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Commencement Week Round-Up

In honor of commencement, several stories of note from recent weeks related to this week’s ceremonies and/or the graduating seniors:

  • Be sure to read this Williams feature highlighting some of the future plans for this year’s graduating class.   Great to see so many seniors interested in serving their country and/or the world.
  • Another must read: this interview with senior Mopati Morake’11, who has clearly thought deeply about higher education.
  • Talented writer Andrew Triska ’11 will be finishing his novel after graduation.
  • Of course, for baby boomers, the most famous “graduate” of Williams is Benjamin Braddock (the novel was written by Eph Charles Webb shortly after his own graduation, and although Williams is not mentioned in the movie, he does wear a purple-and-gold tie).  Apparently a new adaptation hones closer to the novel.
  • One of my favorite Williams traditions is the Olmstead Award for Secondary School Teachers.  Read about this year’s recipients here.
  • Congratulations seniors, and enjoy what should be a wonderful weekend highlighted by tremendous Commencement speaker Cory Booker.

No More Christmas

Breaking news:

In a sudden and unexpected blow to the Americans working to protect the holiday, liberal U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt ruled the private celebration of Christmas unconstitutional Monday.

“In accordance with my activist agenda to secularize the nation, this court finds Christmas to be unlawful,” Judge Reinhardt said. “The celebration of the birth of the philosopher Jesus—be it in the form of gift-giving, the singing of carols, fanciful decorations, or general good cheer and warm feelings amongst families—is in violation of the First Amendment principles upon which this great nation was founded.”

In addition to forbidding the celebration of Christmas in any form, Judge Reinhardt has made it illegal to say “Merry Christmas.” Instead, he has ruled that Americans must say “Happy Holidays” or “Felices Fiestas” if they wish to extend good tidings.

Within an hour of the judge’s verdict, National Guard troops were mobilized to enforce the controversial ruling.

Read the whole thing. Judge Stephen Reinhardt is the father of Williams professor Mark Reinhardt and has participated in several Williams events over the years.


Ephs Who Have Gone Before

Who is this Eph?

He is Myles Crosby Fox ’40.

Myles will not be in Williamstown to celebrate reunion with the Old Guard in two weeks, for he has passed away. He leaves behind no wife, no children nor grandchildren. His last glimpse of Williams was on graduation day.

I saw the mountains of Williams
As I was passing by,
The purple mountains of Williams
Against the pearl-gray sky.
My heart was with the Williams men
Who went abroad to die.

Fox was, in many ways, an Eph of both his time and ours. He was a Junior Advisor and captain of the soccer team. He served as treasurer in the Student Activities Council, forerunner to today’s College Council. He was a Gargoyle and secretary of his class.

Fox lived in Wood House. Are you the student who just moved out of the room that Fox vacated 70 years ago? Are you an alumnus who trod the same walkways around campus as Fox? We all walk in his footsteps.

The years go fast in Williams,
The golden years and gay,
The hoary Colleges look down
On careless boys at play.
But when the bugles sounded war
They put their games away.

Fox wrote letters to his class secretary, letters just like those that you or I might write.

The last issue of the Review has put me up to date on my civilized affairs. I am enclosing the only other information I have received in the form of a letter from Mr. Dodd. Among my last batch of mail was notice of the class insurance premium, and if you think it will prove an incentive to any of my classmates you may add under the next batch of Class Notes my hearty endorsement of the insurance fund, the fact that even with a military salary I am still square with the Mutual Company, and my hope that classmates of ’40 will keep the ball rolling so that in the future, purple and gold jerseys will be rolling a pigskin across whitewash lines.

Seven decades later, the pigskin is still rolling.

Fox was as familiar as your freshman roommate and as distant as the photos of Williams athletes from years gone by that line the walls of Chandler Gym. He was every Eph.

They left the peaceful valley,
The soccer-field, the quad,
The shaven lawns of Williams,
To seek a bloody sod—
They gave their merry youth away
For country and for God.

Fox was killed in August 1942, fighting the Japanese in the South Pacific. He was a First Lieutenant in the Marine Corps and served in a Marine Raider battalion.

Fox’s citation for the Navy Cross reads:

For extraordinary heroism while attached to a Marine Raider Battalion during the seizure of Tulagi, Solomon Islands, on the night of 7-8 August 1942. When a hostile counter-attack threatened to penetrate the battalion line between two companies, 1st Lt. Fox, although mortally wounded, personally directed the deployment of personnel to cover the gap. As a result of great personal valor and skilled tactics, the enemy suffered heavy losses and their attack repulsed. 1st Lt. Fox, by his devotion to duty, upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the defense of his country.

What was a night battle against attacking Japanese among the islands of the South Pacific in August 1942 like?

Darkness, madness and death.

On Memorial Day, America honors soldiers like Fox who have died in the service of their country. For many years, no Eph had made the ultimate sacrifice. That string of good fortune ended with the death in combat of First Lieutenant Nate Krissoff ’03, USMC on December 9, 2006 in Iraq. From Ephraim Williams through Myles Fox to Nate Krissoff, the roll call of Williams dead echoes through the pages of our history.

With luck, other military Ephs like Jeff Castiglione ’07, Bunge Cooke ’98, Paul Danielson ’88, Kathy Sharpe Jones ’79, Lee Kindlon ’98, Dan Ornelas ’98, Zack Pace ’98, JR Rahill ’88, Jerry Rizzo ’87, Dan Rooney ’95 and Brad Shirley ’07 will survive this war. It would be more than enough to celebrate their service on Veterans’ Day.

Those interested in descriptions of Marine combat in the South Pacific during World War II might start with Battle Cry by Leon Uris or Goodby, Darkness by William Manchester. The Warriors by J. Glenn Gray provides a fascinating introduction to men and warfare. Don’t miss the HBO miniseries The Pacific, from which the battle scene above is taken. Fox died two weeks before the Marines on Guadalcanal faced the Japanese at the Battle of the Tenaru.

A Navy destroyer was named after Fox. He is the only Eph ever to be so honored. The men who manned that destroyer collected a surprising amount of information about him. It all seems both as long ago as Ephraim Williams’s service to the King and as recent as the letters from Felipe Perez ’99 and Joel Iams ’01.

God rest you, happy gentlemen,
Who laid your good lives down,
Who took the khaki and the gun
Instead of cap and gown.
God bring you to a fairer place
Than even Williamstown.

Note: As long as there is an EphBlog, there will be a Memorial Day entry, a tribute to those who have gone before. Apologies to Winifred M. Letts for bowdlerizing her poem, “The Spires of Oxford.”


ROTC returns to Harvard and Yale

The country will benefit by having ROTC again recruiting at the nation’s top universities. ROTC graduates constitute 56 percent of Army officers, 41 percent of Air Force officers, 20 percent of Navy officers and 11 percent of Marine Corps officers, according to the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense.

The legislation repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” gave a not-so-gentle push with the inclusion of a provision requiring a report to Congress on the enforcement of the law that prohibits federal funds to colleges that block ROTC units.

Whatever the motivations – fairness or fear of losing federal funding, or both – the decision to welcome back ROTC is the right one.


RIP, Harold “Jay” Wilson, ’56

Harold “Jay” Wilson ’56
May, 1934 – May, 2011

In his own words:
“Harold J. Wilson is a retired English Professor and Anglican Clergyman living in Oxford. He was born in NYC in 1934, the son of an Episcopal Clergyman and emigrated to England in his retirement years. He is a poet, a songwriter, a father of two grown sons, Anthony and Laurence Wilson, and is married to retired English teacher Susannah Harris-Wilson, a formidable person.

“He was largely brought up in the Appalachians and graduated from Williams College in Massachusetts. He has two Master’s Degrees. He is from a largely Scots and Irish family background.

“Wilson has taught students from the sixth grade to college level adults, served in the Pennsylvania Poets In the Schools program from its inception in 1971 until 1982, and has been a teacher in England, Pakistan and (mainly) Philadelphia where he was a long-time member of the Community College English Department.

“His interests are in contemporary culture, traditional songs, Jungian Psychology, and a wide range of subjects on which he is opinionated but not particularly profound.

“For the purposes of civilised discussion, he may be reached at

“If you also are totally opinionated, cantankerous, and/or as curmudgeonly as he is, please don’t bother. We have enough of that here already. I don’t mind being challenged though. I might even learn something!”


On 8-0

The more references there are to Williams in elite media, the better off Williams will be. (Hat tip to Dick Quinn and the amazing job he does in Sports Information.)


When Life Gives you Locusts…

Cicada Sauerbraten with Spätzle


½ C vinegar
½ C water
¼ onion, sliced
¼ stalk celery or 1 tsp celery seed
¼ carrot, chopped
3 peppercorns
2 cloves
1/16 tsp mustard seeds
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp honey
¼ tsp ginger

Mix together in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.


1 portobello cap
¼ – ½ C blanched, teneral cicadas
¼ lemon, sliced

Mix mushroom and cicadas together in a bowl. When the liquid is boiling, pour it over the mushroom-cicada mixture. Add the lemon slices, cover the bowl, and let the mixture marinade for at least several hours (preferably, overnight). Drain, then sauté the mushroom, cicadas, onion, and carrots (and celery) in olive oil.

Read more


Urquhart ’89 on University Funding

How should US states organize their higher education systems?

About a decade ago, the late Kermit Hall, then president of Utah State University, complained to lawmakers that the Legislature’s system of funding higher education encouraged schools to grow — regardless of what makes sense for the state and students.

But members of the state Board of Regents are proposing to change what many see as a flawed model for distributing tax dollars to Utah’s eight public colleges and universities, replacing the enrollment-growth model with one that recognizes each school’s mission and the contribution it makes.

Such a system would ensure stable-enrollment schools like Southern Utah University and the University of Utah get a fair cut once the Legislature has more tax revenue to invest in education.

“If we are a system of higher education as opposed to a compilation of institutions, then the institutions should do different things,” said Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George. And that means funding based on factors other than bodies on campus. The Washington County Republican, whose district includes high-growth Dixie State College, intends to sponsor legislation to change the formula. Urquhart has the support of Regents, who convened a task force last spring to explore the role of mission in an overhauled funding model.

During the recession, enrollment at Dixie, Utah Valley and Weber State universities and Salt Lake Community College exploded. Under the current model, they could monopolize new appropriations, leaving the state’s research flagship and other selective-admission schools out in the cold.

“Southern Utah University is a jewel in our system. It’s trying to be our stand-alone liberal arts institution. It’s tough to make that move under the way we currently fund our institutions,” said Urquhart, a graduate of Williams College in rural Massachusetts. “[SUU] is not going to have huge growth like here at Dixie and UVU. In that case, we need to fund excellence.”

If I were a Utah tax payer, I would hate to have my money spent subsidizing a new liberal arts college.


Eph Tennis: NCAA Semifinals Today

The Williams men’s and women’s tennis teams both play in the NCAA tennis championship semifinals today. The women play at 2:00 eastern time, followed by the men at 5:00.  Follow both matches live here.

The second-ranked and three-time defending national champion women, who defeated homestanding Claremont yesterday, look for revenge against UChicago, who defeated the Ephs earlier this season.  Meanwhile, UChicago looks for payback of its own, as Williams bested them in last year’s semifinals.  Should be a great match. If Williams wins, they may face Amherst in tomorrow’s championship, although the Jeffs have to first get by a very talented Emory squad.

Unlike the women, who were widely expected to earn a place in the semis, the thirteenth-ranked men had to upset third-ranked Claremont in dramatic fashion, on Claremont’s home court, late last night.   Considering the circumstances, Bryan Chow ’13 had arguably the best individual effort by an Eph athlete all year. First, he and his partner won at first doubles.  Then, Chow fought off five seven points, recovering from a set down to defeat Claremont’s senior captain in a dramatic third set tiebreaker (11-9 in the tie break).  The pressure must have been immense, as all other matches were completed by that point, and Chow knew that a mistake on any of those match points would have ended the Ephs’ season.  Chow was very opportunistic, converting on his lone match point chance.  Eph coach Dan Greenberg ’08 called it the most “unbelievable college match he has seen.”  And Chow’s victory may end up earning the Ephs just enough points to edge out Middlebury in what should be a very competitive Director’s Cup race.

Williams faces an even tougher test against second-ranked Amherst today.  The Jeffs have already beaten Williams twice this year, and should have more left in the tank after a relatively easy quarterfinal victory yesterday.  But don’t count the Ephs out, as they were not expected to have a chance against Claremont, either.  Go Ephs!


Everybody Laughed

An anonymous faculty member told me this story last 15 months ago.

At the faculty meeting the other day Bill Wagner talked about the need for faculty to be discreet in talking about early retirement packages and he basically said “we don’t want this stuff appearing on Ephblog” and everybody laughed.

Good stuff! I am still waiting for the day that EphBlog makes it into the official notes for the faculty meeting.



Great article (pdf) on changes in elite education over the last 50 years.

If one spends time at certain colleges’ events, one is likely to hear alumni exclaim that their college is so selective today that they would not be admitted were they to reapply. Similarly, one might hear parents worry that their children are forced into excessive resume polishing because American colleges are increasingly selective. These alumni and parents often assume that rising selectivity is a pervasive phenomenon, and they often also assume that it is caused by colleges’ not having expanded sufficiently to accommodate the ever growing population of U.S. students with postsecondary ambitions. The latter assumption—that the supply of college places has been relatively inelastic despite a growing population of prospective students—would seem to explain rising tuition. Thus, rising selectivity and rising tuition would seem to be part of the same logical phenomenon affecting higher education.

It turns out that the above thinking is a consequence of people extrapolating from the experience of a small number of colleges such as members of the Ivy League, Stanford, Duke, and so on. These colleges have experienced rising selectivity, but their experience turns out to be the exception rather than the rule. Rising selectivity is by no means a pervasive phenomenon. Only the top 10 percent of colleges are substantially more selective now than they were in 1962. Moreover, at least 50 percent of colleges are substantially less selective now than they were in 1962. Typical college-going students in the United States should be unconcerned about rising selectivity. If anything, they should be concerned about falling selectivity, the phenomenon they will actually experience.

Although some of the decreasing selectivity of most colleges is due to the number of places growing faster than the number of college-ready students, another explanation is also important. This other explanation, moreover, explains all of the increasing selectivity of the top 10 percent of colleges, where the number of places has grown at approximately the same rate as (just slightly faster than, in fact) the number of highly qualified students. What is this “other” explanation? It is that the elasticity of a student’s preference for a college with respect to its proximity to that student’s home has fallen substantially over time and there has been a corresponding increase in the elasticity of each student’s preference for a college with respect to its resources and peers. Put more bluntly, students used to attend a local college regardless of their abilities and its characteristics. Now, their
choices are driven far less by distance and far more by a college’s resources and student body. The change in elasticities has been especially pronounced among students who are very well qualified for college. It is the consequent re-sorting of students among colleges that has, at once, caused selectivity to rise in a small number of colleges while simultaneously causing it to fall in other colleges.

Given that, what should Williams do going forward?


An Elite High School’s Results

A reader provided this fascinating summary of the college applications results of one elite prep school.

Click for a larger version. Per request, I won’t release the school’s name. Comments:

1) The senior class has about 120 students. More than 20% go to elite colleges! This is a common pattern among top notch high schools, whether private like Milton or public like Boston Latin.

2) Until recently, I was fairly clueless about the distribution of elite college acceptance at high schools. I thought that most high schools were like my own solid-but-not-superior Westchester public high school. Top people went to fancy schools but with a sharp drop-off after the top 5%. But that is not the way the world works. There are schools like that, but a large percentage of Williams students attend high schools like this one, places at which the top 5% all go to Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford.

3) What sort of high school did you attend?


Job Description for Klass’s “Deputy”

Thanks to an anonymous tipster, here (pdf) is the description for Steve Klass’s chief of staff. (Also available here, but that seems to be a glitch (?) since the position is listed as internal only.) My comments are the same as before:

Would any reader care to defend the ludicrousness of a Vice President at a tiny liberal arts college needing a chief of staff? It is absurd. And don’t forget that students in the class of 2015 will need to take out loans. That makes sense!

And why does Steve Klass need a secretary and a chief of staff. Just how much paperwork does he generate? I spent a bunch of time lurking around Hopkins Hall a few years ago. It is not that busy.

And don’t forget that Dean’s office already has three secretaries! They are all so busy that none of them have time to open Klass’s mail or keep track of his schedule?

Do the Trustees even bother to ask any hard questions during their junkets to Williamstown? I have my doubts.


Spoken Up

Archive of comments on Speak Up. (Whoops! Having some technical difficulties making this happen.)


Deserve Tenure?

From The New Republic:

The syndrome has become all too common. A provocative op-ed piece appears in a major newspaper (for preference, The New York Times). Its logic is fragile and its evidence is thin, but the writing is crisp and the examples are pungent, and the assault on sacred cows arouses a storm of discussion (much of it sharply critical, but no matter). It goes viral. And almost immediately, publishers comes calling. “This should be a book,” they coo, and the author, entranced by a bit of sudden fame (not to mention, perhaps, a decent advance), eagerly agrees. He or she sets to work, and soon enough the original 800 words expand to 50,000. But far from reinforcing the original logic and evidence, the new accretions of text only strain them further, while smothering the original provocations under thick layers of padded anecdote, pop sociology and oracular pronouncement. Call the syndrome Friedmanitis, after a prominent early victim, the New York Times columnist Tom Friedman.

Mark C. Taylor’s unbelievably misguided book provides an almost textbook example. In April, 2009, he published an incendiary New York Times op-ed entitled “End the University as We Know It,” which denounced graduate education as the “Detroit of higher learning,” demanded the abolition of tenure, and called for the replacement of traditional academic departments by flexible, short-lived “problem-focused programs.” Widely criticized (by me, too, in this magazine), the piece stayed at the top of the Times’s “most e-mailed” list for a cyber-eternity of four days. Enter Alfred A. Knopf.

Just sixteen months later, the book is here, and the signs of the syndrome are all too evident. Taylor, the chair of the Department of Religion at Columbia, has enveloped his original argument in an overblown, cliché-ridden theoretical framework about the on-going shift from a “world of walls and grids” to a “world of networks.”

Read the whole thing. I was attacking Mark Taylor more than 15 years ago, so this is nothing new for me.


Whoops A Daisy

From the Wall Street Journal:

The late, legendary S. Lane Faison Jr., professor emeritus of art history at Williams College, responded to over-the-top works of art with a vigorous “Hoo boy! Whoops a daisy!” He tended to reserve this evocative phrase for High Baroque extravaganzas and the apses of 18th-century Austrian churches, but I suspect he might have applied it to “Arcimboldo, 1526-1593: Nature and Fantasy,” the small, engaging exhibition dedicated to one of the most peculiar artists of the 16th century, on view at Washington’s National Gallery of Art. At once an exploration of a side-road of Mannerist painting, a brief survey of natural history in the late Renaissance, and an inquiry into perception itself, the show brings together paintings, prints, illustrated books, ceramics and bronzes united by their devotion to the apparently mutually exclusive worlds of nature and the fantastic.

What catch phrases/slogans do you remember from your Williams professors? My freshman fall calculus professor was a rabid Miami dolphins fan, leading students to write the scores for (losses, mostly) on the board before he walked into the room. Did anyone have that professor? Alas, I can’t recall his name . . .


dcat: in PBS’s Freedom Riders

Our own Prof. Derek Catsam ’93 appears at around 3:54 in this segment from PBS’s Freedom Riders:

Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.


Can you locate Derek at other points in the documentary?


Chaffee ’09 4th at U.S. road mile championships

When we last saw our hero, he was breaking the four-minute mile, running 3:58.8 indoors. Last Thursday, Macklin Chaffee ’09 was fourth at the U.S. road mile championships in Minnesota. In this video, he is on the right side of the screen, wearing white:

With about 1/4 mile to go in the race, three guys take off and separate themselves from the field; Macklin beat everyone else in the race, but couldn’t catch the three of them, who ended up on the podium. Macklin reflected:

In the race I remember seeing it string out on the right side of the field (I was on the left) but I took a few seconds to decide to react and that was the difference of 10 meters plus the 5 meter jump they had before I recognized the move. […] My body’s signals still caused me to hesitate and not really start pushing until we got to that downhill. Once on it, I flew by the 4 guys I was with and set my sights on the breakaway pack of three. I honestly think I recovered a bit on that downhill and really felt good once it leveled off with 200 to go. […] I sincerly believe that last 200 would have been about the same even if I had pushed earlier with those guys before the downhill. The consequence of not going with them will be that I have to settle for 4th.

On the one hand, 4th is awesome! I won $800 and beat a lot of really good guys. But at the same time I didn’t give myself an opportunity to win, and in a race like this, with nothing but maybe a little cash on the line, this is the opportunity to throw yourself at the competition, assert your confidence in your fitness, and really give the other guy your best shot. I don’t feel like I did that today and that has me melancholic (Yes it’s a word. I looked it up).

Fourth place may well be the best a Williams runner (or athlete in general?) has placed in a national championship, at least in recent memory. Jenn Campbell ’05 was ninth American at the 5k road championships in 2010. Macklin is training for the Olympics, aiming to be one of the top three Americans in his event (the 1500m or 800m) by 2012.


“Strike Artist” Stephenson Does it Again

Another tremendous long-distance goal from Khari Stephenson ’04.  Be sure to vote for Stephenson (who is up against David Beckham, among others) for MLS goal of the week here.


Lecture Surfing

The Record ought to write an article about laptop use in large classes. I bet that they would find something like this:

Those students who, from the front of the classroom, look all industrious on their laptops? Were playing games on Facebook, checking their friends’ online photo albums, posting messages on what looked to be gaming discussion boards, checking TV listings (and possibly setting their DVRs remotely), buying shoes, scoping out concert tickets, watching a kung fu movie (with the sound muted), and checking in on online discussions for other classes. The one student who was using her laptop during lecture to complete peer reviews of classmates’ papers (for another class) seemed like the model of diligence.

Indeed. Is the same true at Williams? If so, the solution is obvious:

So a significant fraction of your students choose to spend a significant fraction of their time in your lectures engaged with something other than listening to that lecture, and you view that as a failing on the students part? Really?

Here’s an exercise that may be revealing: Have somebody, maybe a student or an automated system, whatever, make a transcript of everything you said during a two or three hour lecture, verbatim. Then read it, front to back. It won’t take you three hours. It will take you fifteen or twenty minutes. That should tell you what the real information density of your lectures is like to people who used to have the option of reading other books, making doodles or just struggling to stay awake, but who now have the option of wifi.

Standing in front of people talking to them might be the slowest, least convenient, most error-prone way of conveying information available in the modern world. The solution to this problem, assuming you’re even willing to admit it’s a problem, isn’t to get rid of laptops or distractions. It’s to get rid of the unbelievably inefficient tedium that are low-bandwidth, one-person-talking lectures.

Exactly correct. No More Lectures!


Gavin McIntire – RIP

From an member of the Class of ’11 in Speak Up:

Gavin McIntire ’12 passed away in an accident this week, while on leave from the College. See Record article here
The senior class lost two classmates last year, Jamie Neal and Henry Lo, and now the community has lost another member.

From the obituary in the Record:

Gavin attended St. Luke’s School in New Canaan, Conn., and matriculated at the College in the fall of 2008. He played on the College squash team and enjoyed his work as a writing tutor. Gavin was an economics and Spanish double major, and he was also particularly interested in history. He spent this past fall semester studying abroad in Chile and spent the current semester on leave from the College interning for the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR), working freelance for the online English learning program Open English and learning Portuguese.

Condolences to Gavin’s family and friends.


AskMen on Burnett ’98

Erin Burnett ’98 was #95 on’s list 2010 list of the Top 99 Women. Although I have not examined the list closely, I do not see any other Ephs. Do you?


Slippery B…. gone


What Grad School Will Do To Your Mind

Via JeffZ, a description of the mind-numbing ignorance inculcated by grad school in the United States:

If ever there were a monument to tragedy, it is … The Department of Politics at Princeton[. P]erhaps the finest in the nation, which makes it even more representative of the scandal that American political science has become. Teaching here is dominated by the fetishizing of certain methods, a cold shoulder to theory and the abandonment of reality. The result is a combination of model-made abstraction and number-numbing specificity that has made political science irrelevant to politicians, policy makers and, lest we forget, the general public.

How do political science departments manage to pull off this scam? How do they seduce thoughtful graduate students into a world pathetically at odds with the reality they claim to represent?

This is how: Take a very bright, young graduate student. If someone that fresh has spent the first two years of the Ph.D. program in politics taking six classes in quantitative and formal methods as well as compulsory seminar classes on the “canon,” she has little time for substantive classes that give her a theoretical background on the questions she will ultimately answer in her dissertation. The results are devastating. Not only does the post-generals dissertation-ready student have little sense of the “reality” she wishes to study, she is woefully short of a theoretical framework.

What she will have is a strong understanding of this animal called “methods.” But it’s only some parts of this animal that she will know well. If we were actually exposed to the entire range of methods that understanding politics involves, we would learn archival research, ethnography and interview techniques in addition to the undeniably useful methods of game theory and statistics. What we learn instead are six classes of this quantitative stuff, and one class, if at all, on an all-encompassing beast named “qualitative methods.”

Added to the department’s preference for certain quantitative and formal methods is the unsaid belief that empirical political science must be divorced from normative concerns. In this view, the study of politics is a purely descriptive exercise. Questions of “good” and “bad” are parceled into “political theory,” a subfield hermetically sealed from the rest of the discipline.


DDoS attacks; current IP blacklist has come under a series of DDoS-type attacks during the past days, including a longer outage earlier today due to a machine in the * network (*and the fact that I did not carry my secure ID key this morning).

We continue to take appropriate action in response. Additionally, our current IP ban list, along with notes, is below the fold.

Read more


JCD (2): on grad school, Obama & …

This series of comments are in transit from their origin in our thread on “what grad school will do to your mind.” Post is pre-dated by 48 hours.


JCD: on Obama & other topics

These comments are in transit from our latest (wks 1-2 May) “Speak Up.” Pre-dating by 48 hours.


Williams Trivia in Ohio

Williams’ end-of-semester all-night trivia contest commences at 10 p.m. tomorrow.  [I love the quote from the website, trivia concerns something you know, but can’t remember … exactly right].  For some reason, it will be simulcast by WKMV, a radio station based in Cincinnati, Ohio:

A special note: WMKV will break music format for about 8 hours for a special broadcast at 10pm Friday May 13 until the morning of Saturday May 14 at 6am. WMKV will be the national flagship for the Williams College Trivia Challenge, now in its 35th year. WMKV will be broadcasting to the world as teams of trivia players from professionals to academia contend for the national title. WMKV joins with Cincinnati Area MENSA to host this 8 hour national trivia game. You can play from home and be one of the teams or just eavesdrop and have fun with the questions, and the music that matches the trivia questions. Join WMKV and Cincinnati Area Mensa for the national Williams Trivia Challenge on May 13 at 10pm. If you’d like to join the program as a sponsor as we showcase Greater Cincinnati and its best and brightest facets or if you just want to find out more, contact WMKV at 513-782-2427…Williams College Trivia and the national broadcast emanating from WMKV in Cincinnati May 13 from 10pm to 6am..only on WMKV 89.3FM and


Walking a fine line

UPDATED: Added a picture and paragraph below the fold about why Chap chose to post on this topic now.

Being a politician means having to take public positions on a variety of issues, many of them controversial, and being prepared to defend them. That’s why I think blogging can both a blessing and curse for politicians. It allows them to get out their positions in a way which permits them to think about exactly what they are saying, but it also produces a written record which they make later wish to run away from. Read more


Adam Wheeler, Almost Eph


Adam B. Wheeler, the young man from a small Delaware town who allegedly scammed his way into Harvard, also won admission to another top-flight school, Stanford University in California, according to court documents filed in Wheeler’s case.

Wheeler was admitted to Stanford as a transfer student after being dismissed from Harvard, the documents said.

Prosecutors said in the documents filed in Middlesex Superior Court that an investigator spoke to Richard Shaw, dean of undergraudate admissions at the Palo Alto university and learned that Wheeler had applied and was admitted as a transfer student junior for the 2010-2011 school year. Stanford has since rescinded its offer, the documents said.

Wheeler, 23, of Milton, Del., who is being held in lieu of $5,000 bail, is accused of weaving a web of lies to con his way into Harvard.

Wheeler also applied and was accepted into Williams Mystic.


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