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Name Game- The next three major Williams Construction projects this coming FY- Name today!

Winner to get a “Welcome to College Town” coffee cup with a purple bulldozer on it. Betting starts now, and ends in two weeks. Final results to be tallied on 30 September 2019. The rules are simple- the person who names what will be built (has to break ground by 30 September of next year) wins. Tie breaker is done by correct guess of “top three” (there are going to be over ten) of what will be destroyed/built in order of cost.

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PTC bet, in order-

(1) New Art Museum.

(2) New Field House.

(3) The new dorm to replace soon to be demolished Garfield House (start of demolition = breaking ground).

Betting closes at 0815 on 30 May 2018.

 

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Remember the Tablecloth Colors

A Record op-ed from 12 years ago:

I am frustrated by many of the ways in which the campus has changed, most particularly the sudden prominence of the well-intentioned but detrimental Office of Campus Life [OCL], which is locked in a stagnating cycle of its own design. By in effect naming itself “the decider” when it comes to student life, the campus life office has alienated the College’s best leaders. As a result of this rift, the office has become inwardly-focused, self-promotional and deeply resistant to constructive criticism. Student life is student-driven no longer.

No kidding. EphBlog has made this prediction over and over and over again. The more control that Williams students have over life at Williams, the better. The more people (intelligent and well-meaning though they may be) that are hired by the College to “help,” the less active students will be.

The main rational used by CUL (Committee on Undergraduate Life) in establishing OCL 16 years ago — All the other schools have one so it must be a good idea! — was stupid then and it is stupid now.

Writer Ainsley O’Connell tells a depressing tale. Anyone who cares about student life at Williams must read the whole thing.

When I arrived on campus, director of campus life Doug Bazuin and his staff were a distant idea, not a reality. Barb and Gail administered activities on campus, helping students schedule events from their fishbowl office at the heart of Baxter Hall. Linda Brown administered room draw, her maternal warmth and firmness easing the process. Tom McEvoy (who has since departed) and Jean Thorndike provided big-picture support and served as liaisons between students and administrators. When students were moved to champion a new policy or party idea, Tom and Jean were willing to listen, and often to lend moral and financial support. The execution fell to students, but this sense of responsibility fostered greater ownership.

Great stuff. One of the purposes of EphBlog is to capture this sort of testimony, the thanks of current students to the staff members that have done so much.

But those with long memories will note what a mockery this makes of the CUL’s discussion in 2001 of the lack of staff devoted to student life. Indeed, if there is any table which demonstrates the dishonesty/incompetence of CUL during those years it is this description Staffing at Comparable Institutions. Click on the link. Let’s take a tour. (The line for Williams (all zeroes in bold) is at the bottom.)

First, note how the JA system magically disappears. The “50 junior advisors” for Bates are listed under “Student Staff” but, at Williams, they have vanished. Second, the CUL pretends that Dean Dave Johnson ’71 does not exist. The countless hours that he spent (and spends) working with the JAs and First Years don’t matter. Yet you can be sure that one of the “3 Assistant Deans” at Emerson does exactly what Johnson does at Williams, although probably not as well. Third, the CUL erases all the work and commitment of people like Linda Brown and Tom McEvoy, as evoked so nicely by O’Connell.

None of this is surprising, of course. Former President Morty Schapiro decided in 2000 that there were certain things about Williams that he was going to change. By and large, he (temporarily!) changed them. He and (former) Dean of the College Nancy Roseman and (former) CUL Chair Will Dudley implemented Neighborhood Housing, the biggest change at Williams this century. It was a total failure and has now, thankfully, been removed. Schapiro, Roseman and Dudley went on, despite this disastrous own goal, to college Presidencies at Northwestern, Dickinson and Washington and Lee, promotions which doubled (even tripled) their Williams salaries.

O’Connell goes on:

I will not dispute that in 2003 Williams needed a stronger support system for students looking to launch new initiatives and throw events open to the campus. For many, extracurricular activities had become a burden, with unreasonably long hours spent planning and preparing events down to the last detail. Yet today, some of the best and most innovative groups on campus remain far-removed from campus life, driven by highly motivated and talented individuals. Take Williams Students Online, for example, or 91.9, the student radio station: Their success lies in their student leaders, who have been willing to commit their time to making sweeping changes that have transformed WSO and WCFM, respectively.

It may have been reasonable for O’Connell not to see, in 2003, how this would all work out, but she is naive in the extreme not to see now that this evolution was inevitable. How shall we explain it to her? Imagine a different paragraph.

I will not dispute that in 2003 Williams needed a stronger support system for students looking to launch new publications and manage current ones. For many, writing for and editing student publications had become a burden, with unreasonably long hours spent planning and preparing everything down to the last detail. Yet today, some of the best and most innovative groups on campus remain far-removed from the Office of Campus Publications, driven by highly motivated and talented individuals.

In other words, why isn’t it a good idea for Williams to create an Office of Campus Publications [OCP], with a Director of Campus Publications and a staff of Campus Publication Coordinators? After all, as the meltdown of the GUL in 2001 (?) and the Record‘s occasional inability to pick a single editor-in-chief demonstrates, students sometimes need help. They often make mistakes. Who could deny that having someone to “help” and “support” the Record (and GUL and Mad Cow) wouldn’t make those publications better? No one. Perhaps OCP would even have prevented the demise of Rumor and Scattershot.

But would the experience of the students writing those publications be better with a bunch of (intelligent, well-meaning) paid employees of the College hovering over them? No. That should be obvious to O’Connell. Writing for and editing the Record those last 4 years probably taught her as much about life its own self as any aspect of her Williams education. If she had had a Doug Bazuin equivalent supervising her all this time, her experience would not have been as rich, her education not as meaningful.

As always, critics will claim that I am advocating that the College provide no help or support, that we abolish the Dean’s Office. No! Some support is good, just as some social engineering is desirable. But, on the margin, the contribution of the OCL is negative.

Vibrant means “long hours spent planning and preparing events down to the last detail.” This is exactly why student institutions like WCFM, WSO and others (Trivia? Rugby? Current students should tell us more) are so vibrant. O’Connell acts as if you can have a vibrant organization or community without time and trouble, sweat and tears. In fact, you can’t.

O’Connell writes as if vibrancy appears from nowhere, that someone just sprinkles magic pixy dust on WSO and WCFM. No. Vibrancy, community, innovation and almost everything else worth having in this imperfect life require “unreasonably long hours” and “preparing everything down to the last detail.” You don’t think that Ephs like Evan Miller at WSO and Matt Piven at WCFM sweated the details? Think again.

Unfortunately, the Office of Campus Life and the Dean’s office, which oversees it, have not fostered this model. Instead, both offices have moved in the opposite direction, at times going so far as to render student involvement wholly superficial, as with the planning of this year’s Senior Week. The senior officers elected by the Class of 2006 do nothing more than choose tablecloth colors; it is assistant director of campus life Jess Gulley who runs the show. Hovering over student shoulders, the campus life staff of today is like a mother or father who wants to be your friend instead of your parent. The office should cast itself as an administrative support service, not the arbiter of cool.

Harsh! True? Current students should tell us. But note that this is not Gulley’s fault! I have no doubt that she is wonderful and hard-working, dedicated to making student life better. Each day, she wakes up and tries to figure out how to make this the best Senior Week ever. That is, after all, what the College is paying her to do. In that very act, of course, she decreases the scope of student control and involvement.

Back in the day, students handled almost all aspects of Senior Week. I still remember dancing the night away, in my dress whites, at Mount Hope Farm, the most beautiful Eph of all in my arms. No doubt this year’s seniors, 30 years younger than I, will have a fine time as well. Because of Gulley’s successor’s involvement, it may even be true that the events are better planned and organized. Yet everything that she does used to be done by students, hectically and less professionally, but still done by them.

The more that students do to run Williams, the better that Williams will be.

This is a revised version of a post from 2006.

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Update from the Committee on Priorities and Resources

From a faculty source:

The Committee on Priorities and Resources (CPR) would like to thank all of you who came to the open forum earlier this month and shared your thoughts about the college’s priorities, values, and commitments.

Some of your comments underscored the importance of issues that the committee has been considering carefully. These include how the college should meet its sustainability goals of reducing emissions to 35 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and achieving carbon neutrality by the end of 2020. Considerable attention has also been given not just to on-going construction projects, but also to how the college should decide what, when, and how to build. A report on the college’s building process can be found here. Possible changes to our admission and financial aid policies have also been discussed. Other thoughts, particularly those about staff salary and compensation, pointed to issues that should and will be put on the committee’s agenda.

To provide more regular opportunities for faculty, staff, and students to communicate ideas and concerns to the committee, CPR is creating a webpage and will be holding more open forums next year. In the meantime, we encourage you to contact the committee using this form.

We look forward to hearing from you,

Pei-Wen Chen, Biology
Todd Hoffman, Budget Director
Steve Klass, VP for Campus Life
Dukes Love, Provost
Megan Morey, VP for College Relations
Fred Puddester, VP for Finance and Administration
Michael Rubel ’19
Matt Sheehy, Associate VP for Finance
Jim Shepard, English
Allegra Simon ’18
Eiko Maruko Siniawer, History, Chair of CPR
Tara Watson, Economics and Public Health
Chris Winters, Associate Provost
Weitao Zhu ’18

Chair Eiko Siniawer wasn’t able to share details about the “[p]ossible changes to our admission and financial aid policies” but she did note that CPR would be publishing a report in May. Thanks Eiko!

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April Ruiz

The Yale Daily News reported in January:

April Ruiz ’05 — dean of Grace Hopper College, dean of first-year scholars at Yale and lecturer in the cognitive science and psychology departments — will leave Yale over spring break, she announced in an email to the Hopper community on Thursday morning. Ruiz said she has accepted a position at another institution but cannot disclose any details until it formally announces her appointment after spring break.

“One can never control when these sorts of opportunities present themselves, and the decision to accept [the offer] is not one I made lightly,” Ruiz told the News. “Just as I’ve always encouraged my students to pursue paths that will push them forward, I know they will support me as I do so.”

Ruiz, who served as Hopper dean for four years, helped the college community navigate a tumultuous renaming process, during which students, staff, faculty and alumni debated whether or not Hopper College — formerly known as Calhoun College — should retain its connection to American statesman and outspoken slavery advocate John C. Calhoun, class of 1804.

From a comment on the article:

Good riddance. Calhoun ’16 here, and she was a deeply mediocre dean. Never answered her emails, failed utterly to neutrally arbitrate the naming discussion, and generally seemed far more interested in playing with her dog than doing her job.

Hopefully Master Adams and Dr. Chun will have the guts to not shoe in (let’s be honest here) another diversity hire. And before the chorus of irate pink-haired banshees pipes up, this is not coming from some bigot who wants to see white guys everywhere. I loved Dean Woodard with all my heart, and was deeply sad to see such a fundamentally good, hardworking person be replaced with an uncaring, tone-deaf political hack. God speed Dean Ruiz, and may we never cross paths again.

Is that fair? Probably not. (You ought to see some of the (unfair!) things people write about EphBlog!) Ruiz seems savvy to me, at least judging by this story in the Record:

“I think Dean Ruiz is a good fit for the College because she’s incredibly passionate about the First Gen work,” Brian Benitez ’18, a member of the search committee that hired Ruiz, said. “She understands that First Gen work at Williams is unique. It’s largely student-led, and Dean Ruiz had expressed that she is excited to work alongside students rather than as their superior. Given her experience, approachability and motivation, I have no doubt that she will be an asset to the Williams community.”

Every good Williams Dean needs to be able to snow the students into thinking that she really believes that Williams is “unique” and that College Deans are not “their superior.” Ruiz did that really well with the search committee! Or she actually believes that! Which is just as good . . .

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Transnational Solidarity Wall Statement

Front

CISA, IC, SJP, VISTA ISSUE JOINT STATEMENT ON MOCK WALL

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

On Tuesday morning, Williams College woke up to find a wall on Paresky lawn. The wall consists of wooden panels with artwork that draws attention to the similarities between the Israeli apartheid wall in the West Bank and the US/Mexico border wall. It is a collective project between Coalition for Immigrant Student Advancement (CISA), International Club (IC), Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), and Vista. By putting up a mock wall on the center of campus, interrupting the space between Paresky and Sawyer, we hope to force our fellow students to reflect on the impact of walls like these– and all militarized borders– on the daily existence of millions of people. While this mock wall does not significantly impede students at Williams, in reality walls are life-threatening structures that encroach on the everyday lives of communities from Palestine to Latin America and beyond. From Palestinian women giving birth at checkpoints, to loved ones being separated for decades, to ICE detention centers and deportations, walls violently oppress those who live behind and across them.

As students committed to justice, we know that Israel’s apartheid wall and Trump’s border wall in the United States are two sides of the same coin of white supremacy and settler colonial violence. Through our mock wall on Paresky lawn, we hope that students feel encouraged to build knowledge, break the silence surrounding these issues, and begin to take action together. We stand in solidarity with members of our community who are personally affected by militarized borders, and we stand in solidarity with struggles for liberation, and particularly indigenous resistance, everywhere.

To complement the wall, we are organizing a talk with Professor Amal Eqeiq and a journalist and activist in Gaza on the topic of contemporary protests in Gaza and Transnational Solidarity from Mexico and Palestine this Wednesday at 5PM in Hopkins 002. How can we tear down walls from Mexico to Palestine? What does it mean to resist and build solidarity across borders? What is going in Gaza right now and how are they affected by borders? This talk will interrogate these questions and will be followed by a vigil to mourn and commemorate lives lost at border crossings and protests. Dinner will be served. Bring questions and a friend!

Finally, please join us to TEAR DOWN THE WALL on Tuesday, May 1st at 12PM on Paresky lawn. #MexicoToPalestine #BuildBridgesNotWalls #LongLiveInternationalSolidarity

 
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Report to the Community

To the Williams Community,

Every year I write to the community with an annual summary of our work to prevent and respond to gender-based violence. Williams is deeply committed to the goal of fostering and sustaining a safe community for all of our members. When members of our community are harmed, we seek to provide the resources they need in order to achieve accountability, healing, and support.

I want to start by thanking the many students, staff, faculty, and alumni who are working to improve our prevention and response efforts every day. Addressing the problem of sexual and intimate violence demands the involvement of everyone who cares about Williams and our community. Thank you for all that you do to contribute to that effort.

Making a formal report and engaging the college disciplinary process is one way of seeking support. I summarize the community’s use of this process below. Even when individuals choose not to pursue a disciplinary process in response to intimate violence or harassment, there are a number of other systems and resources in place to provide support. Talking with someone who can listen and make connections to useful resources is an essential part of healing and accountability. In addition, we can provide assistance for a wide array of specific concerns, including finding a different room to live in, feeling safe around campus, navigating relationships after violence, and managing assignments or class attendance. Nobody should feel that they must contend with any of these challenges on their own; we are here to help with these and any other resources or measures you need.

In the majority of instances, students can have conversations about what happened, what options are available, and what steps they are considering with any trusted college staff member without beginning a formal conduct or complaint process. This includes deans, staff from the Davis Center or the Office of Student Life, Campus Safety officers, the Title IX Coordinator and Deputy Coordinators, coaches, or professors.

Confidential resources include SASS Survivor Services. SASS is staffed around the clock by specially-trained people (Meg Bossong, Jen Chuks, Donna Denelli-Hess, Carolina Echenique, and Mike Evans) who can provide support, help you access resources, or offer information about options. Other confidential resources on and off campus include Integrative Wellbeing and Health Services; the college chaplains; and the Elizabeth Freeman Center, which is the local rape crisis center and domestic violence organization and also has a 24/7 hotline.

2016-17 Conduct Cases

In the 2016-2017 school year, the college received a total of 16 formal reports of misconduct:

  • 6 reports of sexual misconduct;
  • 3 reports of relationship abuse;
  • 4 reports of stalking; and
  • 3 reports of sexual harassment.

Of these 16 cases, 13 involved situations in which the person alleged to have caused harm was a current member of the college community and was therefore eligible for college accountability processes. The other three involved individuals who were not current members of the Williams community. In those instances, the college helped students seek accountability through other institutions or in the courts.

Among the students in the 13 cases involving Williams community members, five chose to take part in the college investigation and adjudication process. Their cases were adjudicated between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017. This includes two sexual misconduct complaints, two cases involving relationship abuse, and one complaint involving sexual harassment.

Of the sexual misconduct cases that were investigated and adjudicated, one resulted in a finding of responsibility, and one resulted in a finding of not responsible. Both cases of relationship abuse resulted in findings of responsibility.

The student found responsible for sexual misconduct was separated from the college with a suspension for four semesters.

One of the students found responsible for relationship abuse was suspended for one semester; the other was placed on disciplinary probation and completed an educational sanction.

The one individual found responsible for sexual harassment was an employee who is no longer employed by the college.

Category of Conduct Cases Pursued in Discipline Process/
Total Eligible Cases Received
Findings of Responsibility
Sexual Assault 2/5 1
Relationship abuse 2/3 2
Stalking 0/4 n/a
Sexual Harassment 1/1 1

Occasionally an adjudication process continues past the cutoff date for reporting on the academic year within which the case was reported. In such instances, we include the case in reporting data for the year during which adjudication was completed.

I also want to point out that individuals who have not yet chosen to pursue an investigation and adjudication process still have that option available to them as long as the person they might be lodging a complaint against is still a current student, staff member, or faculty member. The college does not have the authority to hold individuals accountable once they are no longer members of the community (for example, after they graduate, transfer, or terminate their employment at Williams). In those situations, individuals still have the option of lodging a complaint with law enforcement until the applicable statute of limitations is reached.

In closing, I want to again thank everyone working to improve our prevention and response efforts.

Sincerely,

Marlene Sandstrom

Dean of the College and Hales Professor of Psychology

All of Williams’ policies and information about resources for support of students, staff, and faculty can be found at http://titleix.williams.edu/

Marlene J. Sandstrom

Dean of the College and Hales Professor of Psychology

Williams College

Phone: (413) 597-4261

Fax: (413) 597-3507

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Williams muscles local company

Williams recently demanded that the Sand Springs Springwater Co. change their logo because a few students found it offensive and cartoonish.

SandSprings

The company had used the logo for over 50 years.

Students bully the College; the College bullies a local business. Trickle down PC politics.

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Williams a Target in Early Admissions Probe, 2

This Wall Street Journal article, “Williams, Wesleyan, Middlebury Among Targets of Federal Early-Admissions Probe,” and associated news reports (here, here and here) merit a few days of discussion. Day 2.

The investigation has perplexed some in elite-college admissions circles, who say that sharing the information serves only to ensure that schools aren’t being misled about an applicant’s intentions, given their commitments elsewhere.

The admissions dean of a New England liberal-arts college that received the Justice Department letter said that the school swaps with about 20 other institutions the application-identification number, name and home state of students admitted early decision.

That dean said it is rare to find someone who violated the binding early-decision agreement by applying to more than one institution early.

Occasionally, the person said, they come across a student who was admitted early-decision at one school and still applied elsewhere during the regular application cycle. In those cases, the second school would withdraw the application because the candidate already committed elsewhere.

The dean said the schools don’t share information about regular-decision candidates, so an offer from one school wouldn’t affect outcomes elsewhere.

1) Any chance the unnamed dean is either Dick Nesbitt ’74 or Liz Creighton ’01? Note that reporter Melissa Korn and Williams Communications Chief Jim Reische served as co-chairs at a conference for media relations professionals. If Jim did arrange this, then kudos to him! The more that Eph administrators appear in the prestige press, the better.

2) Sure would be interesting to know the exact list of schools involved in this swap and the mechanism by which it occurs. Any “elite” school left out of this circle must feel like the kid sitting by himself in the high school cafeteria. Not that EphBlog would know anything about that . . .

3) Was this phrasing — “the second school would withdraw the application” — vetted by a lawyer? It would be one thing if Williams were to reject a student it had already accepted if that student applied elsewhere. That student has broken a promise she made to Williams, so Williams can take action. But for Harvard to reject — whoops, I mean “withdraw the application [of]” — a student just because Williams had accepted her in December seems more problematic, anti-trust-wise . . .

4) What about early action candidates? That is a much trickier issue. Does Harvard let Williams know if it has admitted a student early action? And, if so, does that fact play into the Williams admissions process? Of course, Williams knows that almost every high quality regular decision applicant (other than its own deferrals) applied somewhere else early. And you can be certain that we can (and should!) take account of that fact in making decisions. (That is, if you really love Williams so much, as you now claim, why didn’t you apply early?) But I would be shocked if schools traded early action information explicitly . . . But I have been shocked before!

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Williams Reads Book Announcement and 2019-2020 Book Selection

The Williams Reads Committee and the Committee on Community and Diversity are proud to announce that the Williams Reads book for 2018-19 will be ‘Sing, Unburied, Sing’ by Jesmyn Ward. Stay tuned for details on programming related to this wonderful book. The kickoff event will begin on September 3rd, 2018 when first year students, JAs, faculty, and staff will join together to discuss the book.

Believe it or not, it is already time to think ahead to the 2019-2020 academic year! The Williams Reads Committee wants your help in selecting the book for the year after next. What should our community read together? Please share ideas for books via this Google Form.

Thank you,
Marlene J. Sandstrom
Dean of the College and Hales Professor of Psychology
Williams College
Phone: (413) 597-4261
Fax: (413) 597-3507
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Williams Website – Home Page, 1

After alumni and the efforts of the admissions office, the Williams website is perhaps our best marketing tool in attracting intelligent, talented, and motivated students to join our community in the Purple Valley. Unfortunately a considerable subset of these students most likely haven’t heard of Williams –  we only have so many alumni – far fewer than, say, Harvard – and our admissions officers can only visit so many high schools. For these students the Williams website becomes a powerful tool of discovery – it’s the first impression we give to show off what makes the College so special. How does it do? Part 1 of x.

Let’s start with www.williams.edu, the home page:

Screenshot (58)_LI

 

1) For me the best parts of my time at Williams were the close relationships I had with professors, the research I did with them, the small and fascinating classes, tutorials, and the small sized community from which I’ve made many meaningful friendships. These are nowhere to be found on our home page (why?), and the biggest posts – attracting the most clicks – do not even allude to them. The closest one that comes to this is the post on Winter Study, under the unfortunate header “From the Archives”. What prospective student would go to the “Archives” when seeing what Williams is about today?

2) Stunningly, not a single professor is featured or even mentioned on the home page.

3) The boxed links on the lower right hand corner – meant to standout against the white background to attract attention – only cover “Admissions & Aid”, “Campaign for Williams”, “Varsity Sports”, and “Arts at Williams”. Naturally all are important, but where is “Academics”? Ctrl+F and typing “academics” yields 0 results. I would have to click “Menu” in the upper right hand corner – which has too many links – to find it.

4) I don’t know if this is just me, but it seems odd that under “Innovation” is a photo of a typewriter featuring a month were Williams students used one. Is this really the best example of innovation at Williams? What about our upcoming Science Center? Or groundbreaking research by professors and students?

5) The news that a Williams senior won the Watson Fellowship is relegated to the bottom of the landing page – why? Don’t we want to boast this?

6) The Featured Events section, also relegated to the bottom right, leaves much to be desired in terms of diversity of what’s actually featured. The three right now all lean politically, but in the events.williams.edu page, there are math talks by students, sports games, and new acquisitions by the Sawyer and Schow libraries. Why don’t we feature these too? For that matter, who decides what events to feature…?

7) The most interesting part of the home page is at the bottom, only seen after scrolling down, under the banner “Williams Life” (for that matter, why is the font of these banners so small?). There are so many stunning photos highlighting Williams – professors working with students, our dining staff, the beautiful location – but all, for some reason, are without any caption and link to nothing else of relevance in the website. A prospective student might get excited at seeing a professor and a student working in a lab, but upon clicking it would find a dead end – no caption, no link as to what they might be doing. Are they just posing for the camera? Also and oddly enough, the photo featuring our new President has no name attached to it. What would a prospective student make of that, and our home page in general?

What do readers think of our website?

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Report on Building

Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 11.24.57 AM

The March 2018 Report on Building (pdf) is an amazing document. Kudos to Provost Dukes Love and his staff (especially friend-of-EphBlog Chris Winters ’95) for putting this together and for making it public!

There are a dozen days or more of material here. Should I go through it in detail?

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Welcome to the New Chaplain

EphBlog welcomes the College’s new chaplain, The Rev. Valerie Bailey Fischer. From an internal e-mail:

Valerie grew up in West Philadelphia in an African American Pentecostal tradition, participating in several other Protestant traditions before joining the Episcopal Church as a young adult. She went on to become University Chaplain at Framingham State University, where she helped students from a variety of religious and moral/philosophical traditions form and strengthen their communities. She galvanized the student-led development of interfaith programming to encourage learning across traditions and deeply enjoyed assisting students in planning creative rituals and liturgies that deepened their spiritual engagement.

Valerie grew up in West Philadelphia in an African American Pentecostal tradition, participating in several other Protestant traditions before joining the Episcopal Church as a young adult. She went on to become University Chaplain at Framingham State University, where she helped students from a variety of religious and moral/philosophical traditions form and strengthen their communities. She galvanized the student-led development of interfaith programming to encourage learning across traditions and deeply enjoyed assisting students in planning creative rituals and liturgies that deepened their spiritual engagement.

Former colleagues and students, in addition to describing Valerie as a gracious, authentic bridge-builder with a wonderful sense of humor, were quick to point to her ministry’s strong foundation in social justice. One example is Urban Pilgrimage, the unique experiential learning program she developed at Framingham State.

Valerie attended Penn State University, Union Theological Seminary in New York City, and Boston University’s School of Theology, and is now completing her dissertation in Anglican Studies and U.S. Episcopal Church History at General Theological Seminary. Her research examines the ancient order of female deacons from the early church, its late-nineteenth century revival, and its role in the ordination of women in the Episcopal Church in the United States.

Filling Rick Spaulding’s shoes will not be easy. Best wishes to Rev. Fischer.

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New Chaplain

UPDATE: This post as been updated to separate out two issues: A welcome to Rev. Fischer (see new post above) and a comment on the likely priorities of the search committee which selected her (something which Fischer, obviously, has no control over and bears no responsibility for).

From a faculty friend:

From: Steve Klass
Date: Tue, Mar 27, 2018 at 2:25 PM
Subject: New Chaplain to the College Announcement
To: WILLIAMS-PERSONNEL@listserv.williams.edu

Dear Members of the Williams Community,

I am excited to announce the appointment of The Rev. Valerie Bailey Fischer as Williams’ next Chaplain to the College. Valerie currently serves as priest associate at Calvary Episcopal Church in Summit, New Jersey and brings more than eleven years of college chaplaincy experience and nearly a decade in ordained ministry.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this search for making Valerie and all our finalists feel welcome. I especially want to express my admiration and gratitude to Dean Marlene Sandstrom and the search committee (listed below), who spent untold hours guiding the process to this happy outcome.

Valerie will officially begin her new role at Williams in late July. I hope you will join me and our committee in warmly welcoming her to Williams!

Sincerely,
Steve Klass
Vice President for Campus Life

Search Committee:
· Philemon Abel ‘19
· Isabel Andrade ‘18
· Meg Bossong, Director of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response
· Coly Elhai ‘19
· Aaron Gordon, staff to committee, Administrative Director of Divisional Affairs, VP for Campus Life Office
· Jacqueline Hidalgo, Associate Professor of Latina/o Studies and Religion
· Rhon Manigault-Bryant, Associate Dean of the Faculty, Associate Professor of Africana Studies and Faculty Affiliate in Religion
· Summiya Najam ‘19
· Tapiwanashe Nhundu, Employment Manager, HR
· Shawna Patterson-Stephens, Director of the Davis Center
· Michael Rubel ‘19
· Marlene Sandstrom, Chair, Dean of the College, Hales Professor of Psychology

With that search committee, I am shocked — SHOCKED! — that they selected an African-American. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

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Committee on Priorities and Resources Open Forum

From: Eiko Maruko Siniawer
Date: Wed, Mar 14, 2018 at 9:14 AM
Subject: Open Forum on College Priorities
To: WILLIAMS-FACULTY@listserv.williams.edu

Dear colleagues,

The Committee on Priorities and Resources (CPR) invites you to attend an Open Forum for faculty, staff, and students on Thursday, April 5, at 4:00 pm in Griffin 6. We’d like to have an open discussion of the college’s priorities, so we hope that you’ll come with your thoughts about how the college has been, and should be, allocating our resources. What should be the college’s most important commitments? What is most central to the mission of the college, and how does our spending align with our priorities?

There will be introductory remarks by Dukes Love and Fred Puddester. But the forum will be dedicated to your ideas and questions about anything from financial aid to building on campus. The members of CPR hope that you can attend the forum and be part of this conversation.

We look forward to seeing you on the 5th,

Pei-Wen Chen, Biology
Todd Hoffman, Budget Director
Steve Klass, VP for Campus Life
Dukes Love, Provost
Megan Morey, VP for College Relations
Fred Puddester, VP for Finance and Administration
Michael Rubel ’19
Matt Sheehy, Associate VP for Finance
Jim Shepard, English
Allegra Simon ’18
Eiko Maruko Siniawer, History, Chair of CPR
Tara Watson, Economics and Public Health
Chris Winters, Associate Provost
Weitao Zhu ’18

1) I am still sad that Eiko was not picked as the next Williams president. She would have been great! Anyone have gossip as to whether or not she (or Lee Park) was among the finalists in the search?

2) My sense is that the CPR is one of the more powerful committees on campus. Insider commentary welcome.

3) My guess is that such a forum will generate a fair amount of bleating about too-low faculty salaries/benefits. Or am I being unfair?

4) The college spends way too little money on improving the quality of our students, especially black/Hispanic/poor admittees that choose Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford over us. My questions to CPR would be:

a) Why don’t we match the financial aid offers from HYPS, at least for highly desirable URM/low-income applicants? My sense is that we often expect “middle class” students to pay tens of thousands of dollars more then they have too pay at HYPS. Is that true? How much would it cost to fix?

b) Why don’t we increase the funds devoted to Tyng Scholarships and focus those awards more on the most desirable applicants, especially African-Americans?

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Diversity Circus: A Self-Perpetuating Administrative Pathology

An anonymous Williams professor explains faculty hiring:

The Dean of the Faculty and the CAP oversee hiring at every stage. When a department wants a new line they have to apply to the CAP, explaining why it necessary to have a Professor of Widgetry, why other professors in the department can’t teach widgetry, and how having a specialist in widgetry will dovetail with offerings in other departments.

The CAP then approves or denies the line. This is necessary because departments only see their own needs and priorities; CAP and the DoF have (in theory anyway) a view of staffing needs across departments. They may also have a specific vision of where the college should be moving. All of this is–again in theory–a Good Thing.

After you get the line, the department must seek approval for every subsequent stage of the search. The job ad has to be approved. Shortlists have to be approved. Finalists are all interviewed by the CAP, and ultimately the CAP has to approve hires. (So do the Trustees, as already noted in this thread.) These safeguards are in place to preserve and enforce academic standards. They are how the administration ensures that departments actually hire for the position they received permission to hire in. Because all new hirees must have their tenure decisions approved by the CAP, it also makes sense to have this same committee approve their initial job offer.

The problem is that enforcing academic standards isn’t really the flavor of the month anymore. The Dean of the Faculty and the CAP flex their muscles primarily on behalf of diversity. Academic standards seem, increasingly, to be matters of secondary concern. The diversity pressure is applied at all stages of the process and really seems to corrupt it. You might not get approval for your professorship of widgetry unless you redefine the position with some political or diversity edge. You need to hire a Professor of Subaltern Widgetry, the unspoken hope being that this kind of line will ultimately result in a minority hire. Affirmative action forms go to the associate dean for institutional diversity. At every stage of shortlisting, this person has to be consulted to ensure that minority candidates aren’t disproportionately eliminated due to implicit bias. This is despite the fact that in most cases the hiring department has no clarity on the race of specific applicants. As for the CAP interactions with finalists, my impression has been that their academic standards are well below that of the hiring department. Again diversity looms as the major concern.

A few observations: The faculty-facing admins must struggle to judge the quality of any individual candidate. Only the hiring department has that kind of expertise. The hall monitors have a particular proclivity for diversity mongering because that kind of thing *is* eminently legible to the CAP and the DoF. The diversity circus thus becomes a self-perpetuating administrative pathology.

Weird things happen when you make faculty demographics a leading priority. You can’t actually advertise for minority candidates, so positions have to be redefined such that they are more likely (in the eyes of administrators) to yield a critical mass of minority applicants. You might have had 100 candidates in your search for a Professor of Widgetry. Now that you’ve clarified you want a Professor of Subaltern Widgetry you might only have a few dozen candidates. Other schools are playing the same game, so any minority finalists will very probably turn out to be heavily recruited, with multiple offers from other institutions. In these cases we’re not redressing any past injustices, as the minority candidates would’ve clearly entered the academy regardless of our search. When you do finally hire the professor of subaltern widgetry, it will turn out that most of their curricular offerings and scholarship are a critique of the broader field of widgetry. But you don’t have any ordinary professor of Widgetry, remember, so the meaning and relevance of this critique for students will always be an issue.

This agrees with everything I have heard, both about Williams and about elite schools in general. Any dissenting views?

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March For Life

Screen Shot 2018-03-03 at 9.47.11 AM

This photo is from the official Williams College Instagram feed.

1) Some of the comments are, uh, less than charitable:

ehanson55: Embarrassing and disappointing content from @williamscollege at this political moment. Whose side are you on?

milesklee: booooooooooo

elspeththemac: As an institution, you must recognize that what you post makes a stand for what you believe in. I realize that you’re trying to support the Williams community (and I love us Ephs!) But this shouldn’t be a catch-all account. By posting a photo with a flag that blatantly reads RIGHT TO PROTECT THE UNBORN, you are no longer simply celebrating the diverse Williams community, but making a stand for pro-birth and inserting yourself into a discussion around reproductive rights – which I’m guessing wasn’t well thought out. In the future, I would recommend that this type of sensitive content stay targeted to more specific audiences like the Williams Catholic group (or not posted at all if Williams doesn’t actually have a firm stance). I would also suggest that Williams reevaluates its digital strategy & mission. Keep celebrating Williams! (But please consider your audience & the responsibilities around running a social community as an institution.)

jocief: ‘13 alum here. Showing students in attendance of an anti-choice rally is not representing “diverse views”, it’s facilitating and supporting an oppressive movement. Disappointing.

2) Kudos to Jim Reische and his team for posting the photo. Their policy is the right policy: If an official Williams student organization participates in an event and sends them a photo, they will post it. Viewpoint neutrality for the win!

3) A different policy would be to not post photos of anything political. That would be defensible, but probably just as annoying for people like ehanson55.

Question for readers: Whose side are you on?

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New Associate Dean of the Faculty

From a faculty source:

Dear Colleagues,

I am delighted to announce that Katarzyna Pieprzak, Professor of French and Comparative Literature, has agreed to serve as Associate Dean of the Faculty for two years, starting August 1, 2018.

Kashia earned her PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan and taught at the City University of New York before arriving at Williams in 2003. Her research interests include 20th and 21st century artistic and literary engagements with urban space in North Africa; museum studies with a focus on institutional decolonization; and gender and migration in the Francophone world. She is the author of Imagined Museums: Art and Modernity in Post-Colonial Morocco (University of Minnesota Press: 2010), and co-editor of two volumes: Land and Landscape in Francographic Literature and Africanity in North African Visual Culture, a special issue of the African Art History journal Critical Interventions. Her new book in progress, The Traveling Bidonville, explores the relationship between aesthetics and the possibility of political constitution in shantytowns in North Africa and France.

Kashia’s work as associate dean will focus on faculty development, drawing on her strong record of service and leadership experience. She has taken a couple turns at chairing the Department of Romance Language and Literatures and is currently chairing Arabic Studies. She has also been elected to the CEP (now CEA) and the Faculty Review Panel, chaired the Olmsted Prize Committee, and served very capably as co-director of the First3 initiative for the last two years.

This associate deanship is a rotating position. Kashia will succeed Rhon Manigault-Bryant, Associate Professor of Africana Studies, who has served in this role since summer 2016. John Gerry will continue to serve as associate dean as well, and Megan Konieczny as assistant dean. Those two positions provide the dean’s office with points of continuity, as do Justine Beringer and Barb Pietras who support the faculty in many, many ways. Indeed, we have a very experienced team, also including Carrie Greene and Veronica Bosley who manage academic events, Ric Grefé who oversees our design thinking pilot, and Denise Buell who will return as Dean of the Faculty. We all look forward to working with Kashia when she joins us this summer.

Best wishes,

Lee

Lee Park

Interim Dean of the Faculty

1) Comments from any insiders? Pieprzak does not seem an obvious member of the faculty’s diversity-über-alles wing.

2) See here for a nice intro to Pieprzak’s academic work.

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JAAB Statement on the Future of the JA System

Dear members of the Williams community,

If you’re not a first-year now, you were a first-year once. The Junior Advisor (JA) system has played a role in all of our Williams experiences in some way. That’s why we, as the Junior Advisor Advisory Board (JAAB), feel strongly that starting a conversation about the future of the JA system with the larger Williams community is vital at this moment.

Over the past few years, we’ve heard many valid criticisms of the JA system. Examples include: JAs taking on undue emotional labor, the unfair burden placed on JAs of color, and the financial stress experienced by low-income JAs, among others. For these reasons, and others, JA applicant numbers have been steadily decreasing for the past few years, with this year’s numbers at an all-time low.

We will not have the traditional cohort of 52 JAs to the Class of 2022. We worked hard to reorganize the system, and there will still be a JA system and an entry system next year. However, it will look significantly different than it has in the past. This includes changes such as:

  • JA teams of 3 and 4
  • Larger “double” entries (e.g. Sage A/B and Mills/Dennett 3)
  • Strengthening the relationship between the Deans and JAs

We hope that the JA teams and larger entries will alleviate some of the emotional burden currently placed on JAs. However, this will not fully solve the problem: we as a community must also change our expectations around the JA position.

Originally, JAs were intended to serve as “informal counselors and mediators, … friends, who just happen to know the lay of the land.” Now, JAs struggle to support all of their frosh while balancing the responsibility of being full-time students and members of the community. We want to change this narrative –– not by returning to how things used to be, but by working together to move forward in a more sustainable and productive direction.

We as a community need to affirm that JAs are here to serve as mediators, links to resources, and friends –– nothing more, nothing less. If significant changes aren’t made, then future first-years may experience a Williams without a JA system. It’s important for us in this moment to reckon with the alternative, which would most likely be an RA system in which students recruited by the College oversee all first-year dorms.

Over the next few weeks, we invite you to make your voice heard on this issue –– and we sincerely hope that you will. The week of April 2nd will be “JA Week”, organized by JAAB and the Gargoyle Society, dedicated to thinking about the future of the JA system. In addition, feel free to reach out to any JAAB member with thoughts or ideas. We want the JA system to survive and thrive, but it won’t without the support of our community.

Sincerely,

JAAB

Jesse Facey, JAAB Co-President
Jad Hamdan, JAAB Co-President
Brian Benítez
Jason Adulley
Austin Anderson
Brad Clark
Claudia Forrester
Sumun Iyer
Zeke King-Phillips, MinCo Representative
Emmy Maluf
Ben Metrikin
Chetan Patel
Chrisleine Temple
Darla Torres
Kyle Walker

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Recruit One Hundred Class Agents

Most newly graduating classes at Williams have 30 or 40 class agents. Older classes often have fewer. This is a mistake. Williams would be much more successful in raising money (both in percentage and dollar terms) and in maintaining connections if we encouraged classes to have 100 agents.

First, it is very hard to recruit class agents after graduation. (Ask any Head Class Agent ever.) If you don’t recruit a 100 agents now, you will always, always struggle to have enough volunteers in later years.

Second, although it may seem like 40 agents provide good coverage for your class, that will change dramatically over the next 5 to 10 years. People scatter. Relationships fade.

Third, the biggest problem that class agents face is not in keeping in contact with the 300 or so members of every class that are the most committed to Williams. They are the easy ones! The problem comes with the 200 Ephs who are not, the ones who have a more standoffish relationship with the College, the ones who had a few close friends, rather than a wide network, the ones who never really clicked with a specific professor or class. Those 200 are the ones that you will have difficulty reaching in the years to come. This happens to every class, which is why alumni giving rates are only at 55%, and falling.

The only way to do better than 55%, the only way to get Person X to give if she is otherwise disinclined to give, is to have someone who knows her very well — someone that she is close friends with, someone she doesn’t want to say No to — do the asking.

The solution is to find many more agents now, while you have a chance, especially agents who are a part of small, isolated, social circles. You know those four women who lived together every year and don’t hang out much with other people? Make one of them a class agent now. You know those 6 male hockey players who loved Williams hockey but didn’t participate much in campus life outside their sport? One of them needs to be a class agent.

The beauty of having 100 class agents is that each agent is only responsible for 5 or so people. So, you have the manpower to connect with all sorts of people who, in other classes, don’t give to the College.

Recruiting 100 agents is hard, but identifying them should be easy. You want one from every entry. You want one from every sports team. You want one from every campus organization. (Of course, many agents will fulfill multiple rolls.) But, most importantly, you want to identify the 200 people in your class who are least connected to Williams on graduation day. You want to recruit a roommate or close friend of these people now.

Many of these recruits will hesitate. They are busy. They don’t know that many people. So sell them! Point out that you need them to just cover these four or five people, just their best buddies. No need for them to reach out to strangers.

Organizing 100 class agents is hard as well. (And, weirdly, the Alumni Office does not recognize what a great idea this is.) You might try a single head class agent (a one year position), 10 associate agents (who would stay for five years, one of those years as head agent), and 100 or so regular class agents. Each of the 10 associate agents might be responsible for 10 regular agents, but each regular agent would only need to worry about 5 or so classmates.

But the exact organization does not matter much. The key is getting 100 class agents now, while you still can. Older classes should do the same, but the best time to start is senior spring.

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Welcome to a new semester at Williams

To the Williams community,

Welcome to the new semester! I share with all of you the excitement and sense of possibility that accompanies these moments every year. There’s a certain comfort in the familiar rhythm of the academic calendar, at a time when so much around us seems to defy predictability.

I’m also happy to point out that, for the first time, this start of semester message is going out to our 28,000-plus alumni and to families, as well as to campus. The Williams community reaches far beyond Williamstown, and we want to recognize that by including you all.

I’m honored to be doing so in my new role. As interim president I look forward to contributing in new and positive ways to Williams’ evolution. That growth requires us to focus on teaching and learning while staying connected to life outside the Purple Valley. In fact, it’s becoming ever more important that we engage with each other to build community out of diversity.

We’ll set aside tomorrowFebruary 1, for that purpose. On the 10th annual Claiming Williams Day, I invite staff, students, and faculty to attend and participate in some of the many scheduled campus events. And I hope our alumni and families will also be with us in spirit, wherever you are. The Williams community thrives when we invest in such efforts together.

Here are other examples from across the college of what’s possible when we work as partners:

  • The Presidential Search Committee is progressing in their efforts to help Williams recruit our 18th president. The Committee includes trustees, faculty, staff, alumni, and current students—a true community-wide endeavor.
  • We’re celebrating the granting of tenure to a new cohort of four extraordinary faculty membersacross all three divisions.
  • The Dean’s office has hired two impressive new associate deans, April Ruiz and Chris Sewell ’05, as part of our commitment to supporting every student’s success and thriving.
  • Finally, this spring we’ll move into the new laboratory research building in the Science Center, thanks to outstanding collaboration among faculty, students, staff, and generous alumni.
These accomplishments and others like them exemplify the community-wide spirit guiding our work at Williams. Such a spirit has to be nurtured. With that in mind, I look forward to many community conversations, on campus and off, in the coming months, and to hearing your perspectives on how we can make Williams an even better place for all of us.

Sincerely,

Tiku Majumder
Interim President

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Message from Board Chair Eisenson: Honoring Adam Falk with two campus namings

To the Williams Community,

I am pleased to report that, at last week’s meeting, the Board of Trustees unanimously voted to honor Adam Falk, our 17th president, by naming the Science Quad in his honor. The decision continues a Williams tradition of naming important public spaces in honor of our past presidents.

In addition, a group of current and former Trustees and other generous donors have endowed the directorship of the Center for Learning in Action (CLiA) in Adam’s name. The Adam Falk Directorship is a tribute to his founding support for the Center, which engaged more than 800 Williams students in projects across our community and region this year alone.

The naming of the Adam Falk Science Quad will be formalized during the opening of the new Science Center. The naming of CLiA’s Falk Directorship goes into effect immediately, with current director Paula Consolini thus becoming the Center’s first Falk Director.

The Science Center project and CLiA are both examples of the transformative work this community accomplished under Adam’s leadership. We are delighted to be able to recognize Adam’s substantial contributions as our president in these important and lasting ways, as we wish him well in his new post.

Sincerely,

Michael R. Eisenson ’77
Chair of the Board of Trustees

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Reische on Dumb Mistakes, 5

Jim Reische, Director of Communications at Williams and friend-of-EphBlog, wrote a lovely New York Times essay titled “The Importance of Dumb Mistakes in College.” Let’s unpack it for a week. Day 5.

Note the casual slurring of non-elite Americans.

[T]he arresting officers also marked me as a white University of Michigan student. Had I been someone else, I might have learned a different lesson.

Because cops are racist! Get it? But, in reality, non-white Williams students are probably treated better than their white peers. Shall we review the story of Jess Torres ’12 one more time?

A certain acknowledgement of the shibboleths of the day are expected, both in the Times and by anyone in charge of “Communications” at an important part of the Cathedral. Reische probably believes, and is certainly expected to pretend to believe, that white students at places like Williams are treated better than black students, that he has more “privilege” than his black Williams colleagues. (Even the ones with tenure? Even the ones that are paid more?)

But the real problem comes next:

A commitment to learning isn’t synonymous with freedom from accountability. And it can’t extend into areas like sexual violence or racial hatred.

All dumb mistakes are equal, but some are more equal than others.

This is where we see the iron fist within the velvet glove. Reische is concerned about “college kids,” about “[o]ur children” committing “innocent mistakes.” But not when it comes to “racial hatred!” Nothing wrong with regular hatred of course. Thirty years ago, Reische hated corporate America (or capitalism? or just McDonald’s?) and that was OK. That sort of hatred, just like the hatred for Trump which drove the Griffin Hall vandals, is understandable, event “innocent.” You can hate things that Reische hates, and he will be the soul of understanding, eager to help you play some cool jazz with Miles Davis afterwards.

But if you hate in a unapproved manner — perhaps objecting to immigration, or affirmative action, or political correctness in general — then Reische and his ilk will have no sympathy for you.

What about the perpetrators of “sexual violence?” Perhaps Jim Reische, and the Williams administration, is omniscient, never making a mistake, never charging, much less punishing, any innocent student. Sadly, here in the real world, the new preponderance of the evidence standard means that a large percentage of the men punished by Williams for “sexual violence” are, in fact, innocent. How much mercy in his heart does Reische have for them?

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Reische on Dumb Mistakes, 4

Jim Reische, Director of Communications at Williams and friend-of-EphBlog, wrote a lovely New York Times essay titled “The Importance of Dumb Mistakes in College.” Let’s unpack it for a week. Day 4.

If a Williams student spray-painted “Corporate Deathburgers” on a local building today (not that they ever would), it wouldn’t be hard to imagine someone posting the security footage online.

Why the hypothetical? Williams has, in fact, had several graffiti incidents over the last few years, the latest being Griffin Hall. Was any security video ever published? No! Why can’t Reische discuss things that actually happened, at Williams or elsewhere?

The reality is that things have not really changed in 30+ years, at least when it comes to how powerful institutions (campus security, local cops) protect the powerful (children of the elite). What happened to Reische is, more or less, what happens to current students who commit vandalism for political ends.

And the video would live on: another student weighed down by the detritus of his or her online life.

Note the lack of specific examples. Around 8,000 students have graduated from Williams since EphBlog started. I can not think of a single student whose life is meaningfully “weighed down” by her “online life.” If Reische can’t come up with a single example of the problem, then what is his point?

The point, obviously, is to titillate the readers of the New York Times, many of whom worry about the on-line activities of their children.

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Reische on Dumb Mistakes, 3

Jim Reische, Director of Communications at Williams and friend-of-EphBlog, wrote a lovely New York Times essay titled “The Importance of Dumb Mistakes in College.” Let’s unpack it for a week. Day 3.

But when it comes to college kids, my worry is that we’ve become unwilling to tolerate innocent mistakes — either that or we have drastically shrunk our vision of innocence.

Is the world really all that different in 2018 than it was in 1985? Perhaps not. The Griffin Hall vandals suffered, more or less, the same fate as Reische did for his act of vandalism 30+ years ago. In fact, they may have been treated even better. I doubt that they were even arrested, much less that they spent the night in jail. Their identities were never revealed. It is telling that Reische fails to mention this incident to his Times readers. Might confuse the narrative.

Does Reische really want local police to have more or less discretion? The more that we have official written policies about how to handle vandalism (and arrests therefrom), the more that the logic of the carceral state will take over. Less discretion will (always?) yield less room for error, less understanding from the agents of the state for “dumb mistakes.”

But Reische also does not trust the state, arguing that he was treated differently because of his race/status than another vandal would have been. This suggests that he does not want to give, say, the Williamstown police more discretion about who they arrest and who they don’t. Did this tension even occur to Reische?

Is it just me, or does this talk of “innocent” and “innocence” reek of hippy-dippy 60s liberalism? Reische, in 1985, was not innocent. He was a vandal. He knew what he was doing, just as the Griffin Hall vandals did. That doesn’t mean that their lives should be ruined, but using this terminology robs adults of their agency.

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Reische on Dumb Mistakes, 2

Jim Reische, Director of Communications at Williams and friend-of-EphBlog, wrote a lovely New York Times essay titled “The Importance of Dumb Mistakes in College.” Let’s unpack it for a week. Day 2.

These days I work as the senior communications officer at another college, where I spend a healthy fraction of my time dealing with students who’ve made mistakes of their own. I recognize myself in them: intellectually adventurous, skeptical, newly aware of life’s injustices. They’re also different from me in many ways: less Grateful Dead and Dead Kennedys, much more technology.

That’s the important bit. Because for all of the supposed liberating power of their digital devices, they might as well be wearing ankle monitors. Technological connectedness has made it much harder for them to make mistakes and learn from them.

This is an empirical claim. Does it have any connection to reality? Consider 7 specific incidents of graffiti at Williams: Griffin Hall (2016), hockey rink (2015), Paresky (2014), Mission (2012) Prospect (2011), Dennett (2009) and Willy E (2008). Most people would agree that these are the most important such instances at Williams over the last decade. Note:

1) Only two perps were caught: Griffin and Dennett. It is not obvious that students who commit vandalism today are more likely to be caught than they were in Reische’s era. Mistakes (without meaningful consequences) are still possible!

2) It is not clear that the students who were caught were punished at all (Dennett) or were punished in a way that Reische would disagree with (Griffin). Certainly, no one was arrested or charged. Again, Reische is making an empirical claim: dumb mistakes (like acts of vandalism) have worse outcomes for students now than they did 30 years ago. But, if anything, Reische seems to have been more punished than students today! (Getting arrested is no fun!)

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Reische on Dumb Mistakes, 1

Jim Reische, Director of Communications at Williams and friend-of-EphBlog, wrote a lovely New York Times essay titled “The Importance of Dumb Mistakes in College.” Let’s unpack it for a week. Day 1.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Not so much afterward, when I got driven downtown in handcuffs for spray-painting “Corporate Deathburgers” across a McDonald’s.

I earned myself a long night in jail for my lack of judgment. But my family and friends — and perhaps most important, my college, the University of Michigan — never learned about the episode (until now). Because in 1985, a college student could get a little self-righteous, make a bad decision, face consequences and then go home, having learned a “valuable lesson.”

A nice story. At this point, anyone informed about Williams would hope/expect that Reische would connect this story about youthful vandalism to any of the similar stunts at Williams over the last decade, perhaps starting with the Griffin Hall graffiti of November 2016. Yet, he doesn’t mention that hate hoax, nor any of the similar events over the last few years. Why?

Reische, allegedly, is concerned that the vandalism (the “dumb mistake”) for which he was not meaningfully punished 30 years ago would generate a different result today, and yet he declines to discuss any similar recent incident, despite (because?) of his insider knowledge about them. Explanations for this lacuna?

Key question: Are college students children or are they adults? We all agree that people less than 18 should face less severe sanctions than those 18+, and we act on those beliefs via the juvenile justice system. If you, say, vandalize Griffin Hall at 17, the state (Williamstown police, Berkshire County prosecutors) will treat you very differently than it will if you do the exact same thing at 18. Does Reische want to change that? He doesn’t tell us.

Note his ending:

Our children deserve the opportunity to play the music for themselves.

Reische (and the rest of the Williams Administration? and the Williams faculty?) think of the students at Williams as “children.” Is that a bug or a feature of elite education in 2018?

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On Neighborhood Housing

Doug writes:

Can you explain why the neighborhood system is the “single biggest failure” at Williams in recent memory? I’m a student here now and the neighborhood system is totally fine with everyone — I’ve never actually heard anyone bash it before. People generally seem to like neighborhood events and not having RAs But there’s also no institutional memory at this point about what it replaced. Curious if you could point me in the right direction to learn about this.

Start with a definition.

Neighborhood Housing: students are randomly assigned to one neighborhood and can’t transfer.

The central aspect of Neighborhood Housing — what made it different than the system today or the system pre-2005 — was that students were assigned to one of four “Neighborhoods” and were not allowed to change. This was similar, indeed it was explicitly designed to be similar, to housing systems at places like Yale and Harvard.

It is true that lots of other things were also changing around this time. Some changes — gender caps — pre-dated the implementation of Neighborhoods and are still with us. Some changes, like moving First Years to Mission, actually had nothing to do with Neighborhood Housing per se. Some of these changes were good. Some bad. But, in this post, I am just discussing Neighborhood Housing at its core: the random assignment of students to housing groups.

Consider some background reading from 2005. Summary:

1) From 1995 to 2006, the Williams housing system was “free agency.” There was a campus wide lottery more-or-less identical to the one in use today. The system was popular and worked well.

2) “Neighborhood Housing” — also known as “Anchor Housing” — was the replacement. It was 100% driven by the Williams administration, mainly then-President Morty Schapiro, but with significant help from faculty on the Committee on Undergraduate Life, folks like Charles Drew ’58 and Will Dudley ’89.

3) The fundamental goal was to prevent student self-segregation in housing selection, especially racial segregation (all the black students in Weston) and athlete segregation (all the male helmet-sport athletes in Tyler/Tyler Annex). At that time, the Berkshire Quad was universally known as the “Odd Quad” and served as central location for those students outside the Williams party/alcohol/athletics “mainstream.” My sense is that administrators were not anti-Odd Quad, but they were certainly more than willing to sacrifice the special character of the Odd Quad for their larger goals.

4) Neighborhood Housing worked, at least according to Morty’s goals. Student self-segregation decreased. It was tough for the whole football team to live together if 1/4 of the team was assigned to each Neighborhood.

5) Neighborhood Housing was certainly the biggest non-academic change at Williams in the last 20 years, and perhaps back to co-education. (Does anyone disagree?) And, given how constant academic life has been at Williams (and/or how gradual any changes have been), Neighborhood Housing may have been the biggest change at Williams in a generation. Other candidates?

6) Neighborhood Housing failed, which is why students are no longer randomly (and permanently) assigned to a neighborhood. It failed for all the reasons we predicted and just as we documented for a decade. It is to Williams (and Adam Falk’s? And Steve Klass’s) credit that we ended Neighborhood Housing a few years ago and went back to the traditional campus wide lottery.

7) There are residues of neighborhoods that are still with us, like the word “neighborhood” itself and some of the changes that went along with their creation and then destruction. By far the most important of these is the move of First Years to Mission Park.

8) One occasionally reads strange revanchist views like this from abl. I have trouble understanding them. If words have meaning then “Neighborhood Housing” means “students are randomly assigned to one neighborhood at random and can’t transfer.” Both opponents and supporters agreed that this was the heart of the debate. No one cared about “campus social life/planning.” The Administration could have changed any aspect of that and no student would have complained.

abl claims:

Moreover, the neighborhood system in its conception and its execution represents the sort of Democratic social engineering that DDF and his libertarian/conservative leanings detests.

Untrue! I am in favor of competent social engineering, as here. The CUL was incompetent, as we documented/predicted at the time. Neighborhood Housing was doomed from the start, mainly because certain Williams traditions (JAs and entries, and co-ops) and the reality of our diverse housing stock.

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Martin Luther King Jr. Day is Monday, January 15

Williams staff, faculty and students,

I wanted to take this moment to point out that, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Williams will treat next Monday, January 15, as a day of no classes. Administrative offices will also be closed.

variety of activities are planned throughout the week. Please join me in taking the time to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy, and to dedicate ourselves to continuing his quest for equality and justice.

Just a few weeks after MLK Day will come the tenth anniversary of Claiming Williams. Both events offer important opportunities for us to reflect on the connections between a Williams education and our responsibilities to the world in which we live.

Thank you to the faculty for setting aside next Monday from the academic calendar, to the many people involved in planning this year’s events, and to all of you for your important contributions to our campus community and the wider world around us.

Tiku Majumder

Interim President
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A new year, and a new phase

Greetings from the President’s Office, and happy new year!

I wanted to let you know, as I finish my first week in my new role as interim president, how much I’m looking forward to working with you all. Adam Falk set Williams on a strong path back into fiscal health; supported our curriculum through investments in our faculty, programs, and academic buildings; and strengthened our community through his commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Even considering the financial health and strong foundation he established, there’s much we’ll need to accomplish together. With that in mind I’m particularly eager to begin discussions with faculty and staff colleagues to inform the agenda for my tenure. While this undertaking will certainly involve close attention to the academic program and our support for students, the ways in which we choose to approach it must be informed by conversations with you who are engaged with this work every day.

Students have an essential role in defining this community. So I’m also eager to step beyond my more familiar role as teacher and advisor, to partner with College Council, MinCo, the JAs, and others to create a Williams that’s both welcoming and enriching, in ways that will foster the best possible education.

Even after more than two decades on the Williams faculty and many years as director of the Science Center, the presidency is showing me a side of the college that I’d previously had little opportunity to observe firsthand. Indeed, the view from my new office is quite different in many ways! I feel fortunate to step into my new job with the support of an outstanding leadership team, and the benefit of close relationships with so many of you. I look forward to strengthening those bonds and forming new ones in the months to come.

Sincerely,

Tiku Majumder
Interim President and Barclay Jermain Professor of Natural Philosophy

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Affirmative Action for Conservative Faculty

abl asked JCD:

I have a question for you: should Williams be willing to hire tenure candidates with inferior records, and to give those tenure candidates more reign not to publish/not to publish well before cutting them loose, so as to develop a faculty that includes more voices on the right? In other words, should Williams be practicing affirmative action for conservative scholars on its faculty?

Yes! Just as Williams has recently practiced affirmative action in hiring in the physics and math/stats department.

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