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Deeply Disappointed and Frustrated

“Brutus” passes along the latest open letter:

We write today to reach out to you with our experiences and provide a longer history for the current conflicts within the Williams English Department. As alumni, we are deeply disappointed and frustrated by the College’s response to Professor Kent’s harassment of Professor Wang, not least because it is being treated as a single event rather than a part of a long-standing and larger pattern. We write in support of Professor Wang and in echo of the demands articulated by protesting students and the Coalition Against Racist Education Now (CARE Now), enumerated in the open letter delivered to you this spring. Furthermore, we urge for the broadcast of these events in alumni publications and Ephnotes, as they often go unacknowledged. It is this lack of institutional memory and publicity that perpetuates these harmful dynamics, despite their documentation (see Margolis v. Williams College, the 2015 open letter to the English department, and the aforementioned CARE Now letter).

Worth spending a week on? Entire letter and associated “testimony” below the break:

Brutus continues:

Quick follow-up on the previous email. According to the Williams English web page, the department currently has 0 white male assistant professors (tenure-track) and 0 white male associate professors (white men are still allowed to be itinerant adjuncts, it seems). Perhaps the College is taking the demographic approach to purging the English Department of its racism/sexism/heteronormativity/etc.?

True? I have not checked. But don’t forget! We need to get rid of the white women, like Katie Kent ’88, as well.

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Maroja on FIRE

Biology professor Luana Maroja has recorded a So to Speak podcast with Nico Perrino from FIRE. The tagline reads: “Professor Maroja’s experience growing up under a dictatorship in Brazil led her to become an outspoken advocate for free speech at Williams College and a skeptic of the idea that words are violence.”

Ephblog fans can stay up to date with So to Speak on the show’s Facebook and Twitter pages, and subscribe to the show’s newsletter at sotospeakpodcast.com.

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Senior Week Schedule

Below the break is this year’s senior week schedule. Questions:

1) Did scores of seniors go to the Outerbanks in North Carolina Hilton Head last week, as was the tradition for many years?

2) What does “Senior Wrist Banding” refer to?

3) Any firsthand reports from these events? I still remember our Mt. Hope Dinner Dance 30 years ago . . .

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Bad Science

Biology professor Luana Maroja has a sensible article in The Atlantic. It is worth reading in full.

Self-Censorship on Campus Is Bad for Science

“Campus norms proscribe any discourse that might offend women, minorities, or anyone perceived as a victim of patriarchal white societies,” she writes, “However, this rule, no matter how well intentioned, is harming the very people it aims to protect.”

Over at Hot Air, John Sexton cites Maroja’s article and calls attention to the parallels between Maroja’s experience at Williams and Bret Weinstein’s experience as a biologist teaching at the Evergreen State College.

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Teach Week

Are any of our readers participating in Teach Week?

Teach Week kicks off on Thursday, May 23 with Teaching Students Before Content facilitated by Betsy Burris of Teaching Through Emotions. This workshop provides background on student-centered teaching and serves as a foundation for other workshops in the series.

Teach Week will give you the opportunity to dig deeper with different campus partners, and you will leave each workshop with a concrete takeaway to use in your upcoming courses.

1) How much is this costing Williams?

2) “Teach week is an event of the Williams College Collaborative for Faculty Development.” The Event Planning Committee includes 9 people, not a single (!?) one of them a member of the faculty.

3) Not all of this is obviously useless. In fact, the sessions today actually seem sort of interesting!

4) Much is also tendentious social justice left nonsense. Example from tomorrow:

In this workshop, we will discuss the ways that language, microaggressions, and incomplete empathy can inhibit student success. Using case studies, we will work together to identify the sources of micro- and macro-aggressions, and we will discuss effective problem solving strategies and word-choices in response to hostile situations. We will then practice having productive conversations about difference with our peers and our students.

I hope that one of trouble-making faculty friends sends us a report from this event. But I doubt that any of them will go!

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We Do Wonder

Thanks (?) to Professor Paul for pointing out this letter to President Mandel.

We write as colleagues and advocates of Professor Dorothy Wang, in response to her encounter with Professor Katie Kent, Chair of the English Department, on April 17. We are deeply troubled by that incident, and by the administration’s response to it, especially given that an increasingly public eye has now turned to the climate of adversity at Williams College for faculty of color (FoC) and the students they mentor, particularly students of color.

Paul writes “Just when you thought things at Williams College couldn’t get any more ridiculous . . .”

Do readers agree?

Enter letter is below the break. Note this paragraph:

We do wonder whether you have reached out personally to Professor Wang to begin a conversation as to how she and others might feel better supported, as per your pledge, and “able to work, and to live all aspects of [one’s] identities without hostility or limitations.” We wonder whether you discussed with Professor Wang your intention to make allusion to “a matter between two colleagues in an all-faculty email.” We wonder whether you provided her with an account of the rationale that led to your position regarding what you describe as an “interaction…in a hallway three weeks ago.” We do wonder, insomuch as to characterize in the neutral language of “interaction” what evidence suggests was rather a verbal assault is not to stand by students, faculty, and staff of color—who feel unsupported at best and denigrated at worst—but to side precisely with “the structures and practices that have allowed inequity to take hold and persist.” We wonder whether such panic was merited in advance of the May 10 student action, as reflected in your letter about the Williams College “code of conduct,” or whether such language served the effect of distracting from the structural causes that have prompted us to write you today.

The authors are almost certainly friends of Dorothy Wang. What are the odds that they didn’t talk with her ahead of time? Approximately zero. If so, then their “we do wonder” pose is absurd.

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Ephs Who Have Gone Before

foxWho is this Eph?

He is Myles Crosby Fox ’40.

Myles will not be in Williamstown to celebrate reunion with the Old Guard in two weeks, for he has passed away. He leaves behind no wife, no children nor grandchildren. His last glimpse of Williams was on graduation day 79 years ago. Who among the sons and daughters of Ephraim even remembers his name?

I saw the mountains of Williams
As I was passing by,
The purple mountains of Williams
Against the pearl-gray sky.
My heart was with the Williams men
Who went abroad to die.

Fox was, in many ways, an Eph of both his time and ours. He was a Junior Advisor and captain of the soccer team. He served as treasurer in the Student Activities Council, forerunner to today’s College Council. He was a Gargoyle and secretary of his class.

gargoyle

Fox lived in Wood House. Are you the student who just moved out of the room that Fox vacated all those years ago? Are you an Eph who trod the same walkways around campus as Fox? We all walk in his footsteps.

The years go fast in Williams,
The golden years and gay,
The hoary Colleges look down
On careless boys at play.
But when the bugles sounded war
They put their games away.

Fox wrote letters to his class secretary, letters just like those that you or I might write.

The last issue of the Review has put me up to date on my civilized affairs. I am enclosing the only other information I have received in the form of a letter from Mr. Dodd. Among my last batch of mail was notice of the class insurance premium, and if you think it will prove an incentive to any of my classmates you may add under the next batch of Class Notes my hearty endorsement of the insurance fund, the fact that even with a military salary I am still square with the Mutual Company, and my hope that classmates of ’40 will keep the ball rolling so that in the future, purple and gold jerseys will be rolling a pigskin across whitewash lines.

Seven decades later, the pigskin is still rolling.

Fox was as familiar as your freshman roommate and as distant as the photos of Williams athletes from years gone by that line the walls of Chandler Gym. He was every Eph.

They left the peaceful valley,
The soccer field, the quad,
The shaven lawns of Williams,
To seek a bloody sod—
They gave their merry youth away
For country and for God.

Fox was killed in August 1942, fighting the Japanese in the South Pacific. He was a First Lieutenant in the Marine Corps and served in a Marine Raider battalion.

Fox’s citation for the Navy Cross reads:

For extraordinary heroism while attached to a Marine Raider Battalion during the seizure of Tulagi, Solomon Islands, on the night of 7-8 August 1942. When a hostile counter-attack threatened to penetrate the battalion line between two companies, 1st Lt. Fox, although mortally wounded, personally directed the deployment of personnel to cover the gap. As a result of great personal valor and skilled tactics, the enemy suffered heavy losses and their attack repulsed. 1st Lt. Fox, by his devotion to duty, upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the defense of his country.

How to describe a night battle against attacking Japanese among the islands of the South Pacific in August 1942?

Darkness, madness and death.

On Memorial Day, America honors soldiers like Fox who have died in the service of their country. For many years, no Eph had made the ultimate sacrifice. That string of good fortune ended with the death in combat of First Lieutenant Nate Krissoff ’03, USMC on December 9, 2006 in Iraq. From Ephraim Williams through Myles Fox to Nate Krissoff, the roll call of Williams dead echoes through the pages of our history.

With luck, other military Ephs like Dick Pregent ’76, Bill Couch ’79, Peter May ’79, Jeff Castiglione ’07, Bunge Cooke ’98, Paul Danielson ’88, Kathy Sharpe Jones ’79, Lee Kindlon ’98, Dan Ornelas ’98, Zack Pace ’98, JR Rahill ’88, Jerry Rizzo ’87, Dan Rooney ’95 and Brad Shirley ’07 will survive our current wars. It would be more than enough to celebrate their service on Veterans’ Day.

Those interested in descriptions of Marine combat in the South Pacific during World War II might start with Battle Cry by Leon Uris or Goodby, Darkness by William Manchester. The Warriors by J. Glenn Gray provides a fascinating introduction to men and warfare. Don’t miss the HBO miniseries The Pacific, from which the battle scene above is taken. Fox died two weeks before the Marines on Guadalcanal faced the Japanese at the Battle of the Tenaru.

A Navy destroyer was named after Fox. He is the only Eph ever to be so honored. The men who manned that destroyer collected a surprising amount of information about him. It all seems both as long ago as Ephraim Williams’s service to the King and as recent as the letters from Felipe Perez ’99 and Joel Iams ’01.

God rest you, happy gentlemen,
Who laid your good lives down,
Who took the khaki and the gun
Instead of cap and gown.
God bring you to a fairer place
Than even Williamstown.

Note: As long as there is an EphBlog, there will be a Memorial Day entry, a tribute to those who have gone before. Apologies to Winifred M. Letts for bowdlerizing her poem, “The Spires of Oxford.”

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Atlantic on Admissions, 2

This Atlantic article about legacy admissions is a mess, but it does have a couple of interesting data points. Day 2 of 2.

From the article:

Yale is an interesting case study. The school currently gives the children of alumni an admissions bump, but from 1980 to 2010, the proportion of students in its freshman class with a parent who also attended dropped from 24 percent to 13 percent.

1) Just because Yale tells a gullible Atlantic reporter something — like that it does not discriminate against Asian-Americans — does not make that something true. Yale has many reasons, mostly related to fund-raising, to claim that it gives legacies a “bump,” even if — especially if! — the bump is so small as to be invisible.

2) I don’t think the drop at Williams has been so dramatic, but there has been a drop. I think a recent class was only 10% legacy, whereas the usual number was closer to 15%. I don’t know what it was in the 80’s, although that information is available in the library in the annual letters that the Admissions Office used to produce for the trustees. On my list of projects for reunion week-end!

3) The numbers for Yale help to explain the dramatic increase in legacy quality at Yale. (We don’t have Yale data but there is no reason why the trends would not be the same there as at Harvard/Williams.) First, if you only take half as many legacies, you can reject the really stupid ones. Second, the doubling of the Yale undergraduate class size from the 60s to the 80s means that there are, more or less, twice as many legacies to choose from. Third, Yale students in the 80s are much smarter than those from the 50s, so their children will form a much more academically accomplished pool to choose from.

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Atlantic on Admissions, 1

This Atlantic article about legacy admissions is a mess, but it does have a couple of interesting data points. Day 1 of 2.

Applying to college as a legacy is like having a superpower. It has been estimated to double or quadruple one’s chances of getting into a highly selective school, and has been found to be roughly equivalent to a 160-point boost on the SAT.

I need to re-work my annual post on legacy admissions to deal more directly with (excellent!) comments/criticisms from folks like abl. In the meantime, can we agree that the above is incredibly misleading? The average SAT score for Williams legacies is higher than the average for non-legacies. Nor is this only a Williams phenomenon:

And a Harvard spokesperson told me that admitted legacies tend to have higher median test scores and grades than the rest of admitted students. This doesn’t make the admissions advantage that legacies are given defensible, but it’s possibly another reason that the status quo of legacy admissions persists.

Now “admitted students” are not the same as “enrolled students,” which is the real comparison we want. But Harvard enrolls 80%+ of its admitted students, so the statistics for admitted students are very likely to be similar to those of enrolled students. Moreover, it is not obvious which way any differences would go.

The question is that same as before. If, among enrolled students, the average Harvard legacy scores 1500 (or whatever), and the average non-legacy scores 1480, how much of a preference could being a legacy possibly be?

Entire article below the break:

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How Bureaucracy Causes Problems

Below the break is, I think, the last update from Williams about the WIFI situation.

The central lesson for President Mandel is that, if she wants to help out herself and future Williams administrations, the RSO (registered student organization) bureaucracy/forms should be removed. Go back to how things were done prior to 2010. (Thanks Adam Falk!)

Students have rights, organizations do not. If you want to reserve a room, request funding, set up a meeting, then you, as an individual Williams student, have the right to do so. From the College’s point of view, you do not need to be certified as an RSO to do anything. The main reason for this change is that it removes the likely-to-be-abused power from College Council to block the creation of student groups like WIFI.

The College should no more be in the business of certifying that an official student group exists than it certifies that official student romantic relationships exist. Students form groups. Students date. Williams should stay out of both.

If you have something, like the RSO designation, that is likely to be abused and which serves no purpose, then get rid of it. The Williams of (at least!) the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s managed to survive without such nonsense. Go back to the rules of an earlier era.

Nothing prevents the College Council from coming up with its own rules about who it wants to fund and why it wants to fund them. And that is OK! Many groups want money from CC and don’t get it. The College can, at any point, step in and fund any group for any reason.

For those interested in a bit of history:

I was one of the founders of Uncomfortable Learning and can shed some light on that decision. We spent a significant amount of time speaking with the Williams administration before making the decision to operate as an independent group, but one that looked to partner with other groups on campus like the Debate Union.

We made the decision to be independent as if we had registered, the Williams administration would have imposed a set of requirements on Uncomfortable Learning that would have prevented us from accomplishing the goals of UL. UL’s ambition has always been to promote dialogue and encourage people to consider perspectives and arguments that are not common at Williams. Administrators at Williams would have only allowed Uncomfortable Learning to register if UL was run by a 10 to 15-person board made up of many groups on campus. While UL has actively looked to involve other groups on campus, the structure required by the Williams administration would have kneecapped UL from the start. That structure would have just replicated the mindset at Williams while UL was looking to question that very mindset. As we have seen recently, there are people at Williams who react negatively when their world view is questioned, and we could not take the chance of having those people run UL.

During this era, people like Professor Sam Crane were happy to use the College’s rules/bureaucracy to torture unpopular groups like Uncomfortable Learning. That was evil in-and-of-itself. But, perhaps worse, that abuse set the stage for the CC/WIFI disaster. Once you create a process/rules for punishing groups (like UL) whose views you disagree with, don’t be surprised to see that same process/rules turned against groups (like WIFI) with whom you agree.

Background links here, here, here and here.

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K.C. Johnson on WIFI

K.C. Johnson, a former Williams professor, has written a detailed description of the WIFI saga for The Tablet.

Separate and Unequal for Jewish Groups on Campus

He pulls the whole matter together including the chronology. He hits many of the salient points that caught my attention including a truly bizarre Williams Record article, signed by 11 anti-WIFI activists, saying “The state of Israel does not need a student group defending its ‘right to exist’ on this campus any more than we need to ‘defend’ the rights of wealthy, straight white men.” What?!

K.C. moves the narrative forward when he dissects some of the key arguments made before the College Council. He writes,

Though constricting the spectrum of acceptable positions on Israel would seem to undermine principles of free speech, a WIFI critic explained otherwise. “It’s really important,” he reasoned, “for us all to take a moment to just think about what ‘free speech’ and ‘democracy’ actually means.” Two sides should present “clashing free ideas,” after which the council should “vote in what we think are the best ideas and for us to vote out what we think are ideas we think are worthy of being discarded.” Defining free speech as tyranny of the majority is a mainstream view on too many contemporary campuses.

K.C. Johnson expresses gratitude for the way Maud eventually went all out to protect and fully fund WIFI. Nevertheless, he sees this as a national-level conflict which will continue to worry us.

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Lewis on Wouk

Herman Wouk, 103, died last week. He was the author of The Caine Mutiny and Winds of War. Prof. Michael Lewis reminds us that Wouk was  “America’s only prominent Orthodox Jewish novelist.” It is worth rereading Lewis’s wonderful Commentary essay on Wouk.

How This Magazine Wronged Herman Wouk

 

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Teach First Years to Sing “The Mountains”

To the JA’s for the class of 2023:

oakleyAt the 1989 Williams graduation ceremonies, then-President Francis Oakley had a problem. Light rain showers, which had threatened all morning, started midway through the event. Thinking that he should speed things along, and realizing that virtually no one knew the words to “The Mountains,” President Oakley proposed that the traditional singing be skipped.

A cry arose from all Ephs present, myself included. Although few knew the words, all wanted to sing the damn song. Sensing rebellion, President Oakley relented and led the assembled graduates and guests through a somewhat soaked rendition of the song that has marked Williams events for more than 100 years.

Similar scenes play themselves out at Williams gatherings around the country. At some of the Williams weddings that you will attend in the future, an attempt, albeit a weak one, will be made to sing “The Mountains.” At reunions, “The Mountains” will be sung, generally with the help of handy cards supplied by the Alumni Office. It is obvious that most graduates wish that they knew the words. It is equally obvious than almost all do not.

We have a collective action problem. Everyone (undergraduates and alumni alike) wishes that everyone knew the words. It would be wonderful to sing “The Mountains” at events ranging from basketball games to Mountain Day hikes to gatherings around the world. But there is no point in me learning the words since, even if I knew them, there would be no one else who did. Since no single individual has an incentive to learn the words, no one bothers to learn them. As Provost Dukes Love would be happy to explain, we are stuck at a sub-optimal equilibrium.

mountainsFortunately, you have the power to fix this. You could learn “The Mountains” together, as a group, during your JA orientation. You could then teach all the First Years during First Days. It will no doubt make for a nice entry bonding experience. All sorts of goofy ideas come to mind. How about a singing contest at the opening dinner, judged by President Mandel, between the six different first year dorms with first prize being a pizza dinner later in the fall at the President’s House?

Unfortunately, it will not be enough to learn the song that evening. Periodically over the last dozen years, attempts have been made to teach the words at dinner or at the first class meeting in Chapin. Such efforts, worthy as they are, have always failed. My advice:

1) Learn all the words by heart at JA training. This is harder than it sounds. The song is longer and more complex than you think. Maybe sing it between every session? Maybe a contest between JAs from the 6 first year houses? If you don’t sing the song at least 20 times, you won’t know it by heart. Don’t be a Lord Jeff and settle for only the first and last verses. Learn all four.

2) Encourage the first years to learn the song before they come to Williams. There are few people more excited about all things Williams than incoming first years in August. Send them the lyrics. Send them videos of campus groups singing “The Mountains.” Tell them that, as an entry, you will be singing the song many times on that first day.

3) Carry through on that promise! Have your entry sing the song multiple times that day. Maybe the two JAs sing the song to the first student who arrives. Then, the three of you sing if for student number 2. And so on. When the last student arrives, the entire entry serenades him (and his family). Or maybe sing it as an entry before each event that first day.

4) There should be some target contest toward which this effort is nominally directed. I like the idea of a sing-off between the 6 first year dorms with President Mandel as judge. But the actual details don’t matter much. What matters is singing the song over-and-over again before their first sunset as Ephs.

Will this process be dorky and weird and awkward? Of course it will! But that is OK. Dorkiness in the pursuit of community is no vice. And you and your first years will all be dorky together.

For scores of years, Ephs of goodwill have worked to create a better community for the students of Williams. It is a hard problem. How do you bring together young men and women from so many different places, with such a diversity of backgrounds and interests? Creating common, shared experiences — however arbitrary they may be — is a good place to start. Mountain Day works, not because there is anything particularly interesting about Stone Hill, but because we all climb it together.

Until a class of JAs decide as a group to learn the words themselves (by heart) during their training and then to teach it to all the First Years before the first evening’s events, “The Mountains” will remain a relic of a Williams that time has passed by.

But that is up to you. Once a tradition like this is started, it will go on forever. And you will be responsible for that. A hundred years from now the campus will look as different from today as today looks from 1918, but, if you seize this opportunity, Williams students and alumni will still be singing “The Mountains.”

Congratulations on being selected as a JA. It is a singular honor and responsibility.

Regards,

David Kane ’88

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Toxic Self-Absorption

Shane Beard ’21 posted a short video on YouTube where he interviews one of the CARE Now leaders who unleashed a widely publicized, verbally abusive rant against white male students. Later, Shane uploaded the full hour and a half conversation too.

The interviewee comes across as hopelessly self-absorbed. He seems eerily unaffected the destruction he has caused including the humiliation he inflicted on his victims, the shame he brought to the college, and the grave damage he did to his CARE Now brand.  As he says at 28:58 in the full version, “I don’t even think for a moment that I did anything wrong.”

Ultimately, the most disturbing thing about his vulgar, hateful tirade is no one at the College Council meeting called him out, told him to stop, or ejected him from the room. The viral video of this event is useful to the nation. It illustrates the extent to which the anti-white ideology taught and tolerated at Williams College has created a toxic culture that is unhealthy for white male students.

As I have said elsewhere, no one should be forced or shamed into listening to verbal abuse. No one.

 

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Canty ’88 on Banning Speakers, 4

John Canty ’88, a former op-ed editor of the Record and CIA agent, kindly sent along these thoughts on banning speakers at Williams. Relevant past discussions here and here. Last day.

Canty concludes with a series of questions. Allow me to answer them, as if I were an opponent of the Chicago Principles. (abl and other opponents should feel free to provide betters answers if they don’t like mine.)

I address the following questions to those opposed to adopting the Chicago Principles: Do you think your lives will be “echo chambers” where everyone will lie down supinely before your viewpoints?

No. What does that have to do with anything? We just prefer an approach in which speakers at Williams are “curated,” chosen by the College to maximize the quality of the education we receive. Is that insane? We expect to agree with some speakers and disagree with others. In fact, we disagree among ourselves every day, in every class. As best we can tell, you agree! You don’t want John Derbyshire to speak at Williams. We agree! And that means that both you and we reject the Chicago Principles.

If I disagree with you on free market vs socialism, are you so nervous about your position that you can’t stomach debating why socialism hasn’t worked in Cuba, Venezuela, or the Soviet Union?

Happy to debate! Have you ever taken an economics course at Williams? Let us assure you, many of our faculty (and our fellow students) are free marketers par excellence.

Do you think at age 20 you really have all the answers?

No. Do you have all the answers at age 53? We doubt it! We all want what is best for Williams. And you and we seem to agree that the adopting the Chicago Principles — which would necessarily allow hatred-spewers like John Derbyshire to speak at Williams — would be a mistake.

If McCarthyism of the 1950s was about silencing and purging leftist dissidents, is the McCarthyism of 2019 seeking to stifle legitimate debate by accusing conservative viewpoints of (pick your insult) “racist/homophobe/mysognist”?

Weren’t you the one who wrote “I have no problem with colleges banning speakers who are not spreading ideas but really spewing hatred?” We agree! Moreover, is “accuse” the right word? Do you disagree, as an empirical matter, that Jon Derbyshire is a racist? We think he is. And we think that racism, which is a particularly troublesome example of “spewing hatred,” has no place at Williams.

What objections do you have to the Chicago Principles?

The same as you! They require us to allow John Derbyshire to speak at Williams. You don’t want that. We don’t want that. The Chicago Principles require it.

Does Williams suffer or thrive from an environment of intellectual diversity and mutual respect?

Thrive! Again, we agree with you! How many times do we need to say it?

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Canty ’88 on Banning Speakers, 3

John Canty ’88, a former op-ed editor of the Record and CIA agent, kindly sent along these thoughts on banning speakers at Williams. Relevant past discussions here and here. Day 3.

Having sung the praises of the Chicago Principles, with their insistence on the importance of allowing speech which is “offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed,” Canty writes:

Please let me clear that I have no problem with colleges banning speakers who are not spreading ideas but really spewing hatred.

Arrrgh! No sentence could better illustrate everything that is wrong with out-of-touch alumni, muddle-headed American “conservativism” and the ideological drift of Williams College.

1) You can (intelligently!) believe that Williams should ban John Derbyshire or you can believe that Williams should abide by the Chicago Principles. You can believe the first (Hi abl!) or believe the second (Hi JCD!). But for Canty to profess both beliefs in a single essay is just nonsense.

2) Does John Canty ’88 have any objective way of deciding which speakers are “spewing hatred?” If so, he should share it with the rest of us! Needless to say (!), he doesn’t. He, like many alumni, just want their memories of Williams to lie undisturbed, shrouded in the gauzy haze of Purple Mountains majesty and beer-soaked fellowship. And that is OK! Alumni are free to leave the running of Williams to Maud Mandel and others, to leave the hard choices to her and the Williams Administration. However, at EphBlog, alumni incoherence will be treated just as ruthlessly as it would have been back in a Williams classroom.

Canty continues:

I understand former Williams College President Adam Falk’s decision to ban a lecture by John Derbyshire or University of California-Berkeley’s move to cancel a talk by Milo Yiannopoulos. But I have major problems with efforts by students to silence all opposing viewpoints. In all too many cases, students either have worked to rescind speaking invitations or to disrupt campus lectures, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg at Harvard University (2014), Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson at Georgetown (2016), acknowledged police scholar Heather MacDonald at Claremont-McKenna (2017), and respected social scientist Charles Murray at Middlebury (2017). (See Michael Bloomberg’s 2014 Harvard commencement address: “Don’t Major in Intolerance.”)

1) Yiannopoulos’s talk was cancelled. But then, after complaints, he did speak. Berkeley, after some backsliding, has abided by the standards expected, by the Supreme Court, of state institutions. Anyone invited is allowed to speak, even if they are “spewing hatred.”

2) Students don’t seek to “silence all opposing viewpoints.” They only seek to silence some of them. Just like Adam Falk! And you!

More from Canty below:

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Maud Reverses CC’s WIFI Decision

WILLIAMSTOWN – Maud Mandel has formally recognized Williams Initiative for Israel (WIFI) according to an addendum to an existing article at Forbes.com. Moving forward, WIFI will hold the status of a recognized student organization (RSO). Forbes reports staff identified an alternative pathway for recognizing WIFI which involved a team of administrators and a single representative from the Williams College Council.

This action took place after Maud’s initial, tepid response which said WIFI would receive almost the same advantages as RSOs on campus. It was foreshadowed by a stronger, revised presidential statement which asserted WIFI would be receiving all benefits given to RSOs and that it would be treated equally. The statement from the Williams College Director of Media Relations appears after the break.

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Canty ’88 on Banning Speakers, 2

John Canty ’88, a former op-ed editor of the Record and CIA agent, kindly sent along these thoughts on banning speakers at Williams. Relevant past discussions here and here. Day 2.

Canty continues:

I never recall in all of this time anyone attempting to shut anyone else up.

Exactly right. Of course, it is dangerous to rely on faulty memories for testimony about the Williams of 30+ years ago. (And it is pathetic that the Record archives are not on-line so that we might investigate this claim.) But I agree with Canty that, back in the day, no one suggested that we ban speakers.

The news that my beloved Williams College and Williams Record (see December 5th 2018 editorial) are struggling with a move to endorse—as many other colleges and universities have done–the University of Chicago Principles of Free Expression is therefore personally appalling. Let me briefly recount the Chicago Principles. Like Williams, the University of Chicago has a long and honorable tradition of academic tolerance. Stemming from a number of controversies over recent years where colleges banned speakers from lecturing due to concerns with invading student “safety zones”, a panel of scholars released the Chicago Principles in 2015. University of Chicago Law School Professor Geoffrey Stone, an acknowledged First Amendment scholar, played a key role in drafting the statement, which the University of Chicago endorsed. The Williams Record December 2018 editorial spends far too much time dancing around who is for them and against them. Let’s just look at the Chicago Principles.

For further discussion, see my five part review of the Woodward report, Yale’s 1975 anticipation of the Chicago Principles.

More from Canty below:
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Junior Fascist League

At the Boston Herald, Jeff Robbins has added his voice to the recent condemnation of the College Council. He breaks some new ground by pointing out the arguments some students made against approving WIFI met standard, internationally recognized definitions of anti-Semitism.

Under President Barack Obama, the U.S. State Department had promulgated definitions of anti-Semitism that included “the delegitimization of Israel,” including “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination and denying Israel the right to exist.” The Obama administration joined 30 other nations in issuing the Stockholm Declaration, which included within the definition of anti-Semitism, “claiming that the existence of the State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

Robbins isn’t shy about unleashing his judgement on the College Council. “In blocking pro-Israel students from having their own voice on campus, the Williams College Council has conducted itself more like the Junior Fascist League than the progressives they ardently believe themselves to be.”

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Fox News Takes on Williams Record

It looks like Rep. Jason Chaffetz took a shot at the Williams Record while he was guest hosting the Ingram Angle on April 22, 2019. The issue was the editorial board’s endorsement of affinity (segregated) housing.

 

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WINK Requests RSO Status

I just noticed this terrific tweet from the observant ex-Williams professor KC Johnson. Two new student organizations are being promoted through on-campus advertising – Williams Initiative for North Korea (WINK) and the Williams Initiative for Saudi Arabia (WIFSA). My prediction? Heads will roll.

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Canty ’88 on Banning Speakers, 1

John Canty ’88, a former op-ed editor of the Record and CIA agent, kindly sent along these thoughts on banning speakers at Williams. Relevant past discussions here and here. Day 1.

Friends, Romans, and Fellow Ephs–

Like many Williams students and alums, I am proud of the long tradition that Williams College has maintained for upholding high standards of academic freedom on campus. In the 1930s, Williams President James Baxter came under sharp public attack for the College’s decision to hire Marxist intellectual Max Lerner to the faculty; Baxter strongly defended the move as a classic example of the school’s commitment to defend free expression and divergent opinions.

1) I agree that “academic freedom” is the most effective frame for this discussion. Follow my advice in this post and the problem is solved.

2) Is that bit of history correct? I think of Baxter as much more famous for his defense of “Red” Fred Schuman. From 1948:

Although I am sure that Phinney would have defended Lerner against complaints, my sense is that Phinney’s primary motivations had little/nothing to do with “free expression.” Phinney wanted to raise the quality of the Williams faculty (and end the unstated taboo against Jewish faculty). From Jews at Williams:

Perhaps James McAllister could enlighten us about this history.

3) There is a great senior thesis to be written about Baxter’s efforts to upgrade the Williams faculty. Start here.

More from Canty below:
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Strategic Planning: May 2019 update

Latest message:

Date: Mon, 13 May 2019 13:59:39 -0400
From: President Maud S. Mandel
Reply-To: communications@williams.edu
To: WILLIAMS-ALL@listserv.williams.edu
Subject: Strategic Planning: May 2019 update

To the Williams community,

Following is my final update on strategic planning for academic year 2018–19. While many on campus are turning attention to finals, papers and summer plans, our work to envision Williams’ future continues in parallel.

Here are a few highlights from this semester:

* We’ve finished recruiting faculty, students and staff for our eight working groups (many of the faculty and staff are also alumni). You can find an alphabetical list on the Strategic Planning landing page, with individual group rosters on the eight Working Group subpages. As you may recall, unlike other committees that make decisions on behalf of their constituents, these groups are expected to create opportunities where anyone in the community can contribute their ideas, and then convey this input back to the Coordinating Committee. Look for details on such opportunities next fall.

* The Working Group pages now also include drafts of the eight group charges. We welcome your feedback on the drafts via our online comment form.

* We’ll hold an open forum for all staff members and anyone else who’s on campus and wishes to attend at 4 p.m. on May 22, in Paresky Auditorium. Faculty will focus on Strategic Planning at the all-faculty retreat on May 21. And we’ll make sure there are plenty of opportunities for students when everyone returns in the fall.

* Alumni will soon receive an invitation from the Alumni Relations office to hear from me about the project and ask questions via an alumni phonecast I’ll be hosting on Thursday, June 13.

* Finally, any member of our community is invited to share feedback with the Coordinating Committee via our online comment form at any time. We’ve received some great suggestions and questions already, and look forward to more.

Thanks for keeping up with the project, especially in the midst of a very busy time. It’s always the case that some people will want to get more involved than others. But our success depends on broad awareness and interest: Even reading these updates makes a difference.

At Commencement in a few weeks, I’ll wish our graduating seniors and Master’s candidates a great start on their future. I’m equally grateful for the chance to work with you all on Strategic Planning and a promising future for Williams.

Sincerely,

Maud

Analysis later.

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Remember the Tablecloth Colors

A Record op-ed from 13 years ago:

I am frustrated by many of the ways in which the campus has changed, most particularly the sudden prominence of the well-intentioned but detrimental Office of Campus Life [OCL], which is locked in a stagnating cycle of its own design. By in effect naming itself “the decider” when it comes to student life, the campus life office has alienated the College’s best leaders. As a result of this rift, the office has become inwardly-focused, self-promotional and deeply resistant to constructive criticism. Student life is student-driven no longer.

No kidding. EphBlog has made this prediction over and over and over again. The more control that Williams students have over life at Williams, the better. The more people (intelligent and well-meaning though they may be) that are hired by the College to “help,” the less active students will be.

The main rational used by CUL (Committee on Undergraduate Life) in establishing OCL 16 years ago — All the other schools have one so it must be a good idea! — was stupid then and it is stupid now.

Writer Ainsley O’Connell ’06 tells a depressing tale. Anyone who cares about student life at Williams should read the whole thing.

When I arrived on campus, director of campus life Doug Bazuin and his staff were a distant idea, not a reality. Barb and Gail administered activities on campus, helping students schedule events from their fishbowl office at the heart of Baxter Hall. Linda Brown administered room draw, her maternal warmth and firmness easing the process. Tom McEvoy (who has since departed) and Jean Thorndike provided big-picture support and served as liaisons between students and administrators. When students were moved to champion a new policy or party idea, Tom and Jean were willing to listen, and often to lend moral and financial support. The execution fell to students, but this sense of responsibility fostered greater ownership.

Great stuff. One of the purposes of EphBlog is to capture this sort of testimony, the thanks of current students to the staff members that have done so much.

But those with long memories will note what a mockery this makes of the CUL’s discussion in 2001 of the lack of staff devoted to student life. Indeed, if there is any table which demonstrates the dishonesty/incompetence of CUL during those years it is this description Staffing at Comparable Institutions. Click on the link. Let’s take a tour. (The line for Williams (all zeroes in bold) is at the bottom.)

First, note how the JA system magically disappears. The “50 junior advisors” for Bates are listed under “Student Staff” but, at Williams, they have vanished. Second, the CUL pretends that Dean Dave Johnson ’71 does not exist. The countless hours that he spent (and spends) working with the JAs and First Years don’t matter. Yet you can be sure that one of the “3 Assistant Deans” at Emerson does exactly what Johnson does at Williams, although probably not as well. Third, the CUL erases all the work and commitment of people like Linda Brown and Tom McEvoy, as evoked so nicely by O’Connell.

None of this is surprising, of course. Former President Morty Schapiro decided in 2000 that there were certain things about Williams that he was going to change. By and large, he (temporarily!) changed them. He and (former) Dean of the College Nancy Roseman and (former) CUL Chair Will Dudley implemented Neighborhood Housing, the biggest change at Williams this century. It was a total failure and has now, thankfully, been removed. Schapiro, Roseman and Dudley went on, despite this disastrous own goal, to college Presidencies at Northwestern, Dickinson and Washington and Lee, promotions which doubled (even tripled) their Williams salaries.

O’Connell goes on:

I will not dispute that in 2003 Williams needed a stronger support system for students looking to launch new initiatives and throw events open to the campus. For many, extracurricular activities had become a burden, with unreasonably long hours spent planning and preparing events down to the last detail. Yet today, some of the best and most innovative groups on campus remain far-removed from campus life, driven by highly motivated and talented individuals. Take Williams Students Online, for example, or 91.9, the student radio station: Their success lies in their student leaders, who have been willing to commit their time to making sweeping changes that have transformed WSO and WCFM, respectively.

It may have been reasonable for O’Connell not to see, in 2003, how this would all work out, but she is naive in the extreme not to see now that this evolution was inevitable. How shall we explain it to her? Imagine a different paragraph.

I will not dispute that in 2003 Williams needed a stronger support system for students looking to launch new publications and manage current ones. For many, writing for and editing student publications had become a burden, with unreasonably long hours spent planning and preparing everything down to the last detail. Yet today, some of the best and most innovative groups on campus remain far-removed from the Office of Campus Publications, driven by highly motivated and talented individuals.

In other words, why isn’t it a good idea for Williams to create an Office of Campus Publications [OCP], with a Director of Campus Publications and a staff of Campus Publication Coordinators? After all, as the meltdown of the GUL in 2001 (?) and the Record‘s occasional inability to pick a single editor-in-chief demonstrates, students sometimes need help. They often make mistakes. Who could deny that having someone to “help” and “support” the Record (and GUL and Mad Cow) wouldn’t make those publications better? No one. Perhaps OCP would even have prevented the demise of Rumor and Scattershot.

But would the experience of the students writing those publications be better with a bunch of (intelligent, well-meaning) paid employees of the College hovering over them? No. That should be obvious to O’Connell. Writing for and editing the Record those last 4 years probably taught her as much about life its own self as any aspect of her Williams education. If she had had a Doug Bazuin equivalent supervising her all this time, her experience would not have been as rich, her education not as meaningful.

As always, critics will claim that I am advocating that the College provide no help or support, that we abolish the Dean’s Office. No! Some support is good, just as some social engineering is desirable. But, on the margin, the contribution of the OCL is negative.

Vibrant means “long hours spent planning and preparing events down to the last detail.” This is exactly why student institutions like WCFM, WSO and others (Trivia? Rugby? Current students should tell us more) are so vibrant. O’Connell acts as if you can have a vibrant organization or community without time and trouble, sweat and tears. In fact, you can’t.

O’Connell writes as if vibrancy appears from nowhere, that someone just sprinkles magic pixy dust on WSO and WCFM. No. Vibrancy, community, innovation and almost everything else worth having in this imperfect life require “unreasonably long hours” and “preparing everything down to the last detail.” You don’t think that Ephs like Evan Miller at WSO and Matt Piven at WCFM sweated the details? Think again.

Unfortunately, the Office of Campus Life and the Dean’s office, which oversees it, have not fostered this model. Instead, both offices have moved in the opposite direction, at times going so far as to render student involvement wholly superficial, as with the planning of this year’s Senior Week. The senior officers elected by the Class of 2006 do nothing more than choose tablecloth colors; it is assistant director of campus life Jess Gulley who runs the show. Hovering over student shoulders, the campus life staff of today is like a mother or father who wants to be your friend instead of your parent. The office should cast itself as an administrative support service, not the arbiter of cool.

Harsh! True? Current students should tell us. But note that this is not Gulley’s fault! I have no doubt that she is wonderful and hard-working, dedicated to making student life better. Each day, she wakes up and tries to figure out how to make this the best Senior Week ever. That is, after all, what the College is paying her to do. In that very act, of course, she decreases the scope of student control and involvement.

Back in the day, students handled almost all aspects of Senior Week. I still remember dancing the night away, in my dress whites, at Mount Hope Farm, the most beautiful Eph of all in my arms. No doubt this year’s seniors, 30 years younger than I, will have a fine time as well. Because of Gulley’s successor’s involvement, it may even be true that the events are better planned and organized. Yet everything that she does used to be done by students, hectically and less professionally, but still done by them.

The more that students run Williams, the better that Williams will be.

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More art featuring Assata Shakur

As part of a class project, some students posted these posters in front of Sawyer library last week.


Note in the second poster there are featured two quotes from Assata Shakur. Shakur was a prominent figure in the Black Liberation Army, which organized the assassinations of many law enforcement officers. Shakur herself was at one point on the FBI Most Wanted Terrorist list and was later convicted of first-degree murder. She escaped prison in 1979 and fled to Cuba, where she currently resides.

This is not the first time students have featured Assata Shakur in their artwork. She was previously featured on a poster outside Schapiro with the slogan, “Can you be too radical when the stakes are this high?”

While some students were presenting their posters and mentioned the quotes from Shakur, I asked, “Wasn’t she a terrorist?” I do not think all the students were aware of her criminal history. One student responded by saying, “The FBI also killed people.” I did not really know what to make of that response. A professor also responded that they did not believe that Shakur should be described as a terrorist. I do not know too many details about Shakur’s life or her political involvement outside of a few cursory articles I read, so maybe there is something I don’t know.

Interestingly, the day after these posters went up, the second poster featuring the Shakur quotes was removed and the other was left to stay. The previous poster of Shakur that was posted in front of Schapiro was also removed hastily. Perhaps administration was involved.

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Maud Rescues WIFI

According to The College Fix, President Maud Mandel has toughened up her statement regarding the status of Williams Initiative for Israel (WIFI). Now, she refers to the benefits available to WIFI as “all” instead of “most.”

This was not the only difference.

Original

Even without CC approval, WIFI or any other non-CC organization can still access most services available to student groups, including use of college spaces for meetings and events.

Revised

Even without CC approval, WIFI or any other non-CC organization can still access all services available to student groups, including use of college spaces for meetings and events, and we are guaranteeing them exactly equal resources.

As I see it, Maud has nullified the College Council’s decision by asserting she will be guaranteeing WIFI “exactly equal resources.” It appears this new language is designed to shield Williams College from a Title VI discrimination charge which might cause it to lose federal funding.

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Requesting evidence is violence

The Record’s final edition for the year came out on Wednesday, featuring several opinions. A couple of them appeared to respond to Professor Luana Maroja’s recent op-ed, “Refuting claims of institutional violence: Analyzing evidence of racism at the College.” Professor Maroja has historically been an advocate for free speech at the college, and her article’s thesis was simple: There is not sufficient evidence for claims of institutional racism at the college.

Two opinions this week sought to provide an argument for structural racism at the college. Professor of geoscience Phoebe Cohen wrote the more compelling of these, at least trying to provide evidence for racism. She begins her article with the following:

I am white. I am racist. I am not proud of this fact, but I have accepted it. Acknowledging that I am racist helps me to become, I hope, less so. I catch my instinctive thoughts and ask them why they are there. Why am I feeling annoyed, fearful, dismissive in this moment? When someone in my community at Williams tells me they feel unsafe, and my first instinct is skepticism, I know that it is a fallacy to say that I’m skeptical because of my training as a scientist. Instead, it is because I don’t want to believe that my colleagues are racist, sexist, transphobic. Not believing it doesn’t make it true. I am a white person raised in a racist, white supremacist country. Every day I have to make a conscious decision to fight against that and to challenge my own thoughts and biases. 

Truthfully, I would expect more out of a scientist. Skepticism is never a fallacy; it should be the instinctive response to any claim. What is a fallacy, however, is blindly accepting anecdotal evidence as statistically significant.

Professor Cohen spends a large part of her article describing racist events outside of Williams and employing definitions of racism, white supremacy, transphobia, etc. that are strictly unscientific (if they cannot be refuted and their validity is contingent upon diagnosing their opponent, they are scientifically meaningless). She finally hits a note, however, in her discussion of microagressions:

As a scientist, I love to go to the literature. I pull up Google Scholar and what I find confirms what I am telling you. People are racist and full of biases. And while it may be true that people don’t often get punched in the face on our campus, that does not mean that violence does not occur. What happens more often are the much maligned “microaggressions.” The thing is, even if you don’t want microaggressions to matter, they do. The research backs this up, but so do the experiences of our own friends and colleagues.

However, this point is mostly trivial. Of course microagressions and implicit bias exist; nobody is denying this fact. Tribalism is unfortunately a very instinctive trait among humans. However, it is important to remember that this bias exists among all groups. In fact, I would argue that whereas there is only implicit bias toward minority groups on campus, there is very explicit bias toward majority groups; people are not afraid to say they hate or do not trust white men. All individuals should seek to be aware of our biases. However, implicit biases and microagressions are a far cry from the much more alarming claim of “structural violence,” which merits stronger evidence.

While I disagree with Cohen’s article, I thought it was at least a thoughtful contribution to the discussion. Students were not so thoughtful. The op-ed titled “Bearing witness to aggression against faculty of color: Calling for accountability from the College for structural racism” features a number of bizarre claims. I won’t recreate them in full here. However, we need to draw attention to one sentence in particular:

The constant request for more evidence of racism is also violence because it invalidates the ways in which racism harms our mental health and our bodies.

This is the absolute worst response possible to the debate, but, unfortunately, is the crux of most of the arguments of the Social Justice Warriors. No matter how true your claim is, dogma is bad. These students could have discovered a unified theory of science, and this dogma would still be terrible. In what world is it good journalism to equate basic scientific inquiry to violence?

The lack of ideological diversity is already a problem at institutions like Williams, but nothing fatal. An attack on scientific methodology and healthy discourse, however, is a much more dangerous development. Consider that, additionally, students on campus have been calling for Professor Maroja’s op-ed to be taken down because it is disrespectful to minority communities. A plea for free speech is now ironically being attacked by suppression of free speech. Of course, the college will not dignify this suppression of speech (Mandel’s recent WIFI statement proved that she is not a pawn of these activists). But it remains unsettling that a growing number of students are adopting this philosophy and dogma is now the social norm.

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Eph Softball Opens Regional Play

 The No. 4 -ranked Williams College softball team (33-5) opens play at the 2019 NCAA Div. III Tournament Cortland, N.Y. Regional today at 3:30 p.m. against MASCAC Champion Framingham State (24-19). Host Cortland State (29-14) will take on St. John Fisher (26-15) at 1 p.m. in the regional’s opening contest.

SUNY-Cortland Regional Tournament Page

NCAA Digitial Program

SUNY-Cortland’s Regional Program

Directions to SUNY-Cortland’s Dragon Field

All 7 games will be webcast live. You can watch them HERE.

https://ephsports.williams.edu/sports/sball/2018-19/releases/20190509x85qou.  Williams had its 22-game winning streak snapped in the NESCAC tournament final to Tufts, but looks to be in good shape for what will hopefully be a deep run this year!

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Fear the Canary 2 of 2

The College Council meeting of April 23 went dark because guests feared their comments against the recognition of a pro-Israel club, Williams Initiative for Israel (WIFI), might land them on a list maintained by Canary Mission.

I reviewed their site and it seems like a fair and unobjectionable effort to me. For the most part, the errant students it calls attention to are generally posting anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi, pro-Hitler comments on their Twitter feeds. All Canary Mission does is capture a screenshot of these comments and then publicize them at their site.

The most famous Williams College graduate to earn a biography at Canary Mission, Sumaya Asad ’16, landed there largely because of an article she co-authored which indicated it was best to think of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians as an example of apartheid.

This doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that would keep anyone out of a job or a graduate school. It might actually get you advanced in some social circles. You can see Sumaya Asad’s profile here.

All in all, it doesn’t take much to land a student on Canary Mission. The site’s code of ethics sets low and broad standards for ending up on their list including  “promoting or enabling BDS in any of its forms.” Williams College students who are fearful of Canary Mission are probably overreacting.

They don’t have anything to fear as long as they are not tweeting out stuff like “Europe would have been a lot better if Hitler won” or  “Jews are the root of all evil.”

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Crafty Students

Professor Darel Paul tweets “Some crafty students hung this banner outside my office building overnight. Can anyone in the Twitterverse make heads or tails of this? Greek maybe?”

Perhaps our readers can help . . .

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