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Miller and others advocate for opening local schools

Full story here.

Some Key Excerpts:

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The chair of the Mount Greylock School Committee’s Education Subcommittee on Tuesday repeatedly pressed the district’s interim superintendent to develop benchmarks that could be met in order to allow a return to full in-person instruction…

Several times during a more than two-hour virtual meeting, Steven Miller reiterated his contention that the Lanesborough-Williamstown district is uniquely situated to move to full, in-person instruction…

“We are at the point where we are having very few infections found daily in Berkshire County,” Miller said. “We are in a rural area. This is the time to act on something like this, to get our kids back to school. I would like to see every kid back at least two days a week. For the elementary schools, I would like to see them back five days a week as soon as we can.”
We are major advocates of in-person, obviously,” said John Skavlem, a former member of the defunct Williamstown Elementary School Committee who joined the meeting alongside his wife…
“Adolescence is hard enough without having all of these ramifications of the pandemic on top of it. As … others in the community have expressed their concern about the amount of mental and social consequences — mental health, depression, things like suicidality — I didn’t know that was a word until [recently] — that they’re hearing in our community is really, really concerning. That’s before I go into things like kids with idle time and drug and alcohol abuse at that age.
“These are really significant consequences. Those are lifetime consequences.”


Later, Hammann pointed out that while Berkshire County currently is in a good position with respect to COVID-19 diagnoses, that could change “with the influx of tourists.” Williamstown Elementary School teacher Maureen Andersen pointed out that Williams College and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts both will see the return of students at the end of the month.
How can local government advocate for keeping school children home indefinitely while at the same time accept risk for the return of Williams? That makes no practical sense.  There is no such thing as zero risk in life.
Accepting risk for education of the affluent while banishing poor rural children to ignorance is an ugly position.
Without benchmarks, what is the policy? Miller is correct to pressure his peers and others to come up with specifics.

Students will party

In my last post, “not that hard” brought up the point that the sixteen hundred students who return to Williamstown will be in a highly controlled environment. That the rules will be one of the means of less risk of contagion.

Kids will be 19. Testing and the ability to quarantine will mitigate risk, but rules that limit social distancing will not stop young adults from mixing. Students will party.

Bet on it.


Remote Learning for WES and Mount Greylock?

In a surprising development, the local school district is recommending remote learning for the start of the coming year.

From iBerkshires:

On Wednesday evening, (Superintendent) Robert Putnam explained to the School Committee why on Friday he will submit to state authorities plans that see children from pre-kindergarten through ninth grade start the school year with a hybrid instruction model while the three upper grades at the high school remain fully remote.

I stated previously that this was a tough call. I favored at least partial attendance of all students with some remote learning. I also stated that I will support whatever decision is made. So, we will get in the boat and row.

But …

How does this happen in Williamstown with Williams mostly returning? If the concern locally is grave enough to keep students completely out of school for safety reasons, how can the town support the return of Williams’ global community?

Yes, Williams has gobs of cash to address mitigation, but let’s be real. The return of Williams carries at least the same if not greater risk than the return to local grade school. It is one of the bigger risks in the county. It does not make any sense to have Williams return if the risk assessment mandates remote learning for local grade school children.


A major flaw in a critique of leadership

At this moment I enter the tragicomedy briefly. I left Williams two months before all of this took off. Before I knew I’d be departing, I chaired a committee responsible for managing Hollander Hall, the very building afflicted by this outrage. After I left, Prof. Keith McPartland took charge in my place. This landed him in a hard spot, because it turns out that that pile of nonsense violates state fire safety regulations, and is probably also contrary to accessibility standards. Staff, however, were presumably too terrified to touch any of it, lest they get fired. So McPartland did what I hope to god I would’ve had the courage to do, had it been me. Because he enjoyed some measure of protection as a tenured professor, he consulted with campus security and then boxed up the offending portions of the memorial himself. As he did this, students confronted him, but he carried on. That night, faculty offices were papered with posters denouncing McPartland as a racist for his trouble.

Maud Mandel, the weak and indecisive president that Williams so richly deserves, then did exactly what you might expect. She took to her email and promptly denounced her committee chair for doing his job.


Does anyone else see the major flaw in this critique of Mandel’s performance on this issue? It jumps off the page. Knibbs’ should be challenged on this particular point, as well as the logic (critical of Mandel) that follows.

McPartland had an obligation to tell President Mandel what he was doing so she was not blindsided by his action. The climate was such that this decision he had to make was going to get to the president’s desk. Going rogue on it was a mistake.

That’s not to say McPartland deserved what happened afterwards, but middle managers should understand structure and issues enough to know when to inform higher managers of something controversial.



Who decides?


… many campus buildings were constructed in eras quite different from our own, at times they were decorated in ways that seem problematic in a modern context. The same is true of some of the monuments that are found on our campus. How do such forms of decoration, conceived in an earlier time, affect our capacity to be a fully inclusive community in this century? And what should be done about historical images that portray Williams as less welcoming than we are or aspire to be?




Local swimming hole # 6

Northwest Hill Bridge.


Local swimming hole # 5

The Orchards. 


“‘A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not the purpose of a ship.'”

From iBerkshires; full article here:
Williams Mathematician Steven Miller, a member of the Mount Greylock Regional School Committee, is advocating for a cost-benefit analysis: the complete reopening of Williamstown Schools …
“Hopefully, we’ll know more next week as to what’s coming,” he said. “But that also doesn’t give us a tremendous amount of time before then to try to provide our input as to — are we going for a one solution, one-size-fits-all commonwealth or are we going to say that a rural district that has not had as many [COVID-19] cases maybe would have a back to school different plan than Boston.
“We should consider trying to advocate … all students coming back to classes and what that would entail.
“There are plenty of unknowns, but one of the things we have observed right now is that there is a tremendous cost to what we’re doing,” Miller said, referring to school closures. “To me, as a mathematician, it’s a cost-benefit analysis. What are the costs of having a lockdown versus not having a lockdown? What are the costs to doing the remote learning versus bringing students back? What would be the cost to having some of the students come in where you … keep the classrooms at a minimum?
“Unfortunately, there’s no solution that will get us everything we want and still be perfectly safe. The expression I’ve been using is: ‘A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not the purpose of a ship.’ At some point, life has risks, and we have to decide what level of risk is acceptable. What are the benefits of going forward and what are the costs?

Did you support your local gin mills #1?

State the name of the bar, and why you know the name.

Should be an easy one for anyone around town from the late 1990s to 2017. After campus party hours midnight to last call. Also a huge hangout for summer theater people.


Local swimming hole #4

The Linear Park.

200 yards from Spring Street.


The bicycles








A cruise around campus and what do I see,

a lone cycle there, strapped to a tree.


Scores of bicycles aligning dorm walls,

locked with no riders, nobody in halls.


Through the narrows of Baxter see bikes here and there,

no riders to be found, not anywhere.


Like some storm hit this place and the people all fled,

no time to pack up, no time to make bed.


The promise of some return is lost in the mix,

me I would like, a bicycle like this!


So, here is to the riders, may they return with glee,

A warm welcome to fall, from this ghost town townie.




Local swimming hole #3

The Watershed. 


Local swimming hole #2

The Hopper.

You could jog here. Fast cold water, a nice field to picnic in, and you do not have to worry about trespassing.

Get wet. Yes, everyone go get wet and sandy!


Local swimming hole #1


The Tubs (picture of lower tub)

A series of three large pools with a long natural made slide separating the lower two, and a 25 ft jump at the upper venue.

Warning- the terrain is rough and not really suitable for children.

*edited to include pics of Ephs partying at the tubs in the 1930s from Time Life Magazine 1937. Outstanding find from “EphArchives.” 



Let the Kids Play

Hoxsey Street in Mid March, 2020. 



Stick around for summer!


View from the Pownal Quarry

With hope Williams students return next year to stick around for the summer. Students should live in the Berkshires at least once during the hot summer months. I don’t think anyone will have the opportunity this season- except maybe the athletes living in “the white house.” 

If you make it here take a few road trips into Vermont. Go over into North Adams to catch a show at MASS MoCA. Spend some time fishing for brook trout in the local rivers and streams. Rock climb and check out the amazing view from the Pownal Quarry .  Get into the Ice House . Go swimming at the Tubs, the Hopper, Linear Park, the Dorset Quarry , the watershed, and Stockbridge quarry 


Enjoy it. It is one of the most beautiful places on this planet.


“Take a relaxing stroll through town,” they said. “It’s carbon neutral,” they said. Williamstown this day in 2018.


“A New Hotel Comes to the Berkshires, Challenging the Catskills for Coolest Mountain Escape”

Check out the article in vogue about the new motel in North Adams. Wilco

You should also check out Fresh Grass , which is mandatory for all Ephs. Don’t miss the best party of the school year!

Williamstown is old and inaccessible in its lack of diversity and monopolization of both intellectual and monetary form, while North Adams is an open book to be explored. College students are well advised to step out of the bubble and see the world next door. Take a breath of Fresh Grass September 14-16.




Garfield House is gone.

Our friends over at ‘Eph Construction Boom’ are reporting the Garfield has been torn down. Will check it out tomorrow and throw up some after pics of the debris…



Name Game- The next three major Williams Construction projects this coming FY- Name today!

Winner to get a “Welcome to College Town” coffee cup with a purple bulldozer on it. Betting starts now, and ends in two weeks. Final results to be tallied on 30 September 2019. The rules are simple- the person who names what will be built (has to break ground by 30 September of next year) wins. Tie breaker is done by correct guess of “top three” (there are going to be over ten) of what will be destroyed/built in order of cost.


PTC bet, in order-

(1) New Art Museum.

(2) New Field House.

(3) The new dorm to replace soon to be demolished Garfield House (start of demolition = breaking ground).

Betting closes at 0815 on 30 May 2018.



Williams Website – Home Page, 2. Numero uno (in a small school way), baby! Show me your SAT!!!

13432240_301457503522707_6088647608549902568_n 12250177_191757451159380_5615916858474980910_n 24131040_580391015629353_4991417877463887980_n 23244451_570010856667369_7894463554896482382_n 14368928_343636185971505_4267155118066613493_n


Williams(town) is a mess!

This article in the Berkshire Eagle (normally a cheerleader for “all things Eph”) captures the frustrations of living in a town that has been under constant construction since the 90s.


hoxsey street




Eph Construction Boom, since 1990.

The friendly folks over at “Eph Construction Boom” have been tracking the progress on facebook.


With a pink hotel, a boutique, and a swinging hot spot…

IMG_3072 copy


Here comes the taxman! (Williamstown loses)

The Senate has passed a federal tax increase on private universities and colleges such as Williams.

I have always argued that local governance should get more revenue from Williams either through a PILOT and/or a tax on real estate holdings. Dormitories and common eating/ food sales spaces compete with the local economy (rentals and restaurants). They should be subject to local property taxation.

Williams and Williamstown are inseparable, and as such, Williams relies heavily on things such as local schools, waste management, police, and fire. Williams relies on the adaptability of the local planning board to make space for growth, and the relative lopsidedness of zoning permits. Who can build and where is a college function in the cultural district.

As we like to say, “Rock, paper, college.” Not that there is anything wrong with that!

That said, the federal taxation of a place like Williams when compared to the benefit of federal tax reform on the townie (working class) populations in a place like Williamstown is inequitable. When one compares the relative economic cost (the opportunity cost) of what this federal income tax will take from Williams/ Williamstown when compared to the local benefit with regards to the local burden on working people- this is a bad deal for Williamstown Townies! Local real estate taxation has skyrocketed in the last eight years. This is not going to help Williamstown’s affordability crisis…

Looks like we are in this one together.


Howl, Parts I & II

Allen Ginsberg 1956

For Carl Solomon

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness,
     starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking 
     for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
     connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking 
     in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating 
     across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw
     Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs 
who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes
     hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the 
     scholars of war,
who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing 
     obscene odes on the windows of the skull,
who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burning their 
     money in wastebaskets and listening to the Terror through
     the wall.

College Censorship Anniversary



On or about two years ago today, Williams College began to censor historic artifacts founded by previous generations of Ephs. This mural in the log came from the World War Two generation. A war memorial that depicted Chief Hendrick Theyanoguin standing over a map being inspected by Ephraim Williams on the morning of the Bloody Morning Scout, during the battle of Lake George in 1755. Hendrick and Ephraim were both killed in combat during this joint reconnaissance mission.


Bending Straws


In the 1980s, during my initial stint as an impressionable student in the academy, I spent my Sundays toiling as a manager down at the club. The edifice was on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge. The club was housed in a single story elongated rectangular brown painted cinderblock building. The locality had a sleek and swanky fashion, which was in vogue during the height of the Nixonian modern urban renewal architectural period.

We habitually hung a sign that advertised for a porter at the entrance of the club, as good help in those days was hard to find. The economy in Boston during the ‘Massachusetts miracle’ had made the help terribly fickle, due to an over-abundance of well-paying jobs. We paid the minimum of course, with the offer of a free jigger of spirits if the good lad who held the door happened to get his nose broken while attempting to break up an altercation. Hiring help that had learned how to look the other way was of great importance to the elite clientele.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology was one block down the avenue from the establishment, and the gents from the fraternities frequented the place. They were certainly not the men of Harvard, but still worth a listen. For some quirky reason math and science was of more importance than finance to those young men? I must confess that in actuality, we cared very little for where a young gentleman went to college. It was the family accent that truly enlightened us. “But yes of course, of course you go to Harvard,” we would say, “but where did you prep, where did you prep, my good man? Choate, Exeter, Groton?”

The lounge in the club was of the highest order. We had five tiers of the finest victuals. From the tap we served the latest fashionable beer. The floors were a greying black, as the wood was well worn and sticky from years of grand tradition. Neon Budweiser signs, and posters advertising various other upscale varieties, adorned the walls. We had several dart boards so that the lads could relax and play whilst enjoying a Pabst after a hard day at the academy.

It was on early Sunday afternoons, whilst I was cutting my teeth with this first internship in management, that three men from Zeta Psi would come to play a bit of “Pitch”. Pitch was a fantastic game, although I have heard from those still laboring at the club that it has since fallen out of favor.

The ladies from the Boston Women’s Rugby league would also show up for some pints after their Sunday scrums. They were always so lovely. Stout and severe, broad and menacing, as all proper women should be. Sauntering into the club in their attirement of proper shorts, knee high socks, and cleats; striped rugby shirts of red and white, draping their sweat laden bodies with a sophisticated mud covered embroidery. Oh, the traditional songs which they would sing! In unison they would chorus the moral fiber of femininity. Old whimsical choruses, such as “Barnacle Bill the Sailor” and “Bestiality’s Best” were my favorites. I still fondly remember the ensembles.

It is a pity that the singing of such songs of tradition has fallen out of favor. One never hears such songs the way we used to in public anymore. Sadly, what once identified the beauty of societal order in the hallowed halls of our elite institutions now runs against the grain. Perhaps it is this blasted cell phone culture that has turned everyone into a philistine moralist of some kind? Moments can be captured out of context by the simplest of passersby, and posted for commoners’ consumption on the YouTube. It is a shame that such happenings can no longer be kept within the higher circles of moral clarity.

It was during such moral conventions that the men of the Institute of Technologies’ Zeta Psi would sit at my bar and play Pitch. They would listen to the sweet choruses of the rugby ladies, as they drank the odd mixes of spirits associated with the game. The three Pitch players were Andrew, Duncan, and Remy. All three were from the finest lineage, but for whatever reason, had found a love of science over money? The particular mixology of the game clearly excited their participation in the sport of it. This ritual of Pitch was indeed a fashionable Sunday science project, as much as it was a game, or a sport.


       But it was a game of the highest order, and one needed to know the exact regulations!


First, it was only to be played on the holiest of days. On Sunday afternoons, that was when the three young men would stop by our posh establishment for a fine game of Pitch. They would come to me as they would a doctor, suffering greatly from the burden of too much blood in their alcohol systems. With the Saturday evening fraternity foray not far behind them, they were itching for a game of remedy!

Second, and of high importance, was the bending of straws. Sitting at the lounge countertop they would make a circle out of the drinking straws. It is easily done. You fold the end of one straw over itself, insert that into the hole of another straw, and then repeat that process until you join both ends to connect the straws together. Then you would enjoin the straws together to form a circle. In doing this, you can customize the diameter. As their mixologist and referee I would measure the circular straw throwing devices. The regulation size was six connected red cocktail straws.

Third, and of utmost importance to the common busboy, was the positioning of wastebaskets. You needed two, placed in between the three players. Player – wastebasket – player – wastebasket – player: in that exact order. The wastebaskets had to be of the common plastic variety, certainly not wood, and god forbid, never wicker. The liners were to be left out, as the ability for the busboy to rinse the receptacles cleanly with a hose outside near the street water drain was paramount.

Fourth, the playing field was the bar. Players were seated at the bar, with a normal positioning: facing the liquor shelves that were about eight feet behind the bar countertop. The seating arrangement was important, as the loser from last week’s game always pitched first. He would be placed seated at the far right of the bartender (me), or the left hand side of the other two players, from the perspective of a customer.

The rules of the gameplay were fairly simple. Once the game was set up, with the three players seated, trashcans properly placed and the straws bent into regulation size circles; myself as mixologist and referee, would call the time. Each player had two minutes to pitch. The pitch of the circle of straws took place from a seated position. Standing for an advantage was forbidden. The straw circle was pitched at the liquor bottles on the shelves behind the bar. A player would throw the red straw circle at the bottles of victuals that were shelved in tiers against the wall behind the bar. Underhand was the technique, as if softly throwing a horseshoe. Again, this was about an eight-foot shot.

It was a well-stocked club, with five tiers of finest varieties, elongated on each shelf. Irish, scotch, Canadian, bourbon, blends, schnapps of all flavors, creams such as Baily’s, liquors such as Kahlua, spiced rums; etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. All of it was in play. The mixologist (me), would blend the liquor that the thrown bar straw circle enveloped.

The circumference of the straw circle had the ability to encapsulate up to four bottles on the shelf, but normally only two or three. For example; a pitch could encircle Peachtree schnapps, Drambuie scotch, and Tanqueray gin. I would gather these three bottles, and pour the mix into a single shot glass. One player would pitch, and the player next in the order, the “receiver”, would drink the mix. After each pitch the drinking player had one minute to drink the mix. Two minutes to throw, one minute to drink.

This continued until someone lost the test of endurance. At some juncture a red faced player would be exhausted, and unable to contain himself- you lost when your fluids flew, even if you could still stomach a drink afterwards. The loser paid in bodily fluid as well as coin, as per regulation because the loser purchased the bar tab for the event. The duration and outcome of the game had a great deal to do with skill and conditioning, the normal characteristics of any athletic endeavor.

On most occasions, the rugby women would be singing, and stopping to watch and cheer the action. This added greatly to the ambiance the game. There was one stout but shorter African American female rugby player who had an intense Mohawk. She always took great interest in the game. She watched with glee and fascination while jutting about the Pitch competitors- but paying respect to never interrupt the field of paly. This always got the other mud-clad ladies to add tidbits and jeers as the men struggled to keep their composure.

The sport often became very intense towards the end, and one Sunday was no exception. This time, when Remy, who had lost last week, starting to become ill from exhaustion, found his seating and stayed in the game for the love of the contest! It was a noble sight indeed. The players were covering mouths with hands, and dry heaving whilst caught in the clutches of the exhilarating competition. All the while the ladies were singing gleefully and hoisting spirits. But the agony of defeat came suddenly, as it often did, when Duncan lost control of his oral function, hurling wild amounts of noxiously blended booze into one of the well placed plastic cans.

The thrill of victory for the Remy and Andrew, hands held high, was first rate. They even gave each other the plebian recognition of the high five, as they found their sea legs with the exhilaration of the victory. It was a testament to their endurance that they were not so badly staggered by the liquid-curdling war of attrition. The sportsmanship on display that Sunday would have made any college sports commentator proud. Players gave hard encouraging slaps on the back to each other as the intensity of the play heightened! The crescendo of the competition came when Duncan finally succumbed and placed his face in one of the cans, whilst his competitors heartily encouraged him with rubs of the hair and slaps on the back. Howard Cosell would have been proud.


Having come from such a place: from within the hallowed halls of such academic diversity and inclusion, is it any wonder that I now spend my days in elite college towns, polishing my social graces with the younger lads? Of course, the ladies and gentlemen these days are in search of the same things we craved when we were but mere babe socialites at the club playing Pitch.


Upon picking up The Record several months ago I was shocked to see that all of the finer parts of etiquette are now to be legally missing. How will our youngsters grow without the facility to have a good stab at diversity, just as we did? After all, the contemporary truth is the same as it was back in our time as young ladies and gentlemen down at the club, is it not? Hard liquor is essential to enhance the finer points of decorum. We are asking the lads to give up a very important part of their propriety. It is the blending of spirits at elite clubs and in fraternity basements that fosters the greatest moments of clarity! As explained, it was while bending straws down at the club when I learned about the hegemony of a diverse synergy within the fusion of the paradigm.

Whilst first reading the news of the ban on hard liquor at Williams I burst out of my chair and exclaimed, “Good God Adam no, let it not be so!”


“Legacy does not matter!” The Court recently held in a 6-3 split.



Veterans in the Academy: POSSE Veterans of the Global War. Ephblog favorite Alum and Vassar President Cappy Hill has action, not words.


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