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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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How to Write a Chance Request at College Confidential

A regular part of the conversation at the Williams board on College Confidential is a “chance” request. A high school student wants the community to provide feedback on her chances of being admitted to Williams. Unfortunately, many of these students are uninformed about the reality of elite college admissions so they don’t provide us with the necessary information to “chance” them correctly. (They also generally provide a mass of irrelevant data.) To make the world a better place, here is EphBlog’s Guide to How to Write a Chance Request for Williams. (The same advice applies to most elite colleges. Please read How Admissions Works at Williams.)

First, estimate your Academic Rating and provide the key evidence behind that estimate. (Background information here and here.) Tell us your Math/Reading SAT scores (and/or ACT), and your AP scores. Just tell us what you will be submitting to Williams. We don’t care how many times you took these exams or about the details of your Super Scoring efforts.

We also don’t need to know about the details of your academic program. Just provide an honest estimate of your Academic Rating and some background on your high school. (Telling us the name of your high school can be useful, but is not necessary.) We don’t care about your exact GPA. (If you did not take the hardest classes that your high school offers, admit that to us.) The best clue about the quality of your high school record can be found in the quality of schools that similarly ranked students have attended in past years, so tell us that. Even if your high school does not officially rank students, you must have a rough sense of where you stand (#2, top 5, top 10%, whatever). Tell us where the students at about your rank in the previous year’s class went to college.

The Academic Rating is the most important part of the process, so focus your words on that topic.

If all you do is just a big copy/paste of all sorts of blather (examples here and here) — the exact same 1,000 words that you might paste into other discussion boards, don’t be surprised if the only feedback you get is generic.

Second, cut out all the other cruft. We don’t care (because Williams doesn’t care) about all your clubs, activities, volunteer work, et cetera. Despite what your high school and/or parents may have told you, such trivia plays a de minimus role in elite college admissions. For example, your sports resume is irrelevant unless you are being recruited by a Williams coach and, if you are, they will tell you what your chances are.

Third, tell us your nationality. Williams has a quota against international applicants.

Fourth, tell us your race, or at least the relevant boxes that you will check on the Common Application. (See here and here for related discussion.) Checking the African-American box gives you a significant advantage in admissions, as does checking Hispanic, but less so. Checking the Asian box hurts your chances at Ivy League schools. There is a debate over whether Williams also discriminates against Asian-American applicants. It is also unclear whether or not checking two boxes or declining to check any box matters. So, for example, if you have one white and one African-American parent, you are much better off checking only the African-American box.

Fifth, tell us about your family income and parents background. Williams, like all elite schools, discriminates in favor of the very poor (family income below $50,000) and very wealthy (able to donate a million dollars). There is some debate over the exact dollar figures at both ends. Might Williams favor applicants whose families make us much as $75,000? Sure! Might Williams be swayed by a donation in the six figures? Maybe! Tell us whatever other details might be relevant. For example, Williams cares about socio-economic status more broadly than just income, so having parents that did not graduate from a 4 year college can be helpful. Among rich families, Williams prefers those who have already donated to Williams and/or have a history of supporting higher education.

The College loves to brag about two categories of students: Pell Grant recipients and “first generation” students, defined as those for whom neither parent has a four year BA and who require financial aid. If you can show the College evidence that you (will) belong in either category, your chances improve.

Summary: Almost all of elite college admissions is driven by Academic Rating, albeit subject to three broad exceptions: athletics, race and income. In order to provide you with an accurate chance, we need the details concerning these areas. Don’t bother us with all the other stuff.

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Guide to Athletic Admissions

The purpose of this post is to provide a guide to athletic admissions at Williams. Read Playing the Game: Inside Athletic Recruiting in the Ivy League by Chris Lincoln for all the messy details. (Despite the title, Lincoln covers NESCAC athletic admissions thoroughly.) See this three part series from the Bowdoin Orient. Williams is no different than other elite schools when it comes to athletic recruiting. Check out EphBlog’s prior coverage. See also last month’s review of Williams admissions as a whole.

1) General athletic ability/accomplishment does not matter. No one cares if you won the high school Judo state championship because Williams does not compete in Judo. No one cares if you were captain of your high school soccer team if you aren’t good enough to play for Williams.

2) Only the coach’s opinion matters. Even if you play a sport that Williams cares about at an elite level, it won’t matter unless the coach wants you. If the field hockey coach already has 2 great goalies, you could be an amazing goalie, perhaps even better than the current Ephs, and it would not matter for your chances at Williams because you would not be on the coach’s list. (She only has so many spots and wants to use them for positions that need more help.)

3) There are approximately 100 students in each class who would not have been admitted were it not for an Eph coach’s intervention. There are 66 “tips,” students whose academic qualifications are significantly below the average for the class as a whole. There are also 30 or so “protects” — perhaps currently terminology is “ices”? — who also would not have gotten in without coach intervention, but who are only slightly below average for the class as a whole in terms of academic ability. I believe that protects are academic rating 3s, while tips are academic rating 4s and below.

4) The number of tips/protects varies by sport as do the minimum standards. Football gets the most, by far, followed by hockey. Certain sports — crew, golf, squash — receive much less leeway. Football and hockey can let in (some) AR 5s. Other sports can’t go below AR 4 or even AR 3. Coaches have some flexibility in terms of using these spots, taking 4 people this year but 6 next year.

5) The biggest change in athletic admissions in the last 20 years followed the publication of the MacDonald Report, with support from then-president Morty Schapiro. Those changes both decreased the raw number of tips and, perhaps more importantly, raised the academic requirements, especially at the low end. In particular, there are very few athletic admissions below academic rating 4 — top 15% of HS class / A – B record / very demanding academic program / 1310 – 1400 composite SAT I score.

6) Despite coach complaints and predictions of disaster, Williams athletics have been as successful in the last decade as they were in the decade prior to these changes.

7) My recommendation to President Mandel: Create another committee to revisit this topic. Fewer preferences given to athletes would raise the quality of the student body as a whole. The MacDonald Report made Williams a better college. Do the same again.

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Weekend Links

Lt Col Bunge Cooke ’98 brings football film analytics to the Marine Corps.

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Republican/Conservative/Libertarian Professors at Williams

A New York Times op-ed two years ago:

Faculty members in New England are far more liberal than their counterparts anywhere else in the nation, even controlling for discipline and school type. In 1989, the number of liberals compared with conservatives on college campuses was about 2 to 1 nationwide; that figure was almost 5 to 1 for New England schools. By 2014, the national figure was 6 to 1; for those teaching in New England, the figure was 28 to 1.

I cannot say for certain why New England is so far to the left. But what I can say, based on the evidence, is that if you are looking for an ideologically balanced education, don’t put New England at the top of your list.

Who are the Republican/Conservative/Libertarian professors at Williams? The Record had an excellent article on that topic last week:

Several professors at the College, however, openly profess conservative views. Their presences in Williamstown have the potential to elucidate political dynamics at the College that may be invisible to the student body’s liberal majority.

Four professors agreed to go on the record for this article: Professor of Mathematics Steven Miller; Professor of Art Michael Lewis; Professor of Political Science Darel Paul; and Visiting Professor of American Foreign Policy Chris Gibson, who will depart the College and begin teaching at Siena College, his alma mater, at the end of the academic year.

While they all fit under the umbrella term of “conservative,” these professors hold a range of beliefs.

Read the rest for an intelligent and nuanced discussion.

According to campus gossip (and EphBlog reporting), the basic zoology of Republican/Conservative/Libertarian professors at Williams is as follows:

Republicans: Steven Miller and Michael Lewis. Lewis is perhaps the most famous “conservative” professor at Williams, known for his writing at the Wall Street Journal, Commentary and other outlets. He was a strong critic of Falk’s decision to ban Derbyshire. Are there any other faculty members that are registered Republicans? Tell us in the comments!

Libertarians: Kris Kirby and Fred Strauch. The Record ought to seek them out for a second article.

Curmudgeons: This is the category of professors who are not registered Republicans and almost certainly did not vote for Trump, but who care about ideological diversity and/or are conservative (or at least anti-leftist) in the context of the Williams faculty. James McAllister, Darel Paul and Luana Maroja come to mind. Others?

Former faculty of a similar persuasion include: Robert Jackall, George Marcus, Chris Gibson and Jane Swift. (I realize that Gibson has not left yet, but visitors shouldn’t even be part of this conversation. They are at Williams for too short a time to matter.

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Happy Indigenous People’s Day

From the Berkshire Eagle two years ago:

Williams College celebrates its last Columbus Day

In ending the Columbus Day off at Williams College, it came down to accounting.

Sure enough, the current calendar makes no mention of Columbus. Would you, dear reader, have predicted that a decade or two ago? Me either! What changes will come by 2029? There is no longer a reference to either Veteran’s Day or Christmas in the calendar. I am not sure when those disappeared. “Thanksgiving” is still mentioned, but for how much longer?

The faculty voted to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a holiday for faculty, staff and students about six months ago.

How long before the #MeToo movement comes from MLK?

The human resources department determined the college would trade off another holiday — Columbus Day — rather than adding another holiday to the calendar.

“This was just a simple trade-off,” said Jim Reische, chief communications officer at Williams College. “We didn’t do anything with Columbus Day. It was just a three-day weekend.”

Could this be (just!) about holiday bookkeeping? Perhaps! The College is a business and needs to track vacation days.

Administrative staff still had the day off on Monday, but that will change come next year. Classes still met.

Administrative staff will still be allowed to take the Columbus Day off next year if they choose, but they’ll have to use a floating holiday day. There will be classes on that day.

“The major driver was — we needed to consider MLK Day a holiday,” Reische said. “There was a strong push to make that a day off, to recognize it.”

“Push” from whom? I doubt that the typical dining services worker cares which holiday she gets. If anything, I bet that the preferences run the other way. The vast majority of Williams employees (below the faculty) are white working class, many of them Italian-Americans. An enterprising Record reporter would interview them . . .

And isn’t a holiday in the Berkshires in the fall much more desirable than one in January?

More important to the college in terms of programming is Claiming Williams Day, which began in 2009 after a series of racist and sexist incidents on campus in 2008, Reische said.

Can we please get our history straight? There was one key incident that drove Claiming Williams.

Claiming Williams Day includes a full roster of programming exploring what it means to be a diverse and inclusive campus, he said.

“It’s much more about academic and community-building than anything we ever did with Columbus Day,” he said.

Well, sure. But aren’t these separate issues? Issue one: Which holidays does Williams officially recognize and give staff members a day off for? Issue two: What events does Williams schedule on which days? The former has little to do with the latter.

The town of Williamstown took a different direction on Columbus Day earlier this year.

In May, town meeting voters agreed to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.

Williamstown Elementary School labeled Monday’s holiday Indigenous Peoples Day on its website as of Monday morning.

If I were Trump, I would make a huge deal out of Columbus Day: big celebration at the White House, perhaps a speech about how Democrats consider Italian-Americans to be deplorables, an (outrageous) proposal that any town/city/state which wants federal funds must celebrate Columbus Day. There would be few better ways of motivating the voters he, and the Republicans, will need in November.

Political Science 101 at Williams taught me that, he who picks the issue to fight over, wins. In any fight between “Columbus Day” and “Indigenous Peoples Day,” Trump wins easily.

Trump reads EphBlog! Last year, two hours after this post went up, he tweeted:

How long before Democratic activists start to attack Columbus?

Or maybe Trump is saving this as a fight to have in the fall of 2020?

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Correct in Assuming

Were the student members of the Sawicki Committee rolled? From former Williams professor John Drew:

In a recent Press Record podcast, one of the student members of the Ad Hoc Committee on Inquiry and Inclusion, Eli Miller ’21, pushed back on campus watchdogs who believe the Sawicki report supports free speech to the extent that it would allow controversial speakers like John Derbyshire to appear on campus. Miller, a math and statistic major, was interviewed by a fellow student, Rebecca Tower ’21.

Rebecca Tauber

Do you have any last thoughts on the committee, their report, going forward?

Eli Miller

I think my one concern is that this committee — which I don’t think I’ve seen very much here, but I’ve seen sort of from like campus watch dogs — is that this is seen as a victory for people who believe that free speech is like an absolute right and that people on college campuses who try to dis-invite people are like liberal snowflakes.

That whole narrative is very popular, and my concern that this report gives those people a win.

I don’t think those people are correct in assuming this report supports them. But I think that definitely people have read it that way. And I guess I wish we had done more to resist that reading because I think it is a lot more nuanced and complicated than that. But I think at end of the day people are going to want to read what they want to read.

See Drew’s post for more commentary.

1) It is not clear if Miller is referring to EphBlog when he uses the phrase “campus watchdogs.” Clarification would be welcome!

2) Miller (and the other students on the committee?) were rolled. Sawicki (and other faculty?) knew what answer they wanted before the first meeting and they got it. When will Miller realize this? Probably when Derbyshire comes back to Williams. And, believe me, he is coming back . . .

3) The Record wrote a solid article when the Report was issued, including comments from Miller. But this topic is important enough that we need more reporting. Go ask the Administration if Derbyshire would be allowed to speak on campus if he were again invited by a student group in accordance with current policies. Not a hard question! And then, once the Administration tells you “Yes,” go interview Miller and other students on the Committee for their reactions.

4) Thanks to Drew for taking the time to transcribe the Miller interview.

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Endowment Performance

Chief Investment Officer Collette Chilton is probably not EphBlog’s biggest fan.

From 2007:

And why is the investment office in Boston in the first place?

Note the charmingly naive coverage of this topic from the Record.

Chilton will commute between her offices in Williamstown and Boston. “Investment does not occur here at Williamstown,” Chilton said, “and so we need to have an office at a financial capital, which in this case is Boston.” She will be on campus Mondays and Tuesdays on a regular basis. “So far it’s been easy,” she said, “but then again, it’s not snowing yet.”

This is highly misleading. When you control an endowment of $1.5 billion, you are the client, you are the one with the power, you are the one that other people travel to meet. Investment managers, whether from the worlds of private equity, hedge funds, venture capital or any other field, will gladly come to Williamstown (or anywhere else) for a chance to manage a portion of that money. The reason that Chilton does not move to Williamstown is, almost certainly, because she and her family prefer to live in Weston. Nothing wrong with Weston, of course, but if Chilton does not care enough about Williams to move to Williamstown, what possible loyalty will she feel toward the College? Why wouldn’t she just take another job when a better offer comes along?

President Schapiro also played a part in this deception.

Eager to get started, Collette will disengage as quickly as possible from her current responsibilities and take up this new position sometime in October. As is typical with such positions, she’ll be based in a financial capital, in her case Boston, and have an office in Hopkins Hall, where she’ll spend significant time.

“I consider this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be involved in the entrepreneurial start up of a new operation,” she said in accepting the position. “And Williams is such a fantastic school; I look forward to becoming part of the college community.”

First, it goes without saying that it is impossible to be a “part of the college community” if you live in Boston. But the key weasel phrase is “typical with such positions.” If the Record wanted to make trouble, it would investigate the truth of this statement. Find a set of positions like Chilton’s (CIO of a large endowment) and investigate how many of these individuals are located in a “financial capital” away from the institution for which they work.

Let me help. The article later mentions Paula Volent, vice president for investments at Bowdoin (and a protege of Swensen). She manages $670 million from that famous “financial capital,” Brunswick, Maine. Peter Shea does the same for Amherst from sunny central Massachusetts. Thomas Kannam is somehow able to manage Wesleyan’s $600 million endowment from Middletown, Connecticut. My, but the list of financial capitals in New England is larger than I imagined! And, of course, David Swensen himself does fine living in New Haven. Turns out that, if you control the money, people come to you.

If we can’t trust Morty/Chilton to be transparent with us about why she wants to work in Boston, why should we trust them to be honest about anything else?

From 2009:

According to the College’s Form 990, Chief Investment Officer Collete Chilton’s total compensation was $726,556 in FY 2008 and $686,053 in FY 2007.

The Record should do an article about Chilton’s compensation. Don’t the editors believe in muckraking anymore? I bet that some of the more left-wing Williams professors would provide good quotes, either on or off the record. Don’t think that there is anything suspect going on here? Perhaps you failed to read the College’s letter to the Senate Finance Committee.

Some members of the Investment Office are eligible for bonuses based on the return on our investments, though the office is so new that we have not completed the first year of returns on which bonuses would be computed. So, in the past ten years no such bonuses have been paid.

In other words, the College worries that Chilton and other (how many?) investment professionals won’t work hard enough even though Williams is paying them hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. So, in addition to all that guaranteed money, we need to pay them extra bonuses or else they’ll —- what exactly? Spend all day at the movies?

Other fun posts include here, here and this five part series.

But credit where credit is due. The performance of the Williams endowment over the last decade has been outstanding.

Thanks to an Eph with Bloomberg access for sharing the data.

Apologies that this is tough to read. Key point is that, over the last decade, the Williams endowment has compounded at 8%, which is the second highest in its peer group of small college endowments and, roughly, 2% per year better than the average performance. How much richer is Williams because of this outperformance? Good question! My rough guess is that, if the value of the endowment has averaged about $2 billion over this period, 2% outperformance, compounded over 10 years generated about $400 million in additional wealth.

Perhaps former trustee chair Mike Eisenson ’77 — the Eph most clearly responsible for the creation of the investment office and (probably?) the person with the most say in the hiring of Chilton — is smarter than me, at least when it comes to money? Perhaps Collette Chilton knows what she is doing? Perhaps I should stick to blogging? Perish the thought!

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Weekend Links

Democracy Requires Discomfort” by (honorary degree) Eph Michael Bloomberg, including a couple of Williams references.

The strange saga of a Division III golfer who got kicked out of the NCAA” by Dylan Dethier ’14.

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Dynamics of Romance

Victoria Michalska ’22 writes in the Record:

But for those looking for something more, it’s an interesting dynamic. You could find yourself a random almost-stranger, and go to the dorm of whoever lives closer, but that isn’t necessarily for everybody. The repetition of seeing specific people at these parties means that some bond will start to develop between you two, ambiguous as to whether it’s friendship or something else, and the decision to pursue more begins to linger in the air more powerfully with every encounter. That development is as close as one could get to romance on Hoxsey, I think: a moment of eye contact across the room and the question of whether or not they’ll walk over and talk to you.

EphBlog is here to solve Michalska’s problem:

1) Pick 5 Williams men you would like to go out with on a date. You are, obviously, not picking a husband at this stage, but you are selecting likely candidates. Because men are shallow creatures, select men that are about as handsome as you are pretty. If you are average, then select an average man. Even better, select a man at the 25th percentile of attractiveness. If you end up married, he will spend the rest of his life marveling at the beauty of the woman in his bed each morning and vowing to do his best not to screw up his good fortune.

2) Pick a friend to be the matchmaker. Many of your friends would jump at the chance. You need someone social, someone not afraid to approach a (possible) stranger on your behalf.

3) Have your friend approach a candidate and let him know that, if he asked you out on a dinner date, you would say, “Yes.” Assuming you have picked wisely, he will be excited! There are few things a boy likes more than knowing a girl is interested in him. And the reason he hasn’t asked you out before was, most likely, that he was afraid you would say, “No.” There is nothing a boy fears more than rejection. Since he knows ahead of time what your answer will be, you can be (mostly) certain that he will ask you out. If you want to avoid the embarrassment of rejection yourself, just allow your friend the discretion to approach the men in the order she sees fit. Then she won’t even need to tell you if candidates 1 and 2 turned down this opportunity.

Read the whole thing for context.

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Harvard Wins Anti-Asian Affirmative Action Case

From the Harvard Crimson:

Harvard College’s race-conscious admissions policies do not illegally discriminate against Asian American applicants, federal judge Allison D. Burroughs ruled Tuesday.

The ruling brings an end to this stage of the lawsuit filed against the University by anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions in 2014. SFFA alleged that the College’s admissions policies discriminate against Asian American applicants by holding them to higher standards. Burroughs, however, found that Harvard’s use of race in its admissions process is legal.

“Ensuring diversity at Harvard relies, in part, on race conscious admissions. Harvard’s admission program passes constitutional muster,” Burroughs wrote in her decision.

See the full decision (pdf) for details. I could spend a week or two going through the decision. Should I? Not sure any commentary would be that different from my five part series last year.

Thanks to David Kane ’58 for the pointer.

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How Admissions Works at Williams

Williams admissions work the same as admissions at most other elite colleges. If you understand the process at Swarthmore or Princeton, then you understand 99% of what happens at Williams. There are a variety of books about admissions at elite colleges, e.g., The Gatekeepers and A is for Admission. They capture 90% of the details. (These books are somewhat dated and may gild the lily a bit when it comes to race.) Williams Magazine published (pdf) an excellent 2005 article, “Recipe for Success,” about admissions. Virtually everything in it is true, but it also leaves out many of the more controversial aspects.

The purpose of this post is to explain how the Williams admissions process works in reality, not how it should work.

First, the most important part of the admissions process is the “academic rating,” often abbreviated as “AR.” From the Recipe article:

The full-time admission staffers, plus a handful of helpers like Phil Smith ’55 (Nesbitt’s predecessor as director), pore over the folders. Two readers examine each folder independently, without seeing each other’s comments, and assess them in three major ways. Each applicant gets an academic rating from 1 to 9 that focuses heavily on his or her high school grades, standardized test scores, the rigor of his or her academic program within the context of the school setting and the strength of teacher recommendations.

Nurnberg ’09 et al (pdf) provide a similar description:

After evaluating the applicant’s SAT scores, high school grades, essays, class rank, high school academic program, support from the high school administration, AP test score — or IB test scores — and teacher recommendations, admissions readers assign the applicant an academic rating from the scale 1 — 9, with 1 being the best.

Amherst, and all other elite colleges, use essentially the same system. The College does not like to reveal the details of these ratings, but we know from Peter Nurnberg’s ’09 thesis that:

While the academic reader ratings are somewhat subjective, they are strongly influenced by the following guidelines.

  • Academic 1: at top or close to top of HS class / A record / exceptional academic program / 1520 – 1600 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 2: top 5% of HS class / mostly A record / extremely demanding academic program / 1450 – 1520 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 3: top 10% of HS class / many A grades / very demanding academic program / 1390 – 1450 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 4: top 15% of HS class / A – B record / very demanding academic program / 1310 – 1400 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 5: top 20% of HS class / B record / demanding academic program / 1260 – 1320 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 6: top 20% of HS class / B record / average academic program / 1210 – 1280 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 7: top 25% of HS class / mostly B record / less than demanding program / 1140 – 1220 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 8: top 33% of HS class / mostly B record or below / concern about academic program / 1000 – 1180 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 9: everyone else.

These ratings are high-school-quality adjusted. At an elite school like Boston Latin or Exeter, you can be in the top 5% or even lower and still be an AR 1. At a weaker high school, you need to be the valedictorian. At the weakest high schools (bottom 25%?), even the valedictorian is almost never considered smart enough to go to Williams, at least in the absence of top standardized test scores.

Note that the working paper (pdf) from which these details are taken was co-authored by then-Williams president Morty Schapiro, so one hopes that it is accurate! Nurnberg’s senior thesis included a copy of the “Class of 2009 Folder Reading Guide, Academic Ratings,” which provided these details:

      verbal   math   composite SAT II   ACT    AP
AR 1: 770-800 750-800 1520-1600 750-800 35-36 mostly 5s
AR 2: 730-770 720-750 1450-1520 720-770 33-34 4s and 5s
AR 3: 700-730 690-720 1390-1450 690-730 32-33 4s

Williams, and all other elite schools, use this system because academic rating does a wonderful job of predicting academic performance at Williams and elsewhere.

Perhaps the main reason that this post is necessary is that Williams, when politically convenient, likes to deny the fundamental realities about how it decides who to admit and who to reject. Consider then-President Adam Falk and Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Liz Creighton ’01 writing in the Record:

[T]he very notion that the “quality” of students can be defined on a single linear scale is preposterous

Academic rating is, precisely, a “single linear scale” and it is, by far, the major driver of admissions decisions. This is true both for the process as a whole and within sub-groups. For example, African-American applicants with academic rating 1 to 3 are virtually certain to be admitted while those with academic rating of 9 are almost always rejected. The College may have different standards across sub-categories but, within each subcategory (except athletes and development prospects), the academic rating explains 90% of the variation.

Second, students with an academic rating worse than 2 (i.e., 3 or higher) are summarily rejected unless they have a specific “hook” or attribute.

The Recipe article is explicit:

In general, all applicants with a combined academic rating of 3 or higher are rejected at this point, unless the first and second readers have identified one or more “attributes” that warrant additional consideration.

Details:

The readers also assign any of more than 30 “attributes” that admission uses to identify exceptional traits. Some of these are easily quantified, such as being the child or grand-child of an alumnus, a member of a minority group, an “impact” athlete or a local resident. Other more subjective “tags” draw attention (usually but not always favorably) to something special about a candidate, like a powerful passion or aptitude for scientific research or an interest in getting a non-science Ph.D.

From Nurnberg ’09 el al, attributes (in addition to race/ethnicity/gender) include:

alumni grandparent, alumni other, alumni parent, alumni sibling, studio art, development or future fundraising potential, dance, institutional connection, intellectual vitality, local, music, politically active, religious, research science, economically disadvantaged, social service, theater, top athlete, tier 2 athlete, and tier 3 athlete

The naive reader will assume that all these attributes have a similar effect. Being a great musician or a great athlete will help some AR 4s get into Williams, and that is OK. (And the College wants you to think that.) In fact, some attributes matter much more than others. Recall (from 2004!) Admissions Director Dick Nesbitt ’74:

We are able to admit roughly 120 top rated musicians each year from the top of the academic reader rating scale–what we refer to as academic 1′ and 2’s (broadly defined as 1500+ SAT’s and very top of the class).

For most attributes, the College does not need to dip below AR 1s and 2s. Yes, being a top musician may help you in the competition with other outstanding students, but, if you are AR 3 or below, it won’t. You will be rejected. And the same applies to other attributes. Top students are also, often, deeply involved in social service or theater. In high school, they often excel in research science or political activism. If Williams were to admit only AR 1s/2s, it would have plenty of students in all these categories.

Third, for applicants with AR 3 or below, the attributes that matter most are race, income and athletics.

Does this mean that no other attributes ever matter? No! It is certainly the case that the daughter of a prominent alum could get into Williams as an AR 4 or the son of a Williams professor as an AR 3. But the major categories, the ones that account for the vast majority of AR 3 and below admissions are race, income and athletics.

Don’t want to read all the posts from those links? Here is a brief summary:

1) There are 100 or so admissions decisions which are driven by a Williams coach. You are either on her list or you are not. These “tips” and “protects” are, by definition, only used for students with AR 3 and below. Best single post overview of the topic is here. See this for older commentary.

2) In the class of 2022, Williams has (pdf) 98 African-American/Hispanic students. A few of these are AR 1 or 2 applicants who would have been accepted at Williams regardless of which racial box they checked. But a majority, probably a vast majority, are AR 3 or below. Recall this discussion of SAT scores:

ccf_20170201_reeves_2

Asian-Americans in the 700+ range are at least 6 times more common than African-Americans/Hispanics. So, how can Williams have more African-Americans/Hispanics than Asian-Americans enrolled? (Hint: It isn’t because there aren’t 100+ Asian-Americans among the AR 1/2 applicants who are currently rejected by Williams.) The reason is that Williams admits scores of African-American/Hispanic applicants with AR 3 and below. Williams does this because it wants a class which “mirrors” or “reflects” the US population, at least when it comes to African-Americans and Hispanics. Note that the average African-American student at Amherst has an SAT score consistent with AR 5. It is highly unlikely that Williams does a better job than Amherst at attracting highly rated African-American students. The biggest problem that Williams faces is that Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford accept virtually every African-American (and almost all Hispanics) with AR 1/2 credentials, and Williams almost never wins those applicants, not least because it offers much less generous financial aid.

3) Unlike athletics (which the college is, sometimes, transparent about) and race (on which there is good data), family income and parental education are trickier. The College reports (and is proud of the fact) that 15%-20% of students are eligible for Pell Grants and that 15%-20% of students are first generation college students, meaning that they come from families in which neither parent has a 4 year BA. (Of course, there is a big overlap between these two groups, and, to a lesser extent, between these two groups and African-American/Hispanic students.) The problem is that all standardized test results (and, therefore, academic rating) are much lower, on average, for such students. So, in order to get such high enrollments, Williams must admit scores of such students with AR 3 or below.

About 1/2 of a Williams class is AR 1 or 2. (The median math+verbal SAT score at Williams is 15101, which is between AR 1 and 2.) There are 100 recruited athletes (all of whom, by definition, are AR 3 or below), 100 African-American/Hispanic students, 100 first generation and 100 Pell Grant recipients. That adds up to 400+ in a class of 550! Of course, many students fall into more than one category. Many (outside the athletes) are AR 1 or 2. But, given that we only have 275 spots left beneath AR 1/2, a large majority of the bottom half of the class are members of at least one of these 4 categories. The bottom 100 students in each class (approximately AR 5 and below) is almost completely dominated by these students. And, in the categories outside of athletes, academic rating drives the decisions. Williams is much more likely to accept an African-American and/or a first generation student and/or a future Pell Grant recipient if her academic rating is 1 to 3. Every single AR 9 applicant is rejected, regardless of her other outstanding attributes.

And that is how admissions works at Williams, and at almost all other elite colleges.

If knowledgeable observers (like abl) think that any of the facts above are wrong, please comment.

[1] Note that the renorming of SAT scores a few years ago has caused a big increase from the old median of about 1450. This makes the usage of written guidelines from before the increase a bit tricky. Does anyone know if Williams has changed the definitions for Academic Rating?

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Weekend Links

Wesleyan President Michael Roth writes in the Wall Street Journal about “why universities need affirmative action for the study of conservative, libertarian and religious ideas.”

DOE Office of Civil Rights investigates College’s alleged Title IX violation in discipline case” — good Record coverage from new (?) editor-in-chief Nicholas Goldrosen.

Lovely feel-good column from the Eagle: “As a community welcomes Williams students, they repay the favor with a meal.”

Read more

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Elite Admissions Based on Academics Alone

We have covered the Harvard admissions trial a bit at EphBlog. Do readers want more? In the meantime, one of the most interesting exhibits comes from this expert report (pdf):

There would be (shockingly?) few African-Americans or Hispanic students at Harvard if admissions were based solely on academics. If fact, this table is an overestimate since things are worse in the tails and Harvard could admit an entire class from just the top 5% of academic ability. Interestingly, white enrollment is largely unaffected.

Affirmative action at elite schools consists, almost entirely, of replacing Asian-American students with African-American and Hispanic students.

Although we lack the data, the same is almost certainly true at Williams. In fact, it is even worse because Harvard (and Yale and Princeton) accept/enroll not only the (few) African-American/Hispanic students with HYP credentials but also the next few hundreds, i.e., all the African-American/Hispanic applicants with only Williams-level credentials.

Maybe this is good policy. Maybe not. But EphBlog is here to explain exactly what is going on.

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Do Not Go to Graduate School

An interesting forum from back in 2010:

If you’ve considered going to graduate school in history, come to a History Graduate School Panel discussion on Tuesday at 7:00 pm in Griffin 7. Professors Dubow, Fishzon, and Kittleson will speak about their own graduate school experiences, and will answer any questions you might have.

Good stuff. Kudos to the professors involved for taking the time to participate. Comments:

1) Relevant discussion here and here. I second Professor Sam Crane’s remarks:

In fact, I tell them the academic job market is horrible, has been bad for a long, long time, and is getting worse. I tell them that getting a job like the one I have is unlikely. I tell them that they should go on for a Ph.D. only if they truly love the learning, because that is something they will be certain to have for a lifetime, regardless of what job they find themselves with. And for some of them, that is what it is about. Love of learning, regardless of whether they get an ideal academic job.

This was true in 2010 and is even more true now. It is true, not just in history and political science but in almost every academic field. If anything, areas like physics and biology are even worse, mainly because of the volume of Ph.Ds which they produce.

My only quibble with Sam’s comments might be to clarify that a love of learning is not enough of a reason to justify graduate school in history. With the internet as your oyster, you can pursue learning as much as your free time allows without going to graduate school.

2) Read Derek Catsam ’93:

[G]raduate students and those looking at entering this competitive world need to be cognizant of the realities. If you are planning to enter a field like, say, US history, it is probably incumbent upon you to know the odds. Further, it seems to me that it is pretty irresponsible of those of us with the ability to advise students if we emphasize the great aspects of intellectual life within the academy and do not point out the reality — your odds of getting the PhD are smaller than you think, your odds of getting a job are slighter still, and your odds of getting tenure at a place yet smaller, and then all of this happening at a place you would otherwise choose to live? Infinitesimal.

Also Swarthmore Professor Tim Burke:

Should I go to graduate school?

Short answer: no.

Long answer: maybe, but only if you have some glimmering of what you are about to do to yourself. Undergraduates coming out of liberal arts institutions are particularly vulnerable to ignorance in this regard. …

Just don’t try graduate school in an academic subject with the same spirit of carefree experimentation. Medical school, sure. Law school, no problem. But a Ph.D in an academic field? Forget it. If you take one step down that path, I promise you, it’ll hurt like blazes to get off, even if you’re sure that you want to quit after only one year.

Two years in, and quitting will be like gnawing your own leg off.

Past that, and you’re talking therapy and life-long bitterness.

Burke is right. I hope that the panelists back then, whether or not they agreed with Burke, made sure that students know what some historians believe. I worry that such an event might too easily have degenerated into a “You are all smart Williams students who should dream big and live large!” Nothing wrong with that advice when a student asks if she should try a difficult upper-level seminar, but Ephs need a more reality-based answer when leaving the Purple Bubble. Large numbers of students in the class of 2020 who are going to graduate school are making a mistake. Professor Sara Dubow is, no doubt, a wonderful, hard-working professor. But there is also a sense in which she won the lottery . . .

3) Key data would be a listing of all the Ephs who went to graduate school in, for example, history from 1990 through 2000. Where are they now? What happened to them along the way? If there were 50, I bet that fewer than 40 made it to Ph.D., fewer than 20 got any tenure-track jobs at all, and fewer than 5 got tenure. How many got tenure at a place that pays as well as Williams? I don’t know. In fact, I have trouble coming up with many Eph historians of that era, other than our own Derek Catsam ’93, Sara Dubow ’91 and Eiko Maruko Siniawer ’97. Pointers welcome!

4) There are some fields — like economics, statistics and computer science — in which supply/demand are more in balance. There are still nice academic jobs at places like Williams and plenty of opportunities in industry.

5) Never attend a Ph.D. program which is not fully funded.

6) The 2010 comment thread includes excellent discussion. I miss the old EphBlog!

7) Still want to get a Ph.D. even though you are fully aware of the likely outcomes? Cool! EphBlog fully supports informed decision-making. Our main point here is to encourage you to be fully informed. Graduate school in history can be fun and rewarding! Just be sure to have a back-up plan . . .

UPDATE: First version of this post went up 9 years ago. What is the academic job market like? Consider what happened to the professors who participated in the panel.

Roger Kittleson was already tenured at the time of the panel. Life at Williams is (I hope!) good. What sort of advice does he give to history students today?

Sara Dubow is now a full professor of history at Williams. She is our lottery winner.

Anna Fishzon is listed as a “Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia University in the City of New York.” But she still lists her Williams assistant professor position at the top of her profile, so it is not clear how much substance there is to the Columbia position. Even though she did great work in graduate school — which is the only way she got hired by Williams in the first place — there is no (stable) job for her in academia. Is there one for you, Dear Reader? Probably not.

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Weekend Links

Bethany McLean ’92 on Elon Musk in Vanity Fair. Self-recommending.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth writes in the New York Times about safe spaces.

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Welcome and New Year Updates

Thanks to an anonymous student:

Dear Williams Students,

It gives us great pleasure to welcome the Class of 2023 and all of you who are returning. We hope you all had summers that were both productive and restorative and we look forward to working with you in the year ahead. To that end, we want to share a number of updates and news items with you as we start the year.

Why does the College refuse to publicly archive these messages? Future historians will curse you!

Health and Wellbeing Updates:

We’re happy to announce some enhancements to our Health and Wellbeing programs and services. One important addition is our adoption of TalkSpace. TalkSpace is an innovative online therapy service that is now available, at no cost and effective immediately, to all enrolled students, twelve months a year and even while traveling abroad. TalkSpace connects users to a dedicated, licensed therapist from a secure, HIPAA-compliant mobile app and web platform. Their roster comprises more than 5,000 licensed clinicians from across the country, who collectively speak over forty languages. You can send your therapist a text, voice or video message anytime, from anywhere, throughout your time at Williams. We’re providing this service to students in addition to all of our existing on-campus offerings in psychotherapy, psychiatry and on-call crisis services, as well as the wellbeing promotion events, workshops and groups we organize throughout the year. Stay tuned for user-friendly instructions on how to use TalkSpace.

I wonder how many students these therapists will be helping at the same time. Deep learning has made automated therapy chat bots possible . . . and maybe easy. The word “dedicated” is . . . subject to interpretation.

Our team also has some wonderful new clinicians we’d love for you to meet. Please visit our website to learn more about our staff: https://health.williams.edu/what-is-integrative-wellbeing/.

We have also expanded the college’s Non-Emergent Medical Transportation (NEMT) system. The system is now available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week throughout the year, including summers. As a reminder, the NEMT provides transportation for all non-emergency off-campus medical needs, including doctor and physical therapy appointments, dental visits, urgent care visits, x-rays/blood tests/lab visits, etc. You may also call for pickup if you were taken to a hospital for an emergency and need a ride back to campus after you’re discharged. New this year, we’re also providing twice-daily shuttles to the Walgreens Pharmacy in Rite-Aid (Colonial Plaza) to pick up prescriptions. Please check here for details on how to make the most of this service.

None of this is, necessarily, bad spending. But I would prioritize matching financial aid packages from places like Harvard first.

Policy Updates:

Students have requested that we be as clear and transparent as possible in describing our policies around freedom of expression. We’d like to call your attention to three policies we’ve updated and edited for clarity over the summer. The policies provide guidance on campus postings (please check here), the use of campus facilities and related resources for campus speakers/performances (please check here), and campus protests (please check here). We encourage you to review each one, especially if you plan on posting fliers, hanging banners, or bringing speakers this year.

Good stuff! Maud seized her moment, just as we predicted she would.

The College would be wise to seek a Green Light designation from FIRE. This is the easiest way to demonstrate to skeptical alums that the College has turned the corner on Falk’s error.

The Log:

When we originally renovated and re-opened the Log a few years ago, it was managed by a different vendor with a more expensive menu. To encourage student business, we piloted a college-sponsored, limited 30% food discount for students with a current college ID. With our popular new operators and a much less expensive, more flexible menu, we’re shifting away from that early pilot program. Rather than provide an across-the-board Log subsidy, the college will provide an additional $50 in annual discretionary funds to every financial aid student, usable anywhere. For the 2020 academic year, this $50 will show up as a credit on the January term bill. Then in future years it will be added to the personal allowance. We’re excited about this opportunity to provide additional and flexible support for aided students.

There are seniors on financial aid who have already accepted job offers from Google or Goldman Sachs and whose families make more than $200,000. But, by all means, let’s give them $50 of extra spending money!

Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Updates:

First, you’ll notice that we’ve modified the office’s name to include inclusion – which is a key component of our work. We’re very excited to share that we’re in the process of hiring a Dialogue Facilitator, to be housed in OIDEI. The Dialogue Facilitator will partner with all constituents on campus and supplement existing efforts to foster a community in which all are welcome and can respectfully engage with others. We anticipate this work will be carried out by integrating restorative practices and mediation on campus. We also share several staffing updates in OIDEI. On the heels of her tenure as Director of Special Academic Programs, Molly Magavern joined our conflict resolution efforts as Assistant Vice President; Clinton Williams joined the team as the Director of Special Academic Programs; Bilal Ansari is leading our campus engagement work as Assistant Vice President while continuing to serve as Acting Director of the Davis Center; and Keara Sternberg recently joined us as Assistant Director of the Davis Center and Campus Engagement. All of these individuals look forward to working with you.

Let’s hire more bureaucrats! Just what the College needs. Leticia Haynes is way too busy — burning the midnight oil day after day — to possible handle her own dialogue facilitation . . .

Again, welcome back to campus! We wish you all an inspired, healthy, productive beginning to the new academic year.

All best wishes,

Leticia Haynes, Vice President for Institutional Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Steve Klass, Vice President for Student Life
Marlene Sandstrom, Dean of the College

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Only For A Moment

As long as there is an EphBlog, there will be a remembrance of the three Ephs who died on 9/11: Howard Kestenbaum ’67, Lindsay Morehouse ’00 and Brian Murphy ’80. Previous entries here and here.

Much of the trauma of that day lives on.

We are looking for Howard Kestenbaum. He was on the 103rd floor of the World Trade Center South Tower (the second building that was hit). If you have any information please contact me.

That link worked five years ago, a constant reminder of the turmoil of those blue September days. It has since disappeared, like so many of our memories. First years at Williams now were born the year the towers fell.

Kestenbaum_Howard1Howard Kestenbaum worked at the top of the south tower, the second to be struck. In the midst of chaos, his was a voice of calm and reason in the 78th floor sky lobby as people waited anxiously for the express elevators that were to take them to the ground floor. They could not know about United Airlines Flight 175, just minutes away from impact.

Wein and Singer joined three of their Aon colleagues: Richard Gabrielle, 50, Vijay Paramsothy, 23, and the group’s boss, Howard Kestenbaum, 56.

Two elevators in the north half of the lobby were out of service, but Wein’s group stood near one of the idle cars anyway; it was less crowded there than at the south end of the lobby.

I’ve left my purse, Wein recalls saying. I don’t want to go back up, but how will I get the bus?

“Here, take some money and go home,” Kestenbaum said.

Singer remembered something she had left at her desk.

No, Kestenbaum said. Don’t go back up. They stayed in the lobby.

Howard’s last moments were spent taking care of those around him. The College has done a fine job of memorializing Lindsay Morehouse, creating an award for the player at the New England Championship “who best displays the ideals of sportsmanship, friendliness, character, fair play, and hard work that Lindsay embodied until her untimely death 9-11-2001.”

Kestenbaum was an athlete and wrestler at Williams. The College should honor him in a similar fashion. Perhaps the class of 1967 might to do the same for Kestenbaum in conjunction with the planning for their 55th reunion. Do wrestlers at Williams today know about Kestenbaum’s bravery? Why not a Kestenbaum Award, given to the member of the wrestling team who best displays the ideals of teamwork?

And then the second plane hit.

A deafening explosion and a searing blast of heat ripped through the lobby. The air turned black with smoke. Flames burst out of elevators. Walls and the ceiling crumbled into a foot of debris on the floor. Shards of glass flew like thrown knives.

The blast threw people like dolls, tearing their bodies apart.

“Howard!” Judy Wein was yelling to Kestenbaum, her boss.

It was Vijay Paramsothy who called back: “We’re over here!”

Paramsothy was sitting up, scratched and bloody. Marble slabs had fallen onto Richard Gabrielle and broken his legs. Wein tried to move the slabs with her good arm, and he cried out.

Howard Kestenbaum lay flat and still. To Wein, he looked peaceful.

Dead and wounded covered the floor of the lobby like a battlefield after cannon fire. A ghostly dusting of plaster lay over everyone.

Wein was soon saved by Welles Crowther, one of the many heroes of that sad day.

Judy Wein of Aon Corporation had also been in the 78th floor. She too was badly injured and she too heard the voice: “Everyone who can stand now, stand now. If you can help others, do so.” He guided her and others to the stairwell.

Apparently Welles [Crowther] kept leading people down from the top floors to the lower ones, where they could make their way out. Then he’d go up to find more. No one knows how many. The fire department credits him with five saved lives.

He never made it home.

Crowther’s heroism is well-known, but there were so many other acts of courage that tragic morning.

“Vijay was trying to get Howard up,” Gran Kestenbaum said, recounting a story a witness had told her. “That was the last I heard of either of them.”

EphBlog remembers Howard and Linday and Brian. Who remembers Vijay Paramsothy, one of the thousands on hard-working immigrants who made and make NYC a city unlike any other? Who do you remember?


Howard Kestenbaum
was a Ph.D., a builder of models, a quant operating in the rarefied world of risk analysis. Yet only a modeller can know that models don’t really matter, that who we are and what we have done is much more to be found in the families we cherish than in the money we make.

From the very beginning — when he accidentally fell on her at a party in the West Village — he made her laugh. He walked her home that night but, amusing or not, she wouldn’t give him her phone number.

A few days later, however, she picked up the phone to hear someone say it was “Howie.” Not recognizing his voice, she asked: “Howie who?”

“Fine, thank you, and how are you?” Howie Kestenbaum replied.

For 31 years of marriage, Howard and Granvilette Kestenbaum of Montclair talked every day, and he always made her laugh.

All good husbands want to make their wives laugh. All of us should do as well as Howard. Gran Kestenbaum desribed her husband this way.

Howard was a really good man. That may seem an ordinary epithet, but Howard thought of himself as an ordinary man — an ordinary husband, an ordinary father and an ordinary friend… He loved and cared for his family, helped friends, visited with the homeless, lonely and infirm. His modesty and leprechaun smile belied how quiet and graceful, without fanfare, the shining spirit of an extraordinary good man can touch and transform others. He would have been surprised that anyone noticed him, for that is not what he sought. And that is why we who love him are so honored to have known him, if only for a moment.

Thirty one years of marriage and family, of trials and triumphs, does indeed seem like only a moment. May we all live our moments as well as Howard Kestenbaum lived his.

How will you be spending today? Please spare a thought for Gran, Howard’s widow.

Every year on the anniversary of Sept. 11, Gran Kestenbaum steers clear of morning memorial services, to avoid the media. Later in the day, she typically leaves roses by her husband’s name on the 9/11 memorial in Eagle Rock Reservation and in Watchung Plaza. Along with the flowers, she usually leaves a note saying something along the lines of, “We are family and we will always be family. This didn’t part us.”

Condolences to all.

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We’re #1 (for the 17th year in a row)

Williams is #1 in the US News ranking, for the 17th year in a row.

For the ninth straight year, Princeton University was named the No. 1 college among national universities, and Williams College was named No. 1 among national liberal arts schools for the 17th year in a row, according to the latest ranking from U.S. News & World Report. Every year, the news outlet publishes what many regard as the gold standard for college rankings in the United States.

Every time that we appear in a sentence like this (with Princeton!), the better for our brand. (And if you find that notion of the College’s “brand” to be distasteful, you are a child. Parents will not pay a quarter million dollars $300,000 for something with a less-than-amazing reputation.)

1) We did a detailed dive into the rankings three years ago. Should we revisit? If so, I would need someone to send me the underlying data. See here and here for previous discussions.

2) Kudos to Maud Mandel, and the rest of the Williams administration. Maintaining the #1 ranking is important, especially for recruiting students who are less rich, less well-educated and less American. There is no better way to get a poor (but really smart) kid from Los Angeles (or Singapore) to consider Williams than to highlight that we are the best college in the country.

3) Many schools do a lot of suspect/sleazy things to improve their rank. Does Williams? Morty, infamously, capped discussion class size at 19 to ensure that the maximum number of classes met this US News cut-off.

4) There is a great senior thesis to be written about the rankings, similar to this article on the US News law school rankings. If you write such a thesis, hundreds of people around the country will read it.

5) Any comments on changes in the rankings below us?

6) Below the break is a copy of the methodology, saved for the benefit of future historians.

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Bae ’17 Convicted of Rape

From iBerkshires:

Former Williams College student Yoonsang Bae has been found guilty of raping a classmate five years ago.

Bae ’17 graduated Phi Beta Kappa and played rugby. I suspect that the Bae case was among those discussed by then-Dean Bolton here.

Of the 13 individuals reporting these incidents, six have chosen to take part in investigation and adjudication through the college as of now (three cases regarding sexual assault, two cases regarding stalking, and one case regarding retaliation.) Investigation and adjudication through the college remain an option as long as the respondent is a member of the college community.

Two of the three cases of sexual assault resulted in findings of responsibility, as did one of the two cases of stalking and the case of retaliation. All students found responsible for these violations were separated from the college. One student was expelled, and the others were suspended for terms ranging from one semester to two years.

I think that the time line was as follow. Bae arrives at Williams in the fall of 2011 as a member of the class of 2015. He spends junior year (2013-2014) at Williams Oxford. The rape happens in July 2014. Bae is expelled for two years, which he spent in the Korean military. He returns and graduates in 2017.

Back to iBerkshires:

He was convicted on Friday in Berkshire Superior Court by Judge Michael Callan of a single count of rape relating to an on-campus incident in 2014.

The 27-year-old Bae will be sentenced on Friday, Sept. 13.

Is Bae currently in custody? I suspect not. Would you recommend that he flee? Tough call! He is a citizen of South Korea, so he has a place/family to go to. What are the extradition arrangements between the US and Korea? I suspect that short, young, Asian, foreign convicted rapists do not have a particular enjoyable stay in Massachusetts state prison.

The victim, who was 19 at the time, testified that after attending an event with Bae, she returned to his room for a drink. She then got sick from the alcohol and Bae placed her in his bed where she passed out. When she awoke, Bae was raping her. He refused to stop despite her protests. The two were both Williams College students at the time.

Given that it was July, the victim was probably either a rising sophomore or junior.

She reported the rape to New York authorities, contacted the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, and underwent a sexual assault examination at a hospital in New York. Williams College investigated the incident and suspended Bae for two years. The Williamstown Police Department conducted a criminal investigation.

“I want to thank the victim in this case for her strength and courage,” District Attorney Andrea Harrington said. “She is a hero for coming forward and sharing her story. My office will not plea rape charges down to lesser offenses when we have victims who wish to go to trial.

“When I took office in January, my first priority was to seek justice for victims by aggressively prosecuting violent crime. This is what being tough on crime should look like.”

Elections have consequences. We discussed Harrington’s campaign and her focus on sexual assault last year.

Bae was indicted on a single count of rape on Aug. 9, 2017.

Sorry for the delay in our coverage. Was this mentioned anywhere?

Will the Record cover this story? I doubt it! Prove me wrong!

Prosecutors say he had been offered an agreement by the prior administration that would have allowed him to plead to the lesser charge of indecent assault and battery and that the case would have been continued without a finding of guilt. Bae did not accept the plea agreement.

That looks like a bad decision now.

After taking office, Harrington said she did not extend any plea bargains and opted to pursue the rape charge instead, culminating in Friday’s guilty verdict.

The case was prosecuted by Stephanie Ilberg.

Is there anyway for us to get transcripts of the trial?

See below the break for lots of interesting details from this excellent Berkshire Eagle article:

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Weekend Links

Ethan Zuckerman ’93 resigns from MIT Media Lab.

Wall Street Journal coverage of USC development admissions.

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Fall 2019 Course Advice

Fall classes start tomorrow. My advice:

Your major does not matter! One of the biggest confusions among Williams students is the belief that future employers care about your major, that, for example, studying economics helps you get a job in business. It doesn’t! Major in what you love.

But future employers are often interested in two things. First, can you get the computer to do what you want it to do? Second, can you help them analyze data to make them more successful? Major in Dance (if you love dance) but take 4 or so classes in computer science and statistics. With that as background, you will be competitive with any of your Williams classmates when it comes time to apply for internships/jobs.

Take a tutorial every semester. The more tutorials you take, the better your Williams education will be. There are few plausible excuses for not taking a tutorial every semester. Although many tutorials are now filled, others are not.

Too many first years take a big intro class because they think they “should.” They shouldn’t! Even a “bad” tutorial at Williams is better than almost all intro courses. If you are a first year and you don’t take a tutorial, you are doing it wrong. Note that, even if you don’t have the official prerequisites for a class, you should still enroll. The pre-reqs almost never matter and professors will always (?) let you into a tutorial with empty spots.

By the way, where can we find data about how popular tutorials are? For example, do most/all tutorials end up filled? How many students attempted to enroll in each one? More transparency!

Take STAT 201 (if you enter Williams with Math/Reading SAT scores below 1300, you might start with STAT 101). No topic is more helpful in starting your career, no matter your area of interest, than statistics. Students who take several statistics courses are much more likely to get the best summer internships and jobs after Williams. Also, the new Statistics major is amazing.

Skip STAT 201 if you took AP Statistics. Go straight to STAT 202 instead. And don’t worry about the stupid math prerequisites that the department tries to put in your way. You don’t really need multivariate calculus for 201 or matrix algebra for the more advanced classes. Those math tricks come up in a couple of questions on a couple of problem sets. Your friends (and some Khan Academy videos) will get you through it. If challenged, just tell people you took those classes in high school.

Take CSCI 134: Diving into the Deluge of Data. Being able to get the computer to do what you want it to do is much more important, to your future career, than most things, including, for example, the ability to write well. You might consider skipping 134 and going directly to 136, but 134 seems to be a much better course than it was in the past, especially with the use of Python and the focus on data.

If a professor tries to tell you the class is full, just claim to be future major in that topic. Indeed, many students officially enroll as statistics or computer science majors sophomore year to ensure that they get into the classes they want. You can always drop a major later. Mendacity in the pursuit of quality classes is no vice.

See our previous discussions. Here are some thoughts from 12 (?) years ago about course selections for a career in finance.

What courses would you recommend? What was the best class you took at Williams?

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Class Absences

Via Facebook:

Hi all — could really use some help/advice here. My daughter (senior) is applying to medical school. She’s been given eight interviews thus far, and, for most of these, has not been able to pick a date/time. As a result, she — like thousands of premed students across the country — will have to miss class. One professor for a required class is refusing to authorise more than two absences. This means my daughter will not be able to attend medical school interviews. She spoke to one of the deans this afternoon and was told she would have to make a choice between medical school interviews (plus unexcused absences) and cancelling medical school interviews (so no medical school). I’m outraged that the school would not accommodate medical school interviews and require my daughter to make this choice. First interview is in two weeks so this is time sensitive — any and all suggestions are welcome, including for lawyers as we are prepared to file a legal complaint.

I bet a call to Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom from a lawyer might help along matters . . .

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Weekend Links

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

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

Oren Cass ’05 on “Economics After Neoliberalism

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Underrepresented Arab Americans

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

Direct link here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

imbrication?”

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

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