Currently browsing the archives for September 2015

JA Confidential

Great interview in the Williams Alternative with a current JA.

Williams Alternative: Thanks a lot for sitting down with us. Let’s just start at the beginning, what were you thinking about and feeling on the night before the frosh showed up and your JA-hood began in earnest?

Junior Advisor: We had gone through so many weeks of training, I was mostly just excited to be done with training and couldn’t wait for the frosh to come. I guess the reality of things was a little nerve-racking, but I was distracted by the task of decorating the common room.

WA: Was there any sense of “oh shit what have I gotten myself into?” or just almost entirely excitement?

JA: Almost entirely excitement. The nervousness came from a few places though. When we all applied to be JAs in the winter, JAing was so theoretical. I had done so much thinking about what I believed an entry should be, and how JAs should play into that. It’s remarkably hard to keep those things in mind the night before the frosh come. Training can make you get stuck in the nitty gritty of things, but ultimately, I had this realization that it wasn’t time to be theoretical or nitty gritty anymore.

Read the whole thing. I hope they provide us with monthly updates. Kudos to all involved.


SPEC 21 Experience in the Workplace

Most interesting change in the Williams curriculum over the last decade (other than the addition of the major in statistics)? Perhaps the rise of internships during Winter Study. See SPEC 21 Information Sessions: Experience in the Workplace: an Internship with Williams Alumni/Parents.

Over the years more and more Winter Study courses have been developed to help you understand and gain experience in the world of work. While these immersive experiences require intellectual reflection, research, and writing, they also have substantial field work components that offer wonderful opportunities to gain valuable insight into professional life.

See here for a listing of the available courses. There is a meeting today at 12:30 at OCC to discuss these offerings. Highly recommended! Comments:

1) I think that recently retired OCC Director John Noble was the leading force behind the increase in internships. Does anyone know the full story? Kudos to him! Internships during Winter Study are a great idea.

2) My understanding is that the faculty has been mostly negative to this change, fighting Noble (and others) over every increase, not considering the program to be “academic” enough for course credit. Any faculty member who would prevent students from doing meaningful internships during Winter Study does not really have the best interests of those students at heart.

3) Several EphBlog friends appear in that course listing, including Shamus Brady ’04, Reed M. Wiedower ’00 and David Kane ’88. All are highly recommended! Note, especially:

WHO: David Kane ’88
David Kane is a quantitative portfolio manager in Boston. Over the last decade, he has hired more than 20 Williams summer interns and published several academic papers and R packages with Williams students and alumni. He has taught a Winter Study course in quantitative methods three times. He is a regular contributor to the Record op-ed page.
WHERE: Boston, MA
WHAT: Programming finance-related projects using R. Or working on some technology project related to Williams. Examples include major additions to the Williams Wikipedia page or significant enhancements to WSO.
APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS: Resume and cover letter. Please give examples of your work using R. If you do not already know R, this is not a good internship. Or a description of the Technology/Williams project you would like to pursue.


Stop the Expansion of the WCMA

From an anonymous faculty member:

Have you heard of the plan to build a new WCMA on the corner of Southworth and Main — with parking lots (buses!!) down Southworth Street?

When will this insanity stop???

Does anyone have details about this ludicrous idea? Marginal dollars should be spent on directly improving the undergraduate experience, not on more buildings and empire building.

Apparently it is the “current preferred location” with the Williams Inn site being “too far” and the Town garage site too inconvenient although beautifying that area would do more for the town than the rape of a beautiful street….

The money spent on the Williams College Museum of Art would be better spent on improving the quality of the student body by, for starters, matching the financial aid offers that applicants receive from Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford. To increase the size of the WCMA is madness.

Can any readers supply details?


Simpler Financial Aid Calculator III

Williams is promoting a simpler financial aid calculator. This article merits three days of discussion. Today is Day 3.

Wellesley is more economically diverse, with close to 20 percent of students receiving Pell grants. Williams has recently been making an effort to become more so, Mr. Dudley said, and about 22 percent of this year’s freshman class receive Pell grants, up from an average of 18 percent in previous years.

What rubbish! Is David Leonhardt stupid or is Will Dudley misleading him or both? Williams has been “making an effort” to become more economically diverse for at least two decades and probably much longer. Where does the “recently” come from? Consider:

Schapiro said that “recent increases in both the number of international students and in the overall socio-economic diversity of our student body are examples of steps in the right direction.”

That is former President Morty Schapiro, Will Dudley’s good friend, opining about economic diversity in 2003. That was 12 years ago! Examples from the 1990s and 1980s would be easy to find. In fact, we can probably go all the way back to the 1930s and quote President Tyler Dennett ’04 on Williams having too many “nice boys.”

Isn’t it weird how the people who run Williams are always claiming (just pretending? actually believing?) that they are doing something new and path-breaking when, in fact, it is the same stuff year after year? It’s like they haven’t been in charge for decades!

Now, in Will’s defense, it might be the case that Williams has changed its focus in admissions, given more preference to students who would receive Pell grants. Has it? Reader comments welcome. For at least the last 15 years, Williams has measured socio-economic diversity by looking at the percentage of first generation students. It would be weird to change this now, without discussion, since doing so makes historical comparisons difficult. But it might also be sensible to do so since more (most?) observers seem to be using percentage-Pell as a standard (and easy to measure/verify) metric for comparing socio-economic diversity acrooss colleges.

Informed commentary welcome.


Simpler Financial Aid Calculator II

Williams is promoting a simpler financial aid calculator. This article merits three days of discussion. Today is Day 2.

“We want it to be as easy as possible for prospective students and families to know how much it would cost to attend Williams,” said William Dudley, the provost at the college, in northwestern Massachusetts. “People know our sticker price — $60,000. They don’t realize that the average family receiving financial aid is paying $13,000.”

First, if I were Will Dudley’s agent, I would be doing my best to get him quoted in the New York Times. Well done! Will is probably the leading internal candidate to succeed Adam Falk in a few years, as well as a possible president at other elite liberal arts colleges. The more that he appears in the prestige press, the better his chances.

Second, do the people who are plausible candidates at Williams truly not realize the vast financial aid resources that we shower on students? I have my doubts.


Simpler Financial Aid Calculator I

Williams is promoting a simpler financial aid calculator. This article merits three days of discussion. Today is Day 1.

A simplified financial-aid calculator — much easier to use than the federally mandated calculators that most colleges create — has begun spreading beyond Wellesley College, where it began two years ago.

The spread, to the University of Virginia and Williams College, starting Monday, raises the possibility that more colleges will follow and that information on actual college costs will become more widely available. Currently, many low- and middle-income families are unaware of how much financial aid is potentially available to them, research has found.

Maybe. The whole notion that there are tens of thousands of students with elite college credentials who are unaware of financial aid realities is, mostly, untrue. These large numbers come for defining elite to include SAT scores below the Williams average and by ignoring high school grades. The vast majority of poor high school students who don’t know what a great deal Williams is have zero chance of being accepted.

Here are the two calculators. There is a great story to be written by the Record which would highlight the types of families that are most screwed over by Williams in the financial aid process. These families would look identical to the first (simpler) calculator but then end up with very different aid packages once the second calculation has done its best to punish frugality.


Repost: Advice to Undergraduates: Things to Do…

A few years ago, jeffz compiled this invaluable post, “Things to Do in Billsville When You’re Dead.” Take note, 2019’ers!

(Original here).


[NB: this is a repost from last year, but I think warranted considering the collective thought that went into it.  Moreover, I’m curious if a new crop of Ephs / readers have any additional suggestions.  Apologies for any links that are no longer functional.]

Unless things have changed dramatically since my time at Williams, one of the favorite pastimes of students is to lament (a) the dearth of off-campus social options in Williamstown (b) the lack of area date venues and (c) the repetitiveness of campus social life.  If you are tired of the typical row house party scene and/or desperately need a break from late nights studying in the library, all it takes is a little creativity to find a surprisingly rich panoply of cool things to do.   As highlighted in this previous post by Larry George, the college has already offered a list of 59 alternatives.  [This excellent list appears to have vanished.  Has it just been moved to some other location on the Williams site?]

But this list  just scratches the surface.  So, new and returning students, Ephblog’s gift to you: our collective list of additional recommendations for your four years at Williams, derived from the comments to the previous post, among other sources.  Not all of these will interest all of you, but everyone should find at least a handful of appealing ideas out of the 123 (and counting) suggested to date by the college and by Ephblog readers.  Full list below the break.

(1) Spend a summer in Williamstown.  Get to know some of the famous actors in town for the Williamstown Theater Festival.

(2) Play trivia this Winter Study.

(3) Attend at least one home and one away basketball game vs. Amherst (the away games are especially fun when you can organize a massive crowd to drown out the home fans).  During the trip over, design creative taunts bashing the ‘herst

(4) Get your folks or your friends’ folks to spring for a dinner at Mezze.

(5) Try to make the wall of fame at Jack’s Hot Dogs (NB: prepare to spend next 24 hours in serious discomfort).

(6) Attend at least one home soccer game on a gorgeous fall day: no athletic setting is more amazing.

(7) Visit a local farm. Pick apples. Buy local or Vermont cheese to go with them. If you add a good loaf of bread, you have the makings of an excuse for a hike, bike ride, or cross country ski to go with the picnic. Consult with the Outing Club: Hanging Rock? Monumental Mountain? Broad Brook?

(8) Do the weekly Polar Bear Swim in the Green River with the Outing Club — the colder the better. Extra points if you have to break ice. Infinite extra points on the coolness and Ephness scales at your 50th if you did every swim for a whole academic year.

(9) Break your personal mold and do something wildly different for a Winter Study project (or if something wild enough is not available, design a 99).

(10) Take a Free University class.  Better yet, design and teach one.

(11) Invent a sandwich at Pappa C’s (if you are as lucky / creative as Margaret Howell ’96, you might even get your name in lights …. errr, wood).

(12) Make snow sculpture at Winter Carnival so sweet that people will still reminisce fifty years later.

(13) Practice uncomfortable learning, Gaudino style.

(14) Egg a curmudgeon on into doing something fun.

(15) Explore the steam tunnels.

(16) Stay out late drinking with a professor.

(17) Watch the sun rise on Easter morning from Petersburg Pass.

(18) Do a service trip during spring break.

(19) Sit on a stone bench in the cemetery in the middle of the night talking about life, the universe, and everything.

(20) Play in the rain.

(21) Waste three hours talking to every random acquaintance who comes into the snack bar.  Eat grilled honeybuns while doing so.

(22) Do the Pratt-to-Pratt run (a relay-style, early morning naked run from Williams to Amherst prior to an away football game).

(23) First-years: find out which of your classmates have never seen snow fall.  Throw them a snowperson building and snowball fight party when the first good snowfall comes.

(24) Do a WOOLF trip. Then become a WOOLF leader the next year and then a leader instructor/planner/equipment manager that.

(25) Surprise the whole campus with a well organized, clever prank.

(26) Design a witty Williams-themed t-shirt and donate the proceeds to a local charity.

(27) Write a post on Ephblog.  Or if too cool for that, start a discussion on WSO.

(28) Attend the Williamstown Film Festival at Images.

(29) Fall in love.

(30) Serve on the Junior Adviser Selection Committee.

(31) Take the most interesting conversationalist you know to Hopkins Forest, find a great log, split a six pack of beer, and relive the spirit of Mark Hopkins.

(32) Plan a really cool event at The Log that will get the campus excited about this underutilized venue.

(33) DJ at WCFM, or else hang with your friends when they DJ — especially late at night when hardly anyone is listening and you can do and say anything.

(34) Partake in KAOS.

(35) Attend an event thrown by a cultural group from outside your own background, such as the Moon Festival.

(36) Go to a Williams-student cooked Sabbath dinner at the JRC.

(37) Perform in something you’ve never tried before (a student-directed play, one of the singing / dance groups, etc.).

(38) Invite a professor for a drink at your coop / dorm (or think of another creative way to get to know professors, and get funding from the college to do so).

(39) Drop by office hours to learn how a professor got interested in his/her field.

(40) Stand outside late at night and listen to the silence when it snows.

(41) Tour the various old frat houses and check out all of their “secret” rooms.  (Personal favorite: the Perry goat room …).

(42) Check out the witty and whimsical tombstone inscriptions in the Williams College Cemetery that supposedly gave rise to the comment of a philosophy professor that “they make you worry that faculty meetings never end.”  Two markers of particular note: Michael Davitt Bell’s, and the backside of S. Lane Faison’s.

(43) Play beach volleyball behind Perry House.

(44) Explore the ruins of the Chapin Hall organ.

(45) Buy a Lindt chocolate bar at Hart’s and then spend the evening eating it while reading old magazines in the library stacks (one favorite was Esquire from the 1930’s, but you could do Life in the 1950’s, Time in the 1960’s, etc.).

(46) Take a walk around the non-Spring Street parts of town.  Start with the Cole Avenue area and eat breakfast at Leo’s Luncheonette.

(47) Get to know locals over a drink at the American Legion, Water Street Grill, the 6 House Pub, the Red Herring, or a breakfast at Leo’s (this one’s for you, PTC!).

(48) Volunteer locally.  Some good options: a local school, the Williamstown Youth Center, the Berkshire Food Pantry, Sweetbrook, or the Williamstown Commons.

(49) Read the Alumni review from 10, 25 or 50 years ago and compare it to life at Williams now.

(50) Find random, old-school Williams gear on ebay, impress friends with unique suite decor.

(51) Visit the Williamstown Public Library and the House of Local History.

(52) Get to know someone at the CDE, have lunch with them and their colleagues.

(53) Go to Sawyer Library and find out who certain houses are named for and why.

(54) Go to Pub lunch in the middle of the week in the sunshine and then attempt your afternoon class while slightly altered. (When the Purple Pub finally re-opens…).

(55) Find your way to the Preston Room in the basement of Stetson at night and tell ghost stories.

(56) Attend any event in the old lecture room in Griffin 3 (I think I have that number right) as the late afternoon sun filters in.

(57) Sunbathe on Chapin Beach.

(58) Check out the Williamsiana collection in Chapin Library.

(59) Play snowball tag in the quad of your choice.

(60) Check the performing arts calendar at MassMoca and check out something off the beaten track (while you are there, be sure to check out the Saul Lewitt exhibit, which is sure to impress ANY visitor from out of town).

(61) Play frisbee golf on campus / on the Taconic.

(62) Predict Mountain Day and go for a sunrise hike. At the top of Stone Hill, you can even hear the bells play “The Mountains” as the Sun is coming up.

(63) Visit a local swimming hole, in particular, the Tubs.

(64) Design a creative, original prank for a Williams-Amherst sporting event that will be remembered fondly for years.

And finally, do something certainly iconoclastic, foreseeably not to be permitted by the College for mention on any of its silly ass, sanitary posters and also probably immature and foolish, of which all or almost all of those of authority in your life would strongly disapprove!


College Scorecard

The College Scorecard is the most important thing to happen in the world of higher education data in several decades. From The New York Times:

President Obama on Saturday abandoned his two-year effort to have the government create a system that explicitly rates the quality of the nation’s colleges and universities, a plan that was bitterly opposed by presidents at many of those institutions.

Under the original idea, announced by Mr. Obama with fanfare in 2013, all of the nation’s 7,000 institutions of higher education would have been assigned a ranking by the government, with the aim of publicly shaming low-rated schools that saddle students with high debt and poor earning potential.

Instead, the White House on Saturday unveiled a website that does not attempt to rate schools with any kind of grade, but provides information to prospective students and their parents about annual costs, graduation rates and salaries after graduation.

There is no reason why the Federal Government needs to rate universities. Why would anyone think that the Feds would be particularly good at such an exercise? But only the Feds could have made the student loan and income data so readily available. With that info public, we can watch a thousand ratings systems bloom.

Perhaps some of our data jocks could tell us how Williams stacks up . . .

And, as usual, President Falk agrees with EphBlog!

Officials at many schools said the government had no business competing with college rating services like those offered by U.S. News and World Report. Many chose blunt language to describe what they said was a misguided effort by Mr. Obama and his administration.

Charles L. Flynn Jr., the president of the College of Mount St. Vincent in the Bronx, called the president’s idea “uncharacteristically clueless.” Adam F. Falk, the president of Williams College in Massachusetts, predicted that it would be “oversimplified to the point that it actually misleads.” And Kenneth W. Starr, who is the president of Baylor University in Waco, Tex., and who, as a prosecutor, led the investigations of President Bill Clinton, called it “quite wrongheaded.”

The Eph Brigade of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy is pleased to see Falk in agreement with Ken Starr . . .


Shut Up and Listen


Hmmm. Dewitt is a long-time friend of EphBlog, but I am suspicious of this suggestion. Aren’t white/Asian engineers making the vast majority of hiring decisions in tech? If so, and if you want things to change, then you better involve them in the conversation, get their views on the topic, engage them in dialogue. If you just tell them to “Shut up,” I predict you are going to have a hard time changing their minds.

In the meantime, however, let’s consider this in a Williams context. Should white/male students/faculty just “shut up and listen” when others speak about diversity at Williams? Not at EphBlog! And not soon, I hope, on WSO . . .


Throw Back Thursday: Private Phones Arrive at Williams

In the pre cell-phone days, Williams College students reached their fellow Ephs by dialing their dorm rooms — often from outdoor phone boxes like the one pictured above.

That began fifty years ago this week, when the class of ’69 arrived on campus and benefited from the newest technological improvement to freshmen entries: dorm room phones. Prior to 1965, each entry had a shared phone, but over the summer of 1965, the College spent several thousand dollars to install private phones in every freshmen dorm room, and began charging students $5.28/month for phone service.

As College Business Manager Shane Riorden explained to the Record, the College heoped to “get students used to ‘accepting the responsibility of a private phone’ by introducing the students to them as freshmen.”

All of a sudden, calling up that Vassar student you met at a recent mixer became a much more private affair!


Trolling is Trolling

Smart essay from Elissa Shevinsky ’01:

Along with most of the feminists that I’ve met, I’m here to build.

It is important for me to state as clearly as possible that we can wish to call out bad actors, to improve our ecosystem, to support women in tech, to combat harassers, and to generally support all of the causes articulated so well in Model View Culture — without also supporting the kind of speech represented by Shanley’s classic line “fuck your face.”

I imagine that this is where I am critiqued for tone policing. People are welcome to say “fuck you” to whoever they wish, on the internet. It’s a free internet and a free Twitter, or at least mostly free. It’s equally my right to assess that emotionally violent techniques are not the most effective possible tools within our collective toolkit, and that I would like to see us do better.

Read the whole thing.


Faculty Meeting Notes February 2015

Here pdf are the notes for the February 2015 Faculty Meeting, as distributed the next month. Fascinating stuff! And many thanks to our anonymous source for sharing with us. Comments:

1) The College should make these meeting notes public. Since they are distributed to 350 (?) faculty members, they are mostly public anyway. They also show the College in a good light, demonstrating that Williams is run by smart, thoughtful people who are honestly wrestling with difficult decisions.

2) There is a ton of interesting stuff here! Any readers interested in a section-by-section review?

3) Best part is this requirement concerning the newly created Pass/Fail option:

Third, the CEP (in full agreement with those who raised this issue at the last faculty meeting) has added a five-year sunset clause to the option. This means that after five years – a length that will allow one student cohort to experience the option for a full four years – the CEA will have to bring a proposal for a renewal of the option to the faculty for a discussion and vote. Such a deadline will guarantee that the option is monitored, and that any problems be identified and corrected – if the option is to survive – at that five year point.

Well done! Who are the unnamed faculty members responsible for raising this issue? They deserve kudos! The pass/fail option, like the poorly conceived Gaudino option, is a bad idea. With luck, five years experience will demonstrate that. The proponents should be forced to make their case again, with evidence.

Almost every major change at Williams ought to come with such a sunset clause.


Questions on the Climate Change Plan

Here is the summary (only?) document regarding the College’s recent announcement of its plan to address climate change. The Record has not covered itself in glory the last few years with regard to these sorts of announcements, often failing to quote (interview?) critics of Williams or to even ask any hard questions. So, let’s help the Record by suggesting some questions it should ask. (Reader suggestions are also welcome in the comments.) Block quotations below are from the document, followed by suggested questions.

The initial cost of divestment would be in liquidating the portfolio which, even done in an orderly fashion over the course of a year, would cost $75 million or more.

Will the College share the details of this calculation? Many members of the community find it to be absurdly high, given that the vast majority of investment vehicles that Williams participates in have no coal holdings and are happy to certify this fact.

Make anthropogenic climate change a campus-wide theme of inquiry in the 2016-17 academic year.

Will Williams include all sides to the debate as part of this programming or will the College only invite speakers and/or stage events which reinforce your claim that “global climate change is an urgent issue and that Williams has an obligation to address the issue in substantive ways.” For example, many people (including many Ephs) believe that there are many policy issues more important than climate change. Others argue that elite colleges like Williams should focus on their educational mission without being distracted by contentious issues of public policy.

[T]hese planned investments will total approximately $50 million over the next 5 years

Is Williams committing to transparency in providing details to the community with regard to these investments?

A political and ecological crisis of this scale demands the leadership that the Williams community can offer.

You claim that you and the trustees agree with this statement. If so, will you and the trustees agree to the demonstrate a minimum amount of personal leadership/responsibility by, for example, not engaging in private air travel? It is hard to take serious anyone who claims to be concerned with carbon emissions but who, at the same time, takes part in just about the most carbon producing individual activity possible.

On the those same lines, will you agree to start using the Williams President’s House? As you know, you are the first Williams President for more than 100 years to insist on living elsewhere. Given that housing is one of the biggest ways that individuals contribute to carbon emissions, it is fair to say that you, personally, contribute much more to carbon emissions than your predecessors. Why not show some personal leadership and only have one house?

It is hard to take serious the claim that climate change is a crisis until the people who say that it is a crisis start acting like it is a crisis.

In 2007, the college committed to a goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and we are 75 percent of the way there.

Will you commit to better transparency with regard to the College’s greenhouse gas emissions? Many people doubt whether this claim is, in fact, true. Where is the data to back it up? Indeed, given that the College has many more larger buildings and employs many more people now than it did in 2007, how could it possibly be that greenhouse gas emissions have gone down so far?

[W]e will then seek to take the further step of achieving net carbon neutrality for the college through the incremental purchase of carbon offsets on the global market.

The College participated in purchasing carbon offsets back in 2007. Many observers believe that this was a failure, bordering on fraud. Have you checked whether the College spending at Owl Feather War Bonnet Wind Farm and the Wanner Family Dairy Farm Methane Project actually resulted in carbon reductions? Has anyone? If not, then why would we expect new purchases to be any more effective?

This should be enough material to get the latest set of Record reporters going. Please try to do more than simply reprint the College’s press release.


There All The Time

murphyBrian Murphy ’80 died 14 years ago.

The bookshelves inside Judy Bram Murphy’s light-drenched apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan are filled with photographs from before: a wedding portrait, a baby picture, a snapshot of Judy, her two daughters, and her husband, Brian. Looking at the photographs, you can almost pretend that September 11, 2001, never happened, that the two jets never flew into the World Trade Center towers. You can almost pretend that Brian came home from work that day.

But Bram Murphy has no desire to pretend. Brian’s death left her a young widow and a single mother to Jessica, who was then five years old, and Leila, who was not quite four.

Jessica and Leila are now 19 and 17, the same ages as my daughters. My wife, eldest daughter and I were at Ground Zero a few years ago, visiting my parents, whose office was nearby. My wife pointed out the site but my daughter did not remember 9/11. Do Jessica and Leila remember their father? How can they? Time steals all our memories, especially from the children.

For Judy Bram Murphy, Brian is most alive in their children, in Jessica’s thoughtfulness and Leila’s adventurous nature. Because of this, her daughters triggered a sadness in her during the first six months after the attacks. Gradually this sadness began to subside, and she is now able to cherish the memories her children evoke. “They bring life and spirit to my life,” she says.

She takes every opportunity to help her daughters remember their father. The three talk about him all the time, reminding one another of things he used to say and do. Sometimes the girls will say, “I miss him” or “I wish he were here.” Other times they will declare, “Daddy’s here watching my concert” or “Daddy’s proud of me” or even “Daddy’s eating all the butter on the table.”

What would your family remember if you were snatched away from them one clear sky morning? Is whatever else you are doing right now as important as that?

“I’m not sure if I said it first or if they said it first,” she says, “but they feel he’s there all the time.” Bram Murphy takes comfort in that. She believes that such a sense helps the girls to feel safe and secure. “I don’t always feel his presence,” she adds, “but if I think about him, I feel he’s there in some spiritual way. He’s a part of me.” She chooses not to shield them from her own emotions, believing it important to show them that it is permissible to be sad and to cry. She shows them that the sadness passes.

Heartbreaking. Sadness passes but never disappears. I hope that every father in the Murphys’ community kept a special eye out for Jessica and Leila this last decade. They are all our daughters now.

When Bram Murphy runs into acquaintances who want to know how she’s been faring over the past two years, she doesn’t know how to answer. People tend to assume one of two things: that she is perpetually upset or depressed, or that by now she should be feeling better. “It’s one of those situations that is not linear,” she says. A clinical psychologist, she is a particularly astute and articulate observer of her own emotions. She has good days and bad days, she says; there are moments when she feels content and others when the sadness and the loneliness are crushing. “People in general,” she says, “have trouble understanding that I’m not one thing for having this one thing happen to me.”

I read these stories every year, and every year I cry. Do you?

Like many others who lost someone they loved on that clear, late-summer day, Judy Bram Murphy is finding her way in this new post-September 11 world. She reminds herself that it was her husband, not she and her children, who lost the most that day. “So many people complain or are dissatisfied, and he felt so lucky to have what he had,” she says. “It just seems that he should have lived longer.”

Indeed. Why was Brian Murphy taken from both his own family and the community of Ephs? We should all be more thankful for what we have. We are all so lucky.

For most people the death of a spouse is a personal loss, but the entire nation — and much of the world — feels somehow connected to the grief of the September 11 families. Many, Bram Murphy says, reached out with a kindness and generosity that she could never have imagined and that went far beyond anything she would have received had Brian died of a heart attack or in a car accident. Her yoga studio, for example, gave her two years of free instruction. Grief counselors this spring organized a day of activities for the children of the victims. Perhaps most touching, a woman last year asked for an assortment of Brian’s T-shirts and ties and meticulously crafted them into three patchwork quilts–one for each of the family’s beds. The gifts are comforting but also sometimes painful. “It’s a double-edged sword,” Bram Murphy says, pointing out a small sculpture in her living room. The sculpture is made from the metal debris at Ground Zero. “You have no warning. You open the door and there’s this sculpture. You’re happy, but you’re also upset to get it.”

I neither sew nor sculpt. What can I do? What can you do?

This summer Bram Murphy threw a party in Bedford for Jessica’s seventh birthday. “The parties are still hard for me,” she admits. She has become accustomed to Brian’s absence on special occasions and she adjusts to it, but it still hurts. A few weeks after the party, the girls’ day camp held a visiting day for parents. As has become typical for Bram Murphy at events like that, she found herself with a mix of emotions: happy, excited, and proud of her children; comforted that Brian was in some way present; sad and lonely that he was gone. “Those sorts of days,” she says, “are the most difficult — when both parents are supposed to be there.”

Brian Murphy should still be there. Perhaps the lesson for all of us to be there, wherever we are, today.

Previous 9/11 posts here. Howard Kestenbaum ’67 and Lindsay Morehouse ’00 also died that day.

Condolences to all.


We are #1

Williams is #1 again in the US News rankings. Comments:

1) We need someone (HWC?) to share with us the underlying data and provide an analysis of how safe this status is. Help!

2) Kudos to Adam Falk and the rest of the administration! There are few things more important to the Williams brand, especially with international applicants and their families, then maintaining this ranking. Staying #1 may not be hard, given Williams’ resources, but screwing this up could have been easy.

3) How many years in a row have we been #1? I lose track.

4) Many schools do a lot of suspect/sleazy things to improve their rank. Does Williams? Morty, infamously, capped discussion class size at 19 to ensure that the maximum number of classes met this US News cut off.

5) Thoughts on other schools? I am most suspicious of Bowdoin, with its SAT optional policy. My sense is that schools like Swarthmore and Pomona are much more competitive and have a higher quality student body. I am most worried, long term, about Pomona. Its LA location make it a much more practical school for international applicants from Asia.


Repost: Things the Williams Freshmen Should Know

Another entry the Class of 2019 should review, from EphBlog’s “Advice to Undergraduates.”

(Original here).


I went back

All that I remember about the day I arrived on campus eighteen years ago this August was that it was hot and that I was not looking forward to two-a-days. Like pretty much every incoming freshmen at pretty much every school, I’m sure I was a volatile mix of anticipation, fear, excitement and a few dozen other emotions endemic to teenagers. But mostly what I remember was that it was hot.

One thing I’m sure of, however, is that there was no note waiting for me from my future self. It’s not clear to me even now that I would have been any more willing to listen to an older version of me than I was, say, my parents. Not listening to anyone is a seventeen year old’s prerogative, I suppose, for better and for worse. Mostly for worse. Whether such a missive would have helped or not, however, it certainly couldn’t have made things worse. My initial year in the Purple Valley was…not strong.

Nothing in my brief history up to that point had prepared me for my performance, which bore an unfortunate resemblance to a slow-moving car crash. I failed. Repeatedly. Even in my strong subjects. I turned things around academically midway through my sophomore year, but my GPA never really recovered from the beating it absorbed prior. Not that that has mattered much, professionally: apart from your first job or graduate school, your grades won’t come up much. Like most Williams students, however, I’m competitive, and I wish that my performance more accurately reflected my abilities, rather than the life lessons I had yet to learn. Lessons that my future self could have passed on to me, were such things possible.

Sadly, they are not. But for you new people, I offer the following with no warranty whatsoever. Mystical wisdom, it is not. These are just a few of the things I wish someone had told me, and which I in turn thought I would offer to you now. As my good friend Sean Bowler ’98, who was taken from us all far too early, did for his students when he said farewell at Salisbury, I will try and keep it short.

And will, predictably, fail.

There is Always Someone Better Than You

This one was easy for me, because I was never King of the Hill in the classroom or on the field of play. It was quite obviously an adjustment for a few of my classmates, however. Accustomed to being the big fish in the small ponds they hailed from, it was jarring for some of them to be second best, or just as often, third or fourth. But that’s what going to a place like Williams is all about. In that one aspect, at least, the campus is exactly like the real world. With the exception of a very small number of us, there’s always going to be someone who’s smarter than you. Or a better athlete. Maybe both.

Where you can’t change this through hard work, you need to acknowledge the situation and then find ways to compete. Because that’s life. The playing field isn’t always going to be even. Or fair. But neither do the best and brightest always win. Show some adaptability and you’ll be fine.

Cole Field Really is the Coldest Place on Earth

If you play sports or go there to watch them, you will think this at some point. Whatever they may teach you at Williams about climate change and meteorology, Cole Field is likely to be, at any given point in time, the single coldest place on earth. It can be pushing a hundred on campus, but down at Cole there will be woolly mammoths walking around, as one of my coaches memorably put it. Prepare all you want; there’s nothing you can do. We tried everything, from long underwear to those awful, burning chemical heating packets, and we still froze. As you will.

There’s nothing I can say to help you here; I just wanted to be able to say I told you so.

It’s Not How You Start, It’s How You Finish

Looking back, it’s borderline shocking that I recovered as much as I did academically, given how horrifying my grades were that first year. And, it must be said, my first semester as a sophomore. But while I accept full responsibility for getting myself into that mess, the credit for my recovery belongs entirely to someone else. Part of it was reducing my athletic workload – and the related social calendar – from one sport to two, part of it was a few significant changes in my social life, but the man who more or less singlehandedly salvaged my tenure at Williams was Professor Thomas Kohut.

Just trust me on this: it is not easy to pick a major when you’re barely holding your head above water in all subjects. How can you ask a professor to be your advisor, when you both know you’re failing? When your professors look on you with a mixture of disdain and disappointment? Not that I blame those who did: I deserved that scorn. Fortunately for me, however, there was one exception. Professor Kohut, for motives of his own, spoke to me honestly but not unkindly. Better, he threw me the rope I desperately needed, agreeing to serve as my advisor. With that came a direct and frank appraisal of where I was failing, and what I needed to correct. Instead of writing me off as a lost cause, he took the time to sit and speak with me about his own experiences, and how he thought that I might improve. It may well have been the first time in my academic career that someone treated me as an adult, one reason it was easy to listen.

His opinion – subsequently confirmed – was that I needed smaller, more interactive classes to hold my interest. The difficulty of the material was not, for the most part, my problem; it was rather my engagement with same. Professor Kohut’s recommendation was simple: I was to take smaller classes on subjects that held some interest for me with professors that would care whether or not I was in class. So what I would tell you, Future Williams Graduate, class of 2014, is this: do not write yourself off. You may think, at times, that you’re an idiot, but the folks that run admissions are most certainly not. If you got in, you can do the work. We all make mistakes, it’s how you recover from them that matters. Seek out the professors that understand this and genuinely care – Kohut and Shanti Singham were two of the best I encountered – and stick to them like glue.

It worked for me.

You Need Math, Especially If You Think You Don’t Need Math

One of the worst things to happen to me at Williams was actually a test I passed. According to the Quantitative Skills Assessment, I had satisfactory math skills and thus was obligated to take exactly zero math courses. Which I promptly did. In retrospect, this was a mistake.

This isn’t about the rise of or Freakonomics. Or at least not entirely. You may never face that time your elementary school teachers warned you about, where the ability to solve a quadratic equation is a life or death affair. But it’s a safe bet that whatever your chosen occupation – brewer, entrepreneur, author, real estate agent, chef, artist, teacher, or, yes, I-banker – the ability to do math is going to be of benefit.

Businesses – most of them, these days – are increasingly about numbers. Whether you think this is a positive or negative development doesn’t, I’m sorry to say, matter much. They’ll go on without you. The fact is that industries that ran themselves for years on intuition and tradition are increasingly functions of algorithms. Baseball is Exhibit A in that department. This means that math, and its first cousins statistics and economics – should be staples of your Williams education. I took neither, largely because I had no idea they would be so important later, and I’m still paying the price.

There’s a reason I had to go and take a statistics course this past spring, and that reason is that I was dumb. Don’t be like me. Take some math.

There Are Lots of Things You Can Do Besides Consulting and Investment Banking

Unless things have changed radically at Williams, you may not realize this, as it’s basically those two industries interviewing on campus. This is not to say, please note, that there’s anything wrong with either profession. I myself was a consultant, and my brother – a Bowdoin grad – was an investment banker, and we’ve done all right. Both professions are, if nothing else, excellent training for jobs that you’ll have later in life, as they can teach you quite a bit about how businesses are run and how they are run into the ground.

It’s important to remember that if you don’t talk with one of the I-banking/consulting firms coming to interview, there are a host of things you can do with yourself. The entirety of which, obviously, I can’t cover here. But look around, and think not just about what you think you should do, but what you want to do.

Beirut is No Substitute for Beer Pong

I understand that they’ve outlawed Beer Pong on campus, and that Beirut – a distinctly inferior game – is ascendant. This is sad, because a better drinking game than Beer Pong has yet to be invented. There was a time when the Slippery B – if it’s even still called that – was the Beer Pong capital of this country. It’s depressing that those days are behind us, and that that elegant game from a more civilized age has faded from the average student’s memory.

The People You Meet Matter

Later, when you consider going to business school, and I’d wager that a lot of you will entertain the notion at some point, one of the Pro’s you write down to weigh the decision will be “networking.” Which is legitimate. Of the friends and former classmates that I know who’ve gone for their MBAs, networking has been at least 50% of the reasoning for shelling out the money and losing the years.

The same principle, though you may not have realized it yet, applies to your Williams education. Maybe you don’t meet the next Mark Zuckerberg, or, in our case, the next Bo Peabody, but given that you’re going to be on campus for four years with some aggressively bright and talented people, you might want to meet a few. Or at least remember who they are, so when you read about them later, you can comment knowledgeably.

Question Everything

I’ll be the first to admit that as a history major, I should have adopted Euripides‘ mantra – “question everything” – far sooner than I did. Nevertheless, you now have the opportunity to grasp this important lesson at a much more profitable age than I.

One of the things you learn as you go along, you see, is that everyone is wrong all the time. We jump to the wrong conclusions, we misread the available data, and sometimes we just want to believe something that’s not true. But when you’re younger, it’s natural to assume that at least the folks older than you – your parents, your professors, even the seniors – have the answers. They don’t.

Sometimes, of course, yours is not to reason why. Socrates questioned everything, after all, and ended up dining on a hemlock milkshake. But where it’s practicable – and particularly where conventional wisdom is concerned – do not forget to employ your critical thinking. Too many do these days; just watch the news.

Learn Everything You Can About Everything

Someone wants to teach you how to knit, gentlemen? Learn. Seriously, I’m not joking. You never know when the ability to knit will come in handy; a good friend of mine was wooed, at least in part, by a knit hat from her now boyfriend. Pick up anything and everything you can. Parkour. Frisbee. Guitar. Japanese. Learn to drive a stick. Whatever. You’re going to be around people who know a great many things you don’t, and even if you don’t master them, you never know when the exposure will be useful later in life.

More to the point, unless you retire early, you’re not likely to have another period in your life where your primary mission in life is to learn. Later, you’ll be distracted by reunions, work, a family, and thousands of weddings. Even if you don’t think you know that many people.

Save Your Papers

The good ones, anyway. Mine are now lost to history, unless they turn up when my parents move. This is not exactly a major loss for history, but there are those that I’d like to have back, if only to reflect on how, even then, I could never use one word when I could use five.

Winter Study is Just as Awesome as it Sounds

When else in your life, after all, are you going to be able to take a course on “Auto Mechanics?” And have it be the only course you’re responsible for? Exactly. Winter study is what college should be. With the exception of the one year a classmate and I spent freezing to death behind the Clark Art Museum hunting for turkeys that were clearly smarter than us, winter study was uniformly outstanding.

College is About More Than the Classroom

The administration probably isn’t going to put me in the Alumni Review for saying this, but this is for you, freshpeople, not them, so remember: there is more to life than class. No, you shouldn’t cut all your classes. Or even some of your classes. Take advantage of the education, because it’s the best you will ever get. And it’s certainly the last undergrad experience you’ll have. But that undergrad experience is also about learning how to live your life outside the classroom, and that portion of it shouldn’t be neglected. Enjoy your friends, your boyfriends and girlfriends, your teammates. Because the time when you all live together, too, shall pass.

I remember playing home run derby down on the women’s softball field with my best friend on a beautiful spring day my senior year as much as I remember any single class I ever took. And there were some memorable ones, believe me.

Reach Out to Alums

Here’s a secret that probably no one will think to tell you: alums love hearing from students. I remember sitting at a table in the OCC as a senior with no idea what I would be doing the following year, leafing through binders of probably out-of-date contact forms for alumni. What could be more intimidating than presuming on the mere shared experience of a Williams education, contacting someone you’ve never met for help?

Logical as that sentiment may be, however, I can assure you that it is misplaced. I have yet to meet an alum who isn’t happy to help a fellow Williams student, myself included. Perhaps it’s a failure on my part, but I speak to far, far too few students. Want to know what it’s like to work in technology? How to go about getting a job? What kinds of things employers are looking for in new hires? I can help, and so can the other alums. There’s an Eph in every industry.

Don’t be shy: I’m not hard to find.

Do What You Love

Life is short. You’ve likely heard that a few thousand times, and at this point in your life that phrase will have effectively no meaning. That’s fine. If you can tentatively accept it as true, however, it’ll make some of your more important decisions easier. Many of you will embark on careers that will make you miserable because of the hours, the content, or both. And there’s nothing wrong with that for a few years; paying your dues is a necessary part of the process in a great many industries. But if you are still unhappy years later, remember what you’ve been told: life is short. Do you want to spend it doing work you hate, or would you prefer to work on something that you enjoy?

That question is easier to answer, obviously, than execute. It’s hard to get paid to do what you love. Paul Graham believes – and I happen to agree – that there are two primary approaches to this:

The organic route: as you become more eminent, gradually to increase the parts of your job that you like at the expense of those you don’t.

The two-job route: to work at things you don’t like to get money to work on things you do.

Which one of those works for you will – assuming that the idea of doing something you love appeals to you – will depend on your passion and your priorities. Being a starving artist sounds romantic until you’re actually starving.

Eventually, however, you will get to a point in your life where you’ll look back on what you’ve accomplished and reflect. If you’ve been punching the clock for ten years, that’s not going to be a fun conversation to have with yourself, so my advice is work on things that matter. Whatever those might be for you.

You Will Miss Williams

I know. Every alum says this. But that, by itself, should tell you something.

Enjoy your next four years. Like life, you’ll only get one crack at it.


Williams Is An Idea

The latest Williams capital campaign kicks off next month. Here is the invitation to the (opening?) event in NYC. Amusingly (?) this e-mail was sent to all (?) alumni even though it was meant for just New York alumni, and maybe just the rich ones.

In any event, almost every section of this display is worth of comment/question. Let’s start with: What is your prediction for the target amount of money to raise? I guess $750 million.



Freedom as Marronage

Freedom as Marronage by Professor Neil Roberts is available for $3.33 on Kindle, I think for a very short time. I just bought a copy. How can you go wrong buying a book written by a Williams professor at such an affordable price? (Hat tip to Professor Roberts’ always interesting Twitter feed.)

Have any EphBloggers read it?


Williams & The Civil War: The Wrong Side, Part 4

One of a series of posts, as explained in “Williams & the Civil War: The Wrong Side – Introduction“:

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… [s]o 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.

James Garfield, Class of 1856, is necessarily a lodestar in any understanding of the Civil War from an Eph perspective. Not only because Garfield remains the only Eph to attain the White House. Rather, as an abolitionist and politician even before secession, he foresaw the war, fought in the war, and helped lead the re-United States in recover from the war. His insight and experience explains to us, as it did to his contemporaries, the nature of that conflict.

One of Garfield’s most thorough discussions of the Civil War came in a speech to the House of Representatives on February 1, 1866, just six months after the surrender of the final Confederate general (Interesting historical note: that surrender was by Cherokee chief Degataga, English name Stand Watie, leader of the Cherokee Mounted Rifle Regiment, and the only Native American general on either side in the Civil War).

James A. Garfield, on “Restoration of the Rebel States”:

The Rebellion had its origin in two causes; first, the political theory of State Sovereignty, and second, the historical accident of American slavery. The doctrine of State Sovereignty, or State Rights as it has been more mildly designated, was first publicly announced in the Virginia Resolutions of 1798, but was more fully elaborated and enforced by Calhoun in 1830 and 1833. Since that time it has been acknowledged as a fundamental principle in the creed of the Democratic party, and has been affirmed and reaffirmed in some form in nearly all its State and national platforms for the last thirty years.

That doctrine, as stated by Calhoun in 1833, is in substance this: “The Constitution of the United States is a compact to which the people of each State acceded as a separate and sovereign community; therefore it has an equal right to judge for itself as well of the infraction as of the mode and measure of redress.”

The same party identified itself with the interests of American slavery, and, lifting from it the great weight of odium which the fathers of the republic had laid upon it, became its champion and advocate. When the party of freedom had awakened the conscience of the nation, and had gained such strength as to show the Democracy that slavery was forever checked in its progress, and that its ultimate extinction by legislative authority was foredoomed, the Democratic leaders of the South joined in a mad conspiracy to save and perpetuate slavery by destroying the Union.

In the name of State Sovereignty they declared that secession was a constitutional right, and they resolved to enforce it by arms. They declared that, as the Constitution to which each State in its sovereign capacity acceded created no common judge to which a matter of difference could be referred, each State might also in its sovereign capacity secede from the compact, might dissolve the Union, might annihilate the republic. The Democracy of eleven slave States undertook the work. As far as possible, they severed every tie that bound them to the Union.

They withdrew their representatives from every department of the Federal government; they seized all the Federal property within the limits of their States; they abolished all the Federal courts and every other vestige of Federal authority within their reach; they changed all their State constitutions, transferring their allegiance to a government of their own creation, styled the “Confederate States of America”; they assumed sovereign power, and, gathering up every possible element of force, assailed the Union…

Garfield’s remarks on the causes of the Civil War were the mere introduction to his powerful assault on then-President Andrew Johnson, who had quickly revealed himself to be openly hostile to federal action to establish civil rights and a free society in the post-war South. For example, Johnson insisted that voting rights (for freed slaves and others) should be a matter determined by each state individually. He quickly provided amnesty for most southerners, except the wealthiest propertyholders. And he encouraged Congress to seat among its ranks former Confederate leaders, include former second-in-command Alexander Stephens. Garfield was one of the leading voices of outrage:

The Democratic party is composed of all who conspired to destroy the republic, and of all those who fought to make treason triumphant. It broke ten thousand oaths, and to its perjury added murder, starvation, and assassination.

It declared through its mouthpieces in Ohio, in 1861, that if the Union men of Ohio should ever attempt to enter a Southern State to suppress the Rebellion by arms, they must first pass over the dead bodies of two hundred thousand Ohio Democrats.

In the mid-fury of the struggle it declared the war a failure, and demanded a cessation of hostilities. In the Democratic party is enrolled every man who led a Rebel army or voluntarily carried a Rebel musket; every man who resisted the draft, who called the Union soldiers “Lincoln’s hirelings,” “negro worshippers,” or any other vile name. Booth, Wirz, Harold, and Payne were Democrats. Every Rebel guerilla and jayhawker, every man who ran to Canada to avoid the draft, every bounty-jumper, every deserter, every cowardly sneak that ran from danger and disgraced his flag, every man who loves slavery and hates liberty, every man who helped massacre loyal negroes at Fort Pillow, or loyal whites at New Orleans, every Knight of the Golden Circle, every incendiary who helped burn Northern steamboats and Northern hotels, and every villain, of whatever name or crime, who loves power more than justice, slavery more than freedom, is a Democrat and an indorser of Andrew Johnson.


Williams Reads One Idea

Professor Nate Kornell tweeted a link to this article:

Saying that such a dialogue was essential to the college’s academic mission, Williams College president Adam Falk confirmed Monday that the school encourages a lively exchange of one idea. “As an institution of higher learning, we recognize that it’s inevitable that certain contentious topics will come up from time to time, and when they do, we want to create an atmosphere where both students and faculty feel comfortable voicing a single homogeneous opinion,” said Falk, adding that no matter the subject, anyone on campus is always welcome to add their support to the accepted consensus.

This year, the one idea will center around the benefits of unrestricted illegal immigration, especially by poorly educated, unskilled migrants from backward countries. The College will explore this one idea through a required reading of Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario ’82, via the Williams Reads program.

Developed by the Committee on Diversity and Community (CDC), Williams Reads is an initiative offered as an opportunity for us to explore a book together that will help us to celebrate and deepen our appreciation of diversity.

Dean of the College Sarah Bolton noted that “Although we appreciate diversity quite deeply at Williams, we can never appreciated diversity enough. Every day, every month, every year, we must work harder to deepen our appreciation. This is all the more true in the aftermath of last year’s Taco Six incident, in which 6 undergraduates failed to demonstrate sufficient depth to their appreciation of Mexican Culture.”

“Whether it’s a discussion of a national political issue or a concern here on campus, an open forum in which one argument is uniformly reinforced is crucial for maintaining the exceptional learning environment we have cultivated here,” continued Falk. He also told reporters that counseling resources were available for any student made uncomfortable by the viewpoint.

The Williams Reads program kicks off today at 1:30 PM in the ’62 Center. If any EphBlog readers attend, please tell it what the event is like. Is more than one side of the issue presented? Or is the only acknowledged viewpoint pro-Enrique and his family? Will anyone mention Donald Trump’s shocking lead in presidential polls, driven almost entirely by his position against illegal immigration?

Here at EphBlog, we have been praising Enrique’s Journey for more than a decade. Too cheap to buy the book? Nazario won the Pulitzer Prize for the newspaper articles that form the core of the story. Read them here for free.

Highly recommended.


Advice for the Class of 2019: From the EphBlog archives

As I noted a few weeks ago in “Good, Bad, and Other Advice,” the EphBlog archives are brimming with Advice to Undergraduates, advice that is more specific to Williams College than what you find in the pages of the New York Times.

Actually, some of it is what you find in the pages of the Times — at least, when it’s written by Ephs. Here’s the late James MacGregor Burns ’39, from 2009:

Try to read a good newspaper every day — at bedtime or at breakfast or when you take a break in the afternoon. If you are interested in art, literature or music, widen your horizons by poring over the science section. In the mood for spicy scandals? Read the business pages. Want to impress your poli sci prof? Read columnists.

Burns in 2011, as featured at the

Burns in 2011, as featured at the FDR Library Tumblr

Burns continued:

[A] great newspaper will teach you how to write: most articles are models of clarity and substance — with no academic jargon! Pay attention to the writer’s vocabulary, see how many active verbs are used, file away striking new words for future use. Study how articles are structured — how the first paragraph tells the reader simply and clearly the subject and main points. Take a look at the last paragraph; it will often show you how to conclude an essay with a pithy phrase or a telling quotation.

Read the whole thing.

Of course, with a dwindling number of good newspapers in circulation — and the 2013 closure of the Williams Newsroom, a longtime fixture on Spring Street, this is harder than it used to be.

More advice to undergraduates from the EphBlog archives still to come.


R.I.P. Pat Hoysradt

Hoysradt, by an unknown photographer, as featured at B. Docktor photo blog

Hoysradt, by an unknown photographer, as featured at B. Docktor photo blog

Henry “Pat” Hoysradt, a non-graduate member of the Class of 1941, passed away in August.

It’s unusual for us to profile a non-graduate Eph here at EphBlog, particularly one who withdrew voluntarily, but Hoysradt is one of the handful of professional baseball players who attended Williams College.  Sure, as ably chronicled by Rory Costello ’84 —  nine Ephs in the late 19th century and early 20th century played in the major leagues.  Since that time, notwithstanding the important place of the 1859 Williams-Amherst game in baseball history, only a handful of Ephs have even eked out minor-league careers.

From the Poughkeepsie Journal:

A true Yankee to the core, Pat played four years of professional baseball with the Yankee Organization from 1938-1941. A standout athlete with a promising baseball career ahead of him, as a young man Pat moved on to establish his farm and build a family with his wife, Helen, that has grown to over 25 grandchildren and great-grandchildren today. His love of baseball continued as a dedicated fan of the New York Yankees; Pat could discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their roster in great detail from the days of Maris and Mantle to the final weeks of his life.

After starring for his rural New York state high school squad, Hoysradt enrolled at the Berkshire School as his gateway to Williams.  Arriving in Williamstown in 1937, Hoysradt played in the outfield for a powerful freshman nine for the Ephs in the spring of 1938.

The freshmen squad played Albany Academy, Hotchkiss, Williston, and Deerfield before a pair of Little Three games against Wesleyan and Amherst. Hoysradt received repeated offers from the Yankees to sign with them and join their farm system, and after showcasing his talents at the college level, he finally signed.

By the spring of 1939, Hoysradt was the player-manager for the Class C Amsterdam Rugmakers of the Canadian-American Baseball League (Hoysradt’s Class C time also included a stint with the Akron Yankees), where, in the home opener, he singled, doubled, and homered. It was an important game, because the Yankees chief scout was in attendance, and Hoysradt ultimately led the Rugmakers to the league pennant, batting .351 with 14 home runs and 14 triples. On September 1, 1939 — a day remembered for other things — the Amsterdam Recorder-News announced that Hoysradt had been promoted to Class A Binghamton, and his career looked to be taking off. In fact, Hoysradt earned a picture in Life Magazine in October 1939 as part of a feature on the Yankees minor leagues: “Best Young Baseballers Are Almost All Owned By Yankee Farm System.” Those featured alongside Hoysradt included future Hall of Famer Phil Rizzuto.


But it was not to be. In 1940, Hoysradt was instead sent to the Norfolk Tars of the Class B Piedmont League, and by the end of the season, he was back in Class C ball, at the Yankees farm club in Akron. His 1941 season had a promising start, as he was placed with Binghamton in spring training. Then the “slippery ladder” of minor league systems struck. As Hoysradt later explained in an interview with historian David Pietrusza:

They had me batting clean-up all spring and I batted .500, but they sent me down to Norfolk… They wanted to make room for someone who had been up and down with New York and Newark, and now he was going to Binghamton. It took away my desire, and I left after a few weeks. That’s my only regret. I wish I had been given a chance with Binghamton.

Hoysradt’s minor league career statistics can be viewed here.

His obituary also notes the importance of family in shaping the end to his baseball career. Minor league baseball today is a hard environment for a family man.  Imagine it in 1941.

Condolences to Hoysradt’s friends and family.  Pat, we wish Williams had known you better!


First Days Advice from the class of 2018

Not surprisingly, social media shapes arriving at Williams College today, as Sam Alterman ’18 explained last year in the Williams Record:

If you are a first-year here at the College, there’s a very good chance that you know our names and maybe even our faces. We are the admins of the Class of 2018 Facebook group.

And now we are here, on campus, with you. You see us on the sidewalks and the quads, in Sawyer and the ’62 Center, in Driscoll and Whitman’s and Mission. You see us at soccer games, in classes and in Paresky. And you run up to us, shouting our names, taking our pictures…

For many of you, however, we are your celebrities. For months you have been seeing our names on your computer and mobile screens… Some entries are apparently playing games of who can take the most pictures of us around campus. It’s all rather flattering, to be honest.

A little different than receiving the name of your roommate and his mailing address (I think in my case, it was a P.O. Box) and a few phone calls and photocopied letters from freshmen coaches and upperclass teammates-to-be.

Alterman continues:

Facebook has a strange way of making us feel like we know people before we have met them. Because we have access to so much information about our Facebook friends… Facebook makes it so easy and so tempting that many of us just can’t resist. When entry lists were released in July, I immediately began tracking down my entrymates, poring over the past several years of their posts and pictures, pegging the nerds, the jocks, the partiers and the generally dull. On move-in day, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what my entry looked like. I thought I knew who I would like and dislike, who would be my friend and who I would merely tolerate.

Not so fast, he warns:

People I had pegged as “unfriendly jocks” turned out to be some of the most intelligent and caring people in my entry; people I had expected to be dry and dull ended up being hilarious; people I thought were just about partying were in fact some of the hardest working and most thoughtful people in my entry. An entry that I originally thought was a very mixed bag revealed itself to be my favorite group of 22 people on campus.

I urge you, my fellow classmates, to get to know each other; to not just cling to the faces you recognize from the Facebook group and instead talk to someone you have never heard of before. I know this gets repeated so much that it sounds incredibly fake, but, really, we are all here for a reason. I guarantee that everyone in this valley has a story to tell and something to teach you. So please, don’t just cling to the Dorothy Gabys and Sam B. Altermans of this campus. Instead, try introducing yourself to three new people a day. After all, you never know who may end up being your best friend.

Good advice! I hope the Class of 2019 hears it early and often.


Bro Down

At some point, we need to collect all the Eph references in shows like South Park, The Simpsons and so on. For now, let’s start with this:

Can someone explain the joke to me? I honestly don’t get it.