Currently browsing posts authored by David Dudley Field '25

Follow David Dudley Field '25 via RSS

Next Page →

The Death of Faculty Governance at Williams

Note this Record interview with Falk:

Falk demurs on the notion that the College has grown more bureaucratic, emphasizing his belief that the goal of any hiring and reorganization was directly tied to the betterment of the community. “There had been great growth in the endowment in the previous decade [before I was president] and I think that it had put the College in a position where we didn’t have to make the same kind of difficult choices between different funding priorities that we would have to make once the endowment dropped 30 percent,” Falk said. “And we are just a more complex operation then we used to be. We have a debt portfolio of $300 million. We have a complicated [human resources structure], a complicated facilities operation, a childcare center, a controller’s office and auditors that are doing more and more sophisticated work. A lot of that is really hard work for a faculty member to rotate in every few years and do as effectively as someone who’s a really strong professional.”

The (anonymous!) faculty member who points out this passage asked some (rhetorical!) questions:

Falk’s opinion of faculty governance is on full display here. He clearly prefers a “really strong professional” to make the “difficult choices between different funding priorities.”

Exactly right. Most Williams presidents are remembered, at most, for one thing: Sawyer abolished fraternities. Chandler created Winter Study. Oakley instituted tutorials. What will Falk be remembered for 30 years from now? Tough to say, but one contender is: Put the final nail in the coffin of faculty governance.

Is it truly the case that students and faculty are comfortable with having unaccountable administrators in charge of the really difficult decisions?

Students don’t care, obviously. Faculty (like my correspondent!) love to complain but, when push came to shove, they did nothing of substance. Recall the “alignment” (pdf) that Falk outlined 7 years ago this week. 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.

Does he really have such a low opinion of the faculty who have taken on administrative roles?

That is unfair. Falk loves Dukes Love and Denise Buell and Marlene Sandstrom. There are a dozen or more faculty at Williams who want/wanted those jobs. Falk turned all of them down, in preference for the ones he picked. But, at the same time, Falk (and the trustees!) want to pay Chilton/Puddestar/Klass two or three times as much money Love/Buell/Sandstrom and give the former much more power.

If so, what is his opinion of the other faculty and their voice in charting a path for the College?

They should shut up. There are a dozen (or a score? or more?) faculty at Williams that Falk has never had a meaningful one-on-one conversation with.

In any organization, the power lies with a) the people paid the most and b) the people who spend the most time talking with the boss. At Williams, a) and b) describe the senior administrators, not the senior faculty.

Facebooktwitter

Williams Uses Racial Goals in Admissions

Williams, as the College would be quick to tell you, does not use racial “quotas” in admissions. It does not require that there be, exactly, 50 African-American students in each class. But Williams does have ethnic/racial goals. It wants a class that looks like America.

From the Record in 1998:

There are no specific quotas to be filled in the admissions process at Williams, Director of Admissions Thomas Parker explained. Rather, the admissions Office tries to admit a class that reflects national populations.

From the Record in 2012:

[Former Vice President for Strategic Planning and Institutional Diversity Mike Reed ’75] explained that the College tries to model its student body on an “approximate mirroring” of the country, which requires recruiting students of color who otherwise would not apply.

A faculty friend reports, after talking with newish Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Liz Creighton ’01, that the same policy is true today. Creighton believes that ethnic/racial breakdown of US students at Williams should match, as close as possible, the ethnic/racial breakdown of the college-age US population, at least when it comes to African-Americans and Hispanics.

This is true, not just at Williams, but across elite higher education in the US. Occasionally, uninformed people don’t realize this or naive people deny it. Purpose of this post is to document that they are wrong.

Facebooktwitter

NESCAC Suggestions, 3

Some crazy Williams alum sent this letter (pdf) to all the presidents of NESCAC schools. Let’s spend three days talking about it. Today is Day 3.

NESCAC schools should measure and make public the academic accomplishments of their student athletes, both in high school (AP/SAT scores) and in college (GPA, majors).

Suggestions:

  • In the first (trial) year, allow each school to present the information in whatever way it prefers. (Smart presidents will simply delegate the task to their athletic directors and institutional researchers.) Since no (?) athletic conference has done this before, it is not clear what the best approach might be.
  • Any statistic should be presented in three different ways: for the entire student body, for the team as a whole and for the team weighted by playing time. (The last measure discourages coaches from stacking teams with academically accomplished benchwarmers.) FERPA prevents schools from releasing data about an individual student, but there is no law against making aggregate data available.
  • Include data from both high school and college. We want to demonstrate both the affect of athletics on admissions and, even more importantly, how athletes perform in college.

There are several benefits to greater transparency about the academic performance of NESCAC athletes. First, it would publicly demonstrate a fact that many non-athletes doubt: On the whole, athletes are similar in their academic qualifications and accomplishments to non-athletes. Second, it would encourage coaches to make academics a bigger focus in both their recruiting and their mentorship. If you (partially) measure coaches by the academic performance of their teams, you will get better academic performance. Third, it will prevent coaches/schools from complaining, inaccurately, about the behavior of their peers. Right now, coach X loves to claim that school Y unfairly lowers standards for its recruits. Who knows? With transparency, we can observe institutional behavior easily.

Facebooktwitter

NESCAC Suggestions, 2

Some crazy Williams alum sent this letter (pdf) to all the presidents of NESCAC schools. Let’s spend three days talking about it. Today is Day 2.

NESCAC schools should disallow participation by athletes older than 22 (except, in individual cases, by unanimous consent of the NESCAC presidents).

The average age of student athletes in NESCAC continues to increase, further deepening the athlete/non-athlete divide at most schools. This is especially true for starters in high profile sports. Indeed, it is hard to find a NESCAC men’s hockey team in which several of the best players are not two years older than their classmates after spending several years in junior hockey. Although many students use the PG (post-graduate) year option to better prepare for the rigors of NESCAC academics, others (and the coaches who recruit them) use it as a red shirt year, a chance to become a better athlete. Since athletic ability peaks in your late 20s, this aging-of-athletes process will only continue. This isn’t too large a problem now, which makes it all the easier to end. Exceptions, by unanimous consent of the NESCAC presidents could be made in individual cases, like the military veteran who starts college at 21 and was not recruited specifically for his athletic talent. Once coaches know that they can’t play outstanding athletes who are too old, they will find plenty of 18-year-olds to recruit.

Facebooktwitter

NESCAC Suggestions, 1

Some crazy Williams alum sent this letter (pdf) to all the presidents of NESCAC schools. Let’s spend three days talking about it. Today is Day 1.

Football is too dangerous.

The National Football League, which for years disputed evidence that its players had a high rate of severe brain damage, has stated in federal court documents that it expects nearly a third of retired players to develop long-term cognitive problems and that the conditions are likely to emerge at “notably younger ages” than in the general population.*

NESCAC football may be less dangerous than playing in the NFL, but there is every reason to believe that it is more dangerous, by an order of magnitude, than every other NESCAC sport. More importantly, the defenses for football are weak:

“No student is forced to play football. To the extent doing so is dangerous, it is a student’s choice, just like participation in other risky activities like rock climbing.” The vast majority of starting players on most (all?) NESCAC football teams would not have been admitted to their school if they did not agree to play football. They don’t really have any “choice,” at least if they are being honest with the coach who is recruiting them. If they tell the coach that, while they would love to go to school X, they don’t plan on playing football, the coach won’t put them on his list and they won’t be accepted.

“Ending football would be too unpopular among the alumni and/or major donors.” Connecticut College has no football program, and yet does as well as the average NESCAC school in terms of alumni giving and loyalty. Swarthmore ended football 15 years ago and, after a short-lived controversy, has raised as much money as almost any liberal arts college.

“Football may be dangerous for students but it is not dangerous for the College.” The first football lawsuit against a NESCAC school is not far away. If the NFL was willing to pay millions to injured players, even those who had only been in the league for a season or two, why wouldn’t the same reasoning apply to four-year NESCAC players? Do you want to be deposed by a plaintiff’s attorney about what you knew about the risks of football? Do your trustees? Organizations with hundreds of millions of dollars in assets attract lawsuits. The more years you allow football to continue, the greater the potential liability.

* “Brain Trauma to Affect One in Three Players, N.F.L. Agrees” New York Times, September 12, 2014.

Facebooktwitter

We’re #1 (for the 15th year in a row)

Williams is #1 in the US News ranking, for the 15th year in a row.

Two schools have a lock on No. 1: Princeton University topped the U.S. News national university list for the seventh straight year, and Williams College led the liberal arts list for the 15th straight year.

Every time that we appear in a sentence like this (with Princeton!), the better for our brand. (And if you find that notion of the College’s “brand” to be distasteful, you are a child. Parents will not pay a quarter million dollars for something with a less-than-amazing reputation.)

1) We did a detailed dive into the rankings last year. Should we revisit? If so, I would need someone to send me the underlying data. See here and here for previous discussions.

2) Kudos to Adam Falk, and the rest of the Williams administration. Maintaining the #1 ranking is important, especially for recruiting students who are less rich, less well-educated and less American. There is no better way to get a poor (but really smart) kid from Los Angeles (or Singapore) to consider Williams than to highlight that we are the best college in the country.

3) Many schools do a lot of suspect/sleazy things to improve their rank. Does Williams? Morty, infamously, capped discussion class size at 19 to ensure that the maximum number of classes met this US News cut-off.

4) There is a great senior thesis to be written about the rankings, similar to this article on the US News law school rankings. If you write such a thesis, hundreds of people around the country will read it.

5) Any comments on changes in the rankings below us?

6) Below the break is a copy of the methodology, saved for the benefit of future historians. Read more

Facebooktwitter

What Should I Do?

As long as there is an EphBlog, there will be a remembrance of the three Ephs who died on 9/11: Howard Kestenbaum ’67, Lindsay Morehouse ’00 and Brian Murphy ’80. Previous entries here and here.

morehouse

Keefe, Bruyette and Woods, a stock brokerage and an investment bank, occupied three floors of the South Tower of the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001. Lindsay S. Morehouse ’00, a new research assistant, was working on the 89th floor when American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North Tower at 8:46 AM. As The 9-11 Commission Report describes in chilling detail, there was little consensus about what denizens of the South Tower should do. Howard Kestenbaum ’67 and others started to leave the building. Lindsay Morehouse did not. She and her co-workers did not know — they could not know — that United Airlines Flight 175 was only minutes away from impact. They stayed were they were.

“What should I do?”

Flight 175 struck the South Tower at 9:03, crashing in between floors 78 and 84. Lindsay was just 5 floors above. She, and hundreds of others, survived the impact. They did not know — they could not know — that the South Tower would collapse in less than one hour.

Even five years later, the bits and pieces of a life well-lived and yet unfinished remain..

morehouse01On September 10, a dream came true for Lindsay Morehouse, an investment banker with Keefe, Bruyette and Woods. She was accepted as a volunteer at Big Brothers and Big Sisters of New York and eagerly awaited the name of her new little sister. A college tennis star who led the Williams College women’s team to the NCAA finals in her junior year, she continually sought challenges and new adventures.

Only 24 years old, she had already visited New Zealand, France, Italy, New Mexico and Greece. She had been bungy-jumping and rock-climbing. She was famous among her huge circle of friends, teammates, colleagues and loved ones for her intensity and deep feelings, for being as demanding of herself as she was of each relationship in her life.

Her passions were varied: gnocchi and Indian food, “Rent” and “Les Miserable,” the Yankees and kittens. It seemed that every time she touched a life, she made a life-long friend, as witnessed by the crowd of more than 800 mourners at her memorial service on September 15.

“What should I do?”

Lindsay had come to Williams from St. Paul’s School. Her love of tennis and academic seriousness were clear even then.

morehouse08Mrs. Maycen also talked about her daughter’s affection for St. Paul’s School and how the scholarship in her name honors Lindsay’s feelings toward the School.

“I remember clearly cleaning out her room on her last day at St. Paul’s. She said, ‘Mom, I’ve just loved this school. I just love St. Paul’s.’ Fast forward and in the last week of her life, she was accepted into the Big Sister program in New York City,” said Mrs. Maycen. “She was coming full circle; wanting to help people less privileged than she was. That’s why this scholarship is just so fitting. Giving a talented student the opportunity to have what she experienced at St. Paul’s is a wonderful way to carry on Lindsay’s desire to help others.”

Lindsay’s mother said that she believes her daughter would be honored to know that a scholarship in her name would provide individuals with leadership potential an opportunity to come to St. Paul’s, and to take full advantage of all the School has to offer; much like Lindsay did herself.

“I just know that, from her perch above, Lindsay is pleased, proud, and humbled to have a scholarship in her name at the school she loved so well,” said Mrs. Maycen.

“What should I do?”

Professor Michael Lewis shared these memories:

morehouse11I have written a great deal about monuments and memorials, particularly those at Ground Zero in New York. And in judging the design proposals, I always found myself thinking about Lindsay Morehouse, and what would be the appropriately dignified and heartfelt way to remember her.

I met Lindsay in 1998 when she took my architecture course. This was a large class, about fifty students, but she was the first one I got to know, and all because of a terrific misunderstanding on my part.

Long ago I realized how important the first day of a class is. This is where you can set the tone t, and if you want the students to feel that they can speak, and ask questions, and make comments, this has to happen in the very first class. By the second, it’s difficult; by the third, it’s too late. The invisible wall has come down. And so on that first day, you need to encourage students to make comments – so they can see that they will be listened to with appreciation and thoughtfulness, and not be snubbed. The professor cannot seem to be on a fishing expedition, wanting only to hear only a particular sentence. The instant he shows the slightest hint of disappointment over a student comment – or says those fatal words, “anybody else?” – the game is over. The freeze sets in and the class will never thaw.

Therefore, to make this happen, I deliberately put a couple of images in my first lecture that invite questions – open-ended questions where there is no such thing as a wrong answer. If student don’t automatically raise their hand, I look for someone who seems just on the verge of asking. You can always tell who doesn’t want to be singled out.

On that particular day it was Lindsay Morehouse I noticed, sitting in the second or third row on the right. She had that alert, pleasantly curious expression that tells you that she’s following right along, is engaged and responsive, and seems delighted to participate. What do you think? I asked her, and whatever she said was useful and helpful, because the class moved along happily afterwards, and I left thinking that the first class was a success.

The next day I headed to my office hours, knowing that there would be no one there, because it was only the first week of the semester. But there was Lindsay, outside my office, evidently waiting for me. I could not imagine why, but when she stepped in I could see that her face was red. I asked her if something was wrong, and she began to weep. The she said a sentence that I can still hear almost twenty years later: why were you picking on me?

It took me a moment to realize exactly what she meant, and then it was my turn to feel terrible. What I thought was relaxed banter in the class, she felt as if she had been cruelly put on the spot, without warning. I handed Lindsay a tissue, and explained just what I wrote above – that I did this on purpose, to create a certain exciting mood in the lecture hall where everyone feels allowed to comment and participate, and no one’s ideas are ever brushed off. I also explained how I looked for engaged and curious faces who seemed they wanted to comment, and that she seemed to be that person. And I told her this was the only time that I had read the signals wrong.

It is a funny law of life that after a misunderstanding or any tense confrontation with someone, you tend to feel closer to the person. This was the case with us. For the rest of the semester Lindsay was a superb presence in the classroom –just as engaged and curious as I had thought at the beginning. I soon discovered she was one of the stars of our tennis team and she often came to class in her tennis whites.

Williams sawyer library

One of the assignments was to make a new facade for Sawyer Library in the style of one of the architects we studied, and she turned in an imaginative and fabulously witty Neo-Palladian design, complete with statues teetering on the parapet. I still have it.

Lindsay_Morehouse

Lindsay showed she had a knack for architectural thinking and we even looked at creating a winter study project where she could do an advanced architectural project, but I was on leave and this didn’t happen. I later found out she had talked to her mother about this project, and her regret that we couldn’t make it work.

On September 11, I had heard that Lindsay had been working in one of the World Trade Center buildings. Two days later, the 13th, I was walking into my American art class, just about to launch into the second lecture of the year. I happened to pass my friend Dave Johnson, our tennis coach, and asked if there was any news about Lindsay. This was that time of confusion when there was still hope that some people might be trapped in the subway beneath the building, and might be rescued. And to my shock, Dave said that the memorial service was going to be Saturday. He explained to me that there was no doubt that she was lost, and that she was on the phone as it happened.

morehouse09This happened seconds before I was to walk to the podium and lecture to my American art class – which happened to be the only one I ever taught that filled the room to its 110-seat capacity. I started to tell them about Lindsay, whom many of them know, and then I cried like a baby in the room, which immediately fell silent. Although I pulled myself together to give the lecture, I was rather chagrinned. As I left the room I bumped into my colleague Sheafe Satterthwaite and I told him of my embarrassment, and that I had never openly cried in front of my students before. Satterthwaite thought about it and said simply, “it will endear you to them.”

And so that is the symmetry of my relationship to Lindsay Morehouse, which began with her tears and ended with mine.

“What should I do?”

News reached Williams slowly.

In a third message on Friday [9/14] afternoon, President Schapiro announced that one recent Williams graduate, Lindsay Morehouse ’00, was known to be missing in the attack on the World Trade Center. Morehouse was an economics major and a captain of the women’s tennis team. Betsy Brainerd, an assistant professor of economics who had Morehouse in two of her classes, remembered her as “a warm and vital young woman with a great outlook on life.”

Other members of the economics department also shared fond memories of Morehouse. Roger Bolton said that he “still [has] many of the e-mails she sent as ‘Linz’ with questions on how she could make her work as good as possible, and always with a ‘thanks’ in advance.”

“I will miss Lindsay,” Kaye Husbands-Fealing, an economics professor, said. “As I watched television this week and I saw survivors that were about her age, I could see her face in theirs. Her indomitable spirit lives on. May God bless her; may God bless her family.”

“What should I do?”

This was the last question that Lindsay’s father was to hear from his daughter, the last time that he would listen to her voice, the last chance that he would have to try to protect her from a too cruel world. Yet there was little he could do.

Morehouse called her father after the first plane hit the other tower to say that she was safe and that she had been instructed to stay in the building. She called a second time after the second plane hit her tower. That call was cut off.

And that was all. Lindsay, like more than 1/3 of the employees of Keefe, Bruyette and Woods, died that day. Neither fathers nor mothers, husbands nor wives, brothers nor sisters could save them. Although the most important tragedy of 9/11 is the deaths of thousands of innocents like Lindsay Morehouse — thousands of people who gave more to life, and had more left to give, than we can ever fully know — the rest of us must shoulder the burden of survival, of wondering what we might have done differently to save them, of worrying about the telephone call which might come to us someday.

“What should I do?”

I do not dread asking this question. I dread trying to answer it. Lindsay Morehouse was not just one man’s daughter. She was a daughter to all of us. May my own daughters be spared her fate.

Condolences to all.

Facebooktwitter

Information about a Recent Campus Incident

From: Marlene Sandstrom
Date: September 10, 2017 at 6:49:14 PM EDT
To: WILLIAMS-STUDENTS@LISTSERV.WILLIAMS.EDU
Subject: information about a recent campus incident
Reply-To: Marlene Sandstrom

Williams students,

We write to inform you of a campus incident earlier this week that you should be aware of.

In the early hours of Thursday morning, two students defaced the door of their friend’s dorm room by painting on it. (We are not disclosing the dorm because the conduct process is confidential.) One of the two students wrote “I like beer.” The second student painted a swastika, and then quickly covered it with more paint to make it illegible. The students then removed all the paint from the door.

The student who painted the swastika reported to campus authorities what they had done. The college has begun disciplinary proceedings, and the student will be held accountable under our campus code of conduct. In addition, we will continue speaking directly with the students who were involved or immediately affected in the dorm where the painting occurred.

None of the people directly involved felt targeted as a function of their identity. For that reason we instigated our investigation and conduct processes without initially making a larger campus announcement. However, several JAs have reported that other students who heard partial accounts of the incident were concerned, especially in the aftermath of Charlottesville and other troubling events. Understanding their concerns, we want you to have full information about what happened and know what steps are being taken, and to assure you that we have no basis for thinking the incident points to an ongoing threat.

Defacing our campus is unacceptable at any time. But the use of a swastika, even as a “prank,” shows a lack of sensitivity to how that symbol has been used as a weapon of intimidation and hatred, both historically and in recent incidents around the country.

If you want support, or if you have questions, please contact the Dean’s Office, the Office of Institutional Diversity & Equity our Chaplains, the Davis Center or Wellbeing Services. And if you have experienced an incident of bias or are aware of one, please report it immediately so the college can step in.

Williams is a place where we all come freely to learn and live. It is at its best when we live up to the college’s values and make everyone feel equally welcome. This is a moment to reaffirm that commitment. We assure you that we are doing our part, and hope you will join with us to stand for Williams as a place of inclusivity and respect.

Marlene Sandstrom
Dean of the College

Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes
Vice President
Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity

Stephen Klass
VP for Campus Life
Williams College

Facebooktwitter

I am Williams

Our friends at the Williams libraries need to read EphBlog more often! The author is Professor of Rhetoric Carroll Lewis Maxey and the date is sometime before 1926. Background here.

Facebooktwitter

DeVos Speech on Due Process

Former Williams professor KC Johnson writing (with Stuart Taylor) in the Wall Street Journal:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has made clear her intention to correct one of the Obama administration’s worst excesses—its unjust rules governing sexual misconduct on college campuses. In a forceful speech Thursday at Virginia’s George Mason University, Mrs. DeVos said that “one rape is one too many”—but also that “one person denied due process is one too many.” Mrs. DeVos declared that “every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined.”

This might seem like an obvious affirmation of fundamental American principles. But such sentiments were almost wholly absent in discussions about campus sexual assault from the Obama White House and Education Department. Instead, as Mrs. DeVos noted, officials “weaponized” the department’s Office for Civil Rights, imposing policies that have “failed too many students.”

Indeed. Do any of our readers think that the John Doe of Safety Dance should be denied, forever, his Williams degree even though he has completed all his classes?

Facebooktwitter

More Perfect Unions

Interesting Labor Day thoughts from Oren Cass ’05:

Organized labor is neither inherently partisan nor inherently counterproductive economically. In theory, an arrangement by which workers “bargain collectively” and offer “mutual aid,” as the NLRA establishes is their right, can be a neutral or even positive part of a flourishing market economy. Other countries have implemented labor systems sharply different from—and more effective than—the American one. Even within the U.S., examples exist of organized labor’s potential to operate more constructively. A reformed legal framework for labor could help address several critical challenges, including the plight of less skilled workers struggling in the modern economy. It’s time for a new approach.

Effective reform would have four elements. First, the NLRA must no longer have exclusive jurisdiction over relationships between employers and organizations of workers. Its definition of a covered “labor organization” must narrow from all organizations of employees whose purpose is “dealing with employers” to only those established for the purpose of using NLRA-defined rights and processes. The 8(a)(2) prohibition on nonunion collaboration between employers and workers must go. None of these changes affects the ability of a union to operate with its current model—to the extent that workers choose it.

Second, the government should formally recognize the existence of the “labor co-operative”: a nonprofit controlled by its dues-paying members for the purpose of advancing their employment and creating value, rather than merely reallocating it. Co-ops will be held to governance and financial standards appropriate to their potential roles and will be eligible to partner with government in delivering benefits. They will also have the capacity to earn recognition as the collective representative of employees in a given workplace, but their existence will not depend on such recognition.

Read the whole thing, although I doubt that my leftist Eph friends will find Cass’s argument very compelling.

A more concise version of the argument is available in the Wall Street Journal.

It is a shame that Cass was such an obnoxious Never Trumper. The Administration would benefit from his energy and ideas.

Facebooktwitter

Fall 2017 Course Advice

Fall classes start tomorrow. Our advice:

Your major does not matter! One of the biggest confusions among Williams students is the belief that future employers care about your major, that, for example, studying economics helps you get a job in business. It doesn’t! So, major in what you love.

But future employers are often interested in two things. First, can you get the computer to do what you want it to do? Second, can you help them analyze data to make them more successful? Major in Dance (if you love dance) but take 4 or so classes in computer science and statistics. With that as background, you will be competitive with any of your Williams classmates when it comes time to apply for internships/jobs.

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

ANTH 328: Emotions and the Self with Peter Just.

NSCI 317: Nature via Nurture: Topics in Developmental Psychobiology with Betty Zimmerberg.

PHIL 242: People Power with Alan White.

ECON 228: Water as a Scarce Resource with Ralph Bradburd.

Too many first years take a big intro class because they think they “should.” They shouldn’t! Even a “bad” tutorial at Williams is better than almost all intro courses. If you are a first year and you don’t take a tutorial like these, you are doing it wrong. Note that, even if you don’t have the official prerequisites for these classes, you should still enroll. The pre-reqs almost never matter and professors will always (?) let you into a tutorial with empty spots.

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

Take STAT 201 (if you enter Williams with Math/Reading SAT scores below 1300, you might start with STAT 101). No topic is more helpful in starting your career, no matter your area of interest, than statistics. Students who take several statistics courses are much more likely to get the best summer internships and jobs after Williams. Also, the new Statistics major is amazing.

Take CSCI 136: Data Structures and Advanced Programming (if you enter Williams with Math/Reading SAT scores below 1300, you should start with CSCI 134). Being able to get the computer to do what you want it to do is much more important, to your future career, than most things, including, for example, the ability to write well.

The Computer Science Department seems to have re-arranged things a bit in terms of strongly recommending that students take 134 first. In the past 134 was a not very serious course which was a waste for students in the top half of ability, including anyone with any prior exposure to programming. Is that still the case? If so, skip it and go directly to 136.

Informed commentary welcome on the 134 versus 136 choice.

If a professor tries to tell you the class is full, just claim to be future major in that topic. Indeed, many students official enroll as statistics or computer science majors sophomore year to ensure that they get into the classes they want. You can always drop a major later. Mendacity in the pursuit of quality classes is no vice.

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

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

Facebooktwitter

DACA

Sound advice!

Facebooktwitter

Top Presidential Contenders

Who are the top (early!) contenders for the next Williams president? Keep in mind that Williams, unusually for a top elite liberal arts college, has never had a female president.1 Most Williams faculty members I talk to think there is a less than 10% chance that a white male will be selected. Top contenders include:

denise-photo-headWilliams professor Denise Buell: She is the current Dean of the Faculty, the traditional stepping stone for internal candidates. Both Frank Oakley and John Chandler were Deans of the Faculty before becoming Williams presidents. An (anonymous!) faculty member told me she is “insanely ambitious.” Having been Dean of the Faculty for many years, she has had numerous opportunities to interact with members of the search committee. If she were not interested in the job, she probably would have been named the interim president, a role often bestowed on Deans of the Faculty, as with Bill Wagner last time. She is about 52, which might be a tad old nowadays, but still well within the range.

Raymond, Wendy_2013_1(0)Former Williams professor Wendy Raymond: She is currently the Vice President for Academic Affairs & Dean of Faculty at Davidson. Her son is out of high school and her husband, David Backus, is a former lecturer in geosciences at Williams. I suspect that she moved to Davidson because she was eager to climb the academic ladder and Davidson provided the best opportunity. At 57 she is, like Buell, a bit older than the target age. She has both fans and detractors among the current faculty. She was a champion of diversity issues while at Williams so, if the committee is interested in this topic, she will certainly get an interview.

spencerFormer Williams trustee Clayton Spencer ’77: She has been the president of Bates since 2012. At age 62, she would be the oldest (new) Williams president in decades. She has done well at Bates and would not be viewed as a bad person if she were to leave after just 6 years. Might Williams try to grab her for a 4 to 5 year term, long enough to allow Provost Dukes Love to gain the experience he needs? Perhaps. Recall that Spencer was on the search committee that selected Falk. Another member of that committee was current search committee heard Mike Eisenson ’77. It is certainly interesting that Spencer and Eisenson are both members of the class of 1977.

cappyFormer Provost Cappy Hill ’76: Longtime readers will recall that I was certain Cappy was going to be selected last time round. Wrong that time but maybe this time? She was almost certainly a finalist when Morty was selected almost 20 years ago so she has been around the block on this several times. A faculty member mentioned to me that they had “heard some positive speculation about Spencer and Cappy Hill; both make some sense.” After a successful decade at Vassar, she now (like many former LAC presidents) runs a non-profit: Ithaka S+R. Do she and her husband like living in NYC? Are they interested in retiring in Williamstown?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWilliams history professor Eiko Maruko Siniawer ’97 is my leading dark horse candidate. At 42 (and a Williams graduate) she is the perfect age: experienced enough after more than a decade at Williams to know what she is doing, young enough to have the energy that the trustees are looking for. (I believe that Payne, Schapiro and Falk were all hired while in their 40s.) Although she has not served as either Dean of the Faculty or Provost (the most common stepping stones to college presidencies) she is former head of CUL and current chair of the Committee on Priorities and Resources, perhaps the single spot (outside of the provost’s office) at which a Williams faculty member can learn to think like a president. Being a person of color is also a big advantage in this search since the trustees would love to be able to get the Williams-has-only-had-white-presidents monkey off their backs.

Merrill_2016-219x300Williams history professor Karen Merrill: Any female former Dean of the College is a plausible candidate. At 53, she is not too old. Merrill is, I think, widely regarded as an excellent administrator and consensus builder. I have heard fewer complaints about her tenure as Dean of the College than about her predecessors or successors. Her handling of the controversy over the log mural (pdf) was masterful. (By the way, we really ought to rename the “Committee on Campus Space and Institutional History” to the “Merrill Committee.”) Indeed, of all the controversies at Williams over the last 15 years, I can’t think of one that was better handled. (And since Falk screwed up so many things, I think Merrill deserves most of the credit. Did any of the social justice warrior Ephs even complain about the outcome?) But is she interested in the Williams presidency? Informed gossip welcome!

Portugal2002_3-274x300Chemistry Professor Lee Park is the interim Dean of the Faculty. (Buell is on sabbatical. Isn’t it weird that someone would take a sabbatical year during their 3 year appointment period?) Park is 53 and, obviously, non-white. She has been the associate Dean of the Faculty for a few years, I think. She is currently chair of the Committee on Appointments and Promotions, traditionally one of the most powerful positions on campus. (Another member of that committee is Professor Tom Smith ’88, also a chemist and a member of the presidential search committee. If Tom is a fan of Park, then she may have a real shot at the job.) Also interesting is that search committee member Chris Winters ’95 is married to Williams chemistry professor Amy Gehring ’94. Park has worked (closely?) with Smith and Gehring for more than a decade. I wonder if they are friends or rivals? Park has also been chair of the CEP. Is Park interested in the Williams presidency? Presumably, she wouldn’t have worked so many administrative jobs over the years if she weren’t interested in climbing the ladder . . .

Other current or recent Williams female insiders seem less well positioned. After her utter failure at Dickinson, Nancy Roseman probably won’t even get a courtesy interview. Sarah Bolton has not been at Wooster long enough for a move to be reasonable. Marlene Sandstrom is too new to the Dean of the College job.

Given how strong these candidates are, I can’t imagine that Williams will hire a man. Are there are female Ephs who might be interested? Are there other female candidates who are “on the market?”

Who do readers think will be chosen? Who would readers vote for if they were on the committee?

[1] Among the top 10 liberal arts colleges according to US News, only Williams, Bowdoin and Carleton have never had a female president.

Facebooktwitter

Time Lapse Video of Class of 2021 Picture

Facebooktwitter

Grade Distribution 2016-2017, 3

A source sent us the official registrar’s report (pdf) on the distribution of grades in 2016-2017. (Relevant background: data for 2008-2009 and 2013-2014, recent Record coverage, and prior EphBlog discussion.) Day 3.

The most embarrassing section of the report:

germ

I suspect that the professors in the German Department (we still have a German department?!) are feeling under some pressure to increase enrollment. One way to respond to that pressure is to give everyone an A!

Which professors in the department are most guilty? Tough to tell.

But not impossible! Here are the German courses offered last year:

germ2

There were 44 students in the beginning and intermediate 100-level language courses, taught by a mixture of professors in the department. Giving half the students A’s and the other half A-‘s is one way to encourage students to take more German classes!

Much worse, however, is the 4.12 (!) average grade for the 20 students who took either German 201 or 202. The only way to get such a high average is for 1/3 of the students to get an A+ (while everyone else got an A). Who is guilty of such absurd grading? Professor Mandt has finished up her one year visiting position. Professor Kone, on the other hand, is on the tenure track. He is teaching Germ 202 again this spring. How many A+ grades do you think he will award?

The best way for serious faculty members to fight the trend toward awarding too many A+ grades is, perhaps counter-intuitively, to celebrate such exceptional achievement. (Recall that Williams gives this grade hundreds of times each year.) The Administration could require that any faculty member who wanted to award an A+ would be required to schedule a 30 minute public presentation at which the student would present her excellent work and the professor would explain why he judged the work to be among the very best he has ever seen from an undergraduate.

There would still be — I hope there will be! — 10 or so A+ grades awarded each year. On occasion, Williams students do produce some amazing work. We should celebrate their achievements! But handing out 200 such grades each year devalues such truly exceptional work.

Trivia Question: Which Williams faculty member in the last decade was most (in)famous for handing out A+ grades?

Answer: Bernard Moore, affirmative action poster hire for the Political Science department — thanks Cathy Johnson! — and convicted felon.

Facebooktwitter

Grade Distribution 2016-2017, 2

A source sent us the official registrar’s report (pdf) on the distribution of grades in 2016-2017. (Relevant background: data for 2008-2009 and 2013-2014, recent Record coverage, and prior EphBlog discussion.) Day 2.

grades1

1) Grade inflation is still a problem. The average grade at Williams in 2008-2009 was 3.39. It was 3.41 in 2013-2014. Last year, it was 3.45. So, in the last 8 years, the average has increased by 0.06. In the last 3 years, by 0.04. If the average grade continues to increase at the rate of about 0.01 per year, then, by 2072-2073, we will reach Nirvana! The average GPA at Williams will be 4.0.

2) Grade inflation may be decreasing in severity, perhaps as a natural result of bumping up against the 4.0 ceiling. The average GPA in 2015-2016 was also 3.45. The faculty seem concerned about the problem. Perhaps things are getting under control?

3) Which faculty are most concerned about the problem of grade inflation? My prior (prejudice?) would be that older (male?) faculty are more concerned. This Record article from 1998 has some interesting background.

Facebooktwitter

Grade Distribution 2016-2017, 1

A source sent us the official registrar’s report (pdf) on the distribution of grades in 2016-2017. (Relevant background: data for 2008-2009 and 2013-2014, recent Record coverage, and prior EphBlog discussion.) Day 1.

1) Someone needs to write a thesis about grade inflation at Williams, an update, 20 years later, to “When A=average : the origins and economic implications of grade inflation at Williams College and other elite institutions,” by Peter Siniawer ’97. (And why isn’t this thesis available on-line?)

2) We need more transparency about grading at Williams. Recall my (unsuccessful) efforts to get the registrar to provide this data. Almost anything that is distributed to hundreds of faculty at Williams ought to be made public. Interested alumni/students/parents should not have to depend on EphBlog’s sources . . .

3) Division 1 should be called out for not holding the line on grades:

grades

The most distressing aspect of the differences across Divisions (and across departments) is the bad signals that it sends to students. If a student gets a B+ in an intro Computer Science class but an A in Theater, she might thing that this means she is “better” at theater than computer science. Isn’t this one way that Williams guides her on choosing a major that matches her abilities? But, of course, the College is lying to her. She is an average student in computer science and in theater. Lax grading by the latter is misleading her.

Of course, if the Theater Department, and Division 1 departments more generally, want more students, then misleading them about their actual talents may be just what the ticket . . .

Facebooktwitter

Houston

Other than good wishes from Ephs far and wide, I can’t come up with a Williams connection to the on-going flooding in Houston. Are there any Ephs in government in Texas? Ephs involved in relief work? Ephs associated with storm forecasting?

Facebooktwitter

Jews at Williams, 13

Jews at Williams: Inclusion, Exclusion, and Class at a New England Liberal Arts College by Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft is both an interesting read and a source for dozens of fascinating anecdotes. Let’s spend a month or so going through it. Today is Day 13.

In this, at least, he exaggerates, for Williams was not as inhospitable to the most clubbable Jews as Candlestick makes it seem. Herbert H. Lehman (Williams 1899) was the first Jew to join a fraternity, namely Alpha Zeta Alpha, then a local organization but which later became the national Phi Gamma Delta. His sons and nephews would follow him into the organization decades later.

Again, just how antisemitic could Williams have been if Herbert H. Lehman’s wealthy family would choose to send him and if he, after thriving for four years, would choose to be such a generous donor?

It is curious that the Class of 1914 contributed so much to the establishment of multi-generational Jewish legacies at Williams. Almost half of the Jews of the Class of 1914 sent their sons on to Williams; as mentioned earlier, the Stone family became a truly prolific Williams legacy, with 10 members attending the college over the generations down to the graduating class of 2005.

This means that something of a mystery hovers over the 1910–14 period at Williams. The college was the site of one of the earliest anti-Jewish demonstrations, effectively anticipating far more effective attempts to diminish Jewish involvement in higher education in the decades to come—and yet the Jews of the Classes of 1913 and 1914, present for that protest, nevertheless produced legacies. Students who understood they were part of a group targeted for exclusion nevertheless managed to stick it out, remaining at the college and ultimately flourishing through their association with it.

I do not think that words like “curious” and “mystery” mean what Wurgaft thinks they mean. He keeps assuming that Williams was horribly antisemitic and is then surprised by how loyal Jewish alumni are. He needs to re-examine his assumptions. If Williams was, in fact, among the least antisemitic locations in the world from, say, 1900 to 1950, then the loyalty/generosity of Jewish Ephs from this era makes perfect sense.

Facebooktwitter

Jews at Williams, 12

Jews at Williams: Inclusion, Exclusion, and Class at a New England Liberal Arts College by Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft is both an interesting read and a source for dozens of fascinating anecdotes. Let’s spend a month or so going through it. Today is Day 12.

Gabriel wrote a study of the problem of being Jewish at Williams, thinly veiled as a coming-of-age novel: The Seven-Branched Candlestick: The Schooldays of a Young American Jew, a tale told in the first person. Truth be told, Candlestick is slight, didactic, and so moralizing in tone that one can almost miss the central social conflict Gabriel took as his focus: the meeting between more assimilated German Jews and their more recently arrived East European Jewish counterparts at American institutions of higher learning. This conflict evidently had at least as much impact on Gabriel’s years at Williams as the conflict between Jew and non-Jew.

Emphasis added. Let me revisit two of my favorite themes: First, the conflict of German Jews and Russian Jews at Williams would make for a great Williams senior thesis. Wurgaft covers some of that conflict, but he (purposely?) seemed to leave lots out. To note that German Jews were some of the most powerful and persuasive opponents of admitting Russian Jews is not a theme to gladden the heart of today’s social justice Ephs. Second, Steve Sailer covers this topic here and here.

Facebooktwitter

Jews at Williams, 11

Jews at Williams: Inclusion, Exclusion, and Class at a New England Liberal Arts College by Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft is both an interesting read and a source for dozens of fascinating anecdotes. Let’s spend a month or so going through it. Today is Day 11.

Jews at Williams, like their counterparts at other institutions, were subject to anti-Semitic treatment during this period, ranging from verbal abuse to exclusion from fraternities and clubs. However, the label “anti-Semitic treatment” may obscure more than it clarifies.

Indeed. Like many of the comments/observations that are labelled as “racist” at Williams today, some of these comments/observations are just simply the truth. Consider:

praise for the imagined business sense of the Jewish people,

What PC nonsense! Is Wurgaft seriously suggesting that “Jewish people” aren’t more successful in business than non-Jewish people?

Imagine that you were a 1950s Eph, perhaps minding your own business, hanging out at the Deke House, and you happened to mention that Jewish people seem fairly successful in business. Perhaps you even dared to praise Jews and/or Jewish culture for this achievement. Then the Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft of the era comes by and attacks you for antisemitism! That would be fairly annoying!

Especially when, today, you notice that the last 50 years have proved that your (allegedly!) antisemitic observation was spot on. Around 1/3 of the member of the Forbe 400 are Jewish, the vast majority of whom made their fortunes over this time period. Sure seems like “Jewish people” might have better than average “business sense.”

The same PC nonsense, of course, happens at Williams today to any student who happens to notice, much less publicly comment on, much less actually praise, the strong performance of Asian-Americans on the SAT.

This is a war — not so much against antisemitism or against racism — but against noticing true facts about the world.

The exclusion of Jews from upper-class social facilities, for example, was prompted by proprietors’ (not entirely unreasonable) fears that a marked Jewish presence would drive out their traditional WASP clientele.

I am, in theory, sympathetic to this argument. Perhaps one reason that Harvard/Yale/Princeton are more successful than Columbia today is that the former discriminated much more heavily against Jews than the latter? I don’t know but the case could be made. Is Williams smart to discriminate against international students for similar reasons? Recall Jim Kolesar’s ’72 argument more than a decade ago:

But a college that gave itself over to educating mainly international students, which is eventually what would happen given the numbers, would have a significantly different mission, very different standing with U.S. prospective students, and greatly altered relationship with government, donors, etc.

Is Williams smart to have a quota for international students?

Facebooktwitter

Jews at Williams, 10

Jews at Williams: Inclusion, Exclusion, and Class at a New England Liberal Arts College by Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft is both an interesting read and a source for dozens of fascinating anecdotes. Let’s spend a month or so going through it. Today is Day 10.

Williams was simply an unusual choice for Jews at this point, and not because it presented insuperable barriers to Jews but simply because most had not heard of it. It was off the map for American Jews unless their families had already become acquainted with the social groups from which Williams drew most of its students, or unless some stroke of luck—a chance encounter with an alumnus, for example—informed them about Williams and led them to believe admission was possible.

Williams was “protected,” as it were, from Jewish attentions during the gentlemen’s era by the social networks it served. They in turn served it by providing new students and loyal alumni.

My hypothesis is that this is exactly the dynamic which drives the lack of discrimination against Asian-Americans at Williams. There is no doubt that Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford discriminate against Asian-Americans, just as HYP discriminated against Jewish-Americans almost a century ago. One current mystery is whether or not Williams (and schools like Williams) employ the same policy. I don’t think we do, not because we are any more moral/non-discriminatory than HYPS, but because proportionally fewer Asian-Americans (relative to non-Asian-Americans) apply to and/or enroll at Williams.

But reasonable people differ on the claim about Asian-Americans and Williams admissions. Recall this discussion from more than a decade ago. I miss HWC!

Between 1880 and 1920, no other New England liberal arts college was as closely connected to the Social Register families of New York and Boston, a group that, with a few exceptions, emphatically did not include Jews. As Robert Farnum explains, it was the only liberal arts college in the “top five” schools (Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and Columbia are the others) to which the majority of “social registrants” flocked, particularly from the 1880s to the 1920s. It was in fact the fourth most popular destination for registrants from Boston and the fifth for New Yorkers. It was thus part of a tiny cluster of schools serving a social network that crystallized out of the East Coast’s Protestant elite families in the 1880s and 1890s; the first edition of the Social Register was published in New York in 1888.

Hmmm. This would make an great topic for a Williams senior thesis in history. Who will write it?

Related questions: How much does Williams status today as the #1 liberal arts college go back to enrollment decisions made 100+ years ago by the Social Register? How much were those decisions driven by geography? (My understanding is that the Berkshires were a common summer time retreat for the Social Register folks. Imagine what New York City and Boston were like in the era before air conditioning.) If so, did that familiarity give Williams an advantage over, say, Amherst and Wesleyan?

Facebooktwitter

Jews at Williams, 9

Jews at Williams: Inclusion, Exclusion, and Class at a New England Liberal Arts College by Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft is both an interesting read and a source for dozens of fascinating anecdotes. Let’s spend a month or so going through it. Today is Day 9.

However, what is remarkable about the early Jews at Williams (it would be too much to speak of “Jewish life” when only one, or two, or at most nine, Jews were present in a single entering class) is how loyal many remained to the college.

Furthermore the first Jewish “legacy families” donned purple during this period. One should not look for conflict between the Jewish identities of these students and their identities as Williams men, for many would not have experienced the unavoidable dissonance between those identities as an incompatibility. If they had, legacies would not have been the result.

Indeed. Perhaps the most interesting observation in the book — one that Wurgaft hints at only obliquely in passages like this — is how little antisemitism there was at Williams. Indeed, was any elite institution in the United States less antisemitic than Williams prior to 1960? Reader suggestions welcome. In many ways, this debate is similar to the one about how “racist” Williams is today. Of course, there are people at Williams today who say/believe racist things. (Let he who is without sin . . . .) But such claims are only intelligible in context. There are few places on Earth less marred by racism that Williams today, just as there were few places less marred by antisemitism than the Williams of 75 years ago.

Two years after Boas’ address, an increase in the number of Jewish students in the Williams freshman class (the Class of 1914), which included a few students of Eastern European background, would occasion one of America’s first student-led demonstrations against Jewish enrollment at a college or university. German Jews, present in small numbers, never received such a welcome. While no firsthand accounts of the demonstration have been found, President Harry Garfield described it, in a letter, in a secondhand fashion by saying that, afterward, he felt it necessary to take the pulpit in chapel to remonstrate with the students for their bad behavior.

Note the leap here. There is no real evidence for the claim that “America’s first student-led demonstrations against Jewish enrollment” happened at Williams. This is an attempt, I think, by Wurgaft to find more antisemitism than actually existed. (Note how he never found “firsthand accounts of the demonstration.”) Instead, there seems to have been a hazing-type tradition of an annual forced parade, featuring all the freshmen, which included heavy doses of upperclassmen mockery/”humor,” much of it involving ethnic/racial/religious themes. In 1910, this parade included antisemitic elements. Not very nice! But that is a far cry from a “demonstrations against Jewish enrollment.”

Facebooktwitter

Class of 2021 Letter on Charlottesville

The Williams class of 2021 wrote this letter:

uva

From the Washington Post:

“In such a divided world, we must cherish unity without uniformity,” the Dartmouth class of 2021 wrote to U-Va. first-years. “Show the world that you — UVA 2021, an economically, racially religiously diverse class — are stronger for it.”

From one class of 2021 to another, they urged U-Va.’ s new students not to let fear overshadow optimism.

Other first-years followed — members of the class of 2021 at Columbia University, Yale University, Williams College, Pomona College, and Vassar College — wrote letters of support to U-Va.’ s new students, too.

Polanco and Luiza Odhiambo, who met this summer at an orientation program for first-generation college students at Dartmouth, were both stunned by the violence in Charlottesville. They talked and agreed that it was essential to speak out. They asked members of the incoming class if they wanted to send a group message to U-Va. The answer was immediate.

1) Does anyone know which members of the Williams class of 2021 led the effort?

2) I think it is inappropriate to imply that this letter is from (the entire?) Williams class of 2021. You shouldn’t claim to speak for Group X unless the members of Group X have given you permission to do so. (It would be OK for a similar letter to be sent in October if it came from the Frosh Council, for example.) Presumably, there are members of the class who disagree with at least some aspects of the letter.

3) Any interest from our readers in a close reading/critique? Recall this fun exercise. My initial impression is that this effort is of much higher quality than the MinCo letter from two years ago. Further evidence that Williams students are getting smarter?! And, partially for that reason, this letter is much scarier. How will these students react when, for example, Zach Wood ’18 invites Richard Spencer to speak at Williams?

4) Recall this discussion from a decade ago:

Back in the day, it was taken for granted that the benefits of affirmative action went to students who a) Did not grow up rich and b) Did not attend prep schools and c) Had 4 US-born grandparents who had suffered under the legacy of discrimination. It appears that this would now only be true for a (small?) minority of the beneficiaries of affirmative action at Williams today.

Are readers surprised that the two leaders of the Dartmouth effort were born outside the US?

Facebooktwitter

Freedom of Speech Is Not Enough

Zach Wood ’18 writes in the Wall Street Journal:

North Carolina last week became the latest state to enact a law protecting free speech on college campuses. The Restore Campus Free Speech Act requires schools to discipline students and faculty who substantially disrupt or interfere “with the protected free expression rights of others.”

Such legislation, sensibly enforced, should bolster efforts to increase viewpoint diversity and send a clear message that heckler’s vetoes will not be condoned. But leaders in higher education need to do more than protect free speech. Their greater challenge is to teach students how to discuss controversial topics thoughtfully and see the value of understanding those with whom they disagree.

I agree. But does the Williams faculty? Professor Sam Crane, for example, sees no value in “understanding” the views of John Derbyshire.

The need for such understanding became clear to me while serving as president of Uncomfortable Learning, a club at Williams College that tries to broaden the range of dialogue on campus by hosting controversial speakers. After I invited conservative commentator John Derbyshire in 2016 to speak about race and national identity, one student angrily told me that if the speech wasn’t canceled, Mr. Derbyshire wouldn’t make it through the door in one piece.

“What do you mean?” I asked. “You can’t be serious.”

The student paused, leaned over the table and looked me in the eye: “Whatever it takes, he will not make it through that door.”

Whoa! I would have doubted this story in the past. But, after the physical attacks on Charles Murray at Middlebury, I believe it. I certainly hope that Eph antifa are as serious and organized as Middlebury antifa!

Read more

Facebooktwitter

Jews at Williams, 8

Jews at Williams: Inclusion, Exclusion, and Class at a New England Liberal Arts College by Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft is both an interesting read and a source for dozens of fascinating anecdotes. Let’s spend a month or so going through it. Today is Day 8.

Are readers concerned that, eights days into our “book review,” we are only now hitting Chapter 1? Reader feedback welcome!
At our current rate, we have another 30+ days to go . . .

One seemingly minor but important detail is notable when contrasting Harvard and Williams during this period. Harvard, like so many other elite schools, abandoned its strict Greek and Latin requirement for admissions in 1900, whereas Williams clung to a strenuous set of language requirements into the 1930s, the result being that few students from public high schools could attend. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt, along with 18 of his 22 classmates from Groton, arrived at Harvard in September 1900, 40 percent of their freshman class had attended public schools. Harvard’s demographic river was, in this period, fed by Hotchkiss, Groton, and other prominent preparatory schools (the “St. Grottlesex” schools, as they are often known), and by many public institutions as well. Williams’ river was fed more exclusively by St. Grottlesex, and relatively few Jews—and precious few from more recently arrived Eastern European families—made it from the flood of immigration to the narrower stream of private preparatory education.

1) Wurgaft should have told us more about why Williams required Latin/Greek for 30 years longer than Harvard. Does anyone know? My guess would be that this decision had nothing to do with Jewish enrollment pressures since that came a decade or more later at Harvard.

2) Are there any current Williams admissions policies which analogous to the old Latin/Greek requirements? Not that I can see. Elite schools are very similar nowadays. Williams is a bit different from some of its NESCAC peers in that it requires the SAT/ACT and they do not. But all of its actual peers (Amherst/Pomona/Ivy/Chicago) require those exams so, again, Williams is less of an outlier than it once was.

3) Are there any policies which Williams should implement that would serve a similar function to Greek/Latin requirements? To some extent, the the quota for international students — or, rather, the pseudo-requirement to have a US passport/green card — is similar. Yet, I am more interested in positive changes that Williams could make which would change the mix of students that apply/enroll. Adding a finance major is one obvious example. More emphasis on the Williams College Equestrian Team might bring in more students from families who could become major donors.

Many would know President Harry Garfield (1908–34), who was thought by many other college and university presidents to possess a secret formula for keeping Jewish numbers at Williams low. Some would attend classes along with James Phinney Baxter III (Williams 1914), who would, as president, hire the college’s first Jewish faculty members, and who also championed the fraternity system at Williams, which by the mid-twentieth century was a stronghold of anti-Semitic sentiment. It was also during this period that Jewish students from non-German backgrounds began to arrive at the college, and this catalyzed a startling series of conflicts, not only between Jews and non-Jews but also between different kinds of Jews.

Calling the fraternities a “stronghold of anti-Semitic sentiment” is a misuse of the term “stronghold.” First, many (half? more?) fraternities had Jewish members! Just how anti-Semitic were they? Of course, there were people at Williams — just as there are now! — who expressed anti-Semitic opinions, or at least opinions that many Jews view/viewed as anti-Semitic. But those people were both in fraternities and outside of fraternities. They were both students and faculty, staff and local residents. Second, there is no evidence that the abolition of fraternities decreased antisemitism at Williams, relative to other schools like Amherst that kept fraternities. Of course, antisemitism was decreasing everywhere in the twenty years from 1950 to 1970. It is unsurprising that it decreased at Williams, as Wurgaft documents. But, if the fraternities were really a “stronghold,” then there abolition would have caused antisemitism to decrease more at Williams than at Amherst. It didn’t, so they weren’t.

Facebooktwitter

Very Fine People

Not all Ephs were impressed with President Trump’s press conference.

tw1

tw2

I also disliked parts of the press conference. (Steve Bannon is definitely a very fine person!)

What did you think?

Facebooktwitter

Jews at Williams, 7

Jews at Williams: Inclusion, Exclusion, and Class at a New England Liberal Arts College by Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft is both an interesting read and a source for dozens of fascinating anecdotes. Let’s spend a month or so going through it. Today is Day 7.

Stephen Birmingham ’55 contributed a chapter entitled “A Knock on the Door.” As with most of the other Eph stories in the book, it is an engaging read. However, it tells the story of conversations from 1949. I, at least, have trouble remembering conversations from last week, much less 60+ years ago. Birmingham notes:

The great irony of the story told in this book is that in the course of the twentieth century Williams itself became more like the Jewish students it had once excluded.

Indeed. The elite evolve, a theme that Wurgaft fails to explore with much nuance. On the surface, this book is a conflict between two categories of Ephs: Jews and those who would exclude them. On a deeper level, it is the story of Williams College as an organism, a institution dedicated to maintaining its position among the elite. When treating Jews unfairly was a necessary part — or at least considered necessary by the men in charge — of what “elite” meant, Williams treated Jews unfairly. When maintaining elite status required treating Jews fairly, Williams started doing that. The driving force was never — is never — some abstract committment to justice. The driving force is the need to maintain status.

Want to predict what Williams will do tomorrow? Don’t ask what Adam Falk thinks. What Adam thinks doesn’t matter much. Ask what actions are necessary — or at least viewed as necessary — to maintain the College’s status. That is what Williams will do.

In the Gilded Age of New York Society, the closed circle of WASP wealth was often referred to as The Four Hundred, which was the supposed capacity of Mrs. William Astor’s ballroom. The wealthy German-Jewish families, who were excluded from this perfumed realm, made a joke of it, and called themselves The One Hundred, and referred to the others as “the butterflies.”

Indeed. We hear a lot about Gentile prejudice against Jews. We hear little — because Wurgaft writes little — about Jewish prejudice against Gentiles. As Steve Sailer points out, there isn’t even a thought category for anti-Gentilism.

We Betas, meanwhile, considered ourselves a rather special breed. Scholastically, we were at the top. In terms of grade averages, we nearly always came out first among all the campus fraternities. We had the most Phi Beta Kappa keys per capita of any house. We looked with disdain at our neighbors down the street, the Dekes, the Animal House, the jocks whose academic scores were in the cellar.

Any Deke house members from the 1950s among our readers? Please chime in!

I explained that we’d rejected the Choate School because the Choate application at the time contained the question, “Is the boy in any part Hebraic?” My parents had found the question socially offensive and semantically ridiculous.

Any more ridiculous than Common App’s insistence today that applicants answer whether or not they are “Asian?” You can’t apply to Williams without answering that question. But, sure, the people who ran Choate back then are moral monsters . . .

[T]he president of Phi Gamma Delta took Bobby aside and said, “Look, we were happy to take you into Phi Gam, and we were happy to take your uncle and your cousins in. But this has just got to stop somewhere. We just can’t keep on taking more and more of your people in. We’d be overrun by you people before we knew it.

1) Does anyone know who the president of Phi Gamma Delta from 1950? It would be nice to hear his side of the story.

2) This is exactly the current Williams policy with regard to international students. Recall this brilliant Record op-ed from 11 years ago. If concerns about too many Jews were offensive/ridiculous 60 years ago, then why are concerns about too many non-US citizens acceptable today?

Facebooktwitter

Jews at Williams, 6

Jews at Williams: Inclusion, Exclusion, and Class at a New England Liberal Arts College by Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft is both an interesting read and a source for dozens of fascinating anecdotes. Let’s spend a month or so going through it. Today is Day 6.

[P]art of a larger shift, only complete after the end of WWII, from a system in which private boarding schools supplied Williams with its students, to one in which students were drawn equally from public high schools.

A central theme at EphBlog: Williams has changed much less over the last 50 years than most people claim. The College is guilty of feeding this belief with its recurrent claims that Williams is much more wonderful today than it has ever been before. The implication, of course, is that the folks who run Williams today are much smarter and/or less prejudiced than folks like Jack Sawyer ’39, much less Harry Garfield ‘1885. That is an ego-stroking story with, however, little basis in reality. The clearest place to see this trend is in admissions, where, to the extent there have been changes, those changes have been driven by outside forces. We started taking more students from public high schools 50 years ago, not because we started hating (private) Deerfield or liking (public) Scarsdale but because we started getting more interest from high quality applicants from public high schools than we used to get.

Williams does not seem to have experienced the dramatic shift in admissions policies seen at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton in the 1920s . . .

Correct. Now, we would like to believe the Williams administration was more enlightened and so never would have considered the Jewish quotas — and the rigamarole of “character” assessments associated with them — that HYP implemented. But it is even more likely that Williams was simply lucky. So few Jews applied that we felt no impetus to discriminate against them.

Ironically the very term “meritocracy” only came into widespread use long after the quota system was imposed at the Ivies. Conversations about access to elite institutions such as Williams in the 1870s, the 1920s, or the 1940s were not couched in terms of establishing a meritocracy. It was in 1958 that Michael Young published his satire The Rise of the Meritocracy, which playfully attacked the premise that meritocracy could thwart an unjust distribution of wealth and power by presenting a world in which the “best” of the oppressed classes are promoted into the ruling classes—thereby decimating the leadership pool of the former groups, which might have helped to create structural changes that erased inequality at its root. Young’s satire gave great currency to “meritocracy” despite its critique of meritocratic dreams, and it was during the turbulent 1960s that the idea of meritocracy was linked to the goal of making American higher education more diverse.

Young’s book is amazing. Highly recommended.

Facebooktwitter

Next Page →

Currently browsing posts authored by David Dudley Field '25

Follow David Dudley Field '25 via RSS