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Canty ’88 on Banning Speakers, 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What objections do you have to the Chicago Principles?

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

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

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

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Canty ’88 on Banning Speakers, 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canty continues:

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

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

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

More from Canty below:

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Canty ’88 on Banning Speakers, 2

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

Canty continues:

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

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

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

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

More from Canty below:
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Canty ’88 on Banning Speakers, 1

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

Friends, Romans, and Fellow Ephs–

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

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

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

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

Perhaps James McAllister could enlighten us about this history.

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

More from Canty below:
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Strategic Planning: May 2019 update

Latest message:

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

To the Williams community,

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

Here are a few highlights from this semester:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Maud

Analysis later.

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Crafty Students

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

Perhaps our readers can help . . .

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Associate Dean for Institutional Diversity and Equity

Dear Members of the Williams Community,

I’m writing to share news about the position of Associate Dean for Institutional Diversity and Equity. It is with great pleasure that I report that Ngonidzashe Munemo, Associate Professor of Political Science, has agreed to serve another term as associate dean. For the fall 2019 semester, he will return to the faculty and take an overdue sabbatical to pursue a Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation-funded curricular and pedagogical innovation residency at the University of Cape Town, South Africa and work on a couple of book projects. During that period, Carl W. Vogt ’58 Professor of History Carmen Whalen will serve as Interim Associate Dean for Institutional Diversity and Equity. Professor Whalen has been a member of the faculty since 2001 and is a core faculty member of the LATS program. Professor Whalen comes to this role with experience, having previously served as associate dean in the office for three years between 2010-2013; we are pleased to have her serve once again.

all best,

Leticia Haynes

Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes, Ph.D.
Vice President
Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity
Williams College | Williamstown, MA
(P) 413.597.4376
https://diversity.williams.edu

Ngonidzashe Munemo has been doing an amazing job for the last few years with regard to diversity and the Williams faculty! Look how happy and productive the faculty have been recently . . . He deserves a re-appointment, a sabbatical and a raise!

Carmen Whalen did just as well during her previous service. Indeed, faculty diversity (and comity) are thriving at Williams!

Kudos to Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes and her team.

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Occupy Hollander

On April 17th, a white faculty person enacted extreme hostility and aggression towards an Asian American professor in the middle of Hollander Hall. This latest instance of violent racism is unique only in that there were students there to witness it. Faculty of color [FoC] deal with racist shit every day, and we will probably never know the full extent of what they have to put up with. So, we are calling on the entire community to show up and express overwhelming love, gratitude, and support for all of our FoC mentors. We are also calling for accountability from President Mandel, administrators, and faculty to redress the violences against people of color, including FoC, at Williams College.

WHAT WE ARE DOING:
Rain or shine, we are going to stand outside Hollander and protest the continued lack of institutional support for Williams FoC. We will be holding signs and handing out flyers. And with just as much energy, we’re going to let our FoC mentors know how much we love and appreciate them.

HOW YOU CAN HELP:
Occupy Hollander with us. Hold posters with us. Hand out flyers with us. Chant with us. See us. Spread the word.

1) Can readers provide more links and details? I am piercing this together from various anonymous e-mails, but I may be getting important details wrong. For starters, is this organized by CARE Now?

2) Is this a protest or an occupation? Williams is happy to have students protest all day long. Williams would get very nervous/upset if students were to actually “occupy” Hollander and/or prevent, say, faculty from getting to their offices.

3) The Record article about the incident is excellent. Kudos to reporters Samuel Wolf and Jeongyoon Han!

The incident began slightly before 4 p.m., when [Professor Dorothy] Wang and Kasulis were walking through Hollander Hall and saw [Professor Katie] Kent [’88]. Kent was on her way to the department’s first meeting of the semester, and Wang asked Kent whether that meeting would include discussion of Love. According to Wang, Kasulis and Zheng, Kent reacted immediately and negatively, saying that sufficient conversations around Love had already been held.

“Professor Kent got immediately irritated,” Kasulis said. “She took a defensive posture. She raised her voice.” When Wang mentioned the particular relevance of Love’s departure for the English department, given Love’s critiques of feeling unsafe and unwelcome, Wang said that Kent responded, saying, “‘She was talking about the College, Dorothy. She wasn’t talking about the department; she was talking about the College.’”

For Wang, that statement was emblematic of what she sees as the English department’s continual inability to reconcile with its historical and present-day manifestations of racism.

Kent briefly left after making that statement, and Wang said to Kasulis, “This is why I disaffiliated from English.” Upon hearing Wang’s comment, according to Wang, Kasulis and Zheng, Kent immediately turned around and made an incensed statement closely resembling, “Are you talking shit about me to your students?”

Katie Kent ’88 didn’t put up with bullcrap 35 years ago and she isn’t about to start now! Does this incident deserve a controversy name? If so, “Talking Shit” seems like the obvious winner!

The first meeting of the English Department in 2019 is occurring in May?

The students involved, Jamie Kasulis and Emily Zheng, wrote this op-ed.

I could spend three weeks parsing these (amazing!) articles. Should I?

Record articles 1 and 2 below the break:
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Title VI Violation?

A source passed on this complaint (doc):

I am writing to file a complaint against Williams College for discrimination against Jewish students in violation of Title VI and related Department of Education regulations.

My allegations, supported by an account in the Williams College student newspaper, available here, https://williamsrecord.com/2019/05/cc-rejects-williams-initiative-for-israel/ are as follows:

Williams College is an institution of higher education that receives federal funds, and is subject to Title VI.

Williams College has a student government known as the College Council (hereinafter, CC).

As an official arm of the college, actions by the CC are covered by Title VI.

And so on.

1) Any lawyers prepared to opine?

2) Am I correct that Ken Marcus ’88, the Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights, is the official to which this complaint will ultimately flow? If so, is that connection good or bad for Williams?

It might be good in that Ken is well-disposed toward Williams and won’t want to see us embarrassed. If you agree with CC’s decision, it might be bad because Ken is someone who is highly unlikely to be sympathetic to CC.

This complaint might be very good if you are Maud Mandel. You now have the perfect excuse! Just say, “On advice of counsel, and with respect to the Title VI complaint, Williams has decided to remove student organization recognition authority from College Council. All student groups will, henceforth, be recognized, or not, by Williams itself.” Problem solved!

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Where’s My Safety?

There is so much going on at Williams that I am losing the ability to follow it all. Apologies to all our readers!

1) The above screen shot is from this flyer (pdf) that went up in Paresky last week. Does anyone have a higher quality version?

2) The College Council minutes (doc) are also filled with interesting material. Pick out your favorite parts and leave them in the comments. Example:

There are a lot of real concerns about equity here given the fact that there are sites like Canary Mission that was not at all mentioned in Lance’s first minute notes. That website was mentioned a variety of times specifically because its a giant website that a current student at Williams is on. Someone reported her due to her Jewish Voices for Peace activism. She is now on there. She can no longer enter the country of Israel because of that. When she is looked up by employers there is a website that says she is anti-semetic even though she is Jewish. It is a tricky situation here when one side of the debate is being attacked and surveilled and being nationally seen in this way.

Indeed, it is much more dangerous, at least from a career-perspective, to voice anti-Isreali positions than anti-Palestinian positions. Why would that be?

3) The WIFI controversy reminded me of this Claiming Williams session:

Unpacking Jewish Identity

This workshop for faculty and staff will provide participants with an opportunity to begin examining their Jewish identity and their Jewish privilege in a supportive environment that focuses on their own experiences. It will be one small step toward increasing effective dialogue about race, practicing allyship, and interrupting racism. Workshop facilitators will guide participants through a process of reflection that includes writing and small-group discussion with the goal of understanding racism in structural terms, and formulating some practical steps for more insightful living.

Does “Jewish privilege” strike readers as nonsense? Williams regularly features discussions of “white privilege.” Indeed, any successful group is, in this day and age, almost certainly benefiting from some sort of privilege.

4) The bad press caused by College Council refusing recognition to WIFI continues:

Scarborough has 2.5 million followers. Has a negative tweet about Williams ever been so broadly broadcast?

By the way, I made up one of the 4 points above. Can you guess which one without looking? And how many years before it turns into a reality?

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Affinity Housing, 3

The Record editorialized in favor of “affinity housing,” one of the demands made by CARE Now to both President Mandel (pdf) and the trustees. This means, more or less, reserving/restricting specific houses for/to black/Hispanic/Asian students. I have some small acquaintance with the history/politics/propaganda of Williams housing, so let’s dive in. Day 3.

From the letter to Mandel:

While ​de facto​ affinity housing has existed at Williams for a considerable amount of time in the form of off-campus housing on Hoxsey Street,these are predominantly taken by athletes and wealthy students who can afford the penalty for signing leases early.

I am sympathetic to this complaint. (And recall our 5-part series on the BSU Town Hall which, on many dimensions, was the starting point for CARE Now.)

The second biggest change in student life may have been the ever-increasing isolation of athletes from other parts of the student community. For example, members of the lacrosse team are much more likely to live with each other now, including off-campus, then they were back in the day.

There are about 100 recruited athletes in every Williams class. I think almost every one of them, after first year, lives in a rooming group with at least one other member of their team. I think a large percentage (a majority?) might live only with members of their team. The Record should do some reporting about this.

The issue of athletes living together in Gladden is different than the issue of them living together on Hoxsey Street.

What might be done? A goofy alum wrote to the Record:

To the editor:

The Record’s editorial of April 17, 2019 (“On the need for affinity housing”) argues that Williams students should have more control over whom they live with. I agree. I have discovered a truly remarkable plan which this letter is too small to contain. Summary: The best housing policy would involve three major structures. First, a Student Housing Committee – modeled on the Junior Advisor Selection Committee – should run most aspects of the housing process. The more that students have responsibility for managing their own lives, the more they will learn from the process and the better the outcomes will be.

Second, students should, as much as possible, live in houses with other members of their Williams class: sophomores in the Berkshire Quad; juniors in Greylock; seniors in row houses and co-ops.

Third, non-senior rooming groups should be as large as possible and of fixed size, but subject to diversity constraints. For example, sophomore rooming groups would be any number less than five or exactly equal to 15, with restrictions on both gender balance and organization membership. Allowing students to group themselves has two main advantages: It creates genuine house community and it provides major incentives for large groups to “pick up” less popular students. The more that students sort themselves into houses and the more incentives they have for being both diverse and inclusive, the better the housing experience for everyone.

The best first step would be to change the co-op process so that groups have to be large enough to fill a house. This would allow experiments with “affinity housing” in all but name.

Did any Record reader notice the math joke in the 3rd sentence . . .

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Other Side of the Glass

Angela Venus-Yu ’20 is a filmmaker studying away at Harvard College this year. Her autobiographical film “Other Side of the Glass (隔着玻璃)” will screen tomorrow, Thursday at 7pm at the Harvard Film Archive alongside other student films. Her film pieces together about 12 years of moving between opposite ends of the world.

She would love to invite any fellow Ephs in the Boston/Cambridge area to attend the screening. Do say hi or drop a line if you do! Her email is ay4@williams.edu. If you would like to be frequently updated, feel free to follow her @ave.yu on instagram.

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College Council Meeting Notes

The College Council provides a solid archive of meeting notes, going back to 2009. Still, I am very sad that it does not go back further. Who else remembers the glorious notes of Jonathan Landsman ’05?

Sadly, CC refuses (?) to make the notes for current meetings publicly available, even to alumni and local residents. Pathetic. Fortunately, we have our sources!

The April 16 minutes are available to students. The central debate about WIFI is covered fairly well.

The April 23 minutes are not available for download, even to students. But our sources are clever, so they provided some screen shots. See below the break. Example:

A full zip archive of meeting notes since 2016 is here.

Key points:

1) It was stupid for the Falk administration to change the rules and force student groups to seek recognition from College Council even if they were not seeking funding. (Falk and Co did this to make life more difficult for dissident groups like Uncomfortable Learning.) Student organizations can be trusted with many important decisions — selecting JAs, distributing funding — but not with this one.

2) Excessive student powers will be used against all unpopular groups, not just those unpopular with the Administration. By the way, BDS has yet to hit Williams in a big way. What happens when it does?

3) If Maud is smart, she will change the Student Handbook this summer to allow any student group to be created by simply submitting a form with the Dean’s Office. This will allow the group access to all the basic tools — like room reservations — that it needs to function. CC does not need to fund it, but they can’t ban it.

4) There are plenty of rich Jewish alumni that Maud will try to raise money from over the next few years. What do you think their views are on this topic?

5) College Council should just make its meeting notes and livestream public. The truth will come out anyway and, perhaps more important, a public livestream encourages better behavior from your guests.

Screen shots of minutes for April 23:

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Williams Initiative for Israel

A student reports that “Apparently there was huge commotion at CC last [Tuesday] night. I expect this to be picked up by national news outlets as the details of what happened are revealed.” From the Record:

Last night, College Council (CC) voted 13–8 with one abstention to reject a request from the Williams Initiative for Israel (WIFI) to become a registered student organization. The vote came a week after the club’s request was tabled at a previous CC meeting, and the meeting involved nearly two hours of protracted and heated debate among both CC members and a large number of guests attending.

Before the debate began, numerous members and guests expressed concerns that publicly revealing the names of those speaking, as CC has previously done to some extent through livestreams on its Facebook page and published minutes accessible to students at the College, would make students feel unsafe and prevent them from fully expressing their opinions. Several members and guests cited national news coverage of College events in recent weeks, including cases where specific students were mentioned by name, as justification for these concerns. CC ultimately decided to publish anonymous minutes accessible only to students with College emails.

This is a developing story, occurring exceptionally close to our print deadline.

The minutes are here, but inaccessible to me. Could someone post them in a comment?

The video for last week has some interesting discussion starting at the 25 minute mark . . .

“The state of Israel, at least if it’s not completely illegal . . .”

It is one thing for leftist students on campus to attack random WASPs, especially WASPs who might be Republican. But when they go after mainstream (?) Jewish organizations, they may be treated very differently . . .

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Affinity Housing, 2

The Record editorialized in favor of “affinity housing,” one of the demands made by CARE Now to both President Mandel (pdf) and the trustees. This means, more or less, reserving/restricting specific houses for/to black/Hispanic/Asian students. I have some small acquaintance with the history/politics/propaganda of Williams housing, so let’s dive in. Day 2.

Note the subhead of the Record editorial:

Creating space for minoritized students

“[M]inoritized” is not a word that I recall from 10 or even 5 years ago. When did it first become common usage at Williams? For (at least) the last 50 years, before the Great Awokening, this would have been phrased: “Creating space for minority students.” Why the change?

My guess: “minoritized” is now preferred to “minority” because a minority is what you are while being “minoritized” is something that is done to you. (Contrary opinions welcome!)

The longevity of this issue demonstrates that the call for affinity housing will not extinguish over time, so long as the College fails to address the residential needs of the marginalized members of its community.

This is the opposite of the truth. That the College has successfully resisted calls for black-only housing for 50 years indicates that it is likely to be able to do so forever. Moreover, the primary purpose of Neighborhood Housing, instituted more than a decade ago and then abandoned, was to prevent student self-segregation, primarily of African-Americans and male helmet-sport athletes. Williams does not care if black students constantly campaign for affinity housing. It has successfully stymied their preferences for five decades!

Furthermore, affinity housing has successfully been implemented by many of the College’s peer institutions, including Amherst, Bates and Wesleyan.

Evidence? If only Williams had a competent student paper which might, you know, report on what is happening at other schools. If the Amherst theme houses are so successful, then why are students only allowed to live in them for 2 years?

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Tolerate their Membership?

New Eph Parent? says:

As a parent whose child will decide this week whether to accept Williams’ offer of admission, I’d like to be encouraged by this letter, but President Mandel’s appeal to mutual respect seems like an attempt to turn back the clock. Respect is appropriate when people of good will have differences of opinion; that’s the old liberal model that those of us in Maud’s generation grew up with. But what is its place when power, oppression and “discursive violence” are at stake? If someone’s views are oppressing or harming me, why should I extend them respect? Why should I even tolerate their membership in the community?

If discourse is understood as a communal journey toward the truth, it can be respectful. If it is understood as a struggle for power it will be “intolerant and harsh.” The tone this letter laments follows naturally from what is being taught in the classroom.

Good questions!

I hope that your child chooses Williams and that you join us as an author at EphBlog!

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Affinity Housing, 1

The Record editorialized in favor of “affinity housing,” one of the demands made by CARE Now to both President Mandel (pdf) and the trustees. This means, more or less, reserving/restricting specific houses for/to black/Hispanic/Asian students. No one knows more about the history/politics/propaganda of Williams housing than I do, so let’s dive in. Day 1.

Start with the Record:

Affinity housing, the third of CARE Now’s 12 demands, has been advocated for by students as early as 1969, when the Afro-American Society, which occupied Hopkins Hall in demonstration, named affinity housing as one of its demands.

Has anyone at the Record talked to someone who could explain this history? I doubt it! Although I occasionally hold out hope for individual reporters, like Arrington Luck, the Record, as an organization, is positively amateurish in its refusal to seek out knowledgeable sources. It is true that, for 50 years, students have wanted racial segregation in housing and the College has refused to provide it. Does that tell you something? It should!

The College did not respond to the Afro-American Society’s demands and has continually ignored such demands.

How stupid is the Record? The College has “respond[ed]” to these demands over and over and over again. The answer is always the same: No! If you choose to come to Williams, you are going to live in a building with students of a different race. Don’t want that? Go elsewhere.

We at the Record wholeheartedly support establishing affinity housing at the College.

Doesn’t the Record understand how Williams works? If you want actual change — as opposed to the childish pleasure of virtue-signalling on the front page — you support the creation of a high-profile committee.

[W]e must recognize that the College is a predominantly white institution in which students of color often feel tokenized, both in their residences and more broadly on campus.

Is the College really a “predominantly white institution” and, if so, how long will this continue? Whites, in the latest class at Harvard, are a minority. There are more Asian-Americans than whites, in raw numbers, at the highest levels of high school academic achievement. An actual news organization might, you know, do some reporting on this topic, might point out that, in the Williams class of 2022 (pdf), only 263 of the 533 students are white, non-Hispanic Americans. That is only 49%. White Americans are already a numerical minority among Williams first years.

The reason that black/Hispanic students “often feel tokenized” is, first, because the people that run Williams are, on this dimension at least, not very good at their jobs and, second, because these students often are, precisely, “tokens.” At least 50% (probably closer to 90%) of the black/Hispanic students at Williams would not have been accepted if they did not check that box.

Complete Record editorial and CARE Now demands below:
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Make Class/Professor Evaluations Available

Why doesn’t Williams have something like the Harvard Q Guide?

The Q evaluations provide important student feedback about courses and faculty. Many questions are multiple choice, though there’s room for comments as well. The more specific a student can be about an observation or opinion, the more helpful their response. Q data help students select courses and supplement Harvard’s Courses of Instruction, shopping period visits to classes and academic advising.

Faculty take these evaluations seriously – more than half logged on to view their students’ feedback last spring within a day of the results being posted. The Q strengthens teaching and learning, ultimately improving the courses offered at Harvard.

All true. The Q Guide works wonderfully, both providing students with more information as they select their courses and encouraging (some) faculty to take their undergraduate pedagogy more seriously. Consider STAT 104, the (rough) Harvard equivalent of STAT 201 at Williams. The Q Guide provides three main sources of information: students ratings of the class, student ratings of the professor, and student comments:

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Background Information (comments welcome):

1) Williams has Factrak, a service which includes some student evaluations.
FT

See below the break for more images. Factrak is widely used and popular. Representative quote:

Factrack is super popular here — sigh is dead wrong. Any student serious about their classes spends some time on that site during registration periods. I’ve also found the advice on the website to be instructive. Of course, it takes some time to sort out who is giving levelheaded feedback and who is just bitter about getting a bad grade, but once you do there is frequently a bounty of information regarding a particular Prof’s teaching style.

2) Williams students fill out student course survey (SCS) forms, along with the associated blue sheets for comments. None of this information is made available to students.

3) Nothing prevents Williams, like Harvard, from distributing this information, either just internally (as Harvard does) or to the world art large. Reasonable modifications are possible. For example, Harvard allows faculty to decline to make the student comments public. (Such an option allows faculty to hide anything truly hurtful/unfair.) First year professors might be exempt. And so on. Why doesn’t Williams do this?

  • Williams is often highly insular. We don’t make improvement X because we have never done X, not because any committee weighed the costs/benefits of X.
  • Williams cares less about the student experience than you might think.
  • Williams does not think that students lack for information about courses/professors. A system like Harvard’s is necessary for a large university. It adds little/nothing to Williams.
  • Williams faculty are happy to judge students. They dislike being judged by students, much less having those judgments made public.

Assume you were a student interested in making this information available to the Williams community. Where would you start?

On a lighter note, EphBlog favorite Professor Nate Kornell notes:Screen Shot 2018-05-07 at 2.35.50 PM

Factrak screenshots below the break:

Read more

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Restoring Free Speech

From The Wall Street Journal last month:

While opinions differ sharply about President Trump, everyone can agree he speaks plainly. On Thursday he issued an executive order supporting free speech on campus.

It is too early to say how much good the president’s executive order will do, but it was long past time for the federal government to face up to the rot of political correctness and intolerance that is subverting the American educational establishment. There are some points of light. The so-called Chicago Statement, for example, named for a declaration of principle from the University of Chicago, embraces open and robust debate even about subjects that “some or even by most members of the University community [find] offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed.” Several institutions have endorsed that document.

But many others, including some of the most prestigious, reject it outright. Students and professors at Williams College, confronted with an initiative to adopt the Chicago principles last year, took “grave issue” with its “premises” and warned of “the potential harm it may inflict upon our community.” You might have thought that supporting free speech was an obvious good. Not so fast. The Williams activists declared that the notion “has been co-opted by right-wing and liberal parties as a discursive cover for racism, xenophobia, sexism, anti-semitism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and classism.”

The authors of the Williams counterpetition made a show of demanding greater diversity at the 226-year-old Western Massachusetts school. But it’s long been obvious that calls for “diversity” usually amount to demands for strict intellectual and moral conformity on contentious issues. By that inverted standard, a campus is more “diverse” the fewer voices it tolerates.

This is precisely the situation that the president’s executive order promoting free speech on campus is designed to address. That its effect is likely to be more hortatory than coercive may be an advantage, not a liability, since serious reform of these institutions will come about not from the imposition of a law but a change of heart. The prospect of losing federal dollars is one sort of incentive. The spectacle of those passionate, articulate and besieged young students may prove to be an even greater one.

The only “change of heart” I have seen at Williams over the last 30 years is an ever-increasing restriction about what students, or their invited guests, are allowed to say. Will Maud Mandel change that? I don’t know. Any rumors on how the process is going?

Meanwhile, things have gone from bad to worse at Middlebury:

Middlebury College has canceled [yesterday] a campus speech by conservative Polish Catholic philosopher Ryszard Legutko in response to planned protests by liberal activists.

A professor of philosophy at Jagiellonian University and a member of the European Parliament, Legutko was scheduled to speak Wednesday at the Vermont college’s Alexander Hamilton Forum, delivering a lecture entitled “The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies.”

The liberal activists took issue with Legutko’s pointed critiques of multiculturalism, feminism, and homosexuality, calling them “homophobic, racist, xenophobic, [and] misogynistic.”

“Inquiry, equity, and agency cannot be fostered in the same space that accepts and even elevates homophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic discourse,” they demand. “Bigotry of any kind should not be considered a form of inquiry.”

The chairmen of both departments denied the activists requests, defending the event on grounds of academic freedom. But hours before the event was scheduled, Middlebury Provost Jeff Cason and Vice President for Student Affairs Baishakhi Taylor sent a campus-wide email indicating the lecture was canceled.

NESCAC schools may have started by banning people like John Derbyshire. They are now banning (right-wing) members of the European parliament. Where will this end?

I am having breakfast with one of the most powerful Middlebury alumni on Friday. What questions should I ask him?

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Choose Williams Over Harvard

In celebration of previews, reasons why you should choose Williams.

There are several hundred high school seniors¹ who have been admitted to both Williams and Harvard (and Yale and Princeton and Stanford and . . .). Fewer than 10% of them will choose Williams over these more famous schools. Some of them are making the right choice. They will be better off at Harvard, for various reasons. But at least half of them are making the wrong choice. They (you?) would be better off at Williams. Why?

1) Your professors would know your name. The average Harvard undergraduate is known by name to only a few faculty members. Many students graduate unknown to any faculty. The typical professor at Harvard is primarily concerned with making important contributions to her field. The typical professor at Williams is primarily concerned with educating the undergraduates in her classes. Consider this post by Harvard professor Greg Mankiw, who taught EC 10a/10b, the equivalent of Williams ECON 110/120, to over 750 students each year.

Being an ec 10 section leader is one of the best teaching jobs at Harvard. You can revisit the principles of economics, mentor some of the world’s best undergraduates, and hone your speaking skills. In your section, you might even have the next Andrei Shleifer or Ben Bernanke (two well-known ec 10 alums). And believe it or not, we even pay you for this!

If you are a graduate student at Harvard or another Boston-area university and have a strong background in economics, I hope you will consider becoming a section leader in ec 10 next year. Applications are encouraged from PhD students, law students, and master’s students in business and public policy.

Take a year of Economics at Harvard, and not a single professor will know your name. Instead, you will be taught and graded by (poorly paid) graduate students, many with no more than a BA, often not even in economics! But, don’t worry, you will be doing a good deed by providing these students with a chance to “hone” their “speaking skills.”

2) You will get feedback on your work from faculty at Williams, not from inexperienced graduate students. More than 90% of the written comments (as well as the grades) on undergraduate papers at Harvard are produced by people other than tenured (or tenure track) faculty. The same is true in science labs and math classes. EC 10 is a particularly egregious example, but the vast majority of classes taken by undergraduates are similar in structure. Harvard professors are too busy to read and comment on undergraduate prose.

3) You would have the chance to do many things at Williams. At Harvard it is extremely difficult to do more than one thing in a serious fashion. If you play a sport or write for The Crimson or sing in an a capella group at Harvard, you won’t be able to do too much of anything else. At Williams, it is common — even expected — that students will have a variety of non-academic interests that they pursue passionately.

4) You would have a single room for three years at Williams. The housing situation at Harvard is horrible, at least if you care about privacy. Most sophomores and the majority of juniors do not have a single room for the entire year. Only at Harvard will you learn the joys of a “walk-through single” — a room which is theoretically a single but which another student must walk through to get to her room.

5) You would have the opportunity to be a Junior Advisor at Williams and to serve on the JA Selection Committee and to serve on the Honor Committee. No undergraduate student serves in these roles at Harvard because Harvard does not allow undergraduates to run their own affairs. Harvard does not trust its students. Williams does.

6) The President of Williams, Maud Mandel, cares about your education specifically, not just about the education of Williams undergraduates in general. The President of Harvard, Larry Bacow, has bigger fish to fry. Don’t believe me? Just e-mail both of them. Tell them about your situation and concerns. See who responds and see what they say.

Of course, there are costs to turning down Harvard. Your friends and family won’t be nearly as impressed. Your Aunt Tillie will always think that you actually go to “Williams and Mary.” You’ll be far away from a city for four years. But, all in all, a majority of the students who choose Harvard over Williams would have been better off if they had chosen otherwise.

Choose wisely.

¹The first post in this series was 15 years ago, inspired by a newspaper story about 18 year-old Julia Sendor, who was admitted to both Harvard and Williams. Julia ended up choosing Williams (at least partly “because of the snowy mountains and maple syrup”), becoming a member of the class of 2008, winning a Udall Foundation Scholarship in Environmental Studies. Best part of that post is the congratulations from her proud JA.

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A Large Animal Moves Slowly

This is some of Zach Wood’s ’18 best writing:

“Confidence is the memory of performance,” he told me. I didn’t realize it then, but this pithy observation was just another of many memorable aphorisms from George E. Marcus.

We were hanging out in Professor Marcus’ den, arguing over Kobe Bryant’s rightful place in NBA history and watching playoff basketball. His was a man cave populated with hardcovers, mineral specimens, and substantial artifacts acquired from foreign travel with his wife. I had recently received galleys of the manuscript for my first book, “Uncensored,” a memoir about my life and naturally Professor Marcus was among the first people with whom I shared a copy.

Per usual, he finished it a few days later and sent me an attentive email that reminded me of how lucky I am to have him in my corner. This was the second time we’d had an opportunity to chat about “Uncensored” and knowing some of my concerns, Professor Marcus told me about his time at Columbia University, rowing as an undergraduate. He explained what being an oarsman meant to him as a young man — how the rigors of sport fostered fraternity, spurred strain against physical reach, in turn, bolstering self-confidence. “Confidence,” he said, “is neither fixed nor immune to changing circumstances.”

Indeed. Any readers with George Marcus stories? EphBlog has always been a fan.

“Every opportunity can be used to exercise a particular muscle.” He reclined on the backrest of his sofa, fingers interlaced behind his head, ankles crossed over the coffee table — as I digested the subtler implications of what he said.

I first met Professor Marcus, professor of Political Science, Emeritus, at Williams College, during the fall of my sophomore year. I was the only student that semester who signed up for his tutorial, “The Holocaust: Challenges of Knowing.” Rather than canceling his course and dismissing my interest, he welcomed me. He proposed that each week we write and present papers to each other. One of us would write a five to seven-page paper, the other a two-page critique. Once a week we would meet in his office to read our papers aloud, take our gloves off and swing with abandon. The following week we would alternate.

How many Williams professors would do that? Have many have? Tell us about them! They deserve all the praise we have to offer.

I had never had so much fun in my intellectual life. Surgical and concentrated in print; Professor Marcus argued energetically and good-naturedly in person. He gloried in playing devil’s advocate as much as I did, and he was singular in his ability to capsulize complex ideas and distill them using real-world examples. I remember once asking him if there was an upshot of the territoriality theories in environmental psychology and he gave the example of seating behavior in a typical classroom. “You see people voluntarily sit in the same seat every day and people begin to notice and tacitly accept the arrangement,” he remarked. “It’s a way of trying to regulate and control our relationships with other people in shared spaces.” Possession and predictability usually comfort us, so we seek them, he said.

Intellectually, however, Professor Marcus enthusiastically sought discomfort. He encouraged me to look at the data, to be suspicious, and qualify my interpretations of reality. He taught me that while evidence matters, many theories are underdetermined, so our conclusions should be framed as tentative, provisional, measured and context-dependent. Though not infrequently, Professor Marcus harbored zero misgivings about entertaining extraordinary leaps of the imagination, so long as they were subject to debate. After all, he still believes Bill Russell is the greatest basketball player of all-time. Not to worry: I’ll persuade him eventually.

When we finished watching the Celtics (his favorite team) beat the Cavaliers, we made our way to the kitchen for dinner where his wife, Lois, enriched our conversation with humorous insight. The three of us discussed culture and politics over white wine and delicious fish with mixed vegetables before devouring some of the finest chocolate chip cookies I’ve tasted. Soon enough, I gathered that while I had learned much from Professor Marcus, I could learn even more from his wife. Two hours later, it was almost 10:30 p.m. and we seemed to grudgingly concede that sleep should count for something.

Williams should care much less about research productivity in its faculty hiring and promotion, and much more about a willingness to engage with undergraduates.

On my way back to my dorm, I thought to myself: those eight hours spent with the Marcuses in their beautiful home had to have been among the most meaningful of my experiences at Williams. As I make my way through life after college, I think often of my teacher, mentor, and friend. In class, his command of material was keen and ruthlessly composed; his nonverbals even and deliberate, but impactful — the way a large animal moves slowly. I hope that beyond his weighty contribution to political science, George Marcus will be remembered for the difference he made in the lives of his students.

Exactly right. As long as a single student remembers me, I will never die.

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Why Aren’t You Listening?

Nishant writes:

Can we have a post on that crazy video that anon eph frosh posted? It needs multiple daily posts from David. I am serious.

Video here. (Is there a way to embed this? Or at least make it accessible for readers who don’t use Facebook?) The action starts, apparently, at the 30 minute mark. Here (doc) is a (heavily?) edited transcript.

Background seems to be a (successful attempt?) to get CC to partial fund some events at Previews this week which are focused on African-American admitted students. Alas, there were still some CC critics with more to say:

Isaiah: I know that the funding for this has already been supported, but I am appalled by how this was handled. *many expletives* I’m looking at this budget and I’m seeing all the ways white men are getting resources and community afforded to them, and whenever black students come and try to make spaces for students on this campus, we are stopped at every. single. Level.

Oluseyi: you, Tristan Whalen. Why aren’t you listening?

Isaiah: now we are writing. Every time we start speaking, ears close. *many more expletives* You have half a million dollars. How many % of the budget is black previews? .42% Every time we start talking to you we get shouted down by the white moderate, white liberals. You come here, you have $3billion dollars to your name. Why is CC not diverse? Because if we dare try to run, try to be in this space… we have to be with people like you. I just don’t get it. We keep our heads down. Yeah, we got the money, but we are tired of this. I refuse –– no more. You want to have free speech, you want to be racist, open your mouth now.

Since my fan club wants a series on this, a series is what you will be getting! Although probably not this week. What should the scandal controversy name be? “Black Previews”?

Could our readers tell us who the dramatis personae are?

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How Faculty Can Change Williams

How can faculty — even one professor — create significant change at Williams? Most of this advice applies to any topic, but, for concreteness, let’s assume a professor who is concerned about the decline of faculty governance at Williams and the rise of administrator numbers/power/salaries.

First, educate yourself on the topic. The Provost’s Office produced this wonderful report (pdf) on college staffing. Read it more than once. See EphBlog’s 9 (!) part series of faculty governance: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. Talk to some retired faculty members (e.g., Frank Oakley) about how the College used to be run. If you want to change policy about topic X, then you need to be as well-informed about X as anyone at Williams.

One tidbit on the history of faculty governance: Just 25 years ago, there were two assistant provosts, both members of the faculty. They assisted the provost in all her duties. (One of those assistants was Morty Schapiro!) There is no reason why the faculty could not be much more powerful than they are, no reason why Williams could not revert back to arrangements of that era.

Second, schedule an appointment with Maud Mandel. She is still (I hope!) eager to chat with faculty. The goal for this meeting is not to harangue her with your views. Instead, find out what she thinks! Is she concerned with the growth of administrative power? Did she witness similar trends at Brown? What does she think the correct ratio is of faculty to administrator hiring? And so on. At some point, ask her: “Interesting point, Maud! Would you mind if I followed up with Dukes Love and his folks in the Provost’s Office to gather more information?” She will probably encourage you to do so. And getting that permission/encourage was your goal from this meeting.

Third, meet with Dukes Love or Chris Winters ’95 or someone else in the Provost’s Office, ideally whoever was the lead person on the Staffing Report. Again, your goal is not to bore them with your views. Be realistic! They don’t really care what you think. You are just one of the 250+ faculty members they have to deal with. Instead, your goal is to get access to their data on staffing, or at least as much of it as they will share. It is one thing to read their report. It is another to have a copy of their Excel spreadsheets, to be able to work with the raw data that they work with. The rules are such that they can’t share with you the salaries of individuals, obviously, but they can share anything else. And since you seem so reasonable — and since Maud Mandel encouraged your efforts, as you casually mentioned to them — they might be quite accommodating. Data is power and, the more you have, the more likely to are to accomplish something.

Four, write a 5 page report, expressing your concerns. Your goal is not to bombard readers with your views, much less with your proposed solutions. Instead, you are highlighting key facts. Of the 20 highest paid people at Williams, 18 used to be faculty, now only 10 are. The ratio of spending on faculty versus administrator salaries used to be 5:1 now it is only 2:1. There used to be 7 faculty for every administrator, and now there are only 3. Much of this information is already in the staffing report, but much is not. (And the staffing report pulls a few fast ones as well. Should I spend a week going through it?) The goal of the report is to highlight that things have changed dramatically in the last 20 years and that this topic merits further exploration.

Five, gather faculty support. Most faculty agree with you that the Administration has grown too big and too powerful. Show them your report. Get their feedback. Ask them if they would be willing to join you in working on this problem. Present the report to various committees, perhaps all the way up to a full faculty meeting. Key at this stage is to identify your core supporters, the 5 (10? 30?) faculty members who are willing to work hard on this topic, even if it means going against the College Administration.

Six, start thinking about goals. What, precisely, do you want to accomplish? What policy change would make Williams better off 10 or 50 years from now? This is not about an individual administrator or even a class of positions. My recommendation is that you want a non-faculty net-hiring pause of 10 years. You certainly don’t want anyone to be fired. Current Williams administrators are, overwhelmingly, good people, working hard to make the College better. You just want to bring Williams back “in balance,” to where it was 20 years ago. Since many people leave the College each year, the Administration would still have a great deal of flexibility in terms of shifting resources around. But, right now, Williams has 200 (?) administrators. That is enough. Other plausible policy changes include a (more draconian) hiring freeze which would, over time, decrease the administrative bloat at Williams, or a freeze on total spending on administrators.

Seven, lobby to create a committee. Major changes at Williams come via two mechanisms — presidential fiat (Falk’s alignment) or major committees (the end of fraternities, the decrease in admission preferences for athletes, neighborhood housing). You want President Mandel to form a committee — preferably faculty only, but maybe to also include students and alumni — charged with examining administration growth at Williams. You would not presume to demand that this committee come to a specific conclusion. Instead, your only point is that there are few more important issues to Williams over the next 100 years than the role of faculty in college governance. Therefore, we need a committee to examine this topic.

Eight, keep Mandel/Love/Buell informed as you proceed. Perhaps one or more of them might be an ally! You never know. At the very least, keeping them informed is probably politically wise since only they can create the committee. You just want to maneuver them into situation in which, from their point of view, giving you your committee is the best option.

That is enough for today! More advice available, as requested.

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Discursive and Institutional Violence

Why are some Ephs allowed to send e-mails to the entire Williams student body and other are not?

From: Modhurima, Rodsy <rm8@williams.edu>
Date: Fri, Apr 12, 2019, 10:25 AM
Subject: Calling on trustees as a campus community
To: <WILLIAMS-STUDENTS@listserv.williams.edu>

Dear Williams College Community,

This February we joined as a campus to March for the Damned. We showed our love for each other and brought attention to the ways in which our campus community needs to support minoritized members of this community- staff, faculty, and students.

Many of the demands which have been circulating recently (including, but not limited to, affinity housing, increased accountability of CSS, improved sexual assault prevention and response, and increased support for faculty of color and queer and trans* faculty) have either been ignored or sent to committees to stagnate. These are largely the same demands students have been making for decade.

Today, the Williams trustees are having a full board meeting on campus to approve fiscal budgets for 2019-20. We have called on them to respond to a list of twelve concrete objectives by April 17th. We invite the whole Williams community to join us to build a community of love and compel the trustees to support us in this mission by responding to our asks.

These are not the extent of our demands but are the ones most relevant to the role of Trustees.

In love and solidarity,

CARE Now

Their letter to the trustees:

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE TRUSTEES OF WILLIAMS COLLEGE

We are the Coalition Against Racist Education Now (CARE Now), an active and growing collective of student activists born out of resistance to the 2018 faculty petition on free speech. We garnered over 300 student and alumni signatures in protest of predatory and hate speech. We organized a 200-strong March for the Damned on February 25th after the departures of Professors Kai Green and Kimberly Love due to the violent practices of the College.

We hold the truth of discursive and institutional violence to be self-evident. This year alone, there has been a mass exodus of faculty of color. Many junior faculty of color are considering medical leave due to the unmitigating stress of living in an unsupportive and callous environment; staff are similarly unsupported by the institution with a lack of growth opportunities or access to basic living necessities; and too many students are admitted to the Jones 2 Psychiatric Ward each year.

Dozens of faculty of color leave campus each weekend to avoid the emotional detriment of existing here at the College. The College has proven incompetent in fulfilling its fundamental mission “to provide the finest possible liberal arts education” by failing to support those responsible for educating, mentoring, and supporting students. College administrators have sat on a ‘Faculty-Staff Initiative Report’ from the last mass exodus of faculty of color in 2009, and yet the administration has not adequately addressed the findings of this report over the past decade:

“We understand that improving the professional quality of life for staff and faculty of color, and thus the institutional culture at large, would only improve the experience of Williams students. We have witnessed how departures of staff and faculty of color or their absence in particular fields/sectors impact negatively upon the lives of students—both students of color and white students who turn to staff and faculty members of color for curricular and/or extracurricular support. This negative impact ranges from the disruption/suspension of research projects to an increased sense of isolation. We, therefore, hold that a sizable and long‐term community of staff and faculty of color is vital to the studies and lives of students across the College” (Faculty-Staff Initiative, 2009).

We remind the Trustees of their obligation to the well-being and safety of its students, faculty, and staff. The present moment demonstrates a managerial and fiduciary failure to provide a safe, respectful, and livable school community. The Trustees must respond thoroughly and with haste to this failure with tangible, monetary investment.

Therefore, we compel the Trustees to accomplish the following:

A complete process of reparation and reconciliation to Indigenous peoples including the increased hiring and admittance of Indigenous faculty, staff, and students as well as the reallocation of property back to the nations impacted by the College’s active participation in settler-colonialism.

Approve the request for $34,000 additional funding to the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity in full for the purpose of supporting student-led Heritage Month events, as well as the increase of $15,000 additional funding for incoming Minority Coalition groups.

Commit to improving community spaces by establishing affinity housing for Black students (and all other marginalized groups), ensuring all college buildings be in compliance with ADA guidelines, and fully renovating the Davis Center buildings.

Fund permanent networks of support for faculty of color, such as weekend faculty-staff shuttles to New York and Boston, a community space of gathering, and additional housing resources.

Immediately approve and fund the two requested hiring lines for Asian American Studies. Additionally, immediately use opportunity hires to fill critical gaps left by departing faculty of color.

Recognize that the Davis Center is currently operating with only two full-time underpaid and overworked staff members. As such, immediately hire sufficient staff members to ensure the efficient operation of the Davis Center.

Hire additional therapists, with a focus on trans therapists and therapists of color.

Increase hiring and pay for staff at the Office of Accessible Education and streamline support for students, staff, and faculty who take medical leave and/or time off.

Fund a thorough external independent investigation into the practices and interactions CSS has with students, namely minority students.

Increase diversity and pay for staff in Dining Services and Facilities.

Hire an independent advocate specialized in survivor support, effectively removing the no-contact order (NCOs) investigation responsibilities from Dean Marlene Sandstrom.

Hire three more Title IX coordinators who will meet the demonstrated needs of survivors.

We, CARE Now, demand a formal and public response by the Board of Trustees to this open letter addressing all twelve objectives by April 17, 2019

I love you ・ I love me ・ I love us ・ I love we

Contact us at carenowradicallove@gmail.com | Literature of The Damned: https://bit.ly/2Gi7drK

Photo Credit: Sabrine Brismeur, Photo Editor at The Record

Lots to consider here. Could we start with a single concrete example of the “discursive and institutional violence” which CARE Now considers to be “self-evident?”

If CARE Now is serious about trying to change Williams, they should follow this advice.

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EphBlog in the NYT, 10

New York Times opinion columnist David Leonhardt linked to EphBlog in his column a few weeks ago about the enfolding admissions bribery scandal. Thanks! Alas, Leonhardt is one of the more clueless education reporters, a not particularly clued-in breed, as we have documented again and again and again. Is a link from him something to be proud of? Either way, his article merits 10 days of discussion. Day 10.

The Times’s editorial board notes that the indictments do not challenge the legal uses of money to influence the admissions process: “What the government actually is defending is private property — the right of the colleges to make their own decisions about admissions, and collect the payments.” And my colleague Frank Bruni weighs in as well.

The Times is correct. There is nothing wrong with writing a check to get your child into Williams, c.f., Hollander Hall. But you must write the check to the correct person.

Matt Levine explains it well:

The deep point here is that the law is pretty good at protecting property interests, but not so good at protecting fairness. If there’s a thing, and someone owns it, and you take it, the law can deal with that: It’s relatively straightforward to figure out what happened and explain why it was wrong and identify the victim and assign blame to the perpetrator and so forth. Fairness is a much harder concept to pin down and enforce; my “unfair advantage” might be your “deserved reward for hard work and innate skill.” What’s odd is not that insider trading law is about theft; what’s odd is that it almost looks like it might be about fairness, and that people think it is.

There can be no separate college admissions system for the wealthy, except for the extremely well-known one where you donate a building in exchange for getting your kid in! “Lol just donate a building like a real rich person,” the U.S. Attorney almost said.

It is not about fairness; it is about theft. Selective colleges have admissions spots that they want to award in particular ways. They want to award some based on academic factors; they want to award others based on athletic skill; they want to award others in exchange for cash, but—and this is crucial—really a whole lot of cash.

Read the whole thing. Williams wants you to give it, or rather Megan Morey in the Development Office, $5 million. Williams does not want you to give $500,000 to women’s soccer coach Michelyne Pinard. The former gets your AR 3/4 (even 5?) child into Williams. The latter gets you arrested.

Heed EphBlog’s wisdom!

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EphBlog in the NYT, 9

New York Times opinion columnist David Leonhardt linked to EphBlog in his column a few weeks ago about the enfolding admissions bribery scandal. Thanks! Alas, Leonhardt is one of the more clueless education reporters, a not particularly clued-in breed, as we have documented again and again and again. Is a link from him something to be proud of? Either way, his article merits 10 days of discussion. Day 9.

“Recruited athletes not only enter selective colleges with weaker academic records than their classmates as a whole but that, once in college, they ‘consistently underperform academically even after we control for standardized test scores and other variables,’” Edward Fiske wrote in a 2001 book review for The Times.

This might have been true in 2001, but, even then, I have serious doubts about the quality of the statistical work underlying these claims. But it was never really true at Williams. The 2002 MacDonald Report (pdf) concluded that “Athletes, to summarize, achieve lower grades than other students overall, but achieve about the same grades as students with similar academic ratings.”

It could be that Williams was a different sort of school than the others used in “The Game of Life: College Sports and Educational Values,” the book reviewed by Fiske in the Times. I think it more likely that authors Shulman and Bowen just did sloppy empirical work.

But, wouldn’t you know it, we now know more than we did 20 years ago! Consider this 2009 Report (pdf).

We find that the gap in academic performance, as judged by grade point average, has narrowed substantially overall and has essentially disappeared for female athletes and for male athletes in low-profile sports. The gap for male athletes in high-profile varsity sports (which we defined as football,ice hockey, basketball, and baseball; other studies include different sports, such as wrestling and lacrosse) appears to be narrowing, but persists even after we adjust for 1) academic qualifications prior to enrolling at Williams College, 2) socio-economic status, and 3) the individual’s year (e.g.sophomore, senior). Thus academic under-performance by male varsity athletes in high-profile sports continues, and cannot be attributed to academic credentials prior to Williams or to socioeconomic status.

The narrowing of the overall academic performance gap since 2002 could be due to any of number of factors (perhaps including changes in team culture during the past decade) but one likely factor is the change in admissions standards for athletic “tips”. The minimum qualifications required for admission to Williams have been raised during the intervening years, and are continuing to rise.Thus varsity athletes’ academic preparation for Williams College is increasingly similar to that of the rest of the student body. Our data indicate that academic under-performance by male varsity athletes playing high-profile sports can largely be attributed to those who are less well-prepared academically for Williams, and thus it is our sense that the “raising of the floor” for admissions tips may have been an important factor in reducing overall difference in the GPAs of varsity athletes and non-athletes.

This is somewhat sloppy and confusing. But the key point is that, for 28 of the 32 varsity sports teams at Williams, the average academic performance of athletes is indistinguishable from that on non-athletes. That is a fairly different message from “consistently underperform academically.”

Again, there are a lot of subtleties and we would all like more recent data. And it could be that Williams is different than other schools. But for Leonhardt and others to continue to pretend that athletes in general are some weird outlier group on campus, academically disconnected from their peers, is just nonsense. Might there have been, and still be, issues with the football team and men’s ice hockey? Sure! Yet those are precisely the high profile sports which were not involved in the current scandal.

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EphBlog in the NYT, 8

New York Times opinion columnist David Leonhardt linked to EphBlog in his column a few weeks ago about the enfolding admissions bribery scandal. Thanks! Alas, Leonhardt is one of the more clueless education reporters, a not particularly clued-in breed, as we have documented again and again and again. Is a link from him something to be proud of? Either way, his article merits 10 days of discussion. Day 8.

It has taken 8 days, but we have finally come around to EphBlog!

At some colleges, like Williams, nearly one-fifth of first-year students are recruited athletes, EphBlog explains.

1) Thanks for the link! But who should we really thank? I doubt that Leonhardt reads EphBlog or remembered this post. It was more likely turned up via a Google search. But by whom?

2) The link is, sadly, not the best that could have been used. First, this is an annual post on How Admissions Work at Williams, and the latest version is always best. Second, the topic here is athletic admissions, covered in much more detail in this post.

3) Why “some colleges?” Large admissions preferences for athletes is an almost universal practice at elite colleges, Caltech being the most prominent exception. (There is occasional nonsense that MIT does not use athletic preferences. That is garbage. Here is the link for athletic recruiment.)

4) Also misleading is “nearly one-fifth.” Williams probably has a lower percentage than most other NESCAC schools, mainly because we have a somewhat larger student body. That is, in most of NESCAC, the percentage is higher than 20%.

5) Note the correction that Leonhardt added to the column.

An earlier version of this newsletter misstated the share of students at Williams College who are recruited athletes. It is about 30 percent, not nearly one in five.

This is just nonsense. Leonhardt has apparently decided that, since 30% of Williams students play inter-collegiate sports, every single one of them must be a recruited athlete. That is a fantasy.

Wikipedia tells us that:

The Gell-Mann amnesia effect describes the phenomenon of an expert believing news articles on topics outside of their field of expertise even after acknowledging that articles written in the same publication that are within the expert’s field of expertise are error-ridden and full of misunderstanding.

Why should I believe Leonhardt when he talks about the US budget when he can’t even describe the admissions process at Williams accurately?

But a NYT link is still much appreciated!

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EphBlog in the NYT, 7

New York Times opinion columnist David Leonhardt linked to EphBlog in his column a few weeks ago about the enfolding admissions bribery scandal. Thanks! Alas, Leonhardt is one of the more clueless education reporters, a not particularly clued-in breed, as we have documented again and again and again. Is a link from him something to be proud of? Either way, his article merits 10 days of discussion. Day 1.

I’m a sports fan and long-ago high school athlete. I have a lot of admiration for students who are talented enough and work hard enough to play sports in college. But they are not a different species. It’s time to end the extreme special treatment that colleges give to so many of them. College sports can still exist without it.

EphBlog agrees. The place to start is with increased transparency, as we have discussed before.

NESCAC schools should measure and make public the academic accomplishments of their student athletes, both in high school (AP/SAT scores) and in college (GPA, majors).

Suggestions:

  • In the first (trial) year, allow each school to present the information in whatever way it prefers. (Smart presidents will simply delegate the task to their athletic directors and institutional researchers.) Since no (?) athletic conference has done this before, it is not clear what the best approach might be.
  • Any statistic should be presented in three different ways: for the entire student body, for the team as a whole and for the team weighted by playing time. (The last measure discourages coaches from stacking teams with academically accomplished benchwarmers.) FERPA prevents schools from releasing data about an individual student, but there is no law against making aggregate data available.
  • Include data from both high school and college. We want to demonstrate both the affect of athletics on admissions and, even more importantly, how athletes perform in college.

There are several benefits to greater transparency about the academic performance of NESCAC athletes. First, it would publicly demonstrate a fact that many non-athletes doubt: On the whole, athletes are similar in their academic qualifications and accomplishments to non-athletes. Second, it would encourage coaches to make academics a bigger focus in both their recruiting and their mentorship. If you (partially) measure coaches by the academic performance of their teams, you will get better academic performance. Third, it will prevent coaches/schools from complaining, inaccurately, about the behavior of their peers. Right now, coach X loves to claim that school Y unfairly lowers standards for its recruits. Who knows? With transparency, we can observe institutional behavior easily.

Leonhardt wants to decrease the admissions advantages for athletes. The first step in that politically-fraught process is greater transparency about exactly what the admissions advantage is, and its effect on subsequent academic performance.

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EphBlog in the NYT, 6

New York Times opinion columnist David Leonhardt linked to EphBlog in his column a few weeks ago about the enfolding admissions bribery scandal. Thanks! Alas, Leonhardt is one of the more clueless education reporters, a not particularly clued-in breed, as we have documented again and again and again. Is a link from him something to be proud of? Either way, his article merits 10 days of discussion. Day 6.

“Athletic recruiting is the biggest form of affirmative action in American higher education, even at schools such as ours,” as Philip Smith [’58], a former dean of admissions at Williams College, has said. It’s a relic of the supposedly character-defining role that sports played in elite colleges a century ago.

Why should we trust anything that Leonhardt says when he demonstrates his dishonesty so clearly here? You, naive reader, probably think that this quote from Smith is “true,” that Leonhardt called up Smith, discussed the recent news and Smith said these words to Leonhardt. But that is not what happened! (The “tell” is in the use of “has.”)

In fact, this quote is from 18 years ago. Leonhardt wants you to think that he is performing the ancient and time-honored craft of “reporting” when, in truth, he is just slapping things together in order to fit a pre-arranged narrative. EphBlog does that all day long, but at least we are honest about it!

The good news here is that I am glad that Phil Smith is no longer (one hopes!) talking to New York Times reporters. Anyone who took showers in the men’s locker room during the 1980s knows that there are certain parts of Williams history that are best left unexamined in this MeToo era . . .

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EphBlog in the NYT, 5

New York Times opinion columnist David Leonhardt linked to EphBlog in his column a few weeks ago about the enfolding admissions bribery scandal. Thanks! Alas, Leonhardt is one of the more clueless education reporters, a not particularly clued-in breed, as we have documented again and again and again. Is a link from him something to be proud of? Either way, his article merits 10 days of discussion. Day 5.

I thought of that study yesterday, after the Justice Department announced it had indicted 50 people for trying to rig the admissions process. The alleged scam involved payments funneled from parents to college coaches, who in return would falsely identify applicants as athletic recruits to the admissions office. Just like that, the students then become virtual shoo-ins for acceptance.

If the accusations are true, they’re outrageous.

I admit that I was shocked to see this happening at Yale. (The coach at issue is married to the Wesleyan head women’s soccer coach.) But why is this “outrageous” when, every single year, families write million dollar checks to Williams (and Yale and Harvard) to get their children accepted? Leonhardt expresses no outrage about that common practice.

But they also highlight a larger problem that has somehow become acceptable: A scam like this could exist only because competitive sports occupy a ridiculously large place in the admissions process.

First, what, precisely, is the “scam?” Leonhardt has no problem with Development Admissions, in which you write a check and your kid gets in. That is OK! But writing a check to the wrong person at Yale is a “scam?”

Second, how does Leonhardt know that other parts of the admissions process don’t have similar scams? Sports matter in admissions, no doubt, but so does race. Is Leonhardt certain that there are no similar racial scams yet to come to light?

The situation is different for other extracurricular activities. Great musicians are more likely to be admitted to a college than similar students who don’t play an instrument — as is only fair, because musicians deserve credit for their accomplishments.

Uhh, no they are not, or at least not in anything other than trivial numbers. Richard Nesbitt explained this to us 15 years ago.

As for the comparison with music, here’s a reality check: 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).

In other words, even if you only used academic standards, you would gets tons of great musicians. And that means that being a great musician does not matter much.

But the musicians don’t generally receive a 30-percentage-point boost on their admissions chances. Stage managers for the high school theater don’t, either. Nor do student body presidents, debaters, yearbook editors or robotics competitors.

Athletes do. Their extracurricular activities are not treated merely as an important part of a college application, but as a defining part.

True. If you are on the coach’s list, you are in — subject to meeting certain minimum academic standards, which the coach knows about ahead of and, so, would not put you on her list if you did not meet them. If you are not on the list, you are rejected.

But race, for 100+ students at Yale each year, also serves as the “defining part” of their application. If they did not check that box, they would be rejected. I can’t figure out if Leonhardt is too ill-informed to know that all his complaints about athletics also apply to race or if he knows and is too cowardly to report the truth. Which would be worse?

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