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Gleeful Amatuer: Sam Crane in Our Town

From the Eagle:

A professor from a small town plays a smalltown professor in a play aware of its audience.

That local man is George T. “Sam” Crane, a Williams College professor now on stage in “Our Town,” a classic 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning work by Thornton Wilder that Crane considers an anthropological study of “big questions of finding eternal in the every day.”

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Peter May ’79 – Deployed to Iraq – Birthday

Peter May ’79 is deployed to Iraq and is having a Birthday on August 18th.

Please consider joining me in sending him a birthday card. It only takes a regular stamp !

CDR Peter May
Camp Slayer
APO AE 09342

Thank your for your support of our deployed Ephs !

Stewart Menking ’79


Found: Williams a leader in Social Register attendance

In the most recent “Beyond the Log” post, David rebroadcast Bob Magill Jr. ’65’s bleg:

c. 1990, a book was out that tracked the top 5 college preferences of the children of the social register in large cities on the East Coast, from the years 1900 to 1950 . . .  I asked Fred Rudolph over the weekend at the reunion and he could not remember either.

Via the magic of Google Books, I’ve tracked down a promising candidate: Richard Farnum, Patterns of Upper-Class Education in Four American Cities: 1875-1975, in The High Status Track: Studies of Elite Schools and Stratification,Paul W. Kingston and Lionel Stanley Lewis, eds (1990). Farnum’s essay “examin[es] patterns of college attendance of the upper classes of of Philadelphia, Boston, New York, and Baltimore from 1880 to 1970.”

Google Books has most of the text of this chapter, but is missing a couple of pages. The available portions confirm Bob’s recollection. In Boston, Williams was the 4th-most attended college, after Harvard, Yale, and Princeton (“HYP”), although in a few decades, Williams surpassed either Yale, Princeton, or both. And in New York City, Williams consistently ranked 5th, trailing HYP and Columbia. In Philadelphia, the top 5 were rounded out by Penn and Haverford, and in Baltimore, by Johns Hopkins and Virginia.

Below the fold, what Farnum has to say about Williams…

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Purple Noise

Happy Friday!  Your place for all things non-Eph …


Beyond The Log: Creese (1975)

“Beyond the Log: Williams Presidents in the Gentleman’s Era” (pdf) is a product of the Williams Oral History Project, led by Bob Stegeman ’60. It features a discussion with Professors Fred Rudolph ’42 and John Hyde ’52, along with former President John Chandler about Williams presidents from Paul Ansel Chadbourne (1872-81) to Tyler Dennett (1934-37). Each day, I will quote selected portions of the interview and provide comments. What do you want to know about Williams history? Ask your questions in the comments.

Fred Rudolph: There’s no question about what Dennett didn’t like about the place. In a 1975 honors thesis on the gentleman’s Williams, Guy Creese ’75 documented the background of the student body that disturbed Dennett: In the Class of 1929, thirty-six percent had traveled in Europe; 1930, twenty-nine percent; 1931, thirty-six percent. That’s a pretty fancy group. In 1930 there was a Chapin Library exhibit of rare books to which seventeen students contributed. In 1935, thirty-seven percent of the upperclassmen had cars. In 1938, almost eighty percent of the freshmen families had servants. In 1938 only twenty-five percent of the students had summer jobs. Fifty-five percent came from families with two or more cars. In 1934, forty-four of the 775 students were in the New York Social Register, and four in the Boston Social Register. The Williams Record had fashion issues dealing with men’s clothing. There were three men’s clothing stores on Spring Street for a student body of less than 800. The Stork Club ran ads in The Williams Record.

When Dennett arrived as president, Lehman Hall had just been built. It had beautiful pine paneling and big fireplaces. And the top floor had modest little rooms for scholarship students. The other student rooms—handsome and spacious—commanded the highest rents on campus. At the end of Dennett’s administration, the squash courts were built. What a symbolic statement! I don’t know how many colleges in the United States had squash courts in 1938, in the midst of the most serious economic depression in history. Tyler Dennett knew that Williams didn’t need them, but the people who gave them insisted. Well, that’s the environment that Dennett hoped to do something about, the environment that he perceived as having little connection with the real America.

0) Here (pdf and pdf) is New York Times coverage.

1) Guy is an Ephblog author.

2) People are still reading and talking about Guy’s thesis, more than 35 years after he wrote it. Want your thesis to live as long? Write about Williams.

3) Bob Magill Jr. ’65 wrote:

QUESTION c. 1990, a book was out that tracked the top 5 college preferences of the children of the social register in large cities on the East Coast, from the years 1900 to 1950. The only college, besides Harvard Yale Princeton that was in the top 5 in more than one city was Williams (Boston and NY). The authors stated that Williams was considered “the national liberal arts college” and an exceptional alternative to HYP with the best educational facilities for a small liberal arts college. I only have some of my notes on this book — does anyone know the title, the author(s), etc? I asked Fred Rudolph over the weekend at the reunion and he could not remember either.

Can anyone help Bob?

4) I think that having students from extremely rich families want to go to Williams is a very, very good thing. If the Hollander twins had not wanted to go to Williams, we would not have Hollander Hall. How much admission preference, if any, should be given to such “development” admits is an open question. (Such cases used to be called “Morty Specials” by the admissions office. Has the nomenclature changed yet?)


Summer Arts Round-up

A summer summary of Williams / Berkshires arts news:

  • Be sure to support both MassMoca and the Clark, each of which has advanced to the second round of America’s favorite art museum contest. 
  • The Way Out, the new CD from The Books (based in North Adams, and featuring Eph Nick Zammuto ’99), has received “universal acclaim” according to Metacritic.  The Books are definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, but they create a lot of interesting soundscapes.  Listen to the new album here
  • Speaking of The Books, they will be performing at the can’t-miss music event of the summer in North Adams, the Wilco-curated Solid Sound Festival, which runs from August 13-15. 
  • Leonard Nimoy has an intriguing new exhibit at MassMoca.  Joseph Thompson ’81 is quoted at length in this NYTimes article discussing the exhibit and Nimoy’s career as an artist. 
  • WCMA commissioned an interesting installation (which is housed in a vacant North Adams car dealership) by Pepon Osorio, Drowning in a Glass of Water. 
  • Darlingside, comprised of recent Eph grads, continues to produce great music.  You can purchase their LP or see their tour dates here
  • North Adams’ annual Downstreet Art exhibition series appears to be bigger and better than ever this summer.  Even City Hall is getting in on the burgeoning North Adams art scene. 
  • John Sayles ’72’s latest film, Amigo, is in post-production.  Sayles has a blog chronicling the making of the movie.  See the teaser trailer here
  • Lee Hom Wang ’98 continues to dominate the China arts scene, recording a duet with Usher, starring in and  directing a film, and releasing a new album.  Busy guy …

Beyond The Log: Nice Boys

“Beyond the Log: Williams Presidents in the Gentleman’s Era” (pdf) is a product of the Williams Oral History Project, led by Bob Stegeman ’60. It features a discussion with Professors Fred Rudolph ’42 and John Hyde ’52, along with former President John Chandler about Williams presidents from Paul Ansel Chadbourne (1872-81) to Tyler Dennett (1934-37). Each day for the next two weeks at noon, I will quote selected portions of the interview and provide comments. What do you want to know about Williams history? Ask your questions in the comments.

John Chandler: We all know that Dennett’s presidency from 1934 to 1937 was stormy and brief. What happened?

Fred Rudolph: Well, as you know, in 1937 Dennett gave a speech to the Boston alumni saying there were too many “nice boys” at Williams. My sense is that he meant there were just too many graduates of private schools and not enough diversity. Williams had the highest percent of private school graduates of any college in the country. A big reason was the four-year Latin admission requirement, and Garfield was adamant about keeping it. He’d gone to St. Paul’s School, and that had something to do with the kind of college that he wanted to be president of.

But by the time Dennett was made president, even in the prep schools there were many students who did not take four years of Latin. And remember that Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth were also competing for the prep school graduates. The result was that the Williams applicant pool was damn small. Williams was probably taking one out of every two applicants, and it was accepting applications from weak students, just as long as they’d taken four years of Latin. (Interestingly, the trustees reduced the Latin requirement to three years just as Garfield left and Dennett arrived.)

1) For more on the “nice boys” speech, see Guy Creese’s ’75 senior thesis: “The Concept of the Gentleman at Williams College: 1929-1939.” Guy wrote a series of three posts about his thesis starting here. Highly recommended. But I really want to read the whole thing. Why isn’t it on-line?

2) Do you think that Williams gets too many or too few nice boys (and girls) today? If you could change one thing about Williams admissions, what would it be?

I would go to more of a Caltech or Olin model in which race, athletic ability and socio-economic status play much less of a role in admissions. Bring the most academically talented and ambitious students to Williams regardless of the color of their skin, the strength of their backhand or the educational credentials of their parents.


Justin Moore leaves for Syracuse

Moore leaves Williams College after six national titles to take over SU women’s rowing program

Williams College has won five consecutive NCAA Division III championships in women’s rowing and six overall since 2002. The feat is more remarkable after locating a map. The school is tucked into the Northwest corner of Massachusetts within a few oar pulls of the Vermont and New York borders. The school mascot is a purple cow. The home rowing course is Lake Onota, which sits 21 miles south of the Williamstown campus.

If Justin Moore can win big at Williams, why not at Syracuse University?

Moore was named head coach of the Orange women rowing program on Monday. He’s expected to start his new position on campus on Aug. 17 after serving as head coach of the U.S. junior national team, which is competing in the Czech Republic.

Moore, 42, replaces Kris Sanford, the 14-year Orange coach who resigned last month to pursue a nursing career. Her decision to step down marks the end of an era in the Syracuse rowing programs. Her father, Bill Sanford, led the men’s program at Syracuse for 34 years. This coming school year will mark the first in 50 years without a Sanford in the Orange boathouse.

Moore said Monday that he’s had his eye on the Orange program for years. Because of the success at Williams, he long wondered how he would perform at the next level with scholarship athletes. Yet he and his family were happy in Williamstown. He was not prepared to leave for any Division I program.

Continue reading on Syracuse Online


Wrestle with a Great and Difficult Text

Robert Paul Wolff was a visiting professor of philosophy at Williams for, I think, just one semester in the fall of 1987. I was one of his students. He changed the way I thought and wrote. And so now, almost 25 years later, I will be bringing you excerpts from his memoir in progress.

It must have been roughly at this same time that I had a small epiphany, a moment of self-understanding that helped me to make sense of the direction my life and career had taken. I was sitting at my computer desk one day in my lovely second floor book-lined study, glancing out the window to my left at Buffam Brook, which ran behind our house, musing on the odd trajectory of my career. After a quite successful start to my professional activities, I had chosen to rusticate, first in Northampton, then in Pelham. I was pretty sure that the philosophy profession had totally forgotten about me, although the periodic publishers’ royalty reports suggested that someone out there was still reading my books. I was, it seemed to me, something of a failure. I thought to myself, “Here I am, almost sixty, and yet I have no disciples, no former students who are carrying on my work. No one looks to me, as so many former students look to Van Quine and Nelson Goodman, as their mentor. Surely that is supposed to happen to successful philosophers when they reach this age” And then, I was struck by a thought that had never occurred to me before. I did not want disciples! I was actually somewhat uncomfortable on the rare occasions when a student or reader uncritically embraced my views as his or her own. I recalled that lovely ironic passage in the Preface to Kierkegaard’s Philosophical Fragments, one of my favorite philosophical texts: “But if anyone were to be so polite as to assume that I have an opinion, and if he were to carry his gallantry to the extreme of adopting this opinion because he believed it to be mine, I should have to be sorry for his politeness, in that it was bestowed on so unworthy an object, and for his opinion, if he has no other opinion than mine.”

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Beyond The Log: Induction

“Beyond the Log: Williams Presidents in the Gentleman’s Era” (pdf) is a product of the Williams Oral History Project, led by Bob Stegeman ’60. It features a discussion with Professors Fred Rudolph ’42 and John Hyde ’52, along with former President John Chandler about Williams presidents from Paul Ansel Chadbourne (1872-81) to Tyler Dennett (1934-37). Each weekday for three weeks, I will quote selected portions of the interview and provide comments. What do you want to know about Williams history? Ask your questions in the comments.

John Chandler: Harry Garfield (Class of 1885) was president from 1908 to 1934, a remarkably long tenure—second only to Mark Hopkins’. It encompassed World War I and a big chunk of the Great Depression. The New York Times story about Garfield’s inauguration claimed that the audience was probably the largest and most distinguished collection of American educators ever assembled. Why did he draw that kind of crowd?

Fred Rudolph: Probably by sending out a lot of invitations. And by giving fifteen honorary degrees. And, of course, as the son of a slain U.S. president he had a newsworthy name. He was also the friend of a future president, Woodrow Wilson. Garfield was known far beyond Williams, both nationally and then abroad after he founded the Institute of Politics. Meanwhile, he accomplished a lot at Williams. Like Woodrow Wilson, Garfield was a progressive politician. During his administration his concern was for good government and young men taking up lives of public service. In a way, that was a slightly secular version of what a number of speakers were saying at the Centennial celebration, and it was consistent with the direction and tone set by the Williams Christian Association when it made Jesup Hall its headquarters and the symbol of what it was about.

Williams was no longer telling students that they needed a dramatic conversion experience and then go out and become preachers. It was telling them to go out and be public servants and responsible citizens.

1) A century later, what do you think the message will be at Adam Falk’s induction? What do you think the message should be?

2) The event for Falk on September 25th is currently labeled an “induction.” Why that terminology? Anyone gotten an invitation yet? What events would you like to see?

3) To maximize the success of Williams over the new few hundred years, the most important message for graduates is one which causes them to center (a portion of) of their lives around Williams as an institution. We want them to care about their families and careers, of course, but we also need them to care about Williams, to donate their time, energy and money to the College. Assume for second that you agree with this goal, how would you go about doing it, above and beyond what Williams already does?

4) Here (pdf) is the New York Times story.

Amusing that Garfield was concerned about the role of the role of athletics! Perhaps this is where Morty got the idea from . . .

In any event, my opinion on athletics is the same as a (vast?) majority of the faculty. Williams should provide extensive athletics opportunities for students but it should stop giving so much preference to athletes, qua athletes, in admissions. Background reading here.


Williams People: Web Pages for the Masses

Veteran reader Paresky Lawnbowler points out Williams People:

Anyone with a Williams account can get a web site here – simply log in at the right using your regular Williams username and password.

1) Good stuff! Is genius WordPress maven Chris Warren ’96 behind this effort?

2) My alumni login does not work. Does yours? Is this intended for alumni use? It ought to be!

3) Recall our discussion of Williams Blogs from three years (!) ago. Read more


Chestertown Idiots

The Chestertown Spy posted a video profile of Matt Swanson and Robbie Behr ’97. All I know is, someone needs to design a man-sized version of that thing the baby is bouncing around in, because that looks awesome.


10 Proposals to Reform Mexico

Andrés Manuel López Obrador outlines his ten point plan to initiate the reformation of Mexico[*]:

Thanks to Ken Thomas ’93 for sharing these. Comments welcome.
[* : YouTube should auto-detect your default language and display subtitles; if not, you can click on the video and go to the main YouTube page, and use the ‘cc’ icon-tool at bottom-right to set language.
English and Spanish are currently available; if you need any other languages, especially for distribution, please let me know and I’ll produce it for you. –93kwt]


Beyond The Log: The Jewish Question

“Beyond the Log: Williams Presidents in the Gentleman’s Era” (pdf) is a product of the Williams Oral History Project, led by Bob Stegeman ’60. It features a discussion with Professors Fred Rudolph ’42 and John Hyde ’52, along with former President John Chandler about Williams presidents from Paul Ansel Chadbourne (1872-81) to Tyler Dennett (1934-37). Each day this week, I will quote selected portions of the interview and provide comments. What do you want to know about Williams history? Ask your questions in the comments.

Fred Rudolph: Garfield had high academic standards and was a creative educator. He wanted students to devote their lives to public service and good citizenship. But he also had no trouble with the role of Williams as an instrument of the upper class. Dennett was upset about that. He had no problem with upper-class kids. He just wanted a better mix. And with the Latin admission requirement you could not get a mix. Still, it’s interesting that although Dennett wanted to do something about nice boys, he refused federal scholarship money—money intended for poor kids. In addition, he told his admission officer not to accept blacks and Jews. Why? Because they were not treated fairly here. There was no synagogue for the Jewish students, and black students were treated as second-class citizens. Ironically, it was sensitivity to the life of being Jewish or black in a fraternity-oriented college that led him to take a position that defeated his effort to increase student variety. Stopping the admission of Jewish and black applicants was a dramatic step. Since the late nineteenth century the small but steady stream of black and Jewish students who came to Williams supplied a disproportionate number of academic stars and distinguished alumni.

What Dennett was essentially saying was that there were too many nice white boys, and he wanted some white boys that weren’t so nice. Charlie Keller said that the “nice boys” speech was a great boon to the admission operation, because there were people who wanted to come to Williams because it was doing something about the “nice boys” problem but also people who wanted to come to Williams because it had lots of nice boys.

There are at least three great senior theses waiting to be written about these topics:

1) A history of Williams admissions. Karabel’s The Chosen is a magisterial description of admissions to Harvard, Yale and Princeton over the last 100 years. Write the same for Williams, and scores of people will read your thesis. (I used The Chosen in these posts: here and here. Highly recommended for new readers.)

2) A history of Jews at Williams.

3) A history of African-Americans at Williams. Start with Black Williams.

75 years ago, Williams restricted the number of Black and Jewish students. Today, we restrict the number of international students. Isn’t it obvious that, a few decades from now, history will judge President Falk in the same way that we (harshly) judge President Dennett?

The solution is simple: Williams should no more distinguish between applicants on the basis of their passports then it does on the basis of their religion. If applicant X (with Mexican citizenship) is stronger then applicant Y (with US citizenship), we ought to admit applicant X.

The best way for Falk to get from here to there is to steal a page from Morty’s playbook when he significantly decreased the importance of athletics on admissions: Form a committee! Put together a group of 6 faculty — and choose them wisely! — to gather data and evidence about international admissions, to compare Williams with its peers, to seek the opinions of current students and alumni. Because on most important issues (!), the Williams faculty agrees with me, I have no doubt that such a committee would recommend that Williams significantly decrease the penalty placed on international applicants, just as the Williams of President Phinney Baxter ’14 significant decreased the penalty placed on Jewish applicants.

In the short term, Williams should have the same percentage of international students as, say, Yale and Harvard: 10%. In the longer term, we should accept a class with the most academically talented and ambitious students from around the world. (Students must speak English fluently. Williams should pay enough attention to ability-to-pay to keep the college financially healthy.) The more international students that Williams accepts now, the more successful we will be 50 years in the future.


Spore Explosion

Via Wired:

The air resistance to something as small as dust is so great that even if you threw it at mach speeds it would only go a couple inches. That is, unless you create a vortex ring — like a smoke ring or mushroom cloud from a nuclear explosion.

Peat moss (Sphagnum moss), one of the most primitive living plants, does just that. By releasing its spores at up to 65 miles per hour in less than a thousandth of a second through a cylindrical opening, it can launch them up about half a foot high.

It might not sound like much, but getting spores to that height is critical for a plant that can grow less than half an inch tall. Half a foot is high enough to intersect normal air currents, which can carry the spores for miles and miles — theoretically indefinitely.

“Vortex rings allow the spores to be carried up very efficiently, because they have very little drag in the air and don’t mix with the air around it,” said physicist Dwight Whitaker of Pamona College, co-author of the study published July 22 in Science. ”The air coming out of the spore capsule is like the a core of a tornado, but if you took the top and the bottom of a tornado and glued them together. The tornado holds the spores in because of its very motion.”

Whitaker was at Williams while this article was written, working with Professor Joan Edwards.


Beyond The Log: The Unwritten Book

“Beyond the Log: Williams Presidents in the Gentleman’s Era” (pdf) is a product of the Williams Oral History Project, led by Bob Stegeman ’60. It features a discussion with Professors Fred Rudolph ’42 and John Hyde ’52, along with former President John Chandler about Williams presidents from Paul Ansel Chadbourne (1872-81) to Tyler Dennett (1934-37). Each day for the next three weeks at noon, I will quote selected portions of the interview and provide comments. What do you want to know about Williams history? Ask your questions in the comments.

John Chandler: As all of us know, we are going to be dealing principally with presidents of Williams, starting with Paul Ansel Chadbourne, who succeeded Mark Hopkins, and moving forward through Tyler Dennett. Perhaps first we ought to explain the inspiration for our meeting and for the interview format with which we are going to explore those Williams presidents. Fred had at one time intended a sequel to his Mark Hopkins book and in fact had spent many years of research on the post-Hopkins years. He had especially explored student life, faculty development, and trustee influence. One of the results of that research was his bicentennial essay, “Williams College 1793-1993: Three Eras, Three Cultures,” which has been included as an appendix in the 1996 edition of Mark Hopkins and the Log. A particular stimulus for this morning’s gathering was provided by Steve Lewis ’60, a former Williams economics professor who became president of Carleton. Steve asked me whether there was some way to take advantage of Fred’s understanding of this era. Fred, would you like to add any words about the book you didn’t write?

Fred Rudolph: Let it be said that the Williams archives possess the evidence of how far that project went—boxes of notes, folders of Xeroxed documents, extensive bibliographical intentions.

There is an amazing senior thesis to be written about this era at Williams. Who will write it? If you are a history major with a desire to a) Spend a summer at Williams doing some preliminary research and b) Have 100+ people read your thesis, then this is the topic for you. The vast majority of Williams theses are never read by anyone other than the adviser. Write about the history of Wiliams, and your words will live for decades.


On Campus 2010

Thanks to Jo Procter for arranging that a copy (pdf) of On Campus 2010 be sent to EphBlog. There are lots of great articles here. I encourage other EphBlog authors to highlight some of this material in separate posts.


Bennett ’65 on National Educational Standards

From Charles Murray:

I expect that Rick Hess will weigh in with a more measured assessment of the proposed national educational standards in English and math, but my quick take is that the math standards are not awful (you can only do so much bobbing and weaving with math standards) and that the English standards are gobbledygook. Having seen the K-12 homework brought home by my two children who went through the Maryland public schools in the 1990s through the mid-2000s, I assure you that almost all of the proposed English standards can be met with the same mushy, touchy-feely curriculum currently in place.

Whatever elements of rigor may be found in these standards will be watered down, not augmented, during the review process. Bill Bennett’s [’65] response when he was asked years ago about the prospect for national educational standards still holds. Can’t happen, he said. “Republicans don’t do national, and Democrats don’t do standards.”

Indeed. The results of No Child Left Behind have certainly lived down to Bennett’s expectations.


Three Week Seminar on “Beyond the Log”

Our one week seminar on Princeton’s fight against grade inflation was so successful that I have decided to organize a three week seminar about “Beyond the Log: Williams Presidents in the Gentleman’s Era” (pdf). Each day for the next three weeks at noon, I will quote selected portions of the interview and provide comments. Contain your excitement!


Photo ID, #121

A very colorful photo — but of what?

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

Thanks to former EphBlog webmaster Eric Smith ’99 for this beautiful picture.


Sustainability Blog

The Sustainability Blog at Williams continues to provide interesting content. Kudos to Stephanie Boyd, Director of the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives. Although the blog does not make post authorship clear (as it should), I believe that Stephanie deserves credit for most of the content.

Love the slogan: “Green is the new Purple”

UPDATE: Links fixed. Thanks to Kirsten for the correction.


NYT claims administrative overload at Williams

Posted without comment:

WILLIAMS is the second-oldest college in Massachusetts. Its bucolic campus hosts just under 2,000 undergraduates, attracted by its small size, traditional liberal arts curriculum and generous faculty-to-student ratio of 1 to 7. Attention from teachers is usually what one has in mind when selecting a small college like Williams, and when writing the hefty checks that it asks for. But what may surprise parents is where much of their money is going: the proportion of administrators to students matches that of teachers.

Williams’s annual report to the Department of Education reveals that of 1,017 total employees, 720, or over 70 percent, are doing something other than teaching. Among them are 84 coaches, 73 fund-raisers, a 42-member information-technology crew and a staff of 29 at its art museum. The college has a “baby-sitting coordinator,” a “spouse/partner employment counselor” and a “queer life coordinator.”

Are all these positions necessary?

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Via TaxProf, consider this collection of faculty salary information. Which school do you think would provide data comparable to that for, say, the Williams economics department? Perhaps University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill?


Record Finances

As a follow up to our discussion of Record finances, new editor-in-chief Kaitlin Butler ’11 kindly provided these details.

A basic summation of our current spending is that over the past several months, we cut costs down to include only spending essentials. At last count, our business manager clocked in our print run at 2000 issues, which for a 16-pager means about $0.50 per paper including the cost of on-campus delivery. Due to the stipulations of our printers, we can’t do a print run of 500 copies or any such run below their specified numbers without incurring extra costs, and we are operating at the most reasonable level we can.

The cost of on-campus delivery each week is $49.50, or six hours pay for our delivery staff at the College’s minimum wage.

1) Kudos to Butler for sharing this data. A leadership committed to transparency is exactly what the Record needs during this difficult time.

2) If I were the Administration and/or College Council, I would cancel the paid delivery. The Record staff should be able to get the paper themselves and drop them off at a few dining halls. (If they also wanted to put copies in secondary locations like faculty offices and local establishments, that would be fine, but there is not enough money to pay for such luxuries.)

3) Butler’s central task this coming fall should be to begin the transition of the Record to a primarily on-line existence. (The Administration may subsidize a print run for years to come, or it may not. But the world is heading on-line, as should the Record.) She should spend 90% of her (Record-related) time on that and 10% of everything else that the editor-in-chief normally does. She should start by having conversations with other Ephs experienced in the world of media. Why not call Ethan Zuckerman ’93, Steve Case ’80 and David Shipley ’85? They might be too busy to talk with her or they might not.

You can never network too much.

4) Which college papers have done the best job of adapting to the internet? Pointers and comments welcome.


Purple Noise

Your place for all things non-Eph.

[In case you are curious, this sweater was provided by Pua’s owner, who has adopted her as a pet.  Pua is an anteater who paints, drinks beer, and sleeps with her owner, yet strangely enough, does not eat ants.  She seems to make a nicer pet than an Ibex, which I would not recommend adopting after viewing this video.]


Princeton Grading: Departments

Sparked by our conversation about grade inflation at Williams, I will be reviewing different aspects of Princeton’s grading policy at noon each day this week.

From the Princeton FAQ (pdf):

Why have we made the departments responsible for implementing the policy?

We aspire to have students graded the same way in each department, so that there is no advantage or disadvantage to studying in a particular field. But the departments have different mixes of courses and course enrollments and different challenges and opportunities for implementing the grading policy. We leave to each department to determine how to meet the common institutional grading standard, taking into account the range, size, and level of the department’s courses. We’re not asking that every faculty member grade the same way, or that every course have the same grade distribution. Departments are in the best position to know what approach makes sense for their faculty and their courses; the grading policy vests maximum flexibility and room for judgment in each individual department, at the same time that it asks each department to agree to meet a common institutional standard.

Assigning responsibility at the department level was smart. Why? Because every school has professors like our own Derek Catsam ’93:

Oh: and I’m curious what tenured professors at Princeton who oppose this policy are doing. Because grading fits smack dab in the center of academic freedom, and as a tenured professor my answer would be something like this: “That’s a nice idea. Good luck with it. I’m going to grade how I see fit. And here’s my contract, my tenure letter, the number of the American Association of University Professors, the number of the President of the Faculty Senate, and the number of the chair of faculty affairs if you have any questions. Have a nice day.”

The best way to deal with prickly professors like Derek is to make the department the unit of measurement. Derek may be willing to tell off the central administration, but doing the same to his department chair — and his department colleagues — is much harder. Those are the folks that he needs to work closely with for decades. He needs to get along and compromise with them. He needs favors from them, at least occasionally.

Williams should also measure/fight grade inflation primarily at the department level.


Toughest Job in Cooking

When these pages last featured Evan Bick ’06, he had just returned home safely from his deployment to Iraq. What’s he up to now? Trying to improve Army chow:

Coming up with new meals for soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen to enjoy is a big part of what Natick Labs does. Before something goes into the MRE – meal, ready to eat – the item is tested at bases around the country, said Evan Bick, who is part of the Natick Combat Feeding Directorate.

“We ask them to rank it from zero to nine,” Bick said. “We don’t put anything in the field unless it gets a rating of at least six.”

I hope they grade on a curve — when you have to create foods that are shelf-stable, disaster-proof, and heat-to-eat, you’ve got to sacrifice something — usually taste. (Typical solution: lots of salt. And care packages full of hot sauce).

Below the jump, more on what they do:

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Princeton Grading: Student Quality

Sparked by our conversation about grade inflation at Williams, I will be reviewing different aspects of Princeton’s grading policy at noon each day this week.

On student quality:

Aren’t Princeton students better than ever before? Shouldn’t they get more A’s than ever before?

There is a strong temptation to argue that undergraduates today come to college better prepared academically than any previous generations of Princetonians—and, therefore, deserve more A’s. It is certainly tougher than ever before to gain admission to Princeton, but more intense competition does not necessarily mean abler students.
It’s true that the proportion of Academic 1’s and 2’s in the student body has grown over time, but one needs to be cautious about over-interpreting academic ratings. Those ratings are made up of three components: high school grades, rank in class, and SAT scores. As for high school grades, grade inflation is as much a high school phenomenon as it is a college phenomenon. Rank in class is increasingly problematic as a useful measure; in many high schools, there are many students who stand first in the class, for example, and many high schools now decline to provide class rank at all. And SAT scores do not in themselves sustain the argument that current undergraduates are more qualified than previous generations of Princetonians. Moreover, Princeton attracts such excellent students that the difference between a 1 and a 2, or a 2 and a 3, is actually very small.

Suppose, though, that we concede the argument—suppose today’s undergraduates really are more accomplished academically when they matriculate at Princeton. If that’s the case, then the faculty has a responsibility to hold them to higher standards—that is, to expect more of them and stretch them further academically than we have stretched previous generations. And even the best qualified students don’t do their best work on every assignment in every course; the point of the grading policy is that they shouldn’t be getting the same grades for their ordinary work as they get for their best work.



New Playground: EphBlog 2.0 beta v0.10

Hello all. This is another preliminary announcement.
EphBlog 2.0 is currently in early-stage construction at Again, early stage. We are looking for volunteers for the infrastructure/tech team, beta tester, sympathy and support.
Thanks.   Please place any questions below– we welcome your input.  Here’s looking forward to a bright new shiny future in the EphBlog Republic, and long may it prosper.


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