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Admit Your Privilege, 5

Associate Professor of Biology Luana Maroja‘s report about the state of free speech at Williams is the most important statement from a member of the faculty in years. Let’s go through it. Day 5.

While most professors at the meeting were highly supportive of free speech and many sent me grateful emails, I was shocked at the behavior of some of my colleagues. For example, one professor turned to the students and said that they should read the names missing from our list of signatories, as “those were professors that were with the students” (an appalling tactic that created an “us vs them” atmosphere). Another professor stated that she was involved in creating violence in UC Berkeley for Milo Yiannopoulos’s disinvitation and would be ready to do the same at Williams.

1) Which professor did the “us vs them” trick? Surely, we have a reader or two who was at the event.

2) A professor threatening violence is nuts! Is anyone else shocked by this? But, at the same time, tell us your story! EphBlog loves a riot. What was the Berkeley riot like? What did you do? What lessons did you learn? Perhaps you could share those lessons with your Williams students . . .

3) Who is the professor? The Record ought to find out. The Course Catalog (pdf) lists faculty backgrounds. Sarah E. Olsen (2016), Ianna Hawkins Owen (2016), Kailani Polzak (2017) and Yana Skorobogatov (2018) are the Williams faculty with the most recent degrees from Berkeley. Of course, just because this professor was at the riot does not mean that she has a degree from Berkeley, but this is the place to start. I also suspect that this is more likely to be a new faculty member since most already-hired Williams faculty would have been teaching during the February 2017 Milo riots.

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Admit Your Privilege, 4

Associate Professor of Biology Luana Maroja‘s report about the state of free speech at Williams is the most important statement from a member of the faculty in years. Let’s go through it. Day 4.

I explained how censorship hurts the very cause they are fighting for, noting that because I am Hispanic, people often assume that is the reason I got into Cornell, got a job, and got grants, and that students of color will face the same fate in the outside world.

1) Would most Hispanic students at Williams consider Maroja Hispanic? Honest question! She sure looks white to me. Not that there is anything wrong with that! Maroja was born and raised in Brazil. According to Wikipedia:

The term Hispanic (Spanish: hispano or hispánico) broadly refers to the people, nations, and cultures that have a historical link to the Spanish language or the country of Spain, depending on the context.

It commonly applies to countries once under colonial possession by the Spanish Empire following Spanish colonization of the Americas, parts of the Asia-Pacific region and Africa.

Brazil, of course, was never a Spanish colony, which is why they don’t speak Spanish there. From Pew Research:

Q. What about Brazilians, Portuguese, and Filipinos? Are they Hispanic?
A. They are in the eyes of the Census if they say they are, even though these countries do not fit the official OMB definition of “Hispanic” because they are not Spanish speaking. For the most part, people who trace their ancestry to these countries do not self-identify as Hispanic when they fill out their Census forms. Only about 4% of immigrants from Brazil do so, as do just 1% of immigrants from Portugal or the Philippines.3 These patterns reflect a growing recognition and acceptance of the official definition of Hispanics. In the 1980 Census, about one in six Brazilian immigrants and one in eight Portuguese and Filipino immigrants identified as Hispanic. Similar shares did so in the 1990 Census, but by 2000, the shares identifying as Hispanic dropped to levels close to those seen today.

I bet that there are more than a few student protestors who give Maroja the side-eye when she claims to understand what life is like for “students of color.”

2) Williams has, for decades, been telling me that it places a high priority on hiring faculty of color. I believe it! Don’t you? I believe that, given her willingness to check the Hispanic box, Maroja had an advantage when she applied to work at Williams. And that is OK! Maroja does not make the rules. Nor does it mean that Maroja was not the best candidate for the job, with the strongest teaching/research resume. If you are in favor of affirmative action — and I believe that Maroja is — then you are asking for a world in which “people often assume” that you had an advantage in getting X because you had checked box Y.

Thus, I added, students need to be able to defend their positions with strong reason and argumentation, not by resorting to violence or name-calling. Disinvitations invigorate bigots; they do not suppress their message.

Says who? I think that disinvitations, as part of the broader No Platform movement, work pretty well. Consider a sentiment that John Derbyshire probably would have voiced if Adam Falk has not banned him:

The US should allow fewer immigrants, both legal and illegal, from Mexico.

Was Derbyshire invigorate[d]? Maybe. But he did not get to voice these hateful (?) opinions at Williams. Moreover, students and faculty with similar opinions were intimidating from speaking. Sure seems like a successful example of “suppress[ing] their message.”

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Admit Your Privilege, 3

Associate Professor of Biology Luana Maroja‘s report about the state of free speech at Williams is the most important statement from a member of the faculty in years. Let’s go through it. Day 3.

Maroja provides a detailed report, which I hope the Record will verify and expand on:

However, trouble started after a professor opposed to free speech shared the petition with students, who wrongly assumed that we were voting on the issue on November 15. While I did reach out to these students to let them know that no vote was taking place and that this was a faculty forum to discuss ideas, these efforts were in vain. A group of about 15 students waving posters stating “free speech harms” came to our discussion on November 15. The professor leading the meeting was extremely nice, welcoming the students in the room and reading their response aloud.

Who was this professor? Gerrard?

Reading aloud the student petition was, I think, a tactical mistake. Give these activists an inch and they will take a mile. Did he really read the whole thing aloud? It is not . . . uh . . . concise. At most, I would have paused the meeting for a few minutes to allow folks to read it silently to themselves.

But many of the students were disruptive throughout, finally asking white male professors to sit down and admit their “privilege”. They pointed out how horrible the college is in welcoming and including them, but then stated that they want to be protected by the president! They equated free speech with “hate speech” and with the desire of professors to invite John Derbyshire back (Derbyshire a figure within the alt-right movement, was invited by a student group and disinvited by president Falk a couple years ago).

Holy turning over The Log! Did that really happen?Did Williams students really ask (or did they tell? or demand?) that white male professors “sit down and admit their ‘privilege’?” The mind boggles.

I am having a pleasing time imagining what the Williams professors of another era — James MacGregor Burns ’39, Mark Taylor, R. G. L. Waite — would have responded if a similar demand was put to them . . .

Has the Chinese Cultural Revolution finally come to Williams? Let the struggle sessions commence!

the victim of a struggle session was forced to admit various crimes before a crowd of people who would verbally and physically abuse the victim until he or she confessed. Struggle sessions were often held at the workplace of the accused

Admit your privilege, you nasty white men!

Perhaps “Admit your privilege” is a good name for this controversy?

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Admit Your Privilege, 2

Associate Professor of Biology Luana Maroja‘s report about the state of free speech at Williams is the most important statement from a member of the faculty in years. Let’s go through it. Day 2.

While several speakers have been invited to talk about free speech (recently Geoff Stone and Frederick Lawrence), and classes on the topic have been taught, discussion about college policy never really got started among faculty or students.

As expected. Would anyone really expect more than a tiny fraction of the students who signed this petition to attend such a talk or take such a class? I wouldn’t! Note this comment from yesterday:

I recall the UChicago speaker [Geoff Stone] from last spring who addressed the topic of free speech on campus, taking what I guess now is a “conservative” stance.

When students who resent free speech spoke during Q&A, their argument began (and stopped) with: what happens when speech makes me/my peers (“marginalized identities”) feel bad?

The reply was simple: do you want authority figures banning speakers who you find offensive? Who gets to decide what’s offensive? What happens when this authority is inevitably extended to someone you disagree with? Do you think the conservative president of a southern university should be allowed to ban a transgender speaker because it makes Christian students uncomfortable? When the issue is framed in this light, the concept of an open platform starts to seem much more attractive.

This reply pretty swiftly made the students actually reflect on the implications of what they were advocating for. It was concerning it took so long for a counterargument to be heard.

Really? I have my doubts about this. There are many plausible counter-arguments — just ask smart EphBlog readers like sigh and abl! — to this hypothetical, not least that no elite college in the last 50+ years has banned or disinvited a leftist/liberal speaker. Back to Maroja:

This is in large part because faculty sharing my concerns about the increasing censorship on campus felt afraid of speaking up, always assuming that they were an insignificant minority.

Again, doesn’t sigh/dcat/me owe John Drew an apology? His claim, for decades, has been that conservative/Republican/libertarian faculty are afraid to publicly voice their opinions. sigh/dcat have largely poo-poo’d such concerns.

But, if Maroja is to be believed, the situation is even worse than Drew led us to believe. Even liberal faculty like her are “afraid” to offer the non-progressive opinion on a given topic.

In my view, the situation became critical when Reza Aslan came for a talk in campus titled “The future of Free Speech and Intolerance”.

Reza Aslan dominated the conversation and, in his always convoluted and self-contradictory style, started by bragging that he had once been disinvited from another venue, proceeding to say that anything that offended him should not be allowed, and finally asserting that “only factual talks” should ever be allowed in campus. This nonsense was met with intense student applause. It was appalling.

Indeed. Am I the only one deeply troubled by this? What say you dcat/abl/sigh?

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Admit Your Privilege, 1

Associate Professor of Biology Luana Maroja‘s report about the state of free speech at Williams is the most important statement from a member of the faculty in years. Let’s go through it. Day 1.

As background, there has been a long-running debate at EphBlog about how much (malign) influence progressive members of the Williams faculty have on the evolution of the College. To caricaturize a bit, folks like John Drew have argued that “the postmodern radical ideology which dominates the culture of Williams College appears so unhealthy to well-meaning outsiders.” People like dcat and sigh have argued that this is nonsense, that, while there are liberal/progressive faculty members, they don’t do anything which in any way harms or oppresses non-liberals. For the most part, I have been on team dcat/sigh in this dispute. But perhaps I am wrong . . .

Freedom of speech at Williams College – are the walls closing in?

Many professors at Williams have been feeling the walls closing in. I’m an evolutionary biologist, and in my classes there is increasing resistance to learning about heritability (probably fear of the “bell curve”, something I actually dismiss by contrasting Brazilian with Americans, as I am from Brazil) and even kin selection! (Using the “naturalistic fallacy” argument, students assume that by teaching kin selection I am somehow endorsing Trump hiring his family.) The word “pregnant woman” is out: only “pregnant human” should be now used (after all, what if the pregnant individual goes by another pronoun?).

“Walls closing in” is remarkably strong language, even — dare I say i? — quite John Drewish. Is Maroja providing us with an accurate description of life at Williams today? If so, then wow! Students (in a biology class!) are demonstrating “resistance to learning about heritability?!?” That is nuts! I think that dcat/sigh/me owe John Drew an apology.

In other fields the walls have closed in even more. The theater department recently dealt with two challenges: a cancellation of a show and an uproar about another show – both shows deemed offensive or overtly violent to blacks, yet both written by African-American artists. Williams is now developing a reputation of being unfriendly to artists of color.

1) Again with the “walls” closing in metaphor. In this a fair description of intellectual life at Williams or Fox News nonsense?

2) Are these uproars in theatre connected to Theatre Professor David Gürçay-Morris’s ’96 role in the faculty petition? We are always most conservative about the things we know best. Perhaps these controversies are radicalizing even theatre professors like Gürçay-Morris.

3) I have not provided much coverage on these stories. Do others have comments? I think that there is more complexity to these disputes than Maroja is letting on.

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Evolution of Student Petition Against Chicago Statement

An anonymous student sent in this zip file which catalogs, in detail, the evolution of the student petition against the proposal that Williams adopt the Chicago statement. Comments:

1) New authors welcome! The student who sent this should join us as an author, anonymous or otherwise. Our readers would love to get your perspective.

2) New authors welcome! Any student who worked on (or agrees with) the petition should join us as an author, anonymous or otherwise. Our readers would love to get your perspective.

3) The screenshots make clear that Isabel Peña ’19 and Audrey Koh ’21 played leadership roles in putting this together. Kudos! I disagree with almost everything in the document, but playa recognize playa! Should we be surprised or pleased (or both? or neither) that two women are leading the effort?

4) Which other students are leading the charge on this? My sense is that Liliana Bierer ’19 has also played an important role, but, then again, hers is only the 16th signature on the petition. Is signature placement a useful signal?

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Almost Penalty Kicks for NCAA Div III Womens’ Soccer Championship!

Tune in here.

UPDATE: Ephs win! Amazing game. Hope that Record coverage does it justice. Stunning finger-tip save by the keeper to put Middlebury’s last PK off the post.

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Record Assignment Desk

The next issue of the Record (the last of the semester) has a chance to be epic, to be read widely within the Williams community and across the country. Free speech is hot, Hot, HOT and the Record is well-positioned to cover the debate. My advice (somewhat cribbed from two years ago):

1) Pick up the phone! The Record‘s continuing refusal to talk to people like, well, me, who know a great deal about the institution is annoying. They don’t have to quote me — indeed, I might prefer for the talk to be on background — or do what I say, but a failure to even talk with knowledgeable sources is pathetic.

2) Report the facts. We know that the three key faculty behind the petition are Luana Maroja, Steven Gerrard, and David Gürçay-Morris ’96 but I believe that there were three others in the original “group of six.” Who were they? And tell us more details about the backstory. Gerrard, at least, has been wrestling with this topic for a while, teaching an entire course about free speech. Was he the prime mover? (If so, he was smart to recruit/cajole Maroja. White men are unwise to lead these sorts of efforts at Williams!)

3) Seek comment from Adam Falk. He may not provide one but, even then, you should tell us that he refused to comment. Quiz him about the op-ed in which he urged students “to seek out someone whose opinions and beliefs are different than their own, and to engage in a conversation to really listen and learn from one another.” Fun stuff!

4) Cover the history of speech debates/suppression at Williams. I believe that, prior to John Derbyshire, no speaker has been banned at Williams for 150 years. The last documented case was Mark Hopkins banning Ralph Waldo Emerson. Tell us more about this history, and seek some comments from history professors at Williams.

5) Provide a comparison to other NESCAC/elite schools. Ask Amherst and Swarthmore if they have ever banned a speaker. Ask them if they ever would. They might use this occasion to make fun of Williams. Ask them if they have any official policies which would prevent their students from inviting any speaker to campus. Place Williams policy — which, right now, is that the president can ban whomever she likes — in the context of our peers’.

6) Interview prominent alumni who have experience with, or expertise in, campus speech debates. Start with Cappy Hill ’75 (who faced similar issues when president of Vassar and is now on the board at Yale), Will Dudley ’89 (who has his own set of challenges at Washington and Lee), Fred Lawrence ’77, and Zach Wood ’18. Lawrence and Wood testified before the Senate about this very issue.

7) Interview leading faculty opponents of free speech. Start with Kai Green, Kimberly Love and Joy James. Ask them tough questions: “Professors at places like Michigan, Amherst and Harvard can invite any speaker they want to campus. Do you prefer that you and your Williams faculty colleagues have fewer rights, that the President of Williams can, for any reason, deny your invitation to a speaker? What would you do if, for example, Maud Mandel rescinded your invitation to Angela Davis on the grounds that she had engaged in “hateful” speech toward police officers?”

8) Interview leading student opponents of free speech. (Not sure who those would be. Perhaps start with the first few signatures on the student petition: Isabel Peña ’19, Audrey Koh ’21 and Annalee Tai ’21) Ask them a similar question: “Students at places like Michigan, Amherst and Harvard can invite any speaker they want to campus. Do you prefer that you and your Williams peers have fewer rights, that the President of Williams can, for any reason, deny your invitation to a speaker? What would you do if, for example, Maud Mandel rescinded your invitation to a leader of Black Lives Matter on the grounds that he had engaged in “hateful” speech toward police officers?”

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Faculty Petition Timeline and Request for Controversy Name

We need a name for this controversy and we need one now! Loyal readers know that Ephblog loves to name a controversy — Nigaleian, Safety Dance, Prospect Must Die, Willy E. N-word, Catch Moore If You Can and Mary Jane Hitler are just a few of our highlights — and this debate will be with us for months to come. Suggestions?

For background, here is a timeline (pdf) of events:

The following petition was drafted by several faculty members, in collaboration with and inspired by discussions among many, and finalized on October 14, 2018. It was then sent to several more faculty members for review, who gave feedback and signed their names. At the same time, a meeting for a faculty discussion was planned for November 15, 2018.

After the petition had garnered sufficient faculty support, it was sent to all voting members of the faculty on October 29, 2018 by Luana Maroja, Associate Professor of Biology, Steven Gerrard, Professor of Philosophy, and David Gürçay-Morris, Associate Professor of Theatre. Over one hundred members of the faculty had signed by November 5, 2018, representing a range of disciplines and identities. Several faculty voiced concerns by email and in person, and it was planned to have several faculty discussions to allow productive dialogue on the petition and the issues of concern. Plans for student outreach were also initiated at this time.

Apparently, information about the petition and the first planned discussion was shared with students shortly thereafter. The petition was discussed at a meeting with students and President Mandel on November 11. College Council discussed the petition on November 13. A letter to the editor by Cheryl Shanks, Professor of Political Science, was published in the Williams Record on November 14. A student letter was presented to the faculty at the November 15th 4pm meeting, which was read out loud by Professor Gerrard before he presented some brief remarks. Instead of the planned discussion amongst faculty, interested students were welcomed into the meeting. They shared their thoughts about the petition and the issues raised therein. The discussion between faculty and students continued until 6:30pm.

We still don’t know the names of the “several faculty members” who wrote the petition although, presumably, Maroja, Gerrard and Gürçay-Morris played leading roles. It would also be interesting to know which 100 faculty members signed. Here is the original version:

Petition to the Faculty of Williams College

Greetings.

In view of the continuing local and national discussions regarding freedom of expression on campus, several of us think that it is an opportune time to reflect on and clarify our policies and ideas on this issue. While there is an understandable desire to protect our students from speech they find offensive, doing so risks shutting down legitimate dialogue and failing to prepare our students to deal effectively with a diversity of opinions, including views they might vehemently disagree with.

We believe that Williams College, as an institution of higher learning, must maintain a strong commitment to academic freedom. We further believe that Williams should protect and promote the free expression of ideas. We should be encouraged to use reasoned argument and civil discourse to criticize and contest views we dispute, not to suppress these views and risk falling down the slippery slope of choosing what can and what cannot be discussed.

The Chicago Statement articulates the duties of institutions of higher learning towards freedom of expression. A version of this statement has now been adopted by many other colleges and universities, including Amherst, Princeton, Smith, and, most recently, Colgate. We believe that Williams College should affirm its commitment to the principles of freedom of expression and academic freedom as essential to fulfilling its mission and goals by adopting the Chicago Statement.

If you agree with our concern and this statement, we ask you to please add your name to this petition. If we have a critical mass we will bring this to the president and our fellow faculty members for further consideration.

Links in the original. Again, my purpose in this post is not to dive into the substance of this debate. We will have months of that to come! My purpose is to solicit ideas for a funny/descriptive/insightful name for this controversy, something which merits the creation of a new EphBlog category. Thoughts:

1) Luana Maroja seems to be playing a leadership role in this effort. Well done! Maybe “Maroja’s Marauders?” I am a sucker for military references . . .

2) Note that “a group of six Williams professors started talking about getting the college to adopt the Chicago Statement.” I would assume that the 6 included Maroja, Gerrard and Gürçay-Morris. Who are the other three? Perhaps the controversy name should involve all of them? Perhaps “The Terrible Six?” Eph historians will recognize the reference (pdf):

3) I still like the alliteration of “Maud’s Moment.” Mandel will certainly be a central player in this debate, but “moment” does not quite capture things . . .

4) Is there some phrase we can use from the students’ petition against the change that resonates?

To quote Aiyana Porter at last week’s Black Student Union town hall, “John Derbyshire literally said that Black people are not humans. I’m not going to consider that in my classroom . . . . Who are we okay with making uncomfortable? Why are we so driven to making those particular people uncomfortable? If we are so insistent on making them uncomfortable, then we at least need some institutional support to get through all of the discomfort that you are thrusting upon us.”

I assumed that the reference to “my classroom” meant that Porter was a professor. Untrue! She is a student. But she does remind us how all this started with Uncomfortable Learning and John Derbyshire. Maybe “Derbyshire’s Revenge” or “Derbyshire’s Discomfit?”

Gaudino’s Revenge?

None of this is working for me. Suggestions welcome!

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Faculty Petition about Free Speech

A faculty member passed along this document (pdf) which seems to include both the (complete?) faculty petition and the student response. The petition:

Good stuff! EphBlog agrees.

1) Note that there is no mention of the Chicago Statement or Chicago principles. Perhaps an earlier (or later?) version made that connection? If not, I don’t know why President Mandel would use that terminology.

2) From a College-branding point of view — paging Jim Reische! — it might be nice to have “Williams Statement on Free Expression.” We don’t just agree with Chicago! We have our own (similar) views.

3) Who wrote this? Who organized it? Who signed it? Let us praise them!

4) Do readers have predictions about how this will all work out? This certainly seems to be the major campus controversy for 2018-2019.

5) Worth a line-by-line analysis?

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Maud’s Moment!

President Maud Mandel is about to put her stamp on Williams.

Williams faculty, students and staff,

Numerous conversations have taken place recently, especially among faculty and students, around Williams’ principles and practices governing inviting speakers to campus. I’ve decided to charge an ad hoc committee with exploring various points of view and making recommendations for how Williams can ensure an educational environment that’s both intellectually open and inclusive.

I intend to recruit the committee by the end of the calendar year with counsel from leaders of faculty, staff and student governance. You can expect an update on the membership and charge once the group is constituted in early 2019. My hope is that the committee will engage campus constituencies who are interested in the issue and want to contribute to the development of guidelines appropriate for Williams.

Best wishes,

Maud

1) This is exactly the plan that EphBlog recommended two years ago.

Smart presidents use committees! With luck, Falk has already learned that lesson in the debate over the log mural. He should follow the same strategy in dealing with free speech. Create a “Committee on Freedom of Expression at Williams.” Appoint a cross-section of faculty/students/alumni, but with a sotto voce emphasis on free speech. Charge the Committee with reviewing the history of free speech debates at Williams, meeting with members of the College community, and recommending policy going forward.

Best person to put in charge? Philosophy Professor Joe Cruz ’91.

Adam Falk was not smart enough to follow this advice, but Maud Mandel is presidential timber cut from a better forest. (Or she reads EphBlog . . .)

2) Mandel would not be forming this committee if she did not want to move Williams toward the Chicago statement. Yay, Maud!

3) The next step is to pick committee members who will give her the answer she wants. Suggestions? It is not obvious that Mandel should pick many (any?) strong free speechers, like the faculty behind the petition. Does she know that, Michael Lewis, for example, wants free speech? Of course she does! But a committee filled with (too) many Michael Lewii might, counter-intuitively, make her goal more difficult to achieve. What she really wants is a committee which will produce the answer she prefers but is staffed by respected people with no (publicly disclosed) prior positions on the topic of free speech.

4) Such a rule would also provide cover for keeping faculty like Joy James far away. (Is going through the linked nonsense useful?)

5) Mandel should include at least one staff member (Jim Reische would be perfect) and one athletic coach. No one can complain about such choices, especially if the selected individuals have not expressed their views on free speech. But staff — who are at-will employees — are much more likely to know what the boss wants and to give it to her. Athletic faculty, also at-will, are naturally more “conservative” on these issues than their tenured brethren.

6) Should the committee include students? What about alumni? What choice will Mandel make? I am not certain what the best answer is.

7) The committee will have to include some racial minorities. Good choices might be Hispanic economists Peter Montiel or Greg Phelan. I haven’t spoken with either of them about the case, but most economists would be on Mandel’s side in this debate.

8) Mandel would love to have an African-American on the committee. Who should she choose? Not Joy James, obviously. Maybe Neil Roberts? He strikes me (contrary opinions welcome!) as one of the most “right-wing” African-American faculty at Williams, someone who might very well aspire to greater things. Being on this committee, and giving Mandel the answer she wants, would fast-track him toward being Dean of the Faculty.

9) EphBlog favorites Eiko Siniawer ’97 and Lee Park are plausible candidates. Again, I have not discussed this issue with them, but they are sensible, both in their policy judgments and in their willingness to play ball with a new president’s priorities.

10) The most competent high-profile committee in the last decade or so was the Merrill Committee, dealing with the Log mural. Might Karen Merrill be the best person to lead this new committee? What about Joe Cruz ’91 who also served on it?

11) Should Provost Dukes Love seek to be on this committee? Should he seek to chair it? Leading the campus conversation on such a difficult topic is the last item he needs on a resume which is perfectly crafted for his eventual job as an college president, at Williams or elsewhere. On the other hand, this whole thing could turn into an utter disaster, if handled poorly. Tough call!

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BSU Town Hall, 2

“BSU holds town hall exploring affinity housing” is an excellent Record article by Kristen Bayrakdarian ’19. Let’s discuss! Day 2.

One of the final topics addressed was the College’s potential adoption of “The Chicago Statement On Free Speech,” also known as the “Chicago principles.”

Hooray! EphBlog votes Yes! This is the perfect way to close the chapter on Adam Falk and his stupid decision to ban John Derbyshire.

President Maud Mandel spoke about a petition that has been circulating amongst faculty requesting that Williams sign the Chicago Principles.

Mandel is smart enough that she would not have brought up this topic if she were not in favor of it, and if she did not expect it to happen. Hooray for Maud Mandel!

Who is circulating this petition? What, exactly, does it say? Details, please!

But note also the counter-petition we mentioned last night.

Though she encouraged students to look up the Chicago principles themselves to get a better understanding of what they are, Mandel described them as “a kind of high-level set of principles encouraging the university to have a stance towards speakers; [that is,] anybody should be allowed to be invited to the campus that anyone in the campus community wants to have come.” According to Forbes, since February 2018, at least 35 universities have adopted the Chicago principles.

For related discussion, read about the Woodward Report.

This brought up questions among attendees about the role of Uncomfortable Learning, a group that frequently brings controversial speakers on campus.

Uncomfortable Learning is dead and buried, after 5 years of excellent work. Zach Wood ’18 has many strengths, but he never had much (any?) interest in what happened to UL after he left Williams. It had served his purposes, and served them well.

Much of the discussion was centered around students’ qualms with the lack of academic value of many of these speakers. Some worried about the effects of people spouting hateful or even false rhetoric and refusing to engage with students or faculty in non-combative ways, in contrast to the legitimacy that an appearance at the College might lend these views.

Good stuff! Let’s debate those views. Invite me to campus Maud Mandel! You will seem like a reasonable centrist — even if you sign the Chicago Principles — as long as you can contrast yourself against someone like me.

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Mandel’s Moment?

From Ricochet:

Students at Williams College in Massachusetts are angry. According to a petition signed by hundreds of students, the faculty is urging the college to enact “reckless and dangerous policies” that will “imperil marginalized students,” and amount to “discursive violence.”

What awful set of policies could Williams College faculty possibly be considering?

It is a version of the policy known as the “Chicago Statement.” Created in 2015 by a committee led by legal scholar Geoffrey Stone at the University of Chicago, the statement “recommit[s] the university to the principles of free, robust, and uninhibited debate.” It explicitly reminds students and faculty on campus that they have a “responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect,” and that “concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be.”

1) Could this be Maud Mandel’s moment? She has an opportunity to guide/cajole/force Williams College along a very different path than the one Adam Falk preferred. Will she take it? EphBlog hopes so!

2) This issue comes up in the Record article we are reviewing this week. More tomorrow.

3) The petition is here (pdf). Worth a week to go through?

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BSU Town Hall, 1

“BSU holds town hall exploring affinity housing” is an excellent Record article by Kristen Bayrakdarian ’19. Let’s discuss! Day 1.

On Sunday, the Williams College Black Student Union (BSU) organized a town hall in Griffin Hall on affinity housing and Davis Center renovations. As the event flyer read, the gathering was to be “a space for students, particularly Black students, to reflect on recent events and the general student experience here,” granting students the opportunity “to voice concerns and work towards solutions.” The meeting was attended by students of varying racial, economic and sexual identities, as well as by a few members of the staff and faculty, including President Maud Mandel. Topics of discussion included affinity housing and the upcoming housing lottery, the existence or nonexistence of Black spaces on campus, the difficulties of the entry system for people of color (POC), experiences with Campus Safety and Security (CSS) and the potential for the College to adopt “The Chicago Statement on Free Speech.”

1) Kudos to Kristen Bayrakdarian for some fine reporting. Has anyone else noticed an improvement in Record quality this year?

2) Williams, ever since the elimination of fraternities more than 50 decades ago, has never been sympathetic to the notion of reserved “spaces” on campus, nor for anything much like “affinity housing.” The last opportunity for changes in this attitude was during Morty’s Neighborhood Housing Disaster. But, even then — when the entire Administration was looking for ways to make a wildly unpopular plan more palatable to students — the very DNA of Williams seemed against any notion of affinity housing. Indeed, the major driver of Neighborhood Housing was precisely Morty’s desire to stop student self-segregation, which meant keeping the African-American students (and the male helmet-sport athletes) from living all together.

3) Advice to students seeking change: Look towards Amherst.

As part of the system of social and residential life, students have been encouraged to form Theme Communities under the sponsorship of faculty advisors. Students submit proposals for theme living to the College Council, which accepts the proposals and allocates space for the programs when there is a clear linkage between student efforts to pursue or realize the College’s central educational and cultural ideals and residential life.

Although racial segregation is not something that Amherst wants, there is no doubt that, for example, Charles Drew is the Black House, that La Casa is the Hispanic House and so on.

Could Williams ever move in this direction? Perhaps. Interested students should contact me for advice.

Full Record article below:
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More Safety Dance Documents

Here are some more Safety Dance court documents: 132-main, P Counter Facts, and P reply to D response in opposition.

Any comments from our legal readers? My sense is that readers do not want more writing from me about this sad case.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

After last week’s early snow storm, a faithful reader and senior faculty member wrote:

On the way to work today, I saw a group of students throwing snowballs at each other in front of Paresky. Minus the architectural backdrop, it could have been a scene from any point in the college’s history in the last 225 years.

Indeed. I am thankful for Williams, for my parents for sending me, for the time I spent there, for the professors who taught me, the peers who challenged me and the woman who fell in love with me.

What are you thankful for?

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You Shall Know Them By Their Name

We need neutral — but descriptive! — terminology for students/faculty/staff at Williams who complain about and/or seek to change certain aspects of the College. I have, on occasion, used the abbreviation SJW (for Social Justice Warrior) for this group, but several readers complained about this usage. On Tuesday, I went with “social justice left,” which to my mind, has more-or-less the same meaning as SJW but without the sneering baggage.

What do readers think?

I am talking about Ephs who do things like attack Storytime or Dean Dave or the JA system or inviting Republicans to campus from an explicitly progressive or left-wing point of view. I don’t like using a shorter term like “progressive” or “leftist,” because doing so hides the fact that none of these are economic issues. These are matters of social and intellectual life with no connections to wages or other traditional left concerns.

If readers don’t like “social justice left,” then what would they recommend? An anodyne term like “activist” is no good because it does not even give a hint on the perspective from which these Ephs operate.

UPDATE: I am looking for neutral terminology like, for example, “neocon.” Not all neocons agree with each other and not all neocons care about the same issues. But there is a coherent neocon world view, related to the usefulness and morality of armed US intervention abroad. Having a word to describe people with these views is helpful. What word(s) should we use to describe Ephs with certain views on the problems with Storytime, Dean Dave, the JA system, Republican talks on campus and so on?

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an unofficial guide to navigating williams

Interesting document (pdf): “an unofficial guide to navigating williams.”

Outside of annoyance with the hipster refusal to use capital letters, do our readers have comments? Do they want comments from me? This guide generated some controversy in September.

David Johnson ’71, associate dean of the College and dean of first year students, had a more mixed reaction to the guide. In the guide, he was personally accused of racism. “I’m disappointed that it has to be so personally hurtful in a way but, without names attached, I’m limited in what I can do in reaction,” he said. “I’m anxious to always do better, so I want to learn and grow. To be given a chance to do that by the student community is all I ask for. I love my job, and I’m going to continue to do it, and I feel like I’ve done a good job in 99 percent of the cases, so I’m not going to panic.”

The social justice left tried to destroy Storytime. They have attacked the JA system. Now they are after Dean Dave. How long before the Trustees recognize what a threat these people are to the Williams that they know and love?

Worth a week or more of commentary?

Full Record article:

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Renzie Lamb, RIP

Williams legend Renzie Lamb has passed on to the great sideline in the sky. Upon his retirement, Williams wrote in 2004:

When Renzie W. Lamb, the college’s long-time men’s head lacrosse coach, retires this June, his name will remain much in evidence—gracing the new turf field which the athletics department is planning for Weston Field. If construction remains on schedule, the field bearing Lamb’s name will be complete by early fall of this year.

Lamb, who came to Williams in 1968, is revered for the pep talks he gave to his teams every year before playing arch rival Amherst. A rendition of his speech was even quoted in an article by The New York Times about the endurance of Williams-Amherst hostility:

“If you wish to be happy for an hour, get intoxicated. If you wish to be happy for three days, get married. If you wish to be happy for eight days, kill a pig and eat it. If you wish to be happy forever, beat Amherst.”

Amen.

After graduating from Hofstra College, Lamb spent four years with the Marines and coached high school lacrosse teams in the New York City area before transitioning to a life in the Berkshires. Called by some the “Renaissance man” of the athletics department, he has served as the college’s football scout and has coached football and women’s squash, in addition to men’s lacrosse.

Lacrosse, though, has been his passion. A few years ago he even went so far as to cook up a dry marinade, Renzie’s Rub, to sell on behalf of the men’s team. His dedication has not gone unheralded. Two generations of Lamb’s former players continue to return to campus for the team’s bi-annual alumni game.Former captain Ian Smith ’91 said, “The recent success of Williams lacrosse cannot be measured by winning percentage, though it has been high. The success of the program is found in its timeless nature. Tales pass from one generation of Williams players to the next, and each player is well aware of the heritage.”

Indeed. There are many Renzie stories. Who can share some with us? Frank?

Condolences to all.

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Future of the JA System in Doubt?

I would not be surprised if the JA system disappeared in the next decade or so.

1) Would people like more coverage of this topic? There have been a bunch of Record articles over the last few years, but they are no longer easily available.

2) The key characteristics of the JA system, and what makes it different from similar systems at peer schools, include:

JAs are undergraduates. (Proctors at Harvard are college graduates.)
JAs are unpaid. (Yale pays its counselors — “FroCos” — by giving money which is applied to food/board charges.)
JAs are chosen by other students. (No elite college I know of gives students such power.)
JAs, although connected/watched/supported/supervised by Williams, are given more freedom than their peers at other schools.

3) In her talk with alumni volunteers yesterday, Dean Marlene Sandstrom mentioned the recent problems with too few JA applications, and with too few applications for other leadership positions as well. She attributed much of this to students who felt (and whose families felt) that the College should not be asking them to do so much without paying them for their labor. She also mentioned that the College, although it does not “pay” JAs, does release JAs on financial aid from their on-campus employment obligation.

4) The College’s bureaucracy continues its endless growth. All those bureaucrats need to fill their days somehow. Selecting, paying and controlling JAs would be a natural thing for them to do.

The future? Who knows! But Sandstrom’s initial opening — which was far from a random riff — seemed designed to prepare these alumni volunteers for changes which they might not like . . .

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Safety Dance Update, 3

Two new filings (Statement of Facts and Memo for Motion of Summary Judgment) in the Safety Dance case provide an occasion to revisit the biggest sexual assault case at Williams since Brackinridge or Gensheimer/Foster. Day 3.

The change Sandstrom refers to concerns affirmative consent. “No,” obviously, means “No.” But, just a few year ago, it was assumed that, if someone did not want to do something, they had an obligation to say so. Now, the standard is one of “affirmative consent.” It is every Eph’s obligation to ask for, and receive, permission for every sexual act. John Doe was, officially, thrown out of Williams, not for ignoring Jane Roe’s protestations but for (allegedly) not ensuring that Jane Roe said “Yes.”

This is very bit as insane as it sounds. Consider:

How many times has Maud Mandel sexually assaulted her husband since arriving at Williams?

I am 100% serious in asking this question. Consider:

The Williams College Code of Conduct requires affirmative consent for all sexual activity.

Consent means that at the time of the sexual contact, words and conduct indicate freely given approval or agreement, without coercion, by all participants in the sexual contact. Consent may not be inferred from silence or passivity.

Williams also defines “sexual activity” very broadly, as “any sexual touching, however slight, with any body part or object, by any person upon any other person . . .”

So, if Maud Mandel, without asking (and receiving!) explicit permission, has ever kissed her husband goodbye in the morning, or given him an affectionate pat on the behind as he walked out the door, or . . . anything really — then she has committed sexual assault and should, like John Doe, be kicked out of Williams.

This is, of course, nonsense. No normal person thinks that people, like Maud Mandel, in a relationship need to get permission for every single sexual activity ahead of time. But that is still the official policy at Williams, a policy which is used as a stick the ruin the lives of men — many of them poor and/or minority — much less powerful than Maud Mandel.

If John Doe deserves to be kicked out of Williams, than Maud Mandel is guilty of sexual assault.

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How to Write a Chance Request at College Confidential

A regular part of the conversation at the Williams board on College Confidential is a “chance” request. A high school student wants the community to provide feedback on her chances of being admitted to Williams. Unfortunately, many of these students are uninformed about the reality of elite college admissions so they don’t provide us with the necessary information to “chance” them correctly. (They also generally provide a mass of irrelevant data.) To make the world a better place, here is EphBlog’s Guide to How to Write a Chance Request for Williams. (The same advice applies to most elite colleges. Please read How Admissions Works at Williams.)

First, estimate your Academic Rating and provide the key evidence behind that estimate. (Background information here and here.) Tell us your Math/Reading SAT scores (and/or ACT), your subject test scores and AP scores. Just tell us what you will be submitting to Williams. We don’t care how many times you took these exams or about the details of your Super Scoring efforts.

We also don’t need to know about the details of your academic program. Just provide an honest estimate of your Academic Rating and some background on your high school. (Telling us the name of your high school can be useful, but is not necessary.) We don’t care about your exact GPA. (If you did not take the hardest classes that your high school offers, admit that to us.) The best clue about the quality of your high school record can be found in the quality of schools that similarly ranked students have attended in past years, so tell us that. Even if your high school does not officially rank students, you must have a rough sense of where you stand (#2, top 5, top 10%, whatever). Tell us where the students at about your rank in the previous year’s class went to college.

The Academic Rating is the most important part of the process, so focus your words on that topic.

If all you do is just a big copy/paste of all sorts of blather (recent examples here and here) — the exact same 1,000 words that you might paste into other discussion boards, don’t be surprised if the only feedback you get is generic.

Second, cut out all the other cruft. We don’t care (because Williams doesn’t care) about all your clubs, activities, volunteer work, et cetera. Despite what your high school and/or parents may have told you, such trivia plays a de minimus role in elite college admissions. For example, your sports resume is irrelevant unless you are being recruited by a Williams coach and, if you are, they will tell you what your chances are.

Third, tell us your nationality. Williams has a quota against international applicants.

Fourth, tell us your race, or at least the relevant boxes that you will check on the Common Application. (See here and here for related discussion.) Checking the African-American box gives you a significant advantage in admissions, as does checking Hispanic, but less so. Checking the Asian box hurts your chances at Ivy League schools. There is a debate over whether Williams also discriminates against Asian-American applicants. It is also unclear whether or not checking two boxes or declining to check any box matters. So, for example, if you have one white and one African-American parent, you are much better off checking only the African-American box.

Fifth, tell us about your family income and parents background. Williams, like all elite schools, discriminates in favor of the very poor (family income below $50,000) and very wealthy (able to donate a million dollars). There is some debate over the exact dollar figures at both ends. Might Williams favor applicants whose families make us much as $75,000? Sure! Might Williams be swayed by a donation in the six figures? Maybe! Tell us whatever other details might be relevant. For example, Williams cares about socio-economic status more broadly than just income, so having parents that did not graduate from a 4 year college can be helpful. Among rich families, Williams prefers those who have already donated to Williams and/or have a history of supporting higher education.

The College loves to brag about two categories of students: Pell Grant recipients and “first generation” students, defined as those for whom neither parent has a four year BA and who require financial aid. If you can show the College evidence that you (will) belong in either category, your chances improve.

Summary: Almost all of elite college admissions is driven by Academic Rating, albeit subject to three broad exceptions: athletics, race and income. In order to provide you with an accurate chance, we need the details concerning these areas. Don’t bother us with all the other stuff.

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Safety Dance Update, 2

Two new filings (Statement of Facts and Memo for Motion of Summary Judgment) in the Safety Dance case provide an occasion to revisit the biggest sexual assault case at Williams since Brackinridge or Gensheimer/Foster. Day 2.

The more I read about Safety Dance, the more angry I become. Bolton/Bossong/Camancho sought to ruin John Doe’s life even though, at most, his crime was to be a bad boyfriend. Maybe they had it out for Doe because he was a first-gen minority male? They would never have pulled this crap against someone who looked like me, who came from a family of wealth and privilege . . .

Or maybe they would have screwed over a rich white guy just as hard . . .

Would that make them better people or worse?

Maud Mandel: Settle this case before it goes to trial.

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Safety Dance Update, 1

Two new filings (Statement of Facts and Memo for Motion of Summary Judgment) in the Safety Dance case provide an occasion to revisit the biggest sexual assault case at Williams since Brackinridge or Gensheimer/Foster. Day 1.

1) Why do I call this case “Safety Dance?”

And the lyrics from the song “Safety Dance”:

We can dance if we want to
We can leave your friends behind
‘Cause your friends don’t dance and if they don’t dance
Well they’re no friends of mine.

I say, we can go where we want to
A place where they will never find
And we can act like we come from out of this world
Leave the real one far behind
And we can dance

Alas, John Doe has discovered that, leaving the real world far behind, is not so easy when it comes to the sexual assault bureaucracy at Williams . . .

2) Key facts:

This is nuts! Does anyone disagree? Read the full document for details, but it is not disputed that Smith only complained about the alleged assault after her attempts to get Doe thrown out for a never-happened honor code violation failed.

I am honestly curious to know if there are readers who agree with the College’s decision to throw Doe out, denying him his degree even though he has completed all the requirements for graduation. Contrary opinions welcome!

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Reunion Rape, 5

The election for Berkshire District Attorney has generated lots of discussion (here, here, here and here) at EphBlog. Especially interesting have been the comments (e.g., here) from Interloper, who really ought to join us as an author. Andrea Harrington won the primary but incumbent Paul Caccaviello is running ran a (hopeless? hopeless!) write-in campaign. What matters to us, however, are these news stories about an (alleged) rape at reunion in 2016. As one of the four highest profile sexual assaults cases at Williams in the last 20 years — the other three are Gensheimer/Foster, Brackenridge and Safety Dance — this merits a week’s worth of discussion. Day 5.

Good news or bad news for Williams?

Policies in the DA’s office around assault and rape, particularly at Williams, became an issue in the DA primary campaign over the summer when allegations surfaced of prosecutorial dismissiveness for rape allegations at Williams. The school reported the existence of allegation of over 40 rapes and assaults in recent years to police, but only one case was prosecuted by the DA’s office. Andrea Harrington, the Democratic nominee, and her allies see that as part of a history of looking the other way by the office, particularly at concerns incidents at the college.

Harrington announced in August that, if elected, she would “review all un-indicted complaints of sexual assault received by the District Attorney’s office in the last 15 years, including processing all untested rape kits.” Such a proposal would require a lot of work and would likely include a review of the conduct of the office with respect to a local college and law enforcement handling of evidence.

“I will make sure that we do a complete and thorough review of all rape and sexual assault cases which are within the 15 year statute of limitations,” Harrington said in a statement to The Greylock Glass.

1) Unless I am mistaken, there has no been a case of “stranger” rape at Williams in several decades, if ever. That is, every reported sexual assault has included the name of the alleged perpetrator (or has been a case in which the alleged victim knew the name of her attacker and declined to provide it). In other words, “processing all untested rape kits” is a giant waste of time, but does serve as a signal to all Harrington’s progressive supporters that she is one of them.

2) To the extent that this also refers to sexual assault cases in which the attacker is unknown, it might make sense. Indeed, it might make sense for Harrington to enlist some Williams faculty and students in the search because her small office may lack the resources for work like this:

In an astonishing bit of work, police were able to track down the man they suspect of being the Golden State Killer after matching his DNA with the DNA of distant relatives thanks to a commercial genetics testing company.

Wouldn’t it be cool if Williams could help Harrington bring some rapists to justice? On this surely all Ephs can agree.

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Reunion Rape, 4

The election for Berkshire District Attorney has generated lots of discussion (here, here, here and here) at EphBlog. Especially interesting have been the comments (e.g., here) from Interloper, who really ought to join us as an author. Andrea Harrington won the primary but incumbent Paul Caccaviello is running ran a (hopeless? hopeless!) write-in campaign. What matters to us, however, are these news stories about an (alleged) rape at reunion in 2016. As one of the four highest profile sexual assaults cases at Williams in the last 20 years — the other three are Gensheimer/Foster, Brackenridge and Safety Dance — this merits a week’s worth of discussion. Day 4.

Maybe John Pucci is neither a knave nor a fool. He is merely a hired gun, saying whatever his clients want or, much worse, saying whatever he thinks will cause his clients to give him more money. (Informed commentary welcome!) But, surely, we can all agree that this would be a horrible idea?

“But when the district attorney’s office learns that there are as many as 73 sexual assaults that have occurred in the last four years at Williams, they have a duty to investigate,” said Pucci. “And this is not that complicated. It’s stunning to me that Caccaviello can step back and say ‘we inferred they didn’t want to cooperate.’”

Pucci says the DA’s office could have initiated a basic criminal prosecution investigation.

“You contact Williams College. You ask them for their reports and interviews of the victims. If they don’t want to give them to you, you issue a grand jury subpoena,” he said. “The district attorney in Berkshire County has a grand jury standing and available. They issue a simple piece of paper to Williams, Williams gives them the name of the victims, and then they do the basics. The basics are laid out in the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security guidelines for sexual assault investigations.”

This is madness! Does Pucci really believe it or is he just saying what his clients want? Or is he just saying what he thinks his clients want to hear?

1) Has any DA in Massachusetts, or in the US, ever done this? Not that I know. (Perhaps former Williams faculty member KC Johnson, co-author of The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America’s Universities, can comment?)

2) What would happen if Harrington did this? I assume that Williams would fight tooth-and-nail. Am I wrong? Perhaps someone at Williams — Meg Bossong ’05? — would like to see more prosecutions of Williams students? Informed commentary welcome!

3) What would happen in the courts? Harrington subpoenas. Williams resists. The judge rules that . . . What do our Eph lawyers think?

4) How does this issue — and her general relationship with Williams College — tie into Harrington’s ambitions? Unlike Caccaviello — a time-serving mediocrity who would have been happy as DA for 20 years — Harrington clearly aspires to greater things. There are two strategies that a backwoods DA might take in climbing the greasy pole of MA Democratic politics: work with powerful local institutions like Williams (in the expectation of future back-scratches in return) or relentlessly attack them in a bid to build name-recognition. Assume that Harrington wants to be a Senator someday. What advice do you have for her?

Background: WW points out that the details of the accusation are horrific (pdf). Key points:

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Reunion Rape, 3

The election for Berkshire District Attorney has generated lots of discussion (here, here, here and here) at EphBlog. Especially interesting have been the comments (e.g., here) from Interloper, who really ought to join us as an author. Andrea Harrington won the primary but incumbent Paul Caccaviello is running ran a (hopeless? hopeless!) write-in campaign. What matters to us, however, are these news stories about an (alleged) rape at reunion in 2016. As one of the four highest profile sexual assaults cases at Williams in the last 20 years — the other three are Gensheimer/Foster, Brackenridge and Safety Dance — this merits a week’s worth of discussion. Day 3.

There is no doubt that the alleged victim and her husband are spending serious money in their quest for justice.

Reading from a statement, Caccaviello told WAMC that the Williamstown Police Department conducted a more than two-month investigation that included interviews with 23 witnesses — 10 of which he said were named by Pucci.

“Prosecutors are duty bound to bring a charge only when there is evidence to support the allegation,” said Caccaviello. “Experienced prosecutors and law enforcement reviewed the matter and concluded that there was not a reasonable basis to bring a charge.”

The timing is unclear (to me).

1) When was the assault reported?

2) Why was the rape kit collected at Mt. Sinai (in NYC?) instead of near Williamstown?

3) When did the investigation start?

4) What are the basic facts of the case? I suspect (but do not know) that this is a classic he-said/she-said case in which no one disputes that two people went somewhere alone and then had sex. The debate is over the existence, or lack thereof, of consent.

5) Eoin Higgins has provided some impressive coverage of this case. The Record ought to, at least, interview him.

Side note:

The school reported the existence of allegation of over 40 rapes and assaults in recent years to police, but only one case was prosecuted by the DA’s office. Andrea Harrington, the Democratic nominee, and her allies see that as part of a history of looking the other way by the office, particularly at concerns incidents at the college.

Which case was “prosecuted by the DA’s office?” I have not heard anything about a sexual assault prosecution involving Williams since Gensheimer/Foster.

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Congrats to Senator Murphy ’96

Congrats to Chris Murphy ’96, newly re-elected senator from Connecticut.

Any other Ephs involved in the elections tonight, either running or managing campaigns?

UPDATE: Fingers crossed for Ed Case ’75 in HI-1.

UPDATE II: Ed Case ’75 wins easily!

Are Murphy and Case the only two Ephs in Congress? How does that representation compare with Amherst/Swarthmore/Pomona?

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Twitter Spat

I love this twitter spat between the official Williams and Amherst accounts. Hilarious! And, even better, it is hard to tell how serious it is . . .

You will know it is serious when the Williams twitter account mentions EphBlog being a much better blog than the now-defunct Am’erst blog . . .

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Reunion Rape, 2

The election for Berkshire District Attorney has generated lots of discussion (here, here, here and here) at EphBlog. Especially interesting have been the comments (e.g., here) from Interloper, who really ought to join us as an author. Andrea Harrington won the primary but incumbent Paul Caccaviello is running a (hopeless?) write-in campaign. What matters to us, however, are these news stories about an (alleged) rape at reunion in 2016. As one of the four highest profile sexual assaults cases at Williams in the last 20 years — the other three are Gensheimer/Foster, Brackenridge and Safety Dance — this merits a week’s worth of discussion. Day 2.

Gossip about this event has been swirling around Williams ever since it occurred. I first heard about it in February 2017. An anonymous alum wrote me:

The reason I have been looking into Falk’s background is that something terrible happened at reunion this past June, involving allegations of sexual assault and rape of an inebriated Alumnus. The accused – her former classmate – is one of the wealthiest members and single largest donors in their Williams class. Suffice it to say that Adam Falk’s response (or lack thereof) has not pleased the victim or her husband (also an Alum in the same class). Understanding what motivates Falk (money, money, money), and getting a better sense of his personal morality goes a long way in explaining his behavior.

1) I suspect that this alleged assault was behind some of the cryptic comments made at EphBlog which connected the resignation of the previous DA, David Capeless, to Falk’s departure. I still think this claimed connection is nonsense. Falk was on his way out. This controversy played no role. (Contrary opinions welcome!)

2) You only truly understand a controversy if you can make the best possible case for both sides. Can you pass the ideological Turing Test? In this case, the key dispute is over the alleged sexual assault. Is the Williams alumna telling the truth or is she not? Make the best possible case for each side in the comments.

3) Should we use the names of the people involved? EphBlog would certainly never publish (without her consent) the name of someone who reported a sexual assault to the police. But what about the accused, someone who is, by all accounts, a fairly prominent member of the class of 1991? What about the husband of the alleged victim? He is neither victim nor accused, but he is (?) also a key part of this story. He may or may not share the last name of the alleged victim.

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