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Stone lecture on academic freedom and free speech

Geoffrey Stone presented an excellent lecture last night on campus. The topic was on academic freedom and free speech on campus.

I will try to present his main points, but there is no way I can approach his eloquence or the purity of his argument.

  1. Academic freedom is relatively new phenomenon. Until the mid-20th Century, professors and students were routinely fired/expelled for presenting views at odds with the general beliefs of the college.
  2. Freedom of speech in general had been used as grounds for imprisonment using the Sedition Act passed during WW1 during the Wilson administration. This continued until the Supreme Court reversed those decisions about 40 years later (timing may be a little off).
  3. All ideas and speakers should be allowed on campus, regardless of whether the ideas are deemed hurtful or offensive to others. This has been made formal policy at the University of Chicago. Many other universities and colleges have adopted nearly the same policy, including at least one institution that had previously withdrawn a speaker invitation.
  4. All others should feel comfortable challenging ideas they find hurtful or offensive. However, disruption of the engagement or threats of unrest were not appropriate actions.
  5. Universities/colleges that shield the community from ideas are not properly preparing students to deal with these challenges in the real world.
  6. None of us should be so arrogant as to think that all our beliefs, regardless of how certain we are, should be considered truth. In other words, we could be wrong.
  7. Allowing censorship of ideas we find offensive opens the door to others who might censor our ideas.
  8. Censorship of ideas is likely in the long term to hurt minority groups more than the majority.

I hope this is a decent summary. I welcome any additions/corrections from anyone else who attended. I wish more people had come.

With regard to local issues, he did point out that Williams had withdrawn invitations to speakers among a list of other colleges who had recently taken similar action.

I view having this speaker as a great move for the college. Bravo! I hope that Williams will adopt a policy similar to that at U Chicago.

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Welcome President Mandel

To the Williams Community,

It is my honor and pleasure to inform you that on Sunday, March 11, the Board of Trustees appointed Maud S. Mandel as the 18th president of Williams College. President-elect Mandel, who will begin her tenure at Williams on July 1, 2018, currently serves as Dean of the College and Professor of History and Judaic studies at Brown University.

You can learn more about President-elect Mandel by watching a video interview we’ve posted on the special announcement website, where you’ll also find her CV and other information about her scholarship and career.

I could not be more excited about welcoming Maud Mandel to the college. She has a distinguished record as a scholar, a teacher and an academic leader, and has demonstrated throughout her career a deep and abiding affection for the students, faculty and staff who together create a great academic enterprise. She embodies the values at our core and will provide outstanding leadership as we continue to pursue our shared aspirations for Williams.

I want to thank the members of the Presidential Search Committee for their extraordinary work leading to this terrific result for Williams. We were privileged to meet many exceptional people in the course of our search, and all of us on the Committee, and on the Board of Trustees, were truly inspired by President-elect Mandel during the selection process.

We look forward to welcoming President-elect Mandel for a visit to campus in early April, and will provide details as soon as the agenda is confirmed. In the meantime, you can begin to get to know her by exploring the materials on the announcement website.

Congratulations to President-elect Mandel, and best wishes to all of us as we begin this next chapter in the extraordinary history of Williams College.

With warm best regards,

Michael Eisenson ’77
Chair, Presidential Search Committee
Chair, Williams College Board of Trustees

Worth a week to review this material?

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The Age of Nerf Maoism

An anonymous Williams professor writes:

Obviously the shift to DPE reflects a broader transition, ideologically, from Identity Politics 1.0 (let us celebrate our differences!) to Identity Politics 2.0 (let us root out the oppressors!). Ours is the age of nerf Maoism.

After that email they went around shaking the curricular trees of individual departments, supplying lists of courses that had previously been EDI-certified and asking if we would consider placing them under the DPE umbrella.

In a way the DPE requirement has less teeth than EDI ever did, because you don’t have to approach a special committee of ideological enforcers to get your course the DPE certification (like you did for EDI courses in the past). The decision is made at the unit level. Whatever a department thinks satisfies the requirement is good to go. This makes the dearth of courses even more hilarious.

Apparently the CEA believe that faculty just can’t be bothered to fill out the paperwork. Isn’t it equally possible that people take DPE so seriously that they need time to develop a new set of courses that satisfy the standard? (Didn’t anyone consider this in implementing the new requirement?) One feels that even the CEA is on the verge of admitting the change is essentially cosmetic.

Background reading on this topic: one, two, three, four.

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DPE Update

An update on DPE:

To: All Faculty
From: Committee on Educational Affairs, Lara Shore-Sheppard, Chair
Date: February 16, 2018
Subject: Implementation of the Difference, Power, and Equity (DPE) requirement

Dear Colleagues,

The Committee on Educational Affairs (CEA) is currently engaged in the annual curricular review. As you may recall, this year we are moving from the Exploring Diversity Initiative course requirement to the Difference, Power, and Equity course requirement which was passed by the faculty last spring and is slated to go into effect in fall of 2018.

Thanks to the anonymous faculty member who sent us this. Would love to have a professor, anonymous or otherwise, take on the Lily Shao role of posting such messages. Future historians will thank you! Since these e-mails go out to around 300 people, they are hardly state secrets. I am also somewhat worried that the College, in its general incompetence and ahistoricism, does not archive these messages so that, a decade from now, Williams historians won’t be able to easily read them.

We need at least 60 courses per semester to make this requirement work, and currently we have about 50 courses submitted for the entire year. We suspect that despite our best efforts at communication with chairs and faculty, there may have been confusion about the process for submitting a course to be designated as DPE, so this memo is intended to clarify the process. We urge any of you who might be interested in having your course designated as DPE to submit your course as described below if you have not already done so. Please do this as soon as possible as the course package goes before the faculty at the March meeting in order to be ready for preregistration in April.

First, and most important, as the DPE requirement is replacing the EDI requirement, any course that your unit decides can be used to satisfy the DPE requirement must be submitted as a substantially revised course in order to receive the designation, even if the course is not changing. We suspect that many current EDI courses that faculty intend to change into DPE courses have not yet been submitted in this way. If your unit wants your course to have a DPE designation, you must submit the substantial revision form indicating this.

Ha! (Note that the bolding was in the original e-mail.) The majority of the faculty care so little about this absurd exercise in virtue-signalling that they can’t even be bothered to submit the appropriate paperwork.

My opinions (one, two, three, four) about DPE are unchanged from a year ago.

Rest of e-mail below the break:
Read more

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Diversity, in All Its Forms: Conservative Society President Speaks on Claiming Williams Day

On February 1st, classes were cancelled for the tenth annual Claiming Williams Day celebration of topics related to diversity and inclusion.

Conservative Society President John DiGravio ’21 was invited by student organizers to give a speech at a Claiming Williams morning event. The presentation, titled “Diversity, in All Its Forms: Conservative Thought at Williams” was delivered to 130 students, faculty, and administrators assembled in Griffin Hall. After articulating the foundations of his personal commitment to diversity of perspective, John explained the extent to which the College is failing to ensure the intellectual diversity of the curriculum and campus community. He then described the Society’s efforts to address this issue and called upon members of the Williams community to uphold their commitment to diversity in all its forms.

John has spoken at a number of public engagements related to intellectual diversity and conservative thought at Williams. If you would like to continue the conversation initiated in this speech, or arrange for John to present at another event, please contact him at jjd6@williams.edu.

For the latest updates on the activities of the Williams College Society for Conservative Thought, please visit and bookmark our new website: https://www.wcsct.org/.
 _
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Upperclassmen Can’t Enroll in CS 134/136?

A comment from a CS major:

CS 134 is definitely necessary to do well (and possibly even enroll) in 136, unless students have received a score of 5 on the computer science AP.

The CS AP is not very rigorous, but it’s more about having had the opportunity to work with code a little bit before you jump into 136. A lot of students do poorly in 134 or end up pass-failing it as it is; I definitely wouldn’t recommend anyone without programming experience try to jump straight in to 136 (it’s true that you don’t get much actual theory until 136, but I still think 134 is valuable).

I would also add that, because the CS department is very understaffed (CS profs teach the most student-hours of any dept; almost 4 times more than the lowest department) it’s pretty much impossible to get into 134 or 136 after freshman year. Sadly, space is so limited that only students who seem likely to major can usually get a seat.

1) Thanks for the comment! Do any CS majors disagree with the above?

2) Is it really true that sophomores/juniors/seniors can’t get in to CS 134/136? That would be absurd! I had not heard that things were this bad . . .

3) The Provost Office claims that other departments — Chemistry, at least, but also, I think, Statistics — teach more students per professor than Computer Science.

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Racial Capitalism

Fox News has been reading course catalogs again.

Colleges nationwide are teaching students about tacos, hooking up and country music’s “homophobic and racist” message — but those are just a few examples, as classes such as “Queer Religion” and “Racial Capitalism” become the new norm.

The classes are listed and explained in Young America’s Foundation’s annual report of bizarre courses with a “leftist slant” that are offered at top-tier colleges and universities throughout the country.

Williams College has a course on “Radical Theories of Political Struggle: Anti-Black Racism and the Obama Administration” as well as “Racial Capitalism,” which looks at “the ways in which capitalist economies have ‘always and everywhere’ relied upon forms of racist domination and exclusion.”

1) Anytime we are mentioned in a news article along with places like Princeton and Harvard, we win. So, thanks Fox News!

2) The underlying report actually mentions 7 courses, 5 in Africana Studies. It is almost as if the Young America’s Foundation does not consider Africana Studies to be a legitimate field . . .

3) I am more concerned with the rigor and seriousness of these classes than with any (alleged) ideological bias. To examine that question, we need to start with a close reading of the syllabi. Alas, Williams does not make those public. What does it have to hide? Perhaps a reader could share them with us?

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EphBlog Gets Results

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Details here. There are few better jobs in academic than teaching Williams students. Highly recommended!

Congratulations to Tiku Majumder and the rest of the Williams Administration. These are just the sorts of small-bore temporary improvements that an interim administration should focus on. The next President will, and should, lead the effort to determine how many permanent positions there should be in computer science. Previous discussion here. Normally the Administration acts on our suggestions much more quickly than just 3 days . . .

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Hire More Computer Science Professors

Is it too much to ask Tiku Majumder to do his job and staff Williams appropriately? There is only one computer science class (below the 300-level) with space available, and that is a 200-level course. How many Williams students — especially poor students from lower quality high schools — are being turned away from CSCI 134 and/or 136? I realize that creating new tenure track positions is a difficult task and requires thinking about the long term future of the faculty. Fine!

But there is no excuse for not hiring enough visitors to ensure that any Williams student who wants to study computer science can do so.

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Society for Conservative Thought Hosts Chris Gibson

On Wednesday, January 10th, the Society for Conservative Thought held its inaugural public event featuring Chris Gibson’s presentation,“What it Means to Be a Conservative.” Dr. Gibson previously served as a U.S. Army colonel and U.S. representative, and is currently Stanley Kaplan Distinguished Visiting Professor of American Foreign Policy in the Williams leadership studies program.

Addressing the audience of 45 students, administrators, and community locals, Dr. Gibson asserted the importance of the “conservation of the founding principles” and the recognition of their enduring value in the modern world. With many references to American history and European political philosophy, he described the miracle of the American political experiment and the critical need to maintain “the spirit of Philadelphia” which conceived of it. Students then stayed for over an hour to participate in a Q&A session in which Dr. Gibson outlined concrete legislative actions to improve the American political system, drawing upon his experiences from serving in Congress.

Following the discussion, the Society offered complimentary copies of Dr. Gibson’s most recent book, Rally Point: Five Tasks to Unite the Country and Revitalize the American Dream, courtesy of the Society’s budget.

The invitation of distinguished guests to voice conservative principles on campus is essential to the mission of the Society for Conservative Thought. If you can refer such individuals who would be interested in contributing to a future event, please contact jjd6@williams.edu.

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A New Year, A New Era for Williams College

Alumni and Friends of Williams College,

I am pleased to announce that the student representatives of College Council have formally approved the incipient Society for Conservative Thought as a registered student organization. This milestone has been made possible through the tireless and earnest contributions of faculty members and many students, to all of whom I am deeply grateful.

Since my arrival at Williams as a freshman this fall, I have become increasingly alarmed by the extent of the liberal intellectual uniformity of the curriculum and campus community. Fellow students upholding all varieties of political and social beliefs have confided to me their concerns that the explicit liberal bias is inhibitive to the attainment of a well-rounded liberal arts education, and that alternative views are frequently neglected, misrepresented, and ridiculed without basis. This close-mindedness breeds a shallow and hegemonic intellectual environment in which students do not feel able to freely express non-conforming ideas. As asserted by the campus administration during the First Days presentations, it is a mission of the College to promote diversity “in all its forms.” Diversity, however, should not be restricted to classifications of racial, sexual, and socioeconomic identities—at an educational institution, it must include diversity of thought. Though the administration has openly acknowledged the problem of liberal homogeneity in the official 2005 Diversity Initiatives Self-Study, in which students described “a lack of tolerance of diversity of thought” regarding conservative philosophies (pg. 10), the College has taken no meaningful measure to improve the situation and there are no existing student organizations dedicated to the study of conservative beliefs.

The Society for Conservative Thought is the product of the current student movement to broaden the intellectual diversity of the College and establish an academic refuge where students can engage with the rich intellectual tradition of conservatism in the vein of Edmund Burke and Russell Kirk. As a non-partisan and non-activist organization, we invite students of all varieties of political and social beliefs to expand their academic horizons and study, discuss, and even challenge ideas that are underrepresented in the Williams curriculum. Unlike other student organizations which have attempted to prompt dialogue through spectacle and incendiary controversies, the Society will foster a genuine understanding and appreciation of conservative principles through group readings and discussions, debates, and invited speakers. The Society is sponsored by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a prestigious and well-endowed organization founded by William F. Buckley Jr. in 1953 for the promotion of conservative ideas on college campuses. Through ISI, the Society has access to educational resources, a bureau of distinguished speakers, and special off-campus events, all free of charge.

I understand that there is a strong contingent of alumni who are rightfully disaffected with the intellectual climate of the College. To alumni: may this message inspire you with the knowledge that there are many among the student body who share your concerns and are striving to right the situation. The Society will be a liaison between the student and alumni communities, and we look forward to hearing your advice as we forge lasting bonds of friendship in our joint effort to establish true diversity of thought at the College. Please contact me to learn more and become involved in our mission—Williams needs you.

At this moment the intellectual affairs of the College face a fateful crossroads of critical importance. By the end of this academic year, the two most prominent campus advocates for free thought will have retired and graduated, and a new president will be taking office. For over two centuries, Williams has formed the minds, hearts, and souls of generations of students who have effected incredible and outsized impacts on our nation and the world. Will the College endanger this legacy by continuing to stifle the holistic intellectual growth of its students? Perhaps, but I promise that the Society will do everything within its power to provide Williams students with a refuge for free thought and the unprejudiced study of the true, good, and beautiful.

Society activities will commence during the Winter Study period. We will read selections from William F. Buckley Jr.’s God and Man at Yale, Roger Scruton’s The Meaning of Conservatism, and Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind, as well as host a number of speakers drawn from distinguished faculty members and alumni. Those with questions or interest in our efforts may contact me at jjd6@williams.edu.

Sincerely,

John J. DiGravio ‘21

President, Williams College Society for Conservative Thought

“Veritas Vos Liberabit”

 

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Prospectus Observation

Arch Stanton ’62 writes:

Is it wishful thinking, or does the prospectus have several clues that the search committee is looking for someone who will be more supportive of intellectual diversity and free speech on campus?

Should we draw an inference from the fact that the word ‘debate’ appears four times?

Could the phrase ‘where all voices are invited and heard” be a reference to Derbyshire? I would be surprised if the drafters of this document would use the verb ‘invite’ if they did not intend readers to make a connection to that incident.

“Be an inspiring and trusted leader and convener with the ability to drive a sense of inclusiveness and respect – even in the face of controversial issues. Model civil discourse and openness to different points of view, and set high expectations for respectful discussions.”

Does this bullet point indicate a desire that the next Williams president be open even to conservative points of view?

I hope so! Other comments?

By the way, we need more authors on EphBlog! Please join us (anonymously, as I do or otherwise.) Just leave a comment on this thread and I will contact you.

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Christmas Thanks

From Twitter:

xmas

Merry Christmas one and all!

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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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College Censorship Anniversary

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On or about two years ago today, Williams College began to censor historic artifacts founded by previous generations of Ephs. This mural in the log came from the World War Two generation. A war memorial that depicted Chief Hendrick Theyanoguin standing over a map being inspected by Ephraim Williams on the morning of the Bloody Morning Scout, during the battle of Lake George in 1755. Hendrick and Ephraim were both killed in combat during this joint reconnaissance mission.

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Truly Excellent

A recent alum now in graduate school at a super fancy university writes:

One thing you’ve said which I now realize is true: the teaching at Williams is truly excellent. I used to think all the talk about small classes and the teaching quality was BS intended to make us feel better about not getting into Harvard, but no. There are a lot of professors at REDACTED that probably spend at maximum 30 minutes a week on a class they teach, reviewing a PowerPoint they made 5 years ago in order to drone through it without interruption during class. They make some of the coolest subjects like “remote sensing systems” absolutely boring. As a grad student, I’m here for research so it’s fine for me, but it would be tough if I was an undergrad. Perhaps this is something the Williams administration should try be more convincing in recruiting because as I said, I thought it was BS, and I probably wasn’t alone.

Indeed. Note how little pressure there is at Williams to do a better job at recruiting students, at demonstrating the truth that the undergraduate academic experience is much better here than at Fancy Research University. Has anyone at Williams ever gotten fired for failing to do this? Has anyone been promoted for doing it well? Does anyone even bother to measure what works and what does not in this area? Pointers welcome!

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Top Presidential Contenders

Who are the top (early!) contenders for the next Williams president? Keep in mind that Williams, unusually for a top elite liberal arts college, has never had a female president.1 Most Williams faculty members I talk to think there is a less than 10% chance that a white male will be selected. Top contenders include:

denise-photo-headWilliams professor Denise Buell: She is the current Dean of the Faculty, the traditional stepping stone for internal candidates. Both Frank Oakley and John Chandler were Deans of the Faculty before becoming Williams presidents. An (anonymous!) faculty member told me she is “insanely ambitious.” Having been Dean of the Faculty for many years, she has had numerous opportunities to interact with members of the search committee. If she were not interested in the job, she probably would have been named the interim president, a role often bestowed on Deans of the Faculty, as with Bill Wagner last time. She is about 52, which might be a tad old nowadays, but still well within the range.

Raymond, Wendy_2013_1(0)Former Williams professor Wendy Raymond: She is currently the Vice President for Academic Affairs & Dean of Faculty at Davidson. Her son is out of high school and her husband, David Backus, is a former lecturer in geosciences at Williams. I suspect that she moved to Davidson because she was eager to climb the academic ladder and Davidson provided the best opportunity. At 57 she is, like Buell, a bit older than the target age. She has both fans and detractors among the current faculty. She was a champion of diversity issues while at Williams so, if the committee is interested in this topic, she will certainly get an interview.

spencerFormer Williams trustee Clayton Spencer ’77: She has been the president of Bates since 2012. At age 62, she would be the oldest (new) Williams president in decades. She has done well at Bates and would not be viewed as a bad person if she were to leave after just 6 years. Might Williams try to grab her for a 4 to 5 year term, long enough to allow Provost Dukes Love to gain the experience he needs? Perhaps. Recall that Spencer was on the search committee that selected Falk. Another member of that committee was current search committee heard Mike Eisenson ’77. It is certainly interesting that Spencer and Eisenson are both members of the class of 1977.

cappyFormer Provost Cappy Hill ’76: Longtime readers will recall that I was certain Cappy was going to be selected last time round. Wrong that time but maybe this time? She was almost certainly a finalist when Morty was selected almost 20 years ago so she has been around the block on this several times. A faculty member mentioned to me that they had “heard some positive speculation about Spencer and Cappy Hill; both make some sense.” After a successful decade at Vassar, she now (like many former LAC presidents) runs a non-profit: Ithaka S+R. Do she and her husband like living in NYC? Are they interested in retiring in Williamstown?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWilliams history professor Eiko Maruko Siniawer ’97 is my leading dark horse candidate. At 42 (and a Williams graduate) she is the perfect age: experienced enough after more than a decade at Williams to know what she is doing, young enough to have the energy that the trustees are looking for. (I believe that Payne, Schapiro and Falk were all hired while in their 40s.) Although she has not served as either Dean of the Faculty or Provost (the most common stepping stones to college presidencies) she is former head of CUL and current chair of the Committee on Priorities and Resources, perhaps the single spot (outside of the provost’s office) at which a Williams faculty member can learn to think like a president. Being a person of color is also a big advantage in this search since the trustees would love to be able to get the Williams-has-only-had-white-presidents monkey off their backs.

Merrill_2016-219x300Williams history professor Karen Merrill: Any female former Dean of the College is a plausible candidate. At 53, she is not too old. Merrill is, I think, widely regarded as an excellent administrator and consensus builder. I have heard fewer complaints about her tenure as Dean of the College than about her predecessors or successors. Her handling of the controversy over the log mural (pdf) was masterful. (By the way, we really ought to rename the “Committee on Campus Space and Institutional History” to the “Merrill Committee.”) Indeed, of all the controversies at Williams over the last 15 years, I can’t think of one that was better handled. (And since Falk screwed up so many things, I think Merrill deserves most of the credit. Did any of the social justice warrior Ephs even complain about the outcome?) But is she interested in the Williams presidency? Informed gossip welcome!

Portugal2002_3-274x300Chemistry Professor Lee Park is the interim Dean of the Faculty. (Buell is on sabbatical. Isn’t it weird that someone would take a sabbatical year during their 3 year appointment period?) Park is 53 and, obviously, non-white. She has been the associate Dean of the Faculty for a few years, I think. She is currently chair of the Committee on Appointments and Promotions, traditionally one of the most powerful positions on campus. (Another member of that committee is Professor Tom Smith ’88, also a chemist and a member of the presidential search committee. If Tom is a fan of Park, then she may have a real shot at the job.) Also interesting is that search committee member Chris Winters ’95 is married to Williams chemistry professor Amy Gehring ’94. Park has worked (closely?) with Smith and Gehring for more than a decade. I wonder if they are friends or rivals? Park has also been chair of the CEP. Is Park interested in the Williams presidency? Presumably, she wouldn’t have worked so many administrative jobs over the years if she weren’t interested in climbing the ladder . . .

Other current or recent Williams female insiders seem less well positioned. After her utter failure at Dickinson, Nancy Roseman probably won’t even get a courtesy interview. Sarah Bolton has not been at Wooster long enough for a move to be reasonable. Marlene Sandstrom is too new to the Dean of the College job.

Given how strong these candidates are, I can’t imagine that Williams will hire a man. Are there are female Ephs who might be interested? Are there other female candidates who are “on the market?”

Who do readers think will be chosen? Who would readers vote for if they were on the committee?

[1] Among the top 10 liberal arts colleges according to US News, only Williams, Bowdoin and Carleton have never had a female president.

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Grade Distribution 2016-2017, 3

A source sent us the official registrar’s report (pdf) on the distribution of grades in 2016-2017. (Relevant background: data for 2008-2009 and 2013-2014, recent Record coverage, and prior EphBlog discussion.) Day 3.

The most embarrassing section of the report:

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I suspect that the professors in the German Department (we still have a German department?!) are feeling under some pressure to increase enrollment. One way to respond to that pressure is to give everyone an A!

Which professors in the department are most guilty? Tough to tell.

But not impossible! Here are the German courses offered last year:

germ2

There were 44 students in the beginning and intermediate 100-level language courses, taught by a mixture of professors in the department. Giving half the students A’s and the other half A-‘s is one way to encourage students to take more German classes!

Much worse, however, is the 4.12 (!) average grade for the 20 students who took either German 201 or 202. The only way to get such a high average is for 1/3 of the students to get an A+ (while everyone else got an A). Who is guilty of such absurd grading? Professor Mandt has finished up her one year visiting position. Professor Kone, on the other hand, is on the tenure track. He is teaching Germ 202 again this spring. How many A+ grades do you think he will award?

The best way for serious faculty members to fight the trend toward awarding too many A+ grades is, perhaps counter-intuitively, to celebrate such exceptional achievement. (Recall that Williams gives this grade hundreds of times each year.) The Administration could require that any faculty member who wanted to award an A+ would be required to schedule a 30 minute public presentation at which the student would present her excellent work and the professor would explain why he judged the work to be among the very best he has ever seen from an undergraduate.

There would still be — I hope there will be! — 10 or so A+ grades awarded each year. On occasion, Williams students do produce some amazing work. We should celebrate their achievements! But handing out 200 such grades each year devalues such truly exceptional work.

Trivia Question: Which Williams faculty member in the last decade was most (in)famous for handing out A+ grades?

Answer: Bernard Moore, affirmative action poster hire for the Political Science department — thanks Cathy Johnson! — and convicted felon.

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Williams presidential search news

To the Williams Community,

I hope you are all enjoying the last days of summer, and looking forward, as I am, to the new academic year.

As you know, President Adam Falk recently announced that he will leave Williams at the end of December to become president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. In my role as chair of the college’s Board of Trustees, I have been asked by the Board to lead our search for Adam’s successor. I am writing today to inform you of our considerable progress in organizing the process, and to share with you our plan for interim college leadership beginning in January of 2018, which was approved by the Board of Trustees yesterday.

First, I am pleased to inform you that Protik (Tiku) Majumder, Barclay Jermain Professor of Natural Philosophy and Director of the Science Center, has graciously agreed to serve as interim president, starting January 1, 2018, and continuing until the new president is in place. Tiku has an outstanding record as a Williams teacher and mentor, scientist, and faculty leader, and just as importantly has earned wide trust and respect across the Williams community. Our objective was to find an interim president with a keen understanding of our institution; a love of Williams, of its students, and of its faculty; enormous patience, tact, and insight; and an ability to respond with intelligence, compassion, and calm to the inevitable challenges that will arise from time to time. Tiku has each of these qualities, and many more. He will do a superb job of keeping Williams on track, and I ask you to join me in thanking him and supporting his leadership.

Second, we have formed a Presidential Search Committee whose charge will be to present to the Board of Trustees one or more exceptional and thoroughly vetted candidates to become our next president, and to ensure that every member of the Williams community has an opportunity to give input with respect to qualities that we should be seeking, as well as to offer nominations. The Search Committee includes representatives from every sector of our community: students, staff, alumni, faculty, and trustees. Several members are also Williams parents. As their backgrounds indicate, each brings deep involvement with the College. Service on the committee will require significant time and effort, and I am personally grateful to the members for their dedication to Williams and their willingness to take on this essential task.

The members of the committee are:

Michael Eisenson ’77, Trustee and Chair of the Search Committee
O. Andreas Halvorsen ’86, Trustee
Clarence Otis, Jr. ’77, Trustee
Kate L. Queeney ’92, Trustee
Liz Robinson ’90, Trustee
Martha Williamson ’77, Trustee

Ngonidzashe Munemo, Associate Dean for Institutional Diversity and Associate Professor of Political Science
Peter Murphy, John Hawley Roberts Professor of English
Lucie Schmidt, Professor of Economics
Tom Smith ’88, Professor of Chemistry
Safa Zaki, Professor of Psychology

Chris Winters ’95, Associate Provost

Jordan G. Hampton ’87, President, Society of Alumni
Yvonne Hao ’95, alumna and Trustee Emerita

Ben Gips ’19, student representative
Sarah Hollinger ’19, student representative

Keli Gail, Secretary of the Board of Trustees and principal staff to the committee

Third, the board has retained the firm Spencer Stuart as consultant, to help manage the search process. Spencer Stuart has been involved in numerous recent and successful academic searches at the highest levels, and is very well positioned to help the committee in its work. Searches like this are complex and sensitive, and we expect to benefit greatly from their expertise, specialized resources, and pool of outstanding candidates.

The Search Committee will begin its work shortly, and we will announce opportunities for community input as these are developed. As a first step, we have created a website where you can find information and materials related to the search. We will add to the site as additional materials are available, as further process steps are scheduled, and as we have news to share. Our future email updates will link back to this site as the place of record for search news.

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to again thank the members of the Presidential Search Committee for the work they are about to do, and Tiku Majumder for his service as interim president. I also want to convey to our entire community our enthusiasm and optimism as we set out to find the 18th president of Williams College.

Sincerely,

Michael Eisenson ’77
Chair, Williams College Board of Trustees

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Grade Distribution 2016-2017, 2

A source sent us the official registrar’s report (pdf) on the distribution of grades in 2016-2017. (Relevant background: data for 2008-2009 and 2013-2014, recent Record coverage, and prior EphBlog discussion.) Day 2.

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1) Grade inflation is still a problem. The average grade at Williams in 2008-2009 was 3.39. It was 3.41 in 2013-2014. Last year, it was 3.45. So, in the last 8 years, the average has increased by 0.06. In the last 3 years, by 0.04. If the average grade continues to increase at the rate of about 0.01 per year, then, by 2072-2073, we will reach Nirvana! The average GPA at Williams will be 4.0.

2) Grade inflation may be decreasing in severity, perhaps as a natural result of bumping up against the 4.0 ceiling. The average GPA in 2015-2016 was also 3.45. The faculty seem concerned about the problem. Perhaps things are getting under control?

3) Which faculty are most concerned about the problem of grade inflation? My prior (prejudice?) would be that older (male?) faculty are more concerned. This Record article from 1998 has some interesting background.

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Grade Distribution 2016-2017, 1

A source sent us the official registrar’s report (pdf) on the distribution of grades in 2016-2017. (Relevant background: data for 2008-2009 and 2013-2014, recent Record coverage, and prior EphBlog discussion.) Day 1.

1) Someone needs to write a thesis about grade inflation at Williams, an update, 20 years later, to “When A=average : the origins and economic implications of grade inflation at Williams College and other elite institutions,” by Peter Siniawer ’97. (And why isn’t this thesis available on-line?)

2) We need more transparency about grading at Williams. Recall my (unsuccessful) efforts to get the registrar to provide this data. Almost anything that is distributed to hundreds of faculty at Williams ought to be made public. Interested alumni/students/parents should not have to depend on EphBlog’s sources . . .

3) Division 1 should be called out for not holding the line on grades:

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The most distressing aspect of the differences across Divisions (and across departments) is the bad signals that it sends to students. If a student gets a B+ in an intro Computer Science class but an A in Theater, she might thing that this means she is “better” at theater than computer science. Isn’t this one way that Williams guides her on choosing a major that matches her abilities? But, of course, the College is lying to her. She is an average student in computer science and in theater. Lax grading by the latter is misleading her.

Of course, if the Theater Department, and Division 1 departments more generally, want more students, then misleading them about their actual talents may be just what the ticket . . .

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Eisenson ’77 on Falk Departure

At 12:53 pm yesterday, just 19 minutes after Falk’s all campus email:

To the Williams Community,

I write, on behalf of the Williams College Board of Trustees and with mixed emotion, to officially confirm that Adam Falk will leave Williams at the end of 2017 to become president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The College has flourished under Adam’s leadership. We have sustained and, indeed, enhanced our position as a national leader in liberal arts education. We have maintained our commitment to providing access to the broadest possible spectrum of exceptional students, attracting ever increasing talent and diversity to our campus. We have had great success recruiting accomplished and highly sought-after new members to join our outstanding faculty ranks and, as well, Adam has built a deep and effective senior leadership team. Our campus is undergoing an ambitious, carefully-orchestrated renewal, with superb new facilities, including the Sawyer Library and a major new center for the sciences, positioning us for the next fifty years, while reflecting a purposeful commitment to managing our carbon footprint. Our alumni and friends have set the historic Teach It Forward campaign well on the path to achieving our ambitious goals, and the College’s finances are in all ways very sound.

Adam has been an exceptionally fine president for Williams. He has demonstrated a keen ability to appreciate and retain the best of Williams traditions, while encouraging the College to grow through a genuine openness to innovation, always with the education and wellbeing of our students foremost in mind. His departure will be a loss for the College and our community, and I will personally miss his wisdom, his friendship, and his deeply thoughtful and principled leadership. At the same time, he will be leaving at a time when the College is as strong, secure and thriving as it has ever been and the Board of Trustees is completely confident that Williams will attract another exceptional talent to lead us into the next decade.

Adam’s last day at Williams will be December 31, 2017. The Board has approved the formation of a search committee, and I have been appointed as its chair. In that capacity I will be back in touch later this Summer with information about the search process. We will organize various opportunities in the Fall for the community to thank Adam for his service and wish him well. In the meantime, please join me in congratulating Adam on his exciting next adventure and in making the most of his remaining time in the Purple Valley.

Best regards,
Michael Eisenson ’77
Chair, Williams College Board of Trustees

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The Simpsons on SJWs

Apologies for the temporary absence – the semester does get busy this time of year! Before we return to our regular programming, check out this chunk of a Simpsons episode. It’s hilarious!

Granted, this Simpsons bit is about Yale, but it echoes eerily familiar sentiments here in the Purple Valley…

Funny (relevant) quote:

But we also need to hire more deans to decide which Halloween costumes are appropriate. Eight deans should do it.

Remember the Taco Six? My sides are aching! Then again, in Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom’s words, I wouldn’t want to “impinge on the fun of others“…

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Recent Int’l Graduates Concern with Dean’s Office, 2/3

Fellow current students have pointed out a concern recent international Williams graduates are having with Dean’s Office, specifically on the reclassification of the Economics major as STEM and its implications.  We’re spending three posts talking about it. The first post discusses troubling decision making by the assistant dean for international student services, Ninah Pretto. This is the second post. Consider the original Facebook post that started this (full FB discussion with comments can be found in the first post):

Screenshot (24) redacted

The original poster, confirmed by the Dean’s Office, stated that the Economics major has been reclassified as STEM by the Williams administration. Consider the list of majors/academic fields considered STEM that the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement) maintains. A cursory search will show that general Economics is not considered a STEM subject, only “Quantitative Economics/Econometrics” and “Pharmaeconomics/Pharmaceutical Economics.” Since Williams has newly designated its Economics major as STEM, we can reasonably conclude that the Economics major must have significantly changed to be more quantitative in nature from previous years to warrant this.

Consider the course catalogs from SY 2015-16 and the current school year’s. For the sake of completeness, here is SY 2014-2015, SY 2013-s014, and SY 2012-2013. Checking is left as an exercise to the reader, but a brief summary of what you’ll find: no substantial changes in the Williams Economics major!

Let’s repeat that: there have been no material changes in the Economics major year on year since at least 2012. In other words, it is no more quantitative now than it was a year ago, two years ago, three years ago, four years ago, and five years ago. Last I checked (March 29 2017), Williams has a major in Economics, not in Econometrics/Quantitative Economics/Pharmaeconomics/Pharmaceutical Economics. Princeton, which reclassified its Economics major to STEM, has a math-track Economics major. Williams does not.

Questions/concerns:

  1. Is Williams violating the law by designating its Economics major as a STEM major when it clearly is not? It would seem that this decision is at best, deceptive, and at worst, illegal, especially since this decision has far reaching consequences in terms of visas and immigration for international students.
  2. Recall that Dean Ninah Pretto explicit stated that ultimate determination of this policy rests with Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom. Taking Dean Pretto on her word, we must ask: why did Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom reclassify Economics as a STEM major when it clearly is not? What went into this decision?
  3. In the official list of STEM majors, there are 10 (compared to Econ’s two!) fields of psychology – ranging from social psychology to neuroscience – that count as STEM. Does Williams classify psychology, whose concentrations and subject matter adhere to the official list, as a STEM major? Current psychology majors tell us that no, Williams does not consider psychology as a STEM subject! This begs the question: why not? Clearly, according to the federal bureau that regulates F-1 visas, psychology is a STEM field. 
  4. Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom is a psychology professor! In fact, she is the Hales Professor of Psychology of Williams. So why did Dean Sandstrom classify Economics as STEM and Psychology as not STEM? It seems far fetched to suggest that her expertise in psychology is lacking, so this begs the more troubling question: have either Dean Sandstrom or Dean Pretto read the official list of STEM majors, or do they just haphazardly make these types of decisions? Their actions thus far suggest the latter.
  5. On a related matter, members of the Psychology Student Advisory Board report that there have been efforts to change the division classification of psychology to Div 3, but, notably, they report that psychology professors have said that “there is no way this would happen for psychology if it did not happen for economics first.” The college course catalog still classifies Economics as Div 2, but curiously, changed its designation as STEM, although it is no more quantitative than it was a year (and more!) ago when it wasn’t STEM. However, psychology, which clearly falls under fields considered STEM by the ICE, does not enjoy STEM status. Why? 

I offer an intelligent guess that is not without precedent1: Economics is the most popular major in the college and among international students. If I were a prospective international student who wants to major in economics in the United States, as most who come here do, I would certainly want to go to a school (thus pay tuition) that would allow me to maximize my post-college employment opportunities in the United States. At least two reports on the distribution of GPAs and academic major difficulty suggest Math and Physics are much harder than Economics. So, instead of breaking my back in Real Analysis, I can just take Intermediate Macroeconomics and reap the benefits of a STEM major for my career – wonderful! Too bad for Psychology – even if it is a real STEM field, it just isn’t popular enough at Williams! 

Whatever the motivations of this policy change is, one thing is clear: whoever is making these decisions certainly leaves much to be desired by way of consistency and transparency!

 

1Recall from the first discussion that the Dean’s Office and Dean Ninah Pretto initially stonewalled and/or rejected requests from international student graduates, who no longer pay Williams tuition.

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How Many Williams Students Go to Law School?

Is there public information about how many Williams students go to law school? The LASC publishes this report (pdf) on the top feeder schools. Amherst has sent an average of 63 students each year over the last 5 years, which seems a surprisingly high number. But the report only lists schools that sent at least 54 students last year, a number which many elite liberal arts colleges, like Williams, do not meet. I ask LASC to release the numbers for Williams, but they refused because they have a (reasonable!) policy against such a release. Questions:

How many Williams students have gone to law school over the last decade? EphBlog hopes that the number is much lower than the 63 student average for Amherst.

Why does Amherst send such a high percentage of its graduating class to law school? Do they admit more would-be lawyers? Do more would-be lawyers choose Amherst over other schools? Does something about Amherst encourage students to become lawyers?

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Do Not Create a Foreign Language Requirement

Did the Ad Hoc Committee on International Educational Initiatives (led by Professors Darrow and Rouhi) ever complete the final version of this report 2009 (pdf)? Not that I can find. Perhaps that is all to the good, since one of their recommendations would have been a very bad idea:

The College should work towards instituting a language requirement by 2020.

The COFHE survey from 2006 showed that 51% of Williams students surveyed did not think studying a foreign language was a worthwhile goal during their college career. We recommend every effort to change that perception, not least because more international job opportunities are open to those who can demonstrate proficiency.

1) Although this is just a draft, it is absurd to suggest a new requirement while providing zero discussion of the details. Just what sort of requirement are we talking about? Would one year of Japanese 101-102 be enough? Or do you need two years? Three? Without at least an overview of the issues involved (and how those issues are handled at other schools), there is no reason to take the authors seriously. They should either do some real work or drop this section.

2) A foreign language requirement was almost implemented at the start of Morty’s term. (Who knows this history well?) Morty was glad that it failed because of the opportunity costs involved. We all agree that it would be wonderful if student X learned Japanese. But, assuming student X does not want to, which 4 courses do you think he should drop in order to fit in JAPN 101-102 and 201-202 into his schedule? Morty’s point, obviously, is that Williams students only get to take 32 courses and the vast majority of them are wonderful. We should think long and hard about forcing them to sacrifice the courses they want to take for the courses that we want them to take. (See here for the contrary view.)

3) Morty also mentioned that the language faculty were against the requirement because they knew that there are few things worse than having students in your class who do not want to be there. Have the authors surveyed the Williams language faculty about this proposal?

4) I believe (contrary information welcome) that at every elite school with a language requirement, you are allowed to pass out, either by scoring at a certain level on the AP or the Achievement Test for the language or by passing an exam given by the school. Williams would, almost certainly, offer the same option. And virtually every rich student at Williams would be able to take advantage! Almost every prep school and high quality public high school offers four years of foreign language instruction while guiding/insisting that students bound for elite colleges/universities take advantage of the opportunity. Almost all such Ephs would be able to pass out easily. So, this is not a requirement that binds Williams students equally. It only binds those who did not go to Milton or Newton North. Not that there is anything wrong with screwing over the poor kids!

5) But even those Williams students who did not go to fancy high schools will often have studied several years of foreign language. Many of them would be able to pass out of the requirement as well. How many students would that leave? 200? 50? I really don’t know, but it is a much smaller number than 500.

6) Call it 100 students who could not pass out of the requirement. But some number (25?) of them would take a foreign language anyway. After all, many Williams students want to learn a new language. And bully for them. So, now we are down to 75 students who did not have the opportunity to take a foreign language in high school (or turned down that opportunity) and who don’t want to take a foreign language at Williams. And all of these students will have a very good reason for the decisions they make. Maybe they are very poor at languages. Maybe they are indifferent to learning a language but there are just too many other wonderful Williams courses that they want to take. Do you really think you are doing these (mostly low-income) students a favor by forcing them to take a foreign language? Write a paragraph to them explaining why.

7) The 51% of Williams students who “did not think studying a foreign language was a worthwhile goal during their college career” are almost certainly correct for them. These students do not argue that other students should be prevented from learning Japanese. They just don;t want to learn Japanese themselves. Can you blame them? Learning Japanese is hard! Especially if you have trouble with languages in general, especially if you are taking other serious courses. Do you really think that you know better than them?

8) This sort of sloppy thinking does not belong in a Williams report:

We recommend every effort to change that perception, not least because more international job opportunities are open to those who can demonstrate proficiency.

Of course, if two otherwise equal candidates are applying for a job at the IMF or McKinsey and one of them speaks English and Japanese fluently while the other is English-only then, obviously the former has an advantage in getting the job. But that is not the question relevant to whether or not Williams should have a language requirement. In this case, do any of the 75 students who can not pass out of the requirement and would not otherwise study a language improve their chances of getting a job? Almost certainly not!

First, the vast majority of Williams student never compete for jobs in which speaking another language is a meaningful advantage. Second, even for those jobs where it is, the key distinction is between fluency and non-fluency. McKinsey won’t care if you took a year or two of Chinese at Williams. If you can’t talk to the client fairly fluently in language X then, for most practical purposes, your knowledge of language X is irrelevant to the job. If you just take two years of X at Williams (and then stop), your knowledge of X will be mostly useless as far as the IMF is concerned. And the IMF knows this. Third, the sort of student (recall the characteristics of the 75 students actually effected by the requirement) who did not study a foreign language in high school and does not want to study it at Williams is highly unlikely to want to study the language for more than the absolute minimum he is required to at Williams. Moreover, this sort of student, untalented and resentful, is unlikely to try very hard in the class or do very well. And won’t he be fun to teach!

Summary: A foreign language requirement at Williams would only impinge on mostly poor students from below average high schools with no talent or interest in languages. Forcing them to study a foreign language will not materially improve their job prospects or life outcomes.

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Majors Over Time

Here (pdf) is a summary of major enrollment at Williams over the last decade. Here is a portion of the data:

majors1

Lots of interesting stuff! Worth spending a few days discussing?

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Difference, Power, and Equity IV

The plan (pdf) to replace the Exploring Diversity Initiative (pdf) with a Difference, Power, and Equity requirement will be discussed at this week’s faculty meeting. Day 4, and the end, of our discussion.

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1) Again, it is sleazy for the CEA to list colleges with a similar requirement and not mention colleges, like Amherst and Yale, without one.

2) The College has been pushing these, allegedly, “innovative approaches” for 30 years. Has anything been accomplished? Consider some of the courses that meet the current EDI requirement:

CHIN 101 (F) Basic Chinese (D)
CHIN 102 (F) Basic Chinese (D)
CHIN 201 (F) Intermediate Chinese (D)
CHIN 202 (F) Intermediate Chinese (D)

JAPN 101 (F) Elementary Japanese (D)
JAPN 102 (F) Elementary Japanese (D)
JAPN 201 (F) Intermediate Japanese (D)
JAPN 202 (F) Intermediate Japanese (D)

CLAS 340 (F) Roman Cities in the Near East (D)

CSCI 205 (F) Cinematography in the Digital Age (D)

These look like great classes! But it is absurd to pretend that they, in any meaningful way, involve exploring diversity, or at least exploring diversity more than any competently taught language or history class normally does. Looking closely at the EDI listing (pdf) makes it obvious that one big element here is under-enrolled departments listing every possible class in order to increase student interest. A second element is departments listing at least one class in order to get the diversity apparatchiks off their backs.

Indeed, the cynical way to view EDI/DPE is as the College’s method for moving students from over-subscribed classes that they want to take — especially in economics, psychology, statistics and computer science — into under-subscribed courses in unpopular departments.

The central issue is the hypocrisy of Williams in pretending that it requires students to take courses which “represent our dedication to study groups, cultures, and societies as they interact with, and challenge, each other” while, at the same time, allowing that requirement to be fulfilled by introductory Japanese, but not introductory Arabic.

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This is a fantasy on several levels. First, almost every single non-science class at Williams does this, at least given the constraints of its subject matter. Show me a history or political science or sociology or anthropology or . . . course which does not “study groups, cultures, and societies as they interact with, and challenge, each other.”

Second, it is hard to read “core of their pedagogical mission” as anything other than a plea for indoctrination or as plaintive virtue signalling. Assume (as EphBlog does!) that the Williams faculty is highly competent, that they structure their classes intelligently, providing a balanced coverage of the relevant issues. In that case, the amount of time that, say, HIST 284: Introduction to Asian American History spends on the “shaping of social differences” is appropriate even if it is not the “core” of the class. If you believe that Williams faculty are competent, than you should assume that they spend the appropriate amount of time on issues relating to difference, power and equity, given the subject of their course. Why wouldn’t they?

Moreover, we assert unapologetically that the elimination of a curricular commitment to difference and power would send a terrible signal to our community and beyond.

Is there a better example of virtue signalling at Williams in the last year? Recall that this requirement does nothing meaningful to change the content of specific courses. The syllabus of HIST 284 is going to be the same as it would have been if the professor taught at Amherst. Removing the requirement does not change a single class at Williams. It just allows students to take the courses that they want to take, which is the same freedom as Yale and Amherst allow their students.

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Difference, Power, and Equity III

The plan (pdf) to replace the Exploring Diversity Initiative (pdf) with a Difference, Power, and Equity requirement will be discussed at this week’s faculty meeting. Day 3 of our discussion.

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“Profound changes?” Really? Shallow people often think that This Time Is Different, that no one before has ever had the thoughts that they have now, that the historical moment in which, by sheer happenstance, they inhabit is unique in some way. Historians know better.

And this is all the more true at Williams College. Do these authors really believe that students 30 years ago where unaware of the importance of “power,” that they were unconcerned with issues of “equity?” Professor Kurt Tauber was teaching Marxism at Williams 50 years ago!

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What would the excellent professors in the Williams Philosophy department make of this sort of prose? I bet that Joe Cruz or Alan White would offer suggestions like these:

The Writing Intensive requirement is dedicated to the critical and practical development of communication over diverse fields towards developing varied, multi-disciplinary methods of transmitting and exchanging knowledge makes students better writers. … Finally, the Difference, Power, and Equity requirement will give students the opportunity to develop their own critical perspectives about evolving social questions from past to present, thoroughly grounded in information about and theories of difference teaches students critical thinking about social standing. (? — Some examples would be useful.)

Leaving these quibbles aside, we are left marveling at the magical thinking embedded in this Williams Curricular Triad. (Useless capitalization is the best sign of nonsense at Williams. Recall the Williams House System.)

First, are they necessary? One would hope that every Williams course in any of the humanities — History, English, Philosophy, et cetera — would involve extensive writing. (Any such class that doesn’t should be cancelled.) Very few students would graduate from Williams without taking a writing intensive course even if no such class were required, especially given the existence of the Divisional requirements.

Second, do they do any good? The main impact of these requirements is probably the effect the combination of the three minimum courses in Division III and/or the Quantitative Requirement has on students who don’t want to take any math/science classes. Do such students benefit from being forced to do so? I doubt it. Do any readers have personal anecdotes to offer?

Fortunately, there is a simple way to answer these questions: Randomly select 200 members of the class of 2021 and free them from all requirements (except for 32 classes and a major). Then, in just four years, we can estimate the causal effects of these requirements. In line with the null hypothesis of education, I predict that forcing students to take courses that they don’t want to take has no effect on any outcome we care about. Ultimately, though that is an empirical claim. Why won’t Williams — which Adam Falk often claims is and/or should be a leader in college education — perform this simple experiment?

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Difference, Power, and Equity II

The plan (pdf) to replace the Exploring Diversity Initiative (pdf) with a Difference, Power, and Equity requirement will be discussed at this week’s faculty meeting. Day 2 of our discussion.

dpe4

1) The most annoying aspect of this description is its ahistoricism. Do these folks really believe that only now — or for the 30 years that Williams has had a “diversity” requirement — we live in “a globalizing world that tends toward the redrawing of lines of identity and power”? Those trends have been going on for hundreds of years! Ephraim Williams died thinking of himself as an Englishman, only for his namesake free school to be born in these United States.

2) The second most annoying aspect is the authors’ ignorance about what has changed at Williams and what has not. It is false to claim that “we also constitute a campus community that has by many measures become significantly more diverse in the past few decades.” As we have shown, time and again, on EphBlog, the Williams of today is, on almost all the measures that really matter, indistinguishable from the Williams of the 1980s and perhaps even the 1950s or 1920s. The claim that socio-economic diversity has increased is a lie. There has been no change in the sorts of high schools — elite, often private — which Williams students attended. They may, perhaps, have been some changes in the racial composition but even that change has merely mirrored changes in the US as a whole. Williams is every bit as elite now as it has been for 100 years. And thank goodness for that!

But, instead of criticism, let’s talk tactics. What could a faculty skeptic of this requirement do at today’s faculty meeting? (Informed commentary welcome!)

First, change the new DPE requirement so that it automatically expires after 5 years, just like the ill-fated Gaudino Option of a decade ago. It would be impossible for non-progressive faculty members, given the current environment, to just remove EDI. But, perhaps, we could plant a time bomb that would blow up this nonsense sometime in the 2020s . . .

Second, ask for evidence that the current EDI requirement has actually achieved any of its goals. The CEA is thorough in that it does list some of the requirements at peer schools. But the CEA is also extremely sleazy to not even mention that many peer schools, like Amherst and Yale, have no similar social justice requirements. Do students at those schools lack the ability to “analyze critically the shaping of social differences?” I doubt it!

EphBlog votes Yes! Despite all my criticisms and even if nothing in this proposal changes, EphBlog is still a Yes vote because the more that we can get race out of the discussion, the better off Williams (and America!) will be. Of course, DPE still explicitly mentions “race” — How could it not? — but as just one of many issues. Race is less central to DPE than it was to EDI, and it was less central to EDI than it was to the original diversity requirement of Peoples and Cultures. This is change we can believe in!

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