Currently browsing posts authored by David Dudley Field '25

Follow David Dudley Field '25 via RSS

← Previous PageNext Page →

Great Awokening, 1

Williams Political Science Professor Darel Paul writes about “Listening at the Great Awokening.” This is a brilliant article, worth reading in full. Relevant controversies at Williams include The Taco Six, Self-CARE Now, UL/Derbyshire, Green/Love Black Joy, and White Male Vigilantes. Alas, I don’t fully trust our busy readership to find the time to do so! So, we will spend two weeks going through the entire article. Day 1.

Colleges and universities across the English-speaking world are caught up in the enthusiasm of a Great Awokening. Its dogmas are structural violence, systemic racism, racial stress, white privilege, white fragility, implicit bias and microaggressions. From the University of Missouri to Evergreen State College to Sarah Lawrence College and beyond, faculty and students are ablaze with the fire of social justice.

Would most observers agree that the Williams of 2019 is systematically different than the Williams of yesteryear? I would. Of course, it is easy to think that “this time is different,” that what you are seeing is new. Most of the time it isn’t. Human foolishness is always with us. And Williams has had social justice warriors, at least for the last 30 years, if not the last 50.

Lacking programs in fields such as business, medicine, engineering and agriculture, liberal arts colleges by their very nature have a higher than average percentage of students and faculty proclaiming this new faith.

I am not sure that this is true. Yale, one of the main examples that Paul uses throughout the article, has all of the above, except for agriculture. Evergreen State, another Paul favorite, has agriculture and business.

So, true to form, this spring the Great Awokening finally came to my home institution, Williams College. Administrators and other campus leaders have encouraged white members of the college community like myself to listen.

Administrators and campus leaders have been telling white Ephs to listen for decades. That is nothing new. But, I agree with Paul that 2019 feels different. There were isolated controversies in the past, but nothing like the sustained turmoil we have seen this year.

Over the past two months, I have striven to do exactly that. In fact, I’ve done quite a lot of listening (and reading). I have spent dozens of hours listening at meetings and reading copious documents produced by activist students and faculty. I have also watched videos and read documents resulting from the racial blowups at Yale University in 2015, Evergreen State College in 2017 and Sarah Lawrence College in 2019. Listening to these views from multiple campuses helped me realize that what seems to be a local discourse responding to local issues is actually a local manifestation of an international social, political and ideological phenomenon. All the accents and cadences of critical race theory can be identified. Williams, Sarah Lawrence, Evergreen and Yale could really be Any Residential College in Any Town.

Agreed. Again, my favorite historical analogy to the current campus hysteria is the Second Great Awakening. From Wikipedia:

Like the First Great Awakening a half century earlier, the Second Great Awakening in North America reflected Romanticism characterized by enthusiasm, emotion, and an appeal to the super-natural. It rejected the skepticism, deism, Unitarianism, and rationalism left over from the American Enlightenment, about the same time that similar movements flourished in Europe.

Postmillennialism theology dominated American Protestantism in the first half of the 19th century. Postmillennialists believed that Christ will return to earth after the “millennium”, which could entail either a literal 1,000 years or a figurative “long period” of peace and happiness. Christians thus had a duty to purify society in preparation for that return.

CARE Now is going to purify Williams, whatever it takes . . .

Entire article below the break:
Read more

Facebooktwitter

Congratulations Class of 2019

Commencement is this morning. Congratulations to all our graduating seniors!

I know that there is a livestream, but I can’t find it. Could someone please point it out?

Facebooktwitter

Deeply Disappointed and Frustrated

“Brutus” passes along the latest open letter:

We write today to reach out to you with our experiences and provide a longer history for the current conflicts within the Williams English Department. As alumni, we are deeply disappointed and frustrated by the College’s response to Professor Kent’s harassment of Professor Wang, not least because it is being treated as a single event rather than a part of a long-standing and larger pattern. We write in support of Professor Wang and in echo of the demands articulated by protesting students and the Coalition Against Racist Education Now (CARE Now), enumerated in the open letter delivered to you this spring. Furthermore, we urge for the broadcast of these events in alumni publications and Ephnotes, as they often go unacknowledged. It is this lack of institutional memory and publicity that perpetuates these harmful dynamics, despite their documentation (see Margolis v. Williams College, the 2015 open letter to the English department, and the aforementioned CARE Now letter).

Worth spending a week on? Entire letter and associated “testimony” below the break:

Brutus continues:

Quick follow-up on the previous email. According to the Williams English web page, the department currently has 0 white male assistant professors (tenure-track) and 0 white male associate professors (white men are still allowed to be itinerant adjuncts, it seems). Perhaps the College is taking the demographic approach to purging the English Department of its racism/sexism/heteronormativity/etc.?

True? I have not checked. But don’t forget! We need to get rid of the white women, like Katie Kent ’88, as well.

Read more

Facebooktwitter

Senior Week Schedule

Below the break is this year’s senior week schedule. Questions:

1) Did scores of seniors go to the Outerbanks in North Carolina Hilton Head last week, as was the tradition for many years?

2) What does “Senior Wrist Banding” refer to?

3) Any firsthand reports from these events? I still remember our Mt. Hope Dinner Dance 30 years ago . . .

Read more

Facebooktwitter

Teach Week

Are any of our readers participating in Teach Week?

Teach Week kicks off on Thursday, May 23 with Teaching Students Before Content facilitated by Betsy Burris of Teaching Through Emotions. This workshop provides background on student-centered teaching and serves as a foundation for other workshops in the series.

Teach Week will give you the opportunity to dig deeper with different campus partners, and you will leave each workshop with a concrete takeaway to use in your upcoming courses.

1) How much is this costing Williams?

2) “Teach week is an event of the Williams College Collaborative for Faculty Development.” The Event Planning Committee includes 9 people, not a single (!?) one of them a member of the faculty.

3) Not all of this is obviously useless. In fact, the sessions today actually seem sort of interesting!

4) Much is also tendentious social justice left nonsense. Example from tomorrow:

In this workshop, we will discuss the ways that language, microaggressions, and incomplete empathy can inhibit student success. Using case studies, we will work together to identify the sources of micro- and macro-aggressions, and we will discuss effective problem solving strategies and word-choices in response to hostile situations. We will then practice having productive conversations about difference with our peers and our students.

I hope that one of trouble-making faculty friends sends us a report from this event. But I doubt that any of them will go!

Facebooktwitter

We Do Wonder

Thanks (?) to Professor Paul for pointing out this letter to President Mandel.

We write as colleagues and advocates of Professor Dorothy Wang, in response to her encounter with Professor Katie Kent, Chair of the English Department, on April 17. We are deeply troubled by that incident, and by the administration’s response to it, especially given that an increasingly public eye has now turned to the climate of adversity at Williams College for faculty of color (FoC) and the students they mentor, particularly students of color.

Paul writes “Just when you thought things at Williams College couldn’t get any more ridiculous . . .”

Do readers agree?

Enter letter is below the break. Note this paragraph:

We do wonder whether you have reached out personally to Professor Wang to begin a conversation as to how she and others might feel better supported, as per your pledge, and “able to work, and to live all aspects of [one’s] identities without hostility or limitations.” We wonder whether you discussed with Professor Wang your intention to make allusion to “a matter between two colleagues in an all-faculty email.” We wonder whether you provided her with an account of the rationale that led to your position regarding what you describe as an “interaction…in a hallway three weeks ago.” We do wonder, insomuch as to characterize in the neutral language of “interaction” what evidence suggests was rather a verbal assault is not to stand by students, faculty, and staff of color—who feel unsupported at best and denigrated at worst—but to side precisely with “the structures and practices that have allowed inequity to take hold and persist.” We wonder whether such panic was merited in advance of the May 10 student action, as reflected in your letter about the Williams College “code of conduct,” or whether such language served the effect of distracting from the structural causes that have prompted us to write you today.

The authors are almost certainly friends of Dorothy Wang. What are the odds that they didn’t talk with her ahead of time? Approximately zero. If so, then their “we do wonder” pose is absurd.

Read more

Facebooktwitter

Atlantic on Admissions, 2

This Atlantic article about legacy admissions is a mess, but it does have a couple of interesting data points. Day 2 of 2.

From the article:

Yale is an interesting case study. The school currently gives the children of alumni an admissions bump, but from 1980 to 2010, the proportion of students in its freshman class with a parent who also attended dropped from 24 percent to 13 percent.

1) Just because Yale tells a gullible Atlantic reporter something — like that it does not discriminate against Asian-Americans — does not make that something true. Yale has many reasons, mostly related to fund-raising, to claim that it gives legacies a “bump,” even if — especially if! — the bump is so small as to be invisible.

2) I don’t think the drop at Williams has been so dramatic, but there has been a drop. I think a recent class was only 10% legacy, whereas the usual number was closer to 15%. I don’t know what it was in the 80’s, although that information is available in the library in the annual letters that the Admissions Office used to produce for the trustees. On my list of projects for reunion week-end!

3) The numbers for Yale help to explain the dramatic increase in legacy quality at Yale. (We don’t have Yale data but there is no reason why the trends would not be the same there as at Harvard/Williams.) First, if you only take half as many legacies, you can reject the really stupid ones. Second, the doubling of the Yale undergraduate class size from the 60s to the 80s means that there are, more or less, twice as many legacies to choose from. Third, Yale students in the 80s are much smarter than those from the 50s, so their children will form a much more academically accomplished pool to choose from.

Facebooktwitter

Atlantic on Admissions, 1

This Atlantic article about legacy admissions is a mess, but it does have a couple of interesting data points. Day 1 of 2.

Applying to college as a legacy is like having a superpower. It has been estimated to double or quadruple one’s chances of getting into a highly selective school, and has been found to be roughly equivalent to a 160-point boost on the SAT.

I need to re-work my annual post on legacy admissions to deal more directly with (excellent!) comments/criticisms from folks like abl. In the meantime, can we agree that the above is incredibly misleading? The average SAT score for Williams legacies is higher than the average for non-legacies. Nor is this only a Williams phenomenon:

And a Harvard spokesperson told me that admitted legacies tend to have higher median test scores and grades than the rest of admitted students. This doesn’t make the admissions advantage that legacies are given defensible, but it’s possibly another reason that the status quo of legacy admissions persists.

Now “admitted students” are not the same as “enrolled students,” which is the real comparison we want. But Harvard enrolls 80%+ of its admitted students, so the statistics for admitted students are very likely to be similar to those of enrolled students. Moreover, it is not obvious which way any differences would go.

The question is that same as before. If, among enrolled students, the average Harvard legacy scores 1500 (or whatever), and the average non-legacy scores 1480, how much of a preference could being a legacy possibly be?

Entire article below the break:

Read more

Facebooktwitter

How Bureaucracy Causes Problems

Below the break is, I think, the last update from Williams about the WIFI situation.

The central lesson for President Mandel is that, if she wants to help out herself and future Williams administrations, the RSO (registered student organization) bureaucracy/forms should be removed. Go back to how things were done prior to 2010. (Thanks Adam Falk!)

Students have rights, organizations do not. If you want to reserve a room, request funding, set up a meeting, then you, as an individual Williams student, have the right to do so. From the College’s point of view, you do not need to be certified as an RSO to do anything. The main reason for this change is that it removes the likely-to-be-abused power from College Council to block the creation of student groups like WIFI.

The College should no more be in the business of certifying that an official student group exists than it certifies that official student romantic relationships exist. Students form groups. Students date. Williams should stay out of both.

If you have something, like the RSO designation, that is likely to be abused and which serves no purpose, then get rid of it. The Williams of (at least!) the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s managed to survive without such nonsense. Go back to the rules of an earlier era.

Nothing prevents the College Council from coming up with its own rules about who it wants to fund and why it wants to fund them. And that is OK! Many groups want money from CC and don’t get it. The College can, at any point, step in and fund any group for any reason.

For those interested in a bit of history:

I was one of the founders of Uncomfortable Learning and can shed some light on that decision. We spent a significant amount of time speaking with the Williams administration before making the decision to operate as an independent group, but one that looked to partner with other groups on campus like the Debate Union.

We made the decision to be independent as if we had registered, the Williams administration would have imposed a set of requirements on Uncomfortable Learning that would have prevented us from accomplishing the goals of UL. UL’s ambition has always been to promote dialogue and encourage people to consider perspectives and arguments that are not common at Williams. Administrators at Williams would have only allowed Uncomfortable Learning to register if UL was run by a 10 to 15-person board made up of many groups on campus. While UL has actively looked to involve other groups on campus, the structure required by the Williams administration would have kneecapped UL from the start. That structure would have just replicated the mindset at Williams while UL was looking to question that very mindset. As we have seen recently, there are people at Williams who react negatively when their world view is questioned, and we could not take the chance of having those people run UL.

During this era, people like Professor Sam Crane were happy to use the College’s rules/bureaucracy to torture unpopular groups like Uncomfortable Learning. That was evil in-and-of-itself. But, perhaps worse, that abuse set the stage for the CC/WIFI disaster. Once you create a process/rules for punishing groups (like UL) whose views you disagree with, don’t be surprised to see that same process/rules turned against groups (like WIFI) with whom you agree.

Background links here, here, here and here.

Read more

Facebooktwitter

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?

Facebooktwitter

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:

Read more

Facebooktwitter

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:
Read more

Facebooktwitter

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:
Read more

Facebooktwitter

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.

Facebooktwitter

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 . . .

Facebooktwitter

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.

Facebooktwitter

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:
Read more

Facebooktwitter

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!

Facebooktwitter

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?

Facebooktwitter

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 . . .

Facebooktwitter

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.

Facebooktwitter

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:

Read more

Facebooktwitter

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 . . .

Facebooktwitter

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?

Facebooktwitter

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!

Facebooktwitter

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:
Read more

Facebooktwitter

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:

Screen Shot 2018-04-19 at 11.25.38 AM

Screen Shot 2018-04-19 at 11.26.30 AM

Screen Shot 2018-04-19 at 11.24.22 AM

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

Facebooktwitter

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?

Facebooktwitter

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.

Facebooktwitter

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.

Facebooktwitter

← Previous PageNext Page →

Currently browsing posts authored by David Dudley Field '25

Follow David Dudley Field '25 via RSS