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10: Close down the Chapin library

Williams College is honored to maintain, on permanent display, original printings of five founding documents of the United States. The Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Federalist are all available in the Chapin Library. The National Archives possesses the only other originals. On July 4 every year actors with the Williamstown Theater Festival come to Chapin Library to read the Declaration to the community.

There is no need for the Chapin Library. Shut it down and sell the Declaration of Independence.


Faculty Trends

anon2 (who really ought to join us as an author) writes about future faculty numbers.

Not that it is related to the question of Swarthmore v. Williams, but I can’t give David a pass on his comment that Williams is stuck with a faculty of 250 for the foreseeable future. This statement is only true if you can’t see very far into the future.

Perhaps I should clarify future to be “next three years.” The Trustees have made it very clear that they will not allow Williams to keep spending too much (more than 5%) from the endowment beyond the next year or two at most. So, three years from now, we will need to bring costs into line with that reality. Will Williams be meaningfully below 250 faculty by then? No.

Roughly 40% of the faculty is within 10 years of normal retirement age (which I assume means 65) according to the Presidential search prospectus.

True. (And the Prospectus is a fascinating document. Recommended reading for all. Kudos to Greg Avis ’80 and the rest of the Presidential Search Committee.) But you really think that many Williams faculty are going to retire in the near future? The vast majority of them have just seen about half their wealth evaporate. Doing a job they love (teaching Williams students) is going to seem an appealing option. The College has no way to make them leave, although it has in the past provided incentives of various kinds.

Another chunk of faculty does not have tenure; some of these will leave (whether denied tenure or to avoid a potential negative decision). Others will leave for lots of other reasons (e.g., family reasons). Some (notice: I did not say “lots” or “many”) might even leave because they find other jobs more attractive.

True again. But the academic and other job markets have evaporated. And, even during the flush years, only a handful of faculty (2-3?) left each year (other then tenure denials). Do you think that a greater than average number of faculty will leave in the next few years? I will take the other side of that bet. Notice, also, that the College’s tenure denial rate (at least in the last few years) has been less than 25%. (Some are eased out earlier.) By all accounts, the class of professors hired 5-8 years ago has been very strong. I hope/trust that the College will evaluate them for tenure fairly. i.e., without regard to the crisis.

Put all that together and might you have 1-5 departures each year for the next 3 years. Sure. But the College is still hiring! I see 7 new tenure-track hires in that listing. So, if anything, I bet that there will be more tenure and tenure-track faculty in 2009-2010 then there are this year. And I also expect the College to do at least some hiring next year.

It is probably reasonable to expect 8 (or so) departures per year. If you have enough foresight to plan on a five-year horizon, reducing the size of the faculty is possible. Is it a good idea? Compared to what? I don’t know. However, to deny this simple arithmetic suggests a lack of understanding of the situation.

I love empirical debates! As usual, the most difficult thing is deciding on a source for the data to settle the debate. Does Williams report the exact number of faculty (not including visitors) anywhere on its website? Perhaps we could use AAUP data. See here for 2007-2008. I bet that Williams will have at least 245 faculty members in 2011-2012. By then, major cuts will be necessary (barring a dramatic bounce-back in the market).

Again, it is most likely that anon2 and I are in agreement. He might also think that 245 is a reasonable baseline for 2011-2012. He just thinks that, given natural attrition, the College could be down to 200 by 2020. And he could be right! But none of that matters to the next three years. The College is stuck with around 250 faculty members until 2012. The Trustees demand that the budget be brought under control before then. Therefore, the major cuts will have to come, regardless of what any of us might think about the long-term (5+ years) composition of the faculty.


David : Fourteen Fun Facts (2) College Administrator Revisited …


February. Certainly, you remember February. It was the month Dave took a vacation. I ran David: 14 Fun Facts. This was #2 on Monday, February 16.

It got no comments.

Perhaps now after David has nearly (Please, God) completed his survey of Extreme Budget Cuts (picked up by ESPN) the timing may be better.

Cut the museum? Cut the museum? At long last, sir, have you no shame?

I ask this question in all sincerity: Is EphBlog the opposition party to the administration and the Board of Trustees?

You have been following this now-90% complete series.

I ask the question I asked back on February 16th – Would you buy a used car from this man?

Your comments please!

(I’d do one of those vote widgets but it is beyond my known world)


9: Close Williams College Museum of Art

Can Williams afford an art museum of its own? Perhaps not. The advantages of closing WCMA is that doing so would save a lot of money. I think that the annual budget is over $2.5 million. Other liberal arts colleges manage perfectly fine without their own art museums. Can’t Williams? Brandeis caused a ruckus by proposing to close its art museum, but the real problem in that case was the now-cancelled plan to sell the art from the museum, art that was donated, presumably, for public viewing rather than private collections. Williams could either donate the WCMA works to local institutions like MASSMocA or the Clark, or it could send them out on long-term loan to other museums. Or we could just put the art in storage.


Swarthmore Versus Williams

More advice sought:

I am sure this thread has been around, but I am an accepted student at both Swarthmore and Williams, and was wondering if anyone could give me sound advice concerning the decision. I have not visited either campus yet, but I will in April.
What sets Williams apart from Swarthmore?

1) Critical issue is location. If you love city life and can’t imagine not going out to a new club every week-end, do not go to Williams. Williams is rural and Swarthmore is not.

2) Swarthmore is more intellectually intense. Whether that is a plus or a minus depends a lot on who you are and what you will become. The way I would put it is that, at Williams, everyone goes off and does something at 4:00 PM that is tangentially related, if at all, to classes. For half the campus, this is something sweaty, whether it be varsity, JV, club sports or just climbing Pine Cobble. For many others, it is something like theatre. This has a big impact on the ethos of the place. Now, of course, many people don’t do something sweaty in the afternoon, but my sense is that more people are reading philosophy at 4:00 PM at Swarthmore than at Williams.

3) There are certain special things that one college has and the other does not. If you are at Swarthmore, you can’t ever be a JA. If you are at Williams, you can’t participate in Swarthmore’s cool honors program (which we ought to shamelessly copy).

4) Trust your gut after you visit both places.


Spring Street: Hold your water …

Spring Street

There must be a hundred ideas in a town like Billville!

(if more are needed, please google hundertwasser)


What a waste!


Hopkins 1888-2009


Need-Blind but Hard-Pressed

There’s a new hyphenated term in town. Let’s hope it doesn’t hang around long enough to get the better of need-blind.

(Thanks to Jeff Z. for posting the link to this article from today’s New York Times)

Hard-Pressed Colleges Accept More Applicants Who Can Pay Full Cost

Published: March 30, 2009

In the bid for a fat envelope this year, it may help, more than usual, to have a fat wallet.

Institutions that have pledged to admit students regardless of need are finding ways to increase the number of those who pay full fare in ways that allow the colleges to maintain the claim of being need-blind —taking more students from the transfer or waiting lists, for instance, or admitting more foreign students who pay full freight.
Read more


Spring Street Demolition

From the Images Cinema blog:

The Hopkins Funeral Home is being demolished today. Also on the list to be demolished this week, the former Subway / Purple Pub building. hopkins

If anyone will be taking pictures of the Purple Cow in its last days of existence or during demolition, please post in this thread.


On College Visits (for accepted seniors and exploring juniors)

The Background
With Previews coming, I thought it might be worthwhile to elaborate on my own Williams visits. Though my earlier post didn’t suggest it, I did make a visit to Williams. After a grand northeast college tour of six well known schools that all failed to make a positive impression, including an Amherst tour guide snickering about the temporary freshman dorms during a renovation, I was unsure if my desire for a small liberal arts education would actually go anywhere. Read more


8: Make Significant Cuts in High Salaries

There are a non-trivial number of people at Williams who make more than $100,000 per year. Add all their salaries together, and the total number is in the millions. Why not cut their salaries? The senior administrators at other schools have already taken “voluntary” pay cuts, so there is some precedence. It certainly seems more just to ask Morty to take a $50,000 pay cut then to ask a janitor to lose out on $5,000. Williams is allegedly, an Obama-friendly kind of place and President Obama has certainly suggested that the richest among us ought to take a fair share of the burdens caused by the economic crisis.

The best way to make this work in practice would be to ask for a fixed percentage cut in every salary above X. Call it 50% above $100,000. (Feel free to suggest your own numbers.) So, a professor making $102,000 would only lose $1,000 (50% of the $2,000 excess over the $100,000 cut-off) while Morty would (assuming a salary of $400,000) drop to $250,000. Such a scheme is nice because it is a sliding scale and preserves the rank ordering of salaries. All it does is to compress the top.

UPDATE: Longtime readers will recall our discussions of Morty’s salary. Classic posts in that series include here, here, here, here (one of my all time favorites) and here. The last is by (d)avid who also adds a comment below.


U Chicago Versus Williams

Advice sought:

I was accepted EA to Chicago and I also just found out I am in at Williams as well. These are my top two choices and I need some help in deciding between them. Here is a little background:

I am a recruited athlete at both schools. I was able to visit UChicago over the past fall break but I will probably not be able to visit Williams. I really love the city of Chicago and the campus of U of C. My best friend is going to U of C. I really felt good at Chicago. But I do not probably fit into their normal student profile. Instead of being the hardcore student, I was more of the ditch class with friends and pull out As on the test thus end up with an A in the class. I am fine with studying and homework at a moderate level but I will prolly not be able to cope to with hours upon hours at U of C. If it as rigorous as everyone makes it out to be than I will prolly have a hard and stressful time at Chicago, which I expect with being in college but not to the drastic point that a Chicago student feels. But I love the intellectual feel of the school and the life of the mind. The bad part of Chicago is also that their financial aid package has me and my family paying 23k while Williams has us at around 10k.

See the thread for more details and much good advice from the CC regulars.

1) Track people often seemed to be some of the happiest and best-matched Ephs, at least 20 years ago. Still true today?

2) Note how radically different the financial aid packages are. Both are “need-blind” and, allegedly, based on the same circumstances. If this student had been accepted at Harvard et al, his financial aid package might have been even better.

3) He should contact Chicago and see if they will match the package. They might and it can’t hurt to ask.

4) I think that Chicago, on average, is more intellectually intense than Williams. Sounds like the student will find more friends with similar priorities at Williams.

5) If you love city life, do not go to Williams.


Nostalgia: Found in a dresser drawer …



College Tours

Juliana Stone ’12 writes about training to be an admission tour guide. Her enthusiasm is infectious…

I was so excited about the training session that I got three new Williams College spiral notebooks and three new Williams College folders – gold on purple and purple on gold, respectively – and brought them all to the training session totally ready to write down every time someone sneezed. I don’t know why. I only needed one of each. And they had sent us each an 18- or 19-page tour-guide manual the day before. I had already underlined, highlighted and annotated it. And memorized it. I was so excited. I still am.

…and strikes me as just what Admissions must look for in a tour guide.

Read the whole essay and see if it sparks any memories of your own college visits. How important do you think the guides are in creating those first impressions? What colleges did you tour? Which visits were most memorable, and why so?


7: Stop Giving to Local Charity

The College gives about $500,000 each year to local charity. There was never a plausible reason to do so when we were rich. There is no money left to spend now that we are poor.

UPDATE: Apologies for not including more details on this.

1) I don’t know of any place that the College spells out this giving in detail. Here is a citation for the $500,000 number. At some point, Director of Public Affairs Jim Kolesar ’74 kindly sent me a list of the donations and I thought I published it on EphBlog, but now I can’t find it. I will reach out to Jim again.

2) The annual spending may or may not include the major capital gifts that the College makes to local non-profits. (The details, like most aspects of the Williams budget, are totally opaque to outsiders.) Classic examples from the past include: $250,000 to Mount Greylock High School (a classic of early EphBlog snark), $2 million to MASS MoCA and $1 million to North Adams Regional Hospital.

3) A very small amount of giving (like $16,000 per year to the ambulance service) isn’t giving so much as it is a fee for service. No one complains about those items, but a) other than the ambulance service I can’t think of other examples and b) they make up a tiny percentage of the $500,000 as a whole.

UDPATE II: Recall that the Presidential Search Prospectus tells us:

A recent study showed that over the previous ten years Williams had made annual financial contributions in the community that averaged more than $500,000 and additional one-time contributions of $5 million.

That would suggest annual spending of $750,000. This should be cut by 80% or more.


Watch At Your Own Risk …

All I can say is, poor Mika.


Deferral Stats

An interesting statistic from College Confidential.

I was curious as to how many people were deferred from ED. In my deferral letter, it said that usually around 15-20 deferred students will get in RD each year, and that stat isn’t too promising. So if anyone has that data…

An admissions officer told me that about 35% of the applicants who were not accepted were deferred. Which means, with 616 ED applicants – 225 accepted, there are 391 times .35, or about 137, deferred. Which also means that between ~11 and 15% of those who were deferred will be accepted.

Seems plausible, although I have never seen data on this issue. I suspect, but do not know, that a lot of those students eventually accepted were either a) in special categories (meaning, say, a potential lacrosse tip that the coach did not want to commit to ED but who eventually she decided on) or b) did something between ED and RD that changed the Admissions Office view of them. I would guess that almost all non-hook rejected EDs without much better scores/grades during fall of senior year are rejected RD.

Recall the story of Esther Mobley, rejected in ED.


On Fees and the Role of a College

When I embarked on my grand northeast college tour (having already visited Davidson and Duke), I became struck at college #4 or #5 at how much the things I heard at each place were the exact same. In fact, I started remembering schools for what they hadn’t bragged on, be those study abroad programs, need-blind admissions, dining flexibility, and whatever else they say on the tours. I never went on a tour of Williams (at the time of my trip, I thought it was right outside Boston and too far out of my way), but I suspect Williams’s marketing folks are under the same pressure to check the boxes like our competitors. Any possible student desire left without complete satisfaction is a black mark that might easily deprive us of the best applicants and students.

The national end result is that while endowments were rising, institutions of higher education including Williams were taking on all of the boxes. Some schools, like Harvard, ran out of ways to spend money, and turned to a (now regretted) financial aid program capped at 10% of family income for incomes up to 180k.

This competition is my theory for the huge increases in college budgets. As Frank said:

College tuitions (and presumably college budgets) for colleges of Williams’ type have consistently outpaced inflation because the colleges continuously add (and again presumably their customers require or at least strongly prefer) lots of frills, along with continuous upward pressure on wages and salaries (net of inflation) for faculty and staff.

As long as colleges are supposed to provide for every need, and we invent new ways of satisfying needs, the costs of a “full” education will continue to increase everywhere. Should that happen? What is the role of the ideal college?

Also, Williams will be adding extra students in the incoming classes, because the marginal cost of each student is much lower than the average marginal revenue of each new student. In other words, it costs the college very little to make a big single into a double and to increase average class size a bit, so that student’s tuition will help the overall bottom line.


6: Close the Office of Campus Life

Williams survived for years without OCL. Its collective salaries are probably quite modest, but its budget is not. Although reasonable Ephs disagreed a decade ago whether or not Williams needed an OCL, there can be no doubt that we have given the idea a fair shot and that, at best, it has not improved campus life. (Many of us think it has made things worse than they otherwise would have been.) Close the office while allowing permanent staff to work elsewhere at Williams. Cancel 80% of the budget and give the remainder to ACE and/or College Council.


Presidential Search Update

The major news is the Presidential Search Prospectus. For the whole letter, click: Read more


Comprehensive Fee Set for Next Year

Tuition — $39,250
Board — $5,110
Room — $5,280
Activities and Residential House Fees — $240
Total — $49,880

For the letter from Morty to current students, click Read more



The New York Times reports that “CNBC Thrives as Hosts Deliver News With Attitude.”

Was last week the worst one in CNBC’s 20-year history — or the best?

The financial news network, a unit of NBC Universal, was savaged by “The Daily Show” in a viral video sensation. It was criticized for being too cozy with the corporations it covers. One of its stars, Jim Cramer, was ridiculed by the White House press secretary. And one of its reporters faced a new round of criticism for an on-air outburst about mortgage “losers.”

When the CNBC anchor Erin Burnett appeared on “Real Time With Bill Maher” on HBO on Friday, Mr. Maher raised a similar issue. “This is the channel that Wall Street watches all day,” Mr. Maher said. “I think this is more than a channel; I think it affects what happens on Wall Street. Why didn’t anybody there predict what was going to happen?”

Ms. Burnett said that the dot-com bubble was predicted, too. “It’s easy to say ‘a bubble.’ You don’t know when it’s going to burst,” she said, adding that the questions of timing and magnitude were missed by many financial experts.

No one gives attitude like an educated Eph Woman. And Burnett is exactly right. I thought that the market was a bubble when Yahoo went public. (I still remember the photo of the founders in Time magazine.) I haven’t been proven right . . . yet.


Remember Noah and Books

The success of Ephblog means that posts roll down quickly.

Please remember Noah Smith-Drelich ’07, in his second year with Teach for America on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Poverty is deep at Pine Ridge. Noah is building a library and needs all the books we can send him. Many already have.

Do any Williams students, faculty or staff read this? Are there boxes around campus for Noah? I made this suggestion to a Senior Official. If not, Noah has requested in particular Sherman Alexie books. Alex, according to sophmom here, was a Williams Reads topic.

Would students, faculty, staff reading here colleges those for Noah? Why not leave them in the lobby at Hopkins, and I imagine the Powers that Be will be happy to ship to Noah. Even just a one-day collection at Williams for Noah would bring a lot of books, I think. It’s nice to think of a photo of the Hopkins lobby crammed with books for Noah.

Noah’s address for those not in Williamstown:

PO Box 293
Wanblee, SD 57577

Or, if you need a physical address:

Noah Smith-Drelich
Wanblee, SD 57577-0293


The economy: Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva tells all …


Can’t figure out what the EphBlog punditry have been explaining about economics and who made your net worth look like your bar bill?

Well, it was “white people with blue eyes”!

This startling analysis was delivered to UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown by Luiz Lula da Silva, President of Brazil. The occasion was a pre-G20 summit conference as Mr Brown drums up support for a $100 billion global fund to support world trade.

The guilt of either party involved was not an issue. Mr Lula da Silva and Mr Brown, who is blind in one eye as a result of a detached retina in a Rugger match, both have brown eyes.

Look deep into my eyes … you are sleepy … very sleepy …

(more from Maureen Dowd in the NYT)


5: End Green Spending

If the College can insulate building X at a cost of $100,000 and, thereby, save $50,000 per year in heating costs, then, by all means, spend that money. Any investment that pays off after two years is worth doing.

But the College spends a lot (around a million a year) on goo-goo green sustainability type projects, things that don’t save money but do reduce carbon emissions and the like. Wisely, the College decided to skip much/most of that spending this year because of the crisis. (Morty and Greg Avis ’80 discussed the topic a bit at the Boston alumni meeting.) We should cancel all such spending for the foreseeable future. The College is too poor to worry about the global environment.


Baseball ’09

All of the recent talk about the upcoming 150th anniversary of collegiate baseball (which will be celebrated on May 3rd in nearby Pittsfield), inspired me to take a look at the baseball schedule. Lo and behold, the first conference game takes place at noon today with Middlebury, in sunny Phoenix, Arizona. (I hope our snowbirds are donning sunscreen). Tomorrow’s schedule  features a double-header.

From the look of said schedule, it looks like training got off to a rough start with the first few games, but they seem to have turned the tide, winning the last three.

Fingers crossed. Go Ephs!


What is Your RealAge?

Every Ephblogger has undoubtedly seen, either in an internet pop-up or in their Facebook news feed, the ubiquitous “RealAge” tests circling around the internet.  Although he was not mentioned in yesterday’s NYTimes expose on RealAge’s marketing relationship with pharma companies, ridiculously-credentialed — and no doubt ridiculously rich — Eph alum Michael Roizen ’67 is co-founder of RealAge and Chairman of its Scientific Advisory Board (he is also the father of two ridiculously-credentialed recent Eph alums).  Have any readers succumbed to the incessant requests to take a RealAge quiz?  If so, does it bother you that the information you provided is being shared with pharma companies?  Feel free to share your RealAge with the rest of us, if you so dare.


Paid Links

Offered without comment.




from Parent ’12

Today at 6PM, ET, applicants for the class of 2013 can log-on & see the status of their application. This is a new innovation. Many of the prestigious universities have been doing this. LACs comparable to Williams mail their decisions. How would you prefer to get this news– on-line or via the postal service.

To all Ephs- What are your memories of learning you were admitted? My son received a purple folder with a clearly personalized acceptance letter hand-signed in purple ink. If that’s an Eph admissions office tradition, how far back does it go?

To those invited to become an Eph- Congratulations!

(Illustration by Jonathan Keegan for the Hartford Courant)


The Sirens Call: Back in the day …


I don’t recall any ‘Duck and Cover’ exercises in the 50’s unless the cleaning person showed up unexpectedly (re: whistles below).

I do remember strapping myself to the mast to resist the songs of the Bennington maidens.


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