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Difference, Power, and Equity II

The plan (pdf) to replace the Exploring Diversity Initiative (pdf) with a Difference, Power, and Equity requirement will be discussed at this week’s faculty meeting. Day 2 of our discussion.

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1) The most annoying aspect of this description is its ahistoricism. Do these folks really believe that only now — or for the 30 years that Williams has had a “diversity” requirement — we live in “a globalizing world that tends toward the redrawing of lines of identity and power”? Those trends have been going on for hundreds of years! Ephraim Williams died thinking of himself as an Englishman, only for his namesake free school to be born in these United States.

2) The second most annoying aspect is the authors’ ignorance about what has changed at Williams and what has not. It is false to claim that “we also constitute a campus community that has by many measures become significantly more diverse in the past few decades.” As we have shown, time and again, on EphBlog, the Williams of today is, on almost all the measures that really matter, indistinguishable from the Williams of the 1980s and perhaps even the 1950s or 1920s. The claim that socio-economic diversity has increased is a lie. There has been no change in the sorts of high schools — elite, often private — which Williams students attended. They may, perhaps, have been some changes in the racial composition but even that change has merely mirrored changes in the US as a whole. Williams is every bit as elite now as it has been for 100 years. And thank goodness for that!

But, instead of criticism, let’s talk tactics. What could a faculty skeptic of this requirement do at today’s faculty meeting? (Informed commentary welcome!)

First, change the new DPE requirement so that it automatically expires after 5 years, just like the ill-fated Gaudino Option of a decade ago. It would be impossible for non-progressive faculty members, given the current environment, to just remove EDI. But, perhaps, we could plant a time bomb that would blow up this nonsense sometime in the 2020s . . .

Second, ask for evidence that the current EDI requirement has actually achieved any of its goals. The CEA is thorough in that it does list some of the requirements at peer schools. But the CEA is also extremely sleazy to not even mention not that many peer schools, like Amherst and Yale, have no similar social justice requirements. Do students at those schools lack the ability to “analyze critically the shaping of social differences?” I doubt it!

EphBlog votes Yes! Despite all my criticisms and even if nothing in this proposal changes, EphBlog is still a Yes vote because the more that we can get race out of the discussion, the better off Williams (and America!) will be. Of course, DPE still explicitly mentions “race” — How could it not? — but as just one of many issues. Race is less central to DPE than it was to EDI, and it was less central to EDI than it was to the original diversity requirement of Peoples and Cultures. This is change we can believe in!

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K-thru-12: Public Education and Private Contractors …

amway

A Multi-Level Opportunity!

cf: DeVos, Amway

 

Amway logo is a registered trademark.

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Difference, Power, and Equity I

The plan (pdf) to replace the Exploring Diversity Initiative (pdf) with a Difference, Power, and Equity (DPE) requirement will be discussed at this week’s faculty meeting. Day 1 of our discussion.

Requirements are bad. Beyond demanding that students major in something and take 32 classes, Williams should place no further limits on student course selection. As former President Morty Schapiro was fond of pointing out, your time at Williams is limited. You only have 32 “golden tickets.” Every time the College makes you take a class that you would otherwise not have taken, it (potentially, at least) burns one of those tickets. Even the number 32 is often an overestimate since it does not include the 9 (or more) courses in your major or the 4 (or 8) courses you miss while studying abroad. In terms of pure discretion, the number of golden tickets might be as low as 15. Unless the Administration has a compelling reason to believe that a student is making a mistake when she picks course X over course Y, they should let her decide. She knows best.

The proposal:

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Can any insider give us the background? This seems to be a revised proposal. How does it differ from the first? Is it likely to pass? What is the constellation of forces for and against?

If you are the Record and you use this document, you should credit EphBlog. The College (stupidly) refuses to make the material distributed before faculty meetings public. More transparency please! Putting faculty meeting materials (and the notes which follow) here makes sense because, first, this is high quality work! Second, any document that you e-mail to 300+ people is more-or-less public anyway.

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What others think of Williams

I would guess that most of the readers of Ephblog think pretty highly of Williams (some regular commenters excepted!).  The fabled “purple bubble” doesn’t completely disappear once we graduate.  But many others are more skeptical.

I recently came across a thread entitled “How many colleges are “better” than Williams?” on the DC Urban Moms message board.  This question used to open discussion was “I’ll give the nod to HYPS, but where does Williams fall after them?”  The thread generated lots of discussion.  If you have time, you might enjoy browsing through some of the comments.  Here are some of the interesting ones.  We can make a good guess as to where that person went to school.

One. Amherst.

Perhaps the same commenter wrote this:

Amherst has very good placement at the top graduarwvand professional schools. I think better than Williams and Pomona, probably Swarthmore also.
That’s basically anecdotal, but an educated anecdotal from going to these schools, having friends at each of them, attending a top graduate school and reviewing a lot of resumes. I’ve hired several Amherst grads (based on their post-college education and experience) but no one from any of the other LACs,I think

You can see more after the break.

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Entertaining Reader Requests

I am planning out my next few 5-10 part series. What topics do readers want me to cover? (Previous rants in this series include the discussions of the Equality of Opportunity Project, the news release on early admissions for the class of 2019 and veterans admissions). The topics I am willing to write about include:

1) Latest Form 990.
2) Latest financial statements.
3) Latest Common Data Set.
4) Excellent work done by the Merrill Committee.
5) The 2012 Fifth Year Interim Report (pdf) on accreditation.
6) Adam Falk’s latest letters.
7) The long term health of the Williams endowment, using NACUBO data. (Thanks to Dartblog for the pointer.)
8. Ways to improve NESCAC athletics.
9. The Proposal for Divestment (pdf), the main intellectual statement by those students/faculty/alumni seeking divestment from fossil fuel companies.
10. The College’s response (pdf) to the Proposal for Divestment.
11. The new trustees webpage and the documents linked therefrom.
12. Record articles from the fall semester. Lots of good stuff that we never got around to discussing.
13. The plan (pdf) for the replacement for the Exploring Diversity Initiative to be discussed at this week’s faculty meeting.
14. Latest 100 page report (pdf) from the Curricular Planning Committee.
15. Ethan Zuckerman’s ’93 lunch with an (anonymous!?) Eph Trump supporter.
16. An update on athletic admission, starting with this amazing series from The Bowdoin Orient.

What do you want to read? Other suggestions welcome! I will probably start with 13 since it is so timely . . .

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patriots-1!

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Information about campus incident

This evening, Campus Security received a report from a college alum who had been walking on Spring Street at 9:30 when a pickup truck pulled alongside him. The truck’s occupants, whose faces were covered, yelled a racial slur at him and sped away.

Campus Safety immediately notified the Williamstown Police, who responded to the incident. Our alum is safe and is aiding authorities with their efforts to identify the perpetrators. This was a reprehensible attack: an assault on one of our own, and on our shared values.

We have no reason to believe the people in the truck were members of the college community. And we haven’t received reports of any other, similar incidents. Even so, Campus Safety has increased patrols and both CSS and Williamstown Police are on the lookout for vehicles matching the description.

Please use caution if moving around campus or town tonight. Travel in pairs or groups if possible, and be alert to your surroundings. If you see anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or suspicious, move to a safe location and call 597-4444 immediately. Our chances of catching the people responsible will be much greater if you communicate the information to Campus Safety right away. Do not engage with any person of concern.

If you’re alone and feel unsafe or want an escort to your destination, contact 597-4444.

Please be safe, and we’ll provide further updates if and when new information becomes available.

All best wishes,
Dean Sandstrom

Marlene J. Sandstrom
Dean of the College and Hales Professor of Psychology
Williams College
Phone: (413) 597-4261
Fax: (413) 597-3507

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Is This What You Voted For?

A friend of EphBlog and one of my favorite alumni wrote in last week (in reference to Trump’s executive order):

Sincere question: can you support the President given these recent actions?

You betcha! Since my friend, I suspect, does not know many Trump supporters, or at least not many Trump supporters with Williams-caliber IQs, let me elaborate.

The central issue in the election (for people like me) was immigration. We want the US to have the immigration policy of a “normal” nation, a place like Japan, Israel, Finland or China. My point, here, is not to argue about whether or not such a policy is best for the future of America or the World. (Let’s have that argument elsewhere.) My point is that, if you were/are an American with this preference then Trump was the only candidate who promised this. In my opinion, without his stance on immigration, Trump would not have won the Republican primary. And, if he had moved to the center during the general election, he would have lost to Clinton. A hundred years from now, much of the day-to-day trivia of governing will have been lost. But if there is one phrase that will still be associated with Trump, it will be “Build the wall.”

Given that policy preference, Trump is doing wonderfully. Naming a justice like Gorsuch to the Supreme Court is the best way to prevent the judiciary from trying to take control of immigration policy. Putting serious immigration restrictionists like Bannon and Miller in the White House guarantees follow through. Selecting heavyweights like Kelly and Sessions for key cabinet positions will bend the bureaucracy to our goals. About the only complaint we have, at this stage, is that Kris Kobach has not been hired yet. But I like to think/hope that Trump is just “saving” Kobach for later after the easy tasks have been accomplished. Summary: if your goal is an America with an immigration policy like Japan’s, Trump has done everything you want.

Even some of the items that seem like incompetence and/or overreach and/or cruelty — like banning green card holders — may be more than they seem. Why not go “too far” at first if doing so causes the eventual compromise to be everything you wanted in the first place? Why not start all the lawsuits running on a policy, like the new version of the EO, which is almost certain to be upheld since it is so similar to past US policies?

What seems like madness to my friend may actually be quite calculated. Trump is a lewd, boorish buffoon but people like Stephen Miller are as serious as black ice on the steps of Chapin. In that regard, consider the latest letter, co-signed by Adam Falk, about Trump’s executive order:

We recognize and respect the need to protect America’s security. The vetting procedures already in place are rigorous. Improvements to them should be based on evidence, calibrated to real risks, and consistent with constitutional principle.

We just had an election fought over this very question. People like me do not think that the current procedures are “rigorous” enough. Finland is an example of a country with an immigration policy “based on evidence” and “calibrated to real risks.” That is the policy we want. You can call us bigots and racists all day long and we won’t care. If it is OK for Israel and China to allow virtually no immigrants, then it is OK for America as well.

In any event, that is my answer to my alumni friend. Trump won the presidency on immigration and, on that policy at least, he is keeping the promises he made. Contrary views welcome in the comments!

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Trump as a Daesh … has ‘Der Spiegel’ gone too far?

Screen Shot 2017-02-04 at 2.07.04 PM

 

 

Ephblogers seem to be readers of various media … ‘junkies’ may not be an over-statement.

The article below from the Sydney Morning Herald is a nice summary of this publishing occasion. The New Yorker this week uses the iconic image in a similar statement but accomplishes its’ message in a more quiet, thoughtful, and melancholy manner, similar to the black-on-black 9/11 and the Purple Rain covers.

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1. Your thoughts on the use of revered graphic icons for political observations.

2. Your thoughts/rants on the covers themselves and the message they deliver.

http://www.smh.com.au/world/german-magazine-der-spiegel-divides-with-trump-cover-20170204-gu5ogx.html

I write this as an old manipulator of graphics for branding/image purposes.

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Upset and Overwhelmed

A Williams insider passed along this all-faculty e-mail from the day after the election.

Dear Colleagues,

As you all know, this polarized campaign has both real and felt consequences for many in our community. Many students (as well as faculty and staff) are feeling upset and overwhelmed this morning. We have received a number of messages from students asking to cancel classes today. Although we have a responsibility to continue to hold classes, we encourage you to be as understanding and flexible as possible in response to the very real concerns expressed and felt by our students. Please remember that, as always, you may steer students to college resources for them including in the Dean’s Office, in the Davis Center, in the Chaplains Office, and in the Health Center.

Sincerely,

Denise K. Buell
Dean of the Faculty and Cluett Professor of Religion
Williams College

1) I am embarrassed that there are people at Williams who would even think about cancelling classes after the election. Who were they? I am pleased that Williams did not. Kudos to Falk/Buell for resisting such stupidity.

2) We need a better history of cancelled classes at Williams, both actual and attempted. The last example was over the Prospect House Hate Hoax in 2011. Can anyone remember the previous cancel-all-classes event? Do we need to go all the way back to the Vietnam War?

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Witch hunt, Indeed! I’ll show you Bowling Green, my pretty ….

I'll show you Bowling Green ...

… and your little dog, too!

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Witch Hunt on the Quad

Glowing review for former Williams professor KC Johnson’s latest book:

In 1692, the Massachusetts Bay Colony found itself in the grip of a moral panic. Seemingly rational people turned on their neighbors, accusing them of witchcraft. The subjective testimony of children and “spectral” evidence, which only the accusers could see, were the basis for the arrest of more than 140 innocent people. Nineteen were hanged.

Today America is in the grip of another moral panic. We’re not afraid of witches but rapists, whom we are told lurk at our nation’s colleges in numbers that render the quad a more dangerous environment for women than downtown Detroit. In “The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America’s Universities,” KC Johnson and Stuart Taylor Jr. dismantle this myth of a campus rape crisis and show how, with alarming frequency, colleges mistreat students accused of assault by failing to allow them any meaningful opportunity to prove their innocence.

At the same time that activists are expanding the definition of sexual assault, university disciplinary committees are systematically depriving accused students of basic due process protections. At the directive of the Department of Education, many campus tribunals today assign blame if there is a 51% chance that the accuser is telling the truth (the “preponderance of the evidence” standard). Many schools do not allow the accused to cross-examine their accusers. Some refuse to allow accused students legal representation and deny them the opportunity to present exculpatory evidence or witnesses in their defense.

According to the authors, Mr. McLeod is one of more than 100 students who are currently suing their former colleges or universities for wrongly punishing them for sexual misconduct. They recount so many examples that at times the book feels like the movie “Groundhog Day” and the reader soon forgets whether he is reading about a case out of Amherst or Michigan or Yale or USC—to name just a few of the many schools at which miscarriages of justice have occurred.

Unlike in Salem, where there were no witches, there are indeed too many instances of rape on campus. But as Messrs. Johnson and Taylor show powerfully, the current system has its own victims and ultimately undermines the credibility of actual rape survivors whose cases belong in court, not in Kafkaesque administrative tribunals.

Exactly right. Should we be pleased or sad that the Safety Dance court case happened too late for Williams to be featured in the book?

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Race is so fluid …

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Claiming Williams

Today is Claiming Williams. Here is the schedule. (Copied below the break for future historians.) Here are our recommendations for which sessions to attend. Comments:

1) This schedule is incompetent! Here is the committee, and the co-chairs are Annie Valk, Angela Wu, and Rashanda Booker. Are they to blame? I think that this is the first year in which the committee was not co-led by a [tenured — correction from comment below] faculty member. Is that a sign that the faculty is less interested and so we might get rid of Claiming Williams? Or is it just another example of the continued erosion of faculty governance at the College? I hope for the former.

The main trick to ensuring high attendance at Claiming Williams is to schedule a first event that hundreds of students will want to attend (or be cajoled into attending by their JAs). That event should feature people/items that are popular with students. Everyone loves singing groups! Invite several to perform. Everyone loves honeybuns! Serve them for free. In past years, the organizers have done exactly this, thereby getting lots of students out of bed and engaged. Once they attend the first event, it is easier to get them to go from that to another.

2) What a narrow selection of topics! Claiming Williams has always been (and will always be) filled with leftist sessions. Nothing wrong with that! But, in past years, other sessions, appealing to a different cross-section of the community, have generated large audiences. How about something about athletics at Williams and the athlete/non-athlete divide? What about a session on the drinking culture? A more competent committee would have created such sessions. Even the sessions that might be non-political, like this one about sports, are extremely leftist:

This critique of U.S. sports culture shows how 20th-century sports has consistently reflected the hegemonic political discourse of the day, specifically, elite narratives about nationalism, war, gender, race, homosexuality and capitalism.

Again, nothing wrong with extreme leftists! Some of our closest friends are . . . But there is no excuse for not having (many!) events that come at these issues from other perspectives.

3) How can there be nothing about Uncomfortable Learning and the banning of John Derbyshire? This was the biggest national news story involving Williams in several years. To not have a single session about it is just embarrassing.

4) Could the Record please do a minimal amount of reporting and tell us, approximately, how many students attend at least two events? My sense (commentary welcome) is that the College likes to pretend like a large majority of students (1500?) attend more than one event. I bet that the actual number is closer to 500, and maybe as low as 200.

5) Whose idea was it to choose Shaun King as the evening key note speaker? King is [an accused — edited] fraud, on several important dimensions, not least in his claim to be African-American. If I were writing this as parody — that a white man [accused of running — edited] multiple charity frauds while pretending to be African-American would be the key note speaker at Claiming Williams— when all this started 9 years ago, you wouldn’t have believed me! Truth, at least at Williams, is stranger than fiction.

Full schedule below
Read more

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“Bad Hombres”!

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Not the first time …

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Creating Community: Welcome to the New Term

To the Williams Community,

On this first day of this new semester, I’m reflecting on the meaning of community, both the one here at Williams and the many communities, local and national, that we’re a part of. Recent events are testing that sense of community—of cohesiveness and mutual collegiality. Especially now, when faced with such challenges, we need to renew our commitment to the values that make us who we are.

We’ll start that work tomorrow, when, as we do every year at this time, we’ll devote the day to Claiming Williams and our efforts to make Williams a more inclusive community. This is one of my very favorite days of the year, and this year’s program on the theme of “Moral Courage” couldn’t be more timely. I urge you all to attend, listen, learn, and commit to making this campus the kind of community we want it to be. And that the world needs us to be.

Successful communities reflect on and live their values, and our year of inquiry, Confronting Climate Change, is a wonderful opportunity to consider more deeply our commitments to the sustainability of the way we humans live on Earth. Thanks to great work by the C3 committee and the Center for Environmental Sciences, we’ve got an impressive roster of events and speakers this spring. It includes visits by two leading figures: Columbia professor Jim Hansen, the scientist and former NASA Director who risked his government career by giving frank testimony to Congress about climate change; and writer and activist Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and author of The End of Nature—considered the book that introduced the idea of climate change to a general audience. I hope we’ll all participate in this and other Confronting Climate Change programming. This is the only planet we have to call home, and we must all learn to care for it.

Our community is always growing and changing, and it’s a special pleasure to welcome two recent arrivals: Shawna Patterson-Stephens, director of the Davis Center; and Wendy Adam, director of Psychological Counseling Services. Given how important holistic diversity and support for mental health are to a flourishing Williams community, I’m thrilled that we’ve attracted to Williamstown such wonderful leaders as Shawna and Wendy.

Continuing with happy news, we’re celebrating the award of tenure to four members of the faculty: Rashida Braggs in Africana studies, Nick Howe in environmental studies, Tim Lebestky in biology, and Kate Stroud in psychology. All four are committed teachers and scholars with a talent for introducing students to interdisciplinary ways of thinking, and we’re fortunate that they’ll enrich our community for many years to come.

We’re also continuing to see an outpouring of support from our alumni and friends for the Teach It Forward campaign. Focused on the college’s most important core priorities—students and faculty—the campaign speaks to enduring Williams values that continue to resonate deeply with those who know and love the college. Financial aid, of course, is the most important priority of Teach It Forward; and to cite just one example of the impact of enhancing our financial aid endowment, last week Williams was featured on the PBS NewsHour website for our national leadership in building and supporting socioeconomic diversity in our student body.

Finally, the board of trustees held their annual winter meeting in late January, and we’ll post a summary report on the revamped Board website shortly. The highlight of their weekend was an open reception for students, held Friday evening at the Faculty House. The trustees were grateful that so many students took time on a Friday evening to get to know them and share their thoughts on Williams. Our trustees are college and national leaders who’ve successfully applied their Williams education to their lives, careers, and causes, and they’re a rich source of advice and ideas. We’re looking forward to making this reception, as well as the open meeting held in October, an annual event.

I hope you’re all energized and ready, as I am, for a new semester. Let’s get off to a strong start with Claiming Williams. I’ll see you there tomorrow.

Sincerely,

Adam Falk
President

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Claiming Williams Recommendations

Claiming Williams is tomorrow. There were more EphBlog-worthy sessions last year than this year, but here are still several events that look good. In order, I recommend:

Campus Spaces and Institutional History: the Courage to Examine the Past:

The Committee on Campus Space and Institutional History welcomes everyone to join in a dinnertime conversation about the history that’s built into the environment all around Williams. Last spring, we explored the history behind, and the college community’s perspectives on, the Log mural. Since the fall our task has widened as we’ve reflected on how the Williams community can engage the college’s built forms across campus — in buildings, decorations, and monuments. What ideas do you bring to this work? We’d like to hear! Sponsored by the Committee on Campus Space and Institutional History.

The CCSIH is one of the great successes of the past year. It handled the Log Mural situation perfectly. It looks to be handling other controversies intelligently. Kudos to Adam Falk for creating and staffing the committee with some of Williams’ best.

Healthy Debate

Many of us share a concern about events occurring outside of our immediate communities that have “real world implications” for our work together. What are some of the hotly contested issues occurring outside of the classroom that might affect what’s going on inside of them? How do we create spaces to express a complex range of ideas and to speak frankly about what we know and what we believe? How might our ideas translate into conversations with classmates and colleagues with whom we engage with limited ways? What are the various forms that healthy debate might take among us institutionally?

Come to this session willing to enter into conversation. We have no expectation that anyone will show up as “an expert” on any particular topic, or even that anyone has to formally “debate.” Rather, we hope to engage with each other about what we think and know, and to foster broad, yet passionate, conversation focused on why differing points of view actually matter and can cultivate camaraderie among us as a community.

Suggested discussion starter: Many (most? almost all?) Trump supporters among the student body keep quiet about their political beliefs, partly because they think that open support for Trump would hurt them at Williams by, for example, preventing them from becoming a JA. Are their fears justified?

Quitting at Williams

At some point during our lives, at Williams or beyond, we have to make
a decision that we are taught to fear: quitting. Even the word “quit” summons feelings and associations that are inherently tied to failure or weakness. What is the source of this negative stigma that surrounds opting out of an activity, a group, a team, a class, a relationship, or a school, and what motivates someone to make that decision in spite of the repercussions? A panel of students will talk about their decisions to quit something because they no longer believed that what they were quitting was right for them; for the speakers, their act of “quitting” did not represent a source of shame but rather a source of empowerment.

An important topic handled in the best way: with student speakers and discussion.

Also, the Clickers session is always fun! But 9:00 AM is a tough ask . . .

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