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Change First Days to First Month

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

Shaping character and nurturing community are difficult problems, so we should look for inspiration to those with a track record of success. The most relevant examples are military and religious organizations like the Marine Corps and the Mormon Church. What lessons do they have for us?
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A Sunday Break: … 30 …

D. Kane and D. Swart exchange views on Ephblog at a very nice lunch in Boston last fall.Screen Shot 2018-04-08 at 4.28.08 PM

It was a pleasure for the Hood River stringer to have this meeting with the owner, editor, and chief content provider of Ephodder. The much-maligned mogul is in actual presence a relaxed, convivial, conversationalist and bon companion for a mid-day grill. I was his guest. I also imagine that no captions are needed to identify the subjects.

I admire Dave for his dedicating this blog to his father D. Kane ’58. And for his determination to have a new post up every day. This means that since he started the blog in 2003, he has written 9000 and some posts.

This is an immense dedication to digging for stories, items, releases on which to present observations of foibles and views of policies and actions. It may be that now in 2018, the formerly new is being recycled. That the content provider’s opinions have become more set over time. That these opinions tend to be contentious in some ways, as they should be. 

However, I find that the focus of the postings has turned too completely meta-college administration as opposed to the proud banner “All things Eph”. There was a time when this banner actually worked and many different topics were posted on topics of a much wider world … as one might expect of graduates of a leading liberal arts institution.

I recognize that meta-administration is what  current readers want to read and discuss, either pro or con, and at length. So saying I recognize that my attempts to spread the definition of the World-o-Williams a bit in the blog are not adding any dimension to the discourse.

While I will be retiring my Hood River quill, I urge some other reader, with a sense of a broader outlook to present,  to jump right in!

 

… 30 …

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Update from the Committee on Priorities and Resources

From a faculty source:

The Committee on Priorities and Resources (CPR) would like to thank all of you who came to the open forum earlier this month and shared your thoughts about the college’s priorities, values, and commitments.

Some of your comments underscored the importance of issues that the committee has been considering carefully. These include how the college should meet its sustainability goals of reducing emissions to 35 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and achieving carbon neutrality by the end of 2020. Considerable attention has also been given not just to on-going construction projects, but also to how the college should decide what, when, and how to build. A report on the college’s building process can be found here. Possible changes to our admission and financial aid policies have also been discussed. Other thoughts, particularly those about staff salary and compensation, pointed to issues that should and will be put on the committee’s agenda.

To provide more regular opportunities for faculty, staff, and students to communicate ideas and concerns to the committee, CPR is creating a webpage and will be holding more open forums next year. In the meantime, we encourage you to contact the committee using this form.

We look forward to hearing from you,

Pei-Wen Chen, Biology
Todd Hoffman, Budget Director
Steve Klass, VP for Campus Life
Dukes Love, Provost
Megan Morey, VP for College Relations
Fred Puddester, VP for Finance and Administration
Michael Rubel ’19
Matt Sheehy, Associate VP for Finance
Jim Shepard, English
Allegra Simon ’18
Eiko Maruko Siniawer, History, Chair of CPR
Tara Watson, Economics and Public Health
Chris Winters, Associate Provost
Weitao Zhu ’18

Chair Eiko Siniawer wasn’t able to share details about the “[p]ossible changes to our admission and financial aid policies” but she did note that CPR would be publishing a report in May. Thanks Eiko!

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April Ruiz

The Yale Daily News reported in January:

April Ruiz ’05 — dean of Grace Hopper College, dean of first-year scholars at Yale and lecturer in the cognitive science and psychology departments — will leave Yale over spring break, she announced in an email to the Hopper community on Thursday morning. Ruiz said she has accepted a position at another institution but cannot disclose any details until it formally announces her appointment after spring break.

“One can never control when these sorts of opportunities present themselves, and the decision to accept [the offer] is not one I made lightly,” Ruiz told the News. “Just as I’ve always encouraged my students to pursue paths that will push them forward, I know they will support me as I do so.”

Ruiz, who served as Hopper dean for four years, helped the college community navigate a tumultuous renaming process, during which students, staff, faculty and alumni debated whether or not Hopper College — formerly known as Calhoun College — should retain its connection to American statesman and outspoken slavery advocate John C. Calhoun, class of 1804.

From a comment on the article:

Good riddance. Calhoun ’16 here, and she was a deeply mediocre dean. Never answered her emails, failed utterly to neutrally arbitrate the naming discussion, and generally seemed far more interested in playing with her dog than doing her job.

Hopefully Master Adams and Dr. Chun will have the guts to not shoe in (let’s be honest here) another diversity hire. And before the chorus of irate pink-haired banshees pipes up, this is not coming from some bigot who wants to see white guys everywhere. I loved Dean Woodard with all my heart, and was deeply sad to see such a fundamentally good, hardworking person be replaced with an uncaring, tone-deaf political hack. God speed Dean Ruiz, and may we never cross paths again.

Is that fair? Probably not. (You ought to see some of the (unfair!) things people write about EphBlog!) Ruiz seems savvy to me, at least judging by this story in the Record:

“I think Dean Ruiz is a good fit for the College because she’s incredibly passionate about the First Gen work,” Brian Benitez ’18, a member of the search committee that hired Ruiz, said. “She understands that First Gen work at Williams is unique. It’s largely student-led, and Dean Ruiz had expressed that she is excited to work alongside students rather than as their superior. Given her experience, approachability and motivation, I have no doubt that she will be an asset to the Williams community.”

Every good Williams Dean needs to be able to snow the students into thinking that she really believes that Williams is “unique” and that College Deans are not “their superior.” Ruiz did that really well with the search committee! Or she actually believes that! Which is just as good . . .

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BSO as Economic Farce

EphBlog loves Economics Professor Steve Sheppard something fierce, but corporatist nonsense like this requires rebuttal.

More than $260 million statewide, including $103 million in Berkshire County.

That’s the overall economic impact of the Boston Symphony’s summer season at Tanglewood and its three-season schedule in Boston, including the Boston Pops.

The big numbers come from an independent study by Williams College professor of economics Stephen Sheppard that depicts the BSO as “a key economic force” in western and eastern Massachusetts.

This is not just nonsense, it is Nonsense on Stata.

1) Sheppard’s study is in no meaningful way “independent.” Doesn’t Eagle reporter Clarence Fanto have a clue? The BSO gives money to Sheppard/Williams and, in return, gets a report. The BSO is the customer and it gets what it pays for. Moreover, Sheppard has been producing reports like this for the BSO for more than a decade. Do you really think if his last report (pdf) had come up with the wrong answer that BSO would have hired him again? Ha!

2) This is not to say that Sheppard is a “hired gun” who will say whatever his paymasters demand. No! Sheppard is an excellent (and honest!) economist, one who really believes that the BSO magically generates phenomenal wealth. And that is why BSO hires him and not some other, more skeptical, economist.

3) I am happy to spend several days going through the details of why this analysis is nonsense, if readers are interested. Short version: This is a “promotional study,” just like the ones used to justify public subsidies for sports stadiums. See this report from Brookings about why stadiums are a boondoggle.

4) Never forget to look, not just at what is seen, but at what is unseen. The policy issue is: Should the state of Massachusetts (or the town of Lennox or a rich philanthropist) give $10 million more to BSO or, instead, give $10 million to some other non-profit, like the basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield? We need to compare the jobs (or whatever) generated by spending on the BSO with the jobs (or whatever) generated by devoting the same quantity of resources to something else. The Eagle, either out of economic ignorance or local cheer-leading, fails to even ask the appropriate question.

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Students and Professors Rebuke The Transnational Solidarity Wall Statement

The response to the model wall erected on Paresky lawn has proven quite interesting. A freshman, motivated by concerns that the demonstration overstepped its critique of the Israel state from reasonable observations to outright antisemitism,  has penned his own rebuttal. Most importantly the student has allowed others to sign the letter in a show of solidarity.

The current signers cover a surprising amount of diversity. Some are Jews; some are Asians; some are Catholic; some are atheists; some are conservatives; others are progressive. About the only thing common among the signers is their status as either freshman or sophomores, but there are professors and seniors signers as well.

I know many of the signers, and I know that they aren’t apologists for everything Israel does. It’s a genuine display of solidarity against what they perceive to be antisemitism. While I’m not signing it, the significant presence of people willing to open themselves to possible backlash supporting a controversial position is a comforting thing, to me. It shows that there is still some intellectual diversity left in this campus.

Access the letter here, and please spread it. Whether you agree or disagree with its position, the community of Williams College ought to know that this wall has two different sides.

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Random Tidbits on the Presidential Search

I failed to gather nearly enough Presidential Search gossip and speculation prior to Maud Mandel’s selection last month. Apologies!

1) Andreas Halvorsen ’86 will be the next chair of the board of trustees, succeeding Mike Eisenson ’77. This is not public yet, of course, but there is no way that Williams would not include Eisenson’s successor on the search committee — given that it would choose the next president, who would then work closely with the next chair — and Halvorsen is, by far, the most likely candidate among those on the committee. Indeed, the Eisenson/Halvorsen pairing on this search committee is just like the Avis/Eisenson pairing on the committee that chose Falk. (Greg Avis ’80 was chair of the board at that time.)

2) Tiku Majumder is a good guy and fine professor, but that is not the reason he was chosen as the interim president. (There are, obviously, dozens of good guys/gals among the senior professors at Williams.) Majumder was chosen by Eisenson because they had gotten to know each other so well on the search committee that selected Falk almost a decade ago. Want to know who has the inside track on being the interim president when Mandel leaves? Look for someone that Halvorsen got to know well while working on this committee.

3) The College used fancy search firm Spencer Stuart, with lead consultant Mary Gorman. Why didn’t Eisenson select Isaacson, Miller, the firm used just a decade earlier to find Falk? I don’t know. Was Eisenson unimpressed with the Isaacson, Miller process which foisted Falk on Williams? Did he have prior experience with Spencer Stuart? Did someone else make the decision?

4) I would most like to know some of the details of the process, which Morty was much more open about the last time. How many candidates? How many interviews? And so on. I am especially interested in who the other finalists were, but that may be tough to discover.

5) How long was Maud Mandel been on the presidential job market and how much had Spencer Stuart been shopping her around? Note that the previous Dean of the College at Brown, Katherine Bergeron, went from that role to president at our NESCAC rival Connecticut College.

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Transnational Solidarity Wall Statement

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CISA, IC, SJP, VISTA ISSUE JOINT STATEMENT ON MOCK WALL

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

On Tuesday morning, Williams College woke up to find a wall on Paresky lawn. The wall consists of wooden panels with artwork that draws attention to the similarities between the Israeli apartheid wall in the West Bank and the US/Mexico border wall. It is a collective project between Coalition for Immigrant Student Advancement (CISA), International Club (IC), Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), and Vista. By putting up a mock wall on the center of campus, interrupting the space between Paresky and Sawyer, we hope to force our fellow students to reflect on the impact of walls like these– and all militarized borders– on the daily existence of millions of people. While this mock wall does not significantly impede students at Williams, in reality walls are life-threatening structures that encroach on the everyday lives of communities from Palestine to Latin America and beyond. From Palestinian women giving birth at checkpoints, to loved ones being separated for decades, to ICE detention centers and deportations, walls violently oppress those who live behind and across them.

As students committed to justice, we know that Israel’s apartheid wall and Trump’s border wall in the United States are two sides of the same coin of white supremacy and settler colonial violence. Through our mock wall on Paresky lawn, we hope that students feel encouraged to build knowledge, break the silence surrounding these issues, and begin to take action together. We stand in solidarity with members of our community who are personally affected by militarized borders, and we stand in solidarity with struggles for liberation, and particularly indigenous resistance, everywhere.

To complement the wall, we are organizing a talk with Professor Amal Eqeiq and a journalist and activist in Gaza on the topic of contemporary protests in Gaza and Transnational Solidarity from Mexico and Palestine this Wednesday at 5PM in Hopkins 002. How can we tear down walls from Mexico to Palestine? What does it mean to resist and build solidarity across borders? What is going in Gaza right now and how are they affected by borders? This talk will interrogate these questions and will be followed by a vigil to mourn and commemorate lives lost at border crossings and protests. Dinner will be served. Bring questions and a friend!

Finally, please join us to TEAR DOWN THE WALL on Tuesday, May 1st at 12PM on Paresky lawn. #MexicoToPalestine #BuildBridgesNotWalls #LongLiveInternationalSolidarity

 
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Report to the Community

To the Williams Community,

Every year I write to the community with an annual summary of our work to prevent and respond to gender-based violence. Williams is deeply committed to the goal of fostering and sustaining a safe community for all of our members. When members of our community are harmed, we seek to provide the resources they need in order to achieve accountability, healing, and support.

I want to start by thanking the many students, staff, faculty, and alumni who are working to improve our prevention and response efforts every day. Addressing the problem of sexual and intimate violence demands the involvement of everyone who cares about Williams and our community. Thank you for all that you do to contribute to that effort.

Making a formal report and engaging the college disciplinary process is one way of seeking support. I summarize the community’s use of this process below. Even when individuals choose not to pursue a disciplinary process in response to intimate violence or harassment, there are a number of other systems and resources in place to provide support. Talking with someone who can listen and make connections to useful resources is an essential part of healing and accountability. In addition, we can provide assistance for a wide array of specific concerns, including finding a different room to live in, feeling safe around campus, navigating relationships after violence, and managing assignments or class attendance. Nobody should feel that they must contend with any of these challenges on their own; we are here to help with these and any other resources or measures you need.

In the majority of instances, students can have conversations about what happened, what options are available, and what steps they are considering with any trusted college staff member without beginning a formal conduct or complaint process. This includes deans, staff from the Davis Center or the Office of Student Life, Campus Safety officers, the Title IX Coordinator and Deputy Coordinators, coaches, or professors.

Confidential resources include SASS Survivor Services. SASS is staffed around the clock by specially-trained people (Meg Bossong, Jen Chuks, Donna Denelli-Hess, Carolina Echenique, and Mike Evans) who can provide support, help you access resources, or offer information about options. Other confidential resources on and off campus include Integrative Wellbeing and Health Services; the college chaplains; and the Elizabeth Freeman Center, which is the local rape crisis center and domestic violence organization and also has a 24/7 hotline.

2016-17 Conduct Cases

In the 2016-2017 school year, the college received a total of 16 formal reports of misconduct:

  • 6 reports of sexual misconduct;
  • 3 reports of relationship abuse;
  • 4 reports of stalking; and
  • 3 reports of sexual harassment.

Of these 16 cases, 13 involved situations in which the person alleged to have caused harm was a current member of the college community and was therefore eligible for college accountability processes. The other three involved individuals who were not current members of the Williams community. In those instances, the college helped students seek accountability through other institutions or in the courts.

Among the students in the 13 cases involving Williams community members, five chose to take part in the college investigation and adjudication process. Their cases were adjudicated between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017. This includes two sexual misconduct complaints, two cases involving relationship abuse, and one complaint involving sexual harassment.

Of the sexual misconduct cases that were investigated and adjudicated, one resulted in a finding of responsibility, and one resulted in a finding of not responsible. Both cases of relationship abuse resulted in findings of responsibility.

The student found responsible for sexual misconduct was separated from the college with a suspension for four semesters.

One of the students found responsible for relationship abuse was suspended for one semester; the other was placed on disciplinary probation and completed an educational sanction.

The one individual found responsible for sexual harassment was an employee who is no longer employed by the college.

Category of Conduct Cases Pursued in Discipline Process/
Total Eligible Cases Received
Findings of Responsibility
Sexual Assault 2/5 1
Relationship abuse 2/3 2
Stalking 0/4 n/a
Sexual Harassment 1/1 1

Occasionally an adjudication process continues past the cutoff date for reporting on the academic year within which the case was reported. In such instances, we include the case in reporting data for the year during which adjudication was completed.

I also want to point out that individuals who have not yet chosen to pursue an investigation and adjudication process still have that option available to them as long as the person they might be lodging a complaint against is still a current student, staff member, or faculty member. The college does not have the authority to hold individuals accountable once they are no longer members of the community (for example, after they graduate, transfer, or terminate their employment at Williams). In those situations, individuals still have the option of lodging a complaint with law enforcement until the applicable statute of limitations is reached.

In closing, I want to again thank everyone working to improve our prevention and response efforts.

Sincerely,

Marlene Sandstrom

Dean of the College and Hales Professor of Psychology

All of Williams’ policies and information about resources for support of students, staff, and faculty can be found at http://titleix.williams.edu/

Marlene J. Sandstrom

Dean of the College and Hales Professor of Psychology

Williams College

Phone: (413) 597-4261

Fax: (413) 597-3507

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Zero African-American Phi Beta Kappa Graduates in 2017

In the Williams College class of 2017, there were 71 Phi Beta Kappa (PBK) graduates. None of them were African-American. (Full list of students available in the course catalog, and reprinted below the break for your convenience.) Comments:

1) There were 38 African-American first years in 2013-2014 (pdf). Some of those students transferred or took time off. Some African-American students from earlier years ended up in this class. We don’t know the total number of African-American graduates in the class of 2017, but it was probably around 35.

2) Since Phi Beta Kappa is the top 12.5% of the class, we would expect about 4 African-American PBK graduates. Of course, there will be random variation. Perhaps this year is low but, in other years, African-Americans are over-represented? Alas, that does not appear to be the case; there were zero African-American PBK graduates in 2009 and 2010 as well.

3) A relevant news hook is the “scandal” over UPenn law professor Amy Wax claiming that African-American law students “rarely” graduate in the top half of their class. The difference between EphBlog and Amy Wax, obviously, is that we have the data. (Williams declined to confirm or deny our analysis.)

4) Should we spend a few days discussing the reasons for this anomaly? If the Record were a real paper, it would investigate this statistic and interview senior faculty and administrators about it.

Williams 2017 Phi Beta Kappa graduates:
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Zach Wood ’18 Speaks at TED

1) Read the transcript if you want the gist. Worth going through in detail? I have some quibbles . . . not the least of which is that he does not mention Williams by name!

2) Note that this is the main TED stage, not one of the many (lower prestige) spin-off events like TEDx. Which other Ephs have spoken at TED? Congrats to Zach! How many undergraduates, from any school, have spoken at TED?

3) The perfect start to Zach’s pundit career would be for him, sometime before graduation in June, to re-invite Derbyshire to campus. I have been told that Williams would, this time, allow the talk to go forward.

4) Hat-tip to Williams (read: Jim Reische) for tweeting this out. It is important that Williams be non-partisan when it comes to student/alumni/faculty activities. We should tweet out links to all Eph TED talks, regardless of whether or not we agree with the speaker.

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Choose Williams Over Harvard

In celebration of previews, reasons why you should choose Williams.

There are several hundred high school seniors¹ who have been admitted to both Williams and Harvard (and Yale and Princeton and Stanford and . . .). Fewer than 10% of them will choose Williams over these more famous schools. Some of them are making the right choice. They will be better off at Harvard, for various reasons. But at least half of them are making the wrong choice. They (you?) would be better off at Williams. Why?

1) Your professors would know your name. The average Harvard undergraduate is known by name to only a few faculty members. Many students graduate unknown to any faculty. The typical professor at Harvard is primarily concerned with making important contributions to her field. The typical professor at Williams is primarily concerned with educating the undergraduates in her classes. Consider this post by Harvard professor Greg Mankiw, who teaches EC 10a/10b, the equivalent of Williams ECON 110/120, to over 750 students each year.

Being an ec 10 section leader is one of the best teaching jobs at Harvard. You can revisit the principles of economics, mentor some of the world’s best undergraduates, and hone your speaking skills. In your section, you might even have the next Andrei Shleifer or Ben Bernanke (two well-known ec 10 alums). And believe it or not, we even pay you for this!

If you are a graduate student at Harvard or another Boston-area university and have a strong background in economics, I hope you will consider becoming a section leader in ec 10 next year. Applications are encouraged from PhD students, law students, and master’s students in business and public policy.

Take a year of Economics at Harvard, and not a single professor will know your name. Instead, you will be taught and graded by (poorly paid) graduate students, many with no more than a BA, often not even in economics! But, don’t worry, you will be doing a good deed by providing these students with a chance to “hone” their “speaking skills.”

2) You will get feedback on your work from faculty at Williams, not from inexperienced graduate students. More than 90% of the written comments (as well as the grades) on undergraduate papers at Harvard are produced by people other than tenured (or tenure track) faculty. The same is true in science labs and math classes. EC 10 is a particularly egregious example, but the vast majority of classes taken by undergraduates are similar in structure. Harvard professors are too busy to read and comment on undergraduate prose.

3) You would have the chance to do many things at Williams. At Harvard it is extremely difficult to do more than one thing in a serious fashion. If you play a sport or write for The Crimson or sing in an a capella group at Harvard, you won’t be able to do too much of anything else. At Williams, it is common — even expected — that students will have a variety of non-academic interests that they pursue passionately. At Harvard, the goal is a well-rounded class, with each student being top notch in something. At Williams, the ideal is a class full of well-rounded people.

4) You would have a single room for three years at Williams. The housing situation at Harvard is horrible, at least if you care about privacy. Most sophomores and the majority of juniors do not have a single room for the entire year. Only at Harvard will you learn the joys of a “walk-through single” — a room which is theoretically a single but which another student must walk through to get to her room.

5) You would have the opportunity to be a Junior Advisor at Williams and to serve on the JA Selection Committee and to serve on the Honor Committee. No undergraduate student serves in these roles at Harvard because Harvard does not allow undergraduates to run their own affairs. Harvard does not trust its students. Williams does.

6) The President of Williams, Tiku Majumder, cares about your education specifically, not just about the education of Williams undergraduates in general. The President of Harvard, Drew Faust, has bigger fish to fry. Don’t believe me? Just e-mail both of them. Tell them about your situation and concerns. See who responds and see what they say.

Of course, there are costs to turning down Harvard. Your friends and family won’t be nearly as impressed. Your Aunt Tillie will always think that you actually go to “Williams and Mary.” You’ll be far away from a city for four years. But, all in all, a majority of the students who choose Harvard over Williams would have been better off if they had chosen otherwise.

Choose wisely.

¹The first post in this series was 14 years ago, inspired by a newspaper story about 18 year-old Julia Sendor, who was admitted to both Harvard and Williams. Julia ended up choosing Williams (at least partly “because of the snowy mountains and maple syrup”), becoming a member of the class of 2008, winning a Udall Foundation Scholarship in Environmental Studies. Best part of that post is the congratulations from her proud JA.

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A Sunday Break: Cranberries – the Juice of Williams!

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Quartz, a pub covering trends and happenings in business, has a weekly Obsession on a particular topic. I was amused to see that this weeks’ obsession was cranberries.

https://qz.com/email/quartz-obsession/1254695/

 

And why amused, you may ask. Because of the contributions to the Alma Mater of the Makepeace family.

Members of the family have been responsible for raising the cranberry to a daily part of the life of peoples world-wide instead of a sugar-infused berry sauce at Thanksgiving. We drink them in many forms and eat them out of little sacks as a treat and diet addition.

The Williams link. Charles D. Makepeace Williams 1900 and Treasure for many years. At our 50th reunion in 2006, Denny Makepeace ’56, his grandson and namesake, gave a  rundown on the doings of the family and some very particular descriptions of activities at his grandfather’s Williamstown house. We were in that house, now the Oakley Center, and laughed at the stories, especially the one about dancing on the piano and leaving heel marks on the polished top. And the piano was with us in the room. The convivial talk is a part of the oral history of Williams.

I do wonder if the Williams community recognizes the importance of continuity and tradition, and has an appreciation of the personal histories and commitments that have shaped this small college.

 

 

 

 

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A Paean to Pruitt: A Song from Britton ’56 …

downloadIndeed! Another song in that Peter Britton ’56 particular style. This one an ode to Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Scott Pruitt, who seems to have no regard for anyone’s environment except his own.

 

It is a pleasure to be able to post the work of an old classmate. And let’s face it … all my classmates are old. The words are by Peter, the music by Nashvilles’ own Tim Lorch, and the back-up band is according to Peter, ” one Polish gypsy on violin, a studio musician on bass, and a blind Iowa farm boy on piano, guitar, accordion and sax”.

The words are beneath the fold if you want to sing along.

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Stone lecture on academic freedom and free speech

Geoffrey Stone presented an excellent lecture last night on campus. The topic was on academic freedom and free speech on campus.

I will try to present his main points, but there is no way I can approach his eloquence or the purity of his argument.

  1. Academic freedom is relatively new phenomenon. Until the mid-20th Century, professors and students were routinely fired/expelled for presenting views at odds with the general beliefs of the college.
  2. Freedom of speech in general had been used as grounds for imprisonment using the Sedition Act passed during WW1 during the Wilson administration. This continued until the Supreme Court reversed those decisions about 40 years later (timing may be a little off).
  3. All ideas and speakers should be allowed on campus, regardless of whether the ideas are deemed hurtful or offensive to others. This has been made formal policy at the University of Chicago. Many other universities and colleges have adopted nearly the same policy, including at least one institution that had previously withdrawn a speaker invitation.
  4. All others should feel comfortable challenging ideas they find hurtful or offensive. However, disruption of the engagement or threats of unrest were not appropriate actions.
  5. Universities/colleges that shield the community from ideas are not properly preparing students to deal with these challenges in the real world.
  6. None of us should be so arrogant as to think that all our beliefs, regardless of how certain we are, should be considered truth. In other words, we could be wrong.
  7. Allowing censorship of ideas we find offensive opens the door to others who might censor our ideas.
  8. Censorship of ideas is likely in the long term to hurt minority groups more than the majority.

I hope this is a decent summary. I welcome any additions/corrections from anyone else who attended. I wish more people had come.

With regard to local issues, he did point out that Williams had withdrawn invitations to speakers among a list of other colleges who had recently taken similar action.

I view having this speaker as a great move for the college. Bravo! I hope that Williams will adopt a policy similar to that at U Chicago.

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Liv Østhus ’96: subject of a new documentary …

From Alumni Office to NW area alums.

Greetings from Williamstown!

The Alumni Relations Office would like to pass along information on the upcoming world premiere of a documentary film about Liv Østhus ’96.

It’s called “Thank You for Supporting the Arts”, and Liv describes it this way, “Blacktop Films followed me for four years and made a full-length feature that is smart, beautiful, and heartwarming. It’s surprisingly wholesome with its focus on Portland, family, and community. Its provocative nature comes primarily from my insistence that stripping is art (and, I guess, all the nudity)”.

I met Ms Østhus, the daughter of a Lutheran Minnesota  minister, in 2009 at the opening for her book at Powell’s Books in Portland. I now have my signed copy of Magic Gardens: The Memoirs of Viva Las Vegas that includes the familiar words “Beat Amherst”.

Liv has been featured many times in Ephblog.

Just search for ‘stripper’.

More information Read more

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Your Alumni Fund Donations at Work

EphBlog Maxim #9: The best way to predict the behavior of Williams is to imagine that the College is run by a cabal of corrupt insiders who seek to use our endowment to better their own lives. Of course, this is not true! Tiku Majumder is a good guy! Steve Klass is competent and charming. But they sure find a lot of strange places to spend money . . .

Williams College has announced a $400,000 gift to the town to help build the new police station on Simonds Road. With college Assistant to the President for Community and Government Affairs James Kolesar in the audience, Town Manager Jason Hoch told the Select Board on Monday that the school’s gift will make it easier to achieve his goal of renovating and expanding the former Turner House on Simonds Road (Route 7) without adding to the town’s property tax rate.

Williamstown is a richer than average town in a richer than average state. Why should alumni fund donations go to pay for its new police station? If the good people of Williamstown want/need a new police station, then they should pay for it themselves. Then again, that might require that Tiku Majumder or Steve Klass or Jim Kolesar face an increase in their property taxes and we wouldn’t want that, would we?

The new police station is, of course, just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to the College spending money on local amenities. Recall:

  • Williams already spends $500,000 on local charity each year. Is this $400,000 in addition to that?
  • The $1 million we gave to North Adams Regional Hospital. By the way, NARH has since closed, so that $1 million was (completely?) wasted. Was anyone at the College challenged about that? No! No effort to give away alumni money is ever a failure at Williams.
  • The $250,000 we gave to the local high school back in 2003. This was just a part of the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of dollars we have spent to subsidize public education in Williamstown.
  • The $2 million to MASS MoCA in 20007, right before the finacial crisis forced us to cut financial aid to international students.
  • The $200,000 for “rebranding” for the local ambulance service.

And on and on. I don’t know what the future will bring exactly, but you should bet that the College will spend millions of dollars over the next few years on items that, in every other town in the lovely Berkshires, the local residents provide for themselves.

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Williams a Target in Early Admissions Probe, 3

This Wall Street Journal article, “Williams, Wesleyan, Middlebury Among Targets of Federal Early-Admissions Probe,” and associated news reports (here, here and here) merit a few days of discussion. Day 3 and last day.

Some college counselors said they are pleased to see the early-decision practice investigated because it puts too much pressure on young adults and the penalties for being caught breaking an early-decision agreement are too stiff.

“I don’t think it is developmentally appropriate to ask a 17-year-old to front-load a decision like this, and when colleges are taking a half or more of their class early, it demands that some kids do this,” said Brennan Barnard, director of college counseling at the Derryfield School in Manchester, N.H.

Brennan Barnard is an idiot.

1) Students, especially students who don’t know their first choice school, can easily apply to one of the hundreds of colleges that use early action. You don’t have to apply early decision if you don’t want to.

2) Students love early action/decision! Barnard should ask some of the seniors at Derryfield if they would rather live in a world in which no one finds out their status until April. No way! Students, overwhelmingly, like the early process. (And even the ones who don’t (and/or don’t participate) don’t begrudge their friends the option of applying early.)

3) Yes, the college admissions process is stressful, but the more spread out it is, the more that stress is dissipated over time. Early decision helps with this dispersal, as do athletic admissions (often occurring the summer after junior year at places like Williams and even earlier for the Ivy League) and early writes in February.

4) Williams ought to take advantage of the desire of many students to relieve the stress by doing, sotto voce, even more, and more earlier, admissions. Instead of using the summer science and social science programs for accepted students, we should offer those 50 (?) slots to the most talented (and most desirable) applicants in the country. Find the smartest African-American/Hispanic/Low-Income juniors in high school, bring them to the College for 6 weeks in the summer, show them how magical Williams is, and then tell them — or at least the 90% who don’t mess up somehow — that, if they apply early decision, they will be accepted. This is probably the single (reasonably priced) thing that Williams could do to increase the quality of its poor/URM students.

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Consider Barbara Bush …

Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 8.01.58 PMFirst Lady Barbara Bush holding baby while two-year-old child takes photo w. toy camera at hospice for children w. AIDS

https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/first-lady-barbara-bush-holding-baby-while-two-year-old-news-photo/50585315#first-lady-barbara-bush-holding-baby-while-twoyearold-child-takes-w-picture-id50585315

 

 

 

I won’t supply a Williams connection except the qualities of humanity, empathy, and dedication as a part of this Williams community.

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Williams muscles local company

Williams recently demanded that the Sand Springs Springwater Co. change their logo because a few students found it offensive and cartoonish.

SandSprings

The company had used the logo for over 50 years.

Students bully the College; the College bullies a local business. Trickle down PC politics.

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Williams a Target in Early Admissions Probe, 2

This Wall Street Journal article, “Williams, Wesleyan, Middlebury Among Targets of Federal Early-Admissions Probe,” and associated news reports (here, here and here) merit a few days of discussion. Day 2.

The investigation has perplexed some in elite-college admissions circles, who say that sharing the information serves only to ensure that schools aren’t being misled about an applicant’s intentions, given their commitments elsewhere.

The admissions dean of a New England liberal-arts college that received the Justice Department letter said that the school swaps with about 20 other institutions the application-identification number, name and home state of students admitted early decision.

That dean said it is rare to find someone who violated the binding early-decision agreement by applying to more than one institution early.

Occasionally, the person said, they come across a student who was admitted early-decision at one school and still applied elsewhere during the regular application cycle. In those cases, the second school would withdraw the application because the candidate already committed elsewhere.

The dean said the schools don’t share information about regular-decision candidates, so an offer from one school wouldn’t affect outcomes elsewhere.

1) Any chance the unnamed dean is either Dick Nesbitt ’74 or Liz Creighton ’01? Note that reporter Melissa Korn and Williams Communications Chief Jim Reische served as co-chairs at a conference for media relations professionals. If Jim did arrange this, then kudos to him! The more that Eph administrators appear in the prestige press, the better.

2) Sure would be interesting to know the exact list of schools involved in this swap and the mechanism by which it occurs. Any “elite” school left out of this circle must feel like the kid sitting by himself in the high school cafeteria. Not that EphBlog would know anything about that . . .

3) Was this phrasing — “the second school would withdraw the application” — vetted by a lawyer? It would be one thing if Williams were to reject a student it had already accepted if that student applied elsewhere. That student has broken a promise she made to Williams, so Williams can take action. But for Harvard to reject — whoops, I mean “withdraw the application [of]” — a student just because Williams had accepted her in December seems more problematic, anti-trust-wise . . .

4) What about early action candidates? That is a much trickier issue. Does Harvard let Williams know if it has admitted a student early action? And, if so, does that fact play into the Williams admissions process? Of course, Williams knows that almost every high quality regular decision applicant (other than its own deferrals) applied somewhere else early. And you can be certain that we can (and should!) take account of that fact in making decisions. (That is, if you really love Williams so much, as you now claim, why didn’t you apply early?) But I would be shocked if schools traded early action information explicitly . . . But I have been shocked before!

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Williams a Target in Early Admissions Probe, I

This Wall Street Journal article, “Williams, Wesleyan, Middlebury Among Targets of Federal Early-Admissions Probe,” and associated news reports (here, here and here) merit a few days of discussion. Day 1.

The targets of a new federal probe into possible antitrust violations related to early-decision college admissions include Wesleyan University, Middlebury College and Pomona College, as well as at least four other highly selective liberal-arts schools.

The Justice Department sent letters late last week notifying the schools of the investigation and asking them to preserve emails and other messages detailing arrangements they may have with other schools about swapping names of admitted students, and how they might use that information.

1) Did Williams play a role in helping reporter Melissa Korn? (Note that Williams appears in the title and is pictured in the accompanying photo.) I hope we did! The more that folks like Liz Creighton ’01 schmooze with major media, the easier it is to get our message/brand out.

2) Wasn’t this story originally broken at Inside Higher Ed? If so, does Korn have an obligation to mention this even if she got a copy of the letter independently? Inside Higher Ed provides this relevant background:

For years, some elite colleges — members of what was then called the Overlap Group — shared financial information on admitted applicants, seeking to agree upon common aid offers. But in 1991, Ivy League institutions agreed to stop sharing such information. The agreement followed a Justice Department investigation into the practice, which the universities said promoted fairness but that the department said was an antitrust violation.

Generally, college leaders have said the Overlap Group investigation discouraged them from sharing any information about applicants.

We have covered the Overlap scandal before. (There is a great senior thesis waiting to be written about that, either in history or economics.)

Back to the WSJ:

All the schools targeted offer prospective students the option to apply under binding early-decision agreements, which often have significantly higher acceptance rates than do regular-decision pools. If the applicant is offered admission, he or she must commit to attending and withdraw applications to other schools or risk having the admission offer rescinded.

Higher-education experts say it seems the Justice Department investigation is focusing on whether the schools are violating antitrust regulations by sharing the names of admitted students to enforce the rules of the programs.

Two options:

1) This is stupid and goes nowhere. Why can’t Williams tell the world who it has accepted early decision? Is there any law that would prevent it from just posting that list on the web, in the same way it records every graduate in the course catalog? Lawyer comments welcome! And, if it can post that list, why can’t it send an e-mail to Harvard admissions with the same information?

2) This is stupid and goes somewhere. Even if colleges stopped sharing these lists tomorrow, nothing would change. The number of students who try to game the system is trivial. But, since the colleges were so absurdly sleazy in their conduct during Overlap, I would not begrudge the Justice Department forcing them to stop all communications. Recall Adam Smith:

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.

Entire article is below the break, for those without WSJ access.

Read more

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Dick Nesbitt ’74 Retiring?

How else to explain this job posting for a new Director of Admissions?

Our vote for his successor goes to Sulgi Lim ’06, always a fan of EphBlog!

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A Sunday Break: The 35 Most Powerful People in New York Media 2018 …

… and among this distinguished 35? Yes! Eph’s Own Mika Brezinksi ’89!

 

Read more from The Hollywood Reporter list …

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WHY THEY MATTER Being Trump’s sworn enemies is good for business. Morning Joe — which celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2017 — notched record ratings for MSNBC during the 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. period, averaging slightly more than 1 million viewers (vs. CNN’s 634,000) and 226,000 in the 25-to-54 demographic. With an audience that skews young, wealthy and educated, the show posted slightly more growth than Fox News in the 25-to-54 crowd (up 36 percent, compared with Fox News’ 32 percent gain). Numbers for the first quarter of 2018 were particularly impressive, with Morning Joe averaging 249,000 — an all-time high — in 25-to-54.

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/lists/35-powerful-nyc-media-figures-2018-hosts-anchors-more-1100942/item/jeff-fager-35-powerful-people-media-2018-

In a time far away, The Hollywood Reporter was daily reading. A lot of the perusing concerned data like those reported in the story snippet above.

The format has changed considerably since those commuter times. Not that I was reading in 1950 (the illustration left), but this is what it looked like. Much more stylish and on-line now. Looks like Vanity Fair.

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And as to that current cover (illustration right): Silicon Valley among my favorites. Just finishing the new season.

Your comments on Mika, reflections on Joe, gripes about the media, and your problems with binge watching …

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It is twelve o’clock and a Chapin Library holding is under fire now …

Screen Shot 2018-05-23 at 9.42.47 PM

My post White House Lawyers Up last spring 2017 was seen as ‘jumping over the shark’

Please, Librarian Hammond,  protect the Chapin Collection’s Mason draft from the conflagration. It may be needed for reference.

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President Maud Mandel, 10

Brown Dean of the College Maud Mandel begins her term as the 18th president of Williams on July 1. EphBlog welcomes her! We are pro-Mandel and hope that her presidency is successful. (Full disclosure, our preference would have been for an internal candidate like Lee Park or Eiko Siniawer.) Let’s spend some time discussing what we know about Mandel so far. Day 10, our last day of this series.

What do we know (or guess) about Mandel’s politics? From The Daily Herald:

Dean of the College Maud Mandel donated $1,000 to Clinton. When asked why she chose to donate, Mandel said, “I gave that donation as a private citizen,” citing that as dean of the college, she did not feel it would be appropriate to comment on her donation.

Good stuff!

1) Hope she follows the same policy at Williams. A good Williams president has many things to say about Williams and some things to say about higher education. The less time she spends opining on politics, the better. Or do readers miss Adam Falk spouting off about immigration or the alt-right?

2) I don’t care that Mandel is a Clinton supporter. No (?) president of an elite college — or plausible applicant to be one — voted for Trump.

3) What are Mandel’s views on political diversity, or the lack-there-of, at Williams? My hope is that we will be leaving behind the Falk era of speaker-banning. There are some encouraging hints, albeit sotto voce, from the Administration, despite this nonsense from President Majumder in January. Mandel might send a useful signal on this dimension by joining Heterodox Academy, joining current Williams faculty members Michael Lewis, Robert Jackall and Eric Knibbs.

4) Can we connect Mandel’s scholarly work on Jews/Muslims in France to her likely views about running Williams? I don’t know. Studying closely the rise of modern antisemitism in France seems a naturally “conservative” topic — I bet that many (most?) French Jews wish there had been a lot less immigration to France in the last 50 years! — but Mandel seems to have been on the “liberal” side in the associated academic debates. Any historians among our readers?

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Marco Remec ’80: on view and up-coming installations …

We have talked about Marco Remec ’80 and his work

http://ephblog.com/2017/09/29/marko-remec-80-has-new-site-specific-work-at-93rd-and-park/

http://ephblog.com/2017/05/12/marko-remac-80-work-in-rome-at-the-invitation-of-pope-francis/

Remec will have two openings soon, one in Pittsfield.

Screen Shot 2018-04-09 at 7.42.23 AM

He has a current installation at MASSMOCA.

Screen Shot 2018-04-09 at 8.26.25 AM

https://www.markoremec.com/bio

 

 

 

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President Maud Mandel, 9

Brown Dean of the College Maud Mandel begins her term as the 18th president of Williams on July 1. EphBlog welcomes her! We are pro-Mandel and hope that her presidency is successful. (Full disclosure, our preference would have been for an internal candidate like Lee Park or Eiko Siniawer.) Let’s spend some time discussing what we know about Mandel so far. Day 9.

Her latest book is Muslims and Jews in France: History of a Conflict. From a review:

In view of the growing number of Muslim anti-Semitic occurrences in France culminating in anti-Jewish terrorist attacks, this historical analysis of Muslim-Jewish relations in France during the twentieth century is a most timely contribution. In her examination of this dynamic, Maud S. Mandel pays attention to the developing social, economic, cultural, and political status of Muslims and Jews in France, on the background of France’s changing foreign and domestic policies—especially as related to France’s colonial position in North Africa—and the impact of the creation of the State of Israel, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the Palestinian nation. She shows how these internal and external changes impact Muslim-Jewish relations in France. The analysis makes it clear how the different history of both groups in France, and especially the impact of French Colonial and post-Colonial policies, had a lasting effect on both communities and their relations with each other.

I have not read the book and am no historian, but color me suspicious about Mandel’s underlying thesis. From an interview:

What do you think is the book’s most important contribution?
As in all historical projects, my goal is to complicate simplistic understandings of the problem before us, to challenge notions of inevitability, to force us to question how and why the past took the shape that it did, and to push against monocausal explanations. This approach has pointed me to the diversity of socio-religious relationships between Muslims and Jews in France; conflict is not the only–or even the primary–way of understanding these relationships. This approach has also directed me away from conceptualizing Muslim-Jewish relations in France as arising inevitably from conflict in the Middle East. Rather, I argue that where conflict does exist, its origins and explanation are as much about France and French history as they are about Middle Eastern conflict.

Mandel suggests that French colonialism and other policies plays an important role in causing Muslim antisemitism in France today. That seems suspect to me. (And perhaps this highlights the difference between how historians (N = 1) and statisticians (N > 1) see the world.) If Mandel is right, then another European country, without France’s history of colonialism and Middle East meddling, would see very different relations between Jews and Muslims. That is a testable claim! If Mandel is right, then there should be much less Muslim antisemitism in a country like Sweden, which never had colonies and plays no role in the Middle East. And, yet, this is not true. Muslim antisemitism is as much (more?) of a problem in Sweden than it is in France.

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President James A. Garfield in the Rear-View Mirror …

From XCED today: Comic site

 

history

 

 

 

 

 

 

The article is on the death of President James A. Garfield. I wonder how the recent events of our time will appear in the rear-view mirror (probably unnecessary) of the robocar.

 

 

 

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President Maud Mandel, 8

Brown Dean of the College Maud Mandel begins her term as the 18th president of Williams on July 1. EphBlog welcomes her! We are pro-Mandel and hope that her presidency is successful. (Full disclosure, our preference would have been for an internal candidate like Lee Park or Eiko Siniawer.) Let’s spend some time discussing what we know about Mandel so far. Day 8.

One more comment from the 2014 The Brown Daily Herald article:

Mandel is concerned about the decreasing number of undergraduates concentrating in the humanities, a trend she has personally witnessed at Brown, she told The Herald. As dean of the College, Mandel will be poised to make clear to students and parents that the humanities teach valuable skills, she said, adding that tackling the problem also “has to do with admissions and the type of students we want to bring to Brown.”

I can find no evidence that Mandel worked on this topic at Brown, or that any work she did was successful. Any readers with inside information? Comments:

1) I dislike these conversations, not least because people (not Mandel!) are often sloppy in the terms they use, worrying about the decline in the “liberal arts” (when, in fact, everything taught at Williams is part of the liberal arts, by definition, since we are a “liberal arts college”) when what they really care about are lower enrollments in “humanities,” as in this quote. It is certainly true that many professors at Williams worry about increases in Div III enrollments/majors at the expense of Div I.

2) In 50 years, these sorts of worries will seem as absurd and parochial as the worries 50 years ago about declining enrollment in Latin and Greek. That was a big deal, back in the day. But the decline didn’t stop and couldn’t (really) have been stopped. The same is true of the move away from, say, English and toward Stats/CS.

3) Somewhat contrary to 2), there has not been much (any?) decline in humanities majors at Williams:

Screen Shot 2018-04-05 at 11.08.04 AM

Division I majors have gone down some but not much. Instead, Div III majors have sky-rocketed. Big picture: There are as many History majors as before, but more of those History majors are adding a double major in computer science. Is that bad?

4) Of course, a dramatic increase in majors almost certainly means a dramatic increase in course enrollments. I haven’t found any data, but it would hardly be surprising of the total percentage of humanities course enrollments at Williams has gone from 30% to 20%. If so, big deal! Students should take classes in what they want.

5) Don’t the faculty deserve lots of the blame for the decline in student interest in the humanities? Let’s focus on Mandel’s own field, history, and look at the courses on offer this spring at Williams. Much of this is good stuff. Who could complain about surveys of Modern China, Medieval England or Europe in Twentieth Century? Not me! I also have no problems with courses on more narrow topics. Indeed, classes on Witchcraft, Panics and The Suburbs are all almost certainly excellent, and not just because they are taught by some of the best professors in the department. But notice what is missing: No more courses on war (now that Jim Wood has retired). No courses on diplomatic history (RIP Russ Bostert). No courses in the sort of mainstream US history topics — Revolutionary Period, Civil War — which would interest scores of students.

6) Your likely success when applying to elite schools like Williams is mostly baked in, a function of your high school grades and test scores. But, on the margin, I bet that expressing a strong interest in the humanities might be helpful for male applicants. (Williams so wants to get to gender parity in STEM fields that female applicants should shade their application in that direction, if possible.) If Mandel wants to increase enrollment in the humanities, she may very well tell admissions to admit more students with a demonstrated interest in the humanities.

PS. Thanks to Jim Reische for forwarding this more extensive history of Williams majors (pdf). Worth a detailed review?

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