Currently browsing the archives for August 2016

Cultural and Racial Sensitivities at Amherst

From The New York Times:

Scott MacConnell cherishes the memory of his years at Amherst College, where he discovered his future métier as a theatrical designer. But protests on campus over cultural and racial sensitivities last year soured his feelings.

Now Mr. MacConnell, who graduated in 1960, is expressing his discontent through his wallet. In June, he cut the college out of his will.

Hey, Biddy! When you are so left wing that you have lost the theatrical designers, you might have a problem.

“As an alumnus of the college, I feel that I have been lied to, patronized and basically dismissed as an old, white bigot who is insensitive to the needs and feelings of the current college community,” Mr. MacConnell, 77, wrote in a letter to the college’s alumni fund in December, when he first warned that he was reducing his support to the college to a token $5.

“Old, white bigot” is an accurate description about how the people behind Amherst Uprising feel about you and every other Amherst alum who objects to their Year Zero transformation of your alma mater. Comments:

1) There is enough meat in this article for a week of quotes and comments. Worth it?

2) No mention of Williams! A good thing — because Williams is handling current controversies better than schools like Amherst — or a bad thing because we want any article that mentions Yale to mention Williams?

A backlash from alumni is an unexpected aftershock of the campus disruptions of the last academic year. Although fund-raisers are still gauging the extent of the effect on philanthropy, some colleges — particularly small, elite liberal arts institutions — have reported a decline in donations, accompanied by a laundry list of complaints.

3) Any word on changes in donations to Williams? None that I have heard.

4) Any speculation as to the reasons why Williams suffers less turmoil? The Administration might like us to believe that they are better maintaining a calm/happy campus than their counterparts at Amherst/Yale are, but I doubt that that is the explanation. More likely is that Williams is today, as it has always been, among the most “conservative” — or, better, “least leftist” — among elite LACs, both in terms of the students it attracts and its campus culture. Other opinions?

5) My sources report that the most common political question Falk gets at alumni meetings concerns the self-inflicted wound of the Derbyshire cancellation. Can any readers provide reports from their local events?


Trigger Warning!


Those hooves could injure a young mind with unwanted ideas.

And as for Roy… well, just look at that hat and bandana!




U Chicago Throws Shade at Falk

Here (jpg) is the letter to incoming first years at the University of Chicago. Best part:

Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.

[Emphasis added.] The most prominent cancellation of a controversial speaker at an elite college was, of course, President Falk’s cancellation of John Derbyshire. Questions:

1) Do you think the author of the Chicago letter had Williams in mind?

2) Has Williams sent out anything like this to incoming first years? I doubt it. Should it? You betcha!

3) EphBlog, while sadly a pale shadow of its former self, is starting to become a useful place for discussion. See this comment (in a dead thread) which jump started a 20 comment back-and-forth discussion about the Chicago letter. Kudos to participants like sigh, Trigger, anon-liberal and anon, all of whom make good points in the spirit of open discussion and debate.

If I were a Trustee I would ask President Falk why Williams itself does not provide a forum on which students, alumni and faculty might discuss these issues.


Welcome Class of 2020

Welcome to the class of 2020. The Berkshire Eagle reports (or, rather, reposts a College news release):

The 552 students who make up the Williams College Class of 2020 will arrive on campus on Aug. 29 for First Days, their official orientation to the college.

The tradition of First Days introduces first-year students to the college through meetings with academic advisers and opportunities to learn about academic departments and get to know the campus. Students will also take placement exams and the college’s mandatory swimming test. In between the scheduled events, students will settle into their dorms and get to know their classmates.

Williams really ought to change First Days to First Month. Anyone see any interesting changes in the official schedule this year?

During the second half of the week, first-year students will participate in EphVentures, a program designed to enhance students’ orientation experience, provide them with opportunities to build lasting friendships, and help them develop an appreciation for the campus and community. Students choose from among one of several programs that help develop leadership skills, give them the chance to learn about the Berkshires, experience arts and culture in the region, or explore intersections among environmental sustainability, identity, and social justice.

What is the breakdown in participation among the EphVentures activities? My sense is that WOOLF is far and away the most popular, but I can’t recall seeing any data.

Also, would Williams be better off if the only option was WOOLF and participation was required? Such everyone-goes camping trips are still a common part of the New England prep school experience. Advantages of universal WOOLF would be two-fold. First, it would encourage greater mixture among different personality types in the class. Why have the first event separate people by interest? Second, to the extent it caused some applicants to choose a school like Tufts over Williams — because they just can’t stand the idea of spending 5 nights in the woods — we might be doing them a favor. If you hate the wilderness that much, Williams might be a poor fit.

On Sunday, Sept. 4, students will return from EphVentures for a picnic dinner on Chapin Lawn. On Monday, they will participate in Williams Reads, for which each student received over the summer a copy of “The Sixth Extinction” by Elizabeth Kolbert, Class of 1946 Environmental Fellow-in-Residence. Facilitated conversations about the book provide an introduction to the intellectual life at Williams.

Very snarky! Or Straussian?! The surface reading here is that the “intellectual life” of Williams means reading/discussing quality books in the spirit of open debate. But is that really what Williams is like? Does Williams really encourage debate about climate change? I have my doubts! The Straussian reading (or Foucauldian deconstruction) is that this discussion will provide a perfect introduction to the one-sided, propaganda-like reality of intellectual life at Williams. Recall Williams Reads One Idea.

By all standard measures of academic talent, including test scores and academic performance, the Class of 2020 is impressive, selected from among 6,984 applicants. SATs for the cohort averaged 715 on critical reading, 712 on math, and 714 on writing; the ACT average was 33.

This seems similar to the scores for the class of 2015, although clearly we have some rounding issues.


A special welcome to our fellow EphBlogger, Eph ’20! I hope xe (!) enjoys xer (!) four years as much as I enjoyed mine.


Coach’s Influence

From The Wall Street Journal:

A great sports instructor or coach builds us up, but also teaches us important lessons of emotional management, such as confidence, perseverance, resilience and how to conquer fear and anxiety.

Brandt Johnson [’87] played basketball at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., and later as a member of the Harlem Globetrotters opposition team and professionally in Europe. At Williams, he says, his coach made the players practice sprints over and over, sometimes nonstop for hours, calling out: “Fatigue will not be a factor in our performance.”

“He wanted us to have our bodies and minds conditioned so we were less likely to get tired,” says Mr. Johnson, 50, who co-owns a communication-skills training firm in New York with his wife. “While we may have limitations as an athlete or a person doing what we do, if we’re prepared, these things won’t stop us.”

Mr. Johnson says he used this advice as a young investment banker preparing analysis for his bosses, when he decided to return to basketball after working in finance, and now when preparing to meet with clients of his business. Recently, while traveling to Florida to meet with 20 corporate executives for a three-hour training seminar he memorized all their names and bios on the plane. “The commitment to doing what has to be done for the task at hand has stayed with me,” he says.

Good stuff! But who was the unnamed Williams coach? EphBlog favorite Harry Sheehy ’75 began coaching at Williams around this time but perhaps Johnson was telling stories about Bob Peck, the previous coach? Informed commentary welcome!


Most Pro-Hockney Eph?

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When you are older, you realise that everything else is just nothing compared to painting and drawing.

David Hockney

Outlandish rubbish or the musing of one who has earned this view?

I know that Ephs hold varying views on this iconic artist.

His latest show 82 Portraits and a Still Life at the Royal Academy has an excellent catalogue for those like me who number themselves in the Pro-Hockney camp. Yet even I see the difference betewwn the portraits done in a speed test to make a point and the more thoughtful and insightful Hockney Portraits exhibition of 2007 at the Royal Portrait Gallery.

Given the exposure to art and art history of many readers of this blog, perhaps the number of comments can equal or exceed those under Most Pro Trump Eph?, now numbering 82 (a happy coincidence).

I’ll be looking for you, John C Drew, Ephalum, and dcat!



Bailey Thesis Students

One of the many ways you can know that Duane Bailey is everything a Williams professor should be is because he brags about his thesis students. Why don’t more Williams professors do the same? Because they care more about promoting their own work than they care about promoting the work of their students.

But what is worse is that Williams does not care (as much) as it should . . .


Grade Inflation


Imagine that Professor Kornell wants to do something about this. What advice do you have for him?

Start with transparency. What is the distribution of grades at Williams today? How has it changed over time? How does it vary by department? There is no good reason to keep this a secret, other than shame. Here is the data from 2008–2009. Here is recent data for Middlebury.


Dropping SAT II Requirement

From The Boston Globe:

Several top New England colleges have joined a growing number of schools nationally that no longer require applicants to submit scores from SAT subject tests, saying the specialized exams lend little insight into students’ readiness and can work against low-income and minority students.

In the past year, Amherst College, Dartmouth College, and Williams College all have dropped the subject test requirement, taking a lead from Columbia University, which announced the new policy this spring. Duke University and Vassar College also no longer require the tests, often called SAT II.

Did the College announce this change? Was there campus discussion? Not that I saw. I am indifferent. What do readers think?

“We want to make the application process as fair to all students as possible,” said Mary Dettloff, a spokeswoman for Williams College. “We felt like we weren’t getting any valuable data from the SAT II scores to help us.”

Current Williams requirements here. The easiest way to make the application “fair” would be, obviously, to not require any information — no SAT subject tests, no AP scores, no high school grades, no nothing. Just choose applicants randomly! As the mirror on the wall reports, that would be the “fairest application process of them all!”

A handful of elite schools, including Harvard and MIT, still require SAT subject tests. …

Meanwhile, dropping standardized test requirements can help colleges in several other ways. Schools tend to receive more applications, which can drive down their percentage of accepted students, making them seem more selective. Colleges also profit from the additional application fees.

Although many experts believe the tests will eventually disappear, schools like MIT find them useful and have no plans to drop the requirement.

MIT officials see the exams as an equalizer, a way to consistently measure students from different high schools. Harvard officials said the same thing.

The tests are undoubtedly useful, especially in looking at students from out-of-the-way high schools. At Williams, they were probably most used to distinguish among Academic Rating 1s and 2s. (Background here and here.) Key definitions:

      verbal   math   composite SAT II   ACT    AP
AR 1: 770-800 750-800 1520-1600 750-800 35-36 mostly 5s
AR 2: 730-770 720-750 1450-1520 720-770 33-34 4s and 5s
AR 3: 700-730 690-720 1390-1450 690-730 32-33 4s

Recall that most American AR 1s are accepted (and, allegedly, all legacy AR 1s) and many (half?) AR 2s. AR 3s are rejected unless they have a hook. So, this change hurts the student with high SAT II scores relative to her SAT I and AP scores and helps students with the opposite profile. How big is the magnitude of the change? I would be surprised if it changed the students in the class of 2021 by fewer than five students or more than 50.


Mismatched Physicists

Four Williams physics professors signed this absurd letter to the Supreme Court.

Dear Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States,

We are writing to you today as professional physicists and astrophysicists to respond to comments made by Justices in the course of oral arguments of Fisher vs. University of Texas which occurred on Wednesday, December 9, 2015. First, we strongly repudiate the line of questioning from Justice Antonin Scalia based on the discredited Mismatch Theory [1]. Secondly, we are particularly called to address the question from Chief Justice John Roberts about the value of promoting equity and inclusion in our own field, physics.

As always, EphBlog is curious about the backstory. How did Professors Strait, Wooters, Majumder and Doret ’02 end up signing this letter? Why didn’t the other members of the department sign?

More importantly, these professors are in a position to provide data about the mismatch hypothesis, a recurring topic at EphBlog. Consider the students in the class of 2016. Many of them, in the Common Ap, expressed an interest in studying STEM at Williams. Some of them did and some of them did not. Of those students:

1) What percentage of students with math/reading SAT scores above 1500 kept with their plan of studying STEM?

2) What percentage of students with math/reading SAT scores below 1350 kept with their plan of studying STEM?

The Mismatch Hypothesis would suggest that more students in group 1 stayed with STEM than students in group 2. You could examine the same topic by race.

If Professors Strait, Wooters, Majumder and Doret ’02 were interested in increasing our knowledge, they would gather this data for Williams and publish the results. Why won’t they?


A small-town newspaper appeals to our Representative in Congress:

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Keep in mind there is a major difference in politics between Eastern Oregon and Western Oregon. Hood River is in the Cascade Mountains buffer zone between the green and population of Western Oregon and the high desert and ranches of Eastern Oregon. Twenty miles west is Cascade Locks in a temperate rain forest, twenty miles to the east is The Dalles and the start of cowboy boots.

I am amazed and delighted this 2x/week, advertising-dependent print medium took such a stand. What is going on with your local paper?


I am reserving the right to edit a post I have made as I see fit. My intent was to point out this newspaper occurrence and to ask if anyone had seen something similar. My intent was not to provide a springboard for the usual suspects to spew forth their usual dismal prose.

There are enough springboards for this type of speech present on the blog. I simply want my observation to stand alone.


Indigenous People’s Day


At its monthly meeting Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, the faculty of Brown University amended the Faculty Rules and Regulations to change the designation of the second Monday of October from Fall Weekend to Indigenous People’s Day.

In April 2009, the faculty voted to change the name of Columbus Day to the Fall Weekend holiday after several months of discussion. On Oct. 27, 2015, members of the Native Americans at Brown (NAB) student organization presented a resolution to the Brown University Community Council (BUCC) calling for the name change of the Fall Weekend holiday to Indigenous People’s Day. The BUCC, a University-wide body for discussion and advisory recommendations on issues, passed the resolution urging the Faculty Executive Committee to put the item on its agenda for consideration.

Renaming the holiday, according to the rationale for the motion presented to the faculty, “would recognize the contributions of Indigenous People/Native Americans to our community and our culture and foster a more inclusive community.”

1) Is Professor Roberts in favor of this change or making fun of it? (On Twitter, those are the two most common options!)

2) What is Williams policy? Good question! The College still considers Columbus Day an official holiday, at least for staff. Duane Bailey maintains (?) this screen shot from a decade (?) ago which reported that “The College does not have a tradition of celebrating Columbus day.”

3) Should Williams remove any reference to “Columbus Day” for the same reasons that Brown has?


Alt Right Trump CEO Wears Hair Over Left Eye …


… now if Steve Bannon could be convinced to wear a small mustache …




The only acceptable prejudices at Williams are against rich people and white people.

What would have been the Administration’s reaction to a tweet by a student which replaced “white” with “black?”


Most Dangerous Place on Earth

Sonia Nazario ’82 writes in The New York Times:

Three years ago, Honduras had the highest homicide rate in the world. The city of San Pedro Sula had the highest homicide rate in the country. And the Rivera Hernández neighborhood, where 194 people were killed or hacked to death in 2013, had the highest homicide rate in the city. Tens of thousands of young Hondurans traveled to the United States to plead for asylum from the drug gangs’ violence.

Nazario is most famous for arguing that the US ought to have, more or less, open borders. We should provide asylum to anyone fleeing violence. Since almost all poor countries are much more violent than the West, this position amounts to giving everyone from places like Honduras the right to live in the US.

Call me crazy, but I have no interest in allowing millions of people from places like Rivera Hernández to come to my country.

This summer I returned to Rivera Hernández to find a remarkable reduction in violence, much of it thanks to programs funded by the United States that have helped community leaders tackle crime. By treating violence as if it were a communicable disease and changing the environment in which it propagates, the United States has not only helped to make these places safer, but has also reduced the strain on our own country.

First, it is hardly surprising that, if you return three years later to the place that was (then) the most violent spot in the world, you will find a reduction in violence. This is almost a textbook example of regression toward the mean.

Second, all (?) Nazario’s sources have a vested interest in her thesis being true. It’s like writing a report from Iraq in the fall of 2003 and only talking to Neocons! A proper reporter would have talked to more (any?) critics, would have discussed the argument that US dollars are no more likely to make Honduras better off in the long run than similar efforts have worked elsewhere.

But, like all of Nazario’s work, especially Enrique’s Journey, the story-telling sparkles. Read the whole thing.


Ban The Box

From The Economist:

For the first time in decades, America and Europe are now releasing more prisoners than they are locking up. One way to ensure those ex-cons do not wind up back behind bars is to help them find work. But a body of new research suggests one increasingly popular way to promote this has worrying unintended consequences.

Forcing job applicants to declare they have a criminal record—whether or not it is relevant to the post—allows employers to filter out ex-convicts, it is argued, and prevents them finding the sort of work that would help them stay out of prison. So activists across the world have called for “ban-the-box” laws, which prohibit employers from inquiring about criminal histories prior to job interviews or offers.

A paper by Jennifer Doleac [’03] of the University of Virginia and Benjamin Hansen of the University of Oregon, published on August 1st, looked at the impact of introducing ban-the-box policies on labour-market data from America’s population census. It found that withholding criminal-record data from employers encouraged them to treat certain minority groups as if they were more likely to have criminal pasts.

Read the whole thing. Doleac is EphBlog’s favorite (non-Williams-employed) economist. Recall our discussion of her thesis more than 10 years ago.


Eph Olympian

sultanFrom The Wall Street Journal:

Here’s an obvious but overlooked truth about athletes at the Olympics: Before anything else, they’re athletes. There are astonishing stories of individual perseverance, and obstacles overcome both personal and political, but at each athlete’s core is an undeniable drive to…well, only a lucky few will win, or medal, but every last one of them wants to do something indelible and memorable that makes the experience worth it. They want to do their absolute best. We like to wrap the Olympics up in all kinds of nationalistic and existential meaning, but for an athlete, doing his or her absolute best is pretty much the point of the whole deal.

A couple weeks ago in New York City, I went to go see Faye Sultan, a Kuwaiti swimmer who was training at Asphalt Green, a nonprofit aquatics center on the Upper East Side. It was early morning, and in the pool with Sultan were a scattering of everyday city residents doing casual laps. Sultan was not doing casual laps. Sultan, who is 21 years old, swims the 50 meter freestyle, which is swimming’s equivalent of the 100 meter dash. It’s into the pool, full gas, done.

Four years ago, Sultan had gone to the London Olympics as smiling teenager representing Kuwait—and a true pioneer, the country’s first female swimmer at the games. Now she was going to Rio, and again she would “represent Kuwaiti girls,” as she put it, but she would not get to represent her country. The International Olympic Committee had banned Kuwait for what it considered the government’s interference in the country’s sports federation. Sultan was given clearance to compete—but she would have to do so under the Olympic flag.

“At the end of the day, my identity doesn’t change,” Sultan said that morning. “I’m still a Kuwaiti swimmer. It’s disheartening to not be able to wear gear that has my country’s flag. In a way, it also strips a little bit of my identity.

Read the whole thing. Congrats to Sultan ’16.

Trivia question: Who was the last Eph to compete in the Summer Olympics?


support and resources

Dear Students,

I hope this note finds you well.  Many of you woke up this morning to hear the very sad news of Professor Leslie Brown’s passing.  Although this point in the summer is often a quiet time on campus, I wanted to assure you that there are resources in place for any students who would like some support in processing this loss to our community.  As you know, Rick Spalding has organized a gathering for students who would like to join together for support, reflection and solidarity; this will happen tomorrow evening (Tuesday) at 7 pm in Rice House.
In addition, students are also welcome, as always, to contact any member of the staff of the Dean’s Office, the Davis Center or the Chaplains’ Office for support.  We are all happy to be helpful in any way that we can.
Dean Sandstrom

April 2012 Faculty Meeting Diversity Presentation

In our on-going efforts to make Williams more transparent, here (pdf) is a 2012 presentation on faculty diversity. A representative chart:



1) Graphs in Excel give me a headache! Please use R, like all the cool kids in the Williams statistics major.

2) I think that “US Minority” includes Asian Americans who are, of course, significantly over-represented among Ph.D. recipients and, I think, on the Williams faculty.

3) What is the latest count of Hispanic professors at Williams? Recall our detective work 11 (!) years ago on the magnificent 14. At that time, we though that these were the only Hispanic faculty at Williams:

Gene Bell-Villada (Romance Languages)
Maria Elena Cepeda (Latino Studies)
Ondine Chavoya (Studio Art)
Joe Cruz (Philosophy and Cognitive Science)
Antonia Foias (Anthropology)
Soledad Fox (Romance Languages)
Berta Jottar (Theater)
Manuel Morales (Biology)
Enrique Peacocke-Lopez (Chemistry)
Ileana Perez Vasquez (Music)
Merida Rua (American Studies and Latino Studies)
Cesar Silva (Math)
Armando Vargas (Comparative Literature)
Carmen Whalen (Latino Studies)

Some of those folks have left. Others have joined. What is the current count?


Racist Provocateur

In The Economist in June:

Next consider the swelling range of opinion deemed to fall outside civilised discourse. To be sure, some opinions do, and the boundary shifts with time. The trouble now, says Zach Wood, a student at Williams College in Massachusetts, is that many people want to banish views that remain widely held among their compatriots, believing that, on neuralgic topics such as homosexuality, “It’s all said and done.” He runs a campus group that hosts challenging speakers. “Silence does nothing,” he reasons. Two of its invitations—to Suzanne Venker, author of “The War on Men”, and John Derbyshire, a racist provocateur—have recently been rescinded: Ms Venker was disinvited under pressure from other students, Mr Derbyshire by the college’s leadership. Mr Wood has been insulted, ostracised and (he is black) told he has “sold out his race”. Other prominent figures deterred or blocked from addressing university audiences include Condoleezza Rice, a former secretary of state, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Muslim, and Jason Riley, an African-American journalist who wrote a book called “Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder For Blacks To Succeed”.

Activists are entitled to their protests. But when, as at Williams, they decry counter-arguments as tantamount to violence, they stray into censorship.

I think that censorship is what they want . . .

By the way, calling Derbyshire “a racist provocateur” is sleazy. Most of his opinions (at least the ones Falk found objectionable) are held by a majority of people in, say, China. If most Chinese are “racist” — by the definition that The Economist is currently using — then it ought to start using a more useful definition.

Also, when was the last time that The Economist — easily the most important English language news magazine in the world — mentioned Williams? I can’t recall. But any article that talks so much about us and Yale is probably a net positive for admissions. So, well done Zack!


It has happened here …


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At the Hood River, OR railroad station, 9:40 AM. May 13, 1942.

All with Japanese ancestry board for travel to internment camps.

One particular story:

On November 16, 2015, President Barack Obama announced that Minoru Yasui would receive a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom.[2] The Medal was presented to Lori Yasui in a White House ceremony November 24, 2015.

See also my comment #8 under ‘Hillary’s web of Promises. A touch of harsh reality seems necessary sometimes in these prolonged intellectualized discussions of issues.



Student Theses

Kudos to the Williams library for putting so many senior theses on-line! There is a lot of great stuff here. Start with “Do H-1B Visas Affect Natives’ Wages?” by Michael Navarrete ’16. Highly relevant in the age of Trump.

I am embarrassed to note that some theses are not available. One example is “An analysis of the water quality and its effect on the Williams College Class of ʹ66 Environmental Center” by Stephen Mayfield ’16. Any Williams thesis which is not publicly available causes knowledgeable observers to think that its quality is low and/or that the advisers (Professors Dethier and Thoman) are foolish. Perhaps this is connected to the backward nature of chemistry as an academic field and the debate we had a decade ago but which I can not find a link to?

Should we spend a week browsing through the archive? Recall our previous discussions about excellent senior theses like Doleac ’03, Taylor ’05 and Nurnberg ’09.


Hillary’s Web of Promises

Oren Cass ’05 is not impressed with the Clinton campaign:

When I visited it in early June, Hillary Clinton’s campaign website featured about 30 issue-specific pages focused not on a nation with problems to be solved but on discrete victim groups with wounds to be salved. The site illustrates the Left’s descent into crass identity politics. The federal government is the heaviest of policy equipment, best used sparingly for big jobs; but for Democrats, it has become a courtesy car, always on call to drive chosen constituencies from one point to another. Put me behind the wheel, Clinton seems to promise, and I’ll put you on my route.

Based on an examination of Clinton’s website, “racial justice” is her campaign’s organizing principle. Not only is her racial-justice page the most expansive on the site—longer by half than the entry for the economy—but it also links to nine other sections, including those devoted to criminal-justice reform, LGBT equality, higher education, climate change, and energy. (“African Americans hold only 1.1 percent of energy jobs and receive only 0.01 percent of energy sector profits,” in case you were wondering.)

Wherever racial linkages weaken, gender stands ready to pick up the slack.

Not that there is anything wrong with that!


Racism Against White People

Sam Sommers ’97 and Michael Norton ’97 write in the Washington Post:

We asked 417 black and white respondents to assess how big a problem anti-black bias was in America in each decade from the 1950s to the present. We then asked them the same questions about anti-white bias — the extent to which they felt that racism against whites has changed since the 1950s.

Black and white Americans both thought anti-black bias had decreased over the decades. Whites saw that decline as steeper and more dramatic than blacks did, but the general impressions of the trend were similar for both races.

When asked about anti-white bias, though, black and white respondents differed significantly in their views. Black respondents identified virtually no anti-white bias in any decade. White respondents agreed that anti-white bias was not a problem in the 1950s, but reported that bias against whites started climbing in the 1960s and 1970s before rising sharply in the past 30 years.

When asked about the present-day United States, a striking difference emerged. Our average white respondent believed that at the time of our survey in 2011, anti-white bias was an even bigger problem than anti-black bias.

Lots of Trump voters agree.

This perception is fascinating, as it stands in stark contrast to data on almost any outcome that has been assessed.

What a perfectly clueless statement! The outcomes for different groups will be different, even in a world of zero bias, if those groups have genetic and/or cultural differences.

From life expectancy to school discipline to mortgage rejection to police use of force, outcomes for white Americans tend to be — in the aggregate — better than outcomes for black Americans, often substantially so.

And, in all those areas, the outcomes for Asian-Americans are much better than those for white Americans. Would Sommers/Norton argue that this is evidence for a bias against whites? If not, why not? If so, then maybe those white respondents are on to something!


Professor Leslie Brown, RIP

Sad news (via Yik Yak) that Professor Leslie Brown passed away on Friday.

Condolences to all.


Why Williams College’s President Canceled a Speech

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Dear Mr. Wood,

While I am not interested in an extended dialogue with the National Association of Scholars regarding matters at Williams College, I am prepared to give a brief response to your question about John Derbyshire’s canceled appearance here. To that end, please see his opinion piece “The Talk: Non-Black Version.” This article was considered so racist by the National Review (no bastion of left-wing orthodoxy, I assure you) that upon its publication the editors severed their association with Derbyshire and refused him further access to their pages. Typical of its content is the following excerpt, in the form of advice to “nonblack” children:

(10a) Avoid concentrations of blacks not all known to you personally.

(10b) Stay out of heavily black neighborhoods.

(10c) If planning a trip to a beach or amusement park at some date, find out whether it is likely to be swamped with blacks on that date (neglect of that one got me the closest I have ever gotten to death by gunshot).

(10d) Do not attend events likely to draw a lot of blacks.

(10e) If you are at some public event at which the number of blacks suddenly swells, leave as quickly as possible.

(10f) Do not settle in a district or municipality run by black politicians.

(10g) Before voting for a black politician, scrutinize his/her character much more carefully than you would a white.

(10h) Do not act the Good Samaritan to blacks in apparent distress, e.g., on the highway.

(10i) If accosted by a strange black in the street, smile and say something polite but keep moving.

As for Derbyshire’s views on white supremacy, I would point you to the following passage that appeared on the website VDare:

“Leaving aside the intended malice, I actually think ‘White Supremacist’ is not bad semantically. White supremacy, in the sense of a society in which key decisions are made by white Europeans, is one of the better arrangements History has come up with. There have of course been some blots on the record, but I don’t see how it can be denied that net-net, white Europeans have made a better job of running fair and stable societies than has any other group.”

Frankly, this is the kind of material I would expect to see distributed by organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan.

Derbyshire’s rhetoric, as typified in these passages, isn’t the explication of provocative, challenging or contrary ideas. To speak to what I’m sure is a particular concern of the National Association of Scholars, his work on race isn’t remotely scholarly. Derbyshire simply provokes. His racist bile would have added nothing to the complicated and challenging conversations occurring every day on our campus, across a wide range of ideologies and experiences. No educational purpose of any kind would have been served by his appearance at Williams.

I hope this clarifies matters.


Adam Falk

Related article and discussion here.


Justice League Way Better Than The Avengers

A central service of EphBlog is to provide guidance on who/what to root for in various disputes. Our rule: Favor the Eph! Consider the issue of The Justice League (DC Comics) versus The Avengers (Marvel). The closest Williams connections we can find is Zack Snyder (son of Ed Snyder ’58), director of Batman versus Superman.

Yet the director has long had roots in Berkshire County.

His mother, Marsha, was originally from Pittsfield, while his father, Ed, was a Williams College graduate. While the family moved around for years from areas ranging from New Jersey to Texas to Connecticut, the Snyders eventually settled back down in Pittsfield, where Zack would visit as an adult.

Throughout it all, Ed Snyder said, his son was always interested in film. Even as early as the sixth grade, Zack would buy “Star Wars” and army action figures as stop-motion test subjects for his 8 millimeter camera.

“[Zack] would paint sets in the background of the garage, and he would take a shot by setting up all of these figures. It would be one frame, and take another frame, and move it a little bit,” Ed recalled. “At the end of 2 1/2 months, it would probably watch a 10- to 15-minute movie.”

Are they any other Eph connections to these movies?


Neighborhood Reports

The College can not be trusted to maintain public copies of the reports it has made public in the past. So, the responsibility falls to EphBlog. You are welcome, future historians! Below are the most important reports regarding the failed implementation of Neighborhood Housing. There were two interim reports (part I and II) and two final reports (part I and II). The reports were written by the Neighborhood Review Committee in 2009-2010. We provided extensive discussion back in the day. Perhaps the part that is most relevant is the discussion of sophomore housing.

The best part of the Final Report (pdf) from the Neighborhood Review Committee (NRC) is its praise of sophomore housing.

It is striking to note that just over 70% of the first-year respondents believe that the College should offer sophomores the option of living in designated sophomore housing. … The committee concluded that the sophomore housing option is worthy of further study.

Read the whole thing. As best I can tell, the Committee was pro-sophomore housing but with a non-trivial minority against. Yet the central flaw of the Report in this regard was its complete failure to describe and analyze the history of sophomore housing at Williams, at least since 1990. (Useful references here and here.) Short version: Sophomores decided, on their own, that they wanted to live together in Mission. A large majority of sophomores preferred living in housing that was 90% sophomores. They achieved this goal in the early 1990s by trading their picks. Free agency arrived in 1994 and made the process more simple/fair/transparent.

Recommendation: Allow the sophomores to live together in the Berkshire Quad. The Kane Housing Plan (pdf) provides all the necessary details.

As true today as it was five years ago. The College only took a decade to realize that we were right about neighborhood housing. We knew it would be a failure and it was. How long until they come to see the benefits of sophomore housing and other changes?


Mellon Mays / Allison Davis Research Fellows


Background info:

The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) and the Allison Davis Research Fellowship (ADRF) work to increase racial and socio-economic diversity in higher education by preparing students from underrepresented groups for academic careers.

Both the MMUF and the ADRF fellowships provide opportunities for faculty-mentored research, preparation for graduate school, and individualized support from the Office of Special Academic Programs.

The more summer research opportunities that the College provides for its students, the better. Summer in Williamstown is magical! Here is a picture of (last summer’s?) fellows:


Is this program one of those no-Asians-nor-whites need apply?


Over the Edge

From The New York Times:

Trump’s acceptance of the nomination tonight reflects the capitulation of the venerable Republican Party, which has proved unable to protect either its traditions or its principles.

“There has never been a major-party nominee quite like Trump; no party has gone over the edge in the way the Republicans are about to,” Mason Williams, a professor of history at Williams College, wrote by email:

Constraints that would have prevented the nomination of a candidate like Trump have been removed — by party and ideological polarization; by the weakening of the political parties as organizations; and by the fact that primary voters, rather than party bosses or even more ideologically oriented party activists, now have the power to choose the Republican nominee. In the past, party organizations were strong enough to filter out contenders as aberrant as Trump. Evidently, no longer.”

Hmmm. I am not sure what Williams means here by “over the edge.” Trump’s chances at this stage of the race are about as good as McCain’s and Romney’s at the same stage as their failed campaigns.


I would gladly wager that Trump does better than they did, whether or not he actually wins.