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Local swimming hole # 6

Northwest Hill Bridge.


Maud Speaks


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 Foehl ’88

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


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.


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!


How alumni can help Williams students right now

Williams is cancelling in-person classes for the remainder of the year. This puts very many people in very uncertain situations right now. Students are directly asking for specific help from alumni: help with a place to stay while in flux (whether because a student is from an affected area of the world, is housing unstable, any number of reasons), help storing belongings, help with transportation. Students have started a form for alumni and community members to fill out if they’re able to help. Here’s a link to the form, and information about what they’re seeking:

Dear Williams College Graduate and/or Member of our Support Network,

Williams College informed current students at 10:40 AM on Wednesday, March 11 that they are to be fully moved-out for the rest of the spring term and into the summer by Tuesday , March 17 at 5:00 PM because of the risks posed by the COVID-19 virus outbreak. Students were notified at the same time as all staff and faculty, so there continues to be uncertainty over how low-income, international, and/or house-insecure students will be supported in this process. Some concerns are how students can afford their transportation home and the storage or shipping costs that the College has not been clear about subsidizing, how students without stable housing can have access to stable and secure housing, and how students who it is dangerous or impossible for them to travel can have their needs met.

If you are able to host a student for any duration after Tuesday until they are able to return home and/or find other housing and/or until their summer job starts, or are able to store some students’ belongings for the rest of the spring semester and through the summer (until late August / early September), we would greatly appreciate the help in this difficult and confusing time.

Thank you so much for your generosity.

Sincerest regards.

(Thank you to the First-Generation and Low-Income Students at Harvard College for their model and for inspiring this one. Much of their language and questions are copied into this form.)


College hires a tenured Asian American Studies professor

A big win for the decades-long movement for Asian American Studies (AAS) at Williams! From Annie Lu at the Record:

Jan Padios, a professor of American studies at the University of Maryland, officially accepted a position at the College as a tenured associate professor of Asian American studies (AAS) in the American studies department on Feb. 17. …

The position is one of two tenure-line hires in AAS approved by the Committee on Appointments and Promotions (CAP) in February 2019 …

The hiring marks a significant step taken by the College towards the AAS program after over 30 years of activism, including protests at past Previews and graduation, as well as a photo campaign in 2018. To date, AAS at the College has been largely scattered across courses in several departments, including American studies, history, English and women’s, gender and sexuality studies.

Awesome news! Very cool, to me, that Padios will automatically come to Williams with tenure, and with the explicit purpose of teaching Asian American studies–not a visiting professor, on whose shoulders the work of teaching ethnic studies classes seems to often be put, and not someone hired for a more generalist position who might also teach the occasional course on Asian American studies-related topics.

On Padios herself:

At the University of Maryland, Padios is currently a tenured associate professor of American studies, the department’s director of graduate studies and an affiliate faculty member in women’s studies and the Asian American studies program. She is also a writer of creative nonfiction, essays and poems about “family, trauma and mental illness,” she said. … At the core of her work is a historical and anti-colonial analysis of the Philippines and Filipino people, particularly in relation to the U.S. “This is how I became a scholar of Asian American studies, a field to which I am very dedicated, and one of the reasons I decided to join the faculty at Williams College,” Padios explained.

To me she sounds eminently qualified, and the relevant people who are always quoted in Record articles about Asian American studies–notably, Professor Dorothy Wang, who is an American Studies teacher who has long shouldered much of the burden of teaching Asian American-focused classes in the past, and Suiyi Tang ’20, co-head of MinCo and a major leader of the student AAS activism movement–seemed to express excitement for her hire.

Looking ahead, the religion department will be hiring a junior professor in Asian American religions next year, for which a search committee has yet to be assembled. Once the hiring process is complete, all the faculty members teaching in the AAS field will have a discussion regarding whether AAS should become a free-standing program like Africana studies and Latino/a studies or remain a part of the American studies department.

This is the one thing that perplexes me. What are “Asian American religions”? As far as I know, there are no religions that were developed independently by Asian Americans, only religions practiced by Asian Americans that might have been brought from Asia. Certainly, I think “Religious practice in Asian American communities” is a great subject for a course, but for the second Asian-American-studies-specific hire to be in religion strikes me as a pretty unexpected choice. Given that the committee on appointments and promotions gave Asian American Studies two tenure-track positions, an American Studies professor certainly makes sense to me, so Padios’ hire fits the bill perfectly. For that second position, I would have thought it would fall to a literature field (English or Comp Lit, but more likely English), or maybe something like ANSO, maybe something like WGSS. But Religion? Does anyone have thoughts on why that’s the department where the next Asian American Studies tenure-track position will be filled? To me, it doesn’t add up.


Williamstown Apothecary

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

 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.



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!


To Thesis or Not to Thesis?

…for some juniors, that is the question.

Of course, seniors have long since made their decision, and many spent Winter Study finishing up first drafts of their completed thesis instead of taking a winter study course (and the dichotomy between the fun of Winter Study for the many and the hard work of Winter Study for the few has been the subject of many a meme).

During his senior year, a friend of mine was halfway through his thesis, and was having a miserable time; he had a horrible relationship with his thesis advisor, who would shut down nearly everything he wrote, and though he still loved his department and the subject of his thesis, the actual experience was proving to be miserable. He ultimately quit his thesis and had a much, much better spring semester for it, but the process of giving it up was anguish.

While he was going through the worst of that decision, he expressed to me something quite surprising: that doing a thesis was, to some extent, part of his identity, or at least part of the identity he was hoping to form upon graduating Williams. When he was in high school, he’d always imagined doing a thesis; in fact, he’d almost chosen another school over Williams solely because theses were required there. As such, giving up his thesis was an absolutely enormous blow to his morale and sense of self.

This was utterly perplexing to me. As you can guess, I did not do a thesis, and I don’t really regret that choice; I’m pretty sure I had a much, much more enjoyable senior year because of it. But to some degree I understand; I sometimes wish I was able to say I was the sort of person who’d done a thesis, and when I was on campus, I felt that even more acutely–that I painted myself as someone more dedicated, more intellectual, if I could say I was doing a thesis.

Of course, if reasons of ego are the only thing fueling a desire to do a thesis, it’s a pretty sure sign you shouldn’t do one, just as it’s a good sign for anything fueled by ego. On the other hand, I know people who probably started their thesis for egotistical reasons; got beaten up by the grueling process; and were better for it. Certainly, completing a thesis is something to be proud of, and a mark of dedication for sure. But not doing a thesis certainly doesn’t mean you aren’t dedicated or a good student, either.

Did you do a thesis? Why or why not? Who should and should not do a thesis?


What’s the most exciting course in the spring catalog to you?

When I finally sent in my acceptance deposit to Williams and confirmed myself as a member of the next freshman class, I was pretty anxious, which lead to feelings of ambivalence about the sorts of things others around me were excited about–dorms, friends, clubs, all that. I wasn’t sure Williams was the right place for me, but it was the best option I had, so I’d picked it; that didn’t mean I was thrilled.

But over that summer before I started at Williams, there was one thing in that sea of anxiety and ambivalence and maybe even dread that made me excited, one thing that had me actively looking forward and thinking maybe I’d be happy at this place:

Looking through the course catalog.

Every semester thereafter, looking through the course catalog continued to be a joy. I think part of me loved the idea of taking some of these classes much more than actually taking them, and always has. I’d make long spreadsheets with all the classes I was interested in, put together potential schedules, agonize over which ones I wouldn’t be able to take. Later in each semester, that joy and wonder would have dulled significantly as I got through the reality of actually doing the work, actually showing up to classes–that, I wasn’t always good at. But every time the course catalog came out, I’d be overjoyed once again at the sheer possibility it represented, all the journeys it could take me on.

It’s amusing to me, but not altogether unexpected, that even now–when I was putting together my last post about Intro to CS, which involved looking through the 2020 course catalog–I still find myself gushing over courses, falling in love with them. Picking classes is one of the things I miss most about Williams.

So, I’m curious! When you look through the course catalog, what course(s) most excite you, fill you with that yearning to sign up for a class? (If you’re a current student: aside from maybe the class you’re most excited to take that you did sign up for, what’s the class you were most excited about that you didn’t sign up for?)

For me, it might be PHIL 239, The Ethics of AI. Ethical AI is such a cool topic to me, something I thought I might want to make a career when I was in school and, heck, something I still think I might want to pursue. But I always was so much more interested in it in a philosophical sense than in the technical sense, so the fact that there’s an actual philosophy class being offered about this is really exciting to me. And Joseph Cruz is an excellent teacher (difficult, but great)–I might even email him and ask for the reading list.

But I also really regret never having taken a creative writing course at Williams. So along with the standard intro to fiction writing courses, I’m intrigued by ENGL 288, Writing as Experiment: An Introductory Poetry Lab. The course description sounds like something that would really challenge and excite me, and the professor, Franny Choi, is new to the English department and sounds so cool. She’s done a lot of work in poetry with themes of social activism, Asian American identity, and science fiction, and I’d love to learn about poetry from her.


How about you?


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?


You really don’t need to take a CS class

…unless you want a job in software engineering, might want to major in CS, or are genuinely just interested in computer science.

But wait, you might ask! What other reasons are there?

I’m thinking about the comments I’ve seen on here (and other places!), largely from people a generation or two above mine, saying that “you need to have a solid understanding of computers,” and that “employers want to see that you know a little bit about programming,” so therefore everyone should take CS 134.

To me–a CS grad currently working in tech–this is about the same as saying “employers want to see you know how to write, so you have to take a 300-level tutorial in philosophy.” The initial statement is true–it is very important to understand computers and a bit of programming, and it is important to know how to write,” but just as a 300-level philosophy tutorial won’t be appropriate for every student and certainly isn’t necessary in achieving that goal, nor is it the only or even best way to achieve it.

Yet so many people believe that taking intro to CS is absolutely critical that hundreds and hundreds of students sign up for CS 134 (Intro to Computer Science, for those who don’t know). Looking at the CS course availabilities for this upcoming semester is absolutely bonkers: there are 3 lectures with a limit of 90 students each for 270 students total in intro CS during the spring 2020 semester, with a corresponding 6 lab sections of 18 students each (…is it just me, or does the math not add up there?)

Looking quickly through other departments, I can’t find any other intro course this semester that is in quite so heavy demand. Econ 110 is 3 sections limit 40 = 120 students. Stats 101 is 2 sections limit 50 = 100 students. Psych 101 has no limit but expects 160. Semester two of intro to Art History is cancelled (…wait, what? anyone know more about that?)

Having been a TA for CS 134 only a few semesters ago, I can say with a good amount of confidence that a lot of the students in 134 did not need to be there, and regretted it.

I’m obviously not talking about the students who really think they want to major in CS, or who want to be “employable” in the sense that they really think they might want a career in software development, or even those who are just vaguely interested in mathy stuff and thought CS might be fun–or even those who weren’t sure what they were getting into, but who, in the spirit of the liberal arts, thought they’d try out something totally foreign to them. (I was one of the latter kind of students who signed up for CS 134, and look at me now!)

I’m talking about those who’ve been told how critical CS is to “the workforce,” who sign up for a CS class because they feel like they should and they feel like it’ll make them more “employable,” and for no other reason.

You know what they find out? That CS is a lot more about the science of computers than it is about the hot things like app development and startups and web design and big data. Certainly, you won’t touch on those things in CS 134. 134 is about building a theoretical and practical foundation for CS–so you’re learning about things like object oriented abstractions, and recursion, and the basics of data structures, and the underlying mechanics of computers. I, and many others, found those things incredibly fascinating and went on to study them in a whole lot more depth. Many of the students I TA’d found them totally pointless and not at all “useful” towards whatever they were hoping to get out of a CS class, because they didn’t understand what a CS class actually was.

I absolutely love CS, but please–if you’re just taking it because you feel like you “should,” because some older folks tell you that you need to “know computers,” you might end up really regretting it.

(What should you do instead to “know computers” and increase your “employability”? Well, there are tons of things, but I swear that if I’ve learned anything from entering the workforce, it’s that no matter what industry you go into, holy shit is knowing Excel helpful. Even just knowing a few basic commands and formulas and, oh boy, macros??? is enough to convince everyone that you are an absolute master of computers. There, just saved you the misery of getting through CS 134 if you went into it for employability.)


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?


What was your favorite part of winter study?

As students enjoy the last few days of winter break before returning to campus for winter study, I’m curious: what were all of your favorite parts of winter study?

I generally enjoyed the classes I took. In particular, I loved the one travel course I took, because how could I not? It was fully paid for by the college–which was a major reason I signed up for that one in particular, since I didn’t feel economically able to do many of the others, even after financial aid would help. But, for some reason, the college was offering this course for the low price of $0, so I couldn’t not try to get in. The fact that it was a course in a tropical location during the month of January was a pretty great bonus, too. Educationally, I’d say it was only moderately successful–I wouldn’t say I got much out of it as far as the stated purpose of the course went, and that I more benefitted from just the opportunities to go to places and meet people I wouldn’t have otherwise, which is more of a general travel benefit than a course benefit, but, again–free.

As far as my on-campus classes went, I definitely got something valuable out of them: all were artistic and skills-based, so even if I didn’t always love the classes themselves, I appreciate the skills I got out of them.

My favorite part of winter study was probably the fact that my main extracurricular group was very active during winter study. We put on big events and shows over winter study, and had the time and capacity to host parties and get-togethers, as well. Planning those sorts of events with my favorite people on campus probably makes up many of my favorite memories of winter study.

I realize now that this post is pretty vague, only because I am a recent grad and the exact courses and groups I was in are fairly self-identifying for some students who might be on campus now. But, for those who are willing to be more liberal with sharing their experience, I’d love to hear: what are your favorite experiences and memories from winter study?


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!


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.


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?


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!


Some Thoughts About Family Days This Coming Weekend, October 24-27

Also, an email about Family Days (this weekend):

Dear Students,

I hope this note finds you well.  As you may know, this coming weekend is Family Days.

If your own family plans to visit this weekend, we greatly look forward to having them here at Williams and expect it will be a great opportunity for them to gain a better sense of your own undergraduate experience.

And if your family won’t be attending, please know that you’re in good company with the vast majority of your fellow students. While many families enjoy family days, a great many more don’t attend. For some, the time and expense to travel to Williamstown are too great. (And let’s face it: though Williams is a beautiful place, it’s far away from where most people live!) For others, there are other points in their students four years at Williams—from a special sports event or musical performance to Commencement—when a visit make more sense.

In any case, it’s a great weekend packed with lots of things to do, with family members or just with fellow students. View the entire weekend program here and enjoy!

All best,
Dean Sandstrom


Marlene J. Sandstrom
Dean of the College and Hales Professor of Psychology
Williams College

Williams Mobile App

Two current students, Dysron Marshall ’20 and Kelvin Tejeda ’20, spent the summer building the new Williams Mobile app. The app is listed as developed by Williams Students Online, and accordingly it links directly with some WSO services (the Facebook, Factrak, etc). Its goal seems to be to unite services that currently exist in various places across the Williams website, on WSO, and elsewhere, into one service that makes them easier to access.

First of all–awesome effort by these two! They seemingly did this entirely for free and of their own accord (see later in the post for more on that). It’s a nice, snappy app, and they definitely deserve acclaim for their work!

I used a handful of apps related to Williams life while I was there. A lot of time, I just accessed Williams websites from my phone: Eats 4 Ephs to check the menus at dining halls and decide where I wanted to eat, PeopleSoft sites for records and logging work hours, LaundryView to save myself the walk down to the laundry room and check in advance if it was in use… Last year, Williams introduced the GET App ostensibly to unite some features, but which I only really used to add money to my ID when I’d go to do laundry and realize I was out of money. During my first year there was some sort of dining app, student-created I believe, that made Eats 4 Ephs a little prettier. And, of course, there was Yik Yak, the late and great app that really made sure I knew everything I needed to.

These students announced their summer’s-long work to students with Facebook posts: one, to Class of 202X Facebook groups saying the following:

And one with a meme, in the Williams meme group, Williams College Memes for Sun Dappled Tweens:

As the first post says, they’re hoping to get administrative support for their app, so that students can develop it and actually get paid. I don’t know what the status of WSO getting administrative support is, but I imagine the app itself could get funded in the same way if WSO does; I feel less confident about it being possible to get students paid for developing the app. That was always something that confused me, though; do WSO student developers get paid for providing an incredibly useful service, or is it treated as a club would be, where the service itself gets funded (hosting, servers, etc) but not the actual development?

Below the break, a quick look at the app!

Read more


“On Campus Activism: From the Summer 2019 Williams Magazine”

Link to a column that the president wrote for the 2019 summer issue of the Williams Magazine:


This section stood out to me in particular (emphasis mine):

“I absolutely think Williams needs to teach people to voice strongly held views in constructive ways. That lesson is best learned within a community broad enough to accommodate conservatives and radicals, believers and agnostics, creatives and critics. Disagreement, in such a culture, should fuel intellectual vitality.



Williams College To Pursue “Strong Pro-Speech Policies And Principles”

An interview that might interest people.



Identity Evropa is Racist and the below post is idiotic

I can’t stay silent on this and am disgusted David could even pose question 2 rhetorically. There will be no comments on this post because there is no need. Identity Evropa is a racist hate group trying to recruit college students and David is doing work for them on this site with that garbage post. One google search is all it takes. Aren’t we ephs? Don’t we know how to do basic research?

From their founder:

“I think one of the major books that got me started was David Duke’s My Awakening, and I think from there the rest was really history.”
—Nathan Damigo on Red Ice Radio, June 16, 2016

From their 2nd leader in 2018 (edit: also, he lied about serving in Iraq):

“I work in HR firing n***** and s**** all day. Before that, I was in the army and I got to kill Muslims for fun. I’m not sure which one was better: watching n****** and s**** cry because they can’t feed their little [racist term for kids] or watching Muslims brains spray on the wall. Honestly both probably suck compared to listening to a k***’s scream while in the oven.”


The third leader is smart enough not to say the quiet part loud, but he did host shows on Red Ice Radio, you know, the white nationalist/supremacist platform. F*ck this


Join us now at the Roosevelt Grill in the Roosevelt Hotel …

... here at 45th and Madison Avenue in New York City for the musical stylings of Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians welcoming in the New Year as they have every year since 1929 with their rendition of Auld Lang Syne …



That Boxing Day Break …

… time to put your feet up and review the Christmas cards!


Particularly those from architects and designers …most with motion.









… Wishing you a Joyous Christmas!

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump’s Christmas portrait. Photograph: UPI/Barcroft Images.




For just a moment, thinking outside the blog …

John Drew’s Monday 10 December post on Brooks and Free Speech has certainly had a galvanizing effect on EphBlog’s readership. Well-posted, John, and well-written.
However, if you are like me, and I know I am, you may need a distraction from campus concerns. This is not to say turn to the front pages of the NYT, WaPo, and Politico. Presidential hysteria, climate calamity, and world economic and political collapse will not provide respite.

So let your eyes enjoy 10 design trends of 2018 as reported by Augusta Pownall (as close to a Williamstown tie-in as I could get) for DeZeen Magazine.

 Just because becoming dehydrated is a personal concern, here for sake of a picture on the blog:

• Urban water fountains pop up

and …  • Football Fever takes hold • The end of the world as we know it? • Distant galaxies become more attractiv• Architect and designers switch disciplines • Big companies tackle diversity • Return of the humble poster • Adapting to smaller home• Moving away from Milan …
… and yet another personal favorite …

• Bauhaus is back!

Let your eyes do the walking for a break.

The Tree of Life Synagogue, October 27th, 2018.

Candlelight vigil for the 11 killed in the shooting.


Recommended reading:

Max Boot, The Washington Post

“What is happening to our country?”

photo York Daily Record







Railroading …

… making way for a speedy ride.

See here for a purpled reference.

Later up-dates:

(an announcement at Union Station, Washington, DC)

We regret to inform you that the SCOTUS Special due to arrive at noon on Saturday September 29th has been delayed because of unexpected bad weather and an avalanche of public opinion.

(another announcement at Union Station, Washington, DC)

We are happy to inform you that the SCOTUS Special is now due to arrive at noon on Saturday October 6th (or not) (or with complications) (railroading is hard work!).




… on the other hand, analysis as offered by a Constant Contributor may be …

… of continuing consideration:

xkcd 19 Sep. 2018


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