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Diversity on Athletic Teams

The New York Times has an interesting article on amHerst and their efforts to increase diversity on their athletic teams. The article has a lot of good information about the recruiting process and the efforts that amHerst has made to find student-atheletes of color, especially in sports that are traditionally dominated by white students. I think the article presents a realistic and balanced look at what amHerst is doing. For example, they point out that amHerst has the resources to dedicate to this goal that other schools do not possess.

I think the article is worth the read but if you don’t have the time or the interest, here is the closing quote from the men’s soccer coach, “I want someone who makes us different. Because that’s how everybody gets better.” I believe he is talking about on the field and off and I applaud him and amHerst for this kind of thinking.

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Sensitivity vs. Academic Freedom

In honor of Halloween, I thought it might be interesting to look back on some controversies related to the holiday. The obvious Williams example is, “The Taco Six.”

However, the controversy I want to look at in more detail occurred at Yale in 2015. Here is the email from the wife of a College “Master,” that sparked the  controversy. Towards the end of the email she quotes her husband in making one of her main points:

“..if you don’t like a costume someone is wearing, look away, or tell them you are offended. Talk to each other. Free speech and the ability to tolerate offence are the hallmarks of a free and open society.”

Also, here is a link to an article on Vox.com that does a fair job summarizing the controversy and some of the immediate fall out. Here is a quote from the article that I thought was interesting,

“In the balance between sensitivity versus critical thinking and academic freedom, students are increasingly emphasizing the former over the latter.”

A good example of this is when a student at Yale says,

“I don’t want to debate. I want to talk about my pain.”

I had some preconceived notions about what happened at Yale but as I read the article, those changed and I became convinced that both sides had good points. For example, the Yale student is NOT talking about an academic setting, they are referring to interactions when they might go to the Master or his wife for support. In that setting, it seems perfectly reasonable to not “want to debate.”

My conclusion is that it is not an either/or choice. We can be sensitive (if someone feels a need to talk about their pain, listen and try to empathize, do NOT debate) and have academic freedom (if you disagree with a position, an action or a costume, engage with the person who holds that position).

What do you think? Can college communities be both sensitive and have academic freedom?

 

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Quick Football Update

The football team’s strong season continues. Many of the trends Whitney noted in his post at the beginning of the month have continued. The defense is strong, giving up less than 10 points a game. The offense has continued to be a power house – over 30 points a game. amHerst also is having a good season with a 4-2 record. Both teams have lost to Middlebury, who is 6-0 and seems to be headed to a conference championship. While a conference championship seems like a long shot for the Ephs, the little three title is right in front of them and more importantly, they can be happy for ever by beating amHerst on 11/9. Good luck to the team and all the athletes representing Williams this Fall!

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A Different Kind of Affirmative Action

DDF’s post on Wednesday got me thinking. I am a strong believer in the benefits that a diverse population brings to virtually any situation – from the classroom to the boardroom. I have no hesitation in extending that philosophy to include idealogical diversity in appropriate situations. This includes seeing a wealth of benefits to having a faculty with diverse political beliefs. Of course, using a “political beliefs” litmus test when hiring a professor sounds like a bad idea (and could be illegal). So, I am not sure what the remedy is to achieve a more politically diverse faculty but I know I want to get there.

Do you think it is a goal that Williams should strive for?

What would be the best way to get there?

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More on Harvard Admissions Case

Ephblog has had several posts on the Harvard Admissions case (here, here, here). Today I want to look at a specific quote from judge’s decision:

Every student Harvard admits is academically prepared for the educational challenges offered at Harvard…In other words, most Harvard students from every racial group have a roughly similar level of academic potential, although the average SAT scores and high school grades of admitted applicants from each racial group differ significantly.

The key phrase in this quote is “roughly similar level.” In the past, there has been a lot of discussion on Ephblog about Academic Ratings and the role they play in the admission process. The judge in the Harvard case and I agree that as long as the admitted student is “academically prepared,” 50 points here or there on the SAT are not that big a deal. I would wager that DDF would disagree – anyone want to take that bet?

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Shallow Provocateurs

In DDF’s “Weekend Links” post, he included an article written by Wesleyan President Michael Roth link in the Wall Street Journal. The article is a relatively short and interesting read about “why universities need affirmative action for the study of conservative, libertarian and religious ideas.” Here is one quote I would like to highlight:

We are not interested in bringing in ideologues or shallow provocateurs intent on outraging students and winning the spotlight. We want to welcome scholars with a deep understanding of traditions currently underrepresented on our campus (and on many others) and look forward to the vigorous conversations they will inspire.

This principle is something that I hope people of good faith can agree on. What do you think?

Of course, it is a much trickier question to ask, who gets to decide if some one is a “provocateur” or a “scholar”? My answer is that I trust any faculty member to decide if someone is a scholar. I do not trust students to the same degree and I am OK not giving them carte blanche to invite anyone they want to speak on campus.

Regardless of who gets to decide, I am confident that speakers will be invited that some groups will see as a “provocateur.” When that happens, what is the appropriate response? I think there are several options: protest the speaker, provide counter programming that illustrates the “provocateur’s” lack of scholarly bona fides, engage (and defeat) them in the arena of ideas, expose the nefarious motivation behind the people who invited them. However, I do would be extremely hesitant to ban the speaker or allow violent protests to keep the speaker from presenting their view.

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Elite Admissions Based on Academics Alone would be STUPID

DDF’s post from yesterday had some “interesting” data from Harvard. At the end of the post, he says “Maybe this is good policy. Maybe not.” I think it is self evident that an admissions policy based on academics alone would lead to a Harvard (or a Williams) that is a less beneficial academic environment for all involved. As I have stated in previous posts, I trust the professionals in the admissions office to pick the right students. The only academic qualification I care about is, that they can do the work. As a former teacher, I will happily take a class with students who get A’s and B’s (and maybe even a few C’s) and has other qualities that are important over a class with students who get all A’s but lacks those other important qualities. Anyone want to guess what those “other important qualities” might include?

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Title IX and Williams

In Whitney’s post earlier this week, he suggested we look at Williams policies around sexual assault and misconduct. I decided to begin to take on that assignment. As Whitney and my college GPA can attest, my first pass at an assignment does not always produce a quality result. That being said, it seems to my laymen’s eye that the procedure’s laid out are a good attempt at trying to handle a horrible situation as best as possible. I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like to be a “complainant” or a “respondent,” however, it seems like the college is laying out a good faith effort to set up a procedure that will be fair to both parties. Of course, how things are set up is only part of the equation – the actions and motivations of those involved in execution are also very important.

What do you think of the college’s procedure?

What do you think of the people responsible for the execution of that procedure?

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It is more than $27 boots…

In the comments on Whitney’s excellent post about Family Wealth at Williams, there was some discussion about a theoretical poor student and how their financial situation might impact their experience at Williams. I think DDF underestimates how hard it can be for someone from a different background and/or limited means to adjust to life at college.

Here is an interesting article from the New York Times (link) that gives some real world examples of how someone’s background can have a major impact on their student experience. I find it provides compelling reasons for schools like Williams (and amHerst) to be thoughtful, creative and thorough in providing support to students with these kinds of backgrounds.

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Things Mika Says…

Mika Brzezinski is class of 1989 and a co-host of “Morning Joe” on MSNBC. A little over 30 years ago Mika and I lived in the same dorm at Williams. These days I often start my day by watching her on TV. I thought it might be fun to occasionally quote something that Mika has said and see if that sparks an interesting conversation. Technically, the below quote is not from Mika, it is from her Dad Zbigniew Brzezinski, NSA to President Carter. However, it is on Mika’s twitter page.

“Bipartisanship helps to avoid extremes and imbalances. It causes compromises and accommodations. So let’s cooperate.” ~Zbigniew Brzezinski

This largely reflects my perspective as well. Recent political history presents evidence that this might be a bit naive. However, true that may be, I am hopeful that bipartisanship provides a way forward towards a better America.

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College Board Changes Course on use of Diversity Scores

This New York Times article reports on the College Board’s decision to “withdraw its plan” to use a “diversity score.” It is a short but interesting read. I am not in position to comment on whether the score was fair or would be useful but I certainly agree the goal (” …to provide colleges with a consistent way of judging the neighborhoods and schools that students came from”) is worthwhile.

Admissions is a complex process and the more information the committee has the better. Of course, some people (looking at you DDF) may say there is no place for this kind of info in the admissions formula but I would strongly disagree.

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Who would you admit?

In DDF’s post on Monday, he said the following: “We should accept the best students, those who did well academically in high school and are likely to do well academically at Williams. We reject 100s of AR 1s each year. We should never accept an AR 2 (or 3? or 4?) just because she is a veteran or older or has gone to a community college.”

In the comments there was some discussion about whether or not veterans and community college students should be admitted. DDF said, “I just want the same rules for everyone. Call me crazy! If you are AR 1 (and maybe 2), you get in. If not, you don’t.”

I have NO PROBLEM with the admissions team having different standards for different applicants. I trust the professionals on the team to make the nuanced judgment that a veteran who is an AR 2 (or a 3 or 4), would add a lot more to the Williams community (in and out of the classroom) than another AR 1 from a prep school or Shanghai. I also trust the professionals to keep an approrpiate balance among those two groups.

How about you? Would you admit the veteran or the community college student?

I realize that the admission process is complicated and cannot really be boiled down to this simple a question but I STRONGLY belief that Williams is a better place when the admissions team looks beyond the numbers. I do not want the 525 students who will get the highest GPA’s, I want the 525 students who can be successful at Williams individually and together make the Williams community a better place for all its members.

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SU Box Buddies

I received the email below the break the other day. Basically, it asks alumni to send a note to the current Williams student who uses that alumni’s old SU Box. This is not the first year of the program. I have never participated but I wonder if any EphBlog readers have and what their experience was. I am most interested to hear from an Eph who was on the receiving end of one of these notes.

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How Much Do You Give to Williams?

In last weeks’s post I asked Why give to Williams? This week I wanted to ask the natural follow up question – How much? My answer is, “Not much.” When I was a new graduate, I could not afford to give more than a token amount. And that is exactly what I did for many years. Eventually, my wife finally started to support me in the style in which I deserve, (please forgive this bit of an inside joke – for those who care, I have been a stay-at-home dad for the last 21 years) and I was able to up the amount to $100 annually. My wife now provides my family with a very healthy life style and we try to donate several thousand dollars a year to charities we are involved in or take a special interest in. However, my annual donation to Williams stays at the $100 level (I do up it to $250 during reunion years) because I feel Williams does not need my money. From my perspective, the college’s endowment and big money donors are an adequate source of funds to do anything the school wants to do. It is more rewarding for me to donate to organizations where my gift will have a significant impact on the charities operations over the coming year.

Fendertweed offered a different perspective in a comment on last week’s post “I’ve significantly reduced giving (especially in future plans) because I’ve seen a trend of what I and others think is benign neglect for our chosen area of support at Williams.”

What about you, how much do you give?

Fendertweed – Can you share what specific trends you have seen at the college that has changed your level of giving?
 

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Why give to Williams?

This question was inspired by the email from Maud on July 10th informing the community about how the latest capital campaign went. (full email below the break) She cited the stat that nearly 75% of alumni had contributed over the course of the 7 year campaign. I was impressed by this but was curious as to whether or not I should be. I did a quick Google search and found this article. link It has some interesting information, including the fact that Williams ranked 3rd among all schools in the country in terms of percentage of alumni who donate. (The most important fact in the article may be that we beat Amherst!)

In terms of my answer, at first, I thought it was a simple question but as I pondered my response, I realized that it had several important facets. First, Williams had a significant positive impact on me. Not only did the academic environment challenge me and help me grow as a thinker but the people I met shaped my moral and ethical development. Next, I enjoyed my time at Williams immensely! This was true in the classroom, in the dorm room and on the rugby pitch. Also, I like the idea of making some small contribution to the idea of “paying it forward.” Of course, I could point to other issues and memories but most of them could fit into these three broad categories.

What about you? Why do you give to Williams? Or not?

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All Things Eph…

I am one of the authors who volunteered to participate in DDF’s experiment. I was motivated by the idea of making Eph Blog a better place by subtraction. My goal is to post things that are interesting and informative. Also, I enjoy the comment threads when there is a respectful exchange of differing views. Therefore, I will also try to post things that will spark those kind of threads.

A little background on myself: Multiple members of my family also attended Williams and I have already attended my 25th reunion. I loved my time at Williams even though I did not take full advantage of everything it had to offer.

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