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(M)odest (P)roposal

Although former editor of the Williams Magazine (nee The Alumni Review) Tom Bleezarde will always be first in EphBlog’s heart, current editor Amy Lovett has done a fine job. Consider this series:

Summer 2018:

The Danger of Normalization

As a proud Williams alum who was shaped by the institution’s stated values (including a commitment to diversity, equity and sustainability), I was shocked to see the Williams platform used to elevate the Heritage Foundation in the spring 2018 issue (“Election Results”). I certainly commend the effort to spotlight a variety of political actors. The danger is ending the conversation there and normalizing the Heritage Foundation’s role in the political landscape without offering a transparent and balanced account of its values, goals and impact. Heritage is considered a “massive marketing machine” for right-wing ideology and is pushing conservative policy even further from the common good. It increasingly influences policy to the detriment of human rights, healthcare access and the environment. Is Williams proud to be affiliated with something so at odds with the intellectual ethos of our community?
—Gabriel Joffe ’11, Boston, Mass.

Fall 2018:

More on Normalization

A letter to the editor highlighting the dangers of “normalizing” the Heritage Foundation specifically—and the views of Republican Ephs like Michael Needham ’04 in general—is excellent (“Letters,” summer 2018). But the writer does not go nearly far enough. Consider this modest proposal: Williams Magazine should never mention any right-of-center views or organizations. Even better: Williams itself should no longer hire Republican/conservative/libertarian faculty, nor should we admit high school seniors like Needham, who show signs of opinions inconsistent with our “stated values.”
—David Kane ’88, Newton, Mass.

Spring 2019:

Even More on Normalization

I read David Kane’s ’88 commentary (“Letters,” fall 2018) four times, at first thinking it must be parody. But he seems deadly serious. What has Williams become? What kind of illiberal college has Williams become to spawn such comments by an ’88 graduate?
—Richard Eggers ’60, Longmont, Colo.

Is a parody which generates three re-readings a success or a failure? It is not for me to say. This problem might have been averted — or maybe not!? — if “modest proposal” were capitalized, as it was in the original submission. But perhaps it is a sign of Lovett’s skill that she removed the capitalization, all the better to force readers like Eggers to think more clearly . . .

Or maybe a “Modest Proposal” is better!

Question: What letter should Kane’s father, and Eggers’ contemporary, David H.T. Kane ’58 write in response? Leave your suggestions in the comments!

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Apply for the Coordinating Committee’s Working Groups!

An all-campus e-mail for students:

Greetings everyone,

As the student representatives on the Coordinating Committee, we invite you to participate in planning the future of Williams College! As you probably know, Maud commissioned a Strategic Planning Coordinating Committee, a body of individuals charged with creating a 10-year plan for the future of Williams. Students are an integral part of what makes Williams what it is, and engaging in a working group will provide you with an opportunity to create a lasting impact on the future of the college.

What you need to know:

What is strategic planning? What are the working groups?
Click here to find out on our website! Feel free to leave comments about the process.
How many people are on the working groups?
There will be 4-6 people in the groups, each comprised of students, faculty, and staff.
What work will I be doing?
The Coordinating Committee is in the process of drafting the main charges, or lists of questions that provides guidance, for each of the working groups. You will research and consult with different departments and individuals along with helping to articulate possible programs/plans for the future of the college.
Is it worth it?
YES! Since each working group is composed of a small amount of people, students who sit on a working group will have significant input on its area of focus. Your voice will be heard! Create the change you want to see on campus.
How much work is involved?
While it may be hard to give you a concrete answer to this question, expect to commit about 2 hours per week, which will be spent brainstorming in meetings, hosting feedback forums, and conducting research.
What can this committee do for me?
Not only does this look great on your resume, but engaging in this process will also give you the opportunity to identify issues you see on campus and effectively find ways to solve them. Your voice and ideas will be cemented into the future of the college.
When do you start?
While you will be officially selected this spring–and will likely meet your working group a few times–the majority of your work will be done next fall and spring (tapering off in late March).
*** How do I apply? ***
The application is on this google form, and the rubric that will be used to make the selections is attached to this email. Grant and I will review your application, and selections will be made during this spring. If you have any questions, please REACH OUT to Essence Perry (ekp1) or Grant Swonk (gns1) by email or facebook message. Applications are due March 13 by 5pm.

Best of luck with the rest of the semester,

Essence Perry ’22 and Grant Swonk ’21

EphBlog recommends that its student readers apply!

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Strategic Planning update: February 2019

Latest e-mail from Maud

To the Williams community,

I’m pleased to share the first in a series of routine monthly updates on strategic planning.

Last month the Coordinating Committee began the intensive work of articulating a process for this effort. It includes defining working groups for our eight areas of focus (see details below) and starting to draft their charges. Here are a few other highlights so far:

Our first open feedback period, addressing the broad contours of the plan and process, ended on Friday, February 15. We received 63 comments, including four from faculty, four from staff, six from students, and 49 from alumni and families (all submitters could identify one or more roles). These numbers are in addition to numerous email exchanges and conversations with people on campus. Thank you to everyone who weighed in. Many submissions were general statements of support for strategic planning at Williams. Some people also expressed interest in specific working groups or suggested areas of focus. As the working groups take shape we’ll channel your suggestions to the right ones, to ensure that all submissions are carefully considered. You should also feel free to continue adding thoughts and ideas via the comment form on the Strategic Planning website as they occur to you.

Over the next month the Coordinating Committee will turn to the formation of the eight working groups, each of which will comprise four to six members selected from faculty, students, and staff. The groups will be charged with engaging college stakeholders and gathering information to make sure all voices are heard, through scheduled open meetings and other forms of outreach. Look for details in the next few weeks about how to express your interest in serving on one of these groups. Once the groups are convened, we’ll also share details about how everyone can engage with them.

I’ll continue a monthly series of updates like this one throughout the spring, and will restart them in the fall. We’re also planning a campus forum in April about the charges for the working groups, and will experiment with a live online event (possibly Facebook Live or Reddit Ask Me Anything) to broaden the conversation. Next fall we’ll host several all-campus planning discussions as the working groups gather data and write their reports, and then in Spring 2020 we’ll organize public fora to review the working group reports and solicit feedback on the draft plan. We’ve posted this high-level timeline to the Strategic Planning site and will add details there and share them via my monthly updates as they become available.

Thanks again to all who have sent feedback thus far. I look forward to continuing to work with you in the weeks and months ahead.

Sincerely,

Maud

1) Do we need a new category for this Strategic Planning exercise?

2) Williams should make all comments public, unless the submitted specifically asks to remain anonymous. I would be curious to see what my fellow Ephs think!

3) I bet that the vast majority of those “general statements of support for strategic planning” were from the usual crowd of alumni insiders. Not that there is anything wrong with that, or them.

4) Kudos to Maud for the transparency and the regular updates. But what is her big picture vision, beyond removing the stain of speech restriction bequeathed to her by Adam Falk? I (honestly!) have no idea.

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Evropa

Latest e-mail:

Williams students, faculty and staff,

This weekend, CSS received a report that a pole near Sawyer Library was vandalized with the word “Evropa”. As we explained a few weeks ago when the phrase “Identity Evropa” was discovered on a white board in Thompson Hall, Identity Evropa is an organization that promotes a white supremacist and European supremacist ideology. The group is especially known for trying to provoke reactions on college campuses.

While we believe this latest discovery is making a reference to the same organization, at this time we can’t assert whether or not both actions were taken by the same person. Because the organization is one that promotes hatred, we will investigate the report as a possible bias incident and Campus Safety and Security is trying to identify the author of the graffiti.

Williams should be a place where everyone is welcome and we treat these incidents with the utmost of seriousness. If you have information you think will aid the investigation, please call Campus Safety at 413-597-4444 or submit information through OIDE’s Bias Incident Reporting form. The form includes an option to report anonymously.

Sincerely,

Leticia S.E. Haynes, Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity
Steve Klass, Vice President for Campus Life
Marlene Sandstrom, Dean of the College

Previous discussion here.

1) Has the word “Stetson” disappeared from official campus discourse? During construction, the project was referred to as “Stetson-Sawyer.” I expected that terminology to continue, both since the entire front half the building is the old Stetson Hall and because Stetson was such a major figure in the College’s (financial) history. But my sense is that the average first year has never heard nor used the word “Stetson.” We are all as dust . . .

2) Klass is a smart guy. Surely he realizes that all-campus e-mails are exactly what these trolls want to achieve? The bigger a stink that Williams makes whenever anyone writes “Evropa,” the more “Evropa” writing we are going to see.

3) I would still like a discussion about why Identity Evropa is unacceptable at Williams while, say, Black Lives Matter and BDS are OK. All three organizations have problematic, even hateful, members. But Williams, as an institution, should be run in a viewpoint neutral fashion. If faculty/students want to create a chapter of, or invite a speaker from, any of these groups, then the College should allow it.

4) Vandalism is, of course, always unacceptable. I have no problem with punishing any student who vandalizes the innocent polls around Sawyer, as long as the same punishment is applied regardless of political views.

5) If you did this, and you get caught, your best defense will be to claim that your vandalism had nothing to do with politics. You are just a huge fan of the Europa League, an annual soccer competition.

6) If you want to troll Williams, I recommend a different approach. The Evropa League comes with all sorts of unfortunate connotations. (And vandalism is always a mistake.) Instead, start hanging “It’s OK to be White” posters around campus, but only in those locations in which students are permitted to put posters.

This is guaranteed to drive much/most of Williams crazy, and is much less likely to get you thrown out of school. “All Lives Matter” posters would have a similar effect.

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Deeply Distressed

Williams students, faculty and staff,

In recent weeks, members of our community have been leaving notes and materials in front of the Hollander Hall offices of Assistant Professors Kai Green ’07 and Kim Love to honor and support them at a difficult time. It has now come to my attention that yesterday afternoon a faculty member removed these materials. I am in the process of gathering information about what happened, as I am deeply distressed by any interference with students freely expressing themselves in a way that is not disruptive. In fact, after senior staff and I confirmed that the materials were not impeding movement through Hollander we had asked custodial, CSS and other staff not to disturb them. I regret that we did not communicate this message more broadly.

I want to make clear that I fully support those who were expressing their thoughts and feelings through the content that was removed. People have now replaced that content and added to it. I and senior staff will work with students and others to find a way that it can remain without creating a safety hazard.

I have come to Williams with the goal of fostering a supportive and inclusive community where all members of a diverse learning community will thrive. I ask you to join me in continuing to strengthen these values going forward.

Sincerely,

Maud

Time for another EphBlog investigation? Recall J’accuse!

UPDATE: Kai Green’s office is Hollander 106 and Hollander 111. Do you think that a professor with a nearby office might have gotten sick of looking at a bunch of junk piled in the hallway?

UPDATE 2: Thanks to a commentator for pointing out this Record article about the display (picture added above). If I were a professor who had no choice but to deal with that every day, I would get pretty annoyed . . .

UPDATE 3: From a comment:

McPartland removed the material in his capacity as Chair of the Hollander/Schapiro Users Committee after consultation with Campus Security and a conversation with them about the fire code.

McPartland’s office in Schapiro has now been decorated/vandalized in turn.

More details, please.

Entire Record article below the break:
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Ze/Zir/Zirs

A student writes:

Every semester, students are asked to update their personal information in the PeopleSoft Student Portal. Here’s a part of that process…so many options!

1) Is this another one of those annoying EphBlog parodies? Maybe! What do you think?

2) It is real! Would you have predicted this when EphBlog started in 2003. I would not have!

3) How do the answers that students provide affect official college reporting, as with the Common Data Set? My guess is that they have no effect. You can change your pronouns if you want, but Williams still records your gender as you selected it in the Common App.

3) What will Williams be asking its students in 2035? My guess would be that students will be allowed to change the official race and gender that the College records. What do you predict?

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Vibrant Campus Community

Latest e-mail from President Mandel:

Williams students, faculty and staff,

Spring is here! Well, spring semester anyway, although you wouldn’t know it by the weather. Ever the optimist, though, I feel like I can see the (day)light at the end of the tunnel. If you’ve been away, welcome back. If you stayed here, I hope you had a great Winter Study.

The new semester will be as busy as ever, starting tomorrow with Claiming Williams. I’m excited for my first experience with this unique program, and the organizers have assembled a great schedule for the day. Please find a way to participate if you can, since the program embodies the values essential to building a healthy and vibrant campus community.

Meanwhile, work on strategic planning is coming along nicely: I’m happy to announce a new website where you can learn all about the effort. I want to start this process by inviting your feedback: if you have comments on our organizational structure and plan for moving forward, please submit them via the website by February 15. That’s when the coordinating committee will begin writing charges for each working group, and we want to be able to incorporate community input. Then, starting later in February, I’ll begin to provide monthly updates via campus email, EphNotes and the project website. These will include information about next steps and further opportunities to share your ideas.

I’m also pleased to announce that we’ve finalized the membership of our new Ad Hoc Committee, which will develop recommendations on how Williams can maximize our commitments to free expression and inclusion. The roster and charge are available on a new page of the Committees website, and also via the Strategic Initiatives menu of the president’s office website. Thank you to the faculty, students and staff who are making time to participate on the committee. This is an important project, and I look forward to working with them.

On another issue of national importance, Williams today submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Education commenting on their proposed changes to the Title IX process. While we’re always looking for further ways to help prevent and respond to sexual harassment and discrimination, my letter explains how the Department’s proposed changes could actually impede our efforts.

On a happier note, the Teach It Forward campaign recently exceeded both our 85% engagement goal and $650 million fundraising goal. Beyond the numbers I’m proud of TIF’s impact, from funding the new science center to endowing the CLiA directorship to supporting a world-class faculty and expanding financial aid offerings—including our recent elimination of one summer’s earnings contribution for every student on financial aid. We hope the change will help all students explore learning and career opportunities when school isn’t in session. This and many other good things are made possible for us by Williams alumni and friends, so I hope you’ll join me in thanking them. And we’re aiming still higher in areas from financial aid to sustainability, so will make the most of the time remaining before the campaign ends this June.

All of this is just the beginning. I look forward to starting a new semester with you and to seeing you in the dining halls, on the athletic fields, in the classrooms and meeting spaces, and on Spring Street, as well as at Claiming Williams tomorrow.

Lots to unpack here! Alas, no time to do it!

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Thompson Graffiti

Latest racist (?) graffiti:

Williams students, faculty and staff,

This weekend, a student discovered the phrase “Black Riders Liberation Party” written several times on a whiteboard in the kitchen of Thompson Hall. The Black Riders Liberation Party is an organization that uses modern marketing tactics to promote a black supremacist ideology. The group is especially known for trying to provoke reactions on college campuses.

We don’t yet know who wrote the name on the board, or what their intent was in doing so. Because the organization is one that promotes hatred, we will investigate the report as a possible bias incident and Campus Safety and Security is trying to identify the author of the graffiti.

If you have information you think will aid the investigation, please call Campus Safety at 413-597-4444 or submit information through OIDE’s Bias Incident Reporting form. The form includes an option to report anonymously.

Williams should be a place where everyone is welcome. Many of the conversations at next week’s Claiming Williams events will focus on how to fulfill that promise, and we look forward to doing that work with you all.

Sincerely,

Leticia S.E. Haynes, Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity
Steve Klass, Vice President for Campus Life
Marlene Sandstrom, Dean of the College

1) What are the odds that this is a hate hoax, meaning that the person who left the note is not actually a supporter of BRLP? I am not sure. On one hand, hate hoaxes are very common at Williams (and elsewhere). On the other, BRLP is a fairly obscure (?) organization. The typical hate hoax is much less subtle.

2) Why is this defined as “graffiti?” The convention, I believe, is that whiteboards are for writing stuff on. If Thompson has a whiteboard, along with a markers publicly available for writing on it, then writing the phrase “Black Riders Liberation Party” is, by definition, not graffiti.

3) Why is this a “possible bias incident?” Again, assume that the Thompson whiteboard is publicly available and that students are allowed, even encouraged, to write on it. If no student would be punished for writing “Democratic Party,” then the College would be on thin ice if it punished a student, with no warning, for writing “Black Riders Liberation Party.” Williams, if it wants to avoid turning into a madrassa, must be viewpoint neutral with regard to political expression.

4) Who gets to decide that BRLP “promotes hatred?” And, yes, I know that the Southern Poverty Law Center has said some mean things about BRLP, but I don’t think that Williams gets to outsource its moral judgments. Scores of Williams faculty — perhaps even a majority — believe that Donald Trump “promotes hatred.” Would writing MAGA on the Thompson whiteboard also merit an investigation by Campus Safety and Security?

5) Why does the “intent” matter? (And note the awkwardness of that sentence in the email.) Williams, unless it has developed the ability to read minds, must enforce its rules in a viewpoint neutral manner. It can punish anyone who writes anything on a whiteboard or it can punish no one. It can’t punish black students (but not non-black) students for writing the same thing. Or vice versa! (What is your guess as to the race of the students who wrote this?)

6) If you are the student who did thing, and they catch you, reach out for help. There are faculty who would support you. Note, especially, that Williams never (?) punished the Mexican-American student who wrote “All Beaners Must Die” nor did it punish Mary Jane Hitler.

7) Note the absurd scare-mongering about “modern marketing tactics.” What does that mean, exactly? They use Facebook?

8) Does the Black Riders Liberation Party really “promote a black supremacist ideology?” I doubt it. Accusations about being a “Supremacist” serve the same purpose today as accusations about being a “Communist” did in the 1950s. The BRLP certainly cares about African-Americans — not that there is anything wrong with that! — and seeks to advance their interests. Calling them supremacists (when they never (?) apply that terminology to themselves) is the worst sort of demagoguery.

When will the College learn that the best way to deal with obnoxious scribbling is to ignore it? No need to hide it — just post a note in the (public?) security logs. The bigger a fuss you make, the more of it you are going to get.

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Dean Sneed, RIP

From Seth Brown:

I was thinking of this last month when I learned that my former advisor, a dean at Williams College, had died. This was a man who had a tremendous spirit of generosity, who not only helped me navigate the trials and tribulations of freshman year, but even invited me into his home for dinner. He would regale me with tales and pictures of his time in Africa, sharing the joys he experienced there and talking about the help he offered. Years after graduating, I would learn from another college friend that when she was in dire straits and in need of help, he gave her a bicycle.

Everyone had a Dean Sneed story.

His name alone was enough to move the world. At least, it seemed that way to me. Back when I was in college, I was applying for a job working at the Williams Press Office over the summer, and had set up an interview. Time management was not my strong suit in those days, so I began wandering over a few minutes before the interview was scheduled. On the way, who should I encounter but Dean Sneed. As always, he was very friendly and asked what I was up to. I explained that I was on my way to an interview in the press office. He said to mention his name, because it might help.

I arrived at the building roughly one minute before my interview started. Unfortunately, the interview was on the fourth floor. With little time to spare, instead of waiting for the elevator, I sprinted up four flights of stairs. I should point out that normally I only sprint when being chased by some form of impending death, so this was quite unusual for me. By the time I reached the fourth floor, I was completely out of breath, and hyperventilating madly.

I was also about to be late, so I immediately burst into the office where my interview was scheduled. In hindsight, this may not have been the ideal choice.

“Hello,” said the businesswoman who might determine whether or not I would get a job.

“HOOOOOHUNHHHHHHHNHOOOOOHUNHHHHHHHN,” I replied suavely.

“Would you like a glass of water?”, she asked?

“HOOOOOHUNHHHHHHHNPLEASEHUNHHHHHHHN,” I said, nodding eagerly.

In spite of this inauspicious start, after a glass of water I managed to talk my way past the preliminary interview into the second round, so they sent me into a conference room where my potential boss introduced himself and began asking me questions. As soon as there was a lull in the questioning, I said, “Oh, Dean Sneed said I should mention his name because it might help me get a job.” And then I began to wriggle my fingers as if casting a spell on the interviewer, and repeated “Dean Sneed.”

And it worked.

Condolences to all.

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Board of Trustees Meeting

E-mail from President Mandel:

Last week was the January meeting of the Board of Trustees. The board covered topics that it reviews on an annual basis, like the comprehensive fee and a risk management update, as well as current issues of special interest.

Two items of note:

Provost Dukes Love hosted a session on financial fundamentals, describing our processes for ensuring sound financial management.

Read: Dukes’ 10 year audition to be the next Williams president continues to go well!

Associate Vice President for Finance Matt Sheehy, Chief Information Officer Barron Koralesky and General Counsel Jamie Art ’93 led an annual update on the college’s risk management efforts, including recent work on IT risk and data security.

Back in the day, the Trustees would spend most (all?) of their time talking to faculty. Now they spend lots (most?) of their time talking to non-faculty, including second-tier administrators like Sheehy, Koralesky and Art. Who really runs Williams? Not the faculty. Slice by slice by slice, the death of faculty governance at Williams continues.

Entire e-mail is below the break.
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Ad Hoc Update, 3

In February 2016, the (now defunct) student group Uncomfortable Learning invited Dissident Right author John Derbyshire to speak at Williams. Then-president Adam Falk cancelled Derbyshire’s talk, causing a public relations black eye for the College. Current President Maud Mandel seeks to undo the damage associated with that decision. We have named the associated controversy Self-CARE Now. This week, I will review Mandel’s latest e-mail and her draft charge to the Ad hoc committee on speakers, inquiry and inclusion. Day 3.

Proposed Committee Charge

Williams, like other schools around the country, is debating how to uphold principles of open inquiry and free expression. The debate has focused on how to do so while not providing a platform for hate speech, racism, or other forces that are corrosive to a learning community. This issue was identified as a concern in Williams’ Fall 2017 accreditation self-study, which was shared with campus at the time:

“intellectual freedom… is defined broadly at Williams to include the unfettered exchange of diverse points of view, the dissemination of original scholarship, and respect for faculty, students, staff, alumni, and others who wish to share their opinions on how the college is governed. This “basket of rights” must sometimes be actively managed.” (pp. 103–4)

The conversation at Williams has recently focused on speaker invitations, as it has elsewhere around the country. I am charging an ad hoc committee with recommending to me, by May 2019, a set of speaker invitation guidelines that would demonstrate our full commitment to both inquiry and inclusion.

The most important part of this update is right here. Mandel is restricting the work of the committee to “speaker invitation guidelines.” This is a dramatic change from her November vision:

I’ve decided to charge an ad hoc committee with exploring various points of view and making recommendations for how Williams can ensure an educational environment that’s both intellectually open and inclusive.

Possible explanations:

1) Nothing-Burger. I am reading too much into some minor word changes. Mandel has not changed her approach/goals despite the superficial changes in phrasing.

2) Worrying about failure. Perhaps Mandel realizes that Williams — or at least the Williams as represented by the committee she has no choice but to name — is not ready for full-scale Chicago-style academic freedom. Rather than let the Committee do some real damage, she is restricting its remit.

3) Changing the battlefield. Perhaps Mandel has decided that this Committee — whatever the strengths and weakness of its membership — is the wrong venue in which to push for the changes she seeks. Note what follows next in her charge:

This targeted project will complement our broader attention to learning and campus climate through the strategic planning process. I further ask that they do so through a process that allows for input from anyone in our community with opinions or ideas to share on the subject.

Calling it a “targeted project” is quite a comedown from the language two months ago. Moving the real battle to the “strategic planning process” places the debate in an area over which Mandel has much more power. Who is in charge of that? Meet the Coordinating Committee:

The most important news is that a Coordinating Committee has been formed to guide the work. This committee will articulate a vision and goals, organize and develop charges for sub-committees working on each area of focus, create opportunities for input and knit all the aspects of the planning process into a unified, final plan. The Committee, which I’ll chair, includes faculty, staff and students.

This is a committee which Mandel will do much more than “chair.” This is a committee which will do her bidding, a committee which will support their President in whichever direction she wants to take Williams. More on the committee some other day, but, for now, note that it includes David Gürçay-Morris ’96 one of the three faculty leaders of the free speech push and Essence Perry ’22, one of the very few (only?) students to outline a pro-free speech position in the Record. What better venue could there be for Mandel to push Williams in a more Chicago’sh direction?

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Don’t Build a New Art Museum

From The Eagle:

Watching Pamela Franks walk into Tunnel City Coffee, one may be surprised to know she’s only been in town since the middle of September, when she became the new director of the Williams College Museum of Art.

Frank waves to several patrons she knows as she approaches the glass display case, where she makes dinner plans for later in the week with a woman on the other side of the counter, before taking a serious look at her breakfast choices.

“The quiche looks delicious,” she says, pointing to several choices on the lower level. She orders a slice with mushrooms and onions, a blueberry muffin (to share) with two plates and a 20-ounce medium roast coffee in a paper cup that she can take back to the office later.

“I love the coffee here,” she says, as she leans in close so she can be heard over the coffeehouse cacophony. “Before I even moved here, a friend sent me a bag of coffee beans from here. So, I was looking forward to coming here.”

See below the break for the rest of the (well-done) article. Vaguely related comments:

1) Williams should not build a new college art museum. Spend the money on more financial aid instead. Our current college art museum is more than adequate. Moreover, the existence of the Clark and Mass MoCa means that we already have more art museums in the area than any other (rural) liberal arts college.

2) Williams will build a new college art museum. The logic of building, Building BUILDING is inexorable. I might as well try to fight the tide.

3) The politics of the location of the new museum has been contentious (even vicious?) for several years now. Perhaps a local resident could fill us in?

Read more

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President Mandel on Free Speech Development

Williams faculty, students and staff,

Numerous conversations have taken place recently, especially among faculty and students, around Williams’ principles and practices governing inviting speakers to campus. I’ve decided to charge an ad hoc committee with exploring various points of view and making recommendations for how Williams can ensure an educational environment that’s both intellectually open and inclusive.

I intend to recruit the committee by the end of the calendar year with counsel from leaders of faculty, staff and student governance. You can expect an update on the membership and charge once the group is constituted in early 2019. My hope is that the committee will engage campus constituencies who are interested in the issue and want to contribute to the development of guidelines appropriate for Williams.

Best wishes,

Maud

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Maud’s Moment!

President Maud Mandel is about to put her stamp on Williams.

Williams faculty, students and staff,

Numerous conversations have taken place recently, especially among faculty and students, around Williams’ principles and practices governing inviting speakers to campus. I’ve decided to charge an ad hoc committee with exploring various points of view and making recommendations for how Williams can ensure an educational environment that’s both intellectually open and inclusive.

I intend to recruit the committee by the end of the calendar year with counsel from leaders of faculty, staff and student governance. You can expect an update on the membership and charge once the group is constituted in early 2019. My hope is that the committee will engage campus constituencies who are interested in the issue and want to contribute to the development of guidelines appropriate for Williams.

Best wishes,

Maud

1) This is exactly the plan that EphBlog recommended two years ago.

Smart presidents use committees! With luck, Falk has already learned that lesson in the debate over the log mural. He should follow the same strategy in dealing with free speech. Create a “Committee on Freedom of Expression at Williams.” Appoint a cross-section of faculty/students/alumni, but with a sotto voce emphasis on free speech. Charge the Committee with reviewing the history of free speech debates at Williams, meeting with members of the College community, and recommending policy going forward.

Best person to put in charge? Philosophy Professor Joe Cruz ’91.

Adam Falk was not smart enough to follow this advice, but Maud Mandel is presidential timber cut from a better forest. (Or she reads EphBlog . . .)

2) Mandel would not be forming this committee if she did not want to move Williams toward the Chicago statement. Yay, Maud!

3) The next step is to pick committee members who will give her the answer she wants. Suggestions? It is not obvious that Mandel should pick many (any?) strong free speechers, like the faculty behind the petition. Does she know that, Michael Lewis, for example, wants free speech? Of course she does! But a committee filled with (too) many Michael Lewii might, counter-intuitively, make her goal more difficult to achieve. What she really wants is a committee which will produce the answer she prefers but is staffed by respected people with no (publicly disclosed) prior positions on the topic of free speech.

4) Such a rule would also provide cover for keeping faculty like Joy James far away. (Is going through the linked nonsense useful?)

5) Mandel should include at least one staff member (Jim Reische would be perfect) and one athletic coach. No one can complain about such choices, especially if the selected individuals have not expressed their views on free speech. But staff — who are at-will employees — are much more likely to know what the boss wants and to give it to her. Athletic faculty, also at-will, are naturally more “conservative” on these issues than their tenured brethren.

6) Should the committee include students? What about alumni? What choice will Mandel make? I am not certain what the best answer is.

7) The committee will have to include some racial minorities. Good choices might be Hispanic economists Peter Montiel or Greg Phelan. I haven’t spoken with either of them about the case, but most economists would be on Mandel’s side in this debate.

8) Mandel would love to have an African-American on the committee. Who should she choose? Not Joy James, obviously. Maybe Neil Roberts? He strikes me (contrary opinions welcome!) as one of the most “right-wing” African-American faculty at Williams, someone who might very well aspire to greater things. Being on this committee, and giving Mandel the answer she wants, would fast-track him toward being Dean of the Faculty.

9) EphBlog favorites Eiko Siniawer ’97 and Lee Park are plausible candidates. Again, I have not discussed this issue with them, but they are sensible, both in their policy judgments and in their willingness to play ball with a new president’s priorities.

10) The most competent high-profile committee in the last decade or so was the Merrill Committee, dealing with the Log mural. Might Karen Merrill be the best person to lead this new committee? What about Joe Cruz ’91 who also served on it?

11) Should Provost Dukes Love seek to be on this committee? Should he seek to chair it? Leading the campus conversation on such a difficult topic is the last item he needs on a resume which is perfectly crafted for his eventual job as an college president, at Williams or elsewhere. On the other hand, this whole thing could turn into an utter disaster, if handled poorly. Tough call!

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Winter Study 2019

Winter Study Registration

The first phase of Winter Study registration in PeopleSoft/Student Records will take place Wednesday, November 7, 9AM EST, through Sunday, November 11.

Some courses required early applications and are already closed; some may be open but require instructor consent. Browse through the Winter Study course offerings and, for courses that interest you, drill down to the Catalog Details to find the course enrollment and consent status. Or you can research courses of interest in the online catalog search or by drilling down to department Winter Study offerings.

Registration for this first phase is not on a first come/first choice basis—for overenrolled courses, instructors will select students after 11/11. Students who are dropped from courses will have a second chance to register 11/26 – 11/30 with open spaces on a first-come, first-served basis at that point.

Questions about Registration?

Check the Registrar’s website or contact the Registrar’s Office at registrar@williams.edu or x4286.

Mary L. Morrison

Associate Registrar

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Twitter Spat

I love this twitter spat between the official Williams and Amherst accounts. Hilarious! And, even better, it is hard to tell how serious it is . . .

You will know it is serious when the Williams twitter account mentions EphBlog being a much better blog than the now-defunct Am’erst blog . . .

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Register for 2nd Quarter PE Classes

Dear Students-

The registration window for 2nd quarter PE classes will open on Monday, October 15 at 12am.  The first 24 hours are reserved for students who still need to complete their PE credits.  The registration period will run through Friday, October 19 at noon.  Please take a moment to look at the offerings and set a reminder to register next week.  2nd quarter classes begin the week of October 22.
Carolyn Miles
PE Coordinator

To Register:

go to People Soft

under student self service click enrollment

click on PE class registration.

As a reminder the college PE requirement for graduation is 4 credits (2 must be earned in your first year) Students who do not complete the requirement by the end of their sophomore year may not be eligible to study abroad as juniors. For more information about physical education and the PE requirement please visit http://athletics.williams.edu/physical-education/

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Funding Opportunity: Towards Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (TIDE)

Why can’t we just make these e-mails public? Future historians will thank you Maud Mandel!
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Committee on Priorities and Resources

Why can’t we just make these e-mails public? Future historians will thank you Maud Mandel!
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Verbal Warning

A former Williams professor (and Williams graduate) writes:

Doug in point (2) says that there is no strong trend about class year for students who are caught with honor code violations. I would like someone to run the same analysis for the length of time that the professor has been at Williams. I think that new professors are overburdened with these cases, and not because “senior faculty [are] less wise to the ways of the internet.”

In new faculty training, all new faculty learn about the honor code, and learn that if there is ANY suspicion whatsoever of an honor code violation, we are REQUIRED to report it. We are told that the chair of the honor committee will look into the case and if it has no merit will not pursue it, so there is no reason not to report something. So what do new faculty do? When we see anything that seems like cheating, we report it.

I went through this as a first-year Williams professor, because my students cheated. It was an extremely unpleasant experience that I would never desire to repeat. Everyone did their job well and was very professional, but it was time consuming and not fun: I had to carefully submit the evidence, explain my side of the story with the committee and the student in the room — oh, and teach the student during the week or two between the violation and the case. It was like a trial. It was stressful for me, even though I had done nothing wrong. I was shaking when I came out of there.

(Let me reiterate that I would not change anything about the process; I think it is done very well. It’s just stressful and unpleasant to take any part in a trial like that.)

What do older Williams professors do? They don’t put themselves through that, because they know that they don’t have to. They deal with the issue “in house.” They give the student a verbal warning. (Professors CANNOT impose any punishment, such as failure in the assignment or on the question, without going through the honor committee.)

I am huge fan, like Diana, of the current process and work of the Honor Committee. Kudos to all involved. I especially like that only students vote on the outcome and that only students/faculty are involved in the process. There is no (yet!) assistant dean for the honor code, no paid outside investigators.

We should do exactly the same thing for accusations of sexual assault as we do for accusations of academic dishonesty. Given the number of complaints, we need a new committee. It should be student-faculty, with only the students voting on the outcome. If such a process works well for academic violations of community standards, why wouldn’t it work well with for sexual violations of community standards? (Note that the Honor Committee is also involved in issues outside of academic disputes.)

The more that students and faculty run Williams, the better.

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How Much Cheating?

How much cheating is there at Williams? A student writes:

For those who have never read the honor code committee reports, especially current students, they’re a very worthwhile read. They alert you to the specific kinds of behaviors that actually get you the black-mark of academic dishonesty on your transcript. Some notes about them:

1.) Why are there so many typos in the honor committee reports? Even a cursory reading of these 4-6 page documents would correct for these rather glaring errors. If you’re publishing something that will have your committee’s name on it, and your committee is essential to the academic integrity of the college, you’d think the document would be a little more polished.

2.) There doesn’t seem to be a strong trend in what class years are accused/found guilty of plagiarism. If, as Shevchenko asserts above, academic dishonesty stems from different high school backgrounds, we’d expect for the influence of those differences in secondary education to diminish over the course of students’ time at Williams, leading to an overrepresentation of freshmen in honor committee hearings. There’s many other reasons we’d expect for freshmen to be overrepresented (e.g., students get better at cheating). I haven’t run the data, but there seems to be a pretty even mix of freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors being tried for honor code violations.

3.) Professors have tremendous difficulties catching students who are cheating on take-home exams. During my time at Williams, take-home exams were incredibly common, especially in DIII courses, and it was common knowledge that students would cheat on these assignments. When you’re alone in your room taking these exams, there’s not a lot to stop you from opening your textbook or phone to look for answers on a surprisingly difficult question, and resisting this urge is difficult with up to 30% of your grade is on the line. I believe this is probably the most common source of cheating at Williams, and the most pernicious, since take-home exams are frequently major assignments and professors will be hard-pressed to catch students.
– Only 3 students in the 2016-2017 school year were accused of cheating on take-home exams (I would guess that over one-thousand take-home exams are administered each year and the incidence of cheating is much, much higher than 0.3%).
– These two students were caught due to incredibly flagrant violations of the honor code: one had verbatim copy/pasted material off of Wikipedia (laugh, then expel this student immediately for their sheer stupidity); the other two had identical portions of their assignments, obviously indicating collaboration. All failed the courses, no additional sanctions.
– The previous year also had two violations, one with obviously identical material between two students and the other with a student who turned herself in.
– Conclusion: Professors are not detecting/reporting who is using textbook or online sources during take-home exams. This should be a huge concern to professors and the college.

4.) Similar to #3, only one student in the past two years has been found guilty for cheating with the use of a smartphone in general. Once again, among students, it’s common knowledge that you can have your phone in your pocket and then go to the bathroom to use your phone to look up answers during a self-scheduled or even an in-class exam. One student being found guilty of this behavior is surely the result of a very low detection rate rather than a low prevalence rate among students. As with cheating on take-home exams, this should be a huge concern of the college.

5.) Only incredibly sloppy and obvious instances of cheating are being detected. Take a scan of any of these documents; a large majority of cases involve verbatim similarities between two students’ work or between a students’ work and the internet. Virtually none of the students who are cheating in more careful ways are being caught; it’s all the low-hanging fruit of lazy or stupid students who make the egregious error of copying text verbatim.

So, if you’re planning to cheat at Williams, don’t verbatim copy text from an internet source or a friend. This is essentially the only reliable way you will be put in front of the honor committee; such violations constitute a large majority of honor committee hearings. With a little bit of cunning, you can *easily* use technology to get away with cheating. Until the college finds a better way to catch students who are cheating, possibly by banning take-home exams, it’s almost guaranteed some of your peers will be engaging in this behavior and will get away with it.

How much cheating is there on take-home exams?

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Pseudo-Judicial Process

An anonymous Williams professor writes:

1) My impression, informed by years of experience (and not just at Williams), is that more senior faculty, less wise to the ways of the internet, are far less likely to catch out cheating on term papers than their younger colleagues. So as Div I and Div II profs get younger in the years to come there will be more complaints of cheating in general.

2) Despite Honor Code histrionics, penalties for cheating at Williams are lenient compared to other institutions I’ve taught at. Even clearly guilty students are regularly acquitted by the committee, or treated with incredible indulgence. And the goals of the committee are often unclear. Frequently professors with incidents before the honor committee feel that they themselves have been subjected to trial and scrutiny. This is true even though professors are told over and over that they have no discretion in reporting suspicious incidents.

3) More on that lack of professorial discretion: Because profs are required to report all suspicious incidents, it is the committee chairs who decide whether to go forward in any given case. Incidents will fluctuate from year to year based upon the sensitivity and concerns of the committee chairs. Any increase in honors cases is just as likely to reflect the differing sentiments of the people running this show.

4) “Cheating is on the rise!” has been a refrain of the honor code crowd since I arrived at Williams and it has grown tiresome, particularly to the degree that it provides occasion for people like Shevchenko to pontificate about what I ought to be telling my students.

5) The pseudo-judicial process conducted by the Honor Committee is largely hidden, with all parties sworn to silence. The honor code hyperventilators thus participate in a system of sanctions that is for the most part out of view, and yet they wish their toy trials to have deterrent effects nevertheless. Thus faculty are enjoined to bang the plagiarism drum in their seminars so that the Honor Code people can have their cake and eat it too.

Would other Williams professors like to comment?

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Clery Report

Latest Clery Report is available (pdf):

To the Williams Community,

The College’s Annual Security and Fire Safety Report was published online in September 2018 and can be viewed at – https://security.williams.edu/files/2018/10/Clery-2018.pdf.

The Annual Security Report discloses information concerning campus safety and security policies and procedures, as well as statistics regarding certain types of crimes reported to the campus and local law enforcement during the calendar year 2017.

This report includes:

· Policies and procedures
· Security awareness programs
· Crime Prevention
· Security of and access to College facilities
· Campus Safety Authorities, CSA
· Possession, use, and sale of alcoholic beverages and illegal drugs
· Sex offenses and the sex offender registry
· Violence Against Women Act VAWA
· Reporting of crimes and emergencies
· Emergency notification systems
· Crime statistics for the years 2015, 2016, and 2017

The Annual Fire Safety Report includes:

· Fire safety policies
· Fire statistics for on-campus student residences 2015, 2016, and 2017
· Fire safety systems, alarm monitoring, and sprinkler systems
· Fire drills
· Policies relating to portable electrical appliances
· Evacuation procedures
· Fire safety training

Together, these reports provide students, prospective students, employees, and prospective employees with key information regarding the security of the campus and surrounding areas, and ultimately, create a safer, more secure campus environment. To request a paper copy of the current Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, please contact our Associate Director for Clery Compliance and Training, Alison Warner at 413-597-4444 or by email at awarner@williams.edu

Regards,

Alison Warner
Associate Director of Clery Compliance And Training

I will have some thoughts tomorrow.

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Faculty Essentials Fair

Wouldn’t Williams be a better college if an excellent teacher like Professor Pieprzak were in the classroom with students rather than writing e-mails?

From: Katarzyna Pieprzak
Date: Tue, Oct 2, 2018 at 11:30 AM
Subject: Faculty Essentials Fair and Fall Coffee Hours
To:

Dear Colleagues,

I write to you today on behalf of the Collaborative for Faculty Development (CFD). We would like to thank you for participating in the Faculty Essentials Fair last month and invite you to join us at the upcoming CFD Faculty Essentials Coffee Hours – a series of drop-in style opportunities to consult with representatives of offices that offer faculty-facing resources. A reminder that the CFD is a group comprised of faculty and staff from different “institutional branches” whose primary work is to interact with, program for, and support faculty at Williams College. Some of our primary goals are to streamline programming and cultivate sustained engagement with faculty members.

The Faculty Essentials Fair in September was a wonderful gathering of people. Around sixty people attended, and the feedback about the quality of interaction and access to information has been overwhelmingly positive. Here are just some examples of questions that faculty asked that started productive conversations:

* I would like to have my students respond with video instead of an essay, can you help?
* Can you help me study the relationship between spaces on campus and students’ emotional moods?
* How can art at WCMA relate to my course?
* How can I use design thinking in my class, when I do not teach with project-based methods?
* How can I get word out about a really interesting research project my students are working on?
* Who do I contact to find a culturally competent therapist?
* What kinds of grant support do you provide? What is the process?

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Report of the Honor Committee 2016 — 2017

Reports from the Honor Committee are always worth reading. Let’s save permanent copies for the last three years: 2014-2015, 2015-2016 and 2016-2017. Below the break, I have saved permanent copies going back 15 years. Comments:

1) The last three years have featured 19, 18 and 23 cases, similar to the 10 year average. Recall our discussion about the 34 cases in 2017-2018, for which we do not yet have a report. Are Williams students cheating more or is the College more diligent in catching them?

2) The Committee deserves praise for being so transparent in telling us what happened and why. Example from 2016-2017:

Transparency is wonderful, because it both discourages future cheating and helps build community consensus about unacceptable behavior and the appropriate punishments thereto.

3) But even more transparency would be better. In some reports (as above) they make clear the gender of the student. That is good! If cheating is more male than female (or vice versa) then we have a better idea about where to devote our educational efforts. Another location for increased transparency is reports like this one:

Besides gender and class year, it would be good to know the specific course, or at least the department. If cheating is more common in Chemistry or in Division III, then that is where we should focus our efforts.

What is your favorite case from 2016 — 2017?

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Pamela Franks, new Class of 1956 WCMA Director now in place.

Pamela Franks

Class of 1956 Director, Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA)

After earning her Ph.D. in the history of art from the University of Texas at Austin, Franks started her career as a postdoctoral curatorial fellow at Yale University Art Gallery (YUAG) and became its first curator of academic affairs in 2004. Throughout her 14-year career at YUAG, she played a central role in shaping and carrying out priorities for teaching, exhibitions, public programs, community engagement, technology, and collaborations with other academic art museums. As the Director of WCMA, she remains passionately committed to the role of the museum in higher education and the inspiration art can bring all audiences.

In addition to new Williams president Maude Mandel, Pamela Franks becomes the new director of the Williams College Museum of Art. Ms Franks brings a long list of accomplishments from her career experience at Yale, as you may read above and here. (both courtesy of WCMA).

It is always a pleasure for me, an old art history major and member of the Class of 1956, to see the continuing importance to Williams of this area of the Liberal Arts!

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A More Welcoming and Open Department

For more on pronouns, read this comment from S’18:

’m not going to wade into most of this because I think a lot of the arguing going on here is in bad faith based on some commenters thinking that the idea of someone identifying outside of the gender binary or using pronouns other than he/him or she/her is inherently ridiculous. That’s not an idea I know how to argue against because it’s simply an ad hominem based on a lack of empathy and respect for others.

I do, however, want to respond to the point Prof. Knibbs raised about gendered language, because I think this is a case where the email is poorly worded. The objection to referring to he/him pronouns as male or she/her pronouns as female is that male and female are nouns, and thus saying that someone uses male pronouns would imply that person is male. As an alternative, I (and literally every other trans person I know) describe he/him pronouns as masculine pronouns and she/her pronouns as feminine pronouns. Because masculine and feminine are adjectives rather than nouns, they simply describe the gender of the pronouns rather than label the person as being of a particular gender identity. As for the objection to referring to they/them pronouns as gender-neutral and instead saying they should be referred to nonbinary, I am a nonbinary person who uses they/them pronouns and have never heard that. Actually, I have some pretty strong objections to referring to them as nonbinary pronouns because that would imply that all nonbinary people need to use they/them pronouns (which they don’t), but the administration probably read a thinkpiece somewhere that made that point and decided to go with it…

This actually gets to the final point I’d like to make, which is that so much of this comment thread, and more generally discourse around trans issues, suffers from not talking to actual trans students about what changes we want and how we think about things. I know most of the trans students on campus (I was one myself until June), and none of us would want to harass or report people for making honest mistakes. Using pronouns different from the ones you are socially conditioned to assume, especially they/them pronouns, is really difficult for a lot of people, and we get that. I really can’t imagine any student going to the administration about being misgendered by a faculty or staff member unless it was something that happened chronically and with clear malice. What we want is to be able to just do our work and be respected by others in our community; to be referred to by the names and pronouns we feel comfortable with and not have it be the defining issue of our lives. When my department (in Division III, lest you think that all trans people are confined to the humanities) made the decision last year to have people introduce themselves with pronouns at the beginnings of classes, it was awkward at first and people were nervous about slipping up. Mistakes happened, apologies were awkwardly muttered, and then everyone moved on. By the end of the semester, it was second nature to everyone that the weekly department lunch started with everyone introducing themselves with their name, class year, and pronouns. The building did not burn down, and our academic work did not degrade. We simply became a more welcoming and open department, and it is my sincere hope that more of Williams can follow in that pursuit.

Good stuff. S’18 should join us as an author! Their perspective belongs on the front page of EphBlog, not buried at the bottom of an (interesting!) comment thread.

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Responsible employees and reporting responsibilities

From the Dean of the College to the Faculty:

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

We hope your summer has been a good one. We write to update you on some aspects of the college’s work on prevention of and response to sexual harassment and sexual assault, and in particular to share information on your reporting obligations if you become aware of such issues.

Williams College seeks to prevent sexual harassment and sexual violence of all kinds, and to act to redress any such incidents that do occur. That commitment requires that we know about incidents that happen on our campus, so that we can (1) ensure that those who experience sexual harassment or sexual violence receive immediate professional support and guidance as to their options for legal and campus processes and for counseling, no contact orders and other accommodations (2) act to address the behavior of alleged perpetrator, the safety of the individual affected and of the campus community (3) become aware of patterns of perpetration and intervene to stop them.

1) Seems like standard stuff, in this day and age.

2) What is the best way to make trouble on this topic? I still want answers about this accusation.

Entire letter below the break:
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34 Honor Code Violations

A letter to the faculty:

Dear Colleagues,

Most of you heard Nick Goldrosen, the student chair of the honor committee at yesterday’s faculty meeting.

More transparency, please. Were there slides? A printed report? Share it with the community. Faculty Meetings are, essentially, public events, with Record reporters generally (still?) in attendance.

As faculty chair, I’d like to add a few words as well. After all, the committee heard 34 cases in 2017-18 (!!! for comparison, ten years ago the number was 15), many of them resulting in sanctions of failure in the assignment or failure in the course.

There were also 34 incidents in 2012-2013. Shevchenko is being sloppy (misleading?) to pretend that there has been a steady increase over the last decade. If the latest number is exactly the same as the number 5 years ago, there probably isn’t a crisis . . .

We would love to do all we can to bring the number of violations (and thus, affected students) down this year.

Would we? (And I am not just referring to the poor writing suggested by the desire to bring down affected students.)

The easiest way to bring the number down is to stop enforcing/investigating incidents. See no evil! Of course, I am against this, but how do we know the increase this year is because the underlying rate of cheating has gone up as opposed to an increase in enforcement efficacy. Maybe cheating at Williams has been constant for 10 (or 100 years) but its detection has varied over time.

As you know, all Williams students sign the honor code before they can register for classes. They also likely read a statement about the honor code on your class syllabi. However, it appears that this is far from sufficient as a deterrent from honor code violations.

D’oh! Who ever thought it was? The fear of punishment is the deterrent that will work best on Williams students. Read excerpts from past Honor Committee Reports to your class. That will lower cheating.

If left at that, the honor code may inadvertently come across as a mere formality, which does an enormous injustice to the values it is designed to uphold, and to the students themselves.

Exactly. And this is the faculty’s fault! Contemporary syllabi are so jammed full of required junk that, almost by definition, the importance of any one bit has to decrease. If you spend more time on pronouns and diversity, then you have to spend less time on the honor code. There is no free lunch.

In order to make sure the honor code does what it is supposed to do, i.e. ensures academic integrity of the work done at the college, all of us need to take time in our classes to convey to students (a) how the specific parameters of our assignments relate to the honor code (that is, the details of our expectations regarding the use of outside sources, group work and citation format for each individual assignment), and (b) just how much is at stake, for them individually and for Williams as a community, in upholding these.

Blah, blah, blah. If you want to reach college students where they live, if you actually want to change their behavior, then you need to avoid soporific tripe like this and focus on the concrete. Read them this:

A junior was brought to the Honor Committee due to concerns about plagiarism. The professor noted that sections of several papers appeared to come directly
from online sources. Following the Honor Committee’s hearing and deliberations, they determined that the student violated the honor code on multiple occasions by using ideas and direct quotations from other sources without citation. The committee recommended a sanction of failure in the course.

Read a couple of these and . . . pause . . . and say, “If you cheat in my class, I will catch you and you will fail the course.

Faculty who do this (certainly?) face less cheating than faculty who prattle on about “how much is at stake.” Most Williams faculty, sadly, are unwilling to confront students so directly.

Back to the letter.

Our students come from a range of academic backgrounds, and many are working on a steep learning curve as they develop the command of academic language and conventions.

This is strange. Does Shevchenko mean to suggest that many/most cheating cases result from different “backgrounds?” This is not implausible. Andover teaches you not to cheat because its faculty teach thoroughly. Perhaps, at a lousy high school, students don’t really learn how to use information from the internet correctly/honestly?

But Shevchenko never says this directly and, reading between the lines of the annual reports, it looks like the vast majority of cases are not caused by differing “academic backgrounds.” The cheaters know that they are cheating.

The attention you give to the code of academic integrity in your class helps them all to arrive at a shared understanding of the honor code’s purpose and of their role in upholding it.

This is a testable hypothesis! Randomly assign some professors to make a big deal about cheating and some to do whatever they normally do. Does giving the honor code more “attention” cause a decrease in cheating?

If Williams were an actual “leader” in undergraduate education, these are the sorts of questions that we would be exploring — carefully and rigorously — each semester.

Oftentimes, honor code violations occur because the students are caught in the trees so much that they fail to see the forest: they are freaking out about a grade, running out of time, or dealing with external stress.

Does this metaphor work? “Caught in the trees?” Anyway, this suggests that the problem is not differing backgrounds. The cheaters know. They just feel compelled to cheat because of these pressures. (By the way, it would be good to collect and distribute anonymous interviews with punished students.) Again, the best way to deter such “calculated” cheating is by demonstrating that it will fail.

To prevent these scenarios, it is our role as faculty to remind them of the larger purpose of the honor system. It’s also helpful to make sure the students know that consequences of cheating far outweigh the elusive gains they may be hoping to achieve by cutting corners. Speaking about academic integrity in class proactively and specifically, and giving them the tools to do the right thing early on sends the students a signal that you take academic honesty seriously, and ensures that they do too.

Shevchenko needs an editor. How is this any different than what she wrote above?

We wish you all a great semester of teaching and learning, and thank you for taking action to help your students uphold the values of academic integrity in your classes. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you come across something that looks like an honor case, or simply if you have any thoughts or concerns pertaining to the honor system.

Olga Shevchenko, on behalf of the Honor Committee.

More transparency, please.

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Integrative Global Studies

This seems fishy to me.

The Board of Supervisors accepted a bid on the Lucerne Hotel, also known as the Lucerne Castle, for $2.5 million from the Romero Institute at their Tuesday, Aug. 21 meeting.

The Romero Institute is a social justice-focused nonprofit law and public policy center based in Santa Cruz.

The Romero Institute proposal states that they intend to turn the Lucerne Hotel into a four-year educational institution which will offer a Bachelor of Arts degree in Integrative Global Studies and a University Extension Program.

The institution is a partnership with the support of the University of San Francisco, Williams College, Rice University, Kansas State University, Loyola Marymount and the University of Manitoba.

Either the folks at the Romero Institute are making a bs claim about our involvement (which would be illegal, especially in the context of a public bid) or someone at Williams, for silly or nefarious reasons, has gotten us involved with a boondoggle on the other side of the country. Let’s hope for the former!

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