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The Elks: Edifice Rex … (reissue of a reminiscence when the blog was more a place of easy-going writing and topics)

elks 3

Originally published Oct 11, 2009.

I was thinking as I am doing the series on the Houses of Williamstown, about other small towns and the outsize edifices of grandeur built to exude permanence, status, and a desire to go inside.

Of course, this is easy for me, I live in a small town.

And the answer is: The Elks! Small town belonging, particularly important when Sunday Blue laws made a private club the only place you could get a drink; before the lotteries when ditto for gambling; and in small towns, the only place the male burghers could go a couple of times a year for a ‘smoker’ with a stripper.

Membership soared until the seventies, when booze was suddenly available at Safeway, the states were sponsoring gambling instead of censoring it, and nudity was available everywhere including topless shoe-shine parlors.

And so we have on Main Streets across the Heartland, temples and lodges that parallel the houses on campi. Many, as you drive past, seem to be ‘for sale’ or have been converted into other uses.

Membership in Fraternal Orders named for animals or the job skills of construction are dwindling and their remaining members approaching their dotage.

Has small town America lost a way of life as well as Williams? And if so, does any one care except for aged Past Exalted Rulers?

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Paresky Meeting Today

An interesting invitation in the most recent all-faculty e-mail message:

Date: Fri, 22 Sep 2017 01:18:03 -0400
From: message@williams.edu
Reply-To: noreply@williams.edu
To: DM-FACULTY-L@listserv.williams.edu
Subject: Daily Messages for Friday, Sep 22, 2017

______________________________________________________________________

D A I L Y M E S S A G E S Friday, Sep 22, 2017
______________________________________________________________________

=== Announcements ===
1. Food for Thought Fridays: Kane’s Record editorial

______________________________________________________________________

=== Announcements ===

1. Food for Thought Fridays: Kane’s Record editorial
Do you have a reaction to alumni David Kane’s editorial in the
Record? What does it mean to be “the best”? Come talk about it.
Today, Friday, 9/22, noon-1:00 p.m., Paresky 201
MORE: http://web.williams.edu/messages/show.php?id=43718
from Marlene Sandstrom, Dean of the College

The same invitation appears in the Daily Messages. Comments:

1) Op-ed is here. Seems like we ought to spend next week going though it in detail!

2) TL;DR: The mission of Williams is to be the best college in the world. To be the best college, we need the best students. Right now, we lose too many of the best students to places like Harvard, at least partially because the best students want to be surrounded by the smartest possible peers. To fix this, we need to change, at least for a few years, our admissions procedures so that our students are, on average, as smart as Harvard students. We also need to recruit desirable students, especially under-represented minorities, much more seriously.

3) Williams ought to invite this Kane fellow to give a speech on campus. He has some interesting ideas! Or would that be too uncomfortable?

4) Recommended discussion questions:

Does anyone disagree with the claim that, in order to be the best college in the world, we need the best students?

Does anyone disagree with the claim that Williams is a better college than Macalaster/Weslesyan, “not because our dining hall food is tastier, our professors are more learned or our facilities are more sumptuous, but because our students are smarter”?

Does it not follow that Princeton is a better college — on average, not necessarily for every high school senior — than Williams? If not, then why do 90% of the seniors admitted to both Princeton and Williams choose Princeton?

Are any of the claims made in the op-ed about the current Williams admissions process false?

5) If any readers attend the event, tell us how it goes.

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Official Notification Letters for Class of 2021

For future historians, below is how Williams informed admitted students.

Early decision:

earlyd

Early write:

early

Regular decision:

regular

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“One word … Law” has replaced ‘plastics’ for “The Graduate”

12665_bettercallsaulf

… better call Saul to the White House!

In case you forgot my 18 May post and the July 11 post (Redux). In May it was thought that “Dick Swart jumps the shark. Again.”

And for that Williams link: Although fewer Class of ’17 grads went on to law school v Amherst *, there should be no lack of job opportunity. Perhaps DDF should rethink his advice.**

   * Source … EphBlog!

**  Source … Ephblog yet again!

 

 

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Do Not Go To Law School

At least half the Ephs who attend law school are making a mistake. Their lives would be fuller, happier and, often, monetarily richer if they did something, anything else. I spent 30 minutes six years ago talking with a junior (and occasional EphBlog commentator) about why his ill-formed plans for attending law school were a bad idea. Below is a cleaned up version of what I told him. Other comments welcome.

1) The vast majority of Ephs who attend law school have little/no idea what law school or the practice of law are like. They have watched Law and Order. They know that successful corporate lawyers in big cities make a lot of money. They like thinking about constitutional issues in a class like PSCI 216: American Constitutionalism I: Structures of Power. But this knowledge provides almost no grounds for making a good decision. As Jeff notes:

The only definite advice I’d give is to figure out BEFORE law school one (or more) legal career paths that are of interest to you, and try to learn what a day in the life on those paths is truly like. Too many people pursue law school, and go into enormous debt, thinking that it will “open up doors.” 99 times out of 100, the only doors it uniquely opens are doors to traditional legal careers, typically in law firms, academia, or government.

Correct.

First, before you apply to law school, you should attend a normal (not staged for applicants) first year class in something like torts or civil procedure at Albany Law School or at a night school in your hometown over the summer. (Yes, I realize that this is a hassle. But don’t be stupid. You are about to spend $150,000 (at least) and devote three years of your life. You need to get a clue.) Find out what a real law school class is like. You will probably be shocked at how boring it is. Do you remember that annoying PHIL 102 class in which 2 or 3 dweebs prattled on endlessly about the most semantic/pointless disputes imaginable? That is what law school is like. If you do not enjoy detailed discussions about extremely minor points, you will not like law school.

Second, try reading some of the material from law school, like this set of cases about torts. Read at least 100 pages of cases and commentary before you apply. You will read thousands of pages in law school. Now is the time to find out if you want to. Just because you like the sort of readings assigned in a typical Williams class does not mean that you will like readings in the law.

Third, spend a day with a lawyer, a regular working attorney. There are several alumni in the Williamstown and Albany area who would be happy to let you shadow them for a day. Find out what their lives are like. It is not glamorous! Law jobs are varied, of course, but you owe it to yourself to learn about the profession before going into significant debt. (Note that pre-med students have much less to worry about in this regard. Their interactions with doctors growing up have been very representative of what most doctors spend most of their time doing.)

All of the above is the minimum you should do before applying to law school. Too many Williams students tell themselves some version of: “I like writing. I like reading. I like thinking. I was good at all those things before Williams and I have only gotten better at them. Lawyers seem to do a lot of writing, reading and thinking. So, I should go to law school.” This is faulty reasoning because law school (and law practice) are radically different from your Williams experience.

Even worse are the Williams students who think: “I get good grades at Williams. I like school and do well at it. I don’t really know what I want to do with my life. Getting a job doesn’t have much appeal. My parents will be happy if I go to law school. So, let’s apply!”

2) The vast majority of Ephs who attend law school have little/no idea what their likely career path in the law will be. At least 1/3 of the Williams students who apply to law school would not apply if they took the above steps. They would realize that law school and a legal career are not for them. But there are still many Ephs, even among the 2/3 who find tort law cases interesting and who were intrigued by the life of a lawyer, who are making a mistake in going to law school because they misestimate the odds of getting the law job that they want.

Consider:

It’s time those of us inside the profession did a better job of telling others outside the profession that most of us don’t earn $160,000 a year, that we can’t afford expensive suits, flashy cars, sexy apartments. We don’t lunch with rock stars or produce movies. Every year I’m surprised by the number of my students who think a J.D. degree is a ticket to fame, fortune and the envy of one’s peers — a sure ticket to the upper middle class. Even for the select few for whom it is, not many last long enough at their law firms to really enjoy it.

There’s something wrong with a system that makes a whole lot of people pay a whole lot of money for jobs that are not worth it, or that have no future. If we wanted to be honest, we would inform students that law school doesn’t keep their options open. Instead, we should say that if they work hard and do well, they can become lawyers.

Or:

Every year tens of thousands of wannabe lawyers enter law school. The majority will be extremely disappointed by their career opportunities.

Thus the title of this essay: law school is a big lie. People enter law school with the idea that a law degree is their ticket to a comfortable upper middle class lifestyle. In fact, just the opposite, law school for most is a ticket to a worse financial state than if they had not attended at all.

Read these posts. (What other links would Ephs suggest on this topic?) Now, to be fair, much of this advice is being given to students without a Williams IQ, students who are considering Tier II or Tier III law schools. Most Williams students attend highly ranked law schools. But even among the graduates of elite schools, the career paths are much more restricted then current undergraduates might suspect. The vast majority of Williams students who attend a highly ranked law school go in one of three directions. (And there is a great senior thesis to be written about the career paths and choices made by Williams students who attended law school over the last 50 years.)

First, they drop out of law altogether. Our lawyer readers can tell numerous stories about their classmates who no longer practice law. Almost none of those students go into a career that either required, or provides an advantage to those with, a legal education. They are just three years behind (and much more in debt) than the students who avoided law school. (If you and/or your family are independently wealthy, then, obviously, you can afford to spend three years in law school — or getting a Ph.D. in English Literature or sailing around the world or whatever — but almost all Williams students have money concerns.)

Second, they enter poorly paid government work. Now, there is nothing wrong with becoming a lawyer for the FDIC or HUD, but students need to be aware of the economic realities of those career paths. Most Williams students, to the extent that they want to work in government, are better off just going straight from Williams to those agencies. They will be in a position to climb the ladder faster without all the unnecessary debt.

Third, they enter BIG LAW, the elite law firms of the major cities in the US. Want to know what that is like? Read this:

Economically it represented a perfect reification of various Marxist theories. As associates we were wage slaves, members of a white-collar proletariat, objectively closer to the model described in Das Kapital than most nineteenth-century factory hands. It may seem odd to call someone a wage slave whose starting salary was $85,000 (though broken down per hour it was much less impressive). But the work of a junior associate, in reality, is being a clerk, a checker, the one whose job is on the line to make sure that the decimal points are in the right place. No one with an Ivy League education is going to perform this sort of drudgery for much less than 80 grand.

We were also faced with alienation from the products of our labor. You would work on the tiniest part of a huge transaction. You would never see the big picture, never know if your all-nighter made a difference, if your clauses appeared in the final documents, never even find out if the deal had gone through.

And this.

Biglaw women are more screwed because society expects more from mothers than “I pay the bills.” It’s BS, but it is where we still are. So on top of paying all the bills (to say nothing of actually carrying a child to term — you know, something that might get you laid off from K&L Gates), Biglaw women are also expected to invest the emotional and caretaking energy a family needs.

Which is impossible to do while billing the hours Biglaw requires. Not difficult, not challenging, it’s straight-up impossible. Biglaw women can break themselves in two and put on a cosmetically enhanced face and claim that they have the perfect job and family and life, but the only people stupid enough to buy it are younger women who want to be in Biglaw and aren’t yet able to deal with the fact that their career choices will have consequences in other areas of their lives.

What other articles about life in BIG LAW would readers recommend?

Both my parents are lawyers and both my grandfathers were lawyers. (And happy birthday Mom!) I was accepted to law school and (almost) attended. I am the sort of person who would have (and does at EphBlog!) liked arguing about minor points in endless detail. I know people who are perfect for a legal career. Yet most Williams students who apply to law school are completely uninformed about what that decision implies about their future.

Summary: Do not go to law school just because you are good at school, it will make your parents happy, and/or you don’t want to start a real job. Those may all be true, but they are bad reasons. First, learn about what law school and the legal profession are like. Second, understand what sort of career you are likely to have. At least 50% of the Williams students applying to law school from the class of 2018 are making a mistake. Avoid their error.

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Should this stamp be cancelled? Merely a question from a philatelic point-of-view …

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It is interesting to note that Williams students have been organizing a model UN at Mt Greylock through the Center for Learning in Action for any middle schoolers wanting to learn about MUN and international diplomacy. Read more about the skills two Ephs are offering middle-schoolers.

http://www.wlschools.org/page.cfm?p=673&newsid=683

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Presidential Search Thoughts and Opinions

Dear Ephs,

We hope your week is getting off to a smooth start! Together, we have the important task of helping choose the next President of Williams College. We need to hear your input and ideas to represent you!

Over the coming weeks, we will be reaching out to you in several ways such as:

  • A kickoff event on Thursday at 7PM in Baxter where you can speak directly with us and representatives of our search firm, SpencerStuart, while enjoying a free gelato sundae bar!

  • Poster boards around Baxter where you can add your voice by grabbing a sticky note and answering specific questions about what you want to see, starting tomorrow at lunch

  • An online survey tool where you can provide more in-depth suggestions about what matters to you (coming soon)

  • An email address for nominations and other specific feedback that will go directly to the SpencerStuart team at williamspresident@spencerstuart.com

  • More full-campus forums and events, where anyone can speak directly with us and other students about their thoughts (coming soon)

  • Opportunities for smaller meetings and conversations with us and/or the SpencerStuart staff (email us if you or your student group are interested!)

We are very grateful for your support in helping us take on this task. You will be hearing more from us soon and feel free to reach out with any questions or comments.

See you on Thursday night!

Sarah Hollinger ‘19 and Ben Gips ‘19
Student Representatives, Presidential Search Committee
shh1@williams.edu, bwg1@williams.edu

Edit: This was sent yesterday, at 3:31 pm.
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Further to ‘Panic’ post (below): the spatial context …

Screen Shot 2017-09-20 at 7.03.22 AM

Graffiti as a statement might be a bit more bold.

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Please Falk, Stop Panicking

Adam Falk has a habit of panicking at the sight of graffiti. This is an unhelpful personality tick for a Williams president to have in this day and age. The more he panics — the more all-campus e-mails, the more calls to the police, the more sturm und drang — the more graffiti incidents to come. Feeding the trolls is a bad idea, on the web or at Williams.

Consider the latest incident. Here is the photo:

Banner

Here is a close up:

kkcloseup

If just this (inconclusive!) image causes you to call the police (!), you are a fool.

First, it is not clear if this is actual graffiti! Those 3 Ks look different, as if they were written at different times, perhaps with different pens. The first two Ks seem fairly intentional. Perhaps there is a student nicknamed KK in the class of 2019? It would certainly be wise to try to find out before calling the FBI. (Not sure if Williams called the FBI on this one, but they have done so in the past.) In fact, it could be that the third K was written first (I see other faded out letters around it) and then the KK was added.

Second, even if this was written intentionally, the odds are that it was done so by a left-wing student, not by an actual supporter of the KKK. Recall that the Griffin Hall KKK vandalism last fall was created by left-wing students upset at Trump’s election. The racist graffiti in Prospect in 2011 was written by Jess Torres ’12, a minority Democratic activist.

Third, even if it was done intentionally and was not written by a left-wing student, it might have been done innocently. I realize that my Eph social justice warrior friends think that KKK is one of the worst symbols in the world and that everyone knows this. But (sadly?) that isn’t true. There are 200+ non-US citizens at Williams, many of them as clueless about American racial politics as you, dear reader, are about, say, Hindu nationalism. Recall the KKK cook-out of 2004.

fistFourth, even if it was done intentionally by someone who understood the meaning of KKK, it does not follow that punishment is a allowable (or wise) course of action. Note that the clenched fist on the poster, which seems likely (just to me?) to be a nod to the traditional symbol of Black Power. Once the College allows political symbols to be included on the banner — without any indication that this is against the rules — it would have trouble punishing someone for putting a different political symbol on the same banner. (It could forbid it and/or remove KKK. But it would have difficulty punishing a student for doing that, or at least with punishing a student willing to fight the system.

Instead of panicking, Falk should take a page out of Morty’s handbook and ignore the trolls. Students do stupid things and the bigger a deal you make of it, the more likely you are to get more of it. Now, if real damage is being done (as in Griffin) or serious (fake!) threats are being made (as in Prospect), then you do need to investigate. But for trivial stuff like this, your best bet is silence.

Recall how Morty handled Mary Jane Hitler a decade ago. Summary: This was an infinitely more serious situation with an actual Nazi on campus, putting up posters on student dorm room doors, with help from his Eph girlfriend, who Morty decided not to punish in any way.

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The Death of Faculty Governance at Williams

Note this Record interview with Falk:

Falk demurs on the notion that the College has grown more bureaucratic, emphasizing his belief that the goal of any hiring and reorganization was directly tied to the betterment of the community. “There had been great growth in the endowment in the previous decade [before I was president] and I think that it had put the College in a position where we didn’t have to make the same kind of difficult choices between different funding priorities that we would have to make once the endowment dropped 30 percent,” Falk said. “And we are just a more complex operation then we used to be. We have a debt portfolio of $300 million. We have a complicated [human resources structure], a complicated facilities operation, a childcare center, a controller’s office and auditors that are doing more and more sophisticated work. A lot of that is really hard work for a faculty member to rotate in every few years and do as effectively as someone who’s a really strong professional.”

The (anonymous!) faculty member who points out this passage asked some (rhetorical!) questions:

Falk’s opinion of faculty governance is on full display here. He clearly prefers a “really strong professional” to make the “difficult choices between different funding priorities.”

Exactly right. Most Williams presidents are remembered, at most, for one thing: Sawyer abolished fraternities. Chandler created Winter Study. Oakley instituted tutorials. What will Falk be remembered for 30 years from now? Tough to say, but one contender is: Put the final nail in the coffin of faculty governance.

Is it truly the case that students and faculty are comfortable with having unaccountable administrators in charge of the really difficult decisions?

Students don’t care, obviously. Faculty (like my correspondent!) love to complain but, when push came to shove, they did nothing of substance. Recall the “alignment” (pdf) that Falk outlined 7 years ago this week. I devoted nine days of discussion to explaining what this meant: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. Read it if you want to understand the past/future of faculty governance at Williams. Short version: Faculty governance has decreased each decade at Williams for at least the last 50 years. Falk accelerated/completed that change.

Does he really have such a low opinion of the faculty who have taken on administrative roles?

That is unfair. Falk loves Dukes Love and Denise Buell and Marlene Sandstrom. There are a dozen or more faculty at Williams who want/wanted those jobs. Falk turned all of them down, in preference for the ones he picked. But, at the same time, Falk (and the trustees!) want to pay Chilton/Puddestar/Klass two or three times as much money Love/Buell/Sandstrom and give the former much more power.

If so, what is his opinion of the other faculty and their voice in charting a path for the College?

They should shut up. There are a dozen (or a score? or more?) faculty at Williams that Falk has never had a meaningful one-on-one conversation with.

In any organization, the power lies with a) the people paid the most and b) the people who spend the most time talking with the boss. At Williams, a) and b) describe the senior administrators, not the senior faculty.

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RAIN!

3063339508_154a99432a_b   Oneonta-Rain      J Seward Johnson*                                                       Mark Adamus

It has been since the 16th of June. This will be a welcome soaking to the 950 firefighters working on the 44, 000 acre blaze in the Columbia Gorge.

I am posting this with a specific reference to this fire warning on Williams campus safety:

https://security.williams.edu/css-duties-services/fire-alarm-system/

Would that someone had instructed the 15 year old boy not to throw a firecracker into a tinder-dry 200 foot gorge.

* Mister Portland … “Allow me”.  Johnson bio here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Seward_Johnson_II

 

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Williams Uses Racial Goals in Admissions

Williams, as the College would be quick to tell you, does not use racial “quotas” in admissions. It does not require that there be, exactly, 50 African-American students in each class. But Williams does have ethnic/racial goals. It wants a class that looks like America.

From the Record in 1998:

There are no specific quotas to be filled in the admissions process at Williams, Director of Admissions Thomas Parker explained. Rather, the admissions Office tries to admit a class that reflects national populations.

From the Record in 2012:

[Former Vice President for Strategic Planning and Institutional Diversity Mike Reed ’75] explained that the College tries to model its student body on an “approximate mirroring” of the country, which requires recruiting students of color who otherwise would not apply.

A faculty friend reports, after talking with newish Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Liz Creighton ’01, that the same policy is true today. Creighton believes that ethnic/racial breakdown of US students at Williams should match, as close as possible, the ethnic/racial breakdown of the college-age US population, at least when it comes to African-Americans and Hispanics.

This is true, not just at Williams, but across elite higher education in the US. Occasionally, uninformed people don’t realize this or naive people deny it. Purpose of this post is to document that they are wrong.

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The Houses of Williamstown: Baxter Hall … (Reissue)

(This is the last post in a series of 16) This was originally posted 26 Nov, 2009. Sharp eyes may have noticed the disconnect between 14 and 16: namely Zeta Psi. The Zetes reissue was posted on May 20, 2017. http://ephblog.com/?s=zeta+psi+house

 

Final NA top
Continues under the fold Read more

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Update on defacement of class banner

To the Williams community,

After seeing my campus message this afternoon about the defacement of the class banner in the ’82 Grill, students came forward and shared relevant information with Campus Safety. As a result, we are now confident that the “KKK” symbol was present on the banner as of last spring, and potentially earlier.

I want to thank those who reached out to communicate with CSS. They significantly aided the investigation. It does not eliminate the harmful impact of the incident. But it demonstrates the kind of community effort needed, in our continuing fight against racial hatred and other forms of bias.

Adam Falk
President

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Defacement of class banner in ’82 Grill

To the Williams community,

Just after 11:00 PM on Friday, September 15, Campus Safety and Security (CSS) received a report from a student who noticed that someone had defaced the Class of 2019 banner in the ’82 Grill by writing “KKK” among the names, in the same color of marker. I am attaching a photo of the banner, with the letters circled, so you can see it for yourself.

Campus Safety and Security staff notified the Williamstown Police, who photographed the site. CSS then promptly took the banner down and secured it. They are now working to try and determine the timeline and identify the perpetrator. Anyone found to be involved will be held accountable.

The banner was originally signed in Fall 2015. The small size of the letters and the dim lighting of the display space mean we do not know whether the act was committed recently, or went unnoticed for some longer period of time. Anyone who has information they think may be pertinent should contact Campus Safety at 413-597-4444.

If you have experienced an incident of bias or are aware of one, please report it immediately. If you are unsure whether a specific incident constitutes bias, you can find information about our policies and community standards on the Office of Diversity and Institutional Equity website.

The symbol “KKK” has long been used as a weapon, to intimidate and instill fear. We cannot yet know the writer’s intention, but the nature of a weapon is that it does harm regardless of intent. When someone inscribed those letters, or defaced the banner with them afterwards, they harmed our community. The fact that the investigation is ongoing should not delay us from turning to each other to offer help and care.

Adam Falk
President

 
Attached photo:
Banner

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NESCAC Suggestions, 3

Some crazy Williams alum sent this letter (pdf) to all the presidents of NESCAC schools. Let’s spend three days talking about it. Today is Day 3.

NESCAC schools should measure and make public the academic accomplishments of their student athletes, both in high school (AP/SAT scores) and in college (GPA, majors).

Suggestions:

  • In the first (trial) year, allow each school to present the information in whatever way it prefers. (Smart presidents will simply delegate the task to their athletic directors and institutional researchers.) Since no (?) athletic conference has done this before, it is not clear what the best approach might be.
  • Any statistic should be presented in three different ways: for the entire student body, for the team as a whole and for the team weighted by playing time. (The last measure discourages coaches from stacking teams with academically accomplished benchwarmers.) FERPA prevents schools from releasing data about an individual student, but there is no law against making aggregate data available.
  • Include data from both high school and college. We want to demonstrate both the affect of athletics on admissions and, even more importantly, how athletes perform in college.

There are several benefits to greater transparency about the academic performance of NESCAC athletes. First, it would publicly demonstrate a fact that many non-athletes doubt: On the whole, athletes are similar in their academic qualifications and accomplishments to non-athletes. Second, it would encourage coaches to make academics a bigger focus in both their recruiting and their mentorship. If you (partially) measure coaches by the academic performance of their teams, you will get better academic performance. Third, it will prevent coaches/schools from complaining, inaccurately, about the behavior of their peers. Right now, coach X loves to claim that school Y unfairly lowers standards for its recruits. Who knows? With transparency, we can observe institutional behavior easily.

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NESCAC Suggestions, 2

Some crazy Williams alum sent this letter (pdf) to all the presidents of NESCAC schools. Let’s spend three days talking about it. Today is Day 2.

NESCAC schools should disallow participation by athletes older than 22 (except, in individual cases, by unanimous consent of the NESCAC presidents).

The average age of student athletes in NESCAC continues to increase, further deepening the athlete/non-athlete divide at most schools. This is especially true for starters in high profile sports. Indeed, it is hard to find a NESCAC men’s hockey team in which several of the best players are not two years older than their classmates after spending several years in junior hockey. Although many students use the PG (post-graduate) year option to better prepare for the rigors of NESCAC academics, others (and the coaches who recruit them) use it as a red shirt year, a chance to become a better athlete. Since athletic ability peaks in your late 20s, this aging-of-athletes process will only continue. This isn’t too large a problem now, which makes it all the easier to end. Exceptions, by unanimous consent of the NESCAC presidents could be made in individual cases, like the military veteran who starts college at 21 and was not recruited specifically for his athletic talent. Once coaches know that they can’t play outstanding athletes who are too old, they will find plenty of 18-year-olds to recruit.

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For those interested in spies and tradecraft …

79f9c078764335a893bb6d12056ea644   34496624._UY630_SR1200,630_

 … and I am sure you might even catch a whiff about one or two of your classmates, John LaCarre’s new book, A Legacy of Spies, is out!

In the opening para you realize it is going to concern LaCarre’s first iconic spy, the one who came in from the cold, Alec Leamas. And include most familiar names and ancient doings from The Spy Who Came In From The Cold plus the trilogy: Tinker, Tailor, Honorable Schoolboy, and Smiley’s Friends. And indeed, the Great Man Himself:

Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 5.37.04 PM

Here is  a rave review in The Guardian …

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/sep/07/legacy-of-spies-john-le-carre-review

And for my redoubtable friend DDF and his rather limited view on blog acceptability, who better a reference than James Phinney Baxter himself! First head of the Research and Analysis Section of the OSS.

 

 

 

imgres

https://www.cia.gov/news-information/featured-story-archive/2010-featured-story-archive/oss-research-and-analysis.html

 

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NESCAC Suggestions, 1

Some crazy Williams alum sent this letter (pdf) to all the presidents of NESCAC schools. Let’s spend three days talking about it. Today is Day 1.

Football is too dangerous.

The National Football League, which for years disputed evidence that its players had a high rate of severe brain damage, has stated in federal court documents that it expects nearly a third of retired players to develop long-term cognitive problems and that the conditions are likely to emerge at “notably younger ages” than in the general population.*

NESCAC football may be less dangerous than playing in the NFL, but there is every reason to believe that it is more dangerous, by an order of magnitude, than every other NESCAC sport. More importantly, the defenses for football are weak:

“No student is forced to play football. To the extent doing so is dangerous, it is a student’s choice, just like participation in other risky activities like rock climbing.” The vast majority of starting players on most (all?) NESCAC football teams would not have been admitted to their school if they did not agree to play football. They don’t really have any “choice,” at least if they are being honest with the coach who is recruiting them. If they tell the coach that, while they would love to go to school X, they don’t plan on playing football, the coach won’t put them on his list and they won’t be accepted.

“Ending football would be too unpopular among the alumni and/or major donors.” Connecticut College has no football program, and yet does as well as the average NESCAC school in terms of alumni giving and loyalty. Swarthmore ended football 15 years ago and, after a short-lived controversy, has raised as much money as almost any liberal arts college.

“Football may be dangerous for students but it is not dangerous for the College.” The first football lawsuit against a NESCAC school is not far away. If the NFL was willing to pay millions to injured players, even those who had only been in the league for a season or two, why wouldn’t the same reasoning apply to four-year NESCAC players? Do you want to be deposed by a plaintiff’s attorney about what you knew about the risks of football? Do your trustees? Organizations with hundreds of millions of dollars in assets attract lawsuits. The more years you allow football to continue, the greater the potential liability.

* “Brain Trauma to Affect One in Three Players, N.F.L. Agrees” New York Times, September 12, 2014.

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We’re #1 (for the 15th year in a row)

Williams is #1 in the US News ranking, for the 15th year in a row.

Two schools have a lock on No. 1: Princeton University topped the U.S. News national university list for the seventh straight year, and Williams College led the liberal arts list for the 15th straight year.

Every time that we appear in a sentence like this (with Princeton!), the better for our brand. (And if you find that notion of the College’s “brand” to be distasteful, you are a child. Parents will not pay a quarter million dollars for something with a less-than-amazing reputation.)

1) We did a detailed dive into the rankings last year. Should we revisit? If so, I would need someone to send me the underlying data. See here and here for previous discussions.

2) Kudos to Adam Falk, and the rest of the Williams administration. Maintaining the #1 ranking is important, especially for recruiting students who are less rich, less well-educated and less American. There is no better way to get a poor (but really smart) kid from Los Angeles (or Singapore) to consider Williams than to highlight that we are the best college in the country.

3) Many schools do a lot of suspect/sleazy things to improve their rank. Does Williams? Morty, infamously, capped discussion class size at 19 to ensure that the maximum number of classes met this US News cut-off.

4) There is a great senior thesis to be written about the rankings, similar to this article on the US News law school rankings. If you write such a thesis, hundreds of people around the country will read it.

5) Any comments on changes in the rankings below us?

6) Below the break is a copy of the methodology, saved for the benefit of future historians. Read more

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What Should I Do?

As long as there is an EphBlog, there will be a remembrance of the three Ephs who died on 9/11: Howard Kestenbaum ’67, Lindsay Morehouse ’00 and Brian Murphy ’80. Previous entries here and here.

morehouse

Keefe, Bruyette and Woods, a stock brokerage and an investment bank, occupied three floors of the South Tower of the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001. Lindsay S. Morehouse ’00, a new research assistant, was working on the 89th floor when American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North Tower at 8:46 AM. As The 9-11 Commission Report describes in chilling detail, there was little consensus about what denizens of the South Tower should do. Howard Kestenbaum ’67 and others started to leave the building. Lindsay Morehouse did not. She and her co-workers did not know — they could not know — that United Airlines Flight 175 was only minutes away from impact. They stayed were they were.

“What should I do?”

Flight 175 struck the South Tower at 9:03, crashing in between floors 78 and 84. Lindsay was just 5 floors above. She, and hundreds of others, survived the impact. They did not know — they could not know — that the South Tower would collapse in less than one hour.

Even five years later, the bits and pieces of a life well-lived and yet unfinished remain..

morehouse01On September 10, a dream came true for Lindsay Morehouse, an investment banker with Keefe, Bruyette and Woods. She was accepted as a volunteer at Big Brothers and Big Sisters of New York and eagerly awaited the name of her new little sister. A college tennis star who led the Williams College women’s team to the NCAA finals in her junior year, she continually sought challenges and new adventures.

Only 24 years old, she had already visited New Zealand, France, Italy, New Mexico and Greece. She had been bungy-jumping and rock-climbing. She was famous among her huge circle of friends, teammates, colleagues and loved ones for her intensity and deep feelings, for being as demanding of herself as she was of each relationship in her life.

Her passions were varied: gnocchi and Indian food, “Rent” and “Les Miserable,” the Yankees and kittens. It seemed that every time she touched a life, she made a life-long friend, as witnessed by the crowd of more than 800 mourners at her memorial service on September 15.

“What should I do?”

Lindsay had come to Williams from St. Paul’s School. Her love of tennis and academic seriousness were clear even then.

morehouse08Mrs. Maycen also talked about her daughter’s affection for St. Paul’s School and how the scholarship in her name honors Lindsay’s feelings toward the School.

“I remember clearly cleaning out her room on her last day at St. Paul’s. She said, ‘Mom, I’ve just loved this school. I just love St. Paul’s.’ Fast forward and in the last week of her life, she was accepted into the Big Sister program in New York City,” said Mrs. Maycen. “She was coming full circle; wanting to help people less privileged than she was. That’s why this scholarship is just so fitting. Giving a talented student the opportunity to have what she experienced at St. Paul’s is a wonderful way to carry on Lindsay’s desire to help others.”

Lindsay’s mother said that she believes her daughter would be honored to know that a scholarship in her name would provide individuals with leadership potential an opportunity to come to St. Paul’s, and to take full advantage of all the School has to offer; much like Lindsay did herself.

“I just know that, from her perch above, Lindsay is pleased, proud, and humbled to have a scholarship in her name at the school she loved so well,” said Mrs. Maycen.

“What should I do?”

Professor Michael Lewis shared these memories:

morehouse11I have written a great deal about monuments and memorials, particularly those at Ground Zero in New York. And in judging the design proposals, I always found myself thinking about Lindsay Morehouse, and what would be the appropriately dignified and heartfelt way to remember her.

I met Lindsay in 1998 when she took my architecture course. This was a large class, about fifty students, but she was the first one I got to know, and all because of a terrific misunderstanding on my part.

Long ago I realized how important the first day of a class is. This is where you can set the tone t, and if you want the students to feel that they can speak, and ask questions, and make comments, this has to happen in the very first class. By the second, it’s difficult; by the third, it’s too late. The invisible wall has come down. And so on that first day, you need to encourage students to make comments – so they can see that they will be listened to with appreciation and thoughtfulness, and not be snubbed. The professor cannot seem to be on a fishing expedition, wanting only to hear only a particular sentence. The instant he shows the slightest hint of disappointment over a student comment – or says those fatal words, “anybody else?” – the game is over. The freeze sets in and the class will never thaw.

Therefore, to make this happen, I deliberately put a couple of images in my first lecture that invite questions – open-ended questions where there is no such thing as a wrong answer. If student don’t automatically raise their hand, I look for someone who seems just on the verge of asking. You can always tell who doesn’t want to be singled out.

On that particular day it was Lindsay Morehouse I noticed, sitting in the second or third row on the right. She had that alert, pleasantly curious expression that tells you that she’s following right along, is engaged and responsive, and seems delighted to participate. What do you think? I asked her, and whatever she said was useful and helpful, because the class moved along happily afterwards, and I left thinking that the first class was a success.

The next day I headed to my office hours, knowing that there would be no one there, because it was only the first week of the semester. But there was Lindsay, outside my office, evidently waiting for me. I could not imagine why, but when she stepped in I could see that her face was red. I asked her if something was wrong, and she began to weep. The she said a sentence that I can still hear almost twenty years later: why were you picking on me?

It took me a moment to realize exactly what she meant, and then it was my turn to feel terrible. What I thought was relaxed banter in the class, she felt as if she had been cruelly put on the spot, without warning. I handed Lindsay a tissue, and explained just what I wrote above – that I did this on purpose, to create a certain exciting mood in the lecture hall where everyone feels allowed to comment and participate, and no one’s ideas are ever brushed off. I also explained how I looked for engaged and curious faces who seemed they wanted to comment, and that she seemed to be that person. And I told her this was the only time that I had read the signals wrong.

It is a funny law of life that after a misunderstanding or any tense confrontation with someone, you tend to feel closer to the person. This was the case with us. For the rest of the semester Lindsay was a superb presence in the classroom –just as engaged and curious as I had thought at the beginning. I soon discovered she was one of the stars of our tennis team and she often came to class in her tennis whites.

Williams sawyer library

One of the assignments was to make a new facade for Sawyer Library in the style of one of the architects we studied, and she turned in an imaginative and fabulously witty Neo-Palladian design, complete with statues teetering on the parapet. I still have it.

Lindsay_Morehouse

Lindsay showed she had a knack for architectural thinking and we even looked at creating a winter study project where she could do an advanced architectural project, but I was on leave and this didn’t happen. I later found out she had talked to her mother about this project, and her regret that we couldn’t make it work.

On September 11, I had heard that Lindsay had been working in one of the World Trade Center buildings. Two days later, the 13th, I was walking into my American art class, just about to launch into the second lecture of the year. I happened to pass my friend Dave Johnson, our tennis coach, and asked if there was any news about Lindsay. This was that time of confusion when there was still hope that some people might be trapped in the subway beneath the building, and might be rescued. And to my shock, Dave said that the memorial service was going to be Saturday. He explained to me that there was no doubt that she was lost, and that she was on the phone as it happened.

morehouse09This happened seconds before I was to walk to the podium and lecture to my American art class – which happened to be the only one I ever taught that filled the room to its 110-seat capacity. I started to tell them about Lindsay, whom many of them know, and then I cried like a baby in the room, which immediately fell silent. Although I pulled myself together to give the lecture, I was rather chagrinned. As I left the room I bumped into my colleague Sheafe Satterthwaite and I told him of my embarrassment, and that I had never openly cried in front of my students before. Satterthwaite thought about it and said simply, “it will endear you to them.”

And so that is the symmetry of my relationship to Lindsay Morehouse, which began with her tears and ended with mine.

“What should I do?”

News reached Williams slowly.

In a third message on Friday [9/14] afternoon, President Schapiro announced that one recent Williams graduate, Lindsay Morehouse ’00, was known to be missing in the attack on the World Trade Center. Morehouse was an economics major and a captain of the women’s tennis team. Betsy Brainerd, an assistant professor of economics who had Morehouse in two of her classes, remembered her as “a warm and vital young woman with a great outlook on life.”

Other members of the economics department also shared fond memories of Morehouse. Roger Bolton said that he “still [has] many of the e-mails she sent as ‘Linz’ with questions on how she could make her work as good as possible, and always with a ‘thanks’ in advance.”

“I will miss Lindsay,” Kaye Husbands-Fealing, an economics professor, said. “As I watched television this week and I saw survivors that were about her age, I could see her face in theirs. Her indomitable spirit lives on. May God bless her; may God bless her family.”

“What should I do?”

This was the last question that Lindsay’s father was to hear from his daughter, the last time that he would listen to her voice, the last chance that he would have to try to protect her from a too cruel world. Yet there was little he could do.

Morehouse called her father after the first plane hit the other tower to say that she was safe and that she had been instructed to stay in the building. She called a second time after the second plane hit her tower. That call was cut off.

And that was all. Lindsay, like more than 1/3 of the employees of Keefe, Bruyette and Woods, died that day. Neither fathers nor mothers, husbands nor wives, brothers nor sisters could save them. Although the most important tragedy of 9/11 is the deaths of thousands of innocents like Lindsay Morehouse — thousands of people who gave more to life, and had more left to give, than we can ever fully know — the rest of us must shoulder the burden of survival, of wondering what we might have done differently to save them, of worrying about the telephone call which might come to us someday.

“What should I do?”

I do not dread asking this question. I dread trying to answer it. Lindsay Morehouse was not just one man’s daughter. She was a daughter to all of us. May my own daughters be spared her fate.

Condolences to all.

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Information about a Recent Campus Incident

From: Marlene Sandstrom
Date: September 10, 2017 at 6:49:14 PM EDT
To: WILLIAMS-STUDENTS@LISTSERV.WILLIAMS.EDU
Subject: information about a recent campus incident
Reply-To: Marlene Sandstrom

Williams students,

We write to inform you of a campus incident earlier this week that you should be aware of.

In the early hours of Thursday morning, two students defaced the door of their friend’s dorm room by painting on it. (We are not disclosing the dorm because the conduct process is confidential.) One of the two students wrote “I like beer.” The second student painted a swastika, and then quickly covered it with more paint to make it illegible. The students then removed all the paint from the door.

The student who painted the swastika reported to campus authorities what they had done. The college has begun disciplinary proceedings, and the student will be held accountable under our campus code of conduct. In addition, we will continue speaking directly with the students who were involved or immediately affected in the dorm where the painting occurred.

None of the people directly involved felt targeted as a function of their identity. For that reason we instigated our investigation and conduct processes without initially making a larger campus announcement. However, several JAs have reported that other students who heard partial accounts of the incident were concerned, especially in the aftermath of Charlottesville and other troubling events. Understanding their concerns, we want you to have full information about what happened and know what steps are being taken, and to assure you that we have no basis for thinking the incident points to an ongoing threat.

Defacing our campus is unacceptable at any time. But the use of a swastika, even as a “prank,” shows a lack of sensitivity to how that symbol has been used as a weapon of intimidation and hatred, both historically and in recent incidents around the country.

If you want support, or if you have questions, please contact the Dean’s Office, the Office of Institutional Diversity & Equity our Chaplains, the Davis Center or Wellbeing Services. And if you have experienced an incident of bias or are aware of one, please report it immediately so the college can step in.

Williams is a place where we all come freely to learn and live. It is at its best when we live up to the college’s values and make everyone feel equally welcome. This is a moment to reaffirm that commitment. We assure you that we are doing our part, and hope you will join with us to stand for Williams as a place of inclusivity and respect.

Marlene Sandstrom
Dean of the College

Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes
Vice President
Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity

Stephen Klass
VP for Campus Life
Williams College

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The Houses of Williamstown: Theta Delta Chi … (Reissue)

(This is the 14th of a series of 16 posts). This was originally posted 18 Nov, 2009. Click COMMENTtto see the full article.
tdx Top copy
Article continues under the fold Read more

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I am Williams

Our friends at the Williams libraries need to read EphBlog more often! The author is Professor of Rhetoric Carroll Lewis Maxey and the date is sometime before 1926. Background here.

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DeVos Speech on Due Process

Former Williams professor KC Johnson writing (with Stuart Taylor) in the Wall Street Journal:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has made clear her intention to correct one of the Obama administration’s worst excesses—its unjust rules governing sexual misconduct on college campuses. In a forceful speech Thursday at Virginia’s George Mason University, Mrs. DeVos said that “one rape is one too many”—but also that “one person denied due process is one too many.” Mrs. DeVos declared that “every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined.”

This might seem like an obvious affirmation of fundamental American principles. But such sentiments were almost wholly absent in discussions about campus sexual assault from the Obama White House and Education Department. Instead, as Mrs. DeVos noted, officials “weaponized” the department’s Office for Civil Rights, imposing policies that have “failed too many students.”

Indeed. Do any of our readers think that the John Doe of Safety Dance should be denied, forever, his Williams degree even though he has completed all his classes?

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Looking forward to our semester ahead

To the Williams community,

Welcome back! As you heard over the summer, this term will be my last at Williams, before I move to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in late December. I’ll miss a lot about this place, but what I think I’ll miss the most is our sense of community—the fact that everything we achieve we achieve together.

Even over this last summer, we’ve continued the work of building our community and strengthening support for it. To cite just a few examples, this fall we’re welcoming twenty-two new tenure-track faculty into one of the finest cohorts of teachers and scholars in the world. We’re also celebrating the most diverse entering class in Williams history, and one of the most highly-qualified. We’re approaching completion of the first phase of the Science Center project, a vital home for teaching, learning, and research. We’ve opened a bookstore that’s bringing new energy to Spring Street—as will the new Williams Inn when it opens in 2019. And we’re making tremendous progress on the Teach It Forward campaign, with more than $560M raised so far, and thousands of Ephs giving time as mentors, volunteers, and more.

As we start this semester, the energy on campus is palpable. But so is the uncertainty. We’re coming together after a summer that laid bare—in Charlottesville and elsewhere—troubling fault lines in our national community. Then, last month, Hurricane Harvey further tested America’s resilience. There were Williams people caught in both storms, or personally affected by them. My heart goes out to them, as I know yours does, too.

It turns out the Purple Valley isn’t really a bubble at all. What happens in the world affects us here. If the nature of that impact is not yet clear, then we should take this time to think ahead about who we’ll want to be, and how we’ll want to act, in those moments when our values will be tested.

One of the great strengths we can draw on in such work is our commitment to each other. That doesn’t mean we need to think alike. Williams is a place where we respect, explore, and engage with differences. When we disagree, we aim to do so intelligently, openly, and with integrity. But there’s one proposition that isn’t up for debate: that every member of this community is of equal worth and has an equal right to be here. This simple truth is the essential value on which our community rests. Williams accepts students of all backgrounds who are committed to higher learning, and strives to sends them into the world as thoughtful and effective and moral people. Especially in light of the events of the past year, we should recommit ourselves to this purpose as we gather anew this week. Let’s look at what has happened in the world and think about how we’re going to meet the challenges ahead.

Much will become possible if we work together. Williams is a place where every person can and should bring their fullest self to our community, and where we should aim to contribute as much to this place as we draw from it. That’s what I’m going to commit to making possible in my last semester in the Purple Valley. I hope you’ll join me.

 

Adam Falk

President
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Drop/Add is now open– It’s time to explore courses!

Greetings, Ephs!

Welcome to Fall 2017 Drop/Add period! This is an opportunity to think about all we can explore and learn in the upcoming semester as we prepare to begin classes.

It’s time to make the most of Your 32 courses.

Many of your professors and classmates––and even President Falk––have been changed by one course they took outside of their comfort zone. They made the most of their 32. You can hear their stories in this short video.

As you’re solidifying your courses for this fall, you may want to consider:

  1. Taking a class in every division. This help you complete your divisional requirements, and it will encourage you to have a diverse schedule.
  2. Taking a class in a discipline you have never studied before. There are so many departments at Williams, and all of them are incredible! Try something new––perhaps you’ll fall in love with astronomy, or theater, or sociology, or any other discipline.
  3. Taking a class that uses different teaching methods. Never taken a course with an experiential component? Always wanted to try a lab course? This fall could be your semester to take a course in a totally different format.

Your 32 courses are an incredible opportunity to explore interests, challenge yourself, and learn about incredible topics. Take a risk. Try something new.

And, email professors to learn more about their courses! Professors often welcome students who are “shopping” courses to drop by their class on the first day. If you are interested in exploring a course by attending the first class meeting, contact the professor ahead of time. There is even a handy guide to help you write these sometimes-daunting emails.

This advice, we hope, is as true for first-years as it is for seniors. It is never too late to try something new.

These are Your 32.

They are Your Chance to Explore.

Drop/Add ends on September 15th. Feel free to contact us with any questions or comments. We would love to hear from you!

Yours in a love of course exploration,

Arielle Rawlings ’18
College Council Vice President for Academic Affairs
Stephanie Caridad ’18
Student Chair to the Committee for Educational Affairs
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More Perfect Unions

Interesting Labor Day thoughts from Oren Cass ’05:

Organized labor is neither inherently partisan nor inherently counterproductive economically. In theory, an arrangement by which workers “bargain collectively” and offer “mutual aid,” as the NLRA establishes is their right, can be a neutral or even positive part of a flourishing market economy. Other countries have implemented labor systems sharply different from—and more effective than—the American one. Even within the U.S., examples exist of organized labor’s potential to operate more constructively. A reformed legal framework for labor could help address several critical challenges, including the plight of less skilled workers struggling in the modern economy. It’s time for a new approach.

Effective reform would have four elements. First, the NLRA must no longer have exclusive jurisdiction over relationships between employers and organizations of workers. Its definition of a covered “labor organization” must narrow from all organizations of employees whose purpose is “dealing with employers” to only those established for the purpose of using NLRA-defined rights and processes. The 8(a)(2) prohibition on nonunion collaboration between employers and workers must go. None of these changes affects the ability of a union to operate with its current model—to the extent that workers choose it.

Second, the government should formally recognize the existence of the “labor co-operative”: a nonprofit controlled by its dues-paying members for the purpose of advancing their employment and creating value, rather than merely reallocating it. Co-ops will be held to governance and financial standards appropriate to their potential roles and will be eligible to partner with government in delivering benefits. They will also have the capacity to earn recognition as the collective representative of employees in a given workplace, but their existence will not depend on such recognition.

Read the whole thing, although I doubt that my leftist Eph friends will find Cass’s argument very compelling.

A more concise version of the argument is available in the Wall Street Journal.

It is a shame that Cass was such an obnoxious Never Trumper. The Administration would benefit from his energy and ideas.

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Today’s DACA announcement

All campus email from Adam Falk, Tue, Sep 5, 2017 at 12:04 PM:

 

To the campus community,

This morning, Attorney General Sessions announced the cancelation of the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program. Under DACA, since 2012, people who entered or were brought into this country illegally while minors have been eligible for a two-year, renewable deferral from deportation, as well as a work permit. The cancelation means the program will no longer accept new applications. It has also created uncertainty about the status of the more than 800,000 people who already hold DACA deferrals or permits.

Given this uncertainty, I want to affirm some important commitments Williams has already made to our community:

Staff who are aware that someone on campus needs help in light of the DACA cancelation will reach out to them privately with offers of support. If you need assistance, please contact the Dean’s office, our Chaplains, the Davis Center, or Counseling Services. This can be done confidentially.

Williams will not provide student or employee information to government agencies or their officers unless presented with a legitimate court order. Such agencies and people are also prohibited from conducting interviews, searches, or detentions on campus without a warrant or probable cause. You can always call Campus Safety at 413-597-4444 if you see anything you are unsure of.

Anyone admitted to or employed by Williams is a welcome member of this community, entitled to full rights, services, and protections. We will not tolerate bias or prejudice toward our people on the basis of DACA status or other identity attributes. If you experience bias or see it happening to someone else, use the reporting feature on the Williams: Speak Up! website to let the college know so that we can intervene.

We will continue to work with our colleagues in higher education and our legislative delegation to advocate for protection for undocumented students.

Many Williams faculty, staff, and students came here from other countries, or are the children of immigrants, as am I. We are all better off for their decision to make Williams their home. Faced with this latest news, we will begin where we always begin in such moments: by living out our values, and caring for those around us.

Sincerely,

Adam Falk
President

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Fall 2017 Course Advice

Fall classes start tomorrow. Our advice:

Your major does not matter! One of the biggest confusions among Williams students is the belief that future employers care about your major, that, for example, studying economics helps you get a job in business. It doesn’t! So, major in what you love.

But future employers are often interested in two things. First, can you get the computer to do what you want it to do? Second, can you help them analyze data to make them more successful? Major in Dance (if you love dance) but take 4 or so classes in computer science and statistics. With that as background, you will be competitive with any of your Williams classmates when it comes time to apply for internships/jobs.

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

ANTH 328: Emotions and the Self with Peter Just.

NSCI 317: Nature via Nurture: Topics in Developmental Psychobiology with Betty Zimmerberg.

PHIL 242: People Power with Alan White.

ECON 228: Water as a Scarce Resource with Ralph Bradburd.

Too many first years take a big intro class because they think they “should.” They shouldn’t! Even a “bad” tutorial at Williams is better than almost all intro courses. If you are a first year and you don’t take a tutorial like these, you are doing it wrong. Note that, even if you don’t have the official prerequisites for these classes, you should still enroll. The pre-reqs almost never matter and professors will always (?) let you into a tutorial with empty spots.

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

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

Take CSCI 136: Data Structures and Advanced Programming (if you enter Williams with Math/Reading SAT scores below 1300, you should start with CSCI 134). Being able to get the computer to do what you want it to do is much more important, to your future career, than most things, including, for example, the ability to write well.

The Computer Science Department seems to have re-arranged things a bit in terms of strongly recommending that students take 134 first. In the past 134 was a not very serious course which was a waste for students in the top half of ability, including anyone with any prior exposure to programming. Is that still the case? If so, skip it and go directly to 136.

Informed commentary welcome on the 134 versus 136 choice.

If a professor tries to tell you the class is full, just claim to be future major in that topic. Indeed, many students official enroll as statistics or computer science majors sophomore year to ensure that they get into the classes they want. You can always drop a major later. Mendacity in the pursuit of quality classes is no vice.

See our previous discussions. Here are some thoughts from 10 years ago about course selections for a career in finance.

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

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