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Moore v. EphBlog Dismissed with Prejudice

The lawsuit filed against EphBlog and DK by former Professor Moore has been dismissed with prejudice. Copies of the most recent pleadings can be found here (EphBlog’s Memorandum in Support of its Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings), here (Moore’s Motion to Dismiss Without Prejudice), and here (EphBlog’s Opposition to Moore’s Motion to Dismiss Without Prejudice).

In essence, EphBlog moved to have the suit thrown out at an early stage. In response, Moore tried to have the case dismissed, but leaving him to refile the case at a later date. EphBlog opposed this, seeking to have the case ended forever. The judge ruled in EphBlog’s favor, and dismissed the case. Moore’s time for appeal has now expired, and so the case is over.

Special thanks to the lawyers (Emily Renshaw and Neil McGaraghan of Bingham McCutchen) who represented both EphBlog and DK for both their hard work and their good work (not always the same thing). Their strategy got rid of the case pretty quickly, for which everyone is grateful. Thanks also to DK for overseeing the process, and to Jeff for his early assistance.


Grade Definitions at Pomona

From last fall:

In response to longstanding concerns about grade inflation at Pomona College, a faculty and student committee is developing a set of grade definitions to guide grading across the college.

The Curriculum Committee began reviewing grading practices last semester, after faculty voted in favor of a process to produce college-wide grade definitions. Pomona currently has no official grade definitions to designate what level of student performance corresponds to each letter grade.

The committee plans to submit a proposed set of definitions to a faculty vote in Spring 2011.

“Our goal is to define, as best we can, how the college wants to grade,” said Academic Affairs Commissioner John Thomason PO ’12, who represents the ASPC on the Curriculum Committee. “We want to reflect the wishes of the people that are doing the grading—the faculty—while taking all viewpoints into account.”

A good idea. Williams should do the same. Even better, Williams should copy the Princeton policy for dealing with grade inflation.


Strange Williams Sighting

Thanks to the tipster (who chooses to remain anonymous) who pointed out that the Williams fight song makes a strange appearance in the 1954 Titantic film, immediately prior to the iceberg collision.  Go to 1:30 of this video to hear the song.   I am still waiting for the deleted scene from James Cameron’s Titanic, in which Leo DiCaprio sings “The Mountains” while freezing to death, to be posted on YouTube. 

Here is a bit of trivia … what Eph closely connected with this movie is almost certainly responsible for this inclusion? Presumably, he associated imminent doom with the fate that annually befalls the Amherst football team …


Mexico Updates: Spring 2011

US State cryptically advises all Americans to avoid all but absolutely necessary travel to Mexico. Announcement does not make major MSM. Internal US State department discussion remains focused on possibility of State failure, evacuation scenarios for US citizens.

Travel through northern Mexico now extremely dangerous for non-Mexican nationals.

Multiple mass graves discovered in the north, with confirmed body counts rapidly rising. Media suppression leaves no accurate picture of the extent of what is called the “lost generation.”

Dismembered bodies of women found in San Miguel Chapultepec (and actually reported in media without suppression), Mexico City; Acapulco; and elsewhere; part of a continuing pattern of terror and the operation of death squads. Mexico City as last refuge, begins to fall apart.

Calderon-Federal government espouses ‘war’ on cartels but remains deeply involved in terror, violent suppression and the operation of death squads, with significant overlap between members of the sitting regime, cartels, and paramilitary death squads.

Remaining NGOs continue to report significant abuses by Federal, State and Local-level police.

Reasonable estimate of casualties of the dirty war now approaching one-hundred fifty thousand lives or greater.

Civil rule-of-law protections largely or effectively suspended for large segments of civil society, with defendants subject to military tribunals under no judicial review. Establishment of an ‘elite’ police force, with broad powers, under the direct control and supervision of the Executive.

Economic collapse deepening, with foreign investment withdrawing and threats to the peso, perhaps currency collapse, emerging. Multiple major foreign intelligence agencies, including British and French agencies, remain concerned that investment withdrawal will lead to regional security destabilization along a “failed state” scenario, necessitating a major and unpredictable international intervention.

Possibility of an escalating regional or world security conflict remains medium to high, with most major state and non-state actors involved and attempting to leverage situation to their advantage.

Calderon continues a dirty so-called “drug war” to prop his government’s lack of legitimacy, ignoring significant political-economic instabilities and threats to the nation.

US-Mexico military, intelligence and logistical alliance plan collapsing. US unable to ensure security and future of Mexico, with significant security threat to US as result.

US public perspective remains highly ideological and dismissive to Mexico and Mexicans. Superficial and sensationalistic reporting reigns– actual concern for Mexico, Mexican lives or the strategic situation next to nonexistent.

Chances of a free and legitimate election in 2012 low to minimal. Calderon regime clearly prepared for significant and violent political repression. Regime change or re-estabishment of a Federal democracy in 2012 appears highly unlikely.

Effect of current events in Middle East on potential movements for political liberation, and on the ruling regime’s planning: unknown.


MCT: End Ph.D. Programs– or Reform Them

There are too many doctoral programmes, producing too many PhDs for the job market. Shut some down and change the rest, says Prof. of Religion Mark C. Taylor.

Most doctoral-education programmes conform to a model defined in European universities during the Middle Ages, in which education is a process of cloning that trains students to do what their mentors do. The clones now vastly outnumber their mentors.

…The necessary changes are both curricular and institutional. One reason that many doctoral programmes do not adequately serve students is that they are overly specialized, with curricula fragmented and increasingly irrelevant to the world beyond academia. Expertise, of course, is essential to the advancement of knowledge and to society. But in far too many cases, specialization has led to areas of research so narrow that they are of interest only to other people working in the same fields, subfields or sub-subfields. Many researchers struggle to talk to colleagues in the same department, and communication across departments and disciplines can be impossible. If doctoral education is to remain viable in the twenty-first century, universities must tear down the walls that separate fields, and establish programmes that nourish cross-disciplinary investigation and communication. They must design curricula that focus on solving practical problems, such as providing clean water to a growing population. Unfortunately, significant change is unlikely to come from faculty members, who all too often remain committed to traditional approaches.

NYT’s Article on the appointment of Joichi Ito (who has no degrees!) to head MIT’s Media Lab, expresses another facet of the problem:

[H]e attended the University of Chicago where he studied physics, but once again found it stultifying. He later wrote of his experience: “I once asked a professor to explain the solution to a problem so I could understand it more intuitively. He said, ‘You can’t understand it intuitively. Just learn the formula so you’ll get the right answer.’ That was it for me.”

Personally, I cannot quite imagine any atmosphere so mind-bogglingly stultifying, totalizing and distorting of perspective than graduate school. To misquote one of my Williams friends who went on to Berkeley, “the stupidest people I ever met, were in graduate school.” I don’t see a system capable of reform.


Situations Matter

Video preview for Sam Sommers 97’s forthcoming book (available in December), Situations Matter:


Women’s rugby breaks world record for charity

Previous post here

UPDATE: They did it. Congratulations. That had to be tough, especially with this cold spring. Cold, wet and miserable.

Underway! “Scrum for a cure.”

The fundraiser is the brainchild of a Keene player, according to Keene coach Karen Johannesen. That player then contacted Williams co-captain Leah Lansdowne, who immediately jumped on board.

That is a long game!

The most important aspect in terms of the endurance of this event. The weather.

For the record- 23-24 APR 2011
Hi 49°F
Lo 34°F
Precip (in)
0.27in. The damp cold 24 hours included rain and snow.


Friday Night Lecture: Inglourious Basterds



Game Changer

It is never-ending quest for hits, The Huffington Post ran a vote on educational game changers featuring Williams professor Ed Burger.

Changed the game by … making math seriously fun. Burger, a former writer for Jay Leno, is a charismatic number theorist and mathematics professor at Williams College who has gone far beyond the confines of his day job to convince the world that math isn’t as hard as it looks. An early pioneer of online, multimedia textbooks, it was recently announced that California was launching a pilot “digital textbook initiative” in which students would be given iPads to read his interactive textbook and watch his video lecture series. His successes in teaching—he was the 2010 winner of Baylor University’s Cherry Teaching Award—have also generated insights about the nature of creativity that have opened up new conversations across academic disciplines.

He said it: “In all my courses, I emphasize the power of failure: learning from failed attempts and taking risks. Five percent of students’ final grades are based on their narrative of failure: how they learned from their failed attempts. I judge the quality of their failure by the size of the risk they’ve taken and the amount of insight they have generated from their mistakes. I do that as an invitation to the student to take risks, to try ideas without fear of failure.”

Doesn’t grading in this manner increase the very problem that Burger claims to be fighting against? You can’t use grades to make students worry less about grades . . .


Grade Inflation is Making Students Lazy

From the Washington Post:

College students study a lot less now than in the 1960s, yet they get better grades.

For students, these trends must seem like marvelous developments. But they raise questions about both declining rigor and potential grade inflation in higher education.

In a forthcoming study in the journal Economic Inquiry, economist Philip Babcock finds the trends linked. As Babcock related in an e-mail, when the instructor “chooses to grade more strictly, students put in a lot more effort.” And when the professor gives easy A’s, students expend less effort.

Williams should copy the Princeton plan for dealing with grade inflation. What worked there will work here.

In the meantime, looking at the links between grades and student effort at Williams would make for a great senior thesis.


Spring Arts Round-Up

A few arts-related stories from the past few weeks:

  • Great feature on “Southern Gentleman” Jesse Winchester ’66.  One additional bit of Winchester trivia for fans of The Wire (and if you aren’t, you should be): his song, Step by Step, plays during the montage sequence that closes Season One.  Pretty damn cool.
  • Rita Forte ’03, a/k/a DJ Backside, continues to receive positive media attention.  She was previously mentioned on Ephblog here and here.
  • David Turner ’97 received rave reviews for his supporting performance in Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, currently playing on Broadway.  At 1:41 of this video, you can see a clip of Turner, during which the reviewer extols his scene-stealing turn.
  • Famous Eph photographer Walker Evans (he dropped out prior to graduating) is featured in an exhibit highlighting the centennial of New York’s rapid transit system.
  • Williams recently installed a sculpture by Jenny Holzer on the Science Quad, part of a concerted effort to increase the presence of public art on campus.  Anyone have an opinion, or better yet, a photo?
  • Wilco is back in North Adams this summer for an encore of their tremendously successful Solid Sound festival.  Check out the line-up here.  I don’t know many of these bands beyond the headliners, but I have seen Jamie Lidell, and I recommend checking him out.

Clean election but strife rocks Nigeria

Bad news from the most powerful West African Nation. Finally a clean election, but massive violence. Let us pray that Nigeria is able to get past this current round of extreme violence. The risk is huge.

The importance of peace and stability in Nigeria cannot be overstated. It has a massive population of over 170 million, and huge oil reserves.

Nigeria is the 12th largest producer of petroleum in the world and the 8th largest exporter, and has the 10th largest proven reserves. (The country joined OPEC in 1971). Petroleum plays a large role in the Nigerian economy, accounting for 40% of GDP and 80% of Government earnings. However, agitation for better resource control in the Niger Delta, its main oil producing region, has led to disruptions in oil production and currently prevents the country from exporting at 100% capacity.[67]

Nigeria often leads as the major force provider when there is UN intervention in Africa. Calm Christians/Muslim relations in Nigeria are essential for peace in West Africa. Nigeria is the key black African Nation model for the promotion of stability throughout the continent.

Taking advantage of its role as Africa’s most populated country, Nigeria has repositioned its military as an African peacekeeping force. Since 1995, the Nigerian military through ECOMOG mandates have been deployed as peacekeepers in Liberia (1997), Ivory Coast (1997–1999), Sierra Leone 1997–1999,[53] and presently in Sudan’s Darfur region under an African Union mandate.
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, the seventh most populous country in the world, and the most populous country in the world in which the majority of the population is black. It is listed among the “Next Eleven” economies, and is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The economy of Nigeria is one of the fastest growing in the world

May peace and prosperity reign. “You are welcome.”


Meatless Monday(s)?

Via a WSO link in the sidebat, Driscoll Hall went “meatless” this Monday 18th and some discussions is occurring with regards to making this a regular dining feature.

A student provides some explanation:

…more people are starting to talk about food. It’s always been perplexing to me how much food has been taken for granted in the United States. I mean, it’s in the grocery store/dining hall, you walk in, take what you want, eat it, and go on your merry way without really giving much consideration to what the act of putting food in your mouth really means. What purpose does eating actually serve and has whatever-you’ve-just-put-into-your-mouth accomplished that task?

If the Meatless Monday do nothing more than facilitate a way by which food rises into the realm of conscious thought on campus, I think that it will have been a success. However, if it’s trying to do something along the lines of promoting more sustainable/healthy eating habits, it is unlikely that this will be accomplished []. After all, it seems that if only one dining hall is going meat-free (if they all do, I fear that there will be substantial voices against the movement from athletes/meat lovers for legitimate reasons) it will primarily attract the people that will already select these sorts of foods out of the normal dining hall offerings. [

]As such, an initiative to reduce the amount of meat consumed on campus for environmental/financial reasons would be better accomplished by trying to reduce the number of meat based dishes to two per meal at all the dining halls. More than Meatless Mondays, which seems to label meat as evil, it would be worthwhile to have a meal (once a month? week?) that uses grass-fed meat, free-range eggs (or basically any egg other than carton/mass produced eggs), local or organic vegetables, and local milk/dairy products [].

As for the debate over meat/no-meat/no-animal. To each his own.

My recollection is that even twenty years ago, Williams had a reasonable (if not entirely satisfying) series of options for vegetarians.

However, the students involved (as well as Meatless Monday’s proponents) make another point– meat consumption in the US is resource-consuming as well as unhealthy. The New York Times reports that the average American eats vegetables only five times a week, one example of a dietary crisis across the United States.

In such a backdrop, the idea that Williams students should have meat available at every meal strikes me as frankly ridiculous. Williams is an educational institution, not a country club, and it should be teaching people good habits, not handing people luxury goods on demand and without regard to cost.

Therefore a counter-proposal: the dining halls should be serving meat as a main course three to five times a week, with side options, perhaps at extra cost, for backpeddlars. And certainly such a move could cut into the budgetary problem a little.


Race and Market Outcomes

Jennifer Doleac ’03, author of one of my favorite Williams theses, is doing fascinating work in graduate school.

We posted at least three advertisements in each of approximately 300 markets between March 2009 and March 2010, for a total of 1200 advertisements. Each ad was online for twelve hours (during the day or overnight) during which potential buyers could respond via e-mail. Photos were randomly assigned across several other advertisement characteristics.
We asked each respondent for his or her best offer by e-mail, and ultimately offered to ship the iPod to the highest bidder in exchange for payment by PayPal, an online payments processor. This was a somewhat suspicious proposal in these markets, where participants expect to meet locally, and we interpret buyers’ responses to this offer as an indicator of underlying trust. We then compared how each group of sellers fared on a variety of dimensions. Here is what we found:

* Black sellers received 13% fewer responses and 17% fewer offers than white sellers.
* The average offer received by black sellers is 2%-4% lower, despite the self-selected – and presumably less biased – pool of bidders responding to these ads.
* The effects are similar for tattooed sellers, suggesting a role for statistical discrimination.
* Buyers corresponding with black sellers exhibited lower trust: They are 17% less likely to include their name in e-mails, 44% less likely to accept delivery by mail, and 56% more likely to express concern about making a long-distance payment.

Clearly, black sellers are at a significant disadvantage to whites.

Fascinating stuff. See here for the academic paper and here for the photos used in the experiment.


Four Williams Students Arrested

Sara Finkle ’14, Jen Rowe ’11, Sasha Macko ’11 and one other Williams student were arrested on Friday for “unlawful conduct and disruption of Congress.” See WSO for discussion. The AP reports:

Natalie Greene of Knoxville, a member of the protester party who was not arrested, said they were an unorganized group of young people concerned about the future of the environment.

One by one, they stood up in the visitors’ gallery and began singing songs such as the national anthem and “We Shall Overcome,” before they were taken out of the chamber by Capitol Police. As soon as speeches on the floor resumed, another protester would start singing.



1) Having the courage of your convictions is a good thing. Well done!

2) Do these students feel like the rubes they are for thinking that Obama/Democrats actually care about global warming. Recall:

Twenty-six students at the College joined 12,000 students from around the U.S. and globe at Powershift 2009 this past weekend, the nation’s largest-ever summit on climate and energy action.

The weekend consisted of a series of panels and workshops, keynote speakers including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other prominent figures of the environmental movement, and performances by artists such as The Roots. The conference was geared toward empowering youth with the information and tools to effect change, with the ultimate goal of “letting our elected officials know, face-to-face, that we expect them to rebuild our economy and reclaim our future with bold climate and energy policy,” according to the organizers of the summit.

To achieve this end, the weekend culminated in a lobby on Capitol Hill on Monday, at which youth demanded climate and energy legislation of their representatives. “We wanted to make sure that these issues were on the table during the first 100 days of Obama’s presidency,” said Sasha Macko ’11, who organized the Williams trip through Thursday Night Group.

That failed, as this effort is doomed to fail. Obama does not really care about global warming or the efforts to fight it. If he did, he would have made it the number one priority of his Administration. Instead, he focused on health care. Nothing wrong with that choice, of course, but one of the reasons that I voted for Obama was that I new how much fun it would be to laugh at his fervent supporters as he disappointed them so thoroughly.

3) Recommended reading for both protesters and their opponents: The Monkeywrench Gang. What would you recommend?


Four Williams Students Arrested

…while exercising their right to free speech during a session of Congress.

My kudos and respect. Evidently political action is not lost to today’s Student Body.

Details available via the left sidebar.


Art Mafia: The Remarkable Sig Balka ‘56

“A bare wall is like a blank mind”

“Collecting art, curating exhibitions, and serving on museum boards is for me as natural as breathing. In this past century of holocaust and destruction it is my link with man’s creative spirit, which in the end must prevail or we will extinguish ourselves. ”

Sigmund Balka Williams 1956 BA Political Science, 1959 Harvard Law JD.

While these pass keys may open the doors to respected and perhaps expected careers, you might not expect that he has curated over 120 art exhibitions, has chaired the Exhibitions and Acquisitions Committee of the Queens Museum of Art, is a member of the Board at the Bronx Museum of Art, serves on the Advisory Council for Visual Arts at Rutgers University, has been the president of the Print Connoisseurs Society of New York and on the boards of the Judaic Museum, the Longwood Arts Project, and the Museum of Ceramics of New York, and has been board chairman of the Jewish Repertory Theater of New York, a member of the board of The Folksbiene National Jewish Theater, and was the recipient of a Doctor of Humane Letters (Hon) from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City in 2008.


An acquirer of art whose collection of 200 prints, promised to the college on his 50th Reunion in 2006, dovetails with those of the WCMA and supports its’ mission of teaching both about art and with art. Balka built his collection with an eye toward donating objects to the teaching museum. He assembled works particularly significant for their value in explaining both the history of art and the artistic process. Sig has been chair of the Fellows of the Williams College Museum of Art as well as a member of the Visiting Committee


And this spring with his 55th reunion in June, Sig Balka helps to mark the Jewish Religious Centers’ 20th anniversary by providing a selection of rare Jewish books from his personal collection for a special display.

From an article in the April 8 , 2011 Forward headed “Generations of Tradition, and Rare Books”

An exhibition of rare Jewish books, now on display at the Jewish Religious Center at Williams College, Massachusetts, marks the center’s 20th anniversary. Alumnus and Jewish art collector Sigmund R. Balka loaned the books — part of his own personal Judaica collection — to the center as a means of honoring its contribution to his alma mater and passing his love of Jewish heritage on to the next generation.

Balka had a different experience from the current Jewish students at Williams: “When I began at Williams there was no Jewish center. In fact, there were very few Jewish students and certainly no place they could worship. There was compulsory chapel,” Balka, who graduated in 1956, told the Forward.

“It was moving,” he remembers, “to be at the initiation of the Jewish center 20 years ago, when the prior history of the college, which was not empathetic to Jewish students, was frankly spoken about. Jewish students were able, for the first time, to have a home on campus, to be part of the student body instead of outsiders.

Read more:

The Remarkable Sig Balka ’56!


Open Textbooks

I hate the politics of the PIRG octopus, but I agree with their call for open textbooks.

Open textbooks are high-quality college texts offered online under a license that allows free digital access and low-cost print options. Students can read the full text free online, download a printable PDF, or purchase a hard copy at a fraction of the cost of traditional books. Also, the “open” license typically gives instructors the flexibility to tailor the text to better fit a course by removing unneeded chapters or adding new material.

Open textbooks are one of many possible solutions, but we believe that they offer student consumers the best benefits. Therefore, we promote open textbooks to set the bar high for alternatives to expensive, traditional textbooks.

Which Williams class/professor will be the first to use an open textbook? (Previous discussion here.)


UCLA Cross Section Interview- April 13, 2011

This is an interview I conducted last week for UCLA’s Cross Section TV show. It is with Mark McGurl, Professor of English at UCLA, talking about his book, The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing, which is published by a client of mine, Harvard University Press.

This is the first interview I’ve done for TV and it was a blast. I should know in a few weeks if this episode will get picked up by UCTV.


Advising Wiki

On using a wiki for academic advising:

Not being able to find advising information via the web was a constant source of frustration for me. Knowing that certain facets of information pertained only to advisors, I started thinking about how our advising team could share its collective knowledge. An avid reader and casual editor of Wikipedia, I started looking at wikis as a way for current advisors to share information and as a living training document for new advisors. I knew that I wanted to house our wiki on an OSU server and that I needed a platform that would encourage posting/sharing.

Having used the self-hosted version of WordPress since 2004, I was exceptionally comfortable with it as a blogging platform. I had customized my site’s theme and had used WordPress to create the OSU Admissions Blog. I started tinkering with the idea of using WordPress as a wiki. The WYSIWYG editor in WordPress was fairly intuitive. New posts could easily be updated, comments could be added, and tags/categories provided an excellent way to organize data. A “private WordPress” plugin ensured that only approved users could access the site and post updates.

The “WordPress Wiki” has been in use in our office since April 2009. In order to get the wiki up and running, I conducted a half-day virtual barn raising with our staff. We filled it with interesting bits of logistical information and made a commitment to use it as our shared knowledge resource. There are currently 96 posts, 58 categories, 77 tags, and countless documents in the wiki. It has become a fantastic resource for our team.

Why doesn’t Williams do the same?


Six Degrees of General Zod

Oscar-nominee, and just plain awesome, Michael Shannon has been selected to fill Terrence Stamp’s iconic shoes as General Zod in the forthcoming Superman re-re-boot (they’ve decided to ignore the previous reboot, and for good reason).  What does this have to do with Williams?  Well, as this article notes, Shannon’s manager is Byron Wetzel ’97.  Ain’t It Cool News, for one, “can’t think of anyone better for the role.”  Congrats to Shannon and to Wetzel on a role sure to raise Shannon’s profile.  See Shannon talk about Superman here:



From last August:

Each year the splash it makes gets smaller, as more students, parents and even college administrators realize the truth about the U.S. News and World Report college rankings: It’s largely a beauty contest — one that bears little relation to the quality of the education kids will actually receive.

Indeed, the president of Williams College, which was named the No. 1 liberal arts college in the country this year by U.S. News, told Bloomberg News that the rankings were “meaningless.” That’s pretty tough talk, coming from a winner.

Cheap talk, actually.

The rest of the article is not worth reading because the author makes a living based on the theory that college rankings are a poor guide for decision making.


First Orbit



150 Years Ago Today…

150 years ago today, James Chestnut Jr. and Stephen D. Lee rowed toward Ft Sumter to hand Major Robert Anderson a piece of notepaper. In it, they detailed that in an hour’s time, they would begin to shell the fort. The two men then rowed back across the harbor and awaited for the first batteries to fire.

With that gentleman’s notice and the subsequent mortars, the American Civil War began. Feel free to begin your own conversations about its origin and its impact, but take a moment to remember that some 625,000 Americans were killed as a result of the ACW*. James Garfield, Williams grad and U.S. President, participated in the conflict, as a Chief of Staff for a Union Commander. A number of Ephs left Williams to fight and die for their country in the ACW.

Take today to enjoy the history all around you. The ACW is literally right outside our front doors. I should note, today also kicks off a series of monumental 150th anniversary events throughout battlefields and important ACW towns. Check them out! And donate to your local battlefield as well– a lot of them are suffering financially, as a result of budget constraints and decline in interest as time passes. Hopefully the 150th anniversary will help bring interest to a new generation of Americans.

(Author’s note: I was looking forward to Google’s Doodle today, expecting it to highlight the beginning of the ACW’s 150th anniversary. Instead, it highlighted the first manned space flight. Cue anger. A Williams alum and I chatted about this during work and got into a blind rage over Google’s decision. What would NASA look like if the ACW had turned out differently? What would today’s geo-political landscape look like? Shew, rant over. Somewhere, Professors Dew and Wood are smiling.)

*Figure will always be tentative for many reasons, including poor record keeping.


Early Spring Athletics Round-Up

A slew of athletics stories to catch up on:

  • The biggest news of the month is, of course, the (expected?) announcement that long-time Eph coach and administrator Lisa Melendy was named the new permanent athletics director.  Congratulations!
  • Congrats to Williams on ascending to its traditional position at the top of the Director’s Cup standings after a tremendously successful winter season.
  • Congrats to future Eph Ryan Barry ’15 for being named the top scholar-athlete in Western Mass.
  • The Williams baseball team (much like the softball and men’s and women’s lacrosse teams) had great success outside of conference play, but has struggled vs. NESCAC to date.  [The Ephs did stay alive in NESCAC with a crucial and dramatic rally against Wesleyan on Sunday].  One story of note: the break-out first year of the spring season has been first year catcher Marco Hernandez, who is either first or second on the Ephs in batting, slugging, hits, home runs, stolen bases, and triples.  Hernandez is also a very gifted football player, and is expected to play a bigger role on the gridiron next fall.
  • Congrats to the Purple Cow, recently named America’s most lovable mascot in a Reader’s Digest poll.  Although the poll  listed only the top four, rumor has it that Lord Jeff came in at number 3458.   
  • Be sure to watch Khari Stephenson ’04’s spectacular goal, which was recently named MLS goal of the week:
  • Nice article by Dave Fehr on the tremendous environment in Chandler during the last few weekends of Williams hoops.  Winter in Billsville can be long for both students and local residents, and packed crowds cheering on a winning team in hotly contested rivalry and tourney games can go a long way towards dulling the winter blues, and building tremendous school spirit to boot.
  • Great article on Williams swimming superstar Logan Todhunter ’12, who, along with fellow superstar Caroline Wilson ’13, led Williams to a third-place showing at the NCAA tourney.
  • Also check out this article on women’s basketball star Jill Greenberg ’12 who, with one year of eligibility remaining, is already the Ephs’ all-time assist leader.
  • Wonderful article by philosophy professor Alan Hirsch on hoops coach Mike Maker, whom he dubs the “anti Jim Calhoun.”  Speaking of Calhoun, Dave Paulsen ’87 must be feeling at least a LITTLE bit better about the drubbing his Bucknell squad received from UConn after watching the Huskies go on to win the national title behind the same stifling defense that frustrated the Bison.

Black/Asian SAT Scores at Elite LACs

1) This graph uses data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Freshmen (NLSF). This data seems to be easily available to academics, so readers are encouraged to replicate my analysis themselves. Please let us know if you do so. Rory: Does this graph look correct to you?

2) NLSF does not allow users to indicate which data come from which school. So, for example, I am not allowed to report that the average SAT score for Asian-Americans at Williams is X. I can only report the results in groups like “elite liberal arts colleges,” as I have done here.

3) To select my sample, I use “la0102 <= 10”. This restricts the observations to students who attended a liberal arts college ranked in the top 10 by US News in 2001-2002.

4) Within this universe, I look at students marked as “A” (Asian) or “B” (Black/African-American) by NLSF. There are 66 such students in the sample from elite liberal arts colleges: 35 Asian and 31 Black. This is, obviously, not a very large sample and only includes data from two schools. There is reason to believe, based on what I have read elsewhere, that these results are not entirely an artifact of small sample size, but this data alone doesn’t show that.

5) 7 A students and 10 B students are missing SAT scores. For 3 As and 5 Bs, I am able to impute their SAT scores using their ACT results. But removing those observations does not matter to the overall distributions.

6) With the imputed scores, we have a final sample of 31 Asian-American and 26 African-American students. Their SAT scores are used to create the plot.

7) The middle 90% of the distributions do not overlap. The kernel smoothing method I use obscures that fact a bit. In other words, if you delete the three highest B scores (1400, 1420 and 1460) and the three lowest A scores (1200, 1340 and 1350), there is no overlap between Black and Asian SAT scores at places like Williams.

8) Poking around the NLSF for other schools, it seems like the A/B gap of around 250 points is larger in elite liberal arts colleges than anywhere else.

Among elite universities (say, top 10 in US News), the gap is about 100 points smaller because African-American (and Hispanic) students have significantly higher scores. This is consistent with what I have heard elsewhere. Places like Williams lose many/most/all of the African-American (and Hispanic) students they most want to larger universities. If you want to attend college at a place where SAT scores for Asians and African-Americans are only (?) 150 points different, don’t go to an elite liberal arts college like Williams.

Why is it that – for the most part – the highest scoring African-American high school students have such a strong aversion for the elite liberal arts schools (or such a strong preference for the research universities)? Is is principally a name recognition factor? But why would that effect be different for African American students as compared to white students?

Do we have any readers who work with NLSF data? Tell us what you think!

Special thanks to Rory for pointing out the existence of the NLSF and encouraging/shaming me into taking a careful look at it.


No Longer Sledding Uphill

Brice Hoskin '90 at work, from

Karen Hoskin ’90 and Brice Hoskin ’90 were last seen at EphBlog as members of the “Eph Booze Mafia,” in connection with their Montanya Rum.

In addition to distilling rum, the Hoskins are also leaders in the wooden-sled industry, with their Mountain Boy Sledworks (endorsed by Martha Stewart, and Smart Money magazine, among others). Mountain Boy’s website boasts this description:

Started in 2002 by woodworker and self-proclaimed sledding fanatic Brice Hoskin, Mountain Boy Sledworks has grown to be the United States’ premier maker of handmade wooden sleds. Customers remark again and again about Mountain Boy’s commitment to quality, customer service, and innovative design. Mountain Boy is based in the tiny Colorado mountain town of Silverton, where sledding is a way of life.

Unfortunately for Silverton, handmade sled-making (and rum distilling) will no longer be a way of life:

[A]fter two years of well-publicized wrangling with Silverton officials over licenses, zoning, lights and banners, the Hoskins are moving their renowned sledmaking business and their growing Montanya rum distillery to Crested Butte, dealing a hefty blow to the isolated village of 500 and spreading worry throughout the local business community.

“There’s just a lot of ‘no’ here,” she says. “And not much ‘Hey, let’s see what we can do to make this work.’ “

Ironically, Karen Hoskin is the former director of the local economic development organization, but it appears that may have done more harm than good. In Brice Hoskin’s view, it’s a townie vs. newcomer problem: “It’s personal and tribal, and we are not part of their tribe.” The Denver Post story linked above offers more details about their disputes, as does this earlier article.

Williamstown is of course no stranger to disputes between long-timers and newcomers. The Hoskins’ story is a good reminder that those problems transcend the role played by any particular institution, such as Williams College. And reinforces the importance to small business development of getting things like local zoning right, as the town is now trying to do with its proposed Water Street changes.


Cory Booker – Commencement Speaker 2011

I am going to attempt a post on each of the speakers and honorees scheduled for this year’s graduation ceremonies. It’s a somewhat selfish endeavor in that it’s a good way for me to find out more about them before I arrive for the ceremonies. And what a truly special weekend it promises to be. There isn’t one guest I don’t look forward to hearing. I’ll begin today, with Commencement speaker, Cory Booker.

The school announcement introduces him as “the Honorable Cory A. Booker, mayor of Newark, New Jersey.” Born in 1969, he was an All-American football player in high school (in Jersey) and a Varsity player at Stanford where he earned a B.A. in political science and an M.A. in sociology. After earning a Rhodes Scholarship, he went on to Oxford, and from there, earned his law degree at Yale.

After some very helpful leads from Booker fan, Jeff Z (and Google, of course) I found much, much more. From Mother Jones (Nov. 2010), we learn of his fervent belief in “the power of small daily acts of love and kindness”, of his stint on the Newark City Council, during which he lived (for eight years) in a “troubled public housing complex”. We read of his bitter 2002 loss to the longtime mayoral incumbent, Sharpe James, whom he eventually beat in 2006, in an election so controversial it was documented in an Academy Awards nominated film called Street Fight. (James was later convicted of five counts of fraud by a federal jury.) Booker’s mayorship has been credited with significantly reducing crime and recidivism, slashing the budget before the recession hit, and inspiring Mark Zuckerberg to donate 100 million dollars to the Newark educational system.

There’s more. Bill Moyers, calls him a “shining star reformer”. From the many NY Times articles, there is one devoted to his personal, and ongoing mentoring of “the boys”, three young men who’ve all had previous brushes with the law. From Time, we hear how he made headlines last winter by using Twitter as a public service tool, guiding efforts to bring help to snowbound citizens. Showing up on doorsteps with his own shovel, he inspired Twitter feeds like “I have a snowpocalypse crush on @Cory Booker“, and “superhero with a shovel“.

Having never heard Booker speak, I linked to the 2010 commencement speech he gave at Pitzer, thinking I’d catch a few minutes of it just to get an idea. I not only watched the whole thing, but have been thinking about parts of it ever since. Booker is one accomplished and charismatic guy, and I am very pleased that I will be on campus to hear him.


Why I don’t post here.

Cross-posted at my blog. I don’t usually post here, but some things deserve an in-depth rebuttal. Admin should feel free to keep/remove my “more” tag. Before I get down to business, though, I am very curious about what specific causes, biological or otherwise, that cause fewer females to nominate themselves than males for class officer roles.

Let’s compare the WSO post and David’s post. The WSO post states that seeing one candidate for speaker made her curious, and so she found that there have been no class speakers since 2003. She also found that only 3 out of 24 speakers are female, and that only 1 of the elected speaking roles is female. This causes her to be uneasy. So we have a series of facts, and a single statement of one emotion.

David’s response is that “uneasiness” is a flat-out wrong thing to feel, and that a smarter, more educated person would immediately understand that biological differences between men and women are the cause of the gap. Why? Because “men and women are biologically different.”

What David misses entirely is that the WSO poster never said the differences weren’t biological; indeed, she didn’t say anything about biology, or even anything opinion-related whatsoever. David takes this as a permission slip to imply that she is “deeply uneducated,” and as a bonus, “probably” blames Williams College for this deficiency. David further takes this as an opportunity to reference Larry Summers.

The problem, of course, is that even if there are still biological differences between women and men that affect the selection process for speaking roles, it’s still perfectly appropriate to feel uneasy about the gap. Thus David’s entire post is falsely premised on an imagined deficiency in the WSO poster – assuming ignorance where ignorance may or may not have existed.

Read more


No female speakers? No problem!

(Let’s try this again)

Via WSO:

Seeing only one female student on the list of candidates for class speaker made me wonder and I looked at commencement archives. No female class speakers between 2003 and 2010. The archives start in 2003.

In addition, only 3 out of 24 total speakers are female. If we don’t count the valedictorians, then only 1 out of 16 chosen speakers is female (this includes Phi Beta Kappa & class speakers).

This makes me very uneasy.

Look — you were only admitted for the extra tuition dollars and to save on gas to Bennington and Northampton. Don’t expect a place at the table and certainly don’t expect to speak. Not at Kane College!

Now could you be good girls and go get Dave a cup of coffee?


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