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preventative health measures

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

 

As we prepare the campus for potential spread of the COVID-19 virus, we recognize that not all members of our community are likely to be impacted in the same way.  According to the CDC, the immediate risk of being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 remains low for most people in the US. In addition, information so far suggests that for the majority of people who contract the virus, COVID-19 illness is mild.  At the same time, older people and people of all ages with severe underlying health conditions seem to be at higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 illness. For instance, COVID-19 may be more dangerous to people who have had chemotherapy; suffer from heart problems, diabetes or respiratory issues; or are immune-compromised.

 

If you fall into any of these categories and are concerned about continuing to work in your standard setting (whether that be attending class, working in an office, or another setting), we encourage you to reach out to us so that we can determine what sort of alternative arrangements might be possible in order to increase your safety. Faculty should reach out to Kashia Pieprzak (kpieprza@williams.edu); staff should reach to either Danielle Gonzalez (dg3@wiliams.edu) or Megan Childers (mab7@williams.edu); and students should reach out to Cyndi Haley (chaley@williams.edu) so that we can provide a streamlined, confidential process for your request.

 

All best wishes,

Denise Buell, Dean of Faculty

Fred Puddester Vice President for Finance & Administration and Treasurer

Marlene Sandstrom, Dean of the College

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Additional steps for COVID-19 prevention and mitigation

Williams students, faculty and staff,

The COVID-19 virus is continuing to spread nationally, including a confirmed case in Clarksburg, MA, 7 miles east of Williams, and another in Bennington, VT. I am writing today to announce further steps to protect campus and prepare for the possibility that a case occurs here despite our best efforts. You can always find this information on the college’s COVID-19 website, too.

Since activities involving heightened personal interaction, including gatherings and travel, can be a source of exposure, we are making the following changes as of today:

First, college-sponsored international travel will not be allowed through April 30, 2020, with a possible extension beyond that time if it becomes necessary to ensure campus health. College funds may not be used for any trips occurring during this time. This is partly to limit the risk to our community, and partly because all of us as members of society have an ethical obligation to avoid activities that increase the risk of contagion. It is not a decision we make lightly, and we will continue to review the situation with the goal of lifting the prohibition as soon as evidence indicates it is safe to do so.

Second, we are canceling all campus events between now and April 30, 2020 that have an expected attendance of 100 or more. The college has meeting spaces that can accommodate crowds of fewer than 100 while allowing the recommended six-foot minimum distance between guests to limit contagion. For this reason, we believe 100 people is a meaningful cutoff point for now. Again, we are continually reviewing the situation and will inform you if it becomes necessary to extend or amend the policy. As part of our decision, we are also canceling Previews, our campus program for admitted students and families, which was scheduled to begin on April 20. There will also be no admission tours, info sessions or admitted student overnights during this time, all decisions comparable to those made by a number of other schools around the country.

The COVID-19 team has begun contacting many organizers of affected events. If you fall into this category, faculty with questions should please contact the Office of Commencement and Academic Events, while students should reach out to the Office of Student Life. Staff, your point of contact will vary, so please work with the appropriate liaison for your particular program.

This global outbreak challenges all of us, not just logistically or economically, but psychologically. While in the great majority of cases the symptoms of COVID-19 will resemble the flu, the uncertainty demands resilience. It is important that we take time to care for ourselves and each other, and especially to think about the most vulnerable. Any Williams employee with a complicating condition or circumstance should contact the Office of Human Resources to request accommodations. The HR team will offer a streamlined, confidential process. Students, if you have health concerns please call Student Health Services right away—they will not accept walk-ins for now, to limit the risk of contagion, but are there to help you. The college will work with every student to help you complete your academic program safely.

This outbreak is challenging schools to think creatively about how to guarantee academic rigor under adverse circumstances, and I thank our faculty and staff for problem-solving to keep us on mission. Indeed, I’m grateful to everyone, from custodians and dining staff to Health Services, Study Away, Admission and Financial Aid, CSS and deans, student leaders, event hosts, and others who are all adjusting your work—sometimes day to day—to keep people safe and the college operating smoothly.

Our team has reviewed the situation with local, state and national public health experts, and they consistently ask us to emphasize to campus that the number one thing we can all do to protect ourselves is to practice good hygiene: wash hands frequently and for a minimum of 20 seconds at a time, cover coughs and sneezes with the crook of an elbow, avoid touching our faces, and avoid contact or proximity with anyone who is already ill.

Again, I appreciate your cooperation with the prohibition on travel and the ban on large campus events. We will review the outlook on both decisions frequently, and will let you know whether we need to extend them or whether they can be curtailed. These decisions have real consequences for our mission, jobs and lives, and I appreciate your temporary sacrifices for our collective health and safety.

Maud

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Art Shuttle – Berkshire Cultural Resource Center

MCLA’s Berkshire Cultural Resource Center (BCRC) is pleased to offer a free shuttle bus, the ART SHUTTLE, to all MCLA and Williams College students. The ART SHUTTLE will launch on Thursday, March 3rd, from 3-6PM.  The ART SHUTTLE will provide students transportation to tour and visit four art institutions in both North Adams and Williamstown. The tour will make a loop that take students to The Clark Art Institute, The Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA), MASS MoCA, Gallery 51. The ART SHUTTLE is intended to give students a means to explore and enjoy the world-class art in spaces just beyond the borders of their campus. These four partnering institutions are working together to better serve and engage students.

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Privilege in Admissions

(This is in response to David’s post: The Parable of the Privilege Pill.) tl;dr: holistic admissions are necessary to admit the students most likely to academically succeed at Williams.

Imagine that there are two applicants from comparable schools with 3.8 GPAs and 1500 SATs. The question you’ll have to answer, at the end of this post, is whether you think that they are likely to perform similarly academically at Williams (a limited version of what it might mean for a student to be ‘successful’).

Applicant A.

Applicant A has parents who sit with her every night and make sure she does her homework.  Applicant A’s parents don’t ever discuss her homework with her or help her; they just make sure that she does the work.  The several occasions that Applicant B’s parents leave town, Applicant B does none of her work (but her teachers still make a one-time exception and allow her to complete the work late with no penalty).  As a consequence, Applicant A turns in 100% of her assignments, averaging 90%, which results in her getting mostly As but a handful of Bs.

When Applicant A took the SAT, she first took a practice test a year before, scoring 1200.  Her parents paid for her to have an SAT tutor, who, like many SAT tutors, spent the year teaching exclusively test-taking strategies.  By the end of the year, Applicant A didn’t know any more math or reading, but she was much better at taking the SAT — and scored a 1500.

Applicant B.

Applicant B’s parents each work two jobs, so they are not around most nights (or are exhausted when they are home).  Moreover, Applicant B has to work on and off through high school to help her family make their bills.  As a consequence, Applicant B sometimes misses assignments; she forgets, is tired, or simply doesn’t have the time.  Throughout high school, Applicant B turns in 90% of her work — but her work is always perfect, averaging 100%.  This results in her getting mostly As but also a handful of Bs.

When Applicant B took the SAT, it was the second time she had ever seen any part of the test (her 11th Grade English teacher spent a 50-minute class giving and discussing one reading comprehension section earlier in the year).  Applicant B doesn’t really know that people study for the test; most people in her high school and community don’t go to elite colleges, so there isn’t much discussion of it among her friends and family — and what little she hears is about how this is an aptitude test.  Taking the test effectively ‘blind,’ Applicant B fails to budget her time well, and leaves the last five questions on a math section blank despite being an excellent math student.  Nevertheless, she scores 1500.

The Question:

Who would you admit?

This isn’t a trick question and the answer isn’t particularly difficult: Applicant B clearly has more aptitude — and there’s little indication that she has any less work ethic (and some reasons to believe that she could have a great deal more).  These two applicants look identical based on their numbers, but Applicant A’s privilege renders her numbers misrepresentative vis-a-vis Applicant B, and to a fairly significant degree.

The More Difficult Question:

The more difficult question comes when considering Applicant A versus an Applicant C, who has a similar story to Applicant B but ends up with a 3.6 GPA and 1350 SATs (maybe because Applicant C’s 90% homework completion rate is distributed in such a way that she’s averaging 80% or 100% — and maybe also because she misbudgets her SAT time more badly, spending time triple-checking answers she knows).  The apparent SAT difference between Applicant A and Applicant C — 150 points — is large.  But Applicant A’s raw SAT aptitude is 1200 whereas Applicant C’s is 1350, implying that Applicant C may actually have significantly (150 points!) more SAT-measured aptitude.  Moreover, the apparent GPA difference between Applicant A and Applicant C — 0.2 — is large for these purposes.  But Applicant C actually performs significantly better (100% vs 90%) on each of her assignments.  And their difference in homework completion rate (90% vs. 100%) appears due far more to their respective home situations than it is to any sort of work ethic.  There is little reason to believe that, in the cushy environment of Williams (outside the reach of constant parental influence), Applicant C won’t turn in as much or more of her homework.  And there is good reason to believe that Applicant C will do better on what work she turns in, despite her significantly lower GPA and SAT.

The Real World:

Note: Applicant A is not wildly privileged.  There are many, many applicants to Williams who look roughly like Applicant A.  There are also many, many applicants to Williams who benefit far more from privilege than Applicant A does (many will get tutors, for example, who often just do the student’s homework for them).

Also note: Applicants B and C are not particularly underprivileged.  There are many applicants to Williams who look roughly like Applicants B and C.  There are also many applicants to Williams who have to overcome a lot more.

The simple point I’m trying to make here is that privilege is real, and that privilege regularly has a significant impact on GPAs and SAT scores in ways that have no bearing on a student’s aptitude (/ likelihood of academic success while at Williams).  For Williams to admit the class with the most academic aptitude–a goal that David espouses but I am not necessarily endorsing–Williams cannot simply look to the GPAs and SATs of its applicants.

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More Emails

Three Pillars Emails will be in a separate post.

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What was to be a comment to abl…

David–having issues commenting, but thought this was relevant. Not sure what the issue is.

The referendum was presented as unconstitutional; it was stated that the vote turnout did not need to meet the requirements set out in the CC constitution; nor did the margin of victory; it was not publicized for two weeks; it was not an official amendment, etc.

That being said, the vote met the constitutional thresholds for turnout and margin of victory, and everyone knew what they were voting for or against. That leads me to an interesting question @abl and others–if the referendum was unabashedly unconstitutional, but ended up meeting the important technical requirements, should it retroactively be considered constitutional? I don’t have an answer.

Also, there is a lot wrong with the Three Pillars Plan (so many poorly thought out small problems–perhaps enough to sink the ship), but I would hesitate to go to the lengths Concernedeph has in denigrating the process and the involved students. Fundamentally there is nothing wrong with the idea (practically, there is a lot wrong) and while there were a lot of ‘leftist’ students on the Task Force, it remains to be seen how the Three Pillars benefits them in any concerted way. The Williams Student Union (the activist wing) is toothless and there will be a vote in Spring 2021 as to whether to abolish it because it is pointless–if I had to guess, it will be removed. Unsure how TABLE can become political, but without the WSU, it just might end up being the ‘activist’ wing by being very biased in committee selections…if ever more than one person applies for a committee position, which is a trend that doesn’t seem to stand a good chance of changing. And FAST will just run out of money by March next year, not selectively give money to some and not others.

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College Council Minutes

I figure we aren’t getting any more of these, so here’s the CC minutes from the past several years.

2016-2017:

CC Minutes April 6 CC Minutes April 13 CC Minutes April 20 CC Minutes April 27 CC Minutes February 24 CC Minutes March 2 CC Minutes March 9 CC Minutes March 16 CC Minutes May 4 CC Minutes May 11 Minutes 10_5_16 Minutes 10_18_16 Minutes 10_25_16 Minutes 11_1_16 Minutes 11_8_16 Minutes 11_15_16 Minutes 11_29_16 Minutes 12_6_2016

2017-2018:

3_14_17 Minutes 4_4_17 Minutes 4_11_17 Minutes 4_18_17 Minutes 4_25_17 Minutes 5_2_17 Minutes 5_9_17 Minutes 10_31_17 Minutes 11_7_17 Minutes 11_28_17 Minutes 12_5_17 Minutes Meeting Minutes 1_11_17 Meeting Minutes 1_18_17 Meeting Minutes 2_7_17 Meeting Minutes 2_14_17 Meeting Minutes 2_21_17 Meeting Minutes 10_3_17 Meeting Minutes 10_17_17 Meeting Minutes 10_24_17 Minutes 1_4_2017 Minutes 1_11_2017 Minutes 2_28_17 Minutes 3_7_17 Minutes 11_14_17 1_8_18 Minutes 1_15_18 Minutes 1_22_18 Minutes 2_6_18 Minutes 2_13_18 Minutes 2_20_18 Minutes 2_27_18 minutes Minutes Meeting Template Meeting Minutes Template

2018-2019:

2_8_18 2_27_18 minutes 3_6_18 Minutes 3_13_18 Minutes 4_3_18 Minutes 4_10_18 Minutes 4_17_18 Minutes 4_24_18 Minutes_ 5_1_18 Minutes 5_8_18 Minutes 9_25_18 Minutes 10_2_18 Minutes 10_16_18 Minutes 10_23_18 Minutes 10_30_18 Minutes 11_6_18 Minutes 11_13_18 MinCo-CC Funding 11_13_18 11_27_18 Minutes 12_4_18 Copy of Copy of Copy of Meeting Minutes Template 1_8_19 Minutes 1_15_19 Minutes 1_22_19 2_5_19 Copy of Minutes Template__Old

2019-2020:

1_14_20 Minutes 2_12_19 2_19_19 Minutes 2_26_19 Minutes 3_5_19 Minutes 3_12_19 Minutes 4_2_19 Minutes 4_9_19 Minutes 4_16_19 Minutes 4_30_19 Minutes 5_7_19 Minutes 10_1_19 Minutes 10_8_19 Minutes 10_29_19 Minutes 11_5_19 Minutes 11_12_19 Minutes 11_19_19 Minutes 12_3_19 Minutes Minutes Template_New

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Release of draft Strategic Planning reports

To the Williams community,

It’s my pleasure to release the draft reports from the Strategic Planning working groups and strategic academic initiatives. You’ll find them all on the Strategic Planning website.

These drafts are the fruit of last fall’s extraordinary outreach efforts: Hundreds of faculty, staff, students and community members attended related meetings and events, while hundreds more, including alumni, parents and families, submitted online comments and participated in phonecasts.

As I develop the strategic plan this spring I’ll use the reports, which incorporate so much outreach, research and analysis, as a guiding source. Not every specific recommendation will find its way into the plan, which is meant to be a high-level statement of our aspirations for the next ten to fifteen years. But the reports will guide my thinking about our strengths and ambitions. Later on, they’ll also serve as a bank of ideas for “operationalization”: the phase when we translate the plan’s big ideas into concrete, practical steps that will get us where we’ve said we want to go.

Your comments on the reports are welcome via the online portal anytime between now and Friday, February 28. My colleagues from the planning process and I will review the feedback as we finalize the drafts and I begin deriving major themes for the strategic plan.

As you read, I hope you’ll join with me in thanking all those whose extraordinary efforts got us to this point: the members of the working groups, initiatives and Coordinating Committee, as well as the many people in our community who shared ideas and advice. Each of you is helping us chart a course for Williams’ excellence in the years and decades to come.

Maud

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Et al. Emails

Welcome to the spring 2020 semester!

Dear students, faculty and staff,

It’s spring! Well… spring semester, anyway. The ground is still frozen, the days are too short, but the process of renewal is underway. Every season in the Berkshires has its pleasures, but it’s a special time at Williams when the coats and boots come off and the first green shoots of spring start pushing through.

This year the metaphor of renewal is even more apt than usual. From Strategic Planning to the curriculum, many new ideas are blossoming. Here are some examples:

  • After extensive outreach in the fall, the eight Strategic Planning working groups and three academic initiatives are almost done writing their draft reports. We’ll publish all 11 documents on the Strategic Planning website on February 12. Please read all that interest you, then use the comment portal to offer your thoughts.
  • Exciting new teaching and research projects spring up so often that I can’t possibly mention them all. Examples range from Assistant Professor of Chemistry Katie Hart’s lab, where students are working with her to understand how drug resistance develops at the molecular level; to a partnership between Associate Professor of History Aparna Kapadia and Assistant Professor of Art Murad Mumtaz, whose class invites students to consider Southeast Asian art from the WCMA collection as a lens into connections between art and power in the Mughal Empire.
  • In the administrative sphere, too, we’re seeing change and evolution. As I recently mentioned in a campus announcement, Professor of Psychology Safa Zaki will succeed Cluett Professor of Religion Denise Buell as Dean of Faculty in July. And after Vice President of Campus Life Steve Klass retires in June, Health Services and Integrative Wellbeing Services, the Chaplain’s Office, the Office of Student Life, and CLiA will join the Dean of the College’s team, while Dining Services, Campus Safety and Security, Mail Services and the Conferences and External Events office will report to the Vice President for Finance.
  • Vice President for Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes ’99 recently described the restructuring of the Davis Center—an important component of efforts to fully support inclusion and belonging at Williams, by building our capacity to promote inclusive learning environments, intra- and intergroup dialogue and restorative practices. Meanwhile, the Davis Center building project will make the Center itself a more welcoming, accommodating and accessible home for student life and student-centered work on these and other issues.
  • Tomorrow is Claiming Williams. This annual event is a very special aspect of Williams, and I hope you’ll participate. The program actually starts at 7:30 tonight in Chapin, when guest speaker Anthony Jack talks about his book, The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges are Failing Disadvantaged Students. Tomorrow we’ll hear from Iranian-American fashion blogger, writer and activist Hoda Katebi, who’ll speak in the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance about, “Decolonizing Fashion from Tehran to Boston.” For a full schedule of the many workshops and events, visit the Claiming Williams website.
  • Finally, I’m pleased to share good news from Facilities staff member Dave Maselli, who was seriously injured in a work accident last fall. Dave reports that he’s making progress toward the goal of a full recovery. I join with him in thanking the Facilities, Athletics and Campus Safety staff who responded to the scene, as well as the many more colleagues and friends who sent him messages of support.

As these stories suggest, the semester ahead, like the spring that will come, is full of promise. I look forward to growing with you in the months ahead.

Maud

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Updates from the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Dear college community,

I write to share recent developments from the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (OIDEI) and the Davis Center. I will follow this message up with more details early in the new year.

This fall, OIDEI and the Davis Center have continued working on updating our vision. To support our vision, the Davis Center will lead our campus efforts to build inclusive learning and living environments, where all students, staff and faculty can thrive and feel a strong sense of belonging. We have also begun implementing changes to help prepare the Center for this expanded role, in sync with the planning phase of our Davis Center building project; the Committee on Diversity and Community’s multi-year study of classroom climate; college-wide strategic planning efforts relating to DEI; and the appointment of two Assistant Vice Presidents to support this work.

We’re now searching for a new Davis Center director, a program coordinator, and a dialogue facilitator as part of our plan. The dialogue facilitator (a new position) will work with colleagues to introduce and integrate restorative practices on campus. The overall restructuring, along with the advent of new staff, also requires us to rethink how existing positions are defined. I’ve already met with the current OIDEI and Center staff to discuss the possibilities and will continue working with them throughout the process.

During this time of change for OIDEI and the Davis Center, as we work to make Williams as inclusive as it can be, we’re grateful for the deep investment many of you feel in OIDEI and the Davis Center. I hope you’ll take every available opportunity to meet with the Davis Center building project architects, to share our job postings with promising candidates, and to support our work and Williams. My door is always open, too. I welcome your continued partnership in these endeavors.

Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes ’99
Vice President for Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

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We Need YOU!!

The anticipated makeup of the CC-established Task Force (to abolish CC):

Hi all!

Are you interested in a Winter Study course that includes no formalized assignments (except for a single collaborative document produced at the end of Winter Study), getting a stipend to spend on food and snacks for meetings, working mainly at your own pace with a group of your peers, and getting to be a part of an actual change making institution at Williams that will hopefully last long beyond your time here??
If so, then you should consider joining the TASK FORCE ON THE FUTURE OF STUDENT GOVERNMENT!!
We are looking for representatives specifically from a club sport, a performance based club, a faith based club, and a community service based club to serve as members of this body due to your unique and extremely valuable perspectives on this campus. The Task Force will spend Winter Study re-thinking what student government should look like here at Williams College. This group is incredibly important for student life, funding capacities, policy making potential, and much more, both for current AND future Williams students. If you’ve ever thought, “Student government at Williams should do x, y, and z…” then join the Task Force and make your voice heard!
 
We would love to hear from any and all of you that are interested in applying – fill out a self-nom for consideration at this link NOW! Spots close TOMORROW, so if you’re interested in coming aboard, don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or concerns to either Ellie Sherman (eas6) or Carlos Cabrera-Lomeli (cc15)!!
Best,
Ellie and Carlos :)
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IWS Scheduling Protocol Change

Dear Williams Students,

In January 2020, Integrative Wellbeing Services (IWS) will implement a modified scheduling protocol along with expanded student support resources. We’re taking this additional step to help close gaps in equitable access to our services as we explain below.

Because these changes will most immediately impact returning students who choose to continue treatment following the Winter Break, therapists were encouraged to let the students with whom they work know about this new model beginning last week. We’re now notifying all students in an effort to ensure everyone has accurate information about these changes, as inaccuracies can create unwarranted barriers to seeking care.

Rest of the email below the break.

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Open Letter to Suzanne Case

A student-authored email sent to the WILLIAMS-STUDENT email group, which has limited access (my short thoughts on the matter below):

Hello everyone,
Yesterday, October 20th was the 100th day of the stand for Mauna Kea, and we are circulating an open letter in solidarity with Kiaʻi Mauna, the protectors of Mauna Kea in Hawai’i. Please sign our letter to Williams College alumna Suzanne D. Case, Chairperson of Hawaiʻiʻs Board of Land and Natural Resources. Stand with us to protect Mauna Kea and all other sacred spaces.
WE ARE MAUNA KEA: PETITION TO SUZANNE D. CASE
Thank you for your support!
The use (some, including me, might call it abuse) of the all-student email group by individual students or unofficial/official student organizations has skyrocketed in the past couple of years. Without commenting on the subject matter at hand (another author can do so), I just don’t find this petition or many of the other emails sent to the student body by students relevant to the campus community or campus life at all. A few years ago, the emails we got were from ACE announcing Spring Fling or other all-campus events…now, we frequently get emails pertaining to petitions, talks, etc. Rumor has it the College Council (Co-)Presidents have access to and can give out this email group to students (i.e., to people and causes they deem worthy…). Now, I’m not saying there’s any (*cough* far-left *cough*) bias or subjectivity to these types of emails…but I have a bunch of them that may indicate otherwise.
Update: Last night, 371 people had signed the petition, and now it is up to 501. I don’t know if that increase has anything to do with circulating this petition to the student body, but I suspect it (at least in part) does.
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Funding Opportunity: Towards Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (TIDE)

Another all-campus email from today:

Dear Members of the Community:

 

I write to share news of a grant, Towards Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (TIDE), the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion will give out.  The purpose of the grant is to help facilitate the infusion of inclusion, diversity, and equity into all aspects of our campus by leveraging the creativity and passion of the members of our community.

 

All members of the community are encouraged to apply, as we look forward to supporting campus- and community-wide efforts.  Collaboration between and among faculty, students, and staff is strongly encouraged, as are projects designed to have a positive impact on multiple stakeholder groups on campus and in the surrounding community.

 

Information about applying for the grant, including the deadline, is available here.  We also invite you to learn more about it, including hearing from past recipients, at an information session in Hardy House at 4:00 on Wednesday, October 30.  Should you have additional questions, please don’t hesitate to send an email to diversity@williams.edu with the subject “TIDE Grant”.

 

We look forward to working and learning with you.

 

Best,

Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes, Ph.D.

Vice President

Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Williams College | Williamstown, MA

(P) 413.597.4376

https://diversity.williams.edu

 

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The retirement of Steve Klass, and news about Campus Life

From President Mandel:

To the Williams community,

I’m writing to share two pieces of news. The two are related, so I appreciate your patience with a longer message than I’d usually write.

First is the bittersweet announcement that Vice President for Campus Life Steve Klass has informed me of his plans to retire in June.

When Steve came to Williams in 2006 from the University of Chicago, initially as our first-ever Vice President of Operations, he brought with him a transformative approach to leadership and management; an enlivening, compassionate spirit; and a wonderfully off-kilter sense of humor. For evidence of the latter, see the student-produced “Between Two Slabs” video. For evidence of the rest, there are Steve’s many contributions to Williams, which include, for starters: leading the reorganization and expansion of our health and mental health services; overseeing major construction projects, including Stetson/Sawyer, Hollander, Schapiro and Paresky; helping launch CLiA, the Zilkha Center and the college-managed Children’s Center; and, following retirements of long-time campus leaders, hiring Director of Student Health Services Deb Flynn, Director of Integrative Wellbeing Services Wendy Adam, College Chaplain Rev. Valerie Bailey Fischer and Director of Dining Services Temesgen Araya.

On top of that are the many years’ worth of board and committee service Steve has devoted to local schools, healthcare providers, financial institutions, town government and churches.

Steve is somewhat famous among my senior staff for his unconventional career path. He started his post-college life playing in bands at CBGB’s and managing restaurants in New York City. Few of his professional peers could match his breadth of experience, or the level of empathy and organizational insight he gained from his adventures. Williams has been a grateful beneficiary of Steve’s talents, and I look forward to announcing a campus thank you event next spring.

Steve isn’t the only member of Senior Staff to whom we’ll say farewell. As you may know, Dean of Faculty Denise Buell recently announced to the faculty that she plans to end her term as dean next June and return to her teaching and scholarship as Cluett Professor of Religion. Denise has been a wonderful partner, and I’ll send a separate message honoring her later this week.

In the meantime, today’s second piece of news has to do with our plans for Campus Life. As part of the Strategic Planning process I’ve begun looking at the organization of peer institutions and thinking about how our administrative structures can best help us with our goal of realizing residence life as a central component of a Williams education. With that goal in mind, after Steve’s retirement we’ll shift some of his offices to report to the Dean of the College, and others to report to the Vice President for Finance and Administration.

Steve, Marlene, Fred and I have already begun conversations with those whose direct reporting lines will change, and we’ll be meeting with people from all the relevant areas in the coming weeks. In case you’re asked, I want you to know that all positions are being retained, and all staff will continue in their roles. The change is solely in reporting lines.

Meanwhile, here’s a simple description of the new reporting arrangement, which will go into effect on July 1, 2020:

  • The offices of OSL that oversee residence life, student leadership and student orgs; Health Services and Integrative Wellbeing Services; the Chaplain’s Office; and CLiA will become part of the Dean of the College’s team.
  • Dining, Campus Safety and Security, Mail Services, and the Conferences office will become part of the group managed by the Vice President for Finance & Administration and Treasurer, also as of July 1, 2020.

More details will be available as we work on implementation with the staff. The changes will support collaboration among colleagues who work with students in various ways and help college operations run as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

We’re in a position to pursue these opportunities because of the outstanding work Steve and his team have done over many years. Indeed, when I asked Steve what he was proudest of from his time at Williams, he instantly said “the amazing people I’ve worked with since day one.”

Please join me in thanking and congratulating Steve for his contributions to Williams, and in supporting our colleagues during the months ahead.

Maud

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“A Victory for Free Speech…” (Commentary Magazine)

Reason Shall Prevail

The magazine Commentary has published an article about Williams titled “A Victory for Free Speech at a Liberal College”. Commentary is a very conservative news source, and the author of this article seems to be a free speech absolutist. The article itself is an interesting read. The author seems to view the committee report in a favorable light. What are people’s thoughts on it?

The full text is below:

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On Dr. Coyne’s response to the free speech report

I made a comment on DDF’s post “Jerry Coyne is a fool” regarding why I also disagreed with the way Dr. Coyne had portrayed the report. DDF suggested that I put it up as a post so more people would read it, so here it is:

“I’d probably want to start with how he misrepresents the intent of this report. It’s not a policy statement, it’s a consolidation of collected data and information that is meant to inform the drafting of a policy statement.

IMHO, Coyne uses events at Williams simply as a vehicle to further promote the Chicago principles above all else. His posts about the College follow a certain pattern: summarize what has happened, discuss the amazingness of the Chicago principles even if they are only tangentially related, and then finish by implying that Williams will cease to function if it doesn’t adopt those principles. Never mind that applications to Williams continued to skyrocket during and after the PR debacle surrounding Derbyshire.”

Coyne and I probably hold very similar, if not identical, ideological stances regarding free speech. I just object to his agenda-driven misinterpretation of the report as well as the way he inaccurately asserts himself as an informed expert on campus culture at Williams. There are a lot of more minor issues, too, such as his intellectual snootiness and glorification of his own institution.

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“Take a relaxing stroll through town,” they said. “It’s carbon neutral,” they said. Williamstown this day in 2018.

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Garfield House is gone.

Our friends over at ‘Eph Construction Boom’ are reporting the Garfield has been torn down. Will check it out tomorrow and throw up some after pics of the debris…

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Howl, Parts I & II

Allen Ginsberg 1956

For Carl Solomon

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness,
     starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking 
     for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
     connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking 
     in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating 
     across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw
     Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs 
     illuminated,
who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes
     hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the 
     scholars of war,
who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing 
     obscene odes on the windows of the skull,
who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burning their 
     money in wastebaskets and listening to the Terror through
     the wall.
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Bending Straws

 

In the 1980s, during my initial stint as an impressionable student in the academy, I spent my Sundays toiling as a manager down at the club. The edifice was on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge. The club was housed in a single story elongated rectangular brown painted cinderblock building. The locality had a sleek and swanky fashion, which was in vogue during the height of the Nixonian modern urban renewal architectural period.

We habitually hung a sign that advertised for a porter at the entrance of the club, as good help in those days was hard to find. The economy in Boston during the ‘Massachusetts miracle’ had made the help terribly fickle, due to an over-abundance of well-paying jobs. We paid the minimum of course, with the offer of a free jigger of spirits if the good lad who held the door happened to get his nose broken while attempting to break up an altercation. Hiring help that had learned how to look the other way was of great importance to the elite clientele.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology was one block down the avenue from the establishment, and the gents from the fraternities frequented the place. They were certainly not the men of Harvard, but still worth a listen. For some quirky reason math and science was of more importance than finance to those young men? I must confess that in actuality, we cared very little for where a young gentleman went to college. It was the family accent that truly enlightened us. “But yes of course, of course you go to Harvard,” we would say, “but where did you prep, where did you prep, my good man? Choate, Exeter, Groton?”

The lounge in the club was of the highest order. We had five tiers of the finest victuals. From the tap we served the latest fashionable beer. The floors were a greying black, as the wood was well worn and sticky from years of grand tradition. Neon Budweiser signs, and posters advertising various other upscale varieties, adorned the walls. We had several dart boards so that the lads could relax and play whilst enjoying a Pabst after a hard day at the academy.

It was on early Sunday afternoons, whilst I was cutting my teeth with this first internship in management, that three men from Zeta Psi would come to play a bit of “Pitch”. Pitch was a fantastic game, although I have heard from those still laboring at the club that it has since fallen out of favor.

The ladies from the Boston Women’s Rugby league would also show up for some pints after their Sunday scrums. They were always so lovely. Stout and severe, broad and menacing, as all proper women should be. Sauntering into the club in their attirement of proper shorts, knee high socks, and cleats; striped rugby shirts of red and white, draping their sweat laden bodies with a sophisticated mud covered embroidery. Oh, the traditional songs which they would sing! In unison they would chorus the moral fiber of femininity. Old whimsical choruses, such as “Barnacle Bill the Sailor” and “Bestiality’s Best” were my favorites. I still fondly remember the ensembles.

It is a pity that the singing of such songs of tradition has fallen out of favor. One never hears such songs the way we used to in public anymore. Sadly, what once identified the beauty of societal order in the hallowed halls of our elite institutions now runs against the grain. Perhaps it is this blasted cell phone culture that has turned everyone into a philistine moralist of some kind? Moments can be captured out of context by the simplest of passersby, and posted for commoners’ consumption on the YouTube. It is a shame that such happenings can no longer be kept within the higher circles of moral clarity.

It was during such moral conventions that the men of the Institute of Technologies’ Zeta Psi would sit at my bar and play Pitch. They would listen to the sweet choruses of the rugby ladies, as they drank the odd mixes of spirits associated with the game. The three Pitch players were Andrew, Duncan, and Remy. All three were from the finest lineage, but for whatever reason, had found a love of science over money? The particular mixology of the game clearly excited their participation in the sport of it. This ritual of Pitch was indeed a fashionable Sunday science project, as much as it was a game, or a sport.

 

       But it was a game of the highest order, and one needed to know the exact regulations!

 

First, it was only to be played on the holiest of days. On Sunday afternoons, that was when the three young men would stop by our posh establishment for a fine game of Pitch. They would come to me as they would a doctor, suffering greatly from the burden of too much blood in their alcohol systems. With the Saturday evening fraternity foray not far behind them, they were itching for a game of remedy!

Second, and of high importance, was the bending of straws. Sitting at the lounge countertop they would make a circle out of the drinking straws. It is easily done. You fold the end of one straw over itself, insert that into the hole of another straw, and then repeat that process until you join both ends to connect the straws together. Then you would enjoin the straws together to form a circle. In doing this, you can customize the diameter. As their mixologist and referee I would measure the circular straw throwing devices. The regulation size was six connected red cocktail straws.

Third, and of utmost importance to the common busboy, was the positioning of wastebaskets. You needed two, placed in between the three players. Player – wastebasket – player – wastebasket – player: in that exact order. The wastebaskets had to be of the common plastic variety, certainly not wood, and god forbid, never wicker. The liners were to be left out, as the ability for the busboy to rinse the receptacles cleanly with a hose outside near the street water drain was paramount.

Fourth, the playing field was the bar. Players were seated at the bar, with a normal positioning: facing the liquor shelves that were about eight feet behind the bar countertop. The seating arrangement was important, as the loser from last week’s game always pitched first. He would be placed seated at the far right of the bartender (me), or the left hand side of the other two players, from the perspective of a customer.

The rules of the gameplay were fairly simple. Once the game was set up, with the three players seated, trashcans properly placed and the straws bent into regulation size circles; myself as mixologist and referee, would call the time. Each player had two minutes to pitch. The pitch of the circle of straws took place from a seated position. Standing for an advantage was forbidden. The straw circle was pitched at the liquor bottles on the shelves behind the bar. A player would throw the red straw circle at the bottles of victuals that were shelved in tiers against the wall behind the bar. Underhand was the technique, as if softly throwing a horseshoe. Again, this was about an eight-foot shot.

It was a well-stocked club, with five tiers of finest varieties, elongated on each shelf. Irish, scotch, Canadian, bourbon, blends, schnapps of all flavors, creams such as Baily’s, liquors such as Kahlua, spiced rums; etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. All of it was in play. The mixologist (me), would blend the liquor that the thrown bar straw circle enveloped.

The circumference of the straw circle had the ability to encapsulate up to four bottles on the shelf, but normally only two or three. For example; a pitch could encircle Peachtree schnapps, Drambuie scotch, and Tanqueray gin. I would gather these three bottles, and pour the mix into a single shot glass. One player would pitch, and the player next in the order, the “receiver”, would drink the mix. After each pitch the drinking player had one minute to drink the mix. Two minutes to throw, one minute to drink.

This continued until someone lost the test of endurance. At some juncture a red faced player would be exhausted, and unable to contain himself- you lost when your fluids flew, even if you could still stomach a drink afterwards. The loser paid in bodily fluid as well as coin, as per regulation because the loser purchased the bar tab for the event. The duration and outcome of the game had a great deal to do with skill and conditioning, the normal characteristics of any athletic endeavor.

On most occasions, the rugby women would be singing, and stopping to watch and cheer the action. This added greatly to the ambiance the game. There was one stout but shorter African American female rugby player who had an intense Mohawk. She always took great interest in the game. She watched with glee and fascination while jutting about the Pitch competitors- but paying respect to never interrupt the field of paly. This always got the other mud-clad ladies to add tidbits and jeers as the men struggled to keep their composure.

The sport often became very intense towards the end, and one Sunday was no exception. This time, when Remy, who had lost last week, starting to become ill from exhaustion, found his seating and stayed in the game for the love of the contest! It was a noble sight indeed. The players were covering mouths with hands, and dry heaving whilst caught in the clutches of the exhilarating competition. All the while the ladies were singing gleefully and hoisting spirits. But the agony of defeat came suddenly, as it often did, when Duncan lost control of his oral function, hurling wild amounts of noxiously blended booze into one of the well placed plastic cans.

The thrill of victory for the Remy and Andrew, hands held high, was first rate. They even gave each other the plebian recognition of the high five, as they found their sea legs with the exhilaration of the victory. It was a testament to their endurance that they were not so badly staggered by the liquid-curdling war of attrition. The sportsmanship on display that Sunday would have made any college sports commentator proud. Players gave hard encouraging slaps on the back to each other as the intensity of the play heightened! The crescendo of the competition came when Duncan finally succumbed and placed his face in one of the cans, whilst his competitors heartily encouraged him with rubs of the hair and slaps on the back. Howard Cosell would have been proud.

 

Having come from such a place: from within the hallowed halls of such academic diversity and inclusion, is it any wonder that I now spend my days in elite college towns, polishing my social graces with the younger lads? Of course, the ladies and gentlemen these days are in search of the same things we craved when we were but mere babe socialites at the club playing Pitch.

 

Upon picking up The Record several months ago I was shocked to see that all of the finer parts of etiquette are now to be legally missing. How will our youngsters grow without the facility to have a good stab at diversity, just as we did? After all, the contemporary truth is the same as it was back in our time as young ladies and gentlemen down at the club, is it not? Hard liquor is essential to enhance the finer points of decorum. We are asking the lads to give up a very important part of their propriety. It is the blending of spirits at elite clubs and in fraternity basements that fosters the greatest moments of clarity! As explained, it was while bending straws down at the club when I learned about the hegemony of a diverse synergy within the fusion of the paradigm.

Whilst first reading the news of the ban on hard liquor at Williams I burst out of my chair and exclaimed, “Good God Adam no, let it not be so!”

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Let’s Have Completely Blind Admissions

Williams College is currently a need-blind in its admission process for national students (not so for international students). That by itself is a good thing, but isn’t that still leaving space for the admissions office to discriminate against potential students through other factors–say, if they’re white or black, a legacy student, or from a nice family in North Adams?

I propose that Williams expand its blind admission policy to all factors that don’t immediately relate to an applicant’s academics and (certain) extracurriculars. The school wouldn’t know if the 1580 SAT score and 4.0 GPA comes from a white, upper class student from Los Angeles or a working class black student from Chicago. Whether you share a last name with a big donor of the campus goes unnoticed by the admissions office. You won an interscholastic competition? Great, that gets considered. But they won’t know or care if you’re president of the Asian students club of your high school.

Regarding international students, the policy will affect them in the same manner. All that will be known are their academics and their status as an international applicant.

This new policy has the potential to boost the already respectable academic achievement of the campus. High school GPA correlates with college GPA, and the SAT predicts for future academic success. It follows that a selecting for students who perform and score the best in high school will likely select for the students who will get the most out of college.

I leave this idea for you to entertain.

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“Williams Students are so Annoying!”

I chanced upon this complaint just the other day. Curious (and partially offended, as affection for one’s alma mater affects even me), I asked for some elaboration. The friend of mine, who attends another respected liberal arts college and didn’t know I attend Williams, responded:

“They’re arrogant. Whenever their team shows up to multi-school events, they think they can coast by on brand-name and being kinda smart. They’re so exclusive, too!”

or something like that.

I told them I was one of those students. The blush on their face was something to behold! I needn’t fear, they said, I’m not like the average student they had met.

Fair enough. But it got me thinking–do I really disagree with them? They’re not stupid, and the stereotype of the Williams jock had to emerge from somewhere. Personally, I do smell a scent of smugness in the purple bubble. I don’t think it’s a conscious thing. I get along well with the Williams marathoner, the mathematician, the musician, or any commingling of the personalities present. It’s more just a certain narrow-mindedness.  We appreciate how Williams College shapes the world, but we simultaneously neglect how much the world shapes Williams College.

I don’t think this mindset is as pronounced in other liberal arts campuses. That thought is subject to change, however.

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Williams College – Worth the Hassle?

Suppose you’re a middle-class student. Williams College accepts you, as do other prestigious institutes–and modest, but inexpensive ones. Your primary interest is establishing a base to build a stable, profitable career. Given these conditions, is going to Williams College or any other distinguished college the evidently preferable route?

I think not. An article by the prudent Marty Nemko I came across before my attendance of Williams presents a solid argument for attending the humble community college.

I ultimately chose Williams because of my financial circumstances and intetest in academia. Those students looking for a career, however, may desire to choose another path.

But what do you think?

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Bring on the Brits!

For the first time this Winter Study (to my knowledge, let me know if I am wrong), 6 Exeter students will come to Williams to “study”. They will be here for two weeks of Winter Study. This means that they will likely spend a lot of time involved in “extracurriculars”, since they will not even be here for the duration of a winter study course, most of which allow for plenty of “extracurricular” time on their own.

 

Sounds like an exciting way to spend your January, as an Exeter student. Think they will take applications from WEPO students?

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Local demands for intellectual diversity

Saw the following today, thought others might be interested in seeing what’s going on at other schools in our neck of the world: UMass students — fed up with professors preaching anti-Americanism — demand ‘intellectual diversity’ .

The petition itself is available here. What I find fascinating is that the title of the article uses the word ‘demand’, which appears no where in their petition. They use words such as ‘petition’, ‘urge’ and ‘suggest’; it is written in a very different tone than other recent petitions (such as this one from Oberlin).

 

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Yale to Williams and Back

I’m an associate professor of mathematics at Williams now, but my academic career began as an undergrad at Yale in the 90’s. This post is parallel to Yale and Missouri, and a sequel to Uncomfortable Posting. For me, one of the purposes of college is to freely and civilly discuss and learn from each other. I am thus worried by recent actions at many schools, including my alma mater, where passions get so heated that this goal appears unattainable. I wanted to share some links as food for thought.

I urge people to read these and related articles, especially the third link which is the article sent to the residents of Silliman, and reflect on the direction our nation’s campuses are moving. If we stay silent, it is other voices that will be heard and viewed as speaking for all.

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Uncomfortable Posting

Greetings. I’m the faculty president of the Williams’ chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest academic honor society. As there has been a lot of discussion about speakers invited to campus by Uncomfortable Learning, I wanted to briefly post why PBK has decided to co-sponsor their next speakers.

PBK is dedicated to the principles of freedom of inquiry and liberty of thought and expression. We do not necessarily support the views and opinions of the speakers, but we strongly support the calls made by President Falk,  William McGuire III ’17 and others on the importance and value of having civil discussions. There is a great opportunity in such debate, and we encourage all interested members of the community to come to these and other events and be heard. Many of the positions held by students and faculty on our campus today would not have found receptive audiences in the earlier days of Williams; ideas should be refuted by facts, not silenced.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out
                     Because I was not a Socialist.

                     Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out
                     Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

                     Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out 
                     Because I was not a Jew.

                    Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for
                    me. — Martin Niemoller

Steven Miller (sjm1@williams.edu), Associate Professor of Mathematics

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Morty on Campus Unrest – a follow-up (Part VI?)

A story today in the Chronicle of Higher Education dovetails with David’s excellent, five-part dissection of Morty Schapiro’s Wall Street Journal op-ed on campus speech and protests (starting here).

Laura Kipnis, a Northwestern professor of media, wrote a February article for the Chronicle entitled “Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academe,” in which she discussed Northwestern’s newly-instituted prohibition on student-faculty dating in the context of a lawsuit between an undergraduate and a philosophy professor over a failed date:

An undergraduate sued my own university, alleging that a philosophy professor had engaged in “unwelcome and inappropriate sexual advances” and that the university punished him insufficiently for it. The details that emerged in news reports and legal papers were murky and contested, and the suit was eventually thrown out of court…

The aftermath has been a score of back-and-forth lawsuits. After trying to get a financial settlement from the professor, the student filed a Title IX suit against the university: She wants her tuition reimbursed, compensation for emotional distress, and other damages. Because the professor wasn’t terminated, when she runs into him it triggers her PTSD, she says. (The university claims that it appropriately sanctioned the professor, denying him a raise and a named chair.) She’s also suing the professor for gender violence. He sued the university for gender discrimination (he says he wasn’t allowed to present evidence disproving the student’s allegations)—this suit was thrown out; so was the student’s lawsuit against the university. The professor sued for defamation various colleagues, administrators, and a former grad student whom, according to his complaint, he had previously dated; a judge dismissed those suits this month…
What a mess. And what a slippery slope…

In her new article, she writes about how that original article led to: 1) a march on Morty’s office by mattress-carrying students:

When I first heard that students at my university had staged a protest over an essay I’d written in The Chronicle Review about sexual politics on campus — and that they were carrying mattresses and pillows — I was a bit nonplussed. For one thing, mattresses had become a symbol of student-on-student sexual-assault allegations, and I’d been writing about the new consensual-relations codes governing professor-student dating. Also, I’d been writing as a feminist. And I hadn’t sexually assaulted anyone. The whole thing seemed symbolically incoherent.

2) Title IX complaints against Kipnis by two students;

Things seemed less amusing when I received an email from my university’s Title IX coordinator informing me that two students had filed Title IX complaints against me on the basis of the essay and “subsequent public statements” (which turned out to be a tweet) … I was being charged with retaliation, it said, though it failed to explain how an essay that mentioned no one by name could be construed as retaliatory, or how a publication fell under the province of Title IX, which, as I understood it, dealt with sexual misconduct and gender discrimination.

3) an investigation by an outside law firm of undisclosed charges against her;

I wouldn’t be informed about the substance of the complaints until I met with the investigators. Apparently the idea was that they’d tell me the charges, and then, while I was collecting my wits, interrogate me about them…

A week later I heard from the investigators. For reasons I wasn’t privy to, the university had hired an outside law firm, based in another Midwestern city an hour-and-a-half flight away, to conduct the investigation; a team of two lawyers had been appointed, and they wanted to schedule “an initial interview” the following week…

I replied that I wanted to know the charges before agreeing to a meeting. They told me, cordially, that they wanted to set up a meeting during which they would inform me of the charges and pose questions.

4) a Huffington Post article criticizing both Kipnis and Morty’s op-ed:

I’d been asked to keep the charges confidential, but this became moot when, shortly before my campus meeting with the investigators, a graduate student published an article on a well-trafficked site excoriating me and the essay, and announcing that two students had filed Title IX retaliation complaints against me. She didn’t identify her source for this information or specify her own relationship to the situation, though she seemed well versed on all the inside details; in fact, she knew more about the process than I did.

It wasn’t me alone on the chopping block. She also excoriated our university’s president for his op-ed essay on academic freedom, which, she charged, was really a veiled commentary on the pending Title IX charges against me and thus subverted the process by issuing a covert advance verdict in my favor. (He’d obliquely mentioned the controversy over the essay, among other campus free-speech issues.) She didn’t seem particularly concerned that she herself was subverting the process by charging that the process had been subverted, and by revealing the complaints in the first place.

Here’s her conclusion:

What’s being lost, along with job security, is the liberty to publish ideas that might go against the grain or to take on risky subjects in the first place… Self-censorship naturally prevails [and] even those with tenure fear getting caught up in some horrendous disciplinary process with ad hoc rules and outcomes; pretty much everyone now self-censors accordingly.

You can mock academic culture all you want, and I’ve done a fair amount of it myself, but I also believe that unconstrained intellectual debate — once the ideal of university life, now on life support — is essential to a functioning democratic society. And that should concern us all. I also find it beyond depressing to witness young women on campuses — including aspiring intellectuals! — trying to induce university powers to shield them from the umbrages of life and calling it feminism.

As of this writing, I have yet to hear the verdict on my case, though it’s well past the 60-day time frame. In the meantime, new Title IX complaints have been filed against the faculty-support person who accompanied me to the session with the investigators. As a member of the Faculty Senate, whose bylaws include the protection of academic freedom — and believing the process he’d witnessed was a clear violation of academic freedom — he’d spoken in general terms about the situation at a senate meeting. Shortly thereafter, as the attorneys investigating my case informed me by phone, retaliation complaints were filed against him for speaking publicly about the matter (even though the complaints against me had already been revealed in the graduate student’s article), and he could no longer act as my support person. Another team of lawyers from the same firm has been appointed to conduct a new investigation.

A week or so earlier, the investigators had phoned to let me know that a “mediated resolution” was possible in my case if I wished to pursue that option. I asked what that meant — an image of me and the complainants in a conference room hugging came to mind. I didn’t like the visual. The students were willing to drop their complaints in exchange for a public apology from me, the investigators said. I tried to stifle a laugh. I asked if that was all. No, they also wanted me to agree not to write about the case.

I understand that by writing these sentences, I’m risking more retaliation complaints, though I’m unclear what penalties may be in store (I suspect it’s buried somewhere in those links). But I refuse to believe that students get to dictate what professors can or can’t write about, or what we’re allowed to discuss at our Faculty Senate meetings. I don’t believe discussing Title IX cases should be verboten in the first place — the secrecy of the process invites McCarthyist abuses and overreach.

Implicit in Kipnis’s criticism of Northwestern’s policies, its handling of the complaint against her, and subsequent developments is a critique similar to that presented in the EphBlog series. To be sure, Kipnis credits Morty for writing his op-ed, but it’s clear that she does not believe his actions demonstrate a commitment to free speech, nor that the culture fostered at Northwestern (or elsewhere in academia) is a good one.

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150th Anniversary of PBK at Williams

PBKEph3

Join us Wednesday, March 18th for a day of activities celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Williams Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest academic honor society (and one of the last, if not the last, Greek society still standing on campus). Main events are a lunch at the Faculty House at noon and talks by the national PBK president and secretary, our visiting scholar William Arms of Cornell, the president of the NY PBK Association, and others from 4-8pm in Griffin 4 (refreshments and dinner provided). All are welcome; if possible please email Steven Miller (sjm1@williams.edu) so we can get an accurate headcount. A complete schedule of the talks is online here: http://web.williams.edu/Mathematics/sjmiller/public_html/pbk/ (videos of the talks will be posted later on YouTube and linked to this page). For Williams alumns in general, and PBK alumns in particular, we’d love to hear your stories below about how your education has continued since your days in the Purple Valley.

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