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Announcing our next dean of faculty

To the Williams community,

I am pleased to report that, after consulting with the Faculty Steering Committee, I have offered Professor of Psychology Safa Zaki the position of Dean of the Faculty, and she has accepted. Safa will assume her new role on July 1.

In her 18 years at Williams, Safa has earned broad respect as a collaborative educator and leader and as an advocate for both faculty and staff. She is chair of the Cognitive Science program, a position she has held since 2018, and teaches courses including Experimentation and Statistics; Concepts: Mind, Brain, and Culture; and Great Debates in Cognition. She has also mentored numerous students who have worked with her on her research into how the mind parses the visual world into categories. Her findings have been published in journals including Psychological Science, Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, and the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, and her studies have been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.

Committed to enhancing the life of the college, as well as the life of the mind, Safa is a member of the Committee on Appointments and Promotions, and has chaired both the Committee on Priorities and Resources and the Faculty Steering Committee. She served on the most recent Presidential Search Committee and is currently a member of two strategic planning groups: the Working Group on Faculty Staff Development, and the Strategic Academic Initiative on Technology and the Liberal Arts. After earning her bachelor’s degree from the American University in Cairo and her Ph.D. in psychology from Arizona State, she joined the Williams faculty in 2002 and was promoted to associate professor in 2005 and then full professor in 2010.

In assuming the Dean of Faculty role, Safa succeeds Denise Buell, who last fall announced her plans to return to teaching and research at the end of this academic year. Over the five years of her deanship, Denise has helped diversify the Williams faculty, expand faculty orientation and professional development offerings, pilot new selection processes for faculty service roles, and create programs to support department and program chairs, among her many contributions. In my first days at Williams, Denise did so much to help me build relationships with our faculty, for which I’m deeply grateful.

I now look forward to working equally closely with Safa. We’re fortunate that someone of her abilities and experience will continue Williams’ tradition of filling senior administrative positions from within the faculty ranks. I want to thank the many faculty members who contributed suggestions to the FSC concerning the selection of the Dean of the Faculty, and to the members of the FSC themselves for their thoughtful counsel.I hope you will join me in congratulating Safa and welcoming her to her new role, in which capacity I know she will work tirelessly to support and advance Williams’ exceptional faculty.

Maud

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Summary of January 2020 Board of Trustees meeting

Dear faculty, staff and students,

The Williams Board of Trustees held their January meeting last Friday and Saturday. I’m pleased to summarize for you some of the topics and votes. Reports from past meetings are always available on the News from the Board website.

Last week’s agenda included the following:

  • On Thursday evening, before the meeting, Trustees joined students for dinner in Mission Park Dining Hall, as part of their continuing efforts to learn about people’s experiences at Williams.
  • On Friday, I provided the board with an overview of the strategic planning process. This included a few early observations from the working groups, as they draft their reports. The completed drafts will be made available to our whole community for consideration in February. I also talked with the Board about key directions that will likely feature in the Strategic Plan itself, which I’ll be developing in the spring.
  • I also gave a routine update on campus matters, including a summary of the statement on inquiry and inclusion, the search for our next Dean of the Faculty, and the ongoing reorganization of offices prompted by Steve Klass’s planned retirement in the summer of 2020.
  • Provost Dukes Love and Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Fred Puddester discussed approaches for funding emerging ideas in the strategic planning process through the annual budget process and fundraising efforts.
  • Dukes, along with Class of ’56 Director of the Williams College Museum of Art Pam Franks and a team from architectural consultants Deborah Berke Partners talked with the Trustees about developing a plan for a potential new art museum, as well as the ways in which such an effort might intersect with other emerging arts initiatives. This conversation remains hypothetical for now, since the Board will only vote on whether and how to move forward with a building project once all the programming issues have been fully studied. These include questions about the range of opportunities in the arts, connections between a potential Williams arts project and our partners and arts organizations in the region, as well as about the relationship between such a potential project and our overall strategic planning priorities.
  • Associate Vice President for Finance Matt Sheehy and Chief Information Officer Barron Koralesky led an annual update on the college’s risk management efforts, including recent work on business continuity and regulatory compliance. Information Security Officer Andy Powell also presented about our efforts to improve the college’s information security program and better protect our data. Among other news, Barron and Andy reported that we have achieved 100% participation in dual-factor email authentication among students and staff, and 79% among faculty. Before this effort, we logged an average of four compromised accounts per month, whereas since then we haven’t seen anyone compromised. I want to thank everyone who took this important step to help protect yourselves and all of us.
  • Chief Communications Officer Jim Reische introduced Audrey Francis and Jesse Reed, partners from the firms Elastic Strategy and Order, who are helping us update the college’s identity and publications. Audrey and Jesse then described for the Trustees some of the considerations that emerged from their research at Williams last fall.
  • The board confirmed the promotion of six Williams faculty members to associate professor with tenure as of July 1, 2019. See the recent press release for details. Congratulations to our faculty colleagues on their promotions.
  • The board approved the proposal to rename the Center for Development Economics to the “Henry J. Bruton Center for Development Economics.” The naming honors the late Professor Henry Bruton, who served as John J. Gibson Professor of Economics from 1962 until his retirement in 2004.
  • The board approved the granting of honorary degrees during the June 2020 Commencement. As always, the honorees will be announced in March.
  • Chief Investment Officer Collette Chilton reported on our endowment value and returns for the fiscal year to date. She also reported on the college’s impact investing activities, and the Investment Office’s plans to meet the Board’s impact investment goals. The office’s 2019 and prior annual reports are available on their website.
  • Vice President for College Relations Megan Morey reported on fundraising results since the successful July 1 conclusion of our Teach It Forward campaign. One highlight of Megan’s report was news about our new Women’s Giving Society, which is demonstrating philanthropic leadership among Williams alumnae and others.
  • The Trustees also heard updates on college finances and capital projects from Fred Puddester, including early thinking about Davis Center renovations and his report that construction of the North Building of the Science Center remains on schedule and within budget. Fred and our Planning, Design and Construction team will continue carefully managing that project to completion.
Once again, the Board committees did much fine work, as well. You’ll find information about them on the Committees page of the Board website.
I look forward to reporting on our next Board meeting this spring. In the meantime, I hope you all enjoy Winter Study, and winter at Williams generally!
Sincerely,

Maud

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A Few Emails from Williams

A few emails I’ve been negligent in posting. If anyone want to know what day they were sent, comment and ask (they aren’t in any sort of order). Also, the last one is a Daily Message I thought was interesting.

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Updates from the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Dear college community,

I write to share recent developments from the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (OIDEI) and the Davis Center. I will follow this message up with more details early in the new year.

This fall, OIDEI and the Davis Center have continued working on updating our vision. To support our vision, the Davis Center will lead our campus efforts to build inclusive learning and living environments, where all students, staff and faculty can thrive and feel a strong sense of belonging. We have also begun implementing changes to help prepare the Center for this expanded role, in sync with the planning phase of our Davis Center building project; the Committee on Diversity and Community’s multi-year study of classroom climate; college-wide strategic planning efforts relating to DEI; and the appointment of two Assistant Vice Presidents to support this work.

We’re now searching for a new Davis Center director, a program coordinator, and a dialogue facilitator as part of our plan. The dialogue facilitator (a new position) will work with colleagues to introduce and integrate restorative practices on campus. The overall restructuring, along with the advent of new staff, also requires us to rethink how existing positions are defined. I’ve already met with the current OIDEI and Center staff to discuss the possibilities and will continue working with them throughout the process.

During this time of change for OIDEI and the Davis Center, as we work to make Williams as inclusive as it can be, we’re grateful for the deep investment many of you feel in OIDEI and the Davis Center. I hope you’ll take every available opportunity to meet with the Davis Center building project architects, to share our job postings with promising candidates, and to support our work and Williams. My door is always open, too. I welcome your continued partnership in these endeavors.

Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes ’99
Vice President for Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

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I Wish You a Restful Break

Indeed. I never wish people a “Happy Birthday,” and for exactly the same reasons. How can I ever know what sort of stressful situations they are going through? How can I ever know what effect my words might have?

More importantly, what if someone has turkeys in their extended family? This holiday is a nightmare for them! Have you no empathy?

Professor Sarah Jacobson gets it:

Exactly right. In fact, I recommend that Professor Jacobson stop referring to herself as a “Professor” at “Williams College.” Professor is, of course, a word with problematic roots. Indeed, any word with roots going back to the Normans, among the worst colonialists in history, merits banishment. And don’t even get me started on the Romans! And Ephraim Williams’ attitude toward Native Americans is well-documented.

Anyone who doesn’t want to say “Thanksgiving” should never say “Williams.”

Stay Woke, my fellow Ephs!

UPDATE: The last time the Williams College twitter account used the word “Thanksgiving” was 2015. How long before the official college calendar removes the word? (It currently refuses to use the words Columbus or Christmas.) Think I am crazy? Consider:

Enjoy the holiday-that-must-not-be named!

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Strategic Questions Worth Exploring

The Record provides no useful coverage on the strategic planning process. The College’s presentation is professional but (because of that?) completely uninteresting. Comments:

1) This is Presidential Leadership 101. Come to a new college. Listen. Create a dozen committees. Seek lots of input. Come up with some pleasant ideas. Start the next capital campaign. Once again, we see that Maud is highly competent.

2) Predictions? Expect to hear about how all the things Williams currently does are wonderful and we should do more of it. The College is a supertanker, which even a president would have trouble turning. There will be a call for more new buildings (starting with a new field house and hockey rink), a constant refrain of the last 100 years. I have heard rumors about a major new initiative in data science, a hot, Hot, HOT part of academia right now. Anything else?

3) The big lost opportunity is a failure to have all these smart people look hard at major dimensions on which Williams differs from its peers. Have each working group pick such a topic (examples below), investigate it and write a thorough report. Ideally, the reports would include the best arguments for and against each of three options, one of which is the status quo. Example questions:

Which graduate degree programs should Williams offer? Amherst offers none. Wesleyan offers a dozen. It is highly unlikely that the optimal number for Williams to offer is exactly two.

How old should first years be? Back in the day, 99% of Williams first years were 18. Now, there is much more variation, driven both by changing student behaviors (the rise of “gap years”) and changing admissions policies with regards to groups like male hockey players, veterans and community college students. Should 1% or 5% or 20% of Williams first years be older than 18? An important question! I assume that our peers vary on this metric, but I can’t find any good data sources.

Should students be required to spend a summer in Williamstown? Dartmouth requires students to a) spend the summer after their sophomore year on campus and b) one semester away from Hanover during their junior year. That is, obviously, radically different from Williams, and almost every other elite college. But it is really interesting! And maybe a really good idea, both in the way that it brings a class together during the summer and in how it gives Dartmouth students a big advantage in doing substantive internships during their junior year. This is one topic where I don’t know the right answer. So I want a group of smart Ephs to study the topic, educate us all, and make a recommendation.

Should Williams offer an engineering major? I have talked to many strong high school students who never apply to Williams because they are interested in engineering and at least want to maintain the option of studying it in college. Our Ivy League competitors all offer engineering options, even Brown! Swarthmore, and some other liberal arts colleges, do as well. Why don’t we? How much would it cost? How hard would it be?

Should Williams offer an finance major? See here for the case in favor. Students at UPenn can major in finance. Why can’t Ephs? Again, my goal here is not to make the case for any particular decision. My point is that a high quality strategic planning process would focus its efforts on these major questions.

Where should first years live? Almost all of us think that First Year housing at Williams — in entries, with JAs, in Mission and the Freshmen Quad — is excellent. But what if we are all wrong? What if a system like Smith’s — first years live in the same houses as upperclassmen — is better?

How many international students? Williams (still?) has a quota for international students. But (in a policy change?), the class of 2023 is 11% international, very similar to Yale and Harvard. Is that the right percentage? Again, I don’t know enough about the variation among our peers on this metric. Which is why we need a committee to investigate, to find out what other colleges do and why they do it. Washington and Lee, with Will Dudley ’89 at the helm, is at 3% international. There is a case for 3% and a case for 25%. Make those cases so that the Williams community can make an informed decision.

Should we have affinity housing? Plenty of other schools do, including Brown. Yet I have never read a non-partisan investigation about well such houses work (or don’t). How many of our peer schools have them? How do they work, precisely? (For example, at Amherst, you can only live in such a house for two years.) How popular are they? Why don’t other schools (like Harvard and Yale) have them?

What preferences for athletes in admissions? Prior to the MacDonald Report, Williams gave very significant preference to athletes, which is why we had an almost unbeatable football team. Now we just give significant preference. (See this interest Record op-ed.) Caltech gives athletes zero preferences in admissions. What would happen if we adopted Caltech’s approach?

As readers know, I have strong opinions on many of these questions. A serious strategic planning process would devote most of its time and energy to all of them, and to similar issues. How are we most different from other elite schools and are those differences best for the future of Williams? Is that what the 8 working groups are currently doing? Not that I have heard . ..

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We Need YOU!!

The anticipated makeup of the CC-established Task Force (to abolish CC):

Hi all!

Are you interested in a Winter Study course that includes no formalized assignments (except for a single collaborative document produced at the end of Winter Study), getting a stipend to spend on food and snacks for meetings, working mainly at your own pace with a group of your peers, and getting to be a part of an actual change making institution at Williams that will hopefully last long beyond your time here??
If so, then you should consider joining the TASK FORCE ON THE FUTURE OF STUDENT GOVERNMENT!!
We are looking for representatives specifically from a club sport, a performance based club, a faith based club, and a community service based club to serve as members of this body due to your unique and extremely valuable perspectives on this campus. The Task Force will spend Winter Study re-thinking what student government should look like here at Williams College. This group is incredibly important for student life, funding capacities, policy making potential, and much more, both for current AND future Williams students. If you’ve ever thought, “Student government at Williams should do x, y, and z…” then join the Task Force and make your voice heard!
 
We would love to hear from any and all of you that are interested in applying – fill out a self-nom for consideration at this link NOW! Spots close TOMORROW, so if you’re interested in coming aboard, don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or concerns to either Ellie Sherman (eas6) or Carlos Cabrera-Lomeli (cc15)!!
Best,
Ellie and Carlos :)
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IWS Scheduling Protocol Change

Dear Williams Students,

In January 2020, Integrative Wellbeing Services (IWS) will implement a modified scheduling protocol along with expanded student support resources. We’re taking this additional step to help close gaps in equitable access to our services as we explain below.

Because these changes will most immediately impact returning students who choose to continue treatment following the Winter Break, therapists were encouraged to let the students with whom they work know about this new model beginning last week. We’re now notifying all students in an effort to ensure everyone has accurate information about these changes, as inaccuracies can create unwarranted barriers to seeking care.

Rest of the email below the break.

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A statement on inquiry, expression and inclusion

To the Williams community,

For the last year, members of the Williams community have been discussing how best to live up to our obligation to ensure both free expression and inclusion. Today I’m sharing a statement developed by the Faculty Steering Committee with my input, and reviewed with the faculty as a whole, that affirms our commitment to those core principles.

The essence of the statement is this: Freedom of expression and inquiry matters. Inclusion matters. Both values are essential to the health of any community, and especially to a healthy learning community. For Williams to continue reaching its highest educational aspirations, we need to maximize our commitment to both values. We need to run toward the hard things.

I’ve been gratified by the intelligence and passion that many of you have shown in discussing, debating and sometimes protesting this most crucial issue. My job as president is to guide that energy into helping Williams excel: delivering the best liberal arts education imaginable, and preparing graduates to set the standard for civic virtue and engagement.

I want to thank Steering for their careful work, as well as the faculty members who offered their views on the drafts, the Ad Hoc Committee upon whose report the statement is based, the people who worked to ensure that our college policies reflect our values, and all of you—students, staff and faculty—who added your views to the discussion.

Maud

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MEMORANDUM

To: The Faculty
From: The Steering Committee and President Mandel
Date: November 13, 2019

Inquiry, Expression and Inclusion at Williams College

At Williams, our educational mission requires us to cultivate an inclusive environment in which each member of our community is equally respected and equally invited to speak and to be heard. This goal unites the college’s core commitments to freedom of expression and inquiry and to building a community in which everyone can live, learn and thrive, as enunciated in our codes of conduct for faculty, staff and students.

The college extends the same opportunities for expression and debate to anyone invited to speak or participate in a college event. Visitors are welcomed and expected to participate in open discussion and robust deliberation while they are on campus. We expect anyone inviting an outside speaker to create such opportunities as part of the visit.

The college publishes clear administrative procedures for event planning and rules for the use of college property. The college likewise retains the discretion to impose reasonable limitations on the time, place and manner of speech by visitors to our community as well as by its continuing members. The college exercises this authority sparingly, and never with the goal of suppressing a point of view.

Williams College does not consider an invitation to campus an endorsement of the visitor’s views. Further, in our encouragement of vigorous dialogue and the free exchange of ideas, we acknowledge that discomforting encounters will occur. In that knowledge, we will continue expanding ways to offer support to all individuals and groups within our community, as part of our mission to equip every community member with the tools they need for effective discourse, debate and dissent. We also recognize that free expression has its limits: speech that threatens, incites violence, or constitutes harassment has no place in our community.

Our policies, which are intended to protect and promote the freedom of every community member to communicate, debate and peacefully protest, can be found here. We recognize that in the past these freedoms have not been equally available to all people and that inequity of access persists today. The college is committed to supporting equal access to these freedoms and pledges to continue working to realize this commitment fully.

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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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