Currently browsing the archives for March 2016

Class Profiles

Before they disappear, let’s save permanent copies if the class profiles that the Admissions Office puts together each year: 2013,
2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Can anyone provide links to older or more recent profiles? Future historians will thank you!


Needham ’04 Religious Liberty

Great article from Mike Needham ’04:

It is worth recalling that, back in 1997, Andrew Sullivan insisted that, “whatever your assumptions about liberal judges, the right to marry and the right to adopt are logically, politically, and legally separate issues.” Even if he sincerely believed that almost twenty years ago, he nevertheless has proved to be quite wrong. The underlying false principles on which the judicial redefinition of marriage depends—that objections to redefinition are irrational unless rooted in animus—dictate what occurred in the first state to legalize same-sex marriage: the expulsion of the Catholic Church from the adoption business in Massachusetts.

This battle is coming soon to communities all across America. Churchgoers are asking themselves if their wedding halls will be forced by the government to host same-sex weddings and receptions. School administrators are re-evaluating curricula out of concern for their tax-exempt status. Purveyors of wedding services who see their businesses as extensions of their church communities are now questioning their choice of vocation. This is not the America our founders passed down to us. Who can fail to notice the irony that to lose this struggle is to spite the spirits of those who crossed the ocean to found this society, and whose lived beliefs infused it with the virtues that have allowed America to become, on balance, both good and great?

Social conservatives knew years ago that the redefinition of marriage would be the first of several dominoes to fall. But they must not now concede total defeat because they have lost on one question before the Supreme Court. The nation remains divided on marriage, and the Left seeks to force on all the views held by some. It is still within the power of social conservatives to repair our pluralistic fabric by embracing a true diversity of opinion on this important issue and protecting those whose views have fallen out of favor in elite circles. That can happen, however, only if political leaders are willing to take on this debate. Evidently, we the people nowadays must force this task on them.

Indeed. Read the whole thing.


Admissions News Release

The College’s official news release is filled with interesting details. Unfortunately, I can’t find a record of similar news releases for any class prior to 2016. Pointers? Key sections:

Class of 2016:

Of the admitted students, 609 are women and 573 are men. Ninety-four students, or eight percent of the group, are non-U.S. citizens, representing 48 different nationalities. Among American students, 163 are African American, 229 Asian American, 164 Latino, and 14 Native American. Sixteen percent (193) would be the first in their families to attend college.

Class of 2020:

Of the admitted students, 623 are women and 583 are men. One hundred are international students representing 45 different nationalities. Among American students, 49 percent are students of color: 221 students are Asian American, 186 are black, 169 Latino, and 13 Native American. Twenty-one percent (255) are first-generation college students, and 9 percent (105) have a parent who attended Williams.

1) Raw admissions numbers don’t tell the full story because yield varies. If I had more time, I might try to subtract out the data from early admissions to get a better sense of if/how regular admissions statistics have changed. Left as an exercise for the reader!

2) As you would expect, there is much stability here. Williams does not change much year-to-year.

3) Most interesting number for the class of 2020 is that “19 percent (223 students) are affiliated with QuestBridge, an organization with which Williams has partnered since 2006 to identify talented, high-achieving high school students from low-income backgrounds.” Questbridge has been the single biggest change in Williams admissions in the last decade or more. I wish that we knew more about it.

4) Thanks to Mary Dettloff, Director of Media Relations, for help with background information.


Change on Spring Street

Lovely article from Phyllis McGuire about change on Spring Street over the years.

At the post office on Spring Street last week, I mailed “birthday” cookies to my son Christopher, who lives on Long Island. It is a tradition that took root when he was a freshman at Williams College far from our home in New York.

Memories took me back to the Saturday we drove Christopher to Williams to start his first year as a college student. And I set eyes on Spring Street for the first time.

With flower boxes and green spaces, it was very different from shopping areas in New York. I especially liked the white clapboard houses that served as business offices or stores.

We stopped at Slippery Banana to buy snacks before unpacking the car and moving Christopher’s belongings to his dormitory.

In a window of The House of Walsh, a high-end clothing store, a sign read SALE, but we did not have time to shop — sale or not.

Slippery Banana and The House of Walsh were on the west side of Spring Street, as were the eateries Colonial Pizza and Cobble Café.

Before starting back to New York, Bill and I drove to B&L Service Station at the bottom of Spring Street to fill the gas tank of our nine-year-old Dodge.

Years later as a resident of Williamstown, I would pick up a local newspaper at the Williams Newsroom on Spring Street after attending Mass at St. Patrick’s Church.

The aroma of freshly baked bread wafted from the Clarksburg Bakery.

Whenever time drew near to send a greeting card to a friend or relative, off I went to McClelland’s Stationery, just a couple of doors down from the Williams Newsroom.

It was not long before I was greeted with a friendly, “Hello, Phyllis. How are you?” in a number of stores.

Shopping for clothes one day at Salvatore’s, I bought a pair of black loafers that turned out to be the most comfortable, long-lasting shoes I ever wore.

I received a lot of compliments on the pink floppy sunhat and pink cloche I bought at Zanna’s, a women’s clothing store.

All those stores are gone.

On the other hand, a barber shop founded 100 years ago is still located on Spring Street. It is no longer known as St. Pierre’s Barbershop, but as Empire Cutz, having been renamed by Duane Griffiths who bought the business from Roger St. Pierre in 2015.

Goodman’s Jewelers is in its 73rd year on Spring Street.

Harts, previously Harts Pharmacy, has changed hands a few times in its 85 years on Spring Street. Until 1970, it was owned by members of the Hart family. Then Phillip Hart sold the business to Edward Conroy. When Conroy retired in 2012, he sold the business to Steven Wiehl who decided that prescriptions would no longer be filled at the store. Harts is now a general store.

According to information available from the Williamstown Historical Museum, Spring Street was strictly residential into the 1890s. Stores were scattered all over town.

Now, stores on Spring Street come and go.

The Barbara Prey Gallery and the Harrison Gallery closed their doors forever in the last months of 2015. I had visited them often and will miss them.

The space The Barbara Prey Gallery had occupied is now home to The Progressive Palette Studio and Gallery.

And on March 1, Amy’s Cottage will relocate from Water Street to the building that used to house the Harrison Gallery.

Amy Bryan, owner of the business, says they have outgrown the space on Water Street.

“It was getting squishy and we couldn’t display our merchandise properly,” she said.

“Now we are focusing on great sales in our Water Street location to empty the store before we close it in mid-February.”

The saying goes “change is the only constant.” So be it, but I wish that any change that comes to Spring Street would not detract from its small-town charm.

We ought to recruit McGuire to write for EphBlog. Given the bloodbath among local papers, I doubt that the Berkshire Eagle is long for this world.


Wasn’t there a dictionary in Chapin?

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 9.34.55 PM


Admissions Decisions

Admissions decisions for the class of 2020 are out. An example:



1) Congratulations to all the admitted Ephs!

2) Could someone post the entire e-mail in the comments? Future historians will thank you!

3) Note that the 1,200 number includes the 250 or so admitted via early decision. So, we will be looking to get another 300 students out of the 950 newly admitted.


Real Reform Mandate

Mike Needham ’04 writes about the past and future of the Republican Party.

From the perspective of the conservative grassroots and affiliated organizations, however, the friction of the last several years has been anything but pointless. It is a result of deep and irreconcilable disagreements between activist reformers and the Washington establishment over both the means conservatives should employ and the ends they should pursue. At its core, it is a dispute over how much the center-right should aim to disrupt the political status quo. Those eager to shake up the stale agenda of the Republican Party do their cause no service by standing on the sidelines or opposing the Tea Party’s efforts; in this fight, reformers of all stripes must hope the Tea Party wins.

EphBlog agrees! Read the whole thing.


Ferguson’s Inheritance

Interesting article by Donna Murch ’91.

Built on recent centuries’ long substructure of white supremacy, but nurtured in an era of neoliberal retreat and technological advance, this massive state-building project, known alternately as mass incarceration, the new Jim Crow, the prison-industrial complex, or more simply, according to former New York Times journalist Chris Hedges, “the world’s most advanced police state,” has become a defining feature of our times. It is impossible to understand the enormity of the reaction to Michael Brown’s murder without recognizing the daunting shadow cast by state repression in the fifty-year aftermath of the modern Civil Rights Movement.

Powerful stuff. Read the whole thing.

At the same time, it is tough to take Murch too seriously when she uses this sort of rhetoric:

Police left Michael Brown’s body in the street for nearly five hours, immersed in his own blood.

Police shouldn’t have treated the scene like that of any other homicide investigation in the Western world? What gibberish! If the Williamstown police shot a white student, I would want a thorough investigation, one that inevitably begins by not touching anything until forensic professionals have completed all their CSI duties. If that takes 4 hours, then so be it. Does Murch have any reason to believe that the crime scene work was purposefully shoddy or slow?


Georgetown Hot

Fun article on “How the Cold War made Georgetown hot” in the New Yorker.

When conditions are cozy enough, the line between punditry and policymaking begins to blur, and the press and the politicians imagine that, together, they are calling the tunes to which the world waltzes. Something like this happened in the early years of the Cold War. It was a symptom of a striking feature of that period: the relative homogeneity of the people who ran America’s foreign policy, headed its foundations and cultural institutions, and published its leading newspapers, and the relative unity of their beliefs.

Indeed. There is a great senior thesis to be written about this in the context of Williams alumni. Combine the careers of a half dozen or so Ephs at the center of this world. Who would you include? CIA Director Richard Helms ’35? Secretary of State Madeline Albright (Eph Mom and ex-wife)? Suggestions welcome!

Loved this story.

Alsop seems to have been mostly undeterred by the threat of blackmail, but it shadowed him for the rest of his life. In 1970, people around Washington began getting letters containing photographs of Joe and Boris in the nude—evidently a Soviet response to attacks Alsop had made, in his column, on the Soviet Ambassador. With the help of the C.I.A. director, Richard Helms, a back-channel deal was brokered: the photographs stopped appearing, and Alsop ceased attacking.

With Russian archives now (?) open, providing a thorough history of this one incident would make for a great history thesis. Who will write it?


Death of Fun

Elissa Shevinsky’s ’01 former partner, Pax Dickinson, writes about moral panics and the death of fun.

Hi, I’m Pax Dickinson. I’m the guy who was shamed by Gawker and fired because I made off color jokes on twitter. I’ve been quiet for the past year, but I wanted to stick my head up and talk about some troubling trends in the technology industry. This isn’t an essay about me and my moment of infamy; it’s an essay about tolerance (or, rather, the lack of it) in the tech world and how political correctness is making people fear to ‘Think Different’.

Read the whole thing. One of the main reasons that most EphBlog authors post psuedonomously is precisely the lack of tolerance that we have encountered online. Bug or feature?

After being fired last year from my job as Business Insider CTO, I went full time into building Glimpse with my co-founder Elissa. I really felt strongly that I could try to take some of the negativity and try to leverage it into building something positive for privacy and free speech. The Glimpse story is still to be concluded but having built out the infrastructure and encryption architecture successfully after a year it was time for me to move on to other things.

I also knew that I was holding Elissa back. I know my baggage was hurting the company. We were asked to insert clauses that would strip my equity if I “embarrassed” the company and it’s reasonable to assume that my presence as co-founder made other VCs shy away from us, which is heartbreaking to me because Elissa is fucking amazing and deserves better than that.

As do we all.


1942 Movie may be of interest …


CJ Cregg an Eph

Thanks to Sam Alterman ’18 for pointing out that West Wing press secretary CJ Cregg is an Eph.


Tuition Update

All campus e-mail about tuition:

To the Classes of 2017, 2018, and 2019,

I am writing with information about the college’s financial planning for the coming year.

The money we spend on your education every year comes from three main sources: what we take from the endowment, what you and your families pay, and what we receive as gifts for current use. To sustain the endowment in perpetuity, each year we aim to spend no more than 5 percent of its value. That money plus gifts for current use represent 59 percent of our revenue.

Virtually all the rest comes from student charges. After projecting revenue from endowment and gifts, we calculate that to provide a Williams-quality education in the coming year will require a comprehensive fee that grows by 3.46 percent. That’s the ninth year in a row of declining rates of increase.

Here’s how it breaks down:

Tuition $51,490
Board 6,760
Room 6,930
Activities and Residential House Fees 300

Total $65,480

This total falls in the middle of those at peer institutions.

Our financial aid program will remain among the strongest anywhere, and if you think that you may be among those who now qualify for aid for the first time, please contact the financial aid office as soon as possible.

We’re fortunate at Williams to have the support of our relatively large endowment and of the exceptional generosity of our alumni, parents, and friends. At the same time, we understand the financial sacrifices that your families make to provide you with an education. In a recent letter similar to this one, I thanked them again for those sacrifices, and I suggest that this might be good moment for you to do the same.

Sincerely yours,
Adam Falk


1) “That’s the ninth year in a row of declining rates of increase.” Could only be written by a physicist! So, although the first derivative is positive, the second is negative? Or is it different in dollars as opposed to percentages? Help us out, Eph Math Mavens!

2) Williams is a luxury good. Once you realize that fact, it is obvious that bragging about low rates of increase in the sticker price is stupid. You never read about Gucci or Prada doing that! Indeed, perhaps the single most costly financial mistake by a NESCAC school was Middlebury’s tuition “freeze” five years ago. Williams is smart, at least, to avoid that mistake. Virtue signally can be an expensive hobby.

3) The best strategy is not to aim for the middle of “peer institutions.” Instead, charge at the top of the range. This indicates high quality to poorly informed customers, provides more resources for improving the actual quality, and gauges as much money as possible from the global 1%. What is not to like?!


Torres ’12 Uninterrupted

Jessica Torres ’12 is one of the most important undergraduates of the last decade because of her central role in the November 2011 Prospect House graffiti hoax.

You might think that such infamy would, at least, cause Williams to stop praising her. Think again!


The interview is titled “What Can Happen When a Dominican Girl from the Bronx Gets the Right Education.” Now, a naive reader might think that Torres would praise her Williams education. After all, why else would an official Williams account be tweeting it out? Unfortunately (or not?), there is not a word about Williams in the article.


Allen ’62 on Log Mural

From the Record:

To the Editor:

President Falk has committed a serious error by censoring a painting in the Log and convening a tribunal to judge the moral value of art objects on the campus. The committee members will be serving on the College’s edition of the old House Un-American Activities Committee. Around the United States, terrified college presidents are running for their lives to stay ahead of intellectual lynch mobs. The Falk effort is an attempt at preemptive escape from the fire of the new righteous.

Paintings and sculpture will always displease, alienate or offend someone. There is no object of art that can’t be attacked for whatever reason. The right to criticize objects exists for all. Also, the right of groups to have representation through the placement of art on the campus is reasonable.

All of that vastly differs from the act of boarding up a painting and appointing a committee to destroy the past. That practice when done by communists, fascists or the Taliban leads to endless destruction and thought suppression, and, ultimately, backfires.

My suggestion is that President Falk disband his committee on moral appropriateness and focus on broader representation of groups who feel underrepresented. Raise some money for new artworks and be done with running from the mob.

Herbert A. Allen ’62

The College would love to “raise some money” from Herb Allen, one of the most generous alums of the last 50 years. John Malcolm ’87, call your office!

If you were Malcolm, how would you start a conversation with Allen about this topic, given that you lack the power to make the committee go away?


Terrorizing Republicans

From the Washington Post:

Before Donald Trump began terrorizing the Republican establishment, there was Michael Needham.

The 35-year-old conservative prodigy has spent six years instilling panic in Washington Republicans as head of Heritage Action for America. But instead of pitching himself as the solution to D.C.’s problems, Needham conducts his own slash-and-burn campaign to rid Congress of policies and players he sees as insufficiently conservative — many of them fellow Republicans.

Read the whole thing! Longtime readers will recall that Mike, besides being editor-in-chief of the Record, as an early EphBlogger. Do you want to appear in the Washington Post in 15 years? Join EphBlog today!

Needham, a native New Yorker who has never worked on Capitol Hill, is unapologetic about leading one of Washington’s most feared advocacy groups.

“The anger [from voters] comes from a place that is profoundly right,” Needham said in an interview, referring to Trump’s political success. “I think we [Heritage Action] have landed exactly where the mood of the electorate is. I think that is why politicians are channeling our message. A Trump election or nomination is a complete vindication that Washington needs to change.”

Washington Republicans might panic at the thought of a Trump presidency, but Needham says he does not. He believes that underneath the bluster, the businessman is malleable on specifics — specifics that Needham and his team could provide.

Could Needham end up as Chief of Staff in a Trump Administration? We can only hope so!

Retired Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio), chairman and CEO of the centrist Republican Main Street Partnership, called the group’s tactics “destructive.”

“They lost me when they began shooting inside the tent,” said LaTourette, another friend of Boehner’s. “Their targets stopped being liberals and people who were trying to take the country to the left, and their fire was aimed at people who they judged as not conservative enough.”

LaTourette added: “Those ‘key votes’ make people nervous, because when you make a conscious decision to go against them, you guarantee yourself a primary election.”

Heritage Action was born with fangs out.

Just like EphBlog!


A Madrassa, Not a College

Longtime readers will recall the controversy surrounding Larry Summers comments about female achievement in math/science more than a decade ago. From the Harvard Crimson:

CRIMSON: From what psychologists know, is there ample evidence to support the hypothesis that a difference in “innate ability” accounts for the under-representation of women on science faculties?

PINKER: First, let’s be clear what the hypothesis is—every one of Summers’ critics has misunderstood it. The hypothesis is, first, that the statistical distributions of men’s and women’s quantitative and spatial abilities are not identical—that the average for men may be a bit higher than the average for women, and that the variance for men might be a bit higher than the variance for women (both implying that there would be a slightly higher proportion of men at the high end of the scale). It does not mean that all men are better at quantitative abilities than all women! That’s why it would be immoral and illogical to discriminate against individual women even if it were shown that some of the statistical differences were innate.

Second, the hypothesis is that differences in abilities might be one out of several factors that explain differences in the statistical representation of men and women in various professions. It does not mean that it is the only factor. Still, if it is one factor, we cannot reflexively assume that different statistical representation of men and women in science and engineering is itself proof of discrimination. Incidentally, another sign that we are dealing with a taboo is that when it comes to this issue, ordinarily intelligent scientists suddenly lose their ability to think quantitatively and warp statistical hypotheses into crude dichotomies.

As far as the evidence is concerned, I’m not sure what “ample” means, but there is certainly enough evidence for the hypothesis to be taken seriously.

For example, quantitative and spatial skills vary within a gender according to levels of sex hormones. And in samples of gifted students who are given every conceivable encouragement to excel in science and math, far more men than women expressed an interest in pursuing science and math.

CRIMSON: Were President Summers’ remarks within the pale of legitimate academic discourse?

PINKER: Good grief, shouldn’t everything be within the pale of legitimate academic discourse, as long as it is presented with some degree of rigor? That’s the difference between a university and a madrassa.

Is Williams a college or a madrassa? Adam Falk, and (a majority of?) the faculty have decided that certain ideas may not be discussed on campus, that certain views are “hate speech.” Indeed, students who believe these things — or just want to hear those views from a published author who has spoken at places like the University of Pennsylvania and whose books are available in Sawyer Library — may very well be guilty of “hate speech” themselves, and therefore subject to discipline under the College’s Code of Conduct.


Polite Silence

A reader commented yesterday:

At the faculty meeting today, a liberal cum libertarian critique of President Falk’s decision to cancel the Derbyshire talk was met with polite silence. A defense of President Falk’s decision was greeted with widespread applause.

1) Could other readers provide more details? Which faculty members spoke? What arguments did they make?

2) Those who hope that Williams is still a college rather than a madrasa might console themselves by imagining that the widespread applause was the dying gasp of an intellectually bankrupt regime, like the end of the miners’ strike in England 30 years ago. Those with a clear-eyed view of the future should cry over the Williams that was.

3) One of the mostly widely-read essays at EphBlog is about why smart 18-year-olds should choose Williams over Harvard. I have talked to more than one Eph who came across this essay while making her decision and was influenced by it. Yet can any lover of freedom continue to make that recommendation? At Harvard, students are treated as adults. They can invite someone with unpopular ideas, someone like John Derbyshire, to campus. They can listen to him and argue with him. At Williams, students can’t do that. They have about as much agency, at least when it comes to unpopular ideas, as 5th graders at the local elementary school.

If you are someone who is happy to follow the herd, who has no interest in bucking the mores of polite society, then Williams is probably still a better college than Harvard. But, if you are someone who sees the world differently than Adam Falk, then you ought to think twice before coming to Williams.

And those are perhaps the saddest words ever written at EphBlog . . .


Counter Programming

gravesIs it random that, on the same evening Charles Murray is speaking on campus, we now have this event? I doubt it! Especially since the Davis Center’s weekly newsletter did not mention the talk when it released this week’s schedule of events, nor is the event listed in the Williams Calendar.

Murray is speaking at 7:30. The Facebook page is here. Murray tweets:


The “Coming Revolution” is genetics. We discussed it a bit yesterday. Summary:

1) All human behavioral traits are heritable. (pdf) If your genetic parents were criminals, you are much more likely to be a criminal than a random person is, even if you were given up for adoption at birth.

2) Human evolution has been recent, copious and regional. (link) There are major genetic differences between individuals whose ancestry traces back to, say, west Africa and those whose ancestry traces back to northwest Asia.

3) Many of the specific genes that explain major portions of the population variation in many important things (height, athleticism, appearance, empathy, intelligence, beauty, loyalty, et cetera) will be identified in the next decade.

But I am more curious about the purpose behind, and likely success of, the decision to schedule Graves for the same evening. Comments from readers?

1) Who invited Graves and when was that decision made? If the Record were a competent paper, it would find out. Odds are, the senior staff (Falk? Haynes?) decided that having just Charles Murray on campus was asking for trouble.

2) Was it smart to schedule Graves for 90 minutes, directly prior to Murray’s talk? Seems weird to me. Who wants to listen to 3 hours of race/genetics/IQ? Not me! Given that, how many people will come to see Graves (at that awkward start time of 6:00 PM) when Murray, the big draw, is at 7:30?

3) The College, via tools like its official twitter account, is happy to advertise liberal speakers. And that is a good thing! But it has refused to tweet out information about Murray’s talk. If that isn’t an example of bias against conservative speakers/ideas, what is it?


What Charles Murray Believes

Charles Murray will be speaking at Williams tomorrow. Professor Nate Kornell comments:

The next speaker in the [Uncomfortable Learning] series is Charles Murray. I’m glad he was invited because whether you agree with him or not, he raises important questions that push students and faculty alike to think hard.

“Important questions,” huh? Tell that to the current crop of social justice warriors at Williams, people like Sam Alterman ’18 and Professor Sam Crane. From their point of view, Murray is every bit as bad as Derbyshire because he believes that there are important genetic differences between human races — differences that are much more than skin deep — differences which help to explain, among many other things, why Japan is a much nicer place to live than Nigeria.

Consider Murray’s review of Nicholas Wade’s A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History.

The problem facing us down the road is the increasing rate at which the technical literature reports new links between specific genes and specific traits. Soon there will be dozens, then hundreds, of such links being reported each year. The findings will be tentative and often disputed—a case in point is the so-called warrior gene that encodes monoamine oxidase A and may encourage aggression. But so far it has been the norm, not the exception, that variations in these genes show large differences across races. We don’t yet know what the genetically significant racial differences will turn out to be, but we have to expect that they will be many. It is unhelpful for social scientists and the media to continue to proclaim that “race is a social construct” in the face of this looming rendezvous with reality.

Indeed. From the Record:

Murray, author of The Bell Curve, is scheduled to come to the College this spring. He believes that race and class are linked to intelligence. Falk has no plans to cancel Murray’s visit.

“It’s actually instructive to compare [him] directly with Derbyshire. Charles Murray has never written anything, to my knowledge, like Derbyshire’s ‘The Talk.’ I don’t agree with what he says, I haven’t agreed with much of what he has said for 20 years, but he’s a scholar,” Falk said. He hopes that people start a civil and constructive argument with Murray when he comes.

Good luck! When it comes to race/genetics/{intelligence,criminality,empathy,etc}, Murray and Derbyshire are identical. Genetics has a huge influence on most personal characteristics. Those genetics differ across races. Therefore, . . .

Think this is nothing but right-wing racist nonsense, correctly relegated to the dirtiest sewers on the web? Think again, starting with Sunday’s Boston Globe:

The effects of genetic differences make some people more impulsive and shortsighted than others, some people more healthy or infirm than others, and, despite how uncomfortable it might be to admit, genes also make some folks more likely to break the law than others.

Charles Murray believes that genetics cause criminality (along with the Boston Globe) and genetics differ among races (along with Nicholas Wade). Therefore, he believes, at a minimum, that it is possible that races differ in their genetic predispositions to criminality. In fact, Murray almost certainly goes full Derbyshire and believes that different racial groups have different genetic predispositions to criminality and that this, among other factors, helps to explain why Japan is a much nicer place to live than Nigeria.

This is the person that Falk considers a “scholar” and that Kornell thinks “raises important questions.” What do Sam Alterman and Sam Crane think?


Kornell Recants

Professor Nate Kornell shared his thoughts on the UL/Derbyshire/Falk controversy.

I’ve been criticized for a recent tweet in which I supported the decision to disinvite a speaker in a lecture series here at Williams College, where I teach. In case anyone cares (which I doubt) here’s my thinking.

One thing I’m sure of, though: College campuses are THE place where rational debates should find safe harbor. If colleges want to create safe spaces, they should be places where it is safe to speak one’s mind, not where people are safe from hearing messages they don’t like (having such spaces is fine, but colleges needn’t provide them).

I wouldn’t want to disinvite someone because I don’t like their message — again, I want to hear from people who disagree with me — but only if they don’t make a rational case for it.

Read the whole thing. Comments:

1) We love Nate Kornell! He is exactly the sort of professor that Williams needs more of, engaged with both his students and the wider world. Kudos to Williams for hiring/tenuring him.

2) Glad to see Kornell come to his senses (although that last sentence could have used a good editor).

3) How many professors have supported Falk’s cancellation? Sarah Bolton, Sam Crane . . . Others?


Curse of the Taco Six

What is it about sombreros and NESCAC that generates such controversy? From the Washington Post:

On Saturday, two members of Bowdoin College’s student government will face impeachment proceedings. What heinous transgression did they commit? Theft, plagiarism, sexual assault?

Nope. They attended a party where some guests wore tiny sombreros.

Two weeks ago, some students threw a birthday party for a friend. The email invitation read: “the theme is tequila, so do with that what you may. We’re not saying it’s a fiesta, but we’re also not not saying that :).” The invitation — sent by a student of Colombian descent, which may or may not be relevant here — advertised games, music, cups and “other things that are conducive to a fun night.”

Those “other things” included the miniature sombreros, several inches in diameter. And when photos of attendees wearing those mini-sombreros showed up on social media, students and administrators went ballistic.

College administrators sent multiple schoolwide emails notifying the students about an “investigation” into a possible “act of ethnic stereotyping.”

1) It would be fun to read those e-mails. Could any Bowdoin readers copy and paste in the comments?

2) This is at least the third (!) sombrero-related controversy to hit NESCAC. The first was our own Taco Six. There was a similar “scandal” at Middlebury, although I am hazy on the details.

3) Never too late to create the Eph Style Guide!


Kornell Backs Speech Cancellation


Does Professor Nate Kornell really believe that banning speakers is a good idea, or is he just hopeful that, if he spouts the usual PC-vanities, the speech police won’t come for him next? I don’t know. But if Williams leftist are looking for another person to attack, Kornell would make for an interesting target.

1) Kornell is, obviously, a rape apologist.

2) Kornell fails to support — which is more or less the same thing as attacking — minority students.

3) Most relevantly, Kornell agrees with John Derbyshire, Steve Sailer and Charles Murray about the nature and importance of IQ. Recall:


Here are some truths that Kornell almost certainly believes.

1) IQ tests like the SAT are some of the most important and reproducible results in all psychology. Doing well on an IQ test is highly correlated with all sorts of outcomes including performance in Williams college classes.

2) IQ is significantly genetic. The population variance that is explained by genes is at least 50% and possibly much more. The best way to ensure that your children are smart is to marry someone smart, and that is just as true even if you intend to give up your children for adoption.

3) Measured IQ (using any intelligence test, including the SAT) varies significantly by race, with African-Americans scoring much lower than, say, Asian-Americans.

4) The 10,000 or so genes that are affect IQ are being identified. This work is the “locomotive” that Charles Murray refers to as heading toward the social sciences. Within ten years, you will be able to make a fairly decent prediction, at birth, of what someone will score on the SAT 16 years later.

And that is just a sample of Professor Nate Kornell’s horrible beliefs! How can Adam Falk put up with such hate speech infecting Williams College classrooms?

UPDATE: Kornell recants.


Help Wanted : Strongman. Apply within …

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 4.22.58 PM

Run large country. No experience necessary. Interested applicants will have successful media background.


An interesting view of us from the UK








What Would Gaudino Do?

Another excerpt from this excellent article (pdf) about Robert Gaudino.


Exactly. Does Sam Crane, does any member of the Williams faculty, do that today, really push Williams students to think hard about that “same set of limiting prejudices” they bring with to the Purple Valley? Perhaps. Certainly, they challenge students who come in with traditional/conservative/libertarian/Republican prejudices. And that is a good thing! Gaudino would approve. But he would just as surely mock professors like Crane if they declined to challenge the prejudices of progressive/liberal/leftist/Democratic students.

This point — the essentially non-partisan nature of uncomfortable learning — is one that many people fail to understand. Consider this comment from A Williams Parent:

[Gaudino] was determined to get the 1950’s and 1960’s men out of the cloistered, privileged, materially ambitious purple bubble.

Sure. But that wasn’t all he was interested in! Gaudino was a political philosopher from the University of Chicago. He was a Straussian before Straussian was cool. He was a “classic conservative.”

It was not spending a couple of hours in a lecture hall in Williamstown . . . But a lecture, a Q & A? Almost meaningless, an intellectual or pseudo intellectual postcard and little more. He should be read instead of invoked.

I encourage you to read him! For those of us who have, his position, were he alive today, is obvious. More importantly, the above comparison represents the same sort of confusion we see in this Record op-ed by former EphBlogger Jeff Thaler ’74.

What exactly is “uncomfortable learning” in a liberal arts education?

One answer: It is not someone standing in front of an audience to espouse an ideology. That is not dialogue, not Socratic, not an educator or speaker willing to reduce his or her own self in order to give space to the students to wrestle – verbally, publicly – with their own views, beliefs, biases, ignorance. Gaudino was a Socratic gadfly – while he liked to provoke discussion and at times controversy, he never tried to impose his own beliefs or ideology upon students, faculty or community members.

No one doubts that a class, ideally a semester-long tutorial, with a professor like Gaudino is a superior experience to a single lecture. The issue is whether a lecture — especially a lecture by a published author who would challenge many of the basic assumptions of the Williams faculty and student body — is better than no lecture at all. Anyone who reads Gaudino with an open mind would have no doubt as to his answer: Bring on the lectures! The more people who come to Williams and make students/faculty “uncomfortable” the better.

You really don’t know the story of Gaudino’s famous lecture, the single most disruptive event staged by a Williams faculty member in the last century? The one where he began by insulting all the women and freshmen in the audience? You don’t know the stories about how Gaudino, in his complaints about the founding of the Center for Development Economics, was perhaps the single loudest critic in his generation of the College administration?

As paraphrased by his colleague Professor Vince Barnett:

You have to look at your own life and your own convictions and your own opinions and ask yourself where they come from and why do I hold them and how good are they? And he kept pushing at the boundaries of these convictions in such a way that I’m sure it made a number of students very uncomfortable. They would make some adults very uncomfortable.

What sort of questions would make a progressive Williams student uncomfortable today? Not questions about wealth or privilege or the evils of racism. That is what she already believes, with all her heart. If you believe in uncomfortable learning for her, then you need to ask some very different questions.


First They Came for the Fervent Liberals

Consider this comment from ephalum regarding student complaints about Venker being allowed to speak at Williams.

Sorry, Juan, but that comment reads like a self-parody (is it intended to be, perhaps I am missing something?) of the sorts of ridiculous overreaction to speakers whose ideas you might dislike, even find offensive or stupid. Having a speaker appear on campus who no one is under any obligation to listen to in no way causes tangible harm, let alone should be equated to the “dispersal of violent ideologies.” The answer to speech you dislike is more speech. That is fundamental to any discourse, whether political or academic. During my time at Williams we had plenty of speakers far more inherently offensive than this speaker on BOTH sides of the spectrum (Charles Murray, Nation of Islam leader Khalid Muhammed, etc.) but no one claimed to suffer any sort of psychological harm based on their mere presence on campus.

(And in case you don’t know, I am a fervent liberal, but the few extreme voices from the far left trying to shut down discourse due to purported psychological damage are an embarrassment to the rest of us).

Indeed. But where was ephalum four months later when Falk cancelled Derbyshire using, more or less, the exact same reasoning which ephalum mocked here? In particular, is Adam Falk (someone who has successfully “shut down discourse”) an “embarrassment to the rest of us?” And, if not, what distinguishes him from the students who protested against Venker being allowed to speak?

A similar complaint applies to our own Professor Miller who, four months ago, played the “First they came for the Socialists” card, writing:

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

Talk is cheap. If Miller really believes in the “the principles of freedom of inquiry and liberty of thought and expression,” he will stand up to Falk. Tenure serves no useful purpose if it does not encourage professors like Miller to fight the administration about important matters of principal.

Assume that Miller means what he writes. What should he do next?


Dominick Dunne ’49, the Mayor of the OJ Courtroom

Dominick Dunne, Williams Class of 1949, was awarded the Bicentennial Medal in 1999.

The Cinema Society & The Wall Street Journal Host A Screening Of Babel

This is the closing line of the tribute to him:  “May your remarkable skills as social anthropologist long continue to reveal the rights and wrongs of a society still groping to find its moral bearings.”

In 1995 Dominick Dunne covered the OJ Simpson trial for Vanity Fair magazine.

And what coverage it was …

If O.J. Simpson’s murder trial took place today, a perpetual stream of social-media updates from the courtroom would alert us to everything from the defense attorneys’ outfits to the most shocking moments on the stand.

In 1995, when the trial actually happened, we had none of that. Instead, we had Dominick Dunne.  

In the new FX series The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, actor Robert Morse plays Dunne to perfection.

In the 15 years since the trial, we have learned many things about common police handling of blacks from harassment to the horrific use of deadly force. Perhaps it is easier now to understand, if not agree with, the black reaction to the ‘not guilty’ verdict.

Some of this process of obtaining new wisdom may apply to the many column inches of deconstruction and parsing currently running on Ephblog … there is a value to the simple humanity of trying to understand another’s point of view.


Super Tuesday


Voting results are not in, but I bet that Trump wins the Republican primary in Massachusetts in a landslide. I also bet that not a single Williams faculty member or administrator voted for him. (Still hope that the Record will interview some staff members who support Trump.)

Any thoughts/predictions from our readers?


Accreditation Violation

Williams is accredited by the New England Association of of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). The current standards are here. Key portion:

5.23 Scholarship, research, and creative activities receive encouragement and support appropriate to the institution’s purposes and objectives. Faculty and students are accorded academic freedom in these activities.

It is a violation of the academic freedom of students to prevent them from bringing a (non-violent) speaker to campus. Is Williams in danger of losing its accreditation because it now picks and chooses among the speakers that it allows students to bring to campus?

The new standards (which come into effect in July) are worded differently but imply (?) the same substance. Relevant passages include:

The institution protects and fosters academic freedom for all faculty regardless of rank or term of appointment.

The institution is committed to the free pursuit and dissemination of knowledge. It assures faculty and students the freedom to teach and study, to examine all pertinent data, to question assumptions, and to be guided by the evidence of scholarly research.

If a faculty member (and I bet that Uncomfortable Learning could find at least one!) issues a new invitation to Derbyshire and the College insists on banning him, then there is no doubt that this would be an infringement of academic freedom.

Leftist readers will no doubt recall something from Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.

“Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules.

Can the College live up the rules of its own accreditation organization? I hope so!

The Record ought to call NEASC and ask some questions . . .

Side question: What is the closest Eph connection to either Alinsky or Rules for Radicals? Perhaps Wade Rathke ’71 of Acorn?