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Gavin McIntire – RIP

From an member of the Class of ’11 in Speak Up:

Gavin McIntire ’12 passed away in an accident this week, while on leave from the College. See Record article here
The senior class lost two classmates last year, Jamie Neal and Henry Lo, and now the community has lost another member.

From the obituary in the Record:

Gavin attended St. Luke’s School in New Canaan, Conn., and matriculated at the College in the fall of 2008. He played on the College squash team and enjoyed his work as a writing tutor. Gavin was an economics and Spanish double major, and he was also particularly interested in history. He spent this past fall semester studying abroad in Chile and spent the current semester on leave from the College interning for the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR), working freelance for the online English learning program Open English and learning Portuguese.

Condolences to Gavin’s family and friends.

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Walking a fine line

UPDATED: Added a picture and paragraph below the fold about why Chap chose to post on this topic now.

Being a politician means having to take public positions on a variety of issues, many of them controversial, and being prepared to defend them. That’s why I think blogging can both a blessing and curse for politicians. It allows them to get out their positions in a way which permits them to think about exactly what they are saying, but it also produces a written record which they make later wish to run away from. Read more

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Moore v. EphBlog Dismissed with Prejudice

The lawsuit filed against EphBlog and DK by former Professor Moore has been dismissed with prejudice. Copies of the most recent pleadings can be found here (EphBlog’s Memorandum in Support of its Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings), here (Moore’s Motion to Dismiss Without Prejudice), and here (EphBlog’s Opposition to Moore’s Motion to Dismiss Without Prejudice).

In essence, EphBlog moved to have the suit thrown out at an early stage. In response, Moore tried to have the case dismissed, but leaving him to refile the case at a later date. EphBlog opposed this, seeking to have the case ended forever. The judge ruled in EphBlog’s favor, and dismissed the case. Moore’s time for appeal has now expired, and so the case is over.

Special thanks to the lawyers (Emily Renshaw and Neil McGaraghan of Bingham McCutchen) who represented both EphBlog and DK for both their hard work and their good work (not always the same thing). Their strategy got rid of the case pretty quickly, for which everyone is grateful. Thanks also to DK for overseeing the process, and to Jeff for his early assistance.

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Art Mafia: The Remarkable Sig Balka ‘56


“A bare wall is like a blank mind”

“Collecting art, curating exhibitions, and serving on museum boards is for me as natural as breathing. In this past century of holocaust and destruction it is my link with man’s creative spirit, which in the end must prevail or we will extinguish ourselves. ”

Sigmund Balka Williams 1956 BA Political Science, 1959 Harvard Law JD.

While these pass keys may open the doors to respected and perhaps expected careers, you might not expect that he has curated over 120 art exhibitions, has chaired the Exhibitions and Acquisitions Committee of the Queens Museum of Art, is a member of the Board at the Bronx Museum of Art, serves on the Advisory Council for Visual Arts at Rutgers University, has been the president of the Print Connoisseurs Society of New York and on the boards of the Judaic Museum, the Longwood Arts Project, and the Museum of Ceramics of New York, and has been board chairman of the Jewish Repertory Theater of New York, a member of the board of The Folksbiene National Jewish Theater, and was the recipient of a Doctor of Humane Letters (Hon) from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City in 2008.

Read more at http://www.krasdalegalleries.com/Curator.html

An acquirer of art whose collection of 200 prints, promised to the college on his 50th Reunion in 2006, dovetails with those of the WCMA and supports its’ mission of teaching both about art and with art. Balka built his collection with an eye toward donating objects to the teaching museum. He assembled works particularly significant for their value in explaining both the history of art and the artistic process. Sig has been chair of the Fellows of the Williams College Museum of Art as well as a member of the Visiting Committee

Read more at http://wcma.williams.edu/exhibit/mergers-acquisitions/

And this spring with his 55th reunion in June, Sig Balka helps to mark the Jewish Religious Centers’ 20th anniversary by providing a selection of rare Jewish books from his personal collection for a special display.

From an article in the April 8 , 2011 Forward headed “Generations of Tradition, and Rare Books”

An exhibition of rare Jewish books, now on display at the Jewish Religious Center at Williams College, Massachusetts, marks the center’s 20th anniversary. Alumnus and Jewish art collector Sigmund R. Balka loaned the books — part of his own personal Judaica collection — to the center as a means of honoring its contribution to his alma mater and passing his love of Jewish heritage on to the next generation.

Balka had a different experience from the current Jewish students at Williams: “When I began at Williams there was no Jewish center. In fact, there were very few Jewish students and certainly no place they could worship. There was compulsory chapel,” Balka, who graduated in 1956, told the Forward.

“It was moving,” he remembers, “to be at the initiation of the Jewish center 20 years ago, when the prior history of the college, which was not empathetic to Jewish students, was frankly spoken about. Jewish students were able, for the first time, to have a home on campus, to be part of the student body instead of outsiders.

Read more: http://blogs.forward.com/the-arty-semite/136883/#ixzz1JcqiHuFV

The Remarkable Sig Balka ’56!

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Pizza and the long arm of the law

The DC-based, Eph-connected District of Pi pizza truck was able to stand up for itself yesterday when the U.S. Park Police tried to issue it a ticket yesterday. As explained by the Director of Hospitality for the company which owns the truck and reported on a local blog:

We were approached by a USPP officer who asked if we had a permit to vend at the square – I told him I wasn’t aware that we needed one, and he said we did and then asked for a vendors license and drivers license, asked if there were any ‘wants or warrants’ and informed us he would return with a $50 citation. I then saw him walk across the square and approach the Sauça truck, where I assume he asked the same of them, and then proceeded to his squad car. Roughly 15 minutes later, he came back across the square, apologized and told us we were all clear and that no one had informed him before then that trucks are now allowed in the square.

We were at Farragut a few weeks ago after a run at Franklin and saw the exact same thing happen, except that day, the USPP actually kicked some trucks out before they went around to remaining trucks to say the issue had been cleared up and trucks were free to operate at Farragut as long as they remained on the perimeter (as if trucks could actually park in the park).

As one of the comments to the blog post noted:

So this is what I propose the next time a Park Police offices comes up and asks for your truck permit. Just hand him a pie…and tell him it’s criminal not to try our food officer

The food truck phenomenon here in the DC area is really remarkable, and generating lots of grumpiness from traditional restaurants which can be undercut pricewise by the trucks, which presumably have lower overhead costs. All in all, there are regular complaints leveled at the trucks, which many believe originate with local restaurants. Hopefully our Eph-related pizza truck is doing well.

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Know your State Senator

One of the many Eph-politicians currently in public office is Chap Petersen ’90, who represents Virginia’s 34th Senate District. He is up for re-election this November. An important, very liberal/progressive, Democratic political blog here in Virginia called Blue Virginia is currently
running short profiles on each of Virginia’s Democratic state senators, who currently “control” the Virginia Senate (albeit somewhat shakily) by a count of 21-19.

Chap’s profile was published today. Among the interesting tidbits is Chap’s appreciation of marriage, which I I think is something Chap would share with at least some of our EphBlog contributors:

His greatest accomplishment
My greatest accomplishment is being married for 15 years.

Its a fun profile, but it is missing any reference to Williams. Come on Chap! We know you want to make it clear that you are a Virginian through and through, but your constituents won’t throw you out of office just because you left the state to go to college in Massachusetts. Or would they?

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Whether you like his clients or not…

*UPDATED TO CORRECT THE SPELLING OF MR. JAFFER’S NAME*

EphBlog recently received a short note from Andrew Wang ’08:

Just wanted to let you know that I’m currently sitting in on a very interesting panel discussion at Harvard Law School (where I’m currently a second-year student) discussing the Obama administration’s national security policy. Of interest is that one of the main speakers is Jameel Jaffer, a Williams graduate (not sure of class year, but he was born in 1971, so I presume he graduated in 1993 or thereabouts). He graduated from HLS, is a distinguished constitutional and civil liberties lawyer, and currently heads the ACLU’s national security program. I won’t bother getting into the details of the discussion itself, but I thought Ephblog might want to do a brief shout out to Mr. Jaffer and perhaps even include a brief profile of him (his accomplishments in the legal profession are very impressive).

Jaffer is Class of ’94. There have been  posts previously about him written by Jeffz (here, here, and here, for example). Regardless of whether you like the legal/policy positions he has taken, there is no doubt that is (a) one of the most prominent Eph lawyers from the 1990’s, and (b) a very accomplished litigator.

I wonder if Jaffer has faced off against any fellow Ephs in his ACLU National Security Project cases.

It would be great if Andrew had the time to post some of the details of the discussion, which I’m sure many EphBlog readers (including me) would find very interesting.

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Did you ever want to meet one of the Calaquendi?

The Glittering Caves of Aglarond Ted Nasmith, artist
If you understood the title to this post, you may have the same problem that I do: an (obsessive) interest in the fictional world created by JRR Tolkien. I don’t remember exactly when I first read the Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and the Silmarillion, but it was at least 30 years ago. I’ve re-read them all (plus “Unfinished Tales” and the recently published “The Children of Hurin“) dozens of times, and spent way more time than I would like to admit reading about Tolkien’s world on various websites.

None of this time has gotten me anything other than some personal satisfaction and a nagging guilty feeling. But I now have another place to feed my Tolkien obsession. One enterprising and creative Eph is using his interest in Tolkien to make a name for himself and further his academic career. Corey Olsen ’96, a tenured professor of English at Washington College in Chestertown, MD has branded himself The Tolkien Professor.

Read more

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Who wants this job anyway?

As some of you may have seen, Senator Jim Webb (D-Virginia) has stated that he will not run for re-election in 2012. This has set off an explosion of blog posts about his departure, like this and this, and thanking him for his service.

There have also been lots of posts speculation about his possible successor, both on the Democratic side (see here, here, and here and Republican sides (here and here).

Senator Webb was “drafted” to run in 2006 with the encouragement of many Democratic “outsiders” (see here, as well as some Democratic insiders, like Chap Petersen ’90. Chap was also involved very early on in the Webb campaign in 2006, when Webb was a long-shot to win the Democratic nomination and an impossible long shot to beat then-incumbent Senator George Allen, and he has posted a short piece in response to Webb’s retirement notice. Chap’s name has been floated from time to time as a possible candidate for Webb’s seat, including in the comments to his own post. In response, Chap wrote:

I’m announcing for re-election to the State Senate in a few weeks. Does that count?

I’d need a frontal lobotomy to work on Capitol Hill. Or a bottle in front of me.

Not a fan of Capitol Hill, apparently.

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Thank you to Derek, and a few other things

A quick but heartfelt “thank you” to Derek for all of the time and effort he put in as President. Under his watch, and with the excellent addition of Dick Swart as managing editor, I believe the content on EphBlog has never been better. As a member of the EphBlog community, I certainly appreciate the results of his efforts.

I’ll re-iterate my view of what EphBlog should be, a web site where the Eph community can discuss issues of mutual interest which relate to Williams College and Williamstown. While there are certainly many serious disagreements on many of the issues, we should be able to disagree without malice or rancor. Please keep this in mind as you blog here.

Going forward, I hope we can engage more regularly with those readers and potential readers who are currently on campus (current students, faculty, administration, and staff). The posts from Prof. Oakley were terrific, and I hope we can have more of that kind of contribution.

Please feel free to contact me via the blog or e-mail (whitney22201 (at) yahoo.com) if you have questions or concerns or – most importantly – suggestions about EphBlog. We can’t promise to implement everything, but we will listen and do what we can to make EphBlog an even better place.

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How can you measure an alum’s love for Williams?

U.S. News and World Report has tried to do so by comparing donation rates of alums from over 1700 colleges and universities. While Williams did very well (6th nationally with a reported rate of 57.6%), we still came in slightly behind both Amherst (59.5%) and Middlebury (60.1%). The free portion of the article can be seen here. How much do you think the Alumni Development Office would like to inch Williams ahead of Amherst and Midd? How could Williams increase the percentage of alumni donors?

I used to enjoy the phone calls I would get from my class agent, who was a friend of mine that I didn’t really otherwise keep in touch with. I would make him call me two or three times to chat before I would send in a check. This year I got form e-mails from a different agent (this time from a former entrymate) and our class president. I think the phone calls are likely more effective, but obviously more time consuming.

(Ed note: here are 126 alums a class agent might like to call)

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Moore v. Ephblog – Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

A Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings has been filed on behalf of EphBlog and David Kane ’88 in the Moore v. EphBlog lawsuit. Copies of the motion, the memorandum in support, and the supporting papers may be viewed by clicking on the attached links. Motion, Memorandum in Support (this is the most important document to read, if interested), Affidavit in Support of Motion, Exh. A, Exh. B, Exh. C, Exh. D, Exh. E, Exh. F, Exh. G Moore’s response is due by January 4, 2011.

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How much is too much?

It looks like Hal Steinbrenner ’91 is not quite as publicity shy as I previously believed. With NY Yankee captain Derek Jeter playing out his contract, the team is faced with the dilemma of how much to offer him for his next contract. As noted in this article, the negotiations could get a little messy:

But Steinbrenner was unable to put a time frame on how long negotiations would take or hazard a guess on how smoothly they would go. “Who knows?” he said. “You just never know with these things. Both parties need to be happy with the deal, and that may make things more complicated, I don’t know.

“There’s always the possibility that things could get messy.”

Steinbrenner is facing a difficult decision. From a purely “objective” perspective, Jeter is highly unlikely to be “worth” anything close to the $18 million per year he has been earning on a going forward basis. He’s 36 years old, plays a position where very few play productively into their late ’30’s and early 40’s, and is already showing signs of decline:

Jeter, 36, is coming off the worst overall season of his 16-year major league career. His .270 batting average, the lowest since he became a regular in 1996, is 44 points below his career batting average and represents a 64-point drop from his 2009 production, when he hit .334. His 179 hits matched the lowest total since his injury-shortened 2003 season, and his .340 on-base percentage was the lowest since his rookie season of 1995.

On the other hand, he is the most revered Yankee since Mickey Mantle, I would guess (Yankee fans should weigh in here, since I am a lifelong Red Sox fan and am certainly not qualified to opine on this subject). He’s almost certainly a first ballot Hall of Famer, and the Yankees have nothing if not tons of money.

The best solution, I suppose would be a short term contact which could keep Jeter’s salary close to where it is now, without the team assuming an undue risk of a total performance meltdown, but I don’t know whether Jeter would take something like that. Perhaps a 4-year, $40 million contact might do the trick.

What do Yankee fans think? What should Hal do?

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Is the Entry an Anachronism?

Thanks to JeffZ and Sr. Mom, we have this little tidbit from an interview with President Falk:

He cited the entry system as something that needs attention.

What did he mean by this? While HWC has previously posted interesting arguments criticizing the entry/JA system for freshman (see this thread for previous conversation), for many of us, the Freshman housing system is one of the defining parts of the Williams experience. My initial instinct is that the entry/JA system is fundamentally the right one for Williams. It promotes class cohesion, provides some mixing between the freshman and junior classes that wouldn’t otherwise occur, and provides an instant social network for incoming freshmen (first years?).

I’m willing to be convinced that I’m wrong. What do current students and faculty think? Are there tweaks to the current system that would make it better?

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I hope our guys are fast…

I saw this short blurb from Gregg Easterbrook about the offense of Amherst football team, and it made me wonder whether our guys can keep up:

Oregon is not the only college team to be snapping really fast. Two weeks ago, yours truly watched Amherst, an elite academic college, run a version of the blur, snapping in an average of 18 seconds; Amherst is undefeated and averaging 40 points a game. But 15 seconds ’til the snap — the actual average being posted by the Ducks, not a boast — is unprecedented.

I sure hope so.

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UPDATE – Chap for Governor?

Although there has been other speculation kicking around about the possibility that Chap Petersen ’90 might run for Governor of Virginia, today, in an interview with a Virginia blogger, I saw the first indication from Chap himself that he is interested in running:

Virginia Gentleman: On the Democrat side it seems like the race for the gubernatorial election in 2013 is wide open. Do you have interest in running?

Chap Petersen: Yes, eventually. As for 2013, I’m focused on 2011 right now. I’m taking nothing for granted. The 34th is historically a swing district.

I hope he runs, as I think he would make an excellent governor.

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Legacy Admissions

In Speak Up, JeffZ linked to an interesting op-ed piece in today’s NY Times, which I thought was worth its own post. One of the key sections of the article says:

Among selective research universities, public and private, almost three-quarters employ legacy preferences, as do the vast majority of selective liberal arts colleges. Some admissions departments insist they are used only as tie-breakers among deserving applicants. But studies have shown that being the child of an alumnus adds the equivalent of 160 SAT points to one’s application (using the traditional 400-to-1600-point scale, and not factoring in the new writing section of the test) and increases one’s chances of admission by almost 20 percentage points.

At many selective schools, legacies make up 10 percent to 25 percent of the student population. By contrast, at the California Institute of Technology, which has no legacy preferences, only 1.5 percent of students are the children of alumni.

My impression, based on previous posts/discussions here in EphBlog, is that simply being the child of an alum is of little help in gaining admission to Williams. But I don’t know if my impression is correct, or if there is any way of quantifying the admissions advantage conferred by being a legacy applicant, but its a topic in which I have some interest, as college is at least on the distant horizon (my oldest son is almost 9). This has been a topic has been previously discussed on EphBlog; previous discussions can be found here.

Apparently between 12-15% of each Williams class is made up of students who have either a parent or grandparent who went to Williams. Is that a good thing? And should legacies get any admissions advantage?

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It will be easier to root for Wilkes-Barre than for Pittsburgh…

Alex Smigelski ’10 appears to be doing all the right things as he tries to start a professional hockey career for himself:

Read more

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Answer filed in Moore v. EphBlog

An Answer has been filed on behalf of EphBlog and David Kane ’88 in the Moore v. EphBlog lawsuit. A copy of the Answer may be viewed here: 2010.09.21 Answer

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Moore Sentenced

Former Professor Bernard Moore was sentenced yesterday:

A 52-year-old assistant professor at Williams College and former aide to U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) was sentenced Thursday to 50 months in prison and ordered to pay $760,000 in restitution for a lifelong series of student loan, bank and Social Security frauds, U.S. Attorney for the District Ronald C. Machen, Jr. announced.

Read the full story for more details.

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Television, anyone?

Does Williams have any groups which produce television shows for a local public access station? Is there such a station on the local cable system? Is there a television studio or television studio-like space on campus? I ask because I would think that anyone interested in journalism as a career would find it useful to be able to work on television production while in school, in much the same way that benefits accrue from working on the Record or working at WCFM (does the station still exist?)

Here in Arlington, there is a local non-profit which produces a roundtable discussion on different topics which is broadcast periodically on the local cable system. I’m sure Williams students could do just as good a job, if not better, on any number of topics:

News for Our Future (NfOF), Epidode 2 from Our Task on Vimeo.

If you fast forward to about 21:25 on the video, you can see a possible member of the Williams class of 2024 talking about recycling. Nick is a much better talker than I was at that age…

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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

.

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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