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New Club on the Block

Even with the economic troubles of the college and the beginning of another semester, Williams students are as busy as ever in their extracurricular activities. An idea has been proposed to create the Williams College Commons Club (WCCC) which will target the lack of variety of social activities that students often complain about on campus. Interestingly enough, two of the four candidates for my year’s Class Representative in the current CC election are involved in the start of this new club.

Chris Hikel ’13 described the Commons Club on WSO.

“The WCCC was formed in response to what we viewed as a general discomfort towards meaningful interpersonal engagement among students on the Williams College campus. In our view, this discomfort is not exclusive to social engagement, it also envelopes intellectual and political engagement. What does this mean, and how do we intend to address it?

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The science of collaboration: help wanted from EphBlog readers

A question for the EphBlog brain trust, from Matthew Swanson ’97

Hello Ronit,

I wonder if you’d be willing to raise a challenge to the Ephblog readership. Robbi [Behr ’97] and I (the husband/wife, writer/illustrator team behind Idiots’Books) are going to be the subject of an article about creative collaboration that will be published in the spring in a popular online magazine I’m not yet at liberty to name. The guy writing the article plans to examine the mysteries of collaborative pairs, trying to answer the question of what makes them tick. He’s focusing on a number of famous collaborators throughout history, but is including Robbi and me because we have expressed a willingness to be his guinea pigs. In short, he’s going to subject us to a number of evaluations that run the gamut from fully scientific to downright whimsical, all in an effort to get at the question of how we do what we do.

Robbi and I have already undergone a number of evaluations, including some psychological surveys, a visit to our home/studio by a Feng Shui master, and an examination of our written correspondence by a psychologist. We are in the process of creating drawings of our ideal work space, creating a dictionary of our “private language”, and are anticipating a trip to an actual laboratory, where we will be hooked up with sensors and electrodes that will evaluate our unconscious biorhythmic utterances. We feel thoroughly investigated already, but the guy writing the article will not be content until he has examined our collaboration in each and every manner imaginable.

Here is where your readers might come in. The guy writing the article has asked us to turn to the smart people we know for additional ideas for ways in which our collaboration might be measured, analyzed, tested, or scrutinized.

If you’re willing, please ask Ephblog readers to put on their lab coats and take out their test tubes. To dig deep and see what they can come up with. No idea will be unconsidered.

As an added incentive, we will provide a free print of an illustration Robbi did for the Alumni Review last year to the person who comes up with the best idea. It’s a townscape of Williamstown, and can be seen at the following link:

Thanks, Ronit (and thanks, Ephblog readers).


Purple Noise

Every Friday afternoon, this will be the space to post random links of interest / comments without any even tangential Eph connection at all (movie reviews, restaurant recommendations, naked self-promotion, weird photos, taxicab confessions, rants, raves, anything at all).  Have at it!


Dim Sum and Then Some

I was just checking out the Williams Schedule of Events and I can’t believe how many interesting choices there are, just for today.

Starting with Environmental Studies Lunch at The Log, to Math and Physics events, then a choice of a free film in the afternoon or French horn recital, on to dinner, another film or the Planetarium, the Theater, or dance performance. And from there one can wrap up the evening dancing to Latin music at Fiesta Dance Night. Who says there’s nothing to do in Williamstown?

Anyway, they all sound great, but I happen to love Dim Sum, so the dinner caught my eye. A little late to be posting about it, but nonetheless I thought I’d mention it as it’s put on by CASO, and will benefit Wokai, both of which I know next to nothing about, so I’m hoping some students will drop by and give us more information.

And, any Dim Sum lovers out there? My favorites are the little curry chicken empanada type tarts, chicken and rice wrapped in leaves of some sort, and those little gummy sesame plum balls. I don’t know the names for any of these tasty treats, so please someone, feel free to fill me in me.

Mmmm, might have to book a trek for Dim Sum very soon.


Athletics Round-up / Live Blog: Championship Saturday

Saturday will be a fitting punctuation to a spectacular winter sports season, as the Ephs are hosting NESCAC championship contests in four different sports: men’s and women’s ice hockey, men’s swimming and diving, and men’s basketball.  For those off-campus,  webcasts are available for all contests, which begin at 1:00 and last throughout the day.  The hoops webcasts are free.  Spring Street should really be buzzing, with fans from half of NESCAC (Hamilton, Bowdoin, Bates, Middlebury) in town for the team sport showdowns, not to mention fans and swimmers from all NESCAC schools for that championship battle.  If watching, be sure to comment here!

  • Men’s basketball faces off with Bates at 2:00, followed by Midd battling Colby at 4:00.  Williams struggled a bit with a precocious Wesleyan squad in first round action before dominating the second half behind a virtuoso performance by James Wang and a mind-blowing dunk from Troy Whittington.  (It really had to be seen to be believed, but basically, he gathered a lose ball a step past the foul line, took a few dribbles, took off from a few feet from the basket, and improbably slammed it home with authority while getting fouled hard … I’ve never seen a play like it in NESCAC).  Wang and Wesleyan frosh Sha Brown are the two quickest guards in NESCAC, and they should have some great battles over the next few years; both are scintillating players to watch.  The Ephs finished the year 5-0 vs. Little Three opponents.  Although Williams beat Bates by 30 points in January, it will likely not be as easy this time around, as Bates has been on a major roll of late, led by the emergence of frosh point guard Mark Brust.  Bates is a tough, physical, balanced team, but they don’t feature the same star-power as the Ephs.  The most impressive Bobcat is probably Junior Brian Ellis, a former NESCAC rookie of the year and Boston Super Teamer, but an incredible eight different players have led the Bobcats in scoring this season.  If second-ranked Williams topples Bates, they will most likely face number six Middlebury in a titanic Sunday showdown for NESCAC supremacy.  If Williams wins the NESCAC, they are almost guaranteed to host any NCAA games up until the Final Four (and even if they lose, they are still looking good).  The Ephs beat Midd a few weeks ago at Middlebury, but it wasn’t easy, and Midd was missing one of its star players (Ryan Sharry), who is now healthy.
  • Men’s Ice Hockey hosts Hamilton and the women host Bowdoin in first round NESCAC action.  Both Eph teams feature stellar goaltending, Ryan Purdy ’12 for the men and Sara Plunkett ’10 for the women.  Likely all-American Alex Smigelski ’10 continues to lead the Ephs and the NESCAC with 17 goals.  I am no hockey expert, so hopefully someone who is can chime in on the reinvigorated Williams ice hockey teams.
  • In other sports news, check out this great WaPo article on alum Michael Weiner, head of the baseball player’s union.
  • Be sure to check out this great story on Dylan Dethier’s journey around the country; he is playing a golf course in each of the 48 contiguous states.  Ahhh, to be young … Dylan’s blog is here, and the Sports Info story is here.  He’s clearly already been well schooled in Eph-dom from his father and brother, based on the inscription he requested from Bill Simmons at a book signing.
  • Three more articles / notes on future Eph athletes: Ryan McCourt, who will play football, Kathleen Elkins, who will play tennis, and golfer Georgiana Salant.
  • Update on pro soccer career of two-time NESCAC player of the year John Bolton ’06.

Gorgias– on Speech and Force

Their persuasions [addressed to Helen] by means of fictions are innumerable; for if everyone had recollection of the past, knowledge of the present, and foreknowledge of the future, the power of speech would not be so great. But as it is, when men can neither remember the past nor observe the present nor prophesy the future, deception is easy; so that most men offer opinion as advice to the soul. But opinion, being unreliable, involves those who accept it in equally uncertain fortunes.

Thus, persuasion by speech is equivalent to abduction by force, as she was compelled to agree to what was said, and consent to what was done. It was therefore the persuader, not Helen, who did wrong and should be blamed.

That persuasion, when added to speech, can also make any impression it wishes on the soul, can be shown, firstly, from the arguments of the soothsayers, who by removing one opinion and implanting another, cause what is incredible and invisible to appear before the eyes of the mind; secondly, from legal contests, in which a speech can sway and persuade a crowd, by the skill of its composition, not by the truth of its statements; thirdly, from the philosophical debates, in which quickness of thought is shown easily altering opinion.

The power of speech over the constitution of the soul can be compared with the effect of drugs on the state of the body: just as drugs by driving out different humors from the body can put an end either to the disease or to life, so with speech: different words can induce grief, pleasure or fear; or again, by means of a harmful kind of persuasion, words can drug and bewitch the soul.

— (remaining fragment)


Applying a Williams Education

May I invite you all to please scroll down on the link below and vote for my student, Dennis Medina. He’s written his way to the finals of a Take America to College, a Gates Foundation effort to bring the voices and struggles of non-traditional students to legislators and policymakers in Washington. He’s a Boston police officer on the gangs squad and a student in my midnight College Writing II class this semester Bunker Hill Community College. Click and listen to his story. Heck, listen to them all.

Vote early and often for Dennis. Tell your friends. Post any and everywhere. Voting ends Tuesday, March 2. Thanks.

I shall continue my crusade to persuade the Williams trustees to open the doors for a few such students. BHCC has two students thriving at Amherst, one at Dartmouth, one at Columbia, three at Smith. The deadline for transfer applications is coming up, and BHCC has fine students applying now to all these and more. Never give up, and this is a tough one.

Dennis’s story (added by Ronit):

See more stories here.


A time for our creative input …

The pure number and strength of the writing in the comments on David Kane’s leaving EphBlog are proof of what one person can create and grow.

Perhaps this outpouring of support, however grudgingly given in some cases, will persuade David to return to us in some manner.

However, there is no question that EphBlog is changing.

This is the time, as we move forward, for creative inputs from you on future direction, management style, and how to maintain our steady stream of writings.

This is the time for creative inputs in the form of postings from you who have something to say. but haven’t chosen to say it as yet.

This is the time for creative inputs from you with programming, formatting, and other technical knowledge and skills, to offer that particular expertise that only you can do.

This is the time for us all to move forward. A decision has been made that presents a challenge to us all.

But the decision and its background are not the focus that we need to have. We need to focus on moving forward to making EphBlog the best that it can be as a forum for many and diverse topics and points of view.

Please let us hear from you.

Dick Swart
dick at
541 386 1061


One of the apochrypha handed out to aspiring managers:


Udall ’72 on Environmental Issues

Interesting discussion with Senator Mark Udall, focused largely on environmental issues.  Udall also recently hosted a Clean Energy Summit.


Sherman Alexie, Faulkner Award Finalist

Okay, okay…

I know…this isn’t high finance, and it isn’t dramatic, and it might get zero comments, but nonetheless, it is Eph related. Sherman Alexie, the author of the last Williams Reads, is a finalist for the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award. Now, granted, this isn’t even for the same book that Williams Reads chose, but, nonetheless, I do remember there was a lot of discussion about Alexie as an author choice, and so, I thought I’d post this.

For what it’s worth, one of the other nominees, is Barbara Kingsolver for The Lacuna. I happened to just finish reading her book and highly recommend it. As the quip in the quip says, it’s about “art, McCarthyism and post World War II America”, but in my opinion, is equally rich in how it deals with gender issues and love, in all it’s guises. In fact, I’d like to see it considered for the next Williams Reads.

Anyway, a hearty congrats to Sherman Alexie.  And, it would be nice to get some feedback from Williams Read(ers).


An open letter to DDF …


Like many, I was surprised at your decision!

You are the Father Founder of EphBlog, the most successful independent blog dedicated to one collegiate entity. This is one heck of an accomplishment. Thank you from all of us for giving so many a chance to chime in under the banner of Williams.

You have taken a well-earned vacation before, February, 2009, as a matter of fact. And those of us lazy and occasional scribblers suddenly knew what you had been doing from the inception of the blog: filling a month (thank goodness it was Leap Year) with interesting material.

My hope is that you will not desert these pages entirely. but will from time-to-time add an insight and create awareness of a particular situation that might go unnoticed.

The board knows of your desire to have EphBlog be a broader forum including more students, faculty, and members of the administration, in addition to the alumni and parents and other members of the Williams family at large.

We see this step on your part as a challenge to make this happen. And make it happen under our own steam.

Thank you, David, for giving us this strong base from which to expand to that greater audience you have envisioned.

Dick Swart 1956


ANNOUNCEMENT– Accord Reached! Kane Departs!

To our Dear Readers, active and inactive–

David Kane, the Founder of EphBlog, has agreed to withdraw from this forum,  to allow the enterprise to take on a new and broader form.

This is a challenge to us all, particularly the silent and those who have withdrawn from participating — to help EphBlog reach its potential as a meeting place for exchange of ideas for students, faculty, alumni and the extended Williams family.

In the days to come, these changes will start to appear and we hope you will be joining in the new EphBlog.


Shadiest Possible

Some readers took me to task for describing the College’s timing of the end of international need-blind admissions as “sleazy.” Well, don’t just ask me. Ask some students:

Honestly, WTF? Whether revoking need-blind was necessary or not, it seems like Bill Wagner picked the shadiest possible way to implement this.

Wait…they seriously already did it?

“begin to admit international students somewhat differently than we have in recent years, beginning with the class entering this fall.” -Bill Wagner, Feb. 16 2010

Holy shit. I missed that entirely. I feel absolutely violated.

Indeed. Here is what the College still says on its admissions webpage:

International students follow essentially the same procedures as all other students in applying for admission to Williams. No special admission form is required. A candidate’s cultural background and international experiences are highlighted positively in the selection process, as Williams continues its historic commitment to cultural diversity on campus. Williams is committed to a need-blind admission policy toward all applicants and will meet the full demonstrated financial need of all students, both domestic and international.

It is not a problem for Williams to delay updating its webpage if any changes will only apply to the class of 2015, i.e., those students applying next fall. The sleazy aspect is that Williams has changed this policy retroactively, applying it to members of the class of 2014, applicants who applied, at least partially, on a promise from Williams that their applications would be treated need-blind.

Breaking promises is sleazy and shady. If Williams is (correctly!) holding off on the change in loans to the class of 2015, why isn’t it doing the same on the change to international need-blind admissions?
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Jumbo Innovation

Tufts now encourages prospectives who so desire to submit Youtube videos with their applications.  Very cool idea!  (And one that might make an admissions officer’s job a bit more fun, to boot).  That’s one of two great reasons to apply to Tufts (the other, of course, being the chance to have Sam Sommers ’97 as a professor).


In Perpetuity

Parent ’12 highlighted this 2003 news release.

Williams College President Morton Owen Schapiro is pleased to announce a $5 million gift from Edgar M. Bronfman ’50 to help extend need-blind admission to all international applicants to the college.

Last year Williams announced plans to admit qualified international students regardless of their families’ abilities to pay and to promise to meet 100 percent of their financial need for four years. Such need-blind admission previously was restricted to applicants from the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean. Financial aid funds for other overseas students was limited. International students currently comprise 7 percent of the undergraduate population at Williams.

1) Bill Wagner wrote that the College was moving back to need-awareness for internationals and, in a private e-mail, Jim Kolesar confirmed that the new rules would apply to all non US citizens confirmed that Williams will continue to treat Permanent Residents the same as US citizens. So, the people that have been most screwed by the changes over the last decade are applicants from Canada and the Caribbean. They started out as being treated just like US students and will now be treated just like students from China or Bulgaria. Harsh!

2) What does Edgar Bronfman ’50 think about all this? The Record ought to call him and find out. I assume that the College has handled all the accounting fairly. Bronfman’s donation is still sitting in the endowment, with its income dedicated toward international admissions. (Does anyone understand the details of how that works at Williams?) It is just that the income is not enough given the relentless rise in tuition.

Bronfman’s gift is only the latest in his and his family’s ongoing commitment to international exchange and understanding at Williams. Last year alone, the Bronfman Family Fund made it possible for 10 foreign students to attend the college and for four Williams students to study abroad.

Hmm. As always, the details would be interesting to know. Is the Bronfman Family Fund a complete separate non-profit from Williams? Does it give these scholarships every year?

“Edgar Bronfman shares with the college and trustees the dream of making Williams a truly international institution” Schapiro said. “His generous gift will help us endow our international scholarship program in perpetuity and guarantee that Williams remains a world-class institution.”

I am not sure if “in perpetuity” means what naive readers think it means . . .

Financial aid for international students also was boosted by a significant portion of a $7.4 million anonymous commitment announced in October.

Just how much endowment money is dedicated to international financial aid?

UPDATE: This post has been edited in an attempt to raise my grade. Does this get me at least an A-?

UPDATE II: Correction about Permanent Residents made above. Thanks to ebaek for the pointer.


Midd Kid

Via Karen Unterekless ’05:

Stunningly good. More details, including lyrics, at MiddBlog. We need an Eph version! Assigned to Danny Huang ’11 and the students at Purple Valley Films.


Thanks to WSO for an Excuse to Debate Pop Music

This WSO discussion raises the question, which decade had better music, the 80’s or the 90’s?  (The thread also asks for the ten best songs of each decade … even as a prolific drafter of top-10 lists, I find that to be a nearly impossible task, but I will aim to list my top ten bands of each decade).  I am fairly objective here, having split my formative music appreciation years between those decades, and in my mind, the answer is easy.  A few caveats: I am limiting this to pop / rock / alternative, given my relatively limited knowledge of country, metal and rap / hip-hop.  Also, I am excluding from consideration bands that, roughly, were equally prominent in each decade, such as U2, Depeche Mode, Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Sinead O’Connor (if the bulk of a band’s best work clearly came in one decade, however, that decade earns the right to claim that band).  Arriving at a list of top ten bands for each decade yielded a clear winner overall to a question that I initially thought would be tougher.  I am curious to hear others’ thoughts, as well as others’ suggestions for the top songs or bands of each decade.  More below the break.

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BREAKING: Mexico announces Latin American block, excluding US/Canada

This is a potentially major alteration in diplomatic posture between the US and Mexico— a slap in the face, so to speak. More as I know it.

A preliminary reaction– is this a major step, towards a sort of Schengen Area for the Latin Americas; and what does that mean for the US? Or is it– an entirely opposite move (and what does that mean…?)

UPDATE:  this was of course “a long time coming–” but it’s the precise timing and the characterization in the English-speaking Press that grabs my attention.  Latin Am (Spanish) press does not seem to be echoing that phrasing.


Barefoot on Spring Street …

Thank goodness for the UK Protected Buildings. Otherwise a part of all EphBlog readers past might have just walked away.

The Abbey Road Studios, currently owned by EMI, were rumoured to be up for sale to pay down the company’s debt. But Here Comes the Sun! They are now listed as Class II Protected.

Sun Studios in Memphis is already on the National Historic Register. Love me Tender!


Words Versus Actions

This is the third of 6 posts discussing details of the College’s recent decision to end need-blind admissions for international applicants. Previous entries here and here.

Professor Sam Crane once accused me of wanting fewer poor students at Williams. I thought (and think) that this is an unfair attack. No one has criticized more forcefully (or, at least, at greater length) the ending of the no-loans policy or the end of need-blind admissions for international students. But ignore that background for now.

Assume that I am evil, that I seek to minimize the number of poor students at Williams and that I have mind-control over Bill Wagner and the Trustees. What would I do?
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Let’s Get It On

Best College Council campaign video in Williams history?

Perhaps. But, I sure do wish that I had a copy of the video Andy Harris ’88 and I made (with help from future Emmy winner Mark Solan ’88 and other Eph theatreatti of that era) for our failed CC campaign. It was genius, pure genius . . .

Hat tip to Will Slack’s excellent WSO thread on the upcoming elections.


Bilious Purging

Bill Bennett ’65 takes on Glen Beck.

There’s a lot to say about CPAC. This morning the major papers are highlighting Glenn Beck’s speech. I like Glenn a lot and I think he has something to teach us. But not what he offered last night.

Third, to admit it is still “morning in America” but a “vomiting for four hours” kind of morning is to diminish, discourage, and disparage all the work of the conservative, Republican, and independent resistance of the past year. The Tea Partiers know better than this. I don’t think they would describe their rallies and resistance as a bilious purging but, rather, as a very positive democratic reaction aimed at correcting the wrongs of the current political leadership. The mainstream media may describe their reactions as an unhealthy expurgation. I do not.

A year ago, we were told the Republican party and the conservative movement were moribund. Today they are ascendant, and it is the left and the Democratic party that are on defense — even while they are in control. That’s quite an amazing achievement. But anyone who knows the history of this country and its political movements should not be surprised. America has a long tradition of antibodies that kick in. From Carter we got Reagan. And from Ted Kennedy and Barack Obama we took back a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, with midterm elections on the horizon that Republicans and conservatives are actually excited about, not afraid of.

To say the GOP and the Democrats are no different, to say the GOP needs to hit a recovery-program-type bottom and hang its head in remorse, is to delay our own country’s recovery from the problems the Democratic left is inflicting.

Indeed. One of the reasons that I voted for Obama is that I hope/predicted that we would see precisely this sort of dynamic.

EphBlog readers will certainly disagree about the Tea Partiers, but surely we can agree that Bennett is a better/smarter conservative than Beck.


History Graduate School

An interesting forum:

If you’ve considered going to graduate school in history, come to a History Graduate School Panel discussion on Tuesday (2/23) at 7:00 pm in Griffin 7. Professors Dubow, Fishzon, and Kittleson will speak about their own graduate school experiences, and will answer any questions you might have.

Good stuff. Kudos to the professors involved for taking the time to participate. Comments:

1) Relevant discussion here and here. I second Professor Sam Crane’s remarks:

In fact, I tell them the academic job market is horrible, has been bad for a long, long time, and is getting worse. I tell them that getting a job like the one I have is unlikely. I tell them that they should go on for a Ph.D. only if they truly love the learning, because that is something they will be certain to have for a lifetime, regardless of what job they find themselves with. And for some of them, that is what it is about. Love of learning, regardless of whether they get an ideal academic job.

My only quibble might be to clarify that a love of learning is not enough of a reason to justify graduate school in history. With the internet as your oyster, you can pursue learning as much as your free time allows without going to graduate school.

2) Read Derek Catsam ’93:

[G]raduate students and those looking at entering this competitive world need to be cognizant of the realities. If you are planning to enter a field like, say, US history, it is probably incumbent upon you to know the odds. Further, it seems to me that it is pretty irresponsible of those of us with the ability to advise students if we emphasize the great aspects of intellectual life within the academy and do not point out the reality — your odds of getting the PhD are smaller than you think, your odds of getting a job are slighter still, and your odds of getting tenure at a place yet smaller, and then all of this happening at a place you would otherwise choose to live? Infinitesimal.

Also Swarthmore Professor Tim Burke:

Should I go to graduate school?

Short answer: no.

Long answer: maybe, but only if you have some glimmering of what you are about to do to yourself. Undergraduates coming out of liberal arts institutions are particularly vulnerable to ignorance in this regard. …
Just don’t try graduate school in an academic subject with the same spirit of carefree experimention. Medical school, sure. Law school, no problem. But a Ph.D in an academic field? Forget it. If you take one step down that path, I promise you, it’ll hurt like blazes to get off, even if you’re sure that you want to quit after only one year.

Two years in, and quitting will be like gnawing your own leg off.

Past that, and you’re talking therapy and life-long bitterness.

Burke is right. I hope that the panelists tonight, whether or not they agree with Burke, make sure that students know what some historians believe. I worry that such an event might too easily generate into a “You are all smart Williams students who should dream big and live large!” Nothing wrong with that advice when a student asks if she should try a difficult upper-level seminar, but Ephs need a more reality-based answer when leaving the Purple Bubble. Around half the students in the class of 2010 who are going to graduate school in the humanities are making a mistake. Professor Sara Dubow is, no doubt, a wonderful, hard-working professor. But there is also a sense in which she won the lottery . . .

3) Key data would be a listing of all the Ephs who went to graduate school in history from, say, 1988 through 2000. Where are they now? What happened to them along the way? If there were 50, I bet that fewer than 40 made it to Ph.D., fewer than 20 got any tenure-track jobs at all, and fewer than 5 got tenure. How many got tenure at a place that pays as well as Williams? I don’t know. In fact, I have trouble coming up with many Eph historians of that era, other than our own Derek Catsam ’93, Sara Dubow ’91 and Eiko Maruko Siniawer ’97. Pointers welcome!

4) Know the odds and still want to go to graduate school? Good luck! My advice: Marry a doctor. Worked for me! ;-)


Rick Mahorn and Williams

Who knew former Pistons “bad boy” Rick Mahorn was just a big softy?  Future Eph Alexis Akridge ’14 found out just that, when he awarded both her and her competition $10,000 college scholarships.  Be sure to watch the video, featuring several snippets of Akridge’s infectious personality.  I dare you to watch through the conclusion without getting at least a little verklempt.

UPDATE: Video fixed by DK.



For those of you awake and/or in other time zones– we are going down for backup, just about NOW. Should take about 23 minutes.
-93kwt qua Admin


Student Challenge Thyself

At The Boston Globe Ellen Ruppell Shell of Boston University basically encourages students not to spend so much time worrying about their GPA. I think her advice can probably be broken down into something all Williams folks can appreciate at least in the ideal: Take courses that challenge you; take courses that you want to take even if you might not do well in them; experiment.

I was not the greatest student ever to darken the campus of Williams. I was probably one of the worst (college is wasted on the college aged). But I recall one moment distinctly. One of my history professors pulled me aside toward the end of the only class I had with him (he still is on the faculty, I believe) and told me that independent of what grade I got, he thought I’d done a great job in class and that we all get too hung up on grades. It was a gesture I really appreciated and have never forgotten.


Jeff on Deletion Policy

In our can’t-end-too-soon discussion of deletion policy at EphBlog, Jeff makes a critical point.

There are two types of bouncers. There is the big, scary dude in a biker jacket who curses at everyone, keeps people he has personal gripes with out of the bar for no good reason, and tries to be intimidating by virtue of his girth. And then, there is Patrick Swayze in “Roadhouse.” If you want to be a bouncer that makes Ephblog a better place, rather than the petulant bitch fest it often turns into, I suggest you forego the prior model of bouncer-dom, and BLS (be like Swayze).

I apologize for my seeming inability to cease my involvement in this idiotic discussion. But I felt that my Swayze epiphany warranted sharing.

Indeed! Surely this is the Eph-epiphany of the month. Consider:

New EphBlog motto: Where no one is too stupid to have a good time!

Swayze-aficionados will recall that the Dalton character was a philosophy major. Alas, he attended NYU and not Williams, although, if memory serves, Professor Alan White ran his 300-level seminars in a similar fashion. Perhaps this was what he meant that time in PHIL 308: After Philosophy in the spring of 1988.

[Insert Ken Thomas lecture (in German!) about After Virtue by Alasdair MacIntyre.]

PS. And, obviously, one sign that you are a great professor is that your students remember your classes more than 20 years later . . .

PPS. Post edited by request.


Gallagher ’06 starts successful farm

From the North Adams Transcript:

CLARKSBURG — Just two weeks after county’s newest community supported agriculture (CSA) farm made its debut at the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” farm expo, all 30 of its available vegetable shares have been snapped up.

“We’ve sold all 30, which is great to know,” Michael Gallagher [’06], owner of Square Roots Farm said on Friday, as he gazed at the 3 1/2 acres he’s leasing from Paul and Caroline Marshall. […]

With a CSA farm, community members purchase a share of a farm’s harvest, providing money to the farmer before the beginning of the planting season — providing the farmer with capital to purchase supplies and materials. The share holders then share in the farm’s harvest — benefiting from 20 weeks of fresh, local produce deliveries. Each week, participants will receive enough vegetables for a family of four or two vegetarians.

A 2006 Williams College graduate and Cheshire [MA] native, Gallagher was looking to start his own CSA farm when he learned about Hoosac Harvest.

“I was interested in a piece of land that Hoosac Harvest was also looking at,” he said. “I joined their e-mail list and paid attention. When they changed the type of model they were interested in starting, I applied to be their partner. I was going to do this type of farm anyway.”

Although he majored in Russian and biology at Williams and later taught high school math in the Mississippi delta, Gallagher returned home several years ago with a burgeoning interest in sustainable agriculture.

This is great stuff! And especially relevant since it is so near Williamstown.

I am impressed with the amount of helping others that Michael has done. I first met him when we both went on a Williams spring break trip to clean up from Hurricane Katrina in Biloxi, MS in 2006. After graduation, as mentioned above, Michael taught in the Mississippi Teachers Corps, a program similar to Teach for America in high-need regions of the Mississippi Delta. And now he is doing sustainable community agriculture. What an Eph.


Reverse Racism

Below is a comment from former Williams professor John Drew that I moved from a different thread. The key part:

Given the fact that there are no young, white male Republicans on the staff at Williams College now, I think I’m on very strong grounds to argue that I was among the first of probably many young white male Republicans mistreated by the institution. I don’t think it is wrong to identify this institutional behavior as reverse discrimination or reverse racism – and I use these words very carefully…

Before we look for evidence for and against this claim, I would curious to hear beforehand what facts on either side readers would find relevant. If, right now, you think Drew is wrong (or right), then what new information would cause you to re-evaluate your prior beliefs?


JG on Deletion Policy

Jr. Mom notes that this comment from JG on deletion policy merits careful consideration.

This is not an easy thing, and policing internet comments is notoriously like herding cats, I realize that. I honestly appreciate that you’re willing to even try, that Prez Swart sees this as important. But the basic foundation of such a thing is clear policies and procedures that allow for trust in the process of moderation. In my experience, such clear process in fact usually leads to more self-policing and policing in a more productive way by fellow commenter.

Ken said: “But the need for immediacy, the cry for immediate responses and solutions, is very dangerous; and I might say, part of a dynamic, a patterned response….but anyone who thinks their comment on EphBlog, must be published NOW!, and feels it necessary to turn that into a “world’s about to end” argument, complete with dishes thrown and other forms of… abuse… needs to rethink what they’re doing.”

While I do see the “dangerous” patterns that develop in emotional comments, on Ephblog comments have in fact always been immediately posted – we’ve never done the delayed moderation – so to assume people should just on their own come up with the idea that suddenly there will be moderation strikes me as wishful thinking to the level of absurdity. Conversation is an immediate thing versus letter writing or articles back and forth. That is free speech, in its messy form, though we can obviously seek to raise the level.

Finally, if we want to give warnings, I’d suggest the Board develop a standard text because when a fellow participant in a thread chastises someone it comes off as exceedingly patronizing. I don’t think moderation can be done by a single person, and there are several of us who have admin authority and duties could be split. But I think having clearer standards of when comments are parked elsewhere, clearer communication that comments aren’t truly deleted but parked elsewhere pending review/discussion, and clearer communication when things are deleted of who did it and why, this will all go better for all of us.

Indeed. Read the whole thing, and the comment from Ken that she was replying to.

Creating a vibrant on-line community where Ephs of widely divergent views might come together for open-minded, civil discussion and debate is hard. What suggestions do you have for improving EphBlog?

UPDATE: I tried to move many of the most relevant comments from Speak Up to this thread. (If any admin thinks that I missed some, feel free to fix it.) I have also updated the above links. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments. Also: the FAQ on comment editing and our previous discussion. And, false modesty aside, this is one of my finer rants. (But, really, only click on that link if you like rants.)


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