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Feel Good Story

Be sure to read today’s great Boston Globe feature on Nick Caro ’10.

Read more on Caro at Williams Sports Information, and see previous discussion (including a link to a Record article on-point) here.

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Mika’s Adventures With Vampires and Drunks at the Billsville Piggly Wiggly

A few entertaining moments for Mika Brzezinski ’89 on Morning Joe of late.  First, noted vampire Dick Cheney sent her cupcakes, apparently in an effort to alleviate her crankiness.  Second, check out this Williams mention (hat tip to Nuts):

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Questions on the 2009 Investment Report

The Williams College Investment Report 2009 is available. I believe that this is the first year that the College has issued a separate report. Normally, the only investment related information that is made public comes in the annual A Report From Williams. This version is much more detailed. Kudos to Williams for preparing this report and for making it public.

Normally, I would wait for the Record to write an article about the endowment’s performance and then criticize it. But let’s be more pro-active and constructive! Here are the questions that the Record reporters should ask Chief Investment Officer Collete Chilton and/or Investment Committee Chair Michael Eisenson ’77. (For expert commentary from the faculty, the Record should also reach out to professors with finance knowledge/experience: Caprio, Gentry, Kuttner, Rai and Savaser, among others.)

I will put the proposed questions in bold and then associated background/commentary in [italics].

Q: The endowment dropped 18.4% last year. It is impossible to understand performance without reference to a benchmark. What does the College use as a benchmark for the endowment and how was the benchmark’s performance? [So far, Williams has refused to release any information with regard to the benchmark that it uses for the endowment. That is ridiculous. There is no way for anyone to know if Chilton and her staff are doing a good job if there is not some benchmark to compare their results with. Every mutual fund in the US is required by the SEC to provide performance relative to a benchmark.]

Q: The College’s letter to the Senate Finance Committee reported that:

Some members of the Investment Office are eligible for bonuses based on the return on our investments, though the office is so new that we have not completed the first year of returns on which bonuses would be computed. So, in the past ten years no such bonuses have been paid.

How many people in the Investment Office are eligible for bonuses? What is the formula used to award those bonuses? How much money, if any, in total bonuses was paid out last year? [See here for more background. The College will try to claim that releasing this information would violate the privacy rights of College employees. But note that the questions do not ask for the specific amounts given to named individuals. We just want to know how many and how much in total. Privacy concerns do not prevent Williams from releasing this data.]

See below for more questions.
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Trick or Treat !

Falk trick

Honey, the cows are fooling around again!

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Homecoming – Purple Veterans to be Honored

At Homecoming, there will be a pre-game cremony honoring Williams and Amherst Veterans.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++

On Saturday, November 14, Amherst and Williams will hold a pre-game ceremony honoring their alumni Veterans.

Veterans affiliated with either school will gather on their respective sidelines, walk to mid-field and meet for a brief ceremony followed by the playing of the National Anthem.

The Williamstown American Legion will provide an Honor Guard on the field for the 11:45 am ceremony.

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Open Thread



119, originally uploaded by AmherstCollege.

Our weekly open thread to discuss whatever topics you like. Initial comments are from the Speak Up thread over the last week.

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House scrutinizes fake lobbyist letters

Some readers may recall Morgan Goodwin ’08’s earlier protests about the naked fraud by lobbying firm Bonner and Associates. NPR had a story on the fraud today, featuring a photo of Morgan in an astroturf suit (click for larger), angry quotes from the chair of the House global warming committee, and a weaseling apology/denial of responsibility from the head of Bonner and Associates:

(h/t Andy Goldston)

Also, Stephen Colbert did a segment on this story a couple of weeks ago:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Tip/Wag – Coal Lobbyists, George Takei & Crispycones
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Religion


Today, Morgan and other activists are conducting a sit-in at the Environmental Protection Agency to protest mountaintop removal coal mining in West Virginia. Live-blog here.

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Halloween Prep

Ideas for Eph-themed costumes?  Here are a few (and I’m not terribly creative, so I’m sure these can easily be topped):

— Dress up like a log, have a mini Mark Hopkins on your head
— The Director’s Cup
— Purple Cow (obvious, but still classic, and variations / creative twists on the theme are endless)
— If you want to be really scary, Zephaniah Swift Moore
— One last hurrah: Morty (plus, Falk would be a lot trickier)
— The Eyes sculpture
— An ironic column

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Jim Brown speech

Jim Brown shares lessons with college athletes:

The NFL and its players union share the blame for failing to take care of those who retire from football damaged by its violent collisions, Hall of Famer Jim Brown said Thursday.

One day after appearing before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee for a hearing on head injuries in football, Brown said in a series of talks at Williams College that the league’s failure to take care of retired players is “a crying shame.”

“The NFL, with the players association, have been an embarrassment, because the legends of the game who have run into hard times, medically and economically, have been deserted,” Brown said. “It’s a crying shame that an organization like the NFL does not take care of their own.”

Brown said he was optimistic that something would come of the hearings, noting that Congress has threatened to repeal the antitrust exemption that allows the league to negotiate lucrative TV contracts. “When you talk about that, you hit a nerve with the NFL,” he said.

Known since he retired at the peak of his career as much for his outspoken views as his football prowess, Brown had even harsher words for the NCAA, calling it “the most ridiculous organization in the country.” Criticizing administrators who live off the money generated by college athletes, he said, “College athletes aren’t amateurs, these guys are the farm teams for the NBA and NFL.”

Link to full article

(h/t Meirabb)

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On the floor at room draw …

floor at room draw

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Housing Data: Implications for More Co-ops

Thanks to Professor Eiko Maruko Siniawer for giving me permission to post Appendix D (pdf) from the NRC Interim Report.

Thanks to Director of Campus Life Doug Schiazza for passing along this file of exact housing details. (This data will soon appear at the Campus Life webpage as well.)

Comments below:
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Best of the Record – 28 October 2009

Today’s Record contained an editorial and op-ed about winter housing for aided international students, in addition to the article below. Also, I apologize for the misleading nature of the second excerpt, but it was irresistible. I attended al-Azm’s lecture; he’s under-appreciated.

Falk looks back, prepares to face new challenges – By Lina Khan
“…how do you create a community where people live “diversely”? That’s kind of a lousy word for it, but you know what I mean.

Look, we’re in America. In case you hadn’t noticed, America hasn’t solved this problem. There is racism in this country, there is homophobia in this country, there are the difficulties of being an immigrant and various kinds of xenophobia that play out in different ways in different parts of the country. We can’t expect that there are any kinds of simple answers on a college campus.

The advantage that you have here is that we can control more variables, we have the opportunity to be intentional about these things. But that doesn’t make it easier to provide answers. Within the goals that led to the neighborhood system was an understanding that the campus needed to be intentional about undergraduate life in various ways, or else diversity would be something you brought in the door and would only be a value of the College in a sporadic way.”

Internationals face anxieties over winter break housing – By ??????????
Many international students – especially those receiving financial aid – find it financially or logistically difficult to return to their home countries for winter break and, since the College requires all students to vacate their rooms between the end of fall finals and the beginning of Winter Study, they must find elsewhere to stay for this two-week period. According to Gina Coleman, associate dean for international students, students who cannot go home have the options of either staying with friends or family in the United States or, alternatively, applying for accommodation through Christmas International House (CIH), a program organized by the Presbyterian Church that places students with host families or in church and civic center dormitories.

Visiting prof is ‘Voltaire of Arab world’ – By Adam Century
Internationally renowned scholar and Visiting Professor of Philosophy and Religion Sadiq al-Azm, labeled by many as the “Voltaire of the Arab world,” is no stranger to social conflict. […] When asked about his impression of Williams, al-Azm offered a tale about his experience prior to coming to the College that Ephs might contest: “When I was telling people in Europe or back home that I was going to be teaching at Williams, they’d often ask me where it was, and I’d answer that it was Amherst’s brother school, at which point most people would recognize it.”

He did, however, seriously note that Williams takes much better care of their faculty and guest faculty than at larger institutions. “At Williams, I find myself very much in my element like at other schools, but here I have more advantages – more support systems, more help, and just generally more friendly people all around me,” al-Azm said. “Perhaps, this place might even be better than Amherst!”

Committee modifies Claiming Williams Day… – By Taylor Bundy
Giselle Lynch ’12, one of the current co-chairs of the programming subcommittee for Claiming Williams, noted that last year she was “sick of complaining about Williams” and decided to channel her discontent into getting involved on the Steering Committee this year. “I didn’t really feel like I belonged at Williams,” Lynch said. “I didn’t feel that I was smart enough or rich enough.” She said that while she thought the College would be progressive on issues like race, class and other similar issues, she didn’t see that progressivism among her fellow students. “Maybe I had preconceived notions, but I didn’t think I was that far off,” she said, noting that the Steering Committee is working to prompt conversation about these very issues.

“We’re looking to start conversations that are pretty taboo on the campus, not to enlighten people,” Lynch said. She said that one of these topics is how Williams was originally a school for all white, rich males. “Although the school has changed its institutional policies, the culture hasn’t adapted to those institutional concepts,” Lynch said. “I do think that there are a lot of people that don’t feel that they can ‘claim’ Williams.”

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Little Africa

Brian Shepherd on the neighborhood system.

While I myself am passionate about changing the residential life system (housing and events) into something better, I am under the impression that the campus as a whole is fairly indifferent on the subject. There are changes in the workings that will effect the lives of Williams students for years to come, but 30% of students took the time to fill out the simple survey online and less than 10% cared to appear at the forum last night. There are a handful of students who want to see more and more diverse events on campus. There are a handful of students who want to prevent anomalies like “Little Africa” and “The Odd Quad” from reappearing on campus. But most people, it seems, don’t think those issues matter enough to exert any sort of effort into them instead of studying, playing sports, or even just chilling with friends. You don’t see an increase in the number of people asking Cosponsorship for money for events. You don’t see people actively living with people outside of their in-group. Should we really be trying to please this small group of people who can hardly agree amongst themselves?

To those who want to see the neighborhood system abolished outright, I’m halfway with you, but what is going to take its place? Quit screaming for change if you don’t have an alternative.

1) Here (pdf) is the best alternative. New draft coming soon! Does anyone want to work with me on it?

2) The phrase “Odd Quad” has been used at Williams for more than 25 years. I have never heard of “Little Africa.” Has anyone else? What is the reference? During free agency, there was often an African-American house — meaning a row house that was almost complete African American — although we have never heard the details. What house was it? Was it the same house every year? A student also described to me all the (black) Jamaican students living together in Prospect. Is that the “Little Africa” reference?

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Best way to create room-draw drama

From Dave Moore on WSO:
Possible fun extension: remove the randomness from room draw, and instead have groups pick in order of decreasing average GPA of the group members. Think of all the hilarious drama that would cause in the group-forming process.

…..said the new Phi Beta Kappa member. ;D

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Moo. Moo. Moo, moo, moouw… mouvw… vrroouwm!!

Thalys High Speed BRU-ZWE-AMS intros service via Purple Cows

Thalys High Speed BRU-ZWE-AMS intros via Purple Cows


I love a country which appreciates its cows.

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Duquette ’88 on Baseball Playoffs

Jim Duquette ’88 is providing video commentary about the baseball playoffs at MLB.com. Unfortunately, I can’t figure out how to embed the videos here. Suggestions?

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Wick Sloane, engaging at 12am

Thanks to ’12 for linking us to this article in the NY Times featuring Professor Sloane and his midnight class at Bunker Hill Community College.

Wick Sloane, who teaches the midnight writing class at Bunker Hill, tried to transport Mr. Chin and the other students from the windowless, concrete-walled classroom one recent night with an essay by Edward Abbey, the nature writer, about encountering a mountain lion in the New Mexican desert. When one student answered a question with a giant yawn around 2:15, Mr. Sloane asked, “Can everyone make it about 15 more minutes?”

For homework, he assigned an essay analyzing Calpurnia’s rhetoric in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” leading one student to ask whether Shakespeare used an alias. The room started buzzing with opinions.

“Do you want to stay and debate who Shakespeare was?” Mr. Sloane asked.

They did not, but not for lack of enthusiasm. “He’s got me engaged,” Mr. Chin said, “which is not easy at this time of night.”

Read the whole article. Not only is Wick strengthening writing abilities, it sounds like he’s building his biceps as well.

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Athletics Round-Up: NESCAC Championship Edition

  • Men’s and women’s soccer will both be hosting NESCAC playoff games on Sunday.  In each case, the ultimate opponent is yet to be determined.  Women’s soccer is aiming for its third straight NESCAC title, and has almost certainly locked up an NCAA bid; but first things first, they need to beat Middlebury to secure home field advantage throughout the NESCAC championship and keep their three year regular season unbeaten streak alive until 2010.  Men’s soccer will probably be the second seed, but could wind up either first or third depending on Saturday’s result against nemesis Middlebury, who has defeated the Ephs four times (out of five meetings) in two years and ended the last two Eph seasons.  The Ephmen are also very likely to be an NCAA selection, but at least one win this weekend would help secure their bid.  If all goes well, both men’s and women’s soccer may end up hosting the final rounds of the NESCAC championship on November 7-8.
  • Field hockey will also be participating in the NESCAC championship Sunday, but may need to beat Middlebury Saturday to secure a first round home game.  Meanwhile, men’s and women’s cross country both compete in the NESCAC championship on Sunday; both squads are always among the favorites both in NESCAC and nationally.
  • High school quarterback D.J. Petropolus is, accordingly to this article, deciding between (where else) Amherst and Williams.  Hopefully he will make the right choice.  Williams and Amherst may be headed for a titanic showdown this season, as Williams is 4-1 and has (as usual under Coach Whalen) been improving over the course of the season.  Meanwhile, Amherst is 5-0 and, if they can score an upset victory over Trinity at home, will probably come to Williamstown undefeated.
  • Another high school athlete interested in Williams: Kalle Jahn is applying to Williams early, and hopes to compete for the nordic ski team.
  • Matt Zanedis 10’s hometown paper featured this photo of him with Fay Vincent.
  • Check out this great Record article on football captain Nick Caro ’10.  Caro made a big splash as a sophomore, when he was featured on ESPN (anyone save that on Youtube?).  He was dominating NESCAC last year before suffering a gruesome injury, but he has made an impressive recovery to rank among the league receiving leaders despite missing time due to careful management of his injury situation.
  • Central Michigan handily beat Bowling Green in Saturday’s Bajakian-Clawson showdown.  Central Michigan is on the verge of cracking the Top 25 (remarkable for a school from the MAC), and will likely do so if they can upset Boston College this weekend.
  • Professor Morgan on the fastest route around the baseball diamond.
  • Finally, for those on or near campus, don’t forget to check out Jim Brown speaking tomorrow.
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WSO Plans

It is impossible to understand the present state of Williams housing without studying the past. Consider this Record article by Drew Newman ’04 from April 2002.

In past years, students could log onto the Williams Students Online (WSO) website to see the names of students who had picked into rooms in real time throughout the room draw process. However, WSO was asked by the administration not to post the room draw results online this year. Instead, the names of students who have picked into rooms will only be posted inside the Mission Park Lounges where the room draw takes place.

According to last Wednesday’s CC minutes, the WSO representatives said the administration “made it quite clear that somebody will be punished if they try to get around [the prohibition of online room draw posting] in any way.”

1) For more background reading, here is some history from David Ramos ’00 (here) and Josh Ain ’03 (here). Highly recommended. More comments below:
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Report on NRC Forum

Were any readers at the forum tonight on the Neighborhood Review Committee? Tell us about it. Will Slack ’11 reports (second-hand):

Seems to have gone well, with a diversity of viewpoints expressed and Baxter Hall full of onlookers.

More details, please. Did the “diversity” of viewpoints include folks who thought that Neighborhoods were a success?

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Purple Cow Pastures is Up and Running

Purple Cow Pastures has had a defunct, half complete website for a while, but now seems to be ready to go.

Students and parents can pre-load the card with dollars for use at participating stores. Members will also get free meals and special benefits. However, the required $100 deposit is going to deter many people, like me, who almost never eat on Spring Street. For those that get most of their meals with cash, this should be helpful, though it might accentuate the divide between students that can afford a $12 sandwich everyday and students who have to exclusively rely on Williams’s provided food. Dining Services should be complemented, though, their servings are usually quite wonderful, and there is a lot of choice, but there’s nothing wrong with students pursuing their own project, and I wish them the best of luck.

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An Eph Ecdysiast …

Liv p1
at the risk of seeming a tease, more under the fold Read more

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JA: Junior Anonymous [Eph Diary #4]

The Mountains

2009 almost went down in history as the year without a Mountain Day.  My Frosh were bereft, for a variety of reasons.  Some had been looking forward to it for months, while telling friends back home about how awesome/inspired/utterly-insane their school was for having such a tradition.  Some had been practicing a capella solos for weeks, while some were hard at work learning choral harmonies.  Some were looking forward to dominating the Wah tournament, while some worriedly signed releases for the “Xtreme Adventure Race” (well I was worried, at least).  Some anticipated reconvening with the mountains, while some had never seen the seasons change before.  Some just wanted a day to sleep in.

Listen up, David: my Frosh even learned “The Mountains” for the occasion.  Unprompted (sorry!) by me or my Co, they sat around in the common room one night and diligently rehearsed two verses of our alma mater song, accompanied by one of their entrymates on a keyboard.  (They’re also really good at “Sweet Caroline”, but that’s another story.)

So naturally, we all panicked when we saw the weather reports, and almost gave up hope when we got the first e-mail from Bill Wagner.  This e-mail, which was waiting in our inboxes one dreary Wednesday morning, basically said, “Hey kids, don’t count on having a Mountain Day…”

The odds were certainly against us. Read more

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A Simple Plan For Co-op Expansion

Although it is tough to judge these things from a distance, I am impressed with College Council Co-Presidents Mike Tcheyan ’10 and Lizzy Brickley ’10. One of their campaign issues was the expansion of the co-op program. Good for them! [Update: Here is my letter to CUL from 4 years ago making the same suggestion.]

Summary of this post: Tcheyan and Brickley should use the NRC process as an occasion to move selected houses (probably Spencer, Brooks, Agard and Wood) out of the Neighborhoods and into the Co-ops. A Student Housing Committee (similar to the JA Selection Committee) should supervise the co-op lottery to encourage large groups of seniors to pick into entire houses.

There is not enough time to fix all of Williams Housing this year. (And here (pdf) is how to do that.) But those two changes would both make a significant improvement for students next year and pave the way for a better system.

See below for details.
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Iranian films get US premiere at Williams

This sounds interesting:

Two recent documentaries by Iranian director Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, “We are Half of Iran’s Population” (2009) and “Angels of the House of Sun”(2009), will be shown for the first time in the United States at Williams College. The screening will take place on Monday, Nov. 2 at 6:30 p.m. in Paresky Performance Space. A Q&A will follow the screening.

“We are Half of Iran’s Population” takes place shortly before the June Presidential elections in Iran. The Women Rights Activists of Iran pose their questions to presidential candidates of Iran, and three of those candidates discuss their opinions after watching the film. Current President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad was not willing to take part in the film or to respond. By the time the film was completed, three of the individuals who took part landed in prison during the post-election protests and detentions. The film provides an extraordinarily intimate glimpse into the current situation in Iran.

“Angels of the House of Sun” is about a women’s shelter in one of Tehran’s poorest neighborhoods, where women gather a few hours a day to respite from daily abuse and tragic problems of poverty and drugs.

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Forum on the NRC Report

There is a forum tonight on the Neighborhood Review Commitee’s (NRC) Interim Report (pdf). I hope that many students come and that they ask a lot of tough questions. Neighborhood Housing has failed. Williams deserves better. (See here for my proposal with a new slogan — “Community by Class Year” — and further details. Contact me if you are interested in working on this idea or, even better, taking it over and running with it.)

See below for the sorts of trouble-making questions that I would like to see asked. (And I hope that someone takes, and publishes, thorough notes, just as Joe Shoer ’06 (here) and Amarnath Santhanam ’07 (here) did 4 years ago. Future students will thank you!)
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Williams Trivia Minute

Installment one of a new Ephblog feature: Williams Trivia Minute, where I (or any other Ephblogger who is so-inclined) steals a question or three from the Trivia archives, a tremendous repository of procrastination material if I’ve ever seen one.  My plan is to repeat this feature whenever Ephblog veers towards the insufficiently trivial (eg, anytime I see a comment like this).  For installment one, it seems appropriate to start with some Williamsiana:

Did you know that West College burned to the ground in 1951?  What is the oldest building on campus that has never burned?  When was it built?  And as a bonus, what current campus building incorporates some of West’s charred remains?

If you’re ready to give up, you can find the answer, along with some other cool Williamsiana, here.

(NB: if you want to simulate the true Williams Trivia experience, stay up for 24 hours straight, consume copious volumes of cheap alcohol, run around like crazy and perform a random sketch, THEN try to answer this question … oh, and be sure to plan a really important meeting for early the next morning).

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Haverford endowment disaster

hwc writes:

The first of many interesting June 30th, 2009 annual reports just popped up and – wow! – is it ugly.

Haverford posted a staggering 35.6% drop in endowment value from one year earlier. No wonder there hadn’t been any “updates on the economy” from the President.

With a total endowment of $336 million. $140 million is in Level 3 assets — the new accounting lingo for assets such as private equity partnerships for which there is no established market price.

With a total endowment of $336 million, they have about $192 million that is liquid within 12 months. They have $104 million of debt. And they have $140 million of outstanding cash calls that they expect to be called within the next four years.

I don’t know what their budget calls for, but last year’s endowment spending would be 7.3% of the new endowment number.

Essentially, they are going to have to cash out the entire liquid portion of their endowment to cover operating expenses and private equity cash calls over the next four years.

Breathtaking. I think there are going to be many more of these reports to come.

Also:

Link:

Haverford 2008-2009 Annual Report (PDF)

Page 13, far right column:

$335,977,000 Total Endowment Net Assets (June 2009)
$521,199,000 Total Endowment Net Assets (June 2008)

It’s a 36% year to year decline. The actual investment loss was 32.8%, then you have subtractions for operating draw and additions for gifts.

BTW, Bowdoin and Middlebury have posted their year end reports, too. Nothing stood out about Bowdoin except high cash call commitments (relative to their endowment size) and they borrowed $20 million in taxable bond debt in May 2009. I haven’t looked at Middlebury.

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The Statistics of the NRC Report

I am somewhat suspicious of the statistics in the Neighborhood Review Committee’s (NRC) Interim Report (pdf). (Previous discussion and associated links here.) Consider this passage:

Opinions on the desirability of diversifying dorms varied widely and were strongly predicted by demographic group, with heavier drinkers, athletes, men, and white students much less likely to value diverse dorm life than women, non-drinkers, non-athletes, and minority students.

There are other similar discussions in the Report, generally suggesting that certain groups of students feel very differently about topics like diversity (and implying that this is a bad and/or avoidable state of affairs). But how should we translate the words above into the numbers that the Committee refuses to share with us? My thoughts below.
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Aftermath of the Infestation …

aftermath copy
In the tradition of the Dust Bowl photography project and some of its’ techniques.
http://morris.blogs.nytimes.com/category/the-case-of-the-inappropriate-alarm-clock/

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