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How I Became a News Anchor

From USA Today:

CNN’s Erin Burnett has had quite the career. The prime-time newscaster graduated from Williams College with a political economy degree, spending the first part of her career as a financial analyst for Goldman Sachs before taking the leap to pursue a career in media.

From the Middle East to Africa to China and the United States, Burnett’s reporting has taken her all over the world as the host of CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront. USA TODAY College caught up with Burnett to talk about taking risks, driving through Iraq in the dark of night and thriving on deadline.

Read the whole thing. Alas, there are no fun stories from Burnett’s time at Williams.

What does your career path look like, from Goldman Sachs to CNN?

My brother-in-law and sister sent me an article that was on the front of the business section of the New York Times. I was an an analyst at Goldman and I’d been doing an all-nighter, which is kind of the standard operating procedure in that job. The article was talking about Willow Bay and her new job with Moneyline, the show she was working on at CNN.

When I was young Willow was the face of Estee Lauder and a very famous model, so I had followed her and knew who she was. I sent her a letter — which I’ve described as my ‘stalker letter’ — and said that I’ve read your ad and that I’m very interested in doing this.

Lesson: Network! Network! Network!

Burnett’s sisters are also Ephs and at least one is married to an Eph.

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Recent Int’l Graduates Concern with Dean’s Office, 3/3

UPDATE: Assistant Dean of International Student Services Ninah Pretto informed recent intl graduates in Economics on Thursday morning (several emails/phone calls later and after she promised a decision on Monday, four days ago) that they can apply for STEM extensions. Hooray! Psychology, however, is still not classified as STEM.

Fellow current students have pointed out a concern recent international Williams graduates are having with Dean’s Office, specifically on the reclassification of the Economics major as STEM and its implications. We’re spending three posts talking about it. Find the first discussion here and the second here. This is the third post. Consider the comments of the Facebook discussion on this issue:

Screenshot (25) redacted

If you count, that’s a total of 76 (!) likes, among which at least 53 are from distinct individuals. That’s quite a number of Facebook likes!

Although names are blacked out (for fear of retribution, a very real concern among students!), eight different students and recent alumni took part in the discussion. Let’s consider some of our fellow Ephs’ comments in light of this issue:

I called them last year to see if econ could be considered STEM, and basically got stonewalled.

Around this time (spring) last year, Williams did not yet have Dean Pretto (she joined May 2016) and Sarah Bolton was still Dean of the College, so we must assume this ’15 alum spoke to someone who reported to the latter. Can we excuse the stonewalling during this period (spring ’16) in light of the departure of former Dean Jenifer Hasenfus? Possibly, but also possibly not! We will investigate. What is clear, however, is that the recurrence (twice so far, and thrice by next week!) of ignoring the concerns of international students suggests that these instances are not isolated, but are part of a pattern of behavior that the Williams administration displays towards international students. 

“basically got stonewalled” – said everyone who’s dealt w the dean’s office

“Stonewalled” seems to be making its rounds. Tell us more at concerned.ephs@gmail.com, or join EphBlog as an author and talk about it!

In perhaps an even more disturbing comment…

Bro any lobbying I can do, if you need something written, want to get a cis white male signature, anything, let me know. Let’s chill soon.

The request to chill aside, this commentator suggests that if someone wants something done at the Dean’s Office, it will require the involvement of a”cis white male” at Williams. Is this true? Another commentator (a similar “cis white male” at Williams) who replies “Same here–how can we lobby Williams College?” suggests so. If this is true, for a college administration that likes to brag so much about how “diverse” its students and faculty are, this is very hypocritical behavior. Students certainly think this is true, so EphBlog will continue to investigate!

Deans office is utterly useless. Literally never get anywhere with them; best bet is to get some profs on board and have them help lobby you too. Then maybe petition the CAS.

“Utterly useless” is quite strong language! Is this characterization accurate? More pertinently, does this comment, in light of the previous one, suggest that if anyone wants anything done by the Dean’s Office, the involvement of professors and “cis white males” is required? I personally do not think so (and have seen otherwise) but again in light of these disturbing suggestions, EphBlog will continue to investigate. The commentator also mentions the CAS or Committee on Academic Standing, which by itself is a hotbed of student and faculty concerns… More on that soon!

Finally, in the most damning comment in this thread (at least in my opinion),

The deans are very frequently “out of the office,” particularly if they know it is going to be an unpleasant phone call/ conversation… It’s an ongoing problem with an administration completely unwilling to have challenging conversations.

This comment was made by a current student who is not an international student. Two questions: (1) Does this pattern of behavior – ignoring students – when conversations become challenging extend to non-international students as well? This commentator, who describes this as an “ongoing problem” (pattern!) suggest so! (2) Beyond simply suggesting that the Dean’s Office has a pattern/ongoing problem of stonewalling, this commentator actually tells us how the Dean’s Office stonewalls students – by being frequently “out of office”. Why would components of the Dean’s Office require to be out of campus so often as the commentator suggests? Don’t their jobs concern students – who are very much on campus during the school year? What reasons do they have for being out of campus? Is it really about having “challenging conversations”? Perhaps, but perhaps not! Fellow classmates (four so far!) suggest that Associate Dean of First Years David Johnson is known for having a number of dental appointments a year. Current students and recent alums, a request: please let EphBlog know whenever a Dean is “out of office” so we can ascertain exactly how often our Deans are not in their offices.

Thanks to tips from current students, professors, and recent graduates sent to concerned.ephs@gmail.com, we already have several of these stories – the subject of future posts! – but we naturally welcome more in our attempts to investigate the persistence of this pattern of behavior. Future generations of Ephs will thank you for a more transparent, more accountable Williams!

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Curt Tong, RIP

Wonderful article by Tim Layden ’78 about former basketball coach Curt Tong.

The list was taped to the wall in a dark corner of an old college gymnasium, the kind with a running track overhanging the corners of the playing surface. The wall was made of ancient, yellowed stones, lacquered for preservation; the paper was a single, unlined white sheet, affixed to the bricks with slices of clear tape. Even nearing midday, there was barely enough light to read the printing on the page, listing the names of those who had earned the right to play on the varsity basketball team at Williams College during the upcoming season.

It was late in the fall of 1976. I was a junior at Williams, a small D-III liberal arts school in Massachusetts, and had been a member of the team the previous year. I had played little in games, and never when the outcome was in doubt. I was slow-footed, with a tenuous handle, but I could score if not guarded too closely and I was a good teammate and a hard worker. Without being told so, I was certain that my position on the roster was safe until graduation. This was a miscalculation. On the previous night there had been an intrasquad scrimmage, ostensibly giving players a last opportunity to prove themselves worthy of inclusion, or to cut themselves by exposing their weaknesses. Time has dulled the memory of that night, but I didn’t convince my coach that I was significantly better than the bench player I had been the year before. And in retrospect, I most certainly was not.

Therefore, the next day my name wasn’t on the list. I stood frozen at the wall for a long time, repeatedly scanning up and down, trying to blink back the tears that were stinging my eyes and making me feel ashamed. A few of the guys silently patted me on the shoulder, but I waited for all of them to leave before turning to face the daylight. I was 20 years old and my entire self-worth was wrapped up in being an athlete. Now that was gone. I would never again wear a uniform with a genuine name on the front (“Freight Heads,” my trucking company-sponsored team in an Albany, New York rec league, is not a genuine name). I was adrift. There is nothing in sports quite like being cut, and nothing quite like the cut that tells an athlete that he has officially bumped up against his own personal ceiling. This is as true of the little boy (or girl) who doesn’t make the high school freshman team as it is of Jimmer Fredette in the NBA. You never forget that cut, even as life piles on more important crises, failures and tragedies, as life will inevitably do, and has. Three decades after I was cut, my daughter enrolled at Williams and we walked through the gym, which was no longer used for varsity games. The wall was still there, the bricks were still a pale, shiny yellow. There was no list, but I could see it just the same. I had to take a minute to gather myself.

As do we all.

On that morning in 1976, as players looked at the list on the wall, my coach sat on the windowsill across the gym floor. His office was only a few feet away, but he sat out in the open where anyone with a gripe could visit without being forced to rap his knuckles on the door. That was a professional touch and it couldn’t have been pleasant. The coach’s name was Curtis Whitfield Tong. Curt. Coach Tong. He was 42 years old and had been, at that point, a college basketball coach for 12 years—nine at Otterbein College in Ohio and three at Williams. I walked across the gym and sat next to him. My father had long drilled it into my head to always be a gentleman, and to always take defeat with class, so I told Coach Tong that I understood why he cut me (which was true, but in my immature youth, I didn’t resent him any less for doing it). Coach Tong thanked me for my hard work, told me I was a good player, just not quite good enough. Promised me there would be better days ahead. We shook hands. I walked out of the gym, cried for a few hours and then got drunk for a week.

The purpose of all this musty storytelling, from a very mediocre player, long grown old?

Coach Tong died on January 16 at a nursing home in Massachusetts. He was 82 years old and succumbed to complications of Alzheimer’s disease, which had afflicted him in the latter years of a very rich and full life. He left behind his wife of 58 years, the former Wavalene Kumler, whom everyone knows as Jinx. They met in college and stayed together, a love story. They had three children, accomplished and successful adults who had seven children of their own, and last spring, Curt’s and Jinx’s first great-grandchild, a little girl named Martha. They are a close and beautiful family. Curt coached 18 years at Otterbein and Williams, with a combined record of 242 wins and 141 losses. In 1983, at the age of 49, Curt left Williams to become the athletic director at Pomona-Pitzer, two small California liberal arts colleges that share an athletic department. He spent the last 16 years of his career there, before retiring in 1998. In 2010, he published a memoir, Child Of War, describing in harrowing detail the three years he spent as a child in a World War II Japanese internment camp in the Philippines, where his parents were missionaries.

Read the whole thing.

Those are the details, and they are important details. They are a life’s work, in and out of the office. On and off the court. But details never tell the full story of a coach’s life, because a coach—a teacher, by any measure—is more than the sum of his life’s accomplishments. A coach is his own life, and every life he has ever touched, his words and his lessons melting down through generations, outliving him by decades. Coaches expire every day, but they never die. They live forever.

If your players remember you with even 1% of the detail and fondness with which Layden remembers Tong, then you will have been an excellent coach indeed.

Condolences to all.

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The EPA and climate change …

1490301582803

I wonder what the new definitions will mean for programs like Blue Sky? I’m one of the 112,268 Oregon volunteer participants in this very active program of Pacific Power. I know that living in the blue-state Pacific Northwest may be different than other sections of the country.

https://www.pacificpower.net/about/nr/nr2016/blue-sky-award.html

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Thomas Krens ’69, pioneer of Guggenheim Bilbao, criticizes planned expansion to Abu Dhabi …

Gugg_Abu_Dhabi_2

Former Director of the Guggenheim Foundation Criticizes Plans for Abu Dhabi Branch

https://www.artforum.com/news/id=67458

I understand his concerns. I add my own thought on this design: Gehry’s style has gone Mannerist!

For comparison:

https://www.dwell.com/article/13-iconic-buildings-designed-by-frank-gehry-e23f49d3

See below first para for my meaning of mannerist/ism:

https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/renaissance-reformation/mannerism1/a/a-beginners-guide-to-mannerism

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Linked In Ephs

Could we (or Williams) do more with Linked-In? Consider:

linked

Is this data accurate? Is it useful? I am certainly impressed that they have (claim) almost 20,000 alumni. None of this summary data seems obviously wrong. I suspect that the most of the 500+ who “work” at Williams are actually current students. Williams can’t employ more than 100 alumni, can it? If Google is really the biggest employer, then that would make for an interesting Record article.

Does anyone have experience using Linked-in data? Could we get a dump of every Eph and analyze the resulting data set, perhaps in a week-end hackathon with one of the statistics classes? Pointers welcome!

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Recent Int’l Graduates Concern with Dean’s Office, 2/3

Fellow current students have pointed out a concern recent international Williams graduates are having with Dean’s Office, specifically on the reclassification of the Economics major as STEM and its implications.  We’re spending three posts talking about it. The first post discusses troubling decision making by the assistant dean for international student services, Ninah Pretto. This is the second post. Consider the original Facebook post that started this (full FB discussion with comments can be found in the first post):

Screenshot (24) redacted

The original poster, confirmed by the Dean’s Office, stated that the Economics major has been reclassified as STEM by the Williams administration. Consider the list of majors/academic fields considered STEM that the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement) maintains. A cursory search will show that general Economics is not considered a STEM subject, only “Quantitative Economics/Econometrics” and “Pharmaeconomics/Pharmaceutical Economics.” Since Williams has newly designated its Economics major as STEM, we can reasonably conclude that the Economics major must have significantly changed to be more quantitative in nature from previous years to warrant this.

Consider the course catalogs from SY 2015-16 and the current school year’s. For the sake of completeness, here is SY 2014-2015, SY 2013-s014, and SY 2012-2013. Checking is left as an exercise to the reader, but a brief summary of what you’ll find: no substantial changes in the Williams Economics major!

Let’s repeat that: there have been no material changes in the Economics major year on year since at least 2012. In other words, it is no more quantitative now than it was a year ago, two years ago, three years ago, four years ago, and five years ago. Last I checked (March 29 2017), Williams has a major in Economics, not in Econometrics/Quantitative Economics/Pharmaeconomics/Pharmaceutical Economics. Princeton, which reclassified its Economics major to STEM, has a math-track Economics major. Williams does not.

Questions/concerns:

  1. Is Williams violating the law by designating its Economics major as a STEM major when it clearly is not? It would seem that this decision is at best, deceptive, and at worst, illegal, especially since this decision has far reaching consequences in terms of visas and immigration for international students.
  2. Recall that Dean Ninah Pretto explicit stated that ultimate determination of this policy rests with Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom. Taking Dean Pretto on her word, we must ask: why did Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom reclassify Economics as a STEM major when it clearly is not? What went into this decision?
  3. In the official list of STEM majors, there are 10 (compared to Econ’s two!) fields of psychology – ranging from social psychology to neuroscience – that count as STEM. Does Williams classify psychology, whose concentrations and subject matter adhere to the official list, as a STEM major? Current psychology majors tell us that no, Williams does not consider psychology as a STEM subject! This begs the question: why not? Clearly, according to the federal bureau that regulates F-1 visas, psychology is a STEM field. 
  4. Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom is a psychology professor! In fact, she is the Hales Professor of Psychology of Williams. So why did Dean Sandstrom classify Economics as STEM and Psychology as not STEM? It seems far fetched to suggest that her expertise in psychology is lacking, so this begs the more troubling question: have either Dean Sandstrom or Dean Pretto read the official list of STEM majors, or do they just haphazardly make these types of decisions? Their actions thus far suggest the latter.
  5. On a related matter, members of the Psychology Student Advisory Board report that there have been efforts to change the division classification of psychology to Div 3, but, notably, they report that psychology professors have said that “there is no way this would happen for psychology if it did not happen for economics first.” The college course catalog still classifies Economics as Div 2, but curiously, changed its designation as STEM, although it is no more quantitative than it was a year (and more!) ago when it wasn’t STEM. However, psychology, which clearly falls under fields considered STEM by the ICE, does not enjoy STEM status. Why? 

I offer an intelligent guess that is not without precedent1: Economics is the most popular major in the college and among international students. If I were a prospective international student who wants to major in economics in the United States, as most who come here do, I would certainly want to go to a school (thus pay tuition) that would allow me to maximize my post-college employment opportunities in the United States. At least two reports on the distribution of GPAs and academic major difficulty suggest Math and Physics are much harder than Economics. So, instead of breaking my back in Real Analysis, I can just take Intermediate Macroeconomics and reap the benefits of a STEM major for my career – wonderful! Too bad for Psychology – even if it is a real STEM field, it just isn’t popular enough at Williams! 

Whatever the motivations of this policy change is, one thing is clear: whoever is making these decisions certainly leaves much to be desired by way of consistency and transparency!

 

1Recall from the first discussion that the Dean’s Office and Dean Ninah Pretto initially stonewalled and/or rejected requests from international student graduates, who no longer pay Williams tuition.

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Greetings Ephland

I am an alum who is concerned with the path Williams has chosen, and where it has led. The Williams I read about today, with massive distrust in the administration among both students and alumni, barely resembles the school I once knew.

As is so often the case, I believe the problem is a financial one.  Not due to lack, but the reverse. Williams has been awash in cash for a long time, but the success of the current administration in bringing in the bucks is unparalleled in Williams history. And so the shiny new buildings go up, up, up. But the consequence is that every decision, and every analysis leading up to that decision, is filtered through a financial prism. Which path will least impact the College, which is to say, its balance sheet?

Not exactly an environment conducive to “doing the right thing”. I think it’s time that changed.

I am new to EphBlog and will be writing under the pseudonym JB Pratt ’98. Here’s some info on the real JB Pratt if you’re interested: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Bissett_Pratt.

More soon.

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EphBlog Welcomes Parker Langenback

langenback

Most heart-warming Eph news story of the year:

A couple of weeks ago, Parker Langenback had no clue what the game of lacrosse was all about, and Kevin Stump, a first-year member of the Williams College Men’s Lacrosse Team had no clue about how the birth defect spinal bifida could affect a person’s life.

But on Tuesday evening, the Langenback family and the lacrosse team signed on for a two-year commitment to learn about and support one another, through a social sports initiative called Team Impact.

Now 6 years old, but turning 7 at the end of the month, Parker is a first-grader at Williamstown Elementary School, located about a mile from where the lacrosse team practices at Farley-Lamb Field. He lives in town with his parents, Melissa and Rob Langenback, and his 3-year-old brother, Sawyer.

Read the whole thing. Kudos to all involved!

Parker Langenback is now an Eph, at least in the eyes of EphBlog! And, by the transitive property, so are his parents and his brother. With luck, he and they will be part of the lacrosse team for years to come.

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Recent Int’l Graduates Concerns with Dean’s Office, 1/3

Fellow current students have pointed out a concern recent international student graduates are having with Dean’s Office. Consider a Facebook discussion on the matter:

Screenshot (23) redacted

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are many statements here to unpack (especially the comments!). Let’s focus on the concern that the original poster focuses on in this first of three discussions.

Some context: international students at Williams are on the F-1 student visa, and among its stipulations is that such students are given a 12 month “optional practical training” or OPT period post-graduation to legally work in the country. However, if one declares a STEM major, that one year is extensible to three. This also gives international student graduates in STEM majors three chances at applying for work visa (a lottery with a ~25% chance of success each year) to stay longer, if that’s what they want, as opposed to just one if the student had declared a non-STEM major.

Following in the footsteps of institutions like Princeton, the original poster reports that Williams is now categorizing the college’s Economics major as a STEM major, incidentally the most popular major among international students in the college. However, unlike Princeton, which allowed international student graduates in Economics to be retroactively categorized as STEM (thus allowing them a couple extra years to work), Williams has rejected such requests from graduates of the class of 2015 and 2016. In initial emails with Dean Ninah Pretto, the new Assistant Dean for International Student Services, where students/graduates cite Princeton’s example (and material evidence of this!), she immediately rejects these requests without providing any explanation. Students and graduates, however, pressed on emailing, restating evidence from Princeton to which Dean Ninah relented. She states that she is “afraid” of retroactively applying this policy to graduates, but that she would call Princeton today. She also states that the final authority rests with Dean Marlene Sandstrom.

As this post went to press, no update has arrived from the Dean’s Office.

Some questions:

  1. Is it Dean Ninah Pretto’s personal policy to not explain decisions she makes that materially affect the lives of Williams students/graduates? The comments suggest this is endemic to the whole Dean’s Office, but that is another long (but related) discussion to have.
  2. Is it not Dean Ninah Pretto’s job to check these policies ahead of time so she wouldn’t be “afraid” of doing anything? Clearly she had nothing to be “afraid” of, since Princeton was able to do this.
  3. If she were truly “afraid” of retroactively applying this policy to recent international graduates of the college, she would have checked before making such a unilateral decision on policy, which is what she did! So, why did she unilaterally reject the initial requests?
  4. To that point, does Dean Ninah Pretto have this unilateral authority? If so, what decisions can she unilaterally make for international students? Current and future international students would appreciate a list for future reference.
  5. If the students/graduates did not press Dean Pretto, would it be entirely possible that this issue would’ve just gone away and recent international graduates wouldn’t receive any fair treatment? My guess is that yes, it would’ve just been dropped, based on the experience of my peers. Thankfully, they kept pressing, or she might never have considered doing her job!
  6. In one of her latest emails to international students, Dean Ninah states: “As your International Student Advisor, I want to reiterate my commitment to serving and supporting each and every one of you. Again, this country is made up of immigrants from all over the world and they make the U.S. a unique and amazing place.” If this is truly her position, does Dean Pretto believe that recent international graduates are less deserving of her commitment to serve and support? What criteria does she use to make this determination? Again, current and future international students would certainly like to know.

What do fellow classmates/EphBlog readers think?

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Safety Dance Affidavits

Latest filings in the Safety Dance case include: Affidavit 1, Affidavit 2 and Revised Memo in Opposition to Motion to Dismiss.

1) Why won’t the Record cover this case? I don’t think that they have provided a single update after their original article.

2) Why won’t the College settle? Just give Doe his degree and move on.

3) The longer this drags on, the worse things like for Williams. Check out those affidavits!

aff

This is from current (!) Williams employee Brian Marquis. I do not think that the Brzezinski he is referring to his Mika . . .

Settle the case!

How much of this heartburn does Adam Falk want? Consider the other affidavit, from current (!) Williams Security (!) officer Joshua Costa.

aff2

Settle the case!

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Not Bad Hombres

Sonia Nazario ’82 writes in the New York Times:

But President Trump has decided to get tough on many of the 60,000 Central American children who arrive at our border each year begging for safety after fleeing some of the most dangerous places on earth. His executive orders, and memos from the Department of Homeland Security on how to interpret them, could strip this special treatment from the roughly 60 percent of unaccompanied children who have a parent already living in the United States. If Kendra and Roberto were just entering the United States now, they would fall into this group; instead they kept their protections and were eventually united with their mother, a house painter in Los Angeles.

Parents like her, the argument goes, are exploiting benefits established to help children who really are alone here. The administration has threatened to deport parents who send for their children or prosecute them for hiring smugglers.

Good. We just had an election fought over the issue of illegal immigration and Nazario’s side lost. She believes that anyone (adult or child) who is fleeing a violent country should be admitted to the United States. This is open-borders in all but name. I (and a largish majority of US citizens) disagree. We want an immigration policy much more like Japan’s.

It will be interesting to see if Trump (along with Bannon/Miller) delivers on his promises. So far, I am hopeful!

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Hello, EphBlog! – Concerned Ephs ’17 (and ’18, and ’19, and so forth)

The first time I came to Williams was the fall before my freshman year – my eighth stop in my college tour, and by then, I’d discovered that the best way to truly learn about a school, skeletons included, wasn’t through admissions tours or glossy brochures, but by dropping in on a class, looking at the person beside me, shaking my head, and declaring “Oh my god, I heard that problem set was so hard.” Fortunately (for me at least) this proved quite effective when I visited because it happened to be midterm season then. I sat in a physics lecture, looked to my right, and said: “Oh my god, I heard that midterm was so hard.” The girl seated beside me, Jaime, enlarged her eyes and nodded in agreement, and to my delight, began speaking in earnest, generous detail about her packed (to put it lightly) week: a dance show just three days for which she had daily rehearsals, some RA work that was due with the statistics department, planning a surprise birthday for her entrymate (Willy D!), holding office hours for a CS class she was TA-ing, and, of course, the lab element of her physics midterm. Jaime looked exhausted and sleep deprived, and had the bloodshot eyes to prove it. As she was about to say more, to my surprise Jaime stopped herself and shrugged: “Sorry, I shouldn’t be complaining. Forget what I just said.” Perplexed with this realization following her rant, I asked her what she meant. “Everyone at Williams is so lucky to be here. Sometimes it gets overwhelming but what makes this all so worth it, what makes this place unique I guess, is that everyone really cares.” She packed up her things, and in the face of a mountain of commitments the following day, proceeded to old Sawyer, where her tutee would be waiting. I was sold – no one in any other school said anything remotely as powerful.

It didn’t take long after I first arrived to realize how true Jaime’s words (and so, so much more!) are. Coming from the other side of the world, coming to Williams was a huge leap of faith; now, some years later, my roots are firmly planted in this fertile, Purple Valley. Some of my most cherished memories and most powerful moments include the all nighters I spent with fellow classmates studying for that last bio final in Science Quad; the conversations I’d have with professors-turned-mentors, where their passions exude in their excitement; the many times I’ve seen both friends and strangers drop everything to help a fellow classmate in need. As time went by, the four years here I once considered a mere stepping stone slowly became an end unto itself. As with the many who read and write for this blog, I’ve come attribute much of who I am today to the people I’ve met, befriended, learned from, and mentored (you go full circle at Williams!), and the ideas that I’ve explored with them here in the Purple Valley.

It’s for these very reasons that I, along with two friends from the class of ’18 and ’19, have taken to EphBlog as students who are very concerned with the state of matters in the college. As our affinity and affection for Williams grew, so did our awareness of the institution and internal workings behind the name. As many of my fellow upperclassmen will agree, the more time one spends at Williams, the more one begins to notice the disturbing cracks in the well: fellow classmates unceremoniously ignored or stonewalled by administrators, the rude and unfair treatment of students who want to start clubs (some elements of Williams make this shockingly difficult if they do not agree with you!), backwards and arbitrary use of policy, rampant and potentially systemic Honor Code violations, and so much more! It was a deeply sad and distressing moment for all of us when we realized that the Williams to which we aspired wasn’t the Williams we thought it was.

Unfortunately, Williams students are not ideally placed to solve, let alone notice, these problems. We students come and go every year, the Record is unable to report anything substantive (for good reason, which we’ll get to in a future post!), and no student will have any reasonable measure of institutional memory to draw on. What’s more is that in our efforts to get answers to issues, it’s been made quite clear to us that there is no place for questions, debate, and opinions (esp. if you do not agree with Williams) in the Purple Valley. Sometimes, these concerns may initially seem isolated to individual cases. However, as we began investigating and hearing more and more Hopkins Horror Stories (as they’re known among students) and other disturbing events from fellow students and professors, patterns just as perturbing started emerging that we could no longer ignore – especially since many of them are quite structural (and thus here to stay) in nature! Many of our professors, especially those who’ve been here longer, pointed (some willingly, most unwillingly) to EphBlog as a means of cataloging, reporting, discussing, and connecting these issues – where else can Williams students earnestly, meaningfully do this? It’s our hope that these efforts help usher a more transparent, fairer Williams that all of us can proudly call their alma mater. At the end of the day, we all play a role in shaping what Williams is, and what we ultimately want it to become.

All this said, though, we also love talking about issues at Williams separate from these concerns – to alums, please let us know what you’d like to hear! We’re very into Ephs doing cool things (so we’ll post a bit about that every now and then!), career advice for younger underclassmen (such as getting that internship), and which classes to take/professors to meet. Otherwise, if you have any tips or issues you’d like to discuss (other current students especially!), shoot us an email at concerned.ephs@gmail.com – we would love to hear from all Ephs!

Happy Friday!

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“I’m President and you’re not” …

TrumpGivesFinger

… quote from TIME magazine interview March 22, 2017.
http://time.com/4710456/donald-trump-time-interview-truth-falsehood/

… may not be the best mantra for governance, particularly with Left-wing/Right-wing lawmakers fracturing his own party.

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A Thriller Rauschenberg show at WCMA …

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This the first show done as a collaborative project with students in an Art History/Museum class.
(see story below)

Robert Rauschenberg: Autobiography brings together 26 original works of art with 56 archival objects primarily on loan from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation and centers on the artist’s monumental print, Autobiography, 1968. The exhibition will be on view at the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) from March 17 through August 20, 2017.

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Rauschenberg created Autobiography with Broadside Art Inc., founded by arts patron Marion Javits and graphic designer Milton Glaser Read more

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Welcome Class of 2021

Welcome to those admitted to the class of 2021! If there are any aspiring writers in the class, please contact EphBlog. We would love to host your prose. (Could a reader post this offer to the class of 2021 Facebook group?)

From the news release:

Of the [1,253] admitted students, 95 are international students representing 47 different nationalities. Among American students, 50 percent identify as students of color: 220 students are Asian American, 214 are black, 175 Latino, and 17 Native American. Thirty-seven percent identify as white and five percent opted not to identify. A total of 274, or 22 percent, are first-generation college students, and seven percent (86) have a parent who attended Williams.

Note that all these numbers include the 257 students admitted via Early Decision in December.

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How Many Williams Students Go to Law School?

Is there public information about how many Williams students go to law school? The LASC publishes this report (pdf) on the top feeder schools. Amherst has sent an average of 63 students each year over the last 5 years, which seems a surprisingly high number. But the report only lists schools that sent at least 54 students last year, a number which many elite liberal arts colleges, like Williams, do not meet. I ask LASC to release the numbers for Williams, but they refused because they have a (reasonable!) policy against such a release. Questions:

How many Williams students have gone to law school over the last decade? EphBlog hopes that the number is much lower than the 63 student average for Amherst.

Why does Amherst send such a high percentage of its graduating class to law school? Do they admit more would-be lawyers? Do more would-be lawyers choose Amherst over other schools? Does something about Amherst encourage students to become lawyers?

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Re: ‘Argument’ as ‘Sport’ …

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Ephblog as Weston Field.

See ‘comments’ in Richard Spencer post (below).

Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 4.14.52 PM… from the Williams Rugby Club website

JCD jostled by all and sundry …

 

 

 

 

 

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Richard Spencer to Speak at Williams?

University Chicago President Robert Zimmer was interviewed in the Wall Street Journal:

A growing number of colleges around the nation are taking steps to protect their students from ideas and words some find hurtful or upsetting. That protection includes a broad blanket of administrative support for things like safe harbors and bias response teams designed to investigate “micro aggressions” and “micro invalidations.”

The University of Chicago has taken a different tack.

WSJ: If Richard Spencer—who attended the University of Chicago and has become a leading white nationalist—was invited to speak at the university, would you have a problem with that?

MR. ZIMMER: Faculty and students invite all sorts of people, and we don’t restrict who they invite.

I don’t invite people. We offer no restrictions to student groups and faculty. What they want to do is hear, discuss and potentially argue with the people they invite.

WSJ: So, if he was invited to speak there, you’d be OK with him coming?

MR. ZIMMER: It would be fine if he came to speak, just like if anyone else came to speak.

Uncomfortable Learning should invite Spencer to Williams. Adam Falk has, we hope, learned his lesson from the Derbyshire disaster and would not ban another speaker, would he?

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The Comey Letter

Latest from Bethany McLean ’92:

When F.B.I. director James Comey reopened the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mails in the final days of the campaign, many saw it as a political move that cost Clinton the presidency. But some insiders suspect Comey had a more personal concern: his own legacy.

Read the whole thing.

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2017 Honorary Degree Recipients

As noted by sigh, Williams has announced its 2017 Honorary Degree recipients:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nigerian writer and recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, will be the principal speaker at Williams College’s 228th Commencement Exercise on Sunday, June 4. The day before, former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins will be the Baccalaureate speaker. Both will receive honorary degrees at Commencement, as will former Williams College provost and current president of Washington and Lee University Will Dudley; public health and environmental advocate Gina McCarthy; and Gavin A. Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

I thought it was a very interesting group of people.  I appreciated that it was not solely academics (with apologies to Prof. Will Dudley!), but included figures from “the real world,” including the former head of the EPA in the Obama administration and a NASA scientist.  Presumably the selection of these two is intended to make a policy point that the College favors (and, of course, is not favored by some of EphBlog’s more prolific authors and commentors).

I think the choice of Ms. Adichie as the commencement speaker could turn out very well, if she gives a speech geared directly to Williams.  While not the highest profile commencement speaker (at least outside of literary circles, I guess), her profile suggests she is very accomplished and may have some very interesting ideas to communicate with the graduates and their families.

More complete bios of the honorary degree recipients may be found here.

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Repealing the ACA is Harmless

The latest from Oren Cass ’05:

The best statistical estimate for the number of lives saved each year by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is zero. Certainly, there are individuals who have benefited from various of its provisions. But attempts to claim broader effects on public health or thousands of lives saved rely upon extrapolation from past studies that focus on the value of private health insurance. The ACA, however, has expanded coverage through Medicaid, a public program that, according to several studies, has failed to improve health outcomes for recipients. In fact, public health trends since the implementation of the ACA have worsened, with 80,000 more deaths in 2015 than had mortality continued declining during 2014–15 at the rate achieved during 2000–2013.

Read the whole thing.

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Funny, but it sounds more real when sung by Piaf …

… than Sean and the Drumph.

 

NB  I would have put the following below the fold but couldn’t figure out the app specific. Read more

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Enjoy Spring Break

But, don’t worry! EphBlog will still have new material every weekday.

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On St Patrick’s Day, additional historical notes …

… older readers from the days of required Chapel may recall visits to St Pat’s.

 

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http://www.williamstowncatholics.org/parish-history

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Problematic Williams History

Harvard has unveiled a summary of its involvement with slavery. I don’t know enough about this aspect of Williams history as I should. Fortunately, our readers do!

I thought it was fairly well known that Eph and other prominent Williams family members, including founding trustee Elijah Williams, owned and traded slaves. Eph left brothers Elijah and Josiah his slaves in his will, the founding document of the college.

A considerable source of Williams family wealth, including Eph’s, in Berkshire County was in land that they had systematically cheated Stockbridge Indians out of.

Amos Lawrence, the most important early benefactor to the college, made his fortune in cotton–therefore on slave labor– before the Civil War. Late in life he supported forced resettlement of enslaved African Americans to Africa as a way to solve the slavery issue. His name graces Lawrence Hall, now WCMA.

[H]ere’s a heartbreaking document of indenture binding a 6-year old girl to Elijah Williams without any consent. If she lived to 18 out in the wilds of Berkshire County, she got some clothes. But she would have been free, unlike Elijah’s black slaves.

Slavery and an active program of displacing indigenous people aside, the Williams family were in large part Loyalist. There’s no indication at all that, had he lived, Eph would have fought for the Continental Army.

Tell us more about this history!

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The Macrogenoeconomics of Comparative Development

The most non-PC research at Williams is probably conducted by associate professor of economics Quamrul Ashraf. (Fortunately for him, his research output (pdf) is deeply impressive and, if he can ever stop co-authoring with his Ph.D. adviser Oded Galor, a tenure offer from a leading research university will probably become available for the asking.) His latest (pdf):

The importance of evolutionary forces for comparative economic performance across societies has been the focus of a vibrant literature, highlighting the roles played by the Neolithic Revolution and the prehistoric “out of Africa” migration of anatomically modern humans in generating worldwide variations in the composition of human traits. This essay surveys this literature and examines the contribution of a recent hypothesis regarding the evolutionary origins of comparative economic development, set forth in Nicholas Wade’s A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History, to this important line of research.

“[G]enerating worldwide variations in the composition of human traits” is code for, Asians are (genetically) smart and obedient, which is why South Korea is rich, while Africans are (genetically) dumb and violent, which is why Nigeria is poor. Of course, Ashraf puts it much more politely:

Recently, in A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History, Nicholas Wade advances an intriguing hypothesis regarding the evolutionary origins of comparative economic development. Citing a wide range of evidence from evolutionary biology on the nature and pace of recent genetic adaptions in human populations, as well as evidence from evolutionary psychology and behavioral genetics on the association between somatic traits and social behaviors at the individual level, Wade argues that variation in selective pressures across regions of the globe has given rise to enduring differences in social behaviors across groups, thereby differentially shaping the nature of their institutions and, thus, their level of economic development. In particular, his hypothesis of comparative development suggests that in regions of the world that were historically characterized by higher population density and early statehood, favorable genetic traits (e.g., nonviolence, cooperation, and trust) that were initially concentrated among the rich elites gained an evolutionary advantage, proliferated over time, and contributed to the emergence of growth‐enhancing institutions and a superior development trajectory.

In the end, Ashraf and his co-author argue (unpersuasively) against Wade’s hypothesis, but, from the point of view of the typical Eph social justice warrior, the issue is not their conclusions but the fact that they were willing to even entertain such racist pseudoscience. PC restrictions are not just, or even mostly, about the conclusions you draw, they are about the questions you ask. Fortunately, tenure protects (?) Professor Ashraf. Right?

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Do Not Create a Foreign Language Requirement

Did the Ad Hoc Committee on International Educational Initiatives (led by Professors Darrow and Rouhi) ever complete the final version of this report 2009 (pdf)? Not that I can find. Perhaps that is all to the good, since one of their recommendations would have been a very bad idea:

The College should work towards instituting a language requirement by 2020.

The COFHE survey from 2006 showed that 51% of Williams students surveyed did not think studying a foreign language was a worthwhile goal during their college career. We recommend every effort to change that perception, not least because more international job opportunities are open to those who can demonstrate proficiency.

1) Although this is just a draft, it is absurd to suggest a new requirement while providing zero discussion of the details. Just what sort of requirement are we talking about? Would one year of Japanese 101-102 be enough? Or do you need two years? Three? Without at least an overview of the issues involved (and how those issues are handled at other schools), there is no reason to take the authors seriously. They should either do some real work or drop this section.

2) A foreign language requirement was almost implemented at the start of Morty’s term. (Who knows this history well?) Morty was glad that it failed because of the opportunity costs involved. We all agree that it would be wonderful if student X learned Japanese. But, assuming student X does not want to, which 4 courses do you think he should drop in order to fit in JAPN 101-102 and 201-202 into his schedule? Morty’s point, obviously, is that Williams students only get to take 32 courses and the vast majority of them are wonderful. We should think long and hard about forcing them to sacrifice the courses they want to take for the courses that we want them to take. (See here for the contrary view.)

3) Morty also mentioned that the language faculty were against the requirement because they knew that there are few things worse than having students in your class who do not want to be there. Have the authors surveyed the Williams language faculty about this proposal?

4) I believe (contrary information welcome) that at every elite school with a language requirement, you are allowed to pass out, either by scoring at a certain level on the AP or the Achievement Test for the language or by passing an exam given by the school. Williams would, almost certainly, offer the same option. And virtually every rich student at Williams would be able to take advantage! Almost every prep school and high quality public high school offers four years of foreign language instruction while guiding/insisting that students bound for elite colleges/universities take advantage of the opportunity. Almost all such Ephs would be able to pass out easily. So, this is not a requirement that binds Williams students equally. It only binds those who did not go to Milton or Newton North. Not that there is anything wrong with screwing over the poor kids!

5) But even those Williams students who did not go to fancy high schools will often have studied several years of foreign language. Many of them would be able to pass out of the requirement as well. How many students would that leave? 200? 50? I really don’t know, but it is a much smaller number than 500.

6) Call it 100 students who could not pass out of the requirement. But some number (25?) of them would take a foreign language anyway. After all, many Williams students want to learn a new language. And bully for them. So, now we are down to 75 students who did not have the opportunity to take a foreign language in high school (or turned down that opportunity) and who don’t want to take a foreign language at Williams. And all of these students will have a very good reason for the decisions they make. Maybe they are very poor at languages. Maybe they are indifferent to learning a language but there are just too many other wonderful Williams courses that they want to take. Do you really think you are doing these (mostly low-income) students a favor by forcing them to take a foreign language? Write a paragraph to them explaining why.

7) The 51% of Williams students who “did not think studying a foreign language was a worthwhile goal during their college career” are almost certainly correct for them. These students do not argue that other students should be prevented from learning Japanese. They just don;t want to learn Japanese themselves. Can you blame them? Learning Japanese is hard! Especially if you have trouble with languages in general, especially if you are taking other serious courses. Do you really think that you know better than them?

8) This sort of sloppy thinking does not belong in a Williams report:

We recommend every effort to change that perception, not least because more international job opportunities are open to those who can demonstrate proficiency.

Of course, if two otherwise equal candidates are applying for a job at the IMF or McKinsey and one of them speaks English and Japanese fluently while the other is English-only then, obviously the former has an advantage in getting the job. But that is not the question relevant to whether or not Williams should have a language requirement. In this case, do any of the 75 students who can not pass out of the requirement and would not otherwise study a language improve their chances of getting a job? Almost certainly not!

First, the vast majority of Williams student never compete for jobs in which speaking another language is a meaningful advantage. Second, even for those jobs where it is, the key distinction is between fluency and non-fluency. McKinsey won’t care if you took a year or two of Chinese at Williams. If you can’t talk to the client fairly fluently in language X then, for most practical purposes, your knowledge of language X is irrelevant to the job. If you just take two years of X at Williams (and then stop), your knowledge of X will be mostly useless as far as the IMF is concerned. And the IMF knows this. Third, the sort of student (recall the characteristics of the 75 students actually effected by the requirement) who did not study a foreign language in high school and does not want to study it at Williams is highly unlikely to want to study the language for more than the absolute minimum he is required to at Williams. Moreover, this sort of student, untalented and resentful, is unlikely to try very hard in the class or do very well. And won’t he be fun to teach!

Summary: A foreign language requirement at Williams would only impinge on mostly poor students from below average high schools with no talent or interest in languages. Forcing them to study a foreign language will not materially improve their job prospects or life outcomes.

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URM in Economics

Readers often ask us, “What is virtue-signalling?” Wikipedia reports:

Virtue signalling is the conspicuous expression of moral values by an individual done primarily with the intent of enhancing that person’s standing within a social group.

Consider a concrete example:

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This is a retweet from tenured William Economics Professor Sarah Jacobson. Now, to be fair, retweets are not necessarily endorsements, but one does not need to perform a close textual analysis on Jacobson’s twitter feed to know that she agrees with the sentiment expressed.

Here is the Williams economics department:

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Jacobson is on the left. Questions:

1) When was the last time that the economics department hired a tenured or tenure track professor that was a URM? (In economics, neither Asian nor Indian would count under this designation. The department has had plenty of both over the years, especially the latter.) The main focus of URM hiring, at least in economics, is African-American. The department had one such member in the 80’s and, more recently, Kaye Husbands Fealing (pdf), who left in 2009. (Was there a backstory on that departure? I have a vague recollection that it was a family issue.)

2) Hispanics are, as always, harder to count. The department’s webpage suggests no obvious candidates, but, since all you need is a great-grandmother who was born in Spain, there is no simple way of determining who is Hispanic and who is not. I certainly can’t recall any discussion of Hispanics in the department. Pointers?

3) If this is really a correct summary of Fealing’s CV in the 90’s, then the only reason she got tenure at Williams was affirmative action:

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I can’t even remember the last economics professor tenured at Williams with so few (any?) meaningful publications. Maybe in the 50s?

4) Jacobson, although tenured, is still a junior member in a department dominated by non-URM men. So, perhaps she is fighting the good fight from the inside and should not be accused of empty virtue-signalling. Department gossip is always welcome on EphBlog! My sense is that Economics takes demonstrated research quality even more seriously in making hiring decisions than most Williams departments and is, therefore, less likely to be swayed by the diversity apparatchiks in the Administration. Contrary opinions welcome.

5) Consider the CVs of two junior professors (neither white men) in the department: here and here. Trying to find an African-American with similarly excellent credentials (and willing to come to Williams) is about as difficult as finding a white man qualified to play cornerback in the NFL.

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A “President” in “Air Quotes” …

… not to be taken “literally”. Other words for “Air Quotes” … “Impeachment”, “25th Amendment”, “What hath God wrought”.

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