Currently browsing the archives for October 2015

Uncomfortable Posting

Greetings. I’m the faculty president of the Williams’ chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest academic honor society. As there has been a lot of discussion about speakers invited to campus by Uncomfortable Learning, I wanted to briefly post why PBK has decided to co-sponsor their next speakers.

PBK is dedicated to the principles of freedom of inquiry and liberty of thought and expression. We do not necessarily support the views and opinions of the speakers, but we strongly support the calls made by President Falk,  William McGuire III ’17 and others on the importance and value of having civil discussions. There is a great opportunity in such debate, and we encourage all interested members of the community to come to these and other events and be heard. Many of the positions held by students and faculty on our campus today would not have found receptive audiences in the earlier days of Williams; ideas should be refuted by facts, not silenced.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out
                     Because I was not a Socialist.

                     Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out
                     Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

                     Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out 
                     Because I was not a Jew.

                    Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for
                    me. — Martin Niemoller

Steven Miller (sjm1@williams.edu), Associate Professor of Mathematics

Facebooktwitter

Smartest Apostate in the Room

Don Beyer '72, in his Alexandria, VA home.  Photo by Andre Chung in a Washington Post article

Don Beyer ’72, in his Alexandria, VA home. Photo by Andre Chung in a Washington Post article

Congressman Don Beyer ’72, who represents a large swath of Northern Virginia in its 8th Congressional District, is not only the best-educated Member of Congress, but the best speller as well. Politico reports:

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) won the National Press Club’s “Politicians vs. Press” spelling bee on Wednesday night, narrowly ekeing out a victory over Karoun Demirjian of the Washington Post.

The winning word? Apostasy. Along the way, however, he missed on words such as “bergamot” and “lutefisk” — Ephs such as Arne Carlson ’57 and Eric Dayton ’03 will be disappointed, particularly when they learn he had no such difficulty with “Wisconsinite.” But his misspellings were hardly among the ugliest: Fellow member of the Virginia delegation, Sen. Tim Kaine, missed out on “veterinarian,” Yochi Dreazen of Foreign Policy erred on “knish,” and both Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer and the Politico staff reporting on the spelling bee managed to misspell “doctrinaire”:

doctrinaire

A bonus for Beyer: to win the Politicians vs. Press Bee, he didn’t have to square off against Sen. Chris Murphy ’96 or Washington Post writer Greg Jaffe ’91 to secure his spelling title, unlike in his 2014 election faceoff with Micah Edmond ’96.

Facebooktwitter

Fairness in Discourse

Professor Sam Crane’s comments about Uncomfortable Learning merit further criticism. See Monday for background.

Maintaining a certain fairness in discourse, not privileging some voices because they have more access to money than others, is a principle that, I suspect, Gaudino would defend.

Agreed! But this is precisely the principal that Williams, to some extent, fails to uphold. Neither Williams College, nor the Political Science Department, nor the Lecture Committee succeed to “[m]aintaining a certain fairness in discourse.” Indeed, all of them are much more likely to bring progressive/liberal/Democratic speakers to campus. Would even Professor Crane deny this fundamental reality of campus discourse? Other than speakers brought by Uncomfortable Learning itself, how many libertarian/conservative/Republican speakers have come to Williams in the last three years? If Professor Crane doesn’t believe in “privileging” left-wing “voices” over right-wing “voices,” he is doing a very bad job of acting on those beliefs.

Consider a concrete example: Rutgers Professor Donna Murch ’91 gave the 2015 Davis Lecture last week. Excellent! The more speakers with diverse viewpoints, especially alumni, that Williams brings to campus the better. But where is the speaker this fall or in all of 2015 or 2014 — outside of Uncomfortable Learning itself — who is much an Eph of the right as Murch is an Eph of the left?

Nowhere. Professor Sam Crane has done nothing to bring non-liberal/progessive/Democratic voices to campus in the last few years. (Contrary opinions welcome.) And that is OK! Sam is a busy guy, with teaching and research obligations. But, if he is not going to take the trouble to help maintain a “certain fairness in discourse,” the least he could do is to stop attacking those Ephs who are working on it.

Facebooktwitter

Should Uncomfortable Learning Register?

Professor Sam Crane insists that the students behind Uncomfortable Learning should (must?) register as an official Williams College student group. I used to agree. But maybe I am being naive? Since Sam seems (is?) diametrically opposed to the goals of Uncomfortable Learning, perhaps his “advice” is not worth taking.

Recall the excellent scholarship of Rutgers Professor Donna Murch ’91, a recent speaker at Williams. Murch documents that, in the long struggle for African American equality, many of the obstacles were “content neutral” — sort of like a requirement that student groups register. On the surface, something like a poll tax is not unfair. Everyone is subject to the same rules. In practice, however, the poll tax was both designed to disenfranchise African Americans and used by local officials to do so. Might the same be true of a registration requirement for student groups at Williams? You betcha!

First, we ought to dig into the history of this requirement. Where does it come from? (Also relevant are recent rules against soliciting funds from alumni.) Katie Flanagan ’14 kindly provides some of the history, but we need more details. Second, even if it is true that these regulations were not born in sin, there can be no doubt that Williams officials have tried to use these rules to stymie Uncomfortable Learning, just as Professor Crane has tried to do for weeks (months?).

That is, Williams officials have used these rules against students associated with Uncomfortable Learning in ways that the rules are rarely/never used against non-conservative students seeking to, for example, reserve a room.

Given that history, perhaps students are right not to register in just the same way that groups like the Black Panthers often refused to play by the rules of the society that they were challenging. A refusal to register is a form of protest. A refusal to register, to subject oneself to a set of rules that will be used by your enemies to hinder your goals, may be very smart.

Note Flanagan’s observation that “CC [College Council] would really only have jurisdiction over registered organizations.” If you doubt that College Council is very committed to your goals, then why would you register and, thereby, subject yourself to its whims?

Look at how much Uncomfortable Learning was able to accomplish in the last few years despite not being an official student group. Would it have been as successful if it had registered? I don’t know.

I still think that they should register, just as I think that they should not have disinvited Venker. But I also, with all due humility, recognize that they are much closer to the action than I am and that their judgments might be much better than mine.

If we have any former student leaders of Uncomfortable Learning among our readers, perhaps you could share your thoughts.

Facebooktwitter

Venker Re-Invited, Has “No Plans to Accept”

Venker's website, via the Huffington Post

Venker’s website, via the Huffington Post

Notwithstanding EphBlog’s defense of the disinvitation of Suzanne Venker, the student organizers of the “Uncomfortable Learning” series appear to have quickly backtracked. In a post at Reason’s “Hit&Run” blog on Friday, reporter Robby Soave shared an email from Zach Wood ’18:

“Suzanne Venker has been re-invited to Williams . . . However, she has yet to confirm whether or not she’d like to come this spring.”

Unfortunately, Venker does not appear enthusiastic (although the reinvitation has received some positive press coverage, such as at Washingtonpost.com):

“No plans to accept since my speech has just been published, and the students can effectively see what I was going to say,” she said in an email to Reason. “Plus I can’t muster writing another speech anytime soon. As I say, it’s no small thing and I’m already behind on a book I’m writing.”

Venker’s speech is indeed posted at Foxnews.com, and it’s hard to fault her for being reluctant to reschedule after how this controversy unfolded. It’s asking a lot of Venker to check her pride at the door and speak now.

That said, EphBlog believes Venker should accept the re-invitation. Sure, the cancellation and reinvitation is awkward, but it has an obvious upside. Presumably she believes that the message in her “Uncomfortable Learning” talk is an important one for Williams students in their too-often protected cocoon. In light of the cancellation controversy, exposure for her remarks (both at Williams and beyond) is likely to be much greater than it otherwise would have been. More listeners = more value.

Moreover, as EphBlog has noted before, the students organizing “Uncomfortable Learning” deserve to be rewarded: they are taking on a difficult task in the face of immense peer pressure, pressure that keeps “uncomfortable” voices almost entirely excluded from campuses other than Williams that lack the tradition of a Gaudino. “One strike and you’re out” is a perfectly reasonable lesson to teach them, but so is “apologize, fix things, and do the right thing in the end.” And this is particularly true given the subject matter here: conservative speakers (especially those with experiential, rather than academic, credentials, as in the case of Venker) are heard so infrequently in liberal/academic environments that it should be a cardinal rule for conservatives: NEVER decline an invitation to speak
on campus.

Her reason for not speaking seems particularly flimsy. Although it’s true that students can “see what [she] was going to say,” how many students is she really going to reach that way. Foxnews.com is hardly a must-read for college students — and voluntarily searching out “uncomfortable reading” isn’t generally the way of the Internet. If she thinks what she originally had to say was interesting and valuable for students to hear, she should go ahead and deliver the same speech – perhaps tweaked to include mention (or rebuke?) of the disinvitation.

On this issue, as with his earlier post on the cancellation, the usually-reliable Glenn Reynolds, law professor at Tennessee, gets it wrong at Instapundit:

Reynolds on reinvite

Another question — what caused the organizers to change their mind and reinvite Venker? So far, there’s no public statement on that decision. Maybe it was feedback like this critique at the Williams Alternative from (former EphBlog regular) Will Slack ’11:

Nothing about this piece suggests that you learned something new about the invited speaker between the issuing of the invitation and the cancellation. Nothing I’ve read has suggested any coercement from any party – not other students, nor the administration, nor alumni. Nothing has provided evidence that anyone is being silenced here. If that did happen, then I will stand up and defend your freedom to invite controversial speakers, in good faith.

On the contrary, your choice is the worst of all worlds – and displays bad faith. You do a disservice to the invited speaker by rendering her preparation useless with a last-minute change. You do a disservice to your fellow students by inviting a controversy about ideas than preventing them from being aired. You do a disservice to the College and its alumni community by being so vague in your messages to the speaker that you inspire misleading articles like this one: [Venker’s Foxnews.com column].

Slack cuts right to the heart of the issue, which bears on Venker’s decision as well. Unlike the “Uncomfortable Learning” organizers, Venker does have new information on which to decide. But EphBlog is hoping she’ll do the right thing, and gracefully accept.

Facebooktwitter

Matter of Rules: The Petty Tyrants of Williams

Professor Sam Crane writes:

There is a matter of rules. You will notice that there are specific procedures that student groups need to follow, as per: http://student-life.williams.edu/student-involvement/student-organizations/. It is not clear whether “uncomfortable learning” is registered as a student group. If it is not, these other rules may apply: http://conferences.williams.edu/college-facilities/.

Does Professor Crane make it his business to ensure that every student and student group at Williams follows these rules? Of course not! If a group of progressive students fail to correctly fill out their forms or if Students For Bernie do a little vote registration on campus, Sam has no complaints. He only goes after students who he disagrees with politically. (If Sam has, in fact, hassled, say, the Williams College Democrats, as much as he has Uncomfortable Learning, then I will gladly withdraw this accusation.

If “uncomfortable learning” is a student group, then it would be bound by this rule: “Students who wish to raise money for any campus activity by soliciting alumni, foundations, or other sources of funds must receive advance approval.” (http://dean.williams.edu/policies/fund-raising-activities/).

Interestingly enough, the College did try to shut down Uncomfortable Learning three years ago by citing these regulations. Unsurprisingly, that threat was a bluff and cooler/smarter heads in the Administration prevailed.

That does not seem to be the case with “uncomfortable learning.”

Isn’t it cute the way “Professor” Crane puts Uncomfortable Learning — the official name of a student group at Williams — in quotes? Note that he does this three times, clearly meaning to denigrate the claim by these students that their group follows in the best traditions of Williams and of Bob Gaudino. Should we follow “Professor” Crane’s lead in this, using quotation marks to imply that even though “Professor” Crane calls himself a Professor, that he isn’t really one, at least in the way that we prefer to use that term, as someone committed to supporting all the students at Williams, not just those we agree with? No! That would be too cute!

Facebooktwitter

Eph-curated “Jewel City” opens at the DeYoung

jewelcity

Jim Ganz (MA ’88) is familiar to a generation of Ephs as a longtime curator at the Clark, who helped build the Clark’s photography collection and helped Williams College expand the photography offerings in the Art History program. Ganz is now in San Francisco as a curator of the Fine Arts Museums (i.e. the Legion of Honor and the de Young), where his new exhibit, “Jewel City,” has just opened to favorable reviewsand will run through January 10, 2016.

“Jewel City” revisits “one of the most ambitious art exhibitions ever presented in the United States, encompassing more than 11,000 paintings, sculptures, prints, and photographs,” which took place one hundred years ago in San Francisco as part of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, a 1915 World’s Fair that marked the re-emergence of San Francisco following the devastating 1906 earthquake (much as the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 did following that city’s Great Fire).

In an interview for the exhibit’s opening, Ganz explains:

We’re trying to recapture in a way the feeling of seeing the art of the fair, something of the visitors’ experience. Putting people in front of the same works of art 100 years later is going to be kind of amazing.

Included among the 200+ works Ganz has reassembled for the de Young are artists such as Mary Cassatt, Thomas Eakins, Edvard Munch, and John Singer Sargent (“The Sketchers,” pictured here). Another particularly notable item is 50-foot-long mural — one of six displayed at the exhibition — entitled “Atlantic and Pacific,” which hasn’t been displayed in the ensuing century.

20151019__jewel~3

If you live in San Francisco or will be visiting anytime soon, put “Jewel City” on your cultural to-do list.

Facebooktwitter

Sam Crane Demands Transparency on Alumni Donations

Williams has raised more than $374 million in its capital campaign. Professor Sam Crane has an interesting proposal.

A list of donors and the amounts of money they have given would be helpful in understanding the ideological intentions and effects of the program. I suspect rather significant amounts of money are necessary to bring in some of the speakers, but we have no idea where that money is coming from and what the providers of the money are trying to get for their investment. Follow the money.

Williams, like every US non-profit, is not required to provide a list of donors and the amounts each has given. Of course, Williams could still choose to do so, presumably after informing potential donors. The major problem, obviously, is that lots of donors prefer to give anonymously and, so, such a policy would hurt the campaign. The College, of course, is happy to publicize major donations from donors who don’t mind the press.

Sam feels very strongly about this idea, so much so that I read it as a demand rather than a suggestion. He has posted versions of it to the Williams Record, Inside Higher Ed, and the Williams Alternative.

Wait a second! I have this all wrong! Sam does not believe that Williams College should make public its donors and the amount they give. He thinks that Uncomfortable Learning (UL) a student group at Williams should make public its donors and the amount they give. Secrecy is fine for Sam and the people he agrees with, obviously. Secrecy is only a problem for people that Sam disagrees with, like the students who run UL.

That makes sense! /sarcasm

Here is a clearer statement of Sam’s views:

Who funds the “Uncomfortable Learning” series? I imagine it takes a lot of cash to bring in some of the people (Jonah Goldberg?) they have brought. Who is paying? A list of donors and the amounts they have given might help clarify the ideological context of the program.

Perhaps. But, as always, note the question that Sam does not ask:

Who funds the Dively Committee series? I imagine it takes a lot of cash to bring in some of the people (Jiz Lee?) they have brought. Who is paying? A list of donors and the amounts they have given might help clarify the ideological context of the program.

Excellent Record reporter Francesca Paris should follow up with Professor Crane, exploring his views on which Williams events require donor transparency and which do not. I guarantee that the supporters of Uncomfortable Learning would provide her with some juicy quotes . . .

Facebooktwitter

Defending Williams on Venker Cancellation

No one has written more words over more years complaining about the lack of intellectual diversity at Williams than I have. Yet even I think that critics of the decision to cancel Venker are being unfair to Williams and to the students involved. Here are four representative examples:
venker

First, Williams has probably bought more conservative/libertarian/traditional/non-liberal speakers to campus than any other liberal arts school in the last few years. Examples include: Casey Mulligan, Richard Sander, Ron Unz, Mike Needham ’04, Jonah Goldberg, Greg Lukianoff, Richard Vedder, KC Johnson and others. If you think Williams is “pathetic,” then you must believe that places like Amherst, Swarthmore and Pomona are absolutely hopeless. There is more intellectual diversity among public speakers at Williams than there is at any other liberal arts college and, perhaps, at any elite university.

Second, Williams College as an institution (administration and faculty) had nothing to do with the cancellation. The College cares about its massive capital campaign. It does not care about who students invite to speak on campus and who they disinvite.

Third, Uncomforable Learning, the student group behind the invitation/disinvitation, has done more to increase the range of public debate at its college than any other student group in the world. (Contrary opinions welcome.) Big shout-outs to some of its leaders, including Ben Fischberg ’14, David Gaines ’15, James Hitchcock ’15, Matthew Hennessy ’17, Didier Jean-Michel ’17 and Zach Wood ’18. They (with help from other students in the group) brought all those unusual speakers to Williams. No only that, but they also brought liberal/leftist speakers like Norman Finkelstein and Randall Kennedy. Unless you have done as much to improve the range of views presented at your university, you should be slow to criticize their efforts.

Fourth, the decision to cancel was not unreasonable. I happen to disagree with it, but, if your goal is to expand political discussion at Williams, to encourage students to engage with unfamiliar views, then you ought to try to meet those students halfway. Instead of Venker — hardly the most subtle of thinkers — you would probably be better off bringing Wendy Shalit ’97, an alum whose critique of modern feminism is similar to Venker’s. Replacing Venker with Shalit might be the right call.

Again, Williams needs more intellectual diversity, among its invited speakers, its faculty and its students. It needs more open dialogue and debate. It needs more “uncomfortable learning,” from all possible directions.

Yet many of the criticisms over this decision seem poorly informed.

Contrary opinions welcome!

Facebooktwitter

Intellectual Engagement

cancel

I think that this is the clearest statement, from Zach Wood ’18, of the reasoning behind the cancellation of the Venker event. Comments:

1) I like Zach Wood! I hope this controversy leads him to be more involved in the public life of the college. I have been told (accurately?) that he is not even a member of the vast right-wing conspiracy, Eph division. (Sorry Mike Needham ’04!) Instead, he is just a Williams student who, following in the legacy of Professor Robert Gaudino, believes in the importance of wide open dialogue and debate.

2) I like (and know) the two unnamed students mentioned by Zach above. (At least I think I do.) Both are wonderful Ephs, similarly committed to dialogue and debate. Both, in their roles with Uncomfortable Learning, have done more to bring alternative views to Williams than any other students or faculty or staff in the last year or two. Kudos to them!

3) I respect their judgment that, given their goals, cancelling was the best path. They could be right! But I also disagree with that judgment.

Facebooktwitter

Suzanne Venker disinvited from “Uncomfortable Learning”

Just weeks after EphBlog discussed the activities of the “Uncomfortable Learning” organization at Williams College, the group is in the headlines — and not in a good way. Suzanne Venker has an opinion piece posted online titled: “Williams College dropped me from its ‘Uncomfortable Learning’ speaker series. Why?” In it, she writes:

For the past two months, I’ve been preparing a speech for my upcoming visit to Williams College in Massachusetts. I was invited to speak at the university on behalf of its ‘Uncomfortable Learning’ Speaker Series…

[M]y talk was cancelled several days prior to the event. “Thank you for agreeing to speak,” read the email, “but we’re not going to be able to host this event.”

Though my contact didn’t give a reason, the day before he’d sent me this email: “Dear Ms. Venker, A quick heads up…We’ve been advertising the event, and it’s already stirring a lot of angry reactions among students on campus. We just wanted to make you aware of the current state of students before your presentation…”

When I pressed further as to why the event was being cancelled (though of course I knew why), he conceded that Williams College “has never experienced this kind of resistance” to a campus speaker.

Venker is the author of “The Flipside of Feminism” and “How to Choose a Husband and Make Peace With Marriage,” and is an iconoclast critic of modern feminism. According to her article, she planned to share her critique of feminism, framing it around the idea of uncomfortable subjects, as appropriate for the series:

My goal for you all, my purpose in being here today, is to inspire you to think for yourselves. Do not be swayed by groupthink no matter what your friends, your family or the culture believe. Do not be afraid to ask yourself questions that may make you uncomfortable. And do not be afraid of the answers…

Imagine the possibilities if students at Williams College and elsewhere were exposed to a completely different worldview. Something positive. Something uplifting. Something, dare I say it, empowering?

We can hope that there’s another side to the story of the cancellation of Venker’s scheduled speech, but at a time when the toxic atmosphere for intellectual disagreement on college campuses has drawn widespread attention — with even President Obama weighing in to encourage universities to host more ideological diversity — this disinvitation is not reflecting well on Williams.

Facebooktwitter

A Ring of Motivated Ignorance

We will have more coverage of this topic tomorrow, but here are some clarifications about the most widely covered Williams story of 2015.

Start with Instapundit:venkler

All right-wing Ephs love Instapundit, but he is wrong on the facts. Venker was not “dropped” by Williams College, the institution. She was disinvited by the same students who invited her in the first place, as Williams itself notes in this tweet:venk2

Correct. Despite the fantasies of the clueless weevils infesting Instapundit’s comment threads, Williams College barely cares about the speakers that its students invite. It, as an institution, cares about completing its $650 million capital campaign. That is what keeps Adam Falk awake at night, not the prospect of a visit from the Fox News junior varsity. With luck, Instapundit will correct his post.

Venker’s article is here. Background on the issue comes from this excellent article in the Williams Alternative by Zach Wood ’18. Summary: The Uncomfortable Learning student group disinvited Venker after (many?) students expressed (how?) vehement disagreement with her scheduled appearance. It is a shame that the group caved. As Wood eloquently writes:

At America’s top liberal arts college, we should not settle for petty personal attacks, unchecked confirmation bias, and Taco 6-like verbal harassments when we deeply disagree with people. We can come to terms with meaningful disagreements without making presumptions of guilt. We can critique each other intellectually and challenge people effectively without snidely suggesting that they are sexist, racist, anti-black, anti-feminist, or xenophobic. Fact is: All of us are biased. So before we discount what someone has to say because we think that they are biased or prejudiced, we should ask ourselves, as Socrates asked Plato, whose bias do we seek?

Comments:

1) Do I blame Uncomfortable Learning for caving in to student pressure? No. It is a free country and the students involved have every right to make their own decisions. Having your friends (honestly!) think that you are encouraging “hate” is hard, especially when you hold campus positions (like JA) or hope to contribute more to the Williams community in the future, all the more so if all you really want to do is encourage discussion.

2) Adam Falk, rather than viewing this as a public relations annoyance — there are plenty of rich and political moderate alumni who don’t like the idea of Williams cancelling speakers (which did not happen here!) — could seize it as an opportunity, a chance to demonstrate that Williams is the most politically diverse and intellectually open of any elite college. Invite Venker back, but in a debate forum, with her arguing over the merits of feminism with a prominent member of the faculty, perhaps Professor Katie Kent ’88. This would quiet the right-wing loons screeching censorship while generating much useful campus discussion. Even better would be to include students in the presentation, as in the Williams College Debate Union events a decade ago.

3) Wood ’18 makes reference to various Facebook threads. Are those public? Could some of our readers paste them into this comment thread (leaving out author names, if you like). Future historians will thank you! And our readers always enjoy reading the arguments of passionate Williams students.

Facebooktwitter

Shevinsky ’01 on Williams

Driscoll

A recent EphBlog post reviewed “Lean Out,” the book by Elissa Shevinsky ’01 that is currently burnishing her reputation as one of the tech industries’ feminist thought leaders.

Shevinsky’s career has taken her through stops around the world, including New York, Tel Aviv, and Silicon Valley, and she presently maintains an itinerant existence with a number of home bases. Since this is EphBlog, we’re as interested in her time at Williams as we are in where she is now, and one of her own essays in “Lean Out,” titled, “The Pipeline Isn’t the Problem,” delivers on that subject.

The first part of “Pipeline” recounts key elements of Shevinsky’s career: from her first startup job, at Williams-incubated eZiba.com to her most recent product, Glimpse (an online dating app designed for women, by women). Then, she tells the story of her real introduction to tech as a freshman at Williams:

It was 1997 and I was taking CSCI 105: “The Web: Technologies and Techniques,” the Computer Science department’s most introductory class. It seemed like a lightweight way for a humanities major like me to fulfill the college’s science requirement.

Let’s hear it for divisional requirements — they’re not just how we turn biology majors into museum directors!

Led by Professor Tom Murtagh, the class covered the architecture of the Internet, along with html and Java programming. My teaching assistants were nerdy white guys (who I totally admired) but the class was mostly gender balanced. In 1997 we didn’t know that programming was for boys.

Computer Science 105 was more challenging than I had anticipated . . . I was so frustrated that a program could work on my machine and not work correctly on my website. At one point, the teaching assistant was confused as well! I’ve since learned that frustration is a basic part of software development. The best developers are persistent as well as smart, and simply don’t stop until the code works. Sometimes it takes days or weeks. At the time, I just thought that I didn’t have an aptitude for programming. But Professor Murtagh (aka “Tom”) was a warm and easy-going professor and the class was incredibly fun.

With Professors Danyluk and Bruce, “Tom” would go on to publish the valuable “Java: An Eventful Approach,” an influential redesign of curriculum structure for teaching Java.

Nerds were so uncool at Williams College that the section of campus where we lived was known as “The Odd Quad.” … We would get together on Wednesday nights for hot cocoa spiked with liquor, and play “Magic: The Gathering.” It was a gender balanced group. Actually, it was nearly equally men and women… My college memories are mostly of hanging out with this group of wonderful nerdy gamer coders. This included some college grads who were working at Tripod.

The Williams students choosing in the late 90s to live in row houses instead of Prospect might have chosen differently, if they’d known the opportunities on which they were missing out:

I got internships and job offers everywhere that I applied, ultimately working for Ethan Zuckerman [’93]’s startup Geekcorps… I remember being offered a programming job at twenty-one. I would have had to drop out of school, which wasn’t that interesting to me at the time. I turned the job down.

Probably a wise choice, given how her career – and her new book – have turned out. In a recent interview, she brushed off credit for the high caliber of her publishing debut:
“I was definitely really new to making books,” praising her editor as incredibly helpful in turning out a polished final product. Still, she acknowledges, “I had an intuition for what would be a good book,” and reading “Lean Out,” it’s hard to resist crediting her (and her Williams education) for the result.

Facebooktwitter

Williams Employs Adjuncts

For my sins, I should spend more time correcting all the nonsense that gets written on EphBlog. Latest is from dcat:

Williams does not have any adjuncts

Of course, Williams has “adjuncts,” as we already reviewed once here. But, for our slower readers, let’s go through it again.

Start with a standard definition for adjunct professor:

a professor employed by a college or university for a specific purpose or length of time and often part-time.

The primary distinction in academia is between those professors who are either already tenured (a majority of the Williams faculty) and junior professors on the tenure track — sometimes this overall group gets labeled as TTT — on one hand and everyone else on the other. The term “adjunct,” as above, is generally applied to everyone who is not TTT. Of course, not all schools use the “adjunct” label, since it, more and more, has a bit of a stench. But whether such jobs are labelled “adjunct” or “lecturer” or “professor of practice” or whatever, the substantive meaning is always the same. You are an employee, hired with a fixed term contract which the college does not have to renew.

Does Williams have adjuncts? Of course it does! Start with Winter Study. The official title for non-faculty members teaching a Winter Study is “Adjunct Instructor.” Given this fact, how can dcat deny that Williams has adjuncts?

But, perhaps more important that Winter Study, are the numerous lecturers that Williams hires. Consider some examples:

English: Senior Lecturers: BARRETT, CLEGHORN, PETHICA, K. SHEPARD. Lecturers: de GOOYER, PARK

Economics: Senior Lecturer: M. SAMSON

None of these teachers have tenure. None are on the tenure track. None have any more legal protections that professors that are officially labeled “adjunct” other institutions, or even than the Williams adjuncts who teach Winter Study classes.

Is this a problem? Not at all! I have no problem with Williams (or other schools) using adjuncts/lecturers/whatever. I believe that, if anything, Williams probably treats its adjuncts/lecturers better than other schools treat theirs. Williams certainly has a much higher percentage of TTT faculty teaching its students than most other institutions.

What I object to is the continuing refusal of people like dcat (and, from that prior thread, people like Adam Falk, Chad Orzel ’93, and crowther) to admit that Williams employs adjuncts.

Another way to see the madness of this claim is to re-word it. Instead of

Williams does not have any adjuncts

How about:

Williams does not have any non-tenured or non-tenure track faculty

Put more baldly, this is obviously false. The only defense that people like dcat/Falk/Orzel/crowther might offer is a claim that, because Williams adjuncts/lectures are treated so nicely, they should be thought of in the same category as TTT faculty, rather than in the nasty category of “adjunct,” a term which should be reserved for the poorly treated part-timers at other, lesser, schools. Perhaps!

But such a claim — that the status of Williams adjuncts/lecturers is, for most practical purposes, indistinguishable from the status of Williams TTT faculty — suggests that, even in a world in which Williams ended tenured, people like dcat would still be correct to claim that “Williams has no adjuncts.” At that seems crazy to me.

Facebooktwitter

Book Review: Lean Out

ES01Elissa Shevinsky ’01 has not only been an EphBlog favorite of late, but was recently featured on the cover of the Williams Alumni Review (pictured above is her Twitter avatar, drawn from that cover illustration). Shevinsky is a serial entrepreneur with a focus on cyber-security; her current company is JeKuDo, which is “building the very best easy to use privacy tools.”

Shevinsky is also now the author/editor of the recently-published “Lean Out,” available from Or Books and (naturally) for your Kindle or Nook. The collection of essays and perspectives from women working in Silicon Valley includes an introduction and commentary from Shevinsky along with a couple of her own essays. Full disclosure: Shevinsky and I are what she might call “introvert friends” on Twitter and regularly “favorite” each other’s tweets.

“Lean Out” tackles a popular and sensitive subject: the overwhelming male representation in Silicon Valley and the larger tech industry, one of the highest-value and highest growth areas of the economy. In “Lean In,” Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg advocated for women to be more proactive in challenging this norm by doing more to be accepted into existing power dynamics and transform the “system” from within.  Relatedly, many tech companies have claimed that there is a purported “pipeline” problem — a shortage of women with STEM and computer science backgrounds, coding skills, or even video game experience that translates to a subsequent shortage of women interested in the industry.

Many critics — including several of the writers collected in “Lean Out” — have challenged these claims.  Many women, particularly those coming from diverse backgrounds, object that Sandberg’s perspective as one that requires women in the tech industry to adapt to the system, rather than building a new system for women and by women.  Others, including Shevinsky, believe that the focus on a “pipeline” is a diversion, little more than a marketing effort by big tech companies to  transfer attention from culture (hard to measure) to an issue that can be quantified and to which they can dedicate eye-catching amounts of spending.  In this view, the claim that there aren’t sufficient women in the hiring pool is akin to the implausible suggestion that there aren’t enough actors in Hollywood.

Taken individually, the essays in “Lean Out” might read as a collection of diversity-oriented polemics: interesting as descriptions of individual experiences, identities, and related challenges, but many would be ultimately unsatisfying (the identities of authors include a well-balanced mix of sexual, gender, racial, and ethnic identities). One exception: Katherine Cross’s essay, “Fictive Ethnicity and Nerds,” an analysis of why the dominant Silicon Valley nerd culture is resistant to criticism from feminists. Agree or disagree, her analysis gives good insight into why individuals and groups can simultaneously be privileged and marginalized, although readers will recognize she might not agree with that characterization.

It is taken together that the greatest value in “Lean Out” is revealed as Shevinsky’s selection and structuring of the whole. Each writer adds a piece to our understanding of the culture of the technology industry — and each person brings their own view regarding how best to tackle the problems they see as creating an environment of exclusion. The juxtaposition of their suggestions, moreover, reveals that many approaches, taken alone, risk undercutting precisely the parts of the system that make others feel included, at least at times. Far from the simple solutions proposed in the polemics of online fora, “Lean Out” reveals a thorny knot that even Alexander might be unable to cut.

Take, for example, the concerns laid out in “Lean Out” about a brogrammer culture that makes outings for drinking cheap beer an integral part of many companies’ cultures.  Participating in these outings – which fuel interrelated cultural problems like unwanted sexual advances (and worse) and fart jokes (and worse) – may be a cultural and career necessity for many who would otherwise not participate.  But not only are they irreplaceable to the individual and team identity of their enthusiasts, but more than one writer in “Lean Out” recounts an instance when participating was an inclusionary experience, at least at the time or for a while.  So the answer can’t be just to replace alcohol fueled bar hopping with estrogen fueled coed outings to the ski slope or the bookstore.  And while doing so might make the introduction of sexist apps at major conferences less acceptable, would that really even matter to the presence of women at the partner level of venture capital funds or, ultimately, to investments in diversely-led startups?

Where does that leave Shevinsky and the “Lean Out” reader? Certainly with a lot to think about. But the structure of her book provides a clue that there’s more in her mind than merely provoking discussion or repeating the demands of others that people change their sexist ways. “Lean Out” opens and closes with passages by FAKEGRIMLOCK, the startup robot dinosaur. (Yes, this is a thing). Both are calls to action: not meant to provoke some centrally-led reform effort or even a social movement by the many, but for an individual action by the entrepreneur, “You”: “You Belong in Tech” and “You Must Start Up.” And then there’s the essay “Build a Business, Not an Exit Strategy,” by Melanie Moore, also near the end of “Lean Out.” Her simple present-value analysis of startups seeking an IPO home run vs. those seeking to grow on a human scale — and the explanation of why VCs are in the business of finding home runs and not the latter, presents one “Out” approach. It’s clearly one that serial entrepreneur Shevinsky is comfortable with. And it’s a reminder that what the tech industry may most need to create a set of spaces where the authors in “Lean Out” (and millions of others, men and women alike) can thrive is a different sort of diversity: a diversity of vision that yields a true variety of opportunities.

Elements of Shevinsky’s experience at Williams appear in one of her own essays, “The Pipeline Isn’t the Problem,” and I’ll excerpt a few details in a subsequent post.

Facebooktwitter

Code of Conduct Changes

An all-student e-mail from Dean Bolton:

From: Sarah Bolton
Date: Friday, 9 October 2015
Subject: Something Important to Read this Reading Period
To: WILLIAMS-STUDENTS@listserv.williams.edu

Dear Students,

I hope you are well as we head into the weekend. I’m writing today to invite you to do another kind of reading. Attached below is important information; the Code of Conduct, rules about file sharing and copyright (particularly important for downloading movies and music) , and the Honor Code. While some of what’s here may be familiar, there’s also new information. Here are some highlights of changes.

-The definitions of sexual assault, relationship abuse, retaliation and consent have been updated based on recommendations from the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness committee.
– An amnesty policy has been created for students reporting sexual assault, which means that students reporting assault that took place in the context of the use of alcohol or drugs won’t face any college consequences regarding alcohol or drug use.
-A new medical amnesty policy has been created for students seeking medical help for themselves or others in the wake of alcohol or drug use.
-New information about how to download movies, music and other media while staying within the bounds of law is being provided.

Of course, all of this information is also available online, but since we have these important updates, I wanted to send it out to you as well, so that you can easily review it.

My best wishes to you for a good long weekend and reading period,
Dean Bolton

Here (doc) is the document. Should we spend a week going through it?

Facebooktwitter

The Best College in the World

The mission of Williams is to be the best college in the world. Once you accept this assumption, many things follow. For example, current sophomore James asks:

Why do you think the college should so drastically increase its % of international students?

If you want to be the best college in the world, you need to have the best students. And, until Google develops built in universal translators, this means the best English-fluent students. Some of those students will be born in Massachusetts, some in Shanghai and some in Sydney. Wherever they come from, Williams ought to find them, admit them and recruit them.

Twenty years ago, this was much less of an issue because there were not that many very smart non-US applicants. Increasing the percentage of international students would have resulted in a decrease in average student quality. So, it was right and proper than Williams was 95% American.

But the world has changed dramatically since then. There are now thousands of high quality international applicants, especially from places like China and South Korea. The reason that Williams is only 9% international today is because the College actively discriminates against non-American applicants. If the College were country-of-citizenship blind — in the same was that it is astrological-sign-blind — we would be at least 20% international today.

More concretely, Williams should, in the class of 2020, get rid of the bottom 100 American students in terms academic rating (generally ARs of 2 and 3) and replace them with 100 International students, all of whom will have ARs of 1.

Ask yourself: Why is Williams better than Connecticut College? It isn’t because our English professors are better than their English professor or our dining hall food is better than their dining hall food. It is because our students are, on average, smarter than their students. If you really want Williams to be the best College in the world, then your number one focus should be on improving the quality of the students, and then easiest way to do that is to end the quota against international admissions.

Facebooktwitter

Good Advice from Amherst(!!)

From the Amherst Student and its editorial board, on “Studying at Home”:

It’s common wisdom among college graduates and seniors who think they know better that if you don’t study abroad, you’ll regret it. “Are you going to study abroad?” is a common question among Amherst sophomores and juniors. If the answer is yes, no one thinks twice. But if a student decides to stay at Amherst for both semesters, he’s consistently told that it’s the wrong decision, that he’ll regret losing an opportunity he’ll never have again. While studying abroad is certainly a fantastic opportunity, so is each of our semesters at Amherst.

As cheesy as it may sound, Amherst becomes a new place every single year. For one thing, you’d be hard pressed to find an academic experience abroad that beats Amherst classes. With just four short years here, there’s no shortage of incredibly transformative classes you can take that you’ll never have access to again. Furthermore, the growing number of clubs, sports teams and opportunities allow us to make this campus a better place, cultivate meaningful friendships and embed ourselves deeper in the community we call home for four years.

If traveling or living abroad is something you want to pursue, but you don’t think study abroad is right for you, ask the fellowship and career offices to learn about the myriad of opportunities available after graduation. Spending a gap year after college doing meaningful academic or volunteer work while traveling or living in another country is a fantastic way to transition into the terrifying “real world.” Amherst also has a lot of money devoted to internal fellowships; it just takes a bit of searching to find the right opportunity.

True at Amherst, and even truer at Williams. Indeed, the experience of being at Williams is unparalleled among undergraduate institutions – even better than Amherst. And for Ephs, Winter Study provides an opportunity to leave Williamstown without missing out on months of your time in paradise (although you will miss an ideal time to Fall in Love).

Many students arrive at Williams intending to take a semester abroad, have that inclination reinforced by general acceptance (as described at Amherst above), and fail (even if majoring in economics) to consider the opportunity cost involved.

Does that mean “don’t go”? Of course not. But put as much care into the decision of

    whether

to go as you would

    where

to go.

Facebooktwitter

McLean ’92 on Productivity

Worth the diversion on social media: a recent essay by Bethany McLean ’92, author of “The Smartest Guys in the Room” and “All the Devils are Here,” on LinkedIn. She writes “In Praise of Being Unproductive.”

A subject after EphBlog’s own heart!

Whenever I read something about the glories of productivity, I wince.

I am not productive. In fact, sometimes I waste entire days. I talk to people for hours, and not one thing from that conversation makes it into anything I am writing now — or will ever write in the future. I expend tons of emotional energy mustering up the nerve to call people who do not call me back. I work on stories that die a deserved death. Sometimes — may the gods of productivity forgive me — I even take an extended online shopping break because I’ve decided that my attempts to make sense of something are resulting in nonsense. I read things that have nothing to do with my work. I daydream. A lot.

Never afraid to tell the truth, McLean uses this opening to rail on journalism’s business pretensions and the idea that writing is an industry in which productivity can be measured:

I’m not sure journalism is meant to be quantifiably productive. You need to call everyone … need to spend hours talking to people because it’s as important to understand what you don’t use and why you don’t use it as it is to understand what you do use… [and] be able to chase a story and be honest about the fact that it isn’t working… The best story is not necessarily the one that gets the most bang for the buck, at least if you think that “best” means something other than cheap click bait.

I read McLean’s essay as somewhat tongue in cheek: even if the activity inputs she describes may not be directly productive, that doesn’t mean a writer’s output can’t be measured in some way.

But it’s a good reminder: in the ideas business, the work of producing ideas is often orthogonal to the objective rather than linear. If you’ve never gone back to read your James Webb Young, put it on your reading list.

Facebooktwitter

Veterans at Williams

Nice Record article about veterans at Williams.

I was fortunate enough to speak with three veteran students – Jake Bingaman ’19, Calum Ferguson ’19 and Nils Horn ’19 – to learn about their experiences in the armed forces and at the College so far.

The reporter, Emilia Maluf, should provide some more details, in addition to the human interest vignettes that she nicely describes.

First, are these the only three veterans in the class of 2019? (And, by the way, how did she get this information. Did the College feed it to her? Not that there is anything wrong with that!)

Second, what has been the trend in veterans admissions in the last 10 years or so? My sense is that there have often been international veterans, like Ferguson and Horn, on campus, but I don’t know the data. I also think that there has not been a US veteran on campus for years (Decades?) But it would be nice to get the facts straight.

Facebooktwitter

The Haystack as a Living Symbol

Snow on the Haystack Monument, captured by Orion Howard via Flickr

Snow on the Haystack Monument, captured by Orion Howard via Flickr

For most Ephs, the Haystack Monument carries nothing more than historic and aesthetic significance.  And it is those things: it serves as a picturesque stop on a snowy campus snowshoe tour and a reminder that Williams College attained national significance far before U.S. News began publishing college rankings, before Mark Hopkins became a renowned educator, even before Henry David Thoreau visited Greylock.  But how many appreciate the Haystack Meeting and the Haystack Monument as a live religious symbol, an inspiration to millions of faithful Christians nationwide?

That’s the Haystack Monument as understood by Ronnie Floyd, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest denomination of Protestant Christians in the United States (approximate membership: 16 million).  Floyd recently drew on the example of Samuel Mills & co. in a powerful address laying out his vision:

We must remember that it really all goes back to the Haystack Prayer Meeting. After praying, these five young men sang a hymn together. It was then that Samuel Mills said loudly over the rain and the wind, “We can do this, if we will!” That moment changed those men forever. Many historians would tell you that all mission organizations trace their history back to the Haystack Prayer Meeting in some way. Yes, these men turned the world upside down. And it all began in a prayer meeting under a haystack.

At the place where this meeting occurred, a monument stands today commemorating this historic God moment. At the top of that monument is the phrase, “THE FIELD IS THE WORLD.” Underneath those words is the following statement: “The Birthplace of American Foreign Missions. 1806.” It all happened from a prayer meeting.

This reminds me of the words written in Acts 4:31: “When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak God’s message with boldness.” Prayer, the power of God, evangelism, and missions all go together. We need to get ourselves back under the haystack!

Over the rain, wind, lightning, and claps of thunder when Samuel Mills declared to the other four young men, “We can do this, if we will!” he saw something before anyone else saw it. He saw that THE FIELD IS THE WORLD.

For Floyd, the Haystack is not just a matter of historical interest, as he actively draws on the example as he makes a call to the faithful to:

1. AWAKEN AMERICA

Before the awakenings and great movements of God in the past, many times God’s people have prayed as long as a decade or more before God moved mightily among the people. Therefore, I call upon us to return to the haystack!

We need to stop being so content doing ministry without moments under the haystack. We must return to the haystack, calling out to God extraordinarily, experiencing Him supernaturally, and exploding with a robust vision and commitment to advance the Gospel exponentially everywhere…

2. REACH THE WORLD

Sometimes we conduct ourselves like a bunch of theological Universalists who believe it will all work out okay for everyone. We must begin to believe in lostness again.

People need the Gospel of Jesus Christ beginning in our own villages, towns, and cities. Our pastors need to be injected with a vision and strategy to reach their own villages, towns, and cities.

According to missiologists, we live in a nation where three out of four people do not have a personal relationship with Christ. We live in a world with 7.275 billion people. Of these 7.275 billion people, just over 3 billion of these people are unreached. There is an additional 1.25 billion of these people who are engaged nominally. If we even come close to understanding the spiritual condition of our world and the need for the Gospel, we are facing a daunting challenge.

This is why we need to return to the haystack and come out from underneath it with a renewed belief and commitment to the power of God. Without His power, the task is overwhelming. Without His power, our insufficiency is exposed to the world.

It is time we emerge from underneath the haystack again and with the vision: THE FIELD IS THE WORLD. It is time we emerge from the haystack again with convictional, God-inspired leadership that declares as Samuel Mills did in 1806: “We can do this, if we will!”

With God’s power, we can reach America’s villages, towns, and cities. With God’s power, we can reach the world, penetrating the darkness of lostness globally. The field is the world… We can do this, if we will!

Even — or perhaps especially — for those of us who rarely look at this Williams icon through a religious lens, Floyd’s reliance on the legendary encounter among Ephs and God is enlightening. Read the whole thing.

Facebooktwitter

Teach It Forward III

Let’s spend three days discussing the College’s new fundraising campaign: Teach It Forward: The Campaign for Williams. The main webpage is here. Today is Day 3.

“We tend to think primarily of two kinds of institutions of higher learning: large research universities and small liberal arts colleges. In this campaign, we will secure Williams’ distinctive place in higher education as combining the best of both these worlds,” Falk said. “At Williams, we provide the opportunities and the rigor of a research university, in a liberal arts context and on a scale that allows for not only small classes, but also close collaboration with faculty and the mentorship and support of an entire community.”

This is either harmless pablum or a subtle sign that Adam Falk wishes he were president at a place like Johns Hopkins.

It is absurd to believe that Williams can possibly provide the “best” of what research universities do, which is, unsurprisingly, “research.” In order to do the best possible research, you need two things:

1) Professors who are selected, almost solely, on their ability to do research, and the desire to make such research the focal point of their professional lives.

2) Graduate students to assist in that research.

Williams will never have those two things, nor should it.

Now, of course, many Williams professors do research and much of that research is of high quality. But it is nowhere near as good as the research done at places like Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford (or even Hopkins). Is anyone surprised by that? Any Williams professor who does research at the highest level is offered a job by a fancy research university and then vast majority accept that job offer.

And that is OK! Williams is a liberal arts college, not a research university. Its only focus should be on the quality of the undergraduate experience, part of which will involve research with professors. But we don’t need to pretend that our professors are as good at doing research as university professors. Who cares?! What we want is for the undergraduate research experience at Williams to be as good as the undergraduate research experience at H/Y/P/S. On a lot of dimensions, this is already true and/or is a worthy goal. But that is not the same thing as “combining the best” of “large research universities” with all the wonderfulness that is Williams today.

Is Falk just engaging in fundraising puffery? I hope so. But note that many faculty members have discussed with me Falk’s focus on the faculty over the last few years, his often expressed desire to raise tenure standards (especially when it comes to research output), to make the Williams faculty more like the Hopkins faculty. Is he hinting at that here? Perhaps. But most of my sources also claim that Falk has been singularly unsuccessful in these efforts, that departments — always jealous of their own prerogatives — have pushed back and only hired/promoted the same candidates as they always have.

Informed commentary welcome!

Facebooktwitter

Teach It Forward II

Let’s spend three days discussing the College’s new fundraising campaign: Teach It Forward: The Campaign for Williams. The main webpage is here. Today is Day 2.

Williams will seek $150 million in endowment support for financial aid in the campaign—to ensure affordability for low- and middle-income students, as well for international students, and therein sustain the socioeconomic diversity of the student body. Financial aid is the campaign’s single largest fundraising priority.

1) This is good to see, but I have been burned before in (naively?) believing that international enrollment is a high priority for Falk/Williams. The single biggest decision that Williams faces is: How many international students to enroll? I think that, immediately, Williams should go to 15% and then quickly to 20%, with a probably long-term goal of 50%.

2) Just what does it mean to raise $150 million for financial aid? Is there really some financial aid lock-box which contains dollars that can only be used for financial aid? I have my doubts. Money is fungible. And the College has a history of using money given for financial aid (at least for international students) for other purposes. I would be happier to see a more concrete pledge: Williams will offer financial aid packages at least as generous as those offered by Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford. See this recent comment:

[T]he difference between aid provided by Williams and its top liberal arts college peers and that provided by the top universities is hard to overcome.

My child is a high school senior and realistic applicant to the top schools. Based on our income, Williams expects we can contribute roughly $38,000 toward college annually. We cannot. Harvard and Yale expect us to contribute slightly less than $20,000 per year – a stretch, but one we can make. I wish the difference in cost between Williams and Yale weren’t roughly $80,000 over the course of an undergraduate degree.

Williams should match the financial aid offered to any admitted student who is also admitted by Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford. High school seniors might very well choose HYPS over Williams, but they shouldn’t do so because of financial aid.

Facebooktwitter

Teach It Forward I

Let’s spend three days discussing the College’s new fundraising campaign: Teach It Forward: The Campaign for Williams. The main webpage is here. Today is Day 1.

1) Thanks to Professor Manigault-Bryant for the link to the official announcement and for the heads up about the Teach It Forward slogan. I love it! Coming up with a good slogan is hard, so kudos to Williams for inventing such a great one. Teaching is the single Williams activity that connects us all. By the way, future historians will want to know who came up with the slogan. Who was it? Let us praise this Eph!

2) Summary paragraph:

In a campus-wide celebration uniting students, faculty, staff, alumni, and parents, Williams College tonight officially kicked off a multiyear campaign aimed at raising $650 million and engaging the entire Williams community in building the future of the college.

Teach It Forward: The Campaign for Williams is believed to be the most ambitious campaign in the college’s 222-year history and the most ambitious campaign in the history of liberal arts colleges. Following a three-year quiet phase of planning and fundraising, the college has secured $374 million in commitments toward its overall goal, and fully 66 percent of alumni have already engaged in some aspect of the campaign, whether through philanthropic support, volunteerism, or participation in campus or regional alumni events.

Kudos to EphAlum for almost guessing the campaign target of $650 million. Can anyone tell us about recent campaigns at places like Amherst, Swarthmore and Pomona? I am glad that Williams is trying to raise (and likely to succeed in raising) so much, but my sense is that this is not much more than other similar campaigns.

Why the “believed to be” in the opening sentence? This is, obviously, the most ambitious campaign in Williams history, assuming you define “ambition” as “dollars.”

The 66% figure is a bit of a scam. About 60% of alums give in a given year and, over a three year period (because all givers do not give every year) , the number is around 66%. But that figure would be similar in any three year period, regardless of the existence of the campaign.

Facebooktwitter

Dance, Monkeys, Dance!

confused

EphBlog is here to help! Today is the kick off to the Williams Capital Campaign. Elite colleges run capital campaigns — multi-year attempts to raise substantial amounts of money — every decade or so. The typical cycle begins with a new president who spends a few years getting to know the campus, a few years raising money, and then a few years recovering. The last Williams campaign, which started in 2003, targeted $400 million but eventually raised more than $500 million. Some questions:

1) Will this campaign have a catchy slogan or theme? Last time the name was simply the “Williams Campaign,” although there might also have been some “Climb High” branding. I suspect something similarly anodyne this time round. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

2) What will the target amount be? At the low end, I have heard $600 million, which would be 50% more than last time. At the high end, a knowledgeable alum (with no inside info) was certain it would be $1 billion, both because this was an eye-catching target and because it was more than any other liberal arts college, which would be appropriate for an institution of Williams stature. My guess is $1 billion.

3) The Campaign takes place in two stages. The first, going on for the last few years, is the “quiet” phase, during which major gifts are solicited from mega-wealthy donors. At least 1/2, and up to 2/3, of the total money has already been raised. Tonight marks the kick-off of the “public” phase.

4) There is a large fat tail in fundraising, at Williams and elsewhere. Although the College will try to get every alumni (and parent!) to give, the vast majority of the money will be raised by the 500 or so biggest donors, with a disproportionate share coming from the top 5 or 10.

monkeys

Isn’t it unusual to engage students so deeply in the capital campaign? I certainly don’t recall this from the distant past, nor from the last go-around a decade ago. Typically (and appropriately) the students have no idea what the College’s fundraising machinery is doing. And that is OK!

The OP here, however, is quite clueless. He is surrounded by educational and facility luxuries of every kind. Does he think stuff comes from heaven? Is he so naive as to believe that, even if he is a full pay student, his tuition dollars cover anywhere near the cost of what he consumes? Perhaps. Fortunately, EphBlog is here to educate him! Elite liberal arts colleges cost big money. Unless you want to double tuition, you need to raise lots of money from rich alumni. So, dance, you ungrateful little monkey! Dance!

stetson

That is some dance stage! Comments:

1) Thanks to Professor Manigault-Bryant and the other campus Ephs who tweet! Always fun to see/read pictures/descriptions of campus events.

2) There has never (?) been anything like this at the start of a Williams campaign. Last time, I think that the kick-off event was a dinner, for major donors and a few selected students/faculty, at Mount Hope. Good idea? I don’t know. At least there shouldn’t be any rain . . .

3) Looks like #WilliamsCampaign is the official hashtag.

Facebooktwitter

Needham ’04 on Boehner

Mike Needham ’04 is glad that Speaker Boehner is stepping down.

Those within Speaker Boehner’s tight-knit circle will point to the “accomplishments” of the past nine months as reasons why he’ll be missed. But take a look what the House has done this year and it’s not hard to understand conservatives’ frustrations with the Speaker’s leadership: a permanent “doc fix” that increases Medicare spending over the next two decades by $500 billion and took crucial leverage for Medicare reform off the table forever; a House-passed reauthorization of No Child Left Behind despite the objections of conservatives advocating reforms to eliminate Department of Education mandates. Not a single Republican ran on these priorities in 2014, yet aside from small-ball bills addressing business community concerns like authorization of the Keystone XL pipeline, they’ve been the central pillars of the Republican agenda.

But it could have been worse. Despite his best efforts, the Speaker wasn’t able to roll conservatives on some of his biggest priorities. For years, he hoped to cut a “grand bargain,” trading spending cuts for hundreds of billions of dollars in tax increases. Conservatives would not let him, and pressure from the grassroots forced the House instead to work toward the 2011 Budget Control Act, a package of cuts-only reforms that the Speaker has only tried to undermine ever since. And on comprehensive immigration reform—code-talk for amnesty—the Speaker never hid his views: “I think a comprehensive approach is long overdue. And I’m confident that the president, myself, others can find the common ground.” As recently as last September, Speaker Boehner told Hugh Hewitt that he was trying to “create an environment where you could do immigration reform in a responsible way next year.” It’s taken years of dedicated opposition by conservatives to prevent the Speaker’s push for amnesty from coming to fruition.

If you want to increase the income of the bottom 20% of current US citizens, the most important public policy is a decrease in unskilled immigration, both legal and illegal.

Facebooktwitter