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How Bureaucracy Causes Problems

Below the break is, I think, the last update from Williams about the WIFI situation.

The central lesson for President Mandel is that, if she wants to help out herself and future Williams administrations, the RSO (registered student organization) bureaucracy/forms should be removed. Go back to how things were done prior to 2010. (Thanks Adam Falk!)

Students have rights, organizations do not. If you want to reserve a room, request funding, set up a meeting, then you, as an individual Williams student, have the right to do so. From the College’s point of view, you do not need to be certified as an RSO to do anything. The main reason for this change is that it removes the likely-to-be-abused power from College Council to block the creation of student groups like WIFI.

The College should no more be in the business of certifying that an official student group exists than it certifies that official student romantic relationships exist. Students form groups. Students date. Williams should stay out of both.

If you have something, like the RSO designation, that is likely to be abused and which serves no purpose, then get rid of it. The Williams of (at least!) the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s managed to survive without such nonsense. Go back to the rules of an earlier era.

Nothing prevents the College Council from coming up with its own rules about who it wants to fund and why it wants to fund them. And that is OK! Many groups want money from CC and don’t get it. The College can, at any point, step in and fund any group for any reason.

For those interested in a bit of history:

I was one of the founders of Uncomfortable Learning and can shed some light on that decision. We spent a significant amount of time speaking with the Williams administration before making the decision to operate as an independent group, but one that looked to partner with other groups on campus like the Debate Union.

We made the decision to be independent as if we had registered, the Williams administration would have imposed a set of requirements on Uncomfortable Learning that would have prevented us from accomplishing the goals of UL. UL’s ambition has always been to promote dialogue and encourage people to consider perspectives and arguments that are not common at Williams. Administrators at Williams would have only allowed Uncomfortable Learning to register if UL was run by a 10 to 15-person board made up of many groups on campus. While UL has actively looked to involve other groups on campus, the structure required by the Williams administration would have kneecapped UL from the start. That structure would have just replicated the mindset at Williams while UL was looking to question that very mindset. As we have seen recently, there are people at Williams who react negatively when their world view is questioned, and we could not take the chance of having those people run UL.

During this era, people like Professor Sam Crane were happy to use the College’s rules/bureaucracy to torture unpopular groups like Uncomfortable Learning. That was evil in-and-of-itself. But, perhaps worse, that abuse set the stage for the CC/WIFI disaster. Once you create a process/rules for punishing groups (like UL) whose views you disagree with, don’t be surprised to see that same process/rules turned against groups (like WIFI) with whom you agree.

Background links here, here, here and here.

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Strategic Planning: May 2019 update

Latest message:

Date: Mon, 13 May 2019 13:59:39 -0400
From: President Maud S. Mandel
Reply-To: communications@williams.edu
To: WILLIAMS-ALL@listserv.williams.edu
Subject: Strategic Planning: May 2019 update

To the Williams community,

Following is my final update on strategic planning for academic year 2018–19. While many on campus are turning attention to finals, papers and summer plans, our work to envision Williams’ future continues in parallel.

Here are a few highlights from this semester:

* We’ve finished recruiting faculty, students and staff for our eight working groups (many of the faculty and staff are also alumni). You can find an alphabetical list on the Strategic Planning landing page, with individual group rosters on the eight Working Group subpages. As you may recall, unlike other committees that make decisions on behalf of their constituents, these groups are expected to create opportunities where anyone in the community can contribute their ideas, and then convey this input back to the Coordinating Committee. Look for details on such opportunities next fall.

* The Working Group pages now also include drafts of the eight group charges. We welcome your feedback on the drafts via our online comment form.

* We’ll hold an open forum for all staff members and anyone else who’s on campus and wishes to attend at 4 p.m. on May 22, in Paresky Auditorium. Faculty will focus on Strategic Planning at the all-faculty retreat on May 21. And we’ll make sure there are plenty of opportunities for students when everyone returns in the fall.

* Alumni will soon receive an invitation from the Alumni Relations office to hear from me about the project and ask questions via an alumni phonecast I’ll be hosting on Thursday, June 13.

* Finally, any member of our community is invited to share feedback with the Coordinating Committee via our online comment form at any time. We’ve received some great suggestions and questions already, and look forward to more.

Thanks for keeping up with the project, especially in the midst of a very busy time. It’s always the case that some people will want to get more involved than others. But our success depends on broad awareness and interest: Even reading these updates makes a difference.

At Commencement in a few weeks, I’ll wish our graduating seniors and Master’s candidates a great start on their future. I’m equally grateful for the chance to work with you all on Strategic Planning and a promising future for Williams.

Sincerely,

Maud

Analysis later.

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Remember the Tablecloth Colors

A Record op-ed from 13 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 ’06 tells a depressing tale. Anyone who cares about student life at Williams should 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 run Williams, the better that Williams will be.

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Associate Dean for Institutional Diversity and Equity

Dear Members of the Williams Community,

I’m writing to share news about the position of Associate Dean for Institutional Diversity and Equity. It is with great pleasure that I report that Ngonidzashe Munemo, Associate Professor of Political Science, has agreed to serve another term as associate dean. For the fall 2019 semester, he will return to the faculty and take an overdue sabbatical to pursue a Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation-funded curricular and pedagogical innovation residency at the University of Cape Town, South Africa and work on a couple of book projects. During that period, Carl W. Vogt ’58 Professor of History Carmen Whalen will serve as Interim Associate Dean for Institutional Diversity and Equity. Professor Whalen has been a member of the faculty since 2001 and is a core faculty member of the LATS program. Professor Whalen comes to this role with experience, having previously served as associate dean in the office for three years between 2010-2013; we are pleased to have her serve once again.

all best,

Leticia Haynes

Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes, Ph.D.
Vice President
Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity
Williams College | Williamstown, MA
(P) 413.597.4376
https://diversity.williams.edu

Ngonidzashe Munemo has been doing an amazing job for the last few years with regard to diversity and the Williams faculty! Look how happy and productive the faculty have been recently . . . He deserves a re-appointment, a sabbatical and a raise!

Carmen Whalen did just as well during her previous service. Indeed, faculty diversity (and comity) are thriving at Williams!

Kudos to Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes and her team.

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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.) 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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Good News? Mandel Opposes Personal Attacks

I had a chance to review Maud’s response to CARE Now. I didn’t notice much that was new or unusual in it. As best I can tell, she is trying to quell the protesters by dumping tons of disorganized facts on them regarding every little thing the school does, substantively or symbolically, to meet their professed demands.

The good news, I suppose, is she won’t be handing the school and its vast resources over to what’s left of the Mohican Nation.

One of the themes that did catch my attention was her willingness to rebuke those who wage vicious personal attacks on their political opponents. I have no doubt she followed up on this theme in reaction to the substantial visibility of the anti-white bigotry displayed by CARE Now leaders at the April 9, 2019 College Council meeting.

As to the issue of engagement across difference, this has also been a year in which people tried to make their views known to each other on a range of complex issues, from free speech to racism to geopolitics. Such debates are always happening at schools like Williams, and should happen: it’s one of the hallmarks of the liberal arts that we’re constantly exploring and testing new ideas and relating them to what we see in the world. But changes in our political environment are making it feel like the stakes for such debates are now especially high. It’s clear that we need to do more to teach and uphold principles for such engagements, so that people can debate issues vigorously without devolving into personal attacks.

As far as I know, this is her first presidential message which comes out against personal attacks. Her comments go so far as to assert that unless this changes the school will be in great trouble. This, I take it, means Williams College will become another Evergreen State University. She writes:

I believe deeply in the importance of process and consensus-building in a campus community. To reach our shared goals, we must exchange ideas, agree and disagree, and come to a common understanding of how to move the institution forward, one step at a time. I’m committed to this effort and hope that the many members of our community will join me in articulating and living these principles.

With such principles in place for a robust, respectful and inclusive intellectual community, Williams will thrive. Without them, we’re unlikely to progress on any other work, no matter how important.

She has a point. I don’t see how you can operate a modern college if you allow it to be the scene of nearly constant, unabated, anti-white bigotry.

Nevertheless, Maud does come to the defense of the student activists on the topic of affinity housing. Conservative media outlets have pointed out that the demand for black affinity housing is basically a request for segregation. It is a demand, I assume, that would not be considered if white students asked for white only housing. She adds:

We do want to pause and recognize that, at the time of writing, some students involved in the affinity housing and other efforts are being subjected to unduly harsh media and social media attention that misrepresents affinity housing as “segregation.”

In this instance, I believe she is referring, primarily to criticism of the idea of affinity housing offered by conservative news outlets including Breitbart and The College Fix.

As she mentions above, the issues being addressed on campus are heightened because the stakes are higher now. One of the changes in our political environment that is making the stakes higher is conservative students on campus now have outlets like Breitbart, The College Fix, and Campus Watch which they can rely on to bring national attention to the way conservative students and faculty are facing discrimination and suppression at places like Williams College.

Full text below the break:
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Affinity Housing, 3

The Record editorialized in favor of “affinity housing,” one of the demands made by CARE Now to both President Mandel (pdf) and the trustees. This means, more or less, reserving/restricting specific houses for/to black/Hispanic/Asian students. I have some small acquaintance with the history/politics/propaganda of Williams housing, so let’s dive in. Day 3.

From the letter to Mandel:

While ​de facto​ affinity housing has existed at Williams for a considerable amount of time in the form of off-campus housing on Hoxsey Street,these are predominantly taken by athletes and wealthy students who can afford the penalty for signing leases early.

I am sympathetic to this complaint. (And recall our 5-part series on the BSU Town Hall which, on many dimensions, was the starting point for CARE Now.)

The second biggest change in student life may have been the ever-increasing isolation of athletes from other parts of the student community. For example, members of the lacrosse team are much more likely to live with each other now, including off-campus, then they were back in the day.

There are about 100 recruited athletes in every Williams class. I think almost every one of them, after first year, lives in a rooming group with at least one other member of their team. I think a large percentage (a majority?) might live only with members of their team. The Record should do some reporting about this.

The issue of athletes living together in Gladden is different than the issue of them living together on Hoxsey Street.

What might be done? A goofy alum wrote to the Record:

To the editor:

The Record’s editorial of April 17, 2019 (“On the need for affinity housing”) argues that Williams students should have more control over whom they live with. I agree. I have discovered a truly remarkable plan which this letter is too small to contain. Summary: The best housing policy would involve three major structures. First, a Student Housing Committee – modeled on the Junior Advisor Selection Committee – should run most aspects of the housing process. The more that students have responsibility for managing their own lives, the more they will learn from the process and the better the outcomes will be.

Second, students should, as much as possible, live in houses with other members of their Williams class: sophomores in the Berkshire Quad; juniors in Greylock; seniors in row houses and co-ops.

Third, non-senior rooming groups should be as large as possible and of fixed size, but subject to diversity constraints. For example, sophomore rooming groups would be any number less than five or exactly equal to 15, with restrictions on both gender balance and organization membership. Allowing students to group themselves has two main advantages: It creates genuine house community and it provides major incentives for large groups to “pick up” less popular students. The more that students sort themselves into houses and the more incentives they have for being both diverse and inclusive, the better the housing experience for everyone.

The best first step would be to change the co-op process so that groups have to be large enough to fill a house. This would allow experiments with “affinity housing” in all but name.

Did any Record reader notice the math joke in the 3rd sentence . . .

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Affinity Housing, 2

The Record editorialized in favor of “affinity housing,” one of the demands made by CARE Now to both President Mandel (pdf) and the trustees. This means, more or less, reserving/restricting specific houses for/to black/Hispanic/Asian students. I have some small acquaintance with the history/politics/propaganda of Williams housing, so let’s dive in. Day 2.

Note the subhead of the Record editorial:

Creating space for minoritized students

“[M]inoritized” is not a word that I recall from 10 or even 5 years ago. When did it first become common usage at Williams? For (at least) the last 50 years, before the Great Awokening, this would have been phrased: “Creating space for minority students.” Why the change?

My guess: “minoritized” is now preferred to “minority” because a minority is what you are while being “minoritized” is something that is done to you. (Contrary opinions welcome!)

The longevity of this issue demonstrates that the call for affinity housing will not extinguish over time, so long as the College fails to address the residential needs of the marginalized members of its community.

This is the opposite of the truth. That the College has successfully resisted calls for black-only housing for 50 years indicates that it is likely to be able to do so forever. Moreover, the primary purpose of Neighborhood Housing, instituted more than a decade ago and then abandoned, was to prevent student self-segregation, primarily of African-Americans and male helmet-sport athletes. Williams does not care if black students constantly campaign for affinity housing. It has successfully stymied their preferences for five decades!

Furthermore, affinity housing has successfully been implemented by many of the College’s peer institutions, including Amherst, Bates and Wesleyan.

Evidence? If only Williams had a competent student paper which might, you know, report on what is happening at other schools. If the Amherst theme houses are so successful, then why are students only allowed to live in them for 2 years?

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Affinity Housing, 1

The Record editorialized in favor of “affinity housing,” one of the demands made by CARE Now to both President Mandel (pdf) and the trustees. This means, more or less, reserving/restricting specific houses for/to black/Hispanic/Asian students. No one knows more about the history/politics/propaganda of Williams housing than I do, so let’s dive in. Day 1.

Start with the Record:

Affinity housing, the third of CARE Now’s 12 demands, has been advocated for by students as early as 1969, when the Afro-American Society, which occupied Hopkins Hall in demonstration, named affinity housing as one of its demands.

Has anyone at the Record talked to someone who could explain this history? I doubt it! Although I occasionally hold out hope for individual reporters, like Arrington Luck, the Record, as an organization, is positively amateurish in its refusal to seek out knowledgeable sources. It is true that, for 50 years, students have wanted racial segregation in housing and the College has refused to provide it. Does that tell you something? It should!

The College did not respond to the Afro-American Society’s demands and has continually ignored such demands.

How stupid is the Record? The College has “respond[ed]” to these demands over and over and over again. The answer is always the same: No! If you choose to come to Williams, you are going to live in a building with students of a different race. Don’t want that? Go elsewhere.

We at the Record wholeheartedly support establishing affinity housing at the College.

Doesn’t the Record understand how Williams works? If you want actual change — as opposed to the childish pleasure of virtue-signalling on the front page — you support the creation of a high-profile committee.

[W]e must recognize that the College is a predominantly white institution in which students of color often feel tokenized, both in their residences and more broadly on campus.

Is the College really a “predominantly white institution” and, if so, how long will this continue? Whites, in the latest class at Harvard, are a minority. There are more Asian-Americans than whites, in raw numbers, at the highest levels of high school academic achievement. An actual news organization might, you know, do some reporting on this topic, might point out that, in the Williams class of 2022 (pdf), only 263 of the 533 students are white, non-Hispanic Americans. That is only 49%. White Americans are already a numerical minority among Williams first years.

The reason that black/Hispanic students “often feel tokenized” is, first, because the people that run Williams are, on this dimension at least, not very good at their jobs and, second, because these students often are, precisely, “tokens.” At least 50% (probably closer to 90%) of the black/Hispanic students at Williams would not have been accepted if they did not check that box.

Complete Record editorial and CARE Now demands below:
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Maud on Campus Relations

An email from President Mandel this morning:

Williams students, faculty and staff,

I’m hearing from people throughout our community, representing a wide range of backgrounds and viewpoints, who are upset by some breakdowns in campus relations. Their perspectives are diverse: some are concerned about racism, others about a culture of open antagonism, and many about both of these and other issues, as well. The one thing many people seem to share is the sense that we have a problem at Williams.

I also see evidence of prejudice, insensitivity and disrespect. One recent example, not widely known, came late last week when someone tore down posters for a panel organized by Professor Joy James with two mothers from Chicago who were described in the poster as having lost their children to police violence, and who now organize for justice and love. There’s no conceivable justification for trying to undermine such an event. I’ve now learned that other posters and banners with political and social messages were also torn down or damaged this weekend. During a turbulent year especially, these acts seem symptomatic of bigger problems.

I’ve chosen recent examples, but the year has been punctuated by many concerning interactions for people of all kinds. My message today is not about apportioning blame. It’s about our overarching need to get back to a productive way of handling our differences.

The issues over which people are disagreeing right now are serious and valid. They’re also not just “Williams problems”: Campus attention to race relations is connected to national and global injustice. Conflicts over speech and speakers are roiling many schools. Work on affinity housing points to wider challenges with balancing integration and the right of free association. Tensions over how we disagree are characteristic of a societal problem with public discourse. A school like Williams absolutely should discuss these complex and important issues. When we do, conflicts will necessarily and even productively arise. Our goal shouldn’t be to avoid disagreement or dissent, but to develop ways of engaging in it without losing respect for each other as people.

I hope we can model this ideal in classrooms and dorm rooms, offices and alumni gatherings, joining in a campaign to improve our culture. Some people have expressed frustration that processes like Strategic Planning won’t make this happen quickly enough. I share the sense of urgency, but meaningful change often does take time: Time to make sure all points of view are surfaced, listened to and considered. Time to educate people on new ways of working and healthier ways of engaging with others. Time to figure out which investments will make the biggest, most sustainable impact on issues we care about. Organizations like Williams can do this deliberate work without sacrificing our ability to address more immediate challenges.

The way each of us acts affects the community as a whole. If we’re intolerant and harsh, it sets a norm for how we’ll be treated in return. To make Williams instead a place where everyone is valued, we’ll need to treat each other with respect when differences inevitably emerge. It’s up to each one of us, and all of us as a collective, to make it so.

Maud

This email is honestly fantastic. Thus far this year, Maud has been very controversy-averse (and I can’t blame her, in this environment), so it makes sense that she tries to appeal to all groups in this message. It is a shame that she does not refer directly to the CC meeting, but this would not be in her own interest.

That being said, it is doubtful that this message will accomplish much among the student body. Those who most need to internalize this message will assume they are not the ones being discussed. It would be wonderful if students could collectively hold each other more accountable henceforth.

This is a good move for administration. It may allow for administration to gradually become less tolerant of the abuse that has become typical of the more radical left groups on campus.

I’d love to hear what others think of Maud’s email.

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Restoring Free Speech

From The Wall Street Journal last month:

While opinions differ sharply about President Trump, everyone can agree he speaks plainly. On Thursday he issued an executive order supporting free speech on campus.

It is too early to say how much good the president’s executive order will do, but it was long past time for the federal government to face up to the rot of political correctness and intolerance that is subverting the American educational establishment. There are some points of light. The so-called Chicago Statement, for example, named for a declaration of principle from the University of Chicago, embraces open and robust debate even about subjects that “some or even by most members of the University community [find] offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed.” Several institutions have endorsed that document.

But many others, including some of the most prestigious, reject it outright. Students and professors at Williams College, confronted with an initiative to adopt the Chicago principles last year, took “grave issue” with its “premises” and warned of “the potential harm it may inflict upon our community.” You might have thought that supporting free speech was an obvious good. Not so fast. The Williams activists declared that the notion “has been co-opted by right-wing and liberal parties as a discursive cover for racism, xenophobia, sexism, anti-semitism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and classism.”

The authors of the Williams counterpetition made a show of demanding greater diversity at the 226-year-old Western Massachusetts school. But it’s long been obvious that calls for “diversity” usually amount to demands for strict intellectual and moral conformity on contentious issues. By that inverted standard, a campus is more “diverse” the fewer voices it tolerates.

This is precisely the situation that the president’s executive order promoting free speech on campus is designed to address. That its effect is likely to be more hortatory than coercive may be an advantage, not a liability, since serious reform of these institutions will come about not from the imposition of a law but a change of heart. The prospect of losing federal dollars is one sort of incentive. The spectacle of those passionate, articulate and besieged young students may prove to be an even greater one.

The only “change of heart” I have seen at Williams over the last 30 years is an ever-increasing restriction about what students, or their invited guests, are allowed to say. Will Maud Mandel change that? I don’t know. Any rumors on how the process is going?

Meanwhile, things have gone from bad to worse at Middlebury:

Middlebury College has canceled [yesterday] a campus speech by conservative Polish Catholic philosopher Ryszard Legutko in response to planned protests by liberal activists.

A professor of philosophy at Jagiellonian University and a member of the European Parliament, Legutko was scheduled to speak Wednesday at the Vermont college’s Alexander Hamilton Forum, delivering a lecture entitled “The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies.”

The liberal activists took issue with Legutko’s pointed critiques of multiculturalism, feminism, and homosexuality, calling them “homophobic, racist, xenophobic, [and] misogynistic.”

“Inquiry, equity, and agency cannot be fostered in the same space that accepts and even elevates homophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic discourse,” they demand. “Bigotry of any kind should not be considered a form of inquiry.”

The chairmen of both departments denied the activists requests, defending the event on grounds of academic freedom. But hours before the event was scheduled, Middlebury Provost Jeff Cason and Vice President for Student Affairs Baishakhi Taylor sent a campus-wide email indicating the lecture was canceled.

NESCAC schools may have started by banning people like John Derbyshire. They are now banning (right-wing) members of the European parliament. Where will this end?

I am having breakfast with one of the most powerful Middlebury alumni on Friday. What questions should I ask him?

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How Faculty Can Change Williams

How can faculty — even one professor — create significant change at Williams? Most of this advice applies to any topic, but, for concreteness, let’s assume a professor who is concerned about the decline of faculty governance at Williams and the rise of administrator numbers/power/salaries.

First, educate yourself on the topic. The Provost’s Office produced this wonderful report (pdf) on college staffing. Read it more than once. See EphBlog’s 9 (!) part series of faculty governance: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. Talk to some retired faculty members (e.g., Frank Oakley) about how the College used to be run. If you want to change policy about topic X, then you need to be as well-informed about X as anyone at Williams.

One tidbit on the history of faculty governance: Just 25 years ago, there were two assistant provosts, both members of the faculty. They assisted the provost in all her duties. (One of those assistants was Morty Schapiro!) There is no reason why the faculty could not be much more powerful than they are, no reason why Williams could not revert back to arrangements of that era.

Second, schedule an appointment with Maud Mandel. She is still (I hope!) eager to chat with faculty. The goal for this meeting is not to harangue her with your views. Instead, find out what she thinks! Is she concerned with the growth of administrative power? Did she witness similar trends at Brown? What does she think the correct ratio is of faculty to administrator hiring? And so on. At some point, ask her: “Interesting point, Maud! Would you mind if I followed up with Dukes Love and his folks in the Provost’s Office to gather more information?” She will probably encourage you to do so. And getting that permission/encourage was your goal from this meeting.

Third, meet with Dukes Love or Chris Winters ’95 or someone else in the Provost’s Office, ideally whoever was the lead person on the Staffing Report. Again, your goal is not to bore them with your views. Be realistic! They don’t really care what you think. You are just one of the 250+ faculty members they have to deal with. Instead, your goal is to get access to their data on staffing, or at least as much of it as they will share. It is one thing to read their report. It is another to have a copy of their Excel spreadsheets, to be able to work with the raw data that they work with. The rules are such that they can’t share with you the salaries of individuals, obviously, but they can share anything else. And since you seem so reasonable — and since Maud Mandel encouraged your efforts, as you casually mentioned to them — they might be quite accommodating. Data is power and, the more you have, the more likely to are to accomplish something.

Four, write a 5 page report, expressing your concerns. Your goal is not to bombard readers with your views, much less with your proposed solutions. Instead, you are highlighting key facts. Of the 20 highest paid people at Williams, 18 used to be faculty, now only 10 are. The ratio of spending on faculty versus administrator salaries used to be 5:1 now it is only 2:1. There used to be 7 faculty for every administrator, and now there are only 3. Much of this information is already in the staffing report, but much is not. (And the staffing report pulls a few fast ones as well. Should I spend a week going through it?) The goal of the report is to highlight that things have changed dramatically in the last 20 years and that this topic merits further exploration.

Five, gather faculty support. Most faculty agree with you that the Administration has grown too big and too powerful. Show them your report. Get their feedback. Ask them if they would be willing to join you in working on this problem. Present the report to various committees, perhaps all the way up to a full faculty meeting. Key at this stage is to identify your core supporters, the 5 (10? 30?) faculty members who are willing to work hard on this topic, even if it means going against the College Administration.

Six, start thinking about goals. What, precisely, do you want to accomplish? What policy change would make Williams better off 10 or 50 years from now? This is not about an individual administrator or even a class of positions. My recommendation is that you want a non-faculty net-hiring pause of 10 years. You certainly don’t want anyone to be fired. Current Williams administrators are, overwhelmingly, good people, working hard to make the College better. You just want to bring Williams back “in balance,” to where it was 20 years ago. Since many people leave the College each year, the Administration would still have a great deal of flexibility in terms of shifting resources around. But, right now, Williams has 200 (?) administrators. That is enough. Other plausible policy changes include a (more draconian) hiring freeze which would, over time, decrease the administrative bloat at Williams, or a freeze on total spending on administrators.

Seven, lobby to create a committee. Major changes at Williams come via two mechanisms — presidential fiat (Falk’s alignment) or major committees (the end of fraternities, the decrease in admission preferences for athletes, neighborhood housing). You want President Mandel to form a committee — preferably faculty only, but maybe to also include students and alumni — charged with examining administration growth at Williams. You would not presume to demand that this committee come to a specific conclusion. Instead, your only point is that there are few more important issues to Williams over the next 100 years than the role of faculty in college governance. Therefore, we need a committee to examine this topic.

Eight, keep Mandel/Love/Buell informed as you proceed. Perhaps one or more of them might be an ally! You never know. At the very least, keeping them informed is probably politically wise since only they can create the committee. You just want to maneuver them into situation in which, from their point of view, giving you your committee is the best option.

That is enough for today! More advice available, as requested.

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Housing Rules 2019

Future historians may be interested in the housing rules for 2019. Here they are.

There are some good changes this year, but where is the visionary who will implement this genius plan?

There is a strong consensus within the Williams community about the main assumptions underlying housing policy: the importance of the freshmen entry/JA system, the success of co-op housing for seniors, the lack of funds for major new construction, and the desirability of both house community and diversity. Given those assumptions, the best housing policy would involve three major structures. First, a Student Housing Committee — modeled on the Junior Advisor Selection Committee — should run most aspects of the housing process. The more that students have responsibility for managing their own lives, the more they will learn from the process and the better the outcomes will be. Second, students should, as much as possible, live in houses with other members of their Williams class: sophomores in the Berkshire Quad; juniors in Greylock; seniors in row houses and co-ops. Third, non-senior rooming groups should be as large as possible and of fixed size, but subject to diversity constraints. For example, sophomore rooming groups would be any number less than 5 or exactly equal to 15, with restrictions on both gender balance and organization membership. Allowing students to group themselves has two main advantages: it creates genuine house community and it provides major incentives for large groups to “pick up” less popular students. The more that students sort themselves into houses and the more incentives they have for being both diverse and inclusive, the better the housing experience for everyone. The best first step would be to change the co-op process so that groups have to be large enough to fill a house.

Perhaps we should spend time going through the details?

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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:
Read more

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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.
Read more

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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?

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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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