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Factrak Comments for Professors Love and Green

Below the break are all the current Factrak comments for Professors Love and Green. They seem quite good, especially for Love. But perhaps I don’t have a sense of the average student comment . . .

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Legacy Admissions Play No Meaningful Role at Elite Colleges

legacy

tl;dr: Legacy status does not provide a meaningful advantage in admissions to elite colleges like Williams. People like Sam Altman and Arjun Narayan ’10 are wrong, either because of genuine ignorance or because of a (unconscious?) refusal to confront the major beneficiaries of admissions preferences: athletes and (non-Asian) racial minorities. (If Sam has complained about extra considerations that Stanford gives football players and African-Americans, I must have missed it.)

Hasn’t Arjun Narayan ’10 ever read EphBlog? We have been documenting these facts for over a decade. From 2008:

Morty [then Williams President Morton Schapiro] noted that a decade or so ago [or perhaps when he arrived?], the average legacy was a 3.3 on the 1-9 scale of academic ranks while the average non-legacy was 2.3. Morty did not seem to be a huge fan of this gap, or of giving legacies such a preference. He then noted that the latest statistics show that legacy and non-legacy are now equivalent (both at 2.3). Morty confirmed, consistent with all the analysis I have done, that being a legacy is not a meaningful advantage in getting into Williams.

Director of Communications Mary Dettloff kindly provided this update for 2017:

I had a conversation with Dick Nesbitt about this, and he says it has long been our policy not to release academic standing information for specific subgroups of students. That said, he also shared that for at least the last 20 years, the legacy students have had equal, if not marginally stronger, SAT scores and Academic Rating when compared to the rest of their classmates.

Case closed.[1]

More importantly, should we be surprised that students whose parents went to elite colleges are much more likely to win admissions to elite colleges themselves? No! Nature and nurture are passed down through the generations now, just as they always have been.

Consider professional baseball. From the New York Times:

baseball

A random US man has a 1-in-15,000 chance of playing in the MLB. The son of an MLB player has a 1-in-75 chance. In other words, your odds of playing in the MLB are 200 times higher of your father played. Given that fact, should we be surprised if your odds of coming to Williams are 200 times higher if your parent is an Eph?

The mechanisms in both cases are the same. Genetics play a major role. The specific genes — probably thousands of them — that help you to hit a curve ball are passed from father to son. The genes that aid in doing well in school and on standardized tests are passed on just as easily. Nurture matters. Baseball players probably provide their sons with a better than average environment in which to learn baseball. Ephs who become parents do the same. You should no more be surprised at the high numbers of legacies at elite colleges than at the high numbers of baseball children in the Majors.[2]

However, it is interesting to consider how legacy admissions have evolved in the last 30 years. In the 1980’s, it was tough for Williams to find 75 high quality legacies in drawing from Williams classes of the 1950s. First, the college was much smaller than, with fewer than half the current student population. Second, Williams was much less academically rigorous. (That is, there were plenty of not-very-smart students.)

In the 80’s, there were 500 academically accomplished students per class. Judging/guessing from what we see at reunions, the total number of children of a typical class is at least 500 and probably closer to 1,000. But only 75 or so find spots at Williams! Do the other 425 go to Stanford? Nope. And the same harsh mathematics apply to the children of other elite schools. Since smart people have smart children, the pool of legacies that the College has to choose from is very impressive. Williams does not need to lower standards at all to find 75 good ones.[3]

—————-
[1] To be fair to Altman/Narayan, there are some subtle counter-arguments. First, if it is the case that legacies, as a group, differ from non-legacies on other dimensions besides academic rating, then it might not be fair to compare the two groups directly. Instead, we should compare legacies with non-legacies who “look” like legacies. For example, if legacies are more likely to be white and non-poor, then comparing them with non-legacies is makes no sense. Instead, we should compare them with similarly white/non-poor non-legacies.

EphBlog reader KSM writes:

What they don’t tell you is that whites and Asians lacking the legacy hook need to be a lot better than “equal, if not marginally stronger” than the school average. Without a legacy, a student applying to a selective LAC should aim for the 75th percentile, which I take to be approximately the bottom end of AR 1. In terms of the old SAT, this would be 770 on the Math (vs 708 Williams average) and 780 on Critical Reading (vs 720 averages). These 75th percentile scores are each about a half-standard deviation higher than the average scores. So, a half-standard deviation in academic ability is what legacy status buys you at Williams.

Hmm. This is not obviously implausible. I should spend more time on this topic and reader pointers are welcome.

But, first, just how “white” are legacies. Williams was just as Black 30 years ago as it is today and Black Ephs have children too. I would assume (contrary evidence welcome) that the white/black ratio in legacy admissions is similar to the white/black ratio in the general student body. Why wouldn’t it be? (The same argument does not apply, obviously, to Hispanic/Asian admissions.) Second, plenty of legacies are also athletes, at least some of whom are recruited. Indeed, so many Williams sports are really rich-northeastern-elite pastimes that it would hardly be surprising if legacies were over-represented in sports like crew and squash.

So, I agree with KSM that comparing legacies to the overall pool is not perfectly fair but nor it is fair to compare them only to non-athlete white/Asian applicants.

The second subtle counter-argument: it could be the case that legacies come in two flavors: over-qualified and under-qualified. The over-qualified ones are exceptional candidates who turn down Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford for Williams. The under-qualified ones receive substantial preferences in admissions. Combining the two groups creates an overall legacy group which is similar to non-legacies but which “masks” the substantial advantages given to under-qualified legacies.

[2] Of course, legacy students are much more likely to attend their parents’ alma mater than legacy baseball players are to play for the same team as their fathers. Exercise for the reader: Explore the industrial organization of elite colleges and major league baseball to explain this difference. Perhaps a better view is to consider all the legacy students as a whole, in the same way that the New York Times considers all the legacy baseball players. But this post is already long enough . . .

[3] sigh, an EphBlog regular, pointed out this study (pdf) on “The impact of legacy status on undergraduate admissions at elite colleges and universities.” The author (an Eph!) argues that legacy status matters a great (or at least did matter in the fall of 2007). I have now read (and taught!) this reasonable article, although I remain unconvinced, for reasons which will need to await for next year’s version of this post.

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Mens Basketball Review

From EphBlog favorite David Fehr:

So what happened…

…to our 30-win, NESCAC champion, NCAA Final Four team this year? Some people think that Bobby Casey, good as he is, is a shooting guard playing out of position at point. Ephs were a finesse team depending on shooting which, unfortunately, wasn’t always there. I keep remembering Dave Wilson’s decade-old observation “We’re too nice.” The pre-season hype was easy to understand. In 2017-18 we won the NESCAC championship without Kyle Scadlock who was our best all-around player when he went down for the season with a torn ACL. With Kyle back this year, joining a talented group of offensive players, add Feinberg, who I thought would bring needed grit to the starting lineup (which I think he did) and the sky seemed to be the limit. We opened 15-0 and were ranked second in the nation, fans were euphoric (though there were warning signs even then) but from that point through our loss in the NESCAC SF, Williams was just not all that good. Something was missing.

Amherst vs. Williams

The last 21 times these teams have met Williams has won 4. The last 38 times Williams has won 10. Complete embarrassing domination. I think the reasons include a different philosophy between the two schools regarding athletic admissions (different philosophy between Williams and the rest of NESCAC, in fact) but there are other factors here that are unlikely to change. In Amherst I, over there, we played magnificent interior defense, blocked what for Ephs was an unprecedented 10 shots, but Amherst went 11-23 from deep (many uncontested) and we missed a buzzer-beater which would have won it. We led by 11 with 11 to play. Amherst II, in Chandler during the “lost weekend” that ended the regular season, we were outrebounded by 11 and missed a ton of layups and other short “paint” shots (points in the paint: Amherst 42, Williams 32). We lost by 5. Amherst III, played at Hamilton in the NESCAC SF, Amherst again won by 5 “The three games could’ve gone either way!” Yeah, but they didn’t. Here Amherst won it at the foul line, going 22-23 (96%) to our 16-24 (67%). Mammoths won this with no contribution from their best big, Sellew, who played only 6 minutes and was scoreless. As a Williams fan with no official connection to the College, this one-sidedness upsets me; were I an alum (especially an alum who liked sports and was also a big donor) I’d probably try to do something about it.

Depth

The mantra this year was that Williams was a deep team. We weren’t. In fact, when Marc Taylor, our best bench player, went down for the season with a torn ACL, we became downright shallow. A team isn’t “deep” by playing 8 or 10 guys; it’s deep only if the guys off the bench contribute with points, rebounds, defense. That happened on occasion (it really happened against Whitman where our bench played 66 minutes and scored 26 with 17 rebounds but that was the exception) but more typical was Trinity II (52 minutes, 1 point, 6 rebounds); Amherst II (43 minutes, 2 points, 6 rebounds) while Mammoths bench scored 30; and the stinker with Middlebury (bench 58 minutes, 3 points). “But the subs play great defense.” No they don’t; watch them next time. Depth may be overrated; the games are short with many stoppages and these are 19 to 22 year olds. Two years ago Babson won a national championship with a six-man rotation, three of whom never came out of the game. Two of Christopher Newport’s best players went 36 and 39 minutes against Hamilton and 24 hours later played 38 and 37 against us.

Wrap-up

I’d like to keep going but this is too long already. Strength of schedule interests me – Williams had just one signature win this year, vs. Whitman in the Sweet 16. Of our other opponents, only Amherst, Middlebury and Hamilton were ranked in the d3hoops.com Top 25 (really the top 44 when you include “other teams receiving votes”) and we couldn’t beat any of them. I’d love to talk about how screwed up the NESCAC has both basketball programs, and how they could be fixed. I’d like to explore our great success in individual sports and lesser success in team sports (Jim Worrall can’t understand the difference between team and individual sports, but the rest of you can). Ditto women’s sports compared to men’s.

Looks like a total rebuild next year. It will be interesting to see how it goes.

A total rebuild is what EphBlog is heading for as well . . .

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Latest Art

Hung Tuesday on a pillar on the east side of Schapiro Hall facing south.

Who is pictured? Assata Shakur? Angela Davis? The slogan seems to be original.

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I Now Delete Comments

This comment has pushed me over the edge.

The investigation gives us clues on how constipated Johnny Drew has been. My suggestions?

1) Dulcolax
2) Miralax

After 16+ years with no (meaningful) comment moderation — other than preventing doxing — I will now be using a different approach, deleting whatever comments I don’t like for whatever reasons I determine, all in an effort of better facilitate conversations among Ephs of goodwill.

Don’t like it? Go elsewhere.

Authors of individual posts have always retained the right to delete comments from their own threads. That will continue. But I will become much more aggressive in deleting garbage any place I find it.

Feel free to point out such garbage if you like, but I will not be refereeing pointless disputes or getting into endless battles about exactly what should or should not be deleted. Indeed, I am highly likely to delete silly arguments along those lines.

Thanks (?) to “Nation” for awakening me from my dogmatic slumber.

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College Admission Bribery Scandal

From the Wall Street Journal: Federal Prosecutors Charge Dozens in College Admissions Cheating Scheme

From the New York Times: College Admissions Scandal: Actresses, Business Leaders and Other Wealthy Parents Charged

1) This is the biggest college admissions scandal of the last 20 years. Crazy stuff!

2) Alas (???), there is not (yet?) a Williams connection, unless someone can identify an Eph in this list of the (so far!) indicted.

3) I could spend a week or two parsing these articles and connecting them to various EphBlog themes. Worth it?

Full articles below the break:
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Show Them The Money

My co-bloggers here at EphBlog, along with other Ephs of goodwill, often take issue with my complaints about the College’s gifts to charity. As many times as I ask, I have trouble finding anyone who will specify where $250,000 should be cut from the College budget to fund worthwhile programs at Mt. Greylock High School.

But perhaps I should turn the question around. Assume that the College has decided to spend an additional $250,000 this year (or even every year) on attracting and retaining the best college teachers in the country. How would I spend this money, if not on gifts to the local schools and hospital along with realestate development?

Call me crazy, but I would . . . Give the money to the very best teachers at Williams!

Show them the money. Would that really be so hard? Establish “Ephraim Williams Awards for Teaching Excellence.” Five would be given out every year, each consisting of a cash prize of $50,000. Winners would be selected by a committee dominated by students. The only restriction might be that the same person can’t win two years in a row. Nothing would prevent truly exceptional teachers from being recognized several times each decade.

Of course, there is a lot that could be done with these awards. Perhaps one of the awards should be reserved for excellence in advising senior theses and/or individual projects — thus ensuring that not just the best lecturers win. Perhaps 2 of the five awards could be determined by former students — ideally committees centered around events like the 10th and 25th year reunions. This would nicely bias things toward professors who make a career at Williams, thereby giving folks like Gary Jacobsohn and Tim Cook a(nother) reason to stay.

If you want great teachers to come to and stay at Williams, then giving them special prizes is almost certainly the most cost effective way of doing so.

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Disintegrating, 3

A Senior Williams Professor and I will be debating the following resolution: Resolved: Williams is disintegrating. Each Monday, one of us will make an argument. One week later, the other will respond. We will debate until we grow bored with the exercise. Readers are welcome to chime in at any time. Senior Professors makes his second argument this week:

President Mandel’s embrace of “diversity and inclusiveness” as her agenda for her presidency is, quite simply, sophomoric. And her ‘agenda’ is a tired repetition of the mantra of our past several presidents, beginning with Frank Oakley, our last intelligent dean of faculty, who in 1978 proposed a fantastic Great Books program, but who then abandoned that idea as he saw that he might become President, which indeed happened. Beginning with the College’s bicentennial, we’ve heard constant paeans to the supposed goals of diversity and inclusiveness. And what the College has wrought are dreadful programs in Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies, African-American Studies, and Anti-American Studies, along with an assortment of other supposed ‘majors,’ all of which pander to the interests of various identity groups. I have little hope for the College’s future. I think that only when and if the College re-commits itself to intellectual excellence, first and foremost, shall it survive.

What do readers think? I will respond after Spring Break.

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Mens Basketball Update

UPDATE: Williams loses.

UPDATE: Williams down by 5 with 14 minutes left.

Dave Fehr provides this analysis on mens basketball after their NCAA tournament 3rd round win last night.

The Ephs seem to have shaken their slump. After opening 15-0, they were mediocre thru the end of the regular season, including horrible losses to Bowdoin and Middlebury. After a lost weekend to end the regular season (home losses to Amherst and Hamilton), we got much better; played well in the NESCAC QF win over Trinity, lost to Amherst (of course) at Hamilton in the NESCAC SF, then hosted the first two NCAA games and destroyed two tiny teams by 26 and 34 points.

On to the Sweet 16 at Hamilton vs 1-loss, nationally second ranked Whitman. I was pretty confident going into this one (rare for me) because (1) Whitman plays a weak schedule, (2) I was unimpressed with them at the Final Four two years ago when they blew a 25-point lead and lost to Babson, but especially (3) because they were REALLY tiny: Williams starters had a 4-1/2 inch height advantage at every position. We knew Whitman pressed and stole the ball and ran like hell but I can’t remember a Williams team (or any team, for that matter) turning the ball over 29 times and still winning! Although our size did result in a slight rebounding advantage, where it really helped was in shooting: Whitman was just too small to contest our shots. The Ephs shot an astounding 67.4% from the field (75% in second half), 63.6% from the arc (71% 1st half) and went 19-24 from the line where we’ve struggled in recent weeks. Shoot like that and you can overcome 29 turnovers – though I don’t recommend it as an ongoing strategy. We built a 14 point lead with 11 minutes to play, almost lost it to their press, but hung on to win 84-81. Of note: Our bench, pretty quiet lately, played 66 minutes, scored 26 points and got 18 rebounds. VERY impressive.

How to beat Christopher Newport tonight? They are not tiny like our first three NCAA opponents, but we will still have a size advantage. Their starters go 5-10, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4, 6-7; ours 6-3, 6-5, 6-7, 6-8, 6-8. Their first three off the bench: 6-0, 6-3, 6-4; ours 6-5, 6-8 and 6-10. However, the Captains are an excellent rebounding team despite the fact they’re not huge. They outrebounded Hamilton by a whopping 19 and one kid, #31 Ellis, had 17 boards. Ephs are not a great rebounding team so we’ll have to fight to hold our own. CNU is not deep; 7-man rotation and last night their starters played 39, 39, 36, 35 and 28. So fatigue in the second game of a back-to-back? We’ll see. They have three stars: #3 Carter (16.5 & 7.1), Ellis (10.4 & 6.5) and #20 Aigner (15.6 & 4.2).

Can we beat them ? Yes. While it’s unrealistic to expect Ephs to shoot 67 and 64 percent again tonight, it’s also unrealistic to expect us to turn it over 29 times! We should not fall in love with the three: last night we took only 11 so did the majority of our scoring inside (42 points in the paint). That could continue tonight with our size advantage. It will help that the game’s on a neutral court, albeit a court we played on last night and also two weeks ago.

Our cold spell is over; four of our last five games we’ve been very hot. The Final Four would not surprise me (that’s not a prediction; I won’t predict wins, I said we COULD beat them). On a personal note: Williams has been to eight Final Fours and I’ve been to seven of them . The one I missed? 2003 when we won it all! Williams should do all it can to keep me away from Ft. Wayne next weekend.

With a win tonight, the Ephs would be headed to the Final Four next weekend in Indiana.

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Apply for the Coordinating Committee’s Working Groups!

An all-campus e-mail for students:

Greetings everyone,

As the student representatives on the Coordinating Committee, we invite you to participate in planning the future of Williams College! As you probably know, Maud commissioned a Strategic Planning Coordinating Committee, a body of individuals charged with creating a 10-year plan for the future of Williams. Students are an integral part of what makes Williams what it is, and engaging in a working group will provide you with an opportunity to create a lasting impact on the future of the college.

What you need to know:

What is strategic planning? What are the working groups?
Click here to find out on our website! Feel free to leave comments about the process.
How many people are on the working groups?
There will be 4-6 people in the groups, each comprised of students, faculty, and staff.
What work will I be doing?
The Coordinating Committee is in the process of drafting the main charges, or lists of questions that provides guidance, for each of the working groups. You will research and consult with different departments and individuals along with helping to articulate possible programs/plans for the future of the college.
Is it worth it?
YES! Since each working group is composed of a small amount of people, students who sit on a working group will have significant input on its area of focus. Your voice will be heard! Create the change you want to see on campus.
How much work is involved?
While it may be hard to give you a concrete answer to this question, expect to commit about 2 hours per week, which will be spent brainstorming in meetings, hosting feedback forums, and conducting research.
What can this committee do for me?
Not only does this look great on your resume, but engaging in this process will also give you the opportunity to identify issues you see on campus and effectively find ways to solve them. Your voice and ideas will be cemented into the future of the college.
When do you start?
While you will be officially selected this spring–and will likely meet your working group a few times–the majority of your work will be done next fall and spring (tapering off in late March).
*** How do I apply? ***
The application is on this google form, and the rubric that will be used to make the selections is attached to this email. Grant and I will review your application, and selections will be made during this spring. If you have any questions, please REACH OUT to Essence Perry (ekp1) or Grant Swonk (gns1) by email or facebook message. Applications are due March 13 by 5pm.

Best of luck with the rest of the semester,

Essence Perry ’22 and Grant Swonk ’21

EphBlog recommends that its student readers apply!

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Students Making Posters

Consider this tweet:

Hmmm.

1) Whose idea was this? My guess would be one of the more PC of the faculty in Economics. Sarah Jacobson? Tara Watson? Not that there is anything wrong with that! The more that faculty involve themselves with students, the better.

2) What would happen if a different race were substituted for “Black?” Hispanic would be fine, I suspect. But Asian? White? The mind reels.

3) Were students paid for this? I would not have any real objection if they were. The Department has a bunch of students who work for it, they need to spend their time on something. But the presentation of the tweet sure suggests that students were so excited about this topic that they are working based on pure enthusiasm . . .

4) If they weren’t paid, how were they recruited? Not to stereotype or anything, but my guess would be that most Williams economics majors are not overly interested in Black economists . . .

5) Might the Department have recruited students — perhaps mostly African-American students — to do this for free? Sure! There are some charismatic professors in the department. But, then, are they really acting in the best interests of those students? They would be much better off doing something more academic with their time, at least if they plan on graduate school. These cut-and-paste Wikipedia jobs could have been done by Mount Greylock students . . .

6) If these are “prominent scholars,” then everyone with a Ph.D. in economics is a “prominent scholar.” Not that there is anything wrong with that!

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The Parable of the Privilege Pill

This comment from abl leads to the Parable of the Privilege Pill.

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

Imagine that Son 2, on the other hand, takes a magic Privilege Pill on the first day of 9th grade, a pill which dramatically increases his academic performance for four years. He will receive excellent grades in high school and do very well on the SAT. Williams Admissions will rate him an AR 1 and, probably, admit him if he applies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The last defense of the opponents of privilege is to focus on junior/senior year. Yes, the poor/URM AR 3s and 4s that Williams currently accepts don’t do as well as the AR 1s and 2s in their overall GPA. But that is precisely because of their lack of privilege, or so the argument goes. After a couple of years, Williams has helped them to catch up, has made up for their childhood difficulties and obstacles.

Alas, that hopeful story isn’t true either. AR 3s/4s do worse than AR 1s/2s even after two years of wonderful Williams.

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

If Williams wants better students — students who write better essays, solve more difficult math problems, complete more complex science experiments — it should admit better applicants.

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Vigilante George Zimmerman

A new display went up in Paresky yesterday.

Close ups:

1) I assume that this display has official permission from Williams, otherwise it would have already been taken down, as the big sign was last week. True? If so, how long will it be allowed to stay up for? A week? A month? Forever?

2) I don’t recall seeing other such prominent displays on Paresky. Does anyone? Will other groups be allowed to display in the same manner? I am sure that, say, Williams Catholic would love to put up pro-life posters of similar size.

3) How much are these efforts connected, if at all, to our two named controversies: Green/Love Black Joy and White Male Vigilantes? It could be that there is no connection that these posters, or ones like it, would have gone up even if Green/Love had never resigned and/or McPartland had never moved their memorial. But my sense is otherwise, that these posters are a direct response. Comments welcome!

4) What a pathetic summary of the Trayvon Martin case! If Martin was really “racially profiled and fatally shot by vigilante George Zimmerman,” then why didn’t Barak Obama’s Justice Department, run at the time by Eric Holder, charge Zimmerman? Were Obama and Holder proponents of white supremacy? I have my doubts!

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Disintegrating, 2

A Senior Williams Professor and I will be debating the following resolution: Resolved: Williams is disintegrating. Each Monday, one of us will make an argument. One week later, the other will respond. We will debate until we grow bored with the exercise. Readers are welcome to chime in at any time. Senior Professor went first. His words from last week are in quote blocks.

The College has abandoned its traditional standards for tenure for faculty.

Evidence? I have spoken with lots of Williams faculty and heard many complaints. I have never heard one claim that tenure standards are lower today than they were, at Williams, in the past. If anything, the consensus view is that tenure standards, especially for publications, are much higher now then they were in the 80s, much less the 50s.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, one in four of faculty members who stood for tenure received it. Note that a normal core of junior faculty hired consisted of 20 assistant professors. Half of these would wash out at the 3-year renewal mark, leaving 10 in the cohort who would apply for tenure in their sixth year. Only four of those who stood for tenure would receive it. This was the historical norm at Williams College.

I have heard similar numbers. Indeed, a (different!) senior professor suggested that this change was one of the two biggest in the last 30 years — the other being increased diversity among the students.

2. What is the current rate of tenure at Williams College? There is no longer a 3-year washout of faculty hired. Essentially anyone hired eventually stands for tenure six years after hire.

3. As best as one can tell, 98 percent of those faculty who stand for tenure receive it. In the few instances where faculty are denied, several are given tenure after appeals.

98% is a dramatic overestimate. The real number is much closer to 75%. See the detailed evidence provided by BN. Also note this comment:

Most top universities have tenure rates in the 70-90% range these days. Williams does not look to be at all unusual in that sense.

Correct. If a higher tenure rate is causing Williams to disintegrate, why don’t we see the same thing at Amherst and Harvard?

But none of that matters! It is possible to have lax standards and only tenure 10% (if the initial pool you hire from is week). It is possible — and is the case at Williams today — to have rigorous standards and tenure 75% if your initial pool is very strong.

But we are only going to make progress with specific examples. Consider Political Science in 2017-2018:

There are two associate professors: Justin Crowe and Ngonidzashe Munemo. Laura Ephraim just received tenure last year and is now an associate professor. Compare this listing to the halcyon days of higher standards in 1987-1988, thirty years ago:

Annoyingly, there were no associate professors that year. But Raymond Baker and Richard Krouse were associate professors just a few years earlier, while Tim Cook and Mike MacDonald would be tenured in the next few years. Let’s look at selected publications from Crowe, Ephraim, and Munemo:

Crowe:

Building the Judiciary: Law, Courts, and the Politics of Institutional Development (Princeton University Press, 2012).

“Westward Expansion, Preappointment Politics, and the Making of the Southern Slaveholding Supreme Court,” Studies in American Political Development 24:1 (April 2010): 90-120.

“Where Have You Gone, Sherman Minton? The Decline of the Short-Term Supreme Court Justice,” with Christopher F. Karpowitz, Perspectives on Politics 5:3 (September 2007): 425-445.

“The Forging of Judicial Autonomy: Political Entrepreneurship and the Reforms of William Howard Taft,” Journal of Politics 69:1 (February 2007): 73-87.
Political Science

Ephraim:

Archer, Crina & Ephraim, Laura & Maxwell, Lida. Second Nature: Rethinking the Natural through Politics. New York: Fordham University Press, 2013.

Who Speaks for Nature?: On the Politics of Science, by Laura Ephraim, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017.

Munemo

Munemo, Ngonidzashe. Domestic Politics and Drought Relief in Africa : Explaining Choices. First Forum Press, 2012.

How Will Climate Change Transform Governance and Regional Security in Southern Africa?” in Daniel Moran ed. Climate Change and National Security: A Country Level Analysis. (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2011)

“Social Protection in Post-Crisis Zimbabwe: Challenges and Priorities for Reform,” in Dr. Admos Chimhowu ed. Moving Forward in Zimbabwe – Reducing Poverty and Promoting Growth. (Manchester, U.K.: Brooks World Poverty Institute, The University of Manchester 2009)

Munemo N. (2008) Political Incumbency and Drought Relief in Africa. In: Barrientos A., Hulme D. (eds) Social Protection for the Poor and Poorest. Palgrave Studies in Development. Palgrave Macmillan, London

We can quibble about these CVs. And note that I have not listed everything. But are they any less impressive than the CVs of the junior political science professors like Baker, Krouse, MacDonald and Cook at Williams 30 years ago? No!

I am happy to dive into the details for any department that Senior Professor prefers. A careful examination will show that the publication records of those tenured at Williams today are every bit as good as those tenured in the 1980s, much less then 1950s. To the extent that anything is “disintegrating” at Williams, we don’t see it in faculty research quality.

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Great Young People and Old People

From CNN:

President Donald Trump vowed Saturday to sign an executive order requiring colleges and universities to “support free speech” in order to be eligible for federal research dollars.
“If they want our dollars, and we give it to them by the billions, they’ve got to allow people like Hayden and many other great young people and old people to speak,” Trump said in part of his two-hour long speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland.
The President did not offer any more details on the order.

1) This seems to be one of the few topics on which Trump agrees with former President Obama. And with EphBlog!

2) Will there be an executive order? I have my doubts. Recall that Trump promised an executive order about birthright citizenship. Nothing happened. Will this promise turn out differently?

3) Biggest secret fan of this proposal? Maud Mandel! Think about it. An executive order would provide Mandel with the perfect cover to do what she wants to do anyway. No muss, no fuss. Any faculty/student complaints can be met with: “The Feds made us do it!”

4) If Trump wants to succeed on this topic, he should involve Ken Marcus ’88, the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the United States Department of Education.

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That Nigga Look Just Like Me

Hung on Paresky yesterday:

Our source notes: “Money for this came from somewhere. Who is funding this stuff?” Good question! The Record should find out.

Another view:

Could someone explain the messaging? I know that the line is from “Nikes” by rapper Frank Ocean. Lyrics:

These bitches want Nikes
They looking for a check
Tell ’em it ain’t likely
Said she need a ring like Carmelo
It must be on that white like Othello
All you want is Nikes
But the real ones just like you, just like me
I don’t play, I don’t make time
But if you need dick I got you
And I yam from the line
Pour up for A$AP, R.I.P. Pimp C
RIP Trayvon, that nigga look just like me

But why that line from these lyrics at Williams in 2019? Is what happened to Professors Green and Love akin to what happened to Trayvon Martin? Does that mean that Maud Mandel is George Zimmerman?

I am honestly curious about the meaning. Any ideas?

Or is this a sign that Professor Neil Roberts is more involved in the protests than I would have expected. Background from 2012:

Neil Roberts, assistant professor of Africana studies and faculty affiliate in political science at Williams College, has guest edited a symposium in the journal Theory & Event, published in September by The Johns Hopkins University Press.

The symposium features eight essays on what Roberts calls the Trayvon Martin event. “An event,” Roberts explains, “differs from a tragedy. A tragedy entails a plot, set of actions, and conclusion, often foreclosed and backward-looking. An event is an occurrence mutually reinforced by past actions and future outlooks, conversations, and prognostications on what we must do to decipher its meaning in its wake. The shooting of 17-year-old Martin is no different.”

One of the essays was:

“Stuff White White People Know (or: What We Talk About When We Talk About Trayvon)” by Mark Reinhardt, Williams College Class of 1956 Professor of American Civilization.

“My core assumption in the paper,” says Reinhardt, “is that white supremacy continues to be a fundamental political fact in the U.S., albeit one whose form has mutated in such a way that most white people deny, and probably do not believe, that it continues.”

Is Maud Mandel one of these white people? Just asking! Or perhaps IQ-realist Nate Kornell is
involved? (Probably not.) Professor Green also has views on Trayvon Martin. And here is a cartoon from Chan Lowe ’75.

ABC reporter Matt Gutman ’00 won an award for coverage of the Martin shooting. Claudine Rankin ’86 wrote Citizen: An American Lyric, a book with some connections to the case which are difficult to summarize.

Are there other Eph connections?

Anyway, later yesterday, College employees “temporarily removed” banner and post these signs:

What advice do you have for the protestors and/or for President Mandel?

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Quixotic PC Gestures

A student writes:

[T]he biggest takeaway from this whole episode is that there is a serious risk of contagion among the faculty ranks. If Green//Love walk away from this incident without any reprimand, the College effectively endorses their thesis that the school is perpetrating anti-black violence and that violating the terms of their contract is an appropriate means of protesting it, so what’s to stop every other professor in WGSS, English, sociology, etc. departments canceling their classes to “stand in solidarity” or whatever? Unless someone at the school (Maud? Dean Buell? Who?) takes a strong stand against this kind of behavior, we can expect much more of it in the near future. There is no winning against these kinds of activists, nothing the school can do to earn their approval, regardless of how many black faculty it hires or how well it supports them. The goalposts will always be shifted, the school will always be seen as racist/violent, so the College might as well make a convincing statement that rules matter, faculty obligations to students matter, and that the school has a commitment to education, not quixotic PC gestures.

“Quixotic PC gestures” is a great name for a rock band. Or for Denise Buell’s life’s work.

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Academic Freedom and “Free Speech”

The best way to solve the controversy over “free speech” (and controversial speakers) at Williams is to reframe the discussion around one of our core values: academic freedom.

First, every Williams faculty member will agree that every Williams professor deserves untrammeled “academic freedom.”

Second, every Williams faculty member will agree that the best definer and defender of “academic freedom” is the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

Once the Coordinating Committee — Maud’s stalking cow for fixing the Falk/Derbyshire disaster — has guided the faculty to these two points, the rest follows naturally. The AAUP addresses precisely the issue — invitations to outside speakers — which has bedeviled Williams.

Because academic freedom requires the liberty to learn as well as to teach, colleges and universities should respect the prerogatives of campus organizations to select outside speakers whom they wish to hear. The AAUP articulated this principle in 1967 in its Fifty-third Annual Meeting, when it affirmed “its belief that the freedom to hear is an essential condition of a university community and an inseparable part of academic freedom,” and that “the right to examine issues and seek truth is prejudiced to the extent that the university is open to some but not to others whom members of the university also judge desirable to hear.” . . .

See how the Gordian Knot of hate/free speech is so cleanly cut with this approach? No need for definitions, for balancing, for weighing costs and benefits. No reason to argue about the Chicago Principals, as if the best college in the world should concern itself with the ramblings of a not-quite-first-tier research university.

Academic Freedom -> AAUP -> All Invited Speakers Welcome

Third, President Mandel and the Trustees assert that students deserve “academic freedom” — at least with regard to speaker invitations — as well. This might not meet with universal faculty agreement, but that is why Mandel is paid the big bucks.

Problem solved! And then the problem largely goes away, absurd fantasies about Chapin being booked by white supremacists every Wednesday night not withstanding.

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How To Lobby Alumni

How might CARE Now lobby alumni so that they have a better chance of achieving their goals? Follow EphBlog’s advice!

How to lobby alumni to help you change college policy:

  1. Get organized first. You only have so many opportunities to get alums to care about the issue that has you all worked up. Actually, you probably only have one opportunity. Create an organization, select officers, put up a web page, recruit a “advisory board” of professors and staff, post of list of all the students who have signed on as supporters, decide on what, specifically, you want the administration to do (including packages of the minimal set of things you’d accept and the maximal set that the administration could conceivably grant). See here for a concrete example.
  2. Be realistic in your goals. You can demand that the College pave the walkways with chocolate, but alumni are unlikely to be impressed with your reasonableness. It is fine to have a big picture goal in mind, but what specific incremental step would you like the administration to take right now. You may want a Chicano Studies department, but what about a visiting professor next year? Some alumni will be in favor of your larger goals — and, by all means, sign them up to help with that — but, to be most effective, you want most alumni to, at minimum, think to themselves, “That doesn’t seem too outrageous. Why won’t Maud go along?”
  3. Don’t be deluded into thinking that you can have a meaningful effect on alumni fundraising. The College’s fundraising machinery is massive, organized and professional. Virtually nothing that you could possibly say or do would influence it. Even a change that might conceivably have the alumni up in arms — something on the scale of ending Winter Study or the JA system — would not provide enough fodder to change the dollars flowing in. A college that could take the lead in ending fraternities can ride out almost any level of alumni frustration.
  4. Several thousand more words of advice below the break:

    Read more

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Strategic Planning update: February 2019

Latest e-mail from Maud

To the Williams community,

I’m pleased to share the first in a series of routine monthly updates on strategic planning.

Last month the Coordinating Committee began the intensive work of articulating a process for this effort. It includes defining working groups for our eight areas of focus (see details below) and starting to draft their charges. Here are a few other highlights so far:

Our first open feedback period, addressing the broad contours of the plan and process, ended on Friday, February 15. We received 63 comments, including four from faculty, four from staff, six from students, and 49 from alumni and families (all submitters could identify one or more roles). These numbers are in addition to numerous email exchanges and conversations with people on campus. Thank you to everyone who weighed in. Many submissions were general statements of support for strategic planning at Williams. Some people also expressed interest in specific working groups or suggested areas of focus. As the working groups take shape we’ll channel your suggestions to the right ones, to ensure that all submissions are carefully considered. You should also feel free to continue adding thoughts and ideas via the comment form on the Strategic Planning website as they occur to you.

Over the next month the Coordinating Committee will turn to the formation of the eight working groups, each of which will comprise four to six members selected from faculty, students, and staff. The groups will be charged with engaging college stakeholders and gathering information to make sure all voices are heard, through scheduled open meetings and other forms of outreach. Look for details in the next few weeks about how to express your interest in serving on one of these groups. Once the groups are convened, we’ll also share details about how everyone can engage with them.

I’ll continue a monthly series of updates like this one throughout the spring, and will restart them in the fall. We’re also planning a campus forum in April about the charges for the working groups, and will experiment with a live online event (possibly Facebook Live or Reddit Ask Me Anything) to broaden the conversation. Next fall we’ll host several all-campus planning discussions as the working groups gather data and write their reports, and then in Spring 2020 we’ll organize public fora to review the working group reports and solicit feedback on the draft plan. We’ve posted this high-level timeline to the Strategic Planning site and will add details there and share them via my monthly updates as they become available.

Thanks again to all who have sent feedback thus far. I look forward to continuing to work with you in the weeks and months ahead.

Sincerely,

Maud

1) Do we need a new category for this Strategic Planning exercise?

2) Williams should make all comments public, unless the submitted specifically asks to remain anonymous. I would be curious to see what my fellow Ephs think!

3) I bet that the vast majority of those “general statements of support for strategic planning” were from the usual crowd of alumni insiders. Not that there is anything wrong with that, or them.

4) Kudos to Maud for the transparency and the regular updates. But what is her big picture vision, beyond removing the stain of speech restriction bequeathed to her by Adam Falk? I (honestly!) have no idea.

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Disintegrating, 1

A Senior Williams Professor and I will be debating the following resolution: Resolved: Williams is disintegrating. Each Monday, one of us will make an argument. One week later, the other will respond. We will debate until we grow bored with the exercise. Readers are welcome to chime in at any time. Senior Professor goes first:

1. The College has abandoned its traditional standards for tenure for faculty. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, one in four of faculty members who stood for tenure received it. Note that a normal core of junior faculty hired consisted of 20 assistant professors. Half of these would wash out at the 3-year renewal mark, leaving 10 in the cohort who would apply for tenure in their sixth year. Only four of those who stood for tenure would receive it. This was the historical norm at Williams College.

2. What is the current rate of tenure at Williams College? There is no longer a 3-year washout of faculty hired. Essentially anyone hired eventually stands for tenure six years after hire.

3. As best as one can tell, 98 percent of those faculty who stand for tenure receive it. In the few instances where faculty are denied, several are given tenure after appeals.

Senior Professor argues: this is a prescription for organizational suicide.

My response next week.

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Video of Thursday’s Protest/March

Thanks to Phacelia Cramer ’19 for posting this excellent video of Thursday’s protest/march. This looks much closer to 200 people than to the 50 that other correspondents had estimated. Alas, I can’t figure out how to save a copy or embed it here. Damn you Facebook!

1) One chant: “I love You. I love Me. I love Us. I love We.” I have never heard this at a protest before. Have readers? Is it connected to the increasing therapeutic tenor of our culture?

2) Another chant: “What side are you on, White People, what side are you on?” Hmm.

3) Where was President Mandel? I think the single cleverest decision that former President Schapiro made was, at the height of the Stand with Us movement a decade ago, to join a protest march even though the march was clearly directed against him and the Williams Administration. Could President Mandel use the same trick? Should she?

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Answer Wisely

This is the current status of the bottom of the big poster in Hollander Hall which we highlighted yesterday. I think that the comments are . . . pretty good! Reader opinions welcome. And thanks for the photos. Keep them coming!

I have selected “White Male Vigilantes” as the category for all posts related to McPartland’s actions and the response there to, abbreviated as WMV.

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Crowd of White People

This display is in Hollander Hall. Perhaps some readers could send us photos of the answers.

1) There was some abl/PTC discussion about the people/resources being put into this effort. I agree with abl that there might very few (10?) students actively engaged, with perhaps 50 supporters who aren’t putting up posters but do come to the marches. I also agree with PTC that there is (official?) college support (via the Davis Center?) for these efforts. No student printed out that poster and her dorm room printer. No one puts up a poster of that size without College permission, implicit or otherwise. Can someone on campus provide some local color?

2) There was a march/meeting/protest yesterday at Paresky. Details are scarce. But this CARE Now handout was distributed. Kudos on the graphical design of this document! It looks very professional.

3) There are two candidate names for the McPartland-related portion of this controversy: “White Male Vigilantes” and “EverPurple.” The former is how an anonymous student referred to McPartland. The latter is a reference to Evergreen State, a school’s whose descent into PC nonsense Williams would do well to avoid. Which do readers prefer?

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Green/Love Black Joy, 4

Let’s spend the rest of the week on various subplots associated with the controversy over Professors Kai Green ’07 and Kimberly Love’s failure to teach this semester. Day 4.

Former professor Eric Knibbs writes:

Prof. Love’s office, Hollander 111, used to be my office. When I resided there, I and my office neighbors found it occasionally convenient to place a small outside one’s office for waiting students to sit on (or to hold a box as a receptacle for essays). We were promptly admonished by security to put the chairs back in our offices immediately, and fire regulations were cited. The “fire hazard” thing isn’t a special application of the rules to this case. It represents the College’s approach to the hallways as I experienced it and is the reason this stuff was cleared out.

A Current Student writes:

The College take Regulations, especially those pertaining to the fire code, Very Seriously. Very, Very Seriously. I cannot tell you how many times I have been yelled at (nicely!) by custodians and security for my negligence. I can also say that this display constitutes a fire hazard. Not even the slightest doubt. It won’t cause a fire, but I would trip over it in a rush, and suddenly there’s a blockage in the hallway, etc. etc. Sure, there probably isn’t going to be a fire, but even I know this is a bad idea to keep it there.

I’d like to point out that when I say ‘fire hazard’ that doesn’t mean the object in question will start/contribute to a fire; I basically mean someone can trip over it. Stupid rule? Yes. Strictly enforced? Also yes. (And I do really mean strict. Just yesterday I was berated for leaving my shoes in the hallway. The custodians that come M-F are trained to clear all hallways every morning, so @PTC there essentially are people citing minor infractions every morning M-F.)

1) Who is the Williamstown fire marshall? Here? The Record ought to interview him.

2) I guarantee that, if a non-political display has the same dimensions and used the same materials as the original memorial, it would be removed instantaneously. Does anyone disagree?

3) The new display is less obviously illegal, mainly because it is possible to walk around it. But is it consistent with the fire code? Are there any other office hallways at Williams which look like this? Expert opinions welcome.

Do readers have any predictions about where this debate is going?

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Tell The Truth

Schapiro Hall at 9:00 AM today.

There is a report of a similar sign on Spring Street. Comments:

1) Can you imagine the convulsions that Williams would undergo if the sign said “How do you tell the truth to a crowd of black people?”

2) Do we need to separate out these two controversies? The debate about McPartland’s actions, and the responses thereto, are important enough to justify a new category. What name shall we use? I like “White Male Vigilantes.” Reader comments welcome.

3) How should I interpret the image at the bottom? Where does it come from?

4) Who is paying for these displays? A big poster board like that is not free, nor, I suspect, is it sold on Spring Street . . .

5) Thanks to our readers for these great photos!

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Green/Love Black Joy, 3

Let’s spend the rest of the week on various subplots associated with the controversy over Professors Kai Green ’07 and Kimberly Love’s failure to teach this semester. Day 3.

A (different!) Williams professor writes:

The main issue is that two mentally ill professors have made a claim that Williams is so violent to them that they cannot teach their classes. Some students believe that claim to the point that they set up a shrine to worship these professors. The college, by not denying the claim that the college is too violent to teach and by supporting the shrine despite obvious fire code violations (there are newspapers literally covering green lighted exit signs), is taking a side.

I am sad that there are some professors who are facing legitimate, devastating hardship: a child with a life threatening disease, a spouse with cancer, perhaps their own debilitating diagnosis. Some of these professors are faculty of color from very different backgrounds and cultures. These professors show up to their classes, write letters of recommendation for their students, and they role model doing work during times of hardship. In extreme cases they work with their departments and the Dean’s Office to get help with their classes and workload. These professors do not get shrines in the hallway or letters of support in The Record. They are doing their best to be adults and to do their jobs. Other faculty work around the clock to deliver excellence to their students.

This incident at Williams is a case of two very squeaky wheels getting some unearned, undeserved grease in the form of a paid leave, a shrine of worship, and the sense that they are somehow social justice warriors.

As a Williams professor, I am deeply embarrassed.

If it is true that these professors are mentally ill (not for me to judge), then students and other people should be supporting them as people and not necessarily supporting their unsubstantiated assertions. Students should be giving these two faculty support and privacy, not discussing this incident in terms of race, violence, or tenure. The fact that students are validating their claims and that Keith McPartland has been branded a racist means that this incident is not being treated as a mental health issue. The two professors are indeed being treated as social justice warriors instead of individuals who require a medical leave.

One of these professors literally stated that their department Chair was going to “assassinate them,” and rather than give this professor a medical leave several months ago, the college asked the Chair to step down. What does that imply? That implies, to me, that even if these two faculty are mentally ill, that the college has not responded in a way that is treating them as mentally ill, but is instead validating their assertions. The students supporting them are doing the same, passing around their ideas from The Feminist Wire, and looking to these faculty as role models.

I personally think that these two faculty deserve respect and privacy, and they should take their leave to heal however they need. But their actions were objectively hurtful and their assertions unjustified. Other faculty are suffering from problems, including mental health problems, who go about solutions in an appropriate way. The actions of these faculty should not be worshipped with shrines and admirers.

[T]hese two professors [Green and Love] were put on medical leave. That means the college considers this a mental health issue (because there are no physical health issues). One of these professors was put on medical leave after she didn’t show up to class as that was probably the only way to give her a chance and not terminate her employment. Discussions of mental health might not be coming up on EphBlog but believe me they are being discussed all over campus. My frustration is that students and some faculty aren’t treating this as a mental health issue, they are treating these two faculty as victims of a violent college and true social justice warriors. If this was only about mental health then none of us, not even you, should be talking about it. My point is that this is not just a mental health issue. The way the college has legitimized their concerns and the way that students have advanced their cause means that we haven’t even figured out how to talk about this yet.

Agree or disagree, a great College — as Williams aspires to be — should be a place at which we can have this conversation, where we can discuss and debate difficult questions, where — not only is it acceptable for someone to make you uncomfortable — but where being uncomfortable is a part of every Eph’s education.

Alas, Williams is not interested in having this conversation (in public). Instead of posting this comment on WSO Discussions — which have been dormant for a decade or more — this professor comes to EphBlog. And we are glad to host them! And our (hundreds? thousands?) of readers are eager to engage with his thoughts, as recent comment threads make clear.

Yet the fact that we, rather than Williams, host this conversation is an indictment of the Williams Administration. They could recreate WSO Discussions, perhaps only allowing Ephs to view/participate, perhaps requiring real names only. Yet the very last thing Williams wants is for a professor to be able to communicate, directly, with the entire community of Ephs, both students and alumni.

Williams insists on controlling the conversation because it does not trust us to talk amongst ourselves.

PS. Could someone clarify whether or not both professors are on medical leave, or just Green?

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Inclusive Space

One source sent this photo of a note taped to Professor McPartland’s door:

You will never guess what happened next!

1) I believe that these events have not been staged. That is, I think that real students, who actually support McPartland, put up the initial note, fully (and naively?) expecting other students to sign it. (McPartland, by all accounts, is a widely liked and respected teacher.)

2) I think that (different!) real students saw the note, and then wrote their honest feelings about McPartland. There are no hate hoaxes here.

3) “White Male Vigilantes?” Sign me up! And this would also make for a cool rock band name.

4) Is it a coincidence that McPartland, who (regularly?) teaches a Winter Study course on boxing, is one of the more high testosterone members of the faculty? Note that he could have taken this sign down from his door at any time . . .

5) Should any of the students involved be punished? Of course not! Lest you think this is an absurd question, recall President Mandel’s latest e-mail:

The following night, an unknown individual or individuals entered Hopkins Hall after hours, when the building was closed, and papered the outer doors of many office suites with flyers vilifying Professor McPartland by accusing him of extreme racism. I’ve been told these images are now also circulating on social media. This incendiary, offensive and damaging attack has no place at Williams. Senior Staff and I removed the Hopkins Hall flyers immediately on Friday morning. Flyers and materials that have been placed on and in front of Professor McPartland’s office door in Schapiro will also be removed. Williams is not as inclusive as it must become, but these acts have hurt our efforts.

“[N]o place at Williams” certainly suggests (just to me?) a violation of the (extremely broad!) student code of conduct. What do readers think?

Isn’t Mandel suggesting that students who put up posters, or at least posters which vilify, will be punished?

This would be nuts, obviously. I was going to write 1,000 or so words explaining why. Do I really need to?

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Green/Love Black Joy, 2

Let’s spend the rest of the week on various subplots associated with the controversy over Professors Kai Green ’07 and Kimberly Love’s failure to teach this semester. Day 2.

A (different!) faculty member (?) writes:

I have no comment on the free speech aspects of this “healing space”. I do wish to point out, however, that the “healing space” has very clearly become a shrine to the Williams Martyrs. It is a physical manifestation of the religion Anti-Racism, endorsed and supported fully by the administration. The religious and sociological dimensions of this entire affair are fascinating.

In her remarks at the faculty meeting on Wednesday, President Mandel strongly argued that reigning orthodoxies shall fall as Williams moves ever more into Inclusion. The notion of an officially unorthodox orthodoxy is too delicious for words.

Claiming Williams is the High Holy Day of Anti-Racism at Williams. At President Mandel’s induction in September 2018, the student government co-presidents sought to introduce ritual self-abasement of the College into campus culture. I am sure there are many other liturgical expressions.

Emphasis added. I agree that the religious metaphor works well. I prefer “Diversity,” rather than “Anti-Racism,” as the Williams godhead. What other parallels would readers draw? I don’t know nearly enough about religion, or about life on campus, to flesh this out fully.

The best approach would be to pick a specific period from the Williams of the 19th century. Perhaps the American Missionary Movement, begun with the Haystack Prayer Meeting? Or the Third Great Awakening? Highlight the key beliefs of that era and then suggest counterparts to the Williams of today.

A worthwhile project for EphBlog?

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Tense and Emotional

Latest from President Mandel on Green/Love Black Joy is below. There is a lot to process here, but, in the meantime:

1) Could someone send/post a copy of the “flyers vilifying Professor McPartland by accusing him of extreme racism?” Mandel reports that these flyers are “circulating on social media.” Future historians will thank you!

2) If you are a student who is being attacked/threatened by the Administration about these flyers (or anything else), EphBlog is here to help. We may disagree with your views, but we will eagerly defend your rights to share them. Academic Freedom for All!

Williams faculty, students, and staff,

Last week I sent an email sharing that some materials from the memorial in the first floor hallway of Hollander Hall had been moved by a faculty member. I explained that we were gathering information, and I now want to share what I’ve learned. I welcome the chance to hear from anyone else who was there and still wants to share their perspective.

As many people know, students and others had placed notes and objects in Hollander to demonstrate support for Assistant Professors Kai Green ’07 and Kim Love. In my first message I noted that Senior Staff and I had decided these materials weren’t impeding movement through Hollander and should be left undisturbed for a period of time. To clarify, we were aware the materials would eventually have to be moved due to their placement in the hallway. However, our plan was to allow them to remain until we could discuss long-term options with students.

While we were working to initiate that conversation, staff members responsible for campus and environmental safety, as well as Associate Professor Keith McPartland, the faculty chair of the building use committee responsible for Hollander Hall, exchanged calls about their shared concerns that the materials violated the fire code and posed a potential risk to people in the building. Professor McPartland, having clarified that they did violate both state law and campus policy, relocated the portion of the memorial that was on the floor, where it could have impeded evacuation or passage by people with disabilities. He moved it to a nearby location where students could reclaim it and didn’t disturb materials along the walls or in front of office doors. He also offered to help students reinstall the work in an alternative location that would be visible without creating an obstruction.

Students confronted him in Hollander and objected to any tampering with the memorial. People who were present report that the interaction was tense and emotional.

The following night, an unknown individual or individuals entered Hopkins Hall after hours, when the building was closed, and papered the outer doors of many office suites with flyers vilifying Professor McPartland by accusing him of extreme racism. I’ve been told these images are now also circulating on social media. This incendiary, offensive and damaging attack has no place at Williams. Senior Staff and I removed the Hopkins Hall flyers immediately on Friday morning. Flyers and materials that have been placed on and in front of Professor McPartland’s office door in Schapiro will also be removed. Williams is not as inclusive as it must become, but these acts have hurt our efforts.

I’ve had many conversations with people and groups concerned about the issues raised on our campus over the last few weeks: issues of identity, bias and racism in our college climate, and also of respect and basic humanity towards each other. Here are some of the steps that are happening as we move beyond individual meetings to community solutions:

Students who were stewarding the Hollander memorial have removed materials that violated the fire code and ADA. There are serious concerns about racism and other forms of bias on campus. We want students involved in addressing them and will work to find ways to do so, knowing that the process will require us to confront discomforting truths.

Starting the week of March 4, I’ll hold a series of small gatherings in my home where anyone concerned about campus climate and our support for faculty, students, and staff can communicate to me directly. We’ll continue to schedule such gatherings as long as there’s interest. People will be welcome to sign up individually or in groups. We’ll send a Daily Message later this week with instructions on how to do so.

With Senior Staff, faculty leaders, and others, I’m going to make sure all the takeaways from these and other conversations are imported directly into the college’s ongoing work on inclusion and into the strategic planning process.

Meanwhile, I’ve also begun talking with the Faculty Steering Committee, members of the student body, and other staff and faculty about ideas for a way forward. Individuals have been publicly maligned. Relationships have been strained or broken and now need to heal, so that we can all return to the work we have to do together. I include everyone in that mandate: Faculty, staff, students, and administrators all need to address issues within our discrete communities, as well as broader problems among constituencies and across our community as a whole.

This is a long message because the situation is complex and campus deserves as much information as I can provide. But it’s just a starting point. Each of us came to Williams to engage in a truly great learning community. We define that greatness by the reach of our intellectual ambitions and the openness and inclusivity of our culture. Such commitments are simple to express but hard to achieve. The actual work has tested our resolve and our bonds, and we’ll almost certainly be tested again in the future. But I also believe Williams has what it takes to persevere and transcend its challenges to become a better place. In fact, I believe we have to. I’m grateful I’ll be working toward that goal in partnership with all of you.

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