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March Safety Dance Hearing

Latest update on Safety Dance:

Electronic Clerk’s Notes for proceedings held before Judge Michael A. Ponsor: Motion Hearing held on 3/28/2017 re [29] MOTION for Reconsideration filed by Williams College, [31] MOTION to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim filed by Williams College, [4] First MOTION for Preliminary Injunction John Doe v. Williams College filed by John Doe. Arguments heard. Court denies Motion for Reconsideration, denies Motion for Preliminary Injunction. Court takes Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss under advisement. Orders to issue. (Court Reporter: Sarah Mubarek, Philbin & Associates, 413-733-4078) (Attorneys present: Rossi, Lapp, Kelly) (Healy, Bethaney)

Can anyone interpret this?

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College Council Has No Power Over Invited Speakers

An alum tried to get this letter published in the Record:

To the editor,

Skylar Smith’s ’18 February 22 article “CC Approves Uncomfortable Learning as an RSO” (and the comments therein from Lizzy Hibbard ’19) demonstrated a misunderstanding of the College’s new policy with regard to outside funding for invited speakers. Any Registered Student Organization may invite someone to speak at Williams even if the funding for that speaker comes from an alumnus or some other non-Williams organization. The RSO must, of course, abide by the new rules, specifically by revealing the source of the funding to Williams and by providing at least two weeks notice before the event. But, as Director of Media Relations Mary Dettloff confirmed to me, neither CC nor any other student organization can prevent an RSO from inviting a speaker. Only Williams itself may ban a speaker, as it did last year in the case of John Derbyshire.

Annoyingly, the Record refused to publish this letter, choosing instead to issue this correction:

correction

This matters because it is bad enough that Williams empowers Adam Falk to ban speakers with whom he disagrees. If College Council could ban student-invited (faculty-invited?) speakers, madness would follow. One Eph censor is enough!

UPDATE: The headline of the physical Record last week was “CC passes free speech resolution 16-3-1.” There was also this photo caption: “Kevin Mercadante ’17 introduces a resolution intended to enshrine speech and protect individual rights to disagree and protest.” Alas, there is no associated news story that I can find, either on-line or in the paper itself. Can anyone provide details? The College Council website does not allow outsides to see the current year’s agenda or minutes. Sad!

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Improving International Yield

An e-mail on the effort to improve our yield of accepted international students:

Hi everyone,

Thank you to all those who came to the meeting tonight! It was wonderful meeting you in person. For those who could not make it, below are some of the topics we talked about and information I shared.

Spring Yield Initiatives for Class of 2021 –

1) Connecting via email – All newly admitted international students will be connected to a current international student, ideally based on common interest or geography. I will reach out to you with the information of the students you will be connecting with.

2) Phone/Skype – a – thon – calling all admitted international students who have not yet made a decision on their admission offer. Calls will be made by interested current students and myself. I (Misha) will send out an email listing the dates and times for these calls.

Some helpful links with information about Williams.

How to get to Williams – https://admission.williams.edu/visit/getting-here/
Student Profile 2016-17 – https://admission.williams.edu/files/Student-Profile-2016-2017.pdf
Williams Viewbook – https://admission.williams.edu/viewbook/
Course Catalog – http://catalog.williams.edu/
Community engagement and learning – https://learning-in-action.williams.edu/
Events Calendar – https://events.williams.edu/

A few things to remember when connecting with new admitted students:

Please do not offer any visa advice. All visa related questions should be directed to Dean Pretto. With the changing immigration policies, the experiences of those applying for the F-1 visa this summer may be different from yours, so it is imperative that none of us (including me) offer any advice on visas or visas process.
If you do not have the answer to a question, please send it my way. I would be happy to answer it on behalf of you.
As you reflect on your time at Williams and share your insights, please be honest and positive. There may have been time when the weather or the small size of the town or something else may have been a less than ideal experience, but please think of the bigger picture and focus on the positives. If you receive any especially difficult questions that you do not feel comfortable answering, please feel free to send them to me.
All questions regarding orientation schedule and flights can be directed to Dean Pretto.

Once again, thank you for being willing to yield the class of 2021! We hope that as many students as possible will choose to Williams and join our thriving international community.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Best wishes,
Misha

My anonymous correspondent bolded the section above.

What other efforts does Williams make to improve its yield? I would assume that special efforts are made in areas where Williams yields particularly poorly — especially among African-Americans, but also, I bet, among Hispanics and lower income families — but I don’t know the details. Does anyone?

What advice would you have for Williams about how to improve yield?

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Choose Williams Over Harvard

In celebration of previews, reasons why you should choose Williams.

There are several hundreds high school seniors¹ who have been admitted to both Williams and Harvard (and Yale and Princeton and Stanford and . . .). Fewer than 10% of them will choose Williams over these more famous schools. Some of them are making the right choice. They will be better off at Harvard, for various reasons. But at least half of them are making the wrong choice. They (you?) would be better off at Williams. Why?

1) Your professors would know your name. The average Harvard undergraduate is known by name to only a few faculty members. Many students graduate unknown to any faculty. The typical professor at Harvard is primarily concerned with making important contributions to her field. The typical professor at Williams is primarily concerned with educating the undergraduates in her classes. Consider this post by Harvard professor Greg Mankiw, who teaches EC 10, the equivalent of Williams ECON 110/120, to over 750 students each year.

Being an ec 10 section leader is one of the best teaching jobs at Harvard. You can revisit the principles of economics, mentor some of the world’s best undergraduates, and hone your speaking skills. In your section, you might even have the next Andrei Shleifer or Ben Bernanke (two well-known ec 10 alums). And believe it or not, we even pay you for this!

If you are a graduate student at Harvard or another Boston-area university and have a strong background in economics, I hope you will consider becoming a section leader in ec 10 next year. Applications are encouraged from PhD students, law students, and master’s students in business and public policy.

Take a year of Economics at Harvard, and not a single professor will know your name. Instead, you will be taught and graded by (poorly paid) graduate students, many with no more than a BA, often not even in economics! But, don’t worry, you will be doing a good deed by providing these students with a chance to “hone” their “speaking skills.”

2) You will get feedback on your work from faculty at Williams, not from inexperienced graduate students. More than 90% of the written comments (as well as the grades) on undergraduate papers at Harvard are produced by people other than tenured (or tenure track) faculty. The same is true in science labs and math classes. EC 10 is a particularly egregious example, but the vast majority of classes taken by undergraduates are similar in structure. Harvard professors are too busy to read and comment on undergraduate prose.

3) You would have the chance to do many things at Williams. At Harvard it is extremely difficult to do more than one thing in a serious fashion. If you play a sport or write for the paper or sing in an a cappella group at Harvard, it is difficult to do much of anything else. At Williams, it is common — even expected — that students will have a variety of non-academic interests that they pursue passionately. At Harvard, the goal is a well-rounded class, with each student being top notch in something. At Williams, the ideal is a class full of well-rounded people.

4) You would have a single room for three years at Williams. The housing situation at Harvard is horrible, at least if you care about privacy. Most sophomores and the majority of juniors do not have a single room for the entire year. Only at Harvard will you learn the joys of a “walk-through single” — a room which is theoretically a single but which another student must walk through to get to her room.

5) You would have the opportunity to be a Junior Advisor at Williams and to serve on the JA Selection Committee and to serve on the Honor Committee. No undergraduate student serves in these roles at Harvard because Harvard does not allow undergraduates to run their own affairs. Harvard does not trust its students. Williams does.

6) The President of Williams, Adam Falk, cares about your education specifically, not just about the education of Williams undergraduates in general. The President of Harvard, Drew Faust, has bigger fish to fry. Don’t believe me? Just e-mail both of them. Tell them about your situation and concerns. See who responds and see what they say.

Of course, there are costs to turning down Harvard. Your friends and family won’t be nearly as impressed. Your Aunt Tillie will always think that you actually go to “Williams and Mary.” You’ll be far away from a city for four years. But, all in all, a majority of the students who choose Harvard over Williams would have been better off if they had chosen otherwise.

Choose wisely.

¹The first post in this series was 11 years ago, inspired by a newspaper story about 18 year-old Julia Sendor, who was admitted to both Harvard and Williams. Julia ended up choosing Williams (at least partly “because of the snowy mountains and maple syrup”), becoming a member of the class of 2008, winning a Udall Foundation Scholarship in Environmental Studies. Best part of that post is the congratulations from her proud JA.

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How To Lobby Alumni

How to lobby alumni to help you change college policy:

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

    Read more

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African-American Yield Comparison

Williams yields African-American accepted students at a lower rates than (some of) its peers.

frosh-2014W-B

Thanks to a commentator (who should join us as a blogger!) for pointing this out. He also shared (created?) this analysis:

QtPa0Ak - Imgur

1) Thanks for doing this! We need more peer comparisons at EphBlog. This topic would also make for a good Record article and/or senior thesis.

2) Although we compare poorly with Pomona, we do fine relative to many other colleges. So, maybe the glass is half full? I know that the Admissions Office has devoted a lot of time/money/personnel to African-American enrollment.

3) The unknown factor here is standards. The easiest way to get a very high yield among African-American students is to have much lower standards than your peer colleges. If Pomoma lets in a lot of low quality African-American applicants — high school students that Williams/Amherst/Brown/Dartmouth all reject — then Pomona is going to do very well in yielding those students.

4) The most outlier strategy among elite LACs when it comes to African-American applicants is Middlebury’s: admit/enroll fewer. In the class of 2020 (pdf), only 4% of the students are African-American. Thoughts on this?

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Bias Incident Response Task Force Report

Before it disappears in a fit of historical memory-holing, let’s archive portions of the Bias Incident Response Task Force Report from October 2012:

On November 11, 2011, the words “All Niggers Must Die” were written on a wall on the fourth floor of Prospect Hall. This hate crime caused a large number of our Black community members to feel targeted and unsafe and, overall, placed extraordinary stress on the fabric of the campus. A variety of associated issues and concerns were exposed in subsequent open mic events, campus conversations, and related gatherings. Among the concerns that were raised by many members of the campus community were pointed criticisms of the administration’s initial response to, and early communications about, the crime.

President Falk commissioned the Bias Incident Response Task Force (BIRTF) as the central component of a detailed debriefing of both the initial incident response and related protocols.

This was written almost a year after the event, by which time it was obvious that the entire incident was a “hate hoax.” This graffiti was written by student of color Jess Torres ’12.

Perhaps most important, we affirmed the need to ensure that we’re providing immediate, meaningful, and effective support to the most affected parties, after which we should expand our support to individuals and groups as we track the impact of the incident across campus and over time. This includes the establishment of physical and virtual safe spaces for post-event processing and dialogue, as well as additional components of an institutional infrastructure of counseling and support.

The best “support” that Williams could provide is to tell people that this was a hoax, that minority students have nothing to fear from white racists wondering the hallways of Prospect.

If the Record were a better paper, it would revisit this topic next fall, call up the members of this task force and ask them some hard questions.

The “Culture of Silence”

Perhaps the most frustrating – and enabling – campus condition is what students and others have termed the “culture of silence.” In fact, the name of the student organization that developed in response to the Prospect hate crime is Students Against Silence. While we recognized the highly complex nature of this phenomenon, our conversations focused on a couple of related questions:

What prevents students, faculty, and staff from taking advantage of the reporting websites and formal support structures that exist? If people want to talk about their experiences and concerns, are there unknown barriers to using existing channels more frequently and consistently?
What is it about our campus culture that allows students to believe they can behave like this? Once they leave here for graduate school or the workplace, their behavior changes, by and large, because they know this isn’t acceptable anywhere else. Why does it feel acceptable to them here?

The students on the Task Force explained that this is such a small, interconnected place that if you do something that leads to a falling-out with your team or your close circle of friends, you have few places left to turn. The prevailing social pressure – particularly on women – is not to make waves, not to “make life harder than it needs to be.” There was a strong perception that more people would report acts of discrimination, harassment, and assault if the social backlash to reporting weren’t so strong.

This perception that Williams’ size and distinctive social interconnectedness – typically considered to be positive features – work against us in this way resonates with our perceptions of why staff and faculty also hesitate to report the incidents of discrimination that they deal with.

Or, just maybe, there are fewer instances of actual discrimination at Williams than there are almost anyplace else in the world.

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Grounded: An Essay on the Passing of a Roommate

Frank and I had been in touch before I moved overseas last year. Despite the progression of his ALS, he seemed to have come to terms with his imminent passing.

“My breathing (biggest issue), walking, talking, and muscle mass have all declined,” he wrote me in February 2016. “ALS has no treatment or cure so all you can do is manage your symptoms. I just live day to day and try to remain positive.”

But I couldn’t square a diminishing “Franco” with the hardy athlete I had known at Williams. I envisioned Frank – once our red-headed, speedy cornerback – in a wheelchair, on oxygen and his muscles withered away.

Frank was my roommate and best friend in college. He was a small-town boy from nearby Hoosick Falls, NY, the first person in his family to attend college. I was the diplomat’s son, a boarding school product, who had grown up in Asia. Despite the different backgrounds, we clicked. The glue was Williams football in the fall of 1982. We were freshmen defensive backs, low men on the totem pole, who held bags, played dummy defense and sat the bench during games. Having had success in football in high school, we were humbled, and we ended up largely laughing at ourselves and our predicament.

The memories of practices on Cole Field – it’s the practices I remember, not the games — are indelible. Crisp fall days turning cold and dark as September gave way to November. Two-a-days, tackling drills, running sprints – we were building fortitude and friendship, both drenched in sweat. Frank is in the middle of the memories, his helmet wearing high on his head, his arms pumping when he ran, and his cackling laugh. Dick Farley, who would later be inducted into the Football Hall of Fame, was then the defensive backs coach. He was ornery, tough and spare with compliments. If you got a “not bad” from him, you knew you had done well. We practiced hard, overcame injuries and played all four years. A copy of the football program from 1984 has a full-page photo of Frank on the front, leaping high, arms outstretched, in an attempt to block a punt. He is completely airborne.

1984_Football_Program002

Off the field, Frank was organized and responsible, a product, I think, of having become the man of the house at an early age when his father left the family. Frank helped raise his three siblings. His room in our suite was always neat and his homework done. He had a way of retreating home to Hoosick Falls on the weekends, finishing his papers there and coming back refreshed while the rest of us – at least me – felt woefully behind the academic curve. Largely a tee-totaler, Frank was amused by our late-night antics. I recollect his very presence lent some balance to a lifestyle that could be raucous.

Life opened up for Frank after college. He taught and coached in Florida before getting the international bug and teaching in Brussels at an international school. The world became the small-town boy’s oyster. He would take school football and basketball teams around Europe and the Middle East for competitions, and he traveled to northern Italy where his father’s family came from. Those were, in retrospect, the happiest times of his life, next to the birth of his three children.

The older we get, the more we wonder how we will pass on. Frank died on February 16, 2017 at the age of 52, felled by a crippling disease for which there is no cure and no clear cause. Was it abetted by stress brought on by life’s ups and downs? Or toxicity in the soil from a plastics factory in Hoosick Falls? Or, as a medical doctor classmate wonders, blows to the head (and likely concussions) Frank suffered in football?

Thousands of miles away in Central Asia, I can only wonder. I reread Frank’s sentiments in that last email. They included his best friends at Williams.

“If I go tomorrow I have no wants and am content with the life I have had and the relationships I have made,” Frank wrote. “Please give those same regards to Clouder, Dunc, Howie, and Kenard if you talk with them. I think of them often also.”

Franco’s passing makes more tenuous the grasp of the past; there’s a slipping away. The airborne become grounded.

— written by Jeff Lilley ’86 about Frank Morandi ’86. Thanks to Williams College Archives and Special Collections for the image.

Condolences to all.

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Class of 2021 Admissions Data IV

Let’s discus admissions data for the class of 2021. Key table:

admi2

Today is Day 4. For me, the most interesting unknown is: Does Williams discriminate against Asian-American applicants and, if so, by how much? That Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford discriminate is beyond dispute. Indeed, the best historical parallel is with the rampant bias against Jews hundred years ago. (See The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton by Jerome Karabel for a magisterial history.) But Jews at Williams: Inclusion, Exclusion, and Class at a New England Liberal Arts College argues — fairly conclusively, I think — that Williams did not discriminate against Jews, either at all, much less to the same extent. The basic reason was not primarily that Williams was more well-disposed towards Jews than Harvard/Yale/Princeton. Instead, Jews were less likely to apply to Williams and/or attend Williams if accepted.

Might the same dynamic apply in the case of Asian-Americans? The lower yield for Asian-Americans might provide some indirect evidence for such a claim. At the very least, I would predict that Williams has been doing less discrimination for fewer years than HYP. At the same time, the table we discussed last week is worrying:

ccf_20170201_reeves_2

If about the same raw number of Asian-Americans and whites have Williams-caliber SAT scores, we would expect about the same number of whites/Asians in each Williams class. If the ratio is actually 4:1, and if Williams does not discriminate, than Asian-Americans must be much less likely to apply and/or less likely to enroll if accepted. Thoughts?

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Class of 2021 Admissions Data III

Let’s discus admissions data for the class of 2021. Key table:

admi2

Today is Day 3.

Will the College really yield less than 10% of the 187 black students it accepted during regular admissions? That would be a shockingly low number. Perhaps a close read of Peter Nurnberg’s ’09 thesis on matriculation decisions would tell us if this number is typical. The 43 number for the class of 2020 is not unusual, but there is a fair amount of volatility. The last few years have been 51, 35, 64 and 59.

I believe that there is a significant gender skew on African-American admissions, with women outnumbering men. Does anyone have the exact numbers? In the class of 2010, it was 13 men and 31 women.

Any suggestions for how the College should do better with African-Americans? It seems like more ought to be done with some of the African-American faculty? If I got a private lunch with, say, Neil Roberts, I would be more likely to choose Williams. Also:

One of the great problems that Williams faces in admissions is attracting enough/any African-American applicants will Williams-caliber credentials. Partly, this is because Williams, because of its location and size, is less attractive (on average) to African-American applicants than it is to other applicants. (The same is probably true for international students). But, much more important is the intense competition for elite African-American students from schools like Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford. Almost any African-American applicant with the high school grades and standardized test scores which would place her in the normal range for academic admission (AR 1 and 2) will be accepted at one or more of HYPS. (This is not true of, say, Chinese-American applicants.) Since 90% of applicants (and probably a higher percentage of African-American applicants) admitted to the College and one of these 4 choose HYPS over Williams, this means that Williams has little choice but to accept many African-American applicants who we would not accept were they Chinese-American.

The only practical solution to convince such students to choose Williams is to make it worth their while. And the Tyng (money for graduate school and extra money while at Williams) is the best method available. Therefore, the College should award almost all Tyng Scholarships to African-American applicants, thereby luring 4-8 African-American applicants away from HYPS and to Williams each year. (With luck, HYPS won’t feel compelled to match our offers.) For legal reasons, Williams might need to make an occasional offer to someone who was not African-American, but I doubt that the Department of Justice would be making trouble against these sorts of efforts anytime soon.

As true now as it was in 2009.

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Class of 2021 Admissions Data II

Let’s discus admissions data for the class of 2021. Key table:

admi2

Today is Day 2.

No one should be surprised that Williams yields whites better than it yields any other group. Is that a problem or an opportunity? I bet that white students from rich families who attended elite high schools are, on average, the happiest students at Williams. If so, should we admit more of them?

A similar analysis applies to legacies, the vast majority of whom are white. (Note that the legacy numbers are much iffier because the College does not (regularly) publish the exact numbers. President Falk usually provides an estimate of 1/7th but that certainly varies year-to-year. Indeed, the exact definition of “legacy” matters. We always include the children of alumni, never (?) the nieces/nephews and sometimes (?) the grandchildren. In any event, the 79 here is my estimate, equal to 1/7th of the 553 students in the class.)

I am amazed that we yield so well among legacies. Will 79 or so of the 86 legacies we admitted choose to enroll. That seems much too high to me. I know, just in my personal circle of friends, two legacy children admitted to Williams who went Ivy instead. Then again, perhaps the vast majority of those 86 were admitted early decision? Informed commentary welcome.

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Class of 2021 Admissions Data I

Let’s discus admissions data for the class of 2021. Key table:

admi2

Today is Day 1.

The data is derived from the early decision news release, the regular decision news release and the 2016-2017 Common Data Set (pdf).

From the latest news release:

Of the [1,253] admitted students, 95 are international students representing 47 different nationalities. Among American students, 50 percent identify as students of color: 220 students are Asian American, 214 are black, 175 Latino, and 17 Native American. Thirty-seven percent identify as white and five percent opted not to identify. A total of 274, or 22 percent, are first-generation college students, and seven percent (86) have a parent who attended Williams.

Note that all these numbers include the 257 students admitted via Early Decision in December. So, Williams only accepted 996 students via regular decision: 1,253 – 257 = 996.

Caveats: This is the first time I have attempted an analysis like this. Mistakes are likely! In particular, I did lots of algebra in my head and made some simplifying assumptions. The “Projected Yield” is the percentage of admitted students in each category which would need to enroll in order to match the totals for the class of 2020.

That 700 admitted students turn us down — overwhelmingly for schools like Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford and significantly for the next tier (Dartmouth/Brown/Amherst/Swarthmore) — is a sign of the gap we face in becoming the best college in the world. We need more of these high quality students to choose Williams.

Among students that both we and HYPS accept, we yield only 10% or so. Of course, many of those students are making the right choice when they turn down Williams. Anyone who hates the snow would be happier at Stanford. But many (10%? 25%, 50%?) of the students who turn us down are making a mistake. They would have been happier at Williams. We need to do a better job of selling Williams to them. Suggestions?

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Legacy Admissions Play No Meaningful Role at Elite Colleges

legacy

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

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

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

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

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

Case closed.[1]

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

Consider professional baseball. From the New York Times:

baseball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[3] sigh, an EphBlog regular, points out this study (pdf) on “The impact of legacy status on undergraduate admissions at elite colleges and universities.” The author argues that legacy status matters a great (or at least did matter in the fall of 2007). I have my doubts. Let’s dive into the details in the comments!

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Campus Name Option

An anonymous faculty member forwarded this e-mail:

To Faculty and Staff:

Recognizing that some students may choose to be known on campus by a name other than their legal name, Williams has implemented a Campus Name option for students. By default the campus name is the legal name but current students may now request a different campus name through PeopleSoft/Student Records and the updated name will roll out to all campus systems. The incoming class of 2021 will have the opportunity to choose a campus name during their initial matriculation in May.

Where will the student’s campus name appear?

· Faculty, academic and administrative staff for the most part will only see the student’s chosen campus name. Some exceptions are noted below.

· The long email name will be updated to correspond to the campus name; the short email name will not change.

· Students with updated campus names will be issued a new campus ID card from Campus Safety and Security.

· If you are responsible for any forms collecting information from students, please revise forms as necessary to request the campus name, not the legal name.

· If you work from system generated lists, you may need to refresh the lists periodically to capture any updates to campus names.

Instances where a student may need to give you their legal name?

· Travel arrangements for courses or for extra-curricular activities may require their legal name.

· Applications for fellowships or internships through Williams may require their legal name.

· A letter of recommendation supporting an application may require their legal name.

Will a student’s legal name persist or be available on some documents?

· Student Payroll presently uses the legal name for time reporting and if you supervise students you will see their legal name. We expect that time reporting will begin using the campus name by Fall 2017.

· A student’s official transcript, issued outside Williams, will use the legal name. (Note: internal transcripts and academic progress reports will us the campus name.)

· High school and college transcripts, including study away or summer school transcripts, generally will use a student’s legal name. Previously filed petitions such as major and concentration declarations, independent study and WSP 99 forms will include the legal name unless the student has asked us to redact that information.

· Although Williams will make every effort to update a student’s campus name in a comprehensive way, there may be existing lists, forms, etc., which include a student’s legal name. With this in mind, it’s important for administrative staff, faculty and academic staff to treat existing lists and documents with sensitivity.

· A number of administrative offices require the legal name in the context of their work, but these offices will use the campus name in communications with and about students, except where the legal name is required.

The full student campus name policy is at http://web.williams.edu/admin/registrar//petitions/namechange.html. If you have questions on the details of the policy, please feel free to contact me. Faculty and staff members wishing to change their campus name should refer to the Human Resources policy at https://www.williams.edu/update-your-listing/.

Mary L. Morrison
Associate Registrar

1) Did anyone predict 10 years ago that these sorts of changes would come to Williams? Not me! What will the next ten years bring?

2) This seems fairly stupid to me. Why should the College enter such a morass? Any student has the right (and ability!) to change their name. If they do, then the College should adjust the official record. If they don’t, then just keep the legal name.

3) Comments referencing Seeing Like a State are welcome below . . .

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Cornel West Throws Shade at Adam Falk

Robert P. George and Cornel West have written a statement about truth and the importance of open debate. Background here. Key paragraph:

It is all-too-common these days for people to try to immunize from criticism opinions that happen to be dominant in their particular communities. Sometimes this is done by questioning the motives and thus stigmatizing those who dissent from prevailing opinions; or by disrupting their presentations; or by demanding that they be excluded from campus or, if they have already been invited, disinvited.

No one is more guilty of this sin than Adam Falk, with his absurd banning of John Derbyshire (and others?) from campus.

Professor Michael Lewis is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the only Williams faculty member to sign the statement so far. Will there be others? Would you be interested in joining a movement — including faculty/alumni/students/staff — to convince/cajole/force Falk to revisit this policy? The forces of freedom are on the march . . .

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Show Them The Money

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Asian Versus Black SAT Scores

This Brookings Report highlights the continuing gaps in performance on the SAT and similar IQ tests among racial groups. Former Economics Professor Mike McPherson also gets a mention. Key chart:

ccf_20170201_reeves_2

Several Ephs tweeted out a link to the related New York Times story:

“Race gaps on the SATs are especially pronounced at the tails of the distribution,” the two authors note. In math, for example,

among top scorers — those scoring between a 750 and 800 — 60 percent are Asian and 33 percent are white, compared to 5 percent Latino and 2 percent black. Meanwhile, among those scoring between 300 and 350, 37 percent are Latino, 35 percent are black, 21 percent are white, and 6 percent are Asian.

Translating those percentages into concrete numbers, Reeves and Halikias estimate that

in the entire country last year at most 2,200 black and 4,900 Latino test-takers scored above a 700. In comparison, roughly 48,000 whites and 52,800 Asians scored that high. The same absolute disparity persists among the highest scorers: 16,000 whites and 29,570 Asians scored above a 750, compared to only at most 1,000 blacks and 2,400 Latinos.

There should be a way to combine this data with what we know about college admissions and applicant preferences to get a more up-to-date estimate of racial distribution of SAT scores at Williams. Start with the latest available Common Data Set (pdf):

scores

Full analysis left as an exercise for the reader! Comments:

1) About 2/3s of Williams students score above a 1400 combined. Speaking very roughly (and using hand-waving as my statistical estimation method of choice), whites and Asian Americans have about the same raw numbers in this pool. (There are, of course, many more white than Asian 17 year-olds in the US, but the whites do much worse on the SATs (and most other IQ tests)). So, why is the ratio of whites to Asians among Williams students almost 4:1? This suggests that Williams might discriminate against Asian-Americans in admissions. Now, there are many other plausible explanations other than discrimination which might explain this, mainly involving student/family preferences. But there is an interesting Record article (or senior thesis!) to write about this topic.

2) The ratio of Asian-Americans (74) to African-Americans (43) in the class of 2020 is not quite 2:1. But the ratio of students with Williams caliber SAT scores between these two groups is at least 20:1. The only thing that could possibly explain this discrepancy is massive preferences for African-Americans (relative to Asian-Americans) in Williams admissions. Taking another hand-waving guess, I would estimate that at least 70 of the Asian-Americans scored higher on the SAT/ACT than at least 40 of the African-Americans. In other words, the two distributions probably have almost no overlap, looking something like:

Rplot001

That couldn’t cause any problems on campus, could it? Below is an example of the sorts of “conversations” that students with radically different SAT scores have at Williams.

Read more

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How I Became a News Anchor

From USA Today:

CNN’s Erin Burnett has had quite the career. The prime-time newscaster graduated from Williams College with a political economy degree, spending the first part of her career as a financial analyst for Goldman Sachs before taking the leap to pursue a career in media.

From the Middle East to Africa to China and the United States, Burnett’s reporting has taken her all over the world as the host of CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront. USA TODAY College caught up with Burnett to talk about taking risks, driving through Iraq in the dark of night and thriving on deadline.

Read the whole thing. Alas, there are no fun stories from Burnett’s time at Williams.

What does your career path look like, from Goldman Sachs to CNN?

My brother-in-law and sister sent me an article that was on the front of the business section of the New York Times. I was an an analyst at Goldman and I’d been doing an all-nighter, which is kind of the standard operating procedure in that job. The article was talking about Willow Bay and her new job with Moneyline, the show she was working on at CNN.

When I was young Willow was the face of Estee Lauder and a very famous model, so I had followed her and knew who she was. I sent her a letter — which I’ve described as my ‘stalker letter’ — and said that I’ve read your ad and that I’m very interested in doing this.

Lesson: Network! Network! Network!

Burnett’s sisters are also Ephs and at least one is married to an Eph.

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Curt Tong, RIP

Wonderful article by Tim Layden ’78 about former basketball coach Curt Tong.

The list was taped to the wall in a dark corner of an old college gymnasium, the kind with a running track overhanging the corners of the playing surface. The wall was made of ancient, yellowed stones, lacquered for preservation; the paper was a single, unlined white sheet, affixed to the bricks with slices of clear tape. Even nearing midday, there was barely enough light to read the printing on the page, listing the names of those who had earned the right to play on the varsity basketball team at Williams College during the upcoming season.

It was late in the fall of 1976. I was a junior at Williams, a small D-III liberal arts school in Massachusetts, and had been a member of the team the previous year. I had played little in games, and never when the outcome was in doubt. I was slow-footed, with a tenuous handle, but I could score if not guarded too closely and I was a good teammate and a hard worker. Without being told so, I was certain that my position on the roster was safe until graduation. This was a miscalculation. On the previous night there had been an intrasquad scrimmage, ostensibly giving players a last opportunity to prove themselves worthy of inclusion, or to cut themselves by exposing their weaknesses. Time has dulled the memory of that night, but I didn’t convince my coach that I was significantly better than the bench player I had been the year before. And in retrospect, I most certainly was not.

Therefore, the next day my name wasn’t on the list. I stood frozen at the wall for a long time, repeatedly scanning up and down, trying to blink back the tears that were stinging my eyes and making me feel ashamed. A few of the guys silently patted me on the shoulder, but I waited for all of them to leave before turning to face the daylight. I was 20 years old and my entire self-worth was wrapped up in being an athlete. Now that was gone. I would never again wear a uniform with a genuine name on the front (“Freight Heads,” my trucking company-sponsored team in an Albany, New York rec league, is not a genuine name). I was adrift. There is nothing in sports quite like being cut, and nothing quite like the cut that tells an athlete that he has officially bumped up against his own personal ceiling. This is as true of the little boy (or girl) who doesn’t make the high school freshman team as it is of Jimmer Fredette in the NBA. You never forget that cut, even as life piles on more important crises, failures and tragedies, as life will inevitably do, and has. Three decades after I was cut, my daughter enrolled at Williams and we walked through the gym, which was no longer used for varsity games. The wall was still there, the bricks were still a pale, shiny yellow. There was no list, but I could see it just the same. I had to take a minute to gather myself.

As do we all.

On that morning in 1976, as players looked at the list on the wall, my coach sat on the windowsill across the gym floor. His office was only a few feet away, but he sat out in the open where anyone with a gripe could visit without being forced to rap his knuckles on the door. That was a professional touch and it couldn’t have been pleasant. The coach’s name was Curtis Whitfield Tong. Curt. Coach Tong. He was 42 years old and had been, at that point, a college basketball coach for 12 years—nine at Otterbein College in Ohio and three at Williams. I walked across the gym and sat next to him. My father had long drilled it into my head to always be a gentleman, and to always take defeat with class, so I told Coach Tong that I understood why he cut me (which was true, but in my immature youth, I didn’t resent him any less for doing it). Coach Tong thanked me for my hard work, told me I was a good player, just not quite good enough. Promised me there would be better days ahead. We shook hands. I walked out of the gym, cried for a few hours and then got drunk for a week.

The purpose of all this musty storytelling, from a very mediocre player, long grown old?

Coach Tong died on January 16 at a nursing home in Massachusetts. He was 82 years old and succumbed to complications of Alzheimer’s disease, which had afflicted him in the latter years of a very rich and full life. He left behind his wife of 58 years, the former Wavalene Kumler, whom everyone knows as Jinx. They met in college and stayed together, a love story. They had three children, accomplished and successful adults who had seven children of their own, and last spring, Curt’s and Jinx’s first great-grandchild, a little girl named Martha. They are a close and beautiful family. Curt coached 18 years at Otterbein and Williams, with a combined record of 242 wins and 141 losses. In 1983, at the age of 49, Curt left Williams to become the athletic director at Pomona-Pitzer, two small California liberal arts colleges that share an athletic department. He spent the last 16 years of his career there, before retiring in 1998. In 2010, he published a memoir, Child Of War, describing in harrowing detail the three years he spent as a child in a World War II Japanese internment camp in the Philippines, where his parents were missionaries.

Read the whole thing.

Those are the details, and they are important details. They are a life’s work, in and out of the office. On and off the court. But details never tell the full story of a coach’s life, because a coach—a teacher, by any measure—is more than the sum of his life’s accomplishments. A coach is his own life, and every life he has ever touched, his words and his lessons melting down through generations, outliving him by decades. Coaches expire every day, but they never die. They live forever.

If your players remember you with even 1% of the detail and fondness with which Layden remembers Tong, then you will have been an excellent coach indeed.

Condolences to all.

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Linked In Ephs

Could we (or Williams) do more with Linked-In? Consider:

linked

Is this data accurate? Is it useful? I am certainly impressed that they have (claim) almost 20,000 alumni. None of this summary data seems obviously wrong. I suspect that the most of the 500+ who “work” at Williams are actually current students. Williams can’t employ more than 100 alumni, can it? If Google is really the biggest employer, then that would make for an interesting Record article.

Does anyone have experience using Linked-in data? Could we get a dump of every Eph and analyze the resulting data set, perhaps in a week-end hackathon with one of the statistics classes? Pointers welcome!

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EphBlog Welcomes Parker Langenback

langenback

Most heart-warming Eph news story of the year:

A couple of weeks ago, Parker Langenback had no clue what the game of lacrosse was all about, and Kevin Stump, a first-year member of the Williams College Men’s Lacrosse Team had no clue about how the birth defect spinal bifida could affect a person’s life.

But on Tuesday evening, the Langenback family and the lacrosse team signed on for a two-year commitment to learn about and support one another, through a social sports initiative called Team Impact.

Now 6 years old, but turning 7 at the end of the month, Parker is a first-grader at Williamstown Elementary School, located about a mile from where the lacrosse team practices at Farley-Lamb Field. He lives in town with his parents, Melissa and Rob Langenback, and his 3-year-old brother, Sawyer.

Read the whole thing. Kudos to all involved!

Parker Langenback is now an Eph, at least in the eyes of EphBlog! And, by the transitive property, so are his parents and his brother. With luck, he and they will be part of the lacrosse team for years to come.

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Safety Dance Affidavits

Latest filings in the Safety Dance case include: Affidavit 1, Affidavit 2 and Revised Memo in Opposition to Motion to Dismiss.

1) Why won’t the Record cover this case? I don’t think that they have provided a single update after their original article.

2) Why won’t the College settle? Just give Doe his degree and move on.

3) The longer this drags on, the worse things like for Williams. Check out those affidavits!

aff

This is from current (!) Williams employee Brian Marquis. I do not think that the Brzezinski he is referring to his Mika . . .

Settle the case!

How much of this heartburn does Adam Falk want? Consider the other affidavit, from current (!) Williams Security (!) officer Joshua Costa.

aff2

Settle the case!

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Not Bad Hombres

Sonia Nazario ’82 writes in the New York Times:

But President Trump has decided to get tough on many of the 60,000 Central American children who arrive at our border each year begging for safety after fleeing some of the most dangerous places on earth. His executive orders, and memos from the Department of Homeland Security on how to interpret them, could strip this special treatment from the roughly 60 percent of unaccompanied children who have a parent already living in the United States. If Kendra and Roberto were just entering the United States now, they would fall into this group; instead they kept their protections and were eventually united with their mother, a house painter in Los Angeles.

Parents like her, the argument goes, are exploiting benefits established to help children who really are alone here. The administration has threatened to deport parents who send for their children or prosecute them for hiring smugglers.

Good. We just had an election fought over the issue of illegal immigration and Nazario’s side lost. She believes that anyone (adult or child) who is fleeing a violent country should be admitted to the United States. This is open-borders in all but name. I (and a largish majority of US citizens) disagree. We want an immigration policy much more like Japan’s.

It will be interesting to see if Trump (along with Bannon/Miller) delivers on his promises. So far, I am hopeful!

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Welcome Class of 2021

Welcome to those admitted to the class of 2021! If there are any aspiring writers in the class, please contact EphBlog. We would love to host your prose. (Could a reader post this offer to the class of 2021 Facebook group?)

From the news release:

Of the [1,253] admitted students, 95 are international students representing 47 different nationalities. Among American students, 50 percent identify as students of color: 220 students are Asian American, 214 are black, 175 Latino, and 17 Native American. Thirty-seven percent identify as white and five percent opted not to identify. A total of 274, or 22 percent, are first-generation college students, and seven percent (86) have a parent who attended Williams.

Note that all these numbers include the 257 students admitted via Early Decision in December.

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How Many Williams Students Go to Law School?

Is there public information about how many Williams students go to law school? The LASC publishes this report (pdf) on the top feeder schools. Amherst has sent an average of 63 students each year over the last 5 years, which seems a surprisingly high number. But the report only lists schools that sent at least 54 students last year, a number which many elite liberal arts colleges, like Williams, do not meet. I ask LASC to release the numbers for Williams, but they refused because they have a (reasonable!) policy against such a release. Questions:

How many Williams students have gone to law school over the last decade? EphBlog hopes that the number is much lower than the 63 student average for Amherst.

Why does Amherst send such a high percentage of its graduating class to law school? Do they admit more would-be lawyers? Do more would-be lawyers choose Amherst over other schools? Does something about Amherst encourage students to become lawyers?

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Richard Spencer to Speak at Williams?

University Chicago President Robert Zimmer was interviewed in the Wall Street Journal:

A growing number of colleges around the nation are taking steps to protect their students from ideas and words some find hurtful or upsetting. That protection includes a broad blanket of administrative support for things like safe harbors and bias response teams designed to investigate “micro aggressions” and “micro invalidations.”

The University of Chicago has taken a different tack.

WSJ: If Richard Spencer—who attended the University of Chicago and has become a leading white nationalist—was invited to speak at the university, would you have a problem with that?

MR. ZIMMER: Faculty and students invite all sorts of people, and we don’t restrict who they invite.

I don’t invite people. We offer no restrictions to student groups and faculty. What they want to do is hear, discuss and potentially argue with the people they invite.

WSJ: So, if he was invited to speak there, you’d be OK with him coming?

MR. ZIMMER: It would be fine if he came to speak, just like if anyone else came to speak.

Uncomfortable Learning should invite Spencer to Williams. Adam Falk has, we hope, learned his lesson from the Derbyshire disaster and would not ban another speaker, would he?

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The Comey Letter

Latest from Bethany McLean ’92:

When F.B.I. director James Comey reopened the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mails in the final days of the campaign, many saw it as a political move that cost Clinton the presidency. But some insiders suspect Comey had a more personal concern: his own legacy.

Read the whole thing.

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Repealing the ACA is Harmless

The latest from Oren Cass ’05:

The best statistical estimate for the number of lives saved each year by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is zero. Certainly, there are individuals who have benefited from various of its provisions. But attempts to claim broader effects on public health or thousands of lives saved rely upon extrapolation from past studies that focus on the value of private health insurance. The ACA, however, has expanded coverage through Medicaid, a public program that, according to several studies, has failed to improve health outcomes for recipients. In fact, public health trends since the implementation of the ACA have worsened, with 80,000 more deaths in 2015 than had mortality continued declining during 2014–15 at the rate achieved during 2000–2013.

Read the whole thing.

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Enjoy Spring Break

But, don’t worry! EphBlog will still have new material every weekday.

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Problematic Williams History

Harvard has unveiled a summary of its involvement with slavery. I don’t know enough about this aspect of Williams history as I should. Fortunately, our readers do!

I thought it was fairly well known that Eph and other prominent Williams family members, including founding trustee Elijah Williams, owned and traded slaves. Eph left brothers Elijah and Josiah his slaves in his will, the founding document of the college.

A considerable source of Williams family wealth, including Eph’s, in Berkshire County was in land that they had systematically cheated Stockbridge Indians out of.

Amos Lawrence, the most important early benefactor to the college, made his fortune in cotton–therefore on slave labor– before the Civil War. Late in life he supported forced resettlement of enslaved African Americans to Africa as a way to solve the slavery issue. His name graces Lawrence Hall, now WCMA.

[H]ere’s a heartbreaking document of indenture binding a 6-year old girl to Elijah Williams without any consent. If she lived to 18 out in the wilds of Berkshire County, she got some clothes. But she would have been free, unlike Elijah’s black slaves.

Slavery and an active program of displacing indigenous people aside, the Williams family were in large part Loyalist. There’s no indication at all that, had he lived, Eph would have fought for the Continental Army.

Tell us more about this history!

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