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Claiming Williams 2019

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

1) This schedule is incompetent! Here is the committee, and the co-chairs are Tatiana McInnis and Gail Newman. Are they to blame?

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

But this year seems especially weak! The only event before 11:00 AM is a film screening of TransMilitary. Not a topic which many students will find interesting! (Note that this is not a complaint about this film (which I have not seen), especially since it features an Eph as one of its subjects. Good stuff!) The complaint is that, if we are going to go through the trouble of cancelling classes for an entire day, we should schedule events that will engage the whole community throughout the day.

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

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

3) I love this session.

Expression at Williams

Expression and speech at Williams, and on college campuses more broadly, has come up time and time again. How do we balance constructive debate and exchange of ideas with respect and support? Speakers representing a range of campus communities are invited to engage with this question.

Good stuff! Kudos to Gargoyle for organizing it.

4) Canada Goose and Book Grants also looks interesting, and has a great title.

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

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

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

6) If any readers attend Claiming Williams, please tell us about your experience in the comments.

Full schedule below
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Vibrant Campus Community

Latest e-mail from President Mandel:

Williams students, faculty and staff,

Spring is here! Well, spring semester anyway, although you wouldn’t know it by the weather. Ever the optimist, though, I feel like I can see the (day)light at the end of the tunnel. If you’ve been away, welcome back. If you stayed here, I hope you had a great Winter Study.

The new semester will be as busy as ever, starting tomorrow with Claiming Williams. I’m excited for my first experience with this unique program, and the organizers have assembled a great schedule for the day. Please find a way to participate if you can, since the program embodies the values essential to building a healthy and vibrant campus community.

Meanwhile, work on strategic planning is coming along nicely: I’m happy to announce a new website where you can learn all about the effort. I want to start this process by inviting your feedback: if you have comments on our organizational structure and plan for moving forward, please submit them via the website by February 15. That’s when the coordinating committee will begin writing charges for each working group, and we want to be able to incorporate community input. Then, starting later in February, I’ll begin to provide monthly updates via campus email, EphNotes and the project website. These will include information about next steps and further opportunities to share your ideas.

I’m also pleased to announce that we’ve finalized the membership of our new Ad Hoc Committee, which will develop recommendations on how Williams can maximize our commitments to free expression and inclusion. The roster and charge are available on a new page of the Committees website, and also via the Strategic Initiatives menu of the president’s office website. Thank you to the faculty, students and staff who are making time to participate on the committee. This is an important project, and I look forward to working with them.

On another issue of national importance, Williams today submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Education commenting on their proposed changes to the Title IX process. While we’re always looking for further ways to help prevent and respond to sexual harassment and discrimination, my letter explains how the Department’s proposed changes could actually impede our efforts.

On a happier note, the Teach It Forward campaign recently exceeded both our 85% engagement goal and $650 million fundraising goal. Beyond the numbers I’m proud of TIF’s impact, from funding the new science center to endowing the CLiA directorship to supporting a world-class faculty and expanding financial aid offerings—including our recent elimination of one summer’s earnings contribution for every student on financial aid. We hope the change will help all students explore learning and career opportunities when school isn’t in session. This and many other good things are made possible for us by Williams alumni and friends, so I hope you’ll join me in thanking them. And we’re aiming still higher in areas from financial aid to sustainability, so will make the most of the time remaining before the campaign ends this June.

All of this is just the beginning. I look forward to starting a new semester with you and to seeing you in the dining halls, on the athletic fields, in the classrooms and meeting spaces, and on Spring Street, as well as at Claiming Williams tomorrow.

Lots to unpack here! Alas, no time to do it!

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Construed Against White Males

It was a sad day when Will Slack ’11, responding to this post, quit EphBlogh in 2010.

White males have nothing to do with this, and nothing about Claiming Williams was construed against white males as a group. Good grief.

Depends on who is doing the construing, doesn’t it? The key passage in my post:

This is a small example of why white males like me don’t feel welcome at events associated with faculty members like Wendy Raymond.

Will suggests (and may even believe in good faith) that Claiming Williams is a truly inclusive event, that everyone on the Williams campus feels welcome. He implies either a) that few/no white males feel unwelcome at Claiming Williams or b) that such feelings are unjustified.

Don’t think that I have a better sense than Will about what a large percentage (10%?, 50%?) of white males (and others!) think about Claiming Williams? No need to trust me. Just read WSO:

I’ll argue that I think CW this year made an effort to be unassuming and unhostile, but I agree that the general perception on campus remains that any time we talk about “diversity” we’re talking about the evils of the WMAWDs. How to change that perception, I don’t know – but I do feel that oftentimes, in an effort to find safety, security, and solidarity on campus, groups can create a feeling of “us vs. them.”

That being said, I think that the marginalization of the WMAWD is that he feels unwelcome and uncomfortable even attending and participating in these sorts of conversations. Is that “as bad” as the challenges associated with facing racism or classism on a daily basis? Perhaps not. But these types of discussions shouldn’t be about trying to decide who’s been the most oppressed – they should be about moving forward as a community

I feel like I’ve had different experiences than some of the other people posting. You may never have encountered the “I’ve had it bad, it’s kind of your fault, you bad bad white man” attitude here on campus, but I ASSURE you, I most definitely have. Whether this is as widespread as I have come to see it as, or if it is not as prevalent as I thought is a matter that I will leave others to decide. The most important thing for me is not so much the self-victimization as what is relatively undisputed: the bias against WMAWD that is pervasive on this campus.

More quotes/commentary below. Reading them now, almost a decade later, can you hear the first faint stirrings of Trumpism?

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Spring 2019 Course Advice

Spring classes start tomorrow. Our advice:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skip STAT 201 if you took AP Statistics. Go straight to STAT 202 instead. And don’t worry about the stupid math prerequisites that the department tries to put in your way. You don’t really need multivariate calculus for 201 or matrix algebra for the more advanced classes. Those math tricks come up in a couple of questions on a couple of problem sets. Your friends (and some Khan Academy videos) will get you through it. If challenged, just tell people you took those classes in high school.

Take CSCI 134: Diving into the Deluge of Data. Being able to get the computer to do what you want it to do is much more important, to your future career, than most things, including, for example, the ability to write well. You might consider skipping 134 and going directly to 136, but 134 seems to be a much better course than it was in the past, especially with the use of Python and the focus on data.

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

See our previous discussions. Here are some thoughts from 12 (?) years ago about course selections for a career in finance.

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

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Official College Reports

We have not done a good job of archiving various College reports over the years. (And, of course, it is beyond pathetic that Williams itself mostly fails to do so.) So, as a reminder, let’s review some of them here.

1962: The Angevine Report (pdf). This is the single most important Williams document of the last 100 years. It led to the elimination of fraternities at Williams. Isn’t it embarrassing that the College doesn’t host a copy of the report on its own servers?

2002: The MacDonald Report (pdf). This led to a dramatic decrease in the admissions preferences given to athletes. The College actively refuses to make this report publicly available. This discussion was updated in the “2009 Report by the Athletics Committee: Varsity Athletes and Academics” (pdf).

2005: The Dudley Report (pdf) which led to the creation of Neighborhood Housing, the single biggest failure at Williams in the last few decades. Note also the CUL reports from 2002 and 2003 which paved the way to this disaster.

2005: Williams Alcohol Task Force Report. Sadly, I don’t have a pdf of this report. Does anyone? The issue of alcohol is a perennial one at places like Williams. Whatever committee tackles it next should start by reading this report. I think that this was a follow up to the 2004 Report on Alcohol Policy (pdf).

2005: Diversity Initiatives. I think (but can’t find it right now) that the College does maintain a (pdf) of this report. The Record should do a story about what has happened in the last decade.

2008: Waters Committee Report (doc) which led to the elimination of the Williams in New York program. Professor Robert Jackall, creator of WNY, wrote this response (doc) and this memorandum (doc). See the October 2008 faculty meeting notes (pdf) for more discussion. Future historians might argue that this report was more important than the MacDonald report since it highlighted a turn inwards by Williams.

2008: A Report from Williams is a summary/celebration of the Aim High capital campaign.

2009-2010: The Neighborhood Review Committee began the process of dismantling the Neighborhood system. There were two interim reports (part I and part II) and two final reports (part I and part II).

2016: The Merrill Committee Report (pdf), also known as the “Report and Recommendations on the Log Mural” from the Committee on Campus Space and Institutional History. This committee showed Williams at its very best, handling a potentially difficult situation with thoughtfulness, in an effort featuring significant student leadership (especially from Jake Bingaman ’19 and Matthew Hennessy ’17). Kudos to all involved!

There are other reports that should be added. Suggestions? I think that I will turn this into an annual post, with updates as needed. Would any readers like to spend a week going through the details of one of these reports?

If we won’t remember Williams history, who will?

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Thompson Graffiti

Latest racist (?) graffiti:

Williams students, faculty and staff,

This weekend, a student discovered the phrase “Black Riders Liberation Party” written several times on a whiteboard in the kitchen of Thompson Hall. The Black Riders Liberation Party is an organization that uses modern marketing tactics to promote a black supremacist ideology. The group is especially known for trying to provoke reactions on college campuses.

We don’t yet know who wrote the name on the board, or what their intent was in doing so. Because the organization is one that promotes hatred, we will investigate the report as a possible bias incident and Campus Safety and Security is trying to identify the author of the graffiti.

If you have information you think will aid the investigation, please call Campus Safety at 413-597-4444 or submit information through OIDE’s Bias Incident Reporting form. The form includes an option to report anonymously.

Williams should be a place where everyone is welcome. Many of the conversations at next week’s Claiming Williams events will focus on how to fulfill that promise, and we look forward to doing that work with you all.

Sincerely,

Leticia S.E. Haynes, Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity
Steve Klass, Vice President for Campus Life
Marlene Sandstrom, Dean of the College

1) What are the odds that this is a hate hoax, meaning that the person who left the note is not actually a supporter of BRLP? I am not sure. On one hand, hate hoaxes are very common at Williams (and elsewhere). On the other, BRLP is a fairly obscure (?) organization. The typical hate hoax is much less subtle.

2) Why is this defined as “graffiti?” The convention, I believe, is that whiteboards are for writing stuff on. If Thompson has a whiteboard, along with a markers publicly available for writing on it, then writing the phrase “Black Riders Liberation Party” is, by definition, not graffiti.

3) Why is this a “possible bias incident?” Again, assume that the Thompson whiteboard is publicly available and that students are allowed, even encouraged, to write on it. If no student would be punished for writing “Democratic Party,” then the College would be on thin ice if it punished a student, with no warning, for writing “Black Riders Liberation Party.” Williams, if it wants to avoid turning into a madrassa, must be viewpoint neutral with regard to political expression.

4) Who gets to decide that BRLP “promotes hatred?” And, yes, I know that the Southern Poverty Law Center has said some mean things about BRLP, but I don’t think that Williams gets to outsource its moral judgments. Scores of Williams faculty — perhaps even a majority — believe that Donald Trump “promotes hatred.” Would writing MAGA on the Thompson whiteboard also merit an investigation by Campus Safety and Security?

5) Why does the “intent” matter? (And note the awkwardness of that sentence in the email.) Williams, unless it has developed the ability to read minds, must enforce its rules in a viewpoint neutral manner. It can punish anyone who writes anything on a whiteboard or it can punish no one. It can’t punish black students (but not non-black) students for writing the same thing. Or vice versa! (What is your guess as to the race of the students who wrote this?)

6) If you are the student who did thing, and they catch you, reach out for help. There are faculty who would support you. Note, especially, that Williams never (?) punished the Mexican-American student who wrote “All Beaners Must Die” nor did it punish Mary Jane Hitler.

7) Note the absurd scare-mongering about “modern marketing tactics.” What does that mean, exactly? They use Facebook?

8) Does the Black Riders Liberation Party really “promote a black supremacist ideology?” I doubt it. Accusations about being a “Supremacist” serve the same purpose today as accusations about being a “Communist” did in the 1950s. The BRLP certainly cares about African-Americans — not that there is anything wrong with that! — and seeks to advance their interests. Calling them supremacists (when they never (?) apply that terminology to themselves) is the worst sort of demagoguery.

When will the College learn that the best way to deal with obnoxious scribbling is to ignore it? No need to hide it — just post a note in the (public?) security logs. The bigger a fuss you make, the more of it you are going to get.

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Dean Sneed, RIP

From Seth Brown:

I was thinking of this last month when I learned that my former advisor, a dean at Williams College, had died. This was a man who had a tremendous spirit of generosity, who not only helped me navigate the trials and tribulations of freshman year, but even invited me into his home for dinner. He would regale me with tales and pictures of his time in Africa, sharing the joys he experienced there and talking about the help he offered. Years after graduating, I would learn from another college friend that when she was in dire straits and in need of help, he gave her a bicycle.

Everyone had a Dean Sneed story.

His name alone was enough to move the world. At least, it seemed that way to me. Back when I was in college, I was applying for a job working at the Williams Press Office over the summer, and had set up an interview. Time management was not my strong suit in those days, so I began wandering over a few minutes before the interview was scheduled. On the way, who should I encounter but Dean Sneed. As always, he was very friendly and asked what I was up to. I explained that I was on my way to an interview in the press office. He said to mention his name, because it might help.

I arrived at the building roughly one minute before my interview started. Unfortunately, the interview was on the fourth floor. With little time to spare, instead of waiting for the elevator, I sprinted up four flights of stairs. I should point out that normally I only sprint when being chased by some form of impending death, so this was quite unusual for me. By the time I reached the fourth floor, I was completely out of breath, and hyperventilating madly.

I was also about to be late, so I immediately burst into the office where my interview was scheduled. In hindsight, this may not have been the ideal choice.

“Hello,” said the businesswoman who might determine whether or not I would get a job.

“HOOOOOHUNHHHHHHHNHOOOOOHUNHHHHHHHN,” I replied suavely.

“Would you like a glass of water?”, she asked?

“HOOOOOHUNHHHHHHHNPLEASEHUNHHHHHHHN,” I said, nodding eagerly.

In spite of this inauspicious start, after a glass of water I managed to talk my way past the preliminary interview into the second round, so they sent me into a conference room where my potential boss introduced himself and began asking me questions. As soon as there was a lull in the questioning, I said, “Oh, Dean Sneed said I should mention his name because it might help me get a job.” And then I began to wriggle my fingers as if casting a spell on the interviewer, and repeated “Dean Sneed.”

And it worked.

Condolences to all.

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Predatory Desires, 3

Great Record article by Rebecca Tauber and Samuel Wolf about the on-going debate over the Chicago Principles. Read the whole thing, along with our previous commentary. I will pull out some highlights over the next three days. Day 3.

Gail Newman, professor of German, who spoke with faculty against the petition and reached out to supporting students organizing against the petition, took issue with the language and divisive nature of the Chicago Statement. “The Statement … ignores the fact that both of these concepts [‘freedom’ and ‘civility’] have been used over and over again to shut down legitimate calls for conditions of safety that would allow the voices of those who haven’t been heard to come forward,” she said.

Examples, please. Newman is an historian (sort of). If something has really “been used over and over again,” it should be easy to come up with scores of examples. But I can’t think of a single one!

First, it is not even clear what Newman means by “shut down.” Williams, and places like Williams, have occasionally banned speakers or restricted their speech. (This is my understanding of the phrase “shut down.” Contrary opinions welcome.) But, prior to banning Derbyshire two years ago, the last similar incident at Williams was . . . Mark Hopkins banning Ralph Waldo Emerson! Does Newman have other examples in mind?

Second, FIRE provides this handy database of speaker controversies. Not all of these are directly analogous to Derbyshire and some involve other issues, like the awarding of honorary degrees. I don’t see a single one in which “freedom” of speech was cited by those doing the banning/disinviting.

Third, the heart of the debate involves “safety.” Newman believes, I suspect, that a Derbyshire speech, even it does not incite physical violence directly, is an act of verbal aggression against (certain) Williams students. That speech hurts them. Since Williams has an obligation to protect them — both because safety is itself important and because a safe environment is a requirement for a good education — we have no choice but to ban speakers like Derbyshire. The problem with this reasoning, obviously, is that there is no good way to draw the line. Many students feel — and who is Gail Newman to dispute their feelings? — that a speech from Charles Murray or James Watson or Larry Summers or Ann Venker or Kris Kobach or insert-any-Trump-supporter is a similar act of verbal aggression, meriting a ban from Williams.

Maud Mandel is way too smart to head down that path . . .

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Predatory Desires, 2

Great Record article by Rebecca Tauber and Samuel Wolf about the on-going debate over the Chicago Principles. Read the whole thing, along with our previous commentary. I will pull out some highlights over the next three days. Day 2.

Mark Reinhardt, professor of political science and American studies, sent an email to the entire faculty urging his colleagues to withdraw their signature or not sign the petition. He expressed problems with the petition’s format, larger messages and implications of the Chicago Statement. “I know there is among us a wide range of views, rooted in part in very different experiences of the College and American society,” he wrote. “Given that diversity, I propose that any forums be approached as opportunities to consider campus discourse in the broadest possible terms, and not merely as occasions for endorsing or opposing one particular, predetermined framing of our circumstances, challenges and prospects.”

1) A faculty source forwarded me several of the intra-faculty e-mails on this topic, although not Reinhardt’s. Should I publish them? (Faculty readers should feel free to add them in the comment thread.)

2) Who will lead the fight against Maud? One candidate is Reinhardt, who knows his way around the College administration. (Recall his successful fight to remain at Williams after he was initially denied tenure 20 years ago.) Other candidates include Gene Bell-Villada and Gail Newman. Eli Nelson wrote and distributed a detailed document (pdf), but my advice to all non-tenured faculty is to avoid fights with the president.

3) What advice do you have for Reinhardt? How should he try to stop Williams from going in the direction that President Mandel clearly favors?

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Predatory Desires, 1

Great Record article by Rebecca Tauber and Samuel Wolf about the on-going debate over the Chicago Principles. Read the whole thing, along with our previous commentary. I will pull out some highlights over the next three days. Day 1.

Joy James, professor of political science and Africana studies, published an article in The Feminist Wire in which she argued against the Chicago Statement and outlined its implications for the College community. “The Chicago Statement ‘free speech’ campaign accumulates power for elites and enables their predatory desires and aggressions against marginalized groups,” James wrote. “People of color are window dressing for a Statement that seeks to legitimize hate speech.”

Is it worth going through James’ article? Not that I can see. But this does provide a handy excuse for revisiting James’ troubled tenure at Williams. (But, full disclosure, my prediction that she would depart was wrong. Perhaps no other school is interested in taking James off our hands? As a member of the political science department told me a decade ago: “Yes, she wrote a book. But it is not a good book.”)

James linked this view to a previously published article in The Feminist Wire by Kai Green, assistant professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies, and Kimberly Love, assistant professor of English, which discusses the relationship between academia and injustice. Green and Love detailed the challenges of being Black queer feminists in both higher education and Williamstown, portraying many of the issues raised by those against the petition. “We are not safe because we are Black radical thinkers and professors who refuse to wait for the right time to point out the anti-Black, transphobic, xenophobic and the list goes on … wrongs of this time,” Green and Love wrote.

Is it worth it to go through Green and Love’s article? Again, not that I can see. Perhaps the real purpose of having faculty like Green and Love at Williams is that, in comparison, Joy James looks like an intellectual.

All that said, it would be wonderful if the Williams College Debate Union were to organize some debates/panels featuring James/Green/Love and their faculty/student opponents. The more discussion and debate at Williams, the better.

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Board of Trustees Meeting

E-mail from President Mandel:

Last week was the January meeting of the Board of Trustees. The board covered topics that it reviews on an annual basis, like the comprehensive fee and a risk management update, as well as current issues of special interest.

Two items of note:

Provost Dukes Love hosted a session on financial fundamentals, describing our processes for ensuring sound financial management.

Read: Dukes’ 10 year audition to be the next Williams president continues to go well!

Associate Vice President for Finance Matt Sheehy, Chief Information Officer Barron Koralesky and General Counsel Jamie Art ’93 led an annual update on the college’s risk management efforts, including recent work on IT risk and data security.

Back in the day, the Trustees would spend most (all?) of their time talking to faculty. Now they spend lots (most?) of their time talking to non-faculty, including second-tier administrators like Sheehy, Koralesky and Art. Who really runs Williams? Not the faculty. Slice by slice by slice, the death of faculty governance at Williams continues.

Entire e-mail is below the break.
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Mens Basketball Update

Dave Fehr writes:

Ephmen definitely need a solid win today following a disappointing win at 4-12 Bates and a heartbreaking, last second loss at Amherst (our first of year).

In both games our greatest weapon, shooting, was lacking. Part of that was due to defense, Bates 1-3-1 zone and Jeffs (oops, Mammoths) tight man-man, especially on Heskett and Casey. Still, if we want to accomplish big things this year, we’ve got to find a way to score more.

One very encouraging sign: Our interior defense was immense at Amherst: Not normally a shot-blocking team, we sent back ten of their shots (Karp 4, Heskett and Soto 2 each) and did it without fouling – Mammoths went to the line just 7 times. However, that forced them outside and they won by making 11 of 23 threes (Williams just 6 of 22).

If we can beat Midd (who will probably be worried about being marooned in Williamstown for six days) we’ll remain undefeated in NESCAC. They have two veteran bigs, McCord and Folger, rebound well (plus 9.4 margin) and block shots (average 5.9/ga).

My favorite micro-aggression is referring to Amherst’s teams as the Jeffs. Long may it continue!

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Ad Hoc Update, 5

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 5.

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.

How can Maud be “deeply grateful to the committee members” if she doesn’t yet know who they are?

1) Sure looks like a draft of this statement was written when Maud (and/or Jim Reische?) expected that the committee would have been named by now. If it had been, then thanking them would be the natural way of ending this statement. But the committee has not been named — presumably because of extensive infighting behind the scenes — leaving us with a mistimed expression of gratefulness.

2) Glad to see that Maud, the historian, wants the committee to dive into some history. Start with the time that Mark Hopkins banned Ralph Waldo Emerson from speaking at Williams.

3) But, again, note the incoherence of telling the committee to only provide her with “a set of speaker invitation guidelines” while, at the same time, encouraging them to provide “the historical, philosophical and other considerations that influenced their recommendations.” Just how complex is the history or philosophy associated with such guidelines?

If, however, Maud wrote this draft a few weeks ago — back when she expected this committee to have a large focus and when she expected to have the membership settled by the “end of the calendar year,” everything fits together . . .

except that Jim Reische should have raised these concerns before the e-mail went out . . . ;-)

I am excessively proud of my reasoning on this one, although not quite J’accuse proud. Feel free to disabuse me in the comments.

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Ad Hoc Update, 4

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 4.

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?

Framing the debate is the first step to victory.

But note how these questions have little/nothing to do with the committee’s new charge to come up with “a set of speaker invitation guidelines that would demonstrate our full commitment to both inquiry and inclusion.” The first two questions are too broad to be of use to a committee which is just working on invitation guidelines. Even the fifth question, which is obviously speaker-related, has nothing to do with invitations per se. A question like that is only relevant if the committee has a much broader mandate than, in fact, it has.

The whole effort is fairly schizophrenic, as if it were written with two different mindsets:

Mindset 1: This committee is a successor to Angevine in its importance. It will solve the problem of free speech/expression at Williams, perhaps via a Chicago-style approach.

Mindset 2: This committee is narrowly focused on the topic of speaker invitations. Other people/committees will handle the broader issues.

What could explain this discrepancy? (Maud and her staff are smart and excellent writers.)

My guess: The initial plan was to go the Angevine route, a committee which would solve the problem. The charge was draft during this period. Later, once it became clear that this was not going to work, the remit of the committee was drastically reduced, but no one went back to do a thorough edit of the entire draft.

Other explanations?

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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 student 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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To be able to safe and secure your data – keeping it online

In order to produce important computer data safe via many of these hazards one could hold it via the internet. Signup with IDrive to ensure they is certainly protected while using the highest security! You happen to be able to gain access to the data anywhere on earth. IDrive presents the solution for individual key encryption, in purchase for your data can’t always be contacted by not authorized users. The placed info is quite simple to find with the help of search engine of the device. In case you are not storing very much data and if the details is going to be not really so sensitive, a entirely free foriegn data space may be your very best choice. How you apply the cloud moving front is highly related to the habits as well as the kinds of digital articles you the majority of frequently use. The cloud is full of absolutely free storage, when you know the very best place to seem. Contract administration cloud currently a days and nights have changed into the many popular and graceful alternative. It is definitely possible to get into your files from the cellular product simply by starting their mobile or portable internet site. You may also access your documents through the selling gain access to platform. You’re free to backup data via a number of units in you profile and deal with various stories through it is customer. So , anytime you will find that the documents are infected, all you have to carry out is normally fix that coming from your consideration. Furthermore, it is a good approach to keep your data files safe. You cannot just upload folders and obtain a download website link for this. Otherwise, you could just simply store all of your important data files within the cloud safe-keeping folder hence that you would never shed them. Inspite of the price of storage continuing to decline, completely free storage is without question something which’s really hard to pass up. Generally, on line cloud storage space was made for use by simply developers. Cloud data storage space permits all of us to get hold of access to each of our forms everywhere discover net gain access. It is the excellent approach to store, backup, and discuss data. It will be easy to also apply your cloud storage space for a way of data file server. Lately, the expression cloud storage includes gotten extremely prevalent.

Whilst not most cloud providers are made equivalent, they perform offer precisely the same standard efficiency. They give calculating while a support rather than a product, essentially providing you your have personal hard disk in the cloud, or via the internet. Most cloud storage area companies present you with a limited number of free of charge space, in the hopes you will advance when you be depleted and hint simply because much seeing that a registration package. Many cloud storage area businesses status they possibly encrypt info prior to it’s actually submitted or although it’s actually kept. Some expertise retail store simply a specific sort of information, including photos, music or back-up data, even though will allow users to store any sort of file. Basically, the product gives you the capability to publish files with others (such people who can not have a Dropbox account) through links. There are actually lots of offerings to select via, every single with its individual expenses and features. Many services provide free personal data with simple amounts of complimentary cloud safe-keeping. Found in fact, most cloud services provide a point of back up, almost simply because an impact of their planned function. One of the primary cloud safe-keeping products and services released, Dropbox can be utilized to back up almost any digital document which include photos. Detecting a impair storage space professional is not hard, yet acquiring a person with lots of absolutely free storage place and pretty much all you will you require is without question considerably even more tricky. The cloud storage area supplier has got to come to be appropriate for the working systems you’re using. Some companies are incredibly user friendly, but other folks provide advanced customization for further experienced techies. You may need a fallen through because of online internet marketer support for your backup copies. A large number of the cloud storage firms haven’t just a protected place, although a reliability crew that screens their very own computer systems 24 hours per day, 7 days each week. Right now there are a couple options available in regards to cloud storage services. Many cloud storage services possess a entirely free of charge profile that normally include a few limitations, just like the amount of money of storage they give or a size limit upon data it is possible to upload. The convenience to data will take up a vital part in the workforce’s capacity to telecommute slightly designed for establishments to reduce facility bills. You will usually have full fee line shell program access to the digital hardware, thus you’re granted to bring in and set that up the direction you enjoy. Most of all, you should have accessibility to Telegram Cloud with the exclusive stuff. Found in addition, you can aquire quick option of music adjustments by troubling its switch given in the face of the look at.

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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?

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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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