Currently browsing the archives for December 2015

ShotSpotter

Interesting new research (pdf) from Jennifer Doleac ’03.

Criminal activity is often selectively underreported, which can make it difficult to understand public safety problems and devise effective policy strategies to address them. However, new surveillance technologies are facilitating the collection of more accurate data on crime. In this paper, we describe data on gunfire incidents, recorded using a tool called ShotSpotter.

Read the whole thing.

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Ephs For Trump?!

trump

EphBlog is always available to answer questions from eminent alumni like Arthur Levitt ’52.

Answer: Because you live in a bubble filled with rich, privileged, elitist liberals. Comments:

1) Who is the most prominent Eph supporter of Trump? I have trouble naming a single person. Help us out readers! It could be that I (David Dudley Field ‘1824) am the most prominent. I am still hopeful that a member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, Eph Division, will sign up for the Trump campaign. How about Mike Needham ’04, Oren Cass ’05 or James Hitchcock ’15?

2) The fact that no one (?) on the Williams faculty thinks that Trump could possibly become President is a sign of intellectual group think.

3) The fact that no one (?) on the faculty will vote for Trump is an indicator of the lack of ideological diversity at Williams.

4) There are probably many Trump supporters among the white working class of Williams employees. The Record ought to interview them.

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Pony

pony

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McLean ’92 on Martin Shkreli

Fun Vanity Fair article by EphBlog favorite Bethany McLean ’92 on Martin Shkreli.

“I don’t mean to be presumptuous, but I liken myself to the robber barons.” So says Martin Shkreli, the 32-year-old hedge-fund manager turned pharmaceutical-company C.E.O., who achieved instantaneous notoriety last fall when he acquired the U.S. rights to a lifesaving drug and promptly boosted its price over 5,000 percent, from $13.50 a tablet to $750. The tsunami of rage (the BBC asked if Shkreli was “the most hated man in America”) only got worse when Shkreli said he would lower the price—and then didn’t. An anonymous user on the Web site Reddit summed up the sentiment bluntly: “Just fucking die will you?”

“The attempt to public shame is interesting,” says Shkreli. “Because everything we’ve done is legal. [Standard Oil tycoon John D.] Rockefeller made no attempt to apologize as long as what he was doing was legal.” In fact, Shkreli says, he wishes he had raised the price higher. “My investors expect me to maximize profits,” he said in an interview in early December at the Forbes Healthcare Summit, after which Forbes contributor Dan Diamond summed up Shkreli as “fascinating, horrifying, and utterly compelling.”

Read the whole thing.

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An Eph Christmas Poem

American poet and journalist Eugene Field was a non-graduating Eph of the class of 1872. According to Leverett Wilson Spring’s A History of Williams College, President Hopkins is said to have ordered his withdrawal from the College because “he gave little attention to his proper duties” and “much disturbed the orderly life of Williamstown.”

According to Slason Thompson’s 1901 biography of Field, he frequently — but erroneously — referred to Christmas Treasures as his first poem:

I count my treasures o’er with care, —
The little toy my darling knew,
A little sock of faded hue,
A little lock of golden hair.

Long years ago this holy time,
My little one — my all to me —
Sat robed in white upon my knee,
And heard the merry Christmas chime.

Tell me, my little golden-head,
If Santa Claus should come to-night,
What shall he bring my baby bright, —
What treasure for my boy?
I said.

And then he named this little toy,
While in his round and mournful eyes
There came a look of sweet surprise,
That spake his quiet, trustful joy.

And as he lisped his evening prayer
He asked the boon with childish grace;
Then, toddling to the chimney-place,
He hung this little stocking there.

That night, while lengthening shadows crept.
I saw the white-winged angels come
With singing to our lowly home
And kiss my darling as he slept.

They must have heard his little prayer,
For in the morn, with rapturous face,
He toddled to the chimney-place,
And found this little treasure there.

They came again one Christmas-tide, —
That angel host, so fair and white;
And, singing all that glorious night,
They lured my darling from my side.

A little sock, a little toy,
A little lock of golden hair,
The Christmas music on the air,
A watching for my baby boy!

But if again that angel train
And golden-head come back for me,
To bear me to Eternity,
My watching will not be in vain.

Merry Christmas to all, and Happy Holidays!

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First Church and Williamstown: 250 Years Together

Williamstown Historical Museum Presents First Church & Williamstown 250 Years Together with Moira Jones from WilliNet.

Hat-tip to our friends at the Williams Twitter feed.

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Ask Bill Moomaw ’59 Anything

Bill Moomaw ’59 participated in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” about the recent Paris climate agreement. One part seems unreasonable:

At one time or another, most of us who work on studying addressing and climate change have received derogatory or threatening emails, letters, or calls. One colleague of mine received not only death threats but threats against her children:

Her crime was trying to demonstrate to her faith-based community, to which she is deeply committed, the compatibility of climate science and their religious beliefs. In Australia it was even worse. In recent years, they had to post guards around academic office buildings of people working on climate change. I assume, or would like to hope, that these extreme statements are limited to a relatively small number of people.

Is there a bigger waste of money than guards for climate scientists? Has any climate scientist ever been physically attacked? Citations welcome, but I doubt it.

There are people who have a legitimate fear of attack from strangers: A Jew walking in the wrong neighborhood in Malmo, a Mohammad-drawing cartoonist in Denmark, and so on. Climate scientists in Australia don’t need guards. Does Moomaw really think this is a wise use of limited resources?

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Benefits of Intellectual Open-Mindedness

Zach Wood ’18, co-President of Uncomfortable Learning, on the benefits of intellectual open-mindedness.

I think many teachers can do more to help their students potentially reap these benefits. In many classes in the social sciences and humanities, even the best professors will tell students their personal understanding of a particular thinker, issue, or event. Personally, I do not think that professors should necessarily self-censor, be apolitical, or refrain from expressing their opinions. However, I do think that students would learn more if professors put more effort into presenting multiple perspectives on topics of discussion.

For example, if the issue being discussed in a political science course is affirmative action, I think students would benefit from having their professor present and explain arguments on all sides of the issue, not just for and against, but also those perspectives in between for and against that might endorse affirmative action under a different guise or altered institutional framework. While professors should feel free to express their viewpoints, they should be mindful of the degree to which doing so can influence the thinking and understanding of their students.

Read the whole thing.

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Football Coach Search

Good overview of potential candidates for football coach from The Berkshire Eagle:

Williams College athletic director Lisa Melendy says she has an idea of what she’s looking for in a football coach.

Melendy is beginning the search to replace Aaron Kelton, who stepped down Wednesday after six seasons at the Eph helm.

“I think we’re looking for what we’re looking for in all of our Williams coaches,” she said. “Somebody who understands teaching and coaching at a small liberal arts college, who’s a teacher first.

“He’s going to put together a staff. It’s a big program, and he needs to be able to put it all together.”

Melendy said a search committee will be formed and she will lead the committee. The athletic director said it will be a “national search.”

1) One of the great perks of working for a rich institution is a lack of accountability. Will Melendy suffer a loss of pay or prestige or perks for hiring Kelton? Of course not! Will anyone doubt that, maybe, Williams should have preened less about hiring the first African-American NESCAC football coach and investigate more whether or not Kelton was competent? Probably not. Hiring incompetent minorities (Bernard Moore, Aaron Kelton) is never a problem because Diversity is our godhead.

2) That said, perhaps Melendy deserves credit for letting Kelton go. Was there some pressure on her to keep him? I had heard a rumor, from a former player, just a few weeks ago that his contract had been extended for one year. True?

3) For all the doubts that EphBlog has expressed about Melendy in the past, she did a fine job in selecting the mens basketball coach Kevin App, a former Williams assistant with a wife from the area. Williams should always hire coaches with strong Williams ties, people for whom the College is a dream destination, not a stepping stone.

The Eagle provides a good overview of such candidates below. Who would our readers favor?

Read more

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Star Wars Week: Episode 5

And here’s the final Episode of EphBlog’s Star Wars Week as pop culture stops in anticipation of the release of Episode VII. But who are we kidding? If you’re interested in these posts, you’re probably at the theater right now!

Steven Miller isn’t the only Star Wars fan lurking around the Williams Science Quad. Perhaps not surprisingly, game developer and computer graphics designer Morgan McGuire is one as well. According to a tipster, McGuire regularly cites to Star Wars films in class, “likes” Star Wars media online, and even uses examples in his coursework. Thus, students in McGuire’s CSCI 374, Computational Graphics, learned about how George Lucas drew upon World War II dogfight footage as the baseline from which outer-space fighter scenes were scripted and created.

And back in his student days, McGuire wrote about the computer graphics techniques employed in Episode II, based on a graphics conference presentation:

One of the highlights of Star Wars Episode II was the “Yoda fight” where the 800 year old little green Jedi trades in his cane for a light saber and takes on the villainous Count Dooku. A team from ILM: Dawn Yamada, Rob Coleman, Geoff Campbell, Zoran Kacic-Alesic, Sebastian Marino, and James Tooley, presented a behind-the-scenes look at the techniques used to animate and render the Yoda fight. When George Lucas revealed the script to the team just two days before shooting began, they were horrified. At the time, the team was still reviled by Star Wars fans for bringing the unpopular animated character Jar Jar Binks to life in Star Wars Episode I. Now they were expected to take Yoda, the sagacious fan favorite, and turn him into what George Lucas himself described as a combination of “an evil little frog jumping around… the Tasmanian devil… and something we’ve never seen before.” The scene obviously required a computer generated model because no puppet could perform such a sword fight. Their challenge was to somehow make the completely CG Yoda as loveable as the puppet while having his spry fighting style still seem reasonable.

They began by creating a super-realistic animated model of Yoda based on footage from Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back. This model is so detailed that its eyes dilate when it blinks and it models physical ear-wiggling and face squishing properties of the original Yoda model. Interestingly, puppeteer Frank Oz disliked the foam-rubber character of the original model and wanted the animators to use a more natural skin model, but Lucas insisted on matching the original, endearing flaws and all. To develop a fighting style for master swordsman Yoda, the animators watched Hong Kong martial arts movies both old and new. Clips from these movies were incorporated directly into the animatics—early moving storyboards of test renders and footage from other movies used to preview how a scene will look. The SIGGRAPH audience had the rare treat of seeing these animatics, which will never be released to the public. The Yoda fight animatic was a sci-fi fan’s ultimate dream: the ILM team took Michelle Yeoh’s Yu Shu Lien character from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and inserted her into the Yoda fight scene in place of the Jedi. In the animatic, a scaled down Michelle Yeoh crossed swords and battled Count Dooku using the exact moves and motions that Yoda does in the final movie.

Also earning shout-outs before Star Wars week wraps up:

Biology lecturer Derek Dean (favorite soundtrack: The Empire Strikes Back)

History Professor Karen Merrill, in whose tenure the Savvy Spender’s Guide to Williams was published, featuring wisdom from Yoda himself.

And then there’s Fred Wiseman ’51, the great documentary filmmaker. As the Boston Globe described him a few years ago:

Frederick Wiseman looks rather like Yoda. He’s a small man whose ears stick out and whose face narrows as it descends from a vast forehead. His skin is wrinkled and his eyes, like Yoda’s, have seen it all.

His dwindling hair can flare, in the tradition of Einstein and David Ben-Gurion. His clothes are an afterthought — a red shirt under a blue sweater, rumpled gray khakis, and comfortable slip-ons. The man has other priorities.

Is that true? You be the judge:

Photo by Suzanna Kreiter, in the Boston Globe

Photo by Suzanna Kreiter, in the Boston Globe

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Aaron Kelton Goes

Football Coach Aaron Kelton is leaving.

Aaron Kelton has always said football is tough. But nothing was as tough as when Kelton stood before the Williams College football team members to tell them he would not be returning as head coach.

Kelton and the college announced Wednesday that the would not be returning to coach at Williams, in order to pursue other opportunities.

“We care about each other in that room, so it was really hard,” Kelton said in a phone interview Wednesday night. “Certainly it was different for them, because for the first time, they won’t know who’s going to be out in front of the program. These are kids that were recruited by me and the rest of the staff, and we spent a lot of time together.

Rest of article below the break. Commentary later.

Read more

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Star Wars Week: Episode 4

For our fourth installment of Star Wars Week at EphBlog, we look at some of the expertise and opportunities at Williams to study, well, not Star Wars, but its influences.

Williams is well-supplied not only with expertise in Star Wars matters, but in the influences that helped shape Star Wars as well.

If you’re a Star Wars fan, you probably know that R2-D2 and C-3PO owe their existence and role in the story to Akira Kurosawa’s film The Hidden Fortress. And for those with an interest in Kurosawa, Professor of Comparative and Japanese Literature Christopher Bolton teaches COMP/JAPN 153: Japanese Film, which was offered to Williams students this fall. (A 200-level version of this class has been offered previously). Or, for students on campus for Winter Study, Robert Kent ’84 has taught a series of Winter Study classes based on Aikido. Some of these courses, such as 2013’s PSCI 16, Aikido & The Art of Persuasive Political Speech, have featured a Kurosawa component. And in the not-too-distant past (most recently, Spring 2011?), English Professor Lynda Buntzen taught ENGL 404, Auteur Cinema and the Very Long Film. One presumes that the film viewing took place outside of class! And then there’s John Sayles ’72, who was, in part, set on the course to his storied directorial career under the guidance of English Professor Charles T. Samuels. Professor Samuels reportedly introduced Sayles to international film, including Kurosawa.

Another great influence on George Lucas was The Searchers, the underpinning of Luke’s journey in Star Wars. This film was centrally featured in the Spring of 2015 in Professor Mark Reinhardt’s syllabus for American Studies 201: Becoming and Unbecoming Americans: An Introduction to American Studies. The film kicked off one of the course’s three units: “Cartographies of Citizenship,” serving as an appropriate gateway to, among other things, Frederick Jackson Turner, Plessy v. Ferguson, and Kanye West. Relatedly, before entering journalism and then embarking on a series of perhaps-fictional adventures around the globe, Adam Bloch ’06 authored an honors thesis on Revisionist Westerns and U.S. History, under the guidance of Karen Merrill, in which he analyzed The Searchers (and other great, revisionist Westerns) with remarkable insight. And director John Ford’s work is featured as an influence in ARTS 315, Realisms.

Finally, in building the mythological structure of the Star Wars universe, Lucas drew heavily on the work of Joseph Campbell, the American mythologist. Evans Lansing Smith ’73, chair of the Mythological Studies department at Pacifica Graduate Institute, is one of the preeminent scholarly experts in Campbell, and editor of the recent Campbell collection Romance of the Grail. Another Eph who has written about Campbell is Samira Martinhago Custodia ’13, whose honors thesis, Dystopia Dreaming: Examining Gender and Heroines in Young Adult Dystopian Literature, places its analysis in the context of Campbell’s hero and myth archetypes.

Addendum: It’s well-known that Lawrence of Arabia was also a major influence on Star Wars (all that sand!), but I don’t have anything to write about from an Eph perspective. If anyone has any ideas, let me know in the comments!

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Star Wars Week: Answers to Episode 3

As we covered in Episode 3 of EphBlog’s Star Wars Week, questions from the Star Wars universe have featured heavily in Williams Trivia matchups over the years. Here are the answers to yesterday’s highlighted questions:


Question: Luke Skywalker did a dip in this healing substance in The Empire Strikes Back. A war for control of the production of this substance was a major part of the struggle between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire. What is it?
Answer: Bacta.


Question: When Ben saw side-by-side footprints, how did he know the tracks were NOT made by sandpeople?
Answer: Sandpeople always travel single file to conceal their numbers.


Question: This particular military unit in the Star Wars expanded universe played an integral part in the fall of the Imperial capital Coruscant. It also features in its own video games.
Answer: Rogue Squadron.


Question: Near the beginning of Star Wars, Luke is seen playing with a model. What is it a model of?
Answer: A T-16 Skyhopper.


How well do you know your dialogue? Either give the response or describe the situation for the following quotes:

Han: “I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” and “I have a really bad feeling about this.” (situations)
Answer 1: In the original, Star Wars movie, as the walls of the trash compactor are about to close in
Answer 2: In Return of the Jedi, as the Ewoks prepare to roast him over an open flame.

Situation: Luke and Han shooting at fighters from the Falcon. Luke makes his first hit and is jubilant. Give Han’s response.
Answer: “Great, Kid. Don’t Get Cocky!”

Han: “Never tell me the odds.” (situation)
Answer: In The Empire Strikes Back, chased by TIE fighters into an asteroid field, C-3PO tells him “Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1.”

Han: “I’m out of it for a little while, and everyone gets delusions of grandeur.” (what news prompted this response?)

Answer: Return of the Jedi, after being informed that Luke is now a Jedi Knight.

Situation: “Jedi.” Awaiting clearance by Death Star to proceed to moon of Endor. Han: “Keep your distance, Chewie, but don’t look like you’re trying to keep your distance.” Chewie (one assumes) asks how to do this. Give Han’s response.
Answer: “I don’t know. Fly casual.”

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Star Wars Week: Episode 3

Links to Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

youlovetrivia

Trivia time! Anyone who has played Williams Trivia knows that Star Wars questions often feature heavily. Here’s a quick helping of past questions (answers will follow tomorrow).


Luke Skywalker did a dip in this healing substance in The Empire Strikes Back. A war for control of the production of this substance was a major part of the struggle between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire. What is it?


When Ben saw side-by-side footprints, how did he know the tracks were NOT made by sandpeople?


This particular military unit in the Star Wars expanded universe played an integral part in the fall of the Imperial capital Coruscant. It also features in its own video games.


Near the beginning of Star Wars, Luke is seen playing with a model. What is it a model of?


How well do you know your dialogue? Either give the response or describe the situation for the following quotes:

Han: “I have a bad feeling about this,” and “I have a really bad feeling about this.” (situations)

Situation: Luke and Han shooting at fighters from the Falcon. Luke makes his first hit and is jubilant. Give Han’s response.

Han: “Never tell me the odds.” (situation)

Han: “I’m out of it for a little while, and everyone gets delusions of grandeur.” (what news prompted this response?)

Situation: “Jedi.” Awaiting clearance by Death Star to proceed to moon of Endor. Han: “Keep your distance, Chewie, but don’t look like you’re trying to keep your distance.” Chewie (one assumes) asks how to do this. Give Han’s response.


Video bonus: The submissions in response to the following January, 2014 Trivia question: Now that Disney owns the Star Wars franchise, we’d like you to act out a possible plot summary for the next Star Wars film, using only characters from other non-Star Wars related Disney properties.

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Star Wars Week: Episode 2

Part 1 of the series here.

Headley

“Star Wars” takes place “a long time ago in a galaxy far away,” but is produced by Hollywood in the here and now. Who is the most prominent Eph connected to Star Wars? Likely Jonathan Headley ’89, recently named as Treasurer of the Walt Disney Company, which purchased LucasFilm and the associated Star Wars properties back in 2012. In contrast to the press release linked above, Ephs might appreciate the unofficial take of fanblogger John Frost, however:

In his new role, Headley will be responsible for picking up Bob Iger’s laundry, walking Pluto twice a day, replacing Oxford commas, and repairing holes in the Storybook Circus tents at Walt Disney World.

As a freshman at Williams, Headley’s entry was Williams D (just before asbestos removal, and midway between the 1970s and 1990s renovations), along with future IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman ’89. Here’s Headley’s freshman facebook photo:

Headley Freshman Facebook

 

 

While at Williams, Headley double-majored in Computer Science and Economics — the perfect preview for his future career at Disney (and where he no doubt rubbed shoulders with many other Force-heads).  Outside of class, he was a part of one of Williams’ notable Men’s crew teams, spending many hours commuting to and from Lake Onota. As a senior, racing in this boat at the Head of the Charles, Headley was involved in a long-remembered collision at the Weeks Footbridge:

Williams College Club Eight Entry, Head of the Charles Regatta, 1989, via Sport Graphics

Williams College Club Eight Entry, Head of the Charles Regatta, 1989, via Sport Graphics

I know Headley was back at Williams as recently as last year for reunion, his 25th. If “Episode VII” is the success that Disney hopes, perhaps he’ll be stepping off the shuttle at his next visit with a flourish of trumpets and his own Star Wars theme playing in the background.

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Star Wars Week: Episode 1

Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in theaters on Friday and is rapidly consuming the cultural oxygen. EphBlog is not a Force-free zone, and so we’re featuring a series of Williams College/Star Wars crossover posts.

Let’s start with EphBlog contributor and Associate Professor of Mathematics Steven Miller. As part of the Winter Study course Mathematics of Legos, Prof. Miller has spearheaded the world-record construction of a Lego model of a Super Star Destroyer, bringing the record into Eph hands last January:

A team of 59 Williams College math students and about 10 Williamstown Elementary School students managed to assemble a 3,152-piece LEGO Star Wars model — the Super Star Destroyer — in 9 minutes and 31 seconds…

It was compressed pandemonium. In the center of each table there seemed to be a spinning tumbleweed of a dozen hands slapping small plastic bricks together again and again.

After 9 minutes, 31 seconds, the universe’s most dangerous Imperial battle cruiser was intact and ready for flight.

Williams College freshman Kent Blaeser, of Boxford, said he heard about last year’s attempt before he had even applied to Williams, and it helped attract him to the school.

“It’s a college where they do cool stuff and projects like this are a prime example,” he said. “I’m glad I go to be part of this, and that we got to break the record this year.”

“And who doesn’t want to break a world record,” added Williams freshman Jack Lee, of Larchmont, N.Y.

Assembly of the Super Star Destroyer.  Credit: Record Photo Editor Christian Ruhl.

Assembly of the Super Star Destroyer. Credit: Record Photo Editor Christian Ruhl.

Prof. Miller’s Mathematics of Legos page also features this X-Wing, that he describes as having been built “from the bucket of LEGO bricks I saved from my childhood.”

X Wing

Prof. Miller’s course highlights the wonderful nature of Winter Study. It’s true that a full semester mathematics course on combinatorics could incorporate a Star Wars themed speed-build project, but that would be an unlikely main goal. And a full semester course couldn’t use the lure of Lego construction as effectively to engage students from outside the Mathematics and Statistics department — something that can be done during Winter Study.

As Prof. Miller explained:

The Winter Study class “is a chance to reach a different audience and teach students something they might not have thought of earlier,” says Miller, who runs a popular math riddle website (mathriddles.williams.edu) and works with the SMALL Undergraduate Research Project, a nine-week summer program at Williams that brings together undergraduates from around the globe to investigate open research problems in mathematics. “I want students to be exposed to some types of thinking that are not on their radar screens. Some things, in the real world, nobody would do the way they’re taught in books.”

But back to Star Wars. Just how big is that “real-world” Super Star Destroyer that they built the model of?
People obsessed with Star Wars put a lot of time into questions exactly like that. One good estimate is from a blogger at StarWars.com, which pegs it at about 13.5km in length. So if you set the nose down on the Williams Inn, facing west, and laid the Super Star Destroyer more or less along Route 2, the tail would be about 1000 meters past the Hairpin Turn, overlooking North Adams.

Anyone have some Photoshop skills to illustrate that?

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MinCo Replies to Falk III

The Minority Coaltion has responded to President Falk’s e-mail about The Merrill Committee that is charged with examining problematic decorations/monuments/images at Williams. Let’s spend three days mocking this madness. Today is Day 3.

President Falk responded in the Record. Worst part:

How can we be the inclusive, welcoming place we want to be – and increasingly are – if the images and stories that surround our students, faculty and staff are largely from a time when so many of them wouldn’t have been welcome here?

I dislike the trope of “Williams was an evil nasty place until me and my friends showed up.” Is that really true? My importantly, will Ephs 50 years from now judge the Williams of 2015 as more welcoming than the Williams of 1985 or 1955 or 1925? I have my doubts. Read “Black Williams: A Written History.” Some students (and faculty?) feel disaffected from Williams today. The same has always been true. The same will always be true.

Most interesting part:

Here’s what I imagine to be a logical set of outcomes: The committee may determine that some historical representations on campus ought to be left as they are, that some ought to be removed or altered or that some ought to be added to, perhaps with historical context or commentary.

Where can we find a list of “historical representations” that the Merrill Committee is likely to consider? In all honesty, other than the painting at The Log, I have trouble coming up with anything even remotely controversial. Ideas from our readers?

Best part:

At Williams, committees are often the places where ideas are born and where decisions are made. It was the alumni-and-student Angevine Committee appointed by President Jack Sawyer that spent a year considering fraternities and in 1962 came to the conclusion that they needed to go. And it was the Committee on Coordinate Education that recommended enrolling women, a recommendation adopted by the Board of Trustees in 1969.

Exactly right, and exactly what EphBlog told you yesterday. EphBlog and Adam Falk, in agreement once again! However:

1) The Committee on Coordinate Education is a lousy example because it was never going to decide anything other than to admit women. Every elite school did the same. Any elite school that didn’t would have become unpopular.

2) The Angevine Committee is a great example (read the details on Wikipedia) because eliminating fraternities was a radical choice that most peer schools refused to do. That was real change.

3) Another good recent example is the MacDonald Report which led to a significant decline in the admissions preferences given to athletes.

4) Anchor Housing (the Dudley Committee?) is an example of major change coming out of the committee system. Alas, it was a total failure, as EphBlog predicted.

Big picture: Falk is correct to claim that change comes via committee. MinCo is foolish to pass on this opportunity to put its fellow travelers in positions of (some) power. Getting a seat at the table is the first step in social change at Williams.

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MinCo Replies to Falk II

The Minority Coaltion has responded to President Falk’s e-mail about The Merrill Committee that is charged with examining problematic decorations/monuments/images at Williams. Let’s spend three days mocking this madness. Today is Day 2.

In a recent email to the all-student listserv, President Falk indicated our capacity as co-chairs of the Minority Coalition (MinCo), to recommend three students for an ad hoc committee formed to address the “historical representations on campus.” After much reflection, discussion, and feedback from others, we have decided to directly address you, the student body, to inform you that we refuse this task as MinCo co-chairs to recommend a student to the Committee to Consider Historical Representation on Campus. We refuse to be complicit in the bureaucratic erasure it will inevitably perpetuate.

Williams professors should bow their heads in shame that actual Williams students would write such incoherent prose. Or would some of our readers like to defend “indicated our capacity” or “have decided to directly address you, the student body, to inform you” as good examples of the King’s English?

Here is the editing that Professor Steve Fix might suggest.

In a recent email to the all-student listserv, President Falk wants indicated our capacity as co-chairs of the Minority Coalition (MinCo), to recommend three students for an ad hoc committee formed to address the “historical representations on campus.” After much reflection, discussion, and feedback from others, we have decided to directly address you, the student body, to inform you that we refuse this task as MinCo co-chairs to recommend a student to the Committee to Consider Historical Representation on Campus. We refuse to be complicit in the bureaucratic erasure it will inevitably perpetuate.

Why write 93 words when 26 will do? But let’s leave aside the weak writing and move on to the suspect reasoning.

By restricting this conversations this committee will have to a select few faculty, administrators, and 3 student members who will serve on this committee, we risk allowing this critical moment to be usurped by the throes of bureaucracy

Arrghh! The writing is so bad! I can barely see the substance. I think (hope!) that “conversations” should be singular. Couldn’t the author proofread an all-campus e-mail? Is this some sort of pomo nonsense of which I am sadly unaware?

Anyway, bureaucracy is how bureaucracies change. Don’t these students know the history of Williams. Virtually every major change has involved a committee of some sort. Now, of course, not every committee results in change and there are some (very isolated) examples of change outside the committee structure. But, if you really want to change things like murals at The Log, then the Merrill Committee is a perfect place to start. Get some fighters on the committee and you have a chance. Unless you think that some students are so committed to the sacred cause of Non Problematic Murals that they are willing to take over buildings or go on hunger strikes, a committee is your only hope.

[W]e know that Professor Doug Kiel, the only Native American Studies professor who particularly teaches native Native American studies, was not consulted about the formation of this Committee; nor was the American Studies department, which is a body of diverse expertise surrounding the American legacies of (mis)representing colonial histories.

There may be a fair point here. Smart presidents consult far and wide before they create committees, precisely to avoid these sorts of process complaints. Once Falk decided there was going to be a committee, he should have had Keli Gail talk to any faculty member even tangentially connected to the issue. Maybe Falk entrusted the matter to Karen Merrill and she messed up? More likely, I suspect, is that these students are clueless.

At this point, the President’s Office has failed to demonstrate adequate due-diligence to include necessary, relevant, and expert voices on this committee.

This is evidence of cluelessness. Unless the students know, for a fact, that Kiel (or someone like him) would serve on the committee if asked, they have no business wordily complaining about a lack of “necessary, relevant, and expert voices.” Who would they suggest?

kielI suspect that there is some backstory here. Karen Merrill is smart! She knew that part of this discussion would center around Native American issues. She knew that Kiel was one (perhaps the only?) member of the Williams faculty with a relevant background. She is in Kiel’s department! Why wouldn’t she ask him?

Perhaps she was doing him a favor. Kiel is untenured! He should be spending every spare minute writing. Committee service is limited upside and unlimited downside. There could also be other stuff going on. Is Kiel going on leave? Has his appointment been renewed? And so on.

By the way, here is Kiel’s Linked In page and Twitter. Is he Native American? Does he look Native American to you? Is his ancestry — as opposed to his knowledge — relevant to whether or not he should serve on the committee? Excellent questions all!

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A Deafening Silence

Since war came to the West on September 11, 2001, only a handful of Ephs have read these words. Are you among them?

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My Home Is in the Valley Amid the Hills

Each morning I watch the sunlight drifting down through the pines, scattering the clouds from the mountain sides, driving the mists from the glens.

Each night I see the purple lights as they creep up the slopes of the Dome and the shadows as they fall on wood and stream.

My home is among young men — young men who dream dreams and see visions; young men who will carry my banner out into the world and make the world better because they have lived with me in my valley amid the hills.

Among my sons who have left me, some have caught the poet’s fire, and their words have touched men’s hearts and have bought cheer to a weary world.

And some, in answer to the call of country, have gone out to battle for the common rights of men against the enemy. Some of them will not return to me, for they have given all they had, and now they rest at the foot of a simple cross or lie deep below the waves. But even as they passed, the music of the chimes was in their ears and before their eyes were visions of the quiet walks beneath the elms

Whether apart in solitude or pressing along the crowded highways, all these who have breathed my spirit and touched my hand have played their parts for the better, for

I am ALMA MATER:
I am WILLIAMS.

This 1926 eulogy, written by Professor of Rhetoric Carroll Lewis Maxey, comes from page 136 of Williams College in the World War, a beautifully arranged remembrance of those Ephs who served in freedom’s cause during the Great War. To Williams students today, World War I is as far away as the War of 1812 was to the generation that Professor Maxey sought to inspire. What will the great-grandchildren of today’s Ephs think of us? What will they remember and what will they forget?

1st Lt Nate Krissoff ’03, USMC died nine years ago today. For the first year after his death, we maintained a link at the upper right to our collection of related posts, as sad and inspiring as anything you will ever read at EphBlog. Yet that link came down. Time leaves behind the bravest of our Williams warriors and Nate’s sacrifice now passes from News to History, joining the roll call of honored heroes back to Colonel Ephraim Williams, who died in battle during the Bloody Morning Scout on September 8, 1755.

More than 250 years have marched by from Ephraim’s death to Nate’s. But the traditions of military brotherhood and sacrifice are the same as they ever were, the same as they will ever be as long as Ephs stand willing to do violence against our enemies so that my daughters and granddaughters and great-granddaughters might sleep safely in their beds at night. Consider this moving ceremony in Iraq for Nate in the week after his death.

Before there was Taps, there was the final symbolic roll-call, unanswered. “Krissoff,” intoned Sergeant Major Kenneth Pickering.

“Lt. Krissoff.”

“1st Lt. Nathan Krissoff.”

By culture and custom, the Marine Corps is given to ritual and none so important as the farewell to comrades who have fallen in battle. And so the memorial service here for 1st Lt. Nathan Krissoff, intelligence officer for the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, was both stylized and achingly intimate.

The author, Tony Perry of the Los Angeles Times, captures perfectly the ethos of the Marine Corps. During Officer Candidate School, our Platoon Sergeant, Gunnery Sergeant Anderson, sang a haunting song of blood and sacrifice. The chorus went:

Let me tell you how I feel.
Why Marines must fight and die?

I can only remember snatches now, twenty five years later. It was a short song, repeated slowly, with emotion. For years, I have looked for the words to that plaintive melody, the eternal warrior’s lament of pain and suffering. Gunny Anderson only sang it with our platoon a handful of times, only when he felt that we were worthy of inclusion in the brotherhood of arms.

The last of those times was near the end of our training. At OCS, the fun-filled day begins with PT (physical training) at around 0500. Our entire company (200 men) is standing at attention in the humid Virginia morning. Back in July, there had been plenty of light to start exercising that early, but, by August, the later sunrise left us all waiting in darkness.

Gunny Anderson had the “duty” that morning, so he was the only member of the staff present. The others, well aware of the timing of sunrise, would be along shortly. Gunny Andersen, recognizing that graduation day was near and that he had us all to himself, led the entire company in that song, including the other platoons who had never heard it before.

And he did it in a whisper. We all stood there — having survived almost 10 weeks of brutal training, shouting our lungs out day after day — and whispered the song with him, 200 voices joined with the spirits of the Marines who had gone before us. Nate is with those spirits now. When the next Eph Marine is marching on that same parade deck during OCS, Nate will be watching him as well.

I remember the name of my platoon sergeant from 25 years ago. My father still remembers the name of his platoon sergeant from 55 years before. Let none of us forget the sacrifices of Marines like Nate and Myles Crosby Fox ’40.

Krissoff, 25, a champion swimmer and kayaker in college, was killed Dec. 9 by a roadside bomb that also injured other Marines. Hundreds of grim-faced Marines who knew Krissoff came to the Chapel of Hope, the converted Iraqi Army auditorium, for the service.

“We have a bond here, we have a family here,” said Staff Sgt. Allan Clemons, his voice breaking as he delivered a eulogy. “Nathan was part of that family.”

There were embraces, but not in the sobbing style one might see at a civilian funeral. The Marines put arms around another and slapped each others’ backs — the sound was like repeated rifle reports in the cavernous hall. Navy Cmdr. Mark Smith, a Presbyterian chaplain, said later he has seen Marines do this at other memorials. “They need to touch each other,” he said. “I’ve heard them talk about ‘hugging it out.’ But they want to do it in a manly way.”

By all accounts, Krissoff was a charismatic leader who had impressed his superiors and earned the trust of his subordinates.

War always takes the best of my Marines.

Civilians may not recognize the meaning of the first person possessive in that last sentence, may attribute its usage to my megalomania. Indeed, to avoid that confusion, my initial instinct was to write “our Marines.”

Yet that is not the way that real Marines think about our Corps. Despite defending an independent, freedom-loving country, the Marines are fundamentally socialist in outlook. Everything belongs to every individual. This is not just my rifle or my uniform, but my tank and my obstacle course. And what is mine is yours. See the bootcamp scenes from Full Metal Jacket for an introduction to an outlook as far away from Williams College as Falluja is from Williamstown.

At OCS, the worst sin is not to be slow or stupid or weak, although all these sins are real enough. The worst sin is to be selfish, to be an “individual,” to care more about what happens to you then what happens to your squad, your platoon, your battalion or your Corps. What happens to you, as an individual, is irrelevant.

When the instructors at OCS are angry with you (and they get angry with everyone), they will scream: “What are you? A freakin’ individual? Is that what you are? A freakin’ individual?”

To get the full effect of this instruction, you need to imagine it being shouted from 5 inches away by the loudest voice you have ever heard.

When they shouted it at me, I was sorely tempted to respond:

Yes! Indeed! I am an individual! Four hundred of years of Enlightenment philosophy have demonstrated that this is true. My degree in philosophy from Williams College has taught me that I, as an individual, have value, that my needs and wants are not subservient to those of the larger society, that I have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

For once, I kept my mouth shut.

In quieter moments at OCS, I recalled Rousseau’s parable of the Spartan mother from Emile.

A Spartan mother had five sons in the army and awaited news of the battle. A Helot arrived; trembling she asked his news. “Your five sons have been killed.” “Vile slave, was that what I asked you?” “We have won the victory.” She ran to the temple to give thanks to the gods. That was a citizen.

For Rousseau, there are two ways for a man to be free. First, he can live alone, cut off from humankind but self-sufficient. He needs no one. Second, a man can be a citizen and so, like the Spartan mother, unconcerned with his own, and his family’s, well-being. All that matters is the polis.

A Marine is many things, but not a freakin’ individual.

The article continues:

He grew up in Truckee, Nev., graduated from Williams College, majoring in international relations, and hoped someday to work for the Central Intelligence Agency.

Lt. Col. William Seely, the battalion commander, talked of the silence left by death of Krissoff and other Marines. “When we depart these lands, when we deploy home, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the long silence of our friends,” he said. “Nathan…your silence will be deafening.”

If there was mourning, there was also anger that, as the chaplain said, Krissoff “was taken from us by evil men.”

This is true and false. Marines do not sympathize with the insurgents whom they battle but they do empathize with them. “Clifton Chapel” by Sir Henry Newbolt describes this duality in the oath that every warrior takes.

To set the cause above renown,
To love the game beyond the prize,
To honour, while you strike him down,
The foe that comes with fearless eyes;
To count the life of battle good,
And dear the land that gave you birth,
And dearer yet the brotherhood
That binds the brave of all the earth.

Most of those responsible for Krissoff’s death are now themselves dead, killed in battle by Krissoff’s fellow Marines. Do their families remember them with tears, as we remember Nate? Or are their memories fading along with ours? Recall how the Williams honored Nate eight years ago.

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The Ephmen of Williams Swimming and Diving dedicated their 2007 championship season to Nate when they proudly wore their conference shirts emblazoned with the simple words on the back: “Semper Athlete.” (“Semper,” obviously for the Marines, and “Athlete,” one of his favorite terms for any of his teammates.) Nate would be proud of “his boys”: each of the 24 Williams conference team members had a hand in dominating the NESCAC competition.

Yet how quickly these honors pass. I asked a swim team member last year about Nate and he sadly (and unsurprisingly?) had no idea what I was talking about. Wouldn’t it be nice if Coaches Kuster and Dow reminded the team of those Ephs who have gone before? If Nate’s coach won’t speak of his spirit and sacrifice at Williams, then who will?

Back to the Tony Perry’s article:

Among the readings and quotations was the classic from World War I, “In Flanders Fields.” The poem challenges the living to continue the fight and not break faith with the dead: “Take up our quarrel with the foe/To you from failing hands we throw/The torch: be yours to hold it high….”

I did not know, when I first wrote of Nate’s death, that his fellow Marines would also be using “In Flanders Fields” as a way of memorializing his sacrifice. Who will take up the torch thrown by Nate? Are there any Williams students heading to OCS this coming summer? Are there no warriors left among the Ephs?

Williams College in the World War opens with a call for remembrance.

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The text, by Solomon Bulkley Griffin, class of 1872, begins:

The wave of full-hearted devotion that rose in the World War has receded from its crest, as must have been in times more normal. But never will there be forgetfulness of it. Memory of the glory that wave bore aloft is the priceless possession of all the colleges.

The service of Williams men enshrined in this volume is of abiding import. By it the past was made glorious, as the future will be shadowed while it is illumined. Natural it was to go forward when God quickened the souls of men to serve the need of the world, and so they held themselves fortunate.

Indeed. Yet are Griffin’s assurances that we have nothing to fear from “forgetfulness” correct? I worry, and not just because of the contempt with which faculty members like Mark Taylor treat the US military. Consider the College’s official description of the most prestigious prize at Williams, the only award presented on graduation day.

WILLIAM BRADFORD TURNER CITIZENSHIP PRIZE. From a fund established in memory of William Bradford Turner, 1914, who was killed in action in France in September, 1918, a cash prize is awarded to the member of the graduating class who, in the judgment of the faculty and of the graduating class, has best fulfilled her or his obligations to the College, to fellow students, and to self. The committee of award, appointed by the President of the College, is composed jointly of faculty members and members of the graduating class.

Was Williams Bradford Turner ’14 just a soldier who was “killed in action in France?” Does this description do justice to Turner or is it an example of the “forgetfulness” that Griffin thought unlikely? Consider:

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He led a small group of men to the attack, under terrific artillery and machinegun fire, after they had become separated from the rest of the company in the darkness. Single-handed he rushed an enemy machinegun which had suddenly opened fire on his group and killed the crew with his pistol. He then pressed forward to another machinegun post 25 yards away and had killed 1 gunner himself by the time the remainder of his detachment arrived and put the gun out of action. With the utmost bravery he continued to lead his men over 3 lines of hostile trenches, cleaning up each one as they advanced, regardless of the fact that he had been wounded 3 times, and killed several of the enemy in hand-to-hand encounters. After his pistol ammunition was exhausted, this gallant officer seized the rifle of a dead soldier, bayoneted several members of a machinegun crew, and shot the other. Upon reaching the fourth-line trench, which was his objective, 1st Lt. Turner captured it with the 9 men remaining in his group and resisted a hostile counterattack until he was finally surrounded and killed.

The most important prize awarded by Williams College is named in honor of a winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, and virtually no one at Williams knows it. If Williams today does not remember that 1st Lt William Bradford Turner ’14 won the Congressional Medal of Honor, then who will remember 1st Lt Nathanial Krissoff ’03 one hundred years from now?

Both died for us, for ALMA MATER, for Williams and the West.

Krissoff’s brothers bade him farewell in Anbar just nine years ago.

When the roll-call and Taps were finished, the Marines came single-file to the altar to kneel in front of an inverted rifle with a helmet placed on the buttstock. Each was alone in his grief.

As are we all.

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MinCo Replies to Falk I

The Minority Coaltion has responded to President Falk’s e-mail about The Merrill Committee that is charged with examining problematic decorations/monuments/images at Williams. Let’s spend three days mocking this madness. Today is Day 1.

1) Entire Min Co e-mail is below the break. Enjoy!

2) The new committee is not officially named the Merrill Committee yet, but the College does have a history of eventually naming committees/reports after the chair.

3) How is it that MinCo is able to send an e-mail to all Williams students? I don’t think that many/any other student organizations have that right, at least outside of very non-partisan notices about vacancies and what not. I think Falk is making a mistake to give MinCo such a loud megaphone. Of course, they can and should say whatever they want to (just like Uncomfortable Learning) but the College is under no affirmative obligation to give them privileged access to the all-student e-mail list.

4) The letter mentions that on “Sunday, December 6, our administration will hold a community forum focused on the topic of institutional diversity and equity.” Did anyone attend? What happened?

5) The letter mentions the “Committee on Historical Representation.” Is this the official terminology? I much prefer the “Merrill Committee.”

More deconstruction on Thursday . . . Full e-mail below.

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Log Painting

From Adam Falk:

To the Williams Community,

Built over a period of more than two centuries, the Williams campus is a collection of structures old and new. We are fortunate to have been bequeathed such a remarkably diverse set of facilities, and in our commitment to sustainability we renovate and reuse old buildings as often as we reasonably can.

The students are diverse . . . the faculty is diverse . . . even the buildings are diverse! Diversity is every modern college’s godhead. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

But it is also true that as many campus buildings were constructed in eras quite different from our own, at times they were decorated in ways that seem problematic in a modern context. The same is true of some of the monuments that are found on our campus. How do such forms of decoration, conceived in an earlier time, affect our capacity to be a fully inclusive community in this century? And what should be done about historical images that portray Williams as less welcoming than we are or aspire to be?

Why raise this topic now? Why send out this e-mail? Perplexing. I have seen zero discussion on campus about “problematic” monuments. Has anyone else?

The most famous example that I can think of is/was the swastika on the side of Weston.

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Previous discussion here and here. I had heard that this had been sandblasted away last year. True? Who made that decisions and why did they make it?

Back to Falk:

I would like our community to consider these questions—which go beyond any one object—in a thoughtful and comprehensive way. With that purpose in mind, I’m assembling a special committee of students, faculty, staff, and alumni to bring forward recommendations of a nature both general (what principles should guide us?) and specific (what should we do about a particular piece that’s of concern?).

EphBlog is here to help! What is a list of problematic objects/monuments/images that the committee should consider? Needless to say, a lot of the books in the library will need to go . . .

My thanks go to Karen Merrill, chair of the history department and former dean of the college, who will lead the committee. Additional members will include:

Joe Cruz ’91, professor of philosophy
Katarzyna Pieprzak, professor and chair of Romance languages
David L. Smith, professor of English
Keli Gail, secretary of the college
Ferentz Lafargue, director of the Davis Center
Kevin Murphy, curator of American art, WCMA
Rick Spalding, chaplain to the college
Leila Jere ’91, president of the Society of Alumni

Smart presidents know the answer that they want ahead of time and select the committee accordingly. What answer does Falk want?

The committee will also include three students, whom I will name in consultation with College Council and the Minority Coalition. The committee will begin its work in the new calendar year, at which time it will outline the process for engaging the wider community about these questions.

This was a stupid decision when Falk made it, as later events proved clear. (Discussion coming tomorrow.) Why privilege the Minority Coalition? They don’t have a reputation for sober discussion and reasonable decision-making. Much better is to, ahead of time, pick students for the committee. Needless to say, the three would be racial diverse, with at least one African American member. But Falk hardly needs Min Co to accomplish that. Any member of the committee would be happy to suggest a dozen names, all of whom would be honored to be asked.

Finally, I should note that one item is of particular concern, a mural in the Black Room of the recently renovated Log depicting Mohawk Chief Hendrick, Ephraim Williams, and others before a battle. Because the mural portrays the Mohawks in a way that is potentially problematic, I have instructed that it be temporarily covered while the committee considers the larger questions with which it is charged. I expect that in the course of its work the committee will issue a recommendation regarding this particular mural. Covering it now is not intended to be a prejudgment—of any kind—of the committee’s eventual recommendation, which we anticipate in due course.

Is this the painting that Falk is talking about?

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If so, what is the problem? And, if this painting can’t be hung at The Log, then there must be a score of paintings at The Clark that will have to go . . .

I’m grateful to the committee members for undertaking this important task. We begin this work out of genuine care and concern both for the Williams we inherited and the Williams we continue to create together.

Sincerely,
Adam Falk
President

If I were Falk, I would focus the College’s energy elsewhere.

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Crane on Conservative Privilege IV

Professor Sam Crane’s Williams Alternative article on “conservative privilege” at Williams must be a parody. Right? No? He actually believes it! OK, then. Let’s spend a few days taking it apart. Today is Day 4.

At the very least, the Williams College administration should disallow the use of external alumni funds to promote the “Uncomfortable Learning” project and they should enforce all rules for student groups equally.

For students, the key policy is:

Students who wish to raise money for any campus activity by soliciting alumni, foundations, or other sources of funds must receive advance approval. Students interested in fundraising should contact the Assistant Director for Student Involvement in the Office of Student Life at least two weeks in advance. Most fundraising requires approval from the Dean’s Office, the Provost, and the Vice President for College Relations.

Questions:

1) When did this policy come into effect? Who created it?

2) Is this policy actually enforced? There are many (dozens?) of student fundraising activities, many for local charities. Does each of them really seek and receive approval? If not, then the College had better not start to apply this rule just to conservative students.

3) Does this policy apply if the students never touch the money? As it has been explained to me, the money goes directly from the pockets of alumni X to speaker Y.

4) Is this policy a good idea? Previous discussion here.

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Crane on Conservative Privilege III

Professor Sam Crane’s Williams Alternative article on “conservative privilege” at Williams must be a parody. Right? No? He actually believes it! OK, then. Let’s spend a few days taking it apart. Today is Day 3.

The group might claim that they are politically neutral but, in fact, they are being used by conservative forces nationally.

Again, Sam treats these students — some of whom are his students! — as children. He thinks that they are “being used” by the shadowing conservative bogeymen that he sees behind every purple mountain. In Sam’s world, these students have no agency. On their own, they would never think of wanting to invite a conservative speaker to campus. Of the many insulting things his article, this is the worst.

Why should a very small conservative group have privileged access to outside resources that other Williams students and faculty are denied?

Again, who is denying Professor Crane anything? Has Emperor Adam Falk issued an edit which prevents Sam from talking to alumni? Does the College monitor his phone and e-mail? No. Sam is a tenured professor at Williams College. It is still a free country. He can call anyone and ask them for money.

Now, in Sam’s defense, he might have a case that the situation for students is different than that of faculty, that students have fewer freedoms than faculty have? Perhaps. But then he ought to make that case. He ought to stop claiming that faculty can’t do these things.

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Crane on Conservative Privilege II

Professor Sam Crane’s Williams Alternative article on “conservative privilege” at Williams must be a parody. Right? No? He actually believes it! OK, then. Let’s spend a few days taking it apart. Today is Day 2.

This whole affair has been driven by a group, one that involves Williams students but is not a formal Williams student organization, that has privileged access to tens of thousands of dollars from conservative alumni, allowing them to transgress established college fund-raising rules that all other students and faculty must follow.

1) “[O]ne that involves Williams students but is not a formal Williams student organization” Hmmm. What does it matter that Uncomfortable Learning is not a formal organization? Is it illegal for students to form groups? Do they leave behind their constitutional rights to free association when they enroll at Williams? Of course not. Sam is trying to “other” a group — including some of his own students! — for doing something that is within their rights. He makes it seem like every group of like-minded students at Williams that wants to do something together has to create a “formal” organization. Untrue! Students have some freedoms.

Of course, forming a group can provide certain advantages, like potential access to College Council funding. But, for the last few years, Uncomfortable Learning has chosen not to do so. They see no reason to subject themselves to the whims and biases of a student body which, they have good reason to believe, would like to silence them.

2) “[H]as privileged access to tens of thousands of dollars from conservative alumni.” Claims about privilege are the last refuge of leftist scoundrels. The students behind Uncomfortable Learning have no special status. Any student may network with alumni. Indeed, every student should! Networking is good! The more students who reach out to alumni the better. Liberal students have just as much ability to reach out to conservative (or liberal!) alumni. Why don’t they? Probably because they don’t need to! Williams hosts dozens of liberal speakers every year. And that is a good thing! The more speakers — from every point of view — who come to Williams, the better.

3) “established college fund-raising rules that all other students and faculty must follow.” Hmmm. Why won’t Sam telling us exactly what rules he is talking about? Probably because these rules don’t exist! Let’s be specific.

a) Can Professor Sam Crane reach out to alumni without College permission? Of course he can! It is a free country.

b) Can Professor Sam Crane invite alumni to speak at Williams without permission? Of course he can! It is a free country.

c) Can Professor Sam Crane invite alumni to speak at Williams without permission even if such an event requires the alumni to spend money on items like travel, lodging and so on? Of course he can! It is a free country.

Networking with alumni is OK. Getting them to speak is OK. Having them spend money to do so is OK. Put all those things together and we have what Sam accuses Uncomfortable Learning of doing.

d) Can Professor Sam Crane invite alumni to sponsor speakers at Williams? Of course he can! It is a free country. Don’t believe me. Here is the faculty handbook. Show me the “established college fund-raising rules” which prevent Sam from doing this.

If Sam gets so many easy-to-check things wrong in this one paragraph, how much credence should we give to the rest of the article?

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Crane on Conservative Privilege I

Professor Sam Crane’s Williams Alternative article on “conservative privilege” at Williams must be a parody. Right? No? He actually believes it! OK, then. Let’s spend a few days taking it apart. Today is Day 1.

The “Uncomfortable Learning” brouhaha has subjected Williams College to a torrent of national media criticism. Most notably, conservative news outlets have shouted charges of censorship and liberal intolerance and general decline of Western civilization.

Not a promising start! Did Sam see some of the Facebook discussion about Venker cancellation? Here is a sample:

When you bring a misogynistic, white supremacist men’s rights activist to campus in the name of ‘dialogue’ and ‘the other side,’ you are not only causing actual mental, social, psychological, and physical harm to students, but you are also—paying—for the continued dispersal of violent ideologies that kill our black and brown (trans) femme sisters. You are giving those who spout violence the money that so desperately needs to be funneled to black and brown (trans) femme communities, to people who are leading the revolution, who are surviving in the streets, who are dying in the streets. Know, you are dipping your hands in their blood, Zach Wood.

If that isn’t “liberal intolerance” than the words have no meaning. Note that this sample (and there were hundreds of words like it directed at Uncomfortable Learning) was published in the Alternative as well, so Sam must have seen it. Nor was intolerance limited to Facebook. Consider the editors of the Williams Record:

Though Venker’s speech is legally protected, the College, as a private institution, has its own set of rules about what discourse is acceptable. In general, the College should not allow speech that challenges fundamental human rights and devalues people based on identity markers, like being a woman.

What word besides “intolerance” would you use to describe this attitude, the idea that Williams College “should not allow speech” of this or that kind?

If parents/alumni can’t trust Professor Crane to accurately describe what is happening on campus, why should we trust his claims that are not so easy to check?

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