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Renaming Horn Hall

Activist students want to rename Horn Hall:

Students are convening an emergency TOWN HALL MEETING at 8:30 PM on Thursday [March 2] to rename Horn Hall.

We will provide a brief 10 minute rundown of Joey Horn’s recent conviction of abuse of workers and the administration’s disturbing response. Then, the space will be opened up for suggestions about what to rename Horn Hall. Perhaps we should choose an amazing alum or professor who has committed their life to fighting for justice and a better world. At the end of the meeting, we will vote on a new name. Though this meeting is organized by students, we invite any staff, faculty, and members of the community to participate.

This a direct action in response to the fact that the College has decided to go through with naming the new dorm after Trustee Horn despite her recent conviction. This makes Horn Hall one of several Williams buildings named after problematic figures. Since the administration won’t engage with us or rename the building, we are taking matters into our own hands and finding a new name for the building for the present moment. This is not about choosing the perfect or permanent name for the building. We seek to fuel further interrogation of other problematic (including racist and slave-owning) figures memorialized on Williams campus and, most critically, address the oppressive systems which are the legacy of some of these figures, both within the institution and outside of it.

The town hall meeting will last one hour. Following the meeting, we will all march to the newly named building for a ribbon cutting ceremony and a pizza celebration. Join us for as long or short as you can, and spread the word! If you have questions, comments, or want to help plan this effort, email divestwilliamscollege@gmail.com.

1) “other problematic (including racist and slave-owning) figures memorialized on Williams campus”? Details, please. Williams, unlike Yale, seems remarkably bereft of problematic historical associations.

2) Who is paying for the “pizza celebration?” Nothing wrong with pizza, or celebrations, for that matter. But any good Record reporter should figure this out. If I were a trustee, I would have no issues with Williams students protesting my decisions, but I would ask Adam Falk if the college should really be subsidizing such activities.

3) It is interesting how connected these various causes are, even though there seems no obvious reason why someone involved with Divestment should care about Horn Hall or why someone involved with either should be working with CTA, whose main (praise-worthy!) issue is greater trustee transparency. Is there a common factor of sticking-it-to-the-Man which motivates all these campaigns?

4) If we are going to rename Horn Hall, then the best choice is Krissoff Hall.

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Safety Dance Defense Exhibits

Here are some of the defense exhibits from the Safety Dance sexual assault case: Exhibit E, Exhibit D, Exhibit C, Exhibit B, and Exhibit AA. From the last of these:

scorn

I realize that John Doe was probably an affirmative action admission at Williams, due to his ethnicity (Ecuadoran-American) and family income (low). But is it too much to ask that he get the quotation correct?! It is “like a woman scorned,” not “than a woman scorned.” Then again, perhaps we should be proud that accused-rapist Ephs are even educated enough to make a literary reference at all!

Does anyone have the energy to go through all 80+ pages of this document? Not me! But I can’t help quoting this section:

scorn2

Throughout, the red text is John Doe’s comments. From the document:

“literally all I ever wanted was to dance with you is that’s too much to ask?”

From the lyrics to Safety Dance:

‘Cause your friends don’t dance and if they don’t dance
Well they’re no friends of mine.

I rest my case.

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Student Letter on Horn

From our friends at the Coalition for Transparency and Accountability comes this letter (pdf) to Adam Falk and the trustees about Trustee Joey Horn ’87.

We are deeply disturbed by the recent conviction of Trustee Joey Shaista Horn and her husband by the Oslo District Court for violating the Immigration Act (of Norway). The couple had illegally hired two au pairs and subjected them to illegal and unjust working conditions from 2011 to 2014 , as reported by several Norwegian media outlets.

How about a shout out to EphBlog!? The CTA did not find that article on its own. [If anything, EphBlog owes CTA a shout out since it was CTA member Linda Worden ’19 who first found the article. Thanks to commentators for pointing this out.]

We have questions and demand answers:

● When was Williams College made aware of the investigation, the trial, and the conviction?
● Why did Williams College fail to notify the community about this pending investigation?
● If the College was aware of this investigation, why did the College feel it was appropriate to open Horn Hall with its current name?
● Will Trustee Joey Shaista Horn continue to serve on the Board of Trustees?

We demand that the College develop a clear plan for ensuring transparency and accountability from Trustees in the future.

The CTA deserves credit for highlighting the timing of the initial indictment in 2014. This scandal has been percolating for a long time. (And EphBlog is embarrassed to not have covered it until now.) However, CTA has also demonstrated a childish inability to accomplish anything of use and/or to work with its natural allies. (That is, it refuses to follow my excellent advice.) However, I am still happy to answer their questions:

1) Joey probably let the College know about this issue back when she was indicted. At least, I hope she did.

2) The College is not in the business of keeping “the community” updated on every imbroglio that its trustees (or its faculty or its major donors or its students) get involved in. That would be stupid! Would the CTA want Williams to send out a news release every time a student is arrested by the local cops, a news release with the students name? I hope not!

3) Donors get to name things. How naive are the students behind the CTA? Moreover, at the time of the naming, the Horns had not yet been found guilty. And they still might win on appeal. And, even in the worse case that they spend a few months in jail, I (and Williams?) do not see that conviction as such an egregious sin that a building renaming would be required.

4) Horn will continue to serve on the trustees. She is a good person who did one bad thing. I initially thought that Horn would stay on the Trustees. I was wrong. Did the CTAs letter play a role in her resignation? The Record should try and find out.

By the way, the politics of this situation are interesting. The CTA is, obviously, packed with social justice warriors. So, why were they trying to get rid of one of the few women of color on the Trustees? Why were they attacking Horn for, more or less, employing an illegal immigrant in Norway?

Is the CTA the Williams beachhead for Trump? Prosecute and shame the employers of illegal immigrants!

The good (?) news is that the Horn case is bringing together Ephs who normally disagree. Consider former Williams professor John Drew’s take:

From my perspective, the more pertinent issue is whether or not the U.S. and Williams College are ready for the globalist values of Joey Horn 87′. As a matter of integrity, Williams College should return their gift and allow someone else, someone with better and more humane values, have the honor of their name on that building. Simple as that. If Williams fails to take action, the students on campus should begin protesting this outrage.

If the CTA — social justice warriors (almost) all — and John Drew — perhaps the most outspoken member of the vast right wing conspiracy, Eph division — all agree that Horn Hall should be renamed then . . . well, I guess that I am not sure what follows from that . . . But is sure is nice to see CTA/Drew agree on something!

UPDATE: Today’s Record article is stunningly good. Kudos to reporters Nicholas Goldrosen and William Newton. Read the whole thing.

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Doe Expelled; Hearing Set for March 28

Latest update about the Safety Dance case includes these two documents: Williams – motion for new scheduling order and Feb 17 2017 Order. Key section:

doe_out

In other words, Doe’s appeal failed. He has been permanently expelled from Williams, even though he has completed all the requirements for a degree. Comments:

1) The Order highlights the set of documents that we will soon get to read, before the hearing on March 28. I am not sure if we will learn much more than we already know. John Doe behaved problematically throughout his time at Williams. But to expel him based a completely implausible accusation of sexual assault, an assault that happened in the middle of a two year consensual sexual relationship, is a travesty of justice.

2) The Record should provide more coverage of this case and should send a reporter to the March 28 hearing.

3) Biggest winners are the attorneys. Rossi/Kelly/Lapp are all going to get to bill many more hours than if the case were just settled.

4) Does anyone know why the College is insisting on continuing on this path? I could, maybe, understand that, if Doe were still a student, the College might want to permanently prevent him from coming back to campus. But he has completed all his course work. He has walked in the graduation ceremony. What possible purpose does this vindictiveness serve?

Readers should let me know if they want more or less coverage of this case.

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No Ban, No Wall

Economics Professor Sarah Jacobson tweeted:

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1) The College ought to maintain a list of all faculty members who tweet. (I have a vague sense that such a list used to exist. Best I can find now is this.) The more contact between and among faculty/students/alumni, the better.

2) Politically, it strikes me as a mistake for these protestors to combine their complaints about a ban with complaints about a wall. The ban, especially as it applied to green card holders, was, to some extent unprecedented. Plenty of people are against it, especially when they are confronted with specific stories of refugees. But the wall is another matter. The US border always has a wall (on some sections), partially built by Barack Obama. Telling me you are against the wall is, to me (and a (large?) majority of other Americans?) indistinguishable from a claim that the US should have open borders, that anyone who wants to come to the US (and does not commit a violent felony) should be allowed to do so. Fighting Trump on that front seems foolish and doomed to failure.

3) Who are the Ephs most involved in the protests against Trump in the Williamstown area? (My sense is that Jacobson was just passing through the airport when she took this photo.) What are their plans for future events?

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Horn ’87 Resigns from Board of Trustees

From the Office of the President:

Resignation of Trustee Joey Shaista Horn ’87

Feb. 17, 2017: Joey Shaista Horn ’87 resigned from the Board of Trustees, effective Feb. 16, citing the need to focus on personal matters. Michael Eisenson ’77, Chairman of the Board, thanked Joey for her extensive and committed service to the college and said, “We are sad to lose Joey from the board and grateful for the many ways that she contributed to the work of the board and to the health of the college.”

1) Thanks to class of ’15 and WA for the tip.

2) Does EphBlog share some of the blame here? That is, would Horn have resigned if we had not published the story? I don’t know. The timing certainly suggests that this is true, since the resignation came the day after we published. Moreover, the underlying news — the guilty verdict — came out more than two weeks ago. Did Horn fail to inform the College? Or did she inform Williams, but Falk and the trustees hoped that the story would never come to light? Surely, someone knows the inside story . . .

3) How was the message distributed, if at all, to the Williams community? In particular, did an all-campus message come out? If not, how did WA and class of ’15 come across it?

4) Is the College doing its best to keep this news from spreading? For example, consider this search:

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Normally, a search of the opening phrase of a Williams news release pulls up that release as its first hit. Is the College using some robots.txt-fu to keep this news hidden from the world? Should it?

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No Fear To Be Smelled

My sense is that most Ephs would disagree with Bennett’s ’65 assessment of Trump’s performance at his press conference. For example, from Jon Lovett ’04:
lovett1

Perhaps the truth is somewhere in between . . .

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Williams Trustee Sentenced to Jail

When was the last time a Williams trustee was sentenced to jail? Two weeks ago!

The Oslo City Court has sentenced a wealthy Norwegian investor and his wife to five months in prison each, in a case that has highlighted abuse of Norway’s au pair program. It’s supposed to serve as a cultural exchange for young people from abroad but the couple, aided by two neighbours, was found guilty of fraudulently and illegally using two young women from the Philippines as au pairs at the same time, and putting them to work as their low-paid household help.

The couple are Ragnor Horn ’85 and Joey Shaista Horn ’87. Does the name “Horn” sound familiar? It should! Horn Hall, the College’s newest residential building is named after Ragnor and Joey, in thanks for their $10 million donation. Joey has been a Williams trustee since 2009. The Horns have been generous donors for more than a decade. Consider this snippet from 2008:

horn2

Back to the article:

The au pairs’ testimony was almost entirely at odds with the Horns’, according to media reports. The Horns claimed they considered the women members of their family and had tried to help them. They admitted to having surveillance cameras in their home but claimed they were not focused on the women while they worked. Mrs Horn, who was represented in court by one of Norway’s most famous defense attorneys, John Christian Elden, also confirmed the required use of face masks, but claimed that “was common in Asia” and was only required in the kitchen by one of the women who “coughed so much.”

Evidence prosecutors referred to in court, however, included a chatting exchange Mrs Horn had with a friend that revealed her referring to her household help in derogatory terms and accusing her of coughing on the food or while in the bathroom. Mrs Horn told her friend the au pair would have to use both a face mask and disposable gloves while in the home or with Horn’s children.

The conversation used as evidence in court also recorded Mrs Horn telling her friend that she had threatened to send the au pair back to her “straw mats in Manila.” Mrs Horn defended herself by saying it had been a “private conversation” with an old friend and that she actually “loved straw mats” and had one in her own home that she used for yoga.

1) Who among us does not love straw mats?

2) WA, who tipped us off about this case, wants me to spend a week going through the details. Should I? My last series on the lifestyles of the rich and the Eph involved Mayo Shattuck ’76 and his cheerleader wife.

3) When was the last time a Williams trustee was sentenced to jail? I can’t come up with a single example. Help us Eph historians!

4) The Horns have three children, including two at Williams. Spare a thought for what they must be going through.

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Majors Over Time

Here (pdf) is a summary of major enrollment at Williams over the last decade. Here is a portion of the data:

majors1

Lots of interesting stuff! Worth spending a few days discussing?

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Carbon Tax

Best debates are the ones that feature Ephs on both sides. The latest proposal for a carbon tax cum dividend is an example. In favor, we have Trustee Mark Tercek ’79:

The plan has four pillars: tax the carbon in fossil fuels at $40 per ton of carbon dioxide for the emissions they will produce; rebate all of the revenue to American households in quarterly dividend payments; repeal federal regulations that will no longer be needed because carbon prices produce greater and more efficient investments in emissions reductions; and assure that the program does not damage U.S. trade by adjusting its impact on exports and imports that are energy intensive.

Against, Oren Cass ’05:

This week, a self-described “who’s-who of conservative elder statesmen” launched a new organization, the Climate Leadership Council (CLC), to make their “Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends.” Lest one be confused, the proposal is yet another carbon tax. Lest one be optimistic, it manages only to weaken an already flawed policy.

None of these objections or challenges is new. Yet, in the marketplace of ideas, the carbon tax behaves increasingly like a government-run utility. It doesn’t care about competition. It ignores complaint with impunity. Its business model depends on the strength of its political connections, not the quality of its product. Elder statesmen often sit on the boards of such entities. Rarely do they achieve positive change.

My take: The politics of this proposal don’t work, not least because of environmentalist who hate it, as you can see from all the progressive’s attacking Tercek from the left. A better plan needs to be more extreme, in order to bring along the right. I recommend a constitutional amendment that would repeal the federal income tax while simultaneously granting Congress the right to tax carbon. Conservatives would go for this because they hate the income tax. The Government’s need to spend would force a carbon tax higher than any other possible plan.

Let’s arrange for a debate at Williams between Tercek and Cass, ideally each paired with a student. Bring back the Williams College Debate Union!

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How to Pick a Husband

About half of the female students currently at Williams will not be married at age 32. Don’t want that to be your fate? You will never be prettier than you are right now and you will never be surrounded by as many single, high-quality men. Follow EphBlog’s advice:

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

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

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

4) Go out on the date. Who knows what will happen? The date may be a failure. If so, have your friend go on to another candidate. But the date is probably more likely to go well, especially if you chose your five candidates wisely, picking men that you already liked and respected, men with whom you could imagine having a longterm relationship. One date may lead to another, and then another. Perhaps you will never have a need for the other four candidates.

Does this seem like a horribly retrograde and patriarchal plan? Perhaps it is! The claim I am making is purely a statistical one. Female Eph undergraduates who follow this advice are more likely to be married at 32 than those who do not.

Happy Valentines Day! And point your date toward EphBlog’s annual advice on falling in love . . .

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Williamstown as Sanctuary City

Williamstown does not appear to be a sanctuary city.

sanctuary

There was an interesting e-mail last week about the “Williamstown Immigrant Trust Act” which seems to, in all but name, turn Williamstown into a sanctuary city.

In the United States and Canada, a sanctuary city is a municipality that has adopted a policy of protecting unauthorized immigrants by not prosecuting them for violating federal immigration laws and by ensuring that all residents have access to city services, regardless of immigration status. Such a policy can be set out expressly in a law (de jure) or observed only in practice (de facto). The term applies generally to cities that do not use municipal funds or resources to enforce national immigration laws. The cities usually forbid their police or municipal employees to inquire about a person’s immigration status or share such information with immigration enforcement. The designation has no precise legal meaning.

1) Am I correct that Williamstown is not currently a sanctuary city and that this act, if passed would turn it into one?

2) Does anyone have any insights into the local politics involved? Williamstown is overwhelmingly liberal and had fewer than 15% of its votes going to Trump. So, presumably, anything that goes against Trump would be popular . . .

3) How much leverage does the Federal Government have over Williamstown? The town’s budget is $19 million, with 10% coming from “Other Governments.” But how much of that is state versus federal? How how much of the money from the state is actually funding that originates from the federal government? Best info I can find is here:

budget

I think that this is just school-related revenues and that there are few other sources of state/federal aid to the budget. Would Trump ever start to take away education-related money from sanctuary cities? Would a loss of $400,000 make Williamstown rethink its stand?

Governor Baker seems committed to keep the state government out of the discussion. That is good news for Williamstown since a withdrawal of state funding would cause chaos for its budget. But what happens when the Feds start to put pressure on the States? Imagine if Trump (and the Republican congress) decided to cut off funding to any state which insisted on giving its own funding to sanctuary cities.

Is the new construction for the high school — and the tax free bonds that support it — a possible pressure point?

Again, informed commentary from Williamstown residents wanted!

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Difference, Power, and Equity IV

The plan (pdf) to replace the Exploring Diversity Initiative (pdf) with a Difference, Power, and Equity requirement will be discussed at this week’s faculty meeting. Day 4, and the end, of our discussion.

dpe6

1) Again, it is sleazy for the CEA to list colleges with a similar requirement and not mention colleges, like Amherst and Yale, without one.

2) The College has been pushing these, allegedly, “innovative approaches” for 30 years. Has anything been accomplished? Consider some of the courses that meet the current EDI requirement:

CHIN 101 (F) Basic Chinese (D)
CHIN 102 (F) Basic Chinese (D)
CHIN 201 (F) Intermediate Chinese (D)
CHIN 202 (F) Intermediate Chinese (D)

JAPN 101 (F) Elementary Japanese (D)
JAPN 102 (F) Elementary Japanese (D)
JAPN 201 (F) Intermediate Japanese (D)
JAPN 202 (F) Intermediate Japanese (D)

CLAS 340 (F) Roman Cities in the Near East (D)

CSCI 205 (F) Cinematography in the Digital Age (D)

These look like great classes! But it is absurd to pretend that they, in any meaningful way, involve exploring diversity, or at least exploring diversity more than any competently taught language or history normally class does. Looking closely at the EDI listing (pdf) makes it obvious that one big element here is under-enrolled departments listing every possible class in order to increase student interest. A second element is departments listing at least one class in order to get the diversity apparatchiks off their backs.

Indeed, the cynical way to view EDI/DPE is as the College’s method for moving students from over-subscribed classes that they want to take — especially in economics, psychology, statistics and computer science — into under-subscribed courses in unpopular departments.

The central issue is the hypocrisy of Williams in pretending that it requires students to take courses which “represent our dedication to study groups, cultures, and societies as they interact with, and challenge, each other” while, at the same time, allowing that requirement to be fulfilled by introductory Japanese, but not introductory Arabic.

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This is a fantasy on several levels. First, almost every single non-science class at Williams does this, at least given the constraints of its subject matter. Show me a history or political science or sociology or anthropology or . . . course which does not “study groups, cultures, and societies as they interact with, and challenge, each other.”

Second, it is hard to read “core of their pedagogical mission” as anything other than a plea for indoctrination or as plaintive virtue signalling. Assume (as EphBlog does!) that the Williams faculty is highly competent, that they structure their classes intelligently, providing a balanced coverage of the relevant issues. In that case, the amount of time that, say, HIST 284: Introduction to Asian American History spends on the “shaping of social differences” is appropriate even if it is not the “core” of the class. If you believe that Williams faculty are competent, than you should assume that they spend the appropriate amount of time on issues relating to difference, power and equity, given the subject of their course. Why wouldn’t they?

Moreover, we assert unapologetically that the elimination of a curricular commitment to difference and power would send a terrible signal to our community and beyond.

Is there a better example of virtue signalling at Williams in the last year? Recall that this requirement does nothing meaningful to change the content of specific courses. The syllabus of HIST 284 is going to be the same as it would have been if the professor taught at Amherst. Removing the requirement does not change a single class at Williams. It just allows students to take the courses that they want to take, which is the same freedom as Yale and Amherst allow their students.

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Difference, Power, and Equity III

The plan (pdf) to replace the Exploring Diversity Initiative (pdf) with a Difference, Power, and Equity requirement will be discussed at this week’s faculty meeting. Day 3 of our discussion.

dpe2

“Profound changes?” Really? Shallow people often think that This Time Is Different, that no one before has ever had the thoughts that they have now, that the historical moment in which, by sheer happenstance, they inhabit is unique in some way. Historians know better.

And this is all the more true at Williams College. Do these authors really believe that students 30 years ago where unaware of the importance of “power,” that they were unconcerned with issues of “equity?” Professor Kurt Tauber was teaching Marxism at Williams 50 years ago!

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What would the excellent professors in the Williams Philosophy department make of this sort of prose? I bet that Joe Cruz or Alan White would offer suggestions like these:

The Writing Intensive requirement is dedicated to the critical and practical development of communication over diverse fields towards developing varied, multi-disciplinary methods of transmitting and exchanging knowledge makes students better writers. … Finally, the Difference, Power, and Equity requirement will give students the opportunity to develop their own critical perspectives about evolving social questions from past to present, thoroughly grounded in information about and theories of difference teaches students critical thinking about social standing. (? — Some examples would be useful.)

Leaving these quibbles aside, we are left marveling at the magical thinking embedded in this Williams Curricular Triad. (Useless capitalization is the best sign of nonsense at Williams. Recall the Williams House System.)

First, are they necessary? One would hope that every Williams in any of the humanities — History, English, Philosophy, et cetera — would involve extensive writing. (Any such class that doesn’t should be cancelled.) Very few students would graduate from Williams without taking a writing intensive course even if no such class were required, especially given the existence of the Divisional requirements.

Second, do they do any good? The main impact of these requirements is probably the effect the combination of the three minimum courses in Division III and/or the Quantitative Requirement has on students who don’t want to take any math/science classes. Do such students benefit from being forced to do so? I doubt it. Do any readers have personal anecdotes to offer?

Fortunately, there is a simple way to answer these questions: Randomly select 200 members of the class of 2021 and free them from all requirements (except for 32 classes and a major). Then, in just four years, we can estimate the causal effects of these requirements. In line with the null hypothesis of education, I predict that forcing students to take courses that they don’t want to take has no effect on any outcome we care about. Ultimately, though that is an empirical claim. Why won’t Williams — which Adam Falk often claims is and/or should be a leader in college education — perform this simple experiment?

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Difference, Power, and Equity II

The plan (pdf) to replace the Exploring Diversity Initiative (pdf) with a Difference, Power, and Equity requirement will be discussed at this week’s faculty meeting. Day 2 of our discussion.

dpe4

1) The most annoying aspect of this description is its ahistoricism. Do these folks really believe that only now — or for the 30 years that Williams has had a “diversity” requirement — we live in “a globalizing world that tends toward the redrawing of lines of identity and power”? Those trends have been going on for hundreds of years! Ephraim Williams died thinking of himself as an Englishman, only for his namesake free school to be born in these United States.

2) The second most annoying aspect is the authors’ ignorance about what has changed at Williams and what has not. It is false to claim that “we also constitute a campus community that has by many measures become significantly more diverse in the past few decades.” As we have shown, time and again, on EphBlog, the Williams of today is, on almost all the measures that really matter, indistinguishable from the Williams of the 1980s and perhaps even the 1950s or 1920s. The claim that socio-economic diversity has increased is a lie. There has been no change in the sorts of high schools — elite, often private — which Williams students attended. They may, perhaps, have been some changes in the racial composition but even that change has merely mirrored changes in the US as a whole. Williams is every bit as elite now as it has been for 100 years. And thank goodness for that!

But, instead of criticism, let’s talk tactics. What could a faculty skeptic of this requirement do at today’s faculty meeting? (Informed commentary welcome!)

First, change the new DPE requirement so that it automatically expires after 5 years, just like the ill-fated Gaudino Option of a decade ago. It would be impossible for non-progressive faculty members, given the current environment, to just remove EDI. But, perhaps, we could plant a time bomb that would blow up this nonsense sometime in the 2020s . . .

Second, ask for evidence that the current EDI requirement has actually achieved any of its goals. The CEA is thorough in that it does list some of the requirements at peer schools. But the CEA is also extremely sleazy to not even mention not that many peer schools, like Amherst and Yale, have no similar social justice requirements. Do students at those schools lack the ability to “analyze critically the shaping of social differences?” I doubt it!

EphBlog votes Yes! Despite all my criticisms and even if nothing in this proposal changes, EphBlog is still a Yes vote because the more that we can get race out of the discussion, the better off Williams (and America!) will be. Of course, DPE still explicitly mentions “race” — How could it not? — but as just one of many issues. Race is less central to DPE than it was to EDI, and it was less central to EDI than it was to the original diversity requirement of Peoples and Cultures. This is change we can believe in!

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Difference, Power, and Equity I

The plan (pdf) to replace the Exploring Diversity Initiative (pdf) with a Difference, Power, and Equity (DPE) requirement will be discussed at this week’s faculty meeting. Day 1 of our discussion.

Requirements are bad. Beyond demanding that students major in something and take 32 classes, Williams should place no further limits on student course selection. As former President Morty Schapiro was fond of pointing out, your time at Williams is limited. You only have 32 “golden tickets.” Every time the College makes you take a class that you would otherwise not have taken, it (potentially, at least) burns one of those tickets. Even the number 32 is often an overestimate since it does not include the 9 (or more) courses in your major or the 4 (or 8) courses you miss while studying abroad. In terms of pure discretion, the number of golden tickets might be as low as 15. Unless the Administration has a compelling reason to believe that a student is making a mistake when she picks course X over course Y, they should let her decide. She knows best.

The proposal:

dpe1

Can any insider give us the background? This seems to be a revised proposal. How does it differ from the first? Is it likely to pass? What is the constellation of forces for and against?

If you are the Record and you use this document, you should credit EphBlog. The College (stupidly) refuses to make the material distributed before faculty meetings public. More transparency please! Putting faculty meeting materials (and the notes which follow) here makes sense because, first, this is high quality work! Second, any document that you e-mail to 300+ people is more-or-less public anyway.

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Entertaining Reader Requests

I am planning out my next few 5-10 part series. What topics do readers want me to cover? (Previous rants in this series include the discussions of the Equality of Opportunity Project, the news release on early admissions for the class of 2019 and veterans admissions). The topics I am willing to write about include:

1) Latest Form 990.
2) Latest financial statements.
3) Latest Common Data Set.
4) Excellent work done by the Merrill Committee.
5) The 2012 Fifth Year Interim Report (pdf) on accreditation.
6) Adam Falk’s latest letters.
7) The long term health of the Williams endowment, using NACUBO data. (Thanks to Dartblog for the pointer.)
8. Ways to improve NESCAC athletics.
9. The Proposal for Divestment (pdf), the main intellectual statement by those students/faculty/alumni seeking divestment from fossil fuel companies.
10. The College’s response (pdf) to the Proposal for Divestment.
11. The new trustees webpage and the documents linked therefrom.
12. Record articles from the fall semester. Lots of good stuff that we never got around to discussing.
13. The plan (pdf) for the replacement for the Exploring Diversity Initiative to be discussed at this week’s faculty meeting.
14. Latest 100 page report (pdf) from the Curricular Planning Committee.
15. Ethan Zuckerman’s ’93 lunch with an (anonymous!?) Eph Trump supporter.
16. An update on athletic admission, starting with this amazing series from The Bowdoin Orient.

What do you want to read? Other suggestions welcome! I will probably start with 13 since it is so timely . . .

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Is This What You Voted For?

A friend of EphBlog and one of my favorite alumni wrote in last week (in reference to Trump’s executive order):

Sincere question: can you support the President given these recent actions?

You betcha! Since my friend, I suspect, does not know many Trump supporters, or at least not many Trump supporters with Williams-caliber IQs, let me elaborate.

The central issue in the election (for people like me) was immigration. We want the US to have the immigration policy of a “normal” nation, a place like Japan, Israel, Finland or China. My point, here, is not to argue about whether or not such a policy is best for the future of America or the World. (Let’s have that argument elsewhere.) My point is that, if you were/are an American with this preference then Trump was the only candidate who promised this. In my opinion, without his stance on immigration, Trump would not have won the Republican primary. And, if he had moved to the center during the general election, he would have lost to Clinton. A hundred years from now, much of the day-to-day trivia of governing will have been lost. But if there is one phrase that will still be associated with Trump, it will be “Build the wall.”

Given that policy preference, Trump is doing wonderfully. Naming a justice like Gorsuch to the Supreme Court is the best way to prevent the judiciary from trying to take control of immigration policy. Putting serious immigration restrictionists like Bannon and Miller in the White House guarantees follow through. Selecting heavyweights like Kelly and Sessions for key cabinet positions will bend the bureaucracy to our goals. About the only complaint we have, at this stage, is that Kris Kobach has not been hired yet. But I like to think/hope that Trump is just “saving” Kobach for later after the easy tasks have been accomplished. Summary: if your goal is an America with an immigration policy like Japan’s, Trump has done everything you want.

Even some of the items that seem like incompetence and/or overreach and/or cruelty — like banning green card holders — may be more than they seem. Why not go “too far” at first if doing so causes the eventual compromise to be everything you wanted in the first place? Why not start all the lawsuits running on a policy, like the new version of the EO, which is almost certain to be upheld since it is so similar to past US policies?

What seems like madness to my friend may actually be quite calculated. Trump is a lewd, boorish buffoon but people like Stephen Miller are as serious as black ice on the steps of Chapin. In that regard, consider the latest letter, co-signed by Adam Falk, about Trump’s executive order:

We recognize and respect the need to protect America’s security. The vetting procedures already in place are rigorous. Improvements to them should be based on evidence, calibrated to real risks, and consistent with constitutional principle.

We just had an election fought over this very question. People like me do not think that the current procedures are “rigorous” enough. Finland is an example of a country with an immigration policy “based on evidence” and “calibrated to real risks.” That is the policy we want. You can call us bigots and racists all day long and we won’t care. If it is OK for Israel and China to allow virtually no immigrants, then it is OK for America as well.

In any event, that is my answer to my alumni friend. Trump won the presidency on immigration and, on that policy at least, he is keeping the promises he made. Contrary views welcome in the comments!

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Upset and Overwhelmed

A Williams insider passed along this all-faculty e-mail from the day after the election.

Dear Colleagues,

As you all know, this polarized campaign has both real and felt consequences for many in our community. Many students (as well as faculty and staff) are feeling upset and overwhelmed this morning. We have received a number of messages from students asking to cancel classes today. Although we have a responsibility to continue to hold classes, we encourage you to be as understanding and flexible as possible in response to the very real concerns expressed and felt by our students. Please remember that, as always, you may steer students to college resources for them including in the Dean’s Office, in the Davis Center, in the Chaplains Office, and in the Health Center.

Sincerely,

Denise K. Buell
Dean of the Faculty and Cluett Professor of Religion
Williams College

1) I am embarrassed that there are people at Williams who would even think about cancelling classes after the election. Who were they? I am pleased that Williams did not. Kudos to Falk/Buell for resisting such stupidity.

2) We need a better history of cancelled classes at Williams, both actual and attempted. The last example was over the Prospect House Hate Hoax in 2011. Can anyone remember the previous cancel-all-classes event? Do we need to go all the way back to the Vietnam War?

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Witch Hunt on the Quad

Glowing review for former Williams professor KC Johnson’s latest book:

In 1692, the Massachusetts Bay Colony found itself in the grip of a moral panic. Seemingly rational people turned on their neighbors, accusing them of witchcraft. The subjective testimony of children and “spectral” evidence, which only the accusers could see, were the basis for the arrest of more than 140 innocent people. Nineteen were hanged.

Today America is in the grip of another moral panic. We’re not afraid of witches but rapists, whom we are told lurk at our nation’s colleges in numbers that render the quad a more dangerous environment for women than downtown Detroit. In “The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America’s Universities,” KC Johnson and Stuart Taylor Jr. dismantle this myth of a campus rape crisis and show how, with alarming frequency, colleges mistreat students accused of assault by failing to allow them any meaningful opportunity to prove their innocence.

At the same time that activists are expanding the definition of sexual assault, university disciplinary committees are systematically depriving accused students of basic due process protections. At the directive of the Department of Education, many campus tribunals today assign blame if there is a 51% chance that the accuser is telling the truth (the “preponderance of the evidence” standard). Many schools do not allow the accused to cross-examine their accusers. Some refuse to allow accused students legal representation and deny them the opportunity to present exculpatory evidence or witnesses in their defense.

According to the authors, Mr. McLeod is one of more than 100 students who are currently suing their former colleges or universities for wrongly punishing them for sexual misconduct. They recount so many examples that at times the book feels like the movie “Groundhog Day” and the reader soon forgets whether he is reading about a case out of Amherst or Michigan or Yale or USC—to name just a few of the many schools at which miscarriages of justice have occurred.

Unlike in Salem, where there were no witches, there are indeed too many instances of rape on campus. But as Messrs. Johnson and Taylor show powerfully, the current system has its own victims and ultimately undermines the credibility of actual rape survivors whose cases belong in court, not in Kafkaesque administrative tribunals.

Exactly right. Should we be pleased or sad that the Safety Dance court case happened too late for Williams to be featured in the book?

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Claiming Williams

Today is Claiming Williams. Here is the schedule. (Copied below the break for future historians.) Here are our recommendations for which sessions to attend. Comments:

1) This schedule is incompetent! Here is the committee, and the co-chairs are Annie Valk, Angela Wu, and Rashanda Booker. Are they to blame? I think that this is the first year in which the committee was not co-led by a [tenured — correction from comment below] faculty member. Is that a sign that the faculty is less interested and so we might get rid of Claiming Williams? Or is it just another example of the continued erosion of faculty governance at the College? I hope for the former.

The main trick to ensuring high attendance at Claiming Williams is to schedule a first event that hundreds of students will want to attend (or be cajoled into attending by their JAs). That event should feature people/items that are popular with students. Everyone loves singing groups! Invite several to perform. Everyone loves honeybuns! Serve them for free. In past years, the organizers have done exactly this, thereby getting lots of students out of bed and engaged. Once they attend the first event, it is easier to get them to go from that to another.

2) What a narrow selection of topics! Claiming Williams has always been (and will always be) filled with leftist sessions. Nothing wrong with that! But, in past years, other sessions, appealing to a different cross-section of the community, have generated large audiences. How about something about athletics at Williams and the athlete/non-athlete divide? What about a session on the drinking culture? A more competent committee would have created such sessions. Even the sessions that might be non-political, like this one about sports, are extremely leftist:

This critique of U.S. sports culture shows how 20th-century sports has consistently reflected the hegemonic political discourse of the day, specifically, elite narratives about nationalism, war, gender, race, homosexuality and capitalism.

Again, nothing wrong with extreme leftists! Some of our closest friends are . . . But there is no excuse for not having (many!) events that come at these issues from other perspectives.

3) How can there be nothing about Uncomfortable Learning and the banning of John Derbyshire? This was the biggest national news story involving Williams in several years. To not have a single session about it is just embarrassing.

4) Could the Record please do a minimal amount of reporting and tell us, approximately, how many students attend at least two events? My sense (commentary welcome) is that the College likes to pretend like a large majority of students (1500?) attend more than one event. I bet that the actual number is closer to 500, and maybe as low as 200.

5) Whose idea was it to choose Shaun King as the evening key note speaker? King is [an accused — edited] fraud, on several important dimensions, not least in his claim to be African-American. If I were writing this as parody — that a white man [accused of running — edited] multiple charity frauds while pretending to be African-American would be the key note speaker at Claiming Williams— when all this started 9 years ago, you wouldn’t have believed me! Truth, at least at Williams, is stranger than fiction.

Full schedule below
Read more

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Claiming Williams Recommendations

Claiming Williams is tomorrow. There were more EphBlog-worthy sessions last year than this year, but here are still several events that look good. In order, I recommend:

Campus Spaces and Institutional History: the Courage to Examine the Past:

The Committee on Campus Space and Institutional History welcomes everyone to join in a dinnertime conversation about the history that’s built into the environment all around Williams. Last spring, we explored the history behind, and the college community’s perspectives on, the Log mural. Since the fall our task has widened as we’ve reflected on how the Williams community can engage the college’s built forms across campus — in buildings, decorations, and monuments. What ideas do you bring to this work? We’d like to hear! Sponsored by the Committee on Campus Space and Institutional History.

The CCSIH is one of the great successes of the past year. It handled the Log Mural situation perfectly. It looks to be handling other controversies intelligently. Kudos to Adam Falk for creating and staffing the committee with some of Williams’ best.

Healthy Debate

Many of us share a concern about events occurring outside of our immediate communities that have “real world implications” for our work together. What are some of the hotly contested issues occurring outside of the classroom that might affect what’s going on inside of them? How do we create spaces to express a complex range of ideas and to speak frankly about what we know and what we believe? How might our ideas translate into conversations with classmates and colleagues with whom we engage with limited ways? What are the various forms that healthy debate might take among us institutionally?

Come to this session willing to enter into conversation. We have no expectation that anyone will show up as “an expert” on any particular topic, or even that anyone has to formally “debate.” Rather, we hope to engage with each other about what we think and know, and to foster broad, yet passionate, conversation focused on why differing points of view actually matter and can cultivate camaraderie among us as a community.

Suggested discussion starter: Many (most? almost all?) Trump supporters among the student body keep quiet about their political beliefs, partly because they think that open support for Trump would hurt them at Williams by, for example, preventing them from becoming a JA. Are their fears justified?

Quitting at Williams

At some point during our lives, at Williams or beyond, we have to make
a decision that we are taught to fear: quitting. Even the word “quit” summons feelings and associations that are inherently tied to failure or weakness. What is the source of this negative stigma that surrounds opting out of an activity, a group, a team, a class, a relationship, or a school, and what motivates someone to make that decision in spite of the repercussions? A panel of students will talk about their decisions to quit something because they no longer believed that what they were quitting was right for them; for the speakers, their act of “quitting” did not represent a source of shame but rather a source of empowerment.

An important topic handled in the best way: with student speakers and discussion.

Also, the Clickers session is always fun! But 9:00 AM is a tough ask . . .

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Course Advice

Spring classes start on tomorrow. What courses should you take? See our previous discussions.

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

PHIL 340 Spring 2017 Locke and Leibniz with Justin Shaddock. This course is, obviously, designed for students who have taken a philosophy course. But don’t let that stop you! Also, if you haven’t studied philosophy in a Williams tutorial, then you really haven’t studied philosophy.

PSCI 354 Spring 2017 Nationalism in East Asia (D) with Sam Crane, ENVI 228 – T1 (S) TUT Water as a Scarce Resource (W) with Ralph Bradburd and LEAD 355 – T1 (S) TUT American Realism (W) with James McAllister. Given the all-star teaching reputations of Sam, Ralph and James, these tutorials are almost certainly over-subscribed. But it never hurts to try. Just tell them that EphBlog sent you!

ARTH 300 Spring 2017 Rembrandt Tutorial: Case Studies of Individual Works and Controversial Issues (W) with Zirka Filipczak. Too many first years take a big intro class because they think they “should.” They shouldn’t! Even a “bad” tutorial at Williams is better than almost all intro courses. If you are a first year and you don’t take a tutorial like this, you are doing it wrong.

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

2) STAT 201 (if you enter Williams with Math/Reading SAT scores below 1300, you might start with STAT 101). No topic is more helpful in starting your career, no matter your area of interest, than statistics. Students who take several statistics courses are much more likely to get the best summer internships and jobs after Williams. Also, the new Statistics major is amazing. If the professors tell you that the classes are filled, just tell them that you plan on majoring in statistics so you need to get started now.

3) CSCI 135: Diving into the Deluge of Data (if you enter Williams with Math/Reading SAT scores below 1300, you might start with CSCI 134). Being able to get the computer to do what you want it to do is much more important, to your future career, than most things, including, for example, the ability to write well. Taking CSCI 136 is also highly recommended. Again, if a professor tries to tell you the class is full, just claim to be future computer science major. Mendacity in the pursuit of quality classes is no vice.

4) PHIL 207 – 01 (S) SEM Philosophy of Mind (W) with Joe Cruz, former EphBlogger and all around great guy. And don’t worry about the silly prerequisites. Just tell Joe that EphBlog sent you!

Here are some thoughts from 10 years ago about course selections for a career in finance.

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

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Faculty Organizes Against DeVos

A faculty friend passed along this e-mail:

From: Karen Swann
Date: Fri, Jan 27, 2017 at 8:54 AM
Subject: Williams Opposes Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary

Dear all,

Some Williams faculty have drafted a letter asking President Falk to issue a public statement in opposition to Betsy DeVos’s appointment as US Education Secretary. Apologies if you have already been asked to sign. (There are over 260 signatures so far.) If you would like to sign, please use the link below to do so, and please feel free to send it on to others in the Williams community. The confirmation hearing is this coming Tuesday, so it is important to proceed quickly.

Falk should decline to issue such a statement. The President of Williams is a non-partisan position. He, acting ex-officio, should no more take a stand on a cabinet nominee than he should speak out in favor a specific contestant for Miss America. Predictions in what Falk will do?

The actual letter is absurd in its extremism.

We the undersigned members of the Williams community urge you to make a public statement on behalf of Williams College students, faculty, alumni, staff, and Board of Trustees opposing the appointment of Betsy DeVos for U.S. Education Secretary.

Mrs. DeVos refuses to support federal policies regarding educational systems that receive public funding. Especially concerning is Mrs. DeVos’s devaluation of Title IX and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which ensure that all students’ educational experiences are free of discrimination that impedes learning. Mrs. DeVos’s proposed policies, to the extent that she has managed to articulate them, will gut public education at every level, and further widen the preparation gap and achievement disparities we work every day to remedy for our students. Let us be clear: school choice and deregulation are tantamount to resegregation, and will inflict the most harm on students in already underfunded areas with the least resources for mobility. As educators, our highest priority is the well being and intellectual growth of our students. Every one of Mrs. DeVos’s answers in her confirmation hearing flew in the face of these values. She is unqualified to hold any office in connection with education.

The vote on DeVos is currently scheduled to take place this coming Tuesday, January 31 at 10 AM. This is the time to stand up and make our values known. As a private, not-for-profit institution in an imperfect system of higher education, we have a responsibility to defend and protect the right to free, equally funded, high quality K-12 public education for every resident of every county in the nation. Please stand with us in courage and commitment to help block this nomination and galvanize educators throughout the country. If we do not speak now, our students will suffer for years to come.

There are many reasons to oppose DeVos. One could — and I hope that Williams faculty would — make the argument against her soberly. This letter isn’t that. It is so sloppy that I am too bored to fisk it.

However! It would be great if Williams hosted a debate between Professor Swann and supporters of DeVos, someone like Mike Needham ’04 or William Bennett ’65. Or is that the sort of uncomfortable learning that Williams faculty have grown tired of?

UPDATE: Perhaps more importantly, the Williams President (and/or faculty when speaking as a group) should save their fire power for something that truly matters to Williams students, like the travel ban. That’s important! But by yelping about every Republican thing that happens — and DeVos is nothing if not a standard Republican nominee — people like Professor Karen Swann make it less likely that we will take them seriously on a topic (the travel ban) which deeply affects some of their students and colleagues.

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Chris Murphy’s Re-election Plan

Democratic senators from Connecticut enjoy such safe seats that they can get away with virtue-signalling like this:

Donald Trump’s long-awaited Muslim ban became a reality today. No, you might say, it’s not actually the proposal he outlined during the campaign. True, the ban doesn’t cover every Muslim globally, just a set of Muslims from countries Trump perceives, rather arbitrarily, to be dangerous.

But today’s announcement is anchored in his campaign rhetoric, and the fact that every country on today’s list is a Muslim-majority nation confirms that he meant what he said – that Muslims are dangerous and need to be treated differently than any other set of people.

Is this the primary issue that Chris Murphy wants to fight the 2018 election over? Good luck! I am sure his Republican opponent would love that. The campaign adds write themselves:

Chris Murphy wants to re-settle millions of devout Muslims from countries like Syria and Somalia, foreigners who believe … [insert a bunch of (scary!) true facts about what Muslims in these countries believe about, say, homosexuality, female genital mutilation and the appropriate role of women in society] … Generic Republican Challenger [perhaps female, perhaps a veteran] wants to keep Connecticut safe for the Americans who live here. Who do you want representing you in the Unite States Senate?

There are not a lot of things that could lose Chris Murphy his Senate seat. Becoming the leading voice in favor of more Muslim immigration might just be one of them . . .

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1998 Letter to Senate Finance Committee

Here (pdf) is a copy of the 1998 letter from President Schapiro to the Senate Finance Committee. Many thanks to the wonderful Mary Detloff for tracking down a copy. We first discussed this document almost nine years ago.

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EOP V

The Equality of Opportunity Project gathers amazing data on the incomes of college graduates and their families. The New York Times provides an overview and this summary (pdf) of Williams data. Day 5 of 5 on this topic.

I love this graphic:

scatter

At the same time, I don’t quite know what to do with it. Comments:

1) I encourage readers to poke around with the original. The big earners are mostly graduates of pharmacy schools. Is being a pharmacist really that lucrative? Is the median income of someone who graduates from the St. Louis College of Pharmacy really over $120,000 at age 32?

2) I have not figured out exactly how they handle complexities in the data. For example, how do they separate out the incomes from married couples filing jointly? How do they calculate the income for someone who is a stay-at-home mom or dad?

3) Another key attribute to control for is occupation. We don’t care much if Duke graduates earn more than Williams graduates if the cause is that more Ephs become teachers. But if Eph teachers and Eph investment bankers both earn less money than Duke teachers/bankers, we should figure out why.

Comments from our readers?

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EOP IV

The Equality of Opportunity Project gathers amazing data on the incomes of college graduates and their families. The New York Times provides an overview and this summary (pdf) of Williams data. Day 4 of 5 on this topic.

married

1) Are you surprised by the variation in marriage rates among NESCAC schools? I am! Why would 61% of Colby students be married but only 48% at Trinity? Should we be pleased or upset that the number at Williams is, at 57%, below average?

2) There is a great senior thesis to be written about changing patterns of marriage among Williams graduates. In the US population, marriages rates over the last 50 years have dropped dramatically. I think that this is true among the graduates of elite colleges, but can’t find the relevant data. Certainly, the percentage of heterosexual male Ephs who were unmarried at age 40 was very low, at least through graduating classes in the 80s. Single digits? My sense (contrary opinions welcome!) is that the marriage rate among female Eph graduates is lower, probably because of hypergamy.

3) Could a determined Williams president affect the marriage rate? I bet he could! Should he? I think so. Few things correlated better with life outcomes than marriage. (Of course, there are huge correlation/causation problems.)

4) Consider this recent comment, from “girls @ williams” on the annual fall in love post.

Contrary to what seems to be the general belief here, women at Williams do not actually exist as a selection pool from which to pick your future wife / future child-bearer. Of course, I’m sure that the group of men who spend their time obsessively posting distorted facts about the College at which they spent their peak years and now continue to pathetically long for are among the most attractive personages to have ever graduated the hallowed halls of Williams *sarcasm*.

That seems uncharitable! I was urging Williams male undergraduates to ask out female undergraduates. Does our commentator want more of that or less of it?

Perhaps more importantly, it seems that this Eph has not been given “the talk” by her family. EphBlog is here to help! Nothing, other than religious belief, is more associated with female happiness in the US than marriage. You will never be prettier than you are now. You will never have such a high quality pool of potential husbands to pick from. Choose one now. And invite EphBlog to the wedding!

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EOP III

The Equality of Opportunity Project gathers amazing data on the incomes of college graduates and their families. The New York Times provides an overview and this summary (pdf) of Williams data. Day 3 of 5 on this topic.

The central point about socio-economic diversity that I have been making for more than a decade is that there is no evidence that Williams is more economically diverse now than it was 30 years ago, and probably even 50 or 100 years ago. It is embarrassing how often the Williams administration (names like Payne, Schapiro, Hill, Falk and Dudley come to mind) claim that we are more economically diverse and how quickly naive reporters like David Leonhardt of The New York Times are to believe them. Recall the question that I have suggested for years:

In 1998, the 426th poorest family at Williams had a family income of $63,791. What is the family income of the 426th poorest family at Williams today? How has that number changed over the last two decades?

If the Record were a competent paper, or David Leonhardt were a competent reporter, than this is the question that would be asked. It/he isn’t, and so we have been left with just my rants. But now we have data!

bottm60

Summary: Williams did not become (meaningfully) more economically diverse between the classes of 2005 and 2013. Eyeballing the chart, it looks like about 19% of the students in the class of 2006 were from families in the bottom 60% of the income distribution. For the class of 2013, it was 20%. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Recall my analysis from 2008:

We can see that there is no evidence that the socio-economic diversity of Williams has increased in the last decade and some circumstantial evidence that it has stayed the same.

The EOP proves that I was right. There was no good evidence that economic diversity had meaningfully increased at Williams between 1998 and 2008. The EOP data, which goes through the class of 2013, shows the same thing.

More importantly, we know that the same trend has continued up through the class of 2021, as we discussed on Monday. In fact, this sure seems similar to the data we know for the class of 1998.

Quibbles:

1) The above chart is drawn from this collection, which shows the trends for various cuts of the income distribution. There is no perfect single measure of income inequality. Other charts, like that for the percentage of students from the top 20%, might put Williams in a better light. But even these charts, to the extent that they show changes in the direction of more economic diversity, show incredibly small changes, perhaps even within the appropriate confidence intervals.

2) We are being fast and loose with many of the relevant details. The numbers we studied in 2008 were based on all the students at Williams over the years between 1998 and 2008. In other words, each number was provided for all 2,000 students on campus in a given academic year. The EOP data is, I think, based on birth year, which provides, at best, an imperfect mapping to graduation class.

3) We should try to get our hands on the underlying data for Williams and some other peer schools. Any volunteers? Any readers with connections to Chetty et al?

4) Any predictions as to whether or not US News will use this data in its next set of rankings? Should it?

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EOP II

The Equality of Opportunity Project gathers amazing data on the incomes of college graduates and their families. The New York Times provides an overview and this summary (pdf) of Williams data. Day 2 of 5 on this topic.

income2

Click on the image, or check out The Times directly, for more detail. But the basic message is simple: Williams is a rich families school in absolute terms, but less so than its NESCAC peers. Comments:

1) Again, this has little (nothing?) to do with the moral rectitude or policy preferences of the presidents and trustees of these schools. You really think that Joanne Berger-Sweeney, president of Trinity cares less about economic diversity than Adam Falk? Hah! Trinity is a (much?) poorer school than Williams so it can’t afford as much financial aid.

2) These differences are large and meaningful, even among schools with not-dissimilar endowments and student populations. For example, I would not have predicted that the median Middlebury family was 1/3 richer ($244k versus $186k). I also can’t decide if Wesleyan, one of the poorest schools in NESCAC, has such a lower median income and small percentage from the top 1% because of a serious (and expensive!) commitment to socio-economic diversity or because its reputation as a social justice warrior school makes it less appealing to the wealthy. Comments welcome!

3) One of the main mechanisms, I think, by which schools manage the distribution of median income is via the wait list. The rich schools, like Williams, claim that family income plays no part in who gets off the wait list. (I believe that claim, but sleaziness in the use of the term “low-income” makes me more suspicious than I want to be.) Less rich schools take family income into account, which I bet means that the vast majority of students who get off the wait list require no financial aid.

4) The other mechanism for controlling the income distribution is to squeeze out the upper middle class, especially folks making somewhere between $75,000 and $180,000. These folks aren’t “poor,” and so, according to NESCAC presidents/trustees, don’t really add to socio-economic diversity, but they can be very expensive. Indeed, creating a barbell distribution — lots of super-rich and very poor — is the natural strategy for any school which wants to have the resources needed for a first class education (for which you need families that require no aid) with a commitment to social justice (for which you need poor, and not just “low income,” families). However, I could be wrong about this. Perhaps the entire distributions are shifted?

Williams is, even among elite schools, somewhat extreme in pursuing this barbell approach. We have among the highest percentage of students from both the top 0.1% (2.8%) and from the bottom 20% (5.3%). And, as long as these students have very strong credentials — Academic Rating 1 or, maybe, 2 — I think that this is great thing.

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