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Ephs Who Have Gone Before

foxWho is this Eph?

He is Myles Crosby Fox ’40.

Myles will not be in Williamstown to celebrate reunion with the Old Guard in two weeks, for he has passed away. He leaves behind no wife, no children nor grandchildren. His last glimpse of Williams was on graduation day 77 years ago. Who among the sons and daughters of Ephraim even remembers his name?

I saw the mountains of Williams
As I was passing by,
The purple mountains of Williams
Against the pearl-gray sky.
My heart was with the Williams men
Who went abroad to die.

Fox was, in many ways, an Eph of both his time and ours. He was a Junior Advisor and captain of the soccer team. He served as treasurer in the Student Activities Council, forerunner to today’s College Council. He was a Gargoyle and secretary of his class.

gargoyle

Fox lived in Wood House. Are you the student who just moved out of the room that Fox vacated all those years ago? Are you an Eph who trod the same walkways around campus as Fox? We all walk in his footsteps.

The years go fast in Williams,
The golden years and gay,
The hoary Colleges look down
On careless boys at play.
But when the bugles sounded war
They put their games away.

Fox wrote letters to his class secretary, letters just like those that you or I might write.

The last issue of the Review has put me up to date on my civilized affairs. I am enclosing the only other information I have received in the form of a letter from Mr. Dodd. Among my last batch of mail was notice of the class insurance premium, and if you think it will prove an incentive to any of my classmates you may add under the next batch of Class Notes my hearty endorsement of the insurance fund, the fact that even with a military salary I am still square with the Mutual Company, and my hope that classmates of ’40 will keep the ball rolling so that in the future, purple and gold jerseys will be rolling a pigskin across whitewash lines.

Seven decades later, the pigskin is still rolling.

Fox was as familiar as your freshman roommate and as distant as the photos of Williams athletes from years gone by that line the walls of Chandler Gym. He was every Eph.

They left the peaceful valley,
The soccer-field, the quad,
The shaven lawns of Williams,
To seek a bloody sod—
They gave their merry youth away
For country and for God.

Fox was killed in August 1942, fighting the Japanese in the South Pacific. He was a First Lieutenant in the Marine Corps and served in a Marine Raider battalion.

Fox’s citation for the Navy Cross reads:

For extraordinary heroism while attached to a Marine Raider Battalion during the seizure of Tulagi, Solomon Islands, on the night of 7-8 August 1942. When a hostile counter-attack threatened to penetrate the battalion line between two companies, 1st Lt. Fox, although mortally wounded, personally directed the deployment of personnel to cover the gap. As a result of great personal valor and skilled tactics, the enemy suffered heavy losses and their attack repulsed. 1st Lt. Fox, by his devotion to duty, upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the defense of his country.

How to describe a night battle against attacking Japanese among the islands of the South Pacific in August 1942?

Darkness, madness and death.

On Memorial Day, America honors soldiers like Fox who have died in the service of their country. For many years, no Eph had made the ultimate sacrifice. That string of good fortune ended with the death in combat of First Lieutenant Nate Krissoff ’03, USMC on December 9, 2006 in Iraq. From Ephraim Williams through Myles Fox to Nate Krissoff, the roll call of Williams dead echoes through the pages of our history.

With luck, other military Ephs like Dick Pregent ’76, Bill Couch ’79, Peter May ’79, Jeff Castiglione ’07, Bunge Cooke ’98, Paul Danielson ’88, Kathy Sharpe Jones ’79, Lee Kindlon ’98, Dan Ornelas ’98, Zack Pace ’98, JR Rahill ’88, Jerry Rizzo ’87, Dan Rooney ’95 and Brad Shirley ’07 will survive this war. It would be more than enough to celebrate their service on Veterans’ Day.

Those interested in descriptions of Marine combat in the South Pacific during World War II might start with Battle Cry by Leon Uris or Goodby, Darkness by William Manchester. The Warriors by J. Glenn Gray provides a fascinating introduction to men and warfare. Don’t miss the HBO miniseries The Pacific, from which the battle scene above is taken. Fox died two weeks before the Marines on Guadalcanal faced the Japanese at the Battle of the Tenaru.

A Navy destroyer was named after Fox. He is the only Eph ever to be so honored. The men who manned that destroyer collected a surprising amount of information about him. It all seems both as long ago as Ephraim Williams’s service to the King and as recent as the letters from Felipe Perez ’99 and Joel Iams ’01.

God rest you, happy gentlemen,
Who laid your good lives down,
Who took the khaki and the gun
Instead of cap and gown.
God bring you to a fairer place
Than even Williamstown.

Note: As long as there is an EphBlog, there will be a Memorial Day entry, a tribute to those who have gone before. Apologies to Winifred M. Letts for bowdlerizing her poem, “The Spires of Oxford.”

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Graduation Live-Stream?

Harvard live-streams its graduation.

live

Does Williams? We should! Even just putting the same video feed that they pipe to Bronfman on YouTube would be useful.

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Trustee Web Page III

Our readers wanted more discussion of the new Trustee web page and the documents linked thereto. Day 3.

Again, kudos to the Trustees for transparency! This is a welcome change from the way Williams has been run in the past. Perhaps the most timely document is the notes from the Board Meeting Report from April (pdf).

1) To the extent that the Board has been creating documents like this for the last several years (decades?), it should make them public now. The more that Ephs see how well-run Williams is, the more trust we will have in the people who run it. I realize that the actual meeting notes can include a variety of material — especially the comments made on sensitive comments by names trustees — that should remain secret for years. That is OK! But generic overviews of who presented what can be made public now.

2) There are 15 items in the report. I could spend a day on each of them! Should I? Are there any in particular that people are interested in? Here is an example:

The board approved the remarketing of $50.5M of existing college debt, and the issuance of up to $60M in new debt to fund a number of capital projects.

The College’s debt load is perhaps the single financial I am least qualified to opine on. First, my understanding is that we can’t issue new debt unless it is going to fund new projects. Is Williams really gearing up to spend an additional $60 million? Is that all/mostly the Bronfman replacement? Second, can someone explain what “remarketing” is? This discussion seems relevant but it sure would be nice if someone were to walk through the details. Third, I continue to believe that the College has enough debt right now. Of course, I have been singing that song for 6 years. Levering up the endowment has worked marvelously well over that time period. What could go wrong?

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Director of Libraries Announcement

Williams faculty, staff and students,

I’m delighted to inform you that, following a national search, Williams has hired a new Director of Libraries to replace Dave Pilachowski, who will retire at the end of June. Jonathan Miller, currently Library Director at Rollins College in Winter Park, FL, will begin work with us on July 31.

Jonathan earned his B.A. from Sheffield (U.K.) University in Political Theory and Institutions, his M.L.S. from SUNY Buffalo, and his Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh. Before his 11 years at Rollins he held progressive positions in the libraries at the Ohio State University, Augustana College in Illinois, and the University of Pittsburgh. He is active in the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) and serves as treasurer of the Oberlin Group of liberal arts college libraries.

At Rollins, Jonathan and his staff established the college’s Olin Library as a critical contributor to academic life, partnering with the school’s Instructional Technologies team and Johnson Institute for Effective Teaching to better support teaching, learning and scholarship across campus; nurturing the college’s Tutoring and Writing Center; and refocusing and refurbishing the library to make it more appealing as a center for academic work and collaboration. For their efforts Jonathan and the Olin staff were honored with the 2013 Excellence in Academic Libraries Award from the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL). I encourage you to read the ACRL’s award citation to get a richer sense of Jonathan’s vision and approach. You may also find his most recent published writings in the Rollins Online collection at http://bit.ly/2rN8mxj.

In accepting our position at Williams, Jonathan emphasized the appeal of working with our talented librarians and staff at Williams to build on the remarkable array of collections, services, technology, and spaces created under Dave’s leadership.

I want to thank all the members of the search committee—Barb Casey, Sonnet Coggins, Edan Dekel, Danielle Gonzales, Barron Koralesky, Dave Richardson, Jana Sawicki and Dorothy Wang—for their contributions to this highly successful search. In addition, I would like to extend a special thanks to the students, faculty, and staff who participated in the effort, and especially to our librarians and support staff for their valuable insights along the way.

Jonathan’s wife, Bethany Hicok, Professor of English and Director of the Honors Program at Westminster College, will join Williams as Lecturer in English in 2018. I look forward to their arrival this summer, and hope you’ll join me in welcoming Jonathan and Bethany to the Purple Valley.

Sincerely,

Dukes Love
Provost and Professor of Economics

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Congratulations, Class of 2017, from the Society of Alumni

To the Great Class of 2017 –

CONGRATULATIONS! You are so close to graduation!! On June 4th you will transition from being an undergrad to being an alum. And while you have been a student for 4 (sometimes long) years, you will be an alum for the rest of your life. I currently have the huge honor of serving as the President of the Society of Alumni, and I look forward to officially welcoming you at Commencement.

I know that each of you has experienced Williams in you own unique way, and that for most of you, the past few years have surely had their ups and downs. That will likely continue once you leave the Purple Valley. But you will come to learn that there is an entire community of Ephs out there ready and thrilled to welcome you into the fold. Your Williams connections will continue to grow and evolve. And there are lots of ways to feed those connections – attend reunion every five years; participate in regional events; travel to a NESCAC school to watch your favorite team compete; come back to campus to speak to students about your career; or be a volunteer… You can be a class agent, or a head agent or a Vice Chair for the alumni fund; you can work to organize events in your region; you can be a class officer or help to organize your reunion – or motivate classmates to return to campus too; you can connect with other alums in your affinity group and organize those events. If you want to get involved, contact the alumni office (alumni.relations@williams.edu or 413-597-4151) where they will be more than happy to find a niche for you!

I can tell you that personally, my relationship with Williams has only deepened over time. When I was graduating, I had a lot of mixed emotions about leaving campus. But what I didn’t expect was that my classmates and other alums would support me through good times and bad, would help me along my career path, and that Williams as a place would continue to feel like home. Through my own volunteer work, I have met so many wonderful Ephs from classes ranging from the ’40s to now ’17. And while the world has changed in many ways, what has not changed is the fundamental belief we all share in the value of receiving an excellent education, in a small place, where people care about one another and develop a strange fondness for cows and the color purple. We are all connected to each other – and we all care about you. Do not hesitate to reach out to any of us to ask for help, to request information, or just to say hi.

I will see you at graduation. In the meantime, enjoy your last few days as an undergrad, and here’s to a wonderful future as an alum.

All my best,

Jordan Hampton ’87
President, Williams College Society of Alumni

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Trustee Web Page II

Our readers wanted more discussion of the new Trustee web page and the documents linked thereto. Day 2.

The most substantive page is News from the Board, a collection of both important documents (like the September 2015 Statement by the Board of Trustees and President Adam F. Falk on the College’s Role in Addressing Climate Change) and puff pieces (like this 2016 welcome to new board members).

1) Again, kudos! It is a great idea to bring together all the writings by/about trustees in a single location.

2) Why not work with ace College Archivist Katie Nash to “backfill” this page with some Williams history? What were the disputes that trustees wrote about 10, 20 and even 50 years ago?

3) I have yet to spend a week (or two!) on the Climate Change statement. Should I?

4) The page is somewhat incomplete (on purpose?) because it does not include Board Chair Mike Eisensen’s ’77 recent piece in the Record. Anything written in the Record (or other Williams publication) by a trustee — even if it is not an “official” statement from the entire Board — ought to be included here.

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Trustee Web Page I

Our readers wanted more discussion of the new Trustee web page and the documents linked thereto. Day 1.

1) Kudos to the trustees (and senior administrators at Williams) for this effort! The more transparency at Williams the better. Any quibbles that I express below are minor in the context of my overall praise for this effort.

2) Kudos on making the meeting dates public. Prior to this, the College made it positively difficult to figure out when the trustees would be in town. There was no reason for such secrecy. (There are generally four meetings a year, almost always in October, January, April and June. One of the meetings sometimes occurs off-campus, but I don’t think (comments welcome!) that this is common.)

3) Kudos for listing trustee emeriti. Historians of Williams thank you for this information! I especially liked learning about the exact dates of service for Board Chairs:

Preston S. Parish ’41 (April 1966 – June 1988; Chair of Board 1982-1988)
Peter S. Willmott ’59 (October 1983 – June 1998; Chair of Board 1988-1998)
Raymond F. Henze III ’74 (July 1987 – June 2002; Chair of Board 1998-2002)
Robert I. Lipp ’60 (July 1999 – June 2008; Chair of Board 2002-2008)
Gregory M. Avis ’80 (July 2002 – June 2014; Chair of Board 2008-2014)

There is a great senior thesis to be written about these men, and the decisions they made which helped to shape the Williams of today. For example, I have heard interesting rumors of the role that Ray Henze played in bringing Hank Payne to Williams . . .

4) I hope that the Executive Committee of the Society of Alumni — the main mechanism by which most alumni can try to influence Williams policy — follows the Trustees’ lead and increases their own transparency. When are their meetings, for example?

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Teach First Years to Sing “The Mountains”

To the JA’s for the class of 2021:

oakleyAt the 1989 Williams graduation ceremonies, then-President Francis Oakley had a problem. Light rain showers, which had threatened all morning, started midway through the event. Thinking that he should speed things along, and realizing that virtually no one knew the words to “The Mountains,” President Oakley proposed that the traditional singing be skipped.

A cry arose from all Ephs present, myself included. Although few knew the words, all wanted to sing the damn song. Sensing rebellion, President Oakley relented and led the assembled graduates and guests through a somewhat soaked rendition of the song that has marked Williams events for more than 100 years.

Similar scenes play themselves out at Williams gatherings around the country. At some of the Williams weddings that you will attend in the future, an attempt, albeit a weak one, will be made to sing “The Mountains.” At reunions, “The Mountains” will be sung, generally with the help of handy cards supplied by the Alumni Office. It is obvious that most graduates wish that they knew the words. It is equally obvious than almost all do not.

We have a collective action problem. Everyone (undergraduates and alumni alike) wishes that everyone knew the words — it would be wonderful to sing “The Mountains” at events ranging from basketball games to Mountain Day hikes to gatherings around the world. But there is no point in me learning the words since, even if I knew them, there would be no one else who did. Since no single individual has an incentive to learn the words, no one bothers to learn them. As Provost Dukes Love would be happy to explain, we are stuck at a sub-optimal equilibrium.

mountainsFortunately, you have the power to fix this. You could learn “The Mountains” together, as a group, during your JA orientation. You could then teach all the First Years during First Days. It will no doubt make for a nice entry bonding experience. All sorts of goofy ideas come to mind. How about a singing contest at the opening dinner, judged by President Falk, between the six different first year dorms with first prize being a pizza dinner later in the fall at the President’s House?

Unfortunately, it will not be enough to learn the song that evening. Periodically over the last dozen years, attempts have been made to teach the words at dinner or at the first class meeting in Chapin. Such efforts, worthy as they are, have always failed. My advice:

1) Learn all the words by heart at JA training. This is harder than it sounds. The song is longer and more complex than you think. Maybe sing it between every session? Maybe a contest between JAs from the 6 first year houses? If you don’t sing the song at least 20 times, you won’t know it by heart. Don’t be a Lord Jeff and settle for only the first and last verses. Learn all four.

2) Encourage the first years to learn the song before they come to Williams. There are few people more excited about all things Williams in August than incoming first years. Send them the lyrics. Send them videos of campus groups singing “The Mountains.” Tell them that, as an entry, you will be singing the song many times on that first day.

3) Carry through on that promise! Have your entry sing the song multiple times that day. Maybe the two JAs sing the song to the first student who arrives. Then, the three of you sing if for student number 2. And so on. When the last student arrives, the entire entry serenades him (and his family). Or maybe sing it as an entry before each event that first day.

4) There should be some target contest toward which this effort is nominally directed. I like the idea of a sing-off between the 6 first year dorms with President Falk as judge. But the actual details don’t matter much. What matters is singing the song over-and-over again before their first sunset as Ephs.

Will this process be dorky and weird and awkward? Of course it will! But that is OK. Dorkiness in the pursuit of community is no vice. And you and your first years will all be dorky together.

For scores of years, Ephs of goodwill have worked to create a better community for the students of Williams. It is a hard problem. How do you bring together young men and women from so many different places, with such a diversity of backgrounds and interests? Creating common, shared experiences — however arbitrary they may be — is a good place to start. Mountain Day works, not because there is anything particularly interesting about Stone Hill, but because we all climb it together.

Until a class of JAs decide as a group to learn the words themselves (by heart) during their training and then to teach it to all the First Years before the first evening’s events, “The Mountains” will remain a relic of a Williams that time has passed by.

But that is up to you. Once a tradition like this is started, it will go on forever. And you will be responsible for that. A hundred years from now the campus will look as different from today as today looks from 1917, but, if you seize this opportunity, Williams students and alumni will still be singing “The Mountains.”

Congratulations on being selected as a JA. It is a singular honor and responsibility.

Regards,

David Kane ’88

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Stiff Beard in Lieu

Professor Roberts tweeted with regard to a recent protest about removing a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee:

torches

Fortunately (?), there is a deeper Williams connection.
A Nationalist (who happens to be White) tweeted Eph quotations about the event: William Lowndes Yancey, non-graduate of the class of 1833.

yancey

Should we spend a week on the biography of Yancey, from which this is taken?

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resources this week

Dear Students,

I hope this note finds you well. Last week I wrote to remind you about resources that might be helpful to you during this last big push through finals period. A few folks have asked me to provide more information.

If you or someone you care about needs a helping hand this week, please encourage them to reach out to the Dean’s Office, the Davis Center, the Health Center, the Office of Student Life, or the Chaplain’s office.

For the rest of this week, the Dean’s Office, Psychological Services, and the Chaplains office are available for daily walk-in support.

The Chaplains office will be open for the remainder of this week from 7:30-9:30 pm if you’d like to spend some time with a chaplain. You are also welcome to drop by or call for an appointment during regular office hours.

Psychological Services is available for same day appointments for the rest of this week; give them a call at x 2353

The Dean’s Office has walk-in hours for the rest of this week from 12:30-2:30. You are also welcome to call for an appointment if those times don’t work for you.

Best wishes for a wonderful wrap up to the semester.

All best wishes,
Dean Sandstrom

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

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Change First Days to First Month

For decades, the College has sought, somewhat unsuccessfully, to mold student character and to improve the campus community. The College would prefer that students drink less (and especially less to excess); that students be more intellectual, spending more time outside of class on great books and less time on Netflix; that students be kinder to each other, especially to those most outside the mainstream of College life; that students be more diverse in their friend groups, less likely to only associate with peers that are “like” them; and that students be more involved in the community, more likely to volunteer at the local elementary school or retirement home. How can the College make its students more sober, intellectual, kind, ecumenical and charitable (than they already are)? Simple: Expand the First Days program into First Month, and focus that month on character development and community commitment.

Shaping character and nurturing community are difficult problems, so we should look for inspiration to those with a track record of success. The most relevant examples are military and religious organizations like the Marine Corps and the Mormon Church. What lessons do they have for us?

First: Start early. The reason that service in the Marine Corps begins with a 13-week boot camp is that the best time to change the perceptions of 18-year-olds is at the start of their enlistments. In boot camp, Marine recruits are cut off from the world they knew before, presented with a new set of community standards for what is best and challenged to live up to those standards. The College will have much more success in changing the values and choices of first-years in August than it ever will in altering those of juniors and seniors.

Second: Separate. Many new Ephs drank too much in high school. We want them to (want to) drink less at the College. We need to distance them from their old habits, their old friends and routines. A First Month program, starting in early August, provides just such an opportunity. The reason that Mormons, and most other religious groups, favor retreats is that a departure from the secular allows the sacred to flourish. During First Month, athletes won’t practice with their sports teams, they will play pick-up games with their classmates. The first and most important commitment that new Ephs make is to their class. They are purple first.

Consider how messed up our current system is. The 5 or so first years recruited to play women’s soccer arrive a week or more ahead of their classmates. They already know each other, and their new teammates, via the recruitment process. They spend a week with each other (and the rest of the team), all day, every day. They make friends. Is it any wonder that there is an athlete/non-athlete divide at Williams, when, from Day One, athletes are segregated from the rest of their class? The same dynamics are at work with other programs (Windows on Williams Williams College Summer Science) — well-intentioned though they may be.

Assume that you are a bad person and you want Williams student to self-segregate by astrological sign. You want all the, say, Geminis, to hang out together, take the same classes, form Gemini-only rooming groups and so on. This is hard to do because Williams students don’t like to be bossed around.

Solution: Invite all the Gemini members of the class of 2021 to five weeks of special Gemini-only activities at Williams this summer. Do not invite non-Geminis.

The natural result is that these Geminis, who may have had nothing in common besides their astrological sign, will bond. Cliques form, friendships grow and romance blooms. These Geminis will grow to like and trust each other. When school starts in September, they will already have made friends with each other. They will continue to seek each other out, share meals with each other, perhaps take classes together. It won’t be that they have anything against their non-Gemini entrymates who they are meeting for the first time. It is just that they will have already found friends to hang out with.

I am not arguing that Williams cancel the Summer Science/Humanities programs or that athletes not arrive early on campus, although perhaps we should. I just want the entire First Year class to arrive together, to be together, to do things together, before various centrifugal forces come into play.

Third: Introduce. Every student in each of the first-year dorms will have at least one meal with each resident of his dorm. All students will learn the names of at least half of their classmates by playing all the wonderfully awkward name-learning games common to religious retreats. The more that students are introduced to their classmates, slowly and repeatedly, over many hours, days and weeks, the less likely that any individual is to end up isolated from the College and detached from the Ephs around him. For most Ephs, the College community is as tight-knit as it could be. They always have someone to sit with when they go to the dining hall on their own. But for hundreds of students, often students from non-traditional backgrounds or with non-mainstream interests, the College fails. Rescuing those students, enmeshing them completely in a network of friends and friendly acquaintances, would change their experience at the College from bearable to wonderful.

Fourth: Inspire. The best way to convince teenagers that Behavior X is cool is to surround them with slightly older Ephs whom they admire and who, by word and deed, illustrate that X is cool. The fewer sports captains and Junior Advisors (JAs) who are heavy drinkers, the fewer first-years who will follow in their footsteps. During First Month, every activity is designed to model the behavior that we want to see more of among students at the College. On Day Two, everyone reads one of Plato’s dialogues and discusses it at lunch and dinner at a small table with a faculty member. On Day Six, everyone spends a day on community service – anything from cleaning up trash along the banks of the Green River to talking with residents at Sweetwood. On Day 10, everyone hikes up Pine Cobble. All of these events are led by the very best people – students, faculty, staff and local residents – at the College.

Fifth: Integrate. First-years come from many different backgrounds. The best way to make these new Ephs comfortable with each other is to have them spend as much time with each other as possible, especially in situations that make their differences less important than their commonalities. It is impossible to stereotype members of Group Z once you have shared a tent with one on a WOOLF trip. It is difficult to be snotty to your classmates when you sounded just as ridiculous as they did while all learning “The Mountains” together.

Doesn’t much of this happen during First Days already? Of course! But not nearly enough. My suggestion: Expand the current First Days to two weeks this August. If, for some reason, the change fails, then we can always revert back to the traditional format. But if the College is really serious about making its students more sober, intellectual, kind, ecumenical and charitable, then it ought to devote the month of August during their first years to that project.

[Original version here.]

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It’s Lawyer-Up Time …

12665_bettercallsaulf

… at the White House!

 

 

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Provost Documents

Provost Dukes Love is, officially, EphBlog’s favorite senior member of the Williams Administration. (Dean Dave will always be our favorite administrator.) Dukes is (almost?) as committed to transparency as we are!

1) Recall his decision to make public all historical versions of the Common Data Set.

2) Having considered my question, he made public his presentation materials (pdf) from the Alumni Leadership meeting. Well done!

3) He makes other material public, even before we ask! Consider this Reporting on Staffing (pdf).

Any interest in spending a few days going through these materials?

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Invitation to Baccalaureate

Dear Seniors,

As you rack up more and more “last time at Williams” experiences, please accept my heartfelt congratulations and good wishes for all that lies ahead in these next couple of weeks. And, as you make plans for the final hours of your undergraduate career, I want to extend an invitation to attend your Baccalaureate service in Chapin Hall on the day before Commencement – Saturday, June 3 at 5 p.m.

Each year lots of students ask what Baccalaureate is; of all the pieces of Commencement weekend tradition, it seems to be the least familiar. It’s a quieter, more reflective occasion than Commencement itself. I would say that gratitude is really the hallmark of the occasion: it’s a time to steep yourself in what this place, these years, these people have meant to you or made possible for you. If the Commencement ceremony is a time to celebrate the accomplishment of it all, then maybe Saturday afternoon’s “pre-ceremony” can be a time, just before you have your degree in hand at last, to ponder the meaning of it all, for one last time together.

By tradition Baccalaureate is steeped in spirituality – but not in any narrow sectarian sense. Our service will be broadly reflective of the diversity of your class, and of the depth of your reflection about the meaning and purpose of your education and your life. For some of you, an event that brings together many different forms of spirituality may be quite unfamiliar: it’s still a pretty rare thing in this world for people of different religions and no religion to sit respectfully and joyfully side by side at an occasion of prayerful reflection. That makes the fact that we do it here that much more significant.

The speakers at Baccalaureate tend to be at least as good as the speakers at Commencement. This year’s Baccalaureate address will be given by a former Poet Laureate of the United States, Billy Collins – whose wry and insightful poems I commend to you in suggesting that we’re in for a fine speech. President Falk will also offer you his parting reflections, which are always heartfelt and eloquent. The readings, music and prayers from many traditions will be given by your classmates – sealed with two great pieces of choral music sung by the Baccalaureate Choir (in which some of you are singing – thanks!) conducted by Nathan Leach and Jordan LaMothe. So your class’s fingerprints are all over everything – as well they might be, given who you all are. I hope Baccalaureate will add perhaps a little depth to all the breadth and height of your celebrations on the final weekend of your undergraduate career.

I hope you’ll be with us at Baccalaureate. I will always consider it an honor and a great joy to have been here with you – to have overlapped with you in this time and place. It’s already hard to imagine Williams without you. May these final weeks of final accomplishments and joyful spring be a time of wide blessing and deep satisfaction for you and all your friends and family.

Faithfully,

Rick Spalding,
Chaplain to the College

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Remember the Tablecloth Colors

A Record op-ed:

I am frustrated by many of the ways in which the campus has changed, most particularly the sudden prominence of the well-intentioned but detrimental Office of Campus Life [OCL], which is locked in a stagnating cycle of its own design. By in effect naming itself “the decider” when it comes to student life, the campus life office has alienated the College’s best leaders. As a result of this rift, the office has become inwardly-focused, self-promotional and deeply resistant to constructive criticism. Student life is student-driven no longer.

No kidding. EphBlog has made this prediction over and over and over again. The more control that Williams students have over life at Williams, the better. The more people (intelligent and well-meaning though they may be) that are hired by the College to “help,” the less active students will be.

The main rational used by CUL in establishing OCL 14 years ago — All the other schools have one so it must be a good idea! — was stupid then and it is stupid now.

Writer Ainsley O’Connell tells a depressing tale. Anyone who cares about student life at Williams must read the whole thing.

When I arrived on campus, director of campus life Doug Bazuin and his staff were a distant idea, not a reality. Barb and Gail administered activities on campus, helping students schedule events from their fishbowl office at the heart of Baxter Hall. Linda Brown administered room draw, her maternal warmth and firmness easing the process. Tom McEvoy (who has since departed) and Jean Thorndike provided big-picture support and served as liaisons between students and administrators. When students were moved to champion a new policy or party idea, Tom and Jean were willing to listen, and often to lend moral and financial support. The execution fell to students, but this sense of responsibility fostered greater ownership.

Great stuff. One of the purposes of EphBlog is to capture this sort of testimony, the thanks of current students to the staff members that have done so much.

But those with long memories will note what a mockery this makes of the CUL’s discussion in 2001 of the lack of staff devoted to student life. Indeed, if there is any table which demonstrates the dishonesty/incompetence of CUL during those years it is this description Staffing at Comparable Institutions. Click on the link. Let’s take a tour. (The line for Williams (all zeroes in bold) is at the bottom.)

First, note how the JA system magically disappears. The “50 junior advisors” for Bates are listed under “Student Staff” but, at Williams, they have vanished. Second, the CUL pretends that Dean Dave Johnson ’71 does not exist. The countless hours that he spent (and spends) working with the JAs and First Years doesn’t matter. Yet you can be sure that one of the “3 Assistant Deans” at Emerson does exactly what Johnson does at Williams, although probably not as well. Third, the CUL erases all the work and commitment of people like Linda Brown and Tom McEvoy, as evoked so nicely by O’Connell.

None of this is surprising, of course. Morty decided in 2000 that there were certain things about Williams that he was going to change. By and large, he has changed them. He and (former) Dean of the College Nancy Roseman and (former) CUL Chair Will Dudley implemented Neighborhood Housing, the biggest change at Williams this century. It was a total failure and has now, thankfully, been removed. Schapiro, Roseman and Dudley went on, despite this disastrous own goal, to college Presidencies at Northwestern, Dickinson and Washington and Lee, promotions which doubled (even tripled) their Williams salaries.

O’Connell goes on:

I will not dispute that in 2003 Williams needed a stronger support system for students looking to launch new initiatives and throw events open to the campus. For many, extracurricular activities had become a burden, with unreasonably long hours spent planning and preparing events down to the last detail. Yet today, some of the best and most innovative groups on campus remain far-removed from campus life, driven by highly motivated and talented individuals. Take Williams Students Online, for example, or 91.9, the student radio station: Their success lies in their student leaders, who have been willing to commit their time to making sweeping changes that have transformed WSO and WCFM, respectively.

It may have been reasonable for O’Connell not to see, in 2003, how this would all work out, but she is naive in the extreme not to see now that this evolution was inevitable. How shall we explain it to her? Imagine a different paragraph.

I will not dispute that in 2003 Williams needed a stronger support system for students looking to launch new publications and manage current ones. For many, writing for and editing student publications had become a burden, with unreasonably long hours spent planning and preparing everything down to the last detail. Yet today, some of the best and most innovative groups on campus remain far-removed from the Office of Campus Publications, driven by highly motivated and talented individuals.

In other words, why isn’t it a good idea for Williams to create an Office of Campus Publications [OCP], with a Director of Campus Publications and a staff of Campus Publication Coordinators? After all, as the meltdown of the GUL in 2001 (?) and the Record‘s occasional inability to pick a single editor-in-chief demonstrates, students sometimes need help. They often make mistakes. Who could deny that having someone to “help” and “support” the Record (and GUL and Mad Cow) wouldn’t make those publications better? No one. Perhaps OCP would even have prevented the demise of Rumor and Scattershot.

But would the experience of the students writing those publications be better with a bunch of (intelligent, well-meaning) paid employees of the College hovering over them? No. That should be obvious to O’Connell. Writing for and editing the Record these last 4 years has probably taught her as much about life its own self as any aspect of her Williams education. If she had had a Doug Bazuin equivalent supervising her all this time, her experience would not have been as rich, her education not as meaningful.

As always, critics will claim that I am advocating that the College provide no help or support, that we abolish the Dean’s Office. No! Some support is good, just as some social engineering is desirable. But, on the margin, the contribution of the OCL is negative.

Vibrant means “long hours spent planning and preparing events down to the last detail.” This is exactly why student institutions like WCFM, WSO and others (Trivia? Rugby? Current students should tell us more) are so vibrant. O’Connell acts as if you can have a vibrant organization or community without time and trouble, sweat and tears. In fact, you can’t.


O’Connell writes as if vibrancy appears from nowhere, that someone just sprinkles magic pixy dust on WSO and WCFM. No. Vibrancy, community, innovation and almost everything else worth having in this imperfect life require “unreasonably long hours” and “preparing everything down to the last detail.” You don’t think that Ephs like Evan Miller at WSO and Matt Piven at WCFM sweat the details? Think again
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Unfortunately, the Office of Campus Life and the Dean’s office, which oversees it, have not fostered this model. Instead, both offices have moved in the opposite direction, at times going so far as to render student involvement wholly superficial, as with the planning of this year’s Senior Week. The senior officers elected by the Class of 2006 do nothing more than choose tablecloth colors; it is assistant director of campus life Jess Gulley who runs the show. Hovering over student shoulders, the campus life staff of today is like a mother or father who wants to be your friend instead of your parent. The office should cast itself as an administrative support service, not the arbiter of cool.

Harsh! True? Current students should tell us. But note that this is not Gulley’s fault! I have no doubt that she is wonderful and hard-working, dedicated to making student life better. Each day, she wakes up and tries to figure out how to make this the best Senior Week ever. That is, after all, what the College is paying her to do. In that very act, of course, she decreases the scope of student control and involvement.

Back in the day, students handled almost all aspects of Senior Week. I still remember dancing the night away, in my dress whites, at Mount Hope Farm, the most beautiful Eph of all in my arms. No doubt this year’s seniors, 28 years younger than I, will have a fine time as well. Because of Gulley’s involvement, it may even be true that the events are better planned and organized. Yet everything that she does used to be done by students, hectically and less professionally, but still done by them.

The more that students do to run Williams, the better that Williams will be.


This is a revised version of a post from 2006.

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Making Friends and Influencing People by Sharing …

… Trump continues the bands’ breakthrough with Russia!

 

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Amended Complaint

Here is the 3rd Amended Complaint for the Safety Dance sexual assault case.

1) If you are interested in a week-long review, please let me know! As best I can tell, reader interest is lagging . . .

2) Summary: Male Williams student engages in two year long sexual relationship with female student-then-employee. In middle of that relationship, it is alleged that the two had sex without the female providing “affirmative consent.” That is, the male is not accused of a “rape” that any US prosecutor would ever pursue. The woman did not resist or say any form of “No.” Male student finishes all requirements for graduation but Williams expels him for sexual assault and refuses to give him his degree. He has sued.

It is a hard case to summarize! If anyone has a better version, leave it in the comments so that I can use it going forward.

3) I have not read the whole Complaint. (What do our readers think?) But it still seems sloppy to me, e.g.,

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It is impossible (?) to be a “full-time” student at Williams for 5 years. And there is no reason for Rossi, Doe’s attorney, to claim otherwise! Isn’t it the case that Doe was thrown out of Williams for a semester (if not a full year) because of a prior sexual assault case? And, during that time, he was not, I think, a student at Williams. (Although maybe you are still, officially, a Williams student even if you are currently away?)

4) Why won’t the College just give Doe his degree?

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Does anyone disagree? I could, perhaps, understand why the College might fight to enforce an expulsion if settlement required allowing the accused student to come back on campus. But why the Ahab-like insistence om preventing Doe from getting his degree?

5) Can anyone provide more details on educational options for students expelled from places like Williams?

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Several students (how many?) have been expelled from Williams over the last 5 years for sexual assault. What happens to them? Presumably, they still want/need a college degree? Are they allowed to transfer to other schools? Can they use their Williams credits? I don’t know . . . but surely our readers do! In case it matters, Doe is a New York State resident. Could he transfer (almost) all his credits to some SUNY school, take a class or two, and then get his degree? Or would SUNY deny his transfer application because of his expulsion from Williams?

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My Signature: Does it say the right thing?

I have written for help to the ‘Handwriting‘ forum of the Fountain Pen Network blog. Here is the response so far. I really need to have my signature perceived as written by one who is a leader, an intellectual, and a loving person of great compassion.

http://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/topic/322876-my-signature-and-signature-pen-are-a-question-for-me/?p=3849098

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Perhaps Ephblog readers may have an opinion or two.

 

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Rumblings on Campus?

An editorial on the subject of alumni donations published in the Williams Record this week seems to suggest that *the student body* may have found a new reason to yell at the administration.

From the editorial:

That the school chose this area to make their cuts should be warning enough, but what is truly disheartening is that seven years removed from the depths of the financial crisis with a larger than ever endowment of at least $2.3 billion, the College has made no moves to reinstate the no-loan policy. Meanwhile, it has found the funds in recent years to begin several large-scale construction projects. In the realm of financial aid, it has instead hired a dean to oversee the Offices of Financial Aid and Admission. By all appearances, the history of the no-loan policy at the College is rather straightforward: the College introduced the no-loan policy to compete with peer institutions, ditched it when it prohibited it from spending on areas it cares about more than allowing students from lower incomes the freedom to pursue post-graduate options without debt and then, after finding its prestige relatively unaffected by the whole ordeal, never looked back.

There’s also this banner hanging off the front of Pareskey:

Wishful Thinking?

And fliers in the dining hall:

How many people do they think read these?

It is currently unclear if anyone actually plans to protest this, but it seems unlikely that there will be any discussion of the merits of resurrecting such a policy.

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Marko Remac ’80: Work in Rome at the invitation of Pope Francis.

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Marko Remec is a conceptual sculptor living and working in New York City with his wife and two children. Born in 1958, Remec graduated with degrees in Studio Art and Chemistry from Williams College and earned his MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

In his works, Remec visualizes the oft-invisible aspects of the global political machine—threat, negotiation, and compromise. Having spent twenty-five years as a Mergers & Acquisitions specialist at two of the leading financial institutions on Wall Street (Morgan Stanley and Lazard), he is well versed in “corporate warfare” and the inextricable link between economic and actualized conflict. Warping function and re-contextualizing form, Remec distorts traditional expectations of usage and scale to incisively examine systems of power and the ways in which they affect our perceptions and realities.

Remec’s most recent work is his ongoing Totem Series, in which he uses flag and utility poles, both regular fixtures of the urban and suburban landscape. Adhering readymade objects to the poles, such as safety mirrors, bicycles, mops, brooms, and rearview mirrors, he transforms them into contemporary totems.

The Huffington Post March 21, 2013

https://www.markoremec.com/once-upon-a-time-ship-totem

The totem is displayed with The Ship of Tolerance, a floating conceptual work 0f Ilya and Emilia Kabakov.

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The installation in Zug, CH.

 

 

http://www.ilya-emilia-kabakov.com/about-ba/

 

 

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as the semester wraps up….

Dear Students,

I hope this note finds you well. As the semester draws to a close and we enter reading period and final exams, I wanted to remind you all to take good care of yourselves. In between your studying and writing, be sure to eat well, get as much rest as is feasible, and treat yourself with kindness….you deserve it.

Please remember that our campus offers numerous resources that might be helpful to you if you are experiencing significant stress and anxiety, or feel overwhelmed. Feel free to reach out to the Dean’s office, the Chaplain’s office, Health Services, the Davis Center, the Office of Student Life, and Academic Resources. You don’t need to have a specific question or concern…..just a desire to connect and find support. And if you are aware that a friend or classmate is struggling, please help them find their way to us.

All best wishes,

Dean Sandstrom

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

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Etienne ’21 Chooses Williams Over Yale/Princeton

A nice story:

Samori Etienne is a well-rounded student at Columbia High School. He likes most subjects, plays soccer, is president of the Student Council, and is part of the Parnassian Society. He will graduate in a few weeks.

And like approximately 90% of the seniors at CHS, he plans to move on to college after graduation. He spent the better part of the last few weeks considering which school to attend next. And like a growing number of CHS students, Etienne was lucky enough to gain admittance to more than a handful of elite schools. In fact, he got into more than a handful.

These schools include: Amherst College, American University, Boston College, Bowdoin College, Brown University, Columbia University, Franklin & Marshall College, Georgetown University, Haverford College, Princeton University, Rutgers, Seton Hall University, College of New Jersey, Swarthmore College, University of Pennsylvania, Wesleyan College, Williams College and Yale University.

Kudos to Etienne for making such a smart choice.

Williams College was the lucky school he chose.

“They flew me in for two weekends. It was a nice view of what the school is like,” said Etienne. Beyond the students and top notch academics, he said he enjoys “the picturesque campus and the nearby mountains” (Williams is in northwestern Massachusetts, near the Vermont border).

Kudos to Williams for wooing Etienne so assiduously. (Should we credit new Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Liz Creighton ’01 for these new (?) efforts to recruit highly desirable accepted students?)

Williams should devote more resources (and more financial aid) to students who are also accepted by Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford.

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Black/White SAT Scores at Amherst

From page 22 of Race and Class Matters at an Elite College by Amherst professor Elizabeth Aries.

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There was more than a 200 point difference (1284 versus 1488) in combined SAT scores between blacks and whites at Amherst. Although this data is a decade old and for Amherst, I believe that the same is true today and at places like Williams. Has anyone heard differently? And, as you would expect, students with lower SAT scores do much worse in Amherst classes:

p155

Interesting stuff! Should we spend a week on other highlights from this book?

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Williams College – Worth the Hassle?

Suppose you’re a middle-class student. Williams College accepts you, as do other prestigious institutes–and modest, but inexpensive ones. Your primary interest is establishing a base to build a stable, profitable career. Given these conditions, is going to Williams College or any other distinguished college the evidently preferable route?

I think not. An article by the prudent Marty Nemko I came across before my attendance of Williams presents a solid argument for attending the humble community college.

I ultimately chose Williams because of my financial circumstances and intetest in academia. Those students looking for a career, however, may desire to choose another path.

But what do you think?

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Help Wanted …

… special investigator! Start immediately!  Must have no connection to Rogaine or Russia.

 

…or Nixon.

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Alumni Funding Dreams

Dylan Dethier’s ’14 amazing article about his attempt to make the PGA included this paragraph:

Before I enrolled in college I spent a year exploring the United States, hoping to learn more about the country through the game. I lived out of my car, played a course in every state and wrote a book about the experience called 18 in America. It did well enough that when I turned pro I had $30k in the bank. Cody, my co-captain at Williams, held a tournament (with dinner and a raffle!) in his hometown to pay for the trip south. We also reached out to former members of the golf team, and a small group of alumni was kind enough to stake us with entry fees for our first six months. As lucky as Cody and I were, we were shorter on resources than most of our peers.

Tell us more! We love hearing stories about alumni supporting recent graduates as they chase their dreams.

And read Dylan’s entire article. It is poignant and beautifully written.

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Williams Insight

Williams Insight is a new student organization. Purpose:

Williams Insight is an online financial publication, in which interested students can submit and publish their liberal arts insights into the economic and financial news.

Good stuff! The more student organizations at Williams, the better. I especially like this:

The objective of the group is first to establish a community of people who are interested in finance and the economy and second to have a place where we can keep up with the market while engaging in productive and concrete analysis.

Williams is a great community, both in Williamstown and in the larger world, but there is so much more we can do to bring together smaller circles of interest. Recall our discussion from a decade (!) ago:

Williams needs EphCOI: Williams-connected Communities of Interest. If on-line communities involving alumni (and students/faculty/staff/parents) are ever going to work, it will only be in the context of shared interests of some sort. My thoughts now are more or less the same as two years ago. The main change is that a blog with new content every weekday is clearly the best way to start. Sign up one staff member to help (read: ensure that at least one new item appears each day) and then find one or two alumni and students to lead the effort. These will be the first authors.

2) Start small. There is no need to create 15 of these from the start. Prove that the concept is a workable one with just one or two sites. I will ensure that an Ephs in Finance blog will succeed. Perhaps Dan Blatt ’85 could be recruited for Ephs in Entertainment. Why not our own Ben Fleming ’04 for Ephs in Journalism? Jen Doleac ’03 for Ephs in Policy? When I took DeWitt Clinton ’98 out to dinner in San Francisco, he was filled with big talk about organizing an Ephs in Technology group of some sort, perhaps with Evan Miller ’05. Recruit them. But first demonstrate the potential (and Williams’s commitment) with a working example.

3) Be open. There must be no logins or passwords (except for authors, obviously). Anyone from anywhere must be able to read these blogs. Anything less will lead to failure. I, for one, certainly wouldn’t bother to participate. There is an argument, perhaps, for keeping some things hidden. For example, no outsider can see my internship posting on the internal OCC site. If it makes the powers-that-be nervous, fine. Hide stuff. Yet, for the most part, this is stupid. Hidden stuff will never be a common point of interest within any EphCOI because most readers won’t, obviously, be able to see it. In addition, I actually hate the fact that I can’t (easily) check to confirm that my listing is correct on the OCC site. There is no real reason for hiding this material. If OCC didn’t want too many outsiders to see it, they could just ask Google to not index that information (DeWitt Clinton can tell you how). But anything that is clearly labeled as “For Williams Students Only” is, obviously, not going to draw a lot of attention from non-Ephs.

4) Be friendly. A blog-savvy person from OIT, like Chris Warren, can help ensure that the blogs have all the standard feeds and options. Older readers will appreciate the ability to easily print things, especially long threads (something that might be nice for EphBlog). Younger participants will insist on RSS and the like. It might even be nice to include options to sign up for a (week) daily or weekly e-mail summary with embedded links. The key is that the EphCOI must make it easy for Ephs to participate in whatever manner they prefer with a minimum of hassle.

Read the rest here. As true today as it was a decade ago.

I especially like the fact that Williams Insight reaches out to alumni.

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Your life at Williams––in an imaginary photograph

Fellow seniors:

Thank you for electing me as your class speaker. I’m deeply honored by this opportunity.

This speech is as much mine as it is yours. It’s called a class speech because it’s for all of us, from all of us. For that reason, I want to invite you to ponder a question, and, if you’re so inclined, share your answer with me:

Let’s imagine I’m putting together a slideshow, and I want an image from every senior. I want each person’s photograph to represent his or her life at Williams—the regular, ordinary, day in day out life you spend most of your time living. What would your photograph be? Describe this scene.

If you need inspiration, some responses I’ve gotten include: walking through the library quad on my way to class with my backpack on and waving to a passerby; sitting in Goodrich talking to friends and drinking coffee; and sending an email while sitting at a high-top table in Sawyer with a reading packet open. (This last one is mine.)

Any reflections are welcome (on this question, or anything else), and if you want to speak more about your image, I’d be happy to meet in person or get in touch via email.

Thank you, once again, for the honor of speaking at Commencement. And thank you for pondering this question. I look forward to hearing from you!

Enjoy the last week of classes and all that Williams has to offer.

Yours in a love of the Purple Valley,
Jeffrey

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Welcoming the Newborn College Republicans

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I expected more of a celebration than this. A group of this sort could thrive from proactive advertising. A few posters in Paresky Center would have sufficed to put the first meeting of this promising group on the radar. Perhaps it’s just a rookie error.

Or perhaps there is intent in the subdued announcement. Considering right-wing views are to Williams College what mongooses are to snakes, the prudent path might be to first feel out for potential backlash. In any case, the organization garnered a modest group with its first meeting–now focus on growing that base.

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Meet David Dudley Field ’25 at Williams Today

image1The weather in Williamstown has been horrible so far in May, cold and rainy. This is the forecast for the next 9 days. Worst May in a generation? I blame global warming!

I will be at the alumni events at Williams today: 3:00 talk with Adam Falk, 4:00 talk with Dukes Love; cocktail party at Faculty Club; dinner at Lasell. I am easily identified by my good looks, winning personality, purple shirt and salmon pants. If you are an EphBlog reader, say Hi!

Any advice on questions to ask? I will probably go with quizzing President Falk about the Derbyshire cancellation and Provost Love about transparency. Perhaps:

President Falk: No event in the last five years has given Williams more of a black eye in the national press than your cancellation last year of a student-invited talk by John Derbyshire, a leading intellectual of the alternative right. Since then, Donald Trump has won the presidency and several leaders of the alternative right — people like Steve Bannon and Jason Miller — have ascended to leadership positions in his administration. I met yesterday with the student leaders of the new Republican Club on campus. They plan on bringing several speakers to campus — including alumni like Mike Needham ’04 and Oren Cass ’05 — Republicans who are often branded as “racists” by their political opponents. In fact, they might even invite me to speak. I agree with some, but not all, of what John Derbyshire has written. Will you also be banning me from speaking on campus?

Provost Love: Your presentation and slide show has been fascinating and informative. However, as a class agent, I receive occasional complaints about transparency at Williams, specifically a disconnect between rich/important insiders and poor/unimportant outsiders. For example, the insiders in this room — all leaders in the alumni fund — get the benefit of learning more about Williams. The outsiders — the 25,000 alumni not invited to this event — don’t. I realize that the College can’t invite everyone to Williamstown for weekends like this. But there is no reason why you could not put the slide show you just shared with us on the Provost web page. Will you? And, if not, why not?

Suggestions welcome!

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