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“Constructive Loyalty” or hors d’oeuvres with the Presidents

Last night (Wednesday), I joined approximately 150-200 of my fellow alumni, parents, and friends of the NorCal Alumni Chapter to listen to Chair of the Trustees Greg Avis ’80, interim President Bill Wagner, and incoming President Adam Falk.  I came away from the evening more impressed by each of them than I had been previously.  Before I go any further, I should thank Chapter Prez Shannon Walsh ’03 for pulling together the inaugural edition of this roadshow they’ll be shopping around the country to other chapters.  I know they were in LA tonight, will be in San Diego tomorrow (Friday) and in DC on Feb. 22nd, but I haven’t a clue when they’ll be elsewhere.  This is a good reason to check out the events calendar on the alumni page and/or subscribe to your regional alumni email list.

And now on to the event…(you’ll have to go below the fold for the juicy details) Read more


Support Your Fellow Ephs

In this holiday season, it never hurts to send a little love to your fellow Ephs, either by giving them gifts or buying gifts from them!  Below are a couple of links showcasing the brilliance of our Eph family.  Please others add additional links in the comments if you know of other Eph ventures that are handy gifts.

Happy winter-holiday-of-choice to my greater Eph family :)

From Ephs Matthew Swanson & Robbi Behr, both ’97 I believe, check out the new Barnstorming site.  Books, prints, and other hilarious gifts are perfect for any member of the family.  Previous coverage here, here, and here (among others).  They have a hilarious blog, including cute pics of their daughter and the progress of restoring/renovating the barn of “Barnstorming.”

Blue Dot design, founded in 1997 by college friends John Christakos, Charles Lazor, and Maurice Blanks, all ’87.  They make stylish furniture, with the idea of bringing quality design to a broader audience.  Recent New York Times coverage here, and previous Ephblog coverage here.


First Impressions of Williams

By this I actually mean the campus, not the school generally (nor anything one would glean from the absurdity of recent Ephblog posts).  The previous, ahem, “discussion” about buildings and the various architectural styles, as well as running through the Facilities Property Book made me think about my first trip down Route 2 and into town.

I was coming from the Boston area and out along Route 2 in mid-late August.  Some bits of leaves were already beginning to change color, and I have to admit it was one of those picture perfect New England afternoons.  I loved the varied styles of the buildings, the (to my naive eyes) adorable quaintness of having essentially one street of business in town, the iconic Congo Church.  And as quick as anything, we were already through town and passing curving southward down toward the Clark.

I remember being charmed, intrigued, a bit surprised there weren’t more obvious “foresty” areas given that I had read about Hopkins Forest in the catalog (my recall of the campus map was less than perfect – hey, I was 16).

I forget where we stayed, but the woman recommended Hobson’s Choice for dinner; Mom & I had a  great dinner.  It remains one of my favorite Billsville restaurants.  The next morning we wandered around campus, shopped on Spring St. (had to get something from Goff’s of course), and had breakfast at the Cobble Cafe (sadly, no more).

What do any of you remember about your first trip to Williams?

Can I make this post take up any more space to move other things down the page?

Yes. ;)

** Portions of this may have appeared in an earlier comment to another post, I can’t remember.


Proposed list of new post categories

So here is the current working list of new categories.  So everyone is clear, what we are proposing is shortening and streamlining the list of categories (see drop-down on the right) for easier general searchability.  Ronit has already activated visible tags as an added layer of more detailed searching for particular topics.

Example:  a post on “Tips” would be categorized under both athletics and admissions, so someone looking at the category page for either of those topics would see the post.  That post would also be tagged with “tips,” so after finding any post on tips and wanting more like it, a reader would click on the tag to get a page with all similarly tagged posts.  Or just enter “tips” in the newly improved search box of course.

Clear as mud?  Hopefully :)

Please look over the list of categories below and comment as to whether there are obvious gaps or if you think there are redundancies.  I have one sub-list under Special Series for the handful of our otherwise un-categorizable topics and/or prominent items that should be in there.  Please also comment if there is something that I missed.  My EphBlog memory only goes back a year or two, so the early days may not be represented there.  Oh – also better titles for categories are encouraged and appreciated.

Thanks for your attention to this somewhat mundane topic!

Academic Life
Administration & Administrators
Admissions & Financial Aid
Advice to Undergraduates
All Things Ephblog

  • Class of ’88

Beyond the Purple Valley (meant to cover things like Noah’s great work, the Eph Teaching Diaries…? but if someone has a better name, please say so.)
Campus News
Campus & Buildings
Ephs in the Military
Events (or Eph-vents – har har – could cover one-time things like GameDay, Congressional Black Caucus visit, etc – does this need a clearer name.)
Finances & Budget Issues
Fundraising & Development
Higher Education
Honors & Awards
Housing/Residential Life
NESCAC and Other Colleges
Notable Names/Visitors (or something similar for guest speakers – or does “events” cover this?  Should we just have a “Happenings” category that covers it all…?)
Parents & Relatives
Reports/Self-Studies/Internal Reviews (need a good name, but can be central tag to find all of the many reports and documents Dave manages to track down for us and share)
Special Ephblog Series

  • Last of the Metrozoids
  • Podcasts
  • Swart’s Specialties
  • Swimming Holes
  • Others….???

Social Life
Student Government and Orgs
Town-Gown Relations
Williamstown and Local Area

*ETA Parents, Politics


I Miss College – Nerd Edition

So I saw another interesting tidbit in our Williams feed to the left, and it made me think of Jeff’s post from last week about missing the giddy, crazy, time-wasting fun of the end of the school year.

I’ve subtitled this the “nerd edition” because what caught my eye is not so much of the make-out-in-the-library or play-trivia-all-night category.

Former astronaut and SenatorJohn Glenn (D-Ohio) will be speaking with Karen Kwitter, Ebenezer Fitch Professor of Astronomy, as part of the commencement extravaganza of events.

How cool is that?!

I was definitely the type to go listen to the amazing visiting speakers/support my friends at performances/attend the sporting events all in lieu of doing my reading.  Ah, those college days!

Check out the press release for more info about Glenn’s support of public service and Kwitter’s pretty impressive background.


Olmsted Teaching Prizes

Not sure if I’ve ever mentioned this before, but one of my absolute favorite things about Williams graduation is the awarding of the George Olmsted Jr., Class of 1924, Prizes for Excellence in Secondary School Teaching (to use their full name).  I loved nominating one of my high school teachers, and I embrace fully the idea of Williams recognizing those who helped get the fabulous students to Williams in the first place.  Tom Friedman wrote about them in his column back in 2005 after speaking at graduation that year, providing a nice bit of notoriety for this great program.  A great quote from Morty in that article:

“When you are at a place like Williams and you are able to benefit from these wonderful kids, sometimes you take it for granted. You think we produce these kids. But as faculty members, we should always be reminded that we stand on the shoulders of great high school teachers, we get great material to work with: well educated, well trained, with a thirst for learning.”

I noticed in our feed from Williams (on the left side there for those who may not have noticed) that the prizes were announced yesterday (click here for the full press release).  I don’t expect that everyone will read below the fold, so I wanted to put their names here on the front page…after the jump I’ve put in a few highlights from the full release.  For those who don’t know, the winning four teachers get flown in with their families for graduation and are recognized as part of the overall graduation hoopla.  They receive a cash prize and their respective school receives a donation as well.  Please do follow the links above for more info on the program.

  • Bradley E. Conant, Dirigo High School in Dixfield, Maine
  • Karen S. Franke, Kennett High School in North Conway, N.H.
  • Jeffrey C. Markham, New Trier High School in Winnetka, Ill.
  • Tracey M. Wilson, Conard High School in West Hartford, Conn.

Congratulations to the winners, and thanks again to all of those high school teachers who inspired us, guided us, and also pushed us when that was needed!

Anyone have a particular high school teacher or coach that influenced you in a way you still remember?  Please share stories in the comments…. Read more


Grad School as the Detroit of Education

At least according to the rec of Prof. Mark Taylor, formerly professor of “humanities” at Williams and now the head of the Columbia religion department.

His Op-Ed in the New York Times today is a classic for him.  It was posted in Speak Up a little while ago, but I also got it via email from a fellow former religion major and was coming here to post it.

There are few academics out there able to so seamlessly link the current budget crisis in higher education, the ethics of higher ed generally, accessible writing, and some quotes from Kant:

Widespread hiring freezes and layoffs have brought these problems into sharp relief now. But our graduate system has been in crisis for decades, and the seeds of this crisis go as far back as the formation of modern universities. Kant, in his 1798 work “The Conflict of the Faculties,” wrote that universities should “handle the entire content of learning by mass production, so to speak, by a division of labor, so that for every branch of the sciences there would be a public teacher or professor appointed as its trustee.”

Read more


The Good Eph(Blog)

Sometimes I’m reminded of the good, non-squabbling aspects of EphBlog.

Wick Sloane ’76 brought Noah Smith-Drelich ’07 to our attention a few weeks ago in this post. You may remember that Noah teaches English to 7th-12th graders on the Pine Ridge Reservation and is trying to build up a library.

Several readers offered to send books to help his effort, and I was happy to send some as well. It totally made my weekend to find a thank you note from Noah in my mailbox today with some pictures of his students unpacking books. But the most thrilling thing for me (and totally unexpected) was him mentioning that several of the books I sent were checked out by the next day!! I was surprised at how happy that made me.  It’s great to think that another high school student might also enjoy one of my favorite books of all time (The Bean Trees), and that these students will have access to more books.

Lest you think this post is just about me feeling good about doing good, I wanted to put in a plug again for people to contribute to the library.  If you want to send books, you still can. As to what you might send, Noah leaves the door pretty wide open:

Books-wise, I would especially love young adult novels. My students seem most excited by the more recent ones (Twilight, Harry Potter, Fat Kid Rules the World, anything by Sharon Draper, the Chicken Soup…books [ugh], etc), and haven’t gotten as into what I consider to be the “classics” (Huck Finn, Lord of the Flies, 1984 etc), although of course there are exceptions to that. I think the more “old-fashioned”-sounding language turns them off. In particular, I’m constantly short of books by Native American authors or about Native American subjects; I have two of every Sherman Alexie book ever published, but that’s not nearly enough, and I have far fewer by just about every other Native author. My students range in reading level from 2nd to 12th, but most are clustered around middle school reading levels. Hopefully by the end of this year that will have changed (we’re going full steam towards two years of reading growth but it’s too early to see if we’ve hit it yet). I really do believe that a good book is a good book, and given that my kids got really into Shakespeare last year, I don’t think you can go wrong in donating.

And his info:

PO Box 293
Wanblee, SD 57577

Or, if you need a physical address:

Noah Smith-Drelich
Wanblee, SD 57577-0293

I wanted to post about this, because I think helping out a fellow Eph who is doing something amazing is a positive result of EphBlog (like getting to meet and become friends with some of my favorite commenters and touring the great swimming holes around Williamstown and learning about the tunnels and hidden spots on campus).

After the…tense…series of posts over the last week or so, I know that I needed a warm fuzzy so I thought I’d share it with all of you.  Happy weekend!!


Obama “can’t be Erin Burnett.”

Seeing the quote in the title was just so funny that I had to share it with our dedicated Erin Burnett ’98 fans as well as the rest of the EphBlog community that isn’t David.  This article asked a bunch of talking heads/pundits/people who like to talk/commentators about the President’s communication of economic woes and plans and what’s going on with the current crisis.  What should he say himself?  Who should the surrogates be?  There are some notably bad surrogates (the markets didn’t like Geithner for awhile, Summers is like watching really boring paint dry).  But at least now we know what Mark Shields thinks:

“The president has a lot bigger agenda than responding to why industrials were down or tech stocks were up,” syndicated columnist and PBS NewsHour commentator Mark Shields recently told The Observer.  “He can’t be Erin Burnett, explaining every twist and turn in the markets. But given the gravity of the situation and the lack of alternatives, in too many instances, that has become what the [P]resident has had to do.”

Read more


Ephs Take Manhattan!

Ok, completely dorky post title, but I hope at least some people out there have seen one of my favorite childhood movies, Muppets Take Manhattan.  It seemed appropriate on many levels…I got to see my first Broadway show this week (Billy Elliot, based on the movie and great); I met up with our own SophMom and got to meet her Eph; and I saw two dear friends from Williams.  Quite the art-y and Eph-y weekend over all.

All of that really made me think about the new experiences and the breadth of experiences I’ve had as a result of Williams or people I’ve met through Williams.  Particularly this week I’m thinking in terms of the arts.  What follows is my meditation on all of that, so if you’re looking for news and not personal stories, thanks for reading this far and catch ya later!  For those who, for some reason, seem to enjoy my musings on why Williams is so fabulous and how it impacted my life, read on! Read more


Commencement Speakers and Honorary Degrees 2009

I know a lot of (most?) people don’t actually pay attention to the sidebars, so I wanted to call this one to your attention.

Today the college announced the 2009 Commencement speakers and honorary degree recipients.  You can read the whole thing for the long background, but here is the quick and dirty version:

Clarence Otis ’77 – chairman and chief executive officer of Darden Restaurants – will be the principal speaker at the college’s 220th Commencement exercises on Sunday, June 7.  Anne Garrels – senior foreign correspondent of National Public Radio – will be the Baccalaureate speaker on Saturday, June 6.

President of the College Morton Owen Schapiro will confer honorary degrees on both of them as well as to astronaut and Senator John H. Glenn, writer Tracy Kidder, historian James M. McPherson, and musician James Taylor.

Quite the eclectic group this year:  businessman, journalist, astronaut, author, professor/scholar, and musician.  Should be a fun group.  Hopefully there are other side events where the honorary degree recipients can speak/perform.  Having James Taylor join in the Ivy Exercises singing of The Mountains would be pretty cool.

In various committee/meet the alumni settings I had the good fortune to meet Otis a handful of times.  He seemed like a great guy.  I hope he’ll give an interesting speech – commencement addresses are a notoriously difficult balance.


EphBlog Summit

Soph Mom and I heard about Morty’s email before it even got posted.  Her son called while we were standing in her kitchen talking about EphBlog…yes, we’ve met.  She is sitting here with me now as I write this.  Getting to meet one another just might be the most fun part of EB (yes, David, pat yourself on the back for this one).  Ironic that something so big about Williams is going on while we were meeting IRL.

Thinking about the belt-tightening, for cost savings we thought instead of the school paying for Trustee trips to Europe, we could have an EphBlog Summit each year (on David’s dime).  I will personally purchase any carbon-offsets needed (I hear there is a wind turbine project that needs funding).  Location suggestions please!

We can talk about all the big issues facing Williams and perhaps the Administration or Alumni Office can provide the super-secret endowment and admissions information.  And since David is worried about how donations get filtered and directed at Williams, this can be a specific gift that is directed exactly where you want it.  Maybe Morty can be our guest speaker?  Or Dean Roseman?  Or Professor James?  Our Summit could easily replace one of the Trustee meetings, wouldn’t you think?  And we’d post the minutes in their entirety (with handouts) on EphBlog – transparency please!

Look at how many good ideas we’ve already had – just think what a few more of us, and a few more bottles of wine, could create?!

The purpose of this post is to come up with some good ideas about where we can meet…we know there are some Oregonians among our regular authors.  Dick, how about hosting in Hood River as our new president?  Can Rechtal come out and play one night?  Dave, is there a budget we should keep in mind?  I hope you invested the EphBlog endowment well.  I would hate it if Colette Chilton had to critique your investment strategy.

Hope you are all well…weather is lovely here (in the undisclosed location…I think I see Cheney out the window).  We are thinking of (most of) you fondly.  We appreciate how well you have handled Morty’s big news about the cutbacks in our absence.  Keep up the good work!

Bye for now,

JG and Soph Mom


It’s a male-fantasy thing

Vanity Fair has a piece in its October issue looking at Maria Bartiromo and Erin Burnett (cue drooling and panting by geeky econ boys). While I’m glad there is an article about women reporters who actually know something about their subjects (rather than being Fox newsreaders), the tone of the article is rather insulting even as it tries to dispell the myth of the bitchfight. If it were two attractive men, would we have the term “money honey” (which I know Bartiromo has now claimed for the branding) or “street sweetie”? Would there EVER be an entire article discussing who is the “Queen B” and making the whole damn thing seem like a stupid high school catfight? God forbid these just happen to be two intelligent people reporting the news. Yes, all news personalities have to be attractive or they wouldn’t be on tv, but male anchors are not subjected to this kind of inane overlay to stories about them. It is perhaps acknowledged briefly that they are “distinguished” or “handsome” and the article moves on. Nobody assumes that two men are backbiting or threatened by one another – perhaps because nobody questions that there can be several prominent men reporting business whereas women have to fight for the one designated female financial reporter slot? Hmmm…


With sultry blue eyes, sharp, almost perfect features, dimples, and a lazy, bedroomy smile, Burnett not only was knowledgeable about financial issues but had a knack for translating them into plain English, and in contrast to Maria, who was more singularly focused on corporate news, Burnett was interested in broader policy issues—education, health care, how to pay for the repair of America’s crumbling infrastructure. She had a casual, breezy on-air persona. She was also a bit irreverent—and spontaneous. 

Seriously, a “lazy, bedroomy smile”? Are you f-ing kidding me? The rest of that quote is fine – it talks about her style of reporting, her interests, also known as her qualifications for the job. Don’t even get me started on the photo that is half-way down the page:

Again, Burnett is a savvy woman who knows how to promote herself and she is playing off of it. But male reporters don’t have to go there, no photo shoot would even propose to have a man pose like that. She agreed to it, but why was she even asked?

Frankly, I think Bartiromo says it best in the article (and note the total LACK of cattiness):

“I think it’s a disservice to us as women and as businesspeople, by the way, to compare what you’re seeing from a handful of situations to women who are really trying to make it in business. You could look at CNBC and see women who are beautiful and smart and they’re not showing all this skin: Becky Quick, Erin Burnett, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera—[all] beautiful successful women doing great,” she says. “It’s more than prancing around the Stock Exchange with little dresses on. We’re covering business and it doesn’t matter what you look like if you don’t know your stuff. If you don’t have the goods, you will not last.” 

And from Burnett at the end of the article:

“I think that when people see strong, successful women, they love to imagine that there is a rivalry,” says Burnett. “Maybe it’s because there are not as many women. And maybe, I don’t know,” she says, rolling her eyes, “it’s a male-fantasy thing.”


Eph Pundit: Lobbyists

There are many, many topics right now that I would like to discuss on EB, but I only have so much mental space.  Living in Washington, DC and working for a federal agency that is a *little* bit busy during this current, ahem, situation, I’m about up to <i>here</i> with the attempted campaign hijacking of the bailout package.  This situation is already bad, stressful, partisan, etc. etc. etc. without the additional bs.  I’m going to stop now before I go off the rails about this “suspending” nonsense.

What this post is actually about is lobbyists, mostly one particular (former?) lobbyist.  Much has been made this year about campaigns not being beholden to lobbyists or not being run by lobbyists or not taking contributions to lobbyists, etc.  I’ll be honest that I’m not sure how giving up your lobbying status the week before you work on a campaign makes some kind of difference.  You’d need a pretty extensive break to really shake that influence.  Anyway, we’ve also heard a lot about campaign folks that have ties to the mortgage giants and failing investment banks.  We all know that Jim Johnson was kicked off Obama’s veep search team because of his mortage ties.  McCain’s campaign tried to tie Obama to Raines (obviously false, but didn’t stop the commercial).  And now, we have a bit of drama about Rick Davis and the payments from Freddie Mac to his lobbying firm, Davis Manafort.

The McCain campaign, and Davis himself, tell the story that he severed his relationship with the firm in 2006.  There may have been payments to the firm after that date (indeed, until the takeover), they say, but that is irrelevant as Davis is now a part of Davis Manafort in name only.  So I was willing to buy that this had been kind of blown out of proportion…it looks bad, but other than Freddie paying money for work Davis was apparently not doing anymore, I didn’t see a big problem other than appearances.

Then this evening I read a Newsweek article about the whole situation.  I still don’t think there really is anything untoward going on, but it feels an awful lot more like Davis and the McCain campaign blithely lied to the American public.  That campaign has “misstated” aka lied to our faces about a lot of silly things this year, and I suppose this is just another case.

First the McCain version of events:

In its initial statements to reporters this week, the McCain campaign said that the disclosure of the payments from Freddie Mac was irrelevant because Davis, who was never a registered lobbyist for the troubled housing corporation, had severed his relationship with Davis Manafort in 2006, and was no longer drawing any income from it. Jill Hazelbaker, the campaign’s communications director, said in an e-mail Tuesday that Davis “left” Davis Manafort in 2006. In a statement attacking The New York Times, posted on the campaign’s Web site on Wednesday, campaign spokesman Michael Goldfarb said that Davis “separated from his consulting firm, Davis Manafort, in 2006.” (A senior campaign official, in an e-mail statement to NEWSWEEK that was not for attribution on Tuesday night, said “Rick is no longer affiliated with the firm.”)

Sounds good, right?  Except…

But those statements appear to have overstated the extent to which Davis had severed his relationship with his lobbying firm. Filings made by “Davis Manafort Partners” with the Virginia Corporation Commission as recently as April 1, 2008, show that Davis was still listed as one of only two corporate officers and directors of the firm, according to records on the commission’s Web site reviewed by NEWSWEEK. That filing records Davis as the “treas/clerk” of the firm; his business partner, Paul Manafort is listed as the president and chief executive officer.
Another filing by “Davis Manafort, Inc.” (with the same Alexandria, Va. address, and recorded on Oct. 17, 2007) also lists Davis as an officer and director of the firm, reporting his position as “T/Clerk,” a reference to his formal title as corporate treasurer and clerk.

So you can draw whatever conclusions you’d like from this.  I don’t think that the Freddie payments were necessarily a big deal, except the holier than thou tenor of both campaigns makes anything like this seem hypocritical.

I’m interested in anyone sharing thoughts about the whole anti-lobbyist theme to this campaign.  Lobbying in and of itself, in my opinion, is not a bad thing.  It becomes bad when any elected official takes so many handouts, etc. that s/he feels beholden to the big money behind a particular breed of lobbyists.  Do others think that Davis and the McCain campaign really lied about this?  Did they tell the truth, and the rest of us are reading too much into a board position?


Eph Pundit: Greatest Hits of the Big Fat Liars

Since David didn’t want to pollute his negative Obama post with the exact same issue from McCain, as promised I am posting it separately.  I will try to be more balanced than his post, because I don’t appreciate the misleading ads that have come from either side.  Both of these candidate came in claiming to take the high road.  Neither has stayed on that road, although I have a clear opinion as to who has strayed farther from it.  I’m not going to go point by point and argue which individual ad is more misleading than one particular other ad.  They’ve both put out some true slime.  I do think, however, that McCain’s distortions have been more egregious and more frequent.  All politicians try to make themselves sound more important, make their accomplishments a little better, etc.  But there is a difference between a lie about character and twisting your (or your opponent’s) record on an issue.  The mud is flying fast and thick this year.  Watch out.

– McCain energy web ad from June or July:  said Obama was against energy innovation and the electric car which is not true.  McCain was citing Obama’s dismissal of his idea for a monetary award for an electric car.  Problem being that Obama actually didn’t say he was against is – he called it a gimmick that actually didn’t do enough to support energy innovation.  Same ad said he was against “clean and safe nuclear energy” which is exactly opposite to the truth.  Obama has actually taken heat from the left for saying he is open to nuclear energy if it is clean and safe – in those exact words.

– McCain tax ads from August: says Obama will raise taxes on “people” making $42,000 a year while showing a mother with children.  Actually, a single taxpayer (not a family) would see a $15 raise but families would not.  Spanish language version of similar ad says “families making $42,000” would see taxes raise – flat out false.  Also says he’d raise taxes on the middle class, which is NOT true.  I haven’t met anyone who calls $200,000 for a single person or $250,000 for families the “middle class.”  Now just deception but not a true lie is the claim that Obama would raise taxes on home sales.  Only if you made a profit of more than half a million dollars.  That is just misleading, because so so few people would ever fall into that category….but I admit is technically true.

– Obama lobbyist ad from August/Sept: it lists some of McCain’s top campaign staff and says that so-and-so “lobbies for…” whomever.  They are not currently lobbying for anyone.  Obama could have quite fairly and truly stated that “until very recently, so-and-so lobbied for ____ ” but they didn’t.  I’m not a fan of this ad…I find it misleading, because I’m sure someone could parse it in a way to technically be true.  But unnecessary slime.

– McCain lipstick ad September: this has obviously been hashed and rehashed so I won’t repeat it.  He just didn’t call her a pig and McCain himself has subsequently admitted it.  Finally, it is misleading at the end where it takes a quote from Katie Couric from before Palin was even in the race and tries to make it somehow about Obama’s treatment of Palin.  It was egregious enough that CBS got in a huff about it and asked the campaign to pull it.

– McCain Fannie/Freddie ads from today and from earlier this week: 2 separate claims, both of which are at the least very misleading.  One is that Obama took more money from Fannie and Freddie than anyone else but the chairman of the committee that regulates them.  Okay, again – as McCain’s campaign has claimed against Obama in the oil company ads – no candidate takes money from corporations so that is misleading.  Also, he’s not second on that list, I think he’s fourth (don’t remember what said).  Employees of companies often give money to people that wouldn’t treat their companies well.  Individual people have opinions (employees includes from the cafeteria worker to the middle manager to the CEO – range of opinion much?).  Second egregious claim is that former Fannie head Frank Raines is an advisor on economic issues to the Obama campaign.  Uh, nope.  And the “source” they cite doesn’t say that either.  The source says that Raines claimed to have taken calls from the campaign.  Not quite the same thing…if he did take calls, the ad is misleading.  If he didn’t, it’s a flat out lie.

– Obama’s oil ad from sometime early in the summer: Obama made some kind of claims about McCain being “fueled” by the oil industry or some such turn of phrase.  Actually, the percentage of donations that an be traced to big oil is quite small, no one takes money from corporations, etc.  It was a misleading ad, I can’t say anything to defend it.

– McCain’s “fact check” ad: tries to cite as supporting its claims that Obama made claims about Palin that were false and misleading.  Um, except that they never ever attributed such things to Obama.  The quotes were about emails and rumors.  Also that ad talks about Obama sending a team of people to dig up dirt on Palin, except that the WSJ quote they tried to rely on doesn’t quite say that, and the Obama campaign has asked the WSJ for a retraction.

– McCain’s “Obama doesn’t support the troops” ad: as we all know (but some may have forgotten), while claiming Obama didn’t want to see the troops, he actually uses footage of Obama…visiting the troops.  Uh, right.  And he didn’t cancel the visit because press wouldn’t be allowed – that is a flat out lie.  Press were never invited.  It was a no-win for Obama, and you may not agree with why he decided to cancel that part of the visit, but it was not because of press coverage.

So there is a mini-recap of the slime being tossed around in ads.  Now this is just ads (and not even some winners likes the celebrity ad hogwash), I’m not even going to go into the “she never asked for earmarks,” what percentage of the nation’s energy Alaska provides, or “I’ve been to Iraq” issues.  Let someone else tackle that list.  I’m tired.

And if I’ve missed your favorite slimefest, by all means mention it in the comments – from either candidate.  I am deeply cynical and deeply naive all at the same time.  I know and expect that things turn out this way, but I still keep hoping that one day it won’t be down in the muck.  This year, I think I’m more annoyed by all of it because these two actually gave me more hope.  Oh well, another day another dollar (spent on ads).  The one good thing about all of this crap is that the campaigns are helping to bolster a few particular sectors of the economy with the absurd amount of money they’re spending.


What’s your test?

Since hwc has been so kind as to inform us that his criteria for choosing a president is the “commander in chief” test, it got me thinking about what mine might be.  And I don’t actually know.  There are understandably a variety of “key issues” that people use to focus their opinion about a candidate.  And as far as liberals, I know most will say there isn’t one test, we’re all multi-issue, blah blah blah.  Yes, my little herd of cats, I know.  I’m there with you.  But I’m wondering if we can’t all think about it and see if we can figure out what it might come down to for each of us personally.  Clearly people on this blog differ as to who is more successful in a “commander in chief” test – but focusing on military issues as key to the presidency reflects hwc’s priorities for the country.  On one side or the other, it shows a desire to protect or a desire to prevent another Iraq debacle or to spread the American version of democracy or ….  It goes on and on, and is fascinating.

Soph Mom has been accused of using a sexism test – something she denied.  So what is your test SM?  Personally I think that if that were your test, that’s your choice and good for you.  There are people who vote on children’s issues, women’s rights, foreign policy, education, the economy, criminal justice…you name it, there’s an issue that is someone’s heart.  And people have very good reasons as to why that issue is an accurate test of character in some manner or why that issue is so fundamentally important, it must come first.  It might be a more abstract “judgement test” or “honesty test” even.

I’m going to think on this and comment later, but I invite others to do the same.  Please, can we hold off (at least for a bit) on attacking the wisdom of the criteria or the eventual choice?  I’m interested to see how your minds work.  So if you’re willing to share your test, and if you’re really brave why your choice of candidate passes that test, I’d appreciate it.  It’s pretty clear that we aren’t going to change certain entrenched viewpoints here – on both sides – so focus on the task, eh?



Courtesy of John Cole over at Balloon Juice:

Since I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that the vast majority of this country is dumber than a sack of hammers, perhaps this will be on the level the public can understand:

Probably not, because, as we all know, Bill Clinton got a blowjob.

Amazing how other blogs can so easily point out the ridiculousness of some arguments.  While he can be a bit of a snob at times, John does make sure you can’t miss what he’s saying.


I couldn’t resist…

Okay, so I probably shouldn’t go back to this topic, but I found the claim of journalistic integrity for the Enquirer so preposterous that I must come back with a slight rebuttal.  I will grant that they have broken a couple of big stories, but only if David and others realize that many, many, many more of their stories are basically crap (unless there are way more “love children” kicking around playing with space aliens than I realized).

Case in point from the Boston Globe a few days ago:  “Enquirer settles with Cape Cod woman

You win some, you lose some. Just ask the National Enquirer. The tabloid, which is being celebrated for scooping the mainstream media on the John Edwards mistress story, has quietly settled a lawsuit filed by a Cape Cod woman who claimed the Enquirer published false and defamatory stories about her supposed “love child” with Senator Ted Kennedy.

Lawyers for Caroline Bilodeau-Allen provided DNA test results from 1985 that show Kennedy is not the father of Christopher Bilodeau, who was born in 1984. The settlement, first reported by TheSmoking, was filed in US District Court in Boston. Terms of the deal have not been made public, but the website says American Media Inc., parent company of the Enquirer, made a “significant payment” to Bilodeau-Allen.

The stories, published in 2006, alleged that Kennedy and Bilodeau – she was unmarried at the time – began dating in 1983, while Kennedy was separated from his wife, Joan, just before the divorce was finalized. The tabloid claimed that after Bilodeau became pregnant, the senator, then in his early 50s, begged Bilodeau, then in her early 20s, to have an abortion.

Bilodeau-Allen subsequently sued American Media and two of its reporters, Richard Moriarty and Alan Butterfield, who is one of the reporters writing about Edwards’s affair with Rielle Hunter. David Rich, Bilodeau-Allen’s attorney, did not return a call yesterday. Nor did Michael Antonello, counsel for American Media.

The case file does include a few e-mails revealing the Enquirer’s strategy for placing the Kennedy story with other newspapers and TV shows. According to one e-mail exchange, the Boston Herald was given the story a day ahead of everyone else and Ken Chandler, then the top editor at the Herald, promised to “run it big (possibly page one).” In the end, it did have a front-page presence.

Now, any publication can have a few libel issues here and there, but I thought this was rather appropriate given the chorus of support the rag received on these pages a few weeks back.  This is but one example that caught my eye.  And before anyone says “they settled, no one proved anything,” I’ll point out that their very well-paid attorneys are only going to recommend they make a “significant payment” when they are certain to lose.  If you have any shred of actual proof, a libel case will get kicked out of court.


When you least expect it

Note: I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago, so any issues of tense or time are the fault of that.  I don’t have the emotional energy to spend the time updating such things right now; I hope you will forgive me that.  David nudged me today about actually publishing it, and I guess I might as well.  The (relative) anonymity of this blog allows me to be a bit more raw emotionally than I normally would.  Upon re-reading the post, I realized that it was exactly what I was trying to capture.

I was all set to write a somewhat self-righteous post this evening about the Williams Social Action Fund, the importance of donor choice, and the inherently political nature of ALL investment decisions (meaning choosing profit over the purpose of a company IS a political choice regardless of the terminology in which you wrap it).

But I won’t be writing that post tonight. I won’t be writing it because of the few minutes I spent this afternoon looking up what, how, where, and to whom packages can be sent to support soldiers serving in harm’s way. Taking those moments put me in mind of those that have been lost. We have this weird e-relationship, all of us here on Ephblog, so a lot of what we think about and feel is filtered, kept at a distance from one another. It is hard for us to really get to know each other, to share our feelings, to understand where each other one is really coming from. So this post is to attempt to not filter that, to let you all know how profoundly my thoughts were impacted by this little blog today.

I spent much of this afternoon and evening thinking about a fellow Eph, a young man whose life was lost far too soon. A young man whose goofy humor, friendship, loyalty, and sheer joy I don’t think I ever fully appreciated as he hung out in my common room or caused trouble in my entry: Nate Krissoff ’03. I have thought about him periodically, on Veteran’s Day and this weekend for the Fourth of July. I wonder how his parents are doing. More often, I wonder how his friends are, those that I knew well and I know loved him dearly. I remember the late, late nights when I finally encouraged him and other frosh boys (mostly swimmers) to move on out of my common room so I could get some sleep. A couple of his friends were in my entry when I was a JA, and there were three or four of them that hung around and did what 18-19 year-old boys do: drink, talk, laugh, quote stupid movies (I remember them quoting Swingers a lot), watch sports, etc.

When we lose someone so young, I wonder what else I should have or could have done to make sure that he knew what a special person he was. I didn’t keep in touch with Nate after I graduated. I heard bits and pieces about him and others over the years, but we weren’t close when he died. But I still sat here this evening and could not contain my tears and my grief at this life cut tragically short, of this waste of a precious person. And I think that I should do everything in my power to try to prevent anyone else from dying, and I think that I should do everything in my power to ensure that everyone serving knows that they are loved and special and supported and comforted.

We have had many discussions on EB about whether one can simultaneously support our troops and fervently wish them home and that their service was not necessary. We have wondered from an intellectual perspective, argued the opposing logic or philosophical conflict. We have distanced ourselves at times from the true danger that some people are in – perhaps we must distance ourselves. I am not writing tonight to wade once again into that thicket of recriminations and judgment.

My contemplative mood this evening also put me in mind of one of my own frosh who tragically died very young, although under very different circumstances. Shirin Shakir ’03 passed away in a rafting accident in Peru during her 2L year at Harvard. She was a dear, sweet person. Memorable for her striking beauty, her little giggle that brightened the room, for her desire to make a difference somehow. She, like many Ephs, held herself to very high standards, was very thoughtful, and had big dreams. I wonder who she would have become.  She was well on her way, having spent a great deal of time volunteering in her community and on legal cases.

So forgive my posting this evening in sadness, but at times I really do need to remember to step back and think about what is important. To remember how precious these moments are that we share together. I need to appreciate those fellow Ephs that I got to know, for however short a time.  Tonight I simply wanted to express that I truly, profoundly mourn those like Nate Krissoff and Shirin Shakir.


Ugly Buildings for Obama

In my regular truckload of political news yesterday and today, I noticed a little gem about Williams’ regular contributor and building namesake Edgar Bronfman, Sr. (of Seagram’s fame).  Well, technically I think the building is named after the whole Bronfman family, many of whom contributed to the building, but still…Edgar was the initial Williams connection so far as I know.

Former World Jewish Congress President Edgar Bronfman headlines a group of prominent Jewish leaders from New York who are signing on to support the Barack Obama campaign.

The Obama Jewish Leadership Council of Metro New York plans to meet next Tuesday. Other participants include Merryl Tisch, Howard Milstein, Penny Pritzker, Tom and Andi Bernstein and New York Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Steve Israel.

(Another piece from Politico on the same fundraiser)  There are some very interesting names on that list, but Bronfman obviously stood out.  I am still impressed that he and the family donated for a building – and later many other things – when he didn’t actually graduate from Williams (would have been class of ’50, got his bachelor’s from McGill in ’51).  We gave him an honorary degree in 1986 though, and a Bicentennial Medal in 2005.  Funny, the honorary degree isn’t indicated in his entry in the online Alumni Directory.  The announcement re: the Medal also is cagey about his graduating or not, saying only that he was “a member of the class of 1950” but the other entries state “after graduation from Williams in 19XX.”  Subsequent to the family giving $1.25 million of the $3.9 million needed for the building (bit of history here with fabulous ’60s pictures), several other members of the Bronfman family also went to Williams (Samuel II ’75 and Matthew ’81 – sons of Edgar, and Stephen ’86 – nephew of Edgar, son of Charles who actually spearheaded the family fundraising for the building).  There is also a Fiona Wood ’81 that comes up when you search the directory…hard to track all the family members so I assume she fits in there somehow.  Google can only give you so much info.  Bronfman also gave $5 million in 2003 for scholarships “to help extend need-blind admission to all international applicants” which should make David proud.  He also gave money toward the building of the Jewish Religious Center.

I wonder if this means that Obama will get an ugly, overly concrete building for his campaign HQ now?  I know there are those out there who sing the praise of strange ’60s and ’70s concrete & brick architecture like that of Bronfman (seen around campus in Greylock, Sawyer library, Prospect), but I have always found the interiors of such buildings cold, the sound quality terrible, and the weird odor from the concrete during warm humid days somewhat disconcerting. 

Let me be clear that I fully applaud the ideals of a unified science center, and I appreciate how much space it provides.  It allowed advances in science at Williams in a very real way (read the above link with the fun pictures).  But starting out as a math major and spending much of my first two years in there and also spending many long nights there in my later years as a tutor with the Math/Science Resource Center, I grew to detest its cramped classrooms, often dim interior, and weird echoes.  Perhaps I am alone in thinking this…and at least it doesn’t have the bizarre waffle ceilings like Greylock, but it’s not my favorite bit of Williams.  I personally think it’s one of the examples of technically “great architecture” without thinking about people enjoying of the use of the building.  I’m sure those who disagree with me will freely comment below.  My opinion may also be biased by spending much time of late in the large number of similarly styled government buildings in and around DC.  It just seems weird to me that if you accidently brush a wall on the INSIDE of a building, you could skin your knuckles.

I should point out that the Jewish Religious Center is a truly gorgeous building – inside and out – that is functional, filled with light, and beautiful.  So I guess Bronfman’s involvement doesn’t actually require an ugly building…this just gave me a fun hook to tie a few different comments about Williams together ;)

Anyhow, viva la generous rich alums!  I’m sure this bit of fundraising will lead to all kinds of interesting commentary in the MSM, especially with some of these folks’ former support of Clinton and the fact that Bernstein is a former classmate and supporter of George W.  Too bad most bios of Bronfman don’t mention Williams at all…maybe some will now link to this little item?


Art, Politics, and Ali

This post is coming to you at the suggestion of our esteemed commenter FM.

There is a cover story in the June/July issue of the magazine Art in America called “Talking Politics 2008” by Eleanor Hartley.  She features “six artists whose work courts controversy” including Williams Professor Laylah Ali.   The artists “exchange ideas about the common ground between politics and art,” a very timely topic given the recent bit of Yale art drama (discussed on EB here and here, and nicely commented upon by our own Prof. Lewis in the WSJ).

Unfortunately the Art in America article is not available online, although FM has a request in and/or might end up scanning it. We’ll see what happens. Regardless, Prof. Ali is a talented artist and notable figure in the arts. This link is from a PBS feature about artists in the 21st century called Art:21. There are some great shots of the art-in-the-making, as well as slideshows of some of her work, interviews, and other video. What a great program! This link is from another exhibition of showing examples of Professor Ali’s work.

The theme of the article seems all the more timely given the controversy surrounding the installation of “The Assassination of Hillary Clinton/The Assassination of Barack Obama” exhibition in New York City that was quickly shut down by the Secret Service. Granted, some see its attempted creation as more a bit of performance art than an actual attempt to create an exhibition “about character assassination — about how Obama and Hillary have been portrayed by the media,” but it does point again to the intersection of art and politics. The New York Times also did a feature piece in April about how the campaigns generally, and Barack Obama particularly, have inspired quite a bit of political art.

Obviously this is not a new phenomenon. Art is political, politicians and campaigns (and kings and queens and patrons) make use of and support art to fit their various purposes and ideals. Political issues likewise provide an inspiration, frame, and focus for art throughout the ages. Art is revolutionary form of speech, a unique way for artists to express their response to the world. I suppose given the Williams infiltration of the greater art community…wait, that sounds sinister. Saturation perhaps (?) of the arts community it makes sense that one of our professors was featured on this topic. So pick up a copy of the magazine if you see it someplace, or at the very least check out the link to the PBS feature of Laylah Ali above and get a taste of the work and creative process of this talented artist and asset to our faculty.

Do any of our commenters have particularly political pieces of art (visual, musical, etc.) that are your favorites or are particularly notable? Personally, I have always been truly moved and inspired by Picasso’s Guernica. I have seen the tapestry reproduction of the work that is at the United Nations building in New York, and it always evokes a raw sadness and anger in me. Thoughts from others?


Alumni fundraising of yore

Even as far back as 1913, Williams was doing its best to establish a nest egg for the future.  An article in the wonderful New York Times archives describes then-President Garfield’s announcement of a $2 million endowment effort.  True to form, he already had about 25% lined up and more pledged to match.  This effort was announced at the “alumni luncheon” following commencement.  I wonder if Morty will have any exciting announcements this weekend during reunions?

I continue to enjoy the fact that Williams College news made it to the New York Times with great regularity back in the day.  Including such exciting events as the alumni beating the varsity basketball team in a game.  Yes, really.  I can’t find the link again at the moment, but it was great.  In the 1920s, someone wrote in with that bit of news – including the roster and some form of a box score from the game – and it was published in the Times.

You can see the article in its original form (scanned a little crookedly, but readable) here.

WILLIAMS SEEKS $2,000,000.
President Garfield at Commencement Tells Endowment Plans.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., June 25 — At the alumni luncheon following the commencement exercises at Williams College to-day, President Harry A. Garfield announced that the college would attempt to obtain an endowment fund of $2,000,000.  Half of the first million appeared to be in sight, he said.  The General Education Board of New York, Rockefeller Foundation, had offered $100,000 when the college should raise $500,000.  Mrs. Russell Sage had contributed $50,000, and $200,000 more had been promised conditionally.  To this, President Garfield said, $150,000 might be added from an estate over which litigation recently ended.

The need for $1,000,000, Dr. Garfield said, was immediate, as that sum would hardly do more than make up the annual deficit, and a second million must be had to do justice by the teaching force and the future.  The college, he pointed out, had prospered by buildings presented, but giving for endowment had not been popular and the faculty as a result had been kept on low pay.

President Garfield said that while the salaries of the teachers at Williams had increased more than $50,000 in the last twelve years, the maximum paid to any professor was only $500 in excess of the amount paid in 1900, and the largest amount now received by any professor was $3,200.  The President believed desirable to raise the maximum at once to $4,000, with corresponding increases to all professors and assistant professors.

Williams graduated 115 young men with the degree of bachelor of arts.  Among the honorary degrees conferred were these:  Doctor of Laws, Charles B. Wheeler, ’73, of Buffalo, a Justice of the New York Supreme Court; Master of Arts, Albert Rathbone, ’88, lawyer of New York.

Copyright (c) The New York Times, originally published June 26, 1913

Thoughts on professor salaries as an effective fundraising ploy?  Did everyone notice the names of those donors?  I would love to know whose estate was being challenged – possibly over the gift to Williams?  Any Williams history buffs know what famous alum or former prof died sometime around 1913?

I’d also like to say that this shows some shrewd planning by somebody.  Capitalizing on the strength of our alumni to start building those funds way back when undoubtedly built a foundation for the massive pile of cash we’re sitting on today.  Granted, Williams graduated a lot of young men from old money families, so this kind of strategy was likely old hat to them although it seems practically clairvoyant to those of us brought up without trust funds, family homes, and other such personal “endowments.”


Navel Gazing

We came, we saw, we ate some bacon. So this morning I went to breakfast with Mr. Ephblog himself, David Kane. I will have you all know that the entire affair was quite civil – indeed, quite friendly. Although the fur flies here on Ephblog, we alums know how to behave in public (when not at sporting events). Anyway, our discussions and David’s exhortations that just about everything I said would make a good post for Ephblog have motivated me to write something tonight.

We joke sometimes about making David take an Ephblog vacation for a week, or about how posts need to be more positive or the general tone of our discussions. It is really one of my favorite little pastimes to poke holes in David’s arguments and needle him about being less critical. But this morning as we were talking about all the trouble I used to cause at Williams when I was there, I realized that the only way to change anything is to work on making it better. In keeping with that, I’m going to try to post more (NOT because I am in any way better, but because I want to change the tone). Thus far, I post here and there, then get really frustrated by some of the things I see up here and get discouraged, then come back and make snarky comments, eventually feeing motivated enough to make my own post again. This is a pretty circular pattern that doesn’t seem to accomplish much. So, I’m going to start off with a modest goal of one post each week even if that means expanding a comment into a whole post (good idea btw David) or just finding some obscure Williams connection to a news item. If I want more positive or constructive posts, I should quite whining about it and do something, so I will try.

On a related note of navel gazing, when I went to write this, I noticed the list of incoming links to Ephblog and one caught my eye. It is a comparison of Williams and Princeton of their relative “ridiculousness.” Now this fits under navel gazing, because I really thought I wanted to go to Princeton, got waitlisted, and picked Williams. Thank goodness I did! Anyway, so I thought I’d check out that link and discovered a pretty hilarious chart comparing various aspects of the two schools, from reunions to newspapers, to latin names to random days off, to the best category of all:

Blog Run By Students/Alums Who Care Entirely Too Much

And the winner was (of course): EPHBLOG!!! Good to know someone thinks well of us. So keep caring entirely too much everyone – you’re doing your part!

P.S. Any Boston-area Ephblog readers should get in touch with David and grab a meal.  Fun stuff!


Ephs and the Primaries Collide

Massachusetts Attorney General and notable Eph Martha Coakley ’75 has just put herself out there in support of Hillary Clinton (she is a Dem super). She is the only super of the week for Clinton so far. She said:

Regardless of the outcome of the primary, Mrs. Clinton’s energy, stamina, and resolve have changed the course of history for women seeking office, including the presidency, and I dare say, have changed the course of history of Presidential politics in the United States. It is for these reasons that I will vote for Hillary Clinton in August at the Nominating Convention.

A nice thing to say, but has a rather defeatist ring to it – “regardless of the outcome” telegraphs her prediction of how this will ultimately end up, no?

Even though I probably won’t stay up late enough out here in the east, I want to send a shout out to my fellow Oregonians (some of whom read this blog) who are voting, well at least having their mail-in ballots counted, today. It is pretty exciting that my home state matters this year!


The Williams College Art Mafia Continues!!

Congratulations to Professor Lewis who has won a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship!  They have been awarded since 1925 to those “who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.”

From the College’s press release:

The Fellowship will allow Lewis to complete the research and writing of “The Pietist Tradition in Town Planning.” “Pietist tradition,” Lewis explains, “is expressed in a half century of Utopian town building by varied separatist sects as the 16th-century Anabaptists, 18th-century Moravians, and 19th-century Shakers.” It is a tradition that is in parallel and in opposition to the ideal cities of the Italian Renaissance.  

His project “is to do justice to this neglected chapter in the history of idea,” Lewis said.  “It will show that Pietist architecture … was rooted in the scholarly and courtly centers of Europe — and reflects the fertile interaction of the Renaissance and the Reformation.”

He will spend some of his year’s leave from Williams in Germany, primarily doing research at the Moravian archives in Herrnhut, Germany. In the U.S. he will focus this year on the Moravian archives in Bethlehem, Penn.  

Lewis said the book will sum up the meaning of “the other urban tradition, and seeks to take the measure of the Pietist contribution to urban thought, and its role as a laboratory for social experimentation.”

Thought it would be nice to throw a little positive reflection on Williams out there for the day.  While I never had the good fortune of taking his classes, several of my fellow Ephs have been motivated to pursue their passion for art and architecture by Professor Lewis and others in the outstanding Williams College arts community.  Yet again I am reminded of how lucky I was to spend four years at Williams surrounded by such dedicated, talented, and creative individuals.  Bravo!


Purple Pub Update

Thought folks might be interested in another chapter in the Purple Pub story. Mary now thinks it will be open again for this fall!

This article from the April 9th Record provides some more details. I love how they highlight Mary’s connection with the students at the end. This is why the Pub has never been just another bar, but a part of the Williams community.

The Purple Pub will return to Spring Street at the end of the summer behind the George Hopkins building, according to the Pub’s owner, Mary Michel. While hoping to bring “a lot of the old pub into the new pub,” she is excited about the Pub’s new location, noting that it will “look out onto Spring Street for the first time.”
. . .
The new pub was originally going to have two floors but will now have only one, as the upper floor of the new building will house offices instead.
. . .
Michel has been working at a small home-based retail business, and also took on a job at Whitmans’ this February, where she hopes to continue working even after the Pub reopens. Out of all the difficulties due to the Pub’s closure, Michel said that the largest is “the time lost with the students,” which contributed to her motivation to work on campus.

Once the Pub reopens, Michel is hoping to regain support in the community. She has remained in touch with her staff, all of whom intend to resume working at the Pub. She also plans to serve dinner at the new Pub. Though the relocating and rebuilding may have taken longer than expected, Michel said she hopes the saying “when you build it, they will come” will hold true and that the Pub will once again become an important part of Spring Street.


Not even jackassable…

David asked that I re-post an article from my comment yesterday as a new thread, as some aren’t brave enough to read the comments (and I know even fewer follow links). This is a lovely little bit of Williams history, pulled from an 1895 article found online in the now free New York Times Archives.  Honestly, the reaches of Google never cease to amaze me.

I’ve typed the text of the piece below, but I also recommend that you view the pdf in all of its glory – historic typface and all.

Undergraduate Life There Many Years Ago.
John Howard Corwin in the American University Magazine.

In its early days Williams College approached more nearly to Garfield’s famous definition of an ideal institution of learning — “a log with a student on one end and Dr. Hopkins on the other” — than could possibly be imagined by a visitor to Williamstown in these later times. There was then, in fact, little else to make the college beside the Faculty and very few students. The doctor resigned more than twenty years ago, yet his influence is still strongly felt. My impression of the men I saw and learned to love at Williamstown twenty years ago, in my own and contemporary classes, is that there were very few of them sent through college. No body of associates could, on the whole, have been more serious and earnest than they in the pursuit of all that goes to build up manhood.

When the college was in the “log” era it had some peculiar institutions, which have ceased with their causes. One was “Chip Day,” in the Spring when the Faculty allowed a day’s respite from books that the boys might rake up and burn the Winter’s accumulation of chips, which their own sturdy arms had made cutting the wood that burned in students’ stoves.

Athletics were not neglected in the days before steam heaters. “Gravel Day” was anciently another local institution — a recess that the boys might gravel the walks about the campus, those who did not work commuting by the payment of a fine, used to pay for the carts and horses.

Those were the days when, perhaps in a “Chip Day” poem, a Williams man flapped around Parnassus thus:

    The roads were not passable,
    Not even jackassable;
    And he who would travel ’em,
    Must turn out and gravel ’em.

These useful and healthful days of frolic were merged into “Mountain Day,” now called “Scenery Day,” an opportunity for the athletic pleasure of climbing Greylock and offering sacrifices to the nymphs of the Hoosac and the hills. In these degenerate days, students actually drive to the top of Greylock. Ichabod! Nothing remains to ruin it but a hotel at the summit. It used to offer a grand climb through an almost pathless forest. It needed sturdy legs and good lungs to reach the summit. Sweet was the sleep on pine boughs on that breezy top in a shelter of green branches.

“Mountain Day” is still a Williams Institution. I have heard Martin I. Townsend say that Williamstown had an air to make a man feel like eating a whole ox, and the sturdy old gentleman looked when he said it as if could do it.

Old fellows who chopped their own wood, graveled their own roads, cleaned up the campus and climbed mountains insist that the ancient athletics were far superior to the new in physical, mental, and moral results; that they distracted the students less from the serious work for which men are supposed to go to college; that they were far cheaper than “Weston Field” and the Laselle gymnasium. They insist it is better to swing the axe than throw the hammer; better to climb a mountain and get somewhere than trot on a cinder track that returns to the starting point. Yet it may be these old fellows played “three old cat” and cricket and a mild football in which they kicked the ball and not each other.

Published December 25, 1895
Copyright The New York Times

There is further discussion in the comments section of David’s original post for anyone who wants to know more.

And another bit of Williams history, this time an article from 1854 that recounts a whole host of strange and interesting Williams traditions with their appropriate timing (among them Gravel Day in the Fall, Chip Day in the Spring, and Mountain Day in the Summer). This is amazing stuff. I don’t have the time to type the text of this one into the post, but please check it out! The brief overview: there were events that sound like the precursors to Ivy Exercises – class marshall organized fun events ending at East College; the possible originator of Light Night – evening presentations after the baccalaureate address called “Moonlight Exhibition.” I will admit it gave me chills to see who the speaker was that year – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I could spend far too much time mucking around in the online archive of the NYT. I will follow up perhaps next week with a post about the mysterious mention at the beginning of the 1854 article of a recent “periodical story so discreditable to Williams.” That the internal workings of Williams were worthy of the Times is pretty cool.


Good People of Williams

I was poking around on EphBlog looking for something, when I realized I’d never really looked at the Ephblog Quote Wall. Looking over it, I saw this:

In some respects what we say may never matter, yet history has proven time and again that there are sometimes cases where one voice has made a difference. The most successful of these though were always the ones who were compassionate in their cause and careful with their words. — M. Esa Seeglum ’06

I’ll be honest that I have no idea what inspired this quote or who the author is (the link on the page was broken). But it lead me to reflect on my time at Williams and some of those who had inspired me. It also made me contemplate Larry’s suggestion that we might discuss people at Williams that had great influence on us, be it professors, fellow students, townsfolk, staff, or otherwise. I suppose this could be for the better or for the worse, but I’m hoping better. For any recently admitted students who have stumbled upon us, I hope this can give you a flavor of why we Eph Alums are so involved (sometimes overly so) in our alma mater. As you can see from this blog, our fierce loyalty involves sometimes equally fierce criticism because we want Williams to continue to improve. But I think it is safe to say that Williams has had a great impact on the lot of us, and it is good to periodically step back and remember why.

For me, there are quite a few people who had great influence on me, but I’ll start with one here. Professor Bill Darrow, Chair of the Religion Department and all-around great guy. Of course, he is a brilliant professor, but I had a number of brilliant professors at Williams. There was something extra in the way he managed to welcome students to explore complex questions, to challenge us and yet make us feel “safe” in some way to do it. He taught tutorials in his cramped office in the Stetson maze with books surrounding you on all sides, wearing what can only be described as “Cosby sweaters.” He was like a caring uncle or grandparent – but a really, really smart one. For those of you out there who know him, you’ll also recall his particular manner of speaking where his voice dropped when he made a point and how he would kind of look upward as he reached for words sometimes.

I came to Williams as a little overachiever, as most of us did. I didn’t do so well in my first Religion class – at least for me – and my confidence was shaken. Indeed, my first semester grades were my worst by far at Williams. But I was lucky enough to have Prof. Darrow as my advisor. He was encouraging, gently pushing me to still take his 300-level tutorial as a freshman the way I had originally planned (coming in, I had quite big plans for myself). What possessed me to think I could handle it, I don’t know. What possessed him to encourage me to keep going with it, I don’t know that either. It was remarkable. I was challenged every week, struggling with texts that I only partially understood, trying to put together a 10-15 page paper or critique another student’s each week, and I’m sure looking like a complete idiot. But it was one of the most valuable experiences of my time at Williams. I got through it, proved to myself I could stack up with other students despite the immense self-doubt I was feeling at the time. It also lead me to major in Religion, the subject where I, on average, had some of my lowest grades. But Professor Darrow convinced me that was okay, he was one of the first people to help me realize the value of just thinking, and thinking hard about things. There didn’t have to be a problem to solve, the pursuit itself was worthy – and the grades, while important, were not the best judge of a successful course.

I stuck with it, and “Papa D” continued to challenge me, and comfort me, through my time at Williams. During our senior major seminar for religion, the group of 10-12 of us spent Wednesday afternoons together at the top of Hopkins Hall discussing birth and death (yes, the actual topic of the seminar), and often staying late after class still discussing the issues. We also managed to use the Sixth Sense, Bladerunner, and the Neverending Story in our presentations in that class, showing the sense of humor he also exhibited toward us! He encouraged us to gather for lunch beforehand (and came to my co-op once for it, to my great thrill), to continue these discussions, to explore the flights of ideas hatched in the mind of 21-year-olds late in the afternoon.

It was his office I cried in the spring of my junior year when everything seemed for the moment to be falling apart around me. I was trying to serve on the JASC, had a suicidal first-year in my entry, a paper due in his class and another, some other student-activity related issue happening, and it was the first anniverary of an old friend’s death. I went in to ask for an extension on the paper (which he always gave to anyone), and ended up spending part of the afternoon there with him, the stacks of books, and a box of kleenex. He probably doesn’t even remember it, but his compassion reflected all that was good about the close student-faculty relationship at Williams to me.

I had the good fortune to serve as his TA in my final semester. When we talked about the job, he mentioned the value he saw in going back to those texts from Religion 101, the ones that he knew had given me so much trouble at the beginning. It was a way to complete the circle of my time at Williams. He actually thought about things like that – the full cycle of education and growth, and how it impacted his students.

Going forward in my life, I have sought to model that combination of encouragement and support – with a little push to challenge oneself. I also have to pause sometimes and remember the value of things that aren’t so task-oriented. Reading important books and thinking important thoughts are good things. So there is my (somewhat sappy) anecdote for you all about someone at Williams who influenced me. I hope that others will add their own posts in the commentary. And if you don’t, I’ll be forced to add more of my own!


Commencement Speakers Announced

So exciting – my very first post, and it’s a scoop.

Williams announced its commencement speakers and honorary degree recipients today. You can check out the Press Release for the full details.

For those without the time to go read:

Acclaimed artist and sculptor Richard Serra will be the principal speaker at Williams College’s 219th Commencement on Sunday, June 1. Actor, director, and author LeVar Burton will be the baccalaureate speaker on Saturday afternoon, May 31. Former Secretary of State George Shultz will deliver an invited lecture on Saturday morning, May 31.

During the Commencement ceremonies on June 1, President of the College Morton Owen Schapiro will confer honorary degrees on Serra, Burton, Shultz, British economist Frances Cairncross, financial director and advisor Robert Lipp, and women’s health advocate Dr. Nawal Nour.

And now for the commentary aspect that will possibly make David regret letting me post: is it just me, or is Williams still following the not exclusive, but seemingly common, pattern of people of color speaking at baccalaureate and not graduation? I suppose I should preface this by commenting that I’m not in any way saying that the commencement speakers are not deserving….that is not what this is about. We have been lucky at Williams to have a distinguished group of speakers who admittedly have not all been white (and shockingly an entire 5 out of the last 35 have been women). It was, however, a running joke when I was at Williams that when we heard the list of the honorary degree recipients, we could guess who would be the baccalaureate speaker – or at least who wouldn’t speak on the big stage. True, it is a pretty great honor to be asked to speak at Williams at all, but all things being equal (accomplished, talented, powerful, inspiring people worthy of coming to Williams to speak) there was a perception by students that there was a tendency not to let some people speak at commencement.

The list of commencement speakers is on Wikipedia (although some of the links seem to be to other people with the same names, notably Chuck Davis). It is not exclusively white dudes, but it is overwhelmingly. And before the usual “but until 1970 Williams was mostly white guys” chorus starts – being an alum is not a prerequisite for speaking at graduation.

I don’t have time to run through every press release for the last however many years (and they are only archived to 2001 on the Williams website), but a quick look shows that we had a white grad speaker and person of color as baccalaureate speaker in 2007, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, and 2001 – and we will in 2008. So in 2006 they broke with tradition. This may just be me seeing things that aren’t really there, but, like the amazing lack of younger alums, women, and alums of color on the Board of Trustees, such oversights can cast a negative light on the Williams we all know and love. This struck me tonight given the flap about Geraldine Ferraro’s recent comments and her “don’t call me a racist, I’m oppressed, too” response. You don’t have to consciously be a racist to say things or do things that are taken to be totally insensitive. I just think it is worth pointing out that this tendency was noticeable enough that students at Williams joked about it.

And hello everyone! I promise to enjoy the arguments that are sure to ensue from any posts I make. I’ll try to get a real bio up at some point soon. Basics now: graduated in 2001 with Religion major and African-American Studies concentration. I was a nonprofit fundraiser and then an organizer for a few years before heading to law school. I graduated in May, and now I’m in DC as an honors attorney with one of the banking agencies (which means I can’t comment too closely on any issue relating to work).


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