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For those that missed it

Williams Record review of the New Purple Pub here. What once made the original Pub a great venue is that the bar was an unapologetic dive, complete with dirty floors, burn stains and dusty license plates on the walls. The prices were cheap.
Not sure about the new formula. Place looks great, and has a killer location. The review is less than raving.

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KC Johnson on Karen Owen

Former Williams Professor KC Johnson writes:

I haven’t commented on the Karen Owen affair because Owen’s affront to basic decency seemed so obvious. (Owen, for those unaware, is the Duke graduate who chronicled, through a PowerPoint replete with photos, her sexual exploits with multiple male Duke student-athletes.) The PowerPoint went viral, and even prompted a Today Show segment, which helpfully used Owen’s actions to recall the lacrosse case—insinuating that a false allegation against Duke male students, inflamed by a rogue district attorney, had relevance to an invasion of privacy by a Duke female student, after voluntary sexual intercourse.

It’s not difficult to imagine how the Duke campus would have responded had the genders of the Owen affair been reversed—i.e., if a male Duke student had publicized, sometimes in mocking terms, his sexual interactions with multiple Duke female student-athletes.

And what would have been the reaction at Williams?

(By the way, KC’s hypothetical here seems a little silly at least in a Williams context. Although it would be possible for a Williams female student to have as many one-night-stands as Owen did, I am not sure that the same could be true for a male Eph, given the realities of sexual relationships, i.e., Williams men are often eager for a one night stand with someone of Owen’s attractiveness while Williams women are more choosy and/or less easy.)

And, as always, a great topic for a senior thesis!

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EphBlog Readership Down?

Is EphBlog’s readership down this year? Here is what Sitemeter reports.

Previous discussions of our readership here and here. As best I can tell, readership is significantly down in this academic year. Prior to May 2010, we were well above 1,000 visitors each weekday. (November 2009 was an outlier for reasons that you can probably guess.) Readers were also down over the summer, but we have seen similar drops in past years.

Possible explanations include:

  1. A change in how Sitemeter does its counting. There is some evidence that Sitemeter, relative to, say, Google Analytics, over-counted in the past. Perhaps they have fixed things now.
  2. A real drop in readership caused by my change in focus. I spent three weeks this summer writing about Williams history and all of October going through Adam Falk’s induction speech paragraph-by-paragraph. I think that this is some f my best work, but it will never be as popular (or at least as viewed) as my more incendiary material.
  3. A lack of major campus controversies. In past years, EphBlog has benefited from our coverage of campus controversies like Mary Jane Hitler and Wily E. N-word. Perhaps the lack of such major events, at least since he-who-must-not-be-named has hurt readership

Other explanations?

The breakdown between Williams-located readers and others seems to be about the same as always.

We continue to think that about 20% of our readership is from Williams and the surrounding towns.

As this Google Analytics report shows, on a longer time scale, our readership is fairly constant.

My thoughts on this are the same as always. We will never have more than 2,000 readers per day because there are just not many people in the world interested in All Things Eph. (Shocking, I know.) I am much more interested in being read, not by large numbers of people, but by those most interested in Williams as an institution. I write for them, and for my father.

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Induction Seminar: Conclusion

This post concludes our month-long seminar about President Adam Falk’s Induction address.

Pulling out the most important terms and phrases from the speech foreshadows the next decade at Williams.

A Williams education, as this history indicates, provides not merely a private good, found in the betterment of individual graduates, but a public good, measured in the impact those graduates have on the world. … We aim to prepare students for service to the world … The greatest, and most beneficial, change at Williams has been its opening to the wider world … the highest manifestation of the public good we provide is to be a college for all of the United States, and of the world. … And yet, Williams’ greatest advances have occurred when we led, rather than followed, our peers. … It means arguing for the value of the liberal arts by sharing with the world the example of what we do.

[W]e must develop a deeper understanding of what it means for Williams to be an international institution. We must simultaneously be local and global, building a very specific, Berkshires-based Williams that could only be found in this valley, while reaching out far beyond to prepare our students to be effective citizens not only of this country but of the world. … bring international students to Williams … our conception of a global strategy is still emerging … We must become global within our existing scale and scope … we must think of the internationalization of Williams as something that happens here in Williamstown

Williams is full of wonderful students from every walk of life, and many corners of the country and the world … we can become truly global, and teach and learn as never before. … we will welcome here those born to every circumstance – whether economic background, or national identity

[W]e will love even more the Williams that we create . . .

Within a decade, Williams will be more than 20% international students, a greater percentage than any other elite college in the world. That is where Adam Falk proposes to lead us. Are you ready to follow him? I am.

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AA Ruining Lives, with Julianna McKannis

AA Destroying The Social Lives Of Thousands Of Once-Fun Americans

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Endowment Report Requests

The Williams College Investment Report 2009 came out in October last year. (New readers may want to review my three part series.) Where is this year’s version?

If I could make only one request of this year’s report, it would be to show benchmark information, both for the endowment as a whole and for each major category.

Here is Harvard’s report (pdf). Note:

The endowment portfolio earned an investment return of 11.0% for the year and was valued at $27.4 billion as of June 30, 2010. The return for the year was 160 bps above the return that would have been earned by our Policy Portfolio benchmark.

If Harvard can report a return for its benchmark, then so can Williams.

If Harvard can report the returns of the major components of the endowment relative to their benchmarks, both over this year and the last 10 years, then so can Williams.

There is no excuse for Williams to be less transparent than our peer institutions. What do we have to hide?

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Induction Seminar: Mauna Loa

This post continues our month-long seminar about President Adam Falk’s Induction address.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjUCCuFpfCs&start=1480

Six weeks ago, on vacation with my family, I hiked to the top of Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii. Mauna Loa is, by volume, the largest mountain on Earth, and I stood at the highest elevation in the middle of the largest ocean in the world. At moments like that you expect yourself to think great, perhaps even holy, thoughts. Yet I was drawn then to think of this moment now, and how – as beautiful, stark and inspiring as that place was – my work in life is here, together, with you. None of what we hope for Williams can be accomplished alone, nor will it spring from sublime mountaintop revelations. It will result only from our creative and communal work. We love the Williams that we know and have known, but we will love even more the Williams that we create. Let us join together, now and in the years to come, to bring that Williams forth. Read more

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No More Textbooks?

From Insider Higher Ed:

The introduction of the $249 B&N Nookcolor signals the initial point of acceleration towards a digital textbook future.

Why:

Device Prices: A $249 price tag will decline rapidly over the next two years, as Amazon and Apple compete and the technology advances. Expect a $100 Nookcolor within 2 years.

Experience: Textbooks will be better than paper on the Nookcolor. Integrating videos, animations, recorded lectures, LMS functionality (through the browser), interactive diagrams and maps, and continuously updated content will turn textbooks into personalized, active learning platforms.

My oldest daughter goes to college in 2015. She will never buy a paper textbook. She will pay less than today’s students for textbooks, and will receive a much better product. Products like the Nookcolor are very good news indeed for both students and the textbook publishers.

1) Looking over the shoulder of someone reading a dermatology textbook (on an Ipad, I think), I was stunned. It was as surperior to a regular textbook, at least for something visual, as TV is to radio.

2) The open source movement will only accelerate this trend. In the same way that Wikipedia pushes other encyclopedias out of business, open source text books, especially in standardized and popular topics like math, biology, chemistry, economics and physics, will do the same to for-profit textbooks. If I were a Williams professor, I would open source my textbook as soon as possible. (Looking at you, Professor De Veaux!)

3) This will happen even faster in high school. Every parent I know hates the huge size of high school textbooks. Why are my children forced to lug these books around? I doubt that my 6th grader will ever use a textbook in high school.

4) Do you believe that 2015 estimate? I don’t. Although many, many Williams classes will be using electronic textbooks by then, there will definitely be some holdouts. It is almost impossible to make 100% of the Williams faculty do anything.

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Jail Time

Via reader David H.T. Kane ’58, this New York Times editorial:

The American Action Network, another conservative group that does not disclose its donors, is targeting Representative Chris Murphy [’96], a Connecticut Democrat, in his race against Sam Caligiuri, a Republican.

The group is running an ad claiming that the health reform law, which Mr. Murphy supported and Mr. Caligiuri wants to repeal, requires jail time for people who do not buy health insurance. The law does no such thing. At least one Connecticut television station has stopped running the ad.

The sound of liberal fear is a pleasant one to the Eph brigade of the vast right-wing conspiracy. Here is the ad:

As noted previously, conservative Ephs are looking at nothing but upside in this election. Either Murphy wins (Nate Silver has him at 72%, down from 84% last month) and we keep an Eph in Congress or Murphy loses, swept away but the worst Democratic losses in 50+ years.

Question for our readers: Should Connecticut TV stations refuse to air that ad?

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Induction Seminar: National Identity

This post continues our month-long seminar about President Adam Falk’s Induction address.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjUCCuFpfCs&start=1423

These are the challenges we face entering the second decade of the century. We rise to meet them led by our most fundamental ethical claims. The deep commitment of this faculty, expressed over many generations, always to ask first what is in the best interest of students, is our moral center. It permeates the Williams tradition of faculty governance over what and how we teach – which is a foundational strength of our College. The second great commitment is that no inherited characteristic – neither gender, nor race, nor sexual identity – shall be any barrier to full participation in our community. The third is that, to the fullest extent possible, we will welcome here those born to every circumstance – whether economic background, or national identity, or religious tradition, or social class.

DK:

It is impossible for Falk to believe this stirring call to arms, and to be in favor of the current quota for international students, without also being a raging hypocrite.

1) Recall that Williams currently has a quota for international students, originally reported by EphBlog. Five years ago, the quota was 6%. It has risen to 8% in recent years, although the College has not publicly discussed any policy changes.

2) It was plausible (barely) for one to be both in favor of an international quota and to claim that Williams would “welcome here those born to every circumstance – whether economic background, or national identity” because the need-blind policy for international students made things very complicated. It would have been (and still is) financially impossible for Williams to be both need-blind for international students and quota free. There are just too many very poor and very smart international applicants. But now that Williams is need-aware, there is no longer any (financial) excuse for having an international quota.

3) Recall my explanation as to why Williams changed its financial aid policies.

Williams began planning for a major increase in international admissions when it named Adam Falk president a year ago. Because international students are, on average, much poorer than US students, the only way to go to 25% international is to reinstate loans and become need-aware for internationals.

4) All that I ask is that Williams stop discriminating against international applicants in the same way that, 50 years or so ago, it stopped discriminating against Jewish applicants. Does that make me a wild-eyed radical?

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Induction Seminar: The Humanity and the Humor

This post continues our month-long seminar about President Adam Falk’s Induction address.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjUCCuFpfCs&start=1293

And of course, even now, we must make the case vigorously for the liberal arts – to students, to parents, to legislators, and to our colleague institutions. We live at a time when the national instinct is to confuse accountability with quantitative assessment, and to value increasingly only those outcomes that can be assigned a number, however misleading that number may be. We’ve become obsessed with the facts that our children memorize, rather than the development of their capacity to thrive as whole human beings. To steel our nerves for the fight, we do well to recall the eloquence with which Jack Sawyer threw down the gauntlet when he said:

This much we do know: that no training in fixed techniques, no finite knowledge now at hand, no rigid formula [students] might be given can solve problems whose shape we cannot yet define . . . The most versatile, the most durable, in an ultimate sense the most practical knowledge and intellectual resources which they can now be offered are those impractical arts and sciences around which a liberal arts education has long centered: the capacity to see and feel, to grasp, respond and act over a widening arc of experience; the disposition and ability to think, to question, to use knowledge to order an ever-extending range of reality; the elasticity to grow, to perceive more widely and more deeply, and perhaps to create; the understanding to decide where to stand and the will and tenacity to do so; the wit and wisdom, the humanity and the humor to try to see oneself, one’s society, and one’s world with open eyes, to live a life usefully, to help things in which one believes on their way.

If we are not at Williams for this very purpose, then what are we for?

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Induction Video Statistics

According to YouTube, about 400 people have watched (part?) of Adam Falk’s induction address. Consider where those viewers have come from:

Needless to say, I don’t know if the 140 viewers from EphBlog are really 140 different people or just me clicking on the video 140 times to figure out the exact timings so that I could start the video in sync with the appropriate paragraph during our seminar. Nor do I know if the 135 viewers from president.williams.edu are primarily from Williams itself or are mostly alumni/parents who were directed to that page via Eph Notes. But, big picture, this may be independent evidence that EphBlog plays an important role in the ecosystem of the Williams Conversation.

Imagine what our readership would be if the College included a link to us, every once in a while, from the home page or from Eph Notes . . .

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Fall Family Days

Did any EphBlog readers attend Freshmen Family Weekend events?

Tell us about them! I would be especially curious about Adam Falk’s Saturday Q&A. Also, can anyone identify this Eph and his family?

Below the break is the full schedule of events, saved for the benefit of future historians.
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Induction Seminar: Truly Global

This post continues our month-long seminar about President Adam Falk’s Induction address.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjUCCuFpfCs&start=1212

Third, the promise represented by the great broadening of our College community remains incompletely fulfilled. Our multicultural expression has been won with great investment in recruitment, financial aid, and programming. Though, as deeply proud as we are of this accomplishment, it is but the first mile on a path to the rich, vibrant community to which we aspire. Williams is full of wonderful students from every walk of life, and many corners of the country and the world. Perhaps nothing has inspired me more in the past six months than discovering the remarkable depth, commitment, and quality of our students. But how can all this difference flourish while at the same time we build a single community that welcomes and supports all? As we are discovering in society as a whole, the answer is neither assimilation to a single culture nor parallel coexistence. It doesn’t stop with access or tolerance but involves treating differences of all kinds as boundaries to be crossed in both directions. If we can accomplish this – internalize this perspective on difference – we can become truly global, and teach and learn as never before.

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Transparent Financial Statements from Peer Colleges?

Which of Williams’ peer liberal arts colleges provides the best (most comprehensive and transparent) financial statements?

For example, a critical number in evaluating college policy is the annual endowment “draw,” the amount of money from the endowment spent on regular operations each year. As this recent discussion makes clear, it is essentially impossible to derive that number from Williams’ published financial statements. Other colleges do a better job, allowing their students, alumni, faculty and staff to understand the financial details. Which elite liberal arts college does the best job? Once we determine that, we can all start lobbying the Williams administration to follow best practices in this area.

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What Politicians Do

Martha Coakley ’75 wants to be a Senator. To get that job, she needs to win an election. To win a state-wide election, there is nothing more important than name recognition. To increase your name recognition, you need to get your name in the newspaper, even if doing so is the result of idiocy like this.

AG urges Beth Israel to rethink CEO’s fitness
Swift action found lacking on Levy

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said yesterday that the board of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center should do “some soul-searching’’ about chief executive Paul Levy’s ability to continue leading the hospital, after her office concluded that his longtime personal relationship with a female employee “clearly endangered the reputation of the institution and its management.’’

Coakley’s remarks, made in an interview with the Globe, came as she released results of her office’s four-month investigation into the board’s handling of Levy’s relationship with the woman, who left the organization last fall.

What business is that of the Massachusetts AG? None. But grandstanding on ths topic got Coakley her name in the paper, and that is all that matters.

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Williams Club for Sale

Got a spare $20 million?

The double townhouse at 24 East 39th Street that has housed the Williams Club since 1924 is on the market and is expected to fetch close to $20 million, the Post reported. The six-story, 28,000-square-foot club was last appraised at $21 million and has 28 hotel rooms and several rooms for events; the National Realty Club was among the organizations that used to meet there. Williams College’s alumni organization stopped using the club last spring because, according to its website, “maintaining such an independent facility… [had] become financially impractical.” Its members have since become part of the Princeton Club on West 43rd Street.

It would be interesting to do a thorough (100 year) analysis of the economics of the Williams Club.

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Spoken Up

Archive of comments from Speak Up.

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The Confirmation Wars

Kudos to Professor Justin Crowe ’03 for organizing a great campus event tomorrow that ANY aspiring law student should definitely attend, featuring two federal judges from opposite ends of the political spectrum, Stephen Reinhardt and Jeffrey Sutton ’83.  I think the most illuminating campus events tend to involve bringing together people with different perspectives, and it’s especially nice that two of the three people involved in this event are Ephs.

Reinhardt and Sutton don’t agree on much, but I predict they will reach consensus on one item, at least: the politicization of the judicial confirmation process is out of control, especially now that Senators are indefinitely holding up (in unprecedented fashion) the appointment of basically innocuous, highly-confirmable District Court nominees, often as leverage for totally unrelated agendas.  The problem with playing these types of games (in addition to what is fast becoming a serious shortage of judges in certain parts of the country) is that, once one party embraces a new obstruction technique, they can’t credibly complain when they are the party in power and the other party adopts exactly the same approach to blocking their nominees.  So unless something changes, we are headed towards a rapidly escalating downwards spiral in which a functioning judiciary is held hostage to the whims of anonymous members of the legislative branch.

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Induction Seminar: International Institution

This post continues our month-long seminar about President Adam Falk’s Induction address.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjUCCuFpfCs&start=1121

Second, we must develop a deeper understanding of what it means for Williams to be an international institution. We must simultaneously be local and global, building a very specific, Berkshires-based Williams that could only be found in this valley, while reaching out far beyond to prepare our students to be effective citizens not only of this country but of the world. Many pieces of this process seem obvious – bring international students to Williams, send Williams students to study abroad – but our conception of a global strategy is still emerging. We are, after all, not a sprawling multiversity but a small college of two thousand students, each here for four years and some thirty courses. We cannot simply add every desirable experience to our curriculum or to student life. We must become global within our existing scale and scope, and without chasing fashions or being driven by our shifting anxieties about America’s geopolitical position. Grappling with this question will require the engagement of our entire community, as our strategies will encompass the curriculum and extend into so much of what we do. And we must think of the internationalization of Williams as something that happens here in Williamstown, capitalizing on what this campus and region can offer.

DDF:

I love Adam Falk! This is exactly the vision that I have for Williams, the fundamental change that I have pushed and pushed and pushed for many years. I think that future historians will mark this as the most important paragraph in the speech.

1) Recall our previous discussion about how Falk might make Williams “a college for all of the United States, and of the world.” Falk is, I think, explicitly rejecting the Middlebury Model of a global liberal arts college with facilities and programs all around the world. Reread these key phrases: “Berkshires-based Williams that could only be found in this valley” and “global within our existing scale and scope” and “happens here in Williamstown, capitalizing on what this campus and region can offer.” Falk has no plans to expand programs like Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford.

2) If you reject the Middlebury Model of offering facilities/programs everywhere and if you realize that there is no way — without tilting admissions toward dramatically more wealthy students — to enroll US applicants than are more “global,” then your only option “for Williams to be an international institution” is to dramatically increase foreign student enrollment. Reasonable people might disagree with that goal, might think that a Williams with 8% non-US citizens and quality study abroad options is international enough. But if you really believe Falk’s rhetoric, then your only choice is a major change in admissions.

3) Again, this dramatic change is made possible by ending need-blind admissions for international students. Jeff and I have a bet about the percentage of international students in the class of 2121. I think that it will be 20% or more. What do you think it will be? What do you think it should be?

KT:

Holy mother of false dichotomies,   David!  I don’t even know what the Middlebury model is– I thought Falk was saying we can’t follow the NYU and Columbia models!

Really!  You can’t follow– what you are saying,  is that because Williams cannot follow the model used by Centre College,  it must certainly do what Ken Thomas wants for Williams!

(Except I have no such vision,  unlike you).

This is absurd.   At it’s most base,   what Falk is saying here,  is that Williams must engage these issues,  and begin to confront them in earnest and to plan– we might get some clues from the above,  some hints for direction,  but that is all.

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Comparison of Williams & Amherst Endowments

With the 2010 financial statements just off the presses I thought it might be interesting to try to construct a side-by-side comparison of the Williams and Amherst endowments.

Here’s my attempt: Comparison of Amherst & Williams Endowments: 6/30/2010

I’ve tried to group the various assets in each endowment to allow for some rough comparisons. At the bottom of the page I’ve computed some ratios that I find interesting.

Observations:

1) Amherst is more aggressively invested and has less flexibility over its aset allocation.

The key thing here is how much each school has in “Level III” assets, and how much additional cash each can be required to invest in these assets. The values that colleges report for their Level III assets, literally, are educated guesses, and nothing more, and the state of financial reporting on them, while improving, is still poor.

2) Despite its heavier investment in illiquid, Level III assets, Amherst says it expects a long-term return of about 6.8%. Williams puts its expected long-term return at 8%.

3) Last year in the management discussion, Amherst showed that its target and actual asset allocations were kind of far apart. This year there is no discussion of its target and actual asset allocations. Williams did disclose its target allocations in the notes to its financial statements, and its actual allocation seems to be reasonably in line with the target.

4) Amherst’s unfunded cash calls are 53% of its combined Level I & II assets, compared to 30% for Williams. This would only be a concern when cash calls exceed distributions from Level III assets. When that happens (as it did last year for Amherst) one has to go to the Level I & II assets.

I don’t consider myself an expert at analyzing a college’s financial performance. This is simply a lay person’s attempt to read and understand via a seat-of-the-pants camparative method. I believe that the important decisions, regarding things like admissions & financial aid policy, staffing levels, salary freezes, construction plans, etc., are influenced more by the trustees’ expectations about the near-term prospects for the endowment than by any other single factor.

It seems at this point that Williams Trustees seem to feel that the worst is behind us endowment-wise, and that Amherst feels that it has a lot of heavy lifting to do. I’m very interested to know whether other Ephs and Jeffs have a different take.

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Induction Seminar: Bash the Professoriate

This post continues our month-long seminar about President Adam Falk’s Induction address.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjUCCuFpfCs&start=1050

Let me pause for a minute to say a word about the role of the faculty here. It recently has become quite fashionable in some circles – including, oddly enough, academic ones – to bash the professoriate as selfish and out of touch, more interested in perks and ostensibly esoteric research than in teaching students. I say to you now, categorically, that I reject this slander, certainly here at Williams and also widely across American higher education. In my six months here, I’ve been profoundly impressed by the depth of our faculty’s commitment to the mission of Williams, by their relentless energy in pursuing excellence in teaching and scholarship, and by the culture of mutual accountability that infuses their work. The quality of a Williams education, the transformative experiences that students have had over the generations, are the direct result of faculty leadership of the academic mission. This is the bedrock on which this institution was built, and on which we’ll continue, fundamentally, to rely.

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Big-Time Athlete Infusion at Amherst

Some folks here talk about Williams as if it is some sort of outlier in terms of athletic emphasis in NESCAC.  But check out what’s been going on at Amherst (and indeed, at other NESCAC schools) in recent years: if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Williams should be VERY flattered.  I’ve long been making the point that Amherst has dramatically improved its athletic performance over the past decade to the point where, in team sports, it performs just as well (if not better) than Williams in the aggregate.  One area where Amherst most certainly emphasizes athletics more than Williams is in terms of transfer students.  Check out the  summary below of transfers, mostly from higher-division programs, currently playing key roles for Amherst athletic teams.

I’m not suggesting these transfers aren’t qualified to attend Amherst, or that they don’t belong there.  Indeed, on the contrary, read the article on Jeff Katz, an impressive scholar-athlete, who I imagine is typical in that regard.  But I am suggesting that Williams gets unfairly branded as some sort of athletics factory while many of its peers are pouring millions into new athletics facilities (while Williams’ are the last buildings on campus to be renovated, and only when the situation becomes nearly desperate), or are placing more emphasis than Williams on bringing star athletes to campus, or are spending far more, on a per-athlete basis, than Williams, or are actively poaching Williams coaches (two to Wesleyan, one to Bowdoin, all making roughly lateral moves in the last year).

And indeed, as I constantly remark, Williams kicks butt in the Director’s Cup not primarily due to occasional strong runs from the higher-profile team sports, but more often because of the consistent, year-to-year excellence of individual sports like track and field, swimming, cross country, crew, tennis, skiing and wrestling.  Almost every year, Williams earns  a ton of Director’s Cup points from all of these teams.   And the higher participation rate in athletics at Williams is not, again, reflective of a larger number of heavily-recruited athletes on campus, or a larger percentage of students playing TIP-heavy sports like football, basketball, soccer, and hockey.  Rather, as I often note, it’s because of the large number of varsity teams and in particular the ENORMOUS rosters for no-cut teams like crew, swimming, skiing, cross country, and track and field, none of which require substantial (if any) admissions concessions, nor, would I argue, have a dramatic impact on campus culture beyond bringing a high volume of active, outdoorsy type students to campus.  (I would agree that Williams has a higher percentage of fitness-minded / outdoorsy students than all of its peers save for, arguably, Middlebury, but that is very different from having a culture more in thrall to team sports).

In sum, Williams’ tremendous success in athletics is not a product of a disproportionate emphasis on athletic recruiting or expenditures relative to its NESCAC peers.   Keep in mind that, while men’s hoops came very close last year, no Williams team sport has won a national title since, I believe, 2003.  Since then, Middlebury, Amherst, Trinity, Tufts and Bowdoin have been winning team titles (often multiple titles) in TIP-heavy sports including men’s basketball, men’s soccer, men’s and women’s ice hockey, men’s and women’s lacrosse, women’s field hockey, and baseball.  And while Wesleyan hasn’t won any titles, they have been bringing in high profile coaches from other NESCAC schools (hiring away Bates’ basketball coach and the aforementioned Williams coaches)  and really amping up the most prominent (and recruit-heavy) teams on campus: men’s soccer, football, basketball and lacrosse, all of whom have been establishing (or soon will establish) new standards for success at Wesleyan following very difficult stretches.

Again, I want to emphasize that I’m not saying Amherst (or any other NESCAC school) is doing anything untoward.  Just pointing out that, if you are qualified academically and are a star athlete who wants to transfer down a division or two, Amherst is, apparently, usually going to be far more interested than Williams.  [Williams may have one, max two, high-profile transfers on campus at any given time — Ryan Malo ’11 in wrestling comes to mind, and his success has been amazing — but the difference is substantial].   And Amherst has also been bringing in very prominent recruits as first years in recent years, in particular in basketball and ice hockey, but also in sports like tennis, where this year Amherst had the top-ranked recruiting classes in the nation for both men and women.  Here are the Amherst transfer athletes (that I know of via Amherst publicizing them), all but one of whom came from D-1 or D-2 programs, and all but one of whom arrived on campus in the last two years:

  • Jeff Katz ’11 , 24 year old all-conference football player, former pro baseball player, transfer from Lafayette
  • Reggie Fugett ’11, basketball/football transfer from University of Cincinnati (note: injuries have unfortunately derailed his promising athletic career, and in all events, an unusual case since his dad is a high-profile Amherst alum)
  • Matt Pietersi ’13, football star who transferred from Springfield College after leading them in tackles as a frosh; currently doing the same for Amherst
  • Luis Rattenhuber ’13, men’s tennis star who transferred from San Diego State
  • Joe Brock ’11, ice hockey star who transferred from Holy Cross and proceeded to lead Amherst in points last winter
  • Jake Hannon ’12, another top-notch ice hockey transfer, from Army
  • Jackie Renner ’12, top-notch women’s hoops player who transferred from University of Vermont and finished second in minutes on Amherst as a sophomore
  • Jasmine Hardy ’13, women’s hoops player from University of New Haven
  • David Fredlund ’12, baseball player from Davidson
  • Erin Babineau ’12, ice hockey transfer from Bemidji State

Not coincidentally, the last few years, Amherst has had more success in men’s football, women’s basketball, men’s tennis, and men’s ice hockey than at any time in recent memory.   Amherst has also been kicking butt in men’s basketball, women’s tennis, and women’s ice hockey, without the aid of  (prior to this year) any high-profile transfers.  And to be fair, even for teams with high-profile transfers, the star players have mostly been home-grown.  Williams may have juggernauts in women’s tennis and women’s crew, but Amherst has built (in some cases with amazing speed) juggernauts in women’s ice hockey, women’s tennis, men’s tennis, and women’s basketball, all four of which (!) will likely be favored to win national titles this year.

The Director’s Cup is still fairly safe, and will be most years, particularly because Williams has a few varsity sports that Amherst lacks (wrestling, women’s crew, skiing), and because of Williams’ consistent excellence in the individual sports.  But the days of Williams dominating, or even having a decided edge, over Amherst in team sports are over, and have been for several years — they are truly even as athletic rivals in most sports at this point, which is probably a good thing overall.  If, however, Amherst keeps on bringing in three-to-four scholarship-level transfers per year as it has the past few years, I wonder how long Williams can hope to compete on even equal terms in team sports.  And yet, there is still the reputational lag, where Williams is frequently portrayed as some sort of athletic factory, as opposed to its peers who are taking far more aggressive steps to improve their athletic programs.

It’s really a credit to Williams’ coaches, athletes, and tradition of excellence that, despite rivals pumping up their athletic programs at the same time that Williams has been reducing admissions concessions and tightening budgets, and  despite the generally-dated athletic facilities, Williams has managed to maintain such a high standard of achievement.  And I’m not really critical of most of the changes at Williams — if the school can still win NESCAC titles and Director’s Cups while tightening athlete admissions, more power to it.  But it would be nice for the outside rhetoric to match the reality.  And it would be doubly nice if, in the next fund drive, the relatively deficient state of many of the athletic facilities — particularly the football field and field house, but also certain outdated aspects of Chandler — is recognized and addressed.

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Induction Seminar: Teaching Mission

This post continues our month-long seminar about President Adam Falk’s Induction address.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjUCCuFpfCs&start=952

First, we have not just the opportunity but, because of the advantages afforded us, the responsibility to be a national leader – maybe the national leader – in innovative and effective teaching. We have all the elements in place: talented faculty; bright, committed students; and, most important, an academic culture that places teaching at its heart. Our faculty walk in the footsteps of Hopkins, Gaudino, and so many others. Innovation does not mean chasing every fad and every new technology, despite all the possibilities that technology affords; often it means embracing the familiar in new and creative ways. Whatever some say, the traditional disciplines are far from obsolete, although they are in conversation and collaboration with each other more richly than ever before. What innovation does require is that we continually rethink how we teach our students, and what we teach them, using every new tool that deepens their engagement with our subjects and with us. It means broadening our teaching mission beyond Williams, to leadership on the national stage. It means arguing for the value of the liberal arts by sharing with the world the example of what we do. And when we tell students, and alumni, and the media, that the finest possible education in America is to be had at Williams, we must know that we mean it, and that it’s unarguably true.

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Big Hits

Tim Layden ’78 has a column in Sports Illustrated on the need to change the culture of football (see previous discussion here and Layden’s 3-part 2007 cover story here)

In my experience, every American male who put on a helmet for his high school when he was 16 years old — I was one of them — thinks he understands the level of hitting in professional football. He doesn’t. Not even close. But he can comfortably and safely act like it from his couch on Sunday afternoons, and argue that NFL players are richly compensated for the risks in catching passes over the middle.

Concussion research in the past several years has made it obvious the NFL needs to reduce the incidence of head injuries in its game. Strict enforcement of rules in place today is a step in that direction. The NFL is acting to preserve the health of its most important asset: the players. There’s no amount of money that can suitably compensate a young former athlete for the loss of cognitive function.

Intimidating hits go back to Jack Tatum, Fred Williamson, Dick Butkus, Concrete Charlie Bednarik and beyond. Players are bigger and faster now, and they celebrate every hit, not just the big ones. But the concept is not new, even if brain research is. It’s vital that the culture change. But to suggest that this doesn’t change the sport is delusional.

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Bellucci ’02 Captured

From the Daily News:

The Staten Island schizophrenic accused of killing his parents and skipping off to Israel was extradited back to the U.S. on Sunday morning.

Eric Bellucci, who was nabbed Friday in Tel Aviv as he tried to book a flight to China, was being held Sunday at a Staten Island police station, according to a spokesman for the Staten Island district attorney’s office.

Bellucci, 30, once a star athlete at Stuyvesant High School, was scheduled to be arraigned on murder charges Monday – the same day Arthur Bellucci, 61, and Marian Bellucci, 56, will be laid to rest.

Relatives described Bellucci as a brilliant young man who attended elite Williams College, where he played baseball and football.

But mental problems later diagnosed as schizophrenia surfaced after college, causing Bellucci to be hospitalized twice. The once-promising young man became delusional and violent and often turned his rage on his family. His mental demons worsened in recent months as he refused to take his medication, the relatives said.

About a month before the brutal double murder, Bellucci called an old friend from Stuyvesant High School and said he was working with Israeli intelligence.

Since then, former classmates from Eric Bellucci’s high school and Williams College, his alma mater, have been calling the NYPD to report his troubling behavior, police sources said.

Previous post here. Condolences to all.

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Induction Seminar: Three Initial Thoughts

This post continues our month-long seminar about President Adam Falk’s Induction address.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjUCCuFpfCs&start=928

Even if we’re confident in who we aspire to be and aware of the conflicts long embedded in that aspiration, we now find ourselves at a precise moment in the college’s history, in which we face particular challenges. What must we do to manifest the essence of Williams in this new century? Let me share three initial thoughts on this.

DK:

My thesis is that Falk and the Trustees decided a year ago to make Williams much more international than it is today, with a much higher percentage on non-US students than any elite college. Given that thesis, what sort of “initial thoughts” should I expect to read from him? Without reading ahead, what sort of thoughts would you predict he will offer?

KT:

Is there anyone here who hasn’t read ahead?

Let me– look,  David.  You’re making a guess that’s nothing but playing the odds.  If one was to guess,  and one was a hedge fund owner,  one would choose your  guess.   It has nothing to do with what Falk is saying.

But why would one choose that option?  What’s going on?

Once more,   let’s go back to Falk:

we … find ourselves at a precise moment in the college’s history, in which we face particular challenges.

What is the nature of the moment we find ourselves in,  of the challenges set before us,   of the decisions to be made?  That’s the question.

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Campus Posters?

From WSO:

1) I think that the question of whether there is a athlete/non-athlete divide and how pernicious it is if there is one is still one that needs to be discussed.

2) The recent posters that have gone up and subsequently been taken down around campus highlighted a perceived problem on campus. Some were offended and some thought the posters refreshingly brought these issues “out in the open”. In light of this, I believe that the questions that follow are relevant.

The dilemma in discussing issues such as these is that while it is useful to discuss groups as a whole, both athletes and non-athletes are not homogeneous groups and blanket statements about either group should be careful to limit the scope of their claims.

Can someone describe these posters or, better, e-mail us a copy? Future historians will want to know the details of campus controversies.

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Peter May ’79 is Home from IRAQ !

Great News !

Peter May ’79 is back on US Soil !

With his return, there are no more Ephs deployed in harms way, as far as I know.

Thank you for your great support of Pete and all our deployed Ephs.

Stewart Menking ’79

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News on the Sawyer Library Project

To the Williams Community,

That loud cracking sound you may have heard over the weekend marked a longed-for thaw of the freeze on major campus construction.

Encouraged by the great educational opportunities afforded by the proposed new Sawyer Library, by the readiness of the construction plans, and by generous pledges in recent months that bring total philanthropic support for the new library to more than half of its $80 million cost, the Board of Trustees has approved my recommendation that work on the new Sawyer begin at the start of the construction season this spring.

Part of the larger Stetson-Sawyer Project, which included Hollander and Schapiro Halls, the library was put on hold when the global financial crisis hit two years ago. We will now be able to provide for the arts, humanities, and social sciences the kinds of wonderfully effective teaching and learning spaces that Schow Library affords the sciences and math. Drawings and floor plans for the project can be viewed at http://library.williams.edu/newlibrary/floor-plans.php .

The schedule anticipates opening the new Sawyer Library, to be attached to a renovated Stetson Hall, in 2014. This will be followed by the razing of the current library building and the construction in its place of a new green space that will connect Stetson/Sawyer with the Paresky Center and the Frosh Quad.

Our thanks go to the many people, led for years by Professor of Anthropology Michael Brown and College Librarian Dave Pilachowski, whose meticulous work produced such an exciting project, and to the faculty, staff, and students who have patiently endured a postponement that had been of indefinite length until this moment. And, of course, the deep gratitude of us all goes to our donors, a number of whom wish to remain anonymous at this time, for their great generosity and for their commitment to this project and this college.

The other project postponed by the recession has been the renovation of Weston Field, which is now being thoroughly reexamined to ensure that it meets the College’s needs. We’ll report more on the details of that process as they become clear.

I can’t tell you how deeply delighted I am to have on track a project as important to Williams as construction of the new Sawyer Library.

Best wishes,
Adam Falk
President

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