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Mens Basketball Update

Dave Fehr writes:

Ephmen definitely need a solid win today following a disappointing win at 4-12 Bates and a heartbreaking, last second loss at Amherst (our first of year).

In both games our greatest weapon, shooting, was lacking. Part of that was due to defense, Bates 1-3-1 zone and Jeffs (oops, Mammoths) tight man-man, especially on Heskett and Casey. Still, if we want to accomplish big things this year, we’ve got to find a way to score more.

One very encouraging sign: Our interior defense was immense at Amherst: Not normally a shot-blocking team, we sent back ten of their shots (Karp 4, Heskett and Soto 2 each) and did it without fouling – Mammoths went to the line just 7 times. However, that forced them outside and they won by making 11 of 23 threes (Williams just 6 of 22).

If we can beat Midd (who will probably be worried about being marooned in Williamstown for six days) we’ll remain undefeated in NESCAC. They have two veteran bigs, McCord and Folger, rebound well (plus 9.4 margin) and block shots (average 5.9/ga).

My favorite micro-aggression is referring to Amherst’s teams as the Jeffs. Long may it continue!

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Ad Hoc Update, 5

In February 2016, the (now defunct) student group Uncomfortable Learning invited Dissident Right author John Derbyshire to speak at Williams. Then-president Adam Falk cancelled Derbyshire’s talk, causing a public relations black eye for the College. Current President Maud Mandel seeks to undo the damage associated with that decision. We have named the associated controversy Self-CARE Now. This week, I will review Mandel’s latest e-mail and her draft charge to the Ad hoc committee on speakers, inquiry and inclusion. Day 5.

Once the committee presents its recommendations in May, I will share this information with the community, and we will organize next steps for when people return in the fall. It will be helpful if the report identifies the historical, philosophical and other considerations that influenced their recommendations. The report should also identify likely costs and benefits of any proposals.

Some people have looked at the current “free speech” debate in this country with dismay. I believe, in contrast, that this is an important step toward building the most vibrant educational community possible. I am deeply grateful to the committee members, and to Williams, for taking on this challenge.

How can Maud be “deeply grateful to the committee members” if she doesn’t yet know who they are?

1) Sure looks like a draft of this statement was written when Maud (and/or Jim Reische?) expected that the committee would have been named by now. If it had been, then thanking them would be the natural way of ending this statement. But the committee has not been named — presumably because of extensive infighting behind the scenes — leaving us with a mistimed expression of gratefulness.

2) Glad to see that Maud, the historian, wants the committee to dive into some history. Start with the time that Mark Hopkins banned Ralph Waldo Emerson from speaking at Williams.

3) But, again, note the incoherence of telling the committee to only provide her with “a set of speaker invitation guidelines” while, at the same time, encouraging them to provide “the historical, philosophical and other considerations that influenced their recommendations.” Just how complex is the history or philosophy associated with such guidelines?

If, however, Maud wrote this draft a few weeks ago — back when she expected this committee to have a large focus and when she expected to have the membership settled by the “end of the calendar year,” everything fits together . . .

except that Jim Reische should have raised these concerns before the e-mail went out . . . ;-)

I am excessively proud of my reasoning on this one, although not quite J’accuse proud. Feel free to disabuse me in the comments.

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Ad Hoc Update, 4

In February 2016, the (now defunct) student group Uncomfortable Learning invited Dissident Right author John Derbyshire to speak at Williams. Then-president Adam Falk cancelled Derbyshire’s talk, causing a public relations black eye for the College. Current President Maud Mandel seeks to undo the damage associated with that decision. We have named the associated controversy Self-CARE Now. This week, I will review Mandel’s latest e-mail and her draft charge to the Ad hoc committee on speakers, inquiry and inclusion. Day 4.

Following are a few framing questions the committee might consider in this work:

  • What obligation do liberal arts colleges have for exposing students to new ideas and ways of thinking about the world?
  • What responsibility has Williams assumed (or should it) for helping students achieve equal footing from which to study, expound and challenge diverse ideas?
  • Given the wide range of content available on-line, including many speeches, what types of presentations (in both form and content) best support our educational mission?
  • What support, if any, should Williams give to campus members seeking to host, engage or debate speakers?
  • Are college guidelines related to campus activism toward speakers adequate?

Framing the debate is the first step to victory.

But note how these questions have little/nothing to do with the committee’s new charge to come up with “a set of speaker invitation guidelines that would demonstrate our full commitment to both inquiry and inclusion.” The first two questions are too broad to be of use to a committee which is just working on invitation guidelines. Even the fifth question, which is obviously speaker-related, has nothing to do with invitations per se. A question like that is only relevant if the committee has a much broader mandate than, in fact, it has.

The whole effort is fairly schizophrenic, as if it were written with two different mindsets:

Mindset 1: This committee is a successor to Angevine in its importance. It will solve the problem of free speech/expression at Williams, perhaps via a Chicago-style approach.

Mindset 2: This committee is narrowly focused on the topic of speaker invitations. Other people/committees will handle the broader issues.

What could explain this discrepancy? (Maud and her staff are smart and excellent writers.)

My guess: The initial plan was to go the Angevine route, a committee which would solve the problem. The charge was draft during this period. Later, once it became clear that this was not going to work, the remit of the committee was drastically reduced, but no one went back to do a thorough edit of the entire draft.

Other explanations?

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Ad Hoc Update, 3

In February 2016, the (now defunct) student group Uncomfortable Learning invited Dissident Right author John Derbyshire to speak at Williams. Then-president Adam Falk cancelled Derbyshire’s talk, causing a public relations black eye for the College. Current President Maud Mandel seeks to undo the damage associated with that decision. We have named the associated controversy Self-CARE Now. This week, I will review Mandel’s latest e-mail and her draft charge to the Ad hoc committee on speakers, inquiry and inclusion. Day 3.

Proposed Committee Charge

Williams, like other schools around the country, is debating how to uphold principles of open inquiry and free expression. The debate has focused on how to do so while not providing a platform for hate speech, racism, or other forces that are corrosive to a learning community. This issue was identified as a concern in Williams’ Fall 2017 accreditation self-study, which was shared with campus at the time:

“intellectual freedom… is defined broadly at Williams to include the unfettered exchange of diverse points of view, the dissemination of original scholarship, and respect for faculty, students, staff, alumni, and others who wish to share their opinions on how the college is governed. This “basket of rights” must sometimes be actively managed.” (pp. 103–4)

The conversation at Williams has recently focused on speaker invitations, as it has elsewhere around the country. I am charging an ad hoc committee with recommending to me, by May 2019, a set of speaker invitation guidelines that would demonstrate our full commitment to both inquiry and inclusion.

The most important part of this update is right here. Mandel is restricting the work of the committee to “speaker invitation guidelines.” This is a dramatic change from her November vision:

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.

Possible explanations:

1) Nothing-Burger. I am reading too much into some minor word changes. Mandel has not changed her approach/goals despite the superficial changes in phrasing.

2) Worrying about failure. Perhaps Mandel realizes that Williams — or at least the Williams as represented by the committee she has no choice but to name — is not ready for full-scale Chicago-style academic freedom. Rather than let the Committee do some real damage, she is restricting its remit.

3) Changing the battlefield. Perhaps Mandel has decided that this Committee — whatever the strengths and weakness of its membership — is the wrong venue in which to push for the changes she seeks. Note what follows next in her charge:

This targeted project will complement our broader attention to learning and campus climate through the strategic planning process. I further ask that they do so through a process that allows for input from anyone in our community with opinions or ideas to share on the subject.

Calling it a “targeted project” is quite a comedown from the language two months ago. Moving the real battle to the “strategic planning process” places the debate in an area over which Mandel has much more power. Who is in charge of that? Meet the Coordinating Committee:

The most important news is that a Coordinating Committee has been formed to guide the work. This committee will articulate a vision and goals, organize and develop charges for sub-committees working on each area of focus, create opportunities for input and knit all the aspects of the planning process into a unified, final plan. The Committee, which I’ll chair, includes faculty, staff and students.

This is a committee which Mandel will do much more than “chair.” This is a committee which will do her bidding, a committee which will support their President in whichever direction she wants to take Williams. More on the committee some other day, but, for now, note that it includes David Gürçay-Morris ’96 one of the three faculty leaders of the free speech push and Essence Perry ’22, one of the very few (only?) students to outline a pro-free speech position in the Record. What better venue could there be for Mandel to push Williams in a more Chicago’sh direction?

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Ad Hoc Update, 2

In February 2016, the (now defunct) student group Uncomfortable Learning invited Dissident Right author John Derbyshire to speak at Williams. Then-president Adam Falk cancelled Derbyshire’s talk, causing a public relations black eye for the College. Current President Maud Mandel seeks to undo the damage associated with that decision. We have named the associated controversy Self-CARE Now. This week, I will review Mandel’s latest e-mail and her draft charge to the Ad hoc committee on speakers, inquiry and inclusion. Day 2.

Mandel’s e-mail continues:

Faculty, student and staff governance bodies are helping me build a committee roster, and I expect to have a final version to share with you in my start of semester message on January 30. In the meantime, below is a copy of the proposed charge for the committee. I hope this will help you and our whole community understand the scope of their work and the framing questions I’m posing to help them get started.

My original recommendations were sensible. I reprint them below, along with some additions.

Administration: Jim Reische, Keli Gail, Dukes Love.
Black Faculty: DL Smith. Maybe Neil Roberts if it is clear he will play ball. Maybe Leticia S. E. Haynes if no Black faculty member can be found.
Hispanic Faculty: Joseph Cruz ’91, Peter Montiel, Greg Phelan.
Asian Faculty: Eiko Siniawer ’97, Lee Park.
White Faculty: Karen Merrill, Katarzyna Pieprzak, Darel Paul, Steve Miller, Fred Strauch, .
Athletic Faculty: Lisa Melendy, Marshall Creighton.
Students: Jake Bingaman ’19, John DiGravio ’21, Ariana Romeo ’19, Alex Jen ’19

With either Joe Cruz or Karen Merrill as chair.

But this is now (sadly?), out of date. I thought — and I suspect Mandel originally planned — that the committee would consider the broad issue of free expression at Williams and, after 6 months or so, recommend that the College either sign the Chicago Statement or something similar to it. However, I now think that Mandel is going in a different direction. Key sentence from her charge:

I am charging an ad hoc committee with recommending to me, by May 2019, a set of speaker invitation guidelines that would demonstrate our full commitment to both inquiry and inclusion. ”

The Commitee’s charge is remarkably narrow. You aren’t going to get anywhere near the Chicago Statement, or the broader issues associated with it, if you are restricted to discussing “speaker invitation guidelines.”

That means that this Committee is a side show, a distraction from the main event. So, who cares who is on this committee or what they decide? Not me!

Or maybe, more deviously, Mandel has decided to set this committee up for failure by stocking it with some of the most polarizing — and least likely to compromise — figures on campus. Perhaps Luana Maroja, Steven Gerrard and David Gürçay-Morris ’96 on the pre-speeech side and Joy James, Kai Green and Kimberly Love on the pro-safety side. Such a Committee is unlikely to make much progress. But a high profile failure might allow Mandel to swoop in from the side and institute a broader solution . . .

UPDATE: I wrote this series last week. We now have new evidence that the analysis is spot on! Consider the all-campus e-mail from College Council which went out yesterday. (Thanks dshakirov!) You can tell that the Committee on Campus Speakers, Inquiry and Inclusion — Is this the official name? — will have no real power because:

1) It has four students on it! That is way too many. Williams loves its students but, as an institution, it does not trust them that much.

2) The naming of those students is being left (completely?) to the discretion of the College Council Appointments Committee. Williams loves CC but, as an institution, it does not trust CC with truly important decisions. Note that CC played zero role in, for example, naming the students appointed to the search committee which chose Mandel.

3) CC is likely to (and should?!) name students deeply involved in this debate. Why not include at least one (and maybe more!) of the students involved with CARE-Now? If you were on CC, wouldn’t you appoint Liliana Bierer ’19, Audrey Koh ’21, Isabel Peña ’19, Isaiah Blake ’21, Carlos Cabrera-Lomelí ’20, Suiyi Tang ’20, Annalee Tai ’21 or Rocky Douglas ’19 if they applied? These students are all intelligent and committed. Good stuff! But, from Mandel’s point of view, they are highly unlikely to come up with the answer that she wants.

4) The name of the Committee begins with “Campus Speakers.” This is further evidence that the Committee’s charge will be exceedingly narrow.

If Mandel’s strategy for freeing Williams from the legacy of Falk’s folly depended meaningfully on this Committee, she would put fewer students on it, ensure that those students were carefully selected and entrust the Committee with a broad mandate. She is doing the opposite. Therefore, we know that this Committee will be unimportant. More evidence over the rest of the week.

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Ad Hoc Update, 1

In February 2016, the (now defunct) student group Uncomfortable Learning invited Dissident Right author John Derbyshire to speak at Williams. Then-president Adam Falk cancelled Derbyshire’s talk, causing a public relations black eye for the College. Current President Maud Mandel seeks to undo the damage associated with that decision. We have named the associated controversy Self-CARE Now. This week, I will review Mandel’s latest e-mail and her draft charge to the Ad hoc committee on speakers, inquiry and inclusion. Day 1.

Mandel’s email begins:

As I noted in an all-campus message before break, “Williams, like campuses across the United States, has engaged in debate about how to bolster its commitment to free expression while maintaining its responsibility to ensure an inclusive environment for all community members.” In that same message I announced plans to charge an ad hoc committee with recommending policies and practices that will help us achieve these goals. I’m pleased to provide you with a brief update on that work.

1) Quoting yourself is the Historian’s Vice.

2) Maud is wise to use the term “free expression” rather than the more controversial “free speech.” Too many of her opponents have already decided that “free speech” is something to which they owe no allegiance. They may be more open to defenses of free expression.

3) Even better would be a focus on “academic freedom.” Recall that Maud wants Williams to end up with as much free speech/expression/whatever as state schools like Berkeley. No more cancellations, or even demands for cancellation! Framing is one of the most powerful tools she has to achieve that goal.

Centering the debate around “academic freedom” is more likely to work because it activates the amygdala of every Williams faculty member. They may differ in their views about what sorts of speakers (stupid) undergraduates can invite to campus. They are united in their demand that they have complete “academic freedom” — as they should be! And the vast majority insist that academic freedom includes their right to invite anyone they damn-well please to Williams. Once they demand that, Maud need only insist that students’ rights are no less, at least when it comes to academic freedom. Problem solved!

4) Why the delay in naming the committee? Recall what Maud told us in November:

I intend to recruit the committee by the end of the calendar year with counsel from leaders of faculty, staff and student governance.

We are now two weeks past the end of the calendar year. Still no committee. And note this note from December 13.

In late November I announced my plan to charge an ad hoc committee with the responsibility of moving this discussion forward and proposing policies or programs that will help us achieve both goals. I’ll share the committee charge and roster with campus and alumni in my start of semester message in late January.

So, by mid-December it was obvious to Maud and her team that they would need more time to name a committee. But, then why share the committee’s charge now? (Or is it just a draft of the charge?)

My guess: Maud has decided that this committee — which she originally envisioned as another example of the sorts of Committees that, at Williams, have led to institutional change, i.e., Angevine getting rid of fraternities, MacDonald tightening admissions standards for athletes, Dudley instituting Neighborhood Housing — will not serve her well. Faculty and student attitudes are too anti-free speech for this Committee to succeed. So, Maud has decided to head in a different direction. Read later posts this week for evidence and more speculation.

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The Next Evergreen State?

The College Fix is not my favorite publication but Christopher Tremoglie’s overview of the timeline of the Self-CARE Now controversy is solid. But no links to EphBlog. Sad!

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Pish, Posh

Oren Cass ’05 takes a break from being the most important right-wing wonk of his generation to write a movie review.

I’d never sworn in front of my kids, until our drive home from watching Mary Poppins Returns. The real Mary Poppins would have understood—in fact she might have done the same, had she seen what Disney did to one of children’s fiction’s classic characters and most poignant stories.

The important thing to recall from the original movie is that it’s not about the kids. Young Michael and Jane Banks aren’t the problem that Mary Poppins comes to fix—they are stand-ins for a young audience experiencing a story about what it means to be a parent.

Mr. Banks is the one who needs help. He is the overly disciplined, career-focused father with no time for his children. His life is turned upside-down by this strange new nanny who, in partnership with Bert the chimneysweep, guides him to the revelation that he has his priorities wrong. Bert has a lesson for the children too—but not about issues of their own. Are they really in trouble, he asks them, or is their dad? “Who looks after your father?” Bert asks, in Dick Van Dyke’s legendarily terrible Cockney accent. “Tell me that. When something terrible ‘appens, what does ‘e do? Fends for ‘imself, ‘e does. Who does ‘e tell about it? No one! Don’t blab his troubles at ‘ome. ‘E just pushes on at his job, uncomplaining and alone and silent.”

Read the whole thing.

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Self-CARE Now

Controversies needs names. President Maud Mandel has embarked on a multi-semester effort to repair the damage done by former President Adam Falks’ 2016 cancellation of a speaking invitation extended by the student group Uncomfortable Learning to John Derbyshire. There are Ephs who want Mandel to succeed. There are Ephs who want her to fail. We will place relevant posts under the “Self-CARE Now” category, which is a sub-category of the Controversies.

Longtime readers will recall that EphBlog loves to name Williams controversies. Classic examples include: ¿Quién es más macho?, Nigaleian, Safety Dance, Prospect Must Die, Willy E. N-word, Catch Moore If You Can, The Taco Six and Mary Jane Hitler.

Why Self-CARE Now?

1) Readers failed to provide any better suggestions. (Note that this is still a chance to design a catchy graphic. Submissions welcome!)

2) The students leaders of the opposition to Mandel wrote a Record op-ed summarizing their position. It begins:

The student letter that surfaced in response to the faculty petition was co-authored and edited by over 20 students from a wide range of identities and positionalities. It was, above all, a democratic, grassroots project from start to finish. We are now continuing under the name “Coalition Against Racist Education Now” (CARE Now) in the legacy of Black-led organizing efforts on the Williams College campus.

Including “CARE Now” in the the controversy’s name makes sense. Hilariously, their op-ed concluded with:

Beyond this statement, we have chosen to not comment on our next steps as we are focusing on building coalition and self-care.

If I didn’t provide the link, wouldn’t readers older than 25 assume that this was a parody? Do Williams students routinely, in Record op-eds, insist on the need for “self-care” even as they are in the midst of fighting a righteous battle against “Racist Education?” Apparently, they do. And so I can’t help but to make fun of that contradiction.

3) My original plan was to name the controversy after the committee that Mandel promised to name. That would have been anodyne, but still descriptive. Yesterday’s e-mail, however, made clear that this committee will be much less powerful than initially advertised, so making it central to the controversy no longer makes sense.

4) On a broader view, President Mandel is, right “now,” trying to provide some “self-care” to Williams, as an institution. Falk’s cancellation was the worst single Administrative decision in the last decade, generating unhelpful media attention, and setting back the cause of academic freedom. Williams needs to heal from that mistake and, with luck, Mandel will help us to do so.

What do we want?
Self-CARE!
When do we want it?
Now!

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Update: Ad hoc committee on speakers, inquiry and inclusion

Maud’s Moment has been delayed a bit.

Williams faculty, staff and students,

As I noted in an all-campus message before break, “Williams, like campuses across the United States, has engaged in debate about how to bolster its commitment to free expression while maintaining its responsibility to ensure an inclusive environment for all community members.” In that same message I announced plans to charge an ad hoc committee with recommending policies and practices that will help us achieve these goals. I’m pleased to provide you with a brief update on that work.

Faculty, student and staff governance bodies are helping me build a committee roster, and I expect to have a final version to share with you in my start of semester message on January 30. In the meantime, below is a copy of the proposed charge for the committee. I hope this will help you and our whole community understand the scope of their work and the framing questions I’m posing to help them get started.

After the committee comes together I expect they’ll want to communicate with campus about their process and opportunities for input. In the meantime, I look forward to sharing news about the roster in a few weeks.

Sincerely,

Maud

————————–

Proposed Committee Charge

Williams, like other schools around the country, is debating how to uphold principles of open inquiry and free expression. The debate has focused on how to do so while not providing a platform for hate speech, racism, or other forces that are corrosive to a learning community. This issue was identified as a concern in Williams’ Fall 2017 accreditation self-study, which was shared with campus at the time:

“intellectual freedom… is defined broadly at Williams to include the unfettered exchange of diverse points of view, the dissemination of original scholarship, and respect for faculty, students, staff, alumni, and others who wish to share their opinions on how the college is governed. This “basket of rights” must sometimes be actively managed.” (pp. 103–4)

The conversation at Williams has recently focused on speaker invitations, as it has elsewhere around the country. I am charging an ad hoc committee with recommending to me, by May 2019, a set of speaker invitation guidelines that would demonstrate our full commitment to both inquiry and inclusion. This targeted project will complement our broader attention to learning and campus climate through the strategic planning process. I further ask that they do so through a process that allows for input from anyone in our community with opinions or ideas to share on the subject.

Following are a few framing questions the committee might consider in this work:

What obligation do liberal arts colleges have for exposing students to new ideas and ways of thinking about the world?
What responsibility has Williams assumed (or should it) for helping students achieve equal footing from which to study, expound and challenge diverse ideas?
Given the wide range of content available on-line, including many speeches, what types of presentations (in both form and content) best support our educational mission?
What support, if any, should Williams give to campus members seeking to host, engage or debate speakers?
Are college guidelines related to campus activism toward speakers adequate?

Once the committee presents its recommendations in May, I will share this information with the community, and we will organize next steps for when people return in the fall. It will be helpful if the report identifies the historical, philosophical and other considerations that influenced their recommendations. The report should also identify likely costs and benefits of any proposals.

Some people have looked at the current “free speech” debate in this country with dismay. I believe, in contrast, that this is an important step toward building the most vibrant educational community possible. I am deeply grateful to the committee members, and to Williams, for taking on this challenge.

Maud

Looking for my line-by-line exegesis? Of course you are! Sadly, you will have to wait till next week.

By the way, we still need a scandal name. I was planning — in my role as elder statesperson — to go with “Name-of-Chair Committee” once Mandel named the committee. But is that too wishy-washy?

In my role as senior trouble-maker, I am inspired by this student op-ed. It begins:

The student letter that surfaced in response to the faculty petition was co-authored and edited by over 20 students from a wide range of identities and positionalities. It was, above all, a democratic, grassroots project from start to finish. We are now continuing under the name “Coalition Against Racist Education Now” (CARE Now) in the legacy of Black-led organizing efforts on the Williams College campus.

Worth going through? Perhaps. In the meantime, I laughed out loud at their closing paragraph:

Beyond this statement, we have chosen to not comment on our next steps as we are focusing on building coalition and self-care.

Scandal name? “Self-CARE Now

I am a bad person . . .

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Milquetoast Wonkery

Ross Douhat writes in the New York Times:

This dilemma is apparent in the vigorous intra-conservative debate over a new book, “The Once and Future Worker,” written by the former Mitt Romney domestic policy director Oren Cass [’05]. In certain ways the book is an extension of the reform-conservative project, an argument for policies that support “a foundation of productive work” as the basis for healthy communities and flourishing families and robust civic life. But Cass is more dramatic in his criticism of Western policymaking since the 1970s, more skeptical of globalization’s benefits to Western workers, and more dire in his diagnosis of the real socioeconomic condition of the working class.

Cass’s bracing tone reads like (among other things) an attempt to fix reform conservatism’s political problem, as it manifested itself in 2016 — a problem of lukewarmness, of milquetoast wonkery, that Trumpism’s more sweeping promises simply steamrolled in political debate.

But that tone, as much as Cass’s specific proposals, has divided the center-right’s wonks. There has been a lot of favorable attention for the book (including from my colleague David Brooks); at the same time, there have been sharp critiques, both from within the reform conservative camp (from Michael Strain and James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute, and from Scott Winship, a policy adviser to Senator Mike Lee) and from more libertarian or classical-liberal types (like Sam Hammond of the Niskanen Center).

The critics’ concerns vary, but a common thread is that Cass’s diagnosis overstates the struggles of American workers and exaggerates the downsides of globalization, and in so doing risks giving aid and comfort to populist policies — or, for that matter, socialist policies, from the Ocasio-Cortezan left — that would ultimately choke off growth.

In a sense the debate reproduces the larger argument about whether a post-Trump conservative politics should seek to learn something from his ascent or simply aim to repudiate him — with Cass offering a reform conservatism that effectively bids against Trump for populist support, and his critics warning that he’s conceding way too much to Trumpist demagogy.

But the argument over Cass’s book also raises a larger question that both right and left are wrestling with in our age of populist discontent: Namely, is the West’s post-1980 economic performance a hard-won achievement and pretty much the best we could have done, or is there another economic path available, populist or social democratic or something else entirely, that doesn’t just lead back to stagnation?

A great deal turns upon the answer. Economic growth since the 1970s has disappointed relative to what many optimists imagined in 1965; at the same time it has been stronger than what many Carter-era pessimists feared we could expect. If you emphasize the disappointment, then experimenting with a different policy orientation — be it Cass’s work-and-family conservatism or an Ocasio-Cortezan democratic socialism or something else — seems like a risk worth taking; after all things aren’t that great under neoliberalism as it is.

But if you focus on the possible fragility of the growth we have achieved, the ease with which left-wing and right-wing populisms can lead to Venezuela, then you’ll share the anxieties of Cass’s conservative critics — who are willing to tinker with work-and-family policy but worry that to make any major concession to globalization’s critics puts far too much at risk.

Perhaps the best reason to bet on Cass’s specific vision is that the social crisis he wants to address is itself a major long-term drag on growth — because a society whose working class doesn’t work or marry or bear children will age, even faster than the West is presently aging, into stagnation and decline.

At the same time it might well be, as some of his critics think, that the working class’s social crisis is mostly or all cultural, a form of late-modern anomie detached from material privation. In which case political-economy schemes to “fix” the problem won’t have social benefits to match their potential economic costs.

So the decision for Cass’s kind of conservative reform would be, necessarily, a real policy gamble, based on the hope that a greater human flourishing and a more mid-20th-century style of growth is still possible in rich societies like ours. And if the first iteration of reform conservatism was defined and limited by its moderation, his version 2.0 may succeed or fail based on the right’s appetite for trying something else immoderate, even radical, after the Donald Trump experiment has run its course.

Note that EphBlog recognized Cass’s potential almost 15 years ago . . .

Also, I hope that James Hitchcock ’15, research assistant to both David Brooks and Ross Douhat, had a hand in bringing Cass’s book to their attention. We members of the vast right-wing conspiracy (Eph Division) need to look out for each other!

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Brooks on Cass

David Brooks in the New York Times writes:

Working-class voters tried to send a message in 2016, and they are still trying to send it. The crucial question is whether America’s leaders will listen and respond.

One way to start doing that is to read Oren Cass’s absolutely brilliant new book, “The Once and Future Worker.” The first part of the book is about how we in the educated class have screwed up labor markets in ways that devalued work and made it harder for people in the working class to find a satisfying job.

Part of the problem is misplaced priorities. For the last several decades, American economic policy has been pinioned on one goal: expanding G.D.P. We measure G.D.P. We talk incessantly about economic growth. Between 1975 and 2015, American G.D.P. increased threefold. But what good is that growth if it means that a thick slice of America is discarded for efficiency reasons?

Similarly, for the last several decades American, welfare policy has focused on consumption — giving money to the poor so they can consume more. Yet we have not successfully helped poor people produce more so that they can take control of their own lives. We now spend more than $20,000 a year in means-tested government spending per person in poverty. And yet the average poverty rate for 2000 to 2015 was higher than it was for 1970 to 1985.

“What if people’s ability to produce matters more than how much they can consume?” Cass asks.

The bulk of his book is a series of ideas for how we can reform labor markets.

For example, Cass supports academic tracking. Right now, we have a one-size-fits-all education system. Everybody should go to college. The problem is that roughly one-fifth of our students fail to graduate high school in four years; roughly one-fifth take no further schooling after high school; roughly one-fifth drop out of college; roughly one-fifth get a job that doesn’t require the degree they just earned; and roughly one-fifth actually navigate the path the system is built around — from school to career.

We build a broken system and then ask people to try to fit into the system instead of tailoring a system around people’s actual needs.

Cass suggests that we instead do what nearly every other affluent nation does: Let students, starting in high school, decide whether they want to be on an apprenticeship track or an academic track. Vocational and technical schools are ubiquitous across the developed world, and yet that model is mostly rejected here.

Cass also supports worker co-ops. Today, we have an old, adversarial labor union model that is inappropriate for the gig economy and uninteresting to most private-sector workers. But co-ops, drawing on more successful models used in several European nations, could represent workers in negotiations, train and retrain workers as they moved from firm to firm and build a safety net for periods of unemployment. Shopping for a worker co-op would be more like buying a gym membership. Each co-op would be a community and service provider to address a range of each worker’s needs.

Cass has many other proposals — wage subsidies, immigration reforms. But he’s really trying to put work, and the dignity of work, at the center of our culture and concern. In the 1970s and 1980s, he points out, the Emmy Award-winning TV shows were about blue-collar families: “All in the Family,” “Taxi,” “Cheers,” “The Wonder Years.” Now the Emmy-winning shows are mostly about white-collar adults working in Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, New York and Washington.
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We in the college-educated sliver have built a culture, an economy and a political system that are all about ourselves. It’s time to pass labor market reforms that will make life decent for everybody.

Indeed. When was the last time an Eph book received such lavish praise on the op-ed page of the Times?

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Storytime is Back!

Good news! Storytime is back.

When we discussed the complaints about Storytime, there was some confusion about exactly what the critics were complaining about. The key issue involved “the consumption of black stories, black lives and black narratives.” Allow me to translate from SJW’eese.

Consider three hypothetical cases of the behavior of a white student listening to a black student at Storytime.

1) Extreme boorishness. Arriving late, looking at his phone, rolling his eyes in disbelief, talking with his friends, asking confrontational questions, leaving early, and so on.

2) Neutrality. Arriving on time, paying attention, listening quietly, but asking no questions.

3) Perfect support. Behaving in such a way as to make the speaker certain you were supportive of her talk, her story, her views and her position in the community. The exact behavior which would make the speaker feel this way will vary speaker to speaker.

There is a continuum, of course, but I would wager that no listener at Storytime has ever behaved with extreme boorishness, or anywhere close to it. Problems might arise, however, if a white student behaves in a way that a black student objects to.

The performance [of Underground Railroad Game]at the College sparked controversy, Ansari said. “It had to do with the depiction of African-Americans as slaves, scenes of painful episodes of our enslavement for comedic consumption on the stage and dolls in blackface on the flyers of advertisement,” he added. “Black people were in the audience, and we were experiencing it in tears while our white friends were experiencing it laughing.”

This is the heart of the issue, the style of “consumption” — by white students — of content created by black students. It is not enough to attend Storytime. One must react to the stories at Storytime appropriately. And if we can’t trust white students to react appropriately, then is better that Storytime be shut down.

The aftermath of the show led to the creation of a movement, organized by a former Minority Coalition (MinCo) co-chair [Zeke King Phillips ’18], called ‘At What Cost?’

Having a conversation about these topics seems like a worthy goal. Congrats to Phillips for leading the effort. The problem arises when conversation turns to control.

“Students began to say, ‘Let’s call a pause on anything to do with painful stories where people are just sitting there laughing or consuming others’ pain without a deeper effort at community building.’

This is the heart of the problem with the social justice left. If you want to have a conversation about how people should behave, then great, let’s have a conversation. If you want people to behave in a certain way at your event, then great, let them know. (This is Williams, where politeness is almost a civic religion! Ephs will either behave the way you want — at your event — or they will decline to attend.)

But to force the cancellation of Storytime — even though you are not running Storytime or speaking at Storytime — just because you don’t like the (potential!) behavior of some of the people at Storytime . . . That is a problem. If you do this, then I will war against you until the purple cows come home.

Perhaps it is not too late to save Williams from itself. Storytime lives! Now, time to rescue the JA system . . . and academic freedom . . . and . . .

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Fall in Love

What is the real purpose of Winter Study, especially for male undergraduates?

The real purpose of Winter Study is to fall in love.

You will never, ever, be surrounded by as many smart, pretty, eligible women as you are right now. Life after college is, comparatively, a wasteland. Of course, as you pass into the great beyond, you will meet other women, but they are unlikely to be as wonderful, physically and mentally, as the Eph women you are blessed to know now. More importantly, the best of them will choose mates sooner rather than latter. Exiting Williams without a serious girlfriend is not necessarily a one-way ticket to permanent bachelorhood (as several of my co-bloggers can attest), but it is not the smart way to play the odds. The odds favor love now.

It isn’t that your classes and papers, your theses and sports teams, are unimportant. But finding a soulmate to grow old with, someone to bear your children and ease your suffering, someone to give your life meaning and your work purpose — this is a much more important task than raising that GPA enough to make magna cum laude.

So, stop reading this blog and ask out that cute girl from across the quad. I did the same 31 years ago and have counted my blessings ever since.

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Don’t Build a New Art Museum

From The Eagle:

Watching Pamela Franks walk into Tunnel City Coffee, one may be surprised to know she’s only been in town since the middle of September, when she became the new director of the Williams College Museum of Art.

Frank waves to several patrons she knows as she approaches the glass display case, where she makes dinner plans for later in the week with a woman on the other side of the counter, before taking a serious look at her breakfast choices.

“The quiche looks delicious,” she says, pointing to several choices on the lower level. She orders a slice with mushrooms and onions, a blueberry muffin (to share) with two plates and a 20-ounce medium roast coffee in a paper cup that she can take back to the office later.

“I love the coffee here,” she says, as she leans in close so she can be heard over the coffeehouse cacophony. “Before I even moved here, a friend sent me a bag of coffee beans from here. So, I was looking forward to coming here.”

See below the break for the rest of the (well-done) article. Vaguely related comments:

1) Williams should not build a new college art museum. Spend the money on more financial aid instead. Our current college art museum is more than adequate. Moreover, the existence of the Clark and Mass MoCa means that we already have more art museums in the area than any other (rural) liberal arts college.

2) Williams will build a new college art museum. The logic of building, Building BUILDING is inexorable. I might as well try to fight the tide.

3) The politics of the location of the new museum has been contentious (even vicious?) for several years now. Perhaps a local resident could fill us in?

Read more

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A Depressing Thought for the New Year

James (class of 2015) ought to write a book on this theme.

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American Colonization Society

From Williamstown and Williams College: A History by Arthur Latham Perry:

Mills is, of course, Samuel J. Mills, he of the Haystack Prayer Meeting and Mills in Mission Park.

This book was the first interesting thing that came up from a google search of Williams College and New Year’s Day.

We need an annual post for this date. What should it be?

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The Ghost of EphBlog Future

abl writes:

I’m going to add my voice to all of the calls to please keep JCD out of this. There is room for interesting and important discussion on these points. Invoking (summoning?) JCD into the discussion is not a productive first step towards reaching any greater understanding of these issues. Nor, especially, is demanding that some of our most thoughtful contributors apologize to JCD over points that they have made in the past that are only indirectly implicated by this discussion–and definitely do not require apologies. JCD leaving this blog was one of the best things to happen to it in recent times; please do not drag him back in.

Is there no spirit of Christian forgiveness among the EphBlog community? Must we be defined by our sins forevermore?

My purpose is not to defend everything that JCD has ever done or said. I disagree with much of it. Some of his statement/actions in the past have been, as the kids say today, “problematic.”

But I believe in redemption, in forgiveness, in the possibility of rebirth for every Eph, no matter the sins of their past. Do you?

And I like to think that that faith has been justified, at least in the case of JCD. Since joining EphBlog as an author a month ago, he has authored 5 posts, each with a direct connection to Williams. Each is a perfect example of what we need more of at EphBlog. I don’t agree with every word, but that is all to the good! And, if you think JCD focuses too much on Williams mentions in the conservative media, then step up and write some posts about Williams mentions from the other side of the media aisle.

David, you need to work on tempering what seems to be an innate desire for controversy.

A majority of the (smart! hard-working!) people in Hopkins Hall would define “controversy” as any negative news story about Williams. Is that your definition? Do you not think that I should write about, say, athletic admissions, Bernard Moore, sexual assault or any of the dozen topics that Williams, as an institution, would rather were never discussed? I hope not!

I suspect, however, that you like — or at least don’t object to — my posts on those topics. That sort of “controversy” is fine for you. Indeed, this is one of, perhaps even the main, reason that you read and contribute to EphBlog. Cool!

Instead, what you mean is that my “innate desire for controversy” is fine if I write about controversies you are interested in but less fine if I write about other sorts of controversies. Or am I being unfair?

You have a good nose for Williams-related issues and, combined with your focus on and commitment to the College, you can make a real contribution to the college community. Ephblog often comes close to being a really wonderful resource for both Williams alums and those interested in the college more generally (like PTC).

“Comes close?” Compared to what? Your Platonic ideal of the perfect college blog? Does any such creature exist in this fallen world?

EphBlog is the best college blog in the world. (If you disagree, suggest one that is better.)

But you continually shoot yourself in the foot by taking things just one step too far or by making points inflammatory that really shouldn’t be.

One Eph’s “inflammatory” is another Eph’s “punchy writing.”

This is a good example of this. You’ve done a nice job finding Professor Maroja’s blog and tying it into a broader discussion that is happening at Williams–one that has national relevance. And you’ve done a good job in recognizing that there are nuances to these issues that those on all sides of this gloss over–including Professor Maroja specifically.

Thanks! Compliments from discerning readers are always appreciated.

But you really stumble with your entirely unnecessary bit re JCD.

Perhaps. Mistakes will be made. Feedback is always welcome.

Ephblog could be a forum for intelligent like-minded individuals with an important shared connection to consider many important issues.

“Could be?” Again, compared to what? There is no more intelligent forum (devoted to a single institution of higher education) in the world. (Contrary pointers welcome.) Even something as excellent as Dartblog in its heyday never allowed comments.

Ephblog is at its worst when it devolves into trolling and troll-baiting.

Again, I have been yelled at (not an exaggeration!) by a trustee (in public!) about my posts on athletic admissions. He viewed any discussion of admissions advantages for athletes as “trolling,” although, back in 2007, I am sure he would have used different terminology.

I’d like to think that we, as a community of Williams alums, are better than that–but I’m not sure we always are. As the de facto (official?) leader of Ephblog, you can and should and do play a big role in setting the tone for these discussions. You do so many things so well in this regard, it’s infuriating when you just can’t resist adding some poke or snark at the end. So often the result is to derail what otherwise might be a thoughtful discussion of an important issue.

Point taken! I will aim to do better in the future. Happy New Year!

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Hopkins Hall Takeover

From the Times Union:

Student rally outside Hopkins Hall at Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts in support of black students’ demands, April 7, 1969. Students from the college’s Afro-American Society took over the building, seeking demands to add African-American studies to the curriculum, diversify the faculty, and more.

Is the College planning any activities to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this event, perhaps the single most successful example of student activism in Williams history? Should it?

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Men’s Basketball Update

From David Fehr provided this update last week:

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy New Year. The Ephwomen Soccer team gave Williams fans an early Christmas present, winning their third national championship in four years; could our hoopsters do the same for Easter?

Many of you seem to think so. Remember, if we become undefeated national champion, our record would be 33-0. The 34 predictions were strongly biased toward success: 18 of the 34 entries were at 29 wins or above. Sam Douglas and Bob Bode (of course!) were highest at 31 while Pandy Goodbody and Paul Burke were lowest at 20 victories.

I was getting pretty excited, wishing I had a higher win total (I’ve never won this pool), until the win over Springfield (which brought our record to 9-0) gave me pause. Springfield had a high pre-season ranking but is now 2 and 6, they are essentially a two-man team. Williams played well in the first half in building a 16 point lead but poorly in the second as The Pride came back to tie the game. The Ephs were fortunate to hang on to win by four.

It’s hard to size up the NESCAC when studying the pre-Christmas games. Hamilton and Williams are the only unbeatens, Amherst is 7-1, losing only to Babson – no shame there—and looked pretty good beating Springfield. The Jeffs (oops, Mammoths) bigs played better than I remembered from last year. Many of you have Williams beating Amherst two or more times; we’ll see. Colby looks good; Bates bad. Midd has two losses, Bowdoin, Trinity and Wesleyan three (including one to Williams), and Tufts five.

Encouraging: Last year, in fact in the last few years, the Ephs seemed a bit soft. This year we’ve toughened up some. Offensive rebounding is one area: last season we were the third worst of over 400 D3 teams, some games recording only 2 or 3. This year has seen better O/R numbers vs. both weak and stronger opposition. App’s squads have relied heavily on the 3-ball, often firing up 30 or more. That’s great when they’re going in. This season less emphasis on the trey. Against Springfield and Union we took 18; against Wesleyan and Manhattanville just 17 so we’re scoring inside more often. I like that.

Less encouraging: Karpowicz starts (good) but still doesn’t get enough minutes. Still too many minutes for non-scorers. The substitution pattern is head-scratching.

But the pros clearly outweigh the cons. Scadlock is the main reason we’re improved this year, but not the only reason. Feinberg is a big plus in the defense/rebounding/toughness department while Taylor and Babek have had good games. Less 3s and more paint points may signify a change in coaching philosophy but maybe there have been too few games to reach that conclusion.

So are we an offensive powerhouse that’s also more balanced than in the last few seasons – are we a Final Four contender? Was the unimpressive win at Springfield an aberration? We won’t know until the games resume; Montclair State on December 30 could be a problem (why is a school with 13,000+ undergraduates in D3 anyway?) but league games will give the answer.

Duncan Robinson update: It’s been awhile since Duncan played his one season here but locals understandingly are interested in his whereabouts. He signed a joint contract with the Miami Heat of the NBA and their G-league affiliate, the Sioux Falls, SD, Skyforce. I look at every Heat box score and see one of three things: 1) Duncan played and it shows his scoring line; 2) His name is listed with “DNP–Coach’s Decision”; 3) His name isn’t there so he must be in, of all places, South Dakota.

He’s played in 4 games for Miami for a total of 29 minutes. Attempted six shots (all 3s), made 2. Five rebounds, 1 steal. The Skyforce numbers are impressive. Ten games, all starts. The second leading scorer at 20.2 per game. Shooting 50% and 48% from deep. 3.2 rbs/ga. He’s had games of 32, 29 and 24 points. Lots of 3s but also fast break dunks. Some impressive highlight videos. His Skyforce plays in Portland in a few days (Friday, December 21) against the Red Claws. Drive up and see him, assuming he’s not in Miami that day.

Duncan is the first D3 player in the NBA since Devean George’s debut in 1999. Can he stick in the NBA? It’s certainly possible; there are perhaps a dozen guys in the league who do little except shoot the 3. He has good size. The 48% 3-pt. shooting, albeit in the G-league, will draw Miami’s attention.

Next Eph home games are January 4 and 5 when NESCAC play begins.

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Christmas Thanks

From Twitter:

xmas

Merry Christmas one and all!

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An Eph Christmas Poem

American poet and journalist Eugene Field was a non-graduating Eph of the class of 1872. According to Leverett Wilson Spring’s A History of Williams College, President Hopkins is said to have ordered his withdrawal from the College because “he gave little attention to his proper duties” and “much disturbed the orderly life of Williamstown.”

According to Slason Thompson’s 1901 biography of Field, he frequently — but erroneously — referred to Christmas Treasures as his first poem:

I count my treasures o’er with care, —
The little toy my darling knew,
A little sock of faded hue,
A little lock of golden hair.

Long years ago this holy time,
My little one — my all to me —
Sat robed in white upon my knee,
And heard the merry Christmas chime.

Tell me, my little golden-head,
If Santa Claus should come to-night,
What shall he bring my baby bright, —
What treasure for my boy?
I said.

And then he named this little toy,
While in his round and mournful eyes
There came a look of sweet surprise,
That spake his quiet, trustful joy.

And as he lisped his evening prayer
He asked the boon with childish grace;
Then, toddling to the chimney-place,
He hung this little stocking there.

That night, while lengthening shadows crept.
I saw the white-winged angels come
With singing to our lowly home
And kiss my darling as he slept.

They must have heard his little prayer,
For in the morn, with rapturous face,
He toddled to the chimney-place,
And found this little treasure there.

They came again one Christmas-tide, —
That angel host, so fair and white;
And, singing all that glorious night,
They lured my darling from my side.

A little sock, a little toy,
A little lock of golden hair,
The Christmas music on the air,
A watching for my baby boy!

But if again that angel train
And golden-head come back for me,
To bear me to Eternity,
My watching will not be in vain.

Merry Christmas to all, and Happy Holidays!

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The Ghost of EphBlog Present

Last week, I told the tale of the Ghost of EphBlog Past. Read that stave or continue no further. Today: A visit from the Ghost of EphBlog Present.

Touch my robe and away we go!

For anyone who remembers our humble beginning, the EphBlog of today is an amazing place. There were 187 posts in January 2010 by at least 18 different authors: Norman Birnbaum ’46, Dick Swart ’56, Jeff Thaler ’74, David Kane ’88, Derek Charles Catsam ’93, Ken Thomas ’93, Wendy Shalit ’97, Jeff Zeeman ’97, JG ’03, Rory ’03, Lowell Jacobson ’03, Ben Fleming ’04, Diana Davis ’07, Ronit Bhattacharyya ’07, Andrew Goldston ’09, Torrey Taussig ’10, tinydancer ’11 and PTC.

Also note these contributions from Williams officials: Wayne G. Hammond, librarian at the Chapin Library of Rare Books, an anonymous faculty member, Professor Gabriela Vainsenche, Tyng Administrator Jeff Thaler ’74 and Professor Peter Just. Note that all of these were just in January! If we looked at 2009 as a whole, we would find contributions from a dozen or more current Williams faculty/staff. We have even been retweeted by a trustee!

Several of our authors posted only once or twice during the month, but the diversity of contributions — including spectrum-spanning politics and a 65 year range of graduating classes — make EphBlog the most successful independent (alumni/student/parent) college website in the world. There were 2,388 comments during the month, from dozens of readers. None of the similar student/alumni blogs at Dartmouth, Middlebury, Amherst or Wesleyan come anywhere near this level of participation. Although readership is hard to measure, we had over 1,000 visitors a day in January, with at least 200 from the Williamstown area. Although the vast majority of students/faculty do not read EphBlog, many of those most concerned with the past, present and future of Williams as an institution do. I write for them, and for my father.

Alas, EphBlog is not without its critics. Consider this Williams professor:

But let’s look back over the last few weeks (or the last few years for that matter) and think about what DDF has been saying about Williams and the Williams faculty. We’re racists. We’re intolerant. We’re sleazy (indeed, any of you who know Bill Wagner will understand just how bizarre it is to use that adjective in connection to him). This list goes on and on and on, with depressing and debilitating regularity and continuity.

There is an ineluctable fact to all internet commentary: No matter how many wonderful things you write about a person, no matter how many things you both agree on, no matter how polite and open-minded you are in discussion, if you challenge someone’s deepest beliefs, they will often despise you.

And this is all the more true if you do so from the “inside.” I disagree with many professors and administrators about what is best for Williams. And that should be OK! Discussion and debate are at the heart of a Williams education. But because I do so with credentials of an elite education (Harvard Ph.D.) and Williams College insider (Winter Study adjunct instructor, knowledgeable alumni volunteer), I am a danger. And so is EphBlog.

And this is not just about one Williams professor, nor is it just about debates over financial aid policy. He is not an outlier. His opinion is common, even majority, among our faculty and administrator readership. They do not like EphBlog when it criticizes the College or its faculty. They do not like me. When they read a description of the College’s affirmative action policy or complaints about the lack of ideological diversity among the faculty, they see an unfair attack. I am accused of calling the Williams faculty “racists” or “intolerant,” when my only sin is to have a different view of policy at Williams from him and most of his faculty colleagues.

Yet the conflict between reform and stability, between outsider and insider, is as old as Williams itself. Henry Bass ’57 tells a story about Professor Robert Gaudino:

Knowing how radical Gaudino was, I knew early in the fall of ’55 there was only an amount of time, before there would be a public confrontation between Gaudino and President Baxter. Lively discussions of campus issues then took place in the new Baxter Hall. We did not have long to wait. I don’t remember what the argument was about. I do remember that it was quite heated and that Phinney soon showed signs of losing his temper. And acrimonious debates with the president of Williams did not happen in those days.

Nor today. What is most interesting about the complaint about me is how it conflates two criticisms of Williams: 1) Wagner is sleazy and 2) Wagner did a sleazy thing. We all agree that Bill Wagner is a good man and excellent professor. Indeed, he has been answering my questions (for publication on EphBlog) for many years. But even the very best Ephs among us occasionally do sleazy things. I am not without sin. Are you?

And, if EphBlog is not that place at which Williams students, alumni, parents, faculty and staff might come together to discuss College policy, then where is that place?

Gaudino is one of my two Williams heroes because he was not afraid to get in a public fight with the president of Williams. Nor am I.

What is especially annoying about these complaints is that they try to delegitimize the many voices of criticism at EphBlog by calling it “KaneBlog.” Ronit replies:

I think it’s nice that Will and Sam use the term Kaneblog to refer to this site, when Kane does not own the site, does not own the domain, does not own the server, does not run the site, does not have any kind of final editorial authority, and is not on the board. That is really fucking respectful to all the dozens of other commenters and authors who participate here and who have contributed to the site over the years. I’m glad the opinions of people like Henry Bass and Aidan Finley can be dismissed simply because they’re posted on EphBlog (I’m sorry, “KaneBlog”) and they happen to disagree with the latest sacred (purple?) cows.

Indeed. Yet note that the discussion that we have fostered at EphBlog for almost eight years includes more than just College policy. We also seek to engage in broader discussions, about both student life and alumni lives. Rory notes (correctly) that this makes me and other EphBlog authors unusual:

i still find it weird that an alum from the 80s reads wso posts. … I doubt any of the many professors I interact with at Williams and at my current institution read forums like wso. they certainly don’t copy and paste from them.

The difference between Rory’s friends on the Williams faculty and me — and the many other EphBlog authors, alumni and students both, who quote from WSO — is that we care about the opinions of Williams undergraduates. They, judging from Rory’s testimony, do not or, at least, they only care about those opinions when they are paid to, in the context of either classroom discussion or papers assigned for a Williams course.

And that is OK! My point here is not to criticize or praise the choices made by individual Williams faculty members. I just want to make clear that I seek to intellectually engage with Williams undergraduates. The first step in doing so is to consider their arguments and observations, to read their prose, to comment on their ideas, to present them with my own positions. The electronic log has room for all of us.

Jeff writes:

But I think students are perfectly capable of finding their own ways when it comes to their day-to-day lives in college. Indeed, I find it ironic that you find it so troubling (and I agree) when the administration tries to entangle itself too intimately in arenas best reserved for students to find their own way (and even occasionally screw up, as 19 year olds are prone to doing), yet you seem perfectly willing to insert yourself in much the same fashion.

Indeed. Key here is the meaning of “insert.” Consider the second of my Williams heroes, David Dudley Field, class of 1825, and, in the words of Williams professor Fred Rudolph ’39, a “instrument of interference” in the affairs of the College.

Field is the patron saint of alumni trouble-makers, an Eph who believed that “The only men who make any lasting impression on the world are fighters.” As a student, he was thrown out of Williams over a dispute with the faculty. As an alum, he led the way, both in fund-raising for Williams and in inserting himself into college affairs. (See this overview on the Field family (pdf) by Russ Carpenter ’54.) Field argued passionately that Williams should require military drills of all students during the Civil War, admit women and abolish fraternities. He won some of those battles, lost others and was vindicated by history on the most important questions. He inserted himself in the debate over the future of Williams 150 years ago just as I, and other EphBlog authors, do today.

Although Gaudino and Dudley are no longer with us, I feel certain that they are looking down on EphBlog and smiling. We are an agent of interference, engaged in public confrontation and acrimonious debates about what is best for Williams.

Would a Williams professor in the tradition of Gaudino and Dudley have it any other way?

Originally published in 2010.

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Holiday Greetings

From a few years ago, but still much better than leaving a non-Eph family on the top of the page.

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A Chance to Step Away

Staff/Faculty e-mail from President Mandel:

Dear Williams staff and faculty colleagues,

I am writing to wish you a very happy, healthy, and peaceful holiday season, as well as to thank you for welcoming me and my family to the Williams community. This is a special campus, and I am grateful for all you do to help make it so.

One of the distinctive features of Williams’ winter break tradition is that it gives staff a chance to step away and enjoy time off. So I would like to extend an extra special thank you to our colleagues who will continue to work through the break to keep campus running smoothly.

Many warm wishes for all things good in 2019!

With gratitude,

Maud

I should not be too churlish during the Christmas holiday season, but I believe that the “chance to step away” refers to the College giving staff an extra week of vacation — in addition to the regular paid vacation that they would get if they worked for a “normal” employer — during the winter break. A nice perk!

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Questbridge

Via Instagram:

williamscollege: Did you know QuestBridge students made up 15% of the Class of 2022? #aimhigh #williams2022

The use of Questbridge is the most important change in Williams admissions in the last decade. I suspect that it now accounts for the vast majority of both low-income and first-gen students in each Williams class.

But how well do Questbridge students do at Williams, compared to the students we used to admit before Questbridge existed? The fact that the College doesn’t like to talk about this comparison speaks volumes . . .

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Irreconcilably Conflicts

From CNN:

In an order laced with language accusing President Donald Trump of attempting to rewrite immigration laws, a federal judge based in San Francisco temporarily blocked the government late Monday night from denying asylum to those crossing over the southern border between ports of entry.

Judge Jon S. Tigar of the US District Court for the Northern District of California said that a policy announced November 9 barring asylum for immigrants who enter outside a legal check point ‘”irreconcilably conflicts” with immigration law and the “expressed intent of Congress.”
“Whatever the scope of the President’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” Tigar wrote, adding that asylum seekers would be put at “increased risk of violence and other harms at the border” if the administration’s rule is allowed to go into effect.

Tigar is class of 1984.

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Alumnix

How long before the problematic terms alumnus and alumna are replaced with the politically correct alumnix? And am I really the first person to predict (create?) the word alumnix? Background:

1) Alumni is a plural term which refers to all the people who have graduated (or, in many usages, attended) Williams. No one (yet!) objects to it. The origin is Latin and, in general, the plural in Latin ends words with an “i.” The problem with the term is that, strictly speaking, it should not be used to refer to a group of female-only alums. The correct usage would be alumnae, which the College does make use of, albeit less and less as the years go by.

2) The singular is alumnus (male) and alumna (female). These are occasionally problematic in that those without a decent Prep School education will mistakenly use the former to refer to a female Eph. The College tries, somewhat, to avoid that faux pas.

3) The College’s official style guide recommends:

alumni
Use graduate (gender neutral), alumnus (male), alumna (female), alumni (all male or both sexes) and alumnae (all female).

4) The problem today is that the entire concept of well-defined male/female is suspect. Consider the debate over the use of Latino (for male) and Latina (for female).

This year, Fusion and MiTú each posted videos earnestly explaining to their millennial viewers why “Latinx” is the new term everyone should use to refer to people of Latin American descent.

The argument is that “Latinx” is a less determinist, more inclusive form of the words it replaces — “Latino” for males and “Latina” for females. These gendered identifiers, the thinking goes, impose a binary, give preference to the male over the female, and leave out those who don’t consider themselves either.

Williams has not (yet?) come around to that way of thinking.

Latina/o Studies at Williams College is a dynamic, interdisciplinary program that offers a five course concentration and the opportunity for students to complete a senior honors thesis. Students from all backgrounds are welcome and encouraged to take courses and pursue a concentration in Latina/o Studies.

But — Thank goodness! — there is movement in the right direction: “Visit Sawyer Library to view a display in celebration of Latinx Heritage Month.”

How long before Williams replaces Alumnus/Alumna with Alumnix?

5) According to Wikipedia:

An alumnus (/əˈlʌmnəs/ (masculine), an alumna (/əˈlʌmnə/ (feminine), or an alumnum (/əˈlʌmnəm/ (gender-neutral) of a college, university, or other school is a former student who has either attended or graduated in some fashion from the institution. The word is Latin and simply means student. The plural is alumni (/əˈlʌmnaɪ/) for men and mixed groups and alumnae (/əˈlʌmniː/) for women. The term is not synonymous with “graduate”; one can be an alumnus without graduating. (Burt Reynolds, alumnus but not graduate of Florida State, is an example.) An alumnus can also be and is more recently expanded to include a former employee of an organization[1] and it may also apply to a former member, contributor, or inmate.

So, perhaps alumnum is the better answer? I don’t remember my high school Latin well enough to comment.

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Paul on Free Speech

Professor Darel Paul tweets about the Ricochet article from two weeks ago.

No offence to Lukianoff et al., but trying to convince opponents of speech that free speech protects the rights of the minority is a loser of an argument for at least 2 reasons.

First, the opponents of the Chicago statement at Williams are not the “minority”. They are the majority, at least of those holding power (student government, student newspaper, etc.). And it makes sense that the majority might like to ban speech.

Moreover, this majority has no fear that it may one day become a minority on campus (a very reasonable belief) and thus one day require the protections of something like the Chicago statement.

Second, in a therapeutic culture like the one which characterizes elite college campuses in America today, freedom is a secondary value. Safety is a primary value, one which is potentially threatened by speech.

I don’t know how to get opponents of freedom to value it, but going about assuming that they actually do so in a way they don’t yet realize is an obvious mistake.

Right on all counts.

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BSU Town Hall, 5

“BSU holds town hall exploring affinity housing” is an excellent Record article by Kristen Bayrakdarian ’19. Let’s discuss! Day 5.

Students also questioned the potential effects of the absence of affinity housing and POC spaces on application and enrollment rates of students of particular identities. Liz Creighton, dean of admission and financial aid, provided data to that end.

Reading that sentence, I immediately suspected that Creighton ’01 was pulling a fast one on Bayrakdarian ’19. Creighton — perhaps as an inevitable requirement for her chosen career path — has no interest in (or ability to?) provide detailed data about admissions and enrollment. Recall some of her absurd claims during the Best College controversy of last fall. The article continues:

“Forty-five percent of students admitted to Williams end up enrolling,” she explained. “You’re right that we yield athletes at a higher rate, [meaning] they enroll at a higher rate than non-athletes, [but] beyond that, across the range of other identities on campus, the yield is actually quite similar.”

The word “quite” is doing a lot of work in that quote.

1) Did Creighton provide the actual numbers? The Record should follow up! The more that we know about the admissions process, the better.

2) Consider my (sophisticated?) analysis of the public data for the class of 2021. Key table:

admi2

I think that Williams yields white students around 4 times the rate at which it yields black students. Is Creighton a liar or a fool for claiming that the rates are “quite similar?”

Neither! She just knows that students are uninformed, that the Record is unsophisticated and that no one is going to call her on this nonsense.

Students brought up that forming communities in college is considered by many high school students when deciding which school to attend.

Exactly right. But this is why Creighton feels that she has to (?) mislead students. I would not be surprised if black high schools students find affinity housing attractive and that a Williams with such housing would yield more black students. But Creighton does not want the discussion to go down that path so she doesn’t tell black students the truth about yield rates.

One student pointed out that heterosexual white men are actually a minority on this campus. The student explained that when one takes race, economic class and sexual and gender identities into account, minority groups make up a large percentage of the student body. Official College statistics on class data state that around 40 percent of the school identifies as POC. However, this statistic does not take into account other minority groups such as first-generation, low-income or LGBTQ+ students.

Indeed. That student ought to write for EphBlog! Sure seems like your views are marginalized at Williams today . . .

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