Currently browsing the archives for December 2017

Older Posts »

The Ghost of EphBlog Present

Last week, I told the tale of the Ghost of EphBlog Past. Read that stave or continue no further. Today: A visit from the Ghost of EphBlog Present.

Touch my robe and away we go!

For anyone who remembers our humble beginning, the EphBlog of today is an amazing place. There were 187 posts in January 2010 by at least 18 different authors: Norman Birnbaum ’46, Dick Swart ’56, Jeff Thaler ’74, David Kane ’88, Derek Charles Catsam ’93, Ken Thomas ’93, Wendy Shalit ’97, Jeff Zeeman ’97, JG ’03, Rory ’03, Lowell Jacobson ’03, Ben Fleming ’04, Diana Davis ’07, Ronit Bhattacharyya ’07, Andrew Goldston ’09, Torrey Taussig ’10, tinydancer ’11 and PTC.

Also note these contributions from Williams officials: Wayne G. Hammond, librarian at the Chapin Library of Rare Books, an anonymous faculty member, Professor Gabriela Vainsenche, Tyng Administrator Jeff Thaler ’74 and Professor Peter Just. Note that all of these were just in January! If we looked at 2009 as a whole, we would find contributions from a dozen or more current Williams faculty/staff. We have even been retweeted by a trustee!

Several of our authors posted only once or twice during the month, but the diversity of contributions — including spectrum-spanning politics and a 65 year range of graduating classes — make EphBlog the most successful independent (alumni/student/parent) college website in the world. There were 2,388 comments during the month, from dozens of readers. None of the similar student/alumni blogs at Dartmouth, Middlebury, Amherst or Wesleyan come anywhere near this level of participation. Although readership is hard to measure, we had over 1,000 visitors a day in January, with at least 200 from the Williamstown area. Although the vast majority of students/faculty do not read EphBlog, many of those most concerned with the past, present and future of Williams as an institution do. I write for them, and for my father.

Alas, EphBlog is not without its critics. Consider this Williams professor:

But let’s look back over the last few weeks (or the last few years for that matter) and think about what DDF has been saying about Williams and the Williams faculty. We’re racists. We’re intolerant. We’re sleazy (indeed, any of you who know Bill Wagner will understand just how bizarre it is to use that adjective in connection to him). This list goes on and on and on, with depressing and debilitating regularity and continuity.

There is an ineluctable fact to all internet commentary: No matter how many wonderful things you write about a person, no matter how many things you both agree on, no matter how polite and open-minded you are in discussion, if you challenge someone’s deepest beliefs, they will often despise you.

And this is all the more true if you do so from the “inside.” I disagree with many professors and administrators about what is best for Williams. And that should be OK! Discussion and debate are at the heart of a Williams education. But because I do so with credentials of an elite education (Harvard Ph.D.) and Williams College insider (Winter Study adjunct instructor, knowledgeable alumni volunteer), I am a danger. And so is EphBlog.

And this is not just about one Williams professor, nor is it just about debates over financial aid policy. He is not an outlier. His opinion is common, even majority, among our faculty and administrator readership. They do not like EphBlog when it criticizes the College or its faculty. They do not like me. When they read a description of the College’s affirmative action policy or complaints about the lack of ideological diversity among the faculty, they see an unfair attack. I am accused of calling the Williams faculty “racists” or “intolerant,” when my only sin is to have a different view of policy at Williams from him and most of his faculty colleagues.

Yet the conflict between reform and stability, between outsider and insider, is as old as Williams itself. Henry Bass ’57 tells a story about Professor Robert Gaudino:

Knowing how radical Gaudino was, I knew early in the fall of ’55 there was only an amount of time, before there would be a public confrontation between Gaudino and President Baxter. Lively discussions of campus issues then took place in the new Baxter Hall. We did not have long to wait. I don’t remember what the argument was about. I do remember that it was quite heated and that Phinney soon showed signs of losing his temper. And acrimonious debates with the president of Williams did not happen in those days.

Nor today. What is most interesting about the complaint about me is how it conflates two criticisms of Williams: 1) Wagner is sleazy and 2) Wagner did a sleazy thing. We all agree that Bill Wagner is a good man and excellent professor. Indeed, he has been answering my questions (for publication on EphBlog) for many years. But even the very best Ephs among us occasionally do sleazy things. I am not without sin. Are you?

And, if EphBlog is not that place at which Williams students, alumni, parents, faculty and staff might come together to discuss College policy, then where is that place?

Gaudino is one of my two Williams heroes because he was not afraid to get in a public fight with the president of Williams. Nor am I.

What is especially annoying about these complaints is that they try to delegitimize the many voices of criticism at EphBlog by calling it “KaneBlog.” Ronit replies:

I think it’s nice that Will and Sam use the term Kaneblog to refer to this site, when Kane does not own the site, does not own the domain, does not own the server, does not run the site, does not have any kind of final editorial authority, and is not on the board. That is really fucking respectful to all the dozens of other commenters and authors who participate here and who have contributed to the site over the years. I’m glad the opinions of people like Henry Bass and Aidan Finley can be dismissed simply because they’re posted on EphBlog (I’m sorry, “KaneBlog”) and they happen to disagree with the latest sacred (purple?) cows.

Indeed. Yet note that the discussion that we have fostered at EphBlog for almost eight years includes more than just College policy. We also seek to engage in broader discussions, about both student life and alumni lives. Rory notes (correctly) that this makes me and other EphBlog authors unusual:

i still find it weird that an alum from the 80s reads wso posts. … I doubt any of the many professors I interact with at Williams and at my current institution read forums like wso. they certainly don’t copy and paste from them.

The difference between Rory’s friends on the Williams faculty and me — and the many other EphBlog authors, alumni and students both, who quote from WSO — is that we care about the opinions of Williams undergraduates. They, judging from Rory’s testimony, do not or, at least, they only care about those opinions when they are paid to, in the context of either classroom discussion or papers assigned for a Williams course.

And that is OK! My point here is not to criticize or praise the choices made by individual Williams faculty members. I just want to make clear that I seek to intellectually engage with Williams undergraduates. The first step in doing so is to consider their arguments and observations, to read their prose, to comment on their ideas, to present them with my own positions. The electronic log has room for all of us.

Jeff writes:

But I think students are perfectly capable of finding their own ways when it comes to their day-to-day lives in college. Indeed, I find it ironic that you find it so troubling (and I agree) when the administration tries to entangle itself too intimately in arenas best reserved for students to find their own way (and even occasionally screw up, as 19 year olds are prone to doing), yet you seem perfectly willing to insert yourself in much the same fashion.

Indeed. Key here is the meaning of “insert.” Consider the second of my Williams heroes, David Dudley Field, class of 1825, and, in the words of Williams professor Fred Rudolph ’39, a “instrument of interference” in the affairs of the College.

Field is the patron saint of alumni trouble-makers, an Eph who believed that “The only men who make any lasting impression on the world are fighters.” As a student, he was thrown out of Williams over a dispute with the faculty. As an alum, he led the way, both in fund-raising for Williams and in inserting himself into college affairs. (See this overview on the Field family (pdf) by Russ Carpenter ’54.) Field argued passionately that Williams should require military drills of all students during the Civil War, admit women and abolish fraternities. He won some of those battles, lost others and was vindicated by history on the most important questions. He inserted himself in the debate over the future of Williams 150 years ago just as I, and other EphBlog authors, do today.

Although Gaudino and Dudley are no longer with us, I feel certain that they are looking down on EphBlog and smiling. We are an agent of interference, engaged in public confrontation and acrimonious debates about what is best for Williams.

Would a Williams professor in the tradition of Gaudino and Dudley have it any other way?

Originally published in 2010.

Facebooktwitter

Prospectus Observation

Arch Stanton ’62 writes:

Is it wishful thinking, or does the prospectus have several clues that the search committee is looking for someone who will be more supportive of intellectual diversity and free speech on campus?

Should we draw an inference from the fact that the word ‘debate’ appears four times?

Could the phrase ‘where all voices are invited and heard” be a reference to Derbyshire? I would be surprised if the drafters of this document would use the verb ‘invite’ if they did not intend readers to make a connection to that incident.

“Be an inspiring and trusted leader and convener with the ability to drive a sense of inclusiveness and respect – even in the face of controversial issues. Model civil discourse and openness to different points of view, and set high expectations for respectful discussions.”

Does this bullet point indicate a desire that the next Williams president be open even to conservative points of view?

I hope so! Other comments?

By the way, we need more authors on EphBlog! Please join us (anonymously, as I do or otherwise.) Just leave a comment on this thread and I will contact you.

Facebooktwitter

Mika Questions

mika2

Article here: “Brzezinski questions Franken accuser: ‘Playboy model who goes on Hannity, voted for Trump'”

I was told that you must believe the women.

Facebooktwitter

Against The Grain

From The New Republic:

In Against the Grain, [James C.] Scott [’58] argues that we still think of our world as the fruit of a series of undeniable advances: domestication, public order, mass literacy, and prosperity. We chide the ancient Greeks for relying on enslaved labor and the Romans for their imperial wars, but our own story, as we imagine it, still starts with those ancient city-states and their precursors in the Mesopotamian Middle East (basically modern Iraq), when some clever primates first planted rows of seeds, built mud-brick walls, and scratched cuneiform on a crude tablet. In our own minds, we are the descendants of people who couldn’t wait to settle down.

The truth, Scott proposes, may be the opposite. What if early civilization was not a boon to humankind but a disaster: for health and safety, for freedom, and for the natural world? What if the first cities were, above all, vast technologies of exploitation by a small and rapacious elite? If that is where we come from, who are we now? What possibilities might we discover by tracing our origins to a different kind of ancestor?

Interesting stuff.

Facebooktwitter

Christmas Thanks

From Twitter:

xmas

Merry Christmas one and all!

Facebooktwitter

Ghosts of EphBlog Past

An anonymous comment in the thread on presidential searches provides occasion for me to give my view on EphBlog’s past, present and future. Come join me in navel study . . . Dickensesque it will not be.

Here are portions of the comment, with my thoughts interspersed.

Alright, permit me to offer another perspective that may clarify Todd’s frustration.

Essentially, DDF has admitted that he’s interested in a particular market anomaly — the relative overcompensation of a specialized type of employee in an extremely complex market. That’s fine, and if this were PresidentialCompensationblog.com, or HigherEducationFinanceblog.com, his perseveration might be suitable or even admirable. But that’s not the case — this is supposed to be a blog about all things Williams, and currently there seems to be a bit of digression.

I have heard this same complaint many times before. Some didn’t like it when EphBlog was too much NigaleianBlog.com or BarnardVistaBlog.com
or MGRHSFunding.Blog or EphBlogBlog.com or DDFsRandomThoughtsBlog.com or whatever. Soon I will be getting complaints about EphBlog being too much CGCLBlog.com.

Now, like any writer, I appreciate feedback. I am curious to know what other people think. I hope that people enjoy EphBlog, both all the postings/comments taken together and my own contributions. But, it should be clear by now that I often become very interested in a small aspect of “all things Eph” and pursue that aspect in mind-numbing detail. Few can compete with me in the category of dead-horse-beating. When I tilt at these windmills, and I plan on tilting for years to come, I try to segregate my posts, clearly stating the topic and leaving much of the commentary below the jump so that only readers truly interested need be bothered. If you don’t want to read any more of my posts about presidential compensation, well, I have a solution: Don’t read them.

Yet the commentator misses the point when he opines about what EphBlog is “supposed to be”. It is not for him alone to define what EphBlog is “supposed to be” — nor is it for me or Eph ’20 or Dick Swart ’56 or Professor Steve Miler or any other author/commentator/reader. EphBlog is a collective effort. It is “supposed to be” whatever we make of it.

We do have an official EphBlog motto — “all things Eph” — which provides a three word summary about how many of us think about EphBlog. The motto should be interpreted as broadly as possible. We are interested in anything and everything related to any Eph. Of course, there is a sense in which this is impossibly broad. Since Ephs are everywhere and involved in everything, it would be hard to come up with a topic that was not Eph-related somehow. We try to always have a “hook” — some connection, however tenuous, to something that another Eph has written or done.

The best way to understand what “all things Eph” means in the context of EphBlog is to look at the body of posts over the last year or so. The range of topics that we have covered is representative, I think, of what “all things Eph” means to us as a collective. I predict that 2018 will see a similar collection of posts and comments. Adjust your bookmarks accordingly.

What is EphBlog “supposed to be”? As the founder of EphBlog, allow me to state authoritatively the answer: EphBlog is supposed to be whatever the community of Eph authors, commentators and readers wants it to be. If you want it to be something else, then join us and contribute. To the extent that you’d like to remain anonymous, we are happy to have anonymous authors, including me. EphBlog is supposed to be whatever you make of it.

Granted, I’m not being completely fair, because DDF has located his interest in the more general question of ‘What were the qualities of the presidential search a few years back, and what can we learn from it?’ Honestly, I don’t find this question especially compelling, and my guess is that many ephblog readers wouldn’t either.

I don’t care. Really.

Now that may seem harsh, and I do value people’s comments and we all have something to add to the conversation and I am a sensitive guy and blah, blah, blah. But . . .

I am not writing for you. I am writing for me. Even more, I am writing for my father, class of ’58. I spent about as much time on EphBlog in the summer of 2003 as I do now, even though we had very few readers then. Yet I knew that my dad was one. As long as he reads, I will write. Feel free to join us on the trip.

I would argue that the real problem is that more germaine issues are being ignored. I can name a couple really quickly — the issue of race relations on campus and the paucity of minority faculty; the degree of involvement of Williams students in activist causes and the local community; and, as one studly dude recently posted on the WSO forums, the federal cuts to Pell grants and what Williams’ reaction might be.

As a good economist, DDF might say, if you don’t like what I’m doing, go found EphraimBlog.com and do it your way.

Calling me an economist is like asking me if I was in the Navy: they are fighting words. ;-)

More importantly, this is not what I say. I agree with you that all those topics are interesting. I think that someone should write about them, either at EphBlog or elsewhere. If anyone did write about them, I would be eager to read what she has to say and to comment on it.

But if you think that “more germaine issues are being ignored,” I am afraid that you are missing the point. EphBlog, as a collective effort, doesn’t ignore anything. We don’t have a morning editorial meeting at which agendas are discussed, assignments given and plans made. If you think that that Eph student activism is interesting, then write about it. Whatever you write, I will post. Just don’t tell me what to write about.

That’s fine — but I would argue that as someone who has founded ephblog as a specifically *public* forum, you have a bit of a responsibility to at least attempt to reflect the interests of the larger Eph community, and not pursue your own vanity projects. This isn’t Kaneblog, it’s Ephblog. Kaneblog would be fine, but don’t use Ephblog as a facade for it.

I have zero, zip, zilch “responsibility to at least attempt to reflect the interests of the larger Eph community.” Even thinking about the issue in this way is mostly unhelpful.

  1. Does the “larger Eph community” include the thousands and thousands of Ephs who do not read EphBlog and have no interest in doing so? Morty Schapiro, to cite just one example, does not read blogs (and more power to him). Why should EphBlog attempt to reflect Morty’s interests?
  2. To the extent that the “larger Eph community” means the current (and potential future) readers of EphBlog, I would argue that we are doing a pretty good job of interest-representation. How else would you explain our increased readership? Someone’s “interests” are being represented quite well, thank you very much.
  3. Perhaps you really mean to claim that I should “attempt to reflect” your interests. I am afraid that we are just going to have to agree to disagree on that one.

The days before Christmas are a time for summing up and looking forward. The above is my view on what EphBlog has been. Everyone else can decide for themselves what EphBlog will be in 2018. My own hope is that it will be less blog and more discussion, less of my writing and more of everyone else’s. Time will tell all.

Original version published in 2004.

Facebooktwitter

Investment Report

The 2017 Investment Report (pdf) is available. Worth going through in detail, like we did last year?

Facebooktwitter

Affirmative Action for Conservative Faculty

abl asked JCD:

I have a question for you: should Williams be willing to hire tenure candidates with inferior records, and to give those tenure candidates more reign not to publish/not to publish well before cutting them loose, so as to develop a faculty that includes more voices on the right? In other words, should Williams be practicing affirmative action for conservative scholars on its faculty?

Yes! Just as Williams has recently practiced affirmative action in hiring in the physics and math/stats department.

Facebooktwitter

Log Update

Dear Williams Community,

I’m writing to let you know that Hops & Vines will no longer be providing food and beverage service at The Log as of December 29th. After that date, the Log will go on hiatus (except for the CES Log Lunch program on Fridays) while we work on transitioning to a new foodservice vendor. Hops & Vines helped the college immensely by taking on the opening of a new hospitality operation and running it for us for two years. The restaurant business is a notoriously challenging one, and I want to personally thank the whole Hops & Vines team for their efforts.

As soon as we became aware of their plans to turn the operation back over to us, we began seeking a new operator, and we’re now in advanced negotiations with a locally-owned business who will be a terrific match. I look forward to announcing that news very soon, with the goal of reopening a few weeks thereafter. Unfortunately, we’ll need to shut down the venue in the interim so that the kitchen equipment and service workspaces can be modified to support the new foodservice operation.

The Log is one of Williams’ most distinctive and beloved spaces, and many staff from across campus are working hard to return it to full operating mode as soon as possible. I look forward to announcing the new food and beverage team who will help us build on the foundation of these first two years of operation, further shaping The Log into the gathering-place we want it to be for the whole Williams community.

Sincerely,

Steve Klass, Vice President for Campus Life

Facebooktwitter

Indigenous Peoples Day

From the Berkshire Eagle:

Williams College celebrates its last Columbus Day

In ending the Columbus Day off at Williams College, it came down to accounting.

The faculty voted to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a holiday for faculty, staff and students about six months ago.

The human resources department determined the college would trade off another holiday — Columbus Day — rather than adding another holiday to the calendar.

“This was just a simple trade-off,” said Jim Reische, chief communications officer at Williams College. “We didn’t do anything with Columbus Day. It was just a three-day weekend.”

Administrative staff still had the day off on Monday, but that will change come next year. Classes still met.

Administrative staff will still be allowed to take the Columbus Day off next year if they choose, but they’ll have to use a floating holiday day. There will be classes on that day.

“The major driver was — we needed to consider MLK Day a holiday,” Reische said. “There was a strong push to make that a day off, to recognize it.”

More important to the college in terms of programming is Claiming Williams Day, which began in 2009 after a series of racist and sexist incidents on campus in 2008, Reische said.

Claiming Williams Day includes a full roster of programming exploring what it means to be a diverse and inclusive campus, he said.

“It’s much more about academic and community-building than anything we ever did with Columbus Day,” he said.

The town of Williamstown took a different direction on Columbus Day earlier this year.

In May, town meeting voters agreed to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.

Williamstown Elementary School labeled Monday’s holiday Indigenous Peoples Day on its website as of Monday morning.

If I were Trump, I would make a huge deal of Columbus Day next fall: big celebration at the White House, perhaps a speech about how Democrats consider Italian-Americans to be deplorables, an (outrageous) proposal that any town/city/state which wants federal funds must celebrate Columbus Day. There would be few better ways of motivating the voters he, and the Republicans, will need in November.

Political Science 101 at Williams taught me that, he who picks the issue to fight over, wins. In any fight between “Columbus Day” and “Indigenous Peoples Day,” Trump wins easily.

Facebooktwitter

A Farewell from President Falk …

To the entire Williams community,

A presidency can pass in the blink of an eye.

It was the fall of 2010, but it seems just yesterday that I stood in Chapin Hall at Convocation to deliver my inaugural address. I’d already been on the job for almost half a year, but still it felt like the beginning. What surprises and challenges lay ahead of us? What should we be mindful to preserve, and what would we need to change? What forces from beyond the Purple Valley would affect us, and how would we, in turn, aspire to affect the world?

Not easy questions to answer, to be sure. The sage Yogi Berra once said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” As all new presidents are compelled to, I still did my imperfect best to deliver on the promise of a vision. But the most important observation I made then, one in which I believe just as deeply today, is that the choices about where to go would not be mine alone. “This day is not about an individual person,” I said, “but about a college.”

And almost a decade later, I’m indeed proud of what we, this college, have accomplished.

We’ve reinvigorated our campus landscape, from the new Sawyer Library and the Class of ’66 Environmental Center to the renovated Chapin and Weston Halls, with the additions to the science center soon to join them.

We’ve started new programs like the Center for Learning in Action, which every day strengthens our relationship to our surrounding communities and deepens our students’ engagement with people throughout the Berkshires and beyond.

We’ve strived to welcome to Williams people from an ever-wider array of backgrounds and identities. Living and learning in a diverse community fosters imagination, empathy, open-mindedness and respect, all characteristics needed now more urgently than ever. And we’ve made strides in keeping membership in this community affordable to students and their families. Leaders don’t usually brag about increasing expenditures. But I’m proud of the more than $50 million in aid we provide to Williams students every year, expressing as it does our deep commitment to expanding educational opportunity.

There’s of course plenty left for the next president to work on, and they’ll do so in collaboration with our entire community: a convocation and sometimes a cacophony of many voices, many aspirations, and many efforts. Let us remember that our most important work, our hardest work, requires every one of us and is by its nature never fully done.

While it’s not my job to set the agenda for my successor, that agenda will surely include continuing to hire and support one of this country’s great teaching faculties. It will surely include continuing to open Williams to students drawn from every part of our society, and to provide everyone who is here the fullest opportunity to thrive. And it will surely include continuing to care for the natural and built environment that is the home for the remarkable work that students, staff, and faculty do: alone, with each other, and, increasingly, in partnership with our alumni.

Back in 2010, I closed my inaugural address by saying, “We love the Williams that we know and have known, but we will love even more the Williams that we create.” I love the Williams we, together, have created, and I hope that you do, too. Now will begin a new phase of its creation. I’ll be following Williams’s ongoing evolution from elsewhere, but will do so with pride, affection and gratitude for all that we’ve achieved in these past eight years.

Sincerely,

Adam Falk
President

Facebooktwitter

#MeToo

From Wikipedia:

“Me Too” (or “#MeToo”, with local alternatives in other languages) spread virally as a two-word hashtag used on social media in October 2017 to denounce sexual assault and harassment, in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against film producer and executive Harvey Weinstein.[1][2][3] The phrase, long used in this sense by social activist Tarana Burke, was popularized by actress Alyssa Milano, who encouraged women to tweet it to publicize experiences to demonstrate the widespread nature of misogynistic behavior.

There are plenty of recriminations, now, for those who knew about the depredations of Harvey Weinstein and his ilk, but did nothing. Before casting stones, however, EphBlog prefers to look in the mirror. Are there things at Williams that, while not Weinstein-like in their depravity, should be aired rather than hidden?

What are our responsibilities and what are yours?

UPDATE: I have deleted the previous contents of this post, after considering the discussion in the comment thread below. (Reasoning: Anytime three 80+ year-old white guys agree with WW, I should listen!) The contents included a discussion of this incident as well as unsubstantiated rumors about a senior administrator.

Thanks to all for the feedback.

Facebooktwitter

Be sure to express your thoughts on DDF post (above)

As a side-bar this, separate but related story:

Screen Shot 2017-12-18 at 10.41.43 AM

Screen Shot 2017-12-18 at 10.48.01 AM

Screen Shot 2017-12-18 at 10.50.43 AM

 

 

 

 

 

 

Facebooktwitter

Drew on Farwell

Former political science professor John Drew shared these memories:

Meeting Pete Farwell was one of the highlights of my time as a professor at Williams College.

I was interested in Pete, in part, because I competed in cross country and track as a high school student in Southern California. With only the most inadequate coaching, I still managed through sheer will-power to break an impressive list of school records posting a 4:23 mile, a 1:52 half mile and a 0:50 quarter mile all at age 18.

I ended up at Occidental College because I was recruited for my skill as an athlete and not for my, as yet, undeveloped skill as a political scientist.

After a couple of weeks running with Pete and his team I ended up thinking I might have been an Olympic athlete if I had had him as a coach during my youthful years. I hung out with Pete and his team largely to get exercise and be of service. I got to fire the starting gun a couple of times and attended team events. I ended up learning so much from him that benefited me for years including mixing up my workouts, icing down afterwards, and correctly running heel to toe.

One of his best tricks as a coach was to not allow his cross country runners to have a slow rest day prior to a regular season cross country event. Then, at the very end of the season, he gave them a rest period prior to the championship. The result was a profound psychological and physiological advantage that supercharged his athletes and overwhelmed their opponents.

Pete was very kind to me and had me over to his home a number of times for dinner. We were both interested in Buddhism and meditation. We never talked politics. I’m glad to see him being honored. He was, without a doubt, the best cross country coach I ever had in my entire life and the best one I ever met.

Thanks again to Derek for the excellent post which started this conversation. Who else has memories of Pete to share?

Facebooktwitter

Pete Farwell: Williams Man, Hall of Famer

I’d like to thank Dave for inviting me back to Ephblog to write this post.

Tonight in Phoenix, in what is arguably the highlight of the annual U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) annual convention, longtime Williams cross country and track and field coach Pete Farwell (’73) will be inducted into the USTFCCCA Hall of Fame. This is a much-deserved honor for one of the greatest coaches (and distance runners) in Williams history and a true Williams man.

Naturally to receive this kind of honor one needs an impressive collection of numbers, of championships, of wins, of trophies. And Pete has all of those on both the men’s and the women’s sides: Team National Championships in Cross Country, national runners up in Track and Field, and runners up in the All New England track meet (colloquially known as the DI New England meet), bucket-loads of NESCAC, New England Division III, ECAC, and NCAA Regional team titles in both sports, dozens and dozens of Little Three titles, and wins in myriad other meets big and small. Pete has produced individual NCAA champions, All Americans, and likely hundreds of All-Conference and All-New England athletes.

Hundreds of Coach Farwell’s former athletes will have their own reflections.  Here are mine (and I apologize for the self indulgence.) Pete was my head coach from 1989 to 1993, when I was on the track team at Williams (I was co-captain in 1992-1993, when I worked especially closely with him) and it was during this time when Williams track achieved another level of success. In the spring of 1991, my sophomore year, projections indicated that we might be in a position to repeat and win the NESCAC title the men’s team had taken for the second time in program history in 1990. Instead we lost by one point to Tufts. The meet was up at Colby and the trip back was among the longest bus rides of my life. I choked like a dog – projected to score in all three of the jumping events I got shut out, and I was not alone among my teammates in underachieving. The next week we returned to Colby for the Division III New England meet, we did not choke (I redeemed myself as well), winning our first New England DIII title. The ride back was much more pleasant than a week earlier. The men’s team would not only win NESCACs and DIII New Englands (indoors and out) for the rest of the decade, we would not lose to another DIII team outside of the national championships for years. The women’s team had similar successes. And it was during this era that Pete’s Cross Country teams became an absolutely dominant force regionally and nationally.

One of Pete’s real strengths was turning what many see as individual sports into team sports by creating a team mentality. During my time I had some exceptional teammates, Little Three and ECAC and NESCAC and New England champions (DIII and DI), All Americans. One of my teammates and friends, Ethan Brooks (’96) spent several years as an NFL player, and we had a team with lots of multi-sport athletes, especially coming from football. And while we all wanted to excel in our individual events, we also wanted our points to contribute to the team’s tally, and thus to its wins, which became increasingly dominant. Those team championships meant everything to us. And at Williams the old cliché about track teams – “a team can go up in a bus but the number of people who will score could come back in a van” – simply did not hold. Our depth of scoring was as much a strength as our quality of scoring.

Furthermore, for all of the successes that Williams track and cross country had, there was always room for performers who were not going to win individual titles, who were not even ever going to score at the Little Three meet. The men’s Cross Country team, always in the national team title chase, still had room for and indeed celebrated the so-called “Slo Boys,” guys who worked hard but were not top performers, were not going to compete in the big meets, were not ever going to win an individual title. But they were every bit a part of the team, pushed their other teammates in practice, and continued to work hard through the track season. Many of them may well have been among the top seven runners on other college cross country teams, but they were happy to be part of the Williams program, and Pete always made it clear that those championships were all of theirs, not just the guys who scored in the meets.

And on the track and cross country teams Pete coached all of those athletes equally. As head track coach he would work with the whole range of events, from the throwers to the jumpers, the sprinters to his distance runners. And when he came over to the jumping pits, he worked on technique drills with everyone – the most talented, the recruited athletes who hoped to qualify for Nationals or the DI New England meet, and the guys who had walked on and were hoping to earn a Personal Record that would not come close to qualifying them for the DIII New England meet. It didn’t matter – Pete coached them all. And occasionally he turned one of the latter into something resembling the former – because in the end, Pete was and is an exceptional coach and teacher.

A few years back I received a call on a September Monday morning from the Athletic Director of the DII university where I am a faculty member. We needed a new men’s and women’s cross country coach immediately. I had coached off and on since Williams, as a high school head track and cross country coach and as a college sprints and jumps coach at the Division I and Division II levels, had worked extensively with our athletics program ever since my arrival in a range of capacities, and had coached two club sports (including track and field) at the university. My cross country and distance training wasn’t extensive, but it was enough when coupled with my other coaching experience and the emergency needs of the program in difficult circumstances.

The first call I made was to Pete. We talked about training philosophies and specific workouts, about developing long-term plans for coaching a college season and balancing training, meets, and academics. He emailed me a range of materials that I incorporated (and sometimes flat-out stole) for my teams. Without Pete’s help, I would like to think that I would have been a perfectly adequate caretaker coach. Instead his help, and my experience on his teams, meant that the program did not suffer as much as it could have. Four of my athletes qualified for the NCAA regional meet. And I learned a whole lot about being a head coach at an NCAA-member institution. Pete has developed an impressive coaching tree at the high school and college levels and I am sure that every one of his disciples has countless stories about his influence and consider his lessons daily.

When the Williams track program honored legendary coach Dick Farley a few years back, Pete was the organizer of a massive return of Williams Track alums. Farley, a Hall of Famer in his own right for his work with the Williams football team, was also a former head coach of the Williams track teams (a position he gave up and that Pete, then head men’s cross country coach, took over when Farley got the head football job), and he and Pete had worked together for decades. Farley continued to be an assistant on the track teams. (My first interaction with him on the track team that I can recall consisted of him walking up to me early in my freshman year, saying simply, “Catsam, you’re jumping like shit,” and walking away. I came to love that man.) He and Pete would take over the track program again as co-head coaches in 2008 and 2013). I cannot possibly imagine two more different men. And yet their admiration for one another was clear. Pete’s respect for Coach Farley was obvious, as Pete was not only the chief organizer of the event honoring Farley, but also the MC of most of the weekend’s events. But on several occasions Farley made clear that he admired Pete every bit as much. How could he not?

Tonight Pete Farwell will be honored in Arizona, and rightfully so. He will be inducted in a class that includes college head coaches from Big-time DI programs (Amy Deem of Miami of Florida, Patrick Shane of BYU, Bob Kersee of UCLA and Cal-State Northridge as well as the coach of many superstars on the international scene), NAIA powers (Jack Hazan of Malone University), and the Ivy League (Fred Samara of Princeton).

I will regrettably not be able to be there, but I think I speak for hundreds of his former athletes when I say to Pete: We are proud of you. You deserve this. Thank you.

Facebooktwitter

Another look at President Falk as the torch is passed …

Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 8.21.25 AM

 

As a digression from the in-progress 15 part series on President Falk appearing in these pages, here is a review of his tenure as appearing in The Williams Magazine, Fall 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

Illustration by James Steinberg

It is interesting to note the approach taken by the editors:

Adam Falk will leave Williams in December to become president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. When we sat down with him to plan the magazine’s coverage of his tenure, he made an important observation: “This story is about Williams’ ideals, principles and priorities; it shouldn’t be about me.” We took what he said to heart and realized the best way to tell the story of his presidency at Williams is to tell the story of Williams during his presidency. So we asked the people responsible for some of the most important changes during Falk’s time to share their thoughts. Their essays follow.

https://magazine.williams.edu/2017/fall/feature/moving-forward-together/

 

Facebooktwitter

Presidential search update

To the Williams community,

I write in my role as chair of the college’s Presidential Search Committee, to provide you with an update on the ongoing search process.

Many of you responded to the committee’s invitation to provide input on the search. Almost 1,700 members of our community responded to the survey emailed to all of you. Our search firm, Spencer Stuart, has received a further 135 emails from faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends of the college so far. And many faculty, staff, and students also attended one of the twelve forums held on campus this semester, along with small-group discussions.

The committee reviewed all of this input at our fall meetings, and continues to consider contributions received through the search website. I want to thank everyone who took the time to provide insights into the qualities we should emphasize in our search, or to suggest potential candidates for the position of president. We are grateful for your help.

The committee has now posted the prospectus on the search website. The prospectus is the detailed job description provided to potential candidates for the presidency. It was developed with attention to the community input from this fall, and I encourage you to read it as time allows. Special thanks go to committee member and John Hawley Roberts Professor of English Peter Murphy for leading its development, and to the authors of prospectuses from prior searches, which provided the foundation for our document. I believe it is quite thoughtfully done.

We are now moving into the most time-intensive and most confidential phase of the search, as we identify potential candidates and begin a series of in-depth interviews. Presidential searches require a high level of confidentiality so that the best candidates will come forward with a willingness to engage in conversation. As a result, the committee will not have a great deal of information to communicate publicly between now and the announcement of a president. The members will have much work to do behind the scenes during this time, however. I hope you will continue to support them, as colleagues and friends, in their efforts on Williams’ behalf.

The williamspresident@spencerstuart.com address will remain open throughout the search process and we encourage you to use it if you have thoughts that you would like to share. While the demands of the search process make it impossible to answer individual messages, all will be read.

My colleagues and I appreciate your contributions, and your commitment to helping us find the best person to serve as Williams’ 18th president.

Yours,

Michael Eisenson ’77
Chair, Presidential Search Committee

Facebooktwitter

Adam Falk’s Legacy, 13

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two three weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 13.

Falk’s main argument is that one article by Derbyshire, “The Talk: Non-Black Version,” makes his presence at Williams unacceptable. Falk does not so much argue against the substance of Derbshire’s views as point-and-sputter in their general direction. Falk (accurately) quotes Derbyshire:

(10a) Avoid concentrations of blacks not all known to you personally.

(10b) Stay out of heavily black neighborhoods.

First, we should always be interested in what other people tell their own children. Recall that the context is “The Talk” that African-American parents give their children about the dangers inherent in interactions with the police. Derbyshire writes:

There is a talk that nonblack Americans have with their kids, too. My own kids, now 19 and 16, have had it in bits and pieces as subtopics have arisen. If I were to assemble it into a single talk, it would look something like the following.

I certainly believe that Derbyshire is telling the truth. I also doubt that he is some weird outlier. You really think that he is the only parent in America who tells their children to stay out of certain neighborhoods? Most of us, of course, don’t put it so crudely. We tell our children to be wary of “bad” neighborhoods and “poor” neighborhoods. But, in the vast majority of US cities, the exact terminology does not change the recommended action. If you stay out of “poor” neighborhoods, you will also stay out of “black neighborhoods.”

Second, even if Derbshire is the only racist in America, it sure seems like the rest of the country is following his advice. Go to the black neighborhood in your city. How many white/Asian teenagers do you see? How many from outside the neighborhood? How many middle class or richer? Very few non-poor, non-black teenagers spend any unsupervised time in “heavily black neighborhoods.” You may decry this fact, but you can hardly blame Derbyshire for it.

Third, note Falk’s hypocrisy. You can be certain that his teenage children have almost never spent any unsupervised time in a heavily black neighborhood. And that is OK! My children haven’t either. Have your children? Of course, Falk never says the words to his children that Derbyshire said his, but the actual reality of their lived experience is probably identical.

Facebooktwitter

Adam Falk’s Legacy, 12

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two three weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 12.

Falk’s critique of Derbyshire is just as sloppy as his defense of his decision to ban Derbyshire from Williams. But before that a story . . .

At a 2017 May presentation to important alumni, Falk was asked:

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?

Falk assured me that I, at least, would not be banned from campus. Good to know! But he steadfastly defended his decision, claiming that Derbyshire’s views were too outrageous to allow on campus. At that point, Falk could have trotted out any of Derbyshire’s positions as justification. Instead he said:

Derbyshire believes that African-Americans are more violent.

And that was it! That was all Falk offered in terms of a specific example.

The problem, of course, is that — using any definition of violence you like — African-Americans are much more violent than white Americans, much less Asian-Americans.

Consider this report from (Obama’s!) Department of Justice or data from the FBI. Wikipedia provides a useful summary.

Derbyshire’s sin is not that he advocates violence (he doesn’t) or that he advocates hate (he doesn’t) or that he tells lies. Derbyshire’s sin is that he tells the truth.

Facebooktwitter

In the spirit : “Toying with The Mountains” *

This just in from Adam Falk:

Williams alumni, parents, students, faculty, staff,

We asked a small group to play you a special song for the season, and they took us at our word. I hope you enjoy the results.

Best wishes for a joyous season and a happy start to the new year.

Adam Falk

*  This post, my 700th, makes me a very, very distant second place to Dave. My first post was 23 December, 2007.

 

Facebooktwitter

Adam Falk’s Legacy, 11

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two three weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 11.

Apologies for extending this discussion for a third week, but Falk’s misleading prose deserves a thorough fisking. His Washington Post article finishes with:

How many more examples do we need? For how long are we going to allow the vocabulary of freedom to be hijacked by people trying to impress upon us its opposite?

Let’s start with the Communists. No student should be allowed to wear a Che shirt at Williams, much less display the hammer-and-sickle on any item of clothing. We should never allow someone like, say, Angela Davis to speak at Williams, as she has multiple times in the past. Adam Falk has found the line and, one would hope, Communists, like Nazis, are on the other side of it . . .

Of course, in Adam Falk’s world, no opinion is too leftist to be heard at Williams. Only speech from the right must be prohibited.

As Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said at yet another congressional hearing on the topic recently, “Colleges should be a place of robust speech and disagreement. … But, I think, we cannot use the banner of protecting free speech to allow people to terrorize folks.”

Those who care about real freedom of speech — as I do, and as I know Sen. Kennedy does — need to be far more concerned with such threats than with even the most boisterous student protest.

As an educator, I politely decline to hide my head in a bag. It’s too important for me, and Sen. Kennedy, and all of us, to keep our eyes and ears open to the rising chorus of hate.

Note the misdirection. Adam talks about “such threats” without noting that John Derbsyhire has never threatened anyone. He has never committed a crime or even been charged with one. He has never encouraged lawlessness. He only has ideas that Adam Falk does not like.

History will remember that Adam Falk was the first Williams president in 150 years to ban a speaker from campus, to restrict discussion and debate which students had sought out. With luck, he will be the last Williams president to do so, at least for a century or so.

Facebooktwitter

2018 … The Year of Ultra Purple! And Williams’ 225th Anniversary!

unnamed

Can it be mere coincidence that Pantone* has introduced Ultra-Violet Pantone 18-3838 TCX as the color of the year for 2018? I think not!

Pantone describes the color as  “a dramatically provocative and thoughtful purple shade”.

* Pantone Inc. is an American corporation headquartered in Carlstadt, New Jersey. The company is best known for its Pantone Matching System, a proprietary color standard system used in a variety of industries, … Wikipedia

From De Zeen magazine :

https://www.dezeen.com/2017/12/07/ultra-violet-pantone-colour-of-the-year-2018-design-trends/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily%20Dezeen%20Digest&utm_content=Daily%20Dezeen%20Digest+CID_1b96abd0ee2f19905174dbf551e201fe&utm_source=Dezeen%20Mail&utm_term=More

Even more on the lineage and complexity of the color purple from the NYT:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/09/style/purple-pantone-color-year.html?module=WatchingPortal&region=c-column-middle-span-region&pgType=Homepage&action=click&mediaId=thumb_square&state=standard&contentPlacement=7&version=internal&contentCollection=www.nytimes.com&contentId=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F2017%2F12%2F09%2Fstyle%2Fpurple-pantone-color-year.html&eventName=Watching-article-click

What could have been on Winston Churchill’s mother’s mind …   ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ **

 

** “beats me” courtesy of The New York Times.

ADDED TODAY FOR GENERAL INTEREST AND PER THE FIRST COMMENT BELOW

 

Screen Shot 2017-12-10 at 4.57.10 PMThe Ephblog masthead color does not match the printing specs as issued by the college. 267 C is the new color of the year (or close enough for jazz).

 https://communications.williams.edu/files/williams_graphic_standards.pdf

 

Facebooktwitter

A Deafening Silence

Since war came to the West on September 11, 2001, only a handful of Ephs have read these words. Are you among them?

Dec06$04.JPG

My Home Is in the Valley Amid the Hills

Each morning I watch the sunlight drifting down through the pines, scattering the clouds from the mountain sides, driving the mists from the glens.

Each night I see the purple lights as they creep up the slopes of the Dome and the shadows as they fall on wood and stream.

My home is among young men — young men who dream dreams and see visions; young men who will carry my banner out into the world and make the world better because they have lived with me in my valley amid the hills.

Among my sons who have left me, some have caught the poet’s fire, and their words have touched men’s hearts and have bought cheer to a weary world.

And some, in answer to the call of country, have gone out to battle for the common rights of men against the enemy. Some of them will not return to me, for they have given all they had, and now they rest at the foot of a simple cross or lie deep below the waves. But even as they passed, the music of the chimes was in their ears and before their eyes were visions of the quiet walks beneath the elms

Whether apart in solitude or pressing along the crowded highways, all these who have breathed my spirit and touched my hand have played their parts for the better, for

I am ALMA MATER:
I am WILLIAMS.

This 1926 eulogy, written by Professor of Rhetoric Carroll Lewis Maxey, comes from page 136 of Williams College in the World War, a beautifully arranged remembrance of those Ephs who served in freedom’s cause during the Great War. To Williams students today, World War I is as far away as the War of 1812 was to the generation that Professor Maxey sought to inspire. What will the great-grandchildren of today’s Ephs think of us? What will they remember and what will they forget?

1st Lt Nate Krissoff ’03, USMC died eleven years ago today. For the first year after his death, we maintained a link at the upper right to our collection of related posts, as sad and inspiring as anything you will ever read at EphBlog. Yet that link came down. Time leaves behind the bravest of our Williams warriors and Nate’s sacrifice now passes from News to History, joining the roll call of honored heroes back to Colonel Ephraim Williams, who died in battle during the Bloody Morning Scout on September 8, 1755.

More than 250 years have marched by from Ephraim’s death to Nate’s. But the traditions of military brotherhood and sacrifice are the same as they ever were, the same as they will ever be as long as Ephs stand willing to do violence against our enemies so that my daughters and granddaughters and great-granddaughters might sleep safely in their beds at night. Consider this moving ceremony in Iraq for Nate in the week after his death.

Before there was Taps, there was the final symbolic roll-call, unanswered. “Krissoff,” intoned Sergeant Major Kenneth Pickering.

“Lt. Krissoff.”

“1st Lt. Nathan Krissoff.”

By culture and custom, the Marine Corps is given to ritual and none so important as the farewell to comrades who have fallen in battle. And so the memorial service here for 1st Lt. Nathan Krissoff, intelligence officer for the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, was both stylized and achingly intimate.

The author, Tony Perry of the Los Angeles Times, captures perfectly the ethos of the Marine Corps. During Officer Candidate School, our Platoon Sergeant, Gunnery Sergeant Anderson, sang a haunting song of blood and sacrifice. The chorus went:

Let me tell you how I feel.
Why Marines must fight and die?

I can only remember snatches now, three decades later. It was a short song, repeated slowly, with emotion. For years, I have looked for the words to that plaintive melody, the eternal warrior’s lament of pain and suffering. Gunny Anderson only sang it with our platoon a handful of times, only when he felt that we were worthy of inclusion in the brotherhood of arms.

The last of those times was near the end of our training. At OCS, the fun-filled day begins with PT (physical training) at around 0500. Our entire company (200 men) is standing at attention in the humid Virginia morning. Back in July, there had been plenty of light to start exercising that early, but, by August, the later sunrise left us all waiting in darkness.

Gunny Anderson had the “duty” that morning, so he was the only member of the staff present. The others, well aware of the timing of sunrise, would be along shortly. Gunny Andersen, recognizing that graduation day was near and that he had us all to himself, led the entire company in that song, including the other platoons who had never heard it before.

And he did it in a whisper. We all stood there — having survived almost 10 weeks of brutal training, shouting our lungs out day after day — and whispered the song with him, 200 voices joined with the spirits of the Marines who had gone before us. Nate is with those spirits now. When the next Eph Marine is marching on that same parade deck during OCS, Nate will be watching him as well.

I remember the name of my platoon sergeant from 30 years ago. My father still remembers the name of his platoon sergeant from 55 years before. Let none of us forget the sacrifices of Marines like Nate and Myles Crosby Fox ’40.

Krissoff, 25, a champion swimmer and kayaker in college, was killed Dec. 9 by a roadside bomb that also injured other Marines. Hundreds of grim-faced Marines who knew Krissoff came to the Chapel of Hope, the converted Iraqi Army auditorium, for the service.

“We have a bond here, we have a family here,” said Staff Sgt. Allan Clemons, his voice breaking as he delivered a eulogy. “Nathan was part of that family.”

There were embraces, but not in the sobbing style one might see at a civilian funeral. The Marines put arms around another and slapped each others’ backs — the sound was like repeated rifle reports in the cavernous hall. Navy Cmdr. Mark Smith, a Presbyterian chaplain, said later he has seen Marines do this at other memorials. “They need to touch each other,” he said. “I’ve heard them talk about ‘hugging it out.’ But they want to do it in a manly way.”

By all accounts, Krissoff was a charismatic leader who had impressed his superiors and earned the trust of his subordinates.

War always takes the best of my Marines.

Civilians may not recognize the meaning of the first person possessive in that last sentence, may attribute its usage to my megalomania. Indeed, to avoid that confusion, my initial instinct was to write “our Marines.”

Yet that is not the way that real Marines think about our Corps. Despite defending an independent, freedom-loving country, the Marines are fundamentally socialist in outlook. Everything belongs to every individual. This is not just my rifle or my uniform, but my tank and my obstacle course. And what is mine is yours. See the bootcamp scenes from Full Metal Jacket for an introduction to an outlook as far away from Williams College as Falluja is from Williamstown.

At OCS, the worst sin is not to be slow or stupid or weak, although all these sins are real enough. The worst sin is to be selfish, to be an “individual,” to care more about what happens to you then what happens to your squad, your platoon, your battalion or your Corps. What happens to you, as an individual, is irrelevant.

When the instructors at OCS are angry with you (and they get angry with everyone), they will scream: “What are you? A freakin’ individual? Is that what you are? A freakin’ individual?”

To get the full effect of this instruction, you need to imagine it being shouted from 5 inches away by the loudest voice you have ever heard.

When they shouted it at me, I was sorely tempted to respond:

Yes! Indeed! I am an individual! Four hundred of years of Enlightenment philosophy have demonstrated that this is true. My degree in philosophy from Williams College has taught me that I, as an individual, have value, that my needs and wants are not subservient to those of the larger society, that I have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

For once, I kept my mouth shut.

In quieter moments at OCS, I recalled Rousseau’s parable of the Spartan mother from Emile.

A Spartan mother had five sons in the army and awaited news of the battle. A Helot arrived; trembling she asked his news. “Your five sons have been killed.” “Vile slave, was that what I asked you?” “We have won the victory.” She ran to the temple to give thanks to the gods. That was a citizen.

For Rousseau, there are two ways for a man to be free. First, he can live alone, cut off from humankind but self-sufficient. He needs no one. Second, a man can be a citizen and so, like the Spartan mother, unconcerned with his own, and his family’s, well-being. All that matters is the polis.

A Marine is many things, but not a freakin’ individual.

The article continues:

He grew up in Truckee, Nev., graduated from Williams College, majoring in international relations, and hoped someday to work for the Central Intelligence Agency.

Lt. Col. William Seely, the battalion commander, talked of the silence left by death of Krissoff and other Marines. “When we depart these lands, when we deploy home, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the long silence of our friends,” he said. “Nathan…your silence will be deafening.”

If there was mourning, there was also anger that, as the chaplain said, Krissoff “was taken from us by evil men.”

This is true and false. Marines do not sympathize with the insurgents whom they battle but they do empathize with them. “Clifton Chapel” by Sir Henry Newbolt describes this duality in the oath that every warrior takes.

To set the cause above renown,
To love the game beyond the prize,
To honour, while you strike him down,
The foe that comes with fearless eyes;
To count the life of battle good,
And dear the land that gave you birth,
And dearer yet the brotherhood
That binds the brave of all the earth.

Most of those responsible for Krissoff’s death are now themselves dead, killed in battle by Krissoff’s fellow Marines. Do their families remember them with tears, as we remember Nate? Or are their memories fading along with ours? Recall how the Williams honored Nate ten years ago.

sa_back.jpg

The Ephmen of Williams Swimming and Diving dedicated their 2007 championship season to Nate when they proudly wore their conference shirts emblazoned with the simple words on the back: “Semper Athlete.” (“Semper,” obviously for the Marines, and “Athlete,” one of his favorite terms for any of his teammates.) Nate would be proud of “his boys”: each of the 24 Williams conference team members had a hand in dominating the NESCAC competition.

Yet how quickly these honors pass. How often do college officials mention Krissoff’s service? A swim team member I talked to yesterday knew about Nate’s sacrifice and reported that there is a photo of him at the pool and an annual swim in his memory. Kudos to Coaches Kuster and Dow for helping Nate’s memory to live on.

Back to Tony Perry’s article:

Among the readings and quotations was the classic from World War I, “In Flanders Fields.” The poem challenges the living to continue the fight and not break faith with the dead: “Take up our quarrel with the foe/To you from failing hands we throw/The torch: be yours to hold it high….”

I did not know, when I first wrote of Nate’s death, that his fellow Marines would also be using “In Flanders Fields” as a way of memorializing his sacrifice. Who will take up the torch thrown by Nate? Are there any Williams students heading to OCS this coming summer? Are there no warriors left among the Ephs?

Williams College in the World War opens with a call for remembrance.

Dec06$02.JPG

The text, by Solomon Bulkley Griffin, class of 1872, begins:

The wave of full-hearted devotion that rose in the World War has receded from its crest, as must have been in times more normal. But never will there be forgetfulness of it. Memory of the glory that wave bore aloft is the priceless possession of all the colleges.

The service of Williams men enshrined in this volume is of abiding import. By it the past was made glorious, as the future will be shadowed while it is illumined. Natural it was to go forward when God quickened the souls of men to serve the need of the world, and so they held themselves fortunate.

Indeed. Yet are Griffin’s assurances that we have nothing to fear from “forgetfulness” correct? I worry, and not just because of the contempt with which faculty members like Mark Taylor treat the US military. Consider the College’s official description of the most prestigious prize at Williams, the only award presented on graduation day.

WILLIAM BRADFORD TURNER CITIZENSHIP PRIZE. From a fund established in memory of William Bradford Turner, 1914, who was killed in action in France in September, 1918, a cash prize is awarded to the member of the graduating class who, in the judgment of the faculty and of the graduating class, has best fulfilled her or his obligations to the College, to fellow students, and to self. The committee of award, appointed by the President of the College, is composed jointly of faculty members and members of the graduating class.

Was Williams Bradford Turner ’14 just a soldier who was “killed in action in France?” Does this description do justice to Turner or is it an example of the “forgetfulness” that Griffin thought unlikely? Consider:

Dec06$03.JPG

He led a small group of men to the attack, under terrific artillery and machinegun fire, after they had become separated from the rest of the company in the darkness. Single-handed he rushed an enemy machinegun which had suddenly opened fire on his group and killed the crew with his pistol. He then pressed forward to another machinegun post 25 yards away and had killed 1 gunner himself by the time the remainder of his detachment arrived and put the gun out of action. With the utmost bravery he continued to lead his men over 3 lines of hostile trenches, cleaning up each one as they advanced, regardless of the fact that he had been wounded 3 times, and killed several of the enemy in hand-to-hand encounters. After his pistol ammunition was exhausted, this gallant officer seized the rifle of a dead soldier, bayoneted several members of a machinegun crew, and shot the other. Upon reaching the fourth-line trench, which was his objective, 1st Lt. Turner captured it with the 9 men remaining in his group and resisted a hostile counterattack until he was finally surrounded and killed.

The most important prize awarded by Williams College is named in honor of a winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, and virtually no one at Williams knows it. If Williams today does not remember that 1st Lt William Bradford Turner ’14 won the Congressional Medal of Honor, then who will remember 1st Lt Nathanial Krissoff ’03 one hundred years from now?

Both died for us, for ALMA MATER, for Williams and the West.

Krissoff’s brothers bade him farewell in Anbar just eleven years ago.

When the roll-call and Taps were finished, the Marines came single-file to the altar to kneel in front of an inverted rifle with a helmet placed on the buttstock. Each was alone in his grief.

As are we all.

Facebooktwitter

Adam Falk’s Legacy, 10

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 10.

Campuses have to be shut down to deal with the ensuing threats. Learning is being disrupted, tuition money wasted, innocent people terrorized.

Some version of this drama has played out at Texas A&M. At Syracuse University. At the University of Iowa and Evergreen State and Dartmouth and Hampshire College and Trinity College and Drexel University.

Note what Falk leaves out: He fails to mention the time that he shut down the Williams campus! How stupid he must think we are. He, and he alone, was responsible for “tuition money wasted” and learning “being disrupted.” Back-of-the-envelope, there are 120 class days per year, so Falk’s cancellation caused 2,000 Williams students to miss almost 1% of their education that year. Total cost: more than $500,000.[1]

Most annoying is Falk’s concern over “innocent people terrorized.” Falk’s 2011 campus shut down involved racist grafitti (“All Niggers Must Die”) in Prospect House. We now know — and the Williams administration knew very quickly — that this was written by black/Hispanic student Jess Torres ’12. Scores of students were honestly terrified by this event. (I have spoken to some.) They really believed — because the Williams administration led them to believe — that there was a (potentially violent?) Klansman with access to the inside of student dormitories. Falk allowed them, even caused them, to feel terrorized because he was too much of a coward to reveal the truth. And now he seeks to lecture us about the dangers of John Derbyshire speaking on campus?

[1] Note that I don’t think this sort of calculation makes a lot of sense. But Falk is the one arguing in these terms.

Facebooktwitter

A Quiet Well-Done!

Cross-posted with permission from the class of 1967 webpage.

— Written by Edward R. (Ted) McPherson, June 2017

The Williams College Class of 1967 is a transformational group of people of character.

At Williams, ours was the first class not to join fraternities, attended when the school was entirely male, and was the final group without Winter Study during January. Many of us served in the military during the height of the Vietnam War, while others made alternative choices for meeting obligations immediately after graduation.

For what were we known starting in Williamstown in 1963, when everything cool was termed “out of sight”?

We liked music that still resonates with us — the Beatles, Kenny Vance’s Do Wop “…looking for an echo, an answer to a sound…”, Motown’s Smokey Robinson, The Supremes, The Temptations, Darlene Love — the greatest backup singer who stood “Twenty Feet from Stardom” — Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound with the Righteous Brothers and the Ronettes, and Bob Dylan, whom I turned down at a price of $400 for a Winter Carnival Weekend concert thinking his music was so different no one would attend!

We were known as “amateur athletes,” such as Dave Nash, a tennis player who made 152 consecutive foul shots in practice as a freshman basketball player at Williams and was featured in the New York Times. Dave is still highly ranked in Master’s tennis today!

We marveled as Steve Orr ran from September to June, pausing only to compete in squash in the winter. Dave Rikert could ski any mountain or scale any precipice, then as now!

In basketball we never lost to Amherst in eight games in four years, defeated Harvard and Dartmouth in their gyms, won Little Three titles and over 80% of our games.
Read more

Facebooktwitter

Adam Falk’s Legacy, 9

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 9.

There are times when I’ve wondered whether we should treat these events as a type of performance rather than speech: If the World Wrestling Federation demanded to hold a cage match on the Berkeley campus, would the university be obligated to host it at public expense?

Views that Adam Falk agrees with == Speech.
Views that Adam Falk disagrees with == Performance.

The First Amendment applies to Speech but not to Performance. Simple!

Let’s try rewriting that last bit:

If When Brothers Speak demanded to hold a spoken word concert on the Berkeley campus, would the university be obligated to host it at public expense?

First, making fun of the enthusiasms of whites, especially poor, less educated whites, is OK, if you are Adam Falk. Making fun of the enthusiasms of African-Americans or Jews or just about any other group? Forget about it!

Second, is Falk so uneducated that he does not realize that this is a settled matter of Constitutional law, a non-problem that is easily handled hundreds of times each week in this great country of ours? Any public institution — whether it be the University of California or Margaret Lindley Park must operate in a viewpoint neutral manner. If you allow group A to hold an event of type X, then you must allow group B to hold an event of type X. You can have rules about X — nothing for profit, nothing loud, nothing with more than 100 attendees, whatever — but those rules must apply to everyone.

The incidents we’re being forced to contend with are far more pernicious and no less staged.

I suspect that Falk is not clear-eyed enough to understand exactly what his views imply. Can public institutions, like Margaret Lindley Park, bar “pernicious” events? Or only pernicious events that are “staged?” Who gets to decide? If that is the rule then, in addition to Nazi events, I would like to ban Communist events since Communists were responsible for at least as many innocent deaths in the 20th century as Nazis.

Nor should we be concerned solely with sensationalist speakers. Too many of our students and faculty are being threatened and harassed for expressing challenging points of view, especially about race. Their words are picked up by websites such as Campus Reform and The College Fix, amplified and distorted and shoveled into the Internet outrage machine.

Adam Falk is concerned with rudeness on the internet? Good luck! But it sure would be nice to see some concern for harassment directed at Williams students like Zach Wood. Adam Falk has no said one single word about that. As best we can tell, he only cares about threats and harassment from the right.

Facebooktwitter

Adam Falk’s Legacy, 8

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 8.

Private colleges have a great deal of discretion to choose which guests to invite to speak in our communities. Our campuses are not legally public squares. So these provocateurs have instead turned their focus to the more vulnerable public institutions.

“Vulnerable” is an interesting choice of works. Often, when people think that an institution is “vulnerable” to something pernicious, they want to strengthen or protect it. Would Adam Falk like to strengthen public schools so that they, like Williams, are no longer “vulnerable” to people like Derbyshire? I am honestly curious.

After all, laws, even the Constitution, can be changed. Or judges can change what the laws mean. If the First Amendment were to be interpreted as strictly as some other amendments, it might become possible for public universities to ban “hate speech.” Is that what Adam Falk wants?

Just this fall we’ve seen the University of Florida forced to spend more than $500,000 to enable a single speech by Spencer.

“Forced?” Not by Spencer. Spencer is happy enough to speak for free. The problem is, obviously, Antifa, the same group responsible for the violence at Middlebury. They seek to deprive, using violence, Spencer from exercising his constitutional right to free speech. Does Falk really want to see the heckler’s veto work so well?

Falk’s opinions are not important because he is important. They are important for the light they shed on where elite opinion is heading in America: Toward the restriction of unpopular speech.

And of course there were the far more agonizing costs of the tragedy in Charlottesville, which began with people carrying torches, swastikas and Confederate battle flags across the Lawn at the University of Virginia.

The Lawn is public. Would Adam Falk like to ban Confederate flags, and the people who like them, from the Lawn? From all public property? From private property? Of course, we need rules and regulations and permits for the use of public land. Current US law is that all such regulation must be viewpoint neutral. The rules for having a Black Lives Matter march on the Lawn must be the same as the rules for having a Nazi march. Adam Falk seems to prefer an America in which some viewpoints are allowed on the Lawn and some are not. Is he some weird outlier? I doubt it.

Facebooktwitter

Steve Case ’80 and ‘Rise of the Rest’ fund …

merlin_128930624_db224d97-771d-4568-8abf-c8fd554028d5-master768Credit  Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times

… Steve Case cut his wisdom teeth at P&G, Cincinnati and Pizza Hut, Wichita. In the picture above, he is with J. D. Vance , the author of  Hillbilly Elegy. Vance, born in Kentucky, grew up in Middletown*, Ohio.

The AOL co-founder Steve Case, front, and the author J.D. Vance quietly recruited some of the country’s wealthiest people to invest in their Rise of the Rest fund, which will seed investments in underserved cities and encourage their contributors to partner with benefiting businesses. The New York Times, December 5, 2017

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/04/business/dealbook/midwest-start-ups.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

* Old-time students of Prof Fred Schuman will have read Middletown A Study in Modern American Culture by husband and wife sociologists Robert Staughton Lynd and Helen Merrell Lynd.  Published in 1925, Middletown is a study of every-day life and values in Muncie, IN.  The book became a best-seller and a basic read in sociology classes.

Facebooktwitter

Adam Falk’s Legacy, 7

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 7.

The problem is that provocateurs such as Derbyshire, Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopolous are intentionally blurring the line between the two. They have few policy ideas to offer, conservative or otherwise, and little or nothing interesting to say about critical issues such as health care, foreign policy or the tax code.

Unlike, say, Jiz Lee (NSFW)? Recall that Williams invited porn star Jiz Lee to speak on campus in 2012, during Adam Falk’s presidency. And that is OK! Williams should be a place for free-wheeling debate. Not every speaker needs to have an opinion on, say, health care. But Falk can’t pretend that there is no place for “provocateurs” on campus while, at the same time, allowing Jiz Lee to speak.

Instead they’re obsessed with provoking outrage by demeaning whole populations and challenging their right to be on our campuses or in our country.

Falk misleadingly conflates Derbyshire (the person he actually banned) with Yiannopolous, much less Spencer. Perhaps Yiannopolous enjoys the outrage game. Derbyshire doesn’t. Perhaps Spencer challenges rights. Derbyshire doesn’t.

Note the sloppy language/thinking in a phrase like “challenging their right to be on our campuses.” What does that even mean? Do Derbyshire/Yiannopolous/Spencer (DYS) challenge the right of any Eph to be on the Williams campus? No! Falk is just making stuff up. (Williams, of course, reserves the right, not only to prevent DYS from being on campus, but to reject thousands of applicants each year.)

Is Falk’s position that anyone who challenges the “right” of group X to be “in our country” is a hate-filled bigot? I am honestly curious. DYS, like President Trump and a majority of American citizens, believe that immigration to the US should be significantly restricted. The Williams faculty/administration has certainly never invited a supporter of immigration-restriction to campus. Is this view banned as well?

What today’s students object to is not hearing points of view different from their own, but hearing their contemporaries publicly humiliated and threatened.

Falk did not object very strongly when Zach Wood and other Williams students were “threatened” by Eph social justice warriors. From Wood’s Senate testimony (pdf):

threat

Or are threats against conservatives OK?

Speakers such as Spencer and Yiannopolous — craving attention, backed with outside money, pumped up with social media muscle and often surrounded by literal muscle — cleverly bully students into a prescribed role in a formulaic drama: intolerant liberal “snowflakes” silencing courageous speakers of uncomfortable truths.

Exercise for the reader: Evaluate the (sloppy) rhetoric in this passage.

Facebooktwitter

Adam Falk’s Legacy, 6

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 6.

Before we continue our examination of Falk’s justifications, I want to step back and examine my claim that, if Falk is remembered for anything 50 years from now — in the same way that we remember Williams President Jack Sawyer ’39 for his elimination of fraternities — it will be for banning Derbyshire. Are there other candidates for historical importance during Falk’s tenure?

1) His tenure placed the final nail in the coffin of faculty governance. Recall the “alignment” (pdf) that Falk outlined 7 years ago. 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.

2) Falk’s naivete about fake hate crimes might be an example in a history book 50 years from now. In November 2011, someone wrote “All Niggers Must Die” on the door of a bathroom on the fourth floor of Prospect House. (Record coverage here, here, and here.) That someone was almost certainly student of color and campus activist Jess Torres ’12. Evidence here: pdf. Previous discussion starts here. Falk cancelled classes even though he knew, or should have known, that this was a hate hoax. This was the first campus-wide cancellation of classes for almost 50 years.

3) Might Zach Wood ’18 go on to greatness? Probably not, since there are few slots available in history’s pantheon. But, if he does, his battles with Falk will live on.

4) Someone suggested (sorry, can’t find the link) that Falk would be remembered for turning Williams into a mall and/or ski-lodge. I disagree with that assessment because the major changes in campus construction (replace Baxter with Paresky, add Hollander/Schapiro, remove Sawyer Library) all occurred before his arrival. Even the major change during his time (completion of new Stetson/Sawyer) was planned/started before him.

What do readers think Falk will be remembered for in 2067?

Facebooktwitter

Older Posts »