Currently browsing the archives for June 2015
A moving article from Professor Manigault-Bryant:
A text from my mother on the night of June 17, 2015 alerted me that something had happened in Charleston, and that “folks had gotten shot” at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Calhoun Street. Hours before it hit the mainstream media, my mother had prepared me—in her own news-like fashion—of the terror that has subsequently unfolded.
Yet again, the news driving the global headlines has struck close to home for me. Last month, the Walter Scott shooting left me reeling in part because of its close proximity to my family. Today, I sit stewing in rage, sorrow, and fear at the needless execution of black lives. That this moment so readily harkens to the 1963 bombing at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church (Birmingham, AL) that snatched the young lives Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley, and injured over twenty others is disturbingly surreal. Many are writing, tweeting, chatting, and posting about the devastating, injurious media loop that has numbed us to the overwhelming violence against black bodies. So too are we discussing the increasing sense of return to an era that looks and feels like the pre-Civil Rights period than to the twenty-first century. My conversation with my good friend and social media goddess Nyasha Junior a short while ago solidified the sense that, even though the outcries against this act are timely and meaningful, my cup of hope is far from running over. Rather, my storage is nearly empty.
I know Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church well. My familiarity with Emanuel AME is not just because I am a religious scholar of the American South and I know the church is among the oldest black churches in America (1817). It is not solely because I am from the South Carolina lowcountry and was taught at a young age how Emanuel AME was a space for Denmark Vesey and Gullah Jack to protest their conditions during the era of enslavement before they were hanged and the church was burned to the ground. Nor is my familiarity with Emanuel AME because I have written about the religious practices of South Carolina’s Gullah/Geechee folks. My relationship with “Mother Emanuel” is an intimate one, one that is framed by innumerable childhood experiences across the street from the church. For many years, my grandmother rented a large apartment above what was then Harleston-Boags Funeral Home.
Read the whole thing.
Lovely remembrance of Jimmy Lee ’75 in Vanity Fair.
Remembering the Can-Do Charm (and Fierce Temper) of Wall St. Legend Jimmy Lee
Everybody on Wall Street has a Jimmy Lee story, mainly because he was the kind of banker who really doesn’t exist anymore. The JPMorgan Chase & Co. vice chairman, who died unexpectedly this morning of a heart attack at age 62, was the kind of investment banker who told you immediately what he could do for you, not what he could not do for you, and then, through his considerable will, forced his firm to make good on his myriad of promises.
He never seemed to get bogged down in the mechanics of deal-making, nor did he seem much concerned with the infernal political infighting that is part and parcel of every big Wall Street firm (even though he had nearly flawless political skills). Rather, he maintained a consistent air of euphoria about the prospect of doing deals. Not for nothing did Jimmy—always Jimmy, not the more formal James B. Lee Jr.—wear his signature suspenders with silver dollars depicted all over them. With his slicked-backed hair and Hermès ties, he looked every bit the part of an unabashed gung-ho, can-do investment banker. He had not the slightest bit of conflict about what he was meant to do, even in the years following the financial crisis when Wall Street bankers were increasingly depicted as unsavory types. That kind of soul-searching was not for Jimmy.
Rest of article is below the break. Read the whole thing. There is even an Adam Falk sighting!
Indeed, the last time I saw Jimmy was on April 9, the night before General Electric announced that it was getting out of most of its finance businesses. My wife and I were invited to a dinner with the president of Williams College, which our two sons attend, as did Jimmy and his three children. Jimmy loved Williams. He had recently joined its board—something he had long aspired to—and the dinner was one of the ways he ginned up financial support for the college. The dinner was a small, intimate affair—eight people or so—and it was held in JPMorgan Chase C.E.O. Jamie Dimon’s private dining room on the 42nd floor of the company’s headquarters at 270 Park Avenue. Jimmy was his usual charming self, extolling the virtues of Williams College and facilitating a dynamic discussion at the table about the virtues of a liberal-arts education.
Cohan’s sons are apparently Teddy ’16 and Quentin ’17. Regular readers will recall that Quentin wrote the best Eph April Fools article in several years and that Teddy was involved in the College Council election scandal this spring.
Rest of article below the break.Boston Business Journal takes time to interview Tad Read, the new (well, interim) director of planning for the Boston Redevelopment Authority. Tad (or, hopefully, the editors of the BBJ) – lets Williams College and Ephs everywhere down a little by beginning his story in Southern California (where he received a master’s degree a few years after graduating Williams) rather than with his liberal-arts education in Williamstown, where he majored in Spanish:
What got you started in planning, and how did you land at the BRA?
I got my start in Southern California, where I spent 18 years working on citywide plans and affordable housing development, mostly in Santa Monica. Living in Southern California, in a car-oriented culture, whetted my appetite for something a little more walkable, and I started thinking more about what good urbanism meant. That spurred me to think about this mid-career master’s program looking more into these placemaking issues, so I attended Harvard’s graduate school of design for a program in design studies. That led me to a job at the office of commonwealth development (what’s now called the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development), a state office in charge of smart growth policies for the state, and then the BRA.
Question: Would you characterize Williamstown or Williams College as a car-oriented culture in the late 1970s and early 1980s? For all the efforts to create/maintain Spring Street as the center of the community, surely it is today.
What’s your planning philosophy?
My own approach to planning is collaborative. I’m a strong believer that we think better collectively than we do individually. I’ve seen that over and over again. Our collective minds produce better results than our individual minds. The best ideas are not always coming from the people who speak the loudest. I’m a big believer in creating spaces for people who might not always speak out to speak out, because they might have some great ideas. I also think our role as planners is to help the public understand some of the challenges facing the city, so that we can be realistic going forward.
I doubt this is intentional, but here, Read echoes the language of critics of central-planners engaged in “redevelopment” as an activity. This includes both free-market critics, who are dubious that a government agency is likely to have the requisite information to make good decisions, and liberal critics, who believe that the dynamic of political power have historically, and will prospectively, slant “redevelopment” decisions in favor of the wealthy and influential and against poor residents and small business owners who see their neighborhoods classified as “blight” and redeveloped. (Those arrayed against the inevitable “redevelopment” disaster at issue in the Supreme Court’s decision a decade ago in the Kelo case in New London, Connecticut, include both.
Read wisely dodges the question of whether he “want[s] the job permanently”:
My focus is doing the best job I can every day, whatever the duration of this period is. The pace is even more demanding than I thought, but it’s also more manageable than I thought, and the reason is I find it really interesting. Kairos had a background in urban design, and had been trained in urban design and architecture. I’m trained as a planner. I have training in urban design, but I think I’m probably more inclined to defer to the judgment of the urban design team at the BRA.
According to the BBJ, there will be a nationwide search for a new planning director. Here’s hoping that Read is in the running and is successful — and that next time he’s interviewed, Read will tie in his experiences at Williams.
At long last, 150 years after the Union prevailed “with a brave army, and a just cause” in the American Civil War, one of the most visible remaining markers of that conflict is on everyone’s lips and coming down.
Williams College, and most Ephs, reflect on the Civil War through a Union lens — correctly so, from both a moral and historical perspective. As Leverett Wilson Spring described, “[t]here was no hesitation or uncertainty in the response of Williams men to the calls of patriotism” during the Civil War, and 317 Ephs (from the classes of 1825 to 1870) fought for the Union. 3 of these Ephs reached the rank of General for the U.S. Army. And these brave men, living and dead, were and are honored by the Civil War Monument in front of Griffin Hall.
But that doesn’t mean that Ephs have nothing to say about the rebellious Confederacy. EphBlog has previously noted William Lowndes Yancey, a one-year member of the Class of 1833, who became a leading secessionist, and he was not alone. In the early 20th century, distinguished historian and Williams faculty fixture Theodore Clarke Smith authored the excellent “Parties and Slavery, 1850-1859″ as part of the 27-volume “The American Nation: A History,” assembled by Harvard Professor Albert Bushnell Hart, “The Grand Old Man” of American History as a discipline. More recently, led by Charles Dew ’58, the Ephraim Williams Professor of History, students and faculty in the Purple Valley have contributed greatly in their research to our knowledge of the South before, during, and after the Civil War.
So let’s use this occasion to learn more from and about Ephs on the subject of the Civil War and especially on the other side: the Confederacy. To forget the Confederacy is to forget an important part of our history as Americans, at the cost of misunderstanding our country today. As William Bennett ’65 has explained:
In the period right after the Civil War, the historian Shelby Foote reminds us, Americans ceased to speak of their country in the plural (“the United States are . . . “) and began to speak of it in the singular (“the United States is . . . “). The reason was plain: Like no other event in our history, the Civil War had brought home to every American the cost of irreconcilable division; from then on, we would speak of ourselves, and think of ourselves, as one. Curiously enough, however, it was in those same years that homegrown anti-American sentiments also began to manifest themselves with force and articulateness.
But there is nothing “curious” about this. The Civil War was fought not only to abolish slavery, but to keep the Union together. That is, to keep as Americans, not only the soon-to-be freed slaves, but their former captors. This assuredly shapes our present relationship with our country.
Lest it disappear forever, here is a copy of the Report of the Honor Committee, 2007 — 2008. I recommend that students read these cases and learn from them. Example:
A junior was accused of not attributing ideas and writing from a family member who helped the student write his/her paper for an English class. The student noted that he/she was very challenged by the demands of the course and that he/she sought the family member’s help in the assignment. He/She nonetheless maintained that the work in the paper was his/her own. However, the student’s professor had access to a draft of the paper in which the “track changes” function in Word was still activated and thus showed
precisely where the family member had contributed text. The Committee imposed failure in the course and disciplinary probation until the end of the fall 2008 semester.
Either don’t cheat or, if you are going to cheat, try to not be stupid about it!
Former Williams professor KC Johnson writes:
Yu and a fellow member of the crew team attended a party, had quite a bit to drink, and then returned to his room to have sexual relations. Yu’s roommate interrupted them, the accuser said she didn’t want to go any further, and she left—following this up with several Facebook messages, over many weeks, in which she expressed regret for how the evening had wound up. Then, on the last day allowed under Vassar procedures, Walker (whose father is a Vassar professor) filed a sexual assault complaint at the school; the timing precluded Yu’s filing a counter-claim. She further requested that the matter be handled for Vassar’s opaque Interpersonal Violence Panel (whose procedures aren’t public), on which three of her father’s colleagues would serve. (Vassar denied Yu’s request that the panel include a student.) The entire process—from filing of charges to the “investigation” to the adjudication to Yu’s expulsion—took less than three weeks.
Read the whole thing.
If Yu isn’t innocent, then no heterosexual male undergraduate is. And the single person most responsible for Yu’s persecution is, of course, Cappy Hill ’76, Vassar’s president.
Two Williams students were expelled in 2012-2013. Were both of them as “guilty” as Peter Yu?
Why would any high school student, from a non-rich family, ever choose Williams over Stanford given this?
If a student’s parents make less than $125,000 per year, and if they have assets of less than $300,000, excluding retirement accounts, the parents won’t be expected to pay anything toward their children’s Stanford tuition. Families with incomes lower than $65,000 won’t have to contribute to room and board, either.
1) Recall EphBlog’s prediction from a decade ago: Elite education will eventually be free for all US families outside the 1%. Stanford isn’t quite there yet, but each year we take another step in that direction. You can be sure that Harvard/Yale/Princeton will soon meet (and surpass) Stanford, if they haven’t done so already.
2) Do any non-rich students choose Williams over H/Y/P/S? The standard data point that we here is that 10% of the students admitted to both Williams and H/Y/P/S choose Williams. Still true? (We need to get better data on this topic.) Even to the extent that it is, I suspect that the vast majority of these students are rich or, at least, not getting financial aid. I would never advise a student to go into meaningful debt in order to go to Williams instead of H/Y/P/S. Would you?
3) My sense is that Willams, while not as generous as H/Y/P/S, is as generous as other schools, both the lesser Ivies and our LAC peers. Anyone have first hand experience?
4) Williams should be moving millions of dollars from other parts of its budget and into financial aid, at least until it can match the offers that (some) students receive from H/Y/P/S, especially offers to highly desirable students, like African-Americans.
As part of publicity for the recently-released Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets (Good lord — $65.00 and 920 pages to bedevil your sweet tooth!), Oxford University Press has shared seven minutes worth of interviews with Goldstein, the James Beard and Julia Child award-winning professor of Russian at Williams. Part one is below:
In all seriousness, this Goldstein-edited tome looks like the perfect coffee table book for someone who needs a coffee-table book for the breakfast bar, with entries that range from chiffon pie to Haagen-Dazs to regional tastes and recipes:
The Midwest (U.S.) is the area of the United States encompassing Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Long before this official definition, however, Midwesterners themselves were characterizing the region and its food. In 1842, for example, Mrs. Philomelia Ann Maria Antoinette Hardin published the wonderfully titled Every Body’s Cook and Receipt Book: But More Particularly Designed for Buckeyes, Hoosiers, Wolverines, Corncrackers, Suckers, and All Epicures Who Wish to Live with the Present Times, giving the Midwest its first truly regional cookbook. Hardin’s book, purportedly the first printed west of the Alleghenies, wasn’t a collection of recipes that she culled from cook sin the East Coast or England. She speaks to the stomachs around her, with recipes for “Hoosier Pickles” and “Buckeye Rusk.”
In an appendix, the Oxford Companion features a worldwide compilation of the best pastry shops and candy museums, as well as brief entries on the best songs and films about sweets. Sample:
Elf (d. Jon Favreau, 2003)
An endearing Christmas comedy about a 6’3″ man raised by Santa’s elves. With an elf suit, guileless charm, and childlike naivete, Buddy seeks out his real (and really reluctant) father in New York City, all the while subsisting on elves’ four main food groups: candy, candy corn, candy canes, and syrup.
As part of the book’s release, OUP previously promoted a list of “12 Sweets You Need to Know About… and Try,” featuring desserts ranging from the familiar (Whoopie Pies) to the exotic (Vinarterta – “an Icelandic rectangular delicacy comprised of five to nine layers of fruit jam and shortbread pastry”) to the sublime (Sicilian cassata).
From the New York Post:
Stepping off their private plane at remote Auburn-Lewiston Airport in Maine, the 17-year-old boy and his family climb into the waiting Escalade that whisks them to the elite Bates College in less than five minutes.
The group spends the afternoon touring the renowned liberal arts school before jetting off the next day to Pittsfield, Mass., to visit the prestigious Williams College in nearby Williamstown.
“It’s becoming a bigger part of our business,” says Anthony Tivnan, president of leading private-jet charter company Magellan Jets, which organized the 12-leg, $150,000 trans-America tour for the son of a California-based financier and his relatives in August 2014.
“Dozens of families are taking advantage of the convenience by visiting colleges this way.”
1) Williams is selling a luxury good. The more that we appear in articles like this, the better for our brand.
2) Did any of our readers do this tour or know someone who did? Tell us about it!
3) Whether Pittsfield airport is “nearby” Williams depends on the amenities in the Escalade, I think.
4) EphBlogs advice: Don’t take your kid to visit 20 schools. (Last thing you want is for Willy Jr to fall in love with a school for a shallow reason.) Visit one or two that you are thinking about for early decision/action. Then, if needed, apply widely. Then, once accepted, visit as many as you like.
At the recent American Cancer Society Birthday Ball, McPhee entertained guests with performances of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and other favorites.
Looking for an Eph link? Well, the answer is in who McPhee is singing to — the ACS’s guest of honor, 2015 ACS Mission Honoree Jonathan Fielding ‘64.
Fielding, the longtime LA County Director of Public Health, retired from his post last year, but remains Distinguished Professor of Health Policy and Management at UCLA‘s Fielding School of Public Health (named for Fielding and his wife, who contributed $50 million to the school in 2012).
An 2001 article from the Wall Street Journal. How well has it held up? Note that, despite listing a half dozen issues that engage college students, they fail to mention climate change.
What omission will seem similarly surprising a decade from now?
When Protests Proceed at Internet Speed
By MICHAEL S. MCPHERSON and MORTON OWEN SCHAPIRO
In the 1980’s, U.S. higher-education institutions struggled over whether they should divest the stocks they owned in companies that did business in South Africa because that country engaged in apartheid. Colleges, including Macalester and Williams, where we serve as presidents, formed committees of faculty members, students, and others to deliberate and discuss what constituted socially responsible investments. Boards of trustees adopted statements of principle guiding their investment policies.
It’s difficult to determine how much influence the divestiture movement had on political reform in South Africa. But many corporations unquestionably felt the heat that colleges’ stock-divestment policies generated, and the white South African government worried mightily about the impact apartheid would have on that country’s economic future. Most observers have characterized the divestment moment as a remarkable example of effective collective action by higher-education institutions.
Although groups dedicated to the principle of social responsibility have remained active — often through churches and state pension funds — issues like apartheid, which affect people far beyond the boundaries of a campus, have faded from the radar screens of most colleges. Until now. The time may well have come to reawaken, or re-create, those committees and to dust off those policy statements. The second coming of social responsibility is upon us.
This time, however, social activists have different types of concerns and, more important, employ different methods of communication and consensus building. That means that college leaders must develop different ways to respond to those concerns.
Investments in tobacco, nuclear-energy, genetic-engineering, and other companies remain potential targets for student protests and shareholder action. Today, however, students are also questioning another significant aspect of higher education: how colleges raise and spend their cash. The issues include fair pay for campus workers and purchasing from environmentally aware companies.
But at the top of the list these days is the “sweatshop” issue: the role that colleges play in the marketing of clothing bearing their name or image. Because colleges license apparel with their logo on it, and that apparel can be made in overseas factories with abusive labor practices, higher-education institutions have become a focal point in the struggle to improve conditions for foreign textile workers. Student activists, worried about corporate control of the global economy, and spurred by labor leaders with their own complicated agenda regarding the relationship of workers and management, have employed a mixture of opinion mobilization and 1960’s-style protests and sit-ins to provoke responses from institutional leaders.
From the New York Times:
James B. Lee Jr., a pioneering deal maker and among the most influential Wall Street investment bankers of his era, died on Wednesday. He was 62.
Mr. Lee, a vice chairman of JPMorgan Chase, died of a heart attack after working out in his home in Darien, Conn., the bank said.
Mr. Lee, who was universally known as Jimmy, was the behind-the-scenes consigliere to the world’s top corporate chieftains, hatching mergers and public offerings for companies as diverse as General Motors, Facebook and Alibaba. He was a constant presence in the lives of moguls like Rupert Murdoch of the News Corporation and Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric.
He was a throwback, part of a different generation of bankers on Wall Street who were trusted advisers to corporate America based on deep relationships and insights, even as much of investment banking had become commoditized.
Mr. Lee was a colorful character who was known for calling clients at all hours and signing emails “your pal.” More important, behind the trappings of Wall Street culture was a keen intellect. He was an early pioneer of syndicated loans and became a powerful force in the world of leveraged buyouts and private equity, financing deals for Henry Kravis of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Stephen A. Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group and the late Theodore J. Forstmann of Fortsmann Little.
Famous on Wall Street for the lengths he would go to woo a client, he bought a Corvette ZR1 to demonstrate his dedication to G.M. during its initial public offering and had hoodies made for Facebook’s I.P.O. as a sartorial homage to its founder, Mark Zuckerberg. He also looked the part of a high-powered banker, with slicked-back hair, pinstriped suits and two-toned shirts with cuff links.
He also often played the role of backstage mediator among companies and activist investors, helping to end contentious battles between Carl C. Icahn and Dell, for example, and mentoring Daniel S. Loeb, the founder of Third Point.
Inside JPMorgan, Mr. Lee was the firm’s rainmaker and one of its longest-serving executives. He often used the firm’s enormous balance sheet to finance complicated transactions. He was also a close friend and adviser to the bank’s chief executive, Jamie Dimon, whose office was just doors away from his. When the bank was under investigation by the Justice Department and Mr. Dimon was under pressure, Mr. Lee had Tom Brady, the quarterback of the New England Patriots, call Mr. Dimon to cheer him up and tell him to “hang in there.”
On Wednesday, Mr. Dimon called Mr. Lee “invaluable,” adding, “Jimmy was a master of his craft, but he was so much more — he was an incomparable force of nature.”
Mr. Lee was animated by the pursuit of the big deal, stoked by a competitive fire and a desire to be in the middle of the action.
In 2005, at a party honoring Mr. Lee, Mr. Dimon told a roomful of chief executives and buyout clients that “Jimmy Lee has probably lent a trillion dollars to the people in this room.” After pausing for effect, he added, “and almost all of it has been paid back.”
As word spread about Mr. Lee’s death on Wednesday, laudatory statements about him came pouring in from every corner.
“Jimmy loved Wall Street more than anyone I’ve ever known,” Mr. Loeb said. “He wasn’t driven by money or deals but by his passion for people. There was no more loyal friend to be had on Wall Street, nor anyone whose wise counsel I valued more. My last correspondence with Jimmy was a note from him titled ‘Bragging,’ where he told me about his son’s admission into a highly competitive securities analysis program at Columbia Business School. He signed off by telling me that despite his long and successful career, his ‘greatest accomplishment’ was his children” — his son, James, and two daughters, Elizabeth and Alexandra.
They survive him, as does his wife, also named Elizabeth.
James Bainbridge Lee Jr. was born on Oct. 30, 1952, in Danbury, Conn. His father ran the Frank H. Lee Hat Company and died of a heart attack when he was 47; Mr. Lee was 11 years old.
Mr. Lee talked about how his father’s death might have driven him to create special bonds and relationships.
“Jimmy was my closest friend in finance,” Mr. Schwarzman said. “It’s hard to explain. He always gave someone the sense — and it was true —that he cared desperately about you.”
Mr. Lee began his career with Chemical Bank in 1975 after graduating from Williams College. He played a key role in starting Chemical’s syndicated loan group in the 1980s, helping fuel a wave of buyouts, and built the investment banking business as the bank became a bigger player through mergers with Manufacturers Hanover and Chase Manhattan Bank. He climbed the ladder to run Chase’s investment banking business and eventually rose to become vice chairman of JPMorgan Chase after the 2000 merger that created the company.
He advised on some on the biggest deals, including United Airlines’ acquisition of Continental, General Electric’s sale of NBC Universal to Comcast and the News Corporation’s purchase of Dow Jones. He scrambled to help save the American International Group during the financial crisis and later helped underwrite its I.P.O.
He was fiercely loyal and considered leaving the firm only once. In his top desk drawer, he kept a copy of the term sheet to become the No. 2 at Blackstone. He most likely would have become a billionaire had he taken the job, because it was long before that firm went public. He would occasionally show it to friends, in part to demonstrate his loyalty to JPMorgan and his colleagues.
Mr. Schwarzman recounted how he had tried to recruit Mr. Lee away and nearly had a deal. “We had the press release ready,” Mr. Schwarzman said. Mr. Lee told him needed to speak with JPMorgan’s chief executive at the time, Bill Harrison. He called Mr. Schwarzman back and told him he couldn’t do it.
“I told him, ‘Don’t feel badly. You’re following your heart,’ ” Mr. Schwarzman said. “He had so much loyalty to the bank and the people there.”
— Twitter (@twitter) June 11, 2015
And, per the tweet above, the person in charge of finding Twitter’s new leader is Peter Currie ’78. A longtime Twitter board member, it’s been only a few months since Currie tweeted his support for outgoing CEO Dick Costolo:
— Peter Currie (@plscurrie) January 6, 2015
Now, Currie must find Costolo’s replacement. Do you have innovative ideas for how to monetize a highly-interactive, dedicated, but touchy user base within 140 characters or less? Have a good track record in a Silicon Valley C-suite? Better get in touch with Currie — he’s going to need all the help he can get!
An Eph has been hired to replace longtime Williamstown Town Manager Peter Fohlin, who recently retired. Jason Hoch, celebrating the 20th anniversary of his graduation from Williams College, was named the unanimous choice of the Board of Selectmen on Friday.
Hoch was a Political Economy major while at Williams, and his work there put him on the road to Spring Street. As a senior, his thesis was entitled “Crisis on Main Street,” examining downtown Adams about two years after the opening of Walmart near the North Adams/Adams border in September, 1993. In the thesis, Hoch applied Albert Hirschman’s “Exit, Voice, and Loyalty” framework, a longtime linchpin of the Political Economy curriculum.
Hoch has been working his way around New England as a town manager ever since. From 1997 to 2004, he served as town manager in Littleton, NH, where he enlisted public school students in the planning and execution of a revitalization program that helped rejuvenate Main Street, construct an educational nature trail, and develop a GIS mapping system. His efforts in Littleton helped create an unusually walkable small town:
Hoch, Littleton’s town manager, has worked hard to make his town inviting to pedestrians, and he’s eager to show off some of the recent innovations.
Before him, a red-roofed bridge stretches across the water. The sign over the entrance reads “2004,” the year the federally funded bridge opened.
Hoch steps onto the bridge. Its wide planks and waist-high railings make it a place to linger as well as walk. Halfway across, an elderly couple has paused. She perches on the railing and he holds her safe. They kiss like teenagers…
In the early 1990s, Littleton was on a downslide. The vacancy rate on Main Street was up and the number of people coming into town was down. A non-profit Main Streets program sparked the commercial district back to life, but the task of bettering downtown remained…
On his walk through Littleton, Jason Hoch ambles on the western side of the Ammonoosuc, along a gravel trail the city developed last year. Green and quiet, aside from the burble of the river, it’s hard to imagine that the interstate is a fraction of a mile away. This side of the river hosts a farmers’ market every Sunday.
“People park downtown and walk over the bridge to the market,” Hoch says. “Businesses started finding there were more people downtown, and the farmers’ market extended hours.”
Hoch is proud of what the town has accomplished.
“Littleton was an old mill town, and over the past eight years, it has started to become a different place,” he says. “On Main Street, it feels like a real town.”
The gravel crunches beneath his feet. “Little changes like this make a difference,” he says. “A simple gravel path. This isn’t hard to make happen. People can do stuff like this.”
From Littleton, Hoch moved on to Plaistow, NH, where he purchased a home and started a family. After a two-year stint in Plaistow, some work as an independent consultant, and with the addition of a bear, Hoch became the town administrator in Litchfield, NH, in mid-2010. He quickly earned plaudits for helping the town become better organized and its administration more creative and more efficient:
“People are asking for my advice, and sometimes even following it,” he said, half-joking. “I’m not just pushing paper somewhere.”
He said one example was an addition of ground-speed salt dispensers to Highway Department trucks, which he recommended to road agent Jack Pinciaro. The electronic dispensers measure the speed of the truck and lay down the appropriate amount of salt.
“It was something I saw in my years in Littleton, and it makes work easier and saves us money,” he said.
Hoch said he also brought in “a completely different approach” to the town’s budget system. He reviewed the original proposal by the Budget Committee and then made adjustments and cuts that went beyond their recommendations. The process brought praise from taxpayers and town officials.
“That’s always a good validation that you’re in the right direction,” he said.
Other highlights from his first year include helping to negotiate a new police union contract, renewing the town’s cable franchise agreement and developing a more efficient financial system that led to the town’s “clean audit” this summer.
More recently, Hoch helped update Litchfield’s personnel policies, improved efficiency in the town roads department, and helped the town establish an annual “Winterfest” celebration.
During his time in New Hampshire, however, Williamstown has never been far from his mind. As news reports of his hiring note, he warned Litchfield at the time of his hiring that “You need to be concerned when the vacancy come up in Williamstown.” Previously, Hoch participated in an EphBlog survey on Twitter about “Courses to Audit” while at Williams:
ARTH 201 American Landscape History. Satterthwaite is a an institution. Still use his collection of readings 14 years later. #ephblog
— Jason Hoch (@jasonhoch) September 11, 2009
Jason, Welcome back to the Purple Valley! May the town/gown divide ever be lessened with you on the town side.
From former Williams professor KC Johnson:
Kafka was born too early to write about Amherst College. At campus hearings on claims of sexual assault, procedures are relentlessly stacked again males and evidence of innocence doesn’t count. Amherst expelled a student for committing rape—despite text messages from the accuser, sent immediately after the alleged assault, (1) telling one student that she had initiated the sexual contact with the student she later accused (her roommate’s boyfriend); (2) inviting another student to her room for a sexual liaison minutes after she was allegedly raped.
Amherst, on grounds that the accused student (who, per college policy, had no attorney) didn’t discover the text messages until it was too late, has allowed the rape finding to stand, even though the college’s decision relied on the accuser’s credibility (which is now non-existent). Amherst faces a due-process lawsuit in the case.
Johnson’s summary of the case is even more damning than the Globe article we looked at yesterday. Read the whole thing.
What advice do you have for Amherst? I would settle with the student by either re-admitting him or paying him to finish elsewhere. You don’t want to go to trial with facts like these . . .
Among this year’s winners of the James Beard Foundation’s Leadership Awards is Eliot Coleman ’61, proprietor of Four Season Farm in Harborside, Maine, and one of the earliest popular advocates of organic, locally-grown food.
In an interview, Coleman says he is “flattered” to receive this “pat on the back.” “I’ve been fascinated by how rapidly the interest in local, quality food has grown,” Coleman added. “Back when I started this, I was talking another language. All of a sudden now, not only are there more producers, but there are more appreciators… Every time I’m out in the world, I’m just overwhelmed by how many young people there are [in organic farming].”
Wondering what an organic farmer studied at Williams fifty years ago? Well, according to this interview, “academics were a sideshow.” Mostly, Coleman focused on hiking, rock climbing, whitewater kayaking, skiing and skating. Williams was the perfect place!
I hope he enjoys the food at the Foundation’s gala dinner in his honor, scheduled for October.
A commentator (who should be an author!) notes this story from the Boston Globe:
In December 2013, Amherst College imposed its first major sanction under a new get-tough sexual misconduct policy, expelling a 21-year-old senior after a disciplinary board concluded that he had forced a female classmate to perform oral sex during an alcohol-infused encounter nearly two years earlier.
In April 2014, however, the expelled student presented the college with new evidence — a series of text messages the woman sent to two other male students immediately after the alleged rape, according to a lawsuit. To one, a dorm counselor, she described the sexual encounter in language that suggested it was consensual and she wrote, “It’s pretty obvi [obvious] I wasn’t an innocent bystander.’’
Entire article is below the break. Sure seems to me like this student is a victim of a witch hunt. Would our readers disagree?
And, since this is happening at Amherst, does it also happen at Williams?
Holt enrolled at Williams as part of the Class of 1951 but left, first to travel in Europe, and then to serve in the Air Force in the Korean War. His obituaries prominently feature his authorship of the song “Lemon Tree” (YouTube link), and his work on Broadway (he was nominated for a Tony for “The Me Nobody Knows”), I would place his most significant contribution to popular culture in his role in surfacing the song “Charlie and the MTA,” thereby giving rise to, among other things, the Boston subway’s reloadable “Charlie Card.”
Most people know “Charlie and the MTA” from its recording by the Kingston Trio in 1959. But Holt brought the song to the Kingston Trio’s attention after he came within a hair’s breadth of having a hit with it two years earlier, in 1957. According to a 2010 article in American Music, Holt learned the song in 1955 at a New York cabaret, the Purple Onion (undoubtedly popular with Purple Cows):
Holt added “M.T.A.” to his solo repertoire, changed the tune a little,
and recorded it as a single and as part of an album, The World of Will
Holt, for Coral Records in 1957. The song quickly began to receive airplay
on radio stations and seemed well on its way to becoming a hit. “It was
going to be a hot song . . . a novelty song,” Holt recalled. Life magazine
even sent a reporter/photographer team to Boston to do a feature story
on Holt, taking pictures of him at the various subway stops mentioned
in the song.
But soon after Holt’s recording of “M.T.A.” began to climb the music
charts, radio stations suddenly stopped playing the song. Stores stopped
selling the record. Life magazine abruptly pulled the story on Holt before
that issue of the magazine hit the newsstands. Holt says that the reason
for the sudden turnaround was that radio stations—particularly those
in Boston—had received complaints that the song “glorified” a communist,
because it mentioned Walter O’Brien [the Boston mayoral candidate for whose campaign
the song was originally written]. Sing Out! magazine corroborated
In a desperate move to salvage the song, Coral Records removed the
line about O’Brien. They literally cut it out—without replacing it—so
a careful listener can notice a gap in the subsequent version. Coral
rereleased the song without that line, but the damage had been done.
Holt’s new version of “M.T.A.” went nowhere. “My fame and fortune
was suddenly out the window,” Holt recalled.
Holt’s friends in the Kingston Trio picked the song up from him, revised it with the now-familiar introduction, recorded it, and, well, you know the rest.
Will, Ephs everywhere wish we’d known you longer and better. Rest well.
Funniest professor at Williams? There are many candidates. But I laughed out loud when reading Nate Kornell’s CV.
Don’t see the joke? You need to read to the very end . . .
Any other candidates for funniest professor? Or, at least, funniest CV?
A secret EphBlog vice is to identify faculty members who are on the right of the campus consensus. This tweet makes me think that (recently tenured!) psychology professor Nate Kornell may be a secret member of the not-crazy-left-wing Eph brigade.
As always, a retweet is not an endorsement, but it seems clear to me that Kornell is sympathetic to Pinker’s point: the campaign against campus rape, while laudable in theory, seems in practice to be deeply suspect.
If I were a male Williams student accused of sexual assault, I would seek advice from Kornell. He might be sympathetic to your plight.
An analyst in the power and utilities banking group at Barclays named Justin Kwan sent an e-mail with a list of “10 Power Commandments” to his group’s incoming summer interns, and it is now “making the rounds on Wall Street,” because it is a list of jokes, and by the extremely low standards for this sort of thing, the jokes are funny. (“Our group dresses very conservatively. Given that it is summer, no socks is accepted and, in fact, encouraged.” “You are expected to allocate at least half your seamless web order for group appetizers/snacks for the month of June.” “Have a spare tie/scarf or two around. You never know when your associate will run out of napkins.” “When you need to leave your desk there will be a sign out sheet outside your cubes.”) Honestly by the standards for this sort of thing I would characterize these jokes as sweet and charming.
Exactly right. And, even better, there is an Eph connection! The letter mentions Michael Lomio ’14. Fortunately, being a smart Eph, Lomio did not write the e-mail, so he still has a job.
Lesson: Never put into writing any thing that you wouldn’t want to see in the Wall Street Journal, as interpreted by your worst enemy.
Anon ’15 claims:
According to insiders, a faculty member on the honorary degrees committee refused to give anyone who worked for a corporation an honorary degree for the Class of 2016 awards! How absurd is that? I’d love to have a 10 minute debate with the professor on the topic, as I can see no logical reason for prohibiting the honor of anyone associated with for-profit endeavors.
I doubt we see another (let alone white) business speaker for a while.
1) Here is the current committee membership. I see three faculty members: Laylah Ali (ART), Laura Ephraim (PSCI) and David Dethier (GEOS). To whom is our tipster referring? Call me a stereotyper, but Dethier does not strike me as anti-business. (How many white male Div III professors at Williams are?) Ephraim is very new. How likely is a junior professor to raise such a stink? Ephraim also has the most limited Google presence of any Williams professor. Here and here are the only sample of her work that I could find. Laylah Ali, however, is safely tenured. I would give 80% odds that our tipster is referring to her.
2) Is the report accurate? I have my doubts! I bet that our tipster spoke with someone (a student?) on the committee and got a version of the discussion that went on. (Note that the Committee is sworn to secrecy.) I would not be surprised if a professor argued against any business person that the Committee considered. But I highly doubt that she would be so crude as to say, explicitly, “No Business People Allowed!” That would not be polite or effective. Instead, she just came up, again and again, for reasons why non-business person X was better than business person Y.
3) Would the lack of a business person prove that our tipster was correct? Not necessarily. My sense (corrections welcome!) is that it is often the case that no pure business person receives an honorary award at graduation. The College has always preferred academics, writers and politicians. In fact, the main business honorees that come to mind are either black (Burns and Otis) or trustees (and major donors) like Bob Lipp in 2008, Joe Rice in 2005, Alan Fulkerson in 2004 and so on.
4) Consider the following criteria:
a) Awarded an honorary degree from Williams College at graduation.
b) Neither African-American nor Hispanic.
c) Not a major donor to Williams.
d) Only significant success is in for-profit business.
Looking at the archives, I can’t find a single person, in at least the last 10-20 years, who fits all four criteria. When was the last one? Help us, readers!
So, if in 2016, there also isn’t such a person, don’t be surprised. Of course, our tipster is making a more extreme prediction: that there won’t be any business person in 2016. Do you believe him?
Featured in the news coverage of the discrimination complaint filed by a coalition of Asian-American organizations against Harvard University is an Eph: Michael Wang ’17, who was denied admission to Stanford and six Ivy League universities despite his credentials:
Academically, he was ranked second overall in his class and graduated with a 4.67 weighted grade point average. He scored a 2230 on his SAT, placing him in the 99th percentile of students who took the exam.
He also stressed that he was not just academically driven, but also a well-rounded applicant who maximized his extracurricular activities. He competed in national speech and debate competitions and math competitions. He also plays the piano and performed in the choir that sang at President Barack Obama’s 2008 inauguration.
Wang had previously filed complaints with the Department of Education against Yale, Stanford, and Princeton, and spoke out against California’s Senate Constitutional Amendment 5 (SCA-5) in an op-ed in the San Jose Mercury-News:
Applying to college is an anxiety-filled rite-of-passage for students and parents alike. For Asian-American families, however, the anxiety is mixed with dread. They know that their race will be used against them in admissions, and there is nothing they can do but over prepare. I experienced this when I applied last year…
My disappointment [in rejections] turned into anger when I learned that Asian-Americans are being held to higher admissions standards by the selective schools. We have been the fastest growing minority group in America, and yet our presence on some Ivy League campuses has declined in the last 20 years…
Many [Asian-Americans] now appreciate the fairness of race-blindness. We have been driven to this understanding because the race-plus factor, which is supposed to help increase black, Latino and Native American enrollment, is being used as a minus-factor against us.
Wang deserves credit for standing up for his views and speaking out publicly, despite the press of conformism and the strictures of political correctness. Still, I wish he hadn’t said this:
[W]hile Williams consistently ranks near the top if not No. 1 in the US News and World Report’s rankings of liberal-arts colleges, Wang still feels as if he was unfairly rejected from the Ivies.
“I think I deserve better than what I got,” he said.
As EphBlog regularly extols, “Choose Williams Over Harvard.” As an Eph, Wang is being taught by professors who know his name and give feedback on his work, can continue his life as a well-rounded person rather than focusing on one thing, and focus on managing his own affairs as a student, rather than surrendering all control to the Harvard bureaucracy. I hope in the next two years, Wang will come to recognize that no Eph should ever give the impression that an undergraduate education from an Ivy League school would somehow be “better” than four years in the Purple Valley.
Today is Commencement. Congrats to the members of the class of 2015!
Ursula Burns, the Commencement Speaker, would not have been chosen if she were not African American.
Since this true claim will give our liberal readers the vapors, let’s take it one step at a time.
1) Ursula Burns is an immensely talented and successful business executive. You don’t climb the greasy pole at a Fortune 500 company without being extremely smart and ambitious (and lucky). Kudos to Burns for her many successes!
2) Williams never selects a Commencement Speaker whose main accomplishment is business success. Here is a listing of the speakers of the last 50 years. There is not a single speaker whose main/only accomplishment is in business. (Counter examples welcome!) The main categories are politicians/writers/academics.
3) There is nothing wrong with Williams not choosing business executives for Commencement Speakers. Maybe Williams thinks (wrongly) that executives make poor speakers. Maybe Williams does not value and/or want to honor success in business. Maybe Williams just values other things more. Whatever!
4) If Williams never chooses business executives, and then chooses Ursala Burns, we can conclude that Burns was chosen for some reason other (or some reason in addition to) business success. That reason is almost certainly the color of her skin (and maybe her gender).
This is the sort of truth that no Williams faculty member or administrator will ever say, which is why we have EphBlog!
Quibbles and Complaints:
1) This conclusion would be falsified if Williams started to select speakers whose main/only accomplishment was in business, perhaps because of the increasing financialization of the trustees/college. Who wants to make that bet? Not me! I wager that, for the next ten years, there will be no non-black, non-alum business executive chosen as Commencement Speaker.
2) What about business executive Michael Bloomberg from 2014? Bloomberg was also mayor of NYC. Williams often has prominent politicians as speakers, including former NYC major John Lindsay in 1970. In other words, Bloomberg would have been chosen even if he were not a success in business.
3) What about Clarence Otis ’77, speaker in 2009? It is true that Otis’s main/only accomplishment is in business, but, first, he is also black! And, second, he is an alum. If Burns were an alum it would be hard to know if her skin color or her alumness was the key factor.
4) Surely there must be other business executives chosen over the last 50 years! Nope. Look at the list.
Six Ephs have won MacArthur (“Genius”) Awards.
Source: pdf. I am pleased that (by chance?) Williams is listed at the top of the page. I am annoyed that Amherst has seven winners. I am not surprised that Oberlin has nine, given the left-wing and artsy skew of what “genius” means to this organization.
Back during college decision season, tennisrecruiting.net ran a nice interview with Lex Urban ’04, a two-time national champion and captain of the Men’s Tennis team while at Williams. In the course of answering a few questions, Urban’s recollections will be familiar to the thousands of Ephs who participated in team sports, and highlight both the value of athletics to a Williams education…
Q: What were the biggest challenges of moving from the USTA juniors to NCAA Tennis?
A: I think the biggest challenge was figuring out how to reconcile individual achievement with team success. College tennis is so different from juniors because you are playing for your team first and then yourself. At the same time, you are competing with your teammates for lineup spots – but you also have to try and bond with them in order to help the team perform better. Trying to find the balance between competitiveness and team unity was one of the biggest challenges, and most crucial to a team’s success (along with talent obviously!). Our team was highly competitive on the court, but we ultimately supported one another off of it. Finding that balance is no easy feat and requires a certain level of selflessness that some people just do not have.
…and one of the most common concerns raised about the role of sports in the Williams community:
Ten years removed – wow, I’m old! – from my last match, my teammates are still some of my closest friends.
Today, after attending law school at Catholic University, Urban is a senior litigation associate in the Washington DC office of Cadwalader. Urban undoubtedly benefits from his team experience at Williams — an educational experience which is hard to replace through academic, or even other extracurricular, components.
But many Ephs also worry that the very nature of that valuable experience segregates the Williams campus, creating pockets of exclusion around individual teams and an overall divide between athletes and non-athletes — and it’s quite natural for the bonds forged among teammates to be among the strongest and most enduring we have. This perception, however, can turn off some otherwise talented candidates, as in this College Confidential thread last year:
I was initially attracted to Williams upon word of its renowned art history program… with all the resources available, it seems that such an art culture would flourish— but Williams seems to be labeled consistently as a “rich, white jock school” … so I wonder what it would be like to study art at such a school? …
Could anyone here describe the atmosphere at Williams? Is there a large enough critical mass for a successful and active art culture? If so, is the student body heavily polarized across arts and athletics? (As I doubt there are many who are actively involved in both.)
(Fortunately, responses to that thread painted Williams in a favorable light — even citing EphBlog favorite Kirk Varnedoe ’67)
A group of Dartmouth computer science faculty and students have been using a smartphone app to track student behavior and predict their academic performance:
The StudentLife app that ran on students’ phones automatically measured the following human behaviors 24/7 without any user interaction:
•bed time, wake up time and sleep duration
•the number of conversations and duration of each conversation per day
•physical activity (walking, sitting, running, standing)
•where they were located and who long they stayed there (i.e., dorm, class, party, gym)
•the number of people around a student through the day
•outdoor and indoor (in campus buildings) mobility
•stress level through the day, across the week and term
•positive affect (how good they felt about themselves)
•eating habits (where and when they ate)
•in-situ comments on campus and national events: dimension protest, cancelled classes; Boston bombing.
The collected data provides a number of insights into the lives of Dartmouth students — results that I think would be paralleled if a similar study were performed on Williams students. Attracting the most attention (e.g., this NPR story) so far are their findings (both surprising and unsurprising) about GPA, published in “SmartGPA: How Smartphones Can Assess and Predict Academic Performance of College Students,” and to be presented at an upcoming academic conference on ubiquitous computing:
our results suggest that students who change their night time socializing durations later in the term performed better, compared to those who change their night time socializing earlier in the term. Additionally, students who decrease their evening socializing durations during the term perform better, compared to students who increase their evening socializing durations during the term. We suspect that these students may be preparing for their examinations and focusing on other tasks during the evening (e.g., studying), which could contribute to the observed decreases in ambient conversation duration…
[S]tudents with longer average study durations had higher GPAs at the end of the term, compared to students with shorter study durations. This finding is consistent
with research that found academic-related skills (e.g., study skills and habits) to be associated with higher GPAs. Our results extend this work by going beyond self-reported
study habits to show that unobtrusively measured studying habits (e.g., via WiFi and GPS) can also predict student performance. In contrast to previous research, we did not find class attendance to be a significant predictor of performance, and we did not observe simple correlations between class attendance and GPAs as other studies have suggested.
This study has significant limits — the data set is 30 students, over a 10-week period, and the paper doesn’t describe how those students were recruited, and may or may not suffer from problems related to participants’ awareness that their smart phones were tracking their movements, conversations, etc. Yet it’s interesting and novel research that I hope to look at more closely in the future.
If smart phone tracking of student behavior can be used to predict the likelihood of academic success, might Williams and other schools wrestling with how to help at-risk students succeed find a way to use such tracking in real-time? Students would have to be willing to surrender their privacy, but being able to detect changes in behavior and activity for at-risk students could enable early interventions by a support structure, whether peer-based or institutional, that could yield tremendous benefits.
Three years ago, Adam Falk assured us that all those fancy MOOCs (massive open on-line courses) had no future at Williams.
Technology has and will continue to improve how we teach. But what it cannot do is remove human beings from the equation. Coursera, one of the new purveyors of massive, open online courses, proposes to crowd-source the grading of essays, as if averaging letter grades assigned by five random peers were the educational equivalent of a highly trained professor providing thoughtful evaluation and detailed response. To pretend that this is so is to deny the most significant purposes of education, and to forfeit its true value.
But what about this news?
HBX, Harvard Business School’s online digital education initiative, has announced that it has entered into agreements to work with several U.S. liberal arts colleges to provide additional benefits for their students taking the Credential of Readiness (CORe) program.
CORe is an online program, consisting of approximately 150 hours of learning, for students and early career professionals to learn the fundamentals of business on a highly engaging and interactive platform designed by Harvard Business School faculty, according to Harvard Business School.
One of the schools listed in Williams. Anyone have any further details? Comments:
1) You can be sure that any grading here will not be done by Harvard professors. It will be a mix of computer and peer-graded work. Does Falk object?
2) I am probably being unfair to Falk because I suspect that this program is merely an additional option for Williams students, not a replacement for their current coursework. That is, any William student who participates in CORe will still need to take 32 Williams classes for credit.
3) If you don’t think that MOOCs are the future of education, you aren’t paying attention.
This View is from the Pownal Rock Quarry. Will seems to be having a great time in Williamstown. Congratulations. I hope that you and others stick around for the summer (if you have not already?), and get a chance to live in the Berkshires during the hot summer months. Take a few road trips into Vermont. Go over into NY to catch a show at SPAC. Spend some time fishing for brookies in some of the local rivers and streams. Rock climb and check out the amazing view from the Pownal Quarry . Get into the Ice House . Go swimming at the Tubs, the Hopper, Linear Park, the Dorset Quarry , the watershed, Stockbridge quarry – etc.
Enjoy it man. It really is one of the most beautiful places on this planet.
Another great article from Ainsley O’Connell ’06.
“I’m going to give you a sun-kissed look, like you just got back from a vacation.”
Josephine, my Vênsette makeup artist, holds my chin lightly as she scans my bare face. Dressed in a black smock, her dark hair pulled into a low bun, she raises none of the alarm bells (Lascivious lips! Heavy-rimmed eyes!) that the artists at department-store makeup counters tend to set off
Did I have any red carpet moments in my near future? I glanced hopefully at my calendar as Josephine applied fiber mascara to lengthen my lashes, and then handed me a mirror. Contoured cheekbones, bright eyes: She had made me feel beautiful, but the feeling began to fade as I realized I had no camera to pose for, no event to attend. Beauty, perhaps more than ever, is in the eye of the beholder-slash-Instagram follower. And as long as women seek that attention and are willing to pay for it, beauty services like Vênsette will thrive.
Read the whole thing.