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Rehire Robin and Kristine Petition Update

As of this posting, the petition, with a new target of 5,000, has now reached 3,336 signatures – more than the number of students on campus at any given time! When was the last time a current student lead petition got this many signatures from the Eph community?

Carl Sangree ’18 updated the description:

Things to do in the short term:

Donate to the Gofundme, which will directly benefit Robin and Kristine.

https://www.gofundme.com/support-robin

Email Steve Klass, who helps oversee dining services employees ( sklass@williams.edu ) and other Williams officials who may listen.

The GofundMe fundraiser, set up yesterday, has already broken its $2,000 goal ($2,555 as of this posting).

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Rehire Robin and Kristine

A petition by Carl Sangree ’18 to rehire fired dining services attendants Robin Alfonso and Kristine McLear has, as of this posting, garnered 1,628/2,500 signatures since it was posted five days ago. Earlier this morning, the petition broke its initial goal of 1,500.

My friend Robin Alfonso was fired from Williams College this summer. If you don’t know her by name, you probably knew her as “the ridiculously friendly Whitman’s snackbar lady.” Williams security accused her of smoking marijuana with students at the Mt. Hope Mansion during last year’s senior week, despite the denials of both her and students she was with. The administration fired her nonetheless, ignoring her fifteen years of faithful work without any prior incident. She is just as important to our community as any student or professor, yet she has not been treated with any level of fairness.

She is the main caregiver for her grandson and now is deprived of what was already a modest income. Her life has been effectively ruined, and she is extremely distraught even several months after the incident. She truly cherished Williams students and her job.

Williams is very keen on enforcing its drug policy but only seems to punish the most vulnerable members of our community. Please sign this petition so that I can help appeal Robin’s egregious termination at the hands of our college’s administration. Whatever punishment they believe she deserves has been served by her many times over.

Whenever I was having a bad day, I could count on Robin to cheer me up, and I know this was true for many others as well. Now she needs our help — let’s make this right.

UPDATE:
After writing this petition, I learned that another employee was treated just as unfairly as Robin as part of this same incident. Kristine McLear was also fired due to these same allegations and also claims she was never given a fair chance to defend herself; like Robin, she was presumed guilty. When I present this petition to administrators, I will also be arguing for Kristine. Kristine was a faithful employee and cherished just as Robin was.

No response from the administration yet. And we still have to talk about how former Williams Campus Security officer Joshua Costa and former employee Brian Marquis were terminated for blowing the whistle on the administration’s more, uhh, questionable behavior.

Edit: Last year, the Record profiled Robin Alfonso.

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Students Warned By Professors About Sexual Harassment Complaints Against Their Colleague

At least three current students have reported to EphBlog that professors in a for-now-unnamed department warn current students they advise to either a) not take a course and/or b) distance themselves from one particular professor due to a number of sexual harassment complaints, including “coming onto” students during office hours and attempting to engage in other inappropriate behavior. Despite the complaints, which have come at least since the 2013-2014 academic year, this professor is still currently in the employment of the College and is teaching a class this semester. Notably, this professor only conducts class on a limited number of days a week when they are allowed on campus, a measure enacted since the 2014-2015 academic year in response to the complaints. At least for the last year, this professor has not held office hours for their classes.

Questions/comments:

1. What is this professor still doing in a Williams classroom?!?! As an example of what we don’t want students to become? Students come to the College precisely because of the learning that happens from the close relationships we develop with our professors around the subjects that excite our passions. To engage in such gross behavior and take advantage of students in that way is to spit on the spirit of Williams and the rest of its wonderful teachers. And, if for a moment we entertain the thought that this professor learned from their mistakes, we ought to ask ourselves why their colleagues still feel the need to warn students. And on that note…

2. … for current professors to warn current students against taking a class with their colleague is a big deal. It means that they a) know about this professor’s behavior and b) think it is egregious and recurrent enough to explicitly dissuade students from taking their classes. A current student was warned by another professor in the department as recently as spring of 2017, when deciding classes for this fall 2017 semester. If this professor’s behavior did not continue in some form since 2014, do you think the current student would have been warned?

3. We need to know who knew about this and when. Note that for this professor to a) still be on campus despite their colleagues knowing; b) teach in a limited capacity; c) get away with not holding office hours (I have never had nor heard of a professor in any department that did not have them), someone higher up had to know. Classroom scheduling is handled by the Registrar, so it’s likely that someone in the administration knew of this arrangement too. Someone somewhere made the decision to keep this professor on the College’s payroll. We need to know who and for what possible reasons they have continued to let students share a classroom with this professor.

4. Recall the College’s Ending Sexual Assault video. Adam Falk says (around 0:16) “What’s fundamental to our work at Williams is that everyone who comes to the College comes to an environment in which they can thrive.” Do you think this is what he had in mind?

5. Do readers think that EphBlog should reveal the name of the department of the professor?

More to come as this story develops.

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Presidential Search Thoughts and Opinions

Dear Ephs,

We hope your week is getting off to a smooth start! Together, we have the important task of helping choose the next President of Williams College. We need to hear your input and ideas to represent you!

Over the coming weeks, we will be reaching out to you in several ways such as:

  • A kickoff event on Thursday at 7PM in Baxter where you can speak directly with us and representatives of our search firm, SpencerStuart, while enjoying a free gelato sundae bar!

  • Poster boards around Baxter where you can add your voice by grabbing a sticky note and answering specific questions about what you want to see, starting tomorrow at lunch

  • An online survey tool where you can provide more in-depth suggestions about what matters to you (coming soon)

  • An email address for nominations and other specific feedback that will go directly to the SpencerStuart team at williamspresident@spencerstuart.com

  • More full-campus forums and events, where anyone can speak directly with us and other students about their thoughts (coming soon)

  • Opportunities for smaller meetings and conversations with us and/or the SpencerStuart staff (email us if you or your student group are interested!)

We are very grateful for your support in helping us take on this task. You will be hearing more from us soon and feel free to reach out with any questions or comments.

See you on Thursday night!

Sarah Hollinger ‘19 and Ben Gips ‘19
Student Representatives, Presidential Search Committee
shh1@williams.edu, bwg1@williams.edu

Edit: This was sent yesterday, at 3:31 pm.
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Update on defacement of class banner

To the Williams community,

After seeing my campus message this afternoon about the defacement of the class banner in the ’82 Grill, students came forward and shared relevant information with Campus Safety. As a result, we are now confident that the “KKK” symbol was present on the banner as of last spring, and potentially earlier.

I want to thank those who reached out to communicate with CSS. They significantly aided the investigation. It does not eliminate the harmful impact of the incident. But it demonstrates the kind of community effort needed, in our continuing fight against racial hatred and other forms of bias.

Adam Falk
President

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Defacement of class banner in ’82 Grill

To the Williams community,

Just after 11:00 PM on Friday, September 15, Campus Safety and Security (CSS) received a report from a student who noticed that someone had defaced the Class of 2019 banner in the ’82 Grill by writing “KKK” among the names, in the same color of marker. I am attaching a photo of the banner, with the letters circled, so you can see it for yourself.

Campus Safety and Security staff notified the Williamstown Police, who photographed the site. CSS then promptly took the banner down and secured it. They are now working to try and determine the timeline and identify the perpetrator. Anyone found to be involved will be held accountable.

The banner was originally signed in Fall 2015. The small size of the letters and the dim lighting of the display space mean we do not know whether the act was committed recently, or went unnoticed for some longer period of time. Anyone who has information they think may be pertinent should contact Campus Safety at 413-597-4444.

If you have experienced an incident of bias or are aware of one, please report it immediately. If you are unsure whether a specific incident constitutes bias, you can find information about our policies and community standards on the Office of Diversity and Institutional Equity website.

The symbol “KKK” has long been used as a weapon, to intimidate and instill fear. We cannot yet know the writer’s intention, but the nature of a weapon is that it does harm regardless of intent. When someone inscribed those letters, or defaced the banner with them afterwards, they harmed our community. The fact that the investigation is ongoing should not delay us from turning to each other to offer help and care.

Adam Falk
President

 
Attached photo:
Banner

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Today’s DACA announcement

All campus email from Adam Falk, Tue, Sep 5, 2017 at 12:04 PM:

 

To the campus community,

This morning, Attorney General Sessions announced the cancelation of the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program. Under DACA, since 2012, people who entered or were brought into this country illegally while minors have been eligible for a two-year, renewable deferral from deportation, as well as a work permit. The cancelation means the program will no longer accept new applications. It has also created uncertainty about the status of the more than 800,000 people who already hold DACA deferrals or permits.

Given this uncertainty, I want to affirm some important commitments Williams has already made to our community:

Staff who are aware that someone on campus needs help in light of the DACA cancelation will reach out to them privately with offers of support. If you need assistance, please contact the Dean’s office, our Chaplains, the Davis Center, or Counseling Services. This can be done confidentially.

Williams will not provide student or employee information to government agencies or their officers unless presented with a legitimate court order. Such agencies and people are also prohibited from conducting interviews, searches, or detentions on campus without a warrant or probable cause. You can always call Campus Safety at 413-597-4444 if you see anything you are unsure of.

Anyone admitted to or employed by Williams is a welcome member of this community, entitled to full rights, services, and protections. We will not tolerate bias or prejudice toward our people on the basis of DACA status or other identity attributes. If you experience bias or see it happening to someone else, use the reporting feature on the Williams: Speak Up! website to let the college know so that we can intervene.

We will continue to work with our colleagues in higher education and our legislative delegation to advocate for protection for undocumented students.

Many Williams faculty, staff, and students came here from other countries, or are the children of immigrants, as am I. We are all better off for their decision to make Williams their home. Faced with this latest news, we will begin where we always begin in such moments: by living out our values, and caring for those around us.

Sincerely,

Adam Falk
President

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Williams presidential search news

To the Williams Community,

I hope you are all enjoying the last days of summer, and looking forward, as I am, to the new academic year.

As you know, President Adam Falk recently announced that he will leave Williams at the end of December to become president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. In my role as chair of the college’s Board of Trustees, I have been asked by the Board to lead our search for Adam’s successor. I am writing today to inform you of our considerable progress in organizing the process, and to share with you our plan for interim college leadership beginning in January of 2018, which was approved by the Board of Trustees yesterday.

First, I am pleased to inform you that Protik (Tiku) Majumder, Barclay Jermain Professor of Natural Philosophy and Director of the Science Center, has graciously agreed to serve as interim president, starting January 1, 2018, and continuing until the new president is in place. Tiku has an outstanding record as a Williams teacher and mentor, scientist, and faculty leader, and just as importantly has earned wide trust and respect across the Williams community. Our objective was to find an interim president with a keen understanding of our institution; a love of Williams, of its students, and of its faculty; enormous patience, tact, and insight; and an ability to respond with intelligence, compassion, and calm to the inevitable challenges that will arise from time to time. Tiku has each of these qualities, and many more. He will do a superb job of keeping Williams on track, and I ask you to join me in thanking him and supporting his leadership.

Second, we have formed a Presidential Search Committee whose charge will be to present to the Board of Trustees one or more exceptional and thoroughly vetted candidates to become our next president, and to ensure that every member of the Williams community has an opportunity to give input with respect to qualities that we should be seeking, as well as to offer nominations. The Search Committee includes representatives from every sector of our community: students, staff, alumni, faculty, and trustees. Several members are also Williams parents. As their backgrounds indicate, each brings deep involvement with the College. Service on the committee will require significant time and effort, and I am personally grateful to the members for their dedication to Williams and their willingness to take on this essential task.

The members of the committee are:

Michael Eisenson ’77, Trustee and Chair of the Search Committee
O. Andreas Halvorsen ’86, Trustee
Clarence Otis, Jr. ’77, Trustee
Kate L. Queeney ’92, Trustee
Liz Robinson ’90, Trustee
Martha Williamson ’77, Trustee

Ngonidzashe Munemo, Associate Dean for Institutional Diversity and Associate Professor of Political Science
Peter Murphy, John Hawley Roberts Professor of English
Lucie Schmidt, Professor of Economics
Tom Smith ’88, Professor of Chemistry
Safa Zaki, Professor of Psychology

Chris Winters ’95, Associate Provost

Jordan G. Hampton ’87, President, Society of Alumni
Yvonne Hao ’95, alumna and Trustee Emerita

Ben Gips ’19, student representative
Sarah Hollinger ’19, student representative

Keli Gail, Secretary of the Board of Trustees and principal staff to the committee

Third, the board has retained the firm Spencer Stuart as consultant, to help manage the search process. Spencer Stuart has been involved in numerous recent and successful academic searches at the highest levels, and is very well positioned to help the committee in its work. Searches like this are complex and sensitive, and we expect to benefit greatly from their expertise, specialized resources, and pool of outstanding candidates.

The Search Committee will begin its work shortly, and we will announce opportunities for community input as these are developed. As a first step, we have created a website where you can find information and materials related to the search. We will add to the site as additional materials are available, as further process steps are scheduled, and as we have news to share. Our future email updates will link back to this site as the place of record for search news.

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to again thank the members of the Presidential Search Committee for the work they are about to do, and Tiku Majumder for his service as interim president. I also want to convey to our entire community our enthusiasm and optimism as we set out to find the 18th president of Williams College.

Sincerely,

Michael Eisenson ’77
Chair, Williams College Board of Trustees

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All Campus Email: Mattresses and Box Springs from Home

Hello all,

Welcome back for another great year at Williams College. I want to take a minute to make you all aware of an existing Bed Bug Policy here at Williams and how it may impact you.

The following guidelines were developed in collaboration between Williams and a professional pest control company. Student Life and Facilities offices consistently observe these guideline and partner closely with students in detection and remediation.

The most important role you, as a student, can play is in preventing bed bug infestation in the first place, and the principal means of prevention is to leave your own mattress at home. The mattresses that Williams provides are bed-bug free: most of them are made of tightly woven material that has no exposed standing seams and therefore no place for beg bugs to hide, and all of them will be similarly covered shortly. They do not contain any chemicals or pesticides. Mattresses from home carry no such guarantees and therefore are no longer allowed in campus residences.

Thank you for your continued help in keeping Williams College a healthy environment to live and learn in.

Best,

Dan


Dan Levering, Assistant Director of Custodial Services and Special Events
Williams College
60 Latham Street
Williamstown MA, 01267
(413) 597-4466

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Eisenson ’77 on Falk Departure

At 12:53 pm yesterday, just 19 minutes after Falk’s all campus email:

To the Williams Community,

I write, on behalf of the Williams College Board of Trustees and with mixed emotion, to officially confirm that Adam Falk will leave Williams at the end of 2017 to become president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The College has flourished under Adam’s leadership. We have sustained and, indeed, enhanced our position as a national leader in liberal arts education. We have maintained our commitment to providing access to the broadest possible spectrum of exceptional students, attracting ever increasing talent and diversity to our campus. We have had great success recruiting accomplished and highly sought-after new members to join our outstanding faculty ranks and, as well, Adam has built a deep and effective senior leadership team. Our campus is undergoing an ambitious, carefully-orchestrated renewal, with superb new facilities, including the Sawyer Library and a major new center for the sciences, positioning us for the next fifty years, while reflecting a purposeful commitment to managing our carbon footprint. Our alumni and friends have set the historic Teach It Forward campaign well on the path to achieving our ambitious goals, and the College’s finances are in all ways very sound.

Adam has been an exceptionally fine president for Williams. He has demonstrated a keen ability to appreciate and retain the best of Williams traditions, while encouraging the College to grow through a genuine openness to innovation, always with the education and wellbeing of our students foremost in mind. His departure will be a loss for the College and our community, and I will personally miss his wisdom, his friendship, and his deeply thoughtful and principled leadership. At the same time, he will be leaving at a time when the College is as strong, secure and thriving as it has ever been and the Board of Trustees is completely confident that Williams will attract another exceptional talent to lead us into the next decade.

Adam’s last day at Williams will be December 31, 2017. The Board has approved the formation of a search committee, and I have been appointed as its chair. In that capacity I will be back in touch later this Summer with information about the search process. We will organize various opportunities in the Fall for the community to thank Adam for his service and wish him well. In the meantime, please join me in congratulating Adam on his exciting next adventure and in making the most of his remaining time in the Purple Valley.

Best regards,
Michael Eisenson ’77
Chair, Williams College Board of Trustees

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Falk Steps Down

Today at 12:34 pm:

To the Williams community,

I’m writing to share with you the news that, at the end of December, I will leave Williams to become president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in New York.

I arrived in the Purple Valley in April of 2010, and the ensuing years have been among the most gratifying of my career. It makes me genuinely happy, looking back, to see what together we’ve achieved. Williams is attracting even greater numbers of passionate, insightful and diverse students. We’re making this place accessible to people who couldn’t consider coming here otherwise. We’re renewing our campus and making major investments in its sustainability. We’re hiring and supporting the deeply committed faculty and staff who define this college. And our loyal alumni are giving and volunteering in ways that help students thrive at Williams and build successful and rewarding lives after graduation.

Why would anyone leave such a place, at such a time? There are few opportunities that could have drawn me away. But it’s a familiar irony that the best time for a school to recruit a new president isn’t during a period of stagnation or trial, but at a time of vitality and promise. When the Sloan Foundation approached me a short while ago to lead their extraordinary institution, I was only able to consider this invitation to pursue other passions of mine—science and graduate education, among them—because I knew I’d be leaving Williams at such a vibrant moment in its history.

There will be no coasting during my remaining months on the job: we have much to accomplish together. Among my goals for this fall are the successful conclusion of our decennial reaccreditation process, raising support for Williams through the Teach It Forward campaign, continuing to advance the Science Center project, and paving the way for a smooth transition for my eventual successor.

December will come soon enough. And when it does I’ll miss Williams, and all of you, deeply. Thank you for the affection this community has shown me, and for the good work we’ve all been able to do together over these eight years.

Sincerely,

Adam Falk
President, Williams College

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Time Magazine Article on Falk/Derbyshire

When was the last time a sitting senator (!) called on a Williams College President to resign? In a Senate hearing?! Check out Time Magazine’s latest article on Williams, “Williams College President Rejects Claim That He Blocked Free Speech On Campus“.

Responding to Wood’s testimony, Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy on Tuesday called Falk unfit to lead the school. “If the way you described it is accurate, then he should resign,” Kennedy said. “It’s just that simple — because he needs to explain to students and have them understand that they do not have a constitutional right in life not to be offended. They’re going to be offended plenty of times in life.”

Emphasis mine.

And for that matter, when was the last time a Williams student took part in the investigations of a Senate judiciary hearing committee? Similar to the Washington Post piece from months ago, this piece reads like it was written by Falk’s worst enemies. Consider:

Williams College President Adam Falk did not attend the Senate judiciary committee hearing on Tuesday, but Williams student Zach Wood did, and Wood testified about what he sees as a lack of politically and ideologically diverse speakers at the Massachusetts private school, where he said “the administration promotes social tolerance at the expense of political tolerance.”

Is there anyone (except Falk) who still disagrees with this? I don’t!

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All Gender Restrooms

There is quite a backlog of posts to go through…

Recently, without any announcement or notice from the administration, I woke up to this sign beside the door of one of the restrooms in my dorm:

image1

 

Notably, these signs were not put up across all restrooms/bathrooms on campus. The installment seems arbitrary at best. The two bathrooms on my floor have always been used by “anyone… regardless of gender identity or expression” (and no one on my floor/in my dorm has ever complained about it), but they are not embellished with these shiny new signs.

Well, in any case, now that these are up, I cannot help but wonder what motivated these new signs. Obviously, these are for the LGBTQ students on campus. What do they think? Quote from a friend and current Eph ’18 who identifies as trans:

I have used the same bathrooms on campus for three years, and no one has ever socked me in the face for it. This just seems like much ado about nothing. I mean, really, using a bathroom is not complicated… You go in, you do your business, you get out.

But this is just the experience of one trans Eph. Have other LGBTQ students at Williams experienced discrimination when they shower in their dorms or use a restroom? I haven’t heard of any (nor has my friend), but it is certainly possible that my friend group on campus is limited. As always, informed commentary is wanted!

Regardless, since the administration has already taken the time, effort, and endowment money to install these signs, the least they can do is clarify their (new?) bathroom policy. Assuming that no LGBTQ student has been “socked … in the face” for using the bathrooms on campus as they were, the skeptic in me (and my trans friend) might conclude that this is, at best, yet another example of wasteful virtue signalling, or at worst, yet another example of the administration’s unilateral effort to ram their social agenda down the throats of the Williams community. But maybe that is too much! I should be thankful, right? Besides, without the enlightened (expensive?) guidance of the Dean’s Office/Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity/Gender and Sexuality Resource Center/Davis Center, how on earth would an adult oblivious Williams dimwit undergraduate like me ever know which bathrooms to use?

What do readers think?

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The Simpsons on SJWs

Apologies for the temporary absence – the semester does get busy this time of year! Before we return to our regular programming, check out this chunk of a Simpsons episode. It’s hilarious!

Granted, this Simpsons bit is about Yale, but it echoes eerily familiar sentiments here in the Purple Valley…

Funny (relevant) quote:

But we also need to hire more deans to decide which Halloween costumes are appropriate. Eight deans should do it.

Remember the Taco Six? My sides are aching! Then again, in Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom’s words, I wouldn’t want to “impinge on the fun of others“…

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Food Insecurity at Williams I

Today, a Record article was released on the administrative response to food insecurity on campus, where students purposefully choose plans with fewer meals in order to save money. The coverage is excellent! Part 1 of a 3 day discussion.

For purposes of comparing the upcoming plans with this year’s plan: Williams offers four options for meal plans that students living on campus must enroll in: 21 meals a week ($6,760 per year or assuming 24 weeks in a year, $13.41/meal), 14 a week ($6,341 or $18.79/meal), 10 a week ($5,164 or $21.51/meal) or, for seniors, 5 a week ($2,728 or $22.73/meal). Note that a sandwich, a bag of chips, and a drink from, say, Spring Street Market, is approx. $12 – lower than any one meal offered by Williams. Wow!

Key quote from Steve Klass, VP of Campus Life on “the critical goal of ensuring that no student goes hungry”:

It’s important to appreciate the centrality of this principle to our decision-making, because we recognized immediately that this meant constraining some set of choices available to students on dining plans.

Emphasis mine. Note that, according to the Record, Sophia Schmidt ’17 first brought up this issue in the fall of 2015. I don’t know what Steve Klass means by “recognized immediately”, but I suppose his definition of “immediately” is at least a year after the fact. Assume that Steve Klass is being honest and really recognized this problem “immediately.” Then why did it take the administration so long to do anything about it? (Why the competent students, who did the research for the admin to “recognize immediately” this problem, were not included in the decision-making process is the subject of another day’s discussion.)

This is concerning, because I don’t believe that Sophia Schmidt ’17 needed that survey to prove that food insecurity is a problem. Much like how swipes in and out of buildings are monitored by campus security, the meal swipes of students are monitored and recorded as well. How would Dining Services know if you used up all your meals at the end of the week, right? Implication: the College has always had the data it would have needed to “recognize immediately” that food insecurity is a problem on campus. 

So why didn’t the administration simply look at the data they already have? They could have saved Schmidt and other students the two years they spent working on this issue if they simply looked at the data they already have. Why didn’t they, if “ensuring that no student goes hungry” is a “critical goal” of the administration? Something does not smell right (and I’m not talking about Taco Tuesdays in Paresky).

But maybe I am wrong and the College does not keep data on food swipes/whether or not its students eat. Unsolicited suggestion: it should! How else will they know if their students are eating? Isn’t “ensuring that no student goes hungry” a “critical goal” of the administration? That nothing has been done until now implies either (1) that Klass/the administration on “recognizing immediately” food insecurity is as honest as Kellyanne Conway on the Bowling Green Massacre, or (2) that whoever is in charge of “the critical goal of ensuring that no student goes hungry” is incompetent to not have recognized this sooner.

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Glorified Yoga Space

A resident of Greylock writes:

Didn’t the building Greylock use to be a dining hall? I heard it closed because of the financial issues during the financial crisis. I know that Williams is much richer now, at least richer than it was back when Greylock had to be closed. Why hasn’t it been opened as a dining hall? Whenever I pass by or see something going on in Greylock, all I see are townies doing yoga or dancing in the afternoons/late evenings. Is Williams just maintaining it as a glorified yoga space instead of turning it into a venue we can regularly use? It just feels like Greylock can be used so much better and it’s just … there.

1) True! Greylock used to be a dining hall, but as extensive Record coverage will show, closing Greylock was one of the many policies implemented to reduce spending during and following the financial crisis. Same with Dodd. However, other coverage also details improvements made to other dining halls in light of these changes over time. Should we spend several posts discussing these, and dining services at Williams in general? General dining related issues among students include the declining quality of the food served (despite increasing costs to students), the daily window in which food is not served on campus (after lunch ’til right before dinner), and the cramped space in Paresky and Driscoll during mealtimes. The Record reported just a month ago that Greylock will be used as a dance studio next year due to renovations in Goodrich, although plans “have not been formalized yet.” Maybe now would be an excellent time to make some suggestions?

2) I have also noticed that Greylock is used more frequently as “yoga space” than as a gathering place for students. Besides the odd class that’s held in some of the classrooms during the day, Greylock classrooms are also used for a capella practice. I personally have seen the upstairs of Greylock – where the dining hall used to be – less than five times: thrice because this is where students sign up for housing every spring, and once for a campus party. The basement is used by students for storage sometimes. That’s about it! Am I missing anything?

3) From conversations I have with my fellow classmates, that Greylock is not a dining hall is taken as a given since the entire (current) student body arrived at Williams after the crisis. However, more of my classmates are now realizing this and asking – given the congestion in Paresky and Driscoll during mealtimes – why Greylock is barely used/not back to a dining hall. Should we spend posts discussing why Greylock is still not a dining hall even though Williams is much more financially capable than it was when it had to be closed? On that note, would it be worth going through the significant changes made during the financial crisis – the rollback of no loans policy, non-need blind for international students, among others – and why these changes haven’t been reversed?

What do readers think?

 

As always, tips to concerned.ephs@gmail.com will help make Williams a better college for you and future Ephs!

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Williams Reads Recommendations?

As we all returned back to campus from a (hopefully warm!) spring break, Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom sent out a survey to all students asking for recommendations for this coming academic year’s Williams Reads.

Screenshot (29)

 

 

Do EphBlog readers (looking at you, alumni!) have any suggestions? I know at least 10 more of my classmates read EphBlog now, and I know we’d all be interested in what you think! What should we read next?

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Student Loans and Socioeconomic Diversity

I was having a conversation earlier today with a fellow classmate about socioeconomic diversity. The central question was, “Is Williams’ student body really diverse?” Doesn’t seem like it, my friend suggested. He pointed out the three (!) Tesla cars on campus that he saw in a couple of the student parking lots earlier this morning. “Mom’s Volvos,” as professors like to say.

Was my friend right? One way I thought of answering this question is by looking at the amount of loans Williams issues to students. Claim: Since Williams ended its no loan policy a decade ago and likes to say it has a more socioeconomically diverse student body, then the amount of loans owed to it by students increased over time (reasonable?).

According to the college’s financial statements (which I irritatingly spent quite a bit of time munging, since it’s only available as PDFs and (gasp) scans of printed paper) and assuming I am looking at the correct figure, it did not. Consider this plot of student loan receivables (the total amount owed to the college by students who take out loans) of every year since 2004:

Rplot

It is decreasing! Does this mean that Williams students have been taking on fewer loans despite the repeal of the no loan policy a decade ago? If so, why would students in an increasingly socioeconomically diverse campus take on fewer loans when tuition increases far faster than the rate of inflation? If the student body is really becoming more socioeconomically diverse, then maybe the terms of the Williams loan are worse than outside loans so my classmates just borrow externally (I have a number of friends who do!). OR, maybe the number is declining because most of the student body don’t need to take on debt. Why would they, if they had the money? But that would imply the college, contrary to some official claims, is not more socioeconomically diverse. What do readers think?

Also, the student loan number comes with this footnote:

Under Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 107, Disclosure about Fair Value of Financial Instruments, the College is required to disclose fair value of student loans. Management believes that it is not practicable to determine the fair value of loans receivable because they are primarily federally sponsored student loans with U.S. government mandated interest rates and repayment terms subject to significant restrictions as to their transfer or disposition. College sponsored and donor provided loans are similarly restricted as to interest rate and disposition

I don’t know what this means (informed commentary please!). Perhaps the summers I spent in banking haven’t really prepared me to plow through the college’s financial statements just yet. As with the rest of the filings and my latest problem sets, I find this quite befuddling. On top of this there are also so many accounting changes and new categories year to year that are almost never properly explained/defined and are frequently shuffled around, so much so that a skeptic would think someone somewhere is obfuscating. Maybe only PWC (who audits these for the college) understands them. Any useful pointers/corrections/whatnot welcome, especially from those who are familiar with higher education financing!

Should we spend more time on the college’s financial statements?

Don’t forget to send tips/comments/whatever to concerned.ephs@gmail.com!

UPDATE: I also looked at Bowdoin’s financial statements. Unfortunately it’s only available from 2011, but the trend is the same. Student loan receivables are also decreasing. Perhaps I am missing something? Informed commentary always welcome! Education doesn’t just end in the classroom!

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Deans Instruct Prof to Move Deadlines After Election, 2

Dean Sandstrom and her assistant deans instructed a professor to move the deadline of a midterm following the election of Donald Trump last year. See the first post for our initial discussion. This is the second.

Let’s tackle a central question to this issue: why were the deans’ actions so troubling? So far I can come up with two answers.

Imagine the students who asked for these extensions are now Williams graduates working in the real world, and then in 2020, Donald Trump shocks the world again by winning a second term. The Williams graduate will think that, since Dean Sandstrom must have known what she was doing in 2016, it is totally okay for him/her to take the next day off or get an extension for a work deadline. What would the graduate’s direct manager think? What will they think of how Williams students handle these sort of situations? Unfortunately for the graduate, if the direct manager objects to a day off/deadline extension, Dean Sandstrom can no longer (I hope not!) email the direct manager to instruct them to be more lenient with the Williams graduate, because after all, that’s what she did here. What then, is our grad to do?

Herein lies the first part of the problem: by granting leniency to students because of a political election by instructing a professor to do what he otherwise said he would not, the Dean’s Office sends a message to students that their obligations, when they do not agree or feel upset with the results of a democratic election, are optional. Irresponsible! As opposed to individual professors doing this on their own (that is entirely up to them, as it is entirely up to the graduate’s boss to grant a day off/extension), Dean Sandstrom, as an administrator (ranking Dean of the College!), puts the weight of Williams behind this remarkable thinking.

Alternatively, EphBlog has consistently reported the trend of declining faculty governance in the College, even against Adam Falk’s claims that this is not the case, in several posts. See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. It is hard to diagnose a problem without observing symptoms, then at the very least this is almost certainly what a runny nose is to the common cold! In a campus where decision making power is NOT consolidated by administrators, there wouldn’t be deans who find it acceptable to explicitly instruct professors how to do their jobs in this way following an election.

A commentator in the previous post brought up that a majority of professors want the deans to be able to adjudicate on issues with students, and that is not unreasonable! A (supposedly) objective third party with institutional memory should, in principle, be good at mediating disputes when they arise. My sense is that such disputes between students and professors that are adjudicated by the Dean’s Office arrive at a resolution that the professor and the Dean’s office, if not all parties, agree to. The outcomes are either a compromise between the student and the professor (mediated by the Dean’s Office) or adherence to the professor’s standing policy, because at the end of the day, it is the professor’s class, not the deans’. At least, to the best of my judgment from my own experience and the experience of classmates with the Dean’s Office, that is how issues are resolved. So why did the deans do differently here? Do Dean Sandstrom and her assistant deans think they can do a better job of teaching than Williams professors can? I certainly hope not, but that is what their actions say!

What do readers think?

As usual, any tips can be sent to concerned.ephs@gmail.com. Future generations of Ephs (starting with the class of 2021) will thank you!

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Deans Instruct Prof to Move Deadlines After Election, 1

For what reasons would the College administrators cancel classes or grant extensions for academic requirements? I personally have never had an exam moved, and I’ve only had class cancelled once, and that was only because my professor was so sick that she could not rise out of bed (first time she’s cancelled class in 10 years. Reasonable!). Otherwise, I have no memory of the college administrators cancelling a class or moving requirements at Williams. You would think this is rare and never happens, but fortunately for future historians, a member of the class of 2019 provides us with an example:

Dear Concerned Eph ’17,

Thank you so much for doing what you’re doing. It’s finally time that the administration answers for its malfeasance. I have one: when Donald Trump was elected, many students were really upset by the result that many professors and deans allowed students to skip class because of how they felt, or (shockingly) because they stayed up watching the election. What is egregious, in my opinion, is the specific actions of the Dean’s Office. I was in MATH 341: Probability that semester, being taught by Professor Steven Miller. That week, we happened to be in the middle of a takehome period (Prof. Miller assigned a 30 hour take home to be completed anytime that week), and following the election, many of these upset students asked for an extension (even though we had a week for a test that took just ONE day!!!). Professor Miller did not initially grant these, because what basis did they have, right? Trump won, and while you may not agree (I personally wish the election had gone another way), but it’s no excuse not to do work or move on. These students, however, appealed to the Dean’s Office, and as a result, they actually told Professor Miller to move the deadline/grant extensions for his midterm. How do I know this? Professor Miller said “any extension will come from the deans” and the students who complained got their extensions. One classmate told me that it was all sorted out once her complaints reached Dean Sandstrom.

Is this something we can do now when someone we don’t like gets elected? This is ANOTHER example of the Dean’s Office showing explicit, preferential treatment in the form of BREAKING ACADEMIC POLICY (when does Williams ever cancel or move exams?!) to coddle students it agrees with. The Dean’s Office does way more than just banning speakers. I strongly believe this undermines the point of a Williams education.

Please continue revealing these irresponsible actions by that office.

Best,

Pissed Off Eph ’19

Emphasis mine. Thank you, Pissed Off Eph, for your tip and for allowing me to publish this in full. This email speaks for itself and hits all the right points. I will need more than one post to unpack this fully. This is the first.

I have independently confirmed with classmates I know who took MATH 341 last semester, and, this actually happened. As a member of the Williams community I am embarrassed that the Dean’s Office acted like this. And I thought that the email Dean of Faculty Denise Buell encouraging professors to do this was already bad. I did not expect that the Dean’s Office would go so far to actually tell a professor how to do his job.

Questions:

  1. With Dean of Faculty Denise Buell’s emails and the Dean’s Office’s actions, it seems reasonable to say this likely happened in more than just one class with more than just one professor. In which other classes did the deans explicitly instruct professors to cancel class/move requirement deadlines following last year’s election? Please let me know at concerned.ephs@gmail.com so we can catalog this.
  2. Who in the Dean’s Office issued this order (or orders, if this happened more than once)? Was it Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom, as Pissed Off Eph implies, or was it Dean of Faculty Denise Buell, who sent the email that encouraged this behavior in the first place? Is this the kind of behavior we can expect from the leaders of the Williams administration?
  3. Did this happen in any other peer university?To the best of my research/knowledge, nothing of this sort (administrators telling professors how to do their jobs) happened in any other NESCAC or Ivy League college. In fact, in Columbia, the deans there explicitly told students they would not be instructing professors to move deadlines/grant extensions/whatever after students appealed to them. If the administrators at Columbia and elsewhere decided not to do this, then why did the Dean’s Office here decide on the complete opposite?

What do our readers think of the deans’ actions?

This reporting is made possible by tips from the Williams community, and future generations of Ephs are that much better for these. If you have any stories like these that deserve to see the light of day, shoot me an email at concerned.ephs@gmail.com!

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Recent Int’l Graduates Concern with Dean’s Office, 3/3

UPDATE: Assistant Dean of International Student Services Ninah Pretto informed recent intl graduates in Economics on Thursday morning (several emails/phone calls later and after she promised a decision on Monday, four days ago) that they can apply for STEM extensions. Hooray! Psychology, however, is still not classified as STEM.

Fellow current students have pointed out a concern recent international Williams graduates are having with Dean’s Office, specifically on the reclassification of the Economics major as STEM and its implications. We’re spending three posts talking about it. Find the first discussion here and the second here. This is the third post. Consider the comments of the Facebook discussion on this issue:

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If you count, that’s a total of 76 (!) likes, among which at least 53 are from distinct individuals. That’s quite a number of Facebook likes!

Although names are blacked out (for fear of retribution, a very real concern among students!), eight different students and recent alumni took part in the discussion. Let’s consider some of our fellow Ephs’ comments in light of this issue:

I called them last year to see if econ could be considered STEM, and basically got stonewalled.

Around this time (spring) last year, Williams did not yet have Dean Pretto (she joined May 2016) and Sarah Bolton was still Dean of the College, so we must assume this ’15 alum spoke to someone who reported to the latter. Can we excuse the stonewalling during this period (spring ’16) in light of the departure of former Dean Jenifer Hasenfus? Possibly, but also possibly not! We will investigate. What is clear, however, is that the recurrence (twice so far, and thrice by next week!) of ignoring the concerns of international students suggests that these instances are not isolated, but are part of a pattern of behavior that the Williams administration displays towards international students. 

“basically got stonewalled” – said everyone who’s dealt w the dean’s office

“Stonewalled” seems to be making its rounds. Tell us more at concerned.ephs@gmail.com, or join EphBlog as an author and talk about it!

In perhaps an even more disturbing comment…

Bro any lobbying I can do, if you need something written, want to get a cis white male signature, anything, let me know. Let’s chill soon.

The request to chill aside, this commentator suggests that if someone wants something done at the Dean’s Office, it will require the involvement of a”cis white male” at Williams. Is this true? Another commentator (a similar “cis white male” at Williams) who replies “Same here–how can we lobby Williams College?” suggests so. If this is true, for a college administration that likes to brag so much about how “diverse” its students and faculty are, this is very hypocritical behavior. Students certainly think this is true, so EphBlog will continue to investigate!

Deans office is utterly useless. Literally never get anywhere with them; best bet is to get some profs on board and have them help lobby you too. Then maybe petition the CAS.

“Utterly useless” is quite strong language! Is this characterization accurate? More pertinently, does this comment, in light of the previous one, suggest that if anyone wants anything done by the Dean’s Office, the involvement of professors and “cis white males” is required? I personally do not think so (and have seen otherwise) but again in light of these disturbing suggestions, EphBlog will continue to investigate. The commentator also mentions the CAS or Committee on Academic Standing, which by itself is a hotbed of student and faculty concerns… More on that soon!

Finally, in the most damning comment in this thread (at least in my opinion),

The deans are very frequently “out of the office,” particularly if they know it is going to be an unpleasant phone call/ conversation… It’s an ongoing problem with an administration completely unwilling to have challenging conversations.

This comment was made by a current student who is not an international student. Two questions: (1) Does this pattern of behavior – ignoring students – when conversations become challenging extend to non-international students as well? This commentator, who describes this as an “ongoing problem” (pattern!) suggest so! (2) Beyond simply suggesting that the Dean’s Office has a pattern/ongoing problem of stonewalling, this commentator actually tells us how the Dean’s Office stonewalls students – by being frequently “out of office”. Why would components of the Dean’s Office require to be out of campus so often as the commentator suggests? Don’t their jobs concern students – who are very much on campus during the school year? What reasons do they have for being out of campus? Is it really about having “challenging conversations”? Perhaps, but perhaps not! Fellow classmates (four so far!) suggest that Associate Dean of First Years David Johnson is known for having a number of dental appointments a year. Current students and recent alums, a request: please let EphBlog know whenever a Dean is “out of office” so we can ascertain exactly how often our Deans are not in their offices.

Thanks to tips from current students, professors, and recent graduates sent to concerned.ephs@gmail.com, we already have several of these stories – the subject of future posts! – but we naturally welcome more in our attempts to investigate the persistence of this pattern of behavior. Future generations of Ephs will thank you for a more transparent, more accountable Williams!

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Recent Int’l Graduates Concern with Dean’s Office, 2/3

Fellow current students have pointed out a concern recent international Williams graduates are having with Dean’s Office, specifically on the reclassification of the Economics major as STEM and its implications.  We’re spending three posts talking about it. The first post discusses troubling decision making by the assistant dean for international student services, Ninah Pretto. This is the second post. Consider the original Facebook post that started this (full FB discussion with comments can be found in the first post):

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The original poster, confirmed by the Dean’s Office, stated that the Economics major has been reclassified as STEM by the Williams administration. Consider the list of majors/academic fields considered STEM that the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement) maintains. A cursory search will show that general Economics is not considered a STEM subject, only “Quantitative Economics/Econometrics” and “Pharmaeconomics/Pharmaceutical Economics.” Since Williams has newly designated its Economics major as STEM, we can reasonably conclude that the Economics major must have significantly changed to be more quantitative in nature from previous years to warrant this.

Consider the course catalogs from SY 2015-16 and the current school year’s. For the sake of completeness, here is SY 2014-2015, SY 2013-s014, and SY 2012-2013. Checking is left as an exercise to the reader, but a brief summary of what you’ll find: no substantial changes in the Williams Economics major!

Let’s repeat that: there have been no material changes in the Economics major year on year since at least 2012. In other words, it is no more quantitative now than it was a year ago, two years ago, three years ago, four years ago, and five years ago. Last I checked (March 29 2017), Williams has a major in Economics, not in Econometrics/Quantitative Economics/Pharmaeconomics/Pharmaceutical Economics. Princeton, which reclassified its Economics major to STEM, has a math-track Economics major. Williams does not.

Questions/concerns:

  1. Is Williams violating the law by designating its Economics major as a STEM major when it clearly is not? It would seem that this decision is at best, deceptive, and at worst, illegal, especially since this decision has far reaching consequences in terms of visas and immigration for international students.
  2. Recall that Dean Ninah Pretto explicit stated that ultimate determination of this policy rests with Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom. Taking Dean Pretto on her word, we must ask: why did Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom reclassify Economics as a STEM major when it clearly is not? What went into this decision?
  3. In the official list of STEM majors, there are 10 (compared to Econ’s two!) fields of psychology – ranging from social psychology to neuroscience – that count as STEM. Does Williams classify psychology, whose concentrations and subject matter adhere to the official list, as a STEM major? Current psychology majors tell us that no, Williams does not consider psychology as a STEM subject! This begs the question: why not? Clearly, according to the federal bureau that regulates F-1 visas, psychology is a STEM field. 
  4. Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom is a psychology professor! In fact, she is the Hales Professor of Psychology of Williams. So why did Dean Sandstrom classify Economics as STEM and Psychology as not STEM? It seems far fetched to suggest that her expertise in psychology is lacking, so this begs the more troubling question: have either Dean Sandstrom or Dean Pretto read the official list of STEM majors, or do they just haphazardly make these types of decisions? Their actions thus far suggest the latter.
  5. On a related matter, members of the Psychology Student Advisory Board report that there have been efforts to change the division classification of psychology to Div 3, but, notably, they report that psychology professors have said that “there is no way this would happen for psychology if it did not happen for economics first.” The college course catalog still classifies Economics as Div 2, but curiously, changed its designation as STEM, although it is no more quantitative than it was a year (and more!) ago when it wasn’t STEM. However, psychology, which clearly falls under fields considered STEM by the ICE, does not enjoy STEM status. Why? 

I offer an intelligent guess that is not without precedent1: Economics is the most popular major in the college and among international students. If I were a prospective international student who wants to major in economics in the United States, as most who come here do, I would certainly want to go to a school (thus pay tuition) that would allow me to maximize my post-college employment opportunities in the United States. At least two reports on the distribution of GPAs and academic major difficulty suggest Math and Physics are much harder than Economics. So, instead of breaking my back in Real Analysis, I can just take Intermediate Macroeconomics and reap the benefits of a STEM major for my career – wonderful! Too bad for Psychology – even if it is a real STEM field, it just isn’t popular enough at Williams! 

Whatever the motivations of this policy change is, one thing is clear: whoever is making these decisions certainly leaves much to be desired by way of consistency and transparency!

 

1Recall from the first discussion that the Dean’s Office and Dean Ninah Pretto initially stonewalled and/or rejected requests from international student graduates, who no longer pay Williams tuition.

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Recent Int’l Graduates Concerns with Dean’s Office, 1/3

Fellow current students have pointed out a concern recent international student graduates are having with Dean’s Office. Consider a Facebook discussion on the matter:

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There are many statements here to unpack (especially the comments!). Let’s focus on the concern that the original poster focuses on in this first of three discussions.

Some context: international students at Williams are on the F-1 student visa, and among its stipulations is that such students are given a 12 month “optional practical training” or OPT period post-graduation to legally work in the country. However, if one declares a STEM major, that one year is extensible to three. This also gives international student graduates in STEM majors three chances at applying for work visa (a lottery with a ~25% chance of success each year) to stay longer, if that’s what they want, as opposed to just one if the student had declared a non-STEM major.

Following in the footsteps of institutions like Princeton, the original poster reports that Williams is now categorizing the college’s Economics major as a STEM major, incidentally the most popular major among international students in the college. However, unlike Princeton, which allowed international student graduates in Economics to be retroactively categorized as STEM (thus allowing them a couple extra years to work), Williams has rejected such requests from graduates of the class of 2015 and 2016. In initial emails with Dean Ninah Pretto, the new Assistant Dean for International Student Services, where students/graduates cite Princeton’s example (and material evidence of this!), she immediately rejects these requests without providing any explanation. Students and graduates, however, pressed on emailing, restating evidence from Princeton to which Dean Ninah relented. She states that she is “afraid” of retroactively applying this policy to graduates, but that she would call Princeton today. She also states that the final authority rests with Dean Marlene Sandstrom.

As this post went to press, no update has arrived from the Dean’s Office.

Some questions:

  1. Is it Dean Ninah Pretto’s personal policy to not explain decisions she makes that materially affect the lives of Williams students/graduates? The comments suggest this is endemic to the whole Dean’s Office, but that is another long (but related) discussion to have.
  2. Is it not Dean Ninah Pretto’s job to check these policies ahead of time so she wouldn’t be “afraid” of doing anything? Clearly she had nothing to be “afraid” of, since Princeton was able to do this.
  3. If she were truly “afraid” of retroactively applying this policy to recent international graduates of the college, she would have checked before making such a unilateral decision on policy, which is what she did! So, why did she unilaterally reject the initial requests?
  4. To that point, does Dean Ninah Pretto have this unilateral authority? If so, what decisions can she unilaterally make for international students? Current and future international students would appreciate a list for future reference.
  5. If the students/graduates did not press Dean Pretto, would it be entirely possible that this issue would’ve just gone away and recent international graduates wouldn’t receive any fair treatment? My guess is that yes, it would’ve just been dropped, based on the experience of my peers. Thankfully, they kept pressing, or she might never have considered doing her job!
  6. In one of her latest emails to international students, Dean Ninah states: “As your International Student Advisor, I want to reiterate my commitment to serving and supporting each and every one of you. Again, this country is made up of immigrants from all over the world and they make the U.S. a unique and amazing place.” If this is truly her position, does Dean Pretto believe that recent international graduates are less deserving of her commitment to serve and support? What criteria does she use to make this determination? Again, current and future international students would certainly like to know.

What do fellow classmates/EphBlog readers think?

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Overheard at Paresky: MORE Court Documents?!

(Hi everyone! I’m concerned eph, a member of the class of ’17 and your newest EphBlog author! Introduction post to follow – meanwhile, here’s the beginning of a new EphBlog series entitled “Overheard at Paresky”, where we’ll be discussing concerns of current students! Any news, tips, or leads you want to share, drop a comment or shoot me an email at concernedeph17 at gmail dot com!)

As two students enjoy their honey-nut buns on the bench outside Lee’s on a warm, sunny day:

Dude, I read the newest court documents on that sexual assault lawsuit. Did you see that part where there’s an actual ******* whistleblower that said they actually train committee members by telling them that the college’s rep is #1, like how disgusting is that, and that they just do whatever they want…

Indeed – an accurate account! Find the quote in the court documents here. While the skeptical among us may not be inclined to believe the words of one whistleblower, consider this quote from Dean Dave Johnson in John Doe’s original filing:

63. On March 8, 2016, Dean Johnson admitted to John and John’s sister, Lady Doe, that the disciplinary process is “unfair to students” and that the procedures are deliberately written in a way that allows Williams to maneuver itself in its favor. Johnson also stated that Pelaez should not have been aware of the outcome of the hearing or the likelihood of an appeal.

Corroboration! … or is Dean Johnson the whistleblower? Now we know that there’s an unfair adjudication process for students that at least one well respected, senior Dean knows about it.

And yet, still, here we are? *Sigh* More posts on this to come.

To the next point and to be fair, the administration does have a crucial responsibility to uphold the college’s reputation. Williams’ reputation is an asset – it’s how we all get jobs and into grad school! In fact, I am sure many of us came here because of the school’s reputation as an excellent institution of higher education. Even against the backdrop of a dodgy administration, Williams is a wonderful college filled with great and caring professors and staff and awesome students and kind alums, all of whom are very intelligent. Interestingly, though, because this issue is now, well, a lawsuit (hence public), Hopkins Hall did not even meet its supposedly greatest one priority! Instead, prospective students (and their parents!) will now be able to see and smell all our ghastly, dirty laundry. Gross!

Would readers be interested in more student perspectives on the current sexual assault lawsuit? The Record, unfortunately, doesn’t have much, but I am more than happy to pick up the slack!

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Affirming our commitment to Title IX, inclusion, and each other

To the Williams community,

In recent weeks I’ve been asked whether possible changes in the government’s approach to Title IX will affect our work at Williams. Initially these questions focused on sexual assault prevention. In response to recent national news, people are now also asking about our commitment to inclusion of transgender students, faculty and staff.

Uncertainty can be worrying. So I want to reassure you on both points. We’re going to do everything we can to guarantee the wellbeing of everyone in our community. That’s because our efforts have always been and will continue to be motivated by respect for each other as people, not by the fear of government sanction.

With that in mind I want to start by reaffirming unambiguously that our trans students, faculty and staff are deeply valued members of the Williams community. It’s our job to make sure that everyone feels welcome here and enjoys the full benefits of that membership. That includes, but is hardly limited to, the absolute right of trans members of our community to use bathrooms and other facilities that accord with their identity.

And to all those concerned about the future of Title IX and sexual assault prevention, I assure you that we’re going to continue and intensify those efforts, not retreat from them.

Williams students, staff, faculty and alumni have made important progress in that regard. Much of their work was described in the spring 2015 issue of Williams Magazine, “Standing Strong Together.” Numerous resources and information are also available on our Title IX website, as well as through the Dean of the College and the Davis Center. If you’ve experienced assault or bias, or want help for any reason, please reach out in the way that feels right to you.

Our work cannot and will not stop. So I also want to make sure we consistently communicate about where we’re succeeding and where we’re running into challenges. With that in mind you’ll be receiving a steady stream of reports and updates starting this semester. They’ll include news about a grant to support prevention strategies around campus social events as well as Dean Sandstrom’s annual report on outcomes from the previous year’s sexual misconduct processes.

My goal in this message isn’t to pretend we’ve become perfectly inclusive or solved the problem of sexual violence—we haven’t. There’s always more to be done. And it needs to be done in an equitable, accessible and transparent manner. I’m profoundly grateful to Toya Camacho, Meg Bossong ’05, the Davis Center, RASAN, Men for Consent, our alumni advocates and everyone else who’s been involved in the work so far. If you’re not engaged in those efforts and would like to do more, please talk to Toya, Meg or our student leaders about how you can help. It’s going to take all of us to support our trans friends and colleagues and prevent sexual assault and violence at Williams.

As you know, policies often shift from one Washington administration to the next. Fortunately, we don’t have to passively wait for direction. Instead, we turn to our mission and values to guide us in times of uncertainty and change. This is an important moment to heed our conscience and to show the deep care and concern for each other that defines Williams.

Sincerely,

Adam Falk
President

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Williams Cemetery

I, like any of the Williams community who had known her, was sorry to hear of Clara Park’s passing this past week. It brought back memories of freshman English classes and other things as well. I talked about it with my husband, who while not a fellow alum, knew me when I was in school and knows the area well. Last night we read the story in the Berkshire Eagle. He commented that she would be buried in the Williams Cemetery, and asked me if I had even known there was one.

I hadn’t. Did you?

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