Currently browsing the archives for February 2018

Jeremiad and Eulogy, 4

Pomona Professor John Seery‘s article, “Somewhere Between a Jeremiad and a Eulogy,” is a moving description of the changes at elite liberal arts colleges over the last 30 years. (See here for a shorter version.) Almost everything he writes about Pomona is just as true of Williams, including the death of faculty governance, the growth of college staff and out-of-control administrator salaries. Let’s spend a week going through it. Day 4.

The most conspicuous change I’ve seen over those years is that the number of administrators has ballooned. On the shelves in my office I still have my first Pomona College catalog, for the academic year 1990–91, a printed black-and-white publication with a four-color but poorly designed cardboard-stock cover glued over the smudgy pages in between. Toward the back of the catalog, under “Administration,” there are nine offices listed, covering three pages, naming 56 persons as the members of the administration. Thereafter, the professors are listed, a total of 180. At the time, Pomona matriculated 1,487 students. In 2016 it takes me about ten seconds to find all this information in the cheap 1990 catalog.

Good stuff. I believe the Williams library is working on putting our old course catalogs on-line. You can be certain that the same was true at Williams.

Cut to the future, 2016. . . . Pomona College now has, by my careful count, 271 administrators … . The number of Pomona College faculty remains roughly the same (a current Pomona website lists the number of regular faculty at 186). The number of students has increased to 1,640.

The president now has nine vice presidents (up from four in 1990). The Dean of Students Office has gone from six persons in 1990 to sixty-five persons in 2016 (not counting administrative assistants). . . .

Summary overview: the number of students at Pomona has increased 12 percent from 1990 to 2016; the number of faculty has increased 3 percent; tuition has increased 253 percent; the number of administrators has increased 384 percent. Pomona now employs far more administrators (271) than faculty (186) to fulfill its small college, nonprofit educational mission.

Exactly right. Administrative staff have ballooned at Pomona — and at Williams and at Amherst and at . . . .

I know that there are good people who will sincerely try to explain and defend the mushrooming increases in administrative positions. Some attribute it to an onslaught of federal regulation (e.g., Clery Act, VAWA, ADA, FERPA, Title IV, Title IX) and increased scrutiny by regional accrediting agencies, all following from reauthorizations of the Higher Educational Act of 1965. Some point to increased competition for students owing to the emergence of rankings services, globalization, helicopter parenting, and so on. Some say that a more diversified student body requires more administrators in tow. Some say corporatist trends have infiltrated higher education everywhere. The net effect of all these macro-explanations is to conclude that the administrative overthrow of the erstwhile SLAC model was inevitable, and all we can do now is shrug our shoulders, sit through PowerPoint meetings with small breakout sessions, learn to speak the prevailing jargon, and watch reruns of The Office for off-hour comic relief.

This is both true, and too defeatist. Since the same thing has happened at every single elite school, the cause is not a specific president or powerful vizier.

But a visionary board of trustees (or president) could have done something, could still do something.

1) Fix the current number of non-faculty employees at its current level. EphBlog was recommending that policy 13 years ago. The Trustees should not micro-manage the institution, but fixing the headcount is a perfect trustee-level way of solving the problem.

2) Ratchet down the total number of non-faculty employees by 1% each year. More than 1% of the staff leave each year, either via retirement or voluntary departure, so this would require no firings. A 1% drop each year is imperceptible, but, in a decade or two, we will have made real progress.

3) Recruit the faculty to do more. Lots of faculty have no interest in anything but their teaching and research. And that is OK! But dozens of faculty would be eager to take a turn as, say, an assistant Dean of the College or assistant Provost.

Odds of this happening at Williams (or Pomona)? Zero point zero.

Here’s an increasingly typical scenario at Pomona: A meeting of the faculty is called because someone above our pay grade has decided that we all need to learn about a new complicated software package that ITS will roll out in several phases. The new package may involve the logistics of registration, or computer security, or computer storage, or business accounting (many of these matters have in fact generated such meetings in recent years). Now, if we professors were all lawyers in a corporate law firm, calling a meeting of so many lawyers time and again might be tallied in terms of collective billable hours lost to the firm. But for some reason, we in academe don’t reckon these meetings as an inherent and escalating cost of our technological infrastructure.

Seery fails to understand that many (most?) of the problems he points out at Pomona are not just problems at elite liberal arts colleges. They are problems at every successful non-profit. The exact same thing is happening at, say, the College Board and CFA Institute. When lots of money rolls in, empires will be built, bureaucracies will grow, and the original mission will fade. The old line is: Every successful organization starts as a mission, turns into a business and ends as a racquet. Where is Williams today in that evolution?

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“Guns”: the four-letter word that must not be spoken …

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Redux of 6 November, 2017 

 

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Jeremiad and Eulogy, 3

Pomona Professor John Seery‘s article, “Somewhere Between a Jeremiad and a Eulogy,” is a moving description of the changes at elite liberal arts colleges over the last 30 years. (See here for a shorter version.) Almost everything he writes about Pomona is just as true of Williams, including the death of faculty governance, the growth of college staff and out-of-control administrator salaries. Let’s spend a week going through it. Day 3.

Seery pulls few punches:

For the rapid destruction of the American small college—which is what we are witnessing—I could wag my finger at a number of culprits and conditions. But I want to focus my ire here on one main responsible party: small liberal arts college presidents. They bear the bulk of the blame. The fish rots from the head down.

This conflates two separate issues. First, small liberal arts colleges have been decimated over the last 30 years. Scores have closed, almost always because students stopped applying/enrolling. Maybe a few of the presidents involved were greedy/incompetent. But not all of them! Second, elite liberal arts colleges like Pomona and Williams have changed a great deal. That is the “rot” that worries Seery.

Colleges are formally and informally governed far more like top-down Leninist organizations than hippie communes. Members of the board of trustees, operating according to a set of by-laws for the corporation, bear the legal and fiduciary responsibilities for good stewardship at the top, but in fact the president holds the keys to the Chevy and can drive it pretty much wherever he/she wishes (and over time, the president handpicks many of the members of the board and also pushes out critics, so it becomes more or less an old boys club). The president thus enjoys a great deal of formal and discretionary power, and isn’t constrained, as would be a CEO of a for-profit company, for overriding and clarifying concerns about bottom-line profit or shareholder returns.

True and false. It is true that college presidents, like corporate CEOs, have a lot of power and that, in general, trustees defer to them. But there is some amount of “market” discipline. Look at all the liberal arts colleges that have disappeared! Look at the movement in prestige and rankings. Look at the college presidents that are forced out, people like Hank Payne at Williams and Nancy Roseman at Dickison.

More importantly, it is naive to blame person X for something if that same something is happening everywhere. You can believe in the Great Man theory of college presidencies: The reason that Williams looks the way it does is because Morty Schapiro caused it to look that way. But you can’t simultaneously believe that and also observe that every elite college has changed in the exact same way. If every college now has highly paid administrators or too many staff, then the fault can not lie with a specific president. The cause must be systematic.

The hallowed and possibly countervailing notions of “faculty governance” and “academic freedom” are not professorial prerogatives or rights inscribed somehow in Nature or the Constitution but are, instead, discretionary privileges extended by the beneficence and norms of the Powers-that-Be at the uppermost echelon of the college. Oh, faculty committees can write reports and hold meetings and take votes and make a small ruckus. But the president is in charge, and can ignore or squelch all the noise below. And so the ultimate responsibility for the college’s corruption and demise should not be distributed or attenuated. No buck passing.

Huh? The faculty at Pomona used to be X powerful. It is now X/2 powerful. The same thing has happened at Williams. You can blame college presidents for grabbing more power — and Lord knows that I love to blame Adam Falk — but you have to blame the faculty as well. They could have fought much harder than they did. They could fight much harder now. What precisely has Seery spent the last few decades doing? Not much, I bet.

[S]mall liberal arts college presidents don’t know what they are talking about, and yet they talk as if they do. As a class of professional liars, they shouldn’t be trusted with the truth-seeking institutions with which they’ve been entrusted. They are to promote the college as a place of teaching. But they are not teachers. They are to sing the praises of the liberal arts classroom. But most of them have never set foot on a liberal arts college campus before heading one up. Most of them, I dare say after perusing their lifelong track records and educational and career choices, would never have sought out a presidency at a small liberal arts college but for the enormous pay and status that now come attached to those jobs.

“[P]rofessional liars?” Come on! To be a college president, you have to be a bit of a politician, you have to get along with people you don’t like — obstreperous senior professors of government, for example. You can’t tell people exactly what you think all the time. You often speak in platitudes. But that has been true of college presidents for hundreds of years. This is hardly the same as being a liar.

It is a separate question whether or not the current (outrageous!) pay of elite college presidents attract the wrong sort of candidates. I agree and, moreover, even if it doesn’t, there is no reason to expect that high pay actually leads to better presidents.

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How to Pick a Husband

About half of the female students currently at Williams will not be married at age 32. Don’t want that to be your fate? You will never be prettier than you are right now and you will never be surrounded by as many single, high-quality men. Follow EphBlog’s advice:

1) Pick 5 Williams men you would like to go out with on a date. You are, obviously, not picking a husband at this stage, but you are selecting likely candidates. Because men are shallow creatures, select men that are about as handsome as you are pretty. If you are average, then select an average man. Even better, select a man at the 25th percentile of attractiveness. If you end up married, he will spend the rest of his life marveling at the beauty of the woman in his bed each morning and vowing to do his best not to screw up his good fortune.

2) Pick a friend to be the matchmaker. Many of your friends would jump at the chance. You need someone social, someone not afraid to approach a (possible) stranger on your behalf.

3) Have your friend approach a candidate and let him know that, if he asked you out on a dinner date, you would say, “Yes.” Assuming you have picked wisely, he will be excited! There are few things a boy likes more than knowing a girl is interested in him. And the reason he hasn’t asked you out before was, most likely, that he was afraid you would say, “No.” There is nothing a boy fears more than rejection. Since he knows ahead of time what your answer will be, you can be (mostly) certain that he will ask you out. If you want to avoid the embarrassment of rejection yourself, just allow your friend the discretion to approach the men in the order she sees fit. Then she won’t even need to tell you if candidates 1 and 2 turned down this opportunity.

4) Go out on the date. Who knows what will happen? The date may be a failure. If so, have your friend go on to another candidate. But the date is probably more likely to go well, especially if you chose your five candidates wisely, picking men that you already liked and respected, men with whom you could imagine having a longterm relationship. One date may lead to another, and then another. Perhaps you will never have a need for the other four candidates.

Does this seem like a horribly retrograde and patriarchal plan? Perhaps it is! The claim I am making is purely a statistical one. Female Eph undergraduates who follow this advice are more likely to be married at 32 than those who do not.

Happy Valentines Day! And point your date toward EphBlog’s annual advice on falling in love . . .

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RE: “Husband” Post Above …

VALENTINE%206… Sophie Johnson in The New Yorker Daily Shouts, 14 February 2018

https://www.newyorker.com/humor/daily-shouts/culturally-relevant-valentines

 

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A Saint with a Lesson …

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all we need is love… 

Typed on a 1969 Olivetti Valentine portable designed by Ettore Sottsass, the leader of the Memphis design group in Milan.

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

P1040390    P1040389

 

 

 

 

 

 

The back of the typewriter  becomes the top of the cover complete with handle. With the machine out, the case becomes a waste basket.

The Pelikan pen holder with an M200 in its’ beak is to remind me of my love for fountain pens. You need a lot of love to go around today!

 

 

 

 

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Jeremiad and Eulogy, 2

Pomona Professor John Seery‘s article, “Somewhere Between a Jeremiad and a Eulogy,” is a moving description of the changes at elite liberal arts colleges over the last 30 years. (See here for a shorter version.) Almost everything he writes about Pomona is just as true of Williams, including the death of faculty governance, the growth of college staff and out-of-control administrator salaries. Let’s spend a week going through it. Day 2.

But that cancerous disease—of a burgeoning and expensive administrative apparatus über alles—has infected small colleges, too, and its damaging effects are particularly pernicious there.

An autonomous managerial class has emerged whose immediate and ulterior interests are occupational as opposed to educational (a distinction that ought not to be collapsed), and whose mission is to serve administrative purposes as opposed to teaching purposes (another distinction that ought not to be elided). Perhaps worst of all, the management model of organization, in trying to bring small colleges into the fold of purportedly national “best practices” and procedures, is destroying the distinctiveness, the localism, the teacherliness, the very raison d’etrê, of small colleges, one by one, all across America. Those colleges rich enough to compete for students and brand recognition with the likes of Stanford and Princeton may survive the last shakeout, but I’m afraid it will be at the expense of, as it were, their institutional souls.

An “autonomous managerial class” has certainly emerged at Williams over the last 30 years. Its key members include Collette Chilton, Chief Investment Officer; Steve Klass, Vice President for Campus Life; Leticia S. E. Haynes, Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity; and Frederick W. Puddester, Vice President for Finance & Administration and Treasurer. Note:

1) None of these jobs existed 30 years ago. Indeed, there are at least 8 people in jobs that did not exist 15 years ago and who are paid much more than almost any member of the faculty. If the Williams of 1990 could survive with these roles, then couldn’t the Williams of 2018?

2) These people are paid much more than the faculty. From the 2016 Form 990 (pdf), the total compensation numbers are:

Chilton: $1,476,000
Haynes: $122,000
Klass: $378,000
Puddester: $473,000

(The Haynes number is surprisingly low since her predecessor, Mike Reed, made more than twice as much in the same job.)

3) These people are much more powerful than the average faculty member. The easiest way to track power in any organization, other than via compensation, is to examine access. Klass/Puddester meet more with the president of Williams in an average week than the typical faculty member does over the course of a year.

4) This is just the tip of the administrative iceberg. I left out folks like Megan Morey
Vice President for College Relations, Jim Reische Chief Communications Officer and Keli Gail
Assistant to the President and Secretary of the College because those jobs existed 15 years ago, albeit with much less power, and with much lower compensation (relative to the faculty). And then, in the levels below the President’s senior staff, we have scores of new positions/employees.

Seery is correct about the growth of this “class” and its ever increasing power/wealth relative to the faculty. 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.

But, is it fair to say that Pomona/Williams are losing “their institutional souls?” He offers no evidence for this much stronger claim. Steve Klass is a good guy! He would agree with everything that Seery says about the centrality of the classroom to the mission of Williams. Klass would just argue that, in addition to great teachers, a multi-billion dollar institution like Williams needs great administrators, people who decide, for example, where to build the new dorm. Does Seery disagree?

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Jeremiad and Eulogy, 1

Pomona Professor John Seery‘s article, “Somewhere Between a Jeremiad and a Eulogy,” is a moving description of the changes at elite liberal arts colleges over the last 30 years. (See here for a shorter version.) Almost everything he writes about Pomona is just as true of Williams, including the death of faculty governance, the growth of college staff and out-of-control administrator salaries. Let’s spend a week going through it. Day 1.

Seery begins:

I write this essay with mixed feelings. Half of me is mighty reluctant to write something harshly critical about higher education in the United States because I’m such a true-blue believer in, beneficiary of, and insider (here in my nook) to the system: Why should I contribute to the clamorous cross-country badmouthing so in vogue? We educators today are under siege by roving bands of pauperized parents, skunk-eyed skeptics, bean-counting accountants, dastardly disrupters, cretinous accreditors, mega-moneyed magnates, technology tycoons, pooh-poohing pundits, profiteering politicos, and others.

The more you love something, the more you have a responsibility to engage in honest, thoughtful criticism of it. I haven’t written almost every day for 15 years about Williams because I hate it. I write about Williams because I love it. Despite that (or maybe because of it), I suspect that most of Hopkins Hall views me as a “skunk-eyed skeptic.” Not that there is anything wrong with that!

My on-the-ground, in-the-hallway reality thus contravenes the prevailing narrative depicting professors as a bunch of pampered partisan prigs. Go ahead, troll me, if you must.

Professors as a class are hardly “pampered.” Indeed, the dramatic over-supply of Ph.D.’s and the ever increasing adjunctification of higher ed means that the average Ph.D. who teaches college students in the US is under increasing siege.

But Seery and his tenured peers at Pomona (and Williams) are among the most pampered workers in the entire world. Does Seery really not know that? First, they can never be fired. (Recall Williams Professor Aida Lalelian use of the term “nigger” to attack a faculty colleague. In any other company in the US, she would have been fired the next day. As a tenured professor at an elite college, she was safe.) Second, they get raises every year. Even the worse teacher/scholar at Pomona, once tenured, is on almost the exact same ever-rising ladder of prosperity as Seery. Third, their required workloads have decreased dramatically. At Williams, professors have gone from “3 and 3″ — meaning a requirement to teach 3 courses each semester — to “3 and 2″ to “2 and 2.” You can be certain the same thing has happened at similar colleges. If tenured professors at Pomona are not “pampered,” then no employee is.

I’m an outspoken, latter-day, and self-appointed apostle for the small liberal arts college (SLAC) form of education, a distinctively American institution.

Me too! Read “Choose Williams Over Harvard” for the details.

Only about 1 percent of the nation’s twenty million undergraduates are educated these days in a SLAC. Maybe I’m whistling past the graveyard, or going down with the sinking ship, or living on an isolated island as a blinkered holdout after the war is long over, but I still assert that the small liberal arts college form of education ought to be recognized (because it is so in fact, sotto voce, even if in dwindling numbers) as the gold standard, the summum bonum, the best of the best, for undergraduate education (rich, poor, white, black, religious, secular, you name it).

That is absurd. Has Seery ever met a high school senior with, say, 25th percentile intelligence? He should go visit some average high schools! Such students don’t like school, they don’t like reading, they don’t like all that intellectual stuff that Seery (and I!) like. And that is OK! We should no more make such students go to places like Pomona than we should make non-academically inclined Pomona students get a Ph.D. Graduate school is not for everyone, and neither is life at a SLAC. Such students are much better off learning a trade after high school.

But, to the extent that Seery is talking about the intellectual elite, I agree. If you have a choice between Pomona and, say, Cornell, you should choose Pomona for all the reasons that you should choose Williams over Harvard.

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A Sunday Break: Coats, Hats, and The Queen…

Screen Shot 2018-02-09 at 12.20.56 PMThe Queen paying tribute to Williams or Churchill’s mother. 

Well, yes. I am an Anglophile, now that you ask.

For me this has meant a lot of tweed. But for the Queen, it means selecting from a seemingly limitless array of colour (the showy Anglophile’s preferred spelling) and varied styles reflecting the times in her choice of coats.

https://www.vanityfair.com/style/photos/2017/07/queen-elizabeth-rainbow-coats

…and the hats. Unlike Boston women who “have our hats”, the Queen manages  to wear a brimmed or toque number to suit her assemblage.  And eye-catching creations they are.

https://www.vanityfair.com/style/photos/2012/05/diamond-jubilee-hats-queen-elizabeth

What with Phil’s grim prediction of more gray and the unbelievable Grimm tales from the WH, I add this colour blotch to the blog.

 

 

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Diversity, in All Its Forms: Conservative Society President Speaks on Claiming Williams Day

On February 1st, classes were cancelled for the tenth annual Claiming Williams Day celebration of topics related to diversity and inclusion.

Conservative Society President John DiGravio ’21 was invited by student organizers to give a speech at a Claiming Williams morning event. The presentation, titled “Diversity, in All Its Forms: Conservative Thought at Williams” was delivered to 130 students, faculty, and administrators assembled in Griffin Hall. After articulating the foundations of his personal commitment to diversity of perspective, John explained the extent to which the College is failing to ensure the intellectual diversity of the curriculum and campus community. He then described the Society’s efforts to address this issue and called upon members of the Williams community to uphold their commitment to diversity in all its forms.

John has spoken at a number of public engagements related to intellectual diversity and conservative thought at Williams. If you would like to continue the conversation initiated in this speech, or arrange for John to present at another event, please contact him at jjd6@williams.edu.

For the latest updates on the activities of the Williams College Society for Conservative Thought, please visit and bookmark our new website: https://www.wcsct.org/.
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December 2016 Faculty Meeting Notes

These (pdf) are the notes for the faculty meeting held in December 2016, as distributed at the next faculty meeting in February 2017. Worth going through in detail?

Perhaps an anonymous source could send me these notes for the last year or so (daviddudleyfield at gmail)? Given that these documents are distributed to 250+ (300+?) people at Williams, there is no reason to keep them hidden. More transparency, please!

UPDATE: Here (pdf) are the Faculty Meeting Notes for October 2008.

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Place of Athletics at Amherst

A reader pointed out this 2016 report: The Place of Athletics at Amherst (pdf). It is similar to the 2003 MacDonald Report from Williams. You can be certain that 90%+ of its factual reporting would be the same at Williams. Worth going through for a week?

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Daily Quizzes

quizzes

1) How common are daily quizzes at Williams? Back in the 80s, I can’t recall a single class — perhaps outside of the languages — using them. Has that changed? Is Kornell an outlier? I can’t think of another class that uses them . . .

2) What do people think of daily quizzes? I hate them because they are a symptom of classes that are too large. Tutorials (and small seminars?) don’t use or need daily quizzes because students have no choice (?) but to do the readings. No More Lectures!

3) I think that daily quizzes were common back in the 50s. Can any of our more senior EphBloggers comment? The excellent book, Newhall and Williams College: Selected Papers of a History Teacher at a New England College, 1917-1973, includes some discussion of Newhall’s use of quizzes in his history classes.

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Addiction to Your Own Prejudices

add

Indeed. Should EphBlog aim for more or fewer “rage clicks” in 2018?

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Hate Hoaxes: A History

A “hate hoax” is an act of hate — racist graffiti, a threatening note — which is a hoax in the sense that it was perpetrated by a member (or ally) of the class of people it purports to attack. See Pro Publica and Reason for discussion and examples. Let’s review some examples from Williams history:

January 1993: Three (anti-black) racist slurs posted on the door of Rice House. Perpetrator turned out to an African-American student. He was suspended for one semester.

September 2001: Female student reports that she was assaulted in her dorm room. Turns out that she made the whole thing up. I do not think that this truly qualifies as a hate hoax since her intent was probably not to stir up a campus controversy about sexual assault.

November 2011: Racist note — All Niggers Must Die — attached to a door in Prospect House. Perpetrator was (almost certainly) an African-American/Hispanic student activist. She was not punished and, to this day, the College maintains the public fiction that this was an actual hate crime.

November 2012: Racist statement — All beaners must die — written on whiteboard in Mission. Perpetrator was of “Mexican descent.” As best I can tell, the student was not punished.

November 2016: Racist graffiti — AMKKK, “meant to signify AmeriKKKa, a spelling of America that references racism in our society” — written in red paint in Griffin Hall. Two students are caught, both claiming (plausibly!) to have no connection to the KKK. There are reports that at least one of the students was a minority. Students were probably punished, but I do not know the details. One might reasonably quibble whether this is an example of a true “hate hoax,” in particular, whether the two students had the necessary intent. Let’s leave that debate for another day.

Are there other examples I should include?

As best I can tell, there are about as many hate hoaxes at Williams as there are actual hate crimes. What do readers estimate the proportions to be?

Even the hate crimes that do not seem to be hoaxes — Williams E in 2008, Mills-Dennett 1 in 2009 and Paresky 2014 — often seem to be driven by animus whose original source has nothing directly to do with hate . . . but that is a discussion for another day.

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‘Twitter’ and Leadership: a topic for discussion?

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A Sunday Break: Clash of the Fields!

As we gather to watch the Super Bowl at the new US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, consider this:

The Super Bowl has never been played at Farley-Lamb Field.

williamswestoncomplex

Why is this!  

Other schools’ fields have been honored to hold this event with its’ influx of tourist dollars and publicity. Yet the only football game aired from Weston was the Williams-Amherst game in 2007 when ESPN featured the game with the lede : The Biggest Little Game in America.  And the score was W 20/A zip.

Is this because our leftist faculty and administration are destroying the proud record of elitist right-wing helmet heads who have made Williams teams a tradition since 1884? Shame, I say!

Here is a reference to other stadii with whom we compete for you to peruse and thus formulate your thoughts for action and/or deconstruction:

https://www.dezeen.com/2018/02/01/super-bowl-stadiums-past-present-future-american-football-nfl-championship-venues/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily%20Dezeen%20Digest&utm_content=Daily%20Dezeen%20Digest+CID_7c6e605b889c70dc30c2d6918b63b6a7&utm_source=Dezeen%20Mail&utm_term=Hard%20Rock%20Stadium%20by%20Populous%20Miami%20Florida

Your comments most welcome!

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Upperclassmen Can’t Enroll in CS 134/136?

A comment from a CS major:

CS 134 is definitely necessary to do well (and possibly even enroll) in 136, unless students have received a score of 5 on the computer science AP.

The CS AP is not very rigorous, but it’s more about having had the opportunity to work with code a little bit before you jump into 136. A lot of students do poorly in 134 or end up pass-failing it as it is; I definitely wouldn’t recommend anyone without programming experience try to jump straight in to 136 (it’s true that you don’t get much actual theory until 136, but I still think 134 is valuable).

I would also add that, because the CS department is very understaffed (CS profs teach the most student-hours of any dept; almost 4 times more than the lowest department) it’s pretty much impossible to get into 134 or 136 after freshman year. Sadly, space is so limited that only students who seem likely to major can usually get a seat.

1) Thanks for the comment! Do any CS majors disagree with the above?

2) Is it really true that sophomores/juniors/seniors can’t get in to CS 134/136? That would be absurd! I had not heard that things were this bad . . .

3) The Provost Office claims that other departments — Chemistry, at least, but also, I think, Statistics — teach more students per professor than Computer Science.

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Racial Capitalism

Fox News has been reading course catalogs again.

Colleges nationwide are teaching students about tacos, hooking up and country music’s “homophobic and racist” message — but those are just a few examples, as classes such as “Queer Religion” and “Racial Capitalism” become the new norm.

The classes are listed and explained in Young America’s Foundation’s annual report of bizarre courses with a “leftist slant” that are offered at top-tier colleges and universities throughout the country.

Williams College has a course on “Radical Theories of Political Struggle: Anti-Black Racism and the Obama Administration” as well as “Racial Capitalism,” which looks at “the ways in which capitalist economies have ‘always and everywhere’ relied upon forms of racist domination and exclusion.”

1) Anytime we are mentioned in a news article along with places like Princeton and Harvard, we win. So, thanks Fox News!

2) The underlying report actually mentions 7 courses, 5 in Africana Studies. It is almost as if the Young America’s Foundation does not consider Africana Studies to be a legitimate field . . .

3) I am more concerned with the rigor and seriousness of these classes than with any (alleged) ideological bias. To examine that question, we need to start with a close reading of the syllabi. Alas, Williams does not make those public. What does it have to hide? Perhaps a reader could share them with us?

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2/2 2/2 2/2 2/2 2/2 …

Watch out for that first step, it’s a doozie!

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Here’s to Claiming Williams (From a Maverick Student)

Another year, another day that strains my patience.

Why claim Williams as your home, when it is clearly a resource you get the privilege (yes, privilege) to pay at least 10K a year for? Indeed, my first instinct is to think, “what can I do, as a humble servant to Williams, to better Williams?”

Instead, an entire day that could be spent on classes gets skipped to pander to a particularly phonetic party of privileged pretend rebels. Yes, keep telling me how Williams needs to do more to help the political agenda of minorities when we have more left-leaning student organizations than I can count, Williamstown is a de facto Sanctuary City, and I can walk to Rice House or the Jewish Religious Center in about five minutes.

Meanwhile, I, with my crazy views that Trump’s policies aren’t that bad, or that maybe we shouldn’t outright applaud someone who broke U.S. law and falsified legal documents, or that the students should be grateful they even got into this place before whining about all its foibles, get to sit quietly, and watch this exemplary campus slip further into leftist diploma mill.

Also, the cafeteria always sucks these days. Can’t I claim a decent meal in Claiming Williams Day?

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A Student’s Views on Claiming Williams

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Promoted from the comments:

Claiming Williams day really frustrates me. It totally throws off the beginning of the semester.

I pay tuition so I can take classes. This is time that could be spent actually learning from qualified instructors (not my victim-complex self-obsessed peers). I attended one event my freshman year about mental health on campus and couldn’t handle the masturbatory discussion. There was absolutely nothing productive or meaningful said… one person asked the panel of “mentally ill” (read: depressed/anxious) students, “What do you wish the college would do differently to make you feel better here?” and one responded, I swear to god, “Get rid of tuition. It’s very stressful”, and nobody pushed back against that response. I put “mentally ill” in quotes because students here have a loose definition of this term — if you worry about stuff or feel sad sometimes, you qualify as mentally ill. As the son of a schizophrenic person, this annoys me.

Most of my friends don’t go to any events. I don’t go to any events. I think you totally hit the nail on the head — it’s just a poorly planned and executed day. There’s no central kick-off event worth attending that would drag people out of bed. Free food is such a no brainer, but they couldn’t even pull that together. In years past they’ve bought pizza at the *end* of the day, pulling me away from doing my homework and job apps just in time for all the events to be over. It seems Mountain Day is about 10x better planned than Claiming Williams day, which is frustrating since they’re both given the very serious accommodation of cancelled classes.

I might sound cynical, but even my SJW friends aren’t big on this day. I rarely hear people who are excited for it… a lot of them feel like it’s just an empty gesture by the administration to appease their more legitimate concerns about the colleges misdeeds (for instance, divestment). It’s interesting that this is what comes out of the Davis Center… they have like three buildings dedicated to their activities on campus and a lot of full-time faculty, you’d think something better would be arranged.

What do other students think? Is my estimate that less than 500 students participate in Claiming Williams — where participation is defined as attending at least two events — reasonable?

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Claiming Williams 2018

Today is Claiming Williams. Here is the schedule. (Copied below the break for future historians.) Comments:

1) This schedule is incompetent! Here is the committee, and the co-chairs are Annie Valk, Angela Wu, and Rashanda Booker. Are they to blame? Shouldn’t one of the co-chairs be a tenured faculty member? Is that a sign that the faculty is less interested and so we might get rid of Claiming Williams? Or is it just another example of the continued erosion of faculty governance at the College?

The main trick to ensuring high attendance at Claiming Williams is to schedule a first event that hundreds of students will want to attend (or be cajoled into attending by their JAs). That event should feature people/items that are popular with students. Everyone loves singing groups! Invite several to perform. Everyone loves honeybuns! Serve them for free. In past years, the organizers have done exactly this, thereby getting lots of students out of bed and engaged. Once they attend the first event, it is easier to get them to go from that to another. There is nothing like that this year, nor was their last year.

2) What a narrow selection of topics! Claiming Williams has always been (and will always be) filled with leftist sessions. Nothing wrong with that! But, in past years, other sessions, appealing to a different cross-section of the community, have generated large audiences. How about something about athletics at Williams and the athlete/non-athlete divide? What about a session on the drinking culture? A more competent committee would have created such sessions. Even the sessions that might be non-political, like this one about being Asian-American, are leftist:

What does it mean to be an Asian American at Williams and in today’s political climate? Five members of the Asian American community will respond to this question using their own understanding and experiences. The event addresses how Asian Americans can take a more political role in today’s world.

Why does this event have to focus on taking “a more political role?” Why not just gather a diverse group of Asian-Americans and let us hear from them? For example, Asian-Americans are very active in the Christian groups at Williams. Was one of them invited to this panel? Why not?

Again, nothing wrong with extreme leftists! Some of our closest friends are . . . But there is no excuse for not having (many!) events that come at these issues from other perspectives.

3) How can there be nothing about Uncomfortable Learning and the banning of John Derbyshire? This was the biggest national news story involving Williams in several years. To not have a single session about it is just embarrassing.

4) Could the Record please do a minimal amount of reporting and tell us, approximately, how many students attend at least two events? My sense (commentary welcome) is that the College likes to pretend like a large majority of students (1500?) attend more than one event. I bet that the actual number is closer to 500, and maybe as low as 300.

I interviewed 7 students this fall on a different topic. One was a first year. If we define “participation in Claiming Williams” as having attended at least two events, none of the other 6 participated. This is not a large sample and it was not randomly chose, but, still! (On the other hand, 6 of the 7 had “participated” in Mountain Day, where participation is defined as going on at least one hike.) Mountain Day still merits cancelling classes. Does Claiming Williams?

I also asked the 6 students what their estimate was for student participation in Claiming Williams. The median estimate was 25%. If only a quarter of the students participate in Claiming Williams, then the College ought to cancel it next year.

Full schedule below
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