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#MeToo

From Wikipedia:

“Me Too” (or “#MeToo”, with local alternatives in other languages) spread virally as a two-word hashtag used on social media in October 2017 to denounce sexual assault and harassment, in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against film producer and executive Harvey Weinstein.[1][2][3] The phrase, long used in this sense by social activist Tarana Burke, was popularized by actress Alyssa Milano, who encouraged women to tweet it to publicize experiences to demonstrate the widespread nature of misogynistic behavior.

There are plenty of recriminations, now, for those who knew about the depredations of Harvey Weinstein and his ilk, but did nothing. Before casting stones, however, EphBlog prefers to look in the mirror. Are there things at Williams that, while not Weinstein-like in their depravity, should be aired rather than hidden?

Recall:

At least three current students have reported to EphBlog that professors in a for-now-unnamed department warn current students they advise to either a) not take a course and/or b) distance themselves from one particular professor due to a number of sexual harassment complaints, including “coming onto” students during office hours and attempting to engage in other inappropriate behavior. Despite the complaints, which have come at least since the 2013-2014 academic year, this professor is still currently in the employment of the College and is teaching a class this semester.

I know the department and the professor. Am I a bad person for not warning female students about this professor? I certainly think that anyone who knew about Weinstein and failed to warn others is a bad person.

There is also the issue of Adam Falk. Although we refuse to allow specific names to be mentioned on EphBlog, there is widespread discussion on campus of the claim that Falk sought (successfully!) to have romantic relationships with women who worked for him, either at Hopkins or at Williams or at both. Is censoring that discussion as morally suspect as censoring discussion of, say, Matt Lauer would have been 6 months ago?

What are our responsibilities and what are yours?

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Drew on Farwell

Former political science professor John Drew shared these memories:

Meeting Pete Farwell was one of the highlights of my time as a professor at Williams College.

I was interested in Pete, in part, because I competed in cross country and track as a high school student in Southern California. With only the most inadequate coaching, I still managed through sheer will-power to break an impressive list of school records posting a 4:23 mile, a 1:52 half mile and a 0:50 quarter mile all at age 18.

I ended up at Occidental College because I was recruited for my skill as an athlete and not for my, as yet, undeveloped skill as a political scientist.

After a couple of weeks running with Pete and his team I ended up thinking I might have been an Olympic athlete if I had had him as a coach during my youthful years. I hung out with Pete and his team largely to get exercise and be of service. I got to fire the starting gun a couple of times and attended team events. I ended up learning so much from him that benefited me for years including mixing up my workouts, icing down afterwards, and correctly running heel to toe.

One of his best tricks as a coach was to not allow his cross country runners to have a slow rest day prior to a regular season cross country event. Then, at the very end of the season, he gave them a rest period prior to the championship. The result was a profound psychological and physiological advantage that supercharged his athletes and overwhelmed their opponents.

Pete was very kind to me and had me over to his home a number of times for dinner. We were both interested in Buddhism and meditation. We never talked politics. I’m glad to see him being honored. He was, without a doubt, the best cross country coach I ever had in my entire life and the best one I ever met.

Thanks again to Derek for the excellent post which started this conversation. Who else has memories of Pete to share?

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Adam Falk’s Legacy, 13

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two three weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 13.

Falk’s main argument is that one article by Derbyshire, “The Talk: Non-Black Version,” makes his presence at Williams unacceptable. Falk does not so much argue against the substance of Derbshire’s views as point-and-sputter in their general direction. Falk (accurately) quotes Derbyshire:

(10a) Avoid concentrations of blacks not all known to you personally.

(10b) Stay out of heavily black neighborhoods.

First, we should always be interested in what other people tell their own children. Recall that the context is “The Talk” that African-American parents give their children about the dangers inherent in interactions with the police. Derbyshire writes:

There is a talk that nonblack Americans have with their kids, too. My own kids, now 19 and 16, have had it in bits and pieces as subtopics have arisen. If I were to assemble it into a single talk, it would look something like the following.

I certainly believe that Derbyshire is telling the truth. I also doubt that he is some weird outlier. You really think that he is the only parent in America who tells their children to stay out of certain neighborhoods? Most of us, of course, don’t put it so crudely. We tell our children to be wary of “bad” neighborhoods and “poor” neighborhoods. But, in the vast majority of US cities, the exact terminology does not change the recommended action. If you stay out of “poor” neighborhoods, you will also stay out of “black neighborhoods.”

Second, even if Derbshire is the only racist in America, it sure seems like the rest of the country is following his advice. Go to the black neighborhood in your city. How many white/Asian teenagers do you see? How many from outside the neighborhood? How many middle class or richer? Very few non-poor, non-black teenagers spend any unsupervised time in “heavily black neighborhoods.” You may decry this fact, but you can hardly blame Derbyshire for it.

Third, note Falk’s hypocrisy. You can be certain that his teenage children have almost never spent any unsupervised time in a heavily black neighborhood. And that is OK! My children haven’t either. Have your children? Of course, Falk never says the words to his children that Derbyshire said his, but the actual reality of their lived experience is probably identical.

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Adam Falk’s Legacy, 12

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two three weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 12.

Falk’s critique of Derbyshire is just as sloppy as his defense of his decision to ban Derbyshire from Williams. But before that a story . . .

At a 2017 May presentation to important alumni, Falk was asked:

No event in the last five years has given Williams more of a black eye in the national press than your cancellation last year of a student-invited talk by John Derbyshire, a leading intellectual of the alternative right. Since then, Donald Trump has won the presidency and several leaders of the alternative right — people like Steve Bannon and Jason Miller — have ascended to leadership positions in his administration. I met yesterday with the student leaders of the new Republican Club on campus. They plan on bringing several speakers to campus — including alumni like Mike Needham ’04 and Oren Cass ’05 — Republicans who are often branded as “racists” by their political opponents. In fact, they might even invite me to speak. I agree with some, but not all, of what John Derbyshire has written. Will you also be banning me from speaking on campus?

Falk assured me that I, at least, would not be banned from campus. Good to know! But he steadfastly defended his decision, claiming that Derbyshire’s views were too outrageous to allow on campus. At that point, Falk could have trotted out any of Derbyshire’s positions as justification. Instead he said:

Derbyshire believes that African-Americans are more violent.

And that was it! That was all Falk offered in terms of a specific example.

The problem, of course, is that — using any definition of violence you like — African-Americans are much more violent than white Americans, much less Asian-Americans.

Consider this report from (Obama’s!) Department of Justice or data from the FBI. Wikipedia provides a useful summary.

Derbyshire’s sin is not that he advocates violence (he doesn’t) or that he advocates hate (he doesn’t) or that he tells lies. Derbyshire’s sin is that he tells the truth.

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Adam Falk’s Legacy, 11

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two three weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 11.

Apologies for extending this discussion for a third week, but Falk’s misleading prose deserves a thorough fisking. His Washington Post article finishes with:

How many more examples do we need? For how long are we going to allow the vocabulary of freedom to be hijacked by people trying to impress upon us its opposite?

Let’s start with the Communists. No student should be allowed to wear a Che shirt at Williams, much less display the hammer-and-sickle on any item of clothing. We should never allow someone like, say, Angela Davis to speak at Williams, as she has multiple times in the past. Adam Falk has found the line and, one would hope, Communists, like Nazis, are on the other side of it . . .

Of course, in Adam Falk’s world, no opinion is too leftist to be heard at Williams. Only speech from the right must be prohibited.

As Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said at yet another congressional hearing on the topic recently, “Colleges should be a place of robust speech and disagreement. … But, I think, we cannot use the banner of protecting free speech to allow people to terrorize folks.”

Those who care about real freedom of speech — as I do, and as I know Sen. Kennedy does — need to be far more concerned with such threats than with even the most boisterous student protest.

As an educator, I politely decline to hide my head in a bag. It’s too important for me, and Sen. Kennedy, and all of us, to keep our eyes and ears open to the rising chorus of hate.

Note the misdirection. Adam talks about “such threats” without noting that John Derbsyhire has never threatened anyone. He has never committed a crime or even been charged with one. He has never encouraged lawlessness. He only has ideas that Adam Falk does not like.

History will remember that Adam Falk was the first Williams president in 150 years to ban a speaker from campus, to restrict discussion and debate which students had sought out. With luck, he will be the last Williams president to do so, at least for a century or so.

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Adam Falk’s Legacy, 10

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 10.

Campuses have to be shut down to deal with the ensuing threats. Learning is being disrupted, tuition money wasted, innocent people terrorized.

Some version of this drama has played out at Texas A&M. At Syracuse University. At the University of Iowa and Evergreen State and Dartmouth and Hampshire College and Trinity College and Drexel University.

Note what Falk leaves out: He fails to mention the time that he shut down the Williams campus! How stupid he must think we are. He, and he alone, was responsible for “tuition money wasted” and learning “being disrupted.” Back-of-the-envelope, there are 120 class days per year, so Falk’s cancellation caused 2,000 Williams students to miss almost 1% of their education that year. Total cost: more than $500,000.[1]

Most annoying is Falk’s concern over “innocent people terrorized.” Falk’s 2011 campus shut down involved racist grafitti (“All Niggers Must Die”) in Prospect House. We now know — and the Williams administration knew very quickly — that this was written by black/Hispanic student Jess Torres ’12. Scores of students were honestly terrified by this event. (I have spoken to some.) They really believed — because the Williams administration led them to believe — that there was a (potentially violent?) Klansman with access to the inside of student dormitories. Falk allowed them, even caused them, to feel terrorized because he was too much of a coward to reveal the truth. And now he seeks to lecture us about the dangers of John Derbyshire speaking on campus?

[1] Note that I don’t think this sort of calculation makes a lot of sense. But Falk is the one arguing in these terms.

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A Quiet Well-Done!

Cross-posted with permission from the class of 1967 webpage.

— Written by Edward R. (Ted) McPherson, June 2017

The Williams College Class of 1967 is a transformational group of people of character.

At Williams, ours was the first class not to join fraternities, attended when the school was entirely male, and was the final group without Winter Study during January. Many of us served in the military during the height of the Vietnam War, while others made alternative choices for meeting obligations immediately after graduation.

For what were we known starting in Williamstown in 1963, when everything cool was termed “out of sight”?

We liked music that still resonates with us — the Beatles, Kenny Vance’s Do Wop “…looking for an echo, an answer to a sound…”, Motown’s Smokey Robinson, The Supremes, The Temptations, Darlene Love — the greatest backup singer who stood “Twenty Feet from Stardom” — Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound with the Righteous Brothers and the Ronettes, and Bob Dylan, whom I turned down at a price of $400 for a Winter Carnival Weekend concert thinking his music was so different no one would attend!

We were known as “amateur athletes,” such as Dave Nash, a tennis player who made 152 consecutive foul shots in practice as a freshman basketball player at Williams and was featured in the New York Times. Dave is still highly ranked in Master’s tennis today!

We marveled as Steve Orr ran from September to June, pausing only to compete in squash in the winter. Dave Rikert could ski any mountain or scale any precipice, then as now!

In basketball we never lost to Amherst in eight games in four years, defeated Harvard and Dartmouth in their gyms, won Little Three titles and over 80% of our games.
Read more

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Adam Falk’s Legacy, 9

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 9.

There are times when I’ve wondered whether we should treat these events as a type of performance rather than speech: If the World Wrestling Federation demanded to hold a cage match on the Berkeley campus, would the university be obligated to host it at public expense?

Views that Adam Falk agrees with == Speech.
Views that Adam Falk disagrees with == Performance.

The First Amendment applies to Speech but not to Performance. Simple!

Let’s try rewriting that last bit:

If When Brothers Speak demanded to hold a spoken word concert on the Berkeley campus, would the university be obligated to host it at public expense?

First, making fun of the enthusiasms of whites, especially poor, less educated whites, is OK, if you are Adam Falk. Making fun of the enthusiasms of African-Americans or Jews or just about any other group? Forget about it!

Second, is Falk so uneducated that he does not realize that this is a settled matter of Constitutional law, a non-problem that is easily handled hundreds of times each week in this great country of ours? Any public institution — whether it be the University of California or Margaret Lindley Park must operate in a viewpoint neutral manner. If you allow group A to hold an event of type X, then you must allow group B to hold an event of type X. You can have rules about X — nothing for profit, nothing loud, nothing with more than 100 attendees, whatever — but those rules must apply to everyone.

The incidents we’re being forced to contend with are far more pernicious and no less staged.

I suspect that Falk is not clear-eyed enough to understand exactly what his views imply. Can public institutions, like Margaret Lindley Park, bar “pernicious” events? Or only pernicious events that are “staged?” Who gets to decide? If that is the rule then, in addition to Nazi events, I would like to ban Communist events since Communists were responsible for at least as many innocent deaths in the 20th century as Nazis.

Nor should we be concerned solely with sensationalist speakers. Too many of our students and faculty are being threatened and harassed for expressing challenging points of view, especially about race. Their words are picked up by websites such as Campus Reform and The College Fix, amplified and distorted and shoveled into the Internet outrage machine.

Adam Falk is concerned with rudeness on the internet? Good luck! But it sure would be nice to see some concern for harassment directed at Williams students like Zach Wood. Adam Falk has no said one single word about that. As best we can tell, he only cares about threats and harassment from the right.

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Adam Falk’s Legacy, 8

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 8.

Private colleges have a great deal of discretion to choose which guests to invite to speak in our communities. Our campuses are not legally public squares. So these provocateurs have instead turned their focus to the more vulnerable public institutions.

“Vulnerable” is an interesting choice of works. Often, when people think that an institution is “vulnerable” to something pernicious, they want to strengthen or protect it. Would Adam Falk like to strengthen public schools so that they, like Williams, are no longer “vulnerable” to people like Derbyshire? I am honestly curious.

After all, laws, even the Constitution, can be changed. Or judges can change what the laws mean. If the First Amendment were to be interpreted as strictly as some other amendments, it might become possible for public universities to ban “hate speech.” Is that what Adam Falk wants?

Just this fall we’ve seen the University of Florida forced to spend more than $500,000 to enable a single speech by Spencer.

“Forced?” Not by Spencer. Spencer is happy enough to speak for free. The problem is, obviously, Antifa, the same group responsible for the violence at Middlebury. They seek to deprive, using violence, Spencer from exercising his constitutional right to free speech. Does Falk really want to see the heckler’s veto work so well?

Falk’s opinions are not important because he is important. They are important for the light they shed on where elite opinion is heading in America: Toward the restriction of unpopular speech.

And of course there were the far more agonizing costs of the tragedy in Charlottesville, which began with people carrying torches, swastikas and Confederate battle flags across the Lawn at the University of Virginia.

The Lawn is public. Would Adam Falk like to ban Confederate flags, and the people who like them, from the Lawn? From all public property? From private property? Of course, we need rules and regulations and permits for the use of public land. Current US law is that all such regulation must be viewpoint neutral. The rules for having a Black Lives Matter march on the Lawn must be the same as the rules for having a Nazi march. Adam Falk seems to prefer an America in which some viewpoints are allowed on the Lawn and some are not. Is he some weird outlier? I doubt it.

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Adam Falk’s Legacy, 7

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 7.

The problem is that provocateurs such as Derbyshire, Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopolous are intentionally blurring the line between the two. They have few policy ideas to offer, conservative or otherwise, and little or nothing interesting to say about critical issues such as health care, foreign policy or the tax code.

Unlike, say, Jiz Lee (NSFW)? Recall that Williams invited porn star Jiz Lee to speak on campus in 2012, during Adam Falk’s presidency. And that is OK! Williams should be a place for free-wheeling debate. Not every speaker needs to have an opinion on, say, health care. But Falk can’t pretend that there is no place for “provocateurs” on campus while, at the same time, allowing Jiz Lee to speak.

Instead they’re obsessed with provoking outrage by demeaning whole populations and challenging their right to be on our campuses or in our country.

Falk misleadingly conflates Derbyshire (the person he actually banned) with Yiannopolous, much less Spencer. Perhaps Yiannopolous enjoys the outrage game. Derbyshire doesn’t. Perhaps Spencer challenges rights. Derbyshire doesn’t.

Note the sloppy language/thinking in a phrase like “challenging their right to be on our campuses.” What does that even mean? Do Derbyshire/Yiannopolous/Spencer (DYS) challenge the right of any Eph to be on the Williams campus? No! Falk is just making stuff up. (Williams, of course, reserves the right, not only to prevent DYS from being on campus, but to reject thousands of applicants each year.)

Is Falk’s position that anyone who challenges the “right” of group X to be “in our country” is a hate-filled bigot? I am honestly curious. DYS, like President Trump and a majority of American citizens, believe that immigration to the US should be significantly restricted. The Williams faculty/administration has certainly never invited a supporter of immigration-restriction to campus. Is this view banned as well?

What today’s students object to is not hearing points of view different from their own, but hearing their contemporaries publicly humiliated and threatened.

Falk did not object very strongly when Zach Wood and other Williams students were “threatened” by Eph social justice warriors. From Wood’s Senate testimony (pdf):

threat

Or are threats against conservatives OK?

Speakers such as Spencer and Yiannopolous — craving attention, backed with outside money, pumped up with social media muscle and often surrounded by literal muscle — cleverly bully students into a prescribed role in a formulaic drama: intolerant liberal “snowflakes” silencing courageous speakers of uncomfortable truths.

Exercise for the reader: Evaluate the (sloppy) rhetoric in this passage.

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Adam Falk’s Legacy, 6

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 6.

Before we continue our examination of Falk’s justifications, I want to step back and examine my claim that, if Falk is remembered for anything 50 years from now — in the same way that we remember Williams President Jack Sawyer ’39 for his elimination of fraternities — it will be for banning Derbyshire. Are there other candidates for historical importance during Falk’s tenure?

1) His tenure placed the final nail in the coffin of faculty governance. Recall the “alignment” (pdf) that Falk outlined 7 years ago. I devoted nine days of discussion to explaining what this meant: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. Read it if you want to understand the past/future of faculty governance at Williams. Short version: Faculty governance has decreased each decade at Williams for at least the last 50 years. Falk accelerated/completed that change.

2) Falk’s naivete about fake hate crimes might be an example in a history book 50 years from now. In November 2011, someone wrote “All Niggers Must Die” on the door of a bathroom on the fourth floor of Prospect House. (Record coverage here, here, and here.) That someone was almost certainly student of color and campus activist Jess Torres ’12. Evidence here: pdf. Previous discussion starts here. Falk cancelled classes even though he knew, or should have known, that this was a hate hoax. This was the first campus-wide cancellation of classes for almost 50 years.

3) Might Zach Wood ’18 go on to greatness? Probably not, since there are few slots available in history’s pantheon. But, if he does, his battles with Falk will live on.

4) Someone suggested (sorry, can’t find the link) that Falk would be remembered for turning Williams into a mall and/or ski-lodge. I disagree with that assessment because the major changes in campus construction (replace Baxter with Paresky, add Hollander/Schapiro, remove Sawyer Library) all occurred before his arrival. Even the major change during his time (completion of new Stetson/Sawyer) was planned/started before him.

What do readers think Falk will be remembered for in 2067?

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Division 3 Women’s Soccer Championship Game

0-0 at halftime. See here.cham

Anyone else watching? Provide your thoughts in the comment thread.

I am embarrassed for the NCAA that it requires (?) Flash to view the game.

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Adam Falk’s Legacy, 5

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 5.

My presidential colleagues could add many examples from their own schools. Such events are happening on American campuses practically every day.

No kidding! The issue is not: Is there a single conservative speaker at Williams? The issues are: 1) What is the ratio of liberal-to-conservative speakers? 2) How does the format of events differ depending on the political views of the speaker? 3) How does student reaction vary? Falk insults his most serious critics by declining to consider their strongest arguments. Answers for Williams:

1) The ratio of liberal-to-conservative speakers invited by Williams faculty/administrators has been 25:1, or even 50:1, over the last 7 years. Does that seem sensible?

2) Liberal speakers almost always appear on stage alone and are provided an opportunity to make their case, followed by a Q&A. Conservative speakers almost always appear in a debate/discussion format.

3) Students often react very negatively to conservative speakers. Although we have (thankfully!) seen nothing like the physical violence at Middlebury, individual Williams students have been harassed.

What has too often been portrayed as a simple problem of liberal campuses censoring conservative ideas is something far more complex.

No, it isn’t. You banned a conservative speaker. Hundreds of Williams students (and faculty?) want to ban almost any speaker who is pro-Trump.

Sen. Kennedy himself stumbled onto the real issue when he told the hearing that schools should be allowed to respond differently to “speech that’s inflammatory; speech that uses a racial epithet; speech that’s designed to provoke” than to “a point of view that may not be popular.”

Is Falk well-served to refer to a US Senator as having “stumbled?” One view is that it is stupid to gratuitously insult powerful people. Why not be polite to Kennedy if politeness is free? The alternative view is that Falk is playing to the crowd, to the sort of people who read the Washington Post and run the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. For those people, Republican from Louisianan are capable of little more than stumbles . . .

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Adam Falk’s Legacy, 4

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 4.

I can offer numerous examples in support of my argument from just the Williams campus. Three weeks after I declined to host Derbyshire, Murray spoke to a respectful student audience. Later in 2016, a similarly civil gathering heard Ilya Shapiro of the Cato Institute debate Daniel Weiner of the Brennan Center on campaign finance reform.

Unpacking this suitcase of misinformation is my raison de blog.

First, the only reason that Murray spoke at Williams was because Uncomfortable Learning invited him. In the last four years, Williams faculty/administrators have invited almost no conservative/Republican/libertarian speakers to campus. Moreover, Falk/Williams tried very hard, over multiple years, to shutdown UL. If he/they had been successful, Murray never would have come.

Second, Williams — and I suspect Falk was involved in this subterfuge — couldn’t even allow Murray to simply speak. Instead:

In response to Murray’s scheduled appearance at the College, the Williams College Debating Union (WCDU) invited Joseph L. Graves Jr., an evolutionary and nanobiologist and historian of science based at the Joint School for Nanoscience and Nanoengineering. Graves’ speech, entitled “Race, Genomics and Intelligence: Slight Return,” occurred in the same venue as Murray’s talk, immediately before the AEI fellow was to speak.

The Record is almost certainly guilty of its usual lousy reporting on this. First, the WCDU was not very active 2016, inviting zero speakers other than Graves to campus. Second, the sign for the event gives the leading spot for funding to the “Office of the President.” In other words, Falk was so concerned about (the reaction to?) Murray’s speech that he used a bunch of his own discretionary funds, laundered through a student group, to invite a mediocrity to speak for 90 minutes directly before Murray. That seems like a vote of confidence in the Williams community’s ability to handle controversial speech!

Third, explicitly mentioning a Charles Murray talk at a NESCAC school without discussing the violence which erupted at Middlebury is . . . a rhetorical trick that relies on the (assumed!) ignorance of his audience.

Fourth, the Shapiro/Weiner event, while praise-worthy, is one of only two non-UL events in the last four years involving a conservative/libertarian/Republican perspective. For Falk to cite this as if it is a common event on the Williams campus is absurd. Note also that neither of these two events featured a right wing voice speaking alone. Neither the College nor any faculty member has invited a solo speaker like Shapiro in the memory of any current student.

Last November, two days after the national election, former senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.), a prominent Donald Trump supporter, participated in a well-attended analysis of the results. And American Enterprise Institute scholar Christina Hoff Sommers recently came to offer her critique of contemporary feminism. Our students listened closely, then responded with challenging questions and in some cases blunt critiques — utterances to which they, too, surely were entitled.

First, many students (and faculty members?) felt that someone like Brown should not be allowed to speak on campus.

Second, Brown was, like Shapiro, paired with a liberal speaker. During Adam Falk’s 7 years at Williams, there have been scores of events featuring a liberal/progressive/Democratic speaker sharing her views with the audience, without the need for a debate or an opposing viewpoint. Outside of Uncomfortable Learning events, I don’t think there has been a single such event featuring a speaker from the Right.

Third, notice how Falk takes credit for Sommers even though she, like Murray, only appeared at Williams because of Uncomfortable Learning, an organization that senior faculty members like Sam Crane have gone out of their way to try to destroy.

If UL goes away with Zach Wood’s graduation next spring, will there be a single (solo) conservative/libertarian/Republican speaker invited to campus in 2018-2019? I have my doubts.

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Adam Falk’s Legacy, 3

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 3.

Sen. Kennedy portrayed the controversy as a matter of campus free speech. True, my decision made Williams an early entrant into the national debate on that issue. But his comments exemplify a widespread misunderstanding about the state of speech at American colleges and universities.

If the banning of Derbyshire is not a controversy about “campus free speech,” then what is it a controversy over? If anything, Falk’s actions are on canonical example of the problem.

Today’s students are far more eager to hear and engage with serious points of view of all kinds than you would think by reading the headlines. To understand this, just tally the annual speaking engagements of Charles Murray, Arthur Brooks, Jason Riley and other prominent conservatives who regularly speak to college audiences. But you won’t see many media stories titled, “Conservative Thinker Received Thoughtfully by Campus Audience.” That’s not a story that sells papers.

1) There are scores (hundreds? a majority?) of Williams students who think that speakers like Derbyshire/Veneker/Murray should be banned from campus. This is the official editorial position of the Williams Record. If we can’t trust Falk to be truthful about the problem, then why would we look to him for a solution?

2) Jason Riley is a prominent conservative? Uhh, maybe. But note that Riley is also the author of Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders, perhaps the most un-Trumpian book imaginable.

3) I agree that it is a good idea to “tally the annual speaking engagements” of, not just conservative speakers, but of all speakers. What would that show at Williams? The vast majority of speakers are, of course, non-political. Adalyat Issiyeva, speaking on “Russian Orientalism: Russo-Japanese War and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Opera ‘The Golden Cockerel’” is non-partisan, regardless of whether Issiyeva voted for Trump or Clinton. But the vast majority of explicitly political speakers at Williams are liberal. (Surely, no one doubts that?) Would the ratio of liberal-to-conservative speakers be 10:1? 50:1? I would guess at least 25:1.

4) A concrete example of the bias at Williams under Falk was the refusal of the College to invite anyone with a “Republican/Sceptical” perspective on climate change to the year-long examination of the topic. In this case, the ratio of liberal-to-conservative speakers was infinity.

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Adam Falk’s Legacy, 2

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 2.

Williams College president: Don’t ignore the real threats in the debate over free speech

Authors don’t always get to choose their titles, but, in this case, I bet that Falk did. Even though Falk, personally, has done more damage to free speech at Williams than anyone else in the last century, he wants to employ some misdirection, like any good Three-card Monte hustler. “I, banner of campus speakers, am not the problem,” says Falk, “the threats are elsewhere.”

Last June, at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) announced that I was unfit to be a college president, so I should resign and “put [my] head in a bag.” The insult wasn’t all that bad: In my job, you get worse. I was far more concerned by the misinformation behind the pronouncement.

Oh, Adam! You are so brave! Standing up to the brickbats of the hoi polloi. To think that you are willing to do this for only $810,821 per year. How is Williams ever going to survive without you?

The senator’s comment apparently referred to my February 2016 decision not to offer the blogger John Derbyshire the opportunity to speak on the Williams campus. Derbyshire, a self-described white supremacist, had been fired by the National Review for writing about how he would teach his children to avoid black people and advise other white parents to do the same.

How misleading can a paragraph be?

1) You banned Derbyshire from campus, forever, no matter the topic. This is much worse than a “decision not to offer” an “opportunity to speak.”

2) Calling Derbyshire a “blogger” is like calling Falk “short.” It is true that Derbyshire blogs and it is true that Falk is not the tallest Williams president in history. But, when writing in the Washington Post as the Williams president, you have an obligation to refer to your opponents politely. You should describe Derbyshire as an “author” since he has written several books with leading publishers, books that are available in the Williams libraries.

3) Derbyshire is not a “self-described white supremacist.”

I will save discussion of the “avoid black people” slur for another day.

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Adam Falk’s Legacy, 1

To the extent that historians in 50 years comment on Adam Falk’s tenure, their discussion will focus on his decision to ban John Derbyshire from Williams and the larger debate over free speech on campus. (Key previous threads start here, here and here.) Let’s spend two weeks going through Falk’s two main discussions of this decision: his extended defense last year as published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his Washington Post swan song. Day 1.

Is Adam Falk a phony or a naif? Tough to tell. Think that is too harsh a framing? Consider just one sentence from his Washington Post article:

Today’s students are far more eager to hear and engage with serious points of view of all kinds than you would think by reading the headlines.

Really? Consider three examples from the Record:

1) Valerie Oyakhilome ’18 wrote that “the administration is able to disinvite John Derbyshire, but chose to allow [former Senator] Brown to enter into our sanctuary, incite concealed racists and further rob minority students of their sense of safety, security and agency.” Oyakhilome does not think that (liberal!) Republicans like Scott Brown should be allowed on the Williams campus.

2) Olivia Goodheart ’18 and Marissa Levin Shapiro ’18 wrote, “Students already encounter anti-feminism every day at the College, and no matter your opinion on free speech, uncomfortable learning or promoting dialogues, this is unacceptable.” Goodheart and Shapiro do not think that conservative women like Suzanne Venker, a perfectly mainstream Fox News commentator, should be allowed on the Williams campus.

3) The Record Editorial Board argued that “the College should not allow speech that challenges fundamental human rights and devalues people based on identity markers, like being a woman.” A naive observer might think that the Record was just following Adam Falk’s lead in attempting to ban nasty racists [sic] like John Derbyshire from campus. Untrue! The Record published that op-ed months ahead of the invitation to Derbyshire. They believed — and perhaps the Record still believes! — that no one to the right of, say, Scott Brown should be allowed on the Williams campus.

Now, admittedly, there are some student voices (e.g., here) at Williams in favor of open debate. But Falk is misleading his readers by pretending that there are not scores of students (hundreds of students? a majority of students?) who want to restrict debate at Williams.

So, is Falk a phony or a naif? My view is that he knows all too well how censorious current students are but that he wants to pretend that they (and their faculty teachers/enablers!) are not. He is the very model of a modern college president, committed to obfuscation when it comes to discussion about the status of open debate at places like Williams.

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@WilliamsRapists

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The Record should cover this story without, obviously, mentioning the names of the anonymously accused. Former faculty member KC Johnson chimes in with:

wr

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Toaist Thanksgiving

A moving post from Professor Sam Crane:

It is a perfect Thanksgiving morning here in Northwestern Massachusetts: a light snow, about 2 inches on the ground; a chill air; great conditions to be inside and cooking and eating all day. Aidan and I are here by ourselves, however. Maureen and Maggie are down in New York City, attending the famous parade. So, we will do the whole feast thing tomorrow. Today will be just about pie baking: I have a couple of small pumpkins to bake and make into a pie. If I feel ambitious, perhaps an apple pie will follow. That will make the house warm and comfortable.

We are supposed to be thankful today, and I am. But as I give thanks I can’t help wondering: for what am I giving thanks and to whom? As is my want, I fall back on Taoism to help clarify my thoughts. And, through that exercise, I come to a somewhat startling realization: I give thanks for Aidan and his profound disability. I know that sounds a bit bizarre – how could a parent be thankful for a child’s disability? – but, as I think through it, I am happy to say that I am.

Read the whole thing. Aidan left us 11 years ago, but his memory and spirit live on, not just in those who knew him personally but in all those touched by Sam’s writing. Try as hard as I might, I worry that I was never half the father to my daughters that Sam was to his son.

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Truly Excellent

A recent alum now in graduate school at a super fancy university writes:

One thing you’ve said which I now realize is true: the teaching at Williams is truly excellent. I used to think all the talk about small classes and the teaching quality was BS intended to make us feel better about not getting into Harvard, but no. There are a lot of professors at REDACTED that probably spend at maximum 30 minutes a week on a class they teach, reviewing a PowerPoint they made 5 years ago in order to drone through it without interruption during class. They make some of the coolest subjects like “remote sensing systems” absolutely boring. As a grad student, I’m here for research so it’s fine for me, but it would be tough if I was an undergrad. Perhaps this is something the Williams administration should try be more convincing in recruiting because as I said, I thought it was BS, and I probably wasn’t alone.

Indeed. Note how little pressure there is at Williams to do a better job at recruiting students, at demonstrating the truth that the undergraduate academic experience is much better here than at Fancy Research University. Has anyone at Williams ever gotten fired for failing to do this? Has anyone been promoted for doing it well? Does anyone even bother to measure what works and what does not in this area? Pointers welcome!

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Funny Way of ‘Listening’

Zach Wood ’18 writes in the Wall Street Journal:

‘You’re a racist white supremacist!” a Williams College student shouted at Christina Hoff Sommers, after she finished a recent campus talk on feminism.

To their credit, a handful of students responded to Ms. Sommers’s talk with challenging questions and cogent criticisms. But insults, rants and meltdowns consumed the majority of the question-and-answer session. As president of Uncomfortable Learning, a student group that invites controversial speakers to campus, I did my best to moderate.

We discussed this event here. Did Williams record the event? If so, where is the video? If not, why not? From the snippets we have seen, Zach was a good moderator, especially in his attempts to guide questioners to, you know, actually asking a question instead of giving a speech.

After one student activist shouted “f— you!” at the speaker, an administrator seemed to affirm the heckler’s veto, signaling to me with a timeout gesture that it was time to end the event. In an effort to give as many students as possible a chance to engage the speaker, I approached the administrator and negotiated another 15 minutes for questions. But the remainder of the Q&A consisted mostly of bellicose rhetoric and long-winded stories of personal trauma, many of which had little to do with the topic at hand. Ms. Sommers, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and critic of third-wave feminism, endured such “questioning” for more than an hour.

Who is the unnamed “administrator?” What advice do you have for Zach/Williams for making the Q&A at the next such event more productive?

As a college senior eager to engage in lively debate, I’m disappointed in students who used this event as an opportunity to taunt and disparage a speaker who made every effort to engage in good faith. Although many student activists at Williams seem hostile to conservative ideas, I believe all of my peers are capable of disagreeing without being disagreeable.

Zach is being too generous. The videos we have seen provide ample evidence that at least some of his peers are incapable of having a meaningful Q&A with a speaker like Sommers. But whose fault is that? The Williams faculty! They have an obligation to teach students how to participate in the give-and-take of debate, especially with people whose views make them uncomfortable.

But college administrators aren’t much help. Since Ms. Sommers’s talk at Williams, my college’s president, Adam Falk, has characterized the event as a success. He wrote in the Washington Post this week that “our students listened closely, then responded with challenging questions and in some cases blunt critiques.”

That grossly misrepresents what happened. During Ms. Sommers’s talk, many students did not “listen closely.” Instead, they acted disruptively by mocking her and snickering derisively throughout her entire speech.

True. We need to see the entire video. And isn’t it embarrassing that the Record has still provided no news coverage of this event? Still not too late though! Any event mentioned in both the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal merits news coverage, even if it is belated.

For each “challenging question,” there were at least five personal attacks, directed either at her or at me for inviting her. One student started yelling aggressively, blaming me for his parents’ qualms about his sexual orientation. His rant lasted for at least five minutes. Other students stood up and exclaimed that they were better than the speaker because she was “stupid, harmful, and white supremacist.”

Is Zach exaggerating? Tough to know without better coverage from the Record.

Shortly after the event, I heard from several friends that many members of the Black Student Union want nothing to do with me or other black students associated with Uncomfortable Learning. I expect this kind of recrimination. But I can’t speak for other students who’ve told me they worry about how their interest in my group may affect their relationship with their black classmates.

Indeed. Perhaps the most disquieting part of the debate over Uncomfortable Learning is the palpable fear that non-SJW students have over being associated with, or even appearing to be sympathetic to, UL, much less to, say, Donald Trump. I had hopes that the newly created Republican Club in campus would help. Have they done anything this year?

Ignoring the attacks directed at controversial speakers and the students who invite them propagates the misconception that Williams, and other American colleges, welcomes intellectual diversity. Things won’t get any better until college administrators like Mr. Falk honestly confront the threats to open debate at the institutions they lead.

Exactly correct.

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Wilansky ’16 One Year Later

wilansky

From The New York Post:

A year ago Tuesday, Sophia Wilansky stood on a bridge just outside the Dakota Access Pipeline encampment when she was flattened by a deafening explosion.

She refused to look down at her left hand, because she could not feel it and feared it had been blown off.

It became the emblematic moment of violence in the 10-month standoff between authorities and protestors, and it is not known if the metal shrapnel that tore through Sophia’s forearm came from a cop’s concussion grenade or a protester’s propane-tank bomb.

Previous coverage here.

Four surgeries later and still under FBI suspicion, the 22-year-old activist from Riverdale spoke publicly for the first time about the horror of Nov. 21, 2016.

It was 4 a.m. and the Williams College theater grad and lawyer’s daughter was on guard duty at the Backwater Bridge near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. It was dark, and she was bundled up in a puffer jacket against the 20-degree temperature.

She had volunteered, along with three others, to hold the ground in front of the span, which the protest army had cleared of police- and pipeline-company barricades earlier in the day.

Suddenly a cop on a loudspeaker yelled, “Get away!”

Instantly she was hit by three rubber bullets, in the groin, chest and left arm. She fumbled to pick up a plastic shield, but the onslaught escalated.

“I heard a loud blast and was knocked to the ground,” said Wilansky. “I was in complete shock.”

The explosion had ripped out the radius bone, muscle, nerves and arteries of her left arm, and her hand was hanging by a few threads of flesh.

Her comrades scooped her up, carried her to their car and drove about 30 minutes to a waiting ambulance at a local casino.

“It was the most painful thing I ever felt, but it didn’t make sense in that situation to freak out,” she said. “I just kept thinking about how I would soon be in a hospital with pain meds.”

With her free hand, she texted friends and posted on Facebook.

The post has since been taken down, and in the spring the FBI applied for a warrant to search her Facebook account as the feds sought evidence of Wilansky’s possible connection to homemade explosives, according to court documents unsealed last month.

She has not been charged, and her lawyer says the probe is baseless.

“It was intended to scare her and other [protesters] from speaking out about that incident,” said Lauren Regan, who heads the Civil Liberties Defense Center.

Wilansky says she plans to sue to procure the shrapnel and clothing removed by surgeons and collected by the feds, in order to use the evidence in legal actions she will pursue against the law enforcement agencies she believes hurt her that day.

The Morton County Sheriff’s Office denies using a concussion grenade or any explosive device that day.

“Those are lethal devices and those are not even something [the department] ever had or has in its inventory,” said Morton County spokeswoman Maxine Herr. She said police fired sponge and bean-bag rounds and one stinger ball, which launches dozens of tiny rubber balls and gas.

Police claim Wilansky and three others refused orders to emerge from behind a shield. Officers said they saw someone roll metal cylinders toward the protesters and three propane canisters were found where the explosion took place, Herr said.

Wilansky’s injury was the most severe to result from the protest led by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, who feared the oil pipeline would pollute their drinking water and intrude on sacred grounds. The Obama administration temporarily halted the project, but it was completed under President Trump in June.

Wilansky, who can no longer use her left hand and has very little feeling in her arm, vows to continue the fight against climate change and for the rights of indigenous people.

“I will not let the threat of being injured or prosecuted deter me from standing up for what I believe in,” she declared.

If Wilansky were my daughter, I would be both proud of her courage and terrified for her future.

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Falk Libels Derbyshire

Adam Falk squawked this swan song in the Washington Post, revisiting the Senate hearing featuring Zach Wood ’18 and Frederick Lawrence ’77 which discussed Falk’s decision to cancel a Williams speech by John Derbyshire.

1) I have put the entire article below the break. Jeff Bezos is rich enough without your dollar.

2) Why write this article now? Falk has six weeks left as Williams president. His new role at the Sloane Foundation has, fortunately, nothing to do with free speech on campus. Does this article help Williams? Not that I can see. The Derbyshire cancellation, while perhaps justified, is nothing but a reputational black eye for Williams. Bringing it up again only hurts the College. He could have easily waited six months and left Williams out of the conversation.

3) Worse part of the article is Falk’s libel of John Derbyshire as a “self-described white supremacist.” If you call someone a “self-described” X, you better have evidence of him describing himself as X. Falk can write that “Derbyshire is a white supremacist” or that “Derbyshire is a poopy head.” That is Falk’s opinion. Even if he is wrong, it would be hard for Derbyshire to prove it. But it is much easier for Derbyshire to sue Falk (and Williams?) for libel given that there is no evidence that Derbyshire has ever described himself as a “white supremacist.” Perhaps some Eph attorneys could forecast how such a suit might go?

4) I asked Falk for a citation on this point. He fobbed the question off to Jim Reische, who pointed to this article. Alas, this makes the exact opposite point! Derbyshire considers a wide range of possible names for his position, including “Alternative Right,” “White Supremacist,” and “White Nationalist.” He rejects them all, settling on “Dissident Right.” If this is the best/only evidence that Falk has, I suspect he might have set himself up for some legal trouble . . . Informed commentary welcome!

Read more

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Haughty

From a recent comment thread:

This is an interesting topic. I went to Williams for undergrad, then sequentially to a Midwest state flagship and Harvard for graduate studies.

Of the three, Williams had by far largest number of cocky, arrogant blowhards. My analysis of this is as follows: The state flagship students were fairly middle-class and quite comfortable with their place in the world. The Harvard students were understandably confident with their status, not boastful about it, and not condescending toward other institutions. The Williams students often made fun of the ivy leagues and looked down on state and similar (i.e. NESCAC) schools. It reeked of jealousy and bitterness.

I am not, and never have been, particularly proud of being a Williams alum. I hardly mention it. Compared to what I have accomplished since being at Williams, it just doesn’t matter. I don’t understand why middle-aged alums are spending so much time on this blog obsessing about Williams! Get on with your lives people! I think Williams was probably the only place in my life where I felt out of place, insecure, and looked down upon by haughty people. By the attitude and content of the comments in general on this site, I’m not surprised that that was the way I felt at the time. DDF and others wouldn’t be impressed with whatever my AR was – or my family – but I have done quite well – probably better than most white, rich AR1’s – who were most likely the people who made me feel like crap while I was at Williams.

1) Anecdotes are not data, but if you think that Harvard (or Yale/Princeton/Stanford) does not have as many (more?) “cocky, arrogant blowhards” as Williams, then I think you are mistaken. Contrary opinions welcome!

2) What could Williams have done differently — or what could it do in the future — to make you “proud of being a Williams alum?” All readers who don’t feel proud are welcome to chime in!

3) What could Williams have done differently — or what could it do in the future — to make you feel less “out of place, insecure, and looked down upon by haughty people?” Or, perhaps better, how do you recommend we turn the haughty Ephs into better versions of themselves? My answer is First Month. The better you know someone, the less likely to are to look down on them. What do readers suggest?

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Problematic as Fuck

Consider this tweet from the official Williams College account:

nef

Is Neftaly really “embracing opportunities at Williams?” Consider:

Neftaly: When I visited Williams I visited under a program for minority students and students of color so when I came here I was given a picture of so many different students of color and now that Im here I felt like I was lied to because that’s not what it feels like. The students of color here a lot of times feel like were just here for the pamphlets. It’s even harder given how isolated it is. I can’t just leave campus and go to a museum. I feel the knowledge of being a minority student more prominently here. Its these struggles of realizing that yes, I feel alone or I feel different but at the same time realizing that I want to give credit to the people who care and want o make these struggles not as hard or to validate them at least. I have professors who I can go to and talk about things and they’re like yeah, you’re not crazy. That stuff shouldn’t be happening. Or even other students, just talking through and realizing like at one point last year I was thinking of transferring because I felt so alone and I felt weird because I wanted to go to all these parties in like the old frat houses but id dint feel like I belonged because I wasn’t part of the white football culture. And it’s like wanting to be a part of it but realizing that no matter how I try I will still be different if I go to those places and realizing that I wasn’t the only person on campus who felt that way or seriously thought about transferring really helped a lot. It’s sad that it’s this friendship through struggle or through going through all of these, like, micro aggressions but I think that it’s not like it’s not a reflection of what I’m going to have to go through when I’m outside of Williams anyway. It’s not just here.

Jacqueline: do you think that the average student at Williams recognizes your struggle or are they mostly ignorant to it?

Neftaly: there are groups. You have like 2200 students so you have maybe 30% are students of color but that doesn’t always take into account socioeconomic status because I think that’s also really important so like you have students of color who are very wealthy and interact more with the white wealthy students and those groups tend to be more ignorant about what’s happening or about things like microagressions. But because Williams is so small and so discussion based you usually have students of color in your classes and aren’t afraid to clap back on anything problematic that comes up in class. But at the same time some people just don’t get it and I understand because you can’t truly know something is wrong if you’ve never had to go through it or it’s not something, I don’t blame them for not being able to put themselves in my shoes because they’ve never had to. It’s important that they try and I think a lot of people here try to do it and if they don’t it’s a completely different story but most try and I think that matters.

Jacqueline: When people don’t understand or if they don’t try, how do you react?

Neftaly: My common, rather crude response to those situations when they say like I don’t get it and I’ve done my best to explain somethings to them and I feel like they’re not really making an effort to understand what I’m saying I’m like you can either take a class in Africana or Latinx studies or American studies, or you can pay me for my time to explain this to you. Otherwise, I’m out. If not, I’m not going to partake in this conversation because I don’t have to, and I don’t owe you anything.

Lots of interesting comments! Worth going through more closely?

A lot of the classes that I take are on things like racism and injustices and stuff and its part of realizing that I am a person who is effected by these injustices that I am reading about. I am also going to be on the receiving end. It’s something that recently has been more healthy for me to realize and to and to admit and to engage in rather than putting rather than put aside and hope that I won’t have to deal with it for awhile.

Are those useful messages for Williams professors to be sending to Neftaly?

It’s so bureaucratic. I didn’t realize how bureaucratic colleges were. Or how political they were. I was like wow you’re just trying to make money and here I thought you cared about me. The sanctuary campus movement, we were asking that Williams provide designated sanctuary for undocumented students and they were like we can’t do that because they’re going to come after us and ICE is going come and take our students away and we can’t do anything about it and we were like ok but you’re not promising anything else in return and they were like well talk to our lawyers about it and it seemed like they just didn’t see the urgency of it. Or for students who have parents who are undocumented, we were asking for months now to have a meeting with administration to talk about what kind of help, if any, to students if they happen to have family who is deported. In what ways can the college help us? And they said they didn’t have the funds to help and we were like that’s bullshit. You have a two-point-something billion endowment. You have money. Or they said like there are legal obstacles and it was just a lot of bullshit political excuses.

Reads like an EphBlog rant! Not that there is anything wrong with that . . .

Or all the bull shit when they come to have meetings with the students and we ask them to divest from certain things or to bring in minority therapists or bring in more minority faculty in like the American studies department. These are valid concerns and its always like brushed to the side like “considering our fiscal year budget…” or “considering what our lawyers say…” and were tired of it. I don’t believe them. Because it isn’t genuine. They’re saying something but they mean something else. The students of color here realized very quickly that it’s a very fake sincerity and you learn early on to not trust the school.

Don’t worry Neftaly! Even us old white guys have trouble trusting Adam Falk . . .

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Gargoyle Fundraiser

Consider this solicitation (pdf) from the Gargoyle Society:

On this frigid homecoming day in Williamstown, I write to you as a fellow member of the Gargoyle Society because Gargoyle needs your help.

As you know, the Society has long been known as a positive agent of change at Williams−from the abolition of fraternities, the establishment of the College Council, to the creation of the JA system. More recently, we conducted a comprehensive reassessment of the Williams honor code, reviewed the role of alcohol on campus culture, and championed an increased focus on students’ mental health. In addition, Gargoyle made a key donation that helped ensure the completion of the new Sawyer library and reconstruction of the historic Preston room.

In the wake of decreased direct financial support from the College, however, that important donation has had a larger-than-expected impact on the Society’s limited endowment. As a result, Gargoyle’s efficacy has been limited. That is why we have come to you, notable alums of the Society, to ask for your help. So, please make a donation to the Gargoyle Society−in any amount. You played an important role in the Society’s lauded past, and we need you now to help ensure
its future.

1) If Gargoyle wants to raise money, it needs to be more engaged. For example, there is no way to find out the current members of Gargoyle or what they are working on. Past delegation membership was listed in WSO. Sometime in the last few years, some Gargoyles decided that they wanted to keep their membership secret. That is stupid, and makes money raising much harder. Why would anyone give money to a group with a secret membership? Gargoyle should tell all applicants for the 124th delegation that the membership will be public.

2) Is Gargoyle not subject to the rules associated with student fundraising? Recall the controversy over Uncomfortable Learning soliciting alumni to pay for speakers. From the Student Handbook:

Students who wish to raise money for any campus activity by soliciting alumni, foundations, or other sources of funds must receive advance approval. Students interested in fundraising should contact the Assistant Director for Student Involvement in the Office of Student Life at least two weeks in advance. Most fundraising requires approval from the Dean’s Office, the Provost, and the Vice President for College Relations.

I bet that Gargoyle did not receive approval since, I bet, the College never (?) allows student groups to raise money in this fashion.

3) I am in favor of direct solicitation of alumni. Recall:

WSO hackers like pizza. Three years ago, they (jokingly) solicited PayPal donations for their pizza fund. I bought them $200 worth. This made them happy, since neither College Council nor the Williams Administration is likely to fund their eating habits. It made me happy because I got to contribute something small but tangible to a student group that I like and respect. Every Eph wins.

Why doesn’t this sort of interaction happen more often between students and alumni? Because College bureaucrats trust neither students nor alumni to behave responsibly, at least as far as fund-raising is concerned. The College wants to control the money. It does not trust students to ask for reasonable things. It does not trust alumni to refrain from funding unreasonable requests. It worries that student awkwardness will harm its relationships with alumni donors.

Read the whole thing. If Gargoyle has not yet chosen a project for the year, creating Ephs Choose would be a worthy one.

4) Is it just me or does Gargoyle seem less effective/important recently? Back in the day, each Gargoyle worked on their own projects, sometimes along and sometimes with others. Gargoyle was a platform which engaged students could use to try to improve Williams however they saw fit. It was a useful platform because random administrator X was more likely to engage with you if you came to her as “Ephraim Williams, a member of Gargoyle” instead of “Ephraim Williams, random student.” Weekly meetings were useful because they provided a forum for updates, information sharing and encouragement. You felt bad if you weren’t accomplishing much on your project because you knew that your spot on Gargoyle could have gone to someone who would have worked hard.

Now, however, there is only one Gargoyle project each year. (Perhaps a recent Gargoyle could explain/clarify?) The entire delegation decides in the fall to work on X and then spends the year working on X. This seems a recipe for accomplishing nothing. First, what happens when members disagree about X? In the old days, that was not a problem because you worked on your project and I worked on mine. What happens when a member does not care about X? Why should she work on it? My concern is that Gargoyle has turned into a society which rewards people for what they have already done on campus rather than providing them with impetus for accomplishing more. If that concern has merit, I would predict that people like the editor of the Record and the co-presidents of College Council are more likely to be members now than they used to be. That is a mistake because those Ephs already have a platform to use and more than enough stuff to work on.

My advice: Go back to the old system of individual projects. Select next year’s members based on what they propose to improve at Williams and their likelihood of achieving their goals. Gargoyle membership is not a reward, it is a promise.

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Parable of the Privilege Pill

This comment from “abl” leads to the parable of the Privilege Pill.

Imagine a family with twin daughters, just entering 9th grade. The girls are average, both in the natural abilities and in their academic inclinations. Daughter 1 goes through high school with average grades and average test scores. According to Williams Admissions, she has an Academic Rating of 9. If she applies, she is rejected, as are all AR 9s. Note that Williams is not punishing her for bad performance in high school. The purpose of admissions is neither to punish nor reward. Williams rejects Daughter 1 because AR 9 high school students, on average, do very poorly academically at elite colleges.

Imagine that Daughter 2, on the other hand, takes a magic Privilege Pill on the first day of 9th grade, a pill which dramatically increases her natural abilities and academic inclination for four years. She will receive excellent grades in high school and do very well on the SAT. Williams Admissions will rate her an AR 1 and, probably, admit her if she applies.

Williams would not (and should not) admit Daughter 2 if it new about the Privilege Pill. It only lasts for four years, by construction. After that, Daughter 2 becomes identical to Daughter 1, an AR 9, highly unlikely to perform well in an elite classroom. Admission to Williams is not a reward for strong performance in high school; it is a forecast of academic success in college.

The same reasoning applies to the Anti-Privilege Pill. Imagine a different family with twin daughters blessed with academic talent. Daughter 1 does very well in high school, is rated AR 1 by Williams and (probably) admitted. Daughter 2, unfortunately, takes an Anti-Privilege Pill at the start of high school and does much worse in terms of grades/scores than she would have done if she had not taken the pill.

Williams would (and should) admit Daughter 2 if it knew about the Anti-Privilege Pill. Recall that the pill, by definition, only lasts 4 years. Daughter 2 is, in truth, an AR 1 student whose underlying abilities have been masked in high school. We expect her to do as well at Williams as Daughter 1. Rejection from Williams is not a punishment for poor performance in high school; it is a forecast of academic struggles in college.

Things are different, however, in the case of a Privilege Pill (or Anti-Privilege Pill) which is permanent in its effects rather than temporary.

Consider a car accident in 9th grade which, tragically, leaves Daughter 2 with permanent neurological damage. Through no fault of her own, she will do only average in high school and will be given an AR 9 by Williams admissions. She will be rejected because, on average, high school students with AR 9, regardless of how they came to have an AR 9, do poorly at elite colleges. Even though she would have been an AR 1 (like her twin sister) were it not for the car accident, that sad fact does not influence Williams admissions.

The same reasoning applies to a Privilege Pill whose effect is permanent. If the Pill turns an average 9th grader into an AR 1, then Williams should admit her because she will, we expect, do as well as all the other AR 1s. The source of student ability — genetics, parenting, schooling, luck, wealth, special tutoring, magic pills — does not matter. Admissions to Williams is not a value judgment on the source, or justness, of student achievement in high school; it is a forecast of success in a Williams classroom.

With this framework, we can evaluate abl’s question:

If there are two students alike in every material respect (1450 SATs / 3.8 GPAs at the same school with comparable resumes), and you know that one student achieved her SAT scores after working with a private tutor with a long history of success stories while the other student did not have that opportunity — who would you accept?

The student without the tutor, obviously! In this scenario, the tutored-student has taken a Privilege Pill which, by assumption, is only temporary. She isn’t truly an AR 2. She would have scored 1300 without the tutor. She is really an AR 4 (or whatever). She is likely to do as well as other AR 4s at Williams. So, we should reject her (unless she is an AR 4 that we really want).

I honestly don’t see how any rational, clear-minded person can say that they aren’t going to accept the student who achieved her score on her own. That’s not because we are prejudiced against the student who got help: it’s that we don’t (or, at the very least, we shouldn’t) believe that her 1450 represents the same level of accomplishment and potential as the 1450 of the student who took the test cold.

Exactly how do you propose that Williams admissions determines “the student who achieved her score on her own?” While I am happy to answer your hypothetical question, the sad truth is that Williams has no (reasonable) way of determining which students achieved on their own and which did not. High quality SAT tutoring is available for free at Khan Academy, for example. How could you possibly know if a given applicant “took the test cold?” Answer: You can’t.

There strikes me as being a reasonable debate to be had about how and whether admissions officers should take these sorts of advantages into account in the admissions process. There is no reasonable debate to be had about whether or not privilege plays a role in student achievement as measured by SAT scores and by GPAs.

Perhaps. But the key question becomes: Are the advantages of privilege temporary or permanent? Does the Privilege Pill last through 4 years at Williams? If it does, then we can ignore it. Admissions to Williams is not a value judgment on the source, or justness, of student achievement in high school; it is a forecast of success in a Williams classroom.

Fortunately, this is an empirical question! Define “privilege” however you like, while using data available to Williams Admissions. I would suggest: A privileged applicant is one who attends a high quality high school (top decile?), will not need financial aid at Williams, and comes from a family in which both parents attended an elite college. (Feel free to suggest a different definition.) We can then divide all AR 1 Williams students into two groups: privileged and non-privileged. If you are correct that privileged students benefit from things like high quality SAT tutoring which makes them look temporarily better than they actually are, we would expect the privileged AR 1 students to perform worse at Williams than the non-privileged AR 1s. The same would apply to privileged versus non-privileged AR 2s, AR 3s and so on. Director of Institutional Research Courtney Wade could answer this question in an hour.

But don’t expect that analysis to be made public anytime soon. Courtney, and the people who do institutional research at Williams and places like it, are smart. They have already looked at this question. And the reason that they don’t publish the results is because of the not-very-welcome findings. Privileged AR 1s do at least as well at Williams as non-privileged AR 1s, and so on down the AR scale. The effects of the Privilege Pill are permanent. If anything, the results probably come out the other way because the AR scheme underestimates the benefit of going to a privileged high school like Andover. But let’s ignore that subtlety for now.

Summary: Admissions to Williams is not a value judgment on the source, or justness, of student achievement in high school; it is a forecast of success in a Williams classroom. It does not matter why you are an AR 1 — intelligent parents who value education, luck in your assignment to a charismatic 8th grade teacher, wealth used to pay for special tutoring, genetics, whatever. All that matters is that your status as an AR 1 provides an unbiased forecast of how you will do at Williams. The Parable of the Privilege Pill highlights why the source of academic ability is irrelevant.

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Williams Ties Amherst 31-24

As the official NESCAC page makes clear, Williams and Amherst tied in football today.

nescac

As I noted at the end of the game:

Have two teams ever been so simultaneously disappointed by an outcome? Williams had the game well in hand, but then an Amherst comeback, including a pick-six and Patriot-esque two point conversion, robbed them of the victory. No wins for seven years now.

But Amherst is also hugely disappointed! They should have won and, if they had, they would be NESCAC champions now. The tie means that Trinity won the league.

Does the football team do “The Walk” after a tie?

In a sign of the growing nationwide trend toward participation trophies, the Williams football team did, indeed, walk The Walk.

The Walk, up Spring Street. Go Ephs! #ephnation

A post shared by Eph Alum (@ephalum) on

There seems to be lots of fake news around the internet about this game. Consider:

Williams College first year quarterback Bobby Maimaron’s fourth rushing TD of the game capped the Ephs’ first possession in OT lifted Williams (6-3) over Amherst (7-2) 31-24 in over time in the Ephs’ Homecoing game on Farley-Lamb Field when Amherst failed to match the TD on thier first OT possession.

They don’t call it “The Biggest Little Game in America” for nothing. Saturday’s matchup, played on a chilly Veteran’s Day with seemingly every Williams student in the crowd, proved to be one for the ages. Coming into the game, Amherst was at the top of the NESCAC standings, needing only one more win to become league champions. Williams, meanwhile, was having had a resurgent season, but also reeling from a 35-0 loss to Wesleyan.

Eph experts know that this must be a spoof, both because we have the evidence of the official NESCAC page and because NESCAC football does not use overtime . . .

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E. Williams Armigeri

sealEphraim Williams was a career soldier who died in battle. For most of its 200-year history, the College has had a comfortable relationship with the armed forces. Williams graduates and faculty served in times of peace and war. Even the College’s motto, E Liberalitate E. Williams Armigeri, makes reference to the benefit we have all derived “From the generosity of E. Williams, soldier.”

Over the last 50 years, the connection between Williams and military service has atrophied. Virtually no active member of the faculty has served in uniform. Only a handful of graduates enter the military each year. If one admits that the military plays an important role in society and that having an informed opinion concerning the use of force in international relations is a critical part of being an educated citizen, then the failure of Williams to have a substantive connection to military life and culture is troubling.

ar_1991And, unfortunately, unavoidable. Williams-caliber high school seniors are unlikely to consider serving prior to college. Williams-caliber Ph.D. recipients almost never have a military background. There is little that anyone can do about this state of affairs. But I think that we all have an obligation to be cognizant of it.

The estrangement of Williams from things military first struck me during a mini-controversy in the pages of the Alumni Review. The Summer 1991 issue featured a cover photo of a graduating senior, Jonathan Dailey, being commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. Former Professor Mark Taylor, one of the best, and most opinionated, teachers on campus was so incensed by this affront that he felt compelled to write to the editor. His letter, published in the subsequent issue, is worth quoting in full.

I was deeply disturbed by the photograph of three Marines in uniform standing besides the Declaration of Independence in Chapin Library that was on the cover of the most recent Review. Many of us at Williams have struggled throughout the year to raise the critical awareness of our students about the disturbing implications of the glorification of military power in the Gulf War. In my judgment, this photograph sends precisely the wrong message to our students and alumni. taylor_emeritusIt is little more than another example of the reactionary flag-waving mentality that has run wild in the wake of our supposed “victory” in the Gulf. Such an attitude runs directly counter to the ideals of a liberal arts education. I would have hoped that the editor of the Review would have been more thoughtful and more sensitive to the power of images to communicate cultural values.

Taylor is a great proponent and practitioner of deconstruction, of looking for the meaning behind the simple words of a text. Let us deconstruct his letter.

First, it is unclear what, precisely, has made Taylor “deeply distressed.” Is it the very existence of the Marine Corps? Or does Taylor except the need for some sort of military establishment and simply object to the tradition of clothing members of that establishment “in uniform”? Or is it the juxtaposition of these Marines and the Declaration of Independence, which, after all, contains the first claim by these United States to have “full power to levy war”? Or was Taylor distressed that this scene was chosen as the cover shot for the Review? I suspect that it was the last of these which moved Taylor to write. The military, while perhaps necessary, is a distasteful part of modern life. According to Taylor’s “cultural values,” it is worthy of neither celebration nor respect.

Second, note the reference to “students and alumni” as opposed to the more common trio of “students, faculty and alumni.” Obviously, Taylor is not concerned that faculty members will receive the “wrong message.” Presumably, they are smart enough not to be swayed. He worries, however, that the same may not be said for the rest of us.

Third, consider his concern over the “reactionary flag-waving mentality” which “runs directly counter to the ideals of a liberal arts education.” Did 2nd Lt Dailey USMCR and Williams ’91 missed out on some important lectures? Is Taylor suggesting that individuals like he and Dailey, who aspire to the liberal arts ideal, should not wave flags or that they should not do so in a reactionary manner. Perhaps lessons in progressive flag-waving are called for.

The typical comment which a former Marine (like me) should make at this point involves the irony of Taylor’s denigrating the very institution which secures his freedom to denigrate. Or perhaps I should note that Marines like Dailey stand ready to sacrifice themselves for causes, like protecting Bosnian Muslims, which Taylor might find more compelling than combating the invasion of Kuwait. But, in this case, the irony is much more delicious.

parishBefore moving to Columbia, Taylor was the Preston S. Parish ’41 Third Century Professor of Religion. In other words, an alumnus of the College, as his contribution to the Third Century Campaign, endowed a chair which Taylor now holds. And who is Preston S. Parish? Besides being a generous alumnus, he is a former officer in the United States Marine Corps and veteran of World War II. He won a bronze star for leading infantry units from the First Marine Division in combat on Guadalcanal and Peleliu.

For Marines fighting the Japanese in World War II, combat looked like this:

Not much “reactionary flag-waving” going on there . . .

In the beginning of his book Tears, Taylor reminds us of Kierkegaard’s aphorism that it is not the job of an author to make a book easy; on the contrary, it is the job of an author to make a book hard. Reading a good book, like attending a college which aspires to the ideals of the liberal arts, should be difficult. It should challenge us. Taylor was one of the best professors at Williams precisely because of his ability and inclination to challenge his students — question their preconceptions and to encourage them to question his. When my sister-in-law entered Williams in 1994, I told her that the one course that she shouldn’t miss is Religion 101 — or, better yet, 301 — with Mark Taylor. He made things hard.

It is supremely fitting, then, that Williams, via the medium of the Review has challenged — or at least “deeply distressed” — Mark Taylor. It has made him think, however fleetingly, about the worth and purpose of military preparedness in an unfriendly world. A great college, like a great book, should challenge, not just its “students and alumni” but its faculty as well. Ephraim Williams’ generosity, like that of Preston Parish ’41 and Jonathan Dailey ’91, is of money and blood and spirit. They make things hard for all of us.

—–
Originally version published in the Spring 1995 Williams Alumni Review, by David Kane ’88. Modified since then by EphBlog.

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Semper Fidelis

Today marks the 242nd birthday of the United States Marine Corps, celebrated around the world at the Marine Corps Birthday Ball. On many dimensions, the Marines are the Williams College of military organizations: elite, steeped in history, less well-known among the hoi polloi, athletic, cultish and intellectual. Or perhaps Williams College is the Marine Corps of American high education? Either way, there is a special bond among we few, we happy brothers of Williams and the USMC. Traditionally, Marines offer each other birthday greetings this day, and so, to my fellow Ephs Marines: Happy Birthday!

The earliest Eph Marine I have been able to find is Joseph Fairchild Baker, class of 1864, who attended Williams in 1860 — 1861 but never graduated. He was the son of a United States Senator and served as a lieutenant and captain. Does anyone know his story? If we don’t remember his service 150 years ago, then who will remember ours in the decades to come?

Joel Iams ’01 sent us this letter 12 years ago.

Iams_01.jpg

The roads of Fallujah were eventually cleared, but not until we lost Nate Krissoff ’03. Will those roads need clearing again? If the President calls, I am sure my Marines will be willing, with Ephs at the forefront.

Below is a list of Eph Marines. Who am I missing?

Myles Crosby Fox ’40
Vance McKean ’40
Preston Parish ’41
Albert William Tweedy Jr. ’42
Percy Nelson ’44
Joe Rice ’54
TB Jones ’58
David Kane ’58
Jack Platt ’58
Carl Vogt ’58
John McGonagle ’84
Jerry Rizzo ’87
David Kane ’88
Tony Fuller ’89
Jonathan Dailey ’91
Brian Gugliatta ’95
John Bozeman ’98
Bunge Cook ’98
Lee Kindlon ’98,
Zack Pace ’98
Ben Kamilewicz ’99
Joel Iams ’01
Rob MacDougall ’01
John Silvestro ’06
Jeff Castiglione ’07
Brad Shirley ’07
Jeff Lyon ’08
Hill Hamrick ’13
Tim Morris ’13
Taylor Beebe ’20
Adam Jones ’20

Hamrick and Morris are currently deployed in harms way. Please contact Stewart Menking ’79 for information on how to reach them. Many thanks to Stew for his work on Adopt-an-Eph over the last 16 years.

LtCol Bunge Cook ’98 is now commands Second Battalion, Fourth Marines, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, the Magnificent Bastards. His call sign is, of course, Bastard 6.

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