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Hopkins Ends Legacy Admissions, 3

Johns Hopkins had ended admissions preferences for legacies. Let’s spend 3 days going through it. Day 3.

Johns Hopkins President Daniels:

And of course now we’re at 3.5 percent of the class is legacy, and we’ve fully extinguished any legacy benefit in our admissions program.

The subtle point which no one discusses: Do legacies do “better” than non-legacies of equivalent high school qualifications? If so, then we should give legacies an admissions advantage!

How to measure “better”? I am flexible. Academics is one measure: GPA, taking tutorials, taking more advanced classes outside your major, writing a thesis, impressing professors. Extra-curriculars are another. (I think Williams has done some (secret!) research into factors associated with “thriving” at Williams. A third measure is student satisfaction.

I bet that AR 2 students who are legacies are happier at Williams than AR 2 students who are not legacies. If that is true, shouldn’t we give preference to legacy AR 2s over non-legacy AR 2s?

So far, what are some of the effects of this change, good or bad?

Phillips. What that affords us to do is have the flexibility to greatly change the composition of our incoming class. It’s much more diverse, much more high achieving than it had been previously. We’ve had significant increases in the proportion of first-generation students in our class, female engineers; the racial composition has changed.

David Phillips is Hopkins’s vice provost for admissions and financial aid. Is he naive or does he think we are stupid?

1) How “greatly” can you change the composition of the class with just a 8.5% switch? They still have legacies, just not as many as at the peak. (And note how the graph only goes back to 2009. You can be sure they have older data. Can you guess why they don’t show it? I can!)

2) Legacies are not just legacies, they also overlap with all sorts of other categories of students. If you now reject an African-American legacy who you would have accepted, you can either replace her with a different African-American applicant or you can decrease the percentage of African-Americans.

3) Every elite college in the country is more “diverse” than it was, including places like Williams and Harvard which still give legacy preferences. Is Hopkins more diverse than they are? Not that I can see. (And note that Hopkins makes it harder to find their Common Data Sets than any other elite college. I can’t find them! Can you?)

And so on.

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Hopkins Ends Legacy Admissions, 2

Johns Hopkins had ended admissions preferences for legacies. Let’s spend 3 days going through it. Day 2.

Might Johns Hopkins be lying? Sure! Elite colleges lie all the time about admissions issues. Consider President Daniels:

“But we know that the dream of equal opportunity is more elusive than ever for many in contemporary America,” he said. “To take one sobering statistic, most of the top universities in the country enroll more students from the top 1 percent of the income spectrum than from the bottom 60 percent.”

One of the most pernicious drivers of such inequity is legacy admissions, Daniels said.

There is zero evidence for this claim!

1) When Hopkins rejects a marginally qualified legacy, she doesn’t become a plumber. She goes to Duke. Assuming that Hopkins is not radically different from Williams — and why would it be? — the average legacy student, even back in the evil old days of 2009 — had a higher SAT than the average non-legacy. (Now, there are reasons that this is not a fair comparison, but it is absurd to claim that Hopkins legacies were somehow materially less qualified than the students they are being replaced with.)

2) Note the lack of transparency from Hopkins about who they are replacing the legacies with. If they reject a rich legacy with 1450 SATs and replace her with a rich non-legacy with 1460 SATs, then, it is true that they have removed the legacy advantage and, perhaps, served the cause of “justice.” But they have done nothing about wealth or income inequality. For all we know, Hopkins is just replacing moderately rich legacies with the scions of billionaires! Hard to spin that as a decrease in “inequity.”

3) How will Daniels ever know if we have achieved the “dream of equal opportunity?” Sure seems like his measuring stick is based in equal outcomes. Does the NBA provide “equal opportunity?” Sure seems like it does to me! And yet the racial (and gender!) breakdown of the NBA hardly matches that of the country as a whole.

4) Legacy admissions and top 1% income admissions are very different things. But note how easily Daniels conflates them. Indeed, for all we know Johns Hopkins has increased the percentage of its class which comes from top 1% income families. Perhaps some (many? most?) of the legacies that Hopkins now rejects were from middle income homes. Lots of Hopkins alumni become teachers, after all.

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Hopkins Ends Legacy Admissions, 1

Johns Hopkins had ended admissions preferences for legacies. Let’s spend 3 days going through it. Day 1.

Key chart:

Entire article is below the break. Comments:

1) This looks to be the real deal. How else to explain the dramatic change in the chart above?

2) This movement will spread:

a) The zeitgeist makes privilege, of any type, difficult to defend.

b) More importantly, elite colleges don’t really care all that much about giving advantages to alumni in general. Whether or not Susie Hopkins gives $1,000 per year just does not matter that much. (They care a huge amount about development admissions. You can bet that Mike Bloomberg’s grand-daughter will be treated very differently in the Hopkins admissions process than your grand-daughter.)

c) Do the very woke faculty/administration of elite colleges even like their alumni all that much? I am not so sure . . . No longer giving preferences to the children of people you don’t like or respect is more feature than bug.

d) Will Williams follow? I bet “Yes.” Then again, as the most “conservative” of the elite LACs, we might be among the last to go.

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Underrep Identities

From the announcement:

We are excited to announce our plans for the Promoting Inclusion in Economic Research (PIER) 2020 conference! This conference will bring together undergraduate students at Williams College to share their research and engage in networking and mentoring activities.

This conference will be held at Williams College on Sunday, April 18, 2020.

The conference aims to promote economic research by and professional development of undergraduate students whose identities or life experiences are under-represented in the field of economics.

1) Kudos to the organizers — Williams Professors Sara LaLumia, Sarah Jacobson and Tara Watson — for putting this together! The more that Williams students/faculty engage with the wider intellectual world, the better. One weird thing about academia is that so much of the work is, strictly speaking, optional. These professors won’t be paid anything extra for all the additional work they are putting in to make this happen. Many (most?) of their colleagues in the department don’t contribute as much as these three to the quality of undergraduate education at Williams.

2) Is it fair to say that Sarah Jacobson is the most woke economist at Williams? Nothing wrong with being woke, of course! Some of my best friends . . .

3) Thoughts on the evolution of this conference from being something focused on women in economics to its current incarnation as concerned with “underrep identities?” Why do this? Is it a good thing? Honestly curious! There are only so many spots, so much funding to go around. Every male who now attends, regardless of the extent to which his identity is underrepresented, is one less female.

4) Who, precisely, counts as someone whose “identities or life experiences are under-represented in the field of economics?” Honestly curious! Evangelical Christians are, relative to their share of the population, dramatically underrepresented in economics. However, I bet that Sarah Jacobson won’t look too positively on such claims. What about military veterans? Maybe. Trump voter? Hah!

5) Note that two of the invited speakers are of recent African descent, presumably either immigrants themselves are the children of immigrants from places like Ghana and Nigeria. Nothing wrong with immigrants, of course! But am I the only one reminded of the ADOS movement:

A spirited debate is playing out in black communities across America over the degree to which identity ought to be defined by African heritage — or whether ancestral links to slavery are what should count most of all.

Tensions between black Americans who descended from slavery and black immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean are not new, but a group of online agitators is trying to turn those disagreements into a political movement.

They want colleges, employers and the federal government to prioritize black Americans whose ancestors toiled in bondage, and they argue that affirmative action policies originally designed to help the descendants of slavery in America have largely been used to benefit other groups, including immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean.

Sarah Jacobson couldn’t find any African-Americans whose ancestors were enslaved to speak at the conference?

6) What will this conference look like in 10 years? Again, honestly curious! Perhaps we could have predicted a few years ago that the ineluctable logic of the Diversity Regime would put pressure on an event which only preferenced women. (Alas, I did not predict this.) But then where will this logic lead us in the future?

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Fall in Love

What is the real purpose of Winter Study, especially for male undergraduates?

The real purpose of Winter Study is to fall in love.

You will never, ever, be surrounded by as many smart, pretty, eligible women as you are right now. Life after college is, comparatively, a wasteland. Of course, as you pass into the great beyond, you will meet other women, but they are unlikely to be as wonderful, physically and mentally, as the Eph women you are blessed to know now. More importantly, the best of them will choose mates sooner rather than latter. Exiting Williams without a serious girlfriend is not necessarily a one-way ticket to permanent bachelorhood (as several of my co-bloggers can attest), but it is not the smart way to play the odds. The odds favor love now.

It isn’t that your classes and papers, your theses and sports teams, are unimportant. But finding a soulmate to grow old with, someone to bear your children and ease your suffering, someone to give your life meaning and your work purpose — this is a much more important task than raising that GPA enough to make magna cum laude.

So, stop reading this blog and ask out that cute girl from across the quad. I did the same 32 years ago and have counted my blessings ever since.

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The Ghost of EphBlog Future

abl writes:

I’m going to add my voice to all of the calls to please keep JCD out of this. There is room for interesting and important discussion on these points. Invoking (summoning?) JCD into the discussion is not a productive first step towards reaching any greater understanding of these issues. Nor, especially, is demanding that some of our most thoughtful contributors apologize to JCD over points that they have made in the past that are only indirectly implicated by this discussion–and definitely do not require apologies. JCD leaving this blog was one of the best things to happen to it in recent times; please do not drag him back in.

Is there no spirit of Christian forgiveness among the EphBlog community? Must we be defined by our sins forevermore?

My purpose is not to defend everything that JCD has ever done or said. I disagree with much of it. Some of his statement/actions in the past have been, as the kids say today, “problematic.”

But I believe in redemption, in forgiveness, in the possibility of rebirth for every Eph, no matter the sins of their past. Do you?

And I like to think that that faith has been justified, at least in the case of JCD. After joining EphBlog as an author, he authored several posts, each with a direct connection to Williams. Each is a perfect example of what we need more of at EphBlog. I don’t agree with every word, but that is all to the good! And, if you think JCD focuses too much on Williams mentions in the conservative media, then step up and write some posts about Williams mentions from the other side of the media aisle.

JCD, being a good person, has voluntarily taken a break from EphBlog for 6 months. Is EphBlog a better or worse place without him?

David, you need to work on tempering what seems to be an innate desire for controversy.

A majority of the (smart! hard-working!) people in Hopkins Hall would define “controversy” as any negative news story about Williams. Is that your definition? Do you not think that I should write about, say, athletic admissions, Bernard Moore, sexual assault or any of the dozen topics that Williams, as an institution, would rather were never discussed? I hope not!

I suspect, however, that you like — or at least don’t object to — my posts on those topics. That sort of “controversy” is fine for you. Indeed, this is one of, perhaps even the main, reason that you read and contribute to EphBlog. Cool!

Instead, what you mean is that my “innate desire for controversy” is fine if I write about controversies you are interested in but less fine if I write about other sorts of controversies. Or am I being unfair?

You have a good nose for Williams-related issues and, combined with your focus on and commitment to the College, you can make a real contribution to the college community. Ephblog often comes close to being a really wonderful resource for both Williams alums and those interested in the college more generally (like PTC).

“Comes close?” Compared to what? Your Platonic ideal of the perfect college blog? Does any such creature exist in this fallen world?

EphBlog is the best college blog in the world. (If you disagree, suggest one that is better.)

But you continually shoot yourself in the foot by taking things just one step too far or by making points inflammatory that really shouldn’t be.

One Eph’s “inflammatory” is another Eph’s “punchy writing.”

This is a good example of this. You’ve done a nice job finding Professor Maroja’s blog and tying it into a broader discussion that is happening at Williams–one that has national relevance. And you’ve done a good job in recognizing that there are nuances to these issues that those on all sides of this gloss over–including Professor Maroja specifically.

Thanks! Compliments from discerning readers are always appreciated.

But you really stumble with your entirely unnecessary bit re JCD.

Perhaps. Mistakes will be made. Feedback is always welcome.

Ephblog could be a forum for intelligent like-minded individuals with an important shared connection to consider many important issues.

“Could be?” Again, compared to what? There is no more intelligent forum (devoted to a single institution of higher education) in the world. (Contrary pointers welcome.) Even something as excellent as Dartblog in its heyday never allowed comments.

Ephblog is at its worst when it devolves into trolling and troll-baiting.

Again, I have been yelled at (not an exaggeration!) by a trustee (in public!) about my posts on athletic admissions. He viewed any discussion of admissions advantages for athletes as “trolling,” although, back in 2007, I am sure he would have used different terminology.

I’d like to think that we, as a community of Williams alums, are better than that–but I’m not sure we always are. As the de facto (official?) leader of Ephblog, you can and should and do play a big role in setting the tone for these discussions. You do so many things so well in this regard, it’s infuriating when you just can’t resist adding some poke or snark at the end. So often the result is to derail what otherwise might be a thoughtful discussion of an important issue.

Point taken! I will aim to do better in the future. Happy New Year!

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The Culture Problem

Oren Cass ’05, the most important policy intellectual on the right (and the left?), writes in First Things:

So while liberals pursued ever-larger programs to stem the tide and continued to argue that ­redoubling their efforts would work where merely doubling them had not, conservatives arrived at different conclusions. Yes, material poverty is a problem. And certainly, the widespread racial discrimination in mid-twentieth-century America required redress. But what ultimately determines the success or failure of an individual, the strength of his family, the health of his community, comes down to people’s decisions. Dropping out of high school, dropping out of the labor force, having children outside of marriage, committing crimes, and abusing drugs and ­alcohol—those things matter much more than dollars and cents. And data show that these kinds of bad ­decisions have become more prevalent even as material well-being has improved. This leads to the conclusion that something else, something in people’s values and beliefs and thus their decision-making, must be the culprit.

Cass is of the right, and not the alt-right, because he never discusses genetics. “Committing crimes,” and almost everything else, is heavily influenced by your genes. Blood will tell. Does Cass not know about this literature? Does he really think that it all comes down to “values and beliefs?” Or does he know and disagree? Or does he agree and, yet, for reasons of prudence and cowardice, refuse to mention the role of genes in outcomes?

Perhaps mentioning the unmentionable is why we have EphBlog?!

Read the whole thing.

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Merry Christmas

grading

Merry Christmas to all! EphBlog hopes that the world is looking prettier to Ephs far and wide.

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The Ghost of EphBlog Present

Last week, I told the tale of the Ghost of EphBlog Past. Read that stave or continue no further. Today: A visit from the Ghost of EphBlog Present.

Touch my robe and away we go!

For anyone who remembers our humble beginning, the EphBlog of today is an amazing place. There were 187 posts in January 2010 by at least 18 different authors: Norman Birnbaum ’46, Dick Swart ’56, Jeff Thaler ’74, David Kane ’88, Derek Charles Catsam ’93, Ken Thomas ’93, Wendy Shalit ’97, Jeff Zeeman ’97, JG ’03, Rory ’03, Lowell Jacobson ’03, Ben Fleming ’04, Diana Davis ’07, Ronit Bhattacharyya ’07, Andrew Goldston ’09, Torrey Taussig ’10, tinydancer ’11 and PTC.

Also note these contributions from Williams officials: Wayne G. Hammond, librarian at the Chapin Library of Rare Books, an anonymous faculty member, Professor Gabriela Vainsenche, Tyng Administrator Jeff Thaler ’74 and Professor Peter Just. Note that all of these were just in January! If we looked at 2009 as a whole, we would find contributions from a dozen or more current Williams faculty/staff. We have even been retweeted by a trustee!

Several of our authors posted only once or twice during the month, but the diversity of contributions — including spectrum-spanning politics and a 65 year range of graduating classes — make EphBlog the most successful independent (alumni/student/parent) college website in the world. There were 2,388 comments during the month, from dozens of readers. None of the similar student/alumni blogs at Dartmouth, Middlebury, Amherst or Wesleyan come anywhere near this level of participation. Although readership is hard to measure, we had over 1,000 visitors a day in January, with at least 200 from the Williamstown area. Although the vast majority of students/faculty do not read EphBlog, many of those most concerned with the past, present and future of Williams as an institution do. I write for them, and for my father.

Alas, EphBlog is not without its critics. Consider this Williams professor:

But let’s look back over the last few weeks (or the last few years for that matter) and think about what DDF has been saying about Williams and the Williams faculty. We’re racists. We’re intolerant. We’re sleazy (indeed, any of you who know Bill Wagner will understand just how bizarre it is to use that adjective in connection to him). This list goes on and on and on, with depressing and debilitating regularity and continuity.

There is an ineluctable fact to all internet commentary: No matter how many wonderful things you write about a person, no matter how many things you both agree on, no matter how polite and open-minded you are in discussion, if you challenge someone’s deepest beliefs, they will often despise you.

And this is all the more true if you do so from the “inside.” I disagree with many professors and administrators about what is best for Williams. And that should be OK! Discussion and debate are at the heart of a Williams education. But because I do so with credentials of an elite education (Harvard Ph.D.) and Williams College insider (Winter Study adjunct instructor, knowledgeable alumni volunteer), I am a danger. And so is EphBlog.

And this is not just about one Williams professor, nor is it just about debates over financial aid policy. He is not an outlier. His opinion is common, even majority, among our faculty and administrator readership. They do not like EphBlog when it criticizes the College or its faculty. They do not like me. When they read a description of the College’s affirmative action policy or complaints about the lack of ideological diversity among the faculty, they see an unfair attack. I am accused of calling the Williams faculty “racists” or “intolerant,” when my only sin is to have a different view of policy at Williams from him and most of his faculty colleagues.

Yet the conflict between reform and stability, between outsider and insider, is as old as Williams itself. Henry Bass ’57 tells a story about Professor Robert Gaudino:

Knowing how radical Gaudino was, I knew early in the fall of ’55 there was only an amount of time, before there would be a public confrontation between Gaudino and President Baxter. Lively discussions of campus issues then took place in the new Baxter Hall. We did not have long to wait. I don’t remember what the argument was about. I do remember that it was quite heated and that Phinney soon showed signs of losing his temper. And acrimonious debates with the president of Williams did not happen in those days.

Nor today. What is most interesting about the complaint about me is how it conflates two criticisms of Williams: 1) Wagner is sleazy and 2) Wagner did a sleazy thing. We all agree that Bill Wagner is a good man and excellent professor. Indeed, he has been answering my questions (for publication on EphBlog) for many years. But even the very best Ephs among us occasionally do sleazy things. I am not without sin. Are you?

And, if EphBlog is not that place at which Williams students, alumni, parents, faculty and staff might come together to discuss College policy, then where is that place?

Gaudino is one of my two Williams heroes because he was not afraid to get in a public fight with the president of Williams. Nor am I.

What is especially annoying about these complaints is that they try to delegitimize the many voices of criticism at EphBlog by calling it “KaneBlog.” Ronit replies:

I think it’s nice that Will and Sam use the term Kaneblog to refer to this site, when Kane does not own the site, does not own the domain, does not own the server, does not run the site, does not have any kind of final editorial authority, and is not on the board. That is really fucking respectful to all the dozens of other commenters and authors who participate here and who have contributed to the site over the years. I’m glad the opinions of people like Henry Bass and Aidan Finley can be dismissed simply because they’re posted on EphBlog (I’m sorry, “KaneBlog”) and they happen to disagree with the latest sacred (purple?) cows.

Indeed. Yet note that the discussion that we have fostered at EphBlog for almost eight years includes more than just College policy. We also seek to engage in broader discussions, about both student life and alumni lives. Rory notes (correctly) that this makes me and other EphBlog authors unusual:

i still find it weird that an alum from the 80s reads wso posts. … I doubt any of the many professors I interact with at Williams and at my current institution read forums like wso. they certainly don’t copy and paste from them.

The difference between Rory’s friends on the Williams faculty and me — and the many other EphBlog authors, alumni and students both, who quote from WSO — is that we care about the opinions of Williams undergraduates. They, judging from Rory’s testimony, do not or, at least, they only care about those opinions when they are paid to, in the context of either classroom discussion or papers assigned for a Williams course.

And that is OK! My point here is not to criticize or praise the choices made by individual Williams faculty members. I just want to make clear that I seek to intellectually engage with Williams undergraduates. The first step in doing so is to consider their arguments and observations, to read their prose, to comment on their ideas, to present them with my own positions. The electronic log has room for all of us.

Jeff writes:

But I think students are perfectly capable of finding their own ways when it comes to their day-to-day lives in college. Indeed, I find it ironic that you find it so troubling (and I agree) when the administration tries to entangle itself too intimately in arenas best reserved for students to find their own way (and even occasionally screw up, as 19 year olds are prone to doing), yet you seem perfectly willing to insert yourself in much the same fashion.

Indeed. Key here is the meaning of “insert.” Consider the second of my Williams heroes, David Dudley Field, class of 1825, and, in the words of Williams professor Fred Rudolph ’39, a “instrument of interference” in the affairs of the College.

Field is the patron saint of alumni trouble-makers, an Eph who believed that “The only men who make any lasting impression on the world are fighters.” As a student, he was thrown out of Williams over a dispute with the faculty. As an alum, he led the way, both in fund-raising for Williams and in inserting himself into college affairs. (See this overview on the Field family (pdf) by Russ Carpenter ’54.) Field argued passionately that Williams should require military drills of all students during the Civil War, admit women and abolish fraternities. He won some of those battles, lost others and was vindicated by history on the most important questions. He inserted himself in the debate over the future of Williams 150 years ago just as I, and other EphBlog authors, do today.

Although Gaudino and Dudley are no longer with us, I feel certain that they are looking down on EphBlog and smiling. We are an agent of interference, engaged in public confrontation and acrimonious debates about what is best for Williams.

Would a Williams professor in the tradition of Gaudino and Dudley have it any other way?

Originally published in 2010.

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Weekend Links

Useful Twitter thread about the Chad Topaz brouhaha.

From the American Council of Trustees and Alumni: “ACTA President Michael Poliakoff wrote an op-ed in Forbes titled ‘Can Storied Williams College Be Saved From Itself?‘ which commented on the erosion of reasoned discourse at the elite liberal arts college. An individual reached out with thoughtful questions about the piece, and agreed to let ACTA anonymously publish their email exchange with Dr. Poliakoff.”

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Defining Jews

From the New York Times:

President Trump plans to sign an executive order on Wednesday targeting what he sees as anti-Semitism on college campuses by threatening to withhold federal money from educational institutions that fail to combat discrimination, three administration officials said on Tuesday.

The order will effectively interpret Judaism as a race or nationality, not just a religion, to prompt a federal law penalizing colleges and universities deemed to be shirking their responsibility to foster an open climate for minority students. In recent years, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions — or B.D.S. — movement against Israel has roiled some campuses, leaving some Jewish students feeling unwelcome or attacked.

The move was part of a broader campaign by Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, and her civil rights chief, Kenneth L. Marcus, to go after perceived anti-Israel bias in higher education.

Will this matter at Williams? I don’t think so, but informed commentary is always welcome.

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Warm Wishes

Maud sent me (and every other class agent? every alum? every Eph including students/staff/faculty?) this card:

In the e-mail, the card is animated and features Maud’s signature at the bottom. Sadly, I could not recreate those effects in this post. Comments:

1) Have Williams presidents traditionally sent out such e-mails? I assume that they have, but I can’t recall any specifics. We should gather some up!

2) The card does not mention “Christmas,” which I assume has been the case for 20 years or more. (Indeed, it is almost a quarter century since Williams had a non-Jewish president.) When was the last time “Christmas” appeared on such card?

3) This card does not even mention “Happy Holidays,” which is the traditional replacement on such institutional communications for the older “Merry Christmas.” Is that intentional? Happy Holidays was (is?) considered more inclusive since it encompasses both Christians/Christmas and Jews/Hanukah. But other faiths do not have (major?) holidays in late December. So, is “Happy Holidays” now considered rude? Honest question!

4) “Happy New Year” is no more controversial today than “Merry Christmas” was 50 years ago. Will that always be true? Other people have their own traditions for when the new year starts. Will our desire to avoid offense cause us to remove/replace this traditional greeting? I assume not. The Western calendar is so universal that Williams presidents will continue to write “Happy New Year” for decades to come.

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The Ghost of EphBlog Past

An anonymous comment in the thread on presidential searches provides occasion for me to give my view on EphBlog’s past, present and future. Come join me in navel study . . . Dickensesque it will not be.

Here are portions of the comment, with my thoughts interspersed.

Alright, permit me to offer another perspective that may clarify Todd’s frustration.

Essentially, DDF has admitted that he’s interested in a particular market anomaly — the relative overcompensation of a specialized type of employee in an extremely complex market. That’s fine, and if this were PresidentialCompensationblog.com, or HigherEducationFinanceblog.com, his perseveration might be suitable or even admirable. But that’s not the case — this is supposed to be a blog about all things Williams, and currently there seems to be a bit of digression.

I have heard this same complaint many times before. Some didn’t like it when EphBlog was too much NigaleianBlog.com or BarnardVistaBlog.com
or MGRHSFunding.Blog or EphBlogBlog.com or DDFsRandomThoughtsBlog.com or whatever. Soon I will be getting complaints about EphBlog being too much CGCLBlog.com.

Now, like any writer, I appreciate feedback. I am curious to know what other people think. I hope that people enjoy EphBlog, both all the postings/comments taken together and my own contributions. But, it should be clear by now that I often become very interested in a small aspect of “all things Eph” and pursue that aspect in mind-numbing detail. Few can compete with me in the category of dead-horse-beating. When I tilt at these windmills, and I plan on tilting for years to come, I try to segregate my posts, clearly stating the topic and leaving much of the commentary below the jump so that only readers truly interested need be bothered. If you don’t want to read any more of my posts about presidential compensation, well, I have a solution: Don’t read them.

Yet the commentator misses the point when he opines about what EphBlog is “supposed to be”. It is not for him alone to define what EphBlog is “supposed to be” — nor is it for me or recent grad or purple & gold or Whitney Wilson ’90 or thegoodson or any other author/commentator/reader. EphBlog is a collective effort. It is “supposed to be” whatever we make of it.

We do have an official EphBlog motto — “all things Eph” — which provides a three word summary about how many of us think about EphBlog. The motto should be interpreted as broadly as possible. We are interested in anything and everything related to any Eph. Of course, there is a sense in which this is impossibly broad. Since Ephs are everywhere and involved in everything, it would be hard to come up with a topic that was not Eph-related somehow. We try to always have a “hook” — some connection, however tenuous, to something that another Eph has written or done.

The best way to understand what “all things Eph” means in the context of EphBlog is to look at the body of posts over the last year or so. The range of topics that we have covered is representative, I think, of what “all things Eph” means to us as a collective. I predict that 2020 will see a similar collection of posts and comments. Adjust your bookmarks accordingly.

What is EphBlog “supposed to be”? As the founder of EphBlog, allow me to state authoritatively the answer: EphBlog is supposed to be whatever the community of Eph authors, commentators and readers wants it to be. If you want it to be something else, then join us and contribute. To the extent that you’d like to remain anonymous, we are happy to have anonymous authors, including me. EphBlog is supposed to be whatever you make of it.

Granted, I’m not being completely fair, because DDF has located his interest in the more general question of ‘What were the qualities of the presidential search a few years back, and what can we learn from it?’ Honestly, I don’t find this question especially compelling, and my guess is that many ephblog readers wouldn’t either.

I don’t care. Really.

Now that may seem harsh, and I do value people’s comments and we all have something to add to the conversation and I am a sensitive guy and blah, blah, blah. But . . .

I am not writing for you. I am writing for me. Even more, I am writing for my father, class of ’58. I spent about as much time on EphBlog in the summer of 2003 as I do now, even though we had very few readers then. Yet I knew that my dad was one. As long as he reads, I will write. Feel free to join us on the trip.

I would argue that the real problem is that more germaine issues are being ignored. I can name a couple really quickly — the issue of race relations on campus and the paucity of minority faculty; the degree of involvement of Williams students in activist causes and the local community; and, as one studly dude recently posted on the WSO forums, the federal cuts to Pell grants and what Williams’ reaction might be.

As a good economist, DDF might say, if you don’t like what I’m doing, go found EphraimBlog.com and do it your way.

Calling me an economist is like asking me if I was in the Navy: they are fighting words. ;-)

More importantly, this is not what I say. I agree with you that all those topics are interesting. I think that someone should write about them, either at EphBlog or elsewhere. If anyone did write about them, I would be eager to read what she has to say and to comment on it.

But if you think that “more germaine issues are being ignored,” I am afraid that you are missing the point. EphBlog, as a collective effort, doesn’t ignore anything. We don’t have a morning editorial meeting at which agendas are discussed, assignments given and plans made. If you think that that Eph student activism is interesting, then write about it. Whatever you write, I will post. Just don’t tell me what to write about.

That’s fine — but I would argue that as someone who has founded ephblog as a specifically *public* forum, you have a bit of a responsibility to at least attempt to reflect the interests of the larger Eph community, and not pursue your own vanity projects. This isn’t Kaneblog, it’s Ephblog. Kaneblog would be fine, but don’t use Ephblog as a facade for it.

I have zero, zip, zilch “responsibility to at least attempt to reflect the interests of the larger Eph community.” Even thinking about the issue in this way is mostly unhelpful.

  1. Does the “larger Eph community” include the thousands and thousands of Ephs who do not read EphBlog and have no interest in doing so? Morty Schapiro, to cite just one example, does not read blogs (and more power to him). Why should EphBlog attempt to reflect Morty’s interests?
  2. To the extent that the “larger Eph community” means the current (and potential future) readers of EphBlog, I would argue that we are doing a pretty good job of interest-representation. How else would you explain our increased readership? Someone’s “interests” are being represented quite well, thank you very much.
  3. Perhaps you really mean to claim that I should “attempt to reflect” your interests. I am afraid that we are just going to have to agree to disagree on that one.

The days before Christmas are a time for summing up and looking forward. The above is my view on what EphBlog has been. Everyone else can decide for themselves what EphBlog will be in 2020. My own hope is that it will be less blog and more discussion, less of my writing and more of everyone else’s. Time will tell all.

Original version published in 2004. Edited slightly since.

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Congratulations to the Class of 2024

Early decision results came out yesterday.

And a special shout-out to the smartest goddaughter in all the world . . .

Congratulations from EphBlog!

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Adams Versus Topaz

Although the College Fix is not the most reliable news source, I think this is a fair summary of the Chad Topaz versus Colin Adams fight:

Thompson’s essay received negative pushback from her fellow academics, including Chad Topaz, a professor and mathematician at Williams College. Topaz publicly condemned Thompson’s argument, calling it “dangerous.” He also said he would advise his students “not to apply [to UC-Davis] for grad school,” and that he would advise fellow academics “not to apply there for jobs.”

Correct. As we have discussed, Topaz’s initial response was histrionic and inconsistent. How can Topaz recommend that “minoritized” high school seniors attend Williams or that “minoritized” graduate students apply for faculty positions at Williams if the chair of his own department, Richard De Veaux, is opposed to the proper use of diversity statements in academic hiring? The College Fix continues:

In response to the letter castigating Thompson, a counter-petition has arisen in support of Thompson. That letter expresses concern over what the signatories call “attempts to intimidate a voice within our mathematical community.”

“The reaction to the article has been swift and vehement. An article posted at the site QSIDE urges faculty to direct their students not to attend and not to apply for jobs at the University of California-Davis, where Prof. Thompson is chair of the math department. It recommends contacting the university to question whether Prof. Thompson is fit to be chair. And it recommends refusing to do work for the Notices of the American Mathematical Society for allowing this piece to be published,” the letter reads, continuing:

Regardless of where anyone stands on the issue of whether diversity statements are a fair or effective means to further diversity aims, we should agree that this attempt to silence opinions is damaging to the profession. This is a direct attempt to destroy Prof. Thompson’s career and to punish her department. It is an attempt to intimidate the AMS into publishing only articles that hew to a very specific point of view. If we allow ourselves to be intimidated into avoiding discussion of how best to achieve diversity, we undermine our attempts to achieve it.

That letter had 725 signatures attached to it as of yesterday evening, well over a hundred more than the letter critical of Thompson.

Reached via email, Colin Adams, a professor at Williams College and the author of the letter, declined to answer questions about the ongoing controversy, though he wrote that the letter has been signed by “8 past presidents of the American Mathematical Society, four Fields medalists (math equivalent of the Nobel prize) and numerous prominent members of the math community.”

Whoah! I did not realize that Adams was so central to this fight. Well done! But that fact just makes Topaz’s refusal to fight the power at Williams all the more cowardly. If Thompson’s actions are enough to cause him to recommend that students not go to UCD, how can he in good conscience recommend that students come to Williams? Honest question!

The (alt-right?) Williams professors who signed the letter include: Colin Adams, Luana Maroja, Matt Carter, Julie Blackwood, Steven Miller, Joan Edwards, David C Smith, Thomas Garrity, Phebe Cramer, Susan Dunn, Richard De Veaux, Dan Lynch, David Gürçay-Morris and Leo Goldmakher.

What does Professor Topaz think of this?

Who are the “haters” in this context? The most charitable interpretation would be that it is a reference to (anonymous) people who said mean things to Topaz on twitter. I ignore those people as well! A more problematic (but still OK) interpretation would be that haters refers to (reasonable?) critics like EphBlog. But my sense is that “haters” is a direct reference to Adams and the other signatories of his letter, including six members of his own department at Williams.

So much for collegiality . . .

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Topaz Updates

EphBlog’s favorite woke mathematician, Professor Chad Topaz, has a new analysis.

In November, 2019, the Notices of the American Mathematical Society (AMS Notices) published an essay critical of the use of diversity statements in academic hiring. The publication of this essay prompted many responses, including two public letters circulated within the mathematical sciences community. Both public letters were signed by hundreds of people and will be published online by the AMS on December 13, 2019. In this research brief, we report on a crowdsourced demographic study of the signatories to the two public letters. Letter A highlights diversity and social justice issues, and was signed by relatively more women, members of underrepresented ethnic groups, and professionally vulnerable individuals. Letter B highlights the need for discussion and debate, and, in stark contrast, was signed by substantially more men, white people, and professionally secure individuals.

Comments:

1) I like Topaz. No, really, I do! Some of my closest friends/family share his woke political outlook. He is also an outstanding teacher, and there is no faculty attribute that EphBlog values more highly than excellence in teaching Williams students. Also, he is highly transparent in his research, providing, for example, the raw data underlying this analysis.

2) Despite his recent arrival, Topaz might play a major role at Williams over the next few decades. Note the blurb on his homepage: “data science, applied mathematics, and social justice.” Topaz, a topologist, has, in recent years, dived into data science, a field likely to play a major role at Williams (and everywhere else) over the next few decades. Indeed, there are rumors that one of the major outcomes from Maud’s strategic planning process is a new focus on Data Science. Topaz would be a natural leader for such an effort.

3) Topaz’s entrepreneurial energy is impressive. He does a lot of stuff! A faculty member told me that, when Williams was hiring a senior mathematician a few years ago, Topaz was clearly the number one candidate on the market. I think that Topaz deserves 90% of the credit for the creation of QSIDE. What other Williams faculty members have done something like this over the last decade? The best analogue I can come up with is Economics Professor Stephen Sheppard and the Center for Creative Community Development. Other examples?

4) Should we be worried that Topaz is a little too entrepreneurial? Note that “The Center for Creative Community Development (C3D) is a Williams College research center.” This is the normal way that such things are organized. Sheppard fund-raises, runs the effort and so on. But Williams College gets a cut and is, ultimately, in charge. QSIDE, on the other hand, seems to exist (completely?) independently of Williams. It is a 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Organization. Does it use Williams resources? How do the finances work? If I were a trustee, I would ask some questions.

5) The problem at Williams is not Chad Topaz, a dedicated teacher and skilled researcher. The problem is that there is no one (?) on the faculty who represents the other side of politics in America, much less globally. No one on the Williams faculty voted for Trump while, probably, about 10% to 20% of the students will.

6) And the problem with Chad Topaz is that he probably doesn’t see a problem with this. He doesn’t “debate social justice” and I bet that he has no interest in seeing such debates at Williams, or in even hiring a junior professor who thinks that such debates might be a good idea. Am I being unfair? Comments welcome!

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Eagle Overview of WIFI Controversy

Excellent Eagle article from last June about the WIFI controversy.

Student group ignites tension over free speech at Williams College
Posted Saturday, June 1, 2019 7:03 pm
By Jeongyoon Han, Eagle correspondent

WILLIAMSTOWN — At graduation Sunday, Williams College celebrates achievement, but also closes a semester in which a divisive debate raised questions of free speech and drew national notice.

A request by students to create a group supportive of Israel was rejected by the student government, the College Council, in late April, amid accusations that the group’s beliefs did not fit the moral values of the student body.

In the face of complaints from national right-leaning news outlets, Jewish organizations and free speech groups, the college’s president and administration intervened, ultimately reversing the rejection in mid-May.

When the campus comes back to life this fall, the Williams Initiative for Israel, or WIFI, will be a registered student organization, having full access to funding and services available to official student groups.

But along the way, its birth sparked debates over pro-Israeli thought in the United States, scrutiny of how student groups win approval and the nature of campus political debate and free expression.

Student Molly Berenbaum, the group’s founder and interim president, said that granting WIFI official status gives those who hold pro-Israel beliefs the right to express their views — just like any other student organization.

“Fundamentally, we’re really no different from any other political or cultural or advocacy group here on campus,” said Berenbaum. The group seeks to bring a more “balanced conversation” to campus regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she said.

In a move called unprecedented, the council removed students’ names from minutes of proceedings. And the final vote on WIFI’s status was held by secret ballot, a move that limited transparency amid calls for steps to protect student safety.

Steve Miller, a professor of mathematics, said that denying WIFI official status posed a threat to diverse thought and intellectual growth at Williams.

“This is not an institution of indoctrination,” Miller said. “This is a larger problem of shutting down discourse that you disagree with. We are limiting speech, and when you limit speech, you limit the ability to grow and to learn.”

See the rest of the article below the break.

How is WIFI doing this year? Does it have members/meetings? Has it put on any events? Has it received funding?

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I Don’t Debate

Professor Chad Topaz’s latest twitter thread deserves a thorough fisking. Key section:

Key sentence:

I don’t debate social justice.

What are we to make of this?

1) I believe Topaz. He has no interest in a debate. (I reached out to him and received no response.)

2) There is a long tradition at Williams of refusing to debate, although it has been somewhat dormant in the last 50 years. The ministers who started Williams had no interest in debating the divinity of Christ. Mark Hopkins refused to allow Ralph Waldo Emerson on campus. Adam Falk banned John Derbyshire. Can any historians flesh out the attitude of Williams faculty toward debate during the 19th century? Topaz is a modern version of that worldview.

3) Nothing wrong with a refusal to debate, of course, if, that is, you are running a Madrassa. Is that what Williams is? I hope not!

4) I have no objection to Williams professors who prefer to have nothing to do with Topic X. Life is short! They are busy with their students and their research. But it seems unusual for a professor, like Topaz, to be so engaged in social justice issues — as he obviously is — and yet, at the same time, to refuse to discuss/debate the topic. Most SJW professors won’t shut up about social justice.

5) I recommend that Topaz’s opponents, like Professor Colin Adams, publicly challenge him to a debate about diversity statements and the desirability of publishing the views of their critics.

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Easy-To-Handle Slights

The best content on EphBlog is often in our comments:

To paraphrase the original tweet:

People might not be happy on this holiday; therefore, we shouldn’t wish that people be happy on this holiday, lest we make them feel alienated.

This is the kind of thinking that gets dissected in “The Coddling of the American Mind”. It’s good to be thoughtful towards others, sure, but constructing an environment where the goal is to make sure everyone is comfortable at all times leads to laughable recommendations results like this.

But, thinking big-picture, it’s just not a service to students to shield them from the very normal and easy-to-handle slights that they will surely encounter in their day-to-day life outside the college. If a student is traumatized by the suggestion that holidays should be happy, they might want to figure out a coping mechanism. I’m curious how someone who is bothered by holiday well-wishing will handle their first performance review at work.

The college already lets many of these fragile students take reduced course loads, bring animals with them wherever they want, use “extra time” on assessments, and consult with the growing bureaucracy of diversity administrators who exist solely to reinforce their worldview.

Moreover, the college increasingly makes these well-meaning recommendations mandatory (for instance, the compulsory microagression trainings or mandates that student leaders ask for pronouns).

Nobody wants to challenge something that, on its own, seems trivial and intended to make others feel more comfortable. But this leads to the orthodoxy developing at Williams that the college’s priority is to make all students feel comfortable, specifically those who complain most loudly.

Exactly right. Hey, Anon! You should write for EphBlog!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Last year, a faithful reader and senior faculty member wrote:

On the way to work today, I saw a group of students throwing snowballs at each other in front of Paresky. Minus the architectural backdrop, it could have been a scene from any point in the college’s history in the last 225 years.

Indeed. I am thankful for Williams, for my parents for sending me, for the time I spent there, for the professors who taught me, the peers who challenged me and the woman who fell in love with me.

What are you thankful for?

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I Wish You a Restful Break

Indeed. I never wish people a “Happy Birthday,” and for exactly the same reasons. How can I ever know what sort of stressful situations they are going through? How can I ever know what effect my words might have?

More importantly, what if someone has turkeys in their extended family? This holiday is a nightmare for them! Have you no empathy?

Professor Sarah Jacobson gets it:

Exactly right. In fact, I recommend that Professor Jacobson stop referring to herself as a “Professor” at “Williams College.” Professor is, of course, a word with problematic roots. Indeed, any word with roots going back to the Normans, among the worst colonialists in history, merits banishment. And don’t even get me started on the Romans! And Ephraim Williams’ attitude toward Native Americans is well-documented.

Anyone who doesn’t want to say “Thanksgiving” should never say “Williams.”

Stay Woke, my fellow Ephs!

UPDATE: The last time the Williams College twitter account used the word “Thanksgiving” was 2015. How long before the official college calendar removes the word? (It currently refuses to use the words Columbus or Christmas.) Think I am crazy? Consider:

Enjoy the holiday-that-must-not-be named!

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Particularly Nasty and Vitriolic

Will Professor Chad Topaz’s jihad against the opponents of diversity statements go on long enough to require an EphBlog scandal name? If so, suggestions? Updates:

1) See this Inside Higher Ed article for useful background. Sadly, it does not mention Topaz or any other Eph.

2) Chicago Professor (and EphBlog critic) Jerry Coyne comes down hard on Topaz. Some of his points are good, some bad. All are made at excessive length.

3) Former Williams professor John Drew notes:

Academics offended by the extremism of Chad M. Topaz, a woke Williams College math professor, have organized a petition in response to his campaign to silence a white female math professor at UC Davis. He has gone so far as to try to get her fired.

What was most interesting to me about this statement is that it is basically coming from liberal academics who are for the most part in favor of affirmative action and okay with promoting diversity. The issue, for them, is that Chad Topaz has take on the role of enforcer of the most extreme policies expectations of critical race theory and identity politics. I was also surprised to see who has already signed the petitions complaining about Topaz.

Signatories include the following list of luminaries including at least six from his own college including – Luana Maroja, Matt Carter, Joan Edwards, David C. Smith, Phebe Cramer and Susan Dunn – and no less than five from his own math department – Colin Adams, Julie Blackwood, Richard De Veaux, Thomas Garrity and Steven J. Miller.

Hmmm. Have they really? (That is, do the petition organizers actually check that any signers are who they say they are?) If so, this should be the lead story in the Record next week.

4) Topaz provides an update here. Note:

For those of you who are in mathematics, advise grad-school-bound undergraduate students – especially students who are minoritized along some axis – not to apply to UC Davis. Advise your graduate student and postdoc colleagues not to apply there for jobs.

Shouldn’t Topaz start his activism closer to home? Assuming that the signatories on the letter are real — and I have every reason to think that they are! — there are professors at Williams, even professors in the Math/Stat Department — who agree with Abigail Thompson, or at least disagree with Topaz’s attempts to silence her.

How can Topaz recommend that “minoritized” high school seniors attend Williams or that “minoritized” graduate students apply for faculty positions at Williams if the chair of his own department, Richard De Veaux, is opposed to the proper use of diversity statements in academic hiring? The Record should find out.

UPDATE: Thanks to the first commentator for pointing out Topaz’s other posts. They are preserved below the break for posterity.
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Strategic Questions Worth Exploring

The Record provides no useful coverage on the strategic planning process. The College’s presentation is professional but (because of that?) completely uninteresting. Comments:

1) This is Presidential Leadership 101. Come to a new college. Listen. Create a dozen committees. Seek lots of input. Come up with some pleasant ideas. Start the next capital campaign. Once again, we see that Maud is highly competent.

2) Predictions? Expect to hear about how all the things Williams currently does are wonderful and we should do more of it. The College is a supertanker, which even a president would have trouble turning. There will be a call for more new buildings (starting with a new field house and hockey rink), a constant refrain of the last 100 years. I have heard rumors about a major new initiative in data science, a hot, Hot, HOT part of academia right now. Anything else?

3) The big lost opportunity is a failure to have all these smart people look hard at major dimensions on which Williams differs from its peers. Have each working group pick such a topic (examples below), investigate it and write a thorough report. Ideally, the reports would include the best arguments for and against each of three options, one of which is the status quo. Example questions:

Which graduate degree programs should Williams offer? Amherst offers none. Wesleyan offers a dozen. It is highly unlikely that the optimal number for Williams to offer is exactly two.

How old should first years be? Back in the day, 99% of Williams first years were 18. Now, there is much more variation, driven both by changing student behaviors (the rise of “gap years”) and changing admissions policies with regards to groups like male hockey players, veterans and community college students. Should 1% or 5% or 20% of Williams first years be older than 18? An important question! I assume that our peers vary on this metric, but I can’t find any good data sources.

Should students be required to spend a summer in Williamstown? Dartmouth requires students to a) spend the summer after their sophomore year on campus and b) one semester away from Hanover during their junior year. That is, obviously, radically different from Williams, and almost every other elite college. But it is really interesting! And maybe a really good idea, both in the way that it brings a class together during the summer and in how it gives Dartmouth students a big advantage in doing substantive internships during their junior year. This is one topic where I don’t know the right answer. So I want a group of smart Ephs to study the topic, educate us all, and make a recommendation.

Should Williams offer an engineering major? I have talked to many strong high school students who never apply to Williams because they are interested in engineering and at least want to maintain the option of studying it in college. Our Ivy League competitors all offer engineering options, even Brown! Swarthmore, and some other liberal arts colleges, do as well. Why don’t we? How much would it cost? How hard would it be?

Should Williams offer an finance major? See here for the case in favor. Students at UPenn can major in finance. Why can’t Ephs? Again, my goal here is not to make the case for any particular decision. My point is that a high quality strategic planning process would focus its efforts on these major questions.

Where should first years live? Almost all of us think that First Year housing at Williams — in entries, with JAs, in Mission and the Freshmen Quad — is excellent. But what if we are all wrong? What if a system like Smith’s — first years live in the same houses as upperclassmen — is better?

How many international students? Williams (still?) has a quota for international students. But (in a policy change?), the class of 2023 is 11% international, very similar to Yale and Harvard. Is that the right percentage? Again, I don’t know enough about the variation among our peers on this metric. Which is why we need a committee to investigate, to find out what other colleges do and why they do it. Washington and Lee, with Will Dudley ’89 at the helm, is at 3% international. There is a case for 3% and a case for 25%. Make those cases so that the Williams community can make an informed decision.

Should we have affinity housing? Plenty of other schools do, including Brown. Yet I have never read a non-partisan investigation about well such houses work (or don’t). How many of our peer schools have them? How do they work, precisely? (For example, at Amherst, you can only live in such a house for two years.) How popular are they? Why don’t other schools (like Harvard and Yale) have them?

What preferences for athletes in admissions? Prior to the MacDonald Report, Williams gave very significant preference to athletes, which is why we had an almost unbeatable football team. Now we just give significant preference. (See this interest Record op-ed.) Caltech gives athletes zero preferences in admissions. What would happen if we adopted Caltech’s approach?

As readers know, I have strong opinions on many of these questions. A serious strategic planning process would devote most of its time and energy to all of them, and to similar issues. How are we most different from other elite schools and are those differences best for the future of Williams? Is that what the 8 working groups are currently doing? Not that I have heard . ..

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DIE Uber Alles

Last time a Williams faculty member was tagged by Steve Sailer? Tonight!

Chad Topaz is “disgusted” by an academic writing something with which he disagrees, so disgusted that he won’t even link (pdf) to it?

I wonder if that argument would fly in a Williams history class? “I am so disgusted by this argument that I refuse to footnote it!”

Is Topaz as histrionic in person as he is here? Honestly curious!

UPDATE: Topaz provides more details on his views here.

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Downside of Diversity

Former Dean of Yale Law School (and EphBlog favorite) Anthony Kronman ’68 is fundamentally right about the decline of discourse at elite colleges but fundamentally wrong about the underlying cause. Kronman writes:

“Diversity” is the most powerful word in higher education today. No other has so much authority. Older words, like “excellence” and “originality,” remain in circulation, but even they have been redefined in terms of diversity.

But diversity, as it is understood today, means something different. It means diversity of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. Diversity in this sense is not an academic value. Its origin and aspiration are political. The demand for ever-greater diversity in higher education is a political campaign masquerading as an educational ideal.

Exactly right, as is most everything Kronman has to say on the topic. Read the whole article, and his book, The Assault on American Excellence. But Kronman is wrong in his description of the fundamental cause. He writes:

The demand for greater academic diversity began its strange career as a pro-democratic idea. Blacks and other minorities have long been underrepresented in higher education. A half-century ago, a number of schools sought to address the problem by giving minority applicants a special boost through what came to be called “affirmative action.” This was a straightforward and responsible strategy.

Kronman is no conservative. He, and the other elites who have been running US higher education for 50+ years, see no problem with having different standards for different racial groups. Who cares if the SAT scores for African-Americans at Williams are 250 points lower than those for Asian-Americans? What could possibly go wrong? Instead, Kronman blames the courts:

But in 1978, in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the Supreme Court told American colleges and universities that they couldn’t pursue this strategy directly, by using explicit racial categories. It allowed them to achieve the same goal indirectly, however, by arguing that diversity is essential to teaching and learning and requires some attention to race and ethnicity. Schools were able to continue to honor their commitment to social justice but only by converting it into an educational ideal. The commitment was honorable, but the conversion has been ruinous.

Consider this 1969 prediction from Macklin Fleming, Justice of the California Court of Appeal, writing to Louis Pollak, the then-dean of Yale Law School (pdf):

No one can be expected to accept an inferior status willingly. The black students, unable to compete on even terms in the study of law, inevitably will seek other means to achieve recognition and self-expression. This is likely to take two forms. First, agitation to change the environment from one in which they are unable to compete to one in which they can. Demands will be made for elimination of competition, reduction in standards of performance, adoption of courses of study which do not require intensive legal analysis, and recognition for academic credit of sociological activities which have only an indirect relationship to legal training. Second, it seems probable that this group will seek personal satisfaction and public recognition by aggressive conduct, which, although ostensibly directed at external injustices and problems, will in fact be primarily motivated by the psychological needs of the members of the group to overcome feelings of inferiority caused by lack of success in their studies. Since the common denominator of the group of students with lower qualifications is one of race this aggressive expression will undoubtedly take the form of racial demands — the employment of faculty on the basis of race, a marking system based on race, the establishment of a black curriculum and a black law journal, an increase in black financial aid, and a rule against expulsion of black students who fail to satisfy minimum academic standards.

It was obvious, in 1969, that different standards would lead to disaster. And here we are today. Even if the reasoning behind Bakke were different, even if the courts had never mentioned “diversity” as a rational, all the pathologies forecast by Fleming would have played out just as they have. Once you decide that objective standards are not necessary for admissions, it will be impossible to keep them anywhere else. Sacrifice “excellence” there and, over time, you will lose excellence everywhere. For Kronman to blame Bakke for this sad state of affairs is mere deflection. It is he, and elite education leaders like him, who are at fault.

How bad would Williams/Yale have to become before Kronman reconsiders the wisdom of affirmative action in admissions?

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Weekend Links

Wall Street Journal college rankings are probably the most serious competitor to US News.

New York Times article on rising tensions between two groups of African-Americans: those descended from American slaves and those not (mainly immigrants and their children).

Roughly 10 percent of the 40 million black people living in the United States were born abroad, according to the Pew Research Center, up from 3 percent in 1980. African immigrants are more likely to have college degrees than blacks and whites who were born in the United States.

A 2007 study published in the American Journal of Education found that 41 percent of black freshmen at Ivy League colleges were immigrants or the children of immigrants, even though those groups represent 13 percent of the black population in the United States.

What percentage of African-Americans at Williams have no American slaves among their ancestors? Any tensions along this dimension at Williams yet?

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Long History of Discrimination

abl writes, in explaining the differential status of men/women in math and, therefore, the need to active efforts to ensure equal male/female representation on panels at math conferences:

[T]here’s a long history of discrimination in math against everyone who is not cis male (at essentially all levels of education).

Tell us this history! But be specific! Who, at Williams, has been discriminating against women in math? Maud Mandel has only been here at year, but maybe she has been discriminating. Maybe she has been unfairly attacking female applicants for faculty positions, insisting on hiring less qualified men. What about Professor Allison Pacelli? Has she been abusing female math majors for the last 15 years, mocking them in class and belittling them in private? Tell us those stories!

Perhaps this “long history of discrimination” goes back further and reaches higher in the Administration. Nancy Roseman was Dean of the College in the early oughts. She was probably forcing female undergraduates to switch majors out of math. Cappy Hill ’76 was Provost back in the 90s. Was she diverting funding away from female math faculty and toward male math faculty? Probably!

And no doubt other institutions were even worse. Harvard under Drew Faust was infamous for its Mock-a-Female-Mathematician events. Mount Greylock High School, with a majority female teaching staff for, oh, 100+ years or so, didn’t give math books to female students. And on and on.

Let me rewrite abl’s tendentious claim:

[T]here’s a long history of vodoo in math against everyone who is not cis male (at essentially all levels of education).

Could be true! What else could explain differential performance between men and women in math? If there is a difference — and there sure is! — voodoo (or a long history of (invisible) discrimination) must be the explanation. What else could it be!

See Slate Star Codex for further thoughts, as well as this EphBlog classic from a decade ago. Perhaps that should be an annual post . . .

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One Concern

From Math Professor Chad Topaz:

Here at QSIDE, we wake up early, drink coffee, and write these:

Hi organizers [of a one-day conference],

Thanks so much for organizing this event. I know it takes a lot of work to pull it off.

I do want to bring up one concern. If I am wrong in my assessment, please forgive me and ignore the rest of this email, but it seems all the speakers are liberal. It’s disappointing to see the many excellent not-liberals excluded from participating as speakers, and moreover, it sends a really discouraging message to any attendees who aren’t liberals.

I hope you might find a way to bring political diversity to your set of speakers. There are lots of great, effective practices for speaker selection that would result in a more politically-diverse program.

Thanks for hearing me out on this, and thanks again for the work you do to put it all together.

Cheers,
Chad

1) How wonderfully (passive) aggressive! Not that there is anything wrong with that!

2) Does Topaz send these out to colleagues organizing such conferences at Williams? Kudos to him if he does! The more thought put into panel selection, the better. EphBlog has been complaining about the lack of political diversity on panels at Williams for decades!

3) If you were a junior member of Topaz’s department, what would you think? EphBlog’s advice would be to follow Topaz’s suggestions! They are sensible (or, at least, not nonsensical) and, more importantly, he will be voting on your tenure in a few years.

4) How would you feel if you were organizing a conference at, say, Harvard and some rando from Williams sent you this e-mail? Good question! Perhaps our academic friends like dcat and sigh might opine.

5) I would chuckle, then ignore it. Does Topaz really think that I am unaware of political diversity and its importance? What wonderful arrogance from some nobody teaching at a jumped-up prep school! Putting together conferences is difficult, balancing participant priorities is hard, and even getting people to agree to come is annoying. The last thing I want to deal with is somebody who isn’t even attending the conference kvetching about his personal hobbyhorse. Of course, at the end of the conference, I will seek opinions from the attendees to see how we might improve things next year and, if others share Topaz’s (idiosyncratic?) views, I will try to adjust, subject to all the other constraints I need to deal with.

More:

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Boycott English

Inside Higher Ed has a thorough article on the Boycott English movement at Williams.

Williams College built its reputation on the liberal arts. Now students at the college are calling for a boycott of the English department, saying the program has long had a racist underbelly. Their comments echo those made by some past and present professors of color.

“We, the undersigned students of Williams College, pledge to an indefinite boycott of all English classes that do not take seriously the matter of race — that is, those classes which do not include more than a token discussion of race and more than a token number of writers of color,” reads a boycott pledge that is a part of a detailed pro-boycott website. The names and identities of those taking the pledge are not yet public.

Entire article below the break, for the benefit of future historians. Comments:

1) I believe that EphBlog, although unmentioned in the article, is fundamentally responsible for this turning into a national story. A comment from a longtime reader about the boycott appears on November 1. This led to blog posts from John Drew and Jerry Coyne on November 3. This led to right wing coverage at places like Breitbart and the College Fix yesterday. (I could be wrong about the causative chain. Perhaps the same person who tipped us also tipped Coyne and others.) How long before this story breaks into the New York Times?

2) Do we need a controversy nickname? Depends on how long this will go on and how much we plan on covering it. Suggestions?

3) The metaphors to the French Revolution are almost too easy.

By June 1794 France had become fully weary of the mounting executions (1,300 in June alone), and Paris was alive with rumours of plots against Robespierre, member of the ruling Committee of Public Safety and leading advocate of the Terror. On 8 Thermidor (July 26) he gave a speech full of appeals and threats. The next day, the deputies in the National Convention shouted him down and decreed his arrest. He was arrested at the Hôtel de Ville, along with his brother Augustin, François Hanriot, Georges Couthon, and Louis de Saint-Just. The same guillotine that on 9 Thermidor executed 45 anti-Robespierrists executed, in the following three days, 104 Robespierrists, inaugurating a brief “White Terror” against Jacobins throughout France.

Katie Kent ’88 is almost a parody of the campus left, an activist who came of age in the 80s and who was the leading social justice warrior on campus during that time. She was the revolutionary of her era. And now the Revolution has come for her.

Should I spend a week or two going through the news in detail? Or are you, dear reader, already bored with this nonsense?

UPDATE: Corrections made. See comment thread for details.

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Safety Dance Update

Here are the latest filings in the Safety Dance sexual assault case: 178-main, 182-main, P reply to D opposition, D opposition to P motion to file, 178-6, 178-4, 178-5, 178-2, 178-3 and 178-1.

Any comments?

I think that, over the last year, nothing has gone well for Williams. (Their lead attorney Daryl Lapp, on the other hand, has been running up the billable hours and raking in the dollars. So, some good news!) Doe’s case is getting stronger, with more support from the court. Perhaps more importantly, the overall legal landscape is changing, with major set backs for colleges in the Boston College case.

Maud: Settle this case! It is a sure loser for the College.

Williams Record: Cover this case! Your readers would find it interesting and you might even get some attention from media outside of Williamstown.

Reminder:

Why do I call this case “Safety Dance?”

And the lyrics from the song “Safety Dance”:

We can dance if we want to
We can leave your friends behind
‘Cause your friends don’t dance and if they don’t dance
Well they’re no friends of mine.

I say, we can go where we want to
A place where they will never find
And we can act like we come from out of this world
Leave the real one far behind
And we can dance

Alas, John Doe has discovered that, leaving the real world far behind, is not so easy when it comes to the sexual assault bureaucracy at Williams . . .

Key facts:

This is nuts! Does anyone disagree? Read the full document for details, but it is not disputed that Smith only complained about the alleged assault after her attempts to get Doe thrown out for a never-happened honor code violation failed.

I am honestly curious to know if there are readers who agree with the College’s decision to throw Doe out, denying him his degree even though he has completed all the requirements for graduation.

Recall my question from last year:

How many times has Maud Mandel sexually assaulted her husband since arriving at Williams?

I am 100% serious in asking this question. Consider:

The Williams College Code of Conduct requires affirmative consent for all sexual activity.

Consent means that at the time of the sexual contact, words and conduct indicate freely given approval or agreement, without coercion, by all participants in the sexual contact. Consent may not be inferred from silence or passivity.

Williams also defines “sexual activity” very broadly, as “any sexual touching, however slight, with any body part or object, by any person upon any other person . . .”

So, if Maud Mandel, without asking (and receiving!) explicit permission, has ever kissed her husband goodbye in the morning, or given him an affectionate pat on the behind as he walked out the door, or . . . anything really — then she has committed sexual assault and should, like John Doe, be kicked out of Williams.

This is, of course, nonsense. No normal person thinks that people, like Maud Mandel, in a relationship need to get permission for every single sexual activity ahead of time. But that is still the official policy at Williams, a policy which is used as a stick the ruin the lives of men — many of them poor and/or minority — much less powerful than Maud Mandel.

If John Doe deserves to be kicked out of Williams, than Maud Mandel is guilty of sexual assault.

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