Currently browsing the archives for January 2016

Local demands for intellectual diversity

Saw the following today, thought others might be interested in seeing what’s going on at other schools in our neck of the world: UMass students — fed up with professors preaching anti-Americanism — demand ‘intellectual diversity’ .

The petition itself is available here. What I find fascinating is that the title of the article uses the word ‘demand’, which appears no where in their petition. They use words such as ‘petition’, ‘urge’ and ‘suggest’; it is written in a very different tone than other recent petitions (such as this one from Oberlin).



Bolton to Wooster

News from last fall:

Today is a great day for Williams and an even better day for The College of Wooster. That’s because the people at Wooster have made the extremely wise decision to ask Sarah Bolton to be their next president—and she has made them very lucky indeed by saying yes. She’ll begin in her new role July 1, 2016.

Entire letter from Falk is below the break. Comments:

1) Is anyone else surprised that Bolton settled for the College of Wooster? Senior Williams administrators who seek college presidencies usually do better than 61 on the US News rankings. Nancy Roseman to Dickinson, Cappy Hill ’76 to Vassar, Steve Lewis ’61 to Carleton and Mike McPherson to Macalester are all examples of Ephs going to colleges with more resources, prestige (and higher presidential pay, probably) than Wooster. Perhaps Bolton has family in the area or some other personal reason for the move? Perhaps the market for college presidencies has gotten more competitive? Perhaps Bolton does not do well in an interview setting? Perhaps she settled too quickly? Informed gossip welcome!

2) Overall opinions on Bolton’s tenure? EphBlog had many fewer problems with her than we had with Nancy Roseman, but that is a low bar. Athletes (especially football players) I have talked to had some negative things to say about Bolton, especially in regard to how she investigated the infamous football skit of a couple of years ago and how she dealt with a couple of sexual assault investigations. Surely it counts in Bolton’s favor that she did not fight to preserve the neighborhood system, although I am not sure if she was the primary mover in bringing back the campus wide lottery. If she was, kudos!

3) Predictions/advice on her successor? The Dean of the College has been a woman over 10 (?) years. (And isn’t it annoying that there is no place to look up the list past Deans and their tenures?) Falk, like all Williams presidents, would like to ensure that at least one of the big three administrative positions (Provost and Deans of College/Faculty) is filled by a woman. But, since the current Dean of the Faculty (Denise Buell) is female, he could go either way for Dean of the College.

4) EphBlog nominates Professor Eiko Siniawer ’97! She is a former chair of CUL, so she has at least some interest in administration. She is an alum, so she has an excellent understanding of student life. And she is an excellent person!

Other nominations?

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New York Times on Lord Jeffs

The New York Times covers Amherst’s decision to, sort of, eject Lord Jeffery. Comments:

1) Best part is the correction:

An earlier version of this article misspelled the first name of the colonial commander for whom Amherst College is named; it is Lord Jeffery Amherst, not Jeffrey.

The Times reports, as undisputed fact, that Amherst is “named” after Lord Jeffery Amherst. Note that the Trustees at Amherst disagree:

The town of Amherst was named after Lord Jeffery, and the College was named after the town.

Well, which is it? Perhaps some of our historian readers (dcat?) could help us out.

2) Diversity is the godhead, not only at Williams, both also at Amherst and the New York Times.

The institution, which is one of the most diverse private colleges in the nation

One can make a factual claim that Amherst is, for example, one of the most expensive colleges in the country. Tuition is measured in dollars. But how is “diversity” measured? What makes Amherst more (or less) diverse than Bates/Middlebury/Williams/wherever? This is an honest question! I suspect that, for the Times, “diversity” means “least white.” Does someone have a better definition?

Other comments?

(Entire article is below the break.)
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No More Lord Jeffs?

This letter from the Amherst Trustees is not — How to put this kindly? — a model of clear writing.

Dear Members of the Amherst College Community,

During the past several months President Biddy Martin and the members of the board of trustees have had scores (all right, hundreds) of communications from alumni, students, and others about the matter of Lord Jeffery Amherst. The communications reflect and embody many points of view. A lot of them begin with something like the following: “I know there are far more important issues facing the College, but….”

And I agree—with the first part of the sentence and also with the “but.” The controversy over the mascot may seem small in itself and yet in many minds it’s symbolic of larger issues. The controversy is bound up with feelings about matters as specific and recent as the protests at the College last fall and as broad and old as the College’s mission and values. It’s bound up with personal memories and personal experience. I’ll come back to the mascot shortly, but the larger issues deserve some recognition first.

Get to the point! Is it too much to ask that, somewhere in the first two paragraphs, the trustees might tell us what their decision is? Will Amherst continue to use “Lord Jeffs” as a nickname/mascot or won’t it? After several hundred words, we finally get to:

Lord Jeff as a mascot may be unofficial, but the College, when its own resources are involved, can decide not to employ this reference in its official communications, its messaging, and its symbolism (including in the name of the Inn, the only place on the campus where the Lord Jeffery name officially appears). The Board of Trustees supports such an approach, and it will be College policy

Split the baby, Solomon! By claiming (correctly?) that “Lord Jeff” is unofficial, Amherst allows (encourages?) its continued use by the whole world. Consider a typical article from last week:

The Jumbos saw their five-game unbeaten streak broken the day before with the loss to the Amherst Lord Jeffs at home.

If the people at Tufts (and Bates and Williams and . . .) continue to refer to the “Lord Jeffs,” then it doesn’t really matter if the Amherst Trustees have primly turned up their sensitive noses to its usage. If everyone — include Amherst athletes (and coaches? and fans?) — continues to use “Lord Jeffs,” then the Trustees have accomplished nothing but to assuage their own consciences and to infuriate the social justice warriors on their own campus.

Should I spend a week fisking the letter or is this topic too boring to bother?

This provides Adam Falk (and Williams coaches) with some outstanding trolling opportunities! Whenever interviewed by NESN or any media outlet, always use the term “Lord Jeffs” when describing the opponent.

Entire letter before the break, saved for posterity.
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adkins Supports Transgender Bill

EphBlog favorite justin adkins writes:

Many people have called the Transgender Public Accommodations Bill (SB 735 & HB 1577) the “Transgender Bill” or as you referred to it in 2010, the “Bathroom Bill.” However, this bill is neither. This bill is about access to basic accommodations for all people living and visiting the Bay State.

As a transgender Bay Stater my trans community has to think about our access to basic accommodations, access the rest of the great people of Massachusetts take for granted. Sixty five percent of transgender people in Massachusetts report experiencing discrimination in an area of public accommodation.

Really? Color me skeptical. Perhaps, in some poorly designed and statistically dubious poll, 65% report something, but I have my doubts as to how wide spread such discrimination is in Massachusetts. What do readers think? Are there really lots of restaurants and hotels that discriminate against transgender folks? Specific examples would be useful.

Gender identity is “a person’s gender-related identity, appearance or behavior sincerely held as part of a person’s core identity.” Your lack of commitment, and action, to make sure that all people living and visiting our state are protected from discrimination leaves people with only your previous stance to fall back on.

Here it is 2016 and you just look out-of-touch and behind the times. Our sports teams support this bill, your hometown of Swampscott supports this bill, and your former employer, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, has come out in support of the legislation as well. My employer, one of the largest in Berkshire County, supports this bill too!

Williams supports this bill? Could someone point us to a formal statement by the college and/or the trustees? Again, I have my doubts. As a rule of thumb, Williams does not view itself, as an institution, as needing to take a position for or against every bill that comes up in the statehouse.

Of course, it may have in that case. If so, that would be a problem. Why should Williams, as a non-political charity, be taking issues on political controversies that don’t directly affect it? (Taking positions on, for example, changes in student aid funding is defensible.) There is no more reason — beyond the vanity and narcissism of certain administrators — for Williams to have a position on this proposed state legislation than there is for Williams to have a position on Obama bombing Syria. Individual Ephs can, and should, voice their opinions, but the College should stay neutral, should focus its efforts on its mission.

Did you know that I could be denied a hotel room, or a seat in a restaurant, just because I am transgender? Having to think about where I can travel within our state is exhausting.

Drama, much? When was the last time that adkins was denied such an accommodation? How common are such denials?

When my friends invite me to concerts, dinner, or a movie they rarely think that I might be denied access to the venue.

They also rarely think about you being struck by lightning, which is probably about as likely.

We need to be clear, as a state, that we don’t allow discrimination based on gender identity.

Hmm. By “clear” do you mean empowering men with guns to enforce this loss via threats of violence and imprisonment? adkins has written, evocatively, about the problems of mass incarceration in the US. But how can someone be both concerned about mass incarceration and, at the same time, want to create more laws that can (and will!) be used to, potentially, imprison more citizens? If you are really concerned about the prison industrial complex — as both adkins and I are — then you want fewer laws, not more.


Son of Hummon ’84 Poised for Breakthrough

Marcus Hummon ’84 has long been renowned as one of the finest – and most successful – Eph musicians. 2016 could be the year that Marcus’s son, Levi, emerges as a musical force in his own right. The Huffington Post recently named Levi Hummon as one of the “Top 20 Country Artists to Watch in 2016,” and Billboard Magazine likewise featured him in a recent list of “Nashville’s Future Stars.”

Levi and Marcus have already co-written songs together and performed together. Levi anticipates having his first radio single in 2016, as the lead-in to his first album release. Per Billboard, “they have written some songs together that he loves and that are likely to make his first album.”

Levi Hummon adds: “You’re going to have different stories. The main thing is just to tell your own story.”

Sadly, Levi’s story doesn’t include Williams, running instead through St. Petersburg, Florida, and Nashville’s Belmont University. But as a member of the Eph family, we can still celebrate his music.


Student Trustee?

Should Williams have a student on the board of trustees? We first covered this topic almost ten years ago. Let us repeat and review.

From the Record:

Spencer representative Jonathan Misk ’07 plans to submit a proposal to both the Council and the administration recommending student representation on the Board of Trustees. “Our only goal is to improve communication where it is most needed,” he said. “Such student interaction with Board members would both allow the students to be more informed of issues the Board is discussing and allow the Board to be more in touch with real-time student sentiment on those issues.”

The College will never go for this plan in the short term. The Trustees are busy, important people with much to do during their limited meeting time. When they are talking business, they want to do so openly but in confidence. They don’t want to deal with a student (a new one each year!), explaining to her the background on topics that they have covered for years, worrying if she might not treat the proceedings as private.

Moreover, the Trustees already meet with plenty of students and are, reasonably, well-versed on student opinion, both via the Record and from direct contact. Former President Schapiro forwarded substantive, well-written comments that students sent him directly to all the trustees. One trustee commented to me ruefully that his inbox overflowed from all the student commentary on neighborhood housing that he received from Morty. (If Adam Falk is smart, he does the same.)

But, although this won’t happen quickly, what steps might current students do to lay the groundwork for it to happen someday? Good question! Other schools, after all, do have student representation on the board, so all things are possible.

1) Fight to increase the transparency of Trustee meetings. When are they? When is the next one? What is on the agenda? When do the Trustees arrive? Who will they be meeting with? And so on. There is no (good) reason why Williams might be much more open and transparent in how it is governed. Yet no one (besides me!) fights for this. Why isn’t the agenda and other distributed materials made public, perhaps after the meeting? The College could certainly redact any sensitive information (having to do with super-secret plans or confidential personnel issues) before distributing the information.

2) Fight to de-mystify the trustees. Although the College does provide nice little biographies, other details are sketchy. For starters, what are their terms of office? How are they selected? I provide some (correct?) information here, but there is no reason for secrecy. (I still don’t understand how, for example, Malcolm W. Smith ’87 could lose the election for alumni trustee and still end up on the board. Anyone who the board is considering for an appointed position should not be nominated for alumni trustee.)

3) Participate in the election process. There is a trustee election going on right now. A student should interview the three candidates, find out their views on important topics and transmit those views (along with his commentary) to the College community. EphBlog (with our thousands of readers) would be happy to host. Why not a podcast? No doubt a student would do a better job of this than I have in the past.

4) Instead of aiming for a student seat on the board, try for the much more achievable goal of a student seat on the Executive Committee (EC) of the Society of Alumni (SoA). I don’t think that we need a student trustee but I do think that a student (even three students) belong on the EC.

Note that you do not need to graduate to be an alumnus. Anyone who has attended Williams, even for just a year, is a member. So, there is no reason in principle why students shouldn’t belong. Also, five trustees are ex-officio members of the EC, so student participation would give current students some of the trustee interaction that they seek. The fact that EC terms are for three years also works out well. Imagine that each class at Williams elects one of its members to join the EC at the end of first year. That student would serve for 3 years, just like any other member. There would always be 3 students on the EC, enough to have a real voice but not too many to gum up the works. And, if this experiment worked out, there would be much less opposition for a student place on the board in 5 or 10 years.

This is the sort of good-governance, small-improvement campaign that EphBlog could get behind. Any student is welcome to join us as an author to help rally the alumni community and keep us posted on her progress.


Open Greylock Dining Hall

All-student e-mail:

This conversation is in anticipation of the open meeting with the Board of Trustees’ Committee on Student Experiences, a historic event for Williams College. It will take place on Saturday (1/23) at 1:00 pm in Griffin 3. This event will be open to all and focused on the sharing of personal student experiences so that members of the Board of Trustees are able to better understand what Ephs need and want from our institution today.

What to ask from the Trustees? (Obviously, don’t ask for something trivial. The Trustees are not interested in your complaints about the quality of the hot chocolate served at Stress Busters.) Reasonable options:

1) Reopen Greylock Dining Hall. The dining hall was closed, reasonably enough, during the Financial Crisis. Williams is now rich enough to reopen it. The other dining halls are excessively crowded. Opening Greylock would both reduce that overcrowding and increase the popularity of student housing on that side of campus. Doing so is expensive, but it is the sort of decision that Trustees like to make.

2) Every room a single. There is no better way to improve the quality of life of two students forced into a double than to give them singles. Williams already has an excellent housing stock, but making it better would both improve the quality of student lives and make Williams more desirable to admitted students. Moreover, very few students are stuck in doubles against their will anyway, so this goal would not be hard to achieve. (For starters, the rule would not apply to first years, most/many of whom don’t object to being in a double.)

3) Proclaim that Williams students have the same First Amendment protections as their peers at Berkley or Michigan or MCLA. Williams currently reserves the right to punish students who would not be punished for the same actions at a public school like Berkley. (As a private institution, Williams has the ability to kick a student out for, say, dressing inappropriately during Halloween.) But the Trustees should make clear that Williams would never do so by, for example, agreeing with the University of Chicago statement on free expression.

What suggestions do our readers have? What major requests should current students ask of the Trustees?

Full message below the break.
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Wood ’18 on African-American Authors II

Zachary Wood ’18, co-President of Uncomfortable Learning and an EphBlog favorite, wrote an article in The Nation titled “You Shouldn’t Have to Take an African-American Studies Course to Read African-American Authors.” Let’s discuss if for a few days. Today is Day 2.

 At most colleges in the United States, students have to take courses in African-American studies to read the work of black thinkers in an academic setting. Meanwhile, the work of white male authors is taught in virtually every course that does not focus specifically on the experience of nonwhites.

Well, isn’t that because the most important work in, say, philosophy was written by whites, or at least not by blacks? (Leave aside complications as to whether “whites” would cover people born 2,000 years ago in places like Turkey and about how the authors in the Indian/Asian philosophical traditions might be categorized.) There are only so many spots in the syllabus. Every time you add person X, you need to subtract person Y.

 I am a sophomore at Williams College, majoring in political science and philosophy. Throughout my freshman year, I took seven courses in the humanities and social sciences, from English and philosophy to political science and anthropology. Yet only two of the seven courses incorporated the critical thought and perspectives of at least one scholar of African descent.

I don’t know exactly which courses Zach took, but consider the lowest numbered course in Philosophy at Williams:

PHIL 109 T(F) Skepticism and Relativism

Intellectually, we are ready skeptics and relativists. We doubt, we point out that no one can be certain in what she believes, and we are suspicious of declarations of transcendent reason or truth (unless they are our own). Emboldened by our confidence in skeptical arguments, we claim that knowledge is inevitably limited, that it depends on one’s perspective, and that everything one believes is relative to context or culture. No domain of inquiry is immune to this destructive skepticism and confident relativism. Science is only “true” for some people, agnosticism is the only alternative to foolish superstition, and moral relativism and, consequently, nihilism are obvious.

See the link for more details. Thanks to former EphBlogger Joe Cruz for sharing the syllabus (pdf). Do you see any African-American writers? I don’t.* Nor should there be! If you only have 12 weeks to cover such a broad topic, you need to focus on the best and most important work. That no writing by a black author makes that cut is no more surprising to me than the fact that none of the 64 starting cornerbacks in the NFL is white. Is it really surprising to you?

*Even if there is an African-American writer, Wood’s and my points still stand. I have no reason to doubt that Wood’s intro philosophy classes had no black writers and every reason to believe that this omission is caused, not by the racism of Williams faculty, but by the relative merits of the works under consideration.


Wood ’18 on African-American Authors I

Zachary Wood ’18, co-President of Uncomfortable Learning and an EphBlog favorite, wrote an article in The Nation titled “You Shouldn’t Have to Take an African-American Studies Course to Read African-American Authors.” Let’s discuss if for a few days. Today is Day 1.

Justice Antonin Scalia’s already infamous suggestion that blacks need “special schools” in reference to comments about Fisher v. University of Texas, is not only reminiscent of the pseudoscientific racism posited in Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve but also indicative of a dire lack of intellectual diversity in higher education.

1) The reason that EphBlog (and the ghost of Robert Gaudino) love Zach Wood is because he both practices and preaches “uncomfortable learning.” Even though he thinks that Murray’s research is “pseudoscientific,” he has arranged for Murray to come speak at Williams in March. Kudos! Murray may be right and he may be wrong but there is no doubt he is one of the most important social scientists of the last 50 years. I am proud of Zach and of Uncomfortable Learning and of Williams for bringing him to campus.

2) The critics of Zach/UL (especially Professor Sam Crane) should be asked to answer the question: Is Williams a better college for hosting speakers like Murray? Note that he (like the other UL speakers) are “free.” The College did not have to move money devoted to liberal/leftist/Democratic speakers in order to bring Murray. Additional funds were raised.

3) Is Wood providing a fair description of Scalia’s comment. I don’t think so. Consider:

Scalia’s comment stemmed not from random intuition but from research showing that a substantial number of black students would do better — and be happier — at schools less selective than the ones they are often admitted to via racial preferences.

The reading public’s response to Scalia’s point shows that few have any idea of this research or assume it was done by partisan zealots. An intelligent discussion of the Fisher v. University of Texas case now before the Supreme Court requires a quick tour of the facts.

Read the whole thing, written by the (African-American) intellectual John McWhorter.

UCLA law professor Richard Sander conclusively showed in 2004 that “mismatched” law students are much more likely to cluster in the bottom of their classes and, especially, to fail the bar exam. Meanwhile, Sander and Stuart Taylor’s book argues that the mismatch problem damages the performance of black and brown students in general.

Sander spoke at Williams in the fall of 2014, under the auspices of Uncomfortable Learning. If Wood would grant that Sander might have a point, then what is his objection to Scalia?


Bringing Back the Barber Pole

Credit: Doyle Murphy, via Riverfront Times

Credit: Doyle Murphy, via Riverfront Times

Eph entrepreneur Frank Uible (III) ’85 is already renowned for the award-winning, cornmeal-crust deep-dish pizza served at his St. Louis-based restaurant chain, Pi Pizzeria. Besides delicious pizza, Uible’s Pi locations are known for a refreshing selection of beers, and Uible has expanded his empire into another venue where Ephs might enjoy a cold one:

Frank Uible, the co-founder of Pi Pizzeria, has partnered with the owner of a tattoo shop and, yes, a barber to open a new spot on the edge of Soulard. The trio is selling the idea of a throwback barbershop as lounge and neighborhood hangout. Union Barbershop (1264 Gravois Avenue, 314-328-2411) has Playboy magazines on the coffee table, a pool table around the corner and cold beer in the refrigerator.

“Barbershops rivaled saloons for men’s interest and attention,” Uible says. “It was a social club.”

A beer and a haircut, two bits? Sounds pretty good. Especially if I can get a deep-dish pizza to go. Although I’m not sure anyone plans to still be reading Playboy…

As Uible explains, Union Barbershop is a spinoff of tanother millennial-oriented business, Knife & Flag:

The two-year-old company now sells heavy-duty work wear to a growing number of tattoo artists, craftsmen, welders and restaurant workers across the world. Locally, the servers at Old Standard can be seen sporting a Carhartt-looking version as they sling fried chicken in Botanical Heights.

Knife & Flag has also begun to expand, selling leather goods (the Yannigan bag is said to be inspired by a lumberjack’s rucksack) and a line of hair-care products. The barbershop is a natural spinoff, given the hair-care venture and the aprons’ popularity with pros wielding shears from here to Japan, Uible says…

[T]he companies are betting on millennials’ movement away from a culture of mass-produced goods and 20-minute haircuts.

“Handcrafted is what binds us all together,” Uible says — a philosophy that goes all the way back to his work at Pi.

If you’re in St. Louis, Union Barbershop is already open, and you can visit 9-7 on weekdays, or 8-5 on Saturdays.


Read About Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Williams

King - record The Williams College Libraries conveniently maintain a PDF of the Williams Record coverage of Dr. King’s 1961 visit to Williams College.

John Kifner ’63 did the reporting for the Record. He would go on to receive the Williams Bicentennial Medal in 2002 after a storied career as a New York Times reporter at home and abroad, and in his reporting on Dr. King’s visit, readers can see a preview of his later reportage:

“Life at its best and as it should be lived is complete on all sides,” came the deep, vibrant voice from the pulpit.

A free chapel cut last Sunday brought the irony of the first [standing room only] audience at chapel within recent memory, with WMS piping the sermon to a large overflow in Baxter Hall…

The curious came away satisfied, for Dr. King is a vigorous and compelling speaker. After chapel, another overflow crowd awaited in Jesup Hall for a question and answer session on civil rights. Many had already attended his talk on the philosophy of non-violent resistance at the WCC dinner.

The reference to the “free chapel cut” is a reminder that — although students began to protest against mandatory religious worship even in the late 19th century — chapel remained compulsory at Williams College almost until the College became coeducational. By the 1960s, even the clergy were suggesting a change. Here’s Rev. Nicholas B. Phelps ’56, assistant rector at St. John’s Episcopal Church, later in 1961 (also in the Record):

“A religious service is designed as an expression of the life of a community. The college chapel uses it as a means of education, which is fundamentally treacherous to the tradition to which you are trying to expose people.”

Back to Dr. King’s visit. In contrast to the usual newspaper format where the lead article would provide the facts of Dr. King’s visit, the longer of Kifner’s two Record articles is really an overview on Dr. King, the civil rights movement, and non-violent civil disobedience, leaving an account of Dr. King’s speech and activities to the brief sidebar, quoted above. That article gives only the briefest description of the substance of Dr. King’s sermon:

At chapel, King spoke on the “Three Dimension of the Complete Man.” The first dimension, length, he defined as the development of a rational and healthy self-interest. “Before we can love others adequately, we must love ourselves properly,” he stated.

Breadth, he defined as “concern for others . . . the ability to rise above individual concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” He cited the Good Samaritan as one who “projected the I into the Thou . . . . God, he said, is interested in the freedom of the whole human race.

The last dimension, height, is the ability to rise above the mere sensate of life, to grope for God and Faith…

Surprisingly, the Record ran no follow-up commentary to Dr. King’s visit, although in February, 1962, it did identify his speech as one of the four most newsworthy Williams moments of 1961 (alongside President Sawyer’s installation, an upset win over Amherst in football, and a run of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” at the AMT). And over time, it proved an occasion long remembered at Williams, one worth remembering as we celebrate Dr. King’s birthday and legacy.


Reddit for the Cat Pictures

Fun article about EphBlog favorite Ethan Zuckerman ’93:

How do you insure that your information diet is balanced?

Twitter is my main tool for ensuring news balance. I follow many members of the Global Voices community; either because we’ve become friends, or because I’m fascinated by what’s going on in the country they live in. I look at who they retweet and follow those users as well. I’ll add a few new feeds this way when something interesting is unfolding in a corner of the world, and may remove folks from the list when there’s less news going on. Periodically, I’ll audit who I’m following and adjust for gender and geographic distribution to try to ensure better balance.

Read the whole thing.

There is no better example of the difference between left and right in this country than Zuckerman’s desire to create gender balance in his reading. I don’t particularly care about the genitals of the authors I read. Do you?


Throwback Thursday: Class of 1916


One hundred years ago, these men made up the Class of 1916 at Williams College. Not a very diverse group in appearance — or in ideology. As seniors, 70% identified as Republicans; just 10%, as Democrats. There were famous names, such as James A. Garfield, grandson of the American President and nephew of the then-College president, and Ferris M. Angevine, whose brother Jay’s name would forever be associated with the end of Williams fraternities.

The Class of 1916 was the last sophomore class to experience the Cane Rush, the class that sought abolition of the Gargoyle Society alongside establishment of student government, and was the last class to graduate Williams before the United States’ entry into the First World War.

I hope to present further snapshots (figuratively, as well as photographically) of the class of 1916 in the year ahead.


Monroe ’90 on careers

CMonroeIf you follow EphBlog’s annual advice to “Fall in Love” over Winter Study and ultimately marry an Eph (or even if you don’t), you’re likely to someday face the challenge of balancing your career with that of your spouse.

That’s especially true if, like Courteney Freedman Monroe ’90, you marry into the Marine Corps. In a recent profile in the Hollywood Reporter, Monroe, shared her experience “surviving ‘career suicide'” when it became time to let her spouse’s professional opportunities force a move:

He was ready for a different professional challenge, and he was interested in raising our kids outside of New York. There was a job opportunity in particular [an intelligence officer at the Department of Defense] that he wanted to pursue and, well, I went along with it. He’d moved to New York for me, and it was his turn professionally to drive the decisions in the family. But honestly, I don’t think at that moment I ever thought it was really going to happen. And then things start to progress…

I commuted back and forth [from Washington, DC] for a little less than two years. They would’ve allowed me to continue doing it, but I just felt like I wasn’t doing anything well enough. Being a full-time working mom is hard enough under the best of circumstances, but when that full-time job is actually in a different city than the one in which you live, it adds a complicating layer…

I began to realize as important as my job was to me, and as much of a huge part of my identity it was, family came first. So I made the decision to step away.

Monroe is now the CEO of National Geographic Global Networks, but when she left HBO, her path forward was far from clear:

At that point, I had not had one exploratory conversation in D.C. I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do for a living. And I was sure I was never going to be able to replicate that experience that I had worked so hard for or for so long. Now that I’ve gotten this opportunity to run the networks at National Geographic, I know that’s not true. But even for the first two and a half years when I was running marketing here, I never regretted my choice because every night I was going home to have dinner with my family, and that’s what it was about.

Those who have heard Monroe speak about her business career will find it unsurprising that she was able to take the long view of her career. She likes to tell the story of her first summer job, which was as a sales clerk at Laura Ashley. There, even entry-level staff were required to wear the brand’s (expensive) clothing. Even with an employee discount, her clothing cost her more that summer than she was paid for working.


Ephs Against Immigration

That Donald Trump is likely to be the Republican nominee and, quite possibly, the next President, stymies many Williams graduates. They would be less shocked by these developments if they could grasp the antipathy to increased immigration among many Americans of less-than-elite educational backgrounds. How can EphBlog help with this process? By pointing out Ephs in favor of reduced immigration! Start with Thomas Friedman, who recently came out in favor of “controlling low-skilled immigration.”

If you want to improve the salaries (and social status?) of low income workers in the United States, then the best place to start is by restricting the supply of people able and willing to do their jobs for less. Supply and demand sets the wages of the workers in the North Adams Walmart. Is Thomas Friedman the only prominent Eph to recognize this fundamental economic reality?


Catsam ’93 to return to Rhodes U.

As with American institutions affected by what Politico recently labeled “The Great Renaming of Craze of 2015,” South Africa’s Rhodes University has seen recent protests about the propriety of continuing to honor its namesake:

The momentum to transform Rhodes University is gathering pace and moving with urgency, including its possible renaming, vice-chancellor Sizwe Mabizela says.

The university’s student representative council (SRC) has led the drive for both institutional transformation and the name change. Students who embarked on protests this year at the Grahamstown-based university called for the name change because Cecil John Rhodes stood for racism, colonialism, pillaging and black people’s oppression.

More so even than the figures at the center of controversy in the United States — historical leaders such as Woodrow Wilson and Andrew Jackson — the question of whether Rhodes’s name is educationally appropriate is an intellectual challenge. Cecil Rhodes is not only the now-reviled architect of South African segregation and a colonialist ideologue, but also the provider of land and funds for the University of Capetown and Rhodes University (and Oriel College at Oxford), as well as the revered enabler of a liberal (even, arguably, progressive) education for individuals from Cory Booker to Bobby Jindal (not to mention Bill Clinton and Bill Bradley).

EphBlog regular Derek Catsam ’93 is not only a renowned historian with an expertise in race, history, politics, and Africa, but a former Rhodes University student. And now, he’s headed back to Grahamstown, where Rhodes is located:

University of Texas of the Permian Basin history professor Derek Catsam will be making what he terms a “grand return” to Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa, on a Hugh le May Fellowship.

Catsam has made many trips to South Africa over the years and plans to spend from February to about mid-June in the country. The Hugh le May Fellowship is available in alternate years to senior scholars who wish to devote themselves to advanced work in one of the following subjects: Philosophy, classics and a variety of history and languages.

“It’ll really be a great experience,” Catsam said.

He added that he’s currently juggling two book projects, both of which are relevant to South Africa and the United States, but he’s going to focus on the 1981 visit to America by the national South African rugby team nicknamed the Springboks. The team came to this country to share their greatness and help improve American rugby, Catsam said.

Catsam is no fan of Rhodes or colonialism (and has offered useful, critical commentary on Rhodes Scholars at EphBlog in the past), but I don’t recall him expressing any views on the #RhodesMustFall campaign last year during his visit to Capetown. It will be interesting to see if he becomes involved in the renaming question during his fellowship. And even more interesting to see what he writes about rugby. You can follow him on Twitter @dcatafrica. Congrats on the fellowship!


Hoverboard Ban

From the Onion or the Dean’s Office?

Williams College is banning hoverboards from campus based on an increasing volume of dangerous fires and explosions reported by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and related warnings published by fire marshals.

Response on Yik Yak: “They can take our hoverboards, but they will never take our freedom!”

Best part:

Thank you for your compliance and for helping us keep campus safe from this unpredictable risk.


1) Nothing worse than an “unpredictable risk,” of course.

2) This is another sign, as if one were needed, of the increasing bureaucratization of the college. The more staff we hire, the more that they will need to find ways to fill their days.

3) The student-owned objects that are most dangerous — probably an order of magnitude more likely to lead to student death or injury — are, obviously, bicycles. (One student was tragically killed several years ago and there have been, I am sure, many injuries.) Should the College ban bikes as well? [Don’t give them any ideas! — ed]

Entire e-mail below the break:

Read more


Four Letter Word, Ten Year Later

This post was originally written ten years ago. More true today than ever?

What is the stupidest, most out of touch statement by a senior faculty member to be published in the Record in the last year? Good question! Given all the misrepresentations concerning anchor housing, the competition is a tough one. But I am going with this.

To bring discussion [on racial incidents] to a more public arena, Schapiro and Roseman are hosting an open forum in Griffin at 8:30 p.m. tonight. Roseman said she felt that WSO blogs are ultimately limited in lasting value, despite the good content they sometimes contain. “They’re not really a dialogue,” she said. “They always degenerate over time.”

Pathetic. Roseman was also reported to refer to “blog” as a “four letter word” — i.e., something that she thought was not just useless but positively harmful.

First, does Roseman even read the WSO blogs? In other interviews, she has claimed not to. How can she know that they are “not really a dialogue” if she doesn’t read them regularly? How does she know that they “always” degenerate? Now, she is under no obligation to read the blogs, but if she is ignorant on the topic she has no business being insulting.

Second, the WSO blogs have many, many examples of incredibly lucid and subtle dialogue. Consider Katherine Dieber ’07 on campus racism:

In my opinion, the crime is not fearing, but letting that fear dictate actions. I’m always questioning whether or not I’m subconsciously racist or afraid, and if that’s the deeper reason for the way I interact with people of different backgrounds. Here’s my confession: I question most my interactions with black people. I wonder if I should be taking bigger steps to blend white American culture with black American culture, and this sort of worry colors my interactions with black people (until/unless I get to know them fairly well). Frankly, I’m intimidated. Am I the privileged white kid that black kids see as their enemy, or at least opposite?

Or Nick Greer ’08 on the Odd Quad:

We’ve built our own culture, we built the kind of tightly-knit “cluster” that you want for yourself, but one that excludes you. We built a culture that accepts even the most socially awkward. First years that have already given up on their entry? They’re in Currier common room hanging with us. People like you Kati- I mean Jessica, you make up 80% of this campus so from your perspective clusters aren’t that bad. I mean you may share a bathroom with that frumpy girl who plays D&D but it’s not like she hangs out with you or anything. No, Friday nights when your cluster is having another OC party she’s in her room. Oh, you’re so nice, you’ll invite her to come? Well she’s not interested, she hates you remember. Not everyone on campus likes that sort of thing and when you assume everyone on campus is like you, you exclude the people who are not.

Or Diana Davis ’07 on athletics at Williams:

My childhood friend, who is a year younger than I, looked at Williams when she was considering her college choices. She plays the oboe and the piano, sings, dances, acts, and does all sorts of wonderful things, but she is not an athlete. On her tour, she and her dad report that her tour guide repeated three times the impressive statistic that Williams wins 77% of its games. She was turned off by this athletic focus, and nothing I said could get her to reconsider and apply to Williams. This is sad. Are we alienating many such prospective students? Look on the bright side — that leaves more spots for athletes!

Or Cassandra Montenegro ’06 on Queer Bash pornography.

i didn’t know what to expect going into my first queer bash, but it wasn’t that. i was in no way warned. i dressed up for (what i was told was) the semester’s best party and left feeling the victim. i was so confused as why someone would do that to me–with no concern for my feelings. i couldn’t ‘just look away’ if i didn’t like it, like my friends told me to do. it was more than that, it was the principle. why porn? why on a screen? why at a campus party?

If Roseman doesn’t think that this sort of writing — and the larger dialogues in which they are embedded on the blogs — is the heart and soul of what a Williams education should be, then she is an idiot. More importantly, dozens of similar examples are available for all to see.

Third, it’s not that similar dialogues don’t occur over Mission lunches and late night pizza, just as they did 20 years ago. There are few better parts of a Williams education than the talks/arguments you have with your fellow Ephs. But the blogs provide an extra dimension that we lacked back in the day. They give students a chance to think for a moment about what they want to say, to pause and reflect on the opinions of others. The blogs are not a substitute for other dialogue, they are a complement.

Fourth, any regular blog reader will tell you that the blogs have two big advantages over in-person dialogues. First, they often bring together Ephs who don’t know each other well, who don’t share a dorm or classroom together. Second, they provide a way for the rest of us to listen in, to learn from the conversations among our fellow Ephs.

Why is Roseman so blind to the benefits that the blogs bring to Williams? Tough to know, but I’ll freely speculate. I think that there is a certain kind of administrator who does not really trust the students, who thinks that any discussion on a controversial topic needs to be supervised and moderated. This sort of administrator likes campus forums and classroom discussions because some adult is in control, someone is running the show. For this sort of person, the blogs are anarchic, out of control, always degenerating, making more trouble. A real dialogue includes a teacher, a Socratic figure who guides the benighted students.

Blogs are messy. They aid the students in doing for themselves what the College is unable and, often, unwilling to do for them. They represent a loss of control for Hopkins Hall.

I don’t know if Roseman is this sort of administrator. Perhaps there is some other explanation for her ridiculous comments. But, regardless of the explanation, the messiness is here to stay. The Dean of the College today has much less control over conversation on campus than the Dean did 20 years ago. Nothing can stop that trend from continuing. Embrace the Blog, Dean Roseman. We are the future.

Ten years later, that is all the more true. Ever heard of Yik Yak? Williams students are still discussing things, but those discussions are less open and inviting. And, because forums like Yik Yak are anonymous, they are much more hurtful than they ever were on WSO.

A well-run school would urge WSO to bring back Discussions and make them readable by all.



From the Record (txt):

Two students fired a shotgun blast into the home of Chaplain William S. Coffin from a car on the night of April 12 [1958]. The shot broke a front window and sprayed into the Coffin’s living room, causing little damage, no injury.

On Thursday afternoon the case was broken by a joint police-student-administration effort and two students signed confessions to the shooting. Over the weekend the Discipline Committee voted unanimously to expel them from college.

Neither would tell what had motivated the action. Opinion here conjectured, however, that it had been a drunken “prank” aimed at Coffin because of his controversial stands on college issues (see FRATERNITIES).

The story reached the local press and radio. Commented the Berkshire Eagle: “a shotgun may be a valid tool of argument in darkest Mississippi, but up here we’re civilized.” The RECORD pointed out that the unpleasantness of the situation grew and involved more and more people as long as it remained unsolved, that the speedy success of the investigation was tremendously important to the best interests of Williams.

The whole incident made Coffin — who will be Chaplain at Yale next year — the most talked-about man of the spring term.

If the Coffin shooting was the most dramatic student/faculty conflict of the last 100 years, what was the second most dramatic?


Dinesh D’Souza at Amherst

Dinesh D’Souza speaks at Amherst. (Hat tip to Ace of Spades.)

Love the part where the audience giggles when D’Souza quotes Martin Luther King. Stay classy Amherst!


Fall in Love

What is the real purpose of Winter Study, especially for male undergraduates?

The real purpose of Winter Study is to fall in love.

You will never, ever, be surrounded by as many smart, pretty, eligible women as you are right now. Life after college is, comparatively, a wasteland. Of course, as you pass into the great beyond, you will meet other women, but they are unlikely to be as wonderful, physically and mentally, as the Eph women you are now blessed to know. More importantly, the best of them will choose mates sooner rather than latter. Exiting Williams without a serious girlfriend is not necessarily a one-way ticket to permanent bachelorhood (as several of my co-bloggers can attest), but it is not the smart way to play the odds. The odds favor love now.

It isn’t that your classes and papers, your theses and sports teams, are unimportant. But finding a soulmate to grow old with, someone to bear your children and ease your suffering, someone to give your life meaning and your work purpose — this is a much more important task than raising that GPA enough to make magna cum laude.

So, stop reading this blog and ask out that cute girl from across the quad. I did the same 28 years ago and have counted my blessings ever since.


More Viewpoint Diversity

Got a New Year’s wish for Williams? Tell us in the comments! Mine is for more viewpoint diversity.

But something alarming has happened to the academy since the 1990s: it has been transformed from an institution that leans to the left, which is not a big problem, into an institution that is entirely on the left, which is a very big problem.

Nowadays there are NO conservatives or libertarians in most academic departments in the humanities and social sciences. The academy has been so focused on attaining diversity by race and gender (which are valuable) that it has created a hostile climate for people who think differently. The American Academy has become a politically orthodox and quasi-religious institution. When everyone shares the same politics and prejudices, the disconfirmation process breaks down. Political orthodoxy is particularly dangerous for the social sciences, which grapple with so many controversial topics (such as race, racism, gender, poverty, immigration, politics, and climate science). America needs innovative and trustworthy research on all these topics, but can a social science that lacks viewpoint diversity produce reliable findings?

Read the whole thing. I believe that there are no public “conservatives or libertarians” in any department at Williams outside of Division III. Counterexamples welcome!