Currently browsing the archives for January 2019

Ad Hoc Update, 3

In February 2016, the (now defunct) student group Uncomfortable Learning invited Dissident Right author John Derbyshire to speak at Williams. Then-president Adam Falk cancelled Derbyshire’s talk, causing a public relations black eye for the College. Current President Maud Mandel seeks to undo the damage associated with that decision. We have named the associated controversy Self-CARE Now. This week, I will review Mandel’s latest e-mail and her draft charge to the Ad hoc committee on speakers, inquiry and inclusion. Day 3.

Proposed Committee Charge

Williams, like other schools around the country, is debating how to uphold principles of open inquiry and free expression. The debate has focused on how to do so while not providing a platform for hate speech, racism, or other forces that are corrosive to a learning community. This issue was identified as a concern in Williams’ Fall 2017 accreditation self-study, which was shared with campus at the time:

“intellectual freedom… is defined broadly at Williams to include the unfettered exchange of diverse points of view, the dissemination of original scholarship, and respect for faculty, students, staff, alumni, and others who wish to share their opinions on how the college is governed. This “basket of rights” must sometimes be actively managed.” (pp. 103–4)

The conversation at Williams has recently focused on speaker invitations, as it has elsewhere around the country. I am charging an ad hoc committee with recommending to me, by May 2019, a set of speaker invitation guidelines that would demonstrate our full commitment to both inquiry and inclusion.

The most important part of this update is right here. Mandel is restricting the work of the committee to “speaker invitation guidelines.” This is a dramatic change from her November vision:

I’ve decided to charge an ad hoc committee with exploring various points of view and making recommendations for how Williams can ensure an educational environment that’s both intellectually open and inclusive.

Possible explanations:

1) Nothing-Burger. I am reading too much into some minor word changes. Mandel has not changed her approach/goals despite the superficial changes in phrasing.

2) Worrying about failure. Perhaps Mandel realizes that Williams — or at least the Williams as represented by the committee she has no choice but to name — is not ready for full-scale Chicago-style academic freedom. Rather than let the Committee do some real damage, she is restricting its remit.

3) Changing the battlefield. Perhaps Mandel has decided that this Committee — whatever the strengths and weakness of its membership — is the wrong venue in which to push for the changes she seeks. Note what follows next in her charge:

This targeted project will complement our broader attention to learning and campus climate through the strategic planning process. I further ask that they do so through a process that allows for input from anyone in our community with opinions or ideas to share on the subject.

Calling it a “targeted project” is quite a comedown from the language two months ago. Moving the real battle to the “strategic planning process” places the debate in an area over which Mandel has much more power. Who is in charge of that? Meet the Coordinating Committee:

The most important news is that a Coordinating Committee has been formed to guide the work. This committee will articulate a vision and goals, organize and develop charges for sub-committees working on each area of focus, create opportunities for input and knit all the aspects of the planning process into a unified, final plan. The Committee, which I’ll chair, includes faculty, staff and students.

This is a committee which Mandel will do much more than “chair.” This is a committee which will do her bidding, a committee which will support their President in whichever direction she wants to take Williams. More on the committee some other day, but, for now, note that it includes David Gürçay-Morris ’96 one of the three faculty leaders of the free speech push and Essence Perry ’22, one of the very few (only?) students to outline a pro-free speech position in the Record. What better venue could there be for Mandel to push Williams in a more Chicago’sh direction?

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Ad Hoc Update, 2

In February 2016, the (now defunct) student group Uncomfortable Learning invited Dissident Right author John Derbyshire to speak at Williams. Then-president Adam Falk cancelled Derbyshire’s talk, causing a public relations black eye for the College. Current President Maud Mandel seeks to undo the damage associated with that decision. We have named the associated controversy Self-CARE Now. This week, I will review Mandel’s latest e-mail and her draft charge to the Ad hoc committee on speakers, inquiry and inclusion. Day 2.

Mandel’s e-mail continues:

Faculty, student and staff governance bodies are helping me build a committee roster, and I expect to have a final version to share with you in my start of semester message on January 30. In the meantime, below is a copy of the proposed charge for the committee. I hope this will help you and our whole community understand the scope of their work and the framing questions I’m posing to help them get started.

My original recommendations were sensible. I reprint them below, along with some additions.

Administration: Jim Reische, Keli Gail, Dukes Love.
Black Faculty: DL Smith. Maybe Neil Roberts if it is clear he will play ball. Maybe Leticia S. E. Haynes if no Black faculty member can be found.
Hispanic Faculty: Joseph Cruz ’91, Peter Montiel, Greg Phelan.
Asian Faculty: Eiko Siniawer ’97, Lee Park.
White Faculty: Karen Merrill, Katarzyna Pieprzak, Darel Paul, Steve Miller, Fred Strauch, .
Athletic Faculty: Lisa Melendy, Marshall Creighton.
Students: Jake Bingaman ’19, John DiGravio ’21, Ariana Romeo ’19, Alex Jen ’19

With either Joe Cruz or Karen Merrill as chair.

But this is now (sadly?), out of date. I thought — and I suspect Mandel originally planned — that the committee would consider the broad issue of free expression at Williams and, after 6 months or so, recommend that the College either sign the Chicago Statement or something similar to it. However, I now think that Mandel is going in a different direction. Key sentence from her charge:

I am charging an ad hoc committee with recommending to me, by May 2019, a set of speaker invitation guidelines that would demonstrate our full commitment to both inquiry and inclusion. ”

The Commitee’s charge is remarkably narrow. You aren’t going to get anywhere near the Chicago Statement, or the broader issues associated with it, if you are restricted to discussing “speaker invitation guidelines.”

That means that this Committee is a side show, a distraction from the main event. So, who cares who is on this committee or what they decide? Not me!

Or maybe, more deviously, Mandel has decided to set this committee up for failure by stocking it with some of the most polarizing — and least likely to compromise — figures on campus. Perhaps Luana Maroja, Steven Gerrard and David Gürçay-Morris ’96 on the pre-speeech side and Joy James, Kai Green and Kimberly Love on the pro-safety side. Such a Committee is unlikely to make much progress. But a high profile failure might allow Mandel to swoop in from the side and institute a broader solution . . .

UPDATE: I wrote this series last week. We now have new evidence that the analysis is spot on! Consider the all-campus e-mail from College Council which went out yesterday. (Thanks dshakirov!) You can tell that the Committee on Campus Speakers, Inquiry and Inclusion — Is this the official name? — will have no real power because:

1) It has four students on it! That is way too many. Williams loves its students but, as an institution, it does not trust them that much.

2) The naming of those students is being left (completely?) to the discretion of the College Council Appointments Committee. Williams loves CC but, as an institution, it does not trust CC with truly important decisions. Note that CC played zero role in, for example, naming the students appointed to the search committee which chose Mandel.

3) CC is likely to (and should?!) name students deeply involved in this debate. Why not include at least one (and maybe more!) of the students involved with CARE-Now? If you were on CC, wouldn’t you appoint Liliana Bierer ’19, Audrey Koh ’21, Isabel Peña ’19, Isaiah Blake ’21, Carlos Cabrera-Lomelí ’20, Suiyi Tang ’20, Annalee Tai ’21 or Rocky Douglas ’19 if they applied? These students are all intelligent and committed. Good stuff! But, from Mandel’s point of view, they are highly unlikely to come up with the answer that she wants.

4) The name of the Committee begins with “Campus Speakers.” This is further evidence that the Committee’s charge will be exceedingly narrow.

If Mandel’s strategy for freeing Williams from the legacy of Falk’s folly depended meaningfully on this Committee, she would put fewer students on it, ensure that those students were carefully selected and entrust the Committee with a broad mandate. She is doing the opposite. Therefore, we know that this Committee will be unimportant. More evidence over the rest of the week.

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Apply for the committee on Campus Speakers, Inquiry & Inclusion!!!

Beloved Student Body,

President Mandel emailed you all this week about her Committee on Campus Speakers, Inquiry and Inclusion that will engage the campus on conversations and debates around “free speech.” There are four spots for students on this committee, and you can now apply to be on it!

The Committee on Campus Speakers, Inquiry and Inclusion will be made up of faculty, senior administrators, students, and staff representatives. The Committee is constituted for the spring term of 2019 and is tasked with the production of a final recommendation in May.

All class years are welcome to apply here! Applications are due by noon Friday, January 18th, and will be considered by the College Council Appointments Committee.

Feel free to email Lizzy Hibbard (eh6) or Moisés Roman Mendoza (mr20) with any additional questions.

Much love,

Lizzy and Moises

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Ad Hoc Update, 1

In February 2016, the (now defunct) student group Uncomfortable Learning invited Dissident Right author John Derbyshire to speak at Williams. Then-president Adam Falk cancelled Derbyshire’s talk, causing a public relations black eye for the College. Current President Maud Mandel seeks to undo the damage associated with that decision. We have named the associated controversy Self-CARE Now. This week, I will review Mandel’s latest e-mail and her draft charge to the Ad hoc committee on speakers, inquiry and inclusion. Day 1.

Mandel’s email begins:

As I noted in an all-campus message before break, “Williams, like campuses across the United States, has engaged in debate about how to bolster its commitment to free expression while maintaining its responsibility to ensure an inclusive environment for all community members.” In that same message I announced plans to charge an ad hoc committee with recommending policies and practices that will help us achieve these goals. I’m pleased to provide you with a brief update on that work.

1) Quoting yourself is the Historian’s Vice.

2) Maud is wise to use the term “free expression” rather than the more controversial “free speech.” Too many of her opponents have already decided that “free speech” is something to which they owe no allegiance. They may be more open to defenses of free expression.

3) Even better would be a focus on “academic freedom.” Recall that Maud wants Williams to end up with as much free speech/expression/whatever as state schools like Berkeley. No more cancellations, or even demands for cancellation! Framing is one of the most powerful tools she has to achieve that goal.

Centering the debate around “academic freedom” is more likely to work because it activates the amygdala of every Williams faculty member. They may differ in their views about what sorts of speakers (stupid) undergraduates can invite to campus. They are united in their demand that they have complete “academic freedom” — as they should be! And the vast majority insist that academic freedom includes their right to invite anyone they damn-well please to Williams. Once they demand that, Maud need only insist that students’ rights are no less, at least when it comes to academic freedom. Problem solved!

4) Why the delay in naming the committee? Recall what Maud told us in November:

I intend to recruit the committee by the end of the calendar year with counsel from leaders of faculty, staff and student governance.

We are now two weeks past the end of the calendar year. Still no committee. And note this note from December 13.

In late November I announced my plan to charge an ad hoc committee with the responsibility of moving this discussion forward and proposing policies or programs that will help us achieve both goals. I’ll share the committee charge and roster with campus and alumni in my start of semester message in late January.

So, by mid-December it was obvious to Maud and her team that they would need more time to name a committee. But, then why share the committee’s charge now? (Or is it just a draft of the charge?)

My guess: Maud has decided that this committee — which she originally envisioned as another example of the sorts of Committees that, at Williams, have led to institutional change, i.e., Angevine getting rid of fraternities, MacDonald tightening admissions standards for athletes, Dudley instituting Neighborhood Housing — will not serve her well. Faculty and student attitudes are too anti-free speech for this Committee to succeed. So, Maud has decided to head in a different direction. Read later posts this week for evidence and more speculation.

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The Next Evergreen State?

The College Fix is not my favorite publication but Christopher Tremoglie’s overview of the timeline of the Self-CARE Now controversy is solid. But no links to EphBlog. Sad!

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Pish, Posh

Oren Cass ’05 takes a break from being the most important right-wing wonk of his generation to write a movie review.

I’d never sworn in front of my kids, until our drive home from watching Mary Poppins Returns. The real Mary Poppins would have understood—in fact she might have done the same, had she seen what Disney did to one of children’s fiction’s classic characters and most poignant stories.

The important thing to recall from the original movie is that it’s not about the kids. Young Michael and Jane Banks aren’t the problem that Mary Poppins comes to fix—they are stand-ins for a young audience experiencing a story about what it means to be a parent.

Mr. Banks is the one who needs help. He is the overly disciplined, career-focused father with no time for his children. His life is turned upside-down by this strange new nanny who, in partnership with Bert the chimneysweep, guides him to the revelation that he has his priorities wrong. Bert has a lesson for the children too—but not about issues of their own. Are they really in trouble, he asks them, or is their dad? “Who looks after your father?” Bert asks, in Dick Van Dyke’s legendarily terrible Cockney accent. “Tell me that. When something terrible ‘appens, what does ‘e do? Fends for ‘imself, ‘e does. Who does ‘e tell about it? No one! Don’t blab his troubles at ‘ome. ‘E just pushes on at his job, uncomplaining and alone and silent.”

Read the whole thing.

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Self-CARE Now

Controversies needs names. President Maud Mandel has embarked on a multi-semester effort to repair the damage done by former President Adam Falks’ 2016 cancellation of a speaking invitation extended by the student group Uncomfortable Learning to John Derbyshire. There are Ephs who want Mandel to succeed. There are Ephs who want her to fail. We will place relevant posts under the “Self-CARE Now” category, which is a sub-category of the Controversies.

Longtime readers will recall that EphBlog loves to name Williams controversies. Classic examples include: ¿Quién es más macho?, Nigaleian, Safety Dance, Prospect Must Die, Willy E. N-word, Catch Moore If You Can, The Taco Six and Mary Jane Hitler.

Why Self-CARE Now?

1) Readers failed to provide any better suggestions. (Note that this is still a chance to design a catchy graphic. Submissions welcome!)

2) The students leaders of the opposition to Mandel wrote a Record op-ed summarizing their position. It begins:

The student letter that surfaced in response to the faculty petition was co-authored and edited by over 20 students from a wide range of identities and positionalities. It was, above all, a democratic, grassroots project from start to finish. We are now continuing under the name “Coalition Against Racist Education Now” (CARE Now) in the legacy of Black-led organizing efforts on the Williams College campus.

Including “CARE Now” in the the controversy’s name makes sense. Hilariously, their op-ed concluded with:

Beyond this statement, we have chosen to not comment on our next steps as we are focusing on building coalition and self-care.

If I didn’t provide the link, wouldn’t readers older than 25 assume that this was a parody? Do Williams students routinely, in Record op-eds, insist on the need for “self-care” even as they are in the midst of fighting a righteous battle against “Racist Education?” Apparently, they do. And so I can’t help but to make fun of that contradiction.

3) My original plan was to name the controversy after the committee that Mandel promised to name. That would have been anodyne, but still descriptive. Yesterday’s e-mail, however, made clear that this committee will be much less powerful than initially advertised, so making it central to the controversy no longer makes sense.

4) On a broader view, President Mandel is, right “now,” trying to provide some “self-care” to Williams, as an institution. Falk’s cancellation was the worst single Administrative decision in the last decade, generating unhelpful media attention, and setting back the cause of academic freedom. Williams needs to heal from that mistake and, with luck, Mandel will help us to do so.

What do we want?
Self-CARE!
When do we want it?
Now!

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Update: Ad hoc committee on speakers, inquiry and inclusion

Maud’s Moment has been delayed a bit.

Williams faculty, staff and students,

As I noted in an all-campus message before break, “Williams, like campuses across the United States, has engaged in debate about how to bolster its commitment to free expression while maintaining its responsibility to ensure an inclusive environment for all community members.” In that same message I announced plans to charge an ad hoc committee with recommending policies and practices that will help us achieve these goals. I’m pleased to provide you with a brief update on that work.

Faculty, student and staff governance bodies are helping me build a committee roster, and I expect to have a final version to share with you in my start of semester message on January 30. In the meantime, below is a copy of the proposed charge for the committee. I hope this will help you and our whole community understand the scope of their work and the framing questions I’m posing to help them get started.

After the committee comes together I expect they’ll want to communicate with campus about their process and opportunities for input. In the meantime, I look forward to sharing news about the roster in a few weeks.

Sincerely,

Maud

————————–

Proposed Committee Charge

Williams, like other schools around the country, is debating how to uphold principles of open inquiry and free expression. The debate has focused on how to do so while not providing a platform for hate speech, racism, or other forces that are corrosive to a learning community. This issue was identified as a concern in Williams’ Fall 2017 accreditation self-study, which was shared with campus at the time:

“intellectual freedom… is defined broadly at Williams to include the unfettered exchange of diverse points of view, the dissemination of original scholarship, and respect for faculty, students, staff, alumni, and others who wish to share their opinions on how the college is governed. This “basket of rights” must sometimes be actively managed.” (pp. 103–4)

The conversation at Williams has recently focused on speaker invitations, as it has elsewhere around the country. I am charging an ad hoc committee with recommending to me, by May 2019, a set of speaker invitation guidelines that would demonstrate our full commitment to both inquiry and inclusion. This targeted project will complement our broader attention to learning and campus climate through the strategic planning process. I further ask that they do so through a process that allows for input from anyone in our community with opinions or ideas to share on the subject.

Following are a few framing questions the committee might consider in this work:

What obligation do liberal arts colleges have for exposing students to new ideas and ways of thinking about the world?
What responsibility has Williams assumed (or should it) for helping students achieve equal footing from which to study, expound and challenge diverse ideas?
Given the wide range of content available on-line, including many speeches, what types of presentations (in both form and content) best support our educational mission?
What support, if any, should Williams give to campus members seeking to host, engage or debate speakers?
Are college guidelines related to campus activism toward speakers adequate?

Once the committee presents its recommendations in May, I will share this information with the community, and we will organize next steps for when people return in the fall. It will be helpful if the report identifies the historical, philosophical and other considerations that influenced their recommendations. The report should also identify likely costs and benefits of any proposals.

Some people have looked at the current “free speech” debate in this country with dismay. I believe, in contrast, that this is an important step toward building the most vibrant educational community possible. I am deeply grateful to the committee members, and to Williams, for taking on this challenge.

Maud

Looking for my line-by-line exegesis? Of course you are! Sadly, you will have to wait till next week.

By the way, we still need a scandal name. I was planning — in my role as elder statesperson — to go with “Name-of-Chair Committee” once Mandel named the committee. But is that too wishy-washy?

In my role as senior trouble-maker, I am inspired by this student op-ed. It begins:

The student letter that surfaced in response to the faculty petition was co-authored and edited by over 20 students from a wide range of identities and positionalities. It was, above all, a democratic, grassroots project from start to finish. We are now continuing under the name “Coalition Against Racist Education Now” (CARE Now) in the legacy of Black-led organizing efforts on the Williams College campus.

Worth going through? Perhaps. In the meantime, I laughed out loud at their closing paragraph:

Beyond this statement, we have chosen to not comment on our next steps as we are focusing on building coalition and self-care.

Scandal name? “Self-CARE Now

I am a bad person . . .

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Milquetoast Wonkery

Ross Douhat writes in the New York Times:

This dilemma is apparent in the vigorous intra-conservative debate over a new book, “The Once and Future Worker,” written by the former Mitt Romney domestic policy director Oren Cass [’05]. In certain ways the book is an extension of the reform-conservative project, an argument for policies that support “a foundation of productive work” as the basis for healthy communities and flourishing families and robust civic life. But Cass is more dramatic in his criticism of Western policymaking since the 1970s, more skeptical of globalization’s benefits to Western workers, and more dire in his diagnosis of the real socioeconomic condition of the working class.

Cass’s bracing tone reads like (among other things) an attempt to fix reform conservatism’s political problem, as it manifested itself in 2016 — a problem of lukewarmness, of milquetoast wonkery, that Trumpism’s more sweeping promises simply steamrolled in political debate.

But that tone, as much as Cass’s specific proposals, has divided the center-right’s wonks. There has been a lot of favorable attention for the book (including from my colleague David Brooks); at the same time, there have been sharp critiques, both from within the reform conservative camp (from Michael Strain and James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute, and from Scott Winship, a policy adviser to Senator Mike Lee) and from more libertarian or classical-liberal types (like Sam Hammond of the Niskanen Center).

The critics’ concerns vary, but a common thread is that Cass’s diagnosis overstates the struggles of American workers and exaggerates the downsides of globalization, and in so doing risks giving aid and comfort to populist policies — or, for that matter, socialist policies, from the Ocasio-Cortezan left — that would ultimately choke off growth.

In a sense the debate reproduces the larger argument about whether a post-Trump conservative politics should seek to learn something from his ascent or simply aim to repudiate him — with Cass offering a reform conservatism that effectively bids against Trump for populist support, and his critics warning that he’s conceding way too much to Trumpist demagogy.

But the argument over Cass’s book also raises a larger question that both right and left are wrestling with in our age of populist discontent: Namely, is the West’s post-1980 economic performance a hard-won achievement and pretty much the best we could have done, or is there another economic path available, populist or social democratic or something else entirely, that doesn’t just lead back to stagnation?

A great deal turns upon the answer. Economic growth since the 1970s has disappointed relative to what many optimists imagined in 1965; at the same time it has been stronger than what many Carter-era pessimists feared we could expect. If you emphasize the disappointment, then experimenting with a different policy orientation — be it Cass’s work-and-family conservatism or an Ocasio-Cortezan democratic socialism or something else — seems like a risk worth taking; after all things aren’t that great under neoliberalism as it is.

But if you focus on the possible fragility of the growth we have achieved, the ease with which left-wing and right-wing populisms can lead to Venezuela, then you’ll share the anxieties of Cass’s conservative critics — who are willing to tinker with work-and-family policy but worry that to make any major concession to globalization’s critics puts far too much at risk.

Perhaps the best reason to bet on Cass’s specific vision is that the social crisis he wants to address is itself a major long-term drag on growth — because a society whose working class doesn’t work or marry or bear children will age, even faster than the West is presently aging, into stagnation and decline.

At the same time it might well be, as some of his critics think, that the working class’s social crisis is mostly or all cultural, a form of late-modern anomie detached from material privation. In which case political-economy schemes to “fix” the problem won’t have social benefits to match their potential economic costs.

So the decision for Cass’s kind of conservative reform would be, necessarily, a real policy gamble, based on the hope that a greater human flourishing and a more mid-20th-century style of growth is still possible in rich societies like ours. And if the first iteration of reform conservatism was defined and limited by its moderation, his version 2.0 may succeed or fail based on the right’s appetite for trying something else immoderate, even radical, after the Donald Trump experiment has run its course.

Note that EphBlog recognized Cass’s potential almost 15 years ago . . .

Also, I hope that James Hitchcock ’15, research assistant to both David Brooks and Ross Douhat, had a hand in bringing Cass’s book to their attention. We members of the vast right-wing conspiracy (Eph Division) need to look out for each other!

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Brooks on Cass

David Brooks in the New York Times writes:

Working-class voters tried to send a message in 2016, and they are still trying to send it. The crucial question is whether America’s leaders will listen and respond.

One way to start doing that is to read Oren Cass’s absolutely brilliant new book, “The Once and Future Worker.” The first part of the book is about how we in the educated class have screwed up labor markets in ways that devalued work and made it harder for people in the working class to find a satisfying job.

Part of the problem is misplaced priorities. For the last several decades, American economic policy has been pinioned on one goal: expanding G.D.P. We measure G.D.P. We talk incessantly about economic growth. Between 1975 and 2015, American G.D.P. increased threefold. But what good is that growth if it means that a thick slice of America is discarded for efficiency reasons?

Similarly, for the last several decades American, welfare policy has focused on consumption — giving money to the poor so they can consume more. Yet we have not successfully helped poor people produce more so that they can take control of their own lives. We now spend more than $20,000 a year in means-tested government spending per person in poverty. And yet the average poverty rate for 2000 to 2015 was higher than it was for 1970 to 1985.

“What if people’s ability to produce matters more than how much they can consume?” Cass asks.

The bulk of his book is a series of ideas for how we can reform labor markets.

For example, Cass supports academic tracking. Right now, we have a one-size-fits-all education system. Everybody should go to college. The problem is that roughly one-fifth of our students fail to graduate high school in four years; roughly one-fifth take no further schooling after high school; roughly one-fifth drop out of college; roughly one-fifth get a job that doesn’t require the degree they just earned; and roughly one-fifth actually navigate the path the system is built around — from school to career.

We build a broken system and then ask people to try to fit into the system instead of tailoring a system around people’s actual needs.

Cass suggests that we instead do what nearly every other affluent nation does: Let students, starting in high school, decide whether they want to be on an apprenticeship track or an academic track. Vocational and technical schools are ubiquitous across the developed world, and yet that model is mostly rejected here.

Cass also supports worker co-ops. Today, we have an old, adversarial labor union model that is inappropriate for the gig economy and uninteresting to most private-sector workers. But co-ops, drawing on more successful models used in several European nations, could represent workers in negotiations, train and retrain workers as they moved from firm to firm and build a safety net for periods of unemployment. Shopping for a worker co-op would be more like buying a gym membership. Each co-op would be a community and service provider to address a range of each worker’s needs.

Cass has many other proposals — wage subsidies, immigration reforms. But he’s really trying to put work, and the dignity of work, at the center of our culture and concern. In the 1970s and 1980s, he points out, the Emmy Award-winning TV shows were about blue-collar families: “All in the Family,” “Taxi,” “Cheers,” “The Wonder Years.” Now the Emmy-winning shows are mostly about white-collar adults working in Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, New York and Washington.
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We in the college-educated sliver have built a culture, an economy and a political system that are all about ourselves. It’s time to pass labor market reforms that will make life decent for everybody.

Indeed. When was the last time an Eph book received such lavish praise on the op-ed page of the Times?

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Storytime is Back!

Good news! Storytime is back.

When we discussed the complaints about Storytime, there was some confusion about exactly what the critics were complaining about. The key issue involved “the consumption of black stories, black lives and black narratives.” Allow me to translate from SJW’eese.

Consider three hypothetical cases of the behavior of a white student listening to a black student at Storytime.

1) Extreme boorishness. Arriving late, looking at his phone, rolling his eyes in disbelief, talking with his friends, asking confrontational questions, leaving early, and so on.

2) Neutrality. Arriving on time, paying attention, listening quietly, but asking no questions.

3) Perfect support. Behaving in such a way as to make the speaker certain you were supportive of her talk, her story, her views and her position in the community. The exact behavior which would make the speaker feel this way will vary speaker to speaker.

There is a continuum, of course, but I would wager that no listener at Storytime has ever behaved with extreme boorishness, or anywhere close to it. Problems might arise, however, if a white student behaves in a way that a black student objects to.

The performance [of Underground Railroad Game]at the College sparked controversy, Ansari said. “It had to do with the depiction of African-Americans as slaves, scenes of painful episodes of our enslavement for comedic consumption on the stage and dolls in blackface on the flyers of advertisement,” he added. “Black people were in the audience, and we were experiencing it in tears while our white friends were experiencing it laughing.”

This is the heart of the issue, the style of “consumption” — by white students — of content created by black students. It is not enough to attend Storytime. One must react to the stories at Storytime appropriately. And if we can’t trust white students to react appropriately, then is better that Storytime be shut down.

The aftermath of the show led to the creation of a movement, organized by a former Minority Coalition (MinCo) co-chair [Zeke King Phillips ’18], called ‘At What Cost?’

Having a conversation about these topics seems like a worthy goal. Congrats to Phillips for leading the effort. The problem arises when conversation turns to control.

“Students began to say, ‘Let’s call a pause on anything to do with painful stories where people are just sitting there laughing or consuming others’ pain without a deeper effort at community building.’

This is the heart of the problem with the social justice left. If you want to have a conversation about how people should behave, then great, let’s have a conversation. If you want people to behave in a certain way at your event, then great, let them know. (This is Williams, where politeness is almost a civic religion! Ephs will either behave the way you want — at your event — or they will decline to attend.)

But to force the cancellation of Storytime — even though you are not running Storytime or speaking at Storytime — just because you don’t like the (potential!) behavior of some of the people at Storytime . . . That is a problem. If you do this, then I will war against you until the purple cows come home.

Perhaps it is not too late to save Williams from itself. Storytime lives! Now, time to rescue the JA system . . . and academic freedom . . . and . . .

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Fall in Love

What is the real purpose of Winter Study, especially for male undergraduates?

The real purpose of Winter Study is to fall in love.

You will never, ever, be surrounded by as many smart, pretty, eligible women as you are right now. Life after college is, comparatively, a wasteland. Of course, as you pass into the great beyond, you will meet other women, but they are unlikely to be as wonderful, physically and mentally, as the Eph women you are blessed to know now. More importantly, the best of them will choose mates sooner rather than latter. Exiting Williams without a serious girlfriend is not necessarily a one-way ticket to permanent bachelorhood (as several of my co-bloggers can attest), but it is not the smart way to play the odds. The odds favor love now.

It isn’t that your classes and papers, your theses and sports teams, are unimportant. But finding a soulmate to grow old with, someone to bear your children and ease your suffering, someone to give your life meaning and your work purpose — this is a much more important task than raising that GPA enough to make magna cum laude.

So, stop reading this blog and ask out that cute girl from across the quad. I did the same 31 years ago and have counted my blessings ever since.

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Don’t Build a New Art Museum

From The Eagle:

Watching Pamela Franks walk into Tunnel City Coffee, one may be surprised to know she’s only been in town since the middle of September, when she became the new director of the Williams College Museum of Art.

Frank waves to several patrons she knows as she approaches the glass display case, where she makes dinner plans for later in the week with a woman on the other side of the counter, before taking a serious look at her breakfast choices.

“The quiche looks delicious,” she says, pointing to several choices on the lower level. She orders a slice with mushrooms and onions, a blueberry muffin (to share) with two plates and a 20-ounce medium roast coffee in a paper cup that she can take back to the office later.

“I love the coffee here,” she says, as she leans in close so she can be heard over the coffeehouse cacophony. “Before I even moved here, a friend sent me a bag of coffee beans from here. So, I was looking forward to coming here.”

See below the break for the rest of the (well-done) article. Vaguely related comments:

1) Williams should not build a new college art museum. Spend the money on more financial aid instead. Our current college art museum is more than adequate. Moreover, the existence of the Clark and Mass MoCa means that we already have more art museums in the area than any other (rural) liberal arts college.

2) Williams will build a new college art museum. The logic of building, Building BUILDING is inexorable. I might as well try to fight the tide.

3) The politics of the location of the new museum has been contentious (even vicious?) for several years now. Perhaps a local resident could fill us in?

Read more

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A Depressing Thought for the New Year

James (class of 2015) ought to write a book on this theme.

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American Colonization Society

From Williamstown and Williams College: A History by Arthur Latham Perry:

Mills is, of course, Samuel J. Mills, he of the Haystack Prayer Meeting and Mills in Mission Park.

This book was the first interesting thing that came up from a google search of Williams College and New Year’s Day.

We need an annual post for this date. What should it be?

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