cultural division between rugby players and football players in the 80s. Football was a hierarchal, well ordered sport, with a lot of players with strong patriotic values, and they made up the majority of the members of the Bacchus society, founded by Paul Meeks ’85, which is a name you may remember from the internet bubble days. Many of these guys would have gladly signed up for a finance major.

Rugby players were more dissolute, and not so much anarchic as too lazy and intoxicated to organize anything aside from regular pissups in a cemetery next to Mission Hall. Many of us are now teachers and lawyers, but precious few became bankers. Which is probably a good thing.

#73 Comment By David Kane On November 3, 2008 @ 9:51 pm

’10 is correct in his description of Computer Science at Williams. I imagine that the same would be true of Finance. We are not talking about courses in bookkeeping. In fact, here are some of the required courses:

STAT 201(F,S) Statistics and Data Analysis
STAT 346(S) Regression and Forecasting
ECON 251(F,S) Price and Allocation Theory
ECON 252(F,S) Macroeconomics
MATH 105(F,S) Multivariable Calculus
MATH 211(F,S) Linear Algebra
MATH 373 Investment Mathematics
ECON 392(F) Finance and Capital Markets
ECON 363(F,S) Money and Banking
ECON 360(F,S) International Monetary Economics

Actually, that is already too many classes, so not all could be required. My point is that I am not proposing a significant change in the set of classes that Williams already offers. I just think that this collection makes for a reasonable major.

Another analogy: Imagine that Williams had no Poli-Ec major. Someone comes along and says that such a major (almost all of which is just a collection of classes that Williams already offers) would be a good idea. Few (?) other LACs offer such a course. It is certainly much more applied and pre-professional (just look at POLI-EC 401-402) than anything which falls under the traditional rubric of liberal arts.

How could one be in favor of Poli-Ec as a mjor and against Finance? Do folks really hate Wall Streeters that much? Just asking!

#74 Comment By Anon ’89er On November 3, 2008 @ 9:59 pm

David- do you make an equivalence between finance, as a subject or a major, and statistics? I certainly agree with the utility of a statistics major, although my uninformed impression is that such a field of study can be comfortably included within the Mathematics department. This is a pet issue for you, although one I have not been keeping up with.

Finance has a more direct vocational approach – it is the sort of thing a LAC student studies in graduate school, much like there is no Law department at Williams. Statistics is more of a pure science than finance, is it not?

#75 Comment By Ben Fleming On November 3, 2008 @ 9:59 pm

Do folks really hate Wall Streeters that much?

Oh, this one is teed up VERY nicely …

#76 Comment By Soph Mom On November 3, 2008 @ 10:03 pm

Anon ’89er:

I don’t know much about football…and next to nothing about Rugby, but all joshing aside, thank goodness the world, and Williams, is made up of all kinds of individuals. The mix is the key, along with tolerance, a willingness to learn from each other, and most important…humor.

Now, about that ‘unwanted fur’, please confer with Frank. ;-)

#77 Comment By Anon ’89er On November 3, 2008 @ 10:07 pm

Whoops – forgot to make my main point… which is that computer science is much more like an independent discipline than finance would be. Computer science teaches a set of analytical and thinking skills that has such broad utility that it fits within the LAC framework. It is comparable, then, to the language departments that broaden the educational experience of students in ways that greatly exceed the number of majors it may attract. That can not be said about a Finance specialty in Economics.

#78 Comment By Parent ’12 On November 3, 2008 @ 10:09 pm

Dave- You might want to argue or dispute Williams value as a liberal arts college, but I don’t. Maybe it’s those 10% that get admitted & choose to come.

In your list of variables to insert in an equation you include class size, undergraduate focus, & breadth of offerings. If a student wants small classes & undergraduate focus, doesn’t that point to a liberal arts college or university, like Yale, and others? As for breadth of offerings, for its size Williams is surprising strong in some departments, however I believe Yale or other universities would trump Williams on this variable.

#79 Comment By JPM On November 3, 2008 @ 10:37 pm

Henry Bass ’57 says:
November 3rd, 2008 at 11:28 am
There have been 3 eras of football at the University of Chicago. When Chicago was young and unknown it hired Amos Alonzo Stagg, America’s most famous football coach. And became a big 10 power house. After becoming a famous football school it abolished football under Robert Hutchins and became even more famous. Recently it started a low level football team without recruitments that plays a bunch of small bush league schools that no one has ever heard of. If Williams were to adopt the new Chcago approach, I think, its rivals would follow.

Contrary to Henry Bass’s statement above, U. of Chicago does not play “a bunch of small bush league schools that no one has ever heard of” as their 2008 football schedule indicates.

University of Chicago – 2008 Schedule
(2-5, 0-1 UAA)

Sep. 13 Kenyon L, 39-36
Sep. 20 Wabash L, 49-7
Sep. 27 Elmhurst L, 27-6
Oct. 11 Oberlin W, 33-7
Oct. 18 Macalester W, 24-6
Oct. 25 Denison L, 26-14
Nov. 1 Case Western L, 38-24
Nov. 8 Washington U.
Nov. 15 Carnegie Mellon

The schools that Chicago competes against in football are certainly not “small”, “bush league” or “no name.”

The University of Chicago competes in the UAA Conference. After NESCAC, the UAA is the premier conference in D-III athletics. The other members of the UAA include NYU, Washington University, University of Rochester, Case Western, Brandeis, Carnegie Mellon and Emory. Of these eight universities, NYU, Emory and Brandeis do not have a football team.

Bass’s statement that “If Williams were to adopt the new Chcago approach, I think, its rivals would follow.” Well, that’s sort of what happened. The UAA was formed in the summer of 1986 and formal championship athletic competion began in the 1987 -1988 academic year. While NESCAC can trace its roots to 1955, NESCAC was formed in 1971; however, athletic competition as a formal athletic conference did not begin until 1999. As I noted above, the NESCAC and the UAA are currently and without a doubt the two premier athletic and academic conferences in D-III.

The debate to examine costs across the College is a valid one. However, the example of the University of Chicago’s football program as a new paradigm for Williams’ football program is misplaced.

Lastly, in Chicago’s last football game, it lost to Case Western by 14 points — the closest game that Case Western has played this season. Case Western (a member of the UAA) is the 13th ranked team in D-III with a perfect 8-0 record.

#80 Comment By David Kane On November 3, 2008 @ 10:44 pm

Parent ’12: We do not disagree. I was just pointing out that it was not some mysterious liberal artness that draws students to Williams, or any other LAC. Indeed, you could add bookkeeping, computer networking and any other pre-professional majors to Williams (thereby making it less liberal arty) and the same students would come.

do you make an equivalence between finance, as a subject or a major, and statistics? … Statistics is more of a pure science than finance, is it not?

I don’t really care one way or the other. I am looking for content-neutral rules by which we can decide what majors/departments Williams should have which it should not have. A rule like “Part of the traditional understanding of the liberal arts,” does not work. Neither does “Not pre-professional.” Computer Science violates both and, as best I can tell, no one is now against Computer Science as a department/major. Note how the Department claims that:

The major in Computer Science equips students to pursue a wide variety of career opportunities. It can be used as preparation for a career in computing, for graduate school, or to provide important background and techniques for the student whose future career will extend outside of computer science.

I could write up an identical description for Finance.

Anyway, we need rules. My proposal: Williams should have a department/major in any academic field in which a) Ph.D.’s are awarded by leading universities and b) there is sufficient student interest.

What specific rules would my opponents suggest, rules that would allow Computer Science and Political Economy but not Finance?

#81 Comment By Alexander Woo On November 4, 2008 @ 10:31 pm

When the Computer Science department was spun off from the Math department, it was unusual for liberal arts colleges to have CS departments, but very common for them to have CS majors.

Nowadays, whether CS is in the math department or a separate department is mostly a matter of (historical) local department politics.

It is true that there are theoretical aspects of Computer Science that have no application whatsoever. But probably that’s true of Finance as well. And while CS has a dual existence in the colleges of liberal arts and sciences and in the colleges of engineering at most places, it is also true that the PhDs granted in CS almost always fall under the aegis of Engineering (even when the particular dissertation is really mathematics).

Also, keep in mind that Swarthmore has an Engineering major and has had it for years.

#82 Comment By hwc On November 5, 2008 @ 1:36 am

I think there is a strong parallel to the attractiveness of a Finance major at Williams and the Engineering major at Swarthmore. In both cases, you have students who are nominally interested in the specialized fields, but who are not prepared at age 18 to sign on to a career starting with four years at an Engineering or Business school. There is something to be said for both Engineers and Finance guys mingling with the common folk during college rather than specializing from the get go.

To the extent that anyone ever sees them, Engineering majors don’t appear to detract from the liberal arts ethos at Swarthmore. Ten of the eighteen Engineering majors last year double-majored: 3 each in Economics and Comp Sci, 2 in History, 1 in Math, and 1 is Sociology/Anthropology. I suspect you would find the same thing with Finance majors at Williams.

Sidebar for DKane: I know you are big on schools publishing their stuff on the web. This year’s freshmen Engineering methods class has a required wiki page for each student and groups of students collaborating on projects such as the Ball Drop. The Class wiki has links to the project from each group, including the winning group who went outside the box for the win.

#83 Comment By Derek On November 5, 2008 @ 1:43 am

Dave —
No, assertion is not argument, I guess, whatever that means, but when you say jackhole stuff like that, it makes me decide largely to ignore you on the issue. What you call a mere assertion was part of a larger argument. Once again your lack of intellectual integrity rears its head.
Computer science has a pedigree in higher education that is demonstrably different from that of finance. That is why I made the point, which you were unable to refute (facts being stubborn things and all that) that computer science is almost always a part of the arts and sciences at universities where finance is part of the preprofessional programs at business schools. Instead you somehow manage to try to argue that a disciplines curricular place in higher education is irrelevant to a discussion about one of those programs’ possible place at Williams. It’s a perplexing argument that ranges between the merely dumb to the blindingly obtuse to the brazenly dishonest. In other words, it was the platonic ideal of a Kane argument.


#84 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On November 6, 2008 @ 1:39 am

you could add bookkeeping, computer networking and any other pre-professional majors to Williams (thereby making it less liberal arty) and the same students would come

To argue by assertion: no.

#85 Comment By lgeorge On November 6, 2008 @ 3:35 am

Wall Street tanks. Williams adds a Finance major. Huh?

‘Nuff said.