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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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May 2019 Faculty Meeting Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Spoke to the White House

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

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Weekend Links

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

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

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

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April 2019 Faculty Meeting Notes

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

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

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

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

4) On admissions:

I don’t like this.

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

5) On graduate programs:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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wife(?)

Your weekly opportunity to argue about politics . . .

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Weekend Links

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

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

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Your Alumni Donations at Work

From WAMC:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recall (from 2003!):

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

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

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

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

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11% International Students in the Class of 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

> Any reason 50% instead of 70%?

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

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

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

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

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Morning Joe & Psycho

EphBlog loves it whenever a president tweets about an Eph.

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

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

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

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Weekend Links

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

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

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

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Kramer ’03 is Particularly Perturbed

The Chronicle of Education reports:

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

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

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

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

Thanks to an anonymous Williams faculty member for the link.

article below the break
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Weekend Links

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

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

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

Here goes!

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

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

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Eph Fecudity

How many children does an average Eph have? My current guess is at least 1.5, and probably more.

Consider a not-so-randomly selected first-year entry from the mid 1980s. Those Ephs are now into their 50s with, presumably, most of their reproduction complete. The entry had 24 students, 12 men and 12 women. It has produced at least 36 children. Three of the women and (I think) three of the men had no offspring. The remaining 18 averaged exactly two children each. Comments:

1) This is a minimum. If I only relied on the Alumni Directory, I would only have found 32 children. One (male) alum, with 4 children, had not recorded any of them in the directory. I may have missed others.

I am especially suspicious of two other male alums with no children listed. I think — opinions welcome! — that male alums are much less likely to be childless than female alums, and that male alums are less likely to have accurate entries in the directory. Or is that an unfair stereotype?

2) Perhaps some (older!) readers could report the data for their own freshmen entries? Although entries are small, they are (very?) random, so just counting all the children from a single entry probably provides a not-unreasonable estimate.

3) Given that I sampled 24 students out of a class of 500, what is the confidence interval for my 1.5 estimate? I probably should have kept track of the 24 individual values and done a bootstrap . . .

4) This is relevant for our discussions about legacy admissions. If 1.5 is accurate then, for the class of 2024, applying this fall, there are 750 or so high school seniors with an Eph parent (and hundreds more with an Eph grandparent). Around 75 of them will become students at Williams. Is is hard to believe that the top 10% of the distribution of Williams children might be academically equivalent to the other 475 members of the class of 2024? Not at all.

5) A rigorous way of exploring this conclusion would be to calculate the expected regression to the mean of children in terms of the academic abilities of their parents. Smart people have smart children, but generally not children as smart as them. So, the average child of an Eph would not be smart enough to get into Williams. But the top 10%? I bet yes. (Readers are welcome to provide their own calculations in the comments.)

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Form 990 History

The leadership of Williams was modestly paid back in 1977.

Forty one years later, things are different.

Purpose of this post, updated once a year, is to maintain our history of the Form 990s issued by Williams. (Thanks to John Wilson ’64 for leading the charge on these efforts.)

Form 990 is an IRS requirement filed by all US non-profits. It is a confusing document that has changed significantly over the years. See here for background reading. Williams only provides versions going back to 2009. Future historians will thank us for archiving older versions: 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. In fact, because Williams occasionally hides things that it once made public, let’s go ahead and save the more recent filings: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

The College archives include earlier versions. At some point, we need to scan them. In the meantime, the wonderful Sylvia Brown provided one page (pdf) of the 1977 submission, from which the above screen shot is taken.

Inflation from 1977 to 2018 was a little over 400%. Professor salaries have kept pace. Administrator salaries have exploded.

I will ask the same question I asked Morty Schapiro in 2004.

Grant for the moment that Morty’s $400,000 annual package is fair and appropriate. But, certainly at some point, the President’s salary would be too high. How high is too high? At what point should I, as an alum asked to donate time and money, start to worry that the College is paying its President too much? If I am at this same event five years from now, would there be any problem with the President’s salary being $500k or $800k or $2 million?

If a complete mediocrity like Falk, the worst Williams president since World War II, is being paid $750,000 all-in, where does this trend end?

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Transgender Athletes in NESCAC?

How long before a Williams female athlete competes against a transgender athlete? How long before a transgender female competes for Williams? Not too long, I bet.

A transgender woman who competed as a man as recently as last year won an NCAA women’s track national championship on Saturday.

Franklin Pierce University senior Cece Telfer beat the eight-woman field in the Division II women’s 400-meter hurdles by more than a second, with a personal collegiate-best time of 57.53.

Telfer competed against Middlebury runners in 2018. But, back then, she was a man. Does that count or not? Honest question! (Apologies if I am not using pronouns in the appropriate manner.) So, to my knowledge, no transgender female has competed for a NESCAC team and no female NESCAC athlete has competed against a transgender female.

Contrary examples welcome!

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The Chin

Nothing more fun than when the President tweets at an Eph:

Tom Friedman is an Eph parent and honorary degree recipient.

This is an opportunity to argue about politics, if you are so inclined . . .

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New EphBlog Format

Got opinions on the new EphBlog format? Let us know in the comments.

1) Basic motivation is that half our readers come to us on mobile phones and the previous format — now more than a decade old — was ill-suited for such viewing. (I had to turn my phone sideways and, with my fingers, expand out the center column. I assume others had similar problems. If not, tell us!)

2) Main thing is to remove all clutter and allow scarce screen space to be filled with text from the most recent posts. This means one column.

3) We are using Twenty Nineteen, a widely used WordPress theme.

4) We hope to fix two things quickly: a) place our traditional cover photo at the top of the page and b) provide a box or menu of some kind on the upper right which would show, perhaps after a click, the most recent comments. For now, you can see all Recent Comments (and other material like Related Posts) by clicking on a post and scrolling to the bottom of it.

5) Suggestions are welcome, both general and technical.

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Hardy ’10 New Assistant Coach at San Antonio Spurs

Twitter is blowing up with news that Will Hardy ’10 will be a new assistant coach at the San Antonio Spurs.

The San Antonio Spurs on Monday announced that Will Hardy and Tim Duncan will be added to Gregg Popovich’s bench as assistant coaches.

Hardy first joined the Spurs as a basketball operations intern in 2010 after graduating from Williams College.

“Will Hardy is a talented, young basketball mind who has earned a great deal of respect from everyone in the organization thanks to his knowledge, spirit and personality,” said Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich.

Oh, yeah. Some other guy also got hired as an assistant coach, but EphBlog doesn’t care about that!

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Modes of Discourse

This (slightly edited) overview by Alastair Roberts (via Steve Sailer) of contrasting modes of discourse gets at some of the problems we have seen at EphBlog over the last 16 years.

In observing the interaction between David Dudley Field ’24 and his critics in the recent debate, I believe that we were witnessing a collision of two radically contrasting modes of discourse. The first mode of discourse, represented by DDF’s critics, is one in which sensitivity, inclusivity, and inoffensiveness are key values, and in which persons and positions are ordinarily closely related. The second mode of discourse, displayed by DDF, is one characterized and enabled by personal detachment from the issues under discussion, involving highly disputational and oppositional forms of rhetoric, scathing satire, and ideological combativeness.

When these two forms of discourse collide they are frequently unable to understand each other and tend to bring out the worst in each other. The first form of discourse seems lacking in rationality and ideological challenge to the second; the second can appear cruel and devoid of sensitivity to the first. To those accustomed to the second mode of discourse, the cries of protest at supposedly offensive statements may appear to be little more than a dirty and underhand ploy intentionally adopted to derail the discussion by those whose ideological position can’t sustain critical challenge. However, these protests are probably less a ploy than the normal functioning of the particular mode of discourse characteristic of that community, often the only mode of discourse that those involved are proficient in.

To those accustomed to the first mode of discourse, the scathing satire and sharp criticism of the second appears to be a vicious and personal attack, driven by a hateful animus, when those who adopt such modes of discourse are typically neither personally hurt nor aiming to cause such hurt. Rather, as this second form of discourse demands personal detachment from issues under discussion, ridicule does not aim to cause hurt, but to up the ante of the debate, exposing the weakness of the response to challenge, pushing opponents to come back with more substantial arguments or betray their lack of convincing support for their position. Within the first form of discourse, if you take offense, you can close down the discourse in your favor; in the second form of discourse, if all you can do is to take offense, you have conceded the argument to your opponent, as offense is not meaningful currency within such discourse.

Read the whole thing. I, obviously, am a second mode Eph.

All Ephs are welcome here, but my basic mode won’t be changing any time soon . . .

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Professor Gibson on Fox

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