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The difference between a Dartmouth and Williams degree, 10-years out of college assuming you don’t get any further education? After taxes, about a Honda Civic with deck-end spoilers and a 6-cd radio per year, according to


How to Get A Job

Looking to get a job post graduation? According to the New York Times, you should take David’s Winter Study Course. Students taking this class are much more likely to get desirable internships/jobs than students, all else equal, who do not take this class.


Limon on Mocking the Right

Flipping through the latest Alumni Review I found a gem from Prof. John Limon:

Explaining why liberal comedians’ jokes out-numbered those of conservatives in the run-up to Election Day, John Limon, the John J. Gibson Professor English, says in teh Oct. 20 Boston Globe: “A joke has to feel like it’s overcoming some kind of norm, some kind of inhibition. … I think Republicans are always better at norms and inhibitions than Democrats.”

First of all, let’s assume it’s the editors of the Alumni Review who made the common error of conflating conservativism and Republicanism. The two are far from the same as any conservative disgusted with No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, bailouts, or huge increases to the budgets of every alphabet soup department/agency known to man would be happy to tell you.

But what about Limon’s claim that Republicans are better at norms and inhibitions than Democrats? That’s some good comedy.

Democrats and Republicans both have their norms and inhibitions. It’s just not acceptable at Williams, or with the audience of The Daily Show, to mock political correctness run amok, question Sisyphusian diversity goals, or believe that the challenges our nation faces are so grave that merely electing Obama is not enough to solve them.

The double standards in discourse at a place like Williams are pretty stunning, as I wrote 4 years ago in the Washington Times. David Horowitz paying to place an ad in the Record “subtly censored” members of the Williams Community, but when Hamilton College gave Ward Churchill a university platform to speak from it was part of a commitment to the “free exchange of ideas.” There’s a whole host of norms and inhibitions that exist among Democrats, Liberals, or Ephs. Prof. Limon just finds them less humorous that he does Joe the Plumber.

As for why more jokes are made about Republicans than Democrats? Seems to me that a party who has held either the Presidency or Congress for 26 of the last 28 years is a pretty easy — and in many ways justified — target. And, as the writers of 24 can tell you, the Left is pretty good at subtly censoring voices it finds offensive. And, if subtle censorship doesn’t work, there’s always the Fairness Doctrine to fall back on.


Eph Senator (hopefully not)

If John F. Kerry, who by the way served in Vietnam, wins the presidency, Martha Coakley ’75 has announced she will run for his senate seat. Coakley was last year’s Convocation speaker.


Commencement Address

Anyone looking for a link to David Halberstam’s commencement address can click here. Here’s a funny tidbit:

So there is life after college; I’m proof of it. And so was Henry Ford II, the grandson of the founder of the Ford Motor Company, who went off to Yale in the late thirties, where he proved to be a devoted playboy but regrettably, an indifferent student. In time with a critical paper due in an English course, he paid a classmate to write the paper for him, was caught in the act, and was unceremoniously bounced from Yale without his degree.

Still the future was not that bleak for him. He managed to get a job after college: with the Ford Motor Company of course–he was wise enough not to change his name–and he soon, amazingly enough, rose to the top, becoming in almost record time the president of the company, and thereby, one of the most powerful and richest industrialists in the country. Much later, a somewhat rueful Yale, always on the lookout for a new building or two–the Henry Ford School of Business administration–invited him back for an honorary degree. That day Henry Ford stood up, held up his beautifully written speech, looked at the assembled Yale officials, waved the speech in front of them, and said, “And I didn’t write this one either.”

I wrote this one.

Indeed. Incidentally, he delivered it at Skidmore College’s May 22 commencement. It happens to be, for all intents and purposes, the same speech as the one he gave two weeks later at Williams.


Not sure your analysis holds

Not sure your analysis holds up.

I’ll grant you that the “depth” of relationships with a small group of friends would be better off under a system where you can pick into the same house with that entire group. The system I propose, like the current system, would allow students to live in a group with three other close friends. I fundamentally disagree with the idea, however, that close relationships cannot be made unless you live with people. I would be surprised if most people did not have many close friends whom they do not live with. Close friendships are also made on the athletic field, in the newspaper office, or at the Purple Pub so while I’ll grant that your system is more conducive to creating a really tight group of 10 friends, I don’t think mine hinders close friendship.

Incidentally, if we wanted to make depth of friendship our top priority in community decisions at Williams, we would bring back fraternities which allow a couple dozen people with similar interests to eat, sleep, drink, and party together. In terms of crafting community policy, however, I’d say depth of friendship is the least important: People are going to make close friendships regardless of what policies the college implements because intimate relationships are ultimately what life is about. Getting dissimilar people to interact, on the other hand, is not a natural thing — though it is something that is at the core of what Williams claims to be.

In terms of “breadth,” David largely falls back on citing a blind assertion in place of analysis. He claims in the late 1980s the average Williams student knew “50 to 150 members of her class” while now the typical senior knows “125 to 225 (perhaps more) members of her class.” This is such a silly, baseless assertion that I don’t even know where to begin. There’s just literally no way on earth to know whether people know more names and faces now then they did 15 years ago.

The analysis David does offer suggests that by having lots of flow between dorms, people start meeting more and more people. To some degree this is true. Clearly, under the current system I will encounter more faces as I walk through the halls of Mission sophomore year and Greylock junior year than I would being in one dorm. At the same time, because there is so little attachment to your dorm there is far less incentive to actually meet the people you live with. If I’m a sophomore living in Pratt under the current system, I could be quite content not knowing the vast majority of my house because I have my friends who I live with and I have my friends who live elsewhere and I’m only living in Pratt for one year.

On the other hand, if I’m a sophomore living in Pratt who knows that I’m going to be living with the same people for the next three years, I’m gonna be damn sure to get to know them sophomore year. And I’ll make sure I get to know the juniors as well who I’ll be living with for two years. And I’ll get to know the sophomores who come in next year because I’ll be living with them next year.

Further, and here’s where we get into the “variety” aspect, I’m far more likely to get to know not only all the people in my house, but as I start to get to know them better, I’ll get to know their friends better. On some relatively dead Friday night, if the WUFO players in my house decide to have their WUFO friends over for some beirut, I’m much more likely to go hang out with them if I actually know some people at the party.

A buddy of mine and I used to laugh about the awkward nod of the head you give to somebody who lives in your dorm, whose face you know, but you literally have nothing to say to. David seems to think there’s some great value in recognizing a bunch of faces. I’d rather really get to know a wide variety of people and then perhaps go talk to them and their friends for a few minutes when we’re all coincidentally at the Purple Pub together.

The bottom line is the house affiliation system provides not only the opportunity to meet an array of people, but more importantly a real incentive to get to know this array of people you live with. Under the current system, there’s no incentive not to ignore the rest of your house because you’re only living with them for one year.


Well, if you say

Well, if you say so then you certainly were here and I was not. That said, your version of events directly contradicts the version remembered by then-director of student housing Charles Jankey, then-Associate Dean Cris Roosenraad, and the 1980 Record editorial board:

By the late ’70s, more and more students were opting to transfer out of their houses, and were able to submit preferences for a new assignment. In a special issue titled “Housing at Williams” on March 14, 1980, the Record reported that 220 students applied for house transfers, “demonstrating the increasing desire among the student body to experience different living arrangements while at Williams.”

This was a substantial increase over the handful of students who requested transfers a decade earlier.

According to Charles Jankey, then-director of student housing, the transfer rules (adopted in 1976) stipulated that at the end of sophomore year, a student who wanted to move houses could submit a request, along with up to three others, listing in order of preference 15 of the 16 houses. The only guarantee was that a student would not get assigned to the house left out of the request. The Dean’s office and House Presidents then processed these requests and allocated the available rooms in the houses.

These increases in both the pervasiveness and acceptability of transferring spoke to a weakness in the system. As Cris Roosenraad, then associate dean, said in the special edition of the Record, “It’s awful, [the number of transfers] is way too high, and the system’s breaking down somewhere.”

By 1980, with the house system very much in place, increasing transfers had begun to shift the housing focus from house to class. A 1980 issue of the Record stated “the exodus of students – predominately sophomores – from Mission Park and the Berkshire Quad lends credence to the ‘typical’ housing scenario: sophomore year Mission Park or Berkshire Quad; junior-senior years: Greylock or Row Houses.”

It certainly doesn’t seem like house affinity existed in the same way in the 1980s that it did in the late-60s and 1970s. Regardless, I would hold that the system that existed in the 1970s, they system you lived under, and the system I propose — regardless of any minor differences that existed is better than the current system where Carter becomes the swim team house by default.


House Affiliation

Dave, we’re not exactly on the same page in terms of terminology. Technically the house affiliation system lasted until 1996, though most discussions at Williams focus on 1980 as the year the house affiliation system broke down with the elimination of house dining recommended as a cost-saving measure by an ad hoc committee on residential life chaired by Don Gifford. More importantly, as I understand it, by 1980 a change made in 1976 that allowed students to request a housing transfer had more or less created the situation that we have today.

Quoting from the Record in 1980:

The exodus of students – predominately sophomores – from Mission Park and the Berkshire Quad lends credence to the ‘typical’ housing scenario: sophomore year Mission Park or Berkshire Quad; junior-senior years: Greylock or Row Houses.

This is certainly what the situation is today, and it is the one that I am advocating we move away from.

As far as I’m concerned, at the end of freshman year you get assigned a house and you live in that house until you graduate. Transferring, which apparently became the norm by 1980, would only be an option in the most extreme of cases — maybe a handful a year.

Dave, I don’t know what your situation was. If you lived in Carter for all three years then that is certainly what I’m proposing. As I understand it, transferring had become very common by 1980. Even if you didn’t transfer — even if not one person who lived with you in Carter transferred — I still think the prevalence of moving from house to house attacks the very premise of the system that existed from the end of frats until 1980, which is that house affiliation be a major, defining aspect of residential life.

Incidentally, I’m also in favor of bringing back house dining a few times a week, but that’s apparently too expensive for the College nowadays and is completely out of the question.


Completely, Totally Wrong

Apparently, I am “completely, totally wrong” regarding my views on residential life at Williams. Unfortunately, I can’t really engage David’s argument as the analysis more or less ends there. As for whether anyone who lived under the house affiliation system agrees with my piece, the answer is “yes” as I’ve received far more positive feedback then negative from alums from that era (indeed, the only negative feedback from alums I’ve gotten regarding the piece is David’s blog post and, it should be noted, that as a member of the class of 1988 David not only didn’t live under the house affiliation system, but didn’t even go to school with anybody that did).

Anyhow, none of that’s important. Any system you implement will have advantages and disadvantages. We can argue about the relative merits of different systems or even the ends that the College should be pursuing, but I don’t know of one person who has seriously examined issues of residential life at Williams who is as dismissive of the idea of house affiliation as David apparently is.

David, I’d love for you to more fully articulate why a house affiliation system would be such a travesty.


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