Currently browsing the archives for April 2015
One sentence in Abigail Wattley’s ’05 op-ed in the Record has generated some confusion.
We don’t disclose the list of our fund managers because of agreements we have entered that relate to confidentiality.
Unsophisticated readers might assume that Wattley meant, “Our managers require us to not reveal that we have invested in them, otherwise they would not want to do business with us.” That is, the managers insist on confidentiality and there is nothing the College can do.
This is absurd, at least for 95%+ of the managers the College invests with. If Williams asked them for permission to reveal their name on a list of all its managers, the vast majority of investment managers would say:
1) “Williams is the client! If Williams wants to include us on a list of managers, that is its right. Indeed, many of our investors, especially state pension funds like Texas Teachers, are required by law to reveal all their managers and even our fees!” See below (pdf) for an extract:
Indeed, many (most?) of Williams managers are publicly identified by at least some of their clients.
2) “We hope that Williams reveals our name (if not our fees and performance)! Having smart, sophisticated endowments invest with us is great advertising! The more people that know that Williams trusts us, the more money we are likely to be able to raise.”
The easiest way to see that Williams could easily make its list of managers public is to take note of other institutions that do so. (Previous discussion here.) Consider the listing provided by The Boston Foundation (tBf):
If The Boston Foundation can provide a listing of its managers, then why can’t Williams? Note, also, that these managers are some of the most elite and sought after in the business. Some (Baupost?) are probably even closed to new investors. And yet they have no problem with tBf making their status public.
Should we expect members of the Williams Investment Office (like Wattley) and the Williams trustees to know about the practices of places like The Boston Foundation? Well, in addition to being a similar sized endowment in the same city, The Boston Foundation has a CEO (Paul Grogan ’72) and a board chair (Michael Keating ’62) who are both former trustees at Williams!
Not enough evidence? Consider the comments of Churchill Franklin, CEO of Acadian Asset Management and former chair of the board of trustees at Middlebury.
You are right (as usual) the answer is no we [Acadian] don’t care and are happy to have the advertising. Some fund of funds and outsourced CIOs are reluctant to share the names of the managers they select, because that is their “edge” and their value-add. Huge funds are sometimes reluctant to share the names of their managers if they are trying to protect limited capacity, but the managers are almost always happy to have their names shared.
I could produce similar quotes from Ephs in money management if I thought doing so wasn’t a huge waste of their time.
Is there any way that Wattley isn’t lying? The naive among you might guess that, perhaps, for historical reasons (or because our lawyers are stupid), there are stipulations in every investment contract along the lines of: “Williams agrees to never publicly reveal the name of the investment manager.”
If the College really had “agreements … that relate to confidentiality” and which prevented the College from reporting that its managers included SPO, Summit, William Blair, Charlesbank and so on, then how do I know about these managers?
The cynic in me is afraid that Wattley is purposely trying to mislead the Williams community. She (or her boss Collete Chilton . . . or her boss’s boss) don’t want other Ephs to know who we invest in. Of course, they don’t want to lie too obviously. They just want to string together a bunch of mostly-true-individually but misleading-in-the-aggregate sentences that give everyone the impression that the College’s hands are tied.
If the Record were a better paper, it would find out the truth. Start by asking for some example language from one of these “agreements” about the required “confidentiality,” perhaps from one of the firms that are already public.
In fact, why not start with Charlesbank! It is perfect. First, it happily allows some of its clients, like The Boston Foundation, to report its involvement. Second, Williams already reports an investment. Third, a (the?) senior member of Charlesbank is Michael Eisenson, chair of the Williams Trustees, and Abigail Wattley’s boss’s boss.
All-campus e-mail from President Falk:
To the Williams Community,
Given the broad interest in the work that the Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility has been doing to analyze the proposal that the college divest from 200 companies involved with fossil fuel extraction, I thought I’d let you know that the committee’s report on the matter is now complete and available online.
The report articulates those areas on which the committee reached consensus and those on which after careful deliberation there was not agreement.
The Board of Trustees began discussing the report at its meeting last weekend. The trustees’ deliberations, which will continue over the coming months, rest on the premises, which I share, that the climate is changing, that the causes of that change are almost assuredly human, and that Williams must develop a strong and broad-based response.
For now our thanks go to ACSR Chair Anand Swamy and the whole committee for their thoughtful work on this important issue—work that has modeled how people with differing viewpoints of how to achieve a shared goal can engage with each other in ways that are both vigorous and respectful.
First, kudos to the ACSR/Falk for making the report public. Williams needs more transparency. (But, since Williams has a history of making reports public and then disappearing them, I saved copies of the report and the appendix.)
Second, I am unimpressed with the report because it fails to provide the best arguments against divestment, even in the section labeled “The Case Against Divestment.” This is, frankly, pathetic. It is perfectly reasonable to conclude, as Stanford has done, that a college should divest. You or I may disagree, but that is OK. It is not reasonable to claim (believe?) that you are, for purposes of discussion, providing the best arguments against divestment when, in fact, you are not, either because of a desire to win the argument or a failure to even know what those best arguments are. (I am not sure which explanation reflects more badly on the ASCR.)
Third, there is much material in the report worthy of discussion. Who wants to see a 10 day EphBlog critique/discussion?
Fourth, as always, the underlying politics are interesting. I suspect that there are powerful forces at the College who do not want divestment and have pushed hard against it. Why else would the Investment Office go to the trouble of writing an op-ed in the Record? (By the way, this op-ed is filled with lies-by-omission. With luck, it will only take 5 days to unpack them.) Comments by insiders on the internal politics of divestment are welcome.
Which Eph alum best puts his or her Williams education to use in the blog format? A leading contender has to be Nicholas O’Donnell ’97, a partner at the law firm of Sullivan & Worcester, and head of their thriving art law practice. Bar associations and legal publications constantly encourage lawyers to promote themselves with a blog, but few do so decently, and hardly any with the verve of O’Donnell, whose legal career draws on his education as both an undergraduate and graduate student in art history at Williams.
The Art Law Report is O’Donnell’s blog, and 2015 is a timely point at which to begin reading because O’Donnell is the lead counsel in one of the biggest cases in art law, and he’s been posting about his efforts to overcome — after eight decades — continuing wrongs perpetrated by the Nazis.
As O’Donnell explained two months ago:
I filed yesterday a new civil action against the Federal Republic of Germany and the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz (the SPK, which is responsible the administration of the Berlin museums, among other things) in the United States District Court in Washington, DC… The lawsuit seeks the immediate restitution to my clients of the collection held by the SPK known as the Welfenschatz, or as it is referred to in English, the Guelph Treasure. My clients Gerald Stiebel and Alan Phillip are the blood relatives and successors to the consortium of Jewish art dealers who were threatened and forced by the National Socialist government into selling the Welfenschatz in 1935.
A little quick background that the court documents we have submitted will verify: The Welfenschatz was sold to the Consortium by its previous owners in 1929. After selling about half the collection of their own free will before 1933, the situation for the Consortium changed quickly and drastically after the Nazi seizure of power. The Consortium was suddenly targeted by a concerted campaign of the National Socialists to acquire property they believed was of German heritage and not fit to be owned by Jews, though of course those Jews were until then German citizens too. There were many, many recorded instances in which the Jews of Germany were stripped of their property. And in this case, it was an organized effort that ran from the mayor of Frankfurt (where they lived) all the way up to Goering and Hitler personally. Eventually, the Consortium relented under intense pressure and sold the collection under duress for a fraction of its actual value. The proceeds were paid into accounts that were in actuality blocked, and the Consortium’s members were subjected to further intimidation and the infamous flight taxes, which are described in a Gestapo document included in yesterday’s court filing. After the acquisition, Goering made a great public gesture of presenting the Welfenschatz to Hitler as a personal gift, and was even featured in news reports at the time. It has remained in Berlin ever since, now held by the SPK.
Quite simply, the Welfenschatz belongs to my clients. The transaction forced upon the Consortium was illegitimate as a matter of German and international law, and it had and has no validity whatsoever. My clients attempted in good faith to obtain the return of the collection by participating in mediation with the Advisory Commission, but despite presenting conclusive and unopposed evidence of the oppression that they faced and the inadequate sum they received, the Advisory Commission refused last year to recommend restitution, and the SPK likewise refused to return it…
The SPK can only contest our claims by arguing that the 1935 sale was legitimate, a tactic that it regrettably has employed in the past. Since the Allied victory in 1945 the law has been clear, however: any sale by a Jewish owner after 1933 was presumptively under duress. That is to say, unless Germany proves otherwise, my clients win. But Germany cannot prove, and it should not try to prove, that a conspiracy to take the Consortium’s property—a conspiracy spearheaded by Hermann Goering—was in any way a non-coerced, normal marketplace transaction. It was not.
(O’Donnell on the left, as pictured at Art Law Report)
In a follow-up post, O’Donnell rounded up press coverage of the Guelph Treasure lawsuit (including in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, an interview on WBUR, and more), responded to public statements by defendants, and noted the remarkable leakage of anti-Semitic views into German press coverage of the lawsuit:
It bears noting that some of the coverage, regrettably (and all of it in German, none of it below) has perpetuated long-promulgated stereotypes with references about Jews and money, or questioned why my clients would want “Christian” art, or challenging their victimhood because they were in the business of selling art. These should be beneath any serious discourse in 2015; no one would challenge the persecution of a factory owner who had to sell his or her inventory under duress. Some reports even challenge the good faith of our case by relying on “experts” who refuse to identify themselves.
My clients want justice, and they would not have come this far if they could be dissuaded by name-calling. Their quest will continue.
The Art Law Report is much more than coverage of O’Donnell’s own litigation, of course. Recent posts have covered the Detroit Institute of Art’s controversial deaccessioning decisions and efforts to pass resale copyright legislation, among other issues. But the Guelph Treasure lawsuit is a great entree into the fascinating world of art law and a glimpse of the professional career of yet another star — albeit legal, not curatorial — in the continuing art world dominance of the Eph Art Mafia.
When one is sick with some sort of mental illness, it is incredibly difficult for them to seek help on their own. It can take friends and family to, at least initially, help them find treatment and care by a medical professional. In my case, a friend finally was able to get me to the health center to try to get some professional care. The student at the desk told me she could set up an appointment with the psychiatrist. Normally I’m a cautious person, but I was in no state of mind to check up on this myself – I was struggling simply to function.
As I learned after graduation, I was not sent to a psychiatrist, but rather to a nurse practitioner. I am sure she tried her best, but she was not at all qualified to treat my illness, as I now understand. She prescribed psychiatric medication and trusting she was a psychiatrist with a medical degree, I took it. For weeks my mood swung all over the place, but I was told that was normal. I continued seeing a counselor and things did seem a little better, until about a month before graduation, all services at the health center shut down. With that support gone, the medication made everything much worse and my mood spiraled. Ultimately during senior week I was hospitalized for alcohol poisoning. I couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone at the time, but it was not from partying too hard, it was from trying to harm myself, to make how I felt stop.
What I have learned since graduating and receiving proper care is this – things can get better. I should not be ashamed of myself, and one needs to see qualified professionals in order to get better. Those working at the health center are incredibly well meaning, but good intentions does not equal good outcomes. The doctor I have since begun to see on a regular basis was horrified by the care I received.
The Washington Post highlights a new study from the American Coucil of Trustees and Alumni on the absence of a Shakespeare requirement from the English Major at numerous top colleges. Of 52 top national universities and liberal arts colleges reviewed, only 4 — including Harvard, but not Williams — required English majors to study Shakespeare as a requirement of completing the major.
Chairs of the English departments at Williams, Amherst, Swarthmore, and Yale were given space to respond. Prof. John Limon noted that he personally recommends to his advisees that they take at least one Shakespeare class, and emphasized the breadth of Williams’s offerings and requirements.
we do have more courses devoted to Shakespeare than any other single author — usually four a year. In addition, we have a literary history requirement of one course before 1800 and another course before 1900…
And there are students who can make good use of the English major for all sorts of purposes, which lead them in many directions but not to a course in Shakespeare [e.g., techniques of cultural analysis]… That may be bad in several ways, but it does not invalidate that use if the major.
Compare the response by Geoffrey Sanborn, Amherst’s English chair:
Sanborn said it’s important to remember that English is about more than its canon… we conceive of literature as a basic form of expression that’s taken as wild variety of forms, in a range of cultures and across time… We’re trying to create lifelong, engaged, animated readers … [and we] trust students to be adult enough to choose, with help from their advisers, a path through the college.”
57% of the 266 Amherst English grads have taken a Shakespeare course. I wonder what the comparable number, not provided, is for Williams.
Although both chairs raise the “bit we have advisers to steer them” trope, I favor Prof. Limon’s response, which seems more engaged with what makes an English major distinctive in a liberal arts curriculum. And the authors of the study — who undoubtedly place a high value on the literary canon, are highlighting a very crude statistic. After all, if a student can satisfy a Shakespeare requirement with some course like “Reimagining Shakespeare as a Crypto-Anarchist,” or some such thing, does it really mater that it’s a requirement?
The most recent annual report on sexual assault is out. Let’s spend 10 days talking about it! Today is day 7.
Over the 2013-2014 school year, the college received 14 reports of sexual assault, as well as one of dating violence and stalking. Of these 15 cases, five were brought forward for adjudication within the college’s disciplinary process. Four students were found responsible for violations of the college’s sexual misconduct policy, and one was found responsible for violations involving dating violence or stalking. All five of these students were separated from campus. Two students were expelled, and three were suspended. The average length of suspension was two years. One student brought a case forward through the police and the district attorney’s offices. Ten students who reported assaults during 2013-14 have chosen not to participate in disciplinary or legal processes as of this time. Of those, five worked with the Dean’s Office to arrange accommodations to increase their well-being on campus, including academic arrangements, housing changes, no-contact orders, and advisory conversations.
1) Kudos to the College for providing this level of transparency. The more that the Williams community understands about sexual assault cases, the better.
2) We need more transparency, more details about each of these cases, about the exact complaint, the response and the judgment rendered. This is not hard to do! Consider one example from the latest report (pdf) from the Honor Committee:
A junior was accused of several dishonest actions relative to a paper. First, it appeared the majority of the paper was taken verbatim from a website without citation. Second, the student attempted several times to deceive the professor when he realized he had accidentally shared information that made it very likely that his plagiarism would be discovered. The student readily admitted that this was what he had done. The sanction was failure in the course with disciplinary probation of one semester.
Federal law (and common sense) require that the College not identify specific students. Agreed! But Williams could still tell us, for starters, the class years and genders of the students involved in sexual assault cases. (Isn’t the problem very different if all the accused are seniors than if they are all first years?) And more details on the cases would allow us all to judge whether or not the College is doing a good job. It would also provide guidance to students about precisely what sort of behavior is likely to get them in trouble.
3) Do readers find 15 cases shockingly low or shockingly high? If the 1-in-5 statistic were correct, we would expect over 50 cases a year.
3) Who remembers this wonderful piece of misdirection?
“No group, including varsity athletes, is over-represented among those accused of sexual assault,” Kolesar responded. He said the school’s athletic director, coaches and team captains “are very much partners in the broad campus work on the prevention of sexual assault.”
First, this is gibberish because, obviously, men are much more likely to be accused of (and guilty of!) sexual assault than women are. Second, the Record ought to follow up with Kolesar/Bolton to see if that claim is true for these 15 new cases. I would bet a great deal of money that male helmet sport athletes (football, hockey, lacrosse and (maybe) baseball) are overrepresented in this group. Third, it is quite possible that men from less elite backgrounds are over-represented, although this is more speculative. Certainly, the acceptable standards for interactions with young women at Andover and radically different than they are at big city high school.
Reprinted from the Record:
The single most important thing that Williams could do to ensure the College’s success 100 years from now is to create a finance major. Since creating the major will take some time, we should add some key courses in accounting and investments right now, at small expense. But before examining the case for a finance major specifically, we should review the (unwritten) rules about new majors in general.
New majors should be in fields that a) are taught at a Ph.D.-level at research universities, b) would be popular, enrolling at least 25 students in each class and c) do not require significant investments from the College, either in facilities or staff. Most candidate majors fail at least one of these criteria. Sanskrit is taught at universities but would not be popular enough at Williams. Sports management would (alas?) be popular but is not a serious academic field. Engineering is a Ph.D. field and might enroll many students (see its success at places like Swarthmore and Tufts), but would require too much spending.
A finance major, on the other hand, easily clears all three hurdles. Universities like Stanford grant Ph.D.s in finance; dozens of students at Williams would major in finance if it were offered, thereby also decreasing enrollment in the economics and mathematics majors to more reasonable sizes; and because most of the building blocks of a finance major are already in the course catalog, very few, if any, additional faculty hires would be required.
The best analog to a proposed finance major is the current major in political economy. Imagine that Williams did not have the poli-ec major. The arguments for creating it – Ph.D.-level topic, popular with students, inexpensive to add – apply to finance as well. Moreover, the many virtues of poli-ec today are the yet-unseen benefits of adding finance tomorrow. Poli-ec brings together a community of Ephs – students, faculty and alumni – who are interested in the intersection of politics and economics and who would otherwise be scattered and disconnected. A finance major would do the same.
However, the major benefit of a finance major is that it would increase the size (in both absolute and relative terms) of the College’s endowment in 2115. Cut the Williams endowment by 90 percent and we would be Connecticut College with some lovely mountains. On a 100-year horizon, wealth matters most.
First, a finance major would attract higher quality applicants. Currently, virtually no high school senior interested in Wall Street chooses Williams over Harvard, Yale or Princeton. A finance major and the alumni network it would coalesce and nurture would make Williams more desirable. (Note that this is not a plea to increase the number of Wall Street “gunners” on campus. Fix that number where it currently is, or even lower it. I just want better gunners.)
Second, Williams does a poor job in preparing students interested in finance as a career. Alas, at this stage in the argument, many of my faculty friends will complain that career preparation is not part of what the College does or should do. We should ignore such voices just as we ignored the similar voices 100 years ago who complained when the College added majors in chemistry and physics, going beyond the then-accepted notion of the liberal arts. Williams students get fewer internships and jobs in finance than similarly talented students from places like Duke and the University of Pennsylvania because we fail to teach those students things they need to know. Fortunately, a finance major, and a couple of the courses that would come along with it, would make that problem go away.
Third, better and smarter incoming students interested in finance, along with the better courses that would come along with a finance major and the natural inclinations of Ephs to help each other would lead inexorably to a Williams Finance Mafia ready to rival the famous Art History Mafia of years gone by.
John Sawyer ’39 was the most famous and respected Williams president of the 20th century, not because he did what other college presidents were doing, only better, but because he did what few were willing to do: eliminate fraternities. Adding a finance major would, like banning fraternities, entail short terms costs in exchange for long term benefits, benefits all the larger because few to no elite liberal arts colleges would follow our lead anytime soon. Even just a handful of accounting and investment courses offered every year would be a major help, especially for students from less privileged backgrounds who lack the cultural capital or connections to compete with better trained students from other schools.
Does Williams already produce graduates that go on to success in finance? Of course we do, as the upcoming Capital Campaign will make clear. But we need more of them, making more money for their clients (and themselves) and donating ever larger gifts to the College, thereby ensuring our future as the premier liberal arts college 100 years from now.
EphBlog is looking to bring on more bloggers. Are you a member of the Williams community (student, staff, faculty, parent, local resident, alumni, et cetera)? Do you have something to say about “All Things Eph?” If so, join us.
At our peak several years ago, we have 10+ regular authors, scores of commentators, and a thousand or so readers a day. Alas, our sabbatical cost us much of that community, but we are in the process of building it back. Here are some examples of successful bloggers from the past:
1) Tiny Dancer, who wrote a diary of her year as a JA in 2009 — 2010. Perhaps a JA for the class of 2019 would like to do the same?
2) Wrestling Fan, a parent of an Eph wrestler who covered the team for several years. If you are a parent who wants to cover some aspect of student activity (whether it be a team, a dance company, an a capella group, or anything else), you are welcome at EphBlog.
3) Derek Catsam ’93 used EphBlog as a host for his Red Sox diary. Example post here, and do read the comments! Note that, because EphBlog is good Karma, Derek started this diary in the spring of 2004. And look what happened that fall! Derek then turned those posts into a charming book.
And on, and on. Of course, in a better world, the College itself would provide a forum for these posts, would create a place where Ephs of all ages could write and reflect, discuss and debate. Until that day, however, EphBlog is all we have.
Join us and make it better! (daviddudleyfield at gmail).
This paper provides an econometric analysis of the matriculation decisions made by students accepted to Williams College, one of the nation’s most highly selective colleges and universities. Using data for the Williams classes of 2008 through 2012 to estimate a yield model, we find that—conditional on the student applying to and being accepted by Williams—applicant quality as measured by standardized tests, high school GPA and the like, the net price a particular student faces (the sticker price minus institutional financial aid), the applicant’s race and geographic origin, plus the student’s artistic, athletic and academic interests, are strong predictors of whether or not the student will matriculate.
1) Kudos to Nurnberg for doing some excellent work. All thesis students should aspire to publish their work in an academic journal. Kudos also to Nurnberg’s advisors: Morton Schapiro and David Zimmerman.
2) Brickbacks to Nurnberg (or should it really be to Schapiro and Zimmerman) for not making the full text of Nurnberg’s thesis available on line. (Prior discussion here.)
3) Want your economics and statistics thesis to be equally successful? Then write about Williams. Professor Steven Miller is eager to supervise thesis students (in math/stat) who want to analyze Williams data.
4) Should I spend a week or two going through the details of this paper? Reader requests are always welcome!
Thanks to former EphBlogger Emily Flynn ’09 and the excellent members of the Boston Regional Association:
We profiled some of the area runners about why they’re running and to learn more about their training, their charities, and what they’re looking forward to on Marathon Monday. Read on and cheer for them today. Good luck to all the marathoners!
Courtney Asher ’09
Tim Sullivan ’90
Lauren Philbrook ’09
KK Durante ’11
Jessi England ’06
Shamus Brady ’04
Alex Roth: ’08
Matthew Simonson ’08
Ryan Ford ’09
Sean Hyland ’07
Bret Scofield ’10
1. Courtney Asher ’09 — bib number 29719
1) Who are you running for, and why?
I will be running this year’s marathon for Pine Street Inn (http://www.pinestreetinn.org/) I chose to run for Pine Street because ending homelessness is an often thankless and overlooked battle that they have been tirelessly and successfully waging in Boston for the last 45 years. Pine Street provides a safety net to those who need it most and a full spectrum of resources – from job training to healthcare to permanent housing – to ensure that everyone can get back to a place they can call “home.” I hope more people will consider getting involved with this fantastic organization and getting to know their fantastic set of guests, staff, and volunteers.
2) Why did you choose to run this year?
Thanks to many of my inspiring and athletic Williams friends, I took up running – and Patriots Day cheering – when I moved to Boston 6 years ago. The prospect of leaving Boston for graduate school later this year made me realize how badly I wanted to conquer this “hometown” challenge while I am still a proud resident of this resilient and running-enthused city.
3) What are you most looking forward to on Marathon Monday?
I am most looking forward to the crowds – especially my friends and Pine Street supporters – and the rush of taking that last left turn onto Boylston Street.
See below the break for the rest of the interviews. Good stuff!
By the way, is there a technically inclined Eph who could provide an easy way to view the progress of all our Eph runners?
Recall our previous discussion about suggested steps that students interested in reforming international admissions might take. Below are some more suggestions:
1) Remind Adam Falk about what he said/promised in his induction speech.
We now recognize that the future leaders of society will come from all its many parts, and that the highest manifestation of the public good we provide is to be a college for all of the United States, and of the world.
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.
Many listeners to Falk’s words five years ago assumed that he was on our side, that he wanted to meaningfully increase the number of international students at Williams by, for example, easing/removing the current quota. So far, we have been disappointed. But it is never too late! If Falk still believes that “the internationalization of Williams as something that happens here in Williamstown,” then you can help him move forward.
I still think that Falk (and the rest of the senior administration) is more likely than not to be an ally. So, when speaking with them, you should not say, “Here are our demands!” Instead, you should ask, “How can we help you to make Williams ‘become global within our existing scale and scope’?”
2) Start working on the data. Of course, the first best option is the creation of a faculty committee that would bring the same sophisticated and thorough data analysis to the question of international admissions that the MacDonald Committee brought to the issue of athletic admissions. But that may not be possible right away. However, it is not too early to start your own work on these issues.
First, get some commitment from the Administration (ideally from Falk) that the College will make data available, in the same way that they have made data for senior theses available in the past (e.g., here and here). You aren’t looking for special treatment (or information about any specific student) but the Administration should be able to provide you with the same sort of access that Williams has provided to students like Jennifer Doleac ’03 and Peter Nurnberg ’09 in the past.
Second, get some commitment from a faculty member or two to “supervise” this work. Professors Miller and Stoiciu would be great choices, as would anyone else sympathetic to your cause. The Administration won’t like just handing data to students. But, with a faculty member in a supervisory role, it should be possible.
Third, try to find a junior who would be willing to write a senior thesis on this topic. Such a student, working for someone like Miller, would be perfect. There are 50+ juniors considering doing a senior thesis in economics or statistics. Surely one of them would like to tackle this topic, especially after they find out how many other people would be interested in the results!
Not exactly the perspective you’d expect to hear at Williams, with its award-winning math department.
American children keep scoring poorly and arriving at college woefully unprepared. Just as bad, if not worse, too many students think they hate math.
I propose a solution: Stop requiring everyone to take math in school.
To be sure, she’s talking about the years between arithmetic (through 3rd grade), and high school (when interested students would be encouraged to take further math). And she makes clear that she’s not suggesting that we abandon the math teaching embedded in other parts of the curricula, that we might encounter in, say, discovering our inner scientist.
What do you think?
Interested in improving Williams? Then you should join Gargoyle. Some notes:
1) Below the break is the e-mail that went out earlier in the month. Here (doc) is more information.
2) Gargoyle provides a platform on which students committed to improving Williams can stand. Obviously, you don’t need Gargoyle to try to improve Williams. But, for good or for ill, the Gargoyle name carries weight, both with the Administration and with the Trustees.
3) Any Gargoyle member interested in trying to change policy X at Williams should network with alumni interested in policy X, especially alumni who worked on changing policy X when they were undergraduates. Such alumni are also likely to know which members of the administration/faculty/trustees are most interested in X and most sympathetic to your proposal.
And the best place to start is at EphBlog. No one (who does not work for Williams) knows more about the College then we do. And no one, including those who work for Williams, is better placed to explain to you how things really work.
The most recent annual report on sexual assault is out. Let’s spend 10 days talking about it! Today is day 6.
(For more information on our current policies, see titleix.williams.edu or the dean’s office website.) Now that we have had these new processes in place for more than a year, we will be assessing them carefully and inviting feedback to learn how we might improve them further.
1) I am not expert enough to know how these policies compare to those of other elite schools. Comments from readers? My sense is that Williams is following the standard set of best practices that the Obama administration would like to see all colleges follow.
2) This is a good sign:
For the purposes of this description, the person who reports an experience of sexual assault or sexual misconduct is called the “complainant”. The person who is accused of committing sexual assault or sexual misconduct is called the “respondent”.
Too many colleges use the term “victim” to describe the person who files a report. The Williams approach is better because, until the investigation is complete, we can’t know if this person is a victim or not. Even at Williams, people do make false accusations.
3) The College, I think, is doing everything it can for students who have been subjected to a sexual assault. But what about students who have been falsely accused? (And false accusations have happened at Williams in the past.) What advice do we have for them?
First, do not underestimate how much trouble you are in, even if (especially if!) you are completely innocent. (See former Williams professor KC Johnson on the railroading of Peter Yu at Vassar.) If you were alone in a room with your accuser (and you probably were), then it will be her word against yours.
Second, call a lawyer. Andrew Miltenberg seems active in this area. In particular, he seemed to do a good job in helping Taylor Carmola fight against the accusations from Lexie Brackenridge. But the main point is not that Miltenberg is a good or bad attorney. The main point is that you need a lawyer now.
What advice do our readers have for a student falsely accused of rape?
The most recent annual report on sexual assault is out. Let’s spend 10 days talking about it! Today is day 5.
The changes we implemented included using a professional investigator for every case (so that complainants, respondents, and witnesses are all questioned by someone with deep expertise in doing this work), as well as creating a hearing process in which students who are raising or responding to a concern never have to discuss their experiences in front of other students or their professors.
If this is such a good idea, then why doesn’t the College do the same thing with regard to the Honor and Discipline Committee? Williams could, easily, use a “professional investigator” to examine cases of alleged plagiarism, someone with “deep expertise in doing this work” — much deeper than current committee members like, say, Quamrul Ashraf or Cheryl Shanks. Williams could, easily, arrange a process that did not force accused students to “have to discuss their experiences in front of other students,” like, say, current committee members Tyler Sparks ’15 or Adam Pollack ’18.
The reason this would be a bad idea, obviously, is that the more that the Williams community governs itself, the better. Faculty like Ashraf and Shanks will always have a better sense of the standards of the Williams community than any “professional investigator.” Students like Sparks and Pollack will always be better judges of their peers. (And, as a side benefit, students on the committee almost always view this service as one of the most valuable parts of their Williams education.)
Adam Falk is often guilty of prattling on about the importance of “faculty governance” at Williams. But he has done more to undermine such governance, to make faculty less powerful and less involved in the running of Williams, than any president before him. Removing faculty from investigating, judging, and punishing accusations of sexual assault is another slip down the long slide toward faculty irrelevance.
The most recent annual report on sexual assault is out. Let’s spend 10 days talking about it! Today is day 4.
And, we must work relentlessly on prevention, doing everything we can to reduce the prevalence of assault on our campus until it ceases.
Really? “[E]verything we can?” This is such utter hooey, I am embarrassed to be quoting it. There are many things that the College could do to reduce sexual assault on campus that it chooses not to do, for reasons both practical and ideological.
First, the College could go back to the days of single sex dorms with no opposite gender visitors in the rooms. This clip from Animal House gives a flavor of what that was like 50 years ago.
The vast majority (all?) serious sexual assaults at Williams occur when a male and female student are alone together in a Williams dorm. Make such a situation a violation of college policy, and the rate of sexual assault at Williams would decrease significantly. The College will never do that (nor should it, since such a rule would decimate admissions from elite applicants) so Dean Bolton should stop blathering on with gibberish about doing “everything we can.” She isn’t.
Second, the College could tell female Ephs the truth about alcohol use and sexual assault. Women who stay sober (and/or drink in moderation) are vastly less likely to be sexually assaulted than those who don’t. In fact, the College could just point female students to this Emily Yoffe article in Slate:
College Women: Stop Getting Drunk
But we are failing to let women know that when they render themselves defenseless, terrible things can be done to them. Young women are getting a distorted message that their right to match men drink for drink is a feminist issue. The real feminist message should be that when you lose the ability to be responsible for yourself, you drastically increase the chances that you will attract the kinds of people who, shall we say, don’t have your best interest at heart. That’s not blaming the victim; that’s trying to prevent more victims.
Third, the College could do a better job of explaining that men and women are different and that, therefore, women may not have an accurate idea about what their male classmates are thinking when he brings her back to his dorm room. Hint: He does not want to discuss Plato!
Now, of course, she may not want to discuss Plato either! And that is OK. But, unless she has the benefit of a non-PC upbringing, she may not be aware of just how different the male outlook is from her own. If the College really wanted to do “everything” it could to reduce the frequency of sexual assault, it would tell female Ephs not to go back to a male Ephs dorm room unless she has a good deal of evidence to conclude that he is of high moral character.
But discouraging women from getting drunk and encouraging them to make better judgments when it comes to sexual relationships is something that the College, mainly for ideological reasons, is unwilling to do. And that is a shame.
Previews are going on right now. Comments:
1) Below the break is the e-mail that Bolton/Nesbitt sent out. Best part:
In general, students visiting for previews are not looking to make intimate connections during their visits.
Wouldn’t the Administration be more effective if it were more truthful? The vast majority of male previews would love nothing more than to make (several!) “intimate connections” with cute female Ephs. Surely Nesbitt, at least, remembers what it was like to be 17? Of course, few/none will act on this desire, but denying its existence is another example of the College’s willful blindness to biological/cultural reality.
2) Here (pdf) is the official schedule. Best part:
STONE HILL MIDNIGHT HIKE
Departs from Greylock Hall Lobby
Join the Williams Outing Club for a short hike that will include s’mores and great views of campus.
This is genius. First, it shows off Williams beautiful setting in an unforgetable way. Second, it keeps the future-Ephs from getting in too much trouble! No time to party before the hike and too tired to party afterwards. How long has this been a part of Previews? And who thought it up? Kudos!
3) The single biggest improvement that could be made to Previews is to make hosting it a part of the JA application process.
Inform freshmen and sophomores (during the fall/winter) that any experience they have hosting overnight visits from applicants will be considered when they apply to be JAs. No JA wanna-be is forced to participate, but many/most would. There is a huge demand for JA spots at Williams. Would-be applicants know this and will act accordingly. The Admissions Office (or is it Purple Key?) would keep track of how many applicants each student hosted (I assume that it already does this), survey hosted students on the quality of their visit, and then report the results to the JA Selection Committee. The JASC would be under no obligation to use the survey results. Such a scheme would:
a) Dramatically improve the overnight process. If you motivate a Williams students to show off the campus in the best possible light, then she is likely to do a marvelous job. I bet that applicants under this scheme would have much more fun during their visits and, therefore, be more likely to select Williams.
b) Make the typical overnight visit for non-athletes as fun as those for athletes. I believe that most (all?) overnight visits involving athletes that a coach is interested in are handled outside of the standard system. In those cases, the coach (who wants to applicant to have a good time) ensures that the visitor is placed with player on the team (who both wants to make the coach happy and improve the quality of the athletes she plays with), thereby generating fun-filled visits. No one can sell Williams as well as an undergraduate who wants to.
c) Provide would-be JAs with some insight into what they might be getting themselves into. Although the vast majority of JAs perform superbly, some discover (once it is too late) that the sacrificing their own time and GPAs for the benefit of selfish, annoying and socially-awkward 18 year-olds is not for them. Alas, once they are a JA, it is too late, much to the chagrin of the students in their entry. By ensuring that these Ephs have some experience with hosting overnights, the College will decrease the likelihood of such mismatches.
d) Provide the JASC with more information. The JASC would be under no obligation to use that information, but, if I were a member, I would certainly be impressed with an applicant who hosted 5 or 10 high school seniors, devoted a lot of time and energy to their visit, and received lavish praise from those visitors. I would suspect that, all else equal, such students make for better JAs than those who don’t host visits and/or don’t do a good job of it.
e) Any applicant who, after such a visit, doesn’t like Williams probably shouldn’t come. The fit just isn’t right.
2) Besides JA-applicants, we should incorporate the enthusiasm of sophomores who have already been selected for JA by having them host during Preview Weekends. [I think that the first (of two?) such week-ends is coming up. Can anyone confirm?] This might be tough to do this year (although I bet that Dean Dave could swing it if he wanted to), but, in future years, JA applicants should be told that, if they are accepted, their first obligation will be to host visitors during Previews.
I don’t anticipate many objections from the future JAs. After all, they have just been selected and are very excited. Moreover, these visitors will, in 5 short months, become their freshmen, so there is every incentive to get to know them. Moreover, the Admissions Office could ensure that the students it most wanted were placed with JAs with similar interests.
Imagine that you are a high school senior choosing between Yale and Williams. At Yale, your visit consists of sleeping on the floor with four other students while your “host” ignores you. At William, your host is someone with the same interests as you (whether that be an academic subject or an extra-curricular activity), someone who spends the week-end with you, someone who will be a JA next year, already giving you a direct connection to Williams.
After two such week-ends, aren’t you much more likely to choose Williams than you otherwise would be?
I first suggested this 5 years ago. Alas, like most of my genius ideas, it has been ignored by the College. There is always next year!
The most recent annual report on sexual assault is out. Let’s spend 10 days talking about it! Today is day 3.
She [Meg Bossong ’05] also led the development of the CASA (Community Attitudes about Sexual Assault) survey, which got broad response. The CASA assessed the prevalence of sexual assault, stalking, and relationship violence at Williams as well as the helpfulness and availability of support resources and the community’s understanding of our policies. Nearly 1,400 students completed the extensive survey, and about 200 more answered some of its questions.
Really? I am surprised. A few days after the survey came I asked a dozen students what they thought about it. Not a single one had even bothered to open it! Any student who did open it would have been overwhelmed with the number of questions that it asked. It is shocking (to me) that 1400 students would have spent the 30 (?) minutes that completing this survey would actually require. If I were the Record, I would try to do some reporting on this claim, rather than continuing to serve as stenographer for the Administration. Comments:
1) Below the break is the e-mail announcing the survey.
2) Am I the only one surprised by the 1,400 number? Here (pdf) is the survey. It is 17 pages long! Here is a snippet:
Since you are expected to consider a potentially different answer for each square in this grid, you need to make 60 different judgments for just this one question.
3) This wording smells of puffery. Why tell us “nearly 1,400″ instead of providing the actual number? I also have doubts about the distinction between “completed” and “answered some of its questions.” If a student answered every question except that crazy matrix, does that count as “completed” or not? I suspect that there was a lot of “rounding up,” that a student only needed to answer 80% (or 60% or . . .) of questions to count as “completed.”
4) In the spirit of transparency, the Administration ought to make the (aggregate) responses to this survey public. Once it does so, we can all take a look at the data ourselves.
5) None of this should be taken as criticism of Meg Bossong ’05, of whom I am a huge fan. There is no one better than she for the job of Director of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response at Williams.
An alum e-mailed me this week:
I am hearing (unconfirmed) rumors that Malia Obama is on her way to Williams. Back in the day I could have confirmed this on EphBlog…
Sad part was that he did not realize that EphBlog has been up-and-running for more than 6 months. Alert the media!
A second alum mentioned the Malia rumor as well. The source for both was this story by Quentin Cohan in the Williams Alternative:
In a surprise announcement Tuesday night, Richard L. Nesbitt, Williams College Director of Admissions, said that the College had gone against its standard admissions procedure and accepted the President’s eldest daughter, who is a junior in high school, a year ahead of schedule–making her the first member of the College’s class of 2020. “Our goal every year is to create as talented and accomplished a class of 550 young men and women as we can,” Nesbitt explained, “and, though we do not normally deliberate on students before their final year of high school, there were considerations in this situation which we deemed allowed for circumventing the usual process.”
Needless to say, Malia Obama ’20 would give Williams 4 years (at least) of great publicity. Alas, as the April 1 publication date should make clear, this was a (brilliant!) April Fool’s joke. Well done Quentin Cohan!
Saddest (funniest?) part is the comments that followed the article, including some that were made after earlier comments that pointed out date/joke.
Most interesting was this comment:
I wager that none of you is old enough to remember when the daughter of Vice President Spiro Agnew was a freshman at Williams. Her father had been involved in some less than acceptable doings. The press decided to descend on the child who had just moved into her dorm space. The women in her entry united to protect her from the press– they even went so far as to LIE about her whereabouts. I’m not certain that an entire college community at a larger institution would do as much.
Likewise, there was a time when all was bleak for Shah of Iran. His children enrolled in various schools in this country: the heir apparent came to Williams and his younger sister enrolled in one of the local private schools. The children were easily protected in Williamstown and the prince was a formidable addition to the soccer team.
The Williams community is known for its cohesion and care. Some of the contributors to this thread appear to have forgotten that.
A true story? The Record should do a retrospective on Ephs from famous families and how they spent their time at Williams.
“One story at a time,” is the unofficial motto of the new online project dominating campus, Humans of Williams, an innovative vehicle through which the stories of the College’s students, faculty and staff are told. Via a Facebook page that has racked up well over 1000 likes, Humans of Williams offers snapshots celebrating the diverse individuals of the Purple Valley, from College faculty and staff, to athletes, mathletes and activists.
I sat down with its founder Susie Paul ’16, an amiable, energetic student who revealed she carries her signature Canon camera in her bag most of the time, to chat about the idea whose actualization has generated much hype and provoked thoughtful dialogues within our community since its launch.
Great stuff! Read the whole thing.
Thank-you card from Williams, complete with a little profile like I've adopted an elite college student from Bizarro Sally Struthers.
— Chad Orzel (@orzelc) March 18, 2015
Not that there is anything wrong with that!
There are several hundreds high school seniors¹ who have been admitted to both Williams and Harvard (and Yale and Princeton and Stanford and . . .). Fewer than 10% of them will choose Williams over these more famous schools. Some of them are making the right choice. They will be better off at Harvard, for various reasons. But at least half of them are making the wrong choice.² They (you?) would be better off at Williams. Why?
1) Your professors would know your name. The typical Harvard undergraduate is known by name to only a few faculty members. Many students graduate unknown to any faculty. The typical professor at Harvard is primarily concerned with making important contributions to her field. The typical professor at Williams is primarily concerned with educating the undergraduates in her classes. Consider this recent post by Harvard professor Greg Mankiw, who teaches EC 10, the equivalent of ECON 110/120, to over 750 students each year.
Being an ec 10 section leader is one of the best teaching jobs at Harvard. You can revisit the principles of economics, mentor some of the world’s best undergraduates, and hone your speaking skills. In your section, you might even have the next Andrei Shleifer or Ben Bernanke (two well-known ec 10 alums). And believe it or not, we even pay you for this!
If you are a graduate student at Harvard or another Boston-area university and have a strong background in economics, I hope you will consider becoming a section leader in ec 10 next year. Applications are encouraged from PhD students, law students, and master’s students in business and public policy.
Take a year of Economics at Harvard, and not a single professor will know your name. Instead, you will be taught and graded by (poorly paid) graduate students, many with no more than a BA, often not even in economics! But, don’t worry, you will be doing a good deed by providing these students with a chance to “hone” their “speaking skills.”
2) You will get feedback on your work from faculty at Williams, not from inexperienced graduate students. More than 90% of the written comments (as well as the grades) on undergraduate papers at Harvard are produced by people other than tenured (or tenure track) faculty. The same is true in science labs and math classes. EC 10 is a particularly egregious example, but the vast majority of classes taken by undergraduates are similar in structure. Harvard professors are too busy to read and comment on undergraduate prose.
3) You would have the chance to do many things at Williams. At Harvard it is extremely difficult to do more than one thing in a serious fashion. If you play a sport or write for the paper or sing in an a cappella group at Harvard, it is difficult to do much of anything else. At Williams, it is common — even expected — that students will have a variety of non-academic interests that they pursue passionately. At Harvard, the goal is a well-rounded class, with each student being top notch in something. At Williams, the ideal is a class full of well-rounded people.
4) You would have a single room for three years at Williams. The housing situation at Harvard is horrible, at least if you care about privacy. Almost all sophomores and the majority of juniors do not have a single room for the entire year. Only at Harvard will you learn the joys of a “walk-through single” — a room which is theoretically a single but which another student must walk through to get to her room.
5) You would have the opportunity to be a Junior Advisor at Williams and to serve on the JA Selection Committee and to serve on the Honor Committee. No undergraduate student serves in these roles at Harvard because Harvard does not allow undergraduates to run their own affairs. Harvard does not trust its students. Williams does.
6) The President of Williams, Adam Falk, cares about her education specifically, not just about the education of Williams undergraduates in general. The President of Harvard, Drew Faust, has bigger fish to fry. Don’t believe me? Just e-mail both of them. Tell them about your situation and concerns. See who responds and see what they say.
Of course, there are costs to turning down Harvard. Your friends and family won’t be nearly as impressed. Your Aunt Tillie will always think that you actually go to “Williams and Mary.” You’ll be far away from a city for four years. But, all in all, a majority of the students who choose Harvard over Williams would have been better off if they had chosen otherwise.
¹The first post in this series was 11 years ago, inspired by a newspaper story about 18 year-old Julia Sendor, who was admitted to both Harvard and Williams. Julia ended up choosing Williams (at least partly “because of the snowy mountains and maple syrup”), becoming a member of the class of 2008, winning a Udall Foundation Scholarship in Environmental Studies. Best part of that post is the congratulations from her proud JA.
The Honor and Discipline Committee is made up of eight students, eight faculty, and the Dean of the College. The secretary to the Dean of the College assists committee members with their work, helping to schedule hearings, find rooms and equipment, collate evidence, and maintain records.
Student members are elected by their peers in September. There are two seats per class year. The Dean designates one student as chair. The Faculty Steering Committee appoints eight faculty members, striving for a balance among divisions and a mix of experience levels with the committee. The FSC designates a FacultyChair.
Honor hearings include eight student members, four faculty members (including the faculty chair and the Dean), who act as questioners, advisors, and the recording secretary. Only the students may vote. The faculty members rotate.
Discipline appeal hearings include four students and four faculty, including the two chairs. All members vote. Who is selected depends on scheduling and rotation, not on any other characteristics. As a party to any appeal, the Dean does not sit on the committee.
1) I love that only students vote on honor violations. Is this true at other schools? The more responsibility that Williams places on its students, the better their education will be. And don’t think that this means that the Committee is easy on other students. If anything the reverse is true. By all accounts, students are much harsher judges of their peers than faculty would ever dare to be.
2) Is there a reason that faculty get to vote on discipline appeals? Has that always been true? The cynic in me thinks that it is a way for the Administration to minimize the chance that the students will, in a fit of jury nullification, overrule a decision made by the Dean of the College.
3) Note the amazing increase in the number of honor violations in the last few years. There were 31 cases! In 2005 — 2006 (pdf) there were 8. What explains the increase?
I love local news stories like this.
In a large signing ceremony at Bernards High School on Feb. 18, 20 Mountaineer athletes signed letters of intent.
Carter Gilpin will play lacrosse at Merrimack College, while lacrosse teammate Declan Swartwood signed with St. John’s. Emma TenBarge will play lacrosse at Williams College.
1) Of course, there are no “letters of intent” from Williams College, as there are in Division I. This sometimes flummoxes high schools intent on holding these ceremonies, so they hand out pretend pieces of paper to Williams-bound students while other students sign actual documents.
2) “TenBarge” is a cool name. Unfortunately, Ancestry.com has so polluted the Google search results with their SEO that I can’t find any references to its etymology. Pointers?
3) Welcome to Emma TenBarge ’19! Women’s lacrosse has had a tough start to the year and could use some help.
Excellent essay from Evan Miller ’06.
In retrospect, learning stick shift was a prudent investment of time, even though I’ve never had to prove it to society by (for example) driving a stick-shift ambulance full of orphans while avoiding heavy gunfire. Driving stick is just a good skill to have. More people should have it, in my opinion.
The astute reader will have surmised by now that I am not telling you all this in order to establish my credentials as a driver of low-end convertibles, or to hinder the ineluctable onslaught of automatic transmission in the automobile industry. I bring it up because I see important parallels between the move to automatic transmission in cars and the rise of Python in the computing world.
Python is convenient, and in many ways, a great advance over the C programming language. However, just as teaching teenagers to drive automatic transmission is a practical guarantee that they’ll never learn stick, advising neophytes to learn Python is creating programmers who will never bother to learn how to code in C. And that, I believe, is a bad thing.
Read the whole thing.
Williams is taking a community-driven approach to ending sexual violence. Read the Spring 2015 magazine cover story: http://t.co/GOZLCcI6j3
— Williams College (@WilliamsCollege) March 20, 2015
Good to see Williams taking a lead on sexual assault prevention. Read the whole article. I was especially pleased with this portion.
College sexual assault is a serious problem, both at Williams and across the country. Although the oft-cited statistic of 1 in 5 women being sexually assaulted during their college years is highly misleading (c.f., Emily Yoffe’s reporting in Slate), even a single rape is one too many.
Good stuff! No one denies that sexual assault is a problem. But it is nice to see Williams avoid the inaccurate statistics and out-of-control moral panic that is all too common on other campuses. Yoffe (a liberal reported writing in a liberal news outlet) provides an excellent overview of the issue. Kudos to the Alumni Review for framing the problem correctly.
Much more commentary below . . .