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Jim Cramer learns to pronounce ‘Eph’

Congratulations to Mr. Cramer’s daughter, who was accepted ED to the Williams class of 2013. 

Hat-tip to reader “An EB Fan” (aren’t we all?)


Everyone Goes to White Castle

Change is coming to Williams in 2009!  Or, rather, wafting in.  Come January 20, marijuana will be effectively legalized in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  Berkshire County DA David Capeless admits as much to the NYT today, in the process of bitching about the insuperable enforcement challenges presented by the recently-passed decriminalization measure.

To recap: anyone caught with an ounce or less of weed will owe nothing more than a $100 civil fine.  No arrest.  No criminal record.  No criminal anything.  But it gets better!

A complicating factor, said Mr. Capeless, the district attorney in Berkshire County, is that state law bans the police from demanding identification for civil infractions.

“Not only do you not have to identify yourself,” he said, “but it would appear from a strict reading that people can get a citation, walk away, never pay a fine and have no repercussion.”

That’s one way to hit Johnny Lawman where it hurts.  A further complication affects Williams less than, say, MCLA in nearby North Adams.

Mr. Capeless said that in particular the department needed to address a clause in the new law that said neither the state nor its “political subdivisions or their respective agencies” could impose “any form of penalty, sanction or disqualification” on anyone found with an ounce or less of marijuana.

“It appears to say that you get a $100 fine and they can’t do anything else to you,” he said. “Can a police officer caught with marijuana several times get to keep his job and not be disciplined in any fashion? Can public high schools punish kids for smoking cigarettes but not for having pot?”

Either way, pot-smoking Ephs are likely to feel a lot more comfortable by the end of Winter Study.

The decriminalization measure passed about 65-35 back on Election Day.


Secret Millionaire

Molly Shattuck, wife of Mayo Shattuck ’76, starred in an episode of Secret Millionaire last night. (Hat tip to this reader.)

Each week, one of the wealthiest Americans, worth millions of dollars, will go undercover into one of the most impoverished and dangerous towns in America. Their job is to spend one week canvassing the town – meeting as many people as possible – some of whom will touch the millionaire with their dedication to helping others while others will have incredible stories of trying to overcome tremendous odds. On the final day, the Secret Millionaire meets with the chosen recipients and reveals his/her true identity and intentions – to give them a sum of money that is going to change their lives forever.

Noblesse oblige or poverty exploitation? The episode is available here. Judge for yourself. Alas, I don’t see an easy way of embedding it or saving a copy. I have watched 20 minutes so far. It is surprisingly good.

More detail here.

shattuckShattuck is married to Mayo Shattuck III, and is the mother of five children. Shattuck is also a civic leader in Baltimore, MD, where her many charitable efforts have focused on raising awareness and funding for the health, education and artistic development of disadvantaged inner-city youth. Shattuck previously served as a Corporate Center Director for Sylvan Learning Systems and as a Marketing Associate for Alex. Brown & Sons, Inc. She recently became nationally known when, at the age of 38, she became the oldest cheerleader in NFL history, cheering for the Baltimore Ravens.

If Molly Shattuck is a “civic leader” then I am the Queen of Persia.

Challenged with living on minimum wage, the millionaires will immerse themselves in situations beyond their comprehension. They work with with community members and befriend those in need. Then they decide who of their new-found friends, neighbors or co-workers should ultimately receive their extraordinary gifts, at least $100,000 of their own money. The millionaires include an internet mogul who last year at age 25 sold his company for $300 million, a co-owner of a multi-million dollar magazine-publishing business, a successful Southern California lawyer, an owner of a restaurant empire, a Baltimore socialite & former NFL cheerleader as well as a software inventor worth $50 million.

Socialite is a fair description. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

Did anyone watch the show?

UPDATE: Watched the whole thing. Highly recommended. Molly’s closing quote is, “There’s a lot of good in people, if you just give them a chance to show it.” Words to live by, for all of us.


Congratulations to The Newest Ephs

Several hundred early decision applications received this good news, leading to this letter.


Congratulations to all. Comments:

1) Thanks to the anonymous parent for sending in these images. Future historians will thank you!

2) 616 early decision applicants is a record. Recall our debate over whether or not the financial crisis would lead to a drop in demand for a Williams education. So far, there is no evidence for that drop. I predict that we will see no decrease in regular applicants, regular yield or average student quality. Demand for a Williams education is largely recession proof.

3) The initial forecast was for 580 early applications. Are most/all of the extra 36 Questbridge?

4) 550 is a bigger target for the first year class than the normal 538 or so. Have the Trustees approved this increase in the student population? I don’t like it.

5) No smiley face?! Bring back Phil Smith ’58 ’55!



The Williams Campaign – Basic Questions about Finances

In the course of the tribute to President Schapiro that the College released today, penned by Trustee (and Presidential Search Committee Head) Greg Avis ’80, Avis noted that “The Williams Campaign surpassed its $400 million goal last year and in its final weeks is approaching $500 million.”

Until the recent financial crisis, I was not following the College’s finances closely. I would appreciate it if someone would answer a few questions to help me get a stronger foundation.

1) I believe that, while the College is on a fiscal year that ends in June, its fundraising campaigns are structured as being on a  calendar year. Does the quote from Avis mean that the College has raised nearly $500 million this calendar year (the reference to “last year” has me confused)? Is that all of its fundraising for calendar year 2008, or is it for a separate capital campaign to fund construction and perhaps other special programs (such as the earlier campaign to increase the endowment to fund the expansion of the faculty and thus enable the addition of more tutorials)? If it isn’t all of the fundraising, does anyone have any idea of how much else there might be and what it might be for?

2) (This is sickening.) Is it reasonable to assume that a third or more of the $500 million (and any other money raised this calendar year) has vanished into the black hole that has devoured a third or more of the endowment? Is it reasonable to assume that a good chunk of any year-end gifts might go the same way? 

3) The quote from Avis is quite upbeat, but does anyone know how the recent financial downturn has affected the fundraising stream at Williams? Except for my local food bank and food kitchen, every non-profit I know of is reporting that its fundraising intake is down dramatically for the whole calendar year and has slowed to a trickle in recent months.

4) How much money still needs to be raised for the construction projects (principally, the demolition of the Stetson additions, the construction of the new Sawyer, and the demolition of the old Sawyer)? Is this likely to be funded in a different way than the construction of the ’62 Center and Paresky (which involved issuing a considerable amount of debt)?

5) What do you think will happen when it comes time to set tuition for 2009-2010?


Morty Schapiro to Become President of Northwestern (and thoughts about the Presidential Search)

To the Williams Community,

Morton Owen SchapiroUpon the completion next summer of my ninth year as Williams president, I will be leaving to become president of Northwestern University.

This was not an easy decision for my family and me to make. Twenty of my thirty years in academe have been spent at Williams and I’ve loved virtually every minute. The past nine as president have been the greatest honor and privilege of my professional life. But with the completion of our comprehensive campaign this month and my strong feeling that institutions need new leadership every decade or so, I think the timing is right.

There’s much I still hope to do in these intervening months to help steer this place I love so deeply. Most importantly, with the support of the Board of Trustees, we are putting in place a financial plan that will assure that our college will be in a position to provide an exceptional educational experience for future students despite the current financial turmoil. Williams will emerge from the present challenges with its values intact and positioned to recapture its momentum.

Mimi and I have made many close friends at Williams — students, faculty, staff, alumni, and parents — and we hope that you will remain in our lives. When you visit us in Evanston, feel free to wear your traditional purple, a color that both institutions proudly share.

All the best,


Morton Owen Schapiro
Professor and President
Williams College

(announcement from the Office of the President, posted on the Williams website on Dec. 16, 2008)


Faculty Demanded

Despite my 20-year status as flight leader of the Eph wingnut squadron, I don’t believe this story.

Former Secretary of Education William Bennett [’65], in a recent interview on MSNBC, spoke of the intolerance of liberal professors at our colleges and universities. He told the story of his alma mater, Williams College, where the president of the school invited him to speak. The faculty demanded to see the text of his speech in advance of the event. To his credit, Bennett refused, saying “What are you going to do, censor me?”


1) The writer, Joe Malone, is a former Massachusetts state treasurer so one hopes that he is reporting Bennett’s claim accurately. Yet that hope depends on your opinion of Massachusetts politicians in general . . .

2) Does anyone have a video/transcript of that MSNBC interview? Primary sources, please!

3) Bennett has, on at least one other occasion, made a claim about Williams that was false. (Alas, the comments on that post have vanished. Can any of our tech folks figure out why?) As always, I am happy to believe that he was honestly mistaken in that case, since he got the story secondhand. But in this case . . .

4) When was this purported speech, and which Williams president invited him? I am happy to believe that Bennett did speak at Williams, but I can’t find evidence of the speech at the Record or on the Williams homepage.

5) As much as I disagree with various Williams faculty members, especially my fellow Obama supporters [Hello Sam!], I find it incredible that they “demanded” anything of Bennett. Am I naive? At worst, I could imagine an honest curiosity to know what the topic was, a request that might have been misinterpreted by Bennett.

I still think that Williams would benefit from more ideological diversity. Yet spreading false stories does nothing but harm.


Leaving Williams?

Most disconcerting Google search to hit EphBlog today? morton schapiro, leaving Williams?

1) Good news: We are the #1 link!

2) Better news: This seems unlikely. To leave, Morty, still in his fifties, would need to go somewhere. But where? The Dartmouth presidency is one of the few higher prestige (than Williams) academic jobs open, but it is more likely to go to an insider. Morty might be tempted by something like USC President, but it seems unlikely that he would leave Williams in the lurch. Say what you will, but Morty is a stand-up guy. A Williams administrator told me that, as far as he was concerned, the best part of the financial crisis was that it probably means another five years of Morty at Williams since Morty is unlikely to walk away from the struggle and the challenge.

3) Worrying news: It may be unlikely but it is not impossible. If the Mellon Foundation came calling, could Morty resist? He has served his time and done a great job. No fair minded person would complain if he called it quits a year or two from now. He is already the longest (?) serving NESCAC president.

Toward the end of the Boston Alumni meeting Morty talked wistfully of what an honor it was to be president of Williams. It was a heart-felt moment, just a few sentences toward the end of a long evening, which followed a long day of discussions and meetings with trustees. It was just the sort of sentiment that I expect to hear from Morty when he announces his departure some day far (we hope) in the future.

It was disconcerting to hear that kind of talk last week . . .


Tush Imprint

This article by Juliana Stone ’12 brought back a lot of memories for me:

I fell asleep in the library at 4:30 in the afternoon on Thursday.

I’d slept three hours the night before and 3 1/2 hours the night before that. I’d been at the desk in the back corner of the second floor of Sawyer Library – the desk with the green leather chair that is now mine because it still has my tush imprint from 52 hours spent there over three days.

It’s finals week. I want to die.

I have three final exams, three seven-page papers and a showcase during finals week, so I basically am living in the library.

My carrel has accumulated two empty cardboard coffee cups, a scarf, two sweatshirts, an umbrella, a Nalgene bottle and a blue wool sock that I’m fairly sure was there before me.

Good times. Of course, I look back on that now as a wonderfully lazy, easy time of my life (note to Juliana: it gets much, much worse from here on out). And cost-cutting be damned, I’m glad the college still does these things for students (the gain in loyal alumni vastly outstrips the cost):

On Wednesday, we had finals week “StressBusters” in the Paresky student center until midnight: There was a live band and a dance floor; T-shirt tie-dying, spin art and sand art stations; facialists, masseuses, a balloon artist and a caricaturist; buckets of candy; and five kinds of cake.

Everyone kind of took breaks from studying and wandered in an out of the student center to try to de-stress. Throughout the night at my post in the library, I’d see people walking up the stairs, back to their carrels, with cool twisty balloon hats or bags of candy canes and Hershey’s kisses.

Speaking of treats, all of the dining halls had a holiday dinner recently. I was considering boycotting – they had it on a Thursday night as a replacement for Brunch Night, which is not something you mess with – but my friends were going and I thought my protest would be more effective if I found all my BFFs in Dining Services and whined really obnoxiously in person.

But it was lovely: All of the tables at Greylock Dining Hall were covered in red or white tablecloths, five little candles and red and green napkins, and they had a beautiful buffet station at the center of the hall around a display of a snowman and reindeer and fake snow.

There were little snowflakes and bags of gelt scattered all over, an entire table of homemade fudge and a huge chocolate fountain.

I generally just love Williams College, and I don’t really think about it anymore. But sometimes the school does something so lovely like this and I realize all over again how special it is.

Go read the whole thing. Ms. Stone is a wonderful writer, and I hope she’ll join us on EphBlog. In the meantime, keep an eye on EphPlanet for updates to her Daily Breeze column.


Endowment Worries

Should you be worried about the Williams endowment? Consider The Economist:

Ivory-towering infernos

America’s universities have seen billions of dollars go up in smoke

HARVARD will have to take a “hard look at hiring, staffing levels and compensation”, wrote Drew Faust, the university president, on December 2nd in a surprise letter to Harvard deans. The Harvard endowment, which was worth $36.9 billion at the end of June, has since lost at least 22%, says Ms Faust. The university should brace itself for losses of 30% in the fiscal year to next June, she adds, although even that may prove far too optimistic. Its ambitious plans for new buildings on the other side of the Charles river seem likely to be scaled back, or at least slowed down.

Harvard is not alone. At Stanford University, the president, provost and other senior executives have taken a 10% pay cut. There is speculation that its endowment, which at $17 billion in June was third only to Harvard’s and Yale’s, has performed horribly since then. Many smaller endowments—only six were bigger than the $8 billion that Harvard says it has lost so far—have suffered too. Williams College has seen its endowment plunge by 27%, from $1.8 billion to $1.3 billion, while Wesleyan University’s has tumbled by 24% to $580m.

I have never seen a 27% number from Williams or even an official estimate of $1.3 billion. Will Stack ’11 reported the $1.3 billion number, as did the Record.

It is projected that the College endowment has dropped precipitously since June 30 because of its 48 percent exposure to equity markets, which have been in sharp decline. Although no exact figure has been calculated as to its current value, President Schapiro estimated that the endowment is probably worth around $1.3 billion today, a $500 million, or about a 28 percent drop since the last time it was precisely calculated on June 30.

“If we have $1.4 [billion] now I’d be shocked; it’s probably $1.3 [billion],” Schapiro said, noting that part of this decrease is due to the College’s withdrawals of 80 or 90 million dollars a year, about 5 percent of the endowment, for operational expenses.

Keep track of two different types of decreases in the endowment: falls in the value of investments and withdrawals for spending. The Economist is only discussing the former and yet is using the $1.3 billion number that includes both categories. Comparing Harvard’s 22% fall (all because of investment losses) with Williams’s 27% fall (both losses and spending) is apples and oranges, or perhaps crabs and clementines.

The real uncertainty is in the portion of the endowment that is not in publicly traded securities. Williams (and other schools) don’t know what is going on with these investments. In fact, even the professional managers in charge don’t really know! Assume that you are running a venture capital firm and have used $500 million to buy a company last year. Williams (along with 9 other endowments) invested $50 million. How much is that investment worth now?

No one knows! Rant continues below.
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Winter Study-The Cold Hard Facts, Please

One of the comments posted on “Speak Up!” raises some interesting points about Winter Study. Parent ’12 says:

I have one idea for a topic, which relates to David’s posts and examples for cost cutting. Up front I want to make it clear that I’m not advocating for this.

How much would be saved if the Winter Study Program didn’t exist? I thought of this because I believe the college is attempting to save on utility bills over part of the December break by turning off heat in buildings. Obviously, there’s more to save than utilities, but what would it be?

All good questions, and ones that will surely inspire commentary. But they are also questions that made me realize how little I know about Winter Study.

My son has led me to understand that the primary objective of WSP is to have the opportunity to approach new and exciting subject matter, under the less stressful conditions imposed by a pass/fail grading system. I know he did exactly that his Freshman year and enjoyed it, and that he looks forward to the upcoming WSP. But that isn’t a lot of information.

A preliminary search then led me to Willipedia, which provided (in what I have come to know as the Willi style) a plethora of humorous (and opinionated) particulars. Some highlights:

*”The courses […] may seem silly and frivolous…”
*”You have a lot more free time…”
*”Get outside and play in the snow. If you don’t, you’re pathetic.”
*”…the main purpose of Winter Study is to fall in love.”

All…ahem…interesting comments, but I still didn’t have a clear idea of WSP.

So next, I paid a visit to the Williams website and the 09 WSP course catalog. There I saw classes ranging from “Knitting” to “Opera Workshop”, from “Boxing” to “Work of the Supreme Court”. While all enticing choices, they present such a wild variety as to leave me with even more questions. What exactly is Winter Study? How did it come about? What are it’s main objectives? How do we consider cutting something, unless we have a clear idea of it’s value to the students?

The fact that it’s in the dead of winter, indicates that doing away with it could save a lot of energy costs (as P’12 implies) while providing an extended break to students (and professors) at a time when the cold, gray days of a Berkshires winter might well be weighing on their psyches. Unless of course, there is very real value in taking a class where the emphasis is on the pleasure of learning, rather than achieving a perfect grade.

So, with all this in mind, I’d like to hear from you. What were your most memorable Winter Study experiences? And, is it a program the college should consider cutting? Or is it, in fact, an indispensable part of a Williams education?


Sabbatical Grant Program

Cut this.

Applications for supplemental sabbatical grants should be submitted to the Dean of the Faculty’s office by January 5th of the year preceding the planned term of sabbatical. Instructions for applying are detailed below.

Supplemental sabbatical salary grants are available to tenured faculty to support projects for professional development while on leave. The supplement can be applied either to a one semester mini-sabbatical (3/4 pay for one semester after 3 consecutive years of teaching) or to a full sabbatical (3/4 pay for one year after 6 consecutive years of teaching). Grants will provide either 1/4 salary or the amount necessary to bring 3/4 salary plus any outside grant or other outside remuneration to the level of the annual academic salary, whichever is less.

I realize that proposing cuts in faculty spending does not make me popular with professors, but there is a financial crisis. Related news story here.

Some [Brown University] faculty members at the November meeting expressed concern that humanities faculty are less apt to receive external funding for their research and thus need fully funded sabbaticals. Dill reviewed some statistics from Williams College and New York University, which both offer 75 percent pay for a sabbatical every six semesters, which she said suggests concerns about equity are unfounded.

One faculty member who was formerly a visiting professor at Williams said the college was “one of the most generous institutions I’ve ever been associated with” and suggested that higher pay makes it easier for Williams professors to tolerate the proposed 25-percent pay reduction that a sabbatical requires.

Williams needs to cut costs. If not the Sabbatical Grant Program, then what?


EphPlanet roundup: 12/13/08

  • Frank Morgan tries to explain how space-time curves.
  • Ariel Ramchandani discovers the joys of bacon.
  • Jenny Attiyeh interviews professor of divinity Harvey Cox and philosopher Simon Blackburn.
  • Images Cinema is reopening. I had no idea it was closed, but yay. Keep up with the renovations on the Images blog.
  • Chad Orzel lays the smackdown on Scientific American for misreporting on quantum tunnelling; a freak ice-storm then promptly destroys everything in his vicinity. Cause and effect? We’re not prone to speculation, but we’re just saying… don’t mess with Scientific American.
  • Sarah Hart created her own half-marathon.
  • Ethan Zuckerman is featured in a fascinating CSMonitor article about the web, serendipity, and homophily.
  • Daniel Drezner thinks that higher education will be another area where the state will be playing a much larger role than it has recently. (I think he’s right, for reasons I outlined here).
  • Derek Catsam argues that piracy is not terrorism, while Ethan Zuckerman provides an extremely informative (as usual) backgrounder on the situation in Somalia.
  • Blair Benjamin argues against diverting resources away from responsible first-time home buyers towards refinancing shoddy existing mortgages.
  • Angela Doyle wonders about a student who “will have his best chance of success at schools that won’t keep him.”
  • Jennifer Mattern writes a poem about her student loans (and other, more important, things).
  • Rahul Shah discovers a site that sells old video games, cheap and DRM-free. I will lose all of my productivity for the next month if I visit this site and it turns out they have Oregon Trail.
  • Eric Smith needs to borrow an axe for what he claims is an innocent “photoshoot”, featuring, as far as we can tell, no actual dismemberment.

WEPO Details

Harsh Sodhi ’10 kindly sent in this background information on Oxford and the Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford University (WEPO). (See also yesterday’s post from Arjun Ravi Narayan ‘10.)

The average Oxford student takes 1.5 tutorials every semester. WEPO people have to take a minimum of 4.5 tutorials which get counted twice over – 4 grades for the fall, one for winter study and the remaining 4 for spring. Most departments count one tutorial as one credit though some, such as Religion and English, count them twice over.

The biggest difference between WEPO and Oxford is that for the Oxford kids their essay grades don’t matter. Tutors here like Williams kids because we put in a lot more effort since the grades do count.

The second difference is that we take final exams at the end of each term, while Oxford students take them at the beginning of the next term. I’m not sure how they do this in the third sem (Oxford follows a trimester system) considering the summer break and all. Williams wants us to make the most of our time here – it wouldn’t be particularly enjoyable if we had exams just after winter break. So we’re currently in finals week and then we get 5 weeks off to do whatever we like.

The current system where our essay grades matter is a good one. If we did what Oxford students do the program would not be academically sound enough and it would be hard to justify the fact that this is the only study away program besides WNY where grades add to one’s GPA. On the other hand, I think finals are a waste of time – if you don’t know your stuff after writing 8 2000 word essays there’s no point going to school. A 3 hour exam at the end doesn’t measure anything. At present WEPO leaves it up to the tutor but “strongly recommends” some sort of final exam / assignment / paper.

Oxford kids are straight jacketed into particular subjects or streams though there is some flexibility within each stream. When the kids here apply for college they apply for a specific subject / stream. PPE for example stands for Politics, Philosophy and Economics. Thus kids in the PPE program take a certain number of classes in each subject (similar to our Div requirements I guess but they we are much more flexible) and then specialize in one of the three. We WEPO students aren’t subject to any such constraints.

Thanks for the details.


Professional Development Fund

How much does Williams spend on professional development for spouses?

The Professional Development Fund was established in the fall of 2003 in response to a proposal by the Faculty Compensation Committee. The Fund offers limited financial subsidies for spouses and partners of College faculty and administrative staff to engage in job-related education, training, or professional development. The purpose of the Fund is to help individuals acquire new skills and qualifications that will ultimately increase their prospects for finding meaningful employment in the region.

The Fund is managed through the Office of Spouse/Partner Employment Counseling and supported by a committee made up of the Associate Dean of the Faculty, the Associate Director of Human Resources, a representative from the Faculty Compensation Committee, a representative of the Staff Council, and one additional faculty member.

Cut this completely.


Sad News – The Last of the Trinity Has Left Us FURTHER UPDATED

UPDATES: Here are Professor Pierson’s New York Times obituary, a Faculty Meeting tribute by Prof. E. J. Johnson (who holds the Faison-Pierson-Stoddard chair in art), his Boston Globe obituary, and an obituary written by his family. Here is a column by Fay Vincent ’60.

The College has announced that Art Professor Emeritus Bill Pierson has died. Here is President Schapiro’s statement in full: 

Bill PiersonTo the Williams Community,

I am sad to report the loss of an historic Williams figure, with the death Wednesday of William H. Pierson Jr., Massachusetts Professor of Art, Emeritus, at the age of 97.

An accomplished artist, with an M.F.A. in painting from Yale, Bill introduced studio art to Williams. He instilled a passion for both art and architecture through his teaching here from 1940 to 1973, with an interruption to serve in the Navy during World War II. He was famously a member, along with Lane Faison and Whitney Stoddard, of the “Holy Trinity” that inspired countless Williams students to pursue careers in the visual arts.

His legacy lives also through his distinguished work as architectural historian. He wrote the first three volumes of American Buildings and Their Architects and in retirement rose for many years at six a.m. to make progress on his editing of a seventy-volume inventory and analysis of every significant building in the U.S.

The College honored him with the establishment of the Faison-Pierson-Stoddard Professorship in Art History and, in 2001, with the conferring of an honorary degree.

Bill’s singular curiosity and wit graced our community up to the very end, as he remained a lively presence almost daily at lunch in the Faculty House.

Our thoughts and prayers are now with his family and friends. A memorial service will be held in the Spring.

M. Schapiro

This truly marks the end of an era. 

Rest in peace.


Maddy Outman ’08 follows White to IUP

Ralph White, head coach of Williams track and field for seven years, is now the head coach at Indiana University Pennsylvania, as reported by EphBlog over a year ago. Now Maddy Outman ’08, a many-time All-American at Williams, is a grad student there and is again excelling in track and field, as she has already qualified for nationals in the pentathlon there. She is an excellent athlete and he is an excellent coach, and I am glad that they are able to continue their successful partnership.

Here is CBS’s coverage of the strong bond between Outman and White from 2007 indoor track nationals, which Williams won, led by Outman. The IUP article also notes that Outman graduated magna cum laude from Williams, quite an achievement for someone who spent so many hours running, jumping and lifting. (Oh yeah, and I loved taking pictures of her competing… here are a few.)


The News In Rap, by Seth Brown ’01

Who can open a live news feed and freestyle rap for 10 minutes or more on whatever comes up? Comedic genius Seth Brown ’01 of, that’s who. To listen to or subscribe to his immaculate flow of current events, check out Seriously, it’s amazingly good, and since it comes out near the end of each week you can make it part of your Friday “drive at five.”
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Dave Clawson: Bowling Green Head Coach

It didn’t take long for Dave Clawson ’89 to land on his feet.  This represents a small step up from his previous head coaching gig, showing that his tough year at Tennessee didn’t hurt his reputation as an offensive guru.  Congratulations!


Fill Out the Middle

Here is some out-of-the-box thinking on tutorials.

The Williams College tutorial system was started in the late eighties, around the same time that the Williams-Exeter Program at Oxford began. The two are inextricably linked — the Williams tutorial system was based on the Oxford system, is advertised as “Oxford style”, and has continuously been compared and contrasted with the experiences of the twenty-eight students who go to Oxford each year.

The 2002 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education describes:

Here’s how the tutorials at Williams work: Two students — one presenting a paper, the other critiquing it — spend an hour each week with a professor. Unlike independent study, reading lists, problem sets, and assignments are part of the agenda. If all goes well, the professor stays quietly in the background.

This system works great — at times. The article goes on to describe Professor James Wood’s tutorial on World War II, and the fabulous experiences that students who took that course had. I took a different tutorial with Professor Wood: Hist 136T, on World War I. It was the best course I’ve taken at Williams so far. Professor Wood is every bit the magician that the article describes. Alternating essays and critiques each week, a great atmosphere, and nothing more than an insightful comment and a few closing remarks from Professor Wood each hour. It works great.

However, not every tutorial is in History, and not every subject is as amenable to the one-essay-a-week system.

Author Arjun Ravi Narayan ’10 continues below. He will also be responding to any comments/criticisms/questions readers might have.
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150 Years of Baseball

Williams began playing baseball in 1859. That was also the birth of college baseball. On July 1st of that year, Williams played Amherst in Pittsfield in what is considered to have been the first collegiate baseball game. 

Since both Fordham and Williams enter their 150th baseball season this spring, they have scheduled a rare special game against each other. I don’t know what other special events are planned to commemorate the anniversary of The American Game. Williams will, of course, meet Amherst in the regular course of the season (and we hope the score will be considerably more favorable to the Ephs than it was in 1859).


The Coming College Crash

This WSJ article should serve as early warning. When the household recession (rising unemployment + falling household wealth) is taken in conjunction with the losses in endowment assets (which restricts the ability of colleges to expand financial aid), the absurd loan-fueled run-up in prices, the drying up of said loans, and the tight fiscal situation at most state governments, I don’t think it’s too hard see where this is leading.


Boston Meeting Notes

Below are my notes on Morty’s speech at the Boston Alumni Meeting on Tuesday night. Key points: WNY is dead. Financial crisis is not that bad. Need-blind admissions for internationals is safe (I think).

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Please “Speak Up!”

In case you didn’t notice, there was some recent discussion on how, and where, a ‘non-author’ can easily post a comment that may not readily fit within a currently running thread. It might be anything from a bit of campus news, a suggestion for a post, a question from a prospective student, an essay or anecdote from an alum, even a comment for a thread that can’t be found.

Well, now you can speak up, on “Speak Up!”. If you look to the top left corner, you will see this new category highlighted under “Of Interest”. Submit your comment and it will then come to the attention of all EB readers and authors. At that point, depending on what it is, an author may choose to highlight it as a topic, or let it run it’s course there. 

Think of it as our very own EphBlog bulletin board. From time to time, the comments will be deleted or categorized, to make way for current news. At this point, you can see this very idea hatched within the comments now there. I will leave them up for a short while, and then delete them to make way for your posts.

Henry, here is where you, and anyone else, can post an anecdote or essay that might be unrelated to a current discussion. You can invite your friend Chien Ho to drop in at any time. Parent’12, in this way you can post your terrific ideas without having to depend on an author. This isn’t to say that any author won’t be happy to collaborate with you on a topic, but it does give you a quick and easy way to ‘author’ on your own should you so desire.

In any case, “Speak Up!” is there for your convenience and we welcome your contribution.



I was shocked and disheartened to read this in a WSO discussion thread about the (probably mythical) “South of the Border” sandwich:

Way back in the good ‘ol days when snackbar was in Mission it was some combination of grilled chicken, ciabatta bread, avocado and some kind of cheese. From what I understand they don’t make it anymore, and I know someone who is very upset by this fact.

Kids these days.

Those who remember the real good ol’ days will probably recall the Mission snackbar as a dingy and forgettable temporary exile for the snackbar from its rightful location at the center of campus. The place had very little personality (except a tiny bit gained through the addition of the original Baxter snackbar chairs), and making the long hike out to Mission on a wintry night was a terribly depressing experience for those of us who lived on the other side of campus.

I think the class of 2007 was the only one to experience all three iterations of the snackbar during their time at Williams (Baxter -> Mission -> Paresky), and I personally am still prejudiced in favor of the first one. The Paresky snackbar might acquire some of the personality and charm of the Baxter snackbar in a decade or two (if it lasts that long).

I realize that the paragraph above makes me sound like a crotchety old man, and yes, it does feel good.

In another snackbar item, current students should note that no, you should not be paying any tax at the snackbar. We used to pay tax, but Godfrey Bakuli on College Council got it repealed – and students should be watchful for any backsliding on this issue.


Faculty Compensation

The topic of faculty compensation at Williams comes up often enough that I wanted to summarize the facts. The gold standard for this data is the annual survey by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). Here is the latest survey, for the 2007-2008 academic year. Here is a news report. Look at this large pdf for the underlying data for Williams (page 52) and hundreds of other schools. For Williams we have:

                   Number      Salary      Benefits    Total Compensation
Full Professors      134     $126,400      $37,100            $163,500
Associate             37      $90,300      $28,000            $118,300
Assistant             80      $73,100      $23,500             $96,600
All Ranks            251     $104,100      $31,400            $135,500


1) See here for details on the definitions. I calculate the benefit column by subtracting salary from total compensation. Professors who are perplexed about what is included in the $31,400 in average benefits should note that:

Benefit amounts tabulated here represent the institution (or state) contribution on behalf of the individual faculty member; the amount does not include the employee contribution. The major benefits include (a) retirement contribution, regardless of the plan’s vesting provision; (b) medical insurance; (c) disability income protection; (d) tuition for faculty dependents (both waivers and remissions are included); (e) dental insurance; (f) social security (FICA); (g) unemployment insurance; (h) group life insurance; (i) workers’ compensation premiums; and (j) other benefits in kind with cash alternatives (for the most part, these include benefits such as moving expenses, housing, cafeteria plans or cash options to certain benefits, bonuses, and the like).

The report notes that total compensation “represents salary plus institutional contribution to benefits. It is best viewed as an approximate “cost” figure for the institution, rather than an amount received by the faculty member.”

2) These numbers are averages. Not every assistant professor at Williams makes exactly $73,100 in salary. First, seniority matters. Fifth-year assistant professors make more than fourth-year assistant professors. Second, some modifications are made for specific fields. From 2000:

While Williams has a more tightly compressed salary structure, there is some variance. Professors’ salaries are mainly based upon experience and judgments of merit.

Particular fields, such as economics and computer science, also get a premium over other departments to compensate for the more favorable market conditions.

Jon Bakija, assistant professor of economics, believes part of the reason so many people are leaving the economics department is because the salary is lower than what economists could get elsewhere. In order to come to Williams, he turned down several offers, each paying much more. “I’m kind of an exception being willing to take a much lower salary to come here,” he said.

The fact that Williams did offer a higher salary than most liberal arts schools eased the choice somewhat. He said, “I think the choice would have been harder if it was between a big state university and a liberal arts college that paid a lot less.” He said the higher salaries were necessary, “or else they’re not going to have an economics department or a computer science department.”

Although that article is from 2000, I believe that economists and computer scientists continue to command a premium. Anyway, the average starting salary for assistant professors at Williams is probably around $65,000.

3) It would be interesting to know more about the time series of faculty compensation. The Record reported the following salaries for the 1999-2000 school year: professor ($93,700), associate ($65,100) and assistant ($53,000). Could average salaries for full professors really have increased by $32,700 (35%) in the last decade? Sure. Never forget that senior professors run Williams. They disagree on many things, but not about the fact that they are underpaid. Amherst shows a similar increase. When the College discovered that female coaches were paid less than male coaches or female professors less than male professors, it did not lower male salaries. Williams raised female salaries. During the great bull market, the salary ratchet only went up. Those looking for a long time series should note that Williams paid $700 per year in 1835.

4) Useful back ground reading here. Much of the details of compensation are intertwined with institutional history. Without knowledge of that history, you can never understand the full picture. Consider:

There are four rules now [2004] governing faculty salaries, according to Cappy Hill, provost. First, the average salary of a full professor at the College must be equal to or exceed the mean of the average full professor salaries at a group of six comparison schools. In addition, the professors’ salaries must rise from year to year at least as fast as inflation. The base starting salary for an assistant professor must also be at least as great in real dollars as it was in 1979. The last rule is that assistant professors must earn at least 57 percent of what a new full professor earns.

These guidelines were approved by the Faculty Compensation Committee in 1979. “These proposals came at the end of the 1970s, when real professor salaries took a real hit at Williams and elsewhere,” Hill said. “The objective of the guidelines was to help insure that real faculty salaries didn’t decline further and that we paid our faculty at rates that were competitive with “comparable institutions.”

Nice! If every elite school tries to ensure that its professors are paid the same or more than the overall average, then each year the bottom half of schools will raise their salaries (and by more than inflation). Then, the next year, a different set of schools will be at the bottom, they will raise salaries, and on and on we go. Setting a minimum price rise at the rate of inflation is wonderful as well. How many of our readers in the private sector have that deal?

5) The Faculty Handbook on salaries.

In April the President recommends salaries for individual faculty members to the Board of Trustees. Salary recommendations are based on the College’s goals of 1) recruiting and retaining an excellent faculty, 2) recognizing exceptional merit, and 3) maintaining equity in salaries both within and between different faculty cohorts. The criteria on which merit recommendations are based are the same as those used in determining reappointment and promotion: teaching effectiveness, scholarly activity, and contribution to the operation of the College in such areas as committee work, advising, and departmental duties.

Because the College attempts to make clear to Assistant Professors its evaluation of their work through annual feedback based on Department reports to the CAP, Assistant Professors may receive equity salary adjustments, but do not ordinarily receive merit adjustments.

Salaries for the following academic year are communicated by letter each May to continuing members of the faculty. Non-tenured members of the faculty should feel free to discuss their salary situation with either their department chair or the Dean of the Faculty; tenured faculty should see the Dean of the Faculty.

I don’t know if the proposed changes from 2004 were ever implemented.

Summary: The AAUP provides fairly comprehensive data on faculty compensation at Williams. Unsurprisingly, Williams pays its professors well, above the 95th percentile for all Baccalaureate institutions and similar to its peer group of elite liberal arts colleges. Harvard et al pay much more, but very, very few Williams professors could get a similar job at an elite research university.


Two Years Ago

1STLT Nate Krissoff ’03, USMC died two years ago today. As long as there is an EphBlog, we will remember his service and sacrifice. Read this and this.

Condolences to all.


Boston Alumni Meeting Tonight

Going to the Boston Alumni Meeting tonight? Highly recommended. Not only will I be there, but Morty will be speaking. If you’re a reader, please say Hi. I look like this and am easy to spot because all the Williams officials will be gathered around me listening to my genius ideas . . . or herding me away from important donors . . . or something. Morty will probably give an excellent speech, funny and honest and insightful. I will take notes as best I can. Suggested questions for the Q&A?

UPDATE: Here are my notes from the last set of Morty talks I attended during reunion.


Every Class a Tutorial

What is the future of a Williams education? Every class a tutorial. That future is probably decades away, but it is no less inevitable for the number of years between now and then. Why?

Consider the ever increasing wealth of elite education offered free on-line. Start with MIT OpenCourseWare. Check out Open Yale Courses. Here you have almost all the resources of two of the worlds great universities. Each day, more and more classes are added. Why should a Williams student spend one minute in a Williams lecture when an even better lecture is available on the web? Why should a Williams professor spend one minute lecturing when someone else is doing a better job for free, at any hour of the day or night?

The shouldn’t. Even if we assume that every Williams professor is a brilliant lecturer, none of them — not a single one — is the world’s greatest lecturer on topic X. [And, even if, say, Colin Adams is the world’s greatest lecturer on knots, then his lecturers will soon find their way to the web, just as Robert Shiller’s have at Yale and Gilbert Strang’s have at MIT.] It follows that professors should not spend their time lecturing, should instead devote their energies to providing the sort of personal interaction that is not available on the web, is not, in fact, as available at places like MIT and Yale as it ought to be..

The internet makes it necessary and inevitable for every Williams professor to take her place on the log. The sooner that day arrives, the better.

Such a Williams will require a different structure for measuring professor workloads. Instead of using classes (regardless of enrollment) as the appropriate metric, we will need to focus on the number of students educated. A Williams professor responsible for 40 students in a semester is contributing more to Williams than a professor responsible for 5.

Do you doubt that lectures are a waste of everyone’s time? Here is an easy test. Go to a large Williams lecture and sit in the back row. Look at the students with their laptops. Are they dutifully following the lecture, taking notes of all the important points. No. They are e-mailing. They are texting. They are paying some attention to the lecture, but the rate of information flow is so low that their time is largely wasted. If the professor would just transcribe his notes (and not punish them for missing class), the vast majority would not bother to attend.

Compare that reality to small discussion sections and tutorials. The vast majority of students are paying attention, engaged in the discussion, prepared for the topic.

The logical endpoint for Williams is every class a tutorial. That’s an ambitious goal, one that we will not achieve any year soon. Yet we can resist the arc of history only so long. The next logical step is No More Lectures. Will Morty take that step? Probably not. And that’s a shame. Williams has an opportunity to brand itself as the most intimate elite education option in the world. Every year that passes without us taking advantage of the lead provided by the tutorial system is a year wasted, another year in which our competitors can catch up. The longer we wait, the less special we will be.


An Inquiring Mind

The Denver Post reports the death of Bob Bucher ’58. The obituary highlights a quality deeply valued by many Ephs and nurtured by our professors: an inquiring mind that inspires others to think.

Bucher, an investment broker, never ran for public office, but he kept up on everything, studied history, worked for Republican candidates, was “enamored” of Abraham Lincoln and never tired of talking about issues.

His 4th of July parties included the usual food and drink plus a thought-provoking question that he wanted everyone to discuss.

He didn’t argue with people, but he closed the discussion with his own thoughts.

“He made us all better citizens” because of the “thoughtful and provocative questions,” said a friend, Cle Cervi Symons of Denver.

Bucher also enjoyed watching guests strike up conversations with strangers and maybe people with whom they disagreed.

This year the question was whether the court system should treat non-citizens who are charged with a crime the same as citizens.

Other questions had been on immigration and whether Supreme Court justices should be term-limited.

Rest in peace.


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