Currently browsing the archives for April 2017

« Newer Posts

Hewat House and Thompson Health Center

To the Williams community,

I am pleased to write to you today with news of a significant investment in student wellness by the college.

At their meeting last week, the trustees approved a project to renovate Hewat House, located at 100 Hoxsey St., into a home for Psychological Counseling Services (PCS).

We’ve been expanding our mental health and medical staffs and services over the past few years – including our current search for two new PCS therapists. At this time, we’ve run out of space to house everyone in Thompson Health Center, and we have therapists and health educators working from remote offices across campus. This situation doesn’t allow us to make the most of our professional team’s integrative approach to student wellness.

Hewat House and Thompson Health Center – located directly across the street from each other – will become a campus within a campus for our mental health and medical services, centralizing a team of professionals completely focused on all aspects of holistic student wellness. Once renovated, Hewat House will have enough room to co-locate our expanded PCS staff, all members of our training program, and our evolving group session program in a welcoming residential environment.

At the same time, this project will allow medical services to regain space in Thompson for more exam rooms, consult rooms, a respite room, and a meeting room. Like PCS, this will enable medical services to relocate their entire team back into the Health Center to provide fully integrated services.

I want to thank Angie Marano, director of administrative services for the Health Center; Deborah Flynn, director of medical services; Wendy Adam, director of psychological counseling services; Rita Coppola-Wallace, Executive Director, Design and Construction; and Scott Henderson, Project Manager, for their creativity and leadership on this project.

Steve Klass
Vice President for Campus Life

Facebooktwitter

When was the last time…?

https://www.thefire.org/chris-rock-explains-doesnt-want-perform-college-campuses/

 

In the interview, Rich and Rock discussed how Rock, like many comedians, has been criticized by audience members who were offended by his jokes. When asked what he thought about the recent controversy over Bill Maher’s invitation to speak at the University of California, Berkeley’s December commencement ceremony, Rock said, “Well, I love Bill, but I stopped playing colleges, and the reason is because they’re way too conservative.” He elaborated:

Not in their political views — not like they’re voting Republican — but in their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody. Kids raised on a culture of “We’re not going to keep score in the game because we don’t want anybody to lose.” Or just ignoring race to a fault. You can’t say “the black kid over there.” No, it’s “the guy with the red shoes.” You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive.

Rock said he started to notice the trend about eight years ago, and that he wasn’t the only one—as he recalled, “I remember talking to George Carlin before he died and him saying the exact same thing.”

 

 

Once upon a time Chapin Hall was filled with music and laughter. Not long ago (20 years?), you could see popular bands and comedians there.

 

When was the last time the college had a (I guess what now would be considered “controversial”) band or artist on campus?

 

Once upon a time, Williams was free.

 

 

 

 

Facebooktwitter

Class of 2021 Admissions Data II

Let’s discus admissions data for the class of 2021. Key table:

admi2

Today is Day 2.

No one should be surprised that Williams yields whites better than it yields any other group. Is that a problem or an opportunity? I bet that white students from rich families who attended elite high schools are, on average, the happiest students at Williams. If so, should we admit more of them?

A similar analysis applies to legacies, the vast majority of whom are white. (Note that the legacy numbers are much iffier because the College does not (regularly) publish the exact numbers. President Falk usually provides an estimate of 1/7th but that certainly varies year-to-year. Indeed, the exact definition of “legacy” matters. We always include the children of alumni, never (?) the nieces/nephews and sometimes (?) the grandchildren. In any event, the 79 here is my estimate, equal to 1/7th of the 553 students in the class.)

I am amazed that we yield so well among legacies. Will 79 or so of the 86 legacies we admitted choose to enroll. That seems much too high to me. I know, just in my personal circle of friends, two legacy children admitted to Williams who went Ivy instead. Then again, perhaps the vast majority of those 86 were admitted early decision? Informed commentary welcome.

Facebooktwitter

Class Positions for Senior Week and Commencement Weekend

Hey Seniors!

Amazingly, we’re almost to 50 days until graduation! (54 to be exact right now…)
Thank you to everyone who nominated someone and/or voted in the election for Class Positions over the last 4-5 days! About 70% of seniors voted, which is fantastic, and every position was an incredibly tight race! You can find the winners of the election listed below!
We everyone is having the chance to enjoy the spectacular weather yesterday and today!
-Your Class Officers
 
Class Speaker – Jeffrey Rubel
Class Marshals – Elizabeth Curtis & Wilfred Guerron
Class Historian – Nico MacDougall
Class Gardener – Brett Bidstrup
Class Poet – Ariel Chu
Class Musician – Scott Daniel
Class Artist – Amalie Dougish
Class Bell-Ringer – Nathaniel Vilas
Class Toasters – Mariama Ndiaye, Tyler Duff, Troy Sipprelle, Olivia Larsen, Laura Lee
Facebooktwitter

Glorified Yoga Space

A resident of Greylock writes:

Didn’t the building Greylock use to be a dining hall? I heard it closed because of the financial issues during the financial crisis. I know that Williams is much richer now, at least richer than it was back when Greylock had to be closed. Why hasn’t it been opened as a dining hall? Whenever I pass by or see something going on in Greylock, all I see are townies doing yoga or dancing in the afternoons/late evenings. Is Williams just maintaining it as a glorified yoga space instead of turning it into a venue we can regularly use? It just feels like Greylock can be used so much better and it’s just … there.

1) True! Greylock used to be a dining hall, but as extensive Record coverage will show, closing Greylock was one of the many policies implemented to reduce spending during and following the financial crisis. Same with Dodd. However, other coverage also details improvements made to other dining halls in light of these changes over time. Should we spend several posts discussing these, and dining services at Williams in general? General dining related issues among students include the declining quality of the food served (despite increasing costs to students), the daily window in which food is not served on campus (after lunch ’til right before dinner), and the cramped space in Paresky and Driscoll during mealtimes. The Record reported just a month ago that Greylock will be used as a dance studio next year due to renovations in Goodrich, although plans “have not been formalized yet.” Maybe now would be an excellent time to make some suggestions?

2) I have also noticed that Greylock is used more frequently as “yoga space” than as a gathering place for students. Besides the odd class that’s held in some of the classrooms during the day, Greylock classrooms are also used for a capella practice. I personally have seen the upstairs of Greylock – where the dining hall used to be – less than five times: thrice because this is where students sign up for housing every spring, and once for a campus party. The basement is used by students for storage sometimes. That’s about it! Am I missing anything?

3) From conversations I have with my fellow classmates, that Greylock is not a dining hall is taken as a given since the entire (current) student body arrived at Williams after the crisis. However, more of my classmates are now realizing this and asking – given the congestion in Paresky and Driscoll during mealtimes – why Greylock is barely used/not back to a dining hall. Should we spend posts discussing why Greylock is still not a dining hall even though Williams is much more financially capable than it was when it had to be closed? On that note, would it be worth going through the significant changes made during the financial crisis – the rollback of no loans policy, non-need blind for international students, among others – and why these changes haven’t been reversed?

What do readers think?

 

As always, tips to concerned.ephs@gmail.com will help make Williams a better college for you and future Ephs!

Facebooktwitter

Class of 2021 Admissions Data I

Let’s discus admissions data for the class of 2021. Key table:

admi2

Today is Day 1.

The data is derived from the early decision news release, the regular decision news release and the 2016-2017 Common Data Set (pdf).

From the latest 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. So, Williams only accepted 996 students via regular decision: 1,253 – 257 = 996.

Caveats: This is the first time I have attempted an analysis like this. Mistakes are likely! In particular, I did lots of algebra in my head and made some simplifying assumptions. The “Projected Yield” is the percentage of admitted students in each category which would need to enroll in order to match the totals for the class of 2020.

That 700 admitted students turn us down — overwhelmingly for schools like Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford and significantly for the next tier (Dartmouth/Brown/Amherst/Swarthmore) — is a sign of the gap we face in becoming the best college in the world. We need more of these high quality students to choose Williams.

Among students that both we and HYPS accept, we yield only 10% or so. Of course, many of those students are making the right choice when they turn down Williams. Anyone who hates the snow would be happier at Stanford. But many (10%? 25%, 50%?) of the students who turn us down are making a mistake. They would have been happier at Williams. We need to do a better job of selling Williams to them. Suggestions?

Facebooktwitter

Legacy Admissions Play No Meaningful Role at Elite Colleges

legacy

tl;dr: Legacy status does not provide a meaningful advantage in admissions to elite colleges like Williams. People like Sam Altman and Arjun Narayan ’10 are wrong, either because of genuine ignorance or because of a (unconscious?) refusal to confront the major beneficiaries of admissions preferences: athletes and (non-Asian) racial minorities. (If Sam has complained about extra considerations that Stanford gives football players and African-Americans, I must have missed it.)

Hasn’t Arjun Narayan ’10 ever read EphBlog? We have been documenting these facts for over a decade. From 2008:

Morty [then Williams President Morton Schapiro] noted that a decade or so ago [or perhaps when he arrived?], the average legacy was a 3.3 on the 1-9 scale of academic ranks while the average non-legacy was 2.3. Morty did not seem to be a huge fan of this gap, or of giving legacies such a preference. He then noted that the latest statistics show that legacy and non-legacy are now equivalent (both at 2.3). Morty confirmed, consistent with all the analysis I have done, that being a legacy is not a meaningful advantage in getting into Williams.

Director of Communications Mary Dettloff kindly provided this update for 2017:

I had a conversation with Dick Nesbitt about this, and he says it has long been our policy not to release academic standing information for specific subgroups of students. That said, he also shared that for at least the last 20 years, the legacy students have had equal, if not marginally stronger, SAT scores and Academic Rating when compared to the rest of their classmates.

Case closed.[1]

More importantly, should we be surprised that students whose parents went to elite colleges are much more likely to win admissions to elite colleges themselves? No! Nature and nurture are passed down through the generations now, just as they always have been.

Consider professional baseball. From the New York Times:

baseball

A random US man has a 1-in-15,000 chance of playing in the MLB. The son of an MLB player has a 1-in-75 chance. In other words, your odds of playing in the MLB are 200 times higher of your father played. Given that fact, should we be surprised if your odds of coming to Williams are 200 times higher if your parent is an Eph?

The mechanisms in both cases are the same. Genetics play a major role. The specific genes — probably thousands of them — that help you to hit a curve ball are passed from father to son. The genes that aid in doing well in school and on standardized tests are passed on just as easily. Nurture matters. Baseball players probably provide their sons with a better than average environment in which to learn baseball. Ephs who become parents do the same. You should no more be surprised at the high numbers of legacies at elite colleges than at the high numbers of baseball children in the Majors.[2]

However, it is interesting to consider how legacy admissions have evolved in the last 30 years. In the 1980’s, it was tough for Williams to find 75 high quality legacies in drawing from Williams classes of the 1950s. First, the college was much smaller than, with fewer than half the current student population. Second, Williams was much less academically rigorous. (That is, there were plenty of not-very-smart students.)

In the 80’s, there were 500 academically accomplished students per class. Judging/guessing from what we see at reunions, the total number of children of a typical class is at least 500 and probably closer to 1,000. But only 75 or so find spots at Williams! Do the other 425 go to Stanford? Nope. And the same harsh mathematics apply to the children of other elite schools. Since smart people have smart children, the pool of legacies that the College has to choose from is very impressive. Williams does not need to lower standards at all to find 75 good ones.[3]

—————-
[1] To be fair to Altman/Narayan, there are some subtle counter-arguments. First, if it is the case that legacies, as a group, differ from non-legacies on other dimensions besides academic rating, then it might not be fair to compare the two groups directly. Instead, we should compare legacies with non-legacies who “look” like legacies. For example, if legacies are more likely to be white and non-poor, then comparing them with non-legacies is makes no sense. Instead, we should compare them with similarly white/non-poor non-legacies.

Second, it could be the case that legacies come in two flavors: over-qualified and under-qualified. The over-qualified ones are exceptional candidates who turn down Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford for Williams. The under-qualified ones receive substantial preferences in admissions. Combining the two groups creates an overall legacy group which is similar to non-legacies but which “masks” the substantial advantages given to under-qualified legacies.

[2] Of course, legacy students are much more likely to attend their parents’ alma mater than legacy baseball players are to play for the same team as their fathers. Exercise for the reader: Explore the industrial organization of elite colleges and major league baseball to explain this difference. Perhaps a better view is to consider all the legacy students as a whole, in the same way that the New York Times considers all the legacy baseball players. But this post is already long enough . . .

[3] sigh, an EphBlog regular, points out this study (pdf) on “The impact of legacy status on undergraduate admissions at elite colleges and universities.” The author argues that legacy status matters a great (or at least did matter in the fall of 2007). I have my doubts. Let’s dive into the details in the comments!

Facebooktwitter

Special Housing Considerations (SHoC) Requests for 2017-2018 Housing Now Being Accepted

Students,
 
SHoC requests are now being accepted for consideration in advance of the Housing Lottery for 2017-2018 housing. They are DUE by this coming Sunday, April 16.
 
Do NOT wait to submit a request until after the lottery numbers are run. If your situation warrants a SHoC review, submit it by April 16.
 
Requests submitted after Sunday, April 16 will NOT be reviewed in advance of the April 30 Room Draw. So, again, if you want your situation considered before the room draw, submit your SHoC request by April 16.
 
Scroll down for information about the process (it’s slightly different than during the academic year), and for the link to the form.
 
Questions? Feel free to be in touch. Thanks.
 
-Doug

 
Douglas J.B. Schiazza, Director
Office of Student Life, Williams College
413.597.4747
pronouns: he/him/his
 
General Info:

If you have a housing assignment situation that you believe cannot be addressed through participation in the General Housing Lottery & Room Draw, including interest in living in Quiet Housing in Thompson, you may submit a Special Housing Considerations Request through the online form found at this link. Applications are due by Sunday, April 16, 2017.

In order for the reviewers to determine the most appropriate response to your request, please be as thorough on the form as you can be. We realize this may require you to share personal information – please know that we are very sensitive to that, and that your information will be held confidentially and used only to inform the decision on your request.


A Note about Title IX Related Requests

If your request is related to a Title IX issue, you may opt to share your rationale for your request directly with the Title IX Coordinator (Toya Camacho), the Title IX Deputy Coordinator (Marlene Sandstrom), and/or the Director of Sexual Assault Prevention & Response (Meg Bossong), and have them speak with other reviewers on your behalf, rather than include your rationale on the form below. The form will give you that option. For more information about Title IX at Williams, click here.


The Process

Click here for a flowchart of the process. (Please note – all students in this process are considered upperclass students.)

  • Student submits the online form below.
  • The Director of the Office of Student Life (Doug Schiazza) will receive the request form via email and will determine the appropriate reviewing team. The staff as noted below will typically be the reviewers. However, additional input may be requested from others by either the Director of OSL or by the reviewing group based upon the specific request.
  • Director of OSL forwards the request via email to the reviewers.
  • Decisions (& pre-assignments for those approved) will be conveyed via email by the Housing Assignments Coordinator (Gail Rondeau Hebert) by the end of the day on Monday, April 17.
  • Those approved and their pull-ins will have until Wednesday, April 19 to confirm acceptance of their pre-assignments.

Reviewing Teams

All Reviewing Teams include the Housing Assignments Coordinator (Gail Rondeau Hebert) and the Assistant Director for Residential Life & Housing (Patty Leahey-Hays).
Additional Reviewers based on Request Type:
Documented or Documentable Disability with Long-Term or Permanent Housing Implications
+ Director of  Student Health Administrative Services (Angie Marano)
+ Director of Accessible Education (G.L.M. Wallace)
+ Assistant Vice President for Diversity & Inclusion (Toya Camacho)
Medical or Psychological Condition with Short-Term or Temporary Housing Implications
+ Director of Student Health Administrative Services (Angie Marano)
Religious Considerations
+ Chaplain to the College (Rick Spalding)
Title IX Considerations
+ Assistant Vice President for Diversity & Inclusion / Title IX Coordinator (Toya Camacho)
+ Dean of the College / Title IX Deputy Coordinator (Marlene Sandstrom)
+ Director of Sexual Assault Prevention & Response (Meg Bossong)
For more information about Title IX at Williams, click here.
Facebooktwitter

Annual update on the College’s work in sexual assault, prevention and response

Dear Williams Community,

I am writing to provide this year’s update on the College’s work in sexual assault, prevention and response. As recommended by the student members of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Group (SAPA), we publish data each spring describing how our disciplinary and accountability processes have been used over the previous year. Please click here to learn more about our campus response to sexual assault, as well as our ongoing prevention work.

These response and prevention efforts represent the extensive collaboration and dedication of students, and staff and faculty from all parts of campus. Thank you for your continued commitment to addressing sexual violence. It is clear that we have much more work to do together, and I am grateful for your partnership.

Sincerely,

Marlene Sandstrom

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

Facebooktwitter

Campus Name Option

An anonymous faculty member forwarded this e-mail:

To Faculty and Staff:

Recognizing that some students may choose to be known on campus by a name other than their legal name, Williams has implemented a Campus Name option for students. By default the campus name is the legal name but current students may now request a different campus name through PeopleSoft/Student Records and the updated name will roll out to all campus systems. The incoming class of 2021 will have the opportunity to choose a campus name during their initial matriculation in May.

Where will the student’s campus name appear?

· Faculty, academic and administrative staff for the most part will only see the student’s chosen campus name. Some exceptions are noted below.

· The long email name will be updated to correspond to the campus name; the short email name will not change.

· Students with updated campus names will be issued a new campus ID card from Campus Safety and Security.

· If you are responsible for any forms collecting information from students, please revise forms as necessary to request the campus name, not the legal name.

· If you work from system generated lists, you may need to refresh the lists periodically to capture any updates to campus names.

Instances where a student may need to give you their legal name?

· Travel arrangements for courses or for extra-curricular activities may require their legal name.

· Applications for fellowships or internships through Williams may require their legal name.

· A letter of recommendation supporting an application may require their legal name.

Will a student’s legal name persist or be available on some documents?

· Student Payroll presently uses the legal name for time reporting and if you supervise students you will see their legal name. We expect that time reporting will begin using the campus name by Fall 2017.

· A student’s official transcript, issued outside Williams, will use the legal name. (Note: internal transcripts and academic progress reports will us the campus name.)

· High school and college transcripts, including study away or summer school transcripts, generally will use a student’s legal name. Previously filed petitions such as major and concentration declarations, independent study and WSP 99 forms will include the legal name unless the student has asked us to redact that information.

· Although Williams will make every effort to update a student’s campus name in a comprehensive way, there may be existing lists, forms, etc., which include a student’s legal name. With this in mind, it’s important for administrative staff, faculty and academic staff to treat existing lists and documents with sensitivity.

· A number of administrative offices require the legal name in the context of their work, but these offices will use the campus name in communications with and about students, except where the legal name is required.

The full student campus name policy is at http://web.williams.edu/admin/registrar//petitions/namechange.html. If you have questions on the details of the policy, please feel free to contact me. Faculty and staff members wishing to change their campus name should refer to the Human Resources policy at https://www.williams.edu/update-your-listing/.

Mary L. Morrison
Associate Registrar

1) Did anyone predict 10 years ago that these sorts of changes would come to Williams? Not me! What will the next ten years bring?

2) This seems fairly stupid to me. Why should the College enter such a morass? Any student has the right (and ability!) to change their name. If they do, then the College should adjust the official record. If they don’t, then just keep the legal name.

3) Comments referencing Seeing Like a State are welcome below . . .

Facebooktwitter

Respecting first responders… and each other

Williams students,

Shortly before spring break I received several reports of Williams students interfering with the medical evaluation of other students suffering from overconsumption of alcohol. In each case, individuals argued with Campus Safety staff and emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and/or tried to stop them from assessing someone’s medical condition or transporting them for emergency care.

This is unacceptable. Disruptions make it difficult for the professionals to attend to someone who may urgently need their help. Few if any students have the experience needed to offer an alternative diagnosis, and certainly not when they’re impaired.

If you see a fellow student in distress, get help right away. The college has a medical amnesty policy because our greatest concern is for your safety and health. Of course, the most effective bystander intervention comes earlier in the evening, before someone becomes intoxicated.

Anyone who interferes with first responders will face consequences from the college. You may also face legal repercussions if someone suffers harm as a result of your interference.

I hope it never comes to that. Let’s work together to care for each other, and show Campus Safety and our local EMTs the respect they deserve for their hard work to keep us safe.

Sincerely,

Adam Falk
President

Facebooktwitter

Cornel West Throws Shade at Adam Falk

Robert P. George and Cornel West have written a statement about truth and the importance of open debate. Background here. Key paragraph:

It is all-too-common these days for people to try to immunize from criticism opinions that happen to be dominant in their particular communities. Sometimes this is done by questioning the motives and thus stigmatizing those who dissent from prevailing opinions; or by disrupting their presentations; or by demanding that they be excluded from campus or, if they have already been invited, disinvited.

No one is more guilty of this sin than Adam Falk, with his absurd banning of John Derbyshire (and others?) from campus.

Professor Michael Lewis is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the only Williams faculty member to sign the statement so far. Will there be others? Would you be interested in joining a movement — including faculty/alumni/students/staff — to convince/cajole/force Falk to revisit this policy? The forces of freedom are on the march . . .

Facebooktwitter

Williams Reads Recommendations?

As we all returned back to campus from a (hopefully warm!) spring break, Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom sent out a survey to all students asking for recommendations for this coming academic year’s Williams Reads.

Screenshot (29)

 

 

Do EphBlog readers (looking at you, alumni!) have any suggestions? I know at least 10 more of my classmates read EphBlog now, and I know we’d all be interested in what you think! What should we read next?

Facebooktwitter

Student Loans and Socioeconomic Diversity

I was having a conversation earlier today with a fellow classmate about socioeconomic diversity. The central question was, “Is Williams’ student body really diverse?” Doesn’t seem like it, my friend suggested. He pointed out the three (!) Tesla cars on campus that he saw in a couple of the student parking lots earlier this morning. “Mom’s Volvos,” as professors like to say.

Was my friend right? One way I thought of answering this question is by looking at the amount of loans Williams issues to students. Claim: Since Williams ended its no loan policy a decade ago and likes to say it has a more socioeconomically diverse student body, then the amount of loans owed to it by students increased over time (reasonable?).

According to the college’s financial statements (which I irritatingly spent quite a bit of time munging, since it’s only available as PDFs and (gasp) scans of printed paper) and assuming I am looking at the correct figure, it did not. Consider this plot of student loan receivables (the total amount owed to the college by students who take out loans) of every year since 2004:

Rplot

It is decreasing! Does this mean that Williams students have been taking on fewer loans despite the repeal of the no loan policy a decade ago? If so, why would students in an increasingly socioeconomically diverse campus take on fewer loans when tuition increases far faster than the rate of inflation? If the student body is really becoming more socioeconomically diverse, then maybe the terms of the Williams loan are worse than outside loans so my classmates just borrow externally (I have a number of friends who do!). OR, maybe the number is declining because most of the student body don’t need to take on debt. Why would they, if they had the money? But that would imply the college, contrary to some official claims, is not more socioeconomically diverse. What do readers think?

Also, the student loan number comes with this footnote:

Under Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 107, Disclosure about Fair Value of Financial Instruments, the College is required to disclose fair value of student loans. Management believes that it is not practicable to determine the fair value of loans receivable because they are primarily federally sponsored student loans with U.S. government mandated interest rates and repayment terms subject to significant restrictions as to their transfer or disposition. College sponsored and donor provided loans are similarly restricted as to interest rate and disposition

I don’t know what this means (informed commentary please!). Perhaps the summers I spent in banking haven’t really prepared me to plow through the college’s financial statements just yet. As with the rest of the filings and my latest problem sets, I find this quite befuddling. On top of this there are also so many accounting changes and new categories year to year that are almost never properly explained/defined and are frequently shuffled around, so much so that a skeptic would think someone somewhere is obfuscating. Maybe only PWC (who audits these for the college) understands them. Any useful pointers/corrections/whatnot welcome, especially from those who are familiar with higher education financing!

Should we spend more time on the college’s financial statements?

Don’t forget to send tips/comments/whatever to concerned.ephs@gmail.com!

UPDATE: I also looked at Bowdoin’s financial statements. Unfortunately it’s only available from 2011, but the trend is the same. Student loan receivables are also decreasing. Perhaps I am missing something? Informed commentary always welcome! Education doesn’t just end in the classroom!

Facebooktwitter

Show Them The Money

My co-bloggers here at ephblog central, along with other Ephs of goodwill, often take issue with my postings on the College’s gifts to charity. As many times as I ask, I have trouble finding anyone who will specify where $250,000 should be cut from the College budget to fund worthwhile programs at Mt. Greylock High School.

But perhaps I should turn the question around. Assume that the College has decided to spend an additional $250,000 this year (or even every year) on attracting and retaining the best college teachers in the country. How would I spend this money, if not on gifts to the local schools and hospital along with realestate development?

Call me crazy, but I would . . . Give the money to the very best teachers at Williams!

Show them the money. Would that really be so hard? Establish “Ephraim Williams Awards for Teaching Excellence.” Five would be given out every year, each consisting of a cash prize of $50,000. Winners would be selected by a committee dominated by students. The only restriction might be that the same person can’t win two years in a row. Nothing would prevent truly exceptional teachers from being recognized several times each decade.

Of course, there is a lot that could be done with these awards. Perhaps one of the awards should be reserved for excellence in advising senior theses and/or individual projects — thus ensuring that not just the best lecturers win. Perhaps 2 of the five awards could be determined by former students — ideally committees centered around events like the 10th and 25th year reunions. This would nicely bias things toward professors who make a career at Williams, thereby giving folks like Gary Jacobsohn and Tim Cook a(nother) reason to stay.

If you want great teachers to come to and stay at Williams, then giving them special prizes is almost certainly the most cost effective way of doing so.

Facebooktwitter

Rechtal’s note still reverberates …

I posted this letter from my old roommate on 11 April, 2008. It is  pertinent today

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 2.34.10 PM

“Civility was, I believe, very directly related to wearing a coat and tie at dinner.”

… Rechtal Turgidley Jr

The yellowed envelope the postman delivered on Tuesday  with the printed address ‘Merrill, Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Beane,  40 Pine Street, New York 4, New York” crossed out smacked of a frugality honed for a lifetime. As did the corner of a block of 3 cent Lewis and Clark stamps making up the necessary postage, obviously licked and placed on the letter with care.

A glance at the ‘Quark Island ME’ postmark and my name written with the distinctive strokes of a Parker 51 and in his trademark peacock blue Parker Quink. confirmed it was another letter from my old roommate, Rechtal Turgidley Jr.

 

Swart (he begins) ,

I am quite worried about you. And, NO, not for the usual reasons of your incipient alcoholism, the smoking of quantities of an unidentified vegetation, or even your strange predilection for Baroque opera.

I am worried because I see you appearing  much too frequently in the, granted, ephemeral columns of that peculiar ‘blog’ purportedly written ‘about’, ‘over’, ‘under’ and all the other prepositions, Williams.

Since you pointed me in the direction of this supposed diversion several months ago, I have been following it and, indeed, have written you before with my thoughts (and I was amazed to see that you had forwarded that note to a ‘DKane; , what ever that may be). I objected to anonymity among gentlemen, the use of a first name appellation in referring to the President of the College, and some of the nature of the writings that appeared that would have roused my father Rechtal Turgidley ‘28 to a fury. But enough of these aforementioned items.

 It is my analysis of recent daily editions that raise my concerns for you as a too-frequent participant in them.

 I shall go on.

As to DKane, he does, indeed, know how to rouse the fish to intemperate biting on his carefully tied lures. If one doesn’t work, he will flail the water with others. He seems to know how to ‘match the hatch’ with great skill. If the dry thorax is not working, he will switch to a terrestrial and may end up with a midge. The question is, does he truly believe in each and every offering cast out or is he simply looking for some bites to keep the pond jumping.  If he doesn’t believe all that he offers, all well and good. If, on the other hand he does, then the comments of many of the respondents o his lures need to be carefully weighed by the local police.

As to topics and response. Is this ‘blog’ an extension of the management of the College and vested with some powers for change? For it would appear that many of the postings and comments have to do with what the Trustees, the President, the faculty, and even the students themselves should do. Whining seems to be the hallmark of much of the correspondence. As Grandfather Turgidley ‘06 used to remark “I can’t abide whining dogs or whining Williams men”.

And there is such a lack of civility and humor in the verbiage! I did notice, Swart, your attempts to change the subject several times. While I was not interested in DIY -The Romance of Drains, or Cooking with Clarified Butter, I was hopeful that All About Stamps might catch on. I am happy to discuss at the drop of a hat, my 1922 6 cent Garfield’s by that wonderful team of Eissler and Hall. But no matter.

Civility was, I believe, very directly related to wearing a coat and tie at dinner. Has civility gone by the boards, replaced with diversity?  “O brave new world that hath such people in it”.

Thus my concern for your over-participation in this activity. In the jargon of some past psychobabble I am doing an ‘intervention’.

Pack your bag. Say ‘Ave et Vale’ to your virtual pals. You are coming with me. We will be concentrating on these three ‘g’s’ –  Gehry’s Guggenheim, Gaudy, and the modern architect hated by Ian Fleming, Erno Goldfinger.

    In the Bonds,

    Recht

 

 

 

 

Facebooktwitter

Deans Instruct Prof to Move Deadlines After Election, 2

Dean Sandstrom and her assistant deans instructed a professor to move the deadline of a midterm following the election of Donald Trump last year. See the first post for our initial discussion. This is the second.

Let’s tackle a central question to this issue: why were the deans’ actions so troubling? So far I can come up with two answers.

Imagine the students who asked for these extensions are now Williams graduates working in the real world, and then in 2020, Donald Trump shocks the world again by winning a second term. The Williams graduate will think that, since Dean Sandstrom must have known what she was doing in 2016, it is totally okay for him/her to take the next day off or get an extension for a work deadline. What would the graduate’s direct manager think? What will they think of how Williams students handle these sort of situations? Unfortunately for the graduate, if the direct manager objects to a day off/deadline extension, Dean Sandstrom can no longer (I hope not!) email the direct manager to instruct them to be more lenient with the Williams graduate, because after all, that’s what she did here. What then, is our grad to do?

Herein lies the first part of the problem: by granting leniency to students because of a political election by instructing a professor to do what he otherwise said he would not, the Dean’s Office sends a message to students that their obligations, when they do not agree or feel upset with the results of a democratic election, are optional. Irresponsible! As opposed to individual professors doing this on their own (that is entirely up to them, as it is entirely up to the graduate’s boss to grant a day off/extension), Dean Sandstrom, as an administrator (ranking Dean of the College!), puts the weight of Williams behind this remarkable thinking.

Alternatively, EphBlog has consistently reported the trend of declining faculty governance in the College, even against Adam Falk’s claims that this is not the case, in several posts. See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. It is hard to diagnose a problem without observing symptoms, then at the very least this is almost certainly what a runny nose is to the common cold! In a campus where decision making power is NOT consolidated by administrators, there wouldn’t be deans who find it acceptable to explicitly instruct professors how to do their jobs in this way following an election.

A commentator in the previous post brought up that a majority of professors want the deans to be able to adjudicate on issues with students, and that is not unreasonable! A (supposedly) objective third party with institutional memory should, in principle, be good at mediating disputes when they arise. My sense is that such disputes between students and professors that are adjudicated by the Dean’s Office arrive at a resolution that the professor and the Dean’s office, if not all parties, agree to. The outcomes are either a compromise between the student and the professor (mediated by the Dean’s Office) or adherence to the professor’s standing policy, because at the end of the day, it is the professor’s class, not the deans’. At least, to the best of my judgment from my own experience and the experience of classmates with the Dean’s Office, that is how issues are resolved. So why did the deans do differently here? Do Dean Sandstrom and her assistant deans think they can do a better job of teaching than Williams professors can? I certainly hope not, but that is what their actions say!

What do readers think?

As usual, any tips can be sent to concerned.ephs@gmail.com. Future generations of Ephs (starting with the class of 2021) will thank you!

Facebooktwitter

Williams video for National Sexual Assault Awareness Month

To the Williams community,

In my February campus message I affirmed that Williams is continuing our efforts to prevent and respond to campus sexual violence. In honor of April as National Sexual Assault Awareness month we’ve produced a short video expressing the spirit of the college’s prevention and response work.

This work is some of our most important. As Dean Sandstrom says on camera, students can only take full advantage of the education we’ve promised to provide if they’re living in safe and secure conditions. The video features a few among the many efforts by Williams staff, students, faculty, alumni and parents to provide those conditions. 

During this month of national awareness, I want to thank all of you who are contributing time and energy to the cause of ending campus sexual violence. If you’re not yet involved, I hope the video will help you think about how you can join us in making Williams a safer and better learning place for everyone.

Sincerely,

Adam Falk
President

Facebooktwitter

Asian Versus Black SAT Scores

This Brookings Report highlights the continuing gaps in performance on the SAT and similar IQ tests among racial groups. Former Economics Professor Mike McPherson also gets a mention. Key chart:

ccf_20170201_reeves_2

Several Ephs tweeted out a link to the related New York Times story:

“Race gaps on the SATs are especially pronounced at the tails of the distribution,” the two authors note. In math, for example,

among top scorers — those scoring between a 750 and 800 — 60 percent are Asian and 33 percent are white, compared to 5 percent Latino and 2 percent black. Meanwhile, among those scoring between 300 and 350, 37 percent are Latino, 35 percent are black, 21 percent are white, and 6 percent are Asian.

Translating those percentages into concrete numbers, Reeves and Halikias estimate that

in the entire country last year at most 2,200 black and 4,900 Latino test-takers scored above a 700. In comparison, roughly 48,000 whites and 52,800 Asians scored that high. The same absolute disparity persists among the highest scorers: 16,000 whites and 29,570 Asians scored above a 750, compared to only at most 1,000 blacks and 2,400 Latinos.

There should be a way to combine this data with what we know about college admissions and applicant preferences to get a more up-to-date estimate of racial distribution of SAT scores at Williams. Start with the latest available Common Data Set (pdf):

scores

Full analysis left as an exercise for the reader! Comments:

1) About 2/3s of Williams students score above a 1400 combined. Speaking very roughly (and using hand-waving as my statistical estimation method of choice), whites and Asian Americans have about the same raw numbers in this pool. (There are, of course, many more white than Asian 17 year-olds in the US, but the whites do much worse on the SATs (and most other IQ tests)). So, why is the ratio of whites to Asians among Williams students almost 4:1? This suggests that Williams might discriminate against Asian-Americans in admissions. Now, there are many other plausible explanations other than discrimination which might explain this, mainly involving student/family preferences. But there is an interesting Record article (or senior thesis!) to write about this topic.

2) The ratio of Asian-Americans (74) to African-Americans (43) in the class of 2020 is not quite 2:1. But the ratio of students with Williams caliber SAT scores between these two groups is at least 20:1. The only thing that could possibly explain this discrepancy is massive preferences for African-Americans (relative to Asian-Americans) in Williams admissions. Taking another hand-waving guess, I would estimate that at least 70 of the Asian-Americans scored higher on the SAT/ACT than at least 40 of the African-Americans. In other words, the two distributions probably have almost no overlap, looking something like:

Rplot001

That couldn’t cause any problems on campus, could it? Below is an example of the sorts of “conversations” that students with radically different SAT scores have at Williams.

Read more

Facebooktwitter

Deans Instruct Prof to Move Deadlines After Election, 1

For what reasons would the College administrators cancel classes or grant extensions for academic requirements? I personally have never had an exam moved, and I’ve only had class cancelled once, and that was only because my professor was so sick that she could not rise out of bed (first time she’s cancelled class in 10 years. Reasonable!). Otherwise, I have no memory of the college administrators cancelling a class or moving requirements at Williams. You would think this is rare and never happens, but fortunately for future historians, a member of the class of 2019 provides us with an example:

Dear Concerned Eph ’17,

Thank you so much for doing what you’re doing. It’s finally time that the administration answers for its malfeasance. I have one: when Donald Trump was elected, many students were really upset by the result that many professors and deans allowed students to skip class because of how they felt, or (shockingly) because they stayed up watching the election. What is egregious, in my opinion, is the specific actions of the Dean’s Office. I was in MATH 341: Probability that semester, being taught by Professor Steven Miller. That week, we happened to be in the middle of a takehome period (Prof. Miller assigned a 30 hour take home to be completed anytime that week), and following the election, many of these upset students asked for an extension (even though we had a week for a test that took just ONE day!!!). Professor Miller did not initially grant these, because what basis did they have, right? Trump won, and while you may not agree (I personally wish the election had gone another way), but it’s no excuse not to do work or move on. These students, however, appealed to the Dean’s Office, and as a result, they actually told Professor Miller to move the deadline/grant extensions for his midterm. How do I know this? Professor Miller said “any extension will come from the deans” and the students who complained got their extensions. One classmate told me that it was all sorted out once her complaints reached Dean Sandstrom.

Is this something we can do now when someone we don’t like gets elected? This is ANOTHER example of the Dean’s Office showing explicit, preferential treatment in the form of BREAKING ACADEMIC POLICY (when does Williams ever cancel or move exams?!) to coddle students it agrees with. The Dean’s Office does way more than just banning speakers. I strongly believe this undermines the point of a Williams education.

Please continue revealing these irresponsible actions by that office.

Best,

Pissed Off Eph ’19

Emphasis mine. Thank you, Pissed Off Eph, for your tip and for allowing me to publish this in full. This email speaks for itself and hits all the right points. I will need more than one post to unpack this fully. This is the first.

I have independently confirmed with classmates I know who took MATH 341 last semester, and, this actually happened. As a member of the Williams community I am embarrassed that the Dean’s Office acted like this. And I thought that the email Dean of Faculty Denise Buell encouraging professors to do this was already bad. I did not expect that the Dean’s Office would go so far to actually tell a professor how to do his job.

Questions:

  1. With Dean of Faculty Denise Buell’s emails and the Dean’s Office’s actions, it seems reasonable to say this likely happened in more than just one class with more than just one professor. In which other classes did the deans explicitly instruct professors to cancel class/move requirement deadlines following last year’s election? Please let me know at concerned.ephs@gmail.com so we can catalog this.
  2. Who in the Dean’s Office issued this order (or orders, if this happened more than once)? Was it Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom, as Pissed Off Eph implies, or was it Dean of Faculty Denise Buell, who sent the email that encouraged this behavior in the first place? Is this the kind of behavior we can expect from the leaders of the Williams administration?
  3. Did this happen in any other peer university?To the best of my research/knowledge, nothing of this sort (administrators telling professors how to do their jobs) happened in any other NESCAC or Ivy League college. In fact, in Columbia, the deans there explicitly told students they would not be instructing professors to move deadlines/grant extensions/whatever after students appealed to them. If the administrators at Columbia and elsewhere decided not to do this, then why did the Dean’s Office here decide on the complete opposite?

What do our readers think of the deans’ actions?

This reporting is made possible by tips from the Williams community, and future generations of Ephs are that much better for these. If you have any stories like these that deserve to see the light of day, shoot me an email at concerned.ephs@gmail.com!

Facebooktwitter

A note from my classmate Peter Britton ’56 …

A man of no conscience.

I awake on Tuesday to find a sociopath has endangered every living organism on our planet.

o05_23681817

 

AP Photo/ Charlie Riedel

Now, go to goggle and search “man of no conscience” and “sociopath.”

For prior proof search “EPA and energy,”  “at-risk populations” and “CO2 and rising seas and “carbonic acid.”  And Trump.

For the most powerful man on earth has made sadism and masochism his very own trademarks.

And only a man of zero conscience and empathy could do that where seven billion humans and trillions of other living things are concerned.

But, perhaps the rising seas will reach only the 20th floor of Trump Tower.

Here are two recent song-videos on this turn of events:

CO2 BLUE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BeMT9QO0azo

GORDIAN KNOT

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_HxRrk6LH4g

And a thought from the Appalachian Mountains:

Mother Nature’s brilliant plan
Sequestered all black rocks;
Then mankind’s selfish mind
Unlock’ t Pandora’ s  box

CLIMATE CHANGE is not a joke or a hoax. In 1972 I wrote a story on “weather” for Exxon’s house organ, The Lamp.

During my research I found a company plan to pave the Guajira Peninsula in Colombia with asphalt, blacktop and hydrocarbon discards to create rain for local farmers and, incidentally, enable in – depth study of global warming/climate change.

This story never ran and as far as I could tell, the project fizzled.

But reviving XL and Dakota Pipelines, dismantling Obama’s energy initiatives and Exxon’s $22 billion Gulf Coast investment in 11 new oil refineries brings back Dr. James Hansen’s recent and most dire warning: If Canada’s tar sands flow to Texas, “Game Over” for climate change …

Nota Bene from Dick Swart ’56    My classmate Peter Britton is a committed environmentalist. He expresses his concerns musically in themed albums like …

MI0002799857 … this and others are available online https://www.cdbaby.com/cd/peterbritton

and his book …

9781626757707_p0_v1_s437x700 available online  https://www.amazon.com/Coal-Aint-Culprit-Peter-Britton-ebook/dp/B00D3NU6OG

Facebooktwitter

Chuck Barris: Today’s need for The Gong Show …

… would that Jamey Farr could just strike the gong and the DC comedians would get the hook.

Chuck Barris … “A bad review means a show will run forever”.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/chuck-barris-dead-gong-show-929310

Facebooktwitter

« Newer Posts