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Weekend Links

Museum Data and the Novice Student.” A fun article about data hackathon at the Williams College Museum of Art.

Known quantities: The prolific numbers that have given Oklahoma State’s Sean Gleeson [’07] such a strong reputation.”

Oren Cass ’05 on “Economics After Neoliberalism

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College Board Changes Course on use of Diversity Scores

This New York Times article reports on the College Board’s decision to “withdraw its plan” to use a “diversity score.” It is a short but interesting read. I am not in position to comment on whether the score was fair or would be useful but I certainly agree the goal (” …to provide colleges with a consistent way of judging the neighborhoods and schools that students came from”) is worthwhile.

Admissions is a complex process and the more information the committee has the better. Of course, some people (looking at you DDF) may say there is no place for this kind of info in the admissions formula but I would strongly disagree.

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The Real Problem at [Williams] is Not Free Speech

Last week, I came across a thought-provoking article: “The Real Problem at Yale is Not Free Speech,” by Natalia Dashan, published in Palladium. While the article obviously deals with the author’s experiences and observations at Yale, I believe you could replace most of the occurrences of the word Yale with Williams and have an observation that, for me, remains true.

The article is not so much, in my opinion, coming down one way or another on the “free speech debate.” Rather, it’s a look at the same issues said debate takes up through a slightly different paradigm, one that rings more true to my own experiences at Williams than the paradigm of “free speech” ever did. The article’s thesis is this:

Student at “elite” colleges are increasingly rejecting the role of  becoming “the elite,” with all of the privileges and responsibilities that being in the elite comes with. Instead, students frame themselves as underdogs and fighting against the elite. The elite colleges themselves follow suit, purporting to be in line with the students in taking down an oppressive system that they are, inherently, representatives of, causing an identity crisis for colleges today. The result is “controversies about free speech” that are, at heart, more precisely rooted in powerful students at powerful universities presenting themselves as devoid of power.

Phew! If I presented that as a thesis of a paper for class, I’d probably get called out for some much-needed revision. But, the article is a hefty 10,000+ word piece, and it’s worth considering. I do recommend reading it in full, because I’ll be not always reconstructing the arguments as much as pulling out salient bits and considering how they apply to Williams. This week, I’ll look at the first half of the article: the phenomenon of how students present themselves as devoid of power, and why. Next week, I’ll look at the second half, of how that manifests in the “controversies” plaguing Yale/Williams.

A final note: I personally don’t agree with everything in this article. Though I think Ms. Dashan did a great job in terms of it being a feat of long-form publication, it is a bit all over the place, with some points tying into her argument less clearly than others. In other cases, my disagreements might come just from Williams being a different place than Yale. I’m certainly curious to hear everyone else’s thoughts.

After the break, Part One!

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Underrepresented Arab Americans

Via the excellent Williams Liberty blog, we have this announcement:

Direct link here.

Invited speakers will receive a $500 honorarium and will be guests of Williams College from the evening of Nov. 1 through breakfast on Nov. 3, with all paper presentations to occur on Nov. 2.

Is Williams on the hook for travel, lodging and meals in addition to the $500 honorarium? Who is paying for all this? I have no problem with the College providing in-kind support for a conference — free use of rooms, perhaps even box lunches — but every dollar spent on such activities is a dollar taken from somewhere else. I doubt that more than a handful of students will attend.

If Laura Ephraim and/or others raised the funding from somewhere else, then good for them!

The Science & Technology Studies Program at Williams College invites papers on any topic concerned with science and technology and their relationship to society for a day-long symposium showcasing the work of early-career scholars (ABD or recent PhD) from historically underrepresented groups. …

Individuals from underrepresented groups in the professoriate are specifically defined here as African Americans, Alaska Natives, Arab Americans, Asian Americans, Latinx, Native Americans, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders.

1) What is the current legal status of these racially exclusionary invitations? Honest question! Could a Chinese-American woman sue Williams?

2) Since when are “Arab Americans” underrepresented in college faculty? Are they more or less underrepresented than Irish Americans? Honest question!

3) I have never before seen a listing like this which included Arab Americans among the preferred categories. Is this common?

4) Taiwan and Japan are, last time I checked, islands in the Pacific Ocean. Do folks with ancestors from those islands not count as Pacific Islanders? I am semi-kidding about this one since, apparently, Pacific Islander is well-defined, although US-usage is different. What about the Philippines or Indonesia?

In keeping with the broad approach to Science & Technology Studies (STS) at Williams, we welcome papers from any disciplinary location — including but not limited to programs in STS or History of Science — so long as they offer new and significant insights into the imbrication of science and technology with society.

imbrication?”

Why use an obscure word when a simpler word — interaction? overlap? — would do fine?

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Family Wealth at Williams

When I was at Williams, I had a general awareness that some kids had tons of money, and some kids had less, and some kids had a lot less.  I always kind of envisioned myself as being somewhere in the middle, where I usually had enough money to go to the snackbar if I wanted to, and was able to go on spring break trips with the rugby team.  Even today, I have no real idea where I fell on the student wealth scale, except that I was pretty sure I wasn’t at the bottom or the top.  I had friends who had to think more carefully about their spring break plans, and also some who seemed to be able to afford just about anything they wanted.  What I didn’t remember noticing back then was these differences in wealth having much effect on anyone’s day-to-day life at Williams.  It seemed like most parties and other events were free to students, and I’d never heard of anyone who couldn’t be, for example, on the rugby team because they couldn’t afford the dues.  There simply weren’t that many things that I wanted to spend money on.  (Because I didn’t turn 21 until just before graduation, I never spent a lot of time at the Purple Pub.  I suspect that one could have run up quite a tab there).

When I read this eye-opening 2016 article written by Zach Wood about the effects of his family’s poverty on his Williams experience, I wondered whether I was being completely naive and overlooking obvious effects of wealth on what people did every day.  Here is an interesting quote from article, which I would encourage everyone to read in its entirety: Read more

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May 2019 Faculty Meeting Notes

Here (pdf) are the rough draft notes for the May faculty committee. All my comments from last week apply here as well. Highlights from these notes:

Good stuff! Katie (maybe!) acted rudely. She apologized. And that is that. Those arguing for further punishment are the mob. Good to see Mandel drawing a line in the sand.

By the way, Mandel’s leadership on this issue provides another reason for making these notes public. The College has failed to make clear/public how strong a stand Mandel took in support of Kent. I can understand why they would not like to highlight this issue in the next Williams Magazine. And that is OK. Mainstream sources should (?) only tell mostly happy stories.

But other sources, like the Faculty Meeting Notes, can transmit other stories, especially to sophisticated parts of the alumni body, like EphBlog and our readers.

Me thinks that Professor Long doth protest too much! Don’t worry, Gretchen. The IP logs from your browsing history are safe with us . . .

1) EphBlog has, on many occasions, edited out material at the request of Williams faculty and administrators. (References available on request!) Want something changed, just ask us.

2) And, in fact, this is something that we did change! EphBlog initially reported the student’s name, as did the Record. After a request from a senior Eph, we voluntarily removed the student’s name and started to refer to him by just his initials.

3) I think that hard-working faculty secretary Chris Waters has made a mistake here. Gretchen Long has no problem naming (and shaming?) students who were/are “complained about Black Previews.” Professor Long objects to the naming of student(s) who were critical of College Council for not being as quick and enthusiastic to fund Black Previews as it ought to have been.

4) The “concerned about their safety trope” is utter nonsense. Williams and Williamstown is among the safest places on Earth (outside of really safe places like Japan), even (especially?) if you are in the habit of unleashing profanity-laced tirades at your fellow students.

Haven’t talked about faculty compensation in awhile. Worth revisiting?

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Spoke to the White House

Could Trump do a deal with Senator Chris Murphy ’96?

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Weekend Links

“Affirmative Consent” as a Legal Standard?” by former Williams professor KC Johnson.

Training the next generation of ethical techies” by Ethan Zuckerman ’93.

Check-in time arrives for new Williams Inn” in the Berkshire Eagle.

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Who would you admit?

In DDF’s post on Monday, he said the following: “We should accept the best students, those who did well academically in high school and are likely to do well academically at Williams. We reject 100s of AR 1s each year. We should never accept an AR 2 (or 3? or 4?) just because she is a veteran or older or has gone to a community college.”

In the comments there was some discussion about whether or not veterans and community college students should be admitted. DDF said, “I just want the same rules for everyone. Call me crazy! If you are AR 1 (and maybe 2), you get in. If not, you don’t.”

I have NO PROBLEM with the admissions team having different standards for different applicants. I trust the professionals on the team to make the nuanced judgment that a veteran who is an AR 2 (or a 3 or 4), would add a lot more to the Williams community (in and out of the classroom) than another AR 1 from a prep school or Shanghai. I also trust the professionals to keep an approrpiate balance among those two groups.

How about you? Would you admit the veteran or the community college student?

I realize that the admission process is complicated and cannot really be boiled down to this simple a question but I STRONGLY belief that Williams is a better place when the admissions team looks beyond the numbers. I do not want the 525 students who will get the highest GPA’s, I want the 525 students who can be successful at Williams individually and together make the Williams community a better place for all its members.

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Eph Send-off Party

According to Maud’s Instagram (@williamspresident, if you don’t follow her), Williams’ president attended the Princeton Regional Send-Off for new Ephs. I assume this is because she has roots in the area, having grown up in Princeton and attended elementary through high school there.

Meanwhile, I attended my first Regional Send-Off, going to a sadly Maud-less party recently. I never attended one of these parties when I was actually a new Eph, though I’m fairly sure my family received an invitation. There were a good number of new Ephs there, who seemed somewhat unsure about what exactly they were there to do, and many of them clumped together and met each other. That said, most of the alumni present were incredibly eager to engage the new students and give them as much advice as possible.

Seeing on my nametag that I had just graduated, some new students specifically came up and asked me if I had advice for them. I had an unexpected amount of trouble coming up with advice when asked for it. Maybe I’m still too close to my own Williams experience; I definitely feel that I haven’t yet fully reflected and synthesized it into a few easy things to tell them. Mostly, I turned it back on them, asked what classes they had signed up for, and talked about my experiences if I was familiar with the class or professor; I gave them some idea of what to expect during first days; and I plugged my club as one they should check out when they get to the Purple Key Fair.

Most students get to campus next Monday; first-generation and international students arrive tomorrow. What advice would you give to new Ephs as they’re about to step on campus for the first time as students?

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“A Victory for Free Speech…” (Commentary Magazine)

Reason Shall Prevail

The magazine Commentary has published an article about Williams titled “A Victory for Free Speech at a Liberal College”. Commentary is a very conservative news source, and the author of this article seems to be a free speech absolutist. The article itself is an interesting read. The author seems to view the committee report in a favorable light. What are people’s thoughts on it?

The full text is below:

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End of an era…

The most successful women’s soccer coach in Williams history (I think) is leaving at the end of the coming season:

Williams announced on Monday that [Michelyne] Pinard will leave the school after the 2019-20 school year, her 18th at the helm of the program, to become the director of athletics at The Thatcher School, a private boarding school in Ojai, Calif…

Pinard finished her 17th season at Williams in 2018, guiding her team to an NCAA Division III national championship. It was Williams’ third NCAA title in the last four years.

Her record through 17 seasons is 257-46-34. That translates to a winning percentage of .813, the fifth-best active winning percentage in D-III.

That’s a lot of winning, and three NCAA titles in four years is very impressive.

The article is not 100% clear as to why Coach Pinard is leaving, but reading between the lines, it seems as though that after 18 years, she just wanted to do something else.

Going forward, I wonder what the impact on the women’s soccer program will be?  Coaching is, I think, an important factor in team success, but I guess that sheer talent is the most important ingredient.  Presumably Williams will still be able to attract very talented soccer players, simply because of the quality of the school and the program’s history of success.  In that regard, I wonder how many top tier Division III athletes pick their schools based on the quality of the school versus more athletically relevant factors (quality of facilities, level of competiton, prospects of playing after college, etc.).  Any Ephblog readers with insight on this?

(As the parent of a kid who hopes to continue on with his sport in college, but with very little chance of playing professionally, I am starting to wrap my head around how I would feel if he wanted to go to a less well known and/or significantly less “good” college just because he could play his sport there, or would have a better chance of getting playing time, for example.)

Anyway, getting back to Williams women’s soccer, I hope the next coach will be as good (and successful) as Coach Pinard.  Are there any Ephblog readers who played for her?  What other Williams coaches have seen similar success?  Women’s tennis coach Alison Swain ’01 won 8 NCAA titles in 10 years before leaving to coach at the University of Southern California.  Almost impossible to do better than that!   I think in recent years (decades?) the track/cross-country coach has been very, very successful.  Men’s basketball coach Dave Paulsen had a 0.762 winning percentage over 8 seasons, and a national title, which seems pretty good.  Any others?

UPDATE/CORRECTION:   I knew about – and should have remembered – Coach Pete Farwell, who is clearly one of the greatest Eph coaches ever.  He started as the men’s cross-country coach in 1979, and has served as the women’s cross-county coach since 2000.  He has also served as the head coach for the track team (he is currently an assistant coach for that team).  His 40-year coaching career has been incredibly successful.  Thanks to Anon88 for pointing out this omission.

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April 2019 Faculty Meeting Notes

Here (pdf) is a rough draft for the official faculty meeting notes for April.

1) Make these public! Given that they are distributed to scores (?) of Ephs, and describe an event that 300+ people were invited to and that is (?) open to the public (or at least to Record reporters?), there is no plausible reason to hide them.

2) By not making them public, Dean of the Faculty Denise Buell just drives more traffic to EphBlog. Thanks! I guess . . .

3) I “worry” that, at some point, there will be a spoof/fake version of these notes which appear to be real but which have been altered for nefarious/pedagogical purposes. Without a public record of the real notes, how can we (or the Record!) know the truth?

4) On admissions:

I don’t like this.

We should accept the best students, those who did well academically in high school and are likely to do well academically at Williams. We reject 100s of AR 1s each year. We should never accept an AR 2 (or 3? or 4?) just because she is a veteran or older or has gone to a community college.

5) On graduate programs:

Meanwhile, President Mandel said that she had been reading the various suggestions she had received with respect to new academic initiatives. A number of those initiatives – twenty-three in all, ranging from the very broad to the quite specific – had come from small groups of faculty working together. Some, she said, would fall into the “teaching and learning bucket,” such as the suggestions both for a formal teaching and learning center and for the more adequate teaching of writing. Other academic initiatives, she said, focused on sustainability, development, and global climate change, with proposals for a graduate program, such as that offered by the Center for Development Economics.

One of the working groups should answer this question: How many graduate programs should Williams offer? This is an important strategic question which smart Ephs should study for 6 months and then report back to us. What is the history of such programs at Williams? How do such programs work at peer schools? What are the precise economics of current programs? And so on. This is an issue which merits the adjective strategic.

It is highly unlikely that the optimal number of graduate programs is two: precisely the number that we currently have!

Odds of this happening? Less than 5%. Williams does not seem equipt to ask, much less answer, such big questions.

My answer: We should drop our two current masters programs: Center for Development Economics and Clark Art. Neither makes any more sense than the old Chemistry Masters which we offered fifty years ago. We should have a laser-like focus on the quality of the undergraduate education we offer. Everything else is a side-show.

What parts of the faculty meeting notes stand out to you?

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wife(?)

Your weekly opportunity to argue about politics . . .

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Weekend Links

Will the ABA Reject Due Process?” by former Williams professor KC Johnson.

They left their corporate jobs to write kids’ books in a barn. But a fairy-tale life is hard work” about Ephs Robbi Behr and Matthew Swanson.

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SU Box Buddies

I received the email below the break the other day. Basically, it asks alumni to send a note to the current Williams student who uses that alumni’s old SU Box. This is not the first year of the program. I have never participated but I wonder if any EphBlog readers have and what their experience was. I am most interested to hear from an Eph who was on the receiving end of one of these notes.

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Admission and Mental Illness

Last week’s post discussed the readmission process after a medical leave of absence due to mental illness. In the comments, DDF wrote this:

If you were Sandstrom, would you re-admit a student at (medium? high?) risk of suicide?

That brings an equally interesting, yet somehow wholly different question: should Williams admit such a student in the first place?

It’s different, of course, because it’s an admissions committee making the decision vs a smaller, less formal, and less dedicated (it’s not their only job) committee that decides readmission. Last week, we had a whole discussion about what’s in the best interest of the student, and what’s in the best interest of the school, when it comes to readmitting students who have struggled with mental illness. That all comes with the prerequisite, though, that the student told the college about their mental illness (in the form of their application for a medical/psychological leave of absence) and is now relying on the college to make a decision about their readiness to return to Williams.

To get admitted in the first place, however, they had to go through no such process. You don’t have to disclose that you have any sort of disability on your college application (I’m pretty sure that’d be a violation of the ADA). You can choose to, of course, if you want to write an essay about it.

My guess is that students with very impactful physical disabilities or diseases will often choose to do this; if their disability has had a large impact on their lives, the challenges they’ve had to overcome, and the way they see the world, then that is, quite rightly, something they can and should highlight in an essay to set them apart to an admissions committee. The fact that the student is submitting the application means that they believe they will be able to handle college life with their disability; if the admissions committee determines this is the case academically, they will admit the student and will work to provide any accommodations needed for the student’s success.

Mental illnesses theoretically work similarly, in the sense that they don’t have to be disclosed under the ADA, and that once the student is admitted they can get the accommodations they need to succeed.

However, disclosing a mental illness in a college admissions essay is probably a lot rarer–and a lot less “successful,” in the sense that it probably gives college admissions committees more reason to doubt the student’s ability to thrive than convinces them of the student’s tenacity and unique perspective. Should this be the case? If a student comes into the college with a mental illness, should their readiness for college be inherently doubted?

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New Garfield House Residence Hall

Williams College Hosts Tour of New Residence Hall

Garfield House One of Two Passive Houses in State

The construction of the new Garfield House, replacing the old one, is complete. This was the rationale for replacing the old Garfield House:

The original Garfield House was built in 1850 and purchased by the college in 1924. In 2016, a nine-person committee convened by the college determined it would be too costly and inefficient to renovate that structure for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the college’s sustainability goals.

This is the nine-person committee’s full report (an interesting read):

https://facilities.williams.edu/files/2016/11/Recommendation-of-the-Committee-MD-edit-1.pdf

The report describes the old Garfield House as being “the least desirable residence hall on campus”.

When it opens, the new Garfield House “will be one of only two residence halls in Massachusetts to meet the energy-efficiency standards of the Passive House Institute US”. Additionally, the new Garfield House “is built to LEED Gold standards and reflects Williams’ commitment to sustainability and reducing greenhouse emissions”.

 

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Your Alumni Donations at Work

From WAMC:

Some residents of Berkshire County plan to argue Tuesday against the installation of an artificial turf.

Tuesday night, the Mt. Greylock School Committee will hold a forum at the public high school to hear comments on a plan to install an artificial turf field.

“The high school after years of an ancient building finally got the town funding and state funding to move forward with the new building project,” said Anne O’Connor. She has been a member of the Williamstown select board for two terms.

“And that building project is essentially complete now but what could not be funded by the state was anything for the outdoor facilities, as well as for housing of the superintendent, the district office,” explained O’Connor.

Williams College stepped in with a $5 million donation to the school to be used however Mt. Greylock sees fit.

I am not a Williamstown resident. I leave it to them to decide how much money to raise in taxes and how to spend it. Williamstown is a richer than average town in a richer than average state. I am sure they will be fine!

But it drives me crazy that Williams College spends millions of dollars on this nonsense. I don’t give money to Williams so that the College can turn around and give money to Williamstown for a turf field, or any other purpose. I give money to Williams to directly improve the quality of the education that the College provides to its students. A new turf field does not do this.

EphBlog Maxim #9: The best way to predict the behavior of Williams is to imagine that the College is run by a cabal of corrupt insiders who seek to use our endowment to better their own lives. Previous discussion here.

Millions of dollars to Mount Greylock does nothing for Williams students. But it might do quite a bit for Maud’s daughter, currently a MGRHS student . . .

The only way to avoid this conflict is to stop shoveling money at local institutions. If the good people of Williamstown want a turf field, then they should tax themselves to pay for it.

How can Maud, or any Williams administrator, possibly be objective when the topic is: How much money should we transfer from the Williams endowment in order to improve the education of our own children? They can’t! The best solution to this dilemma is for Williams, as a matter of policy, not to give dollars to local non-profits. (I have no problem with donations in-kind, like the use of chemistry labs for enrichment classes for local students.)

Recall (from 2003!):

A one-time, $250,000 gift from Williams College given earlier this year is expected to restore 5.2 of the 10.8 teaching positions cut from the fiscal 2004 budget.

There is no such thing as a “one-time” gift from Williams . . .

And to think that I used to complain about 6 figure gifts! How naive I was . . .

Read the whole article, and note the quotes from friend-of-EphBlog Nick Wright ’57.

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11% International Students in the Class of 2023

EphBlog has been banging the drum for increased international admissions for almost 15 years. (Relevant posts here, here, and here.) Recall EphBlog’s demand/request/prediction a year ago.

Brown is at 11% international. Woo-Hoo! If Mandel moves Williams to 11% (from our current 7%, pdf), she will instantly be a better president than Falk.

Emphasis in the original. And EphBlog gets results! The Williams class of 2023 is 11% international. Comments:

1) Yeah, Maud! This change, along with her affirmation of academic freedom at Williams, make President Mandel a most excellent president, at least according to EphBlog.

2) New Director of Admissions Sulgi Lim ’06 reported this news at the Admissions Open House during alumni week-end. Sadly, Sulgi, unlike her boss, Provost Dukes Love, does not believe in sharing her public presentations with Ephs who are too poor or busy to attend events like this one. Boo!

3) Sulgi described the change as being caused by two factors. Her office was allowed to admit more international applicants than before. And the yield was higher than expected. I do not know the relative importance of the two changes.

4) There are 45 international students (pdf) in class of 2022. (Prior few years were 41, 41, 46, 49 and 37.) Eleven percent of approximately 535 — 550 would be about 58 — 60 students.

5) Key question: Has there been an official change in the Williams quota — oops! I mean “goal” — for international enrollment? I hope so! The best college in the world will be 50% non-US by 2050. The sooner that Williams moves in that direction, the more likely we are to retain our status.

6) Sulgi talked the usual nonsense about the diversity of international admissions, bragging about the 29 (?) countries represented. Nothing wrong with diversity (of course!) but, in general, the applicant from poor country X is not really representative of X. Instead, she is the daughter of country X’s ambassador to England, and has been educated in international schools all her life. (Not that there is anything wrong with country X or ambassadors or England or international schools!) As long as she is academically excellent EphBlog does not care.

7) Unstated by Sulgi, but known to her and to everyone with a clue about international applicants, the central issue is Asia, especially China and the Chinese diaspora. Williams could probably admit 100 English-fluent students with academic credentials — and likely academic performance at Williams — in the top 10% of the class. We should not admit all 100 tomorrow. But we do need a faculty committee to look closely at the issue of international admissions.

UPDATE: For weird technical reasons, I may not be able to post comments at EpHblog for a couple of weeks. Fortunately, I can still update this post. Here are further thoughts on this topic:

> Any reason 50% instead of 70%?

1) I am not overly committed to 50% as a prediction. I am completely committed to increasing the current 11% higher.

2) I still think 50% is a good prediction because a (major?) part of what Williams is selling is a US education. Can you really provide a US education with a 70% international student body? I am not sure. And I expect that Chinese parents would be even less sure . . .

3) I think that 30% is less likely than 50% because I think that a) the morality of having an international quota, like the morality of having a Jewish quota, becomes less tenable over time. It wasn’t just me that has caused the doubling of the international student body at Williams over the last decade or so. Was it? ;-)

4) I think that competitive pressures and a herd mentality come into play. Every time school X becomes more international, it becomes easier/necessary for school Y to become more international. But 50% is still a more reasonable stopping point than 70%, because of 2).

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Morning Joe & Psycho

EphBlog loves it whenever a president tweets about an Eph.

For the second time this summer, Donald Trump has used his Twitter account to label a high-profile woman a “psycho.” Last month it was Bette Midler. On Tuesday, Mika Brzezinski who was targeted, as the president laid into her and her Morning Joe co-host (and new husband), Joe Scarborough.

Trump slammed the real-life couple and MSNBC hosts over their TV ratings, then accused them of spreading “fake news.” He went on to credit the show for helping “get me elected.” He then added a tweet tagging the Fox News show Fox & Friends, which is known for toeing the Trump party line.

Want to argue about politics? This is your weekly chance to do so.

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Weekend Links

The “Downside of Diversity” by Anthony Kronman ’68 in the Wall Street Journal.

Former Williams QB takes over as offensive coordinator at Boston College” in the Berkshire Eagle, about Mike Bajakian ’95.

Williamstown Celebrates New Police Station With Ribbon Cutting, Night Out Open House” in iBerkshires.

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How Much Do You Give to Williams?

In last weeks’s post I asked Why give to Williams? This week I wanted to ask the natural follow up question – How much? My answer is, “Not much.” When I was a new graduate, I could not afford to give more than a token amount. And that is exactly what I did for many years. Eventually, my wife finally started to support me in the style in which I deserve, (please forgive this bit of an inside joke – for those who care, I have been a stay-at-home dad for the last 21 years) and I was able to up the amount to $100 annually. My wife now provides my family with a very healthy life style and we try to donate several thousand dollars a year to charities we are involved in or take a special interest in. However, my annual donation to Williams stays at the $100 level (I do up it to $250 during reunion years) because I feel Williams does not need my money. From my perspective, the college’s endowment and big money donors are an adequate source of funds to do anything the school wants to do. It is more rewarding for me to donate to organizations where my gift will have a significant impact on the charities operations over the coming year.

Fendertweed offered a different perspective in a comment on last week’s post “I’ve significantly reduced giving (especially in future plans) because I’ve seen a trend of what I and others think is benign neglect for our chosen area of support at Williams.”

What about you, how much do you give?

Fendertweed – Can you share what specific trends you have seen at the college that has changed your level of giving?
 

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A Readmission Appeal, and an Appeal to Reconsider Readmission

The following letter came to my attention a few days ago, being circulated by current and past students. I think it’s worth examining, not necessarily for the specifics of the letter itself, but because of what it draws attention to–specifically, the complications of taking a mental health leave of absence, and returning. Note that I’m not attaching a link to the letter itself, because it is actually an editable Google Doc that is a petition for this student’s readmission; I’ve also redacted the student’s name, because again, I don’t want this to be about this specific student.

A bit of context, and my thoughts, before the letter after the break:

  1. Leaves of absence, for personal or for medical reasons, can be requested of the Dean’s office by any student. Students must submit a request for readmission to the Dean’s office by certain deadlines in order to be readmitted; for personal leaves, this doesn’t go much beyond approval by the Dean. For medical leaves, it’s a bit trickier; readmission requires submitting proof that whatever medical/psychological condition necessitated the leave of absence was resolved during the leave, including doctors’ letters and an evaluation by someone at the Health Center, and the application is then considered by a committee.
  2. I don’t have much information beyond the letter below, but: Student XXX ostensibly took a medical (psychological) leave of absence. She then applied for readmission to Williams, and was denied by the Deans. She is submitting an appeal, as is her right; in addition to her appeal, two friends drafted the below letter in support of her appeal, and circulated it for students, alumni, and staff to sign.
  3. As someone who took a medical (psychological) leave of absence myself, spending a full year away from Williams, I know just how overwhelming the readmission process can be. Say, for example, a student leaves Williams on a leave of absence because she is having debilitating symptoms of depression and is showing signs of suicidal ideation. She leaves Williams so that she can go home to see a therapist and a psychiatrist regularly, and once she is out of elevated danger, to learn to manage her condition. Obviously, we will want her to display no signs of suicidal ideation in order to be readmitted to Williams. But what does “the condition being resolved or managed successfully” mean? Depression is a lifelong illness that cannot be cured, successful management is tricky, and it’s hard to delineate some brightline that would make knowing when to readmit easy.
  4. I personally sought readmission when I began feeling that staying home was doing me more harm than being at Williams would have, but that’s not exactly a rave review. To the readmission committee, I presented myself as having learned so much about myself during my leave of absence, having stabilized everything on medication, and having no suicidal ideation. In reality, I wasn’t always doing great, and throughout the rest of my time at Williams, there would continue to be moments of crisis, moments where it was difficult to function, and more general periods of despair. But, I reasoned, that’s probably the case for a good third of Williams students at any time; I wasn’t doing so much worse than them, mental health wise, that I didn’t deserve to go back if I decided I was able.
  5. Even if you aren’t a fan of the rhetoric or any other point made in the letter, I would like to call attention to its point number 3: the fact that, during leaves of absence, you cannot stay on the school health insurance. For me, as it seemed to be for XXX, this was a total nightmare; I was already dealing with a debilitating mental health condition, and on top of that I had to figure something totally new out to get health insurance. Given that I was on a medical leave, it seems pretty obvious to me that health insurance is essential to helping students return to Williams, and being uninsured or underinsured is a detriment to that. If I took the medical leave because I knew I couldn’t give Williams my very best and needed time away from the school, then a school that cared about me–cared about me graduating, cared about me being able to do my very best–would ensure that, during that time away I elected to take, I had all the tools I needed to succeed. Instead, I very much felt thrown out and left to fend for myself.

Read more for the letter.

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Introducing recent grad

Hello! I’m recent grad. Travel schedules prevented me from posting until now–thank you, David, for covering for me–but from now I’ll be posting on Thursdays. I chose my terribly creative screen name (would you have been able to guess that I just graduated?) because it was the first thing I thought of what seemed relevant when I only planned on making a comment or two. When David said he was going to publish that comment as a post of its own, I was rather pleased, not only because it’s nice to see your own words published publicly, but because mental health, the topic of that comment, is a subject that’s really important to me. I was dismayed, then, when that discussion instead turned to the only off-topic mess that comments here tended to be. I want to have actual, productive discussions about mental health at Williams, and other topics important to me; thus, my joining on in this experiment. That said, if anyone has a username suggestion that’s better than “recent grad,” that’s one off-topic subject I’ll be happy to discuss.

I’m not sure what my “niche” will be here, and suggestions are welcome. That said, one thing I can provide (moreso than other authors, perhaps, except purple and gold–you’re still a student, right?) is some insight into campus culture right now. I’ve graduated, but my Facebook feed and Instagram is still dominated by Williams students, the majority of whom are still students; of course, what I see there is biased by the circles I was in and the things that interested me, but nevertheless, it gives me a glimpse into what’s being talked about that, combined with my own experiences, might be useful. Student perspectives certainly tend to be misrepresented here.

My first real post will be coming tomorrow morning!

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“Privacy in the Digital Age” (Williams Magazine)

Privacy in the Digital Age

A cool article in the latest issue of the Williams Magazine that discusses how “four alumni are leading efforts to make sure new technologies don’t infringe on our civil and constitutional rights”.

Four Williams alumni are wrestling with these kinds of questions, raising awareness and holding public officials and purveyors of big data accountable. Jameel Jaffer ’94, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, focuses on freedom of speech and of the press in the digital age. Rachel Levinson-Waldman ’95, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, studies issues related to government and law enforcement’s use of surveillance. Andrew Guthrie Ferguson ’94, a law professor at the University of the District of Columbia, researches predictive policing and whether Fourth Amendment protections include the data on our devices. And Jay Stanley ’89, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), works to uncover emerging technologies that have the potential to prey on personal privacy.

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Upon Request

At the request of an Eph originally identified in a post first published in 2016, I have removed that person’s photograph from the post, and also substituted a redacted version of the document attached to the post so that the name of the person is not included.

EphBlog is generally protective of poster and commenter anonymity.  For what I think are reasonably obvious reasons, EphBlog cannot always allow for anonymity of people mentioned within posts.  However, in this particular case, the original complaint was replaced by an amended complaint which anonymized one of the participants in the events leading to the filing of the complaint.  Accordingly, I thought it was appropriate to remove references to this Eph’s name in the post on EphBlog, as well as their picture.

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Kramer ’03 is Particularly Perturbed

The Chronicle of Education reports:

The journal Ethnic and Racial Studies is standing by an article that has proved controversial among sociologists and race scholars. The article, about the Black Lives Matter movement, was peer-reviewed and underwent major revisions before being published, the journal said on Tuesday.

In an open letter (doc) circulating online, Szetela is criticized for ignoring, or misunderstanding, black feminism, among other disciplines.

“We are particularly perturbed by this because of the long history of negation of research by people from marginalized backgrounds as neither rigorous nor empirical research,” says the letter, which was primarily written by Buggs and Rory Kramer, an associate professor of sociology and criminology at Villanova University.

If Rory, a former EphBlog board member, has time to engage in these sorts of intra-progressive wars, he must have received tenure from Villanova. If so, congratulations! I wish I had tenure . . .

Thanks to an anonymous Williams faculty member for the link.

article below the break
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Weekend Links

Let’s try a new experiment. Each weekend, I will put up a post called “Weekend Links,” including links from All Things Eph, both recent and ancient. Below the break, I will also include long quotations from the links.

The main goal is to provide my co-bloggers with a buffet of topics to choose from, should they wish to do so. Readers may also find the links interesting. And I need to free up some tabs on my browser!

Comments will be turned off so that any discussion about these topics is saved until another blogger chooses to write about them during the week. I don’t want these conversations to start ahead of time.

Here goes!

Oren Cass ’05 on “The Communal Power of a Real Job” in the New York Times.

Anthony Kronman’s ’68 latest book discussed in the New York Times.

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Why give to Williams?

This question was inspired by the email from Maud on July 10th informing the community about how the latest capital campaign went. (full email below the break) She cited the stat that nearly 75% of alumni had contributed over the course of the 7 year campaign. I was impressed by this but was curious as to whether or not I should be. I did a quick Google search and found this article. link It has some interesting information, including the fact that Williams ranked 3rd among all schools in the country in terms of percentage of alumni who donate. (The most important fact in the article may be that we beat Amherst!)

In terms of my answer, at first, I thought it was a simple question but as I pondered my response, I realized that it had several important facets. First, Williams had a significant positive impact on me. Not only did the academic environment challenge me and help me grow as a thinker but the people I met shaped my moral and ethical development. Next, I enjoyed my time at Williams immensely! This was true in the classroom, in the dorm room and on the rugby pitch. Also, I like the idea of making some small contribution to the idea of “paying it forward.” Of course, I could point to other issues and memories but most of them could fit into these three broad categories.

What about you? Why do you give to Williams? Or not?

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