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Unpersuadable

abl, who really ought to put these excellent comments on the main page, writes about the membership of the new Ad Hoc Committee on Inquiry and Inclusion:

For a committee like this to have perceived legitimacy, it has to include viewpoints on both sides of this issue.

Untrue. The CUL, when it implemented the Dudley Report which gave us Neighborhood Housing, had no proponents of free agency. The Ad Hoc Committee on Athletics, when it produced the MacDonald Report, had no public supporters of the status quo with regard to admissions preferences for athletes. Those committees were stacked with people who would go along with Morty Schapiro’s preferences. And so they did, with more than enough “legitimacy” to make the two biggest changes at Williams in the last 20 years.

I don’t know whether this committee will do much of consequence, or if Mandel is even thinking along these strategic lines, but by including several publicly identifiable left-leaning students and right-leaning faculty on the committee, Mandel increases the likelihood that any recommendation that is perceived to lean one way or another is nevertheless accepted.

I actually see the inclusion of right-leaning faculty members to be much more notable here. I have no doubt in my mind that Mandel is more confident about being able to persuade left-leaning students than she is right-leaning faculty members. If I were trying to engineer a committee to achieve my desired result, I would stack it with faculty members who I know agree with my position and students who don’t (but aren’t so entrenched to be unpersuadable–like students who have signed the petition but not taken more of a public role in the issue), and hope to get to a “bipartisan” proposal that relies on persuading the students in question.

All of this said, my honest guess is that Mandel is open to a range of possible outcomes from this committee and isn’t playing these sorts of strategic games. My bet is the reason why you see a diversity of viewpoints represented on the committee is that Mandel genuinely wants to reach some sort of compromise that will generally placate most people. And the reason why she’s limited the reach of the committee is because that also limits the risk of delegating this much responsibility — it becomes easier for her to rein in any proposal that she doesn’t like based on ‘exceeding the scope of the committee’ or some other seemingly non-ideological grounds.

Agreed! (Emphasis added.)

I would bet, however, that Michael Crisci ’21 and Rachel Porter ’21 are much closer to the unpersuadable side of the ledger. Yes, it is true that they are not leaders of CARE Now. But signing the statement puts them at the most extreme 15% of the student populations. And then they applied for this committee! My prior is that, of the students who signed, only the most committed would apply. Hope that I am wrong! Or that I have underestimated the persuasive abilities of Cheryl Shanks and Fred Strauch . . .

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6 Comments To "Unpersuadable"

#1 Comment By abl On February 12, 2019 @ 10:36 am

Those committees were stacked with people who would go along with Morty Schapiro’s preferences.

You make a number of bold claims about which you know little. What basis do you have for claiming to know the opinions of the CUL’s or Ad Hoc Committee’s members before their selection to the these committees, for example?

I know something about the selection of one or both of these committees, and I can confidently state that you are unequivocally wrong about this, at least insofar as you imply that (a) the viewpoint of student(s) on these committees with respect to these issues was known by the administration or the appointment’s committee prior to their selection; and (b) that viewpoint had any relevance whatsoever to their selection.

#2 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On February 12, 2019 @ 10:54 am

> You make a number of bold claims about which you know little.

I know more about these topics that just about anyone on Earth. Those who might know more are employed by the College and unlikely/unable to tell the truth.

I claimed:

The Ad Hoc Committee on Athletics, when it produced the MacDonald Report, had no public supporters of the status quo with regard to admissions preferences for athletes.

The members of the Ad Hoc committee were Michael MacDonald, Chris Pye, Stephen Sheppard, Lee Park, Mike Russo and Julie Greenwood. None of them had taken a public stand in favor of maintaining, much less increasing, admissions preferences for athletes. If you have evidence against this claim, please provide it.

Now, to be fair, I probably should have included the word “public” in my sentence about CUL. There were no public supporters of free agency. (Obviously, I am not a mind-reader, so it is impossible for me to know what is going on inside the head of every committee member.)

#3 Comment By abl On February 12, 2019 @ 11:53 am

David —

I’m not sure there were any students who expressed public support or condemnation for either side with respect to the MacDonald Report or ‘free agency’ before the selection of these respective committees. In any event, I am confident that the overwhelming majority of students had never publicly weighed in on these matters, and that the position of students vis-a-vis these matters was not in any way considered as part of the appointments process. In other words, it is entirely incorrect for you to claim that “[t]hose committees were stacked with people who would go along with Morty Schapiro’s preferences.”

#4 Comment By abl On February 12, 2019 @ 3:13 pm

My prior comment appears to have been swallowed. In case it resurfaces, I apologize for this largely repetitive post.

David, I don’t think there were many, or any, students who took public stances on either free agency or admissions preferences for athletes prior to the committee selection process (for or against). If so, I don’t think any of those students were selected to the committees in question–and, in any event, these sorts of preferences, public or private, were not considered in the selection process. All of this is to say that it is entirely false to claim that these committees were “stacked with people who would go along with Morty Schapiro’s preferences.”

I do not doubt that you know more about these issues than the vast majority of Williams’ ~30,000 alumns (is that the correct #?). But that does not mean that you know all that much about these issues. I’d wager that you probably know as much as any engaged alum — but that still puts you in a far more ignorant category than the dozens if not hundreds of students and staff who were at Williams during the time(s) in question and were either directly involved in these questions or were close friends with people who were directly involved in these decisions.

#5 Comment By GloryDaysChaser On February 12, 2019 @ 7:23 pm

“I know more about these topics that just about anyone on Earth.”

This might be the single saddest sentence ever written.

#6 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On February 12, 2019 @ 8:39 pm

> This might be the single saddest sentence ever written.

A man gotta have a code.