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Jonathan Kravis ’99 lands on his feet

One of the highest profile Ephs in the Trump Administration legal battles is Jonathan Kravis ’99, who resigned from the Justice Department when upper management there overruled line prosecutors during the sentencing phase of Roger Stone’s trial.  According to an article in the Washington Post, Mr. Kravis, will be joining the DC office of a California-based firm, Munger, Tolles, and Olson.  According to the firm’s website:

At Munger, Tolles & Olson, Mr. Kravis will leverage his government service and courtroom experience while representing clients in complex high-stakes civil litigation and white collar work, including grand jury investigations. He brings deep white collar experience to the firm’s Washington office, which opened in 2016 with the arrival of former U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr.

Mr. Kravis appears to be a very capable and well connected attorney.  Any Eph entangled in a complicated white-collar investigation would do well to consider calling him for help (though be prepared for a big bill!)

Note – An astute reader noted that Mr. Kravis is class of ’99, so I have corrected the title of this post, as well as the text.

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Chap Petersen ’90 versus the Governor

My friend and classmate – Virginia State Senator Chap Petersen (D) – filed a lawsuit today on behalf of several businesses alleging that Virginia Governor Ralph Northam does not have authority to maintain the business-related restrictions for as long as he has:

Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax City, is representing two business owners in lawsuits against Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, over the governor’s COVID-19 executive orders.

Linda Park, a restaurant owner in Fredericksburg, and Jon Tigges, a wedding venue owner in Northern Virginia, are suing Northam over the restrictions he put in place in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Representing them is Petersen, a centrist Democrat and lawyer who has been outspoken against the restrictions…

The lawsuit, filed in federal court, said Northam went beyond his authority as governor and violated Tigges’ constitutional rights, specifically a clause in the Fifth Amendment that says a person shouldn’t be deprived of “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

“The governor’s action was taken under color of state law and has been enforced by officials in his administration,” the complaint says. “It is plainly unconstitutional.”

A separate lawsuit from Tigges and Park, filed with the Supreme Court of Virginia, challenges the fact that the General Assembly was not part of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Very interesting place for Chap to be, politically.  He definitely seems to be on the far right-hand edge of the Democratic party these days.

 

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Maud Speaks

UPDATED:

I couldn’t listen in on the call, but abl did and kindly posted a summary in the comments.  I’ve reposted that summary here so that it is more widely seen.  Thank you abl!

*A decision will be made re next year by July;
*Maud has several committees working simultaneously on contingencies, to help Williams be in a position to make as good of a decision as possible based on as up-to-date information as possible;
*One option would be to do winter term in September and to shift everything else back accordingly;
*It sounds like it’s highly likely that there will be some online instruction happening under any scenario (for immunocompromised students who can’t go to campus, if nothing else);
*It doesn’t sound like there have been any layoffs/furloughs, and it sounds like Williams is optimistic about being able to avoid any in the future;
* Williams is financially well positioned to weather this. It sounds like a lot of schools, including a number in Williams’ peer group (broadly speaking), are not.

I received this email yesterday:

Greetings from Williamstown, Alumni Volunteers.

President Maud Mandel is holding an alumni phonecast tomorrow, Tuesday, April 28 at 2pm ET. She will be joined by Provost, Dukes Love; the conversation and question and answer period will be moderated by Tom Gardner ’79, President of the Society of Alumni. As a volunteer for Williams, you are automatically included in this opportunity to hear from college leadership. You will receive a phone call shortly before 2pm ET. You can simply decline the call if you’re not able to take part. You can also call (877) 251-0785 at any point between 2-3pm ET and join the call. We will provide a recording of the call for listening at your convenience at a later time.

If you have any questions for Maud and Dukes you’ll be able to ask on the call or you can share your question in advance by using the form here.

As always, thanks for all you do for Williams. We’re thinking of you now more than ever.

Best wishes,

Brooks

Brooks Foehl ’88

Curious to see what Maud has to say.  I will try report on what I hear.

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COVID-19 in the Williamstown Community

Most of the posts and discussions on EphBlog about the coronavirus and COVID-19 have (understandably) focused on the College.  But Williamstown is more than just Williams, and issues relating to COVID-19 are facing the broader community right now.  I saw this article about testing the staff at Williamstown Commons, a nursing home and rehabilitation facility located just east of the College off of Rt. 2.  The article explains that the entire staff of the facility was tested, and that 5 staff members, who were asymptomatic, tested positive:

With state testing guidelines loosening to acknowledge asymptomatic cases, all staff at Williamstown Commons have now been tested, revealing five so far without symptoms.

Some 73 residents have tested positive, according to Lisa Gaudet, communications vice president for Berkshire Healthcare Systems, which owns the nursing home. Of the 73, 15 have died, 17 have recovered, 35 remain in the nursing home’s COVID-19 unit, and six are at the hospital receiving higher-level care.

Test results for an additional 15 staffers are still pending, Gaudet said, and results for 102 more came back negative.

The results here show the risks of infection which come with dense living conditions, as would be experienced in a nursing home or a residential college setting.  Large numbers of residents at Williamstown Commons are infected (73), and at least 5 staff members are as well.  Its not at all clear to how it will be possible to avoid significant infection rates, particularly amongst students, when the College reopens.  On the plus side, from this study so far 102 staff members did not test positive, and they are likely in fairly close contact with infected persons, though hopefully using protective gear and fairly stringent protocols to avoid infection, protocols which might be difficult for students to follow every day.

This kind of data is interesting as the College considers whether to reopen for the fall semester.

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No Director’s Cup this year for Williams

The Director’s Cup – designed to recognize the top overall collegiate sports programs in the US – has been awarded for NCAA Division III programs since the 1995-96 academic year.  So prior to this year, it had been awarded 24 times to a Division III college.

Williams has won the award 22 times.

That is an almost unbelievable statistic.  Regardless of what anyone might think of the Director’s Cup, how its awarded, or what it signifies, to win it 22 of 24 times is an amazing achievement.  This long-sustained run has been carried forward by generations of students, coaches, and administrators.  The only two years that Williams did not win were 1997-98 (when UC-San Diego won and Williams finished 4th) and 2011-12 (when Middlebury won and Williams finished 3rd).

But Williams will not win this year.  With the cancellation of essentially all spring sports, and the failure to complete the playoffs for many winter sports, the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA), which administers the competition, voted to cancel the competition for the 2019-20 academic year.  Through the fall sports season, Williams was in 10th place, approximately 238 points behind Johns Hopkins.  Would the Ephs had rallied to win a 23rd Director’s Cup?  Impossible to say, of course, but last year Williams finished the fall season in 7th place, 208 points behind Hopkins, so its certainly possible that the Ephs might have won again this year.  Without a detailed breakdown of the remaining sports and how good the various Williams teams were, it would seem bold to bet against Williams, based on past history.

In any event, Williams will be the defending champion for the 2020-21 year (assuming that the season takes place as planned), with a chance to make it 23 of 25 years as the winners!

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Adam Schlesinger ’89 passes away from COVID-19

Adam Schlesinger ’89 passed away from COVID-19 on April 1st in Poughkeepsie, NY.   Schlesinger enjoyed great commercial success with Fountains of Wayne, but also played in numerous other bands, and won 3 Emmy awards and a Grammy award for songs used in television.  As written in an article reporting his death:

Schlesinger’s career extended well beyond his work in bands. He had a hand in many of the songs that populated the critically beloved TV series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and he won three Emmys — one for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and two, both with David Javerbaum, for co-writing songs performed in Tony Awards telecasts. With Javerbaum, Schlesinger was nominated for two Tonys (both for 2008’s Cry-Baby) and won a Grammy for A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!.

A versatile songwriter with a gift for straddling genres and musical eras, Schlesinger wrote frequently for film, with credits ranging from three songs in the romantic comedy Music and Lyrics to the Oscar-nominated title track to Tom Hanks’ 1996 film That Thing You Do!.

I was at Williams at the same time as Schlesinger, but I never knew him, or his Fountains of Wayne partner Chris Collingwood.  I wonder if they ever played publicly (separately or together) while they were in the Purple Valley?  Do any readers know?

Schlesinger must have been one of the better known Eph musicians/artists in recent decades, and he will be missed.  Condolences to his family and friends.

 

UPDATE: My friends Ellen Waggett and Tim Sullivan, both (infinitely) more musically and artistically gifted than me, have both posted on Facebook about their friendships with Schlesinger while we were all students during the late 1980’s.  This news will obviously will hit some pretty hard on a personal level.

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Decision Day

The Williams Admissions department will be releasing regular decision admissions decisions today, though its not clear at what time.  Williams seems to be releasing its decisions later than many of its peer institutions (I know that Amherst, Bates, Swarthmore, Carleton, Grinnell, Smith, Haverford, Pomona, and Colby have already notified applicants), but I think a few days before “Ivy day.”  I wonder how many kids are out there who really, really want to go to Williams but are still waiting to hear whether they can.  Presumably many applicants for whom Williams was a clear first choice applied early and are in now.  I suppose some of them may have been deferred, and they might be waiting anxiously. Others may already be in their first choice, and so are not terribly anxious about the Williams decision.

Its possible, of course, that given current circumstances, plenty of applicants may not care at all one way or the other.  An Italian friend of mine, who lives in the most heavily affected (and infected) part of Italy, sent me the following note, which to me was simultaneously encouraging and chilling:

We and our families and collegues are all safe and healthy and hope to stay that way.
We are all working from home since the situation is really difficult. We have not yet reached the top of the number of people infected and the number of deaths each day.
Please take all the measures required to avoid that you find yourselves in the same situation.

So clearly selective college admissions cannot be at the top of too many people’s priority lists right now.  But I know that in my own house, my high school senior kid, who is very aware of what COVID-19 can do, is still planning on heading off (somewhere) to college next fall, so I’m pretty sure many (most?) Williams applicants are still interested in the decisions being announced today.

Best of luck to all!  Hope that those who want to become part of the class of 2024 get that chance!

UPDATE: Decisions were released at about 6:30 pm or so on the 24th.

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Reunions?

While clearly not the most important question facing the College at the moment (this discusses what I think is the most important question right now), the reunion question is important and could have some long-term implications for Williams, perhaps moreso than for many other colleges and universities.  Specifically, while the College has not yet cancelled the 2020 reunions, I think it is pretty likely that they will not take place.  Registration for reunions is currently “on hold until further notice,” and I don’t know how much planning is currently happening on campus (or by class volunteers).

If all of this year’s reunions are cancelled, will the affected classes (the ‘5 and ‘0 graduating years) simply skip their reunions this cycle?  This would mean 10 years between reunions for these classes.  (I’m ignoring the 50-year+ classes which, I think get invited every year).  I think that would have a long-term, measurable impact on giving from those classes, although probably not enough to really matter to the College.  Most troubling, I suspect, would the cancellation of the 25th and 50th reunions for the classes of 1995 and 1970.  The 25th and 50th reunion classes typically give the largest class gifts each year.  Over the past 12 years (dating back to the 25th Reunion of the Class of 1980), the 25th Reunion class gift has averaged just shy of $7 million (with individual classes ranging from $3.6-$13.6 million).  Over the past 7 years (data can be found at the links on this page), the 50th Reunion class gift has averaged over $17 million (with a low of $9.7 million and a high of $41 million).  The 50th Reunion class gifts count everything given between the 40th and 50th reunions, so perhaps cancelling the reunion won’t impact the overall gift as much, but I’m sure that smart people in the Alumni Development Office are trying to estimate what the impacts would be.

Could the College reschedule everyone for next summer?  I don’t know whether there would be room for that many classes to have reunions at once.  Or perhaps do the 2021 reunions and 2020 reunions on back to back weekends next summer?  What do you think makes the most sense? Will skipping out on a reunion cycle dampen alumni enthusiasm for Williams?

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Ephs at the forefront of a new American conservatism

Saw this article come across my email about Ephs Mike Needham and Oren Cass launching a new group called American Compass that aims to “reorient the right.”  As explained in the article:

Running as a populist, [Donald] Trump challenged Republican orthodoxy on free trade and tapped into the disaffection of blue-collar workers in the heartland who have been left behind by the growing, but uneven, economy. For the most part, however, he said conservative elites in the think tank world have not followed suit.  “The goal, long term, is to think about what the post-Trump right-of-center is going to be,” said Cass. “One of the reasons we think this is such an important project is that, even four-plus years after Trump emerged on the scene, there really has been very little new and interesting ferment in the right of center. It’s pretty much the same set of institutions and publications and so forth. … By and large, the establishment is what it was. And it seems to be keeping its head down and sort of hoping that everything can just go back post-Trump to the way that it was pre-Trump. To the extent that the future should sound different, and certainly I think it should, now is the time to start building the institutions and efforts that are going to make that a reality.”

Cass and Needham are not particularly recent grads (’05 and ’04, I believe), but its pretty amazing to me that leading conservative intellectuals have come out of Williams in (relatively) recent years.  Are the next Cass and Needham analogs currently in the Purple Valley?  Perhaps the angst about lack of ideological diversity is somewhat overblown.  I doubt they would have time, but it would be great if one of them would come to Williams and give a talk about their new organization.

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Williamstown Apothecary

Apparently the College is getting into the pharmacy business.  As detailed in iBerkshires.com:

 Berkshire Health Systems and Williams College have announced the development of a new retail pharmacy in Williamstown, expanding access to prescriptions, over-the-counter medications and many other products, in close proximity to the Williams campus.

I would guess that the vast majority of customers for the store will be Williams-connected people, simply because they are the people with the most convenient access to Spring Street.  Hopefully it will be able to generate enough business to stay in business.  As detailed by recent grad last fall, for some students having a pharmacy within walking distance will be a big upgrade:

I wasted so much time, up to my very last week at Williams, finding solutions to what should be the very simple issue of picking up prescriptions at Rite Aid. There’s prescription delivery to the health center, but the health center is open fewer hours than Rite Aid is; moreover, prescription restrictions exist. I remember one particular situation where I was prescribed a new medication that was restricted in such a way that I had to pick it up in X days, and they would not let me have it delivered; I had to pick it up in person. So I walked in single-digit weather to Rite Aid, taking a couple of freezing hours during a particularly busy week. Not a life-threatening situation, no, but one that, after a few times, definitely found me wishing I went to a school that wasn’t so darn remote.

The new store will be a big help to students like recent grad.  However, they are not counting solely on filling prescriptions to make money:

“The Williamstown Apothecary will carry a variety of vitamins, supplements and medications that are common to pharmacies, but also will have several items of interest to the college community,” said David MacHaffie, BHS’s director of retail and specialty services. “We will also have a selection of herbal medications and teas, flower essence tinctures, a line of high-quality skin care products, local organic hand-made soaps, and essential oils and diffusers, among other items of interest.”

I would love to know what kinds of items are “of interest to the college community.”  I would guess it would include over-the-counter birth control and pregnancy prevention products, but there are probably other things I’m not thinking of.

I doubt the College cares much about offending or competing with local pharmacy chains like Rite Aid, but I wonder how much of a hit the new store will be on the sales at other local pharmacies.

Hopefully the new apothecary (I love the name!) will be a big hit for everyone.

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EphMatch

As long-time EphBlog readers know, there is a school of thought which holds that the primary purpose of Winter Study is to fall in love.  While not all agree, apparently some enterprising students at Williams are now trying to play the role of match-maker.  As reported in the Record, EphMatch has gone live on WSO.  EphMatch is not supposed to be strictly a dating site, according to one of its developers:

who described EphMatch as an app meant more for matching than dating. “[It is] more of a way to connect with fellow students, for friendships and, sure, relationships too,” he said. “There are plenty of people on EphMatch who have stable, healthy relationships and are just looking to be on there, just to check it out.

This sounds pretty healthy to me.  While Williams is small, its not hard to get silo-ed into particular social groups and have a difficult time meeting “new” people.  So to the extent that EphMatch facilitates new friendships between people with common interests (“want to talk about the last season of Survivor?”), it seems like a good thing.  On-line matching of interests happens everywhere now, so why not at Williams too.  If it helps to bring Ephs together, I’m all for it.  Students seem to agree:

In general, students said they found that EphMatch to be a good way to connect with peers who they might not otherwise interact with. “Am I going to find true love on EphMatch?” Maya Principe ’23 asked. “Who knows — maybe. Probably not. Am I going to have fun seeing all my friends’ first-day-of-school pictures? Absolutely.”

Whom might I have met and developed a friendship with but never ran across while I was at Williams?  I’ll never know, of course.  But if EphMatch can help current students, then I’m all for it.  And if it results in an Eph wedding, then so much the better!

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Visiting Williams

I am bringing my older son to visit Williams at the end of February.  It is a college he is interested in, and he has been there before (I brought him to my 25th reunion 5 years ago, and some earlier reunions as well), but not since he has become fully invested in the college search process.  Unfortunately, the timing of our trip means we will be in Williamstown on a Saturday afternoon, and the Admissions Office appears to be closed, and no tours are offered.  So that means that yours truly is going to play the role of tour guide, and I would love to be able to provide information which is pertinent to today’s students, rather than having him be forced to listen to old war stories.

What kinds of things do current students and recent grads suggest I show him and tell him?  Presumably we can’t get into any of the dorms, but he stayed in Mission Park when we were there 5 years ago, so at least he’ll have an idea about that.  Other than it being the greatest college in the world, what makes Williams special, as compared with similar schools, that he might not get from the website?  If he gets in and decides to go, should he try to take a tutorial as a freshman?

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Tenure Decisions Published

The College announced yesterday that 7 faculty members had been awarded tenure:

Michelle Apotsos, art;

Corinna Campbell, music;

Charles Doret, physics;

Susan Godlonton, economics;

Leo Goldmakher, mathematics;

Pamela Harris, mathematics;

Greg Phelan, economics

Being awarded tenure as a faculty member at any U.S. college or university is quite an achievement.  It is even more impressive at a place like Williams.  Kudos to each of the new tenured faculty.

In browsing through the individual links above, I noticed an interesting mix of backgrounds for newly tenured professors, including one born in South Africa, a Mexican-American mathematician, and an economics professor who spent three years as a proprietary trader for D.E. Shaw LLC.  Also, Prof. Doret is a Williams grad (Class of 2002).  I’m hopeful that this group will bring an good mixture of thoughts and perspectives to the Williams community during their (hopefully long) time in the Purple Valley.

Have any readers had any of these Professors, or know anything about them?

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New Year’s Eve in Williamstown

  Like most (I think) Williams students, I have never been in Williamstown for New Year’s Eve.  The dorms were almost always closed over the holiday break.  I wonder what kinds of public activities (if any) there are.  Can any local Ephs tell us what is fun to do to ring in the New Year in Williamstown?

I saw that the Williams Inn has a New Year’s Eve package.  Could be fun, I suppose.  Has anyone eaten at the The Barn Kitchen & Bar? The menu looks decent.  Here is the description of the package:

There’s nothing better than ringing in the New Year in the Berkshires! The Williams Inn is offering the ideal getaway for those looking to start 2020 in a relaxing and refreshed way. This package includes a 3-course prix fixe dinner for two at The Barn Kitchen & Bar, an in-room sound machine for a good night’s sleep, breakfast for two at The Barn Kitchen & Bar, and late checkout to allow for a relaxing morning at the inn.

Is the Williams Inn so noisy that a sound machine is necessary to sleep?  That is surprising to me, but maybe it shouldn’t be.

Happy New Year to all Ephs and EphBlog readers!  Best wishes for 2020!

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Tradition and EphBlog

I am with my wife’s family for Christmas Eve and Christmas. This will be the 27th year in a row that I have done this, more than half of my life.  Given that I went for the first 23 years of my life without ever really being involved in Christmas events (save for going to Midnight Mass one year at the Vatican with the Pope presiding) and spent many Christmas Day’s either skiing, going to the movies, or eating Chinese food (or some combination thereof), its been surprising to me how I have embraced the family traditions of wife’s family for this holiday.  There is the Christmas Eve meal shared with anywhere from 18-25 people, with a variation on the 12 fishes for dinner (we usually end up with lots of different shrimp dishes, lobster tails, and crab legs), and the opening of some gifts on Christmas Eve.  The reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, and the reading of the family Christmas poem written by my wife (she has done it for almost 30 years, but we have copies of the poem going all the way back to 1969) are also a highlight.  In recent years, its also become a tradition to see one of my best friends from Williams at Christmas, as he comes to Long Island to be with his family as well.  Some years we’ve seen movies, and some years we have lunch.

What does this have to do with “All Things Eph”?  I can’t remember when I first started reading EphBlog.  My best guess is that it was sometime in the 2002-2004 time frame.  But over the years, it has become one of my traditions, and one of the ways I interact most regularly with other Ephs.  When I was asked to be a regular contributor this past year, I agreed not because I am a prolific blogger, but because I value the connection that EphBlog offers to the College, and I want it to thrive as a place for Ephs to meet and interact (ideally in a civil and interesting way).  It turns out that trying to blog on a regular basis (even once a week) is not easy.  It makes the effort that DDF and others have put in to Ephblog even more impressive.

In any event, best wishes to all Ephs and Ephblog readers for 2020 and beyond!  I am looking forward to continuing the conversation.

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Getting married at Williams

Many (most?) Ephs get married at some point in their lives.  According to Williams Magazine, almost 22% of post-1972 Ephs were “married to or partnered with” another Eph.  (I’m not certain what “partnered with” means exactly, but that probably doesn’t matter right now).  That seems like a pretty high percentage to me, but is not terribly surprising.  As we have heard in the past, Williams offers plenty of chances to fall in love, and the experiences that all Ephs share can also make for common interests after leaving the Purple Valley.

So once an Eph has found the right person, particularly if that person is another Eph, why not tie the knot (say that 10 times in a row!) at Williams?  I did not realize this, but the College has a whole system for running on-campus weddings.  Details can be found here.  Weddings can take place either at Thompson Memorial Chapel or the Jewish Religious Center.  Interestingly, according to the website, only weddings where both parties are Jewish can take place at the Jewish Religious Center.  The other interesting limitation is that only religious ceremonies can take place at either venue. Ephs who want a civil marriage ceremony are out of luck, at least at these two locations.  I wonder if Williams could (would?) make other locations available to the non-religious.

Did any EphBlog readers who are married to other Ephs give any consideration to getting married at Williams?  If you thought about it, what were some of the factors which ultimately helped you make your decision?

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Kudos to the Record for its recent article on the opioid crisis in Berkshire County

Very interesting article in the Record about how the opioid problem is affecting and being handled in Berkshire County.  As stated in the article’s lead passage, opioid related deaths have skyrocketed in recent years:

Over the past decade, Western Massachusetts has been devastated by a nationwide opioid crisis that has proved especially calamitous for the rural northeast. According to a study published by Brandeis University on Sep. 6, Berkshire County experienced a 48 percent increase in opioid-related deaths between 2017 and 2018, and Western Massachusetts as a whole faced a 73 percent increase.

The article gives some general background on the problem nationally, and then goes into details about treatment and prevention programs in Berkshire County.

I was very impressed by the level of detail and depth of research shown in the article.  The author (Samuel Wolf) clearly spent a great deal of time researching the facts before writing, getting long quotes from a variety of people involved in helping those with opioid related problems, including Susan Cross ’88.  I highly recommend that you read the story.  My only (mild) criticism is that I was hoping there would be a section on the prevalence of opioids at Williams.  I would guess that there is at least some opioid abuse at the College, and it would have added to the story if that information could have been researched and explored a little.

Regardless, this excellent article continues a trend at the Record of very professional looking journalism, on topics as diverse as party-related tensions on Hoxsey Street, and new turf fields at Mt. Greylock HS.  The writers are getting out and talking to people to find things out.  I wonder whether Mr. Wolf, and perhaps others at the Record, are thinking about journalism careers.  The work product they have been putting out speaks very well for the current team.

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Thanksgiving on Campus

    As we enter Thanksgiving week, I’ve been thinking a lot about college kids and Thanksgiving.  I suspect its because my oldest son is a senior in high school, so this will be our last “normal” Thanksgiving as a family.  Depending on where he ends up at school next year, its quite possible he won’t have Thanksgiving with us in 2020.

I have essentially no recollection about Thanksgiving breaks when I was at Williams.  For my freshman and sophomore years, my parents lived in the Washington DC area, so I suspect I went home for Thanksgiving, but I really can’t remember it one way or the other.  Moreover, for my freshman year, I didn’t have a car at Williams at Thanksgiving, so I don’t know how I would have gone home.  For my junior and senior years, my parents were living in Belgium, so I’m sure I didn’t go there for the short break.  But I have no memory of what I did.  I doubt I stayed on campus (I certainly don’t remember having done so).  Perhaps I visited relatives in Holyoke,MA? Or went home with a friend who lived (relatively) close to Williamstown?  I find it strange that I really can’t remember, because Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.

In any event, Williams has plenty of “programming” for the Thanksgiving break.  Students are free to stay in their own rooms during the break (though they have to notify the College that they will be there an use a door tag to show that they are around).  I think this obviously makes sense.  I imagine that there must be large numbers of students who can’t or don’t “go home” for the relatively short Thanksgiving break.  Aside from the all of the international students (probably 150-200 total), Californians make up the third largest group on campus (after New York and Massachusetts).  While its possible to go to California (or overseas) for a 5 day break, its not very practical.  Some of these students will go home with their friends, but some (many) will stay on campus.

I imagine it might be an interesting experience to be at Williams when it is (relatively) empty of students.

The College also takes care of feeding those on campus during the break, but you’re out of luck if you want breakfast.  The only dining hall open is at Mission Park, and they serve brunch from 11:30 to 1:00 every day and dinner from 5:00 to 6:30, except Thanksgiving Day itself, when the only meal served is Thanksgiving dinner from 11:00-1:30 (presumably so that dining hall employees can have Thanksgiving with their families), and students are encouraged to take out food to eat later.  This meal schedule seems to me to pretty reasonable.  Does anyone disagree?

The Dean’s Office offers to “coordinat[e] for local hosts & students interested in sharing the holiday meal together in local homes.”  I wonder how many students take them up on this.  Apparently the Davis Center also offers “a holiday meal” on Thanksgiving, but I can’t find out any more information about that right now.  I think its a little odd that the Davis Center event is not more widely publicized, but I suspect that it may be geared specifically towards students identifying with some of the affinity groups on campus, and may be advertised in a less general way for that purpose.

The other interesting thing I saw was that the College offers “a FREE Black Friday shopping trip via a 56-passenger bus to Albany.”  I would love to know how many students take advantage of that!

Best wishes for a safe and peaceful Thanksgiving to all!

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College Council to restructure?

In a post a few weeks ago, I wrote about on-going discussions about the future of the College Council and the possibility of paying College Council members.  Those discussions have progressed and, as discussed in this article in the Williams Record,  College Council is taking concrete steps to implement changes:

At its Nov. 12 meeting, College Council (CC) passed a resolution to form a committee charged with drafting a proposal for a new student government. The resolution, authored by CC co-presidents Ellie Sherman ’20 and Carlos Cabrera-Lomelí ’20, passed by a vote of 11-9.

The resolution sets out guidelines for a “Student Government Task Force,” which will meet over Winter Study in order to draft the proposal. It will present the finished product to the student body by the end of February.

If there are students willing to take the time to carefully consider how best to structure and run the College Council, this is an excellent idea, and a very good Winter Study-type project.  I don’t know when the College Council was last restructured, but in my opinion its a good idea to revisit the structure periodically.  Aside from simply taking a fresh look at things that people take for granted, the student body turns over every few years, and it makes sense for current students to take ownership of an institution designed to be run by them for their collective benefit.

The committee is apparently likely to be structured so that the vast majority of its members will be representative of other campus groups:

CC will deliberate further on the membership of the Task Force next week, but it will tentatively include three representatives from the Minority Coalition (MinCo); two from CC; one from the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC); one from club athletics; one from a performance-based registered student organization (RSO); one from a faith-based RSO; one from a community service-based RSO; one from the Williams Outing Club (WOC); and two at-large student representatives. Additionally, CC will appoint two College staff members to serve on the Task Force, but without voting or decision-making power.

While having “representative-type” members has some advantages, the proposed structure appears to reserve 9 of 11 slots for such members, leaving almost no room for students who are not there to represent particular types of student groups.  I am guessing that such groups take up a large proportion of College Council’s time, but I not crazy about the idea about having those groups so directly involved in reshaping the institution.  Aside from the obvious problem, for example, of whether one athlete can be said to adequately represent all student athletes for this purpose, why are non-community serviced-based RSO’s (as an example) not given a seat at the table?  If it were up to me, I would have more at-large representatives, and make sure that the committee takes time to meet with the various groups while they formulate their proposal.

On the other hand, if part of the point is to give students ownership of the instutition and its organization and structure (and I think it is), perhaps having alums tell them what to do is counter-productive.

Finally, the article states that members of the committee can either have this be their Winter Study course, or they can receive an $800-$1000 stipend.  I’m less bothered by this than I thought I would be.  While I think having the committee members do this as their Winter Study course is preferable, I can see where some students might not want to give up whatever they are already scheduled to take, and could use some extra money.

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Former Williams Football Coach is a head coach again

  Former Williams head football coach Aaron Kelton was in the news recently, taking over as Howard University’s interim football coach after Howard head football coach Ron Prince was placed on administrative leave:

In his first season running the Bison’s football program, Prince had reportedly been accused of abusive behavior by at least one parent of a Howard player. Howard is “committed to completing our internal investigation of the allegations involving concerns about the football program,” Athletic Director Kery Davis said Wednesday in a statement. Davis added that Director of Football Operations Aaron Kelton will serve as the football team’s interim coach “until further notice.” “Howard University is committed to ensuring our athletic programs reflect Howard’s core mission and values,” Davis said, “and to ensuring the well-being and success of all student athletes.”

I think its rare for a coach to come back from administrative leave like this (but I don’t know for sure, so informed correction welcome), so I would guess that Howard will be looking for a new coach for next season.  If so, I wonder if Kelton will get a reasonably opportunity to get the head job.  Based on this very interesting article from 2018, Kelton is definitely interested in being a head coach again:

There is no telling how long Kelton will remain on the Morgan State staff. One thing is for sure, he wants to have his own program again at some point.

“My time will come, and I’ll get back into it. Right now is not the time for me,” he said. “I’m enjoying football, continuing to be a football coach and a football fan.”

Based on the 2018 article, it appears that Kelton did not burn any bridges when he left Williamstown, despite the fact that (as far as I know), his departure was not entirely voluntary:

Things did not end well for Aaron Kelton in Williamstown, but the veteran coach did tell me that he is keeping an eye on how Mark Raymond’s Ephs are doing.

“I have a ton of players who we are regularly in touch through social media. I do follow the teams,” he said. “I wrote a note to the [Williams Sideline] Quarterbacks Club. I just wanted to let them know thank you for the time they have given me.”

I wonder whether Kelton has hired former Eph players as assistant coaches since his departure from Williams, or former players from his other coaching stops.  In any event, best of luck to Coach Kelton as he finishes up Howard’s season and progresses on in his career.

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Paying College Council?

A recent article by the Williams Record discusses a recent town hall-style meeting discussing the future of the College Council:

College Council (CC) held a town hall in the Dodd House dining room on the evening of Oct. 22 as part of an internal review in the wake of a contentious spring semester. Last spring, CC faced criticism for its hesitance to fund Black Previews, its decision not to recognize the Williams Initiative for Israel and its low-engagement election in which Papa Smurf was elected as a representative for the Class of 2021. The organization also faced a one-semester drop in approval from 22 percent to 7 percent, according to a May 2019 Record survey.

According to the article, a number of proposals were discussed, including complete disbandment of the Council and allocation of its funding functions to the Office of Student Life.  I thought one of the more interesting ideas was to pay College Council members:

As an alternative to greater administrative power, several students suggested compensating CC or Financial Committee members. “There’s a lot of unpaid student labor on campus,” Morgan Whaley ’20 said. “For the administration to see institutions like CC or JAs [Junior Advisors] or housing as such integral parts of the tradition of this college, but then also not [care] about the students who actually run those, I think is problematic.”

I don’t agree that College Council members should be paid because they are providing “unpaid labor” to College.  In many areas of life, people volunteer their time for the betterment of their communities, both private organizations and public commissions.  Different people volunteer for all kinds of reasons:  wanting to help others, wanting to have influence on policy or programs, wanting to network in hopes of getting benefits down the road, wanting to build a resume, etc.  College is a good time for members of the community to get into the habit of making these judgments about what is a good use of their time.  In the case of College Council, it appears as though there is little interest in its work in the student body as a whole.  This should allow those who are interested in influencing how it works the opportunity to get involved and have a real say in what happens.

What do you think?  Is the College taking advantage of students by not paying them?  Or are the non-monetary rewards sufficient in your view?

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Williams College Cemetery

Today is Halloween, so a post about a graveyard seems to be in order (h/t EphProf!).

Interesting article in this week’s Record on the College Cemetery, which is located just outside Mission Park.  I had no idea about this particular perk offered to some College faculty and staff:

“Guess where I’m going to be buried,” said Professor of Philosophy Joe Cruz ’91 to his cognitive science class as the last few students filed into the classroom. “The cemetery next to Mission.”

Cruz is one of dozens of current faculty members who will be buried in the campus cemetery, an opportunity afforded to select members of the College community including, according to the faculty handbook, “the immediate lineal descendants of those currently interred there, trustees, the president, the treasurer, the college librarian, senior staff, and those with emeritus or retired status in any of the above categories; tenured faculty and faculty emeriti; and the spouses or domestic partners and unmarried children of all the above.”

I especially liked this quote from Prof. Gene Bell-Villada, who noted that, with respect to the cemetary perk, ““There’s a kind of a joke that goes around the faculty, we call it the final perk.”

The rugby team used to hold beer practice in what we termed “the graveyard” during my freshman and sophomore years.  Eventually, the College chased us out, sending us down past the football practice fields.  In hindsight, this was clearly the correct move, so I was a little surprised by this quote from the article:

For students, who are neither eligible for burial in the cemetery nor frequently faced with the question of where they will be buried, the cemetery often serves as a hangout spot after dark. Regina Fink ’22 planned a 20th birthday celebration in the cemetery, calling it “a funeral for my teenage years.”

Lydia Duan ’21, who is a junior advisor, said she might think twice about being buried there herself knowing what students get up to in the cemetery. “If I were a tenured professor, I would not want to be buried there because I wouldn’t want stoned frosh dancing over my dead body.”

The article also includes interesting discussions on the significance of allowing tenured faculty to be buried there.  I recommend reading the entire article.

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Reunion Musings

I’ve been getting emails recently about our upcoming 30-year reunion.  The people that organize the event deserve major kudos, as it can’t be easy keeping all of the trains running on time and to everyone’s satisfaction.  I remember our 15-year reunion when were based at Tyler (and boy was it hot!), and there were tons and tons of little kids, so the organizers made sure we had plenty of milk available for the kids to drink (thanks Megan!).

This will be our 6th reunion, and I’ve managed to make it to each one, except our 10-year, which conflicted with a trial I was involved in.  I make a significant effort every 5 years to go, because its the only time I can (or at least do) see many of my friends from Williams.  I am Facebook friends with many, but don’t often manage to see many of them.  It always surprises me (in a good way!) how easy it is, and how much fun I have, talking and spending time with people I haven’t spoken with in 5 years.  It seems as though we just pick up right where we left off at the last reunion, finding out what has been going on with our lives, and comparing notes as we “grow up.”

I’ve usually tried to stay on campus, though for recent reunions I’ve noticed more and more people staying elsewhere.  The rooms aren’t super comfortable (especially when its really hot out and the upper floors of the dorms feel like ovens), but I like being right there.  I’ll be curious to see how many people come this year.  I’m sure the College has statistics about average attendance for each of the years (5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, etc.), but I’m not aware that they are published anywhere.

While poking around on the Williams website, I did come across a document entitled “Reunion Code of Conduct,”  which starts off with:

Purpose

Williams College believes our community should be truly open for everyone. As such, we are committed to providing a friendly, safe, and welcoming environment for all, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, ethnicity, race, or religion.

This code of conduct outlines our expectations for participant behavior as well as the consequences for unacceptable behavior while on campus.

We invite all staff, volunteers, attendees, local community members, and other participants to help us realize a safe and positive Reunion for everyone.

The documents describes in some detail “Expected behavior,” “Unacceptable behavior,” “Consequences of Unacceptable Behavior,” as well as drug and alcohol policies.  I wonder if there was a specific incident which prompted the creation of this document.  I know there was at least one incident involving alcohol and possible sexual assault/misconduct in the past, but I don’t know if this had become a pervasive problem every year, or whether the single incident prompted creation of this document/policy.

In any event, I strongly recommend that everyone attend their reunions. You won’t regret it!

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Future of JV Sports?

Interesting article in this week’s Williams Record on the virtual disapperance and possible extinction of JV sports at Williams.

Currently, only three JV teams remain: men’s JV soccer, men’s JV basketball and women’s JV basketball. This fall, the longstanding women’s JV soccer program was converted into a physical education class, after years of difficulties with participation and finding other teams to compete against. The women’s JV lacrosse team underwent the same transition last spring, but was ultimately cancelled after receiving no sign-ups. There are no plans to bring back the program this spring, [Athletic Director Lisa] Melendy said.

While I doubt many students get excited about going to see JV sporting events, I still think its a little sad for those students who would like to compete and be on a team, but cannot participate because they are not good enough for the varsity team.  There apparently are a number of causes for the decline in JV sports.  Happily, from my perspective, budgetary concerns are not among those reasons.  First, there are fewer students interested in playing on the JV team.  According to AD Melendy:

This decrease is, in part, a result of the change in student population that has occurred on campuses in recent decades, Melendy said. “We recruit more broadly now, for diversity of all kinds and for diversity of experience,” she explained. “The student body looks different than it did. I think we have fewer students for whom that was a central part of their high school experience. They did a lot of other things.”

I am guessing that there was never much recruiting for JV sports, but those spots were filled by students who enjoyed those sports and who could play at a high enough level.  One of my best friends at Williams was such a student.  He was a high school soccer player who played a season or two of JV soccer at Williams before deciding (correctly in my opinion!) to come play rugby instead.  According to Melendy, there are fewer athletically inclined students arriving on campus, making it harder to field enough athletes to make up a JV team.  I’m mildly surprised that the change in the applicant/admittee pool is so profound that it affects the ability to field JV teams, but I suppose it may be additional evidence that many youth sports today are dominiated by (relatively) wealthy kids, whose families have the money to become invested in the Youth Industrial Sports Complex.  (For the record, for good or for ill, I am definitely a part of the YISC).

In addition, according to the article, increased athletic specialization has reduced the number of students who, in the past, might have played on a JV team because fewer kids want to play a second sport.

Another reason given in the article for the demise of JV sports is the difficulty of finding opponents.  The teams have been forced to schedule games against prep school teams.  But those teams, in many cases, are too talented for the JV teams:

Difficulties in finding other teams to compete against have also hindered the College’s JV program in recent years. Until the early 2000s, JV teams competed against other teams in the NESCAC, often travelling with their varsity counterparts. More recently, they have competed against nearby private high schools. As more and more of high school athletes become highly competitive, it has become challenging for JV teams to compete against opponents who will soon be playing at the varsity level.

In order to maintain some options for JV-level players, the College has instituted PE classes which mimic the JV experience.  One of the problems with this is that those classes don’t have access to all of the resources of the athletic department, particularly trainers.  This, I think, is a problem which can be solved with money, by simply budgeting for the athletic department to be able to service non-varsity athletes.

Ultimately, the demise of JV sports seems to be a function of long-standing trends over which the College has little influence.  Like AD Melendy, I think this is too bad:

As JV teams become rarer, fewer students will have access to the experience of playing on a team at the College. “The lessons that you get from being on an athletic team, which I think are valuable and worthwhile, fewer students get to have,” Melendy said.

I agree with the AD here.  I think participating on an athletic team provides great memories and lessons to all participants, regardless of the skill/talent involved.  When I started with the Williams Rugby Football Club in the fall of 1986, I played on the D, E, and F-sides.  We weren’t good, but it was fun.  Over my four years I gradually moved up the ladder, eventually playing regularly on the B-side, with a few appearances on the A-side.  I had fun playing broomball with Bryant House in the intramural sports program (I still use the name of our team “The Killer Aardvarks” as the name of my rotisserie baseball team), as well as IM ice hockey.  But I recognize that perhaps much of this stemmed from my high school experience, where I played baseball, hockey, and soccer at relatively low levels.  Its too bad, in my view, that the JV option appears to be disappearing from the Williams campus.  Hopefully club and intramural sports can fill in the gaps.

 

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Profiting off of their likeness

DDF posted this interesting article in the weekend links.  The article describes the saga of Williams golfer Dylan Dethier ’14, who was almost disqualified from participating in the 2013 NCAA Division 3 golf championships because he wrote a book which was about to be published which was related to golf:

The book (which you should definitely consider buying here, by the way!) entitled 18 in America, was my story of the year I spent between high school and college.

Seeking adventure, I’d spent a year living out of the back of my car, driving around the country and playing at least one round of golf in every state in the lower 48. I’d played the cheapest, most accessible public courses and wormed my way into the strangest, most elite private clubs, exploring the U.S. through the lens of golf, finding out where the game fit in. Eighteen years old plus 18 holes in every state made 18 in America. Anyway, the book is about people who play golf and where they play it — but it’s much more about a teenager surviving in his Subaru, plus it preceded my time at Williams College and had nothing to do with my golf ability anyways. A 20-handicapper could have written the same story.

The NCAA initially suspended Dethier because in writing the book “[Dethier] was deemed to have used [his] athletic ability for commercial gain.”  The story of the back and forth and the ultimate outcome for Dethier and the Williams golf team is interesting (and a little sad).  I highly recommend that you read the article.

What I wanted to focus on, however, is the recently passed California law which, according to the LA Times, “prohibits the NCAA from barring a university from competition if its athletes are compensated for the use of their name, image or likeness beginning Jan. 1, 2023.”  According to the LA Times

Proponents say the bill could be transformative for young athletes, especially for those of color and from poor backgrounds. For too long, they argue, corporations and colleges have been able to excessively profit off these students, even after they have left college and joined professional sports teams.

Supporters said the bill would also create new opportunities for female athletes who have limited professional opportunities to profit off their abilities in college. The bill passed the California Legislature unanimously.

On one level, the law seems to make perfect sense.  Why shouldn’t an athlete who helps to generate major dollars for his or her university be allowed to endorse products, or sell autographs, or get a job at the local deli to make spending money? As backers of the California law note, there are no direct costs to colleges and universities (although compliance costs are not likely to be zero).

I am pretty sympathetic to the idea that student athletes should be able to get jobs, and get endorsement dollars, if those opportunities are available to them.  The potential problem, however, goes back to the original reasons (or at least the ostensible reasons) these activities were prohibited in the first place.  That is, if athletes are free to accept outside employment, endorsement dollars, etc., then its pretty easy to envision the marketplace quickly devolving into a situation where athletes go to school where they can reap the most money, money which would essentially be outside the control of the colleges or the NCAA.  You might think this is OK (making money is, in some measure, the American way!), but it opens up lots of potential abuses.

I don’t think anyone really believes that Dethier’s book was any kind of corruption.  But what if some rich Williams alum offered a hotshot high school golfer a $50,000 a year summer job at his or her investment fund if the golfer attended Williams?  Are we comfortable with that?  I’m not, but I’m willing to concede that my position may based mostly on “this is the way its always been, so its probably right.”  For example, right now I think that same alum could make a similar deal with an amazing high school actor or singer who wanted to come to Williams, and that doesn’t really bother me.

But athletics are already entwined with the admissions process in a way which doesn’t always seem right, so I’m leery about opening it up to even more outside influence at Williams, and other colleges and universities.  What do you think?

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Football Roundup

Though I rarely saw much Williams football when I was at the College (usually only the Amherst and sometimes the Wesleyan games, because rugby games typically conflicted with football), and have only watched a few Williams-Amherst footballs games on TV, I still enjoy following the team.

Unlike a number of other Williams teams, in recent years football has not been a perennial powerhouse, either nationally or even in NESCAC (the New England Small College Athletic Conference).  Some years the team has been very good (8-0), and others have been kind of the opposite.  Most years are somewhere in between, with an overall record of 52-46 from 2007-2018.  Annual records going back to 2007 are shown after the break.

This year’s team appears to be off to a good start, and seems to be a bit of an offensive powerhouse.  The team is off to a 2-1 start, and has piled up 98 points in its first 3 games – a 13-17 loss to Middlebury, a 44-8 win over Tufts, and a 41-10 victory against Bowdoin.  The offense is averaging over 430 yards of offense per game.  The offense appears to be built around the ground game, putting up a NESCAC-best 237 yards rushing per game, which is almost 40 yards more than the second best team in the conference.  The rushing attack seems to rely on 4 players:  junior quarterback Bobby Maimaron (89 yards per game), sophomore running back Dan Vaughn (75 ypg), freshman running back Joel Nicholas (50 ypg), and freshman running back Elijah Parks (35 ypg).  With such a productive and young running attack, the next few years should also be good, assuming the offensive line remains healthy and good.

The passing game has been less important, ranked towards in the bottom third of the conference at just under 200 yards per game, but still has the second most passing touchdowns (7) in the conference.

Defensively, the team has been very solid, giving up the second fewest points and the third fewest yards in the conference.

We will check in on the team from time to time this season to see how things are going as the march towards the hoped-for crushing of the Defectors continues.

Read more

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Presumption of Expulsion?

Recent grad’s post last week highlighted the recent Record editorial calling for more “transparency and accountability” in cases of sexual assault on campus.  One of the statements made in the editorial was that:

[W]e believe that sexual assault should not result in mere suspension except in the rarest of cases. Rather, the College should establish expulsion as the presumptive, though not mandatory, punishment for students who are found responsible for sexual assault

You may agree or disagree with the Record’s opinion on this issue, but if the College were to make expulsion the sanction in most cases where a student has been found responsible for “sexual assualt” (I’ve put it in quotes, because the College has a specific definition of the term which I will get to in a moment),  this would raise the stakes dramatically for anyone accused of sexual assault.  While suspension from the College is a significant punishment, expulsion is life altering, in the sense that it deprives that person of a Williams degree (and probably excludes that person from the College community for life, although I’m not certain what the collateral punishments are), as well as the financial consequences.

The College provides a definition of sexual assualt:  “Sexual Assault means any non-consensual sexual intercourse or other non-consensual sexual contact” (emphasis added).  “Other non-consensual sexual contact” can mean a lot of things, including, for example, groping in a crowd at a party.  People can disagree on whether that type of activity should result in expulsion, but any student facing the possiblity of expulsion would certainly want to do everything possible to avoid that.

The procedures for investigating allegations of sexual misconduct (which includes sexual assault), are set forth here.  I will try to go through them in more detail in future posts, but for now I want to highlight one section which, as a lawyer, really jumped out at me:

Both the complainant and respondent have the right to have an advisor of their choosing present with them for all parts of the process, including any meeting with campus officials, with the hearing panel, and with the investigator.  The advisor can speak to the complainant/respondent at any time during the process but cannot speak directly to the investigator or to the hearing panel.

(emphasis added)

As I read this section, the College will allow someone being investigated for sexual misconduct to have a lawyer (or another advocate/advisor), but that person cannot interact with the investigator or the adjudication panel on behalf of the accused.  For a student facing automatic expulsion, that seems to put the accused in a very difficult spot.  While I think this section of the procedures is unfair even today, if the College were to make expulsion the default punishment, it would be even more egregious.

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Williams Record on Bae ’17 Verdict

Notwithstanding DDF’s concerns that the Record would not cover the the Bae ’17 rape verdict, the paper published a solid, if not particularly probing, story about it last week.  While many of the details reported in the Record have been reported elsewhere, I think it was useful for the Williams community to have it in the Record, as more community members are likely to see those details in the Record than elsewhere.

The paper gave a basic recap of the procedural history of the case, before giving a brief synopsis of the assault itself:

On Sept. 6, the Berkshire Superior Court convicted Yoonsang Bae ’17 on one count of rape.

Judge Michael Callan found him guilty, after a bench trial, of sexually assaulting another student while he was attending the College in 2014. His ultimate conviction was the product of several years of investigation, including his two-year suspension from the College between 2014 and 2016. Bae will be sentenced by Callan on Friday and he faces up to 20 years in prison.

In July 2014, Bae provided large quantities of alcohol to a then-19-year-old student while at a party. She became sick several times, and he ultimately led her back to his room, where she fell asleep. When she awoke, he was assaulting her, and he refused to stop despite her repeated insistence.

The Record also gave some details about the College’s procedures when investigating an allegation of sexual misconduct and/or assault.  While some of this is undoubtedly known to some EphBlog readers, I thought it interesting that the College hires an outside investigator, who then presents findings to a three-member panel of College staff (not students or faculty).  From this description, I assume anyone who is eligible to vote at faculty meetings is ineligible to serve on one of these panels, but that is not 100% clear from the article.

(Full details on the procedures are found here.  These are probably worth blogging about in the future.  Although interesting, I think it was appropriate for this Record article not to delve into the procedures, though it might make for an interesting investigative piece at some point).

Another interesting item from the Record article is the fact that Bae was offered a plea in which he ultimately could have avoided a criminal conviction.  If this is true, it was obviously a terrible mistake for him to turn that plea down.  I wonder why he did so?  Did he really feel as though he hadn’t done anything criminal, and didn’t want to admit to something he thought he hadn’t done?  Or was he sufficiently confident in his own ability to tell the story of what happened in a way favorable to him?  Or confident in the inability of the victim to tell her story persuasively?  Regardless of the reason for turning down the deal, he must be regretting that now.

Finally, the article provides this interesting quote from the District Attorney’s office about new prosecution priorities for the new Berkshire County DA:

“We did not necessarily change any formal office policies regarding sexual assault on college campuses [in the new administration],” said Andy McKeever, public information officer at the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office. “However, District Attorney Andrea Harrington has placed a priority on pursuing these cases aggressively. If a victim wants to go to trial we are going to fully support the victim and pursue justice.”

I wonder whether the DA’s office is really as passive as it sounds in making these decisions on whether (i.e. simply asking the victim “What do you want to do?”, as opposed to seeking to persuade the victim of a particular course of action in a particular case).  From my perspective, while the victim’s wishes are an important factor in whether to prosecute (and without a victim’s cooperation, prosecution may be essentially impossible), I would hope that the DA’s office will make those prosecution decisions independently, weighing all of the factors in making those choices.

UPDATE:  The Berkshire Eagle reports that Bae has been sentenced to a 3-year prison term:

 Minutes after apologizing for the pain he’d caused his victim and those around him, a former Williams College student was sentenced to three years in prison for raping a classmate in 2014…

Before the brief hearing got underway, Bae’s attorney, Charles Dolan, asked the judge if his client, in shackles and a white jumpsuit, could be uncuffed and join him at the defense table rather than the defendant’s seat.

Callan denied that request…

Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Stephanie Ilberg asked Callan to consider a prison sentence of five to seven years. Ilberg noted Bae has no prior criminal record but said he was someone the victim had trusted and considered something of a mentor or “big brother.”

“Yes, she chose to drink,” Ilberg said. “She didn’t choose to get raped.”

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Should Tutorials be required for Williams students

In a recent post, DDF wrote:

Take a tutorial every semester. The more tutorials you take, the better your Williams education will be. There are few plausible excuses for not taking a tutorial every semester. Although many tutorials are now filled, others are not.

Too many first years take a big intro class because they think they “should.” They shouldn’t! Even a “bad” tutorial at Williams is better than almost all intro courses. If you are a first year and you don’t take a tutorial, you are doing it wrong. Note that, even if you don’t have the official prerequisites for a class, you should still enroll. The pre-reqs almost never matter and professors will always (?) let you into a tutorial with empty spots.

By the way, where can we find data about how popular tutorials are? For example, do most/all tutorials end up filled? How many students attempted to enroll in each one? More transparency!

DDF asks, and we (collectively) can try to answer!

Williams has, very helpfully and very transparently, provided a list of tutorials for the Fall 2019 semester.  According to the list, 61 different tutorials were going to be offered this fall.  If each were full, that would allow for 610 tutorial spots (I think each tutorial has room for 10 students (5 pairs of two kids each)).  If each student were limited to 1 tutorial per semester, that would mean less than one student in three could take a tutorial this fall.  So there is no way for every current Eph to take DDF’s advice.  Moreover, of those 61 listed tutorials, 5 are shown as having been cancelled, presumably either for lack of interest or some issue for the faculty member running the course.  That leaves 56 tutorials for the fall.  Of the 56 tutorials being offered this semester, 10 currently have openings, though its not clear how many openings there are for each one.  That means that 46 are full.  If we assume that the open tutorials have anywhere from 6-8 students currently registered for them, then approximately 520-540 students are taking one this fall.  That’s about 1 in 4 students, which is a pretty good amount.

Tutorials were introduced at Williams in 1988, which was shortly after the Williams at Oxford program really got going. (My recollection was that the Oxford program began sometime after 1986, when I was at Williams, but according to this web page, the program dates to 1985).  I took a tutorial (Heterocylic Chemistry) in the Spring of 1990, right before I graduated.  I only did it because I thought I should (its the same reason I took a Philosophy class my junior year and an introductory tax class my second year at law school), because it was, at the time, a pretty unique educational opportunity.  But I liked the class, and it was a good opportunity to get to know the professor (Hodge Markgraff) in a way that never would have happened otherwise.  I’m not sure I learned more heterocyclic chemistry than I might have in a more traditional chemistry class, but I thought it was very valuable to go through the tutorial process.

I’m not sure I agree with DDF that taking a tutorial freshman year is necessarily a good idea, but I do agree with him that taking one or more tutorials is a good thing.  According to this page, “more than half of all Williams students take at least one during their time” at Williams, so I guess many students agree with me.  But obviously a pretty large chunk of the student body (presumably close to half) never takes a tutorial.  Should the College make taking a tutorial a requirement for graduation?  On the one hand, it is an excellent and, if not unique, at least an uncommon educational opportunity.  Williams might be justified in nudging (forcing?) those students who won’t take one on their own into trying the experience.  On the other hand, as laid out above, it might be difficult for students to get into a tutorial in a subject in which they have significant (or even any!) interest.  It could create some real scheduling dilemnas for seniors every year.  What do you think?

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Family Wealth at Williams

When I was at Williams, I had a general awareness that some kids had tons of money, and some kids had less, and some kids had a lot less.  I always kind of envisioned myself as being somewhere in the middle, where I usually had enough money to go to the snackbar if I wanted to, and was able to go on spring break trips with the rugby team.  Even today, I have no real idea where I fell on the student wealth scale, except that I was pretty sure I wasn’t at the bottom or the top.  I had friends who had to think more carefully about their spring break plans, and also some who seemed to be able to afford just about anything they wanted.  What I didn’t remember noticing back then was these differences in wealth having much effect on anyone’s day-to-day life at Williams.  It seemed like most parties and other events were free to students, and I’d never heard of anyone who couldn’t be, for example, on the rugby team because they couldn’t afford the dues.  There simply weren’t that many things that I wanted to spend money on.  (Because I didn’t turn 21 until just before graduation, I never spent a lot of time at the Purple Pub.  I suspect that one could have run up quite a tab there).

When I read this eye-opening 2016 article written by Zach Wood about the effects of his family’s poverty on his Williams experience, I wondered whether I was being completely naive and overlooking obvious effects of wealth on what people did every day.  Here is an interesting quote from article, which I would encourage everyone to read in its entirety: Read more

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