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Open Letter to Suzanne Case

A student-authored email sent to the WILLIAMS-STUDENT email group, which has limited access (my short thoughts on the matter below):

Hello everyone,
Yesterday, October 20th was the 100th day of the stand for Mauna Kea, and we are circulating an open letter in solidarity with Kiaʻi Mauna, the protectors of Mauna Kea in Hawai’i. Please sign our letter to Williams College alumna Suzanne D. Case, Chairperson of Hawaiʻiʻs Board of Land and Natural Resources. Stand with us to protect Mauna Kea and all other sacred spaces.
WE ARE MAUNA KEA: PETITION TO SUZANNE D. CASE
Thank you for your support!
The use (some, including me, might call it abuse) of the all-student email group by individual students or unofficial/official student organizations has skyrocketed in the past couple of years. Without commenting on the subject matter at hand (another author can do so), I just don’t find this petition or many of the other emails sent to the student body by students relevant to the campus community or campus life at all. A few years ago, the emails we got were from ACE announcing Spring Fling or other all-campus events…now, we frequently get emails pertaining to petitions, talks, etc. Rumor has it the College Council (Co-)Presidents have access to and can give out this email group to students (i.e., to people and causes they deem worthy…). Now, I’m not saying there’s any (*cough* far-left *cough*) bias or subjectivity to these types of emails…but I have a bunch of them that may indicate otherwise.
Update: Last night, 371 people had signed the petition, and now it is up to 501. I don’t know if that increase has anything to do with circulating this petition to the student body, but I suspect it (at least in part) does.
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Funding Opportunity: Towards Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (TIDE)

Another all-campus email from today:

Dear Members of the Community:

 

I write to share news of a grant, Towards Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (TIDE), the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion will give out.  The purpose of the grant is to help facilitate the infusion of inclusion, diversity, and equity into all aspects of our campus by leveraging the creativity and passion of the members of our community.

 

All members of the community are encouraged to apply, as we look forward to supporting campus- and community-wide efforts.  Collaboration between and among faculty, students, and staff is strongly encouraged, as are projects designed to have a positive impact on multiple stakeholder groups on campus and in the surrounding community.

 

Information about applying for the grant, including the deadline, is available here.  We also invite you to learn more about it, including hearing from past recipients, at an information session in Hardy House at 4:00 on Wednesday, October 30.  Should you have additional questions, please don’t hesitate to send an email to diversity@williams.edu with the subject “TIDE Grant”.

 

We look forward to working and learning with you.

 

Best,

Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes, Ph.D.

Vice President

Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Williams College | Williamstown, MA

(P) 413.597.4376

https://diversity.williams.edu

 

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The retirement of Steve Klass, and news about Campus Life

From President Mandel:

To the Williams community,

I’m writing to share two pieces of news. The two are related, so I appreciate your patience with a longer message than I’d usually write.

First is the bittersweet announcement that Vice President for Campus Life Steve Klass has informed me of his plans to retire in June.

When Steve came to Williams in 2006 from the University of Chicago, initially as our first-ever Vice President of Operations, he brought with him a transformative approach to leadership and management; an enlivening, compassionate spirit; and a wonderfully off-kilter sense of humor. For evidence of the latter, see the student-produced “Between Two Slabs” video. For evidence of the rest, there are Steve’s many contributions to Williams, which include, for starters: leading the reorganization and expansion of our health and mental health services; overseeing major construction projects, including Stetson/Sawyer, Hollander, Schapiro and Paresky; helping launch CLiA, the Zilkha Center and the college-managed Children’s Center; and, following retirements of long-time campus leaders, hiring Director of Student Health Services Deb Flynn, Director of Integrative Wellbeing Services Wendy Adam, College Chaplain Rev. Valerie Bailey Fischer and Director of Dining Services Temesgen Araya.

On top of that are the many years’ worth of board and committee service Steve has devoted to local schools, healthcare providers, financial institutions, town government and churches.

Steve is somewhat famous among my senior staff for his unconventional career path. He started his post-college life playing in bands at CBGB’s and managing restaurants in New York City. Few of his professional peers could match his breadth of experience, or the level of empathy and organizational insight he gained from his adventures. Williams has been a grateful beneficiary of Steve’s talents, and I look forward to announcing a campus thank you event next spring.

Steve isn’t the only member of Senior Staff to whom we’ll say farewell. As you may know, Dean of Faculty Denise Buell recently announced to the faculty that she plans to end her term as dean next June and return to her teaching and scholarship as Cluett Professor of Religion. Denise has been a wonderful partner, and I’ll send a separate message honoring her later this week.

In the meantime, today’s second piece of news has to do with our plans for Campus Life. As part of the Strategic Planning process I’ve begun looking at the organization of peer institutions and thinking about how our administrative structures can best help us with our goal of realizing residence life as a central component of a Williams education. With that goal in mind, after Steve’s retirement we’ll shift some of his offices to report to the Dean of the College, and others to report to the Vice President for Finance and Administration.

Steve, Marlene, Fred and I have already begun conversations with those whose direct reporting lines will change, and we’ll be meeting with people from all the relevant areas in the coming weeks. In case you’re asked, I want you to know that all positions are being retained, and all staff will continue in their roles. The change is solely in reporting lines.

Meanwhile, here’s a simple description of the new reporting arrangement, which will go into effect on July 1, 2020:

  • The offices of OSL that oversee residence life, student leadership and student orgs; Health Services and Integrative Wellbeing Services; the Chaplain’s Office; and CLiA will become part of the Dean of the College’s team.
  • Dining, Campus Safety and Security, Mail Services, and the Conferences office will become part of the group managed by the Vice President for Finance & Administration and Treasurer, also as of July 1, 2020.

More details will be available as we work on implementation with the staff. The changes will support collaboration among colleagues who work with students in various ways and help college operations run as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

We’re in a position to pursue these opportunities because of the outstanding work Steve and his team have done over many years. Indeed, when I asked Steve what he was proudest of from his time at Williams, he instantly said “the amazing people I’ve worked with since day one.”

Please join me in thanking and congratulating Steve for his contributions to Williams, and in supporting our colleagues during the months ahead.

Maud

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Integrative Wellbeing Services: Expanding and Diversifying

The Record published a two-part series on Integrative Wellbeing Services, Williams’ counseling/mental health services program. Given that this is one of my favorite Williams-related topics, I’m excited to pick out a few interesting bits. Article 1, and Article 2.

On the name and philosophy:

PCS [Psychological Counseling Services] is now known as Integrative Wellbeing Services, a change that [Wendy] Adam [the director of IWS] says represents a substantive shift in the College’s philosophy toward mental health. The therapists at the time were already well-prepared to treat mental illness, according to Adam, so her approach centered around broadening the range of services to include options aimed at fostering students’ general wellbeing in addition to providing clinical psychological services.

To me, this has some pretty clear upsides, but the downsides should certainly be acknowledged; for me, those downsides were pretty clear as a student.

The benefits, of course, are making therapy/counseling more accessible to all students and de-pathologizing therapy. Therapy can benefit everyone, and belief that you have to have a mental illness to seek therapy is a detriment. Says Adam:

“In my private practice, if someone came to see me, I had to justify their appointment to their insurance company using a diagnosis,” she said. “One of the things I love about this job is that you don’t have to have a serious diagnosis to work with us. I don’t have to worry that, if you’re having a hard time but you don’t meet all the criteria for depression, I’d have to stop seeing you after a certain time even if it would have been more effective for you to stay longer.”

“We’ve got tons of groups and offerings, where we want to meet students where they’re at,” Adam said. “That’s why there are so many ways of inviting students in. We don’t want that old story of ‘You have to be mentally ill to see a therapist’ to get in anybody’s way.”

The downside—which I experienced—is that, if you do have a genuine mental illness and need specific treatment for a mental illness, Adam’s statement that the school was “already well-prepared to treat mental illness” might have felt like a pivot away from that treatment. “Broadening the range of services” doesn’t have to mean decreasing the efficacy of mental health treatment, of course; in practice, however, given that IWS is training the new clinicians (and students in the two-year training program make up a large amount of the staff, after all), the likelihood that you’ll start therapy and see someone who’s been trained in more of a “holistic” way than a “mental-illness-focused” way is pretty high.

The effect of that can be seen from quotes in the second article:

“Charlotte Jones ’22 started seeing a clinician at IWS last year while continuing to regularly check in remotely with the therapist she has worked with for several years at home. She hoped to use the IWS sessions to process recent traumatic life events, but both of the therapists she was paired with took approaches that she found unhelpful.

“At times, it felt as though they were babying me,” she said. “It could be very demeaning… Maybe they would have been fine for a smaller issue, but for me, they were not ready to handle what I had.”

She said that she does not plan to try again at IWS – “Two times was hard enough,” she said – though she has found the crisis call line helpful for instances when she could not get in touch with her therapist from home.”

The article, and clinicians during therapy, make clear that switching therapists is always a possibility and is encouraged to find the right fit for you. But two times is hard enough! It can be really hard to keep divulging your trauma over and over, trying to find the therapist who’s most helpful in processing it.

The articles also discuss some programs that are new this year at IWS. We talked about those earlier here on EphBlog with a post by DDF (http://ephblog.com/2019/09/12/welcome-and-new-year-updates/),  namely, new therapy options through the online platform TalkSpace, and new non-emergency transport options including twice-daily shuttles to get prescriptions from Rite Aid. At the time he wondered if these were the best uses of Williams’ money, or if we should “prioritize matching financial aid packages from places like Harvard first.”

My comments at the time were responding to this thought specifically, but are relevant to my general defenses of spending on IWS more generally:

Sure, in terms of optics of making Williams more appealing to prospective students, spending on matching financial aid packages from places like Harvard might be better. But I believe this is spending on making Williams actually more competitive with placed like Harvard in terms of actual student experience. In Cambridge there are places within walking distance, or using public transit options, where you can get things like x-rays and blood tests on the school’s insurance. In Williamstown, if you don’t have a car, the one bus most likely doesn’t go where you need it to, to get those medical services done…so you’re absolutely reliant on the medical transport system run by the college, which helps bridge the gap of accessing medical services resulting from Williams’s location.

As for the twice-daily pharmacy runs…I am incredibly jealous. I wasted so much time, up to my very last week at Williams, finding solutions to what should be the very simple issue of picking up prescriptions at Rite Aid. There’s prescription delivery to the health center, but the health center is open fewer hours than Rite Aid is; moreover, prescription restrictions exist. I remember one particular situation where I was prescribed a new medication that was restricted in such a way that I had to pick it up in X days, and they would not let me have it delivered; I had to pick it up in person. So I walked in single-digit weather to Rite Aid, taking a couple of freezing hours during a particularly busy week. Not a life-threatening situation, no, but one that, after a few times, definitely found me wishing I went to a school that wasn’t so darn remote.

Is this the sort of thing that prospective students will think about when debating Harvard and Williams? No, of course not, so if that’s your metric then sure, this is a waste of money. But it’s absolutely something that helps bring quality of life up to par with places like Harvard, and for that I see it as immensely valuable.

At what point do improvements to IWS become a selling point for the college? As knowledge and perception about mental health shift, I’m hopeful that a strong offering of counseling services becomes much more of a plus. And, as the Record article highlights, we really are fairly top-of-class:

“According to Klass and Adam, the ratio of students to therapists across higher education nationally — including both colleges and universities — is around 900:1, while the College’s peer institutions tend to be closer to 400:1. In contrast, the current ratio at the College is slightly lower than 145 students per therapist.

Last year, there was no waitlist for accessing therapy through IWS.

Meanwhile, the total number of scheduled psychotherapy session hours has grown by 260 percent over the last decade. That increase is due in part to the fact that students can schedule as many visits to IWS as they need. “Unlike other colleges and universities, we don’t cap our sessions,” Grinnell said. “I love that about Williams. We can really spend time building relationships with our student population. Therapy may not always feel linear — it might take some time to feel like consistent progress is being made.”

This is all really good, important stuff.

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Endowment Performance

Chief Investment Officer Collette Chilton is probably not EphBlog’s biggest fan.

From 2007:

And why is the investment office in Boston in the first place?

Note the charmingly naive coverage of this topic from the Record.

Chilton will commute between her offices in Williamstown and Boston. “Investment does not occur here at Williamstown,” Chilton said, “and so we need to have an office at a financial capital, which in this case is Boston.” She will be on campus Mondays and Tuesdays on a regular basis. “So far it’s been easy,” she said, “but then again, it’s not snowing yet.”

This is highly misleading. When you control an endowment of $1.5 billion, you are the client, you are the one with the power, you are the one that other people travel to meet. Investment managers, whether from the worlds of private equity, hedge funds, venture capital or any other field, will gladly come to Williamstown (or anywhere else) for a chance to manage a portion of that money. The reason that Chilton does not move to Williamstown is, almost certainly, because she and her family prefer to live in Weston. Nothing wrong with Weston, of course, but if Chilton does not care enough about Williams to move to Williamstown, what possible loyalty will she feel toward the College? Why wouldn’t she just take another job when a better offer comes along?

President Schapiro also played a part in this deception.

Eager to get started, Collette will disengage as quickly as possible from her current responsibilities and take up this new position sometime in October. As is typical with such positions, she’ll be based in a financial capital, in her case Boston, and have an office in Hopkins Hall, where she’ll spend significant time.

“I consider this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be involved in the entrepreneurial start up of a new operation,” she said in accepting the position. “And Williams is such a fantastic school; I look forward to becoming part of the college community.”

First, it goes without saying that it is impossible to be a “part of the college community” if you live in Boston. But the key weasel phrase is “typical with such positions.” If the Record wanted to make trouble, it would investigate the truth of this statement. Find a set of positions like Chilton’s (CIO of a large endowment) and investigate how many of these individuals are located in a “financial capital” away from the institution for which they work.

Let me help. The article later mentions Paula Volent, vice president for investments at Bowdoin (and a protege of Swensen). She manages $670 million from that famous “financial capital,” Brunswick, Maine. Peter Shea does the same for Amherst from sunny central Massachusetts. Thomas Kannam is somehow able to manage Wesleyan’s $600 million endowment from Middletown, Connecticut. My, but the list of financial capitals in New England is larger than I imagined! And, of course, David Swensen himself does fine living in New Haven. Turns out that, if you control the money, people come to you.

If we can’t trust Morty/Chilton to be transparent with us about why she wants to work in Boston, why should we trust them to be honest about anything else?

From 2009:

According to the College’s Form 990, Chief Investment Officer Collete Chilton’s total compensation was $726,556 in FY 2008 and $686,053 in FY 2007.

The Record should do an article about Chilton’s compensation. Don’t the editors believe in muckraking anymore? I bet that some of the more left-wing Williams professors would provide good quotes, either on or off the record. Don’t think that there is anything suspect going on here? Perhaps you failed to read the College’s letter to the Senate Finance Committee.

Some members of the Investment Office are eligible for bonuses based on the return on our investments, though the office is so new that we have not completed the first year of returns on which bonuses would be computed. So, in the past ten years no such bonuses have been paid.

In other words, the College worries that Chilton and other (how many?) investment professionals won’t work hard enough even though Williams is paying them hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. So, in addition to all that guaranteed money, we need to pay them extra bonuses or else they’ll —- what exactly? Spend all day at the movies?

Other fun posts include here, here and this five part series.

But credit where credit is due. The performance of the Williams endowment over the last decade has been outstanding.

Thanks to an Eph with Bloomberg access for sharing the data.

Apologies that this is tough to read. Key point is that, over the last decade, the Williams endowment has compounded at 8%, which is the second highest in its peer group of small college endowments and, roughly, 2% per year better than the average performance. How much richer is Williams because of this outperformance? Good question! My rough guess is that, if the value of the endowment has averaged about $2 billion over this period, 2% outperformance, compounded over 10 years generated about $400 million in additional wealth.

Perhaps former trustee chair Mike Eisenson ’77 — the Eph most clearly responsible for the creation of the investment office and (probably?) the person with the most say in the hiring of Chilton — is smarter than me, at least when it comes to money? Perhaps Collette Chilton knows what she is doing? Perhaps I should stick to blogging? Perish the thought!

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“Williams College Seeking Input as It Forms Strategic Plan” (iBerkshires.com)

An article on how Williams is “soliciting input from a broadly defined group of stakeholders that includes students, alumni, faculty, staff and members of the community Williams calls home. That includes not just Williamstown, but also North Adams, Lanesborough, Pownal, Vt., and beyond”.

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Welcome and New Year Updates

Thanks to an anonymous student:

Dear Williams Students,

It gives us great pleasure to welcome the Class of 2023 and all of you who are returning. We hope you all had summers that were both productive and restorative and we look forward to working with you in the year ahead. To that end, we want to share a number of updates and news items with you as we start the year.

Why does the College refuse to publicly archive these messages? Future historians will curse you!

Health and Wellbeing Updates:

We’re happy to announce some enhancements to our Health and Wellbeing programs and services. One important addition is our adoption of TalkSpace. TalkSpace is an innovative online therapy service that is now available, at no cost and effective immediately, to all enrolled students, twelve months a year and even while traveling abroad. TalkSpace connects users to a dedicated, licensed therapist from a secure, HIPAA-compliant mobile app and web platform. Their roster comprises more than 5,000 licensed clinicians from across the country, who collectively speak over forty languages. You can send your therapist a text, voice or video message anytime, from anywhere, throughout your time at Williams. We’re providing this service to students in addition to all of our existing on-campus offerings in psychotherapy, psychiatry and on-call crisis services, as well as the wellbeing promotion events, workshops and groups we organize throughout the year. Stay tuned for user-friendly instructions on how to use TalkSpace.

I wonder how many students these therapists will be helping at the same time. Deep learning has made automated therapy chat bots possible . . . and maybe easy. The word “dedicated” is . . . subject to interpretation.

Our team also has some wonderful new clinicians we’d love for you to meet. Please visit our website to learn more about our staff: https://health.williams.edu/what-is-integrative-wellbeing/.

We have also expanded the college’s Non-Emergent Medical Transportation (NEMT) system. The system is now available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week throughout the year, including summers. As a reminder, the NEMT provides transportation for all non-emergency off-campus medical needs, including doctor and physical therapy appointments, dental visits, urgent care visits, x-rays/blood tests/lab visits, etc. You may also call for pickup if you were taken to a hospital for an emergency and need a ride back to campus after you’re discharged. New this year, we’re also providing twice-daily shuttles to the Walgreens Pharmacy in Rite-Aid (Colonial Plaza) to pick up prescriptions. Please check here for details on how to make the most of this service.

None of this is, necessarily, bad spending. But I would prioritize matching financial aid packages from places like Harvard first.

Policy Updates:

Students have requested that we be as clear and transparent as possible in describing our policies around freedom of expression. We’d like to call your attention to three policies we’ve updated and edited for clarity over the summer. The policies provide guidance on campus postings (please check here), the use of campus facilities and related resources for campus speakers/performances (please check here), and campus protests (please check here). We encourage you to review each one, especially if you plan on posting fliers, hanging banners, or bringing speakers this year.

Good stuff! Maud seized her moment, just as we predicted she would.

The College would be wise to seek a Green Light designation from FIRE. This is the easiest way to demonstrate to skeptical alums that the College has turned the corner on Falk’s error.

The Log:

When we originally renovated and re-opened the Log a few years ago, it was managed by a different vendor with a more expensive menu. To encourage student business, we piloted a college-sponsored, limited 30% food discount for students with a current college ID. With our popular new operators and a much less expensive, more flexible menu, we’re shifting away from that early pilot program. Rather than provide an across-the-board Log subsidy, the college will provide an additional $50 in annual discretionary funds to every financial aid student, usable anywhere. For the 2020 academic year, this $50 will show up as a credit on the January term bill. Then in future years it will be added to the personal allowance. We’re excited about this opportunity to provide additional and flexible support for aided students.

There are seniors on financial aid who have already accepted job offers from Google or Goldman Sachs and whose families make more than $200,000. But, by all means, let’s give them $50 of extra spending money!

Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Updates:

First, you’ll notice that we’ve modified the office’s name to include inclusion – which is a key component of our work. We’re very excited to share that we’re in the process of hiring a Dialogue Facilitator, to be housed in OIDEI. The Dialogue Facilitator will partner with all constituents on campus and supplement existing efforts to foster a community in which all are welcome and can respectfully engage with others. We anticipate this work will be carried out by integrating restorative practices and mediation on campus. We also share several staffing updates in OIDEI. On the heels of her tenure as Director of Special Academic Programs, Molly Magavern joined our conflict resolution efforts as Assistant Vice President; Clinton Williams joined the team as the Director of Special Academic Programs; Bilal Ansari is leading our campus engagement work as Assistant Vice President while continuing to serve as Acting Director of the Davis Center; and Keara Sternberg recently joined us as Assistant Director of the Davis Center and Campus Engagement. All of these individuals look forward to working with you.

Let’s hire more bureaucrats! Just what the College needs. Leticia Haynes is way too busy — burning the midnight oil day after day — to possible handle her own dialogue facilitation . . .

Again, welcome back to campus! We wish you all an inspired, healthy, productive beginning to the new academic year.

All best wishes,

Leticia Haynes, Vice President for Institutional Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Steve Klass, Vice President for Student Life
Marlene Sandstrom, Dean of the College

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11% International Students in the Class of 2023

EphBlog has been banging the drum for increased international admissions for almost 15 years. (Relevant posts here, here, and here.) Recall EphBlog’s demand/request/prediction a year ago.

Brown is at 11% international. Woo-Hoo! If Mandel moves Williams to 11% (from our current 7%, pdf), she will instantly be a better president than Falk.

Emphasis in the original. And EphBlog gets results! The Williams class of 2023 is 11% international. Comments:

1) Yeah, Maud! This change, along with her affirmation of academic freedom at Williams, make President Mandel a most excellent president, at least according to EphBlog.

2) New Director of Admissions Sulgi Lim ’06 reported this news at the Admissions Open House during alumni week-end. Sadly, Sulgi, unlike her boss, Provost Dukes Love, does not believe in sharing her public presentations with Ephs who are too poor or busy to attend events like this one. Boo!

3) Sulgi described the change as being caused by two factors. Her office was allowed to admit more international applicants than before. And the yield was higher than expected. I do not know the relative importance of the two changes.

4) There are 45 international students (pdf) in class of 2022. (Prior few years were 41, 41, 46, 49 and 37.) Eleven percent of approximately 535 — 550 would be about 58 — 60 students.

5) Key question: Has there been an official change in the Williams quota — oops! I mean “goal” — for international enrollment? I hope so! The best college in the world will be 50% non-US by 2050. The sooner that Williams moves in that direction, the more likely we are to retain our status.

6) Sulgi talked the usual nonsense about the diversity of international admissions, bragging about the 29 (?) countries represented. Nothing wrong with diversity (of course!) but, in general, the applicant from poor country X is not really representative of X. Instead, she is the daughter of country X’s ambassador to England, and has been educated in international schools all her life. (Not that there is anything wrong with country X or ambassadors or England or international schools!) As long as she is academically excellent EphBlog does not care.

7) Unstated by Sulgi, but known to her and to everyone with a clue about international applicants, the central issue is Asia, especially China and the Chinese diaspora. Williams could probably admit 100 English-fluent students with academic credentials — and likely academic performance at Williams — in the top 10% of the class. We should not admit all 100 tomorrow. But we do need a faculty committee to look closely at the issue of international admissions.

UPDATE: For weird technical reasons, I may not be able to post comments at EpHblog for a couple of weeks. Fortunately, I can still update this post. Here are further thoughts on this topic:

> Any reason 50% instead of 70%?

1) I am not overly committed to 50% as a prediction. I am completely committed to increasing the current 11% higher.

2) I still think 50% is a good prediction because a (major?) part of what Williams is selling is a US education. Can you really provide a US education with a 70% international student body? I am not sure. And I expect that Chinese parents would be even less sure . . .

3) I think that 30% is less likely than 50% because I think that a) the morality of having an international quota, like the morality of having a Jewish quota, becomes less tenable over time. It wasn’t just me that has caused the doubling of the international student body at Williams over the last decade or so. Was it? ;-)

4) I think that competitive pressures and a herd mentality come into play. Every time school X becomes more international, it becomes easier/necessary for school Y to become more international. But 50% is still a more reasonable stopping point than 70%, because of 2).

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Weekend Links

The “Downside of Diversity” by Anthony Kronman ’68 in the Wall Street Journal.

Former Williams QB takes over as offensive coordinator at Boston College” in the Berkshire Eagle, about Mike Bajakian ’95.

Williamstown Celebrates New Police Station With Ribbon Cutting, Night Out Open House” in iBerkshires.

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How Much Do You Give to Williams?

In last weeks’s post I asked Why give to Williams? This week I wanted to ask the natural follow up question – How much? My answer is, “Not much.” When I was a new graduate, I could not afford to give more than a token amount. And that is exactly what I did for many years. Eventually, my wife finally started to support me in the style in which I deserve, (please forgive this bit of an inside joke – for those who care, I have been a stay-at-home dad for the last 21 years) and I was able to up the amount to $100 annually. My wife now provides my family with a very healthy life style and we try to donate several thousand dollars a year to charities we are involved in or take a special interest in. However, my annual donation to Williams stays at the $100 level (I do up it to $250 during reunion years) because I feel Williams does not need my money. From my perspective, the college’s endowment and big money donors are an adequate source of funds to do anything the school wants to do. It is more rewarding for me to donate to organizations where my gift will have a significant impact on the charities operations over the coming year.

Fendertweed offered a different perspective in a comment on last week’s post “I’ve significantly reduced giving (especially in future plans) because I’ve seen a trend of what I and others think is benign neglect for our chosen area of support at Williams.”

What about you, how much do you give?

Fendertweed – Can you share what specific trends you have seen at the college that has changed your level of giving?
 

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Why give to Williams?

This question was inspired by the email from Maud on July 10th informing the community about how the latest capital campaign went. (full email below the break) She cited the stat that nearly 75% of alumni had contributed over the course of the 7 year campaign. I was impressed by this but was curious as to whether or not I should be. I did a quick Google search and found this article. link It has some interesting information, including the fact that Williams ranked 3rd among all schools in the country in terms of percentage of alumni who donate. (The most important fact in the article may be that we beat Amherst!)

In terms of my answer, at first, I thought it was a simple question but as I pondered my response, I realized that it had several important facets. First, Williams had a significant positive impact on me. Not only did the academic environment challenge me and help me grow as a thinker but the people I met shaped my moral and ethical development. Next, I enjoyed my time at Williams immensely! This was true in the classroom, in the dorm room and on the rugby pitch. Also, I like the idea of making some small contribution to the idea of “paying it forward.” Of course, I could point to other issues and memories but most of them could fit into these three broad categories.

What about you? Why do you give to Williams? Or not?

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Williams Alumni Travel

  I recently received a brochure outlining some upcoming Williams Alumni trips.  I’ve always been intrigued by these trips, as they always look fun.  The web page lays out the basic contours:

Since 1981, alumni and friends have embarked on outstanding travel-study opportunities led by Williams faculty. Our trips are adventurous, engaging, and most importantly, provide a wonderful way to continue your lifelong learning through the College. We hope you will consider joining us on an upcoming journey.

While I love traveling and have found that many of these trips look pretty interesting, I’ve never pulled the trigger and booked one.  The biggest reason for this is that the trips always seemed pretty expensive, relative to other options.  I don’t know whether that is because the trips are particularly luxurious, or whether the number on non-paying travelers (i.e. hosts and guides) is higher than on other, non-Williams tours, or whether the College makes money off of these trips.  Regardless, they seem very popular, with quite a few of the upcoming trips being sold out.

Has anyone in EphBlog-world been on one of these trips?  Did you like it?  Would you go on another one?

I’ve also wondered how/why the College got into this activity.  Based on the website and the number of trips, it seems to be a pretty big operation.

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The “Teach It Forward” Campaign–Where is it now?

The “Teach It Forward” campaign was launched by Williams in 2015. Ephblog had posted about this at the start of the campaign, but there haven’t yet been any follow-ups on the campaign’s progression. It’s useful to look at its results so far.

According to the TIF website, the college has raised $685.01 million so far, making TIF the most ambitious and most successful campaign “in the history of liberal arts colleges” to date. This value surpasses the $650 million target that was set initially. Alumni participation (in terms of donations) stands at 74.1%, just under the 75% target. Overall alumni participation (in terms of both donations and volunteering) stands at 85%.

It would be interesting to see how the college has spent and plans to spend the money it has raised. Have they released information to alumni regarding how much of the $685 million they have alotted to different areas of expense?

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Therapy at Williams

Being prejudiced against almost all non-faculty hiring at Williams, I was concerned that having 15 therapists on staff (as compared to, I think, only 5 a few years ago) was a bad thing, a sign of our ever-increasing college bureacracy. I was wrong, as this excellent student comment makes clear.

Assuming the questions about mental health services were asked in good faith:

-I believe a figure I’ve seen on IWS (Integrative Wellbeing Services, the official name for Williams’ mental health services) is that 1/3 of students make use of their services.

-I have no idea what is included in this. IWS offers a whole host of different opportunities to engage with their therapists: there’s regular scheduled therapy, as well as psychiatry, but also walk-in hours where you might go to discuss a one-off problem, as well as group therapy. I would imagine all these various types of engagement would be included in the engagement figure, but I don’t know.

-Regardless, it’s very much a significant portion of campus that engages with IWS.

-Getting anecdotal here and for the rest of the post: we are not, in my opinion, at the level of comfort on campus that I’d necessarily know if a given friend or acquaintance of mine had scheduled appointments with a therapist. What I can say is that, when awkwardly sitting in the waiting room for my therapist appointments, I’d always be rather surprised by who I’d see there; it was truly a cross-section of campus.

-A large number of the therapists employed by Williams are post-graduate fellows here for only two years. I imagine this is a pretty big cost-saving factor; it’s also the case that these fellows tend to make up more of the therapists of color and, of course, younger therapists, which are sometimes factors that students specifically request in being scheduled with a therapist.

-I truly may be misremembering, and this is again something where I don’t know what goes into the figure. But I believe, at my first meeting with my therapist, he told me that on average students who have recurring therapy sessions will end up using about 10 sessions of therapy. Theoretically, however, therapy sessions are unlimited. This is very much not the case at other schools; at several of my friends’ Ivy League institutions, students will get something like 6 sessions during their entire time at the school, before they’re forced to seek off-campus care. I personally have very much benefitted from knowing that I had access to as many sessions as I needed during my entire time at Williams. I went through semesters of seeing and not seeing a therapist, dealing with different issues, switching therapists as needed. I was incredibly grateful that I didn’t have to also worry about budgeting out my therapy.

-The argument that students won’t have this level of therapy in the “real world” and thus shouldn’t at Williams, is absolutely absurd. First–isn’t a frequent selling point of Williams that, here, students have easy access to things they won’t have such easy access to for the rest of their lives, such things being not only academic (easy access to professors, libraries, etc) but also social (easy access to all friends living within five minutes of you, etc)? Second–therapy isn’t some rare and impossible thing to find in the “real world.” It can be hard based on price, insurance, all that. But here’s the thing–because of the easy access to therapists I had at Williams, I realized how important regularly seeing a therapist is to my well being. As such, I’m going to make it a part of my life after Williams, moreso than I would have had I not had such access; I’ll set aside money, perhaps choose my health insurance plan, based on making sure I can see a therapist. I’ve also learned what I benefit from in a therapist (what styles of therapy, what traits I look for in a therapist in a way for me), because I could see as many different therapists as many times as I wanted. This is going to save me a lot of money that I otherwise would have wasted out there in that “real world” trying out therapists for several sessions only to realize they aren’t as beneficial as they could be.

1) Thanks to this student for taking the time to make this thorough comment. Do other readers have first hand experiences, good or bad, with IWS? Tell us about them!

2) You have convinced me! I am now comfortable with Williams having 15 therapists on staff.

3) As always, more transparency would be good. The Record ought to write about IWS and how it has changed over the last decade, and Williams ought to provide enough data to tell that story accurately.

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Senior Week Schedule

Below the break is this year’s senior week schedule. Questions:

1) Did scores of seniors go to the Outerbanks in North Carolina Hilton Head last week, as was the tradition for many years?

2) What does “Senior Wrist Banding” refer to?

3) Any firsthand reports from these events? I still remember our Mt. Hope Dinner Dance 30 years ago . . .

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Teach Week

Are any of our readers participating in Teach Week?

Teach Week kicks off on Thursday, May 23 with Teaching Students Before Content facilitated by Betsy Burris of Teaching Through Emotions. This workshop provides background on student-centered teaching and serves as a foundation for other workshops in the series.

Teach Week will give you the opportunity to dig deeper with different campus partners, and you will leave each workshop with a concrete takeaway to use in your upcoming courses.

1) How much is this costing Williams?

2) “Teach week is an event of the Williams College Collaborative for Faculty Development.” The Event Planning Committee includes 9 people, not a single (!?) one of them a member of the faculty.

3) Not all of this is obviously useless. In fact, the sessions today actually seem sort of interesting!

4) Much is also tendentious social justice left nonsense. Example from tomorrow:

In this workshop, we will discuss the ways that language, microaggressions, and incomplete empathy can inhibit student success. Using case studies, we will work together to identify the sources of micro- and macro-aggressions, and we will discuss effective problem solving strategies and word-choices in response to hostile situations. We will then practice having productive conversations about difference with our peers and our students.

I hope that one of trouble-making faculty friends sends us a report from this event. But I doubt that any of them will go!

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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:
Read more

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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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