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Mike Glier ’75 – Work in Progress

I have not posted in a while so let’s see if I can get this image on the page…

I have been following Professor Mike Glier’s posts for a while and was quite struck with his recent work on Hawaii. You may have seen the paintings in the sidebar a while back. I think they are a breath of fresh air, or should I say, a dousing of cool water?

Hope everyone is having a nice summer, even if not in Hawaii.


Eph Bookshelf #5: The Fourth Star

The Fourth Star, Greg Jaffe ’91 and David Cloud

When Greg Jaffe ’91 won the Gerald Ford award for journalistic excellence for his Afghan reporting, it seemed to be the perfect time to read this 2009 book on the Iraq war. And with the recent upheaval in the top command in Afghanistan, leading to the replacement of Gen. Stan McChrystal with Gen. David Petraus, one of the subjects of The Fourth Star, the book is even more timely. Yet although the collaboration between Jaffe and former Wall Street Journal & New York Times reporter David Cloud succeeds in storytelling and readability, The Fourth Star falls short of the standards set by Jaffe’s Afghanistan reporting in a number of other respects.

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For the 47 staff participating in the Early Retirement Program, today is their last day. Many thanks from EphBlog for their years of service to Williams. Do you recognize any of these folks? If so, share your memories in the comments below. I would like to highlight two: Jo Procter in Public Affairs and Jean Thorndike in Campus Safety and Security. Jo has kindly answered my questions for over 7 years, treading a fine line along the College’s sometimes awkward relationship with EphBlog. She will be missed. Jean has been director of Campus Security for, I think, over 20 years. She is one of the very few senior Williams officials that I have never heard criticized by any faculty or staff. In my few dealings with her, she has been the very picture of competence and professionalism. I am sad to see her go but confident that there are several officers in the department (like Dave Boyer) who will be able to take over.

Do you have nice memories of Jo, Jean or anyone else on the list? Tell us.


Science, Technology, and Human Values

Great article on the front page of the Williams College website about this class, which is taught by Prof. Beaver of the History of Science department.

Link to article


You have noted that students come in to your class with preconceived notions about science and technology. What do you mean by that?

There is a great deal of mythology around science and technology. The biggest one is that science and technology are always the wellspring of progress. Most students come in to the class believing that innovation invariably moves society forward, that virtually all new discoveries and technologies have practical applications, and that these applications will improve our lives in some measurable way.


Greatest Moments in Eph Sports History

Curious to hear what folks think are the most memorable Eph sporting events they have attended / watched.  Here are some candidates from Fall 1993 forward …  (since I only really watched men’s football, basketball, and soccer, all of my candidates are from those three sports, alas; obviously, there are many other worthy candidates, from a much wider variety of sports, that I’d love to hear about, also many older games in these three sports, such as some legendary Williams-Trinity football battles):

  • Men’s basketball beating Guilford in the 2010 Final Four.  The second half featured the best display of shooting I have ever seen from any college basketball team: 19-27 from the field, 10-14 from three (many of which were contested and very, very deep), 14-14 from the line.
  • Men’s basketball’s 2003 national title victory over Gustavus Adolphus.  Memorable primarily for the outcome (obviously) and clutch plays down the stretch.  The dramatic emifinal win over Wooster was also fantastic.
  • Men’s football stunning previously-undefeated Amherst 48-46 in 1997.  This one is hard to top … Williams scored more points vs. an Amherst defensive juggernaut in one game than the rest of the league combined to score in the other seven.  The momentum swung back and forth in insanely dramatic fashion.  Each team made crazy, clutch plays down the stretch, including a dramatic game-saving fourth down conversion by Williams and a crazy-gutsy two point conversation by Amherst.   And it ended on the first field goal of frosh Colin Vataha’s entire career.  Those who endured that freezing-cold and seemingly interminable game will never forget it.
  • Men’s basketball beating Amherst in the 2004 Final Four.  Enough said.
  • The Tucker Kain gameEnough said.
  • Men’s basketball winning at Holy Cross in 2004.  Arguably the biggest upset in Williams history, and one of the best performances by any Williams athletic team, ever.
  • Men’s football upsetting heavily favored Amherst on the road  in 1996.
  • Men’s soccer’s shoot-our victory in the 1995 Final Four.  I recall it being absolutely freezing, getting colder and colder as the game dragged on without resolution, and I also recall a storming of Cole Field after the victory.
  • Men’s soccer winning the national title against a VERY talented Methodist team the following day.  The national title run had particular poignancy as the team dedicated its season to Matt Stauffer ’96, who had earlier been diagnosed with leukemia.
  • Football beats Amherst in a 2001 clash of undefeated teams, in so doing winning the final traditional overtime game ever played in college football .
  • Led by a legendary performance from Chris Shalvoy ’08, men’s basketball storms back from a huge deficit to stun heavily favored Amherst, at Amherst, for the 2007 NESCAC title.  Capped an unbelievable turnaround after a rough year for men’s hoops.  That Amherst team would go on to win the National Title, but Williams proved that on any given day, you can never count them out.
  • Crazy fun long range shoot-out between Matt Hunt ’99 and Richard Stockton’s star (the only opposing player I recall receiving a standing ovation in Chandler) in the 1997 Sweet 16; the two of them going back and forth in the first half was tremendous fun.  The game was close throughout until Williams pulled away in the last ten minutes, which is perfect from a home fan’s perspective.  The next day, Williams won again to clinch its first Final Four appearance.
  • Williams hoops pulling away from Amherst at Amherst in 1996, capped by two late resounding dunks.  This game didn’t have any particularly profound post-season implication, nor was it especially close at the very end, but it remains one of my personal favorites.  Williams ran a very cocky Amherst team out of its own gym, and the crowd, at least 2/3 of which were Williams fans, was so boisterously pro-Eph that you never would have guessed it was an Amherst home game.  The Amherst star was, in particular, visibly psyched out by the Eph crowd.  And the dunks to cap off the victory sent the Eph faithful into a frenzy.  Victory versus a rival on the road is always twice as sweet …
  • Williams hoops losing to Stevens Point in 2004 title game.  The only loss on the list, but one of the best played basketball games I’ve seen, two juggernauts going toe-to-toe, even though the Ephs fell agonizingly short, it was a spectacularly played game full of clutch shots and can-you-top-this moments by both teams, which ended in memorable fashion.  Also memorable for the classy fashion in which the Ephs handled defeat.

Riding for Aaron Pinsky ’06

This August, 7 Williams alums will be riding across Massachusetts in the Pan-Mass Challenge in honor of fellow alum Aaron Pinsky ’06, who passed away from brain cancer on February 13, 2010. Aaron was diagnosed with the condition in January, 2008, and in the following 2 years he inspired his friends, family, and doctors as he faced his condition with incredible poise, courage, and self-awareness.

Last fall, when his prognosis became clear, a collection of his college and high school friends decided to form “Team Pinsky” and complete this 2 day, 192 mile bike ride across Massachusetts in his honor. We chose the Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC) because 100% of all rider-raised dollars goes to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where Pinsky received his treatment. Since its 1980 inception, the PMC has contributed $270 million to Dana-Farber through the Jimmy Fund. This year, Team Pinsky will be raising at least $36,000 of the PMC’s $31 million target in his name.

Please help us achieve our goal. To donate, go to and click on the “Donate to my Ride” link.

Please also pass this on to friends and family members who Pinsky touched during his lifetime or who may be touched by this story and would want to support this cause.

Thank you,

Team Pinsky


Team Pinsky
Ellie Schmidt ’06, Adam Ain ’06, Geoff O’Donoghue ’06, Alex Smith ’06, Mary Singer ’06, Gillian McBride ’06, Adrienne Boardman, Andrew Boardman, Eoin Byrne, and Will Schmidt

Posted by Ronit Bhattacharyya ’07


Ruth Ezra, Marshall Scholar

Congrats to co-valedictorian Ruth Ezra ’10 (and potential future member of the Williams Art Mafia) on winning a Marshall scholarship!   Two out of 36 Marshall scholars are Ephs; only Stanford had more, Harvard had only one, and neither Amherst nor Swarthmore featured a Marshall winner.  Ruth joins Aroop Mukharji ’09, along with an impressive group of Ephs from the past decade, as Marshall winners.

This caps a simply extraordinary year for Eph fellowship winners; if a full list exists, someone should post it, because the sheer number of super-competitive national and international fellowships won by Ephs in 2010 has been off the charts.


Solo Captains at Yale, Why Not Williams?

Each sport at Yale has a single captain. (Thanks to Roger for pointing that out in our previous discussion.) More background:

All [Yale] captains know that he or she must shoulder much responsibility both on and off the playing field. The captain must be the mouthpiece for the team and the coach, walking the fine line between leader and friend. The captain must harness the spirit of a team and channel it towards intense play, and must act as the essence of the team–its true heart and soul.

Yale’s varsity sports feature a tradition unique among all other Division I NCAA schools: teams are led by only one captain. At the conclusion of the season, team members vote for whom they wish to be captain during the following year’s campaign. The captain must win a simple majority–a feat not so easily achieved. Some teams have been known to hold as many as seven rounds of voting before a majority is determined.

Yale Athletic Director Tom Beckett said of the unusual policy, “The practice of having one captain per team…is a very strong and honored tradition, and a great source of pride for the University. When a person is selected as the sole captain it creates a very strong role for them, and in the process it validates and re-emphasizes the importance of their position.”

The age-old captain-selection practice has defenders as well. “Although having two captains might be easier and wouldn’t hurt someone’s feelings, when you have one guy, he is the boss of a united group,” Keefe said. Rubinstein added, “You don’t need to be a captain to be a leader on the field. Everyone respects that. Having one captain is unique–it’s Yale.” Ferraro said, “This tradition is never going to change, and it’s the tradition that makes being captain so special to me.”

Read more


Mexico Crisis Updates, Summer 2010

(Pre-dated by 2 days to keep out of lede) I haven’t used this form in a while to follow events,  but want to resurrect it for the election period at least.


In Other Media: 7th Grade Girls’ Cyberdrama

The New York Times reports on text messaging, bullying and harassment:

Middle School Misery

Meredith Wearley, Benjamin Franklin’s seventh-grade guidance counselor, was overwhelmed this spring by dramas created on the Web: The text spats that zapped new best friendships; secrets told in confidence, then broadcast on Facebook; bullied girls and boys, retaliating online.

“In seventh grade, the girls are trying to figure out where they fit in,” Mrs. Wearley said. “They have found friends but they keep regrouping. And the technology makes it harder for them to understand what’s a real friendship.”

Because students prefer to use their phones for texting rather than talking, Mrs. Wearley added, they often miss cues about tone of voice. Misunderstandings proliferate: a crass joke can read as a withering attack; did that text have a buried subtext?

The girls come into her office, depressed, weeping, astonished, betrayed.

“A girl will get mad because her friend was friends with another girl,” Mrs. Wearley said.

They show Mrs. Wearley reams of texts, the nastiness accelerating precipitously. “I’ve had to bring down five girls to my office to sort things out,” she said. “It’s middle school.”

Recently, between classes, several eighth-grade girls from Benjamin Franklin reflected about their cyberdramas:

“We had so many fights in seventh grade,” one girl said. “None of them were face-to-face. We were too afraid. Besides, it’s easier to say ‘sorry’ over a text.”

Another concurred. “It’s easier to fight online, because you feel more brave and in control,” she said. “On Facebook, you can be as mean as you want.”

“By high school, youths are developing more self-confidence, engaged in extracurricular activities and focusing on the future,” said Sameer Hinduja, a professor at Florida Atlantic University and an author of “Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard.”

“Their identity and self-worth come from external things that don’t revolve around social relationships.”

(My emphases).  This is as close to a sufficient description,   of the dynamic of EphBlog,  as I have found.


Photo ID, #117

Not on the Williams Campus, but very nearby:

Photo from Flickr user dougtone; original photo here (warning: link contains puzzle hint).

A strange little building, not unlike this previous strange little building Photo ID. Where (and what) is it?


Golf Interlude

Looking to take some time away from the World Cup to indulge your backswing? Unable to make it up to the annual alumni golf tournament at Taconic? Two recent features have highlighted the Eph-owned Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort, pride of Charlie Kirkwood ’57 and Pete Kirkwood ’93 (also known for their role in the Eph Booze Mafia) as a place to take care of your 19-hole needs.

Sustainable economy e-zine Keystone Edge profiled Shawnee Inn’s efforts to embrace a green identity, through its “Beer From Here, Food From Near” restaurant theme (featuring the products of Pete’s ShawneeCraft Brewery) and other efforts to attract the trendy sustainability crowd:

We resolved about four or five years ago that the destiny of Shawnee is to look upward, to be a more high-end destination and the reason is we weren’t doing justice to the beauty of this place if we’re not maximizing visitors’ appreciation of it,” says [Pete] Kirkwood, who has only been back in the U.S. for five years, having returned from a stretch doing tsunami relief work in Thailand. He recently spent four days in Haiti performing earthquake relief work with the volunteer-based non-profit he co-founded, Hands On Disaster Response.

Kirkwood realized that arts and crafts aesthetic, which already existed in spots under the decades of updates at the Inn, was exactly what the resort needed. “It’s a philosophy that embraces living close to nature, embraces healthy, outdoor activity, and embraces craftsmanship from the interior design to architecture to food to the kind of uniforms the staff wears,” says Kirkwood. “It was a breakthrough for us. We all knew we needed a renaissance.”

“We’ve had to reinvent ourselves as circumstances change,”

Not surprisingly, the Golf Channel’s story focuses more on the golf experience and the possibility of improving it:

Owner Charles Kirkwood has been in discussions with architect Tom Doak about restoring the course using old photographs and drawings. Doak did a similar project at Pasatiempo Golf Club in California, although it didn’t involve eliminating extraneous holes.

All but three of the holes at Shawnee Inn are on an island formed by the Delaware River, making for some dramatic holes alongside and over the river. There’s also a portable bridge that was built decades ago. It was designed by original Shawnee Inn owner and architect C.C. Worthington.

Each year, the bridge is removed after the season, and it’s reassembled in the spring. Part of any future renovation would include a bigger permanent bridge that could allow for heavier traffic. Kirkwood would like to see major tournaments return to Shawnee Inn, which in addition to the PGA has also hosted the U.S. Women’s Amateur (1919), Shawnee Open (which Walter Hagan competed in) and the 1967 NCAA men’s championship.

The signature hole at Shawnee is the seventh on the Blue Course, although the second on the Red Course is just as scenic. Both are par 3s that cross the river, however, the Blue hole might have a better view from the green with the Poconos and river in the background.

Shawnee Inn is located just above the Delaware Water Gap in Pennsylvania, less than 100 miles from both Philadelphia and New York. The 9-hole, par three course mentioned in the Golf Channel article may be of particular interest: it’s not only designed by Doak, but play is complimentary to guests of the resort. It’s also lighted and can be played after dark.


Only One Captain Per Sport

This is silly.

Entering his 27th year as the head coach of the Williams men’s golf team Rick Pohle will have four captains leading his team during the 2010-11 academic year.

Four captains for a sport in which there are only a dozen or so players on the team is ludicrous. By making everyone a captain, Pohle diminishes the honor and responsibility of the captaincy itself. If everyone is special, then no one is.

Suggestion: There should be a college policy across all sports that there is only one captain each year, even in larger sports like soccer. (Nothing wrong with having assistant captains of various kinds, especially in a sport like football.) We want to make the captain a special position, something in which a single individual feels a special responsibility to his teammates and to Williams, something that connects that Eph to the Ephs who have held the captaincy in years gone by and in the years to come. Harvard does very few things better than Williams, but this is one of them (at least on the football team).

UPDATE: Further discussion here.


World Cupdate

In my various travels I have moved on to spend a week in Botswana where I’ll be working with a friend and colleague at the University of Botswana as a sort of mini-fellow on a project tied to the World Cup resource allocation. My latest updates, including some musings on borders, what it means that this is “Africa’s Cup,” and the US loss to Ghana last night, are up at the FPA Africa Blog with just a bit more at dcat as well.


USA-Ghana Live Blog 6/26



Bob Ryan Solutes Williams

… on Pardon the Interruption on ESPN:


Not Illegal to be Illegal

If you are still reading EphBlog over the summer, you must be interested in discussing stories like this.

The question at the press conference at the State House yesterday was, Why do these illegal types keep gravitating to Massachusetts?

The attorney general, “Marsha” Coakley, was a no-show, but she’d already answered the question a few weeks ago on Worcester radio station WCRN.

Marsha, why are so many of these illegal aliens invading Massachusetts?

“Technically,” she replied, “it is not illegal to be illegal in Massachusetts.”

Not the sort of thing that I would say if I wanted to be a Senator some day . . .


Purple Noise

Your weekly place for all things non-Eph


Town Manager Peter Fohlin

Great article on Williamstown Town Manager Peter Fohlin.

Since starting as town manager 10 years ago, one thing Peter L. Fohlin has learned is patience.

“Everything else I knew,” Fohlin said Friday, during an interview at Town Hall.

It was on June 5, 2000, when Fohlin first took his seat in the corner office at Town Hall, leaving his job as executive secretary to the Board of Selectmen in Tisbury on Martha’s Vineyard.

Since then he has guided the town through difficult budget years, overseen several projects, helped grow the town’s relationship with Williams College and encourage professionalism and a “we work for you [the taxpayer]” attitude among town employees.

“I took this job because I wanted to work in a place where I could get things done. I wanted to take the best of Williamstown and make it better, and improve the things that needed to be,” he said.

Too often people come to a place because they like it, and they end up wanting to make it just like the place they left, he said.

“It’s not unlike people who go to foreign countries to experience the culture and stay at a Holiday Inn,” he said.

When Fohlin came to Williamstown, his priorities were the Spring Street reconstruction project, the disposition of the former Photech building on Cole Avenue, and the appointment of a new police chief.

The construction of a new elementary school and identifying and fixing wastewater discharge problems at the Hoosac Water Quality District treatment facility off Simonds Road were soon added to the list.

A decade later, Photech remains the only one of Fohlin’s original goals that has yet to be realized.

I have observed Fohlin for several years and interacted with him a couple of times. He is remarkably competent and sensible. Do any readers know him? Williamstown is lucky to have him and it will be a sad day for Williams when he leaves. More excerpts below the break.

Read more


Williams-Mystic and the Gulf Coast

I’d like to pass along a letter from a fellow Williams and Williams-Mystic alum about the program’s work to help those hurt by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. A fundraising effort is underway (see below for more information), but even if you’re not in a position to donate, you can help Williams-Mystic spread the word about the human impact of the spill. Read this piece (written by a Williams-Mystic alum) that considers the terrifying mix of a busy hurricane season and a toxic oil spill. And please, don’t forget the people of Gulf Coast.

Dear Williams Community,

For the past five years, Williams-Mystic students have been going down to the Gulf Coast as one of the semester field seminars. During the field seminar, students study the entire Mississippi River delta region from a historical, ecological, and literary perspective. They spend a full day on Grand Isle, a barrier island that stands between New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a beautiful, shifting pile of sand inhabited by about 1,800 year-round residents. The economy is based on fishing and beach tourism. By all accounts, the people there are incredible and it’s one of the highlights of the trip.

Enter the oil spill. Williams-Mystic teaches from an interdisciplinary perspective, so students learn that nothing happens in isolation and the impact of an environmental disaster isn’t just on the environment. In this case, the people of Grand Isle, people with whom the Williams-Mystic program has a very strong relationship, are suffering. Not just physically–though by all accounts the fumes are pretty awful–but mentally as they face the loss of their unique way of life.

In May, when oil first began washing up on the shores of Grand Isle, Chris Hernandez (the island’s highway superintendent and a friend of the Mystic program) called Williams-Mystic to ask for help. Consider that for a minute–local organizations and BP weren’t helping, so he called a college study-abroad semester based in New England to help save his island.

Read more


6/24 World Cup open thread

After yesterday’s thrilling morning, I’m sure everyone is hard at work today, right? But in case anyone else suffered a sports injury yesterday (no, it didn’t happen in a World Cup bar), I thought I’d open a thread. Italy already trails Slovakia 1-0; Paraguay and New Zealand are scoreless.


Endowment Worth $1.6 Billion?

Is this a typo or some inside scoop?

Investors in private equity funds are still searching for the ‘holy grail’ where their interests are perfectly aligned with the funds investing their capital, an investor said on Thursday.

Investors are seeing some better terms in their fund agreements since the financial crisis hurt funds’ returns and gave them more clout to negotiate terms.

Still, some question whether their interests are really aligned with the firms which invest their capital, and whether any gains made on terms will just be lost when the economy and markets improve.

Investors, known as “limited partners” (LPs) and private equity executives, known as “general partners” (GPs), have acknowledged for some time a shift since the boom years when GPs had more leverage to dictate terms as investors scrambled to get into their funds.

“I think GP-LP alignment is the holy grail that we all talk about but may never see,” said Collette Chilton, chief investment officer at Williams College speaking at private equity conference Super Return U.S. on Thursday. Chilton oversees the Massachusetts-based college’s $1.6 billion endowment.


1) The last public data on the endowment out its value at $1.36 on June 30, 2009. Could we really be back to $1.6 billion now, even after spending around $70 million during the fiscal year? Could we really be up approximately 23% in a year when the S&P 500 is up 18%? Sure! So, I bet that this is not a typo, that Chilton mentioned the correct value in her talk. (Senior administrators and trustees get a monthly (I think) update on the endowment.)

2) Chilton’s comments on LP/GP conflicts are perfectly sensible. Perhaps some readers could provide more background.

3) Why does Chilton speak at a conference like this? There are lots of reasons. But one of them is that it raises her personal profile in the investment world so that, should she decide to leave Williams and take the rest of the investment office with her, she will have an easier time raising money. Previous rant here. (Highly recommended for new readers and the #1 hit for Collette Chilton on Google.)


Ephs Win 12th Directors Cup (so decrease tips)

Williams (as reported for weeks at EphBlog) has won its 12th consecutive Director’s Cup.

And one makes a dozen. A dozen in a row.

The National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) has announced that the Williams College Ephs have won their 12th consecutive NACDA/Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup and 14th out of the 15 awarded in NCAA Division III history.

Congratulations to all the Ephs involved, students and coaches both, in this impressive performance! Read the whole article for various accounts of team/individual success.

Points in the national Directors’ Cup competition are awarded based on an institution’s finish at NCAA postseason championship team events. A maximum of 18 sports (9 men and 9 women) may be counted in compiling institution’s total points. The Ephs actually had 20 teams advance to and score points at NCAA postseason championship events this year.

Could some Director’s Cup expert give us a breakdown of the exact scoring? I have read (accurate?) claims that women sports are the major reason for Williams dominance. True this year? True in the past? Also, I have vague memories that the scoring used to give much more weight on national championships, that the top team used to get 100, the second place 50 and so on. Now, I think, the points are much more evenly spread. True? We need a Director’s Cup expert to join us as an author.

During the 2009-10 academic year the Williams Ephs established a Division III record with a grand total of 1,292.25 points, 386.5 points ahead of runner-up Amherst (905.75). The Ephs’ margin of victory was the largest in the 15 years of the NCAA Division III Directors’ Cup competition, eclipsing their previos record margin of 379.5 back in 2002-03.

The Ephs established the previous high point total in NCAA Division III back in 2002-03 when they racked up 1158.25 points.

The overall athletic success of the Ephs is further heightened when viewed against the backdrop of the admission standards at Williams, which are among the highest in the nation.

Well, are they the “among the highest in the nation” for the sorts of athletes that propel Williams to Directors Cup glory? In some sports (e.g., womens crew) “Yes” and in others, “No.” But thanks to sports information director Dick Quinn for providing an excuse for me to Segway into an admissions discussion!

1) Former baseball coach Dave Barnard was wrong to worry 6 years ago that “if Williams unilaterally reduced athletic priority slots while eliminating low band admits it would “simply be a matter of time before our [traditional mens]teams are significantly less competitive.”” Incorrect! Mens basketball came in second in the nation and mens soccer tied for third despite the admissions changes instituted by Morty. Does anyone know why Barnard was wrong? Did Williams not really raise admissions standards as much as he feared? (I am fairly certain it did.) Did others schools do so as well? (Certainly not outside NESCAC and not, as best I can tell, insider NESCAC either.) Did it just turn out that, given the right incentives, coaches were just as able to recruit outstanding athletes with 1400 SATs as it was for them, in the old days, to find applicants with 1200s? That is my guess.

(Another possibility is that, in the last 10 years, it has become much easier for Williams coaches to accurately identify the best athletes. Informed commentary welcome.)

2) We should continue on this path. We should have fewer tips — the 64 admissions slots reserved for athletes who would never have been admitted otherwise — and the standards for tips should be higher. The Cassandras (Harry Sheahy?) who warned that increasing admissions standards would harm athletic success have been proved wrong.

3) We will continue on this path. Since Adam Falk is taking dictation from EphBlog (kidding!), you can be sure that Williams will continue decreasing admissions preferences for athletes. Recall the recommendation from the 2009 Athletic Committee Report:

Since the MacDonald report was presented, the academic standards for admission of athletic “tips” within NESCAC and at Williams have been raised. These changes are likely to be largely responsible for the narrowing of the academic performance gap between varsity athletes and non-athletes. It is our understanding that the admissions standards for “tips” are continuing to rise, and the recruited athletes in future entering classes are likely to be more similar, in their academic credentials, to their non-athlete peers. Although we note that this may affect the success of Williams College teams, we unanimously support the continuation of this trend.

In the same way that legacies have, over the last 25 years, moved into parity with the rest of the class with regard to academic rating, the same will happen with regard to athletes, at least until Williams loses a Directors Cup or two.

And that is a very good thing.

4) President Falk told the Boston Alumni meeting that he is a fan of transparency. Here is my simple suggestion for transparency on athletic admissions standards.

Williams could make public the average college GPA (and SAT scores) of its sports teams, both raw and weighted by playing time. Williams would do this unilaterally, but with an eye toward making this a NESCAC standard. Since the data would be for last year’s teams, you would have some disconnect between the numbers and the Ephs on the field this year. No data for any individual student would be released, only team averages.

This plan has several features. First, it makes (mostly) transparent the amount of admissions preference that Williams provides in athletic admissions. Second, it makes coaches care directly about the academic performance of their teams, especially their star players.

The great thing about the Williams community is that its values are my values and your values. Make the data more available and the community as a whole will push the College in the correct direction.



Yes, the sun has been up for two and a half hours here. Have any of you practiced Czech tongue twisters that do not contain vowels? Strz prst prtz kryk– pretty much describes my night!



Hate to do this mid-day in the States, but we are having some ongoing server issues which need to be addressed… and I need to sleep when the sun is not out here in Eastern Europe. If any time is particularly bad, let me know.


Smith Chaplains

Thanks to David’s inquiring post and Wayne Hammond’s valuable follow-up, we know that acquiring the Daniel Chester French archives won’t force Williams into a difficult budget decision, like this:

Jennifer Walters, dean of religious life at Smith College, closed a budget gap by laying off
her only three practicing chaplains, representatives of the American trinity of religious tradition: Protestant, Catholic and Jew… [F]or the first time since 1935, there will be no chaplains at Smith.

According to Dr. Walters, the end of the chaplaincy was not just a matter of money. On a weekly basis, “less than 100 students were actually participating in regular religious services provided by the college,” Dr. Walters said. “Maybe close to 50 total, to be honest.”

Uh huh. I think “just a matter of money” and what Smith perceived as the “right place” to find it.

Notwithstanding my remark above, I can’t imagine Williams would take a similar step — both because religion is so deeply integrated with the history of the College and because the full-time (I’m pretty sure that’s right — although the Catholic chaplain was upgraded to full-time pretty recently, right?) chaplains at Williams are involved in so much more than leading worship, such as coordinating community service. And the community alternatives available for students in Williamstown are much more limited than in Northampton.

But has attendance at religious services declined as much at Williams as at Smith? Ten years ago, the JRC alone had more than 50 students per week attending services and dinner on Friday nights. And the
Chaplain’s Office webpage lists scheduled services for at least four other groups of students as well. Is that a reflection of differences among the student bodies? Credit to the carillonneurs (including Will Slack ’11) for providing a regular spiritual reminder from high atop Thompson Chapel?

Wondering what a “dean of religious life” will do without a chaplain? Well, Dr. Walters is herself an Episcopal priest who appears to have academic interests to pursue. And, according to the Times, there are new growth opportunities:

[S]he will continue to broaden Smith’s definition of what religion is, or what it is for. “Smith has a wellness director, so we have been working with her on self-care,” Dr. Walters said. “Writing workshops to reflect on their life, a sunrise hike where students get up at 4 or 5 o’clock and walk to Mount Skinner and watch the sun rise — is that a religious program?”

Hmm. I think there are going to be some prospective parents who are pretty disappointed on their college tour when they pass by the pretty chapel building. “Is that where Sunday services are?” asks a parent preparing to spend or borrow $200,000. “No, we just use it as a meeting spot for early morning hikes… but students can take a van over to Amherst on Sundays if they’d like.” I think that may cost Smith a few more students than they expect.





Real Analysis Textbook

Consider MATH 301 Fall 2010 Real Analysis. Comments:

1) Williams ought to provide links to course syllabi directly via the course catalog. At the same time professors submit a course description, they would be expected to submit a syllabus (which they could update anytime they wished). The more public and transparent the college is in academics, the more successful it will be. Previous discussion here.

2) What textbook will this class use? Why not use this one? It is free! As a rule of thumb, professors pick textbooks sub-optimally because they place too little emphasis on cost.

3) Is there any class at Williams that uses a free and/or open source work as its main textbook? If not, who will be first? Twenty years from now, paying $100+ for a textbook will seem as absurd as vinyl records seem to kids today. Excellent open source textbooks are the future. I wish that some Williams professors would lead the way . . .


Back online, BUT…

Back online,  BUT…


Looking for something to do this summer?

If you’re in NYC, you might want to check out Brooklyn Brainery, a collaborative learning community organized by Jen Messier ’06 and others. This summer, they’re offering inexpensive classes on American Sign Language, Denim, Typography, Foreign Cuisine, Urban Planning, Whiskey, and Coffee. You can also suggest a class or a teacher.


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