Currently browsing posts filed under "Staff"

Follow this category via RSS

Next Page →

April Ruiz

The Yale Daily News reported in January:

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

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

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

From a comment on the article:

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

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

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

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

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

Facebooktwitter

Williams a Target in Early Admissions Probe, 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facebooktwitter

Report on Building

Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 11.24.57 AM

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

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

Facebooktwitter

Reische on Dumb Mistakes, 5

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

Note the casual slurring of non-elite Americans.

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

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

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

But the real problem comes next:

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

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

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

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

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

Facebooktwitter

Reische on Dumb Mistakes, 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facebooktwitter

Reische on Dumb Mistakes, 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facebooktwitter

Reische on Dumb Mistakes, 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facebooktwitter

Reische on Dumb Mistakes, 1

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

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

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

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

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

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

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

Note his ending:

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

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

Facebooktwitter

Rehire Robin and Kristine Petition Update

As of this posting, the petition, with a new target of 5,000, has now reached 3,336 signatures – more than the number of students on campus at any given time! When was the last time a current student lead petition got this many signatures from the Eph community?

Carl Sangree ’18 updated the description:

Things to do in the short term:

Donate to the Gofundme, which will directly benefit Robin and Kristine.

https://www.gofundme.com/support-robin

Email Steve Klass, who helps oversee dining services employees ( sklass@williams.edu ) and other Williams officials who may listen.

The GofundMe fundraiser, set up yesterday, has already broken its $2,000 goal ($2,555 as of this posting).

Facebooktwitter

Williams Uses Racial Goals in Admissions

Williams, as the College would be quick to tell you, does not use racial “quotas” in admissions. It does not require that there be, exactly, 50 African-American students in each class. But Williams does have ethnic/racial goals. It wants a class that looks like America.

From the Record in 1998:

There are no specific quotas to be filled in the admissions process at Williams, Director of Admissions Thomas Parker explained. Rather, the admissions Office tries to admit a class that reflects national populations.

From the Record in 2012:

[Former Vice President for Strategic Planning and Institutional Diversity Mike Reed ’75] explained that the College tries to model its student body on an “approximate mirroring” of the country, which requires recruiting students of color who otherwise would not apply.

A faculty friend reports, after talking with newish Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Liz Creighton ’01, that the same policy is true today. Creighton believes that ethnic/racial breakdown of US students at Williams should match, as close as possible, the ethnic/racial breakdown of the college-age US population, at least when it comes to African-Americans and Hispanics.

This is true, not just at Williams, but across elite higher education in the US. Occasionally, uninformed people don’t realize this or naive people deny it. Purpose of this post is to document that they are wrong.

Facebooktwitter

Jews at Williams, 11

Jews at Williams: Inclusion, Exclusion, and Class at a New England Liberal Arts College by Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft is both an interesting read and a source for dozens of fascinating anecdotes. Let’s spend a month or so going through it. Today is Day 11.

Jews at Williams, like their counterparts at other institutions, were subject to anti-Semitic treatment during this period, ranging from verbal abuse to exclusion from fraternities and clubs. However, the label “anti-Semitic treatment” may obscure more than it clarifies.

Indeed. Like many of the comments/observations that are labelled as “racist” at Williams today, some of these comments/observations are just simply the truth. Consider:

praise for the imagined business sense of the Jewish people,

What PC nonsense! Is Wurgaft seriously suggesting that “Jewish people” aren’t more successful in business than non-Jewish people?

Imagine that you were a 1950s Eph, perhaps minding your own business, hanging out at the Deke House, and you happened to mention that Jewish people seem fairly successful in business. Perhaps you even dared to praise Jews and/or Jewish culture for this achievement. Then the Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft of the era comes by and attacks you for antisemitism! That would be fairly annoying!

Especially when, today, you notice that the last 50 years have proved that your (allegedly!) antisemitic observation was spot on. Around 1/3 of the member of the Forbe 400 are Jewish, the vast majority of whom made their fortunes over this time period. Sure seems like “Jewish people” might have better than average “business sense.”

The same PC nonsense, of course, happens at Williams today to any student who happens to notice, much less publicly comment on, much less actually praise, the strong performance of Asian-Americans on the SAT.

This is a war — not so much against antisemitism or against racism — but against noticing true facts about the world.

The exclusion of Jews from upper-class social facilities, for example, was prompted by proprietors’ (not entirely unreasonable) fears that a marked Jewish presence would drive out their traditional WASP clientele.

I am, in theory, sympathetic to this argument. Perhaps one reason that Harvard/Yale/Princeton are more successful than Columbia today is that the former discriminated much more heavily against Jews than the latter? I don’t know but the case could be made. Is Williams smart to discriminate against international students for similar reasons? Recall Jim Kolesar’s ’72 argument more than a decade ago:

But a college that gave itself over to educating mainly international students, which is eventually what would happen given the numbers, would have a significantly different mission, very different standing with U.S. prospective students, and greatly altered relationship with government, donors, etc.

Is Williams smart to have a quota for international students?

Facebooktwitter

2016 Investment Report V

Let’s spend five days reviewing the latest annual report (pdf) from the Investment Office. Greatest hits commentary on related topics include here, here, here and here. Today is Day 5.

I have praised the Investment Office (and Collette Chilton) for their successes and criticized them for their pay and for the lack of transparency over performance and process. What is left to say? My (forlorn?) hope is that, over the next few years, the College can improve on the dimensions that it ought to improve on. We can be as transparent about our managers as Grinnell and about our benchmark as Amherst. We would then be in a better position to discuss more substantive issues with regard to endowment management. In the meantime, here are some final thoughts:

1) New Chief Communications Officer Jim Reische was kind enough to investigate whether or not the College’s policy with regard to transparency in the calculation of the performance of the benchmark portfolio has changed. It hasn’t. Thanks to Jim for asking!

2) Unless others object, I will probably make this series an annual lecture, a topic worth revisiting each year. Although we have regular readers at EphBlog who have been with us for more than a decade (Hi Frank!), many of our readers (mainly students and their parents) are new each year, so it makes sense to revisit these important topics, updating them with any changes in College policy.

3) What other topics would readers like to see a similar deep dive into? The latest Common Data Set (pdf) is available. And we haven’t gone through recent Form 990s or the College’s financial statements in a couple of years.

4) Kudos to Managing Director Abigail Wattley ’05 for offering this excellent Winter Study class:

POEC 23 Endowment Investment Management
This class is designed to provide students with an overview of endowment and investment management and is taught by members of the Williams College Investment Office. The Investment Office is responsible for overseeing Williams’ $2.4 billion endowment. Through presentations, discussion, readings, and project work, Winter Study students will gain a better understanding of the various components of an institutional investment portfolio, how it is managed, and how investment managers are selected and monitored. Students will learn about portfolio theory as well as specific asset classes such as global equities, hedge funds, venture capital, buyouts, real estate, and fixed income. Students are expected to attend all on-campus classes (approx. 6 hours/week) and complete a set of relevant readings, a case study exercise, journal entries, and a final project. Students will also be required to complete an introductory excel course.

Does this mean that the Investment Office is no longer offering its usual Winter Study internship? I think that that would be an OK trade-off. Do we have any readers in the class? If I can get permission to share a copy of the syllabus, I will.

Facebooktwitter

2016 Investment Report IV: Pay

Let’s spend five days reviewing the latest annual report (pdf) from the Investment Office. Greatest hits commentary on related topics include here, here, here and here. Today is Day 4.

We dramatically overpay the folks who work in the Investment Office, primarily Collette Chilton but also Bradford Wakeman. The Record ought to write an article about this. Here are the questions they should ask along with my commentary.

The latest Form 990 (pdf) reports that:

bonus

Q: How many people in the Investment Office are eligible for bonuses? What is the formula used to award those bonuses? How much money, if any, in total bonuses was paid out last year? [See here for more background. The College will try to claim that releasing this information would violate the privacy rights of College employees. But note that the questions do not ask for the specific amounts given to named individuals. We just want to know how many and how much in total. Privacy concerns do not prevent Williams from releasing this data.]

Q (for Collette Chilton): If the College decided to stop paying performance bonuses, would you work less hard? Would anyone on your staff? [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?]

I think that this is the sleaziest arrangement at Williams today and have been complaining about it for years. How did this happen? Tough to know. I am still trying to get the inside story. My guesses/speculation:

a) Both previous president Morty Schapiro and key trustees were in favor of starting an Investment Office and other steps for turning Williams into Yale.

b) No one worried too much about Chilton’s compensation. The Trustees, of course, see their role as more supervisory. They don’t set salaries. There may have been a head-hunter or compensation consultant involved. Morty, while in theory worried about the College’s overall budget, had no real incentive to pay Chilton less.

Never forget that Morty, for all his many wonderful qualities, is not — How to put this politely? — immune to the siren song of worldly wealth. It is not out of the goodness of his heart that he serves on the board of MMC. It was not an accident that he failed to take a pay-cut, unlike presidents at some other schools, during the budget crisis. It is not irrelevant to him that the Northwestern job pays around twice as much. It was not via random motion that his annual salary increased by hundreds of thousands of dollars during his time at Williams.

So, subconsciously or not, Morty would realize that a proposal to pay the new Chief Investment Officer substantially more money than he was then making would only provide a (dramatic?) upward push to his own compensation.

c) This deal was made in the bubble years. There is no way that Chilton could find a comparable job paying this much money today. Even for 2006 (when Chilton was first hired), the compensation was excessive. Professionals I quizzed felt that someone with Chilton’s resume — modest compared to others in the field — would be somewhere in the $300,000 to $500,000 range.

Consider how the actual numbers have changed from 2009 (pdf) through 2015 (pdf):

pay2009

pay2015

Collette Chilton’s pay has almost doubled in 6 years. She now makes $1.3 million dollars! Bradford Wakeman’s total compensation has gone from $360,000 to $639,000. And it is not like Wakeman is some sort of financial genius. Recall our discussion from when he was hired:

Consider a presentation by Wakeman to a risk meeting. His content seems sensible enough, but the topic (making a better 401(k) plan for Lucent) has almost nothing to do with running a major endowment.

That’s fine, perhaps Wakeman knows about other stuff as well. But I laughed out loud when reading the last slide.

Outside experts have noted, and applauded the changes Lucent made to its 401(k) plans.

Nobel laureate William Sharpe notes the changes Lucent made to its 401(k) plan: “better aligns their DB and DC plan methodologies.”

James Palermo, Vice Chairman of Mellon Financial Corporation, observed that: “Lucent is on the cutting edge of our client base with respect totreating their 401(k) plan in the same manner as their defined benefit pension plan.”

Stanford Law School Professor and co-founder of Financial Engines, Joseph Grundfest, commented that: “Lucent has made an important step in fiduciary oversight by implementing consistent management practices from plan to plan.”

Fidelity Investments recognized that: “Lucent was early in this initiative.”

Wakeman is quoting a bunch of vendors who sold things to Lucent, for whom Lucent is a customer, people who will say nice things about Lucent even if (especially if!) they think that the people in charge of the Lucent pension fund are the dumbest of the dumb.

And, as best as I can tell, Wakemen is using these quotes without a bullet point of irony. He really thinks (?!) that William Sharpe’s complimentary testimony about Lucent is meaningful information to his audience even though his audience knows that Lucent is paying thousands of dollars to Sharpe’s company: Financial Engines. My hope is that Wakeman is not this clueless, that he showed the slide but made a joke about the reliability of the testimony cited. That, anyway, is the best case scenario.

The Record should do an article about Chilton’s (and Wakeman’s and the entire investment staff’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.

What should be done? The College ought to close the Boston Investment Office. (Read the whole comment thread for details and background.) Most/all of the senior investment professionals (like Chilton) would decline to move to Williamstown. Problem solved, without any nasty firings or salary cuts.

In the meantime, it is hard to take seriously any of the mewlings about the problems of increased income inequality in the US — which is, sadly, a real problem — from our progressives friends on the Williams faculty if they can’t even be bothered to ask questions about the out-of-control salaries/bonuses that Williams itself pays out to some particularly undeserving members of the 1%.

Facebooktwitter

2016 Investment Report I

Let’s spend five days reviewing the latest annual report (pdf) from the Investment Office. Greatest hits commentary on related topics include here, here, here and here. Today is Day 1.

Let’s begin with the good news. First, the Williams Investment Office, led by CIO Collette Chilton, has done a solid job over the last decade, as EphBlog predicted in 2007.

How competent is Chilton herself? Informed commentary welcome! I have spoken with people who have run money for her and the consensus opinion is that she is a solid professional. She has experience selecting and monitoring investment managers

More importantly, she avoided the temptation of the Harvard model and has not tried to manage any of the money directly. Returns have been solid:

endowment

As long as the College’s endowment is somewhere in the middle of the pack when it comes to trailing 10 year returns, alumni should not complain about performance. (We will have many other things to complain about over the next four days.)

Second, the future of the endowment seems assured in that Managing Director Abigail Wattley ’05 will make a wonderful successor to Chilton someday (hopefully) soon. Recall my advice from 10 years ago:

The biggest risk issue in any asset management situation is the option value to the asset manager. Will Chilton take on the appropriate amount of risk, consist with her guidance from Morty and the trustees? I hope so. But doing so might not be in her best financial interest. Imagine, instead, that she “shoots for the moon,” that she levers up the endowment and invests in the riskiest stuff available. If she is lucky, she (and the College) will win big. Then the fawning profiles from the New York Times will roll in and she will have the option of starting her own hedge fund and (trying to) generate serious personal wealth. Heads, she wins.

And, if it’s tails — if those risky bets don’t pay off, if our endowment performs poorly — Williams loses. Chilton, probably, keeps her job. She blames factors beyond her control. And, it will be hard for anyone to know what really happened.

Yale, smartly, hedges this risk by hiring someone like David Swensen, someone whose commitment to the success of the institution is beyond question. Williams could have followed suit, could have selected an Eph Swensen, a younger graduate with finance experience and a deep connection to the College, someone already living in the Williamstown area or eager to move there. Someone committed to Williams for life, and not just until a better job comes along, until the commute to Williamstown becomes too annoying. Such candidates were available. Instead, the College chose Chilton. I hope it works out.

It has worked out. I may have overplayed the risk of Chilton pulling a Meyer. And, certainly, given Meyer’s implosion at Convexity among other changes, there are many fewer opportunities for successful endowment CIOs outside of the CIO market. But there is no doubt that Chilton has done a wonderful job of selecting and then mentoring Wattley, someone who is universally praised by the Investment Committee Ephs I have talked to. Wattley is married to Kevin Kingman ’05 and is as committed to the long term success of Williams as anyone. With luck, she will be managing the endowment for decades to come.

Third, although I would still prefer that the Investment Office were located in Williamstown, Chilton (and Wattley?) have done a great job in involving students and recent graduates in the office via (at least) three mechanisms.

  1. Full-Time Investment Analyst Program: A two-year position open to graduating seniors
  2. Summer Analyst Program: Summer positions open to rising juniors and seniors
  3. Winter Study Program: A winter study class open to sophomores and juniors

I have spoken to Ephs in all three programs, all of which are well-done. (One suggested improvement is that Chilton/Wattley ought to encourage younger Ephs to network more in the Boston financial community.) If Williams (like Middlebury or Smith) were to outsource the management of its endowment to a place like Investure, these programs would not be possible.

See! EphBlog can praise the praiseworthy! Relative to its peers, the Williams Investment Office in general and Collette Chilton specifically is just as competent and professional as, for example, the Wiliams English Department or Career Center. Kudos to Chilton and to the Trustees who selected her. Stand by for four days of (constructive!) criticism starting tomorrow.

Facebooktwitter

Library Streaking & Life Safety Issues

An all-student e-mail from Steve Klass and Sarah Bolton begins:

Students streaking through the library during Reading Period has been a tradition for many years. We’d like to call your attention to a couple of significant risks involved with it and ask you to reconsider this activity.

Entire e-mail is below the break. Comments:

1) When did the streaking tradition start? Presumably it was after co-education began in the early 70’s . . .

2) I was surprised at how big a deal it has become:

The streaking in Sawyer Library during last December’s Reading Period put a huge number of people at great risk of bodily injury. Thanks to social media, the building was well beyond fire code capacity by the time the streaking began. The marble steps and connecting walkways on the upper floors were absolutely jammed and impenetrable, blocking all egress. Students leaning over the railings on those connectors were crushed up against the waist-level restraining walls, putting them in danger of breaking through or falling over the railings.

Was it really that bad? Can anyone send us a picture (not of the streakers, obviously, but of the crowding)?

3) Will this plea cause students to change the tradition? Predictions welcome!

So, we ask you to please take the well-being of others to heart and come up with another way to achieve the same fun objectives in a safe and responsible manner.

The obvious replacement would be an outside event, perhaps a circular route around the new green space at the center of campus, or perhaps around the Science Quad. Suggestions from readers?

Entire e-mail below.
Read more

Facebooktwitter

adkins Supports Transgender Bill

EphBlog favorite justin adkins writes:

Many people have called the Transgender Public Accommodations Bill (SB 735 & HB 1577) the “Transgender Bill” or as you referred to it in 2010, the “Bathroom Bill.” However, this bill is neither. This bill is about access to basic accommodations for all people living and visiting the Bay State.

As a transgender Bay Stater my trans community has to think about our access to basic accommodations, access the rest of the great people of Massachusetts take for granted. Sixty five percent of transgender people in Massachusetts report experiencing discrimination in an area of public accommodation.

Really? Color me skeptical. Perhaps, in some poorly designed and statistically dubious poll, 65% report something, but I have my doubts as to how wide spread such discrimination is in Massachusetts. What do readers think? Are there really lots of restaurants and hotels that discriminate against transgender folks? Specific examples would be useful.

Gender identity is “a person’s gender-related identity, appearance or behavior sincerely held as part of a person’s core identity.” Your lack of commitment, and action, to make sure that all people living and visiting our state are protected from discrimination leaves people with only your previous stance to fall back on.

Here it is 2016 and you just look out-of-touch and behind the times. Our sports teams support this bill, your hometown of Swampscott supports this bill, and your former employer, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, has come out in support of the legislation as well. My employer, one of the largest in Berkshire County, supports this bill too!

Williams supports this bill? Could someone point us to a formal statement by the college and/or the trustees? Again, I have my doubts. As a rule of thumb, Williams does not view itself, as an institution, as needing to take a position for or against every bill that comes up in the statehouse.

Of course, it may have in that case. If so, that would be a problem. Why should Williams, as a non-political charity, be taking issues on political controversies that don’t directly affect it? (Taking positions on, for example, changes in student aid funding is defensible.) There is no more reason — beyond the vanity and narcissism of certain administrators — for Williams to have a position on this proposed state legislation than there is for Williams to have a position on Obama bombing Syria. Individual Ephs can, and should, voice their opinions, but the College should stay neutral, should focus its efforts on its mission.

Did you know that I could be denied a hotel room, or a seat in a restaurant, just because I am transgender? Having to think about where I can travel within our state is exhausting.

Drama, much? When was the last time that adkins was denied such an accommodation? How common are such denials?

When my friends invite me to concerts, dinner, or a movie they rarely think that I might be denied access to the venue.

They also rarely think about you being struck by lightning, which is probably about as likely.

We need to be clear, as a state, that we don’t allow discrimination based on gender identity.

Hmm. By “clear” do you mean empowering men with guns to enforce this loss via threats of violence and imprisonment? adkins has written, evocatively, about the problems of mass incarceration in the US. But how can someone be both concerned about mass incarceration and, at the same time, want to create more laws that can (and will!) be used to, potentially, imprison more citizens? If you are really concerned about the prison industrial complex — as both adkins and I are — then you want fewer laws, not more.

Facebooktwitter

Investment Report

The 2015 Annual Report from the Investment Office (pdf) is available. Comments:

1) Should I spend a week dissecting this? Let me know in the comments.

2) If you are the Record reporter assigned to cover this, please be professional by contacting at least one critic of the Investment Office. The last few Record overviews on this topic have been less hard-hitting than the typical high school newspaper.

3) Background readings: one, two and three.

4) I am probably the Investment Office’s least popular Eph, going back to this (brilliant?) blog post 8 years ago.

5) Collette Chilton (not satisfied with her current $1.3+ million pay check) is looking for a raise! How else to explain this new (I think) line from the report:

In dollar terms, our added value for fiscal year 2015 was over $100 million.

Really? I have my doubts. And it would be pathetic for the Record to fail to determine exactly where this claim comes from.

Facebooktwitter

Changes in International Admissions?

Have there been changes in the quota with regard to international admissions? In January, I asked Jim Kolesar:

Nine (!) years ago, you kindly answered my questions about international admissions at Williams and, specifically, about the 6% goal/target that the College then employed.

Has that policy changed?

I ask because there was a big jump in international enrollment for the class of 2018, to 49 from usual numbers in the 30s. Of course, this could just be random fluctuation, but at almost 9% of the class, it is a big move up in percentage terms.

Links added. Jim kindly responded (and gave me permission to post):

The 49 figure is best understood as a result of the randomness of yield.

Fair enough. Knowing how many accepted students will choose Williams is a non-trivial problem, especially in situations, like international admissions, which feature significant change. It is harder to forecast yield from Shanghai than it is from Andover.

But then I read this news:

Nesbitt expects the final [2019] class to be composed of 38 percent of American students of color. He expects the class to be 12 percent black, 15 percent Asian American, 11 percent Latino and one percent Native American. Additionally, nine percent of the class is expected to be international students. First-generation students, meaning neither parent graduated from a four-year college, will amount to 16 percent of the class.

Class size is usually 550. Nine percent of 550 is almost 50. Yield randomness might explain 50 international students for the class of 2018. It can’t explain the 50 in both the class of 2018 and 2019. Don’t believe that something is going on? Consider the recent time series:

2013: 31
2014: 37
2015: 38
2016: 31
2017: 37
2018: 49
2019: 50 (estimate)

Number prior to the class of 2015 were (always?) in the 30s.

Has there been a policy change? If not, what explains the increase?

Facebooktwitter

Sexual Assault Report VII

The most recent annual report on sexual assault is out. Let’s spend 10 days talking about it! Today is day 7.

Over the 2013-2014 school year, the college received 14 reports of sexual assault, as well as one of dating violence and stalking. Of these 15 cases, five were brought forward for adjudication within the college’s disciplinary process. Four students were found responsible for violations of the college’s sexual misconduct policy, and one was found responsible for violations involving dating violence or stalking. All five of these students were separated from campus. Two students were expelled, and three were suspended. The average length of suspension was two years. One student brought a case forward through the police and the district attorney’s offices. Ten students who reported assaults during 2013-14 have chosen not to participate in disciplinary or legal processes as of this time. Of those, five worked with the Dean’s Office to arrange accommodations to increase their well-being on campus, including academic arrangements, housing changes, no-contact orders, and advisory conversations.

Comments:

1) Kudos to the College for providing this level of transparency. The more that the Williams community understands about sexual assault cases, the better.

2) We need more transparency, more details about each of these cases, about the exact complaint, the response and the judgment rendered. This is not hard to do! Consider one example from the latest report (pdf) from the Honor Committee:

A junior was accused of several dishonest actions relative to a paper. First, it appeared the majority of the paper was taken verbatim from a website without citation. Second, the student attempted several times to deceive the professor when he realized he had accidentally shared information that made it very likely that his plagiarism would be discovered. The student readily admitted that this was what he had done. The sanction was failure in the course with disciplinary probation of one semester.

Federal law (and common sense) require that the College not identify specific students. Agreed! But Williams could still tell us, for starters, the class years and genders of the students involved in sexual assault cases. (Isn’t the problem very different if all the accused are seniors than if they are all first years?) And more details on the cases would allow us all to judge whether or not the College is doing a good job. It would also provide guidance to students about precisely what sort of behavior is likely to get them in trouble.

3) Do readers find 15 cases shockingly low or shockingly high? If the 1-in-5 statistic were correct, we would expect over 50 cases a year.

3) Who remembers this wonderful piece of misdirection?

“No group, including varsity athletes, is over-represented among those accused of sexual assault,” Kolesar responded. He said the school’s athletic director, coaches and team captains “are very much partners in the broad campus work on the prevention of sexual assault.”

First, this is gibberish because, obviously, men are much more likely to be accused of (and guilty of!) sexual assault than women are. Second, the Record ought to follow up with Kolesar/Bolton to see if that claim is true for these 15 new cases. I would bet a great deal of money that male helmet sport athletes (football, hockey, lacrosse and (maybe) baseball) are overrepresented in this group. Third, it is quite possible that men from less elite backgrounds are over-represented, although this is more speculative. Certainly, the acceptable standards for interactions with young women at Andover and radically different than they are at big city high school.

Facebooktwitter

Sexual Assault Report III

The most recent annual report on sexual assault is out. Let’s spend 10 days talking about it! Today is day 3.

She [Meg Bossong ’05] also led the development of the CASA (Community Attitudes about Sexual Assault) survey, which got broad response. The CASA assessed the prevalence of sexual assault, stalking, and relationship violence at Williams as well as the helpfulness and availability of support resources and the community’s understanding of our policies. Nearly 1,400 students completed the extensive survey, and about 200 more answered some of its questions.

Really? I am surprised. A few days after the survey came I asked a dozen students what they thought about it. Not a single one had even bothered to open it! Any student who did open it would have been overwhelmed with the number of questions that it asked. It is shocking (to me) that 1400 students would have spent the 30 (?) minutes that completing this survey would actually require. If I were the Record, I would try to do some reporting on this claim, rather than continuing to serve as stenographer for the Administration. Comments:

1) Below the break is the e-mail announcing the survey.

2) Am I the only one surprised by the 1,400 number? Here (pdf) is the survey. It is 17 pages long! Here is a snippet:

survey

Since you are expected to consider a potentially different answer for each square in this grid, you need to make 60 different judgments for just this one question.

3) This wording smells of puffery. Why tell us “nearly 1,400″ instead of providing the actual number? I also have doubts about the distinction between “completed” and “answered some of its questions.” If a student answered every question except that crazy matrix, does that count as “completed” or not? I suspect that there was a lot of “rounding up,” that a student only needed to answer 80% (or 60% or . . .) of questions to count as “completed.”

4) In the spirit of transparency, the Administration ought to make the (aggregate) responses to this survey public. Once it does so, we can all take a look at the data ourselves.

5) None of this should be taken as criticism of Meg Bossong ’05, of whom I am a huge fan. There is no one better than she for the job of Director of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response at Williams.

Read more

Facebooktwitter

Noble in NYT

From the Bob Herbert in the New York Times five years ago:

That period right after college graduation is when young people tend to think they can set the world on fire. Careers are starting, and relationships in the broader world are forming. It’s exciting, and optimism is off the charts.

So the gloomy outlook that this economy is offering so many of America’s brightest young people is not just disconcerting, it’s a cultural shift, a harbinger. “Attention,” as the wife of a fictional salesman once said, “must be paid.”

Correct. If you can’t find a job doing X, listen to the market. The world is providing you with a (free!) reality check. Not enough people value X (or, at least, your attempts at X) to make it worth doing. Look elsewhere.

As jobs become increasingly scarce, more and more college graduates are working for free, at internships, which is great for employers but something of a handicap for a young man or woman who has to pay for food or a place to live.

“The whole idea of apprenticeships is coming back into vogue, as it was 100 years ago,” said John Noble, director of the Office of Career Counseling at Williams College. “Certain industries, such as the media, TV, radio and so on, have always exploited recent graduates, giving them a chance to get into a very competitive field in exchange for making them work for no — or low — pay. But now this is spreading to many other industries.”

Every time that Noble, or any College official is quoted in the New York Times, Williams wins.

These recent graduates have done everything society told them to do. They’ve worked hard, kept their noses clean and gotten a good education (in many cases from the nation’s best schools). They are ready and anxious to work. If we’re having trouble finding employment for even these kids, then we’re doing something profoundly wrong.

Well, the recession didn’t help. But, reading between the lines, the main problem, at least for elite students is a misunderstanding about the market realities for people, without any technical skills, interested in journalism and related fields. The jobs weren’t there in 2009, they are still not here in 2014, and they aren’t coming back.

Listen to the market.

Facebooktwitter

Williams Wants You

For future historians, I have archived below the job posting for Investment Officer, Marketable Securities.

Isn’t it a great thing that almost all the non-rich students in the class of 2015 will need to take out loans so that Williams can pay some fancy finance guy hundreds of thousands of dollars a year? Speaking for fancy finance guys around the world, I think that it is marvelous!

This job did not exist at Williams 6 years ago. And yet, miraculously, the endowment performed wonderfully. Why does it need to exist now?

Related rants here and here. Both highly recommended.

Read more

Facebooktwitter

Eph Loser?

No, I’m not about to denigrate another Eph.  Check out this great audition video by Williams custodial employee Tee Martin, who aspires (with a little help from his undergrad friends) to be on The Biggest Loser.  Good luck to Tee (and thanks to the student who tipped me off to this video)! [Part two of the audition can be found here].

Facebooktwitter

Legacy Admissions Update

Director of Institution Research Chris Winters ’95 kindly answered my question about legacy admissions in the class of 2014.

Over the past decade or so, the percent of direct plus (unduplicated) skipped legacies in the matriculating class has been in the range of 11-17%. Direct legacies make up the vast majority of those.

Alas, I had hoped that Chris would give us more details about the class of 2014. Recall that last year the data was more detailed:

Director of Institutional Research Chris Winters ’95 reports on the numbers for the class of 2013. There are 69 students (13%) with at least one alumni parent and another 10 (2%) or so with no parent but at least one grandparent. (Some people restrict “legacy” to mean the children of alums, others include grandchildren.)

The most useful thing to know about legacy admissions would be their average academic rating as compared to the class as a whole. Three years ago:

Morty noted that a decade or so ago [or perhaps when he arrived?], the average legacy was a 3.3 on the 1-9 scale of academic ranks while the average non-legacy was 2.3. Morty did not seem to be a huge fan of this gap, or of giving legacies such a preference. He then noted that the latest statistics show that legacy and non-legacy are now equivalent (both at 2.3). Morty confirmed, consistent with all the analysis I have done, that being a legacy is not a meaningful advantage in getting into Williams.

But, since that time, the legacy pool has only gotten stronger and more competitive. Could the average AR of legacies now be higher than that of non-legacies? Perhaps. But a proper comparison would adjust for key confounders like race, athleticism and nationality.

A great topic for a senior thesis!

Facebooktwitter

Faculty Governance Seminar: End of the Boston Investment Office?

This is the fifth installment in our week-long seminar on President Adam Falk’s letter about the “alignment of senior administrative responsibilities.”

Most interesting omission from President Falk’s letter? Any use of the word “endowment.” If I were Collette Chilton or a member of her staff, I would be concerned. Consider the duties of Suzanne Welsh, Swarthmore’s Vice President for Finance and Treasurer.

The Finance and Investment Offices oversee the financial responsibilities of the College which include the budget, financial planning, endowment and debt management, and stewardship of financial resources.

How about Pomona?

Vice President and Treasurer Karen Sisson oversees the College’s budget and endowment, as well as Office of Facilities and Campus Services, which covers construction planning, maintenance, sustainability, summer conferences, dining, grounds and housekeeping; Human Resources; the Business Office; and Real Property.

I can’t find an elite college (pointers welcome) which has a (highly paid) vice president of finance/treasurer who is not also in charge of the endowment. Can you? Anyone qualified to do all the things that Falk wants the new Vice President of Finance to do would be more than competent to handle the endowment. This would, more or less, simply take Williams back to the structure we had prior to 2006. (Related rants about the Boston Investment Office are here, here and here. Highly recommended for new readers!)

Summary: The Boston Investment Office is a $2-$3 million per year waste of money. We don’t need it. Instead of pretending (unsuccessfully!) to be Yale, Williams should follow the practice of similar elite colleges like Pomona and Swarthmore. Have the Trustees pick the major investments. Hire a VP of Finance who, among her other duties, would keep an eye on the endowment.

Is President Falk heading in this direction? Unfounded rumors and gossip welcome in the comments!

Facebooktwitter

Sustainability Blog

The Sustainability Blog at Williams continues to provide interesting content. Kudos to Stephanie Boyd, Director of the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives. Although the blog does not make post authorship clear (as it should), I believe that Stephanie deserves credit for most of the content.

Love the slogan: “Green is the new Purple”

UPDATE: Links fixed. Thanks to Kirsten for the correction.

Facebooktwitter

Goodbyes

For the 47 staff participating in the Early Retirement Program, today is their last day. Many thanks from EphBlog for their years of service to Williams. Do you recognize any of these folks? If so, share your memories in the comments below. I would like to highlight two: Jo Procter in Public Affairs and Jean Thorndike in Campus Safety and Security. Jo has kindly answered my questions for over 7 years, treading a fine line along the College’s sometimes awkward relationship with EphBlog. She will be missed. Jean has been director of Campus Security for, I think, over 20 years. She is one of the very few senior Williams officials that I have never heard criticized by any faculty or staff. In my few dealings with her, she has been the very picture of competence and professionalism. I am sad to see her go but confident that there are several officers in the department (like Dave Boyer) who will be able to take over.

Do you have nice memories of Jo, Jean or anyone else on the list? Tell us.

Facebooktwitter

Endowment Worth $1.6 Billion?

Is this a typo or some inside scoop?

Investors in private equity funds are still searching for the ‘holy grail’ where their interests are perfectly aligned with the funds investing their capital, an investor said on Thursday.

Investors are seeing some better terms in their fund agreements since the financial crisis hurt funds’ returns and gave them more clout to negotiate terms.

Still, some question whether their interests are really aligned with the firms which invest their capital, and whether any gains made on terms will just be lost when the economy and markets improve.

Investors, known as “limited partners” (LPs) and private equity executives, known as “general partners” (GPs), have acknowledged for some time a shift since the boom years when GPs had more leverage to dictate terms as investors scrambled to get into their funds.

“I think GP-LP alignment is the holy grail that we all talk about but may never see,” said Collette Chilton, chief investment officer at Williams College speaking at private equity conference Super Return U.S. on Thursday. Chilton oversees the Massachusetts-based college’s $1.6 billion endowment.

Comments:

1) The last public data on the endowment out its value at $1.36 on June 30, 2009. Could we really be back to $1.6 billion now, even after spending around $70 million during the fiscal year? Could we really be up approximately 23% in a year when the S&P 500 is up 18%? Sure! So, I bet that this is not a typo, that Chilton mentioned the correct value in her talk. (Senior administrators and trustees get a monthly (I think) update on the endowment.)

2) Chilton’s comments on LP/GP conflicts are perfectly sensible. Perhaps some readers could provide more background.

3) Why does Chilton speak at a conference like this? There are lots of reasons. But one of them is that it raises her personal profile in the investment world so that, should she decide to leave Williams and take the rest of the investment office with her, she will have an easier time raising money. Previous rant here. (Highly recommended for new readers and the #1 hit for Collette Chilton on Google.)

Facebooktwitter

New Vice President for Alumni Relations & Development

This message was sent to Students, Faculty, and Staff on April 22, 2010 by Adam F. Falk, President’s Office:

After a national search and with the enthusiastic endorsement of the Search Committee I have invited John Malcolm ’86 to join our campus community as Vice President for Alumni Relations and Development.

All who met John through the search process were impressed by his extensive experience in constituency (including alumni) relations, volunteer support, fundraising, and management. As President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles, he oversees programs that match volunteer mentors with more than 1,500 youth, almost all of whom live at or below the poverty level. At the national organization he was involved with strategic planning and in expanding significantly the private revenue available to regional programs. While at Swarthmore he organized and oversaw the most successful comprehensive campaign in the college’s history. Before joining the Development Office at Bucknell, he had served as a canvasser on the West Coast for Citizen Labor Energy Coalition/Citizen Action. After graduating from Williams he worked as a visual artist, mostly in fine oil paintings and drawings.

John’s passion for education, especially of people from underserved communities, and building support for education is infectious, and he is wonderfully thoughtful and articulate about the liberal arts and about how organizations communicate their mission and purposes. His experience in reorganizing operations will be particularly helpful as we rethink our administrative structures here at Williams.

He is as eager to be here as we are to have him. As he wrote to his new Mears House colleagues:

“My undergraduate experience at Williams shaped my adult life in fundamental ways. Coursework bolstered my belief in the importance of distributing opportunity equitably to disenfranchised populations. Involvement with issue-focused student organizations launched my interest in outreach to diverse constituencies and in designing effective organizations. Friends made at Williams comprise a surprisingly hefty percentage of the folks I’m connected with on Facebook. My expectation in returning to the College is simply that we will collectively, by creatively and effectively engaging our increasingly global and diverse alumni body, ensure similarly relevant, transformative educations for current and future Williams students.”

John will succeed Mike Reed, who has served as Interim VP, since the retirement of Steve Birrell last summer. Our thanks go to Mike as well as to the Search Committee:

Chair Mike Reed ’75, V.P. for Strategic Planning and Institutional
Diversity
Collette Chilton, Chief Investment Officer
Will Dudley ’89, Professor of Philosophy
Bill Lenhart, Provost and Treasurer
Keli Kaegi, Assistant to the President and Secretary of the College
Martha Tetrault, Director of Human Resources
Laurie Thomsen ’79, Trustee
Sarah Underhill ’80, President of the Society of Alumni

Please join me in welcoming John as he takes up his new position July 6.

Best wishes,
Adam Falk
President

Facebooktwitter

Legacy Admissions Update

Here are some updates on legacy admissions. (Read our archives for background.)

1) Director of Institutional Research Chris Winters ’95 reports on the numbers for the class of 2013. There are 69 students (13%) with at least one alumni parent and another 10 (2%) or so with no parent but at least one grandparent. (Some people restrict “legacy” to mean the children of alums, others include grandchildren.)

2) Here are my notes on Morty’s remarks about legacies from reunion last June.

Many schools (not naming names but mentioned Amherst at 9% in this context) seem to want to keep legacies to single digits. That seems stupid to Morty. We are at 13%-15% legacies defined as mom or dad (or both) at Williams. Add another 3% for grand children. Legacies are good kids, more likely to be JA. Williams gives 1/2 the advantage to legacies that it did 15 years ago.

It is not clear to me what it means for Williams to give 1/2 the advantage that it did 15 years ago. Half of what? My guess would be that this refers to the difference in Academic Rating between legacies and non-legacies. But recall what he said in 2008:

Morty noted that a decade or so ago [or perhaps when he arrived?], the average legacy was a 3.3 on the 1-9 scale of academic ranks while the average non-legacy was 2.3. Morty did not seem to be a huge fan of this gap, or of giving legacies such a preference. He then noted that the latest statistics show that legacy and non-legacy are now equivalent (both at 2.3). Morty confirmed, consistent with all the analysis I have done, that being a legacy is not a meaningful advantage in getting into Williams.

3) How can both these claims be true, that legacies get an advantage (if only half as much as they used to) and that the average legacy has the same Academic Rating as the average non-legacy? Easy! The key is whether you are comparing legacies to applicants that are like them (rich, mostly non-URM and non-tip, from good schools, and with college educated parents) or to all applicants. The second group includes many more URMs and athletic tips, both with substantial admissions advantages, than the former. So, legacies are, on average, the same as all students but not (quite) as qualified as the more elite pool which has many fewer URMs/tips.

4) There is still an amazing senior thesis to be written about legacy admissions at Williams. You should write it.

Summary: Legacy status counts for much less at Williams then it did 10 or 30 years ago. The doubling of the number of students in the 70s meant that the (fewer) children of 50s graduates had (proportionately) more open spots. The dramatic increase in student selectivity in the 80s meant that Eph children were becoming smarter and coming from families with more of a focus on elite education. All those trends are continuing. Within a few years, being a legacy will count for, essentially, nothing when you apply to Williams. Till then, the main advantages are: 1) The Admissions Office will give you a secret wink if you really have no chance, thus saving them (and you) the awkwardness of a formal rejection and 2) AR 1 legacies are always (?) admitted.

Facebooktwitter

Next Page →

Currently browsing posts filed under "Staff"

Follow this category via RSS