Currently browsing posts authored by Whitney Wilson '90

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What’s an Eph to do…

…if he or she is a Delaware voter, and is inclined to vote for Chris Coons in the upcoming Senate race:

Chris is a graduate of Amherst College with a B.A. in Chemistry and Political Science, and earned his law degree from Yale Law School and a Master’s in Ethics from Yale Divinity School. Chris also studied at the University of Nairobi in Kenya.

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Moore v. EphBlog, et al.

I am posting this on behalf of the Board.

As some of our readers know, Bernard Moore has sued EphBlog (and David Kane ’88). Because the litigation is on-going, it would not be prudent at this time to discuss the case on EphBlog. However, for the convenience of our readers, we attach a copy of the complaint, and will endeavor to do the same with future substantive pleadings. In view of the on-going litigation, comments have been turned off for this post.

The complaint may be found here.

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Where does the time come from?

After reading this comment from Anon ’89er:

Time for some rugbyblogging! I just checked and it looks like the White Dogs finally updated their website, the first time since 2007. As long as nobody is set on fire it ought to be a good season.

I decided to check out the WRFC (Williams Rugby Football Club) website . Its not a bad site, but it clearly isn’t updated on a particularly regular basis. But I certainly can’t fault the team or the current WRFC members for that. I know its a lot of work/time to constantly add new material to a website.

When I was at Williams, I rarely felt as though I had a lot of spare time on my hands (although in hindsight, I guess I really did). I spent my time going to class, studying/writing papers, going to practice and games and parties, and eating and sleeping. I spent some time playing computer games, watching TV (especially on Sundays) and reading books and the newspaper. Occasionally we would play some snow football, or go skiing or golfing. I didn’t spend anytime surfing the Web (for our purposes, it did not then exist), blogging, sending e-mail (I had a VAX account my junior year which I did send a few e-mails with), or using Facebook or Twitter or other social media (which of course did not exist at all).

And yet today’s students at Williams collectively seem to spend a fair amount of time doing all of these things. Where do they get the time? What do they do less of? Sleeping? Watching television? Hanging out with their friends? Studying? I would guess there is less television time, but its only a guess. Can anyone suggest the real answers?

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Time to be thinking about the Governor

As further proof that its never to early to start speculating about someone’s political future (Chelsea Clinton for President in 2032, anyone?), some of the blogs in Northern Virginia (see here and here) are already talking about Chap Petersen ’90 as potentially the strongest Democratic candidate to put up in 2013 against current Attorney General – and current conservative favorite – Ken Cuccinelli:

How to Stop Cuccinelli for Governor

While I don’t agree with Chap on every issue, I think he would make a terrific governor. We’ll see what happens, including whether Chap will be re-elected to his state Senate seat next year.

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Reunion thoughts

I thought I would post a few thoughts about Reunion weekend, which was – as always – a blast. Read more

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New Title IX Regulations

Recently, there have been a number of discussions about Title IX and its impact on men’s and women’s sports. See here, here, for example (some of the discussions are deeper in the comments).

According to a Washington Post blog post, The Department of Education has just announced the repeal of a Title IX related policy implemented by the Bush administration. Among the issues raised in the linked post:

In 2005, under then President George W. Bush, a new policy allowed schools to use a simple survey of women as its evaluation, and to combine non-responses with negative responses. Critics said gave institutions an easy way to avoid providing equal athletic opportunities for females.

But Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Vice President Joe Biden are announcing today that the policy is being repealed and that from now on, schools and colleges must provide stronger evidence that they offer equal athletic participation opportunities for for men and women.

Schools can comply with Title IX by matching the proportion of female athletes to the proportion of women on campus, showing a history of increasing sports for women, or proving that the school has met the interest and ability of women to participate in athletics. Before the Bush policy was put in place, schools choosing the third option had to use multiple measures to assess interest and ability among females. The schools will now have to do that again

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Reasonable people can disagree as to which policy is better, I suppose. Does anyone know if Williams has ever tried to “interest and ability of women to participate in athletics” at Williams and, if so, how it did so?

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Martha Coakley ’75 Wins Democratic Primary for Mass. Senate Seat

Congratulations to Ms. Coakley. Early story here. I would assume she has an excellent chance of winning the special election in January.

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Amended Complaint from Moore

This Amended Complaint was filed on December 2. It adds a third cause of action for damages stemming from locking him out of his faculty apartment. A couple of quick thoughts on the complaint, without the benefit of having done any legal research on his claims:

1. He is claiming $300,000 in damages stemming from his termination. Even assuming he could prove that the dismissal breached his employment contract (and I would like to think that would be difficult/impossible), he should only be able to get damages for the last few weeks of the semester. He is going to jail in February, and therefore will be unable to fulfill his obligations under the contract beginning with next semester (I am assuming the contract requires him to teach). So most of this $300,000 claim should be gotten rid of fairly easily.

2. I don’t know anything about the COBRA law he is citing, but hopefully the College had its lawyers give some thought and research before they denied him COBRA access. As far as damages from this claim, I believe that once he is incarcerated, he gets health care through the prison system, so that might limit some of those damages, if he is entitled to anything.

3. I suspect that Massachusetts is a fairly tenant friendly state (though I have not first hand knowledge on this), so its possible that the new third count could have some merit. I know that here in DC – which is incredibly pro-tenant – colleges and universities have additional rights to self-help (e.g. changing the locks) in the dorm context not available to normal landlords. Hopefully Mass has similar protections for Williams which would be applicable to the faculty housing Moore was living in.

4. Its not clear what his basis for punitive damages is, but that is the bulk of his monetary claim, so if this can be eliminated, that would get rid most of the damages.

5. Does anyone know if he can get attorneys fees if he is proceeding pro se?

Link to Amended Complaint

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How to “measure” teaching skill?

One of the spin-offs from the some of the recent discussions about Bernard Moore was a “debate” about how good or bad he was as a teacher. One student said that he was terrific, several others were quite critical. Without trying to rehash Mr. Moore’s specific talents, I thought the debate raised an interesting question.

Most (all?) of us believe that one of the qualities that makes Williams a great educational institution and distinct from major research universities like Stanford, Cornell, or Yale, is the fact that the professors are expected to and do teach undergraduates. This fact is assumed to attract professors to Williams who are interested in teaching (as opposed to simply being interested in research) and, hopefully, are good at it (whatever that means). During the evaluation process for professors, I understand that teaching ability is an important factor.

But how can we measure or evaluate teaching ability? This, of course, is a problem at all educational levels. At the primary and secondary school level, we can evaluate teachers in part by how much their students learn, typically measured through testing. Good teachers should teach their students more than bad teachers. Is anything similar done at the college level? If so, I am not aware of it.

I think teaching ability is largely measured by student surveys, supplemented by occasional observations. I think its unfortunate, if true, that only the numeric scores from those surveys are shared with the professor’s department, and that student comments are not shared with the department. I think these comments, when viewed as a whole could be very useful. Are the comments only made available to the professor in question? If so, why would that be?

If teaching evaluations are based primarily (almost exclusively) on numerical aggregations of student survey data, I think that is a little troubling, simply because that process is so subjective and subject to the vagaries of sample size, who shows up/bothers to fill out the surveys, etc. I am of the view that great teaching is like obscenity (i.e. you know it when you see it), but is there a good (better?) way of determining who good teachers are?

Input from the many academics here at EphBlog would be appreciated.

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Profile of Harry Jackson ’75

Here is a very interesting profile of Harry Jackson ’75 in Wednesday’s Washington Post. I guess he must have been quite a football player at Williams:

After high school he entered Williams College — prestigious, mostly white, Massachusetts — in 1971 and majored in English lit. He again played football. He was a middle linebacker and he hit hard. Pro scouts glanced in his direction. He got a tryout with the New England Patriots.

I think the piece presents a pretty interesting picture of Jackson, one that is more complex than how he is often portrayed in shorted pieces (and sometimes here at EphBlog):

There wasn’t a seminary, or a school of theology. It was just preaching, getting invited to other pulpits and letting word spread on the grapevine. “I was trained in the field,” Jackson says, pride in his voice.

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As he preached and worked, he’d look at black family life and get sullen about the grim statistics of divorce and crime. In his mind, too, there was a convergence of black family life and the clashing of alternative lifestyles. He saw abortion rates and gay marriages as undermining traditional family values. He found the pulpit, just as a cause found him.

“Some of the smartest people I knew in college were gay,” he says. “Some black students I knew who were gay were off-the-charts smart.

“But gay marriage is wrong, he says.

“”I don’t know of anybody black who says, ‘I hate gay people.’ We’re more accepting generally. But you overlap that — homosexuality and gay marriage — with broken families, and we don’t know how to put it back together.”

In Corning he founded a church, the Christian Hope Center, just outside town. The parishioners were mostly white, and that never changed.

“We really broke racial barriers for a black man pastoring white people in 1981,” he says.

His wife says: “We just believed we should preach the message God would give us.”

She says there were fewer than 20 blacks in a congregation that would grow to several hundred. “Irish Catholics and former Greek Orthodox,” she says. “It was a very interesting experience.”

Harry Jackson got attention for the successful church and was recruited in 1988 to come to Beltsville to take over, full-time, Hope Christian.

By 1998, he had become a bishop. (One becomes a bishop in the Pentecostal hierarchy by dint of establishing a reputation outside one’s own church. Jackson now serves as an adviser to eight other churches up and down the Northeast corridor as well as advising churches in South Africa.)

It appears that Bishop Jackson has taken full advantage of his Williams education. While I couldn’t disagree with him more on his signature issue, I agree with David that it would be great to get him up to Williamstown more often. Although he apparently didn’t have any formal theological training prior to become a pastor, I suspect he would be an interesting person for students interested in divinity school or the pulpit to talk to.

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“Balderdash on top of poppycock”

A nice article summarizing an interview given by Eph Wade Rathke – founder of ACORN – in which he disputes many of the charges swirling around the organization:

“It’s balderdash on top of poppycock,” said Rathke, who was forced out last year amid an embezzlement scandal involving his brother. “It is a tactic they are trying to aggressively use to attack Obama… to paint the president and anybody else they can as radicals.”

Interestingly, it appears as though Rathke has money, as he agreed to repay ACORN for the nearly $1 million embezzled by his brother from the organization.

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EphTeachers

There was an interesting piece on today’s Washington Post website entitled “Do we need Ivy-League Teachers?” The thrust of the piece was the following: Read more

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Closing the loop on a Philosophy Class

For anyone who was curious or remains interested about the class taught by Prof. Stephen Gerrard in which he “taught Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s autobiography,” (previous discussion here) you can see more below the break.

Read more

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Thank you

I don’t think about this often enough, but I know there must be a lot of behind the scenes technical work to make this site work. I wanted to thank the technical team which stands behind Ephblog, which includes Ronit, Ken, and others whom I don’t know (and anyone who does should feel free to edit this post and add them in). There is little or no remumneration for the work they put into to making this a site we can love or hate, and yet I know they put in a great deal of time for all of us.

Thank you again.

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The end of newsprint?

In a recent comment HWC posed a provocative question that I thought could use its own post. Should the Record stop publishing a physical newspaper and become a web-only publication?

From what I have read, newsprint is a major expense for most newspapers, so I would expect that cutting out the printing process would save a considerable amount of money. I don’t know how much revenue would be lost by killing the print version of the paper (from advertising, subscriptions, etc.), but I would be surprised if there weren’t some overall savings. These savings could be used to upgrade the Record’s website. A better website would make the Record very readable online.

I know when I was a student – back when dinosaurs roamed the earth – I always really enjoyed going to dinner on Tuesdays (I think) and picking up a copy of The Record which I could read at dinner. It always had plenty of interesting news and commentary, which was unavailable anywhere else. Of course, at that time, you could not get newspapers online (I picked up the Boston Globe on Spring Street everyday).

I would guess that most students – and quite possibly a majority of the Williams community – only read newspapers online, or at least would be reasonably comfortable doing so, so that losing the print version would not terribly inconvenience the campus community. (Are they Wi-Fi networks available throughout campus at this point?)

The biggest loss would be for those alums who currently subscribe to the Record and would be unable/unwilling to switch to an electronic version. (Does anyone know how many off-campus subscriptions there are?) I think that is a price that the Record should be willing to pay.

Does anyone disagree?

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Prof. Pasachoff Speaks

Prof. Jay Pasachoff has a letter to the editor published in today’s NY Times. The proposal laid out in his letter seems reasonable on its face, but perhaps is a little naive.

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