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Show Them The Money

My co-bloggers here at EphBlog, along with other Ephs of goodwill, often take issue with my complaints about the College’s gifts to charity. As many times as I ask, I have trouble finding anyone who will specify where $250,000 should be cut from the College budget to fund worthwhile programs at Mt. Greylock High School.

But perhaps I should turn the question around. Assume that the College has decided to spend an additional $250,000 this year (or even every year) on attracting and retaining the best college teachers in the country. How would I spend this money, if not on gifts to the local schools and hospital along with realestate development?

Call me crazy, but I would . . . Give the money to the very best teachers at Williams!

Show them the money. Would that really be so hard? Establish “Ephraim Williams Awards for Teaching Excellence.” Five would be given out every year, each consisting of a cash prize of $50,000. Winners would be selected by a committee dominated by students. The only restriction might be that the same person can’t win two years in a row. Nothing would prevent truly exceptional teachers from being recognized several times each decade.

Of course, there is a lot that could be done with these awards. Perhaps one of the awards should be reserved for excellence in advising senior theses and/or individual projects — thus ensuring that not just the best lecturers win. Perhaps 2 of the five awards could be determined by former students — ideally committees centered around events like the 10th and 25th year reunions. This would nicely bias things toward professors who make a career at Williams, thereby giving folks like Gary Jacobsohn and Tim Cook a(nother) reason to stay.

If you want great teachers to come to and stay at Williams, then giving them special prizes is almost certainly the most cost effective way of doing so.

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#1 Comment By ’11 On March 12, 2019 @ 11:12 am

I don’t think we should motivate professors with money. You don’t give students money for getting good grades; all aid is need-based. Professor salaries should be standardized and dependent on need as well.

#2 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On March 12, 2019 @ 11:16 am

> dependent on need as well.

Surely you don’t mean that?!

You would pay a professor with 4 kids more than one with zero kids? The former certainly “needs” the money more!

#3 Comment By PTC On March 12, 2019 @ 11:24 am

David/ ’11- Williams already does this “need based” support by providing tuition money for faculty and staff children. I believe it is seen as a part of the bargain required to keep faith with its original core mission as stipulated in the land grant- a free education.

“Colonel Ephraim Williams was an officer in the Massachusetts militia and a member of a prominent landowning family. His will included a bequest to support and maintain a free school to be established in the town of West Hoosac, Massachusetts, provided the town change its name to Williamstown. Williams was killed at the Battle of Lake George on September 8, 1755…”

#4 Comment By John Drew On March 12, 2019 @ 1:29 pm

I’d pick the recipients of these awards based on the survey results collected by the folks at Rate My Professor.

I’d probably run some sort of algorithm where we control for level of difficulty so that you don’t end up giving the money to the professors who give out the easiest A’s. Here’s an example of the reviews for a top rated Williams College professor, Safa Zaki.

Safa Zaki

FYI: Word to the wise… The highest rated professors appear to have above average skills as stand up comics.

#5 Comment By PTC On March 12, 2019 @ 1:53 pm


Not sure if there is an Eph connection. Hopefully not.

#6 Comment By Future Williams Dad On March 12, 2019 @ 5:37 pm

Dr. Drew,

Not only do the highest rated professors tend to have skills as stand-up comics, but so too does the highly rated professor that took my wife. Please let me see her, John.

Dave, you write:

Winners would be selected by a committee dominated by students.

Upon reading this, my two-year old son (who has wanted to attend Williams for the past three years) said, “How will we make sure that the social justice warriors who run rampant around the Williams College campus don’t rig this competition to favor teachers who indoctrinate their students with leftist propaganda instead of teaching them real subjects like the writings of Russell Kirk and Edmund Burke?”

I don’t know how to respond.

#7 Comment By PTC On March 12, 2019 @ 9:21 pm


Who is it that gets in as an AR2/3 again?

It would appear that the rich have their own form of affirmative action. What say ye DDF- should the kids of legacies who donate tens of millions of dollars get a leg up, or not?

#8 Comment By PTC On March 12, 2019 @ 10:30 pm


Interesting perspective. “Today nobody fails. There is now way of testing whether they are qualified or competent. We will see this as a tip of a very, very, deep iceberg.”

Also mentions athletics.

Why not just pay for a dorm, like everyone else?

#9 Comment By ’11 On March 14, 2019 @ 12:52 am

Almost all government programs provide aid based on family size. PTC brings up a good point and indeed the property taxes that fund public grade school are not dependent on number of children attending said grade schools. That said I was thinking something more radical, since children are a choice in this day and age. Instead if someone prefers nice things like luxury cars or clothes, that person should make more money than someone that doesn’t like nice things, such as someone who prefers to walk and wear a tshirt and hoodie everyday.

#10 Comment By PTC On March 14, 2019 @ 7:54 am

’11- That is not radical. It is called sales tax. Although such a sales or luxury tax would not pan out for a local interest/ town coffers. What would is as simple as having a local sales tax on specific goods and services. The town could also tax construction projects. Or drastically increase the cost of certain permits. Municipalities have wide authority for use/zoning/ growth/ development of real property interests inside of their domain.

There is a lot Williamstown could do to extract large sums of money from the college if it decided to. The college avoids over ten millions dollars a year in property taxes with its tax free status. That is partly why DDF’s assertion that some giving is not valuable for the school.

The fact is, that Williams gets a lot of consideration for the amount it gives. This kind of relationship does not occur in a vacuum.