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Short Hops

Good news for all the baseball luddites in the room — assistant professor of legal studies Alan Hirsch has co-authored a new book entitled “The Beauty of Short Hops: How Chance and Circumstance Confound the Moneyball Approach to Baseball.”  The book purports to “expose the myths perpetuated” by Michael Lewis’ acclaimed best-seller, which also happens to be coming to the big screen this fall.  More faculty intervention in an area that students are perfectly capable of handling themselves.

A full review will have to wait until I get my hands on a copy of “Short Hops.”  By all indications, though, Hirsch and his co-author, brother Sheldon, have simply trotted out the same shop-worn “arguments” that others have offered ad nauseam for the past eight years.

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Commencement speaker Jay McInerney ’76 debuts today as the Wall Street Journal’s wine columnist.  He leads off with a doozy of an anecdote:

My first experience with a sparkling pink wine took place on a blanket on the lawn at Tanglewood in the company of a girl named Joan Coughlin. The Who were onstage performing “Tommy” and the warm summer air was perfumed with incense and cannabis smoke. The wine in question, Cold Duck, was, I discovered much later, composed of two parts New York State sparkling wine and one part California bulk red wine. I eventually learned to turn up my nose at Cold Duck, but I think my fond memories of that evening may have something to do with my abiding enthusiasm for rosé Champagne.

1)  The Who played at least twice at Tanglewood, in 1969 and 1970, which is in the right time frame.  McInerney may even have picked up one of these sharp pins while at the show.  Fun fact: a concert by the Who was apparently once a musically and culturally valuable experience.

2) Cold Duck is highly suspicious stuff.  Avoid if at all possible.

The rest of the column is a paean to expensive pink bubbly, especially the Dom Pérignon Rosé, which is apparently the “911 Turbo” of the wine world.  (Hip reference!)  Read the whole thing if you like creepy Julianne Moore name drops and doctor dissing.  More commentary from Gawker here.

McInerney will also be blogging about wine for the WSJ here, if you’re interested.


Unwedded Bliss

Page 6 checks in with CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric and Brooks Perlin ’96, finds everything to be in working order.

Couric has been dating Perlin for more than three years, to the surprise of rumor-mongers who periodically have them splitting up.

Those rumor-mongers mostly come from your newspaper, Page 6, but no matter.  Anyways, the fact that Katie and Brooks are still going isn’t really news.  As usual, the Post buries the lede:

Also nibbling cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery …

Mmm … frosting.  Some guys just have all the luck.



On the heels of previous Ephblog discussions about binge drinking and efforts to reduce its frequency on college campuses, a new study from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management found that some public service announcements targeted at students are not having the desired effect.  Quite the opposite.

It has long been assumed, of course, that guilt and shame were ideal ways of warning of the dangers associated with binge drinking and other harmful behaviors, because they are helpful in spotlighting the associated personal consequences. But this study found the opposite to be true: Viewers already feeling some level of guilt or shame instinctively resist messages that rely on those emotions, and in some cases are more likely to participate in the behavior they’re being warned about.

The reason, said Kellogg marketing professor Nidhi Agrawal, is that people who are already feeling guilt or shame resort to something called “defensive processing” when confronted with more of either, and tend to disassociate themselves with whatever they are being shown in order to lessen those emotions.

(Example via Gawker.)

The full study will be published in the Journal of Marketing Research later this year.  Until then, one of the study’s authors has some advice for this attempting to deter students from binge drinking.

Ms. Agrawal suggested two fixes for PSA makers. The first involves media: Ads placed in more-positive surroundings — such as in a sitcom or a positive magazine article — have a better chance at resonating than those placed in tense or negative contexts. Second, she said, anti-alcohol groups would be better served focusing their messages around how to avoid situations that lead to binge drinking than on the consequences of the behavior, because attempting to shame people out of binge drinking doesn’t work.

I don’t know if the health center or anyone else on campus has been employing PSAs of this type around campus.  If anyone in Williamstown has seen anything on this score, feel free to chime in.


Does Service Learning Do Anything? And other Stories

Plenty to check out in the Times’ Education Life section today, picking up on a lot of themes discussed here.

Making College RelevantBy Kate Zernicke

THOMAS COLLEGE, a liberal arts school in Maine, advertises itself as Home of the Guaranteed Job! Students who can’t find work in their fields within six months of graduation can come back to take classes free, or have the college pay their student loans for a year. … Even before they arrive on campus, students — and their parents — are increasingly focused on what comes after college. What’s the return on investment, especially as the cost of that investment keeps rising? How will that major translate into a job?

Does Service Learning Really Help?By Stephanie Strom

A positive experience usually requires a considerable investment of time and planning on the part of academic institutions and faculty. Ideally, service learning enriches a particular course of study, and students have the opportunity to reflect in the classroom on their experiences. In reality, service learning often seems unconnected to any curriculum — painting park benches, for example. At its most basic, it can be hard to distinguish from plain vanilla community service.

You Can Go Back Again – By Rachel Aviv

Traditionally, career counselors have cut off graduates 6 or 12 months out. But with an influx of requests from alumni who are now or fear they soon will be unemployed, career services offices have become a hub for disenchanted graduates, some of whom have not been back to campus for years. In the last year, Boulder had so many visits from alumni that the career services office hired a new staff member to focus exclusively on their needs. In addition to administering personality tests, editing résumés, facilitating opportunities for networking and doing interview prep, the newly hired alumni counselor, Lea Alvarado, finds herself spending a good deal of time simply offering encouragement.

Ten Master’s of the New Universe – By Nancy Hass

And then came the quiet revolution. Spawned by a realization in university circles that master’s programs could be wildly profitable — especially within low-cost departments of continuing education — and a growing sense that in a shifting employment market the best jobs would require specialized training, such degrees have exploded. Nearly twice as many master’s degrees were awarded in 2008 than in 1980.

According to the Times, the winning degrees include cybersecurity, urban infrastructure, and engines.


Amherst Opens Door to Gitmo Detainees?

Well, you don’t see this every day.

Under a petition Hooke submitted to the town’s Select Board – approved by a 2-1 vote Monday night – the town will call on Congress to rescind its ban on detainees resettling in the United States, and will welcome Ahmed Belbacha, originally from Algeria, and Ravil Mingazov, arrested in Pakistan, to Amherst. The measure will go before a Special Town Meeting on Nov. 2.

Bold.  Clearly, Amherst College is suffering from some strain of NESCAC Resettlement Envy. Textbook case.   It’s worth noting, too, that the question of whether federal judges have the authority to order detainees released into the USA will go before the Supreme Court this term.  It’s quite possible that the Congressional ban would be affected by that ruling.  Whether Belbacha and Mingazov would even have a strong case for getting into the states under any circumstances (as opposed to the Uighers) is also unclear.

Or, of course, the measure could be purely symbolic.

“This is a typical Amherst thing to do,’’ said Jonathan Tucker, the town’s planning director. “Amherst has a long history of engaging in foreign policy, and it’s not out of character for a New England town to believe it has as much a right to weigh in on foreign policy as the federal or state governments.’”

If detainees end up ever end up being released into the United States, would Williamstown attempt to get in on some resettlement action?


Tufts to Students: Cut That Out!

Enough was enough, apparently.  After receiving “a significant number of complaints last year from residents bothered by their roommates’ sexual behavior,” Tufts has banned dorm room canoodling when roomie is present.  The policy further states that “any sexual activity in the room should not interfere with a roommate’s privacy, study habits or sleep.”

It wouldn’t be a new regulation from a campus life organization if there weren’t some doublespeak involved, so here’s Office of Residential Life and Learning’s Carrie Ales-Rich on why this new policy really isn’t a policy at all:

The sex policy, Ales-Rich said, is intended as a tool to facilitate conversation and compromise between roommates, rather than simply proscribe behavior. Ales-Rich emphasized that ResLife hopes students will be able to resolve the issues on their own instead of allowing conflicts to reach a point at which the office has to intervene.

“We want to make perfectly clear that we do not want to hinder someone from engaging in any personal or private activity,” she said. “But when it becomes uncomfortable for the roommate, we want to have something in place that empowers the residents to have a good conversation with the roommate.”

Yes, because those conversations always go better when one sophomore can threaten the other. Also note that the Tufts administration apparently did not consult the student government or really any students before it made the change.

ResLife saw a need to take the lead in addressing the issue due to its sensitive nature, according to Ales-Rich. “We found in the past that when it comes to sexual activity in the room, students find it an uncomfortable topic to talk about,” she said.

In short, Tufts bureaucrats don’t think their kids have the capacity to talk about sex, so they unilaterally created a new set of rules, which won’t have to be enforced because kids will talk about sex amongst themselves.

No word yet on whether the new policy will cover ties on doorknobs, condom theft, or threesome remorse.


Amherst, Trinity Among Nation’s Most Douche

Bravely wading through any number of potential pot-kettle issues, Gentlemen’s Quarterly presents to its readers a feature for the ages: “America’s 25 Douchiest Colleges.”  You can see it here on GQ’s Web site in all its glory, or to get a look at how it ran in the magazine, check here.

The question isn’t whether you’re a douche bag when you go to college. We were all kind of douche bags when we went to college, if we’re going to be honest about it. No, the question for America’s youth is: What kind of douche bag do you aspire to be?

First of all, speak for yourself, GQ.  Second, um, what?  Most folks aspire to no such thing.  (As always, there are some exceptions.)

Third, at the very least they got it right.  Trinity cracks the list at No. 21, but the kicker is Amherst at No.7, though the rationale doesn’t exactly do us any favors.

Home of: The “I Went to a Small liberal-arts College in Massachusetts” Douche
Affectations: Quiet sense of superiority; intense desire to be surrounded by 1,700 people almost exactly like you; Choate soccer jacket.
In ten years, will be: Smart policy guy at State Department that no one listens to.
Douchey mascot: Lord Jeffrey Amherst.
Problem with douchey mascot: Distributed smallpox-infested blankets to Native Americans.

Hmm.  Good form on the bioterrorism reference, I suppose.  The cynics among us may claim that this is simply a name recognition problem for Williams, but I like to think GQ is onto something.


Political Science

Peter Berkowitz in today’s Wall Street Journal:

The political science departments at elite private universities such as Harvard and Yale, at leading small liberal arts colleges like Swarthmore and Williams, and at distinguished large public universities like the University of Maryland and the University of California, Berkeley, offer undergraduates a variety of courses on a range of topics. But one topic the undergraduates at these institutions — and at the vast majority of other universities and colleges — are unlikely to find covered is conservatism.

An empirical claim!  Lovely!  It takes Matt Yglesias about 20 seconds to debunk it on his end:

In the coming year, the Harvard Government (i.e., political science) department is offering exactly six courses on “Political Thought and Its History.” Two of the six courses (Gov 1060 “Ancient and Medieval Political Philosophy” and Gov 1061 “The History of Modern Political Philosophy”) are taught by Harvey Mansfield and so I trust the right won’t be slighted in his presentation. …Meanwhile, the course with the most students and the most direct policy relevance is the introductory economics course that was taught by economist and Republican Party operative Martin Feldstein in my day and is currently taught by economist and Republican Party operative Greg Mankiw.

I took no political science classes in college, and thus have no idea if his claim holds water for Williams.  Anyone able to shed some light on the situation?

[Blog explode in 3, 2, 1 …]


Johnson on Selena Roberts

Steroid use in a Miami high school by the best amateur player in the country?  Tipping pitches to raise his batting average?  “Bitch tits”?  Why, the Daily News must have an early copy of the new book “A-Rod,” by Sports Illustrated’s Selena Roberts, and its litany of accusations against New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez.

Now, a lot of these accusations seem to be little more than hearsay.  And, in search of balance, a Gotham baseball blog went looking for comment from K.C. Johnson, who became familiar with Roberts’ work when she wrote about the Duke lacrosse scandal for the Times.  Johnson had this to say about Roberts:

It seems to me that maintaining credibility is vital for any journalist. Roberts, of course, may very well be correct in her reporting about A-Rod. (Let’s face it: A-Rod himself has no credibility, given that he outright lied to the nation in the Katie Couric interview.)

But based on what we saw from Roberts in the lacrosse case, nothing that she says or writes should be accepted unless it can be independently verified. After all, Roberts: (a) demonstrated a disregard for the truth (her March and April 2006 columns included factually inaccurate items that she has, to this day, refused to retract or correct); (b) made wild leaps of logic (linking the players’ supposed guilt to a critique of campus culture–only to claim, in March 2007, that she had never made such a linkage); and (c) absurdly asserted in March 2008 that criticism of her reporting came about because “some segments of the Duke lacrosse crowd did not enjoy the scrutiny of their world.” (links omitted)

Will A-Rod eventually be vindicated?  Will these new charges stick, or will they be shown to be the fruits of jealousy and opportunism?  Will Sports Illustrated survive the year?  Stay tuned.


Next Question

Right at the 4-minute mark of an excellent stimulus discussion, Paul Krugman bats back an idiotic question from Mika Brzezinski ’89.

I’m not sure where Brzezinski “learned” that Larry Summers invented the concept of economic stimulus, but it certainly wasn’t Williams.


Endowment Envy

Journalist Steve Coll, in the process of arguing Warren Buffet should give $2 billion to permanently endow the Washington Post newsroom, focuses his disdain on folks who donate to Williams.

It has been very painful to watch papers like the Post offer buyouts to dozens of talented journalists at the height of their powers while shutting overseas bureaus and even entire sections of the paper. Not to pick on any one institution, but, from a constitutional perspective, how did we end up in a society where Williams College has (or had, before September) an endowment well in excess of one billion dollars, while the Washington Post, a fountainhead of Watergate and so much other skeptical and investigative reporting critical to the republic’s health, is in jeopardyà [sic] … I’m sure that Williams-generated nostalgia in the emotional lives of wealthy people is hard to overestimate, but still …

Well, that was uncalled for.  Coll graduated from Occidental, no slouch itself in the endowment-per-student department, in 1980.  Speculation as to the role of newsprint-related nostalgia in Coll’s emotional life is welcome in the comments.


A Christmas Present for MCLA

More applications.

Students are applying to the state’s public colleges and universities in record numbers, as the nation’s financial crisis forces more families to consider less expensive schools. …

Framingham State and Westfield State colleges have seen more than 40 percent increases in applicants from this time a year ago, while the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams has seen a 60 percent jump. Early-action applications at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston have risen 75 percent.

Good news for Williams’ neighbors.  The article mentions, quite sensibly, that most of these colleges don’t have much of an ability to increase enrollment, so the effect will likely be a somewhat more select incoming class at MCLA.

Also, interesting data coming in on recession effects.

At Framingham State College, where applications for the fall and spring have risen to an unprecedented extent, more than one-third came from families making more than $100,000 annually.

“For a public college, that’s very surprising,” said Nick Figueroa, dean of undergraduate admissions at the college, where annual tuition and fees this year total $6,141. “You tend to see more middle-income families.”


Everyone Goes to White Castle

Change is coming to Williams in 2009!  Or, rather, wafting in.  Come January 20, marijuana will be effectively legalized in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  Berkshire County DA David Capeless admits as much to the NYT today, in the process of bitching about the insuperable enforcement challenges presented by the recently-passed decriminalization measure.

To recap: anyone caught with an ounce or less of weed will owe nothing more than a $100 civil fine.  No arrest.  No criminal record.  No criminal anything.  But it gets better!

A complicating factor, said Mr. Capeless, the district attorney in Berkshire County, is that state law bans the police from demanding identification for civil infractions.

“Not only do you not have to identify yourself,” he said, “but it would appear from a strict reading that people can get a citation, walk away, never pay a fine and have no repercussion.”

That’s one way to hit Johnny Lawman where it hurts.  A further complication affects Williams less than, say, MCLA in nearby North Adams.

Mr. Capeless said that in particular the department needed to address a clause in the new law that said neither the state nor its “political subdivisions or their respective agencies” could impose “any form of penalty, sanction or disqualification” on anyone found with an ounce or less of marijuana.

“It appears to say that you get a $100 fine and they can’t do anything else to you,” he said. “Can a police officer caught with marijuana several times get to keep his job and not be disciplined in any fashion? Can public high schools punish kids for smoking cigarettes but not for having pot?”

Either way, pot-smoking Ephs are likely to feel a lot more comfortable by the end of Winter Study.

The decriminalization measure passed about 65-35 back on Election Day.



The Atlantic Monthly‘s Megan McArdle, Penn grad, foists her prejudices onto an unsuspecting populace.

Let’s be honest, coastal folks:  when you meet someone with a thick southern accent who likes NASCAR and attends a bible church, do you think, “hey, maybe this is a cool person”?  And when you encounter someone who went to Eastern Iowa State, do you accord them the same respect you give your friends from Williams?  It’s okay–there’s no one here but us chickens.

Some of us coastal folks actually know how to use quotation marks, for one thing.  You don’t even have to be a professional writer.

And to answer your poorly conceived rhetorical question … “No.”  It’s called projection.  Leave us out of your neuroses, thanks.


College Presidents Call for Lower Drinking Age

Well, this could get interesting.

College presidents from about 100 of the nation’s best-known universities, including Duke, Dartmouth and Ohio State, are calling on lawmakers to consider lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18, saying current laws actually encourage dangerous binge drinking on campus. …

“This is a law that is routinely evaded,” said John McCardell, former president of Middlebury College in Vermont who started the organization. “It is a law that the people at whom it is directed believe is unjust and unfair and discriminatory.”

Kind of a strange way to make the case, but fair enough.  Plenty of people, myself included, think a lot of the most dangerous kinds of binge drinking would be curtailed by kids’ showing up to school with more, not less, experience with alcohol.

MADD, however, recommends that we let the good times roll.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving says lowering the drinking age would lead to more fatal car crashes. It accuses the presidents of misrepresenting science and looking for an easy way out of an inconvenient problem. MADD officials are even urging parents to think carefully about the safety of colleges whose presidents have signed on.

“It’s very clear the 21-year-old drinking age will not be enforced at those campuses,” said Laura Dean-Mooney, national president of MADD.

Sigh.   Thank you for arguing like a  5-year-old.

McCardell claims that his experiences as a president and a parent, as well as a historian studying Prohibition, have persuaded him the drinking age isn’t working.

But critics say McCardell has badly misrepresented the research by suggesting that the decision to raise the drinking age from 18 to 21 may not have saved lives.

In fact, MADD CEO Chuck Hurley said, nearly all peer-reviewed studies looking at the change showed raising the drinking age reduced drunk-driving deaths. A survey of research from the U.S. and other countries by the Centers for Disease Control and others reached the same conclusion.

If drunk-driving deaths were the only toll inflicted by abuse of alcohol, Hurley might have a point.  But the costs of our dysfunctional drinking culture of course extend far beyond that, into the realm of cirrhosis and obesity and the psychological torture of alcoholism.  To me, building a healthier drinking culture requires education, and education requires teaching kids about alcohol when they’re young enough to be taught.

Anything else to add, responsible adults?

Hurley, of MADD, has a different take on the presidents.

“They’re waving the white flag,” he said.

Well, alcohol is winning, if that’s what he means.


Nothing to See Here, Folks, Move Along Now, Thanks, ‘Preciate It, Etc.

Former lover of former lover of Eph admits to being former lover. News at 11.

Always trust content from the National Enquirer.

UPDATE: Great minds think alike…


More on Korean Prep Schools: An Interview with Joe Foster ’94

What proportion of Williams students should come from abroad?  The debate on the relative merits of international candidates is an Ephblog staple, and last week, the topic re-emerged following the publication of a New York Times article on elite Korean prep schools.  The piece detailed the intense academic environment at the Daewon Foreign Language High School in Seoul, which students attend with the goal of eventually gaining acceptance to a prestigious American university.

We, however, have a man on the scene.  Williams graduate Joe Foster teaches at the Daewon School and was quoted in the Times article, testifying to the dedication of his students.  He was kind enough to discuss, via e-mail, his experience at an education institution very different from those we are accustomed to.

Ephblog: How did you wind up at the Daewon School?

Foster: Well, my parents are both teachers and I was raised at a boarding school in California, where my father was a dean, so I’ve been around education all my life. Maybe for that reason I always harbored some resistance to both school and teaching. After the dot-com crash, though, I was ready for a change and some travel, so I came to Seoul. I didn’t have much of a long-term plan, but I got a job teaching SAT prep and really took to it — in fact, I completely fell in love with teaching. I stayed at that job for four and a half years, and the first time I looked for something else I stumbled across the Daewon position. I’ve been at Daewon for just over a year.

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