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Satterthwaites’ remarkable map …

From PTC and referred to by Mark Livingston ’72, the creator of the map while under the muse of Satterthwaite:

PTC says:
From Mark Livingston ’72

Although the Stone Hill Map may’ve been more elaborate than most student projects (Art 201 projects did however tend to be multi-media and cumbersome—probably still do), it actually incorporates a fraction of what I learned making it. More to the point: my experience typified the sense of a blank check drawn on his time, the painstaking, ever thoughtful attention, and the polymathic wealth of knowledge that I’ve watched Sheafe lavish on his students one after another over the years: a whorl of learning synergy.

“Although the Stone Hill map may have been…” Love that part. The Stone Hill Map is the most incredible piece of local art I (and I suspect many others) have ever seen. From reading the comments on Sheafes teaching style, you can see how Sheafe helped Mark get there in 1972. A teaching style and mode of learning translated into art. Fascinating!

Ed note: Thanks to PTC for the photo of the remarkable map and its’ amazing details, and to Mark Livingston for creating his map and the timely recognition of the muse.

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Satterthwaite’s contract not renewed?!


I have just received the following news about Sheafe Satterthwaite, beloved eccentric lecturer in art history:

Sheafe’s contract has not been renewed for the coming year. Sheafe is 71 and has taught at Williams for over 40 years. He has always been a Lecturer on a four-year, renewable contract. This year, citing low student evaluations, he was told in late November that his contract would not be renewed.

For those who aren’t familiar with him, Sheafe is independently wealthy (at least, is rumored to be — ed.) and teaches because he enjoys teaching. All of his courses include a once-weekly “field seminar,” where he drives the class around in a large van to areas of interest in the countryside around Williams, and lectures while driving. He also takes all of his students out to dinner (in groups) at least once, and often invites them to his house. Rumor has it that he is paid something like $1 for the four-year contract, and Williams throws in free lunches at Driscoll (this last part is true; Sheafe told me).

Would you please consider writing a letter to the Dean of Faculty, Prof. William Wagner? His email is william.g.wagner@williams.edu. I think a lot of us never expected we would need to write such a letter — perhaps we thought we might show our appreciation at a retirement party someday. But we do need to write now and explain how Sheafe has influenced our lives, our teaching, our careers, our ways of understanding the world. We need to tell the administration about the gifts Sheafe gave us and continues to give students at Williams.

This missive comes from Mark Livingston ’72 and Belle Zars ’76. Full message from Zars below the break.

Sheafe’s classes are certainly some of the most unique at Williams, and when I look back at the experiences in class that I remember most from college, Sheafe’s class was certainly one of the most memorable. Please consider writing in on his behalf.
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Student Evaluations

Here (pdf) are the evaluations from the students in my Winter Study course. I am pleased with the results. The College also distributes to all instructors the same data for the 600 students who filled out the form. I asked for permission to post this summary data but was denied. That seems silly since there is nothing embarrassing in there, but I don’t post such documents without permission, so readers who care are out of luck.

I also think that the College should make public the student evaluations for all Winter Study classes. First, the more information that Williams provides to students, the better the choices they will make. Students who don’t want to work 20+ hours per week should not take a class with that sort of workload. Second, to the extent that certain instructors are doing a poor job, the more people — especially faculty — who know about, the more likely that the problem will be fixed.

What is the argument for not making these student survey results public, at least for Winter Study classes?

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Useless

Neal Hannan ’03 notes that the New York Times article on faculty evaluations mentioned Williams.

In the never-ending power struggle between teachers and students, there have been a few seminal events: the first pop quiz, the first tack on the chair, the first student-written faculty evaluation and the first snarky comment on ratemyprofessors.com.

In 2002, Williams students started their own, Factrak, which only they have access to, a restriction intended to increase the chances that reviewers actually went to the classes they’re reviewing. Williams professors, however, are no less divided about it. ”In a certain sense I’m more uneasy,” says Alan White, a philosophy professor whose reviews are mixed. ”Ratemyprofessor,” he says, ”looks less like good information because students know the various ways it can be abused, whereas Factrak can look like better information precisely because of that limitation.” No matter how small the pool, he adds, an evaluation without knowledge of the evaluator’s tastes and experiences is useless.

False! All information is potentially valuable. The great thing about Factrak, which I have never seen, is that all the comments come from Williams students. Nothing ensures such control at ratemyprofessors.com and similar sites. Williams students know a great deal about their peers and so can use the information presented to good effect. Diana Davis ’07 writes:

I’ve decided not to sign up for Econ 251 in the fall so as to have the prerequisite for Morty’s tutorial in the spring, because the factrak reviews for both professors teaching the course are terrible.

In White’s view, Diana is stupid to rely on such “useless” information, especially since she is a senior and has learned, White hopes, that “an evaluation without knowledge of the evaluator’s tastes and experiences” does not improve course selection.

In truth, Diana (like hundreds of her peers) uses Factrak precisely because it is so useful. Comments:

1) It would be nice if alumni could read and add comments to Factrak. My opinion of some courses changed in the years after graduation.

2) Why aren’t Factrak’s usage statistics public? Enquiring minds would like to know how many entries there are for each professor/class, how many entries have been added this year, how many entries were checked in the weeks around registration and so on.

3) Perhaps it is time to revisit the status of Factrak at Williams. In particular, I think that the information in Factrak should be public, perhaps even included in Willipedia. (Exceptions could easily be made for faculty in their first year, untenured faculty and so on.)

4) One of the reasons that advising at Williams is sub-optimal is that much of the necessary information is hidden away, inaccessible unless you know what you are looking for. The more open the information is, the more useful that it will become.

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