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Is manipulation censorship? …

A  recent story  here about flag background is about a row over a doctored photo of the Army’s first four star woman general in which an American flag was substituted for a  desk and bookcase. The Associated Press says “that adjusting photos and other imagery, even for aesthetic reasons, damages the credibility of the information distributed by the military to news organisations and the public”.

Well, I thought I would put this thesis to the test using a figure selected at random from Williams history.

Perhaps some of you familiar with his identity can comment on any changes of perception of him because of the changing background.


A Reach

photo by Kris Dufour, copyright Williams College

Tomorrow (Thursday) night, the Williams volleyball team will play Northern Ohio in the NCAA Elite 8 at Illinois-Wesleyan. The tournament will be webcast. The Ephs’ game will be at 9:30 PM EST, the last match of the day’s four.

This will be a reach, but this team has poise and heart. They’ve been on a remarkable streak, and have managed a string of striking upsets. May their momentum continue.

The semis will take place Friday night, and the final Saturday night.

Go Ephs!



A new category in which I provide quick links to stories of interest, often pulled up from our comment threads.

McClatchy Newspapers coverage of the Congressional Black Caucus event on Monday.

Percentage of grades in the A range at Brown now at over 50% (pdf). My request for similar data for Williams was denied today. Previous discussion here.

Morty mentioned as a possible candidate for the presidency at Dartmouth; also, confirmation (?) that he was a finalist during the last search in 1999. Or did they just get that by reading EphBlog?


EphBlog set on Flickr

Thanks to EphBlog readers’ generosity, I have a Flickr Pro account. One of the purposes of this gift was to make my pictures easier for EphBlog readers to browse and enjoy. I recently realized that I had not made all of my EphBlog photos into a “set.” (A set makes it easy to look at a group of photos without having to do a lot of back-and-forth clicking, as is necessary with simply tagging them.) I have now done so: EphBlog photo set. It should include all the pictures I posted on EphBlog over the years. A few are missing, but not many (I am adding them as I find missing ones). So if you’d like to reminisce back and take a look at those pictures, there they all are. Browse, and enjoy.

By the way: In my opinion, the best way to ensure that the Flickr sidebar contains a good sampling of Williams photos would be to require that the pictures are from six different Flickr accounts. Then you won’t get five blurry running pictures, five underexposed dance pictures, or (gasp!) five fall foliage pictures.


Peanut Butter Pillows and Wilderness Fantasy Cookies

Courtesy of Laura ’92 (her flickr stream is here). Made by the Clarksburg Bakery baker. Are they still available?

UPDATE: The cookies, Chunky Cheese Bread, and other baked goods once sold at the late, lamented Clarksburg Bakery on Spring Street are made by former Clarksburg baker Jamie Ott at Cricket Creek Farm, a dairy farm with a farm store off Sloan Road in Williamstown, about a mile from the Store at Five Corners. The farm also produces artisanal cheeses (available for online purchase), pasture-raised beef, eggs, and milk, and has a barn space available as a small rental party place.

If you go to the farm’s website, you’ll see a list of stores (including Wild Oats, the co-op on Rt. 2) and restaurants that carry or use some of their items, as well as a weekly bread baking schedule.

Thanks to Tom Bernard ’92 for the heads up.


No Longer AAA

Below is an article from March 2003 on the College’s borrowing $100 million, thereby losing its triple-A rating. Prior to 2003, the College had much less debt. Going back to the 2000 Form 990 (pdf), we see that Williams had only (page 74) $78 million in debt. That is why it had a triple-A credit rating.

When Morty arrived, Williams had a leverage ratio of around 6% ($78 million of debt on a $1.4 billion endowment) on June 30, 2000. Under Morty’s leadership, Williams more than doubled its leverage, hitting 15% on June 30, 2008 ($262 million of debt on a $1.8 billion endowment). How is that working out for us? About the same as it did for all those condo-flippers in Ft. Myers.

Although the math is a little tricky, Morty’s (?) decision to increase the College’s leverage has cost Williams at least $50 million dollars. If we had kept our debt at $78 million (or let it rise in dollar terms but no higher than 6% of the endowment), Williams would be more than $50 million richer. This was the most costly mistake made at Williams in the last decade. Why won’t the Record report on it?

Read more


Loose Lips Sink Ships …

On another note, speaking of claiming williams, they are the sponsor of a very cool event coming to campus. I think even Kane would be hard pressed to complain about this campus event:



Jeffz November 10, 2008 under all of us and re:Claiming Williams.

Another needless casualty!


Another Top Ranking: Morty’s Salary in the Top 10

The Berkshire Eagle reports that “… a new survey puts Williams College’s Morton O. Schapiro ninth on the list of top-paid leaders at private schools that primarily award bachelor’s degrees. Schapiro’s compensation for the 2006-07 academic year was $514,744, including $62,729 in deferred compensation benefits, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s annual survey, released yesterday. Schapiro’s compensation total for the previous year was $474,518….”

Do I see both an excellent opportunity for leadership and a bit of a cost-cutting or hold-the-line possibility here?

Another interesting note: Rep. Grassley (he of the move to force more take down of endowments; I guess we already took care of that, unintentionally) was all over the rise in college presidents’ compensation.


Budget History

Isn’t it pathetic that, while Williams is going through its biggest financial crisis in 25 years, no outsider knows the total, much less the details, of this year’s budget? Yes, it is!

As a service to the Williams community, here is some data on the recent history of the College’s finances, via financial statements and this 2002 report. Numbers are in millions and the fiscal years end on June 30.

Year  Operating Expenses Tuition Revenue Shortfall
2008          177                61         116
2007          164                59         105
2006          154                56          98 
2005          140                55          85
2004          137                53          84
2003          130                49          81 
2002          129                46          83          
2001          116                46          70
2000          108                47          61      
1999           99                NA 

There is probably a disconnect between these numbers around 2002/2003 since I get them from different sources. The jump from 129 to 130 in spending is smaller than normal, although it could be that the College was belt-tightening in conjunction with the 2002 bear market. Reasonable people will differ on just what is included in “operating” spending, and the College may very well change its classifications over time.

For pre-2003 data, I add “Renovation, Repair and Adaptation” to “Operating Expenditures” in the 2002 report because I think that this makes the total consistent with the 2003+ data. I estimate the tuition revenue for pre-2003 by subtracting “Scholarships & Fellowships” from “Student Charges.”


1) The key issue is that Williams has been increasing spending year after year while not raising after-aid tuition nearly as much. Since 2000, spending is up 74% compared to a 30% increase for student revenue. As long as the bull market roared, that was a sustainable policy. Now, it’s not. Almost all of the shortfall is made up by annual giving and endowment income. Unfortunately, it is very hard to get the data on those numbers to get a sense of the problem. We need an annual endowment number and a spending percentage.

2) When the Record reported that the College’s “operating budget” for 2008–2009 was $216 million, I was immediately suspicious since, after relatively steady growth over the last decade, it would be strange for the College’s budget to suddenly go up by 22%, especially in the year after the endowment was flat.

I followed up with the Record. Editor-in-Chief: Kevin Waite ’09 writes:

Checked with Lenhart and he says that total current expenditures are set at $216M this year. This includes operating expenditures, capital renewal spending and debt interest payments among a few other things. He says last year’s budget was around $200M.

So looks like operating expenditures are a good deal lower than $216M (probably closer to the number you published) making our article incorrect. Since we’d be a week late on running a correction, you can use what I told you here on Ephblog to correct our mistake.

Happy to help. I still wish that the Record would gather the necessary information in one handy table. Is that too much to ask for? And, of course, the College itself ought to make this data easily accessible and intelligently organized. It is almost impossible for any outsider (even members of the faculty) to have an informed opinion about the seriousness of the financial crisis at Williams without this sort of information.

3) If last year’s budget (2008) was $200 million under this definition (i.e., $23 million more than the $177 published in the financial statements) then one guess at the 2009 number that would be comparable would be the reported $216 million minus the same $23 million, or $193 million. That would represent 9% growth, more than I would expect but not implausible.


This seems so familiar …

Tired of the never-ending parries and thrusts in posts like the two below? Fed up with arbitrary positions taken to provoke your rage and ire? Had it with so much ‘conduct unbecoming …’ that maybe that third choice of the University of Minnesota doesn’t look so bad?

Well, there is an answer and it comes from Dave himself:

As always, my answer to this real dilemma is that we need more authors posting more posts on other topics. 

We are starting to have some presence of what many of us thought Williams was all about thanks to Larry, Ken, Ronit, Sophmom, Jonathan ’05,  jeffz, Parent ’12! A variety of topics with a span of interests. Stuff doesn’t have to be saccharine to have an air of sociability and a desire for collegial participation and exchange.


If you would like to expose yourself to the ephblog readership (there may have been a better way to say that) and don’t want to go through the author drill, just email me! I will see it is posted with you identified as whom you will … Rechtal Turgidley, Jr to Fedup ’98. That email address is

No, Broadband, this invitation does not include you.

(Apologies to Stephen Colbert)



Williams hosts Lewis, Clyburn, Patrick and others

This is a pretty unbelievable get for a college like Williams:

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and 10 members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) will join in a discussion of “Race and the New Congress” on Monday, Nov. 17, at 8 p.m. in Chapin Hall on the Williams College campus.  The event, to be moderated by 60 Minutes Correspondent Lesley Stahl, is free and open to the public.  Seating is on a first-come basis.

“What an enormous honor it is for Williams to host the largest number of Congress members ever to gather on our campus,” Williams President Morton Owen Schapiro said, “and what a great privilege for students, faculty, staff, and local residents to hear first-hand from caucus members so soon after the historic presidential election.”

The gathering will be the first of CBC members since Congress recessed for the election.

“I’m excited to take part in such an important discussion at a particularly auspicious time for Congress and the country to advance issues of race,” Stahl said.  “It’s especially newsworthy to assemble so many of the CBC members who hold leadership positions.”

The caucus members so far expected to take part are:

James E. Clyburn (S.C.), Democratic Leadership Majority Whip;
Robert. C. Scott (Va.), Chairman, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security;
Bennie G. Thompson (Miss.), Chairman, House Committee on Homeland Security;
Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), Chairwoman, House Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure Protection;
Danny K. Davis (Ill.), Chairman, House Subcommittee on the District of Columbia;
John Lewis (Ga.), Member of the House Committee on Ways and Means;
Diane E. Watson (Calif.), Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs;
Hank Johnson (Ga.), Member of the House Committee on Armed Services;
Donna M. Christensen (V.I.), Member of the House Homeland Security;
Yvette Clarke (N.Y.), Member of the House Committee on Education and Labor.

The event was initiated by Visiting Lecturer in Political Science Bernard Moore.   Executive Director of the non-profit think tank Second Chance for Social Justice, Moore is a policy advisor to caucus member Danny Davis.

In January 1969, newly elected African American representatives of the 77th Congress joined six incumbents to form the Democratic Select Committee to address legislative concerns of black and minority citizens.  The Committee was renamed the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) in 1971.

The vision of the founding members of the CBC, to “promote the public welfare through legislation designed to meet the needs of millions of neglected citizens,” continues today.  Its members have been at the forefront of legislative campaigns for human and civil rights for all citizens.

A reception in the Paresky Student Center will follow the discussion.

The event is sponsored by The W. Ford Schumann ’50 Program in Democratic Studies. the Office of the President, Africana Studies, the Multicultural Center, and the Claiming Williams initiative.

Congratulations to Bernard Moore and everyone else who helped to pull this together.

Will any of our readers be attending? Please report back with your thoughts and impressions in the comments thread below (keep discussions on-topic, please).

Will video be available, maybe from C-SPAN? I don’t know. It’s a shame there isn’t a prominent link to a live stream included with the press release.


Free Speech

There is an interesting discussion at WSO about free speech and related issues. The problem is that, like a poorly run Williams seminar, it is a bit all over the place. It is too bad that more Williams faculty don’t participate in this aspect of the Williams Conversation. Imagine if Will Dudley or Mark Reinhardt or Cheryl Shanks or insert-your-favorite-professor-here were involved in that thread. Wouldn’t the conversation be a lot more focused and productive?

The key is to have a concrete example of “free speech” that some people ay Williams would like to ban and others would protect. Such an example will highlight the opposing views and the reasons behind them. My suggestion: Imagine a student (or professor!) with the following sign on her own door.

The average combined SAT score (math + verbal) for Chinese-American students at Williams is 200 points higher than the average for African-American students at Williams. The College should stop discriminating in admissions against Chinese-American applicants.

Would such a sign be obnoxious? Obviously. Would it lead to hurt feelings and even emotional pain among some members of the Williams community? Of course. Would I recommend that the student with this sign on her door take it down? Yes. But should the College require that the student remove the sign? No.

If free speech at Williams means anything, it entails the right to voice unpopular political opinions.

If the WSO discussion would use that specific example (or a different one), the conversation would be more productive.


Breaking News – Soccer

photo copyright Williams College

The sleet came down but the Ephs triumphed. They will take on the College of New Jersey next weekend in the Sweet 16.

UPDATE: Williams will host the sectionals. In addition to the Williams-TCNJ match, Ithaca will play Lynchburg. All games will be available online FOR FREE at Teamline. These being NCAA games, there will be a small charge for attending in person at Cole Field.


A Williams Gem

Fran Vandermeer celebrates her team (photo copyright Williams College)

The honors have been rolling in for the members of the volleyball team during the last week. They are young (they lost only one senior to graduation last year and will again lose one this year), so their poise and perseverance through a rocky mid-season — where they were losing more than they were winning–and their improbable upsets and streak are all the more admirable. They are now 28-12, with 12 of those wins coming in the last 12 games. Congratulations to regional tournament MVP Kate Anderson and to fellow All-Tournament Team member Nichole Ballon-Landa (both sophomores) and to their very worthy All-Tournament Team member peers Alice Cummings and Jessica Duff of Wellesley.

The remarkable Coach Fran Vandermeer deserves special congratulations. She has an extraordinary connection with her team. She tries to sit through the sets the way the other coaches do, but she can’t. She doesn’t yell or stamp, but she’s always there at the edge of the court and you can see her energy and passion flowing over the line to her girls. You can sense the connection in her strategic use of time outs and the knowledge of her team embodied in it; other coaches try to do this but she almost never fails to steady her girls and send them roaring back. And she seems to keep the focus forward, something that carries over in the girls’ poise (you won’t see them getting frustrated or turning on each other the way some other teams do). As I watched her make big changes in rocky moments during the Tufts, Springfield, and Wellesley games, I kept thinking about the trust she’s built among the girls: they implemented the changes with unhesitating confidence that the new arrangement was just the thing to turn the tide (often it seemed to become a self-fulfilling prophecy).

In her 19th or 20th year as a Williams coach, Vandermeer is one of the gems of Williams College. So is Cross-Country Head Coach Pete Farwell ’73, whose harriers again did so well yesterday but who is to be equally honored for the huge deep, smart, no-cut program he runs. Thankfully, there’s something about Williams, other NESCAC schools, and remnants of the Seven Sisters that nurtures these vital, longtime non-academic teachers.

Vandermeer steadies her team (photo copyright Williams College)


Appoint Sloane

Wick Sloane ’76 on NPR. Listen to the whole thing. Related post here.


Volleyball – Williams vs. Wellesley

And Williams is going to the Elite 8 in Illinois next week. Wellesley played an outstanding game and almost took them.

The mantra of the game was, as the announcers kept saying, “No one’s going down easily in this one.” The lead went back and forth all game, and the recoveries were quite admirable.

The team with the NCAA New England Regional Championship trophy

[And a big shout out to another Eph team tonight: congratulations to men’s basketball and Coach Maker for winning their first game. Nice way to welcome your coach, guys. May this be the start of a long and productive run.]


The volleyball NCAA New England regional championship game is on Jumbocast right now.

(in reverse order)

The fourth set went to Williams.

Williams came out firing in the third set, taking it to 7-1. Then they slipped, and it was a back and forth slog that Williams ultimately took, 25-23. Anderson is affected by the injury, but still fighting.

Wellesly took the second set, 25-17. Williams standout Kate Anderson was hurt in the first set, missed part of the second, and then played hurt. Wellesley found a weakness in the Williams service return and worked it hard in the beginning of the set, wearing Williams down. This was a tough one with a lot of mistakes by Williams, and Wellesley is following the pattern that has twice before brought success in this tournament. I think having to use up both of her time outs early in the set greatly hindered Fran from being able to do her usual great job of steadying the team.

Williams took the first set, 27-25, after a remarkable rally by the Blue. Williams has admirable poise. Wellesley has astonishing perseverance. Each has found and has been picking away at the other’s weaknesses. 

The Tufts anouncers/commentators are doing a great job. They really understand the game.


Men and Women Advance to NCAA Championships

Hosting NCAA New England regionals today, both Eph cross-country teams had very successful outings despite the rain. They’ll run on a much flatter course next weekend at the NCAA championships at Hanover College in Hanover, Indiana.

On the men’s side, Edgar Kosgey won the 8K event, followed in by four other Ephs in the top 15. Their score of 36 placed them far ahead of second place Amherst, who, with a 122, also earned an automatic championship berth. Several other NESCAC schools may be granted at-large slots, depending on the results in other regions.


Edgar Kosgey (left runner); copyright Williams College

On the women’s side, only Amherst’s Elise Tropiano managed to get past Eph Lauren Philbrook, who is having a phenomenal year. Middlebury won this 6K event with a 57, while Williams tallied a 87 for second. Both teams earned automatic championship berths and could be joined by at-large invitees from New England.

Lauren Philbrook (left) (copyright Williams College)

REMINDER: Williams volleyball plays Wellesley at 7 PM tonight at Tufts for the NCAA regional championship (round 3). The game will be on Jumbocast.


Major Decisions

 As the mom of an Eph who has not yet decided on a major, I thought the subject might make for a worthwhile discussion.

  When first applying to Williams, one of the things my son noticed, was that he didn’t need to declare a major. Since he had no clue as to what to put in that blank space on the application, this was, in his opinion, a plus.

  There seem to be people who know from an early age, exactly what they want to do with their lives. He is not one of them. And in his case, the old adage, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” does indeed apply. His parents have spent a lifetime in search of what they want to do when they grow up. Thank goodness all of our endeavors have been fairly interesting, as well as lucrative enough to pay the mortgage.

 But he will need to declare eventually, and though he has not asked my counsel, I am trying to prepare myself to be of service should he seek it. There are endless sources for advice on this subject, and in my opinion, EB might as well be one of them.

 How many of you are of that ilk who knew from an early age, what their life’s work might be? If not, were you inspired by a professor, or a particularly great class? What kind of guidance did the college provide in your quest? 

 And the other thing I’d be curious to hear, is how many of you ended up in careers that were closely associated with your majors? It seems more typical, that one hears otherwise. Was that the case for you?

  In the hopes of inspiring some levity, I close with the words of Dave Barry. According to Mr. Barry…

“Basically, you learn two kinds of things in college:

1. Things you will need to know in later life (two hours).

2.Things you will not need to know in later life (1,998 hours).”

 So, since I am paying the tuition on all 2000 of the hours of which Mr. Barry speaks, I am hoping that your stories will convince me that the subject matter on which you chose to focus those hours, was well worth every penny.



Wintry Light

As winter approaches, one of the things I remember most from my time in Williamstown is the mesmerizing, ever-changing play of the light on the campus buildings and the Purple Valley mountains.

(copyright Dread Pirate Ruth; linked to her flickr stream)



(copyright Ledges; linked to her flickr stream)


Sign on the ’62 Center (a/k/a on EB as Trump’s Pompadour)










(copyright stenz; linked to his flickr stream)

One of my favorites from the williamscollege flickr pool.


Save Soane

Want to get in a big fight on WSO? Start a thread about dogs in Paresky. Some background here.

The Board of Health unanimously approved a variance Monday night allowing Williams College employees who work on the second floor of the Paresky Center to bring their dogs to work with them under strict conditions.

“The success of a variance of this nature relies on the honesty of the Williams College people,” Jeffrey C. Kennedy, health inspector and conservation agent, said Monday night.

And, yes, this does provide the excuse for Meagan Muncy on WSO to post the live puppy feed that my wife and daughters find irresistible.


Stop the Presses …

Here’s a shot of the hard-working crew at ephblog as they prepare the new format for the tendentious tagblat.

In the center is Dave ‘Citizen’ Kane flanked by Ronit ‘The printer’s devil’ B., Larry ‘Father knows Lloyd’ George, Ken ‘Doubting’ Thomas, Rory ‘The K’, Joe ‘Santa’ Cruz, Eric ‘The Half-a-Bee’ Smith, Lowell ‘Thomas’ J, and Derek ‘The cats meow’.

And, conducting from the piano, Daniel ‘Etudes for Interns’ Sou!

(Thanks to Ronit for this imperative addition to the team effort. see comment #3)

Off screen is Sophmom writing a scathing editorial about PC while preparing a batch of her world-famous Tufts Peanut Butter cookies. Also not seen, but too often heard, and taking the picture is ‘Dick – ‘Nuff Said’ S.


Chunky Cheese Bread

photo copyright MiniLaura

Sometime in the last few weeks, we were talking about Clarksburg Bakery, late of Spring Street, and their cheese bread, which is now available from Wild Oats. From a MiniLaura submission to the flickr pool, here’s a picture.

UPDATE: The cookies, Chunky Cheese Bread, and other baked goods once sold at the late, lamented Clarksburg Bakery on Spring Street are made by former Clarksburg baker Jamie Ott at Cricket Creek Farm, a dairy farm with a farm store off Sloan Road in Williamstown, about a mile from the Store at Five Corners. The farm also produces artisanal cheeses (available for online purchase), pasture-raised beef, eggs, and milk, and has a barn space available as a small rental party place.

If you go to the farm’s website, you’ll see a list of stores (including Wild Oats, the co-op on Rt. 2) and restaurants that carry or use some of their items, as well as a weekly bread baking schedule.

Thanks to Tom Bernard ‘92 for the heads up.



The Ephs with their NESCAC championship plaque last week

photo copyright Williams College    

The Eph volleyball team has just defeated Springfield, 3-0, to advance to tomorrow’s 7 p.m. NCAA regional final against the winner of tonight’s contest between Tufts and Wellesley. The regional championship game will be webcast on Jumbocast.

If you follow volleyball, you may remember that Williams had an upset victory against #1-seeded Tufts to advance to their NESCAC championship game against Amherst last week. Williams will once again be playing at Tufts so, if you are in the Boston area, try to make it out to support the team. A loud fan section seems to make a big difference in volleyball.

Other Williams NCAA events this weekend: the Ephs host the men and the women in the New England Division III regional cross country meets on Sat. and on Sun. Williams hosts round 2 of the women’s soccer tournament. 

Go Ephs!

Volleyball Update: In the regional finals, Williams will face Wellesley, the winners of a persistent, hard-fought 3-2 semifinal victory over Tufts. Small, but scrappy, Wellesley came into the tournament on an at-large bid, while Tufts had been a powerhouse and was playing on their home court. To get to the finals, the Wellesley team had to play 10 matches (two five-set games), while Williams played a total of six. Hard to know which will dominate on Wellesley’s part tomorrow: the exhaustion or the exhilaration. Tomorrow’s winners will play in the Elite 8 at Illinois Wesleyan. Go Ephs!


New Theme

We are experimenting with our new Vertigo theme. Authors and others logged in should be able to see it. Regular readers won’t. Comments and suggestions welcome. Things will be a bit rocky throughout the weekend. Please be patient. Previous discussion here.


Vintage Chapin Hall

Postcard of Chapin Hall, circa 1910

This is a postcard of Chapin Hall, dating back to about 1915. Constructed in 1911-12 and named in honor of Grace Chapin, the wife of Alfred Chapin of the Class of 1869, the building was originally called “Grace Hall.”  

Until I saw this photograph, I missed out on a lot of the ways this building shares features and motifs with both Stetson and the Williams/Sage pair (I seem to remember that Chapin was constructed first among that “neighborhood” group). 

I am experimenting with posting pictures (thanks to help from Ronit, Diana, and others), so please bear with me. My goal is to pull up from time to time and post some of the photographs from the “williamscollege” flickr pool that rarely come up on the EphBlog sidebar.


Secondary School Educators

In addition to alumni accomplishments in many other fields, Williams is known for producing leaders in secondary education. I thought of that this morning as I read the obituary for Bruce McClellan ’45, the long-time head of the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey.

The obituary notes that, “During his tenure the school underwent major changes, most notably with a student body that became both coeducational and increasingly diverse. Mr. McClellan was the driving force behind the admission of black students in 1964 and girls in 1987.” In addition, he greatly increased the school’s endowment, enabling Lawrenceville to offer institution-altering levels of financial aid and to provide impressive facilities and curricular offerings.

An outstanding student, a varsity athlete, and a student leader at Williams during World War II, McClellan also managed to serve as a summer warrior: “Between his sophomore and junior years at college, Mr. McClellan served as a pilot in the Army Air Corps and was separated from service in September 1945 with the rank of captain. He saw combat service over Europe with the 8th Air Force and earned the Air Medal with clusters and the Distinguished Flying Cross.”

McClellan then went on to take up a Rhodes, and returned to Williams for a year as an assistant dean before leaving to teach English at Lawrenceville, where he became Head Master at 35. His work there would eventually win him honorary degrees from several colleges, including his alma mater.

As with many of the most effective leaders in secondary education, McClellan always kept his hand in as a teacher: “Mr. McClellan continued to instruct English through his time as head master, explaining, ‘It feeds my spirit to teach.’”

Secondary school teachers and administrators labor in something of a backwater, largely unrecognized, and yet providing vital services and having an enormous impact on our whole society’s future. Williams recognizes this with various programs designed to help students who plan to enter the field and with its acknowledgement that “we stand upon the shoulders of giants” in the form of granting the Olmsted Prize for Excellence in Secondary School Teaching at Commencement to four high school teachers who have made a difference to graduating Williams seniors.

Often, more cherished than any institutional award are the thanks of, and being remembered by, former students. Sadly, the mentors of our youth seem to pass away all too soon while we are off pursuing our careers and busy with raising our children. The upcoming Thanksgiving season would be a good time to write a note or pick up the phone to call one of your (or your child’s) former teachers or coaches.


Walk Me Home

It is autumn, the time of year when I am most in love with the world, happiest to live in the northeast, and most prone to daydreaming.  I walk and imagine that, once upon a time, this was the season when communities gathered in the town square to celebrate the harvest over spiced drinks, firelight and dancing, fueled by the special vigor that only an impending potentially deadly winter can generate.

Last year was the most beautiful autumn of my remembered life:  it began for me with a visit to Ann Arbor when its leaves began to change, a return to be outdoors for class three days a week in Ithaca, and then home to catch New York’s peak during Thanksgiving (I took a very long walk in the golden parks).  I anticipated the season again eagerly this year, when I live on Cornell’s campus.  Fall came earlier this year and it seems unlikely that New York will be as beautiful when I come home, but I am hoping against reason that I am wrong (can anyone there please let me know?  Are the maples yellow now or bare?)  I have been looking forward to Thanksgiving since September. Some of my most sacred rituals of the year are getting a haircut and walking my neighborhood the morning before, the dinner with my extended family at grandpa’s, and a football game in the park with high school buddies I see that day only the day after.

This season I have enjoyed a daily walk across the prime parts of Cornell’s famous campus.  Today, I invite you along.

Read more



A Eph working in finance writes about a recent Record interview with Morty.

Did you see this?

I’m shocked. I had no idea that Collette had lost so much of our endowment ($500M+). Plus, Morty sounds like he’s panicking. The fact that he doesn’t have a good grasp of the school’s finances AND that he used the phrase ‘brink of bankruptcy’ in a Record interview has me seriously reconsidering Morty’s competence at a time we need someone good at the helm. Either Morty is playing up the situation a little to try and good more donations or the college has seriously overextended itself.

1) You shouldn’t be “shocked.” With an 50% allocation to global equities, it is impossible for the Williams endowment to escape serious damage during a market meltdown. See our previous discussions.

2) Are we reading the same interview? Morty doesn’t sound panicked at all. In fact, he seems his always highly competent and (too?) honest self. This is one of the many things that I love about Morty! Consider the bankruptcy quote in context:

So, there are no plans to lay off any faculty or staff?

If we get to the brink of bankruptcy, who knows what’s going to happen? But as things are going, no plans for that … We come up with an attrition rate of seven faculty and 10 staff per year, which is lower than what it’s been. All over American outside of academia, people are being fired. Even within academia they’re being fired left and right. We’re the major engine of economic activity in the northern Berkshires. We talk all the time about how it’s not just the faculty are educators, but the staff as well, and they need us most when many of their partners or spouses are being laid off. Is this the time when we should lay them off too, or are we serious about the family and the community? I think we’re serious.

Morty is making it clear that, if the endowment levels off at $1.3 billion or above, there will be belt-tightening (no more visiting professors) without real pain (lay-offs). But, obviously, if the endowment falls further or stay flat for long enough (the Japan scenario), all options are on the table.

3) “[R]econsidering Morty’s competence” is absurd. It is hard to imagine a better leader to see Williams through a (potential) economic crisis. As you note, Morty may also be emphasizing the difficulties so that people start cutting costs seriously. (Please don’t tell me that the College is going to pay for a trip to DC for the Obama inaugural.)

4) It’s somewhat frustrating that some people (not this Eph) perceive me as a big Morty critic when, in fact, I am a huge fan. 95% of the decisions that Morty makes are correct. And the 5% that (I think) he gets wrong are often more a matter of tactics than ultimate goals. Yet I write much more about the bad staff than the good stuff. Let me rectify that my pointing to that Record interview. Read the whole thing. Morty is right about the challenges Williams faces and the best methods for confronting them.

5) The more subtle question is: What signs/decisions would make me rethink my faith in Morty? What evidence would falsify my hypothesis that he is a great Williams president? An easy question! A failure to start cutting costs in a serious fashion. Although it may be too late to do much with the 2008-2010 budget, Morty needs to start making tough decisions now that will contain the operating budget to zero growth for the next two years. If he doesn’t, I’ll start to worry that Morty is a just great fair weather president. When tough choices were called for, he failed to make them. Let’s all hope it doesn’t come to that. Popperian falsification is much more fun in theory than in practice.


Raising prices, now? You must be joking

Much of the recent discussion about the impact of financial losses on college endowments has focused on ways in which colleges can make up the shortfall. Since no one really likes to contemplate layoffs and cutbacks, most of the suggestions tossed around in forums both high (the pages of the NYT) and low (EphBlog threads) have been about some combination of less financial aid, more full-price enrollments, and modest tuition increases. Some of our readers seem to positively relish the thought that the financial crisis can be used to cut back on those noisome “diversity” and “international” recruits who typically cost more money, and it would seem that administrators at Williams and elsewhere have been somewhat receptive to such a course of action. In general, the consensus seems to be that Williams must find a way to cut its “discount rate” and increase the average effective tuition being paid by students.

I have been trying to articulate for a while why this idea strikes me as absolutely insane, but the Epicurean Dealmaker has saved me the trouble of composing a lengthy post. His response to this idea of raising tuition (as expressed by Harvard’s President) is an entertaining and necessary screed. Some excerpts follow, but please, read the whole thing (and while reading, keep in mind that Williams, which charges nearly identical tuition to its much more well-known brethren on the Charles River, has, if anything, even less pricing power because of its utter lack of name recognition.): Read more


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