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Our Work for a Sustainable Future

To the Williams Community,

Welcome to the start of a new academic year! With the arrival of the Class of 2020 and a fantastic cohort of new faculty members, the year ahead holds great promise. And I hope you’ll take these last few days of summer weather to enjoy the beautiful new (and car-free!) library quad, a space that I expect will become a new heart of the Williams community.

But before we dive into the semester, I’d like to spend some time updating you on the important work that’s been done over the past year to advance our sustainability goals and implement our plan for addressing climate change.

Last year at this time, the Board of Trustees and I announced an ambitious set of initiatives that are both symbolically and practically significant—commitments worthy of Williams and requiring broad financial investment as well as dedication by individuals and the entire community to help lead in the fight against climate change. I’m grateful for the work of so many over the past year to make meaningful progress, and happy to be able to share with you now details of our forward movement. As you’ll see from the length of this letter, I have a lot to report to you, and there’s much more to come.
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Start of Fall Semester

I hope you are looking forward to the start of fall semester which begins tomorrowThursday, 8 September!


A friendly reminder that there are one-time organizational meetings on Thursday evening (RORG) for courses that do not normally meet during the first two days of classes. There are also some one-time meetings on Friday, September 9th (FORG) for courses that normally have a Monday/Wednesday schedule.


Note: Instructors may drop students who do not attend the first class meeting; organizational meetings (RORG) and first Friday meetings (FORG) count as the first class meeting of those courses.


Barbara Casey


Williams College


More Shade from Chicago

As a follow up to our discussion last week, read this Wall Street Journal op-ed by University Chicago President Robert Zimmer.

Free speech is at risk at the very institution where it should be assured: the university.

Invited speakers are disinvited because a segment of a university community deems them offensive, while other orators are shouted down for similar reasons. … In many cases, these efforts have been supported by university administrators.

Indeed. Falk was supported by Dean Bolton and many (most? all?) other Williams administrators. Note also the six (!) usages of some version of “comfort”

A university should not be a sanctuary for comfort … Demands are made to eliminate readings that might make some students uncomfortable. … Some assert that universities should be refuges from intellectual discomfort and that their own discomfort with conflicting and challenging views should override the value of free and open discourse. … Universities cannot be viewed as a sanctuary for comfort … Having one’s assumptions challenged and experiencing the discomfort that sometimes accompanies this process are intrinsic parts of an excellent education.

Echos of Robert Gaudino’s claim that “uncomfortable learning” should be at the center of a Williams education. Recall that Gaudino’s Ph.D. was from Chicago. Is there a connection?

[Post edited after publication.]


Alcohol Policy

Welcome to a new year at Williams! As we delight in having you on campus, we want to do all we can to ensure your safety and provide for a healthy community. To that end, we want to share with you the college’s policies related to alcohol. Our aim with these policies is about following the law, of course, but it’s also—importantly—about reducing high-risk drinking behaviors.


Here are the main elements of our campus alcohol policies and Responsible Party Standards:


  • Hard alcohol and common source alcohol (kegs, punch, etc.) are prohibited
  • Providing alcohol to anyone under 21 is prohibited (and illegal)
  • Parties of more than 20 people must be registered
  • Party hosts must adhere to safe room capacity and safe drinking standards (no more than 120 servings of beer or wine permitted, or up to twice the room capacity, whichever is less)


Visit  for more details.
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New Williams Home Page


Standby for a new Williams home page.

The communications office is always looking to improve the college’s web presence to the benefit of all who consume and produce its content. Many of the changes we implement are incremental and go unnoticed by most visitors. Periodically, however, significant advances in technology or changes in user behavior warrant larger, more fundamental updates to our infrastructure. The exponential growth of mobile device usage and corresponding rapid evolution of web technology to accommodate smaller screens is one such tectonic shift. With the percentage of visitors browsing our sites on mobile devices increasing rapidly, as our own analytics confirm, improving our sites to better serve these visitors is a necessity and the primary driver of this work.

There is a fun Record article to be written about the evolution of the College’s online presence. Start with our discussions (here and here) a decade ago.


Course Advice

Fall classes start on Thursday. What courses should you take? See our previous discussions.

1) Any tutorial. The more tutorials you take, the better your Williams education will be. There are few plausible excuses for not taking a tutorial every semester. Although many tutorials are now filled, others are not. Recommended:

MATH 102: Foundations in Quantitative Skills with Mihai Stoiciu. This course is, obviously, designed for students with a limited math background, but, if you are in that category, you would be a fool to pass up the chance to learn from one of the best professors at Williams.

PSCI 219: Women in National Politics with Joy James. Too many first years take a big intro class because they think they “should.” They shouldn’t! Even a “bad” tutorial at Williams is better than almost all intro courses.

SOC 248: Altering States: Postsoviet Paradoxes of Identity and Difference with Olga Shevchenko. It does not matter if you care about Russia. As always, choose the professor, not the class. If you are a first year and you don’t take a tutorial like this, you are doing it wrong.

By the way, where can we find data about how popular tutorials are? For example, do most/all tutorials end up filled? How many students attempted to enroll in each one? More transparency!

2) STAT 201 (if you enter Williams with Math/Reading SAT scores below 1300, you might start with STAT 101). No topic is more helpful in starting your career, no matter your area of interest, than statistics. Students who take several statistics courses are much more likely to get the best summer internships and jobs after Williams. Also, the new Statistics major is amazing.

3) CSCI 135: Diving into the Deluge of Data (if you enter Williams with Math/Reading SAT scores below 1300, you might start with CSCI 134). Being able to get the computer to do what you want it to do is much more important, to your future career, than most things, including, for example, the ability to write well. Taking CSCI 136 is also highly recommended.

4) PHIL 394: Topics Mind & Cognition with Joe Cruz, former EphBlogger and all around great guy. And don’t worry about the silly prerequisites. Just tell Joe that EphBlog sent you!

Here are some thoughts from 9 years ago about course selections for a career in finance.

What courses would you recommend? What was the best class you took at Williams?


Your 32. Your Chance to Explore. – Add-Drop Opens Tuesday!

Welcome to Add-Drop Period!

The start of the semester is your chance to explore and try something new. You have 32 courses at Williams; make the most of all of them! You just might learn the most when you take a course outside of your comfort zone. Take a risk. Try something new. (And, remember designating a course pass-fail is an option up until halfway through the semester).

Use the first two days of the semester to explore all the Williams curriculum has to offer! Do not limit yourself to the courses you pre-registered for. Go to the first class meetings of courses that look interesting — this is a great way for you to test out a class and see if you like it. Professors welcome students in the first class meeting of open courses (so long as you contact them ahead of time). During the first two days of the semester, you may want to go to five or six (or maybe even more) first class meetings.

This advice, we hope, is as true for first-years as it is for seniors. It is never too late to try something new. As a liberal arts college, there are incredible courses and professors across the three divisions; this is your opportunity to see what is out there in classrooms from Bronfman to Spencer to Hollander.

These are “Your 32.” They are “Your Chance to Explore.” Make the most of it!

Yours in a love of the liberal arts,

Jeffrey Rubel ‘17 and Allegra Simon ‘18

Student Chair of the Committee on Educational Affairs and College Council VP of Academic Affairs


Invitation to Convocation, Saturday 17-Sep-2016

Dear member of the class of 2017,

I invite you to participate in Fall Convocation, the ceremonial opening of the academic year.  Seniors and faculty march in academic dress, so please see the end of this message for information on when and where to pick up your cap and gown.

Details about Convocation may be found here.

Convocation will be held on the morning of Saturday, September 17, in Chapin Hall.  The senior class lines up in caps and gowns on the lawn of Morgan Hall at 10:15 a.m. under the direction of class marshals Velia Moran Olivas and Scott Shelton.  The procession steps off at exactly 10:40.  The ceremony starts at 11:00 and lasts about an hour.  There is a rain plan, but I’ll only alert you to the details if there is a chance of rain.

Convocation celebrates the senior class and its many accomplishments.  President Adam Falk and College Council Co-Presidents Michelle Bal and Caitlin Buckley welcome the seniors.  Sammi Stone and Gabe Morosky perform a musical number.  Vice President Steve Klass presents the Grosvenor Cup Award and Dean Marlene Sandstrom introduces the seniors elected to Phi Beta Kappa at the end of their junior year.

Bicentennial Medals are awarded to five distinguished alumni. Medalist Maxine Burkett gives the Convocation Address “Climate, Complexity, and Other Devils: James Garfield and the Seventh Generation.”

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NOW! Look Great for these Last Few Weeks until Election Day!

An offer you can’t refuse…Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 7.05.48 PM

Wear proudly! Speak Boldly!  Beat the Dealer!

You can never wear too many hats. Well, not at these prices in your choice of color. FREE SHIPPING. Costs less here than at the rally!


Montgomery Guide

This seems a worthwhile effort:

Montgomery Guide aims to collect experiences from every corner of the Williams community: faculty, staff, freshmen, seniors, and alumni. We named this collection of stories after R.A. Montgomery ’1958, who pioneered the famous Choose Your Own Adventure book series. Through Montgomery Guide, we share the experiences of those in our community so we can all use them for a little more guidance, solidarity, and ease in choosing our own adventure.

Kudos to all involved! Here is are some EphBlog’s thoughts.


Williamstown Bank not a “Safe Place” for a meeting …

I thought it would be a safe place for my group to meet. Our group is Us Guys Who Think We Are Funny and Can Get Away With It.

Imagine my chagrin when someone crashed our meeting. Well, Mr Bozo, you certainly hurt our sense of identity. But I was able to make a Quick Change of location. Such are the risks of pioneering new thought.

That’s Ray Goulding of Bob and Ray as the guard.

I thought if Trigger Warning worked, I could get away with Safe Place.


Avid Supporter

The New Yorker puffed up the bubble/fraud that was Theranos.

Holmes started Theranos in 2003, when she was nineteen; she dropped out of Stanford the following year. Since then, she told the audience, the company has developed blood tests that can help detect dozens of medical conditions, from high cholesterol to cancer, based on a drop or two of blood drawn with a pinprick from your finger. Theranos is working to make its testing available to several hospital systems and is in advanced discussions with the Cleveland Clinic.

But it had help from Toby Cosgrove ’62!

Dr. Delos M. Cosgrove, the C.E.O. and president of the Cleveland Clinic, is an avid supporter. “I think it’s potentially a breakthrough company,” he told me. “It represents a major change in how we deliver health care.”

No, it doesn’t. How smart can Cosgrove be if he were fooled so easily?

Yet, since it is obvious that Cosgrove is very, very smart, is this an Emperor’s New Clothes situation? The only way to get to be the CEO of the Cleveland Clinic is to go along with the conventional wisdom?


Trump Tweets @ Mika

Which Eph is most tweeted at by a US presidential candidate? Mika Brzezinski ’89!


Has Clinton tweeted about any Ephs? Has Trumped tweeted about any other Ephs? Not that I have seen. Pointers welcome!

By the way, current odds are about 3:1 in favor of Clinton.


Should we be comforted or shocked by that?

In other news, Trump gave an immigration speech last night after going out for Mexican food (or something). Modern news reports are confusing! If you have thoughts on Clinton/Trump or anything political, than this is your thread for the next week. (Off topic comments in other threads may be deleted without warning.)


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