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Ambulance Update

From The Berkshire Eagle:

With necessity being the mother of invention, the regionalization of emergency responder agencies has begun in the Northern Berkshires.

Heading into the third month of the merger of Village Ambulance in Williamstown with the North Adams Ambulance Service, officials say the task of melding procedures and communications continues apace.

Village Ambulance is about the only non-profit which merits direct contributions from Williams, mainly because its services are so commonly used by students. So, I don’t mind some College involvement. I also don’t know enough about the local politics to understand the reasons behind the merger and the winners/losers associated therewith.

I always worry, however, that the local power brokers —- Williamstown town manager Jason Hoch ’95, North Adams mayor Thomas Bernard ’92 — are very smart and that they recognize two fundamental truths: Williams College has endless money and the people who run Williams are (over) eager to use (too much of) that money to improve their own lives. So, what should Hoch/Bernard do? Get the College to contribute much more to the ambulance service, especially for aspects (like coverage outside of Williamstown) that it did not contribute much to before. And what do we see?

The cost of the rebranding, as well as others costs incurred by the merger, is being covered by a contribution from Williams College and Williamstown of up to $200,000. Meanwhile, the service responded to 892 calls In January. The average for North Adams Ambulance has been about 500 in a month. At the time of the merger, Village Ambulance was averaging around 333 per month.In January, the first month of the merger, the newly combined ambulance service responded to 892 calls.

$200,000 is way too much! And I bet this is in addition to the money that Williams usually contributes.


North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard ’92

We failed to cover this news last fall.

Thomas Bernard will be the city’s next mayor.

The political newcomer handily defeated Robert Moulton Jr., by an unofficial tally of 2,404 votes to 1,023 votes, winning all five of the city’s voting wards by 200 votes or more.

“I am humbled and grateful that we can celebrate with friends and toast to North Adams and we’re going to wake up tomorrow ready to roll up our sleeves and work,” Bernard told his supporters at the Richmond Grille Tuesday night.

The new mayor will take the helm on New Year’s Day and serve a two-year term.

Bernard, director of special projects at Smith College, was born and raised in North Adams, graduating from Drury High School and then Williams College. He later returned to the city to work at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, then worked at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

Bernard, who heavily outraised and outspent Moulton’s campaign, touted a message of economic development based on improved education and city infrastructure in the months leading up to the election.

“I want to be a mayor for everyone in North Adams, and want to hear and work to address people’s concerns as well as to encourage their aspirations,” Bernard stated.

The College (probably?) benefits from having alumni in local positions of power: Bernard ’92 as mayor of North Adams, Jason Hoch ’95 as Williamstown town manager, and maybe even Michael Wynn ’93, Pittsfield chief of police.

Any local readers have opinions on Bernard/Hoch/Wynn?


Committee on Priorities and Resources Open Forum

From: Eiko Maruko Siniawer
Date: Wed, Mar 14, 2018 at 9:14 AM
Subject: Open Forum on College Priorities

Dear colleagues,

The Committee on Priorities and Resources (CPR) invites you to attend an Open Forum for faculty, staff, and students on Thursday, April 5, at 4:00 pm in Griffin 6. We’d like to have an open discussion of the college’s priorities, so we hope that you’ll come with your thoughts about how the college has been, and should be, allocating our resources. What should be the college’s most important commitments? What is most central to the mission of the college, and how does our spending align with our priorities?

There will be introductory remarks by Dukes Love and Fred Puddester. But the forum will be dedicated to your ideas and questions about anything from financial aid to building on campus. The members of CPR hope that you can attend the forum and be part of this conversation.

We look forward to seeing you on the 5th,

Pei-Wen Chen, Biology
Todd Hoffman, Budget Director
Steve Klass, VP for Campus Life
Dukes Love, Provost
Megan Morey, VP for College Relations
Fred Puddester, VP for Finance and Administration
Michael Rubel ’19
Matt Sheehy, Associate VP for Finance
Jim Shepard, English
Allegra Simon ’18
Eiko Maruko Siniawer, History, Chair of CPR
Tara Watson, Economics and Public Health
Chris Winters, Associate Provost
Weitao Zhu ’18

1) I am still sad that Eiko was not picked as the next Williams president. She would have been great! Anyone have gossip as to whether or not she (or Lee Park) was among the finalists in the search?

2) My sense is that the CPR is one of the more powerful committees on campus. Insider commentary welcome.

3) My guess is that such a forum will generate a fair amount of bleating about too-low faculty salaries/benefits. Or am I being unfair?

4) The college spends way too little money on improving the quality of our students, especially black/Hispanic/poor admittees that choose Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford over us. My questions to CPR would be:

a) Why don’t we match the financial aid offers from HYPS, at least for highly desirable URM/low-income applicants? My sense is that we often expect “middle class” students to pay tens of thousands of dollars more then they have too pay at HYPS. Is that true? How much would it cost to fix?

b) Why don’t we increase the funds devoted to Tyng Scholarships and focus those awards more on the most desirable applicants, especially African-Americans?


Nike Camp with Enrichment Classes

One of the great benefits of tenure is that Professor Phoebe Cohen can now tell us what she really thinks . . .

“Nike Camp with enrichment classes” is a quote from Professor Shanks.


Diversity Circus: A Self-Perpetuating Administrative Pathology

An anonymous Williams professor explains faculty hiring:

The Dean of the Faculty and the CAP oversee hiring at every stage. When a department wants a new line they have to apply to the CAP, explaining why it necessary to have a Professor of Widgetry, why other professors in the department can’t teach widgetry, and how having a specialist in widgetry will dovetail with offerings in other departments.

The CAP then approves or denies the line. This is necessary because departments only see their own needs and priorities; CAP and the DoF have (in theory anyway) a view of staffing needs across departments. They may also have a specific vision of where the college should be moving. All of this is–again in theory–a Good Thing.

After you get the line, the department must seek approval for every subsequent stage of the search. The job ad has to be approved. Shortlists have to be approved. Finalists are all interviewed by the CAP, and ultimately the CAP has to approve hires. (So do the Trustees, as already noted in this thread.) These safeguards are in place to preserve and enforce academic standards. They are how the administration ensures that departments actually hire for the position they received permission to hire in. Because all new hirees must have their tenure decisions approved by the CAP, it also makes sense to have this same committee approve their initial job offer.

The problem is that enforcing academic standards isn’t really the flavor of the month anymore. The Dean of the Faculty and the CAP flex their muscles primarily on behalf of diversity. Academic standards seem, increasingly, to be matters of secondary concern. The diversity pressure is applied at all stages of the process and really seems to corrupt it. You might not get approval for your professorship of widgetry unless you redefine the position with some political or diversity edge. You need to hire a Professor of Subaltern Widgetry, the unspoken hope being that this kind of line will ultimately result in a minority hire. Affirmative action forms go to the associate dean for institutional diversity. At every stage of shortlisting, this person has to be consulted to ensure that minority candidates aren’t disproportionately eliminated due to implicit bias. This is despite the fact that in most cases the hiring department has no clarity on the race of specific applicants. As for the CAP interactions with finalists, my impression has been that their academic standards are well below that of the hiring department. Again diversity looms as the major concern.

A few observations: The faculty-facing admins must struggle to judge the quality of any individual candidate. Only the hiring department has that kind of expertise. The hall monitors have a particular proclivity for diversity mongering because that kind of thing *is* eminently legible to the CAP and the DoF. The diversity circus thus becomes a self-perpetuating administrative pathology.

Weird things happen when you make faculty demographics a leading priority. You can’t actually advertise for minority candidates, so positions have to be redefined such that they are more likely (in the eyes of administrators) to yield a critical mass of minority applicants. You might have had 100 candidates in your search for a Professor of Widgetry. Now that you’ve clarified you want a Professor of Subaltern Widgetry you might only have a few dozen candidates. Other schools are playing the same game, so any minority finalists will very probably turn out to be heavily recruited, with multiple offers from other institutions. In these cases we’re not redressing any past injustices, as the minority candidates would’ve clearly entered the academy regardless of our search. When you do finally hire the professor of subaltern widgetry, it will turn out that most of their curricular offerings and scholarship are a critique of the broader field of widgetry. But you don’t have any ordinary professor of Widgetry, remember, so the meaning and relevance of this critique for students will always be an issue.

This agrees with everything I have heard, both about Williams and about elite schools in general. Any dissenting views?


KC Johnson on Safety Dance

Former Williams professor KC Johnson, co-author (with Stuart Taylor) of The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America’s Universities, sent in this analysis (doc) of the latest filings in the Safety Dance sexual assault case:

There have been some new filings in the Title IX/due process lawsuit against Williams. I’ve summarized the case previously, so won’t repeat what I wrote. Unique among the 200 or so lawsuits filed by accused male students, Williams features an accuser who also was a college employee. And at several points in the process, Williams administrators appeared to favor their employee over their student—in a manner that likely would have generated outrage if the genders had been reversed.

The new filings deal with attempts by the accused student’s lawyer to depose President Falk and two members of the college disciplinary panel that voted to expel her client. The judge previously had limited the number of depositions to ten per side.

There are, however, two items of potential interest included in the filings.

The first: as part of the discovery process, the accused student has obtained the training material that Williams uses for its Title IX adjudicators. (Since 2011, the federal government has required colleges to train adjudicators in sexual assault cases—and only sexual assault cases.) To the best of my knowledge, no college or university has voluntarily publicized its training material; my co-author Stuart Taylor and I obtained around a dozen schools’ training materials and analyzed their overwhelmingly one-sided nature. For a comparison to the criminal justice system: imagine if, in rape and sexual assault trials and only in those trials, the prosecutor could require jurors to spend 3-5 hours reading general material on the topic that the prosecutor herself selected—and then could deny the defense attorney any chance to see the material at any point in the process.

Williams’ training material is less unfair than that of some other institutions (for a particularly egregious example, see pages 20-21 of this decision against Penn, which eventually led the college to settle the case). Williams, typically, has filled its training with frightening statistics that say nothing about the specifics of the case the panel is supposed to judge. (One slide, for instance, claims—without citation—that 21% of college students experience dating violence from their current partner.) More problematically, the training (which is supposed to be gender-neutral, since males as well as females can be victims of sexual assault, and because gender-biased training risks violating Title IX) appears to presuppose that sexual assault victims are female, listing “toxic masculinity” as a cause of sexual assault. Would a Williams adjudicator, faithfully following this type of training, have decided to overlook the accuser’s dubious conduct? Even more problematically, the training includes a slide entitled “Meet Frank,” an apparent reference to a composite character—from decades ago—from researcher David Lisak. An exposé in Reason raised significant questions about Lisak’s credibility in his use of “Frank,” who the researcher inaccurately presented as a single person rather than a collection of quotes. The training also has several slides about trauma-informed investigation, a controversial theory debunked by Emily Yoffe in a high-profile Atlantic article.

Also striking is what the training doesn’t contain. It doesn’t, for instance, mention the presumption of innocence. Or the need for fairness. Or the importance of allowing the accused student a meaningful opportunity to defend himself.

In short, the training appears designed to make it more likely that a Williams disciplinary panel will return a guilty finding when considering sexual assault allegations.

The second item from the filings: the accused student’s lawyer included a snippet of the deposition from the investigator Williams hired for the case, an employment lawyer named Allyson Kurker. The deposition has little of substance, though Kurker’s confusion about Williams’ standards is a little striking.

More interesting here is Williams’ decision to hire Kurker in the first place. In Title IX litigation, Kurker is best-known as the investigator in an Amherst case that might well be the single most unfair adjudication of any in the country since the 2011 change in policy. (The student sued Amherst, easily survived a motion to dismiss, and then the college settled.) Kurker’s investigation failed to uncover critical, exculpatory text messages sent on the night of the incident by the accuser. Then, in depositions, she attempted to dismiss the texts’ significance on grounds that the relevant texts would have been those that corroborated the accuser’s story.

Given that record, what was the process used by Williams in hiring Kurker?

In terms of where the case might go from here, two thoughts. First, on Friday, the judge in the Williams case, Michael Ponsor, ruled in favor of UMass in a lawsuit filed by an accused student named James Haidak. Though Ponsor gave a token acknowledgement to the due process concerns, most of his lengthy opinion outlined his very forgiving standard toward college actions.

Despite some factual differences, the UMass and Williams cases have at least one important similarity: in both cases, the accused student was a highly unsympathetic figure. There’s certainly nothing in Ponsor’s holding to suggest that he (unlike judges in many of the dozens of due process cases in which the college has been on the losing end) is a judge who’s particularly concerned about the problem of unfair campus adjudication procedures.

On the other hand: while only around two dozen accused students have survived motions to dismiss on Title IX claims, colleges have been vulnerable in cases where the female student also appeared to have committed some form of misconduct, yet the institution only investigated and punished the male student. For a particularly obvious example of this pattern, see page 37 of the decision in the Amherst case.

Usually, these cases involve a single incident (for instance, sex when both parties are extremely drunk, and so neither student had the ability to consent under often-restrictive college rules). The Williams case doesn’t feature such a fact pattern—but in one respect, it’s worse: the college seemed indifferent to the possibility that a female employee was filing retaliatory complaints against a student. If, in the end, Williams loses this case, the college’s decision to so blatantly favor one party in a deeply dysfunctional relationship will likely be the reason why.

Why won’t (can’t?) the Record cover this important case, especially stuff like the absurdity of hiring Kurker?

By the way, is Kurker still working for Williams?


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.


March For Life

Screen Shot 2018-03-03 at 9.47.11 AM

This photo is from the official Williams College Instagram feed.

1) Some of the comments are, uh, less than charitable:

ehanson55: Embarrassing and disappointing content from @williamscollege at this political moment. Whose side are you on?

milesklee: booooooooooo

elspeththemac: As an institution, you must recognize that what you post makes a stand for what you believe in. I realize that you’re trying to support the Williams community (and I love us Ephs!) But this shouldn’t be a catch-all account. By posting a photo with a flag that blatantly reads RIGHT TO PROTECT THE UNBORN, you are no longer simply celebrating the diverse Williams community, but making a stand for pro-birth and inserting yourself into a discussion around reproductive rights – which I’m guessing wasn’t well thought out. In the future, I would recommend that this type of sensitive content stay targeted to more specific audiences like the Williams Catholic group (or not posted at all if Williams doesn’t actually have a firm stance). I would also suggest that Williams reevaluates its digital strategy & mission. Keep celebrating Williams! (But please consider your audience & the responsibilities around running a social community as an institution.)

jocief: ‘13 alum here. Showing students in attendance of an anti-choice rally is not representing “diverse views”, it’s facilitating and supporting an oppressive movement. Disappointing.

2) Kudos to Jim Reische and his team for posting the photo. Their policy is the right policy: If an official Williams student organization participates in an event and sends them a photo, they will post it. Viewpoint neutrality for the win!

3) A different policy would be to not post photos of anything political. That would be defensible, but probably just as annoying for people like ehanson55.

Question for readers: Whose side are you on?


Welcome President Mandel

To the Williams Community,

It is my honor and pleasure to inform you that on Sunday, March 11, the Board of Trustees appointed Maud S. Mandel as the 18th president of Williams College. President-elect Mandel, who will begin her tenure at Williams on July 1, 2018, currently serves as Dean of the College and Professor of History and Judaic studies at Brown University.

You can learn more about President-elect Mandel by watching a video interview we’ve posted on the special announcement website, where you’ll also find her CV and other information about her scholarship and career.

I could not be more excited about welcoming Maud Mandel to the college. She has a distinguished record as a scholar, a teacher and an academic leader, and has demonstrated throughout her career a deep and abiding affection for the students, faculty and staff who together create a great academic enterprise. She embodies the values at our core and will provide outstanding leadership as we continue to pursue our shared aspirations for Williams.

I want to thank the members of the Presidential Search Committee for their extraordinary work leading to this terrific result for Williams. We were privileged to meet many exceptional people in the course of our search, and all of us on the Committee, and on the Board of Trustees, were truly inspired by President-elect Mandel during the selection process.

We look forward to welcoming President-elect Mandel for a visit to campus in early April, and will provide details as soon as the agenda is confirmed. In the meantime, you can begin to get to know her by exploring the materials on the announcement website.

Congratulations to President-elect Mandel, and best wishes to all of us as we begin this next chapter in the extraordinary history of Williams College.

With warm best regards,

Michael Eisenson ’77
Chair, Presidential Search Committee
Chair, Williams College Board of Trustees

Worth a week to review this material?


March Faculty Meeting

The March faculty meeting is tomorrow. See (here) for the relevant material. Comments:

1) Thanks to our sources! At some point, we will create a full collection of faculty meeting material. To see what we already have, start here.

2) Given that these documents are sent to 300+ people, they ought to just be posted publicly, especially since they represent Williams at its best.

3) I don’t see much of interest here. Do you? I would probably vote against this:

In addition to the divisional motions, there will be motions for proposals by the Theatre Department and the Dance Department to provide a record of student participation in productions and in studio courses, respectively, in the form of a 0.5 partial credit fifth course that would not count towards the 32 courses needed for graduation, analogous to the credit offered for lessons and some small ensemble participation in Music.

I don’t see a reason to load up the transcript, or bother the registrar, with this sort of stuff. Contrary opinions welcome!


Latest Legal Filing from Safety Dance

Here (107-main) is the latest legal filing in the Safety Dance sexual assault case. Here (107-1, 107-2, 107-3, 107-4, 107-5, 107-6, 107-7, 107-8, 107-9, 107-10, 107-11) are the exhibits.

Case summary: Male Williams student engages in two year long sexual relationship with female student-then-employee. At the end of that relationship, female employee physically assaults male student. Male student reports assault which goes ignored by Williams. After male student pushes for the complaint to be investigated, female employee makes retaliatory counter complaint, alleging she had been subjected to two years of “abuse” by the student. At the eleventh hour into the investigation, nearly three years after the commencement of their relationship, employee alleges that the two had sex eighteen months earlier without the female providing “affirmative consent.” That is, the male is not accused of a “rape” that any US prosecutor would ever pursue. The woman did not resist or say any form of “No.” Male student finishes all requirements for graduation but Williams expels him for sexual assault and refuses to give him his degree. He has sued.

My comments are mostly the same as they were 10 months ago:

1) Reader (especially lawyer) comments are welcome! What is your sense of John Doe’s odds of success?

2) Should we spend a week going through these filings? Reader interest seems to be lagging.

3) Why won’t the Record cover this story? It is incompetence, political correctness or something else? I am honestly curious . . .

4) Why won’t the College just give Doe his degree? I could, perhaps, understand why the College might fight to enforce an expulsion if settlement required allowing the accused student to come back on campus. But why the Ahab-like insistence om preventing Doe from getting his degree?

5) Can anyone provide more details on educational options for students expelled from places like Williams? Several students (how many?) have been expelled from Williams over the last 5 years for sexual assault. What happens to them? Presumably, they still want/need a college degree? Are they allowed to transfer to other schools? Can they use their Williams credits? I don’t know . . . but surely our readers do! In case it matters, Doe is a New York State resident. Could he transfer (almost) all his credits to some SUNY school, take a class or two, and then get his degree? Or would SUNY deny his transfer application because of his expulsion from Williams?


#MeToo on Wall Street

Typically excellent article from Benthany McLean ’92 in Vanity Fair:

Our month-long training program [at Goldman Sachs, where McLean worked after graduating from Williams] felt like a continuation of college, with plenty of parties and lots of alcohol. But, of course, it wasn’t college. Unwritten rules had very real career repercussions if you broke them, and they were very different for men and for women. Even small missteps, such as making out with a person in your class, could get a woman marked, but would enhance a man’s reputation. When the real work started, almost immediately a senior man held himself to me as a mentor of sorts. I was failing at work, he told me, and I had made myself “too visible.” He alone saw something redeemable in me. But, of course, his “friendship” came with strings attached (despite the fact that he had an out-of-town girlfriend). I wasn’t sure how to say no.

I felt trapped—my parents, who were at home in Hibbing, Minnesota (population 19,000), were lovely, but very clear that any support was over. Perhaps because I was in search of a savior, I had a too public affair with a colleague my own age, which ended when another analyst pulled me aside and told me the man had a girlfriend. (Life lesson: Save yourself.) When another (married) senior vice president tried to get into my hotel room it was a soul-crushing moment, because I felt that I had set myself up.

All of this made it hard for me to have the kind of chipper, can-do attitude so prized in junior roles. I finally transitioned into a more quantitative role, which utilized my skills, and I distinctly remember a moment when I decided I was either going to quit or finish the job with my head held high. From that point on I did nothing but work, and I stuck it out for three years—I had something to prove. In retrospect, I think what bothered me most was the knowledge that, while we were all going to be judged for things besides the quality of our work, for women, extra-professional judgments accrued almost entirely to our disadvantage, whereas for men, at least the white-male sporty types, it was the opposite. It felt brutally unfair.

Read the whole thing. It is a (surprisingly?) “conservative” take on the #MeToo phenomenon. Worth spending a week on?


The Age of Nerf Maoism

An anonymous Williams professor writes:

Obviously the shift to DPE reflects a broader transition, ideologically, from Identity Politics 1.0 (let us celebrate our differences!) to Identity Politics 2.0 (let us root out the oppressors!). Ours is the age of nerf Maoism.

After that email they went around shaking the curricular trees of individual departments, supplying lists of courses that had previously been EDI-certified and asking if we would consider placing them under the DPE umbrella.

In a way the DPE requirement has less teeth than EDI ever did, because you don’t have to approach a special committee of ideological enforcers to get your course the DPE certification (like you did for EDI courses in the past). The decision is made at the unit level. Whatever a department thinks satisfies the requirement is good to go. This makes the dearth of courses even more hilarious.

Apparently the CEA believe that faculty just can’t be bothered to fill out the paperwork. Isn’t it equally possible that people take DPE so seriously that they need time to develop a new set of courses that satisfy the standard? (Didn’t anyone consider this in implementing the new requirement?) One feels that even the CEA is on the verge of admitting the change is essentially cosmetic.

Background reading on this topic: one, two, three, four.


New Associate Dean of the Faculty

From a faculty source:

Dear Colleagues,

I am delighted to announce that Katarzyna Pieprzak, Professor of French and Comparative Literature, has agreed to serve as Associate Dean of the Faculty for two years, starting August 1, 2018.

Kashia earned her PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan and taught at the City University of New York before arriving at Williams in 2003. Her research interests include 20th and 21st century artistic and literary engagements with urban space in North Africa; museum studies with a focus on institutional decolonization; and gender and migration in the Francophone world. She is the author of Imagined Museums: Art and Modernity in Post-Colonial Morocco (University of Minnesota Press: 2010), and co-editor of two volumes: Land and Landscape in Francographic Literature and Africanity in North African Visual Culture, a special issue of the African Art History journal Critical Interventions. Her new book in progress, The Traveling Bidonville, explores the relationship between aesthetics and the possibility of political constitution in shantytowns in North Africa and France.

Kashia’s work as associate dean will focus on faculty development, drawing on her strong record of service and leadership experience. She has taken a couple turns at chairing the Department of Romance Language and Literatures and is currently chairing Arabic Studies. She has also been elected to the CEP (now CEA) and the Faculty Review Panel, chaired the Olmsted Prize Committee, and served very capably as co-director of the First3 initiative for the last two years.

This associate deanship is a rotating position. Kashia will succeed Rhon Manigault-Bryant, Associate Professor of Africana Studies, who has served in this role since summer 2016. John Gerry will continue to serve as associate dean as well, and Megan Konieczny as assistant dean. Those two positions provide the dean’s office with points of continuity, as do Justine Beringer and Barb Pietras who support the faculty in many, many ways. Indeed, we have a very experienced team, also including Carrie Greene and Veronica Bosley who manage academic events, Ric Grefé who oversees our design thinking pilot, and Denise Buell who will return as Dean of the Faculty. We all look forward to working with Kashia when she joins us this summer.

Best wishes,


Lee Park

Interim Dean of the Faculty

1) Comments from any insiders? Pieprzak does not seem an obvious member of the faculty’s diversity-über-alles wing.

2) See here for a nice intro to Pieprzak’s academic work.


Hoary Specter of Junior Faculty “Mentoring”

ambrosius aurelianus, an anonymous member of the Williams faculty, writes:

I meant the high rate at which tenure is granted–right now around 80%, a number that reflects changing attitudes to the nature of tenure decisions and an administrative belief that it is the job of departments and their senior faculty to help all of their junior hires achieve tenure.

This means, effectively, that extending a tenure-track job offer is four-fifths of a tenure decision, which tempts committees to opt for safe candidates rather than take risks. In general this tips the scale in favor of applicants some years out from their PhD, with considerable teaching experience and many publications, and tends to disadvantage junior people still finishing their dissertations or straight out of grad school. That, in itself, is regrettable. In practice it also tends to make small defects in a dossier disqualifying; no amount of upside can overcome them. Committees will get spooked by the suggestion that someone’s book might never come together, even if they show all signs of being a fantastic teacher (or, conversely, if they have great publications but they’ve never logged a lot of classroom time and their syllabi are lackluster, we’ll also be tempted to pass). In my experience some of the most potentially brilliant candidates are lopsided like this. If we weren’t so committed to tenuring nearly everyone we could afford to give more exciting people a trial run. This is especially true when we’re not sure about the research, because worst case scenario, we get six years of amazing teaching out of the candidate. But we rob ourselves of these opportunities.

A cultural commitment to maintaining a high tenure also feeds the hoary specter of junior faculty “mentoring.” In itself it’s not a bad idea to look after our junior hires, but now a lot of my colleagues see junior faculty as the other half of their pedagogical mission. Frankly this hasn’t been great for junior faculty culture at the college, and its also inevitably been bound up with a lot of overblown and unhelpful evaluative methods.

Interesting stuff! aa should join us as an author and tell us more about faculty life at Williams. I would also be curious about sigh’s take on these issues, as well as the views of other academic readers.


Berkshire DA Resigns . . . Williams Connection?

A comment from Friday:

You may have noticed the recent resignation of the Berkshire DA. A friend of a friend says there is a direct connection to Williams. And Adam Falk in particular.

Falk Quad? Odds low and falling fast . . .

From MASS Live:

At an awkwardly timed press conference on Thursday, Berkshire County District Attorney David F. Capeless announced he was planning to retire.

The news, that was billed as a “major announcement” on Wednesday afternoon, came as police reported that apparent human remains were found in Hatfield. That drew the friends of Joanne Ringer, who was last seen in her Clarksburg home on March 2 a year ago, to the scene.

Capeless, who has served as the Berkshire District Attorney since 2004, said he will officially step down from the position on March 15.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker will appoint Berkshire First District Attorney Paul Caccaviello to take over as his successor.

The Berkshire Eagle provides much more detail:

Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn [Williams ’93] said he was surprised by the announcement, but he understood and respected the decision.

Capeless is a Pittsfield native and is the son of former Pittsfield Mayor Robert Capeless and grandson of former state Rep. Matthew Capeless.

He began his career as an assistant DA in Middlesex County in 1982, and came to work in the Berkshire office in 1991. He was appointed in 2004 to succeed Berkshire District Attorney Gerard Downing, who died while in office.

Caccaviello has been a prosecutor for 28 years, the last 13 of which have been as first assistant DA. In 2008, Caccaviello was named Prosecutor of the Year by the Massachusetts District Attorney’s Association.

He is an active member of the Berkshire County community, serving as a member of the Berkshire Bar Association and the Berkshire Community College Board of Trustees. He attended Western New England School of Law after graduating from North Adams State College and Pittsfield High School.

Opinions from Berkshire readers eagerly sought!

1) I highly doubt that this is related to Adam Falk in any way. Perhaps kt22’s friend of a friend could elaborate? I can’t even imagine what the connection might be. Falk announced his departure last June, which means that he was involved in the Sloan Foundation job search months before that. How could Capeless’s resignation this month possibly be related to Falk? I also can’t come up with a potential link to Williams. Can anyone?

2) Downing (the DA prior to 2004) only appears in EphBlog once, in conjunction with the Gensheimer/Foster rape trial. Capeless also appears only once in a main post. He seems to have been too much of a drug warrior, at least for my tastes. He earns one mention in the Record. But there was also this EphBlog comment last year:

HOWEVER, almost every rape case that arises on a college campus like Williams centers on the issue of capacity-to-consent, and how “seriously” law enforcement treats an accusation made under such circumstances varies, subject to the local D.A.’s unilateral discretion. No way can you say that, as a rule, law enforcement takes these types of cases very seriously.

Take a look at the track record of Berkshire County D.A. David Capeless, as an example. He is the long-time chief flaw enforcement officer for a county that includes multiple college campuses, and NEVER ONCE has he brought rape charges in a capacity-to-consent type case. He pursues child rapists and violent rapists with zeal, but I challenge you to find one single instance where he charged, let alone convicted, a man for assaulting a woman who was incapacitated and legally incapable of providing consent. Capeless clearly refuses to go there, and since he has unilateral, unchecked authority regarding such matters, there’s not a damn thing the complainant can do about it.

True? I don’t know. More background here.

Any opinions on new DA Caccaviello? He does not seem [put on snotty Williams sweater] over-educated . . .


History of Women’s Hockey

Loved this letter in the Record:

Your article on the history of women’s ice hockey (“Exploring how women’s ice hockey broke the ice to achieve varsity status,” Feb. 7, 2018) is fine as far as it goes, but there is good deal more to the story. First, I personally believe that the pivotal ingredient in the upgrade to varsity status was the Colgate club team’s Title IX legal victory over that university, which occurred in 1992 or 1993 – the latter my hockey-playing daughter Dana Critchell Beausang ’97, M.D.,’s first year at Williams. Indeed, when I endowed the Williams Women’s Ice Hockey MVP Award, I thought of calling it the Colgate Award.

The upgrade to varsity status for the women was far from complete, however. Appearances were deceiving. The women’s ice hockey coach was paid somewhere between one-fifth and one-eighth of the men’s team counterpart’s salary for an essentially identical job. The players knew nothing about this. As can be imagined, this was not a happy situation for the women’s coach and only got worse over time. Dana liked her coach so I was concerned about keeping him. I did some things financially on my own to keep him in place, but the athletic director would do nothing.

Incidentally, my experience with Athletic Director Bob Peck was extremely similar to that of Stacey Dufor ’93. Putting it gently, Peck was duplicitous and a liar to me, as he clearly had been to Stacey. His hand had been forced into giving the women varsity status, and he wanted to spend as little as possible on the sport itself. I even appealed the pay disparity situation to the president of the College at the time, the late Hank Payne, and the chair of the Board of Trustees, but they had less than no interest.

Cutting to the chase, in 1997, after Dana and her fellow co-captain, Kim Whiteman ’97, stepped off the ice in their final game, I gave each of them the outline I had given Hank Payne spelling out the gross pay disparity between the two coaches. The rest, as they say, was history. Importantly assisted by Cara Shortsleeve ’00, they rounded up 700 student signatures on a petition calling for equal pay (for equal work). The College had no choice but to give in or face a serious public relations, and possibly legal, problem. The resulting pay increase for the coach finally moved the women’s program to full varsity status comparable to that of the men’s program.

Robert S. Critchell ’63, parent of Dana Critchell Beausang ’97, M.D.

I hope that Bob Peck writes in with a response!

Lots of interesting stuff here and in the original Record article. Worth going through in more detail?


Hall Monitors of the Diversity Brigade

From an anonymous faculty member:

I think Seery paints a very partial picture of “politically correct scripting,” one calibrated to spare his colleagues. At Williams I’d say the diversity brigade has three pillars of support: 1) Student life administrators and elements in the office of the Dean of the College, 2) more or less the entire office of the Dean of the Faculty, and 3) a substantial faculty bloc, consisting particularly of faculty in politically sensitive fields.

I want to emphasize that I like a lot of these people individually. Almost invariably they are personally well-meaning and generous. Collectively, though….

Faculty side admins put pressure on hiring and strive to define new positions in such a way as to yield the right kind of candidates, thus expanding the faculty bloc. Here it is important to note that diversity considerations provide a pretense for the administration to interfere in matters of departmental governance where it most matters, i.e. hiring and promotion. As long as this remains the case, upper administrators will always have reason to sponsor the circus. Meanwhile, politically conscious faculty and the student-facing admins create, coordinate and direct activist tendencies among our acolytes. This process makes a lot of things happen. One of them is that a great part of the campus-wide discourse is directed to identity politics 2.0, the constant elaboration of theories of repression and dominance. Another is that the process reinforces itself as student discontent demonstrates the need for more diversity-brigade staffing and more diversity-brigade activity.

I don’t know what my point here is really. I guess the Davis Center putting out lawn signs is the least of it. These are just incidental manifestations of a constant dialogue about oppression and oppressors that is echoed by many of our invited speakers, that recurs constantly in informal discussions by the Hollander espresso machine, and in faculty and committee meetings, infecting almost every social interaction (seriously, from mundane scheduling matters, to curriculum tinkering and syllabus design, internal administrative chores, you name it). On the one hand I teach my classes and write my articles and work out and I’m fine. On the other hand, the hall monitors of the diversity brigade, so quick to detect structural oppression in their opponents, have become stunningly blind to their own powers and repressive tendencies. Also there is an anti-intellectual aspect to their rhetoric that I find increasingly embarrassing.


Recruit One Hundred Class Agents

Most newly graduating classes at Williams have 30 or 40 class agents. Older classes often have fewer. This is a mistake. Williams would be much more successful in raising money (both in percentage and dollar terms) and in maintaining connections if we encouraged classes to have 100 agents.

First, it is very hard to recruit class agents after graduation. (Ask any Head Class Agent ever.) If you don’t recruit a 100 agents now, you will always, always struggle to have enough volunteers in later years.

Second, although it may seem like 40 agents provide good coverage for your class, that will change dramatically over the next 5 to 10 years. People scatter. Relationships fade.

Third, the biggest problem that class agents face is not in keeping in contact with the 300 or so members of every class that are the most committed to Williams. They are the easy ones! The problem comes with the 200 Ephs who are not, the ones who have a more standoffish relationship with the College, the ones who had a few close friends, rather than a wide network, the ones who never really clicked with a specific professor or class. Those 200 are the ones that you will have difficulty reaching in the years to come. This happens to every class, which is why alumni giving rates are only at 55%, and falling.

The only way to do better than 55%, the only way to get Person X to give if she is otherwise disinclined to give, is to have someone who knows her very well — someone that she is close friends with, someone she doesn’t want to say No to — do the asking.

The solution is to find many more agents now, while you have a chance, especially agents who are a part of small, isolated, social circles. You know those four women who lived together every year and don’t hang out much with other people? Make one of them a class agent now. You know those 6 male hockey players who loved Williams hockey but didn’t participate much in campus life outside their sport? One of them needs to be a class agent.

The beauty of having 100 class agents is that each agent is only responsible for 5 or so people. So, you have the manpower to connect with all sorts of people who, in other classes, don’t give to the College.

Recruiting 100 agents is hard, but identifying them should be easy. You want one from every entry. You want one from every sports team. You want one from every campus organization. (Of course, many agents will fulfill multiple rolls.) But, most importantly, you want to identify the 200 people in your class who are least connected to Williams on graduation day. You want to recruit a roommate or close friend of these people now.

Many of these recruits will hesitate. They are busy. They don’t know that many people. So sell them! Point out that you need them to just cover these four or five people, just their best buddies. No need for them to reach out to strangers.

Organizing 100 class agents is hard as well. (And, weirdly, the Alumni Office does not recognize what a great idea this is.) You might try a single head class agent (a one year position), 10 associate agents (who would stay for five years, one of those years as head agent), and 100 or so regular class agents. Each of the 10 associate agents might be responsible for 10 regular agents, but each regular agent would only need to worry about 5 or so classmates.

But the exact organization does not matter much. The key is getting 100 class agents now, while you still can. Older classes should do the same, but the best time to start is senior spring.


DPE Update

An update on DPE:

To: All Faculty
From: Committee on Educational Affairs, Lara Shore-Sheppard, Chair
Date: February 16, 2018
Subject: Implementation of the Difference, Power, and Equity (DPE) requirement

Dear Colleagues,

The Committee on Educational Affairs (CEA) is currently engaged in the annual curricular review. As you may recall, this year we are moving from the Exploring Diversity Initiative course requirement to the Difference, Power, and Equity course requirement which was passed by the faculty last spring and is slated to go into effect in fall of 2018.

Thanks to the anonymous faculty member who sent us this. Would love to have a professor, anonymous or otherwise, take on the Lily Shao role of posting such messages. Future historians will thank you! Since these e-mails go out to around 300 people, they are hardly state secrets. I am also somewhat worried that the College, in its general incompetence and ahistoricism, does not archive these messages so that, a decade from now, Williams historians won’t be able to easily read them.

We need at least 60 courses per semester to make this requirement work, and currently we have about 50 courses submitted for the entire year. We suspect that despite our best efforts at communication with chairs and faculty, there may have been confusion about the process for submitting a course to be designated as DPE, so this memo is intended to clarify the process. We urge any of you who might be interested in having your course designated as DPE to submit your course as described below if you have not already done so. Please do this as soon as possible as the course package goes before the faculty at the March meeting in order to be ready for preregistration in April.

First, and most important, as the DPE requirement is replacing the EDI requirement, any course that your unit decides can be used to satisfy the DPE requirement must be submitted as a substantially revised course in order to receive the designation, even if the course is not changing. We suspect that many current EDI courses that faculty intend to change into DPE courses have not yet been submitted in this way. If your unit wants your course to have a DPE designation, you must submit the substantial revision form indicating this.

Ha! (Note that the bolding was in the original e-mail.) The majority of the faculty care so little about this absurd exercise in virtue-signalling that they can’t even be bothered to submit the appropriate paperwork.

My opinions (one, two, three, four) about DPE are unchanged from a year ago.

Rest of e-mail below the break:
Read more


Falk Quad == Farquaad?

What does Williams think of Adam Falk?

Lordfarquaad[T]he Board of Trustees unanimously voted to honor Adam Falk, our 17th president, by naming the Science Quad in his honor. The decision continues a Williams tradition of naming important public spaces in honor of our past presidents.

In addition, a group of current and former Trustees and other generous donors have endowed the directorship of the Center for Learning in Action (CLiA) in Adam’s name. The Adam Falk Directorship is a tribute to his founding support for the Center, which engaged more than 800 Williams students in projects across our community and region this year alone.

“Williams” is, of course, not a very well-defined entity. You, random alum, might hate Adam Falk. Collette Chilton might think he’s wonderful. But, to the extent Williams, as an institution, has expressed a judgment, it is via these honors. The trustees’ opinions can be gauged by considering these names and comparing them to names bestowed in the past.

First, Falk is definitely not in the top rank of Williams presidents (again, as judged by the trustees and major donors). Those presidents — Sawyer, Chandler, Schapiro — get major buildings named after them. Falk doesn’t even get a building!

Second, Falk is not even in the second tier of Williams presidents. Phinney Baxter ’14 once had the major building on campus, the old Baxter Hall and, even now, still has Baxter Great Hall within Paresky. Frank Oakley, while not in Sawyer’s league, was still a successful president. You might think that the Oakley Center is fairly modest, at least in comparison to Schapiro Hall. But those who know Frank can confirm that he has loved the Center for the past 30 years and would much rather have his name associated with it than with any of the larger buildings on campus.

And so we come to the third tier. Hank Payne, president from 1994 to 1999, is widely (and, I think, unfairly) regarded as an unsuccessful Williams president, which is one reason why there is no campus building named for him. The trustees and/or major donors have only given us the Harry C. Payne Visiting Professor of Liberal Arts and the Harry C. Payne Professor of Poetry.

Williams places Adam Falk squarely in the third tier of Williams presidents over the last century. Indeed, other than Hank Payne, it is hard to think of a president that the college has so dissed with its naming largess.1

First, we have the Adam Falk Directorship. This isn’t even a named professorship, two of which Payne was honored by. Professors have higher status than administrators. Perhaps the CLiA was something that Falk truly cared about. (Informed opinions welcome, but I certainly don’t recall him talking about it much.) In any event, this is a small $ gift.

Second, we have the . . . Adam Falk Science Quad? Falk Quad? Who else is reminded of Lord Farquaad, the short-statured, dark-haired, inept ruler of Duloc in the movie Shrek? This strikes me as almost an insult:

a) Who is ever going to use the words “Adam Falk Science Quad?” Not me, nor any student/professor. It is an absurd mouthful. If they name something after you, and no one ever says the name, then what is the point?

b) Might the phrase “Falk Quad” be used? Maybe. (Reader opinions welcome.) It certainly does not roll of the tongue! Everyone currently uses the phrase “science quad” to refer to that part of campus. Will that really change? I have my doubts.

If 10 years from now, the only thing permanently associated with Falk’s name is an administrative position — and not even for a position in the top rung of administrators! — then it will be clear that the trustees and major donors view Falk’s tenure as a disappointment.

[1] It could be that the College, once the Capital Campaign is complete, will name a major building after Falk, perhaps one of the new structures in the science quad. If that happens, we will revisit this conclusion.


Jeremiad and Eulogy, 9

Pomona Professor John Seery‘s article, “Somewhere Between a Jeremiad and a Eulogy,” is a moving description of the changes at elite liberal arts colleges over the last 30 years. (See here for a shorter version.) Almost everything he writes about Pomona is just as true of Williams, including the death of faculty governance, the growth of college staff and out-of-control administrator salaries. Let’s spend a week two weeks going through it. Day 9.

Seery writes beautifully about the ideal of a liberal arts college:

The smallness facilitates face-to-face forms of teaching and learning. It thus showcases an interactive mix of personalism, relationalism, and localism. Persons get to know each other as unique individuals, as part of this unique class here-and-now, as part of this particular college, a college like no other, situated in this part of the country, with these or that local and regional distinguishing features, customs, and aspirations. You don’t just take a Shakespeare class from some carbon-copy, transportable, standard-issue Shakespeare professor. Rather, you take that particular Shakespeare course because it’s being taught by a professor who has become a local celebrity of sorts (but unsung otherwise) because of the way she’s taught the course, with scholarly insights and idiosyncratic twists and inventive accommodations, always displaying a teacherly attentiveness that takes into crucial account the indispensably unique individuals in front of her in that particular class in that particular year. Over time the course becomes steeped in surrounding local traditions and lore, and in turn creates its own tradition and lore, radiating outward from her teaching brilliance, which then contributes to the overall character of the college. Such a classroom is the moral center of the college. Everything else is ancillary.

Indeed. But you can be certain that the next Williams president will agree with every word, as she should.

Seery offers limited advice:

Pause to ponder this well: many American small colleges are in a death spiral (admittedly not Pomona and other elite schools) precisely during a period when presidential salaries are zooming skyward. It doesn’t have to be this way. I pinch myself with gratitude after every seminar with my students. The classroom is and must be the moral center of a college. That’s where the action is. That’s where the priorities must be placed. That’s what must be protected and promoted. We need college leadership that believes in providing the right kind of modern bang for the buck, with budgetary sobriety starting at the top.

And the Patriots lost the Super Bowl “during a period when” Mars was in Scorpius. Two true facts often have nothing to do with one another. That third tier liberal arts colleges are failing (true) has no connection with rising (and absurd) presidential salaries at places like Pomona/Williams.

Nothing resembling “budgetary sobriety” is on the horizon. The only (likely forlorn) hope is that a visionary board/president institute following policies:

1) Fix the current number of non-faculty employees at its current level. EphBlog was recommending that policy 13 years ago. The Trustees should not micro-manage the institution, but fixing the headcount is a perfect trustee-level way of attacking the problem.

2) Ratchet down the total number of non-faculty employees by 1% each year. More than 1% of the staff leave each year, either via retirement or voluntary departure, so this would require no firings. A 1% drop each year is imperceptible, but, in a decade or two, we will have made real progress.

3) Recruit the faculty to do more. Lots of faculty have no interest in anything but their teaching and research. And that is OK! But dozens of faculty would be eager to take a turn as, say, an assistant Dean of the College or assistant Provost.

What concrete advice would readers have for Seery?


Jeremiad and Eulogy, 7

Pomona Professor John Seery‘s article, “Somewhere Between a Jeremiad and a Eulogy,” is a moving description of the changes at elite liberal arts colleges over the last 30 years. (See here for a shorter version.) Almost everything he writes about Pomona is just as true of Williams, including the death of faculty governance, the growth of college staff and out-of-control administrator salaries. Let’s spend a week two weeks going through it. Day 7.

The real reason tuitions are skyrocketing and educational integrity has been compromised is because administrators, not educators, now run the show, all across America. They call the shots. They build the fancy buildings. They call for and approve the costly amenities. They fund what they want to fund. They hire the people they want to hire and pay them top dollar. They make the decisions about branding campaigns, and they set the agenda for student affairs staffs. They fund the kind of curriculum they want. They control the purse strings. They hold the power.

No. No. No. Even if I ran Williams, tuition would still be as high as it is now. Williams, like all elite colleges, is a luxury good, and all luxury goods come with high prices, almost by definition. Seery has the causation exactly backwards. Williams doesn’t increase tuition because it wants costly amenities. It has the money for costly amenities because it has increased tuition. (Indeed, liberal arts colleges that have tried to differentiate themselves by having lower tuition have found that students react negatively, that students use price as a signal. A Williams that only charged $30,000 would enroll lower quality students.)

That pyramidal model in which intellectual labor is transferred from the faculty to the president and his administrators and their strategic plans systematically siphons money and attention and purpose away from what matters most, the classroom.

“Intellectual labor?” What is Seery talking about. Nothing prevents Seery, in his own classes, from being just as good a teacher today as we was 30 years ago. Maybe (maybe!) he has more meetings to attend now than he did then, but that effect is trivial, and more than made up by the decrease in his teaching load. How much “money” does he need to teach political science? Who is stealing his “attention and purpose?”

To the extent things have changed for the worse in his classroom, Seery, and no one else, deserves most/all of the blame.

Historically, SLAC alumni have donated to their small colleges because they genuinely believed in the small-college, residential, face-to-face, liberal arts form of education.

Yeah, maybe. Do people donate to Yale or to the University of Texas or to Andover for different reasons? I don’t think so. People donate to institutions to which they feel a personal connection and whose mission they support.

The current crop of SLAC presidents are (with a few possible exceptions) no longer fellow travelers and true believers in that cause. Their words ring hollow. Yet their pocketbooks grow fat. That alumni donations have dropped off dramatically in the past twenty years at SLACs across the country should come as no great surprise.

Seery is much more cynical than I. I believe (most of) what Adam Falk and Tiku Majumder (and Pomona President Gabrielle Starr) say about the importance of small classes, faculty interaction, and the whole liberal arts college shtick. Who doesn’t think that small classes are good?

Seery is also sloppy in claiming that “alumni donations have dropped off dramatically in the past twenty years.” First, is that even true? I doubt it. My sense (contrary opinions welcome) is that Williams has raised much more money — even in inflation-adjusted dollars — over the last 10 years than in the decade prior, and in the last 20 years relative to any 20 year period before 1998. SLACs have tons of money to spend on all the things that Seery and I hate precisely because they have become such efficient find-raising machines. Second, it is true that there has been a drop in the rate of alumni giving. But, I think that there are many more plausible explanations for that than concern over administrative empire building — none of which the vast majority of alumni know anything about — and, more importantly, the college doesn’t really care if the rate of small-dollar gifts has declined from 60% to 50%.


Jeremiad and Eulogy, 6

Pomona Professor John Seery‘s article, “Somewhere Between a Jeremiad and a Eulogy,” is a moving description of the changes at elite liberal arts colleges over the last 30 years. (See here for a shorter version.) Almost everything he writes about Pomona is just as true of Williams, including the death of faculty governance, the growth of college staff and out-of-control administrator salaries. Let’s spend a week two weeks going through it. Day 6.

Critics of American higher education these days frequently call for the entire edifice to be disrupted and dismantled on the grounds that tenured radicals promoting “political correctness” run the show and create an atmosphere that silences dissenting views. But that’s an outdated and misdirected critique.

Really? Doesn’t seem outdated to me! Williams bans speakers. Here’s what happened at Pomona just a year ago:

As the 2017 school year came to a close, protesters at Pomona College staged a sit-in, symbolically unregistered themselves from sociology classes and called for rescinding a visiting scholar post that was awarded to Alice Goffman, a white sociologist who chronicled the impact of prison and policing on black youth. In an open letter to the sociology department they demanded “peer-appointed influential student positions on the hiring committee.”

Sure sounds like an “atmosphere that silences dissenting views.” And Goffman is a liberal! Imagine what would have happened if Pomona had tried to hire a conservative — much less someone who voted for Trump!

First, tenure is fading; only 24 percent of undergraduate college courses in the U.S. are taught by tenured or tenure-track professors.

Again, Seery conflates two separate issues: what is happening in colleges in general (the decimation of tenure) versus what is happening at places like Pomona/Williams (tenure as strong as ever). If anything, tenure protections (or at least faculty confidence) are stronger now than 30 years ago, at least at Williams, because the rate at which tenure is granted has increased from 20% to 80%, approximately.

Second, the professorial radicals who came of age in the sixties are retired or dead, and professors who have achieved tenure subsequently have often acceded to the new Administrative Order of academe. Yes, there remain professors who espouse crazy theories, but not to the point that such textbook radicalism would threaten their jobs.

Are today’s radicals better than those of a generation ago? No! I think they are much worse, mainly because they seem much more eager to silence/punish views with which they disagree. It is hardly a surprise that the most strident critics of the College’s banning of Derbyshire were among the faculty’s oldest members.

If you look closely, the most unabashed forms of politically correct scripting on campus—the hunt to root out microaggressions and supposedly traumatizing speech—originate from the bloated administrative wing of campus, often from the Dean of Students Office(s). The people ventriloquizing students, through relentless sensitivity campaigns, about safe spaces, hate speech, structural oppression, and diversity imperatives are the deans and deanlets of residential life (as one of my colleagues puts it, the “Residential Life Industrial Complex”).

Exactly correct. (And I love the phrase: Residential Life Industrial Complex!) Consider a recent example from Williams:

On Monday, members of the Davis Center placed signs along the path on the lawn outside of the Paresky Center and the Congregational Church. The signs contained facts and statements related to the College, Williamstown and Native American history. Shawna Patterson-Stephens, director of the Davis Center, was the primary organizer behind the project.

Doesn’t Shawna Patterson-Stephens have anything better to do with her time? If we must have a Davis Center, then it ought to be run by a professor.

“Oftentimes, attempts to bring awareness can have a sense of irrelevance, a sense of ‘that happened to those people over there,’ but a project such as these signs brings the issue closer to home,” Angela Wu, assistant director of the Davis Center, said.

The Davis Center has a director and an assistant director?!? As always, if College employees, on their own time and spending their own money, want to protest, more power to them! Protest is cool. But I am pretty sure that these protests occurred during the workday, using signs constructed from materials bought by Williams.

“In recognition of Indigenous People’s Month, the Davis Center wanted to provide recognition [of] native people’s culture and the legacy of injustice that has historically been committed against the indigenous community via these signs,” Dominic Madera ’21, a community builder at the Davis Center, said.

“It’s incredibly wrong that we live on and claim land as our own that we acquired by killing, harming and moving American Indian bodies,” Katie Manning ’20, a community builder at the Davis Center, said.

The Davis Center has (multiple!) “community builder[s],” students that the College pays to protest itself!

Read the whole thing. Again, if students want to protest, great! But I bet that Manning/Madera are paid for the time they spent putting up those signs by the College. The whole article is either a brilliant parody or the perfect illustration of the Residential Life Industrial Complex.

Back to Seery:

Such people present elaborate and intensive “orientation” programs for the students. They have money to hire students to hector other students about the need for making everything warm and welcoming. On the academic side of things, the deans are constantly hiring outside “diversity trainers” and “leadership consultants” and “workplace bullying” experts to come in and present all-day workshops on said issues. There’s a whole bureaucratic apparatus in place and it isn’t faculty driven at all—though some faculty members take advantage of it, once the incentives and cues are put so clearly into place.

“Hire students to hector students” sure sounds like Madera/Manning are doing.


Jeremiad and Eulogy, 5

Pomona Professor John Seery‘s article, “Somewhere Between a Jeremiad and a Eulogy,” is a moving description of the changes at elite liberal arts colleges over the last 30 years. (See here for a shorter version.) Almost everything he writes about Pomona is just as true of Williams, including the death of faculty governance, the growth of college staff and out-of-control administrator salaries. Let’s spend a week two weeks going through it. Day 5.

Some long-standing small-college virtues and priorities at Pomona seem to be fading, even as we get more technologically adept and administratively enabled.

True at Williams as well. Fifty years ago, almost every single faculty member lived close to the college and centered their lives around Williams. That was less true 25 years ago and even less true today.

But notice how Seery never talks about that! How many Pomona/Williams faculty members “commute” to work, either flying in from another city or only driving a long distance a couple of days a week? How many live far enough away that they don’t really care what happens in Williamstown? If you want “small college virtues,” then you want every faculty member (and every senior administrator) to live close by. Seery never demands this of his fellow faculty members, probably because of the real sacrifices it would require.

Back in 1990, if I felt a student was in personal distress, I would pick up the phone and call a dean I knew, and we’d have a discreet conversation about that troubled kid. And because I personally knew and trusted that dean, I also knew that she would follow through and contact the student and, sure enough, would see to it that she’d soon, one way or another, have a face-to-face sit-down with the student to find out what’s going on and to provide appropriate counsel and care.

And, back in the day, that dean was much more likely to be either a fellow member of the faculty or the spouse of a college employee or both. The bigger an organization becomes, the more those personal connections are lost.

Today if I have a troubled student, I’m supposed to go to the portal.

I call BS on this claim
. I am certain that the Pomona Dean of the College (Audrey Bilger) and/or the Dean of Students (Miriam Feldblum) would love to hear directly from Seery if he ever notices a student “in personal distress.”

I am sure there is a portal, but its existence does not prevent Seery from behaving exactly the same as he did 30 years ago. The more likely explanation is that he does not know Bilger/Feldblum; he no longer feels comfortable just picking up the phone and calling them.

The portal will tell me that, first, I have to fill out an information page about who I am, and then fill out another page about the student, checking off the problem from a list of possible concerns. That portal submission goes to some midlevel dean’s office that is called (for the moment anyway) something along the lines of the Office for Student Success and Personal Wellness. My portal entry, I recently learned after inquiring, generates an email or two to the student, but no phone call, and no face-to-face sit-down (unless the student shows up on his/her own initiative). Portal-generated emails to distressed students refer those students to other portal links whereby they can seek, a click away, information about counseling services or the like. All those portal links, to be sure, sit securely behind the latest ITS-supervised security firewalls (which need constant monitoring and revamping and outside vendor support and renewal) so that a student’s privacy cannot be violated.

Meanwhile, a troubled student under my watch did in fact drop out recently, and I learned after the fact that no human being, even from the rather well-staffed Office for Student Success and Personal Wellness, had ever met with that student, even after my many portal submissions and emails and desperate phone-called pleas for expert intervention.

I bet that there is another side to this story. You really believe that, at a place like Pomona, “desperate phone-called pleas” from a faculty member about student welfare had no effect? If true, someone should be fired. More likely, Seery — the hero of every paragraph — is over-stating his attempts and/or unaware of what happened behind the scenes.

But, really, a single story and portal complaints are not the point. The main issue is the size of Pomona/Williams, the tenure of the people who work there, and the depths of the connections among them. If Seery wants to return Pomona to its small college roots — as I would like to return Williams — then we simply must a) reduce their size, b) require local residency for faculty/administrators, c) preferentially hire among faculty/administrator spouses.

There are a dozen or more faculty spouses at Williams who would love a job in the Dean’s Office. We recently had two openings. Did we hire a spouse? No. Instead, as usual, we do a “national search.” I have nothing against the folks who were hired, both of whom seem well-qualified, and one of whom is an Eph. But Williams would have been better off hiring locally. We have too many strangers and transients as it is . . .


Jeremiad and Eulogy, 4

Pomona Professor John Seery‘s article, “Somewhere Between a Jeremiad and a Eulogy,” is a moving description of the changes at elite liberal arts colleges over the last 30 years. (See here for a shorter version.) Almost everything he writes about Pomona is just as true of Williams, including the death of faculty governance, the growth of college staff and out-of-control administrator salaries. Let’s spend a week going through it. Day 4.

The most conspicuous change I’ve seen over those years is that the number of administrators has ballooned. On the shelves in my office I still have my first Pomona College catalog, for the academic year 1990–91, a printed black-and-white publication with a four-color but poorly designed cardboard-stock cover glued over the smudgy pages in between. Toward the back of the catalog, under “Administration,” there are nine offices listed, covering three pages, naming 56 persons as the members of the administration. Thereafter, the professors are listed, a total of 180. At the time, Pomona matriculated 1,487 students. In 2016 it takes me about ten seconds to find all this information in the cheap 1990 catalog.

Good stuff. I believe the Williams library is working on putting our old course catalogs on-line. You can be certain that the same was true at Williams.

Cut to the future, 2016. . . . Pomona College now has, by my careful count, 271 administrators … . The number of Pomona College faculty remains roughly the same (a current Pomona website lists the number of regular faculty at 186). The number of students has increased to 1,640.

The president now has nine vice presidents (up from four in 1990). The Dean of Students Office has gone from six persons in 1990 to sixty-five persons in 2016 (not counting administrative assistants). . . .

Summary overview: the number of students at Pomona has increased 12 percent from 1990 to 2016; the number of faculty has increased 3 percent; tuition has increased 253 percent; the number of administrators has increased 384 percent. Pomona now employs far more administrators (271) than faculty (186) to fulfill its small college, nonprofit educational mission.

Exactly right. Administrative staff have ballooned at Pomona — and at Williams and at Amherst and at . . . .

I know that there are good people who will sincerely try to explain and defend the mushrooming increases in administrative positions. Some attribute it to an onslaught of federal regulation (e.g., Clery Act, VAWA, ADA, FERPA, Title IV, Title IX) and increased scrutiny by regional accrediting agencies, all following from reauthorizations of the Higher Educational Act of 1965. Some point to increased competition for students owing to the emergence of rankings services, globalization, helicopter parenting, and so on. Some say that a more diversified student body requires more administrators in tow. Some say corporatist trends have infiltrated higher education everywhere. The net effect of all these macro-explanations is to conclude that the administrative overthrow of the erstwhile SLAC model was inevitable, and all we can do now is shrug our shoulders, sit through PowerPoint meetings with small breakout sessions, learn to speak the prevailing jargon, and watch reruns of The Office for off-hour comic relief.

This is both true, and too defeatist. Since the same thing has happened at every single elite school, the cause is not a specific president or powerful vizier.

But a visionary board of trustees (or president) could have done something, could still do something.

1) Fix the current number of non-faculty employees at its current level. EphBlog was recommending that policy 13 years ago. The Trustees should not micro-manage the institution, but fixing the headcount is a perfect trustee-level way of solving the problem.

2) Ratchet down the total number of non-faculty employees by 1% each year. More than 1% of the staff leave each year, either via retirement or voluntary departure, so this would require no firings. A 1% drop each year is imperceptible, but, in a decade or two, we will have made real progress.

3) Recruit the faculty to do more. Lots of faculty have no interest in anything but their teaching and research. And that is OK! But dozens of faculty would be eager to take a turn as, say, an assistant Dean of the College or assistant Provost.

Odds of this happening at Williams (or Pomona)? Zero point zero.

Here’s an increasingly typical scenario at Pomona: A meeting of the faculty is called because someone above our pay grade has decided that we all need to learn about a new complicated software package that ITS will roll out in several phases. The new package may involve the logistics of registration, or computer security, or computer storage, or business accounting (many of these matters have in fact generated such meetings in recent years). Now, if we professors were all lawyers in a corporate law firm, calling a meeting of so many lawyers time and again might be tallied in terms of collective billable hours lost to the firm. But for some reason, we in academe don’t reckon these meetings as an inherent and escalating cost of our technological infrastructure.

Seery fails to understand that many (most?) of the problems he points out at Pomona are not just problems at elite liberal arts colleges. They are problems at every successful non-profit. The exact same thing is happening at, say, the College Board and CFA Institute. When lots of money rolls in, empires will be built, bureaucracies will grow, and the original mission will fade. The old line is: Every successful organization starts as a mission, turns into a business and ends as a racquet. Where is Williams today in that evolution?


Jeremiad and Eulogy, 3

Pomona Professor John Seery‘s article, “Somewhere Between a Jeremiad and a Eulogy,” is a moving description of the changes at elite liberal arts colleges over the last 30 years. (See here for a shorter version.) Almost everything he writes about Pomona is just as true of Williams, including the death of faculty governance, the growth of college staff and out-of-control administrator salaries. Let’s spend a week going through it. Day 3.

Seery pulls few punches:

For the rapid destruction of the American small college—which is what we are witnessing—I could wag my finger at a number of culprits and conditions. But I want to focus my ire here on one main responsible party: small liberal arts college presidents. They bear the bulk of the blame. The fish rots from the head down.

This conflates two separate issues. First, small liberal arts colleges have been decimated over the last 30 years. Scores have closed, almost always because students stopped applying/enrolling. Maybe a few of the presidents involved were greedy/incompetent. But not all of them! Second, elite liberal arts colleges like Pomona and Williams have changed a great deal. That is the “rot” that worries Seery.

Colleges are formally and informally governed far more like top-down Leninist organizations than hippie communes. Members of the board of trustees, operating according to a set of by-laws for the corporation, bear the legal and fiduciary responsibilities for good stewardship at the top, but in fact the president holds the keys to the Chevy and can drive it pretty much wherever he/she wishes (and over time, the president handpicks many of the members of the board and also pushes out critics, so it becomes more or less an old boys club). The president thus enjoys a great deal of formal and discretionary power, and isn’t constrained, as would be a CEO of a for-profit company, for overriding and clarifying concerns about bottom-line profit or shareholder returns.

True and false. It is true that college presidents, like corporate CEOs, have a lot of power and that, in general, trustees defer to them. But there is some amount of “market” discipline. Look at all the liberal arts colleges that have disappeared! Look at the movement in prestige and rankings. Look at the college presidents that are forced out, people like Hank Payne at Williams and Nancy Roseman at Dickison.

More importantly, it is naive to blame person X for something if that same something is happening everywhere. You can believe in the Great Man theory of college presidencies: The reason that Williams looks the way it does is because Morty Schapiro caused it to look that way. But you can’t simultaneously believe that and also observe that every elite college has changed in the exact same way. If every college now has highly paid administrators or too many staff, then the fault can not lie with a specific president. The cause must be systematic.

The hallowed and possibly countervailing notions of “faculty governance” and “academic freedom” are not professorial prerogatives or rights inscribed somehow in Nature or the Constitution but are, instead, discretionary privileges extended by the beneficence and norms of the Powers-that-Be at the uppermost echelon of the college. Oh, faculty committees can write reports and hold meetings and take votes and make a small ruckus. But the president is in charge, and can ignore or squelch all the noise below. And so the ultimate responsibility for the college’s corruption and demise should not be distributed or attenuated. No buck passing.

Huh? The faculty at Pomona used to be X powerful. It is now X/2 powerful. The same thing has happened at Williams. You can blame college presidents for grabbing more power — and Lord knows that I love to blame Adam Falk — but you have to blame the faculty as well. They could have fought much harder than they did. They could fight much harder now. What precisely has Seery spent the last few decades doing? Not much, I bet.

[S]mall liberal arts college presidents don’t know what they are talking about, and yet they talk as if they do. As a class of professional liars, they shouldn’t be trusted with the truth-seeking institutions with which they’ve been entrusted. They are to promote the college as a place of teaching. But they are not teachers. They are to sing the praises of the liberal arts classroom. But most of them have never set foot on a liberal arts college campus before heading one up. Most of them, I dare say after perusing their lifelong track records and educational and career choices, would never have sought out a presidency at a small liberal arts college but for the enormous pay and status that now come attached to those jobs.

“[P]rofessional liars?” Come on! To be a college president, you have to be a bit of a politician, you have to get along with people you don’t like — obstreperous senior professors of government, for example. You can’t tell people exactly what you think all the time. You often speak in platitudes. But that has been true of college presidents for hundreds of years. This is hardly the same as being a liar.

It is a separate question whether or not the current (outrageous!) pay of elite college presidents attract the wrong sort of candidates. I agree and, moreover, even if it doesn’t, there is no reason to expect that high pay actually leads to better presidents.


How to Pick a Husband

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Jeremiad and Eulogy, 2

Pomona Professor John Seery‘s article, “Somewhere Between a Jeremiad and a Eulogy,” is a moving description of the changes at elite liberal arts colleges over the last 30 years. (See here for a shorter version.) Almost everything he writes about Pomona is just as true of Williams, including the death of faculty governance, the growth of college staff and out-of-control administrator salaries. Let’s spend a week going through it. Day 2.

But that cancerous disease—of a burgeoning and expensive administrative apparatus über alles—has infected small colleges, too, and its damaging effects are particularly pernicious there.

An autonomous managerial class has emerged whose immediate and ulterior interests are occupational as opposed to educational (a distinction that ought not to be collapsed), and whose mission is to serve administrative purposes as opposed to teaching purposes (another distinction that ought not to be elided). Perhaps worst of all, the management model of organization, in trying to bring small colleges into the fold of purportedly national “best practices” and procedures, is destroying the distinctiveness, the localism, the teacherliness, the very raison d’etrê, of small colleges, one by one, all across America. Those colleges rich enough to compete for students and brand recognition with the likes of Stanford and Princeton may survive the last shakeout, but I’m afraid it will be at the expense of, as it were, their institutional souls.

An “autonomous managerial class” has certainly emerged at Williams over the last 30 years. Its key members include Collette Chilton, Chief Investment Officer; Steve Klass, Vice President for Campus Life; Leticia S. E. Haynes, Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity; and Frederick W. Puddester, Vice President for Finance & Administration and Treasurer. Note:

1) None of these jobs existed 30 years ago. Indeed, there are at least 8 people in jobs that did not exist 15 years ago and who are paid much more than almost any member of the faculty. If the Williams of 1990 could survive with these roles, then couldn’t the Williams of 2018?

2) These people are paid much more than the faculty. From the 2016 Form 990 (pdf), the total compensation numbers are:

Chilton: $1,476,000
Haynes: $122,000
Klass: $378,000
Puddester: $473,000

(The Haynes number is surprisingly low since her predecessor, Mike Reed, made more than twice as much in the same job.)

3) These people are much more powerful than the average faculty member. The easiest way to track power in any organization, other than via compensation, is to examine access. Klass/Puddester meet more with the president of Williams in an average week than the typical faculty member does over the course of a year.

4) This is just the tip of the administrative iceberg. I left out folks like Megan Morey
Vice President for College Relations, Jim Reische Chief Communications Officer and Keli Gail
Assistant to the President and Secretary of the College because those jobs existed 15 years ago, albeit with much less power, and with much lower compensation (relative to the faculty). And then, in the levels below the President’s senior staff, we have scores of new positions/employees.

Seery is correct about the growth of this “class” and its ever increasing power/wealth relative to the faculty. I devoted nine days of discussion to explaining what this meant: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. Read it if you want to understand the past/future of faculty governance at Williams. Short version: Faculty governance has decreased each decade at Williams for at least the last 50 years. Falk accelerated/completed that change.

But, is it fair to say that Pomona/Williams are losing “their institutional souls?” He offers no evidence for this much stronger claim. Steve Klass is a good guy! He would agree with everything that Seery says about the centrality of the classroom to the mission of Williams. Klass would just argue that, in addition to great teachers, a multi-billion dollar institution like Williams needs great administrators, people who decide, for example, where to build the new dorm. Does Seery disagree?


Jeremiad and Eulogy, 1

Pomona Professor John Seery‘s article, “Somewhere Between a Jeremiad and a Eulogy,” is a moving description of the changes at elite liberal arts colleges over the last 30 years. (See here for a shorter version.) Almost everything he writes about Pomona is just as true of Williams, including the death of faculty governance, the growth of college staff and out-of-control administrator salaries. Let’s spend a week going through it. Day 1.

Seery begins:

I write this essay with mixed feelings. Half of me is mighty reluctant to write something harshly critical about higher education in the United States because I’m such a true-blue believer in, beneficiary of, and insider (here in my nook) to the system: Why should I contribute to the clamorous cross-country badmouthing so in vogue? We educators today are under siege by roving bands of pauperized parents, skunk-eyed skeptics, bean-counting accountants, dastardly disrupters, cretinous accreditors, mega-moneyed magnates, technology tycoons, pooh-poohing pundits, profiteering politicos, and others.

The more you love something, the more you have a responsibility to engage in honest, thoughtful criticism of it. I haven’t written almost every day for 15 years about Williams because I hate it. I write about Williams because I love it. Despite that (or maybe because of it), I suspect that most of Hopkins Hall views me as a “skunk-eyed skeptic.” Not that there is anything wrong with that!

My on-the-ground, in-the-hallway reality thus contravenes the prevailing narrative depicting professors as a bunch of pampered partisan prigs. Go ahead, troll me, if you must.

Professors as a class are hardly “pampered.” Indeed, the dramatic over-supply of Ph.D.’s and the ever increasing adjunctification of higher ed means that the average Ph.D. who teaches college students in the US is under increasing siege.

But Seery and his tenured peers at Pomona (and Williams) are among the most pampered workers in the entire world. Does Seery really not know that? First, they can never be fired. (Recall Williams Professor Aida Lalelian use of the term “nigger” to attack a faculty colleague. In any other company in the US, she would have been fired the next day. As a tenured professor at an elite college, she was safe.) Second, they get raises every year. Even the worse teacher/scholar at Pomona, once tenured, is on almost the exact same ever-rising ladder of prosperity as Seery. Third, their required workloads have decreased dramatically. At Williams, professors have gone from “3 and 3″ — meaning a requirement to teach 3 courses each semester — to “3 and 2″ to “2 and 2.” You can be certain the same thing has happened at similar colleges. If tenured professors at Pomona are not “pampered,” then no employee is.

I’m an outspoken, latter-day, and self-appointed apostle for the small liberal arts college (SLAC) form of education, a distinctively American institution.

Me too! Read “Choose Williams Over Harvard” for the details.

Only about 1 percent of the nation’s twenty million undergraduates are educated these days in a SLAC. Maybe I’m whistling past the graveyard, or going down with the sinking ship, or living on an isolated island as a blinkered holdout after the war is long over, but I still assert that the small liberal arts college form of education ought to be recognized (because it is so in fact, sotto voce, even if in dwindling numbers) as the gold standard, the summum bonum, the best of the best, for undergraduate education (rich, poor, white, black, religious, secular, you name it).

That is absurd. Has Seery ever met a high school senior with, say, 25th percentile intelligence? He should go visit some average high schools! Such students don’t like school, they don’t like reading, they don’t like all that intellectual stuff that Seery (and I!) like. And that is OK! We should no more make such students go to places like Pomona than we should make non-academically inclined Pomona students get a Ph.D. Graduate school is not for everyone, and neither is life at a SLAC. Such students are much better off learning a trade after high school.

But, to the extent that Seery is talking about the intellectual elite, I agree. If you have a choice between Pomona and, say, Cornell, you should choose Pomona for all the reasons that you should choose Williams over Harvard.


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