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What should we ask Presidential candidates?

hat tip to JeffZ for the idea (see previous post here)

It’s time, ephbloggers, for Williams to undergo a rare reformation by hiring a new President. Professor Macgregor Burns describes two types of leadership, transformational and transactional. What type of leader do we want for Williams? Why? And, more importantly, what questions would we pose to a Presidential candidate for Williams?

Also, to make the exercise more interesting, why not try to answer your own question were you a presidential candidate? I take a shot at it below

What is the next big hurdle that you foresee at Williams in regards to diversity and multiculturalism?

my answer: I expect that our senses of equality are now quickly accelerating well past the reality in society and more specifically, within the academy. Multigenerational Black Americans are horribly underrepresented in selective college, especially Black males. The pipeline for scholars of color is growing, but is still segregated greatly by area of interest.

The big challenge, in short, is to continue to care about these inequalities in the face of great optimism. Symbolically, we are doing much better and it is important for us to celebrate the great changes of the last decades and especially the last few years. Yes we have. But yes we can is still the more apt statement. It is also time to make sure that our efforts to diversify are also more than bandaids for the structural inequalities, and also time to make sure that no one on our campus can avoid uncomfortable moments discussing culture, race, and inequality. It’s time for us all to be honest, respectfully, and bold on these issues, from the janitorial staff to the assistant professor, from the white student from Appalachia to the wealthy Black legacy student to the student from China who never experienced American diversity before.

To do that? I’m honestly not sure. I know it will involve me (rory’s note: heh! me as president. LMAO) as an example of that discomfort, that boldness, and occasionally, making those mistakes–hopefully only occasionally. It will be in a thorough review of how we identify potential scholars to join our faculty–are we finding the best possible candidates, or are we resting on our laurels? it will be in a thorough review of how we identify potential scholars to join our student body–are classroom academics overprivileged in our creation of the ┬áideal applicant?

But that’s vague, and i’ve written too much, so suffice to say: I’m glad I’m not a candidate for President!

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#1 Comment By hwc On July 27, 2009 @ 1:41 pm

For those of us who do not have our diversity lingo dictionaries handy, could you explain (in plain English) what the phrase “Multigenerational Black Americans” means?

Is this the complaint that black in elite colleges don’t all “count” as “real black” because some of them are recent immigrants from Africa and the Carribean?

#2 Comment By rory On July 27, 2009 @ 1:43 pm

yes, it means black students who are not immigrants or the children of immigrants.

there is no denigration of immigrant black students who add greatly to their universities and colleges, but rather a question of why that diversity is not also complimented more by the diversity a black student who is not an immigrant can add as well.

#3 Comment By Ronit On July 27, 2009 @ 1:43 pm

#4 Comment By rory On July 27, 2009 @ 1:44 pm

thank you ronit–if someone has the patience, please feel free to add that link to the post itself.

#5 Comment By rory On July 27, 2009 @ 1:45 pm

ps: hopefully this post won’t go unnoticed in the hullabaloo of tangentially eph-related posting like Jeff’s original (and excellent) post/question was!

#6 Comment By JeffZ On July 27, 2009 @ 1:59 pm

Thanks for bringing this back to the forefront, Rory.

Another question I’d ask is: assuming you want to keep them college-owned, how would you better and more frequently utilize Mount Hope Farm, the Williams Club building, and the Log?

#7 Comment By David On July 27, 2009 @ 2:18 pm

Rory writes:

Multigenerational Black Americans are horribly underrepresented in selective college, especially Black males.

I have heard the same, but do you have some good citations? What percentage of blacks at elite colleges like Williams are non-immigrants and/or non-mixed race? How skewed is the sex distribution?

The College reports that there are 57 “Black, non-Hispanic” members in the class of 2012. I asked them to tell me what the male/female breakdown was and they refused to supply it. (This makes me think that it is not 50/50.)

Again, I am just curious about the actual facts, both at elite colleges in general and at Williams in particular. We discussed this 5 years ago (including a reference to Eph-in-the-news Professor Gates) but that information seems sort of dated. What are the facts today?

#8 Comment By Whitney Wilson ’90 On July 27, 2009 @ 2:41 pm

Rory for President! (Perhaps in time for my 50th reunion in 2040?)

Should Williams sign on as a member of the Amethyst Initiative?:

Launched in July 2008, the Amethyst Initiative is made up of chancellors and presidents of universities and colleges across the United States. These higher education leaders have signed their names to a public statement that the problem of irresponsible drinking by young people continues despite the minimum legal drinking age of 21, and there is a culture of dangerous binge drinking on many campuses.

The Amethyst Initiative supports informed and unimpeded debate on the 21 year-old drinking age. Amethyst Initiative presidents and chancellors call upon elected officials to weigh all the consequences of current alcohol policies and to invite new ideas on how best to prepare young adults to make responsible decisions about alcohol use.

Do you think having a drinking age of 21 is a net positive or negative for the College, as an institution, and the College community?

#9 Comment By hwc On July 27, 2009 @ 4:18 pm

Do recent Asian American and Latino/a immigrants count or do Mexicans and Vietnamese students have to have been in the United States for multiple generations? How many generations is enough?

#10 Comment By hwc On July 27, 2009 @ 4:30 pm

And, just a practical question. The Common Application currently asks for birthplace of mother and father. Do we need a full geneological tree, requirng birth country for gandparents, great grandparents? How far back do we need to go? Just to the Civil War or would we require going back beyond that to establish authenicity?

I guess I’m pretty simple-minded when it comes to college diversity efforts, but I’m trying to imagine how any of this would be practical? And, even if it were practical, wouldn’t it be unconscionably intrusive? I mean, can you immage Henry Louis Gates’ reaction to such questioning on a granddaughter’s college application?

#11 Comment By hwc On July 27, 2009 @ 4:35 pm

David,

I’m surprised that Williams doesn’t provide that information. It’s pretty commonly available at many schools.

Here’s a link that provides Swarthmore’s enrollment, for both freshman and overall, broken down by race and gender:

Link to PDF

#12 Comment By hwc On July 27, 2009 @ 4:49 pm

BTW DAVID, I believe that the race and gender data, such as generated on the Swarthmore report, is mandatory federal government IPEDS reporting. I know that you can run database reports with graduation rates by race/gender (i.e. black males, females, and overall). Having the detailed splits for first year cohorts is essential for calculating grad rates.

#13 Comment By hwc On July 27, 2009 @ 5:18 pm

David, the online IPEDS custom database tool (which is a complete pain in the ass, but very powerful), gave me the information you requested. This is for full-time undergraduate enrollment at Williams in Fall of 2007. Sorry for the ugly format, but this is just a down and dirty cut and paste from the spreadsheet I downloaded with minimal formating, but you can figure it out. It appears that Williams counts any “unknowns” as “white”, which is fairly common:

1991 grand total
995 grand total men
996 grand total women
1274 white non-hispanic total
650 white non-hispanic men
624 white non-hispanic women
193 black non-hispanic total
82 black non-hispanic men
111 black non-hispanic women

172 hispanic total
89 hispanic men
83 hispanic women
210 asian or pacific islander total
95 asian or pacific islander men
115 asian or pacific islander women
8 american indian or alaska native total
3 american indian or alaska native men
5 american indian or alaska native women
0 race/ethnicity unknown total
0 race/ethnicity unknown men
0 race/ethnicity unknown women
134 nonresident alien total
76 nonresident alien men
58 nonresident alien women

You can make it give you different data. Full and part-time. Just first-years. Whatever you want, limited only by the patience required to make the online database dance.

#14 Comment By hwc On July 27, 2009 @ 5:31 pm

Same data. Fall 2007. First-year full-time undergrads. I would caution that looking at any data for just one year at an LAC is risky due to small sample variability:

540 grand total
282 grand total men
258 grand total women
335 white non-hispanic total
174 white non-hispanic men
161 white non-hispanic women
50 black non-hispanic total
19 black non-hispanic men
31 black non-hispanic women

48 hispanic total
29 hispanic men
19 hispanic women
57 asian or pacific islander total
27 asian or pacific islander men
30 asian or pacific islander women
3 american indian or alaska native total
1 american indian or alaska native men
2 american indian or alaska native women
0 ace/ethnicity unknown total
0 race/ethnicity unknown men
0 race/ethnicity unknown women
47 nonresident alien total
32 nonresident alien men
15 nonresident alien women

#15 Comment By rory On July 27, 2009 @ 6:16 pm

can we please remain on topic? pretty please?!?

#16 Comment By hwc On July 27, 2009 @ 6:41 pm

It IS your topic:

my answer: I expect that our senses of equality are now quickly accelerating well past the reality in society and more specifically, within the academy. Multigenerational Black Americans are horribly underrepresented in selective college, especially Black males. The pipeline for scholars of color is growing, but is still segregated greatly by area of interest.

Is your topic not the under-representation certain racial and gender combinations and, furthermore, a suggestion that we consider “multigenerational” ancestory? Did you not want to discuss those issues?

#17 Comment By rory On July 27, 2009 @ 6:49 pm

in this spirit of being a better person…

no, hwc, my post was about asking each member of ephblog to posit a question to the president and then try to answer it themselves. it was not about one’s views of one another’s answers (though i didn’t make that clear). it certainly wasn’t about that one sentence alone from my answer. The post title and entire piece before the fold were the focus, not that. and if you actually want to continue to discuss that sentence, then email me personally. or, if you can’t get my email, get it from david.

#18 Comment By hwc On July 27, 2009 @ 7:31 pm

Just delete my posts, then. Thanks.

#19 Comment By Larry George On July 29, 2009 @ 4:51 am

My first question is about a small thing, in the scheme of things, but one that will mean a great deal to many of those who have been involved in Environmental Studies at Williams at any time since the early 1970s (when Kellogg House became the home of the Center for Environmental Studies, and the hub for a — both tight-knit and widespread loosely-affiliated multigenerational– CES community). It is also of importance to people who love the old, small vernacular buildings and care about the history of Williams.
What are your plans for Kellogg House, which formerly housed the Center for Environmental Studies and was Williams’s first President’s House? (Will it be preserved? Will it be moved, as it has successfully been several times already in its two centuries? Will it become the CES again after a green retrofit, or will you support building a new state-of-the-art CES building that can serve as a demonstrator of various green technologies?)

My answer: By all means, we will save this part of the college’s and the town’s history, by moving it once again to a safe place. The building was most recently the (as I understand it, beloved) home of the Center for Environmental Studies. I will look to those involved with the Center and the Zilkha Center, as well as to members of the administration involved in facilities planning, to provide advice about what Williams should do with Kellogg and what the permanent home for CES should be (and be like). I know that what those who are outside of the center of the environmental debates might assume the Environmental Studies community would want may not be either the most carbon-neutral solution or what the CES community actually would want. Kellogg is an asset of the college as a whole, of course, but I think the CES crowd should have a large voice in planning for its future (particularly if they want to move back in). The fate of Kellogg is clearly tied up with the Stetson-Sawyer project, but, rather than wait until we restart that project, we should take advantage of this hiatus to look into what to do with Kellogg and to think about what the home for CES should ultimately be. One of the silver linings to our current financial climate is that we have the luxury of having time to think, to explore possibilities, and to plan, both for particular facilities and programs and for the campus and the college as a whole.

[As you can see, I don’t have the political skills to be the Williams President, may whoever he or she will be revealed to be be deeply blessed.]