Currently browsing the archives for July 2016

Crushing Trump


EphBlog veteran Rory Kramer ’03 argues that Ghazala Khan is crushing Trump. Maybe! Do our readers agree?

The contrary case is that Trump wants to be President and he knows that the best way to win the election is to keep the issue of Muslim immigration front and center. Mr. and Mrs. Khan believe that Muslim immigration makes American stronger and that we should allow millions of immigrants (like them) to come to America from countries like Pakistan. Hillary Clinton agrees, I assume.

Trump thinks that, if the election is fought over the question “What is the optimal amount of immigration from countries like Pakistan?” he wins in a landslide. Is he wrong?


Lewis Slams Falk Over Derbyshire V

Let’s spend five days reviewing Professor Michael Lewis’s surprisingly sharp attack on President Falk concerning the banning of John Derbyshire from Williams. Today is Day 5.

Here’s where Uncomfortable Learning comes in. Having recognized that there is a growing uniformity of thought here (and elsewhere), its leaders invested a great deal of effort in bringing to the College points of view that typically go unheard. Twice their events have been canceled events. Perhaps Hopkins Hall can save them the trouble by showing them the blacklist of speakers who are persona non grata. And, while they’re at it, they might explain why it was a dreadful thing to have a blacklist in 1952 but it is morally correct in 2016.

Of course it isn’t called a blacklist. It is a symptom of the fundamental dishonesty of this day that we hesitate to call things by their right names. Back in the 1930s, that age of international fascism, the Louisiana populist Huey Long was asked if he thought fascism could ever succeed in the United States. “Sure,” he replied, “just so long as they call it anti-fascism.”

1) “events have been canceled events” Don’t the Record editors even read these articles?

2) The blacklist of 1952 was horrible because it targeted people on the left. Those are the good guys, as every Williams student is taught. The blacklistees of today — people like Venker and Derbyshire — are of the right. They are evil and should not be heard. At least, that is how Adam Falk sees it.

Again, I can’t recall a Williams faculty member even being so publicly critical of a Williams president. The question now, however, is: Will Professor Lewis and other faculty fight for free speech and open debate on the Williams campus?

I have my doubts. Lewis is a busy guy with many interests. Does he even live in Williamstown? Is he really willing to engage in the local faculty/student politics that taking Falk would require? I hope so! And EphBlog has some suggestions for when the fight begins . . .

Uncomfortable Learning is now in a stronger position than ever because now the College must decide, ahead of time, which speakers it is going to ban.

Imagine that UL leaders want to make life tough for Adam Falk. All they need to do is ask him (or the “Assistant Director for Student Organizations & Involvement in the Office of Student Life”) if they may invite person X to Williams. That is what the policy requires of them. They don’t have to — in fact, they are not allowed to! — invite person X before getting this permission. But this procedure (permission first, invitation second) means that they can endlessly torture Adam Falk by asking for permission for speakers that span the continuum from John Derbyshire on leftward.

The College is then trapped. Either they allow Uncomfortable Learning to develop a long list of all the speakers that Williams has banned (imagine the Washington Post article that would come out of the leaking of this list!) or they have to draw the line at Derbyshire and allow just about everyone else in. With luck, they will be smart enough to choose Door #2.

Does Uncomfortable Learning have the necessary student leadership to take advantage of this opportunity?

Professor Michael Lewis could do this as well. He could, easily, send an e-mail to Falk asking if it is OK for him to invite Jared Taylor or Richard Spencer or Milo Yiannopoulos or Ann Coulter or Charles Johnson or . . .

Either Falk says “No” and we crucify him on a cross of open debate or he says “Yes” and the problem is solved.


Lewis Slams Falk Over Derbyshire IV

Let’s spend five days reviewing Professor Michael Lewis’s surprisingly sharp attack on President Falk concerning the banning of John Derbyshire from Williams. Today is Day 4.

Homogenous intellectual environments are not good at responding to new factors or conditions, as I learned from my own college experience. I went to Haverford, a Quaker college known for its extraordinary moral probity (with the country’s most rigorous honor code). I was there during the presidency of Jimmy Carter, throughout which time, in all my courses in political science, history and economics, I never heard the slightest suggestion that mighty shifts in American public opinion were underway that would lead to the Ronald Reagan landslide of 1980. My professors probably were unaware of their omission. But by being unable to give students a fair and well-informed summary of the basic tenets of the Reagan platform, other than a mocking caricature of it, Haverford failed in its duty to prepare its students for American life.

Something similar seems to be happening today with Donald Trump. We may write him off as a laughable neo-Napoleonic carbuncle, but if a sizable portion of the American population thinks otherwise, then our students need to hear the most articulate case for Trump – and hear it here, without having to drive to Renee’s Diner in North Adams. And if they cannot hear it from their professors, then they ought to be able to hear it regularly from outside speakers.

“[L]aughable neo-Napoleonic carbuncle” is great writing!

Recall that Lewis was writing in February. The case for Williams students being exposed to “the most articulate case for Trump” is even stronger now, obviously.

Is Lewis suggesting that his Williams colleagues in political science — like EphBlog favorites Sam Crane, James McAllister, Justin Crowe ’03 and Cheryl Shanks — can’t (or won’t) give the best case for Trump in their classes? If so, he should come right out and say it. That has never been EphBlog’s position. The problem is not that Williams faculty can’t teach or that their classroom teaching is biased. The problem is that the collection of speakers that Williams has invited to campus over the last few years includes exactly zero conservatives/libertarians/Republicans/Trumpians.

John Derbyshire, by the way, was one of the first Trump supporters among the chattering classes, back in July 2015. If Williams had more speakers like him than students/faculty/Falk would have been less surprised by the rise of Trump.


Lewis Slams Falk Over Derbyshire III

Let’s spend five days reviewing Professor Michael Lewis’s surprisingly sharp attack on President Falk concerning the banning of John Derbyshire from Williams. Today is Day 3.

All this takes place against the background of a college that proclaims, ceaselessly and fervently, its commitment to diversity. But, as defined at the College, diversity seems to mean embracing the full variety of individual human differences – except for ideas and opinions. Here is why the Derbyshire and Venker incidents are so alarming. The College is fast approaching a state where the genuine exchange of serious ideas – in open public debate, with good will and mutual respect – is made impossible because a growing number of opinions are considered out of bounds. As Mary Detloff, the College’s director of media relations told The Berkshire Eagle, Derbyshire’s views on race, women’s rights, gay rights and sexual harassment render him “unsuited to discussions at Williams College.” Of course, once everyone’s views are homogenous, it’s hard to imagine what would be left to discuss.

Indeed. Lewis is exactly right about the danger and about the direction in which the College might go, might even be going right now. Recall the student who reported that although he supported Trump, he didn’t want to tell people that for (reasonable!) fear as to what that would do to his “social standing.” That seems like a problem to me! If the Williams student community chooses to ostracize someone merely because he will be voting for Trump, then honest discussion and debate becomes impossible.

But Michael Lewis, tenured member of the Williams faculty, is in a good position to do something about this! He could invite a series of speakers that agree with Trump (if not Derbyshire) on a variety of issues, thereby expanding the range of acceptable opinion on the Williams campus. If several Trump-supporters were to speak this fall, students who also support Trump would be less likely to be ostracized and more likely to speak out.


Lewis Slams Falk Over Derbyshire II

Let’s spend five days reviewing Professor Michael Lewis’s surprisingly sharp attack on President Falk concerning the banning of John Derbyshire from Williams. Today is Day 2.

The excuse is the familiar platitude that “there’s a line somewhere” that divides free speech from hate speech. And speech that crosses this line must be squelched, even at the point of covering the ears of the listeners. But the notion that there is a line between free speech and hate speech is a curious one. Free speech is a principle that you can define in absolute terms. Hate speech is an accusation – frequently a moving one – which doesn’t lend itself to the drawing of neat lines. The only stable definition for hate speech is speech that makes someone hate you.

Isn’t that exactly backward? At Williams, and places like it, hate speech is not “speech that makes someone hate you.” Hate speech is speech that you hate. Perhaps I am confused by what a “stable” definition is? Perhaps I am defining hate speech descriptively — meaning a definition that an outsider could apply to Williams and use to predict what speech the community would define as “hate” — while Lewis is being more prescriptive, trying to come up with a new definition which we might all agree on and then use going forward.

You don’t have to agree with Derbyshire to believe that the College did something wrong in forbidding him from speaking here. Administrators can make blunders, but this isn’t a blunder; rather, it’s part of a larger and ominous pattern. Last October, the same students who invited Derbyshire were pressured into rescinding their invitation to Suzanne Venker. This itch to censor is not even limited to the present. Right now, a committee is tracking down “potentially problematic” historical art on campus. Its mission is encapsulated in a remarkable leading question (a question so artfully constructed as to yield but one answer): “What should be done about historical images that portray the College as less welcoming than we are or aspire to be?” Framed that way, it’s hardly a surprise that the mural in the Log depicting Chief Hendrick – the Mohawk ally of Ephraim Williams – has been found objectionable and whisked behind plywood.

Lewis was much too pessimistic with regard to the mural. Williams (and Falk, to his credit) has decided to keep the mural at The Log. Is Lewis also wrong about the “larger and ominous pattern?” I hope so! Certainly, across higher education, there is a move to greater censorship, especially of “conservative” views. But Williams has always been more mainstream than other elite liberal arts colleges and so, one hopes, less likely to slide down the censorship slope. Remove the Venker rescission (which was truly the decision/fault of the students who invited her) and the mural controversy, and the pattern becomes the single instance involving Derbyshire. Perhaps things are less dire than Lewis makes them out to be?


Lewis Slams Falk Over Derbyshire I

Let’s spend five days reviewing Professor Michael Lewis’s surprisingly sharp attack on President Falk concerning the banning of John Derbyshire from Williams. Today is Day 1.

The title (chosen by Lewis?) of this Record op-ed is “A new blacklist: How the disinvitation of John Derbyshire reveals a troubling pattern of censorship on campus.” I can not recall a harsher public criticism of a Williams president by a Williams faculty member. Can anyone?

No one who really believes in free speech ever says, “Free speech is a value I hold in extremely high regard,” as our College’s president did last Thursday in a campus-wide email. If you believe in free speech, you simply practice it, which means going through your life listening to a good deal of cant, nonsense and occasional sheer vileness. One can always walk away; this is what it means to be an adult. But when someone sings a song of praise for free speech, you can reckon with mathematical certainty that there is a but circling in a holding pattern overhead, waiting to drop. It didn’t take long. President Falk’s paean to free speech ended with the inevitable: but John Derbyshire is not free to speak here.

I could not agree more. However, this being EphBlog, let’s engage in some small-minded editing suggestions. First, the “but” in “but circling” definitely needed quotation marks. Otherwise it reads too similar to “butt circling.” Second, planes don’t “drop” from a holding pattern, they “land” from one. Bombs drop but, when they do, they come from planes, not from holding patterns. Third, it is interesting to look at the Google search for Falk’s phrase. Turns out that no one has ever said this exact phrase before, which is not a critique of Lewis since he was obviously referring to sentiments like this in general.

But the uniqueness of the phrase makes it easier for us to find all the other critiques of Falk, like this one from Ken White at Popehat and this from Jonathan Adler at The Volokh Conspiracy. Lots of excellent material to get us through the dog days of August!


Most Pro Trump Eph?


Most (70%? 90%?) Ephs would probably agree with Jon Lovett ’04 that Trump would make a very bad president. But who is the most pro-Trump Eph (other than your humble author, of course)?

Andy Grewal ’02, a law school professor, liked Trump’s speech.


By the way, if you don’t follow Grewal’s twitter feed, you should.grewal


But I have not see Grewal endorse Trump. (Yet?) Oren Cass is a proud member of #NeverTrump but he at least recommends that conservatives not destroy themselves over the issue.

Can you ever again support Ayotte or Jindal, given that they are Trump supporters? If not, how about someone who does support them—how far does toxicity spread? And if you declare support for Trump not just incorrect but wrong, then aren’t the protestors shutting down his rallies on the side of justice? If supporting Clinton is wrong, are you prepared to go to bat for The Donald no matter what he says about her?

Disagreement is healthy. It sharpens and strengthens and teaches. Condemnation we should use only with extreme care. By all means, condemn the candidates; they are accountable for themselves. But spare those forced to grapple with the same terrible choice as you. For some, the balance tilts another way.

Mike Needham ’04 has said many kind and insightful things about Trump and, to an even greater extent, Trump’s supporters, but I don’t think he has formally endorsed anyone. I still hope for him to be the Chief of Staff in a Trump Administration.

What other Ephs are (publicly) pro-Trump?


Rechtal Turgidley Jr, my old roommate, offers a philatelic observation …

Scan 1


This early AM, a motorcycle with sidecar arrived at my front door with considerable clatter.A leather glove appeared attached to a messenger from an S&M-inspired delivery service. It was a letter from Quark Island, ME, the home of my old roommate Rechtal Turgidley, Jr.

Here are the contents:

Swart (he begins),

I listened on the radio to the speech of the Republican candidate last evening. I was re-examining certain Slovenian “chainbreaker” stamps from the first 1919 issue for perforation anomalies prior to a lecture I have been invited to give.

I knew I had heard this oratory style before and in fact that it connected to a particular commemorative sheet i had tucked away under  “One-Man Shows”.

Here it is. The issue is in celebration of A. Hitler’s 48th birthday. The cancellation date is the 20th of April, 1937. The very day indeed.

I have appended a translation. Some may question my use of “audacious” instead of “heroic”. “Audacious” contains the meaning of “new”, and ‘first-tried’ and ‘not yet tested’. This seems so much more descriptive of the man and the oratory than the rather dusty “heroic”.

I rather enjoyed being a Rockefeller Republican.

In the bonds, Beat Amherst and all that,






Confronting Climate Change Suggestions V: Any Skeptic

Adam Falk is making 2016-2017 the year of Confronting Climate Change at Williams. Let’s try to be helpful for a change and suggest some interesting speakers that he and Professor Ralph Bradburd should invite to speak. Today is Day 5 of five days of suggestions.

Last fall, Adam Falk wrote:

Williams has a long history of inviting controversial speakers to campus and no history of uninviting them, and this is a point of absolute principle. Ours is an institution of higher learning; such learning cannot occur without broad and enthusiastic exposure to a wide range of ideas and perspectives. And certainly the invitation of a speaker to campus isn’t in and of itself an endorsement – by the College or by individuals who invite a speaker – of that person’s views. Whatever our own views may be, we should be active in bringing to campus speakers whose opinions are different from our own.

Emphasis added. Let’s leave aside the Derbyshire controversy for now and focus on climate change. There are millions of people — including groups as divergent as the three university professors we have already recommended and the Republican Party and even a handful of Williams alumni — who are skeptical about climate change. Why isn’t a single one of them being invited to Confronting Climate Change? Even if Derbyshire is a bridge too far for Falk, surely he could not object to authors like, say, Matt Ridley or Bjørn Lomborg.

However, the cynic in me suspects that neither Falk nor Bradburd nor a majority of the Williams faculty actually believe in “bringing to campus speakers whose opinions are different from our own.” At Williams, racial diversity means everything. So, it is extremely important that we have speakers on climate change that look like this:


Nothing wrong with racial diversity, of course! And, as long as you look from the center to the left, there is some diversity among the speakers that Williams has already invited. But is there a single skeptic? No. Is there a single Republican? No. Is there a single conservative? No.

Ultimately, Adam Falk and Ralph Bradburd’s commitment to “speakers whose opinions are different” is an empirical question. If they are truly committed, they will invite at least two skeptics. I bet that they won’t.

What do you predict they will do?


Confronting Climate Change Suggestions IV: Richard McNider

Adam Falk is making 2016-2017 the year of Confronting Climate Change at Williams. Let’s try to be helpful for a change and suggest some interesting speakers that he and Professor Ralph Bradburd should invite to speak. Today is Day 4 of five days of suggestions.

How about Richard McNider, professor at the University of Alabama, and author of articles like these:

McNider, R.T., Handyside, C., Doty, K., Ellenburg, W.L., Cruise, J.F., Christy, J.R., Moss, D., Sharda, V., Hoogenboom, G. and Caldwell, P., 2015. An integrated crop and hydrologic modeling system to estimate hydrologic impacts of crop irrigation demands. Environmental Modelling & Software, 72, pp.341-355.

McNider, R. T., G. J. Steeneveld, A. A. M. Holtslag, R. A. Pielke Sr., S. Mackaro, A. Pour-Biazar, J. Walters, U. Nair,and J. Christy (2012), Response and sensitivity of the nocturnal boundary layer over land to added longwave radiative forcing, J. Geophys. Res., 117, D14106, doi:10.1029/2012JD017578.

Seems pretty qualified to me! Alas, he has a very different view on climate change than, say, Ralph Bradburd.

Most of us who are skeptical about the dangers of climate change actually embrace many of the facts that people like Bill Nye, the ubiquitous TV “science guy,” say we ignore. The two fundamental facts are that carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere have increased due to the burning of fossil fuels, and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a greenhouse gas, trapping heat before it can escape into space.

What is not a known fact is by how much the Earth’s atmosphere will warm in response to this added carbon dioxide. The warming numbers most commonly advanced are created by climate computer models built almost entirely by scientists who believe in catastrophic global warming. The rate of warming forecast by these models depends on many assumptions and engineering to replicate a complex world in tractable terms, such as how water vapor and clouds will react to the direct heat added by carbon dioxide or the rate of heat uptake, or absorption, by the oceans.

We might forgive these modelers if their forecasts had not been so consistently and spectacularly wrong. From the beginning of climate modeling in the 1980s, these forecasts have, on average, always overstated the degree to which the Earth is warming compared with what we see in the real climate.

Interesting stuff! If Williams College is actually going to “confront” climate change than it should “confront” at least some of the people — or at least some of the research university professors — who claim that climate change is not a serious problem.

Are four scientists enough? Does Williams need more suggestions? Start with the authors of Climate Change: The Facts. Look at all the scientists quoted in “A Disgrace to the Profession”. There are many scientists skeptical of most of the rhetoric surrounding climate change. A serious college would invite at least a few of them to speak. Is Williams a serious college? Time will tell.


Confronting Climate Change Suggestions III: Ross McKitrick

Adam Falk is making 2016-2017 the year of Confronting Climate Change at Williams. Let’s try to be helpful for a change and suggest some interesting speakers that he and Professor Ralph Bradburd should invite to speak. Today is Day 3 of five days of suggestions.

Ross McKitrick is:

a Canadian economist specializing in environmental economics and policy analysis. He is a professor of economics at the University of Guelph, and a senior fellow of the Fraser Institute. He is a member of the academic advisory boards of the John Deutsch Institute, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, and the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.

Seems qualified to me! My first two suggestions, Judith Curry and Roy Spencer, are tenured university professors who come to the topic of climate change from a hard science perspective. But let’s not slight economists, like Ralph Bradburd himself, who have much to contribute to this debate. McKitrick is probably most famous for “Hockey sticks, principal components, and spurious significance,” (pdf) the article which kicked off the hockey stick wars. Since it was published in the (well-regarded and peer-reviewed) GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, Williams can hardly claim that McKitrick is less qualified to talk about climate change than the, say,

Van Jones – Author, lawyer, activist, and commentator, he is the President of Dream Corps and a regular CNN contributor. He served as President Obama’s Special Advisor on Green Jobs and is the author of The Green Collar Economy.

Of course, if Ralph Bradburd (and Adam Falk? . . . and the Williams faculty? . . . and the trustees?) only want to invite people who agree with them about climate change, they certainly shouldn’t invite Ross McKitrick.


Confronting Climate Change Suggestions II: Roy Spencer

Adam Falk is making 2016-2017 the year of Confronting Climate Change at Williams. Let’s try to be helpful for a change and suggest some interesting speakers that he and Professor Ralph Bradburd should invite to speak. Today is Day 2 of five days of suggestions.

Roy Spencer

a meteorologist, Principal Research Scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and the U.S. Science Team leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR-E) on NASA’s Aqua satellite. He has served as Senior Scientist for Climate Studies at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

Seems pretty qualified to me. Roy Spencer certainly knows much more about the science of climate change than many of the speakers that Williams is already inviting.

Spencer blogs here. He is most famous for his work on global temperature estimates using satellites. If you care about data and science, it is fascinating stuff! Here is the latest data:


So, the temperature now is about the same as it was around 1998 to 1999. Doesn’t seem like much of a crisis to me!

However, I bet that Professor Ralph Bradburd won’t invite him because he disagrees (pdf) with the consensus view of climate change. Prove me wrong!



Mike Needham ’04 on the rise of Trump:

So I think for the electorate right now, there are issues that they think about in their lives, and there’s issues that politicians in Washington actually govern on. People at home are worried about: Will I have a job in a couple of years? Why are my wages stagnant? How am I going to afford to pay my mortgage? Why has the price of ground beef gone from $2 a pound to $4 a pound? And people in Washington, D.C., move legislation to reauthorize the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program, to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, every year to go through and kind of do a Kabuki theater over tax extenders. We currently are in the midst of a fight as to whether or not you can call catfish that comes from Vietnam “catfish.” So there’s a disconnect between what people care about and what Washington, D.C., moves on, and that makes people upset. So that’s a problem that Washington, D.C., has with its voters and the Republican Party has with its voters.

I think you then have a mind-set problem where people feel like we are losing our country.

Exactly right. How might Trump (or Clinton?) capture that demographic, reach out to them in a way that might (might!) help to undo some of the destruction of the last few months/years? EphBlog recommends a new slogan/hashtag:


This is, obviously, a take off of #blacklivesmatter. Regardless of your views on the righteousness (or not) of the BLM argument, at least 75% of Americans would like to move beyond it, after the BLM-inspired tragedies of Dallas and Baton Rouge. The easiest way to do that is not with the neo-reactionary #whitelivesmatter or the traditional #bluelivesmatter but, instead, with a slogan that unites all of these while, at the same time, proving the (sadly) necessary other for people to unify against. The most natural such grouping, in the context of a US Presidential election, is Americans. Hence: #AmericanLivesMatter.

Although Trump is the most natural proponent of such a slogan, Hillary Clinton is due for a Sister Souljah moment and could (easily?) pivot to ALM from BLM at the Democratic Convention. Perhaps presidential speech writer Jon Lovett ’04 knows someone in the Hillary campaign?

Or perhaps #AmericansMatter would be better. Or #AmericaMatters. These shift the focus away from an implicit repudiation of the BLM movement while still using the key word americans/america. Readers should feel free to chime in! What slogan/hashtag is most likely to win the presidential election for the candidate who first embraces it?

Needham continues:

The Muslim ban is a kind of race-to-the-bottom solution to a real problem that it is insane to suggest letting in thousands of un-vetted Syrian refugees at this time, and that there’s a lack of a statesman-like policy proposal that either brings people together or, at the very least, makes sure every part of the party feels like it’s occasionally getting its due. And that creates anger, and I think Trump has found those policy issues that allow him to challenge.

Mostly right. The real issue is that 75% (?) of the American people think that the US should not allow further immigration from countries like Syria/Afghanistan/Somalia/etc. Call them crazy! Unfortunately, no Democratic candidate and no non-Trump Republican candidate supported that view. And that led us, sadly, to Trump. Why? Because #AmericanLivesMatter.


Confronting Climate Change Suggestions I: Judith Curry

Adam Falk is making 2016-2017 the year of Confronting Climate Change at Williams. Let’s try to be helpful for a change and suggest some interesting speakers that he and Professor Ralph Bradburd should invite to speak. Today is Day 1 of five days of suggestions.

Judith Curry

an American climatologist and former chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Her research interests include hurricanes, remote sensing, atmospheric modeling, polar climates, air-sea interactions, and the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for atmospheric research. She is a member of the National Research Council’s Climate Research Committee.

Seems pretty qualified to me. Judith Curry certainly knows much more about the science of climate change than many of the speakers that Williams is already inviting. In fact, she probably knows more about climate science than all of the current speakers put together! (With luck, some hard scientists will soon be added to the current list of activists, writers and ethicists.)

Curry blogs here and has a homepage here.

However, I bet that Professor Ralph Bradburd won’t invite her because she disagrees (pdf) with the consensus view of climate change. Prove me wrong!


Eph Parent Politicians

Eric Dayton’s ’03 father is Mark Dayton, former senator from and the current governor of Minnesota.

(And, yes, I must admit that I came across this topic while reading Falk-banned would-be Williams speaker John Derbyshire. But since Derbyshire only discusses Dayton-père, I won’t quote him here.)

What other famous politicians (and/or celebrities) are Eph parents?


Endowment Information

Here is some one-year-old information about the Williams endowment, courtesy of Bloomberg.



Remind me again why we have to pay Collette Chilton more than $1.2 million dollars a year? There is a great, juicy story here. Why won’t someone at the Record write it?


Common Data Sets


The College used to make its entire history of Common Data Sets available. Now it doesn’t. Am I the only person who finds this behavior pathetic?


Uncomfortable Learning Speakers


The Record published this nice collection. What an excellent article, much better than the biased tripe served up later (parts I and II) by Emilia Maluf ’18. Read the whole thing.


Number 2 College on Forbes List

Williams is #2 on the Forbes listing of top colleges.



1) Any list with us between Stanford and Princeton, and with no other liberal arts colleges in the top 6, is a good list for Williams.

2) I suspect that the Forbes list is, substantively, mostly garbage. First, they do not (corrections welcome) make their criteria transparent. You should never trust any research which is not honest and open about its methodology. Second, some of the claims defy belief. Wesleyan at #9, the third highest LAC on the list? No way! There are no (reasonable) criteria of educational excellence on which Wesleyan is above Swarthmore and (it pains me to admit) Amherst.

3) Kudos to the College for ending up #2 on the list, even if the criteria is garbage. Williams needs to improve its brand among elite students, especially internationally, and these results can only help.


How to Write a Chance Request at College Confidential

A regular part of the conversation at the Williams board on College Confidential is a “chance” request. A high school student wants the community to provide feedback on her chances of being admitted to Williams. Unfortunately, many of these students are uninformed about the reality of elite college admissions so they don’t provide us with the necessary information to “chance” them correctly. (They also generally provide a mass of irrelevant data as well.) To make the world a better place, here is EphBlog’s Guide to How to Write a Chance Request for Williams. (The same advice applies to most elite colleges.)

First, estimate your Academic Rating and provide the key evidence behind that estimate. (Back information here and here.) Tell us your Math/Reading SAT scores (and/or ACT), your subject test scores and AP scores. Just tell us what you will be submitting to Williams. We don’t care how many times you took these exams or about the details of your Super Scoring efforts.

We also don’t need to know about the details of your academic program. Just provide an honest estimate of your Academic Rating and some background on your high school. (Telling us the name of your high school can be useful, but is not necessary.) We don’t care about your exact GPA. (If you did not take the hardest classes that your high school offers, admit that to us.) The best clue about the quality of your high school record can be found in the quality of schools that similarly ranked students have attended in past years, so tell us that. The Academic Rating is the most important part of the process, so focus your words on that topic.

Second, cut out all the other cruft. We don’t care (because Williams doesn’t care) about all your clubs, activities, volunteer work, et cetera. Despite what your high school and/or parents may have told you, such trivia plays a de minimus role in elite college admissions. For example, your sports resume is irrelevant unless you are being recruited by a Williams coach and, if you are, they will tell you if you what your chances are.

Third, tell us your nationality. Williams has a quota against international applicants.

Fourth, tell us your race, or at least the relevant boxes that you will check on the Common Application. (See here and here for related discussion.) Checking the African-American box gives you a significant advantage in admissions, as does checking Hispanic, but less so. Checking the Asian box hurts your chances at Ivy League schools. There is a debate over whether Williams also discriminates against Asian-American applicants.

Fifth, tell us about your family income and parents background. Williams, like all elite schools, discriminates in favor of the very poor (family income below $50,000) and very wealthy (able to donate a million dollars). There is some debate over the exact dollar figures at both ends. Might Williams favor applicants whose families make us much as $75,000? Sure! Might Williams be swayed by a donation in the six figures? Maybe! Tell us whatever other details might be relevant. For example, Williams cares about socio-economic status more broadly than just income, so having parents that did not graduate from a 4 year college can be helpful. Among rich families, Williams prefers those who have already donated to Williams and/or have a history of supporting higher education.

Summary: Almost all of elite college admissions is driven by Academic Rating, albeit subject to three broad exceptions: athletics, race and income. In order to provide you with an accurate chance, we need the details concerning these areas. Don’t bother us with all the other stuff.


Black Lives Matter in Williamstown

There was a Black Lives Matter rally (protest? march?) at Williams.blm

1) Could our readers provide some details? When was this event? Who organized it? Who spoke? What was it like?

2) When is the candle light vigil for the slain Dallas police officers?

3) If I were a BLM activist in Williamstown, the concrete change I would work towards is the disarming of the Williamstown police. Given how safe the area is, there is no reason why cops need guns on their hips. They are much more likely to be used in a tragic accident (a la Tamir Rice) than to save a life. Firearms would still be available, of course, in the car or at the station house for the very few situations that require them.


Supporting Each Other in the Midst of Tragic National Events

All campus e-mail yesterday.

From: Haynes, Leticia
Date: Fri, Jul 8, 2016 at 4:32 PM
Subject: This evening at 7 PM in Hardy House – Supporting Each Other in the Midst of Tragic National Events

Dear Members of the Williams Community,

This week our nation has again experienced a wave of tragic and disturbing events – events which are having a significant impact on our campus community.

This evening, members of our community are invited to gather in a safe space where we can reflect, listen, speak and support each other.

Members of the Dean’s Office, Davis Center, Chaplains’ Office and other supportive staff will be present and available – this evening as we gather, and in days ahead.

And those offices are open during regular hours through these summer weeks; students are always welcome to reach out. After hours, Campus Safety and Security can always help you connect with any of these supportive resources if you call 597-4444.

Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes
Vice President
Institutional Diversity and Equity

Marlene Sandstrom
Dean of the College

Steve Klass
Vice President Campus Life

Denise Buell
Dean of the Faculty

Rick Spalding
Chaplain to the College

Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes
Vice President
Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity
Williams College | Williamstown, MA

Did any reader attend this event? How was it?


Only If You Hate Rich Alumni


Anti-rich prejudice is acceptable at Williams, at least judging by the lack of pushback against yaks like this. What other prejudices are acceptable? Anything remotely racist or sexist is immediately deleted from the Williams Yik Yak thread, which is a good thing.


Trump Question


1) Is it true that someone’s social standing at Williams would fall if they “came out” as a Trump supporter? My guess is Yes. I have heard that there was a Trump-related controversy on the Facebook page for the class of 2020. True? Tell us what happened.

2) Assume that it is true. Do you think it is a good thing or a bad thing that Trump support leads to a drop in social standing?

3) Assume a student is an excellent candidate for JA. However, she is a very public supporter of Trump, in the same way that many students were very public supporters for Bernie Sanders. Would the JA Selection Committee hold her political views against her? Should they?


Dickinson Could Have Done Better

This comment from 2008 captures a part, I suspect, of why Nancy Roseman was such a failure at Dickinson.

An effective head of an organization has to be able to maintain good relations with a whole range of people, in this case including faculty, students, and parents. Being able to reliably kiss donor ass is not sufficient if you lack the personality to get faculty, students, and the larger community on board with your strategy.

Take a look at cluster housing. Would you say the implementation of cluster housing was an example of effective executive decision-making? That process was the most major project that Roseman drove during my time at Williams, and it bore her hallmarks: planned out in secret with little chance for outsiders to give any input, implemented in a rush with total indifference towards student or faculty opinion, and an utter flop within two years of implementation.

I believe that someone with better ‘marketing’ and ‘people’ skills would have been much more successful at implementing something like cluster housing. The plan might still have had substantive problems, but Roseman utterly and totally failed to generate student buy-in, primarily because it was obvious that she was basically indifferent to what students had to say.

There is a kernel of truth in what David has said. She does not welcome or respect student participation when it comes to any kind of major decision. Her publicly expressed contempt for blogs does, I believe, reflect a broader dislike for open discussion. While this might, in theory, make her more suitable as a high school administrator – I sincerely doubt that the kids at Exeter are the docile and passive type of high schooler who will take her high-handedness lying down.

To the trustees and administrators of PEA: While Nancy Roseman is a smart, competent person, she is not a great leader. You can do better.

Prescient! Prior discussion of Roseman’s failure at Dickison here and here.

The other finalist for the Dickinson job was Mark Burnstein, who went on to become president of Lawrence University. Bet the Dickinson trustees wish they had picked him instead!

Question: If Roseman is no longer president, when does her fat presidential salary stop? And what is her new professor of biology salary? These sorts of messy issues rarely come up because very few college presidents are fired. Given today’s academic job market — and Roseman’s obvious failure as a senior administrator — what sort of options will she have? Informed commentary welcome!


Advice on Applying to Windows on Williams

Did you read Eph ’20’s excellent four part series on Windows on Williams (WoW)? You should! Part I, II, III and IV. Here (pdf) is the application, which is due August 1. My advice for those who want to get in (and who recognize the morally suspect nature of the college admissions process):

1) Make your family as poor as possible. (Nothing here is meant to encourage you to “lie,” per se, but you should understand what Williams is looking for and adjust your application accordingly.) income
Whatever you think your family income is, chop that estimate in half. After all, you don’t really know, do you? Also, if there is any reason to think that income is variable, tell Williams the story. Also, keep in mind that Williams cares a lot about whether or not you will be eligible for a Pell Grant.

The maximum award for the 2015-2016 academic year is $5,775. Your eligibility is decided by the FAFSA. Students whose total family income is $50,000 a year or less qualify, but most Pell grant money goes to students with a total family income below $20,000

Williams doesn’t care about that $5,775, and it doesn’t really care about exactly how poor you are. But it loves to brag about how many students qualify for Pell Grants. And Williams is also rated by other elites (here and here) on this criteria. So, I bet that applicants who report family incomes below $50,000 are much more likely to be accepted at WoW.

2) Make yourself as diverse as possible.race URM admissions at Williams is a fascinating topic. The two most relevant posts are probably here and here. Slightly modifying what I wrote 10 (!) years ago:

Note that the WoW application form gives you almost complete latitude in what boxes you check. It asks you to “indicate how you identify yourself.” In other words, there is no requirement that you “look” African-American or that other people identify you as African-America, you just have to “identify yourself” as African-American, just as, when she applied for a faculty position at Harvard, Elizabeth Warren identified herself as Native American.

Now, one hopes, that there isn’t too much truth-stretching going on currently. The Admissions Department only wants to give preferences to students who really are African-American, who add to the diversity of Williams because their experiences provide them with a very different outlook than their non-African-American peers. But those experiences can only come from some identification — by society toward you and/or by you to yourself — over the course of, at least, your high school years. How can you bring any meaningful diversity if you never thought of yourself as African-American (or were so thought of by others) until the fall of senior year?

The point here is not that the current admissions policy for WoW is bad or good. It is what it is. The point is that there are significant preferences given to those who check certain boxes and that cheap genetic testing will provide many people with a plausible excuse to check boxes that, a few years ago, they did not have.

Checking one of those boxes (other than white or Asian, of course!) will dramatically increase your odds of acceptance to WoW. Similar reasoning applies to the other diversity-lite questions, like first language spoken and language spoken at home.

3) Make your parents as uneducated as possible. (Relevant discussion here and here.) Back in the day, Williams measured socio-economic diversity on the basis of whether or not either parent had a four year college degree. I suspect that this matters much less now, but there is certainly no reason to exaggerate their educational credentials or, for that matter, socioeconomic status.

Good luck to all the applicants!



Things I did not know about the world of Harry Potter:

The number of countries that have their own magical school is minuscule compared to those that do not. This is because the wizarding populations of most countries choose the option of home schooling. Occasionally, too, the magical community in a given country is tiny or far-flung and correspondence courses have been found a more cost-effective means of educating the young.

There are eleven long-established and prestigious wizarding schools worldwide, all of which are registered with the International Confederation of Wizards

And one is Williams College!

From the Berkshires to Boston, the muggle world welcomed the revelation Tuesday that “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling had chosen the state’s highest peak as the site of an ultrasecretive school of magic, “hidden by forest, cloud and spell.”

A new story Rowling released on tells the background of the Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, founded in the 17th century on the summit of Mount Greylock in the Berkshires.

OK, not exactly Williams per se, but we have a much better claim than Amherst. Perhaps some of the Harry Potter fans among our readers can chime in with a compare and contrast.

Long (!) time readers will recall our discussion 10 (!) years ago about mapping the Harry Potter houses to the then-new-and-now-defunct neighborhood system: here and here. Lots of fun reading there for a long holiday weekend. Happy Fourth!