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Ephs Who Have Gone Before

foxWho is this Eph?

He is Myles Crosby Fox ’40.

Myles will not be in Williamstown to celebrate reunion with the Old Guard in two weeks, for he has passed away. He leaves behind no wife, no children nor grandchildren. His last glimpse of Williams was on graduation day 77 years ago. Who among the sons and daughters of Ephraim even remembers his name?

I saw the mountains of Williams
As I was passing by,
The purple mountains of Williams
Against the pearl-gray sky.
My heart was with the Williams men
Who went abroad to die.

Fox was, in many ways, an Eph of both his time and ours. He was a Junior Advisor and captain of the soccer team. He served as treasurer in the Student Activities Council, forerunner to today’s College Council. He was a Gargoyle and secretary of his class.

gargoyle

Fox lived in Wood House. Are you the student who just moved out of the room that Fox vacated all those years ago? Are you an Eph who trod the same walkways around campus as Fox? We all walk in his footsteps.

The years go fast in Williams,
The golden years and gay,
The hoary Colleges look down
On careless boys at play.
But when the bugles sounded war
They put their games away.

Fox wrote letters to his class secretary, letters just like those that you or I might write.

The last issue of the Review has put me up to date on my civilized affairs. I am enclosing the only other information I have received in the form of a letter from Mr. Dodd. Among my last batch of mail was notice of the class insurance premium, and if you think it will prove an incentive to any of my classmates you may add under the next batch of Class Notes my hearty endorsement of the insurance fund, the fact that even with a military salary I am still square with the Mutual Company, and my hope that classmates of ’40 will keep the ball rolling so that in the future, purple and gold jerseys will be rolling a pigskin across whitewash lines.

Seven decades later, the pigskin is still rolling.

Fox was as familiar as your freshman roommate and as distant as the photos of Williams athletes from years gone by that line the walls of Chandler Gym. He was every Eph.

They left the peaceful valley,
The soccer-field, the quad,
The shaven lawns of Williams,
To seek a bloody sod—
They gave their merry youth away
For country and for God.

Fox was killed in August 1942, fighting the Japanese in the South Pacific. He was a First Lieutenant in the Marine Corps and served in a Marine Raider battalion.

Fox’s citation for the Navy Cross reads:

For extraordinary heroism while attached to a Marine Raider Battalion during the seizure of Tulagi, Solomon Islands, on the night of 7-8 August 1942. When a hostile counter-attack threatened to penetrate the battalion line between two companies, 1st Lt. Fox, although mortally wounded, personally directed the deployment of personnel to cover the gap. As a result of great personal valor and skilled tactics, the enemy suffered heavy losses and their attack repulsed. 1st Lt. Fox, by his devotion to duty, upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the defense of his country.

How to describe a night battle against attacking Japanese among the islands of the South Pacific in August 1942?

Darkness, madness and death.

On Memorial Day, America honors soldiers like Fox who have died in the service of their country. For many years, no Eph had made the ultimate sacrifice. That string of good fortune ended with the death in combat of First Lieutenant Nate Krissoff ’03, USMC on December 9, 2006 in Iraq. From Ephraim Williams through Myles Fox to Nate Krissoff, the roll call of Williams dead echoes through the pages of our history.

With luck, other military Ephs like Dick Pregent ’76, Bill Couch ’79, Peter May ’79, Jeff Castiglione ’07, Bunge Cooke ’98, Paul Danielson ’88, Kathy Sharpe Jones ’79, Lee Kindlon ’98, Dan Ornelas ’98, Zack Pace ’98, JR Rahill ’88, Jerry Rizzo ’87, Dan Rooney ’95 and Brad Shirley ’07 will survive this war. It would be more than enough to celebrate their service on Veterans’ Day.

Those interested in descriptions of Marine combat in the South Pacific during World War II might start with Battle Cry by Leon Uris or Goodby, Darkness by William Manchester. The Warriors by J. Glenn Gray provides a fascinating introduction to men and warfare. Don’t miss the HBO miniseries The Pacific, from which the battle scene above is taken. Fox died two weeks before the Marines on Guadalcanal faced the Japanese at the Battle of the Tenaru.

A Navy destroyer was named after Fox. He is the only Eph ever to be so honored. The men who manned that destroyer collected a surprising amount of information about him. It all seems both as long ago as Ephraim Williams’s service to the King and as recent as the letters from Felipe Perez ’99 and Joel Iams ’01.

God rest you, happy gentlemen,
Who laid your good lives down,
Who took the khaki and the gun
Instead of cap and gown.
God bring you to a fairer place
Than even Williamstown.

Note: As long as there is an EphBlog, there will be a Memorial Day entry, a tribute to those who have gone before. Apologies to Winifred M. Letts for bowdlerizing her poem, “The Spires of Oxford.”

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Stiff Beard in Lieu

Professor Roberts tweeted with regard to a recent protest about removing a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee:

torches

Fortunately (?), there is a deeper Williams connection.
A Nationalist (who happens to be White) tweeted Eph quotations about the event: William Lowndes Yancey, non-graduate of the class of 1833.

yancey

Should we spend a week on the biography of Yancey, from which this is taken?

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Remember the Tablecloth Colors

A Record op-ed:

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 in establishing OCL 14 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 tells a depressing tale. Anyone who cares about student life at Williams must 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 doesn’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. Morty decided in 2000 that there were certain things about Williams that he was going to change. By and large, he has 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 these last 4 years has 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 sweat 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, 28 years younger than I, will have a fine time as well. Because of Gulley’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 do to run Williams, the better that Williams will be.


This is a revised version of a post from 2006.

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Alumni Funding Dreams

Dylan Dethier’s ’14 amazing article about his attempt to make the PGA included this paragraph:

Before I enrolled in college I spent a year exploring the United States, hoping to learn more about the country through the game. I lived out of my car, played a course in every state and wrote a book about the experience called 18 in America. It did well enough that when I turned pro I had $30k in the bank. Cody, my co-captain at Williams, held a tournament (with dinner and a raffle!) in his hometown to pay for the trip south. We also reached out to former members of the golf team, and a small group of alumni was kind enough to stake us with entry fees for our first six months. As lucky as Cody and I were, we were shorter on resources than most of our peers.

Tell us more! We love hearing stories about alumni supporting recent graduates as they chase their dreams.

And read Dylan’s entire article. It is poignant and beautifully written.

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Needham ’04 Leads Coup at Heritage Foundation

From The Atlantic:

The drama over the removal of the president of the Heritage Foundation, Jim DeMint, is partly classic Washington power politics. But it also reflects tensions over the organization’s relationship with the Trump administration and with Trumpist ideology.

DeMint, the former South Carolina senator who has led the conservative institution since 2013, was ousted on Tuesday after a meeting of Heritage’s board, which voted unanimously to remove him. News of DeMint’s likely imminent departure was first reported by Politico last week.

Needham_Mike_TDS_loThe driving force behind DeMint’s ouster, according to multiple sources close to the organization, was Mike Needham, the CEO of Heritage Action for America, the organization’s political arm. Needham, these sources say, made a power play to push DeMint out, and is appealing to both pro- and anti-Trump elements to accomplish it.

“Needham has been laying the groundwork for this for two years,” said a source close to Heritage. “He’s been badmouthing DeMint to board members for a long time. He’s got his sights set on taking over the whole thing eventually.” According to a senior Republican congressional aide, Needham has been “trashing” DeMint to board members and saying that people in the White House and Congress prefer to deal with him rather than DeMint.

Multiple people close to the situation called DeMint’s ouster a “coup,” and said the driving force behind it was not philosophical but old-fashioned ambition and power politics. “This is an old-as-time story,” said one source.

Several people familiar with Needham’s jockeying said he has successfully exploited the growing philosophical tensions on the American right—and, specifically, on the board of Heritage—to get his way.

To the Trump-averse elements on the board, Needham has pointed to DeMint’s growing coziness with the new administration as evidence that the think tank, a beacon of movement conservatism, needs a new steward. At the same time, Needham has been telling pro-Trump board members like Rebekah Mercer that Heritage needs a leader who will follow the president’s lead—even going so far as to float White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, a key Mercer ally, as a potential future president, according to one source.

As always, we wish Ephs success in their chosen fields. Needham, obviously, seeks to increase his stature/power in Washington politics. Do our readers have any advice? My guess is that Needham is positioning himself as a future White House chief of staff. Other options?

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Grounded: An Essay on the Passing of a Roommate

Frank and I had been in touch before I moved overseas last year. Despite the progression of his ALS, he seemed to have come to terms with his imminent passing.

“My breathing (biggest issue), walking, talking, and muscle mass have all declined,” he wrote me in February 2016. “ALS has no treatment or cure so all you can do is manage your symptoms. I just live day to day and try to remain positive.”

But I couldn’t square a diminishing “Franco” with the hardy athlete I had known at Williams. I envisioned Frank – once our red-headed, speedy cornerback – in a wheelchair, on oxygen and his muscles withered away.

Frank was my roommate and best friend in college. He was a small-town boy from nearby Hoosick Falls, NY, the first person in his family to attend college. I was the diplomat’s son, a boarding school product, who had grown up in Asia. Despite the different backgrounds, we clicked. The glue was Williams football in the fall of 1982. We were freshmen defensive backs, low men on the totem pole, who held bags, played dummy defense and sat the bench during games. Having had success in football in high school, we were humbled, and we ended up largely laughing at ourselves and our predicament.

The memories of practices on Cole Field – it’s the practices I remember, not the games — are indelible. Crisp fall days turning cold and dark as September gave way to November. Two-a-days, tackling drills, running sprints – we were building fortitude and friendship, both drenched in sweat. Frank is in the middle of the memories, his helmet wearing high on his head, his arms pumping when he ran, and his cackling laugh. Dick Farley, who would later be inducted into the Football Hall of Fame, was then the defensive backs coach. He was ornery, tough and spare with compliments. If you got a “not bad” from him, you knew you had done well. We practiced hard, overcame injuries and played all four years. A copy of the football program from 1984 has a full-page photo of Frank on the front, leaping high, arms outstretched, in an attempt to block a punt. He is completely airborne.

1984_Football_Program002

Off the field, Frank was organized and responsible, a product, I think, of having become the man of the house at an early age when his father left the family. Frank helped raise his three siblings. His room in our suite was always neat and his homework done. He had a way of retreating home to Hoosick Falls on the weekends, finishing his papers there and coming back refreshed while the rest of us – at least me – felt woefully behind the academic curve. Largely a tee-totaler, Frank was amused by our late-night antics. I recollect his very presence lent some balance to a lifestyle that could be raucous.

Life opened up for Frank after college. He taught and coached in Florida before getting the international bug and teaching in Brussels at an international school. The world became the small-town boy’s oyster. He would take school football and basketball teams around Europe and the Middle East for competitions, and he traveled to northern Italy where his father’s family came from. Those were, in retrospect, the happiest times of his life, next to the birth of his three children.

The older we get, the more we wonder how we will pass on. Frank died on February 16, 2017 at the age of 52, felled by a crippling disease for which there is no cure and no clear cause. Was it abetted by stress brought on by life’s ups and downs? Or toxicity in the soil from a plastics factory in Hoosick Falls? Or, as a medical doctor classmate wonders, blows to the head (and likely concussions) Frank suffered in football?

Thousands of miles away in Central Asia, I can only wonder. I reread Frank’s sentiments in that last email. They included his best friends at Williams.

“If I go tomorrow I have no wants and am content with the life I have had and the relationships I have made,” Frank wrote. “Please give those same regards to Clouder, Dunc, Howie, and Kenard if you talk with them. I think of them often also.”

Franco’s passing makes more tenuous the grasp of the past; there’s a slipping away. The airborne become grounded.

— written by Jeff Lilley ’86 about Frank Morandi ’86. Thanks to Williams College Archives and Special Collections for the image.

Condolences to all.

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Elia Kazan’s (’30) Williams

“Elia Kazan, the immigrant child of a Greek rug merchant who became one of the most honored and influential directors in Broadway and Hollywood history […]”

So opens the Times’ 2003 obituary of one of Williams’ most distinguished alumni, whose work profoundly influenced generations of Hollywood stars and auteurs.

Kazan attended Williams in the late 20’s, graduating in the class of 1930; Kazan’s experience there, described vividly in his autobiography, is fascinating as a snapshot of a Williams, and an America, of a bygone age.

I have here excerpted and re-assembled, from his autobiography, Williams in Kazan’s words:

Williams College. I’d never heard of the place […] [but] it was far from home and my father’s authority.

I applied for admission […] Williams would be my liberated life, I’d be on the right track at last.

Then the news came. I’d been accepted at Williams, class of 1930.

Williamstown was pleasant enough that summer in 1980, but in the fall of 1926, when I saw it for the first time, it was enchanting. There was a soft, cool breeze that day, and the sky was a deep saturation of blue near purple over low, ever moving, cotton-white clouds. Looking between the buildings – some classic Georgian, others great lumps of gray or reddish stone – the eye found, at the end of each vista, the softly scalloped Berkshire Hills, called “the mountains.” They embraced a broad valley, making it home. The buildings on campus were well spaced, between them lay generous lawns, perfectly green after an untrampled summer’s growth. Upperclassmen were everywhere, reawakening old acquaintance; trim and healthy, they seemed happy to be back. All the young men were dressed in casually pressed trousers, flannel or corduroy, and soft woolen sweaters – the frost comes early in northwestern Massachusetts. Some boys, especially fit and broad shouldered, wore heavy-knit black sweaters with large purple W’s across their chests. These were the lettermen, the athletes of the teams. Everywhere there was an atmosphere of privilege and affluence; in a bay apart from the storm, the elite was gathering.

It was not all Billsville bliss, however. Kazan was profoundly influenced by his adverse experience with — rather, outside of —  the fraternity scene. He describes the darker side of Williams of the late ‘20s, in the rigidly stratified social life that dominated it and virtually all other private and wealthy institutions of the time:

Now I must confess my foolishness. I had actually expected to be invited to join a fraternity.

That autumn there was no message for me from the fraternity brothers except the message of silence. How crushing that silence was in ’26. It hurt for four dark, cold years.

Jews and blacks weren’t taken into fraternities at Williams in 1926. From that week in 1926 on, I knew what I was. An outsider. In time I began to see I wasn’t the only one. There were three blacks in the class of ’30. At graduation, one was our valedictorian, another our salutatorian; the third was number four in the class.

I decided to relieve father of my dependency. I got a job waiting tables at the Zeta Psi fraternity. I learned how to clear tables six plates at a time. I walked through snow in sneakers to serve the Zetes their breakfast. Sometimes the wind-driven sleet stung like frozen tears.

My salvation was the college library. I lived in the stacks, like a small animal finding refuge in a mass of brambles. I’d take out books by the bagful, read late at night and between classes in the day. Books were the solution to my life […] by the light of their stories, I understood the drama of my own life.

I went to North Adams, five miles by trolley, and entered the movie theater there […] I felt comfortable in the mill town – no rich boys there, just mutts like me.

It took me many years to quiet this rage against my classmates […] But I notice still that every time I receive a request for money from the Williams Alumni Fund, I have a reflex to chuck it in the wastebasket, and usually do.

 

Kazan further reflects on Williams’ lasting effects:

Four years at Williams made a certain kind of man of me, not an agreeable man but a self-reliant, tough-skinned, resolute, and determined man.

In my senior year at Williams, I’d had one teacher who did influence me. Mr. Dutton taught English lit, and I wrote a paper for him on “The Waste Land.” […] In class, it was his passion for what he was teaching that impressed me. In some way I don’t quite understand, Dutton made me believe that perhaps, somewhere in the broad range of a life in the arts, there might be a niche for me and that I might well mark time until that niche appeared.

 

And what a niche it was.

 

Epilogue

From a 2012 Jack Sawyer interview in the Williams Alumni Review:

After [fraternities] were abolished, we found that alumni who had been estranged from the college began to reconnect. This was particularly true of Jewish alumni. Someone who was not Jewish but who certainly illustrated this was Elia Kazan ’30, the great film director, who began to pay attention to Williams. And it made a financial difference too. People who hadn’t given to the college began to give again.

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How I Became a News Anchor

From USA Today:

CNN’s Erin Burnett has had quite the career. The prime-time newscaster graduated from Williams College with a political economy degree, spending the first part of her career as a financial analyst for Goldman Sachs before taking the leap to pursue a career in media.

From the Middle East to Africa to China and the United States, Burnett’s reporting has taken her all over the world as the host of CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront. USA TODAY College caught up with Burnett to talk about taking risks, driving through Iraq in the dark of night and thriving on deadline.

Read the whole thing. Alas, there are no fun stories from Burnett’s time at Williams.

What does your career path look like, from Goldman Sachs to CNN?

My brother-in-law and sister sent me an article that was on the front of the business section of the New York Times. I was an an analyst at Goldman and I’d been doing an all-nighter, which is kind of the standard operating procedure in that job. The article was talking about Willow Bay and her new job with Moneyline, the show she was working on at CNN.

When I was young Willow was the face of Estee Lauder and a very famous model, so I had followed her and knew who she was. I sent her a letter — which I’ve described as my ‘stalker letter’ — and said that I’ve read your ad and that I’m very interested in doing this.

Lesson: Network! Network! Network!

Burnett’s sisters are also Ephs and at least one is married to an Eph.

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Recent Int’l Graduates Concern with Dean’s Office, 3/3

UPDATE: Assistant Dean of International Student Services Ninah Pretto informed recent intl graduates in Economics on Thursday morning (several emails/phone calls later and after she promised a decision on Monday, four days ago) that they can apply for STEM extensions. Hooray! Psychology, however, is still not classified as STEM.

Fellow current students have pointed out a concern recent international Williams graduates are having with Dean’s Office, specifically on the reclassification of the Economics major as STEM and its implications. We’re spending three posts talking about it. Find the first discussion here and the second here. This is the third post. Consider the comments of the Facebook discussion on this issue:

Screenshot (25) redacted

If you count, that’s a total of 76 (!) likes, among which at least 53 are from distinct individuals. That’s quite a number of Facebook likes!

Although names are blacked out (for fear of retribution, a very real concern among students!), eight different students and recent alumni took part in the discussion. Let’s consider some of our fellow Ephs’ comments in light of this issue:

I called them last year to see if econ could be considered STEM, and basically got stonewalled.

Around this time (spring) last year, Williams did not yet have Dean Pretto (she joined May 2016) and Sarah Bolton was still Dean of the College, so we must assume this ’15 alum spoke to someone who reported to the latter. Can we excuse the stonewalling during this period (spring ’16) in light of the departure of former Dean Jenifer Hasenfus? Possibly, but also possibly not! We will investigate. What is clear, however, is that the recurrence (twice so far, and thrice by next week!) of ignoring the concerns of international students suggests that these instances are not isolated, but are part of a pattern of behavior that the Williams administration displays towards international students. 

“basically got stonewalled” – said everyone who’s dealt w the dean’s office

“Stonewalled” seems to be making its rounds. Tell us more at concerned.ephs@gmail.com, or join EphBlog as an author and talk about it!

In perhaps an even more disturbing comment…

Bro any lobbying I can do, if you need something written, want to get a cis white male signature, anything, let me know. Let’s chill soon.

The request to chill aside, this commentator suggests that if someone wants something done at the Dean’s Office, it will require the involvement of a”cis white male” at Williams. Is this true? Another commentator (a similar “cis white male” at Williams) who replies “Same here–how can we lobby Williams College?” suggests so. If this is true, for a college administration that likes to brag so much about how “diverse” its students and faculty are, this is very hypocritical behavior. Students certainly think this is true, so EphBlog will continue to investigate!

Deans office is utterly useless. Literally never get anywhere with them; best bet is to get some profs on board and have them help lobby you too. Then maybe petition the CAS.

“Utterly useless” is quite strong language! Is this characterization accurate? More pertinently, does this comment, in light of the previous one, suggest that if anyone wants anything done by the Dean’s Office, the involvement of professors and “cis white males” is required? I personally do not think so (and have seen otherwise) but again in light of these disturbing suggestions, EphBlog will continue to investigate. The commentator also mentions the CAS or Committee on Academic Standing, which by itself is a hotbed of student and faculty concerns… More on that soon!

Finally, in the most damning comment in this thread (at least in my opinion),

The deans are very frequently “out of the office,” particularly if they know it is going to be an unpleasant phone call/ conversation… It’s an ongoing problem with an administration completely unwilling to have challenging conversations.

This comment was made by a current student who is not an international student. Two questions: (1) Does this pattern of behavior – ignoring students – when conversations become challenging extend to non-international students as well? This commentator, who describes this as an “ongoing problem” (pattern!) suggest so! (2) Beyond simply suggesting that the Dean’s Office has a pattern/ongoing problem of stonewalling, this commentator actually tells us how the Dean’s Office stonewalls students – by being frequently “out of office”. Why would components of the Dean’s Office require to be out of campus so often as the commentator suggests? Don’t their jobs concern students – who are very much on campus during the school year? What reasons do they have for being out of campus? Is it really about having “challenging conversations”? Perhaps, but perhaps not! Fellow classmates (four so far!) suggest that Associate Dean of First Years David Johnson is known for having a number of dental appointments a year. Current students and recent alums, a request: please let EphBlog know whenever a Dean is “out of office” so we can ascertain exactly how often our Deans are not in their offices.

Thanks to tips from current students, professors, and recent graduates sent to concerned.ephs@gmail.com, we already have several of these stories – the subject of future posts! – but we naturally welcome more in our attempts to investigate the persistence of this pattern of behavior. Future generations of Ephs will thank you for a more transparent, more accountable Williams!

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Linked In Ephs

Could we (or Williams) do more with Linked-In? Consider:

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Is this data accurate? Is it useful? I am certainly impressed that they have (claim) almost 20,000 alumni. None of this summary data seems obviously wrong. I suspect that the most of the 500+ who “work” at Williams are actually current students. Williams can’t employ more than 100 alumni, can it? If Google is really the biggest employer, then that would make for an interesting Record article.

Does anyone have experience using Linked-in data? Could we get a dump of every Eph and analyze the resulting data set, perhaps in a week-end hackathon with one of the statistics classes? Pointers welcome!

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Recent Int’l Graduates Concern with Dean’s Office, 2/3

Fellow current students have pointed out a concern recent international Williams graduates are having with Dean’s Office, specifically on the reclassification of the Economics major as STEM and its implications.  We’re spending three posts talking about it. The first post discusses troubling decision making by the assistant dean for international student services, Ninah Pretto. This is the second post. Consider the original Facebook post that started this (full FB discussion with comments can be found in the first post):

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The original poster, confirmed by the Dean’s Office, stated that the Economics major has been reclassified as STEM by the Williams administration. Consider the list of majors/academic fields considered STEM that the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement) maintains. A cursory search will show that general Economics is not considered a STEM subject, only “Quantitative Economics/Econometrics” and “Pharmaeconomics/Pharmaceutical Economics.” Since Williams has newly designated its Economics major as STEM, we can reasonably conclude that the Economics major must have significantly changed to be more quantitative in nature from previous years to warrant this.

Consider the course catalogs from SY 2015-16 and the current school year’s. For the sake of completeness, here is SY 2014-2015, SY 2013-s014, and SY 2012-2013. Checking is left as an exercise to the reader, but a brief summary of what you’ll find: no substantial changes in the Williams Economics major!

Let’s repeat that: there have been no material changes in the Economics major year on year since at least 2012. In other words, it is no more quantitative now than it was a year ago, two years ago, three years ago, four years ago, and five years ago. Last I checked (March 29 2017), Williams has a major in Economics, not in Econometrics/Quantitative Economics/Pharmaeconomics/Pharmaceutical Economics. Princeton, which reclassified its Economics major to STEM, has a math-track Economics major. Williams does not.

Questions/concerns:

  1. Is Williams violating the law by designating its Economics major as a STEM major when it clearly is not? It would seem that this decision is at best, deceptive, and at worst, illegal, especially since this decision has far reaching consequences in terms of visas and immigration for international students.
  2. Recall that Dean Ninah Pretto explicit stated that ultimate determination of this policy rests with Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom. Taking Dean Pretto on her word, we must ask: why did Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom reclassify Economics as a STEM major when it clearly is not? What went into this decision?
  3. In the official list of STEM majors, there are 10 (compared to Econ’s two!) fields of psychology – ranging from social psychology to neuroscience – that count as STEM. Does Williams classify psychology, whose concentrations and subject matter adhere to the official list, as a STEM major? Current psychology majors tell us that no, Williams does not consider psychology as a STEM subject! This begs the question: why not? Clearly, according to the federal bureau that regulates F-1 visas, psychology is a STEM field. 
  4. Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom is a psychology professor! In fact, she is the Hales Professor of Psychology of Williams. So why did Dean Sandstrom classify Economics as STEM and Psychology as not STEM? It seems far fetched to suggest that her expertise in psychology is lacking, so this begs the more troubling question: have either Dean Sandstrom or Dean Pretto read the official list of STEM majors, or do they just haphazardly make these types of decisions? Their actions thus far suggest the latter.
  5. On a related matter, members of the Psychology Student Advisory Board report that there have been efforts to change the division classification of psychology to Div 3, but, notably, they report that psychology professors have said that “there is no way this would happen for psychology if it did not happen for economics first.” The college course catalog still classifies Economics as Div 2, but curiously, changed its designation as STEM, although it is no more quantitative than it was a year (and more!) ago when it wasn’t STEM. However, psychology, which clearly falls under fields considered STEM by the ICE, does not enjoy STEM status. Why? 

I offer an intelligent guess that is not without precedent1: Economics is the most popular major in the college and among international students. If I were a prospective international student who wants to major in economics in the United States, as most who come here do, I would certainly want to go to a school (thus pay tuition) that would allow me to maximize my post-college employment opportunities in the United States. At least two reports on the distribution of GPAs and academic major difficulty suggest Math and Physics are much harder than Economics. So, instead of breaking my back in Real Analysis, I can just take Intermediate Macroeconomics and reap the benefits of a STEM major for my career – wonderful! Too bad for Psychology – even if it is a real STEM field, it just isn’t popular enough at Williams! 

Whatever the motivations of this policy change is, one thing is clear: whoever is making these decisions certainly leaves much to be desired by way of consistency and transparency!

 

1Recall from the first discussion that the Dean’s Office and Dean Ninah Pretto initially stonewalled and/or rejected requests from international student graduates, who no longer pay Williams tuition.

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Recent Int’l Graduates Concerns with Dean’s Office, 1/3

Fellow current students have pointed out a concern recent international student graduates are having with Dean’s Office. Consider a Facebook discussion on the matter:

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There are many statements here to unpack (especially the comments!). Let’s focus on the concern that the original poster focuses on in this first of three discussions.

Some context: international students at Williams are on the F-1 student visa, and among its stipulations is that such students are given a 12 month “optional practical training” or OPT period post-graduation to legally work in the country. However, if one declares a STEM major, that one year is extensible to three. This also gives international student graduates in STEM majors three chances at applying for work visa (a lottery with a ~25% chance of success each year) to stay longer, if that’s what they want, as opposed to just one if the student had declared a non-STEM major.

Following in the footsteps of institutions like Princeton, the original poster reports that Williams is now categorizing the college’s Economics major as a STEM major, incidentally the most popular major among international students in the college. However, unlike Princeton, which allowed international student graduates in Economics to be retroactively categorized as STEM (thus allowing them a couple extra years to work), Williams has rejected such requests from graduates of the class of 2015 and 2016. In initial emails with Dean Ninah Pretto, the new Assistant Dean for International Student Services, where students/graduates cite Princeton’s example (and material evidence of this!), she immediately rejects these requests without providing any explanation. Students and graduates, however, pressed on emailing, restating evidence from Princeton to which Dean Ninah relented. She states that she is “afraid” of retroactively applying this policy to graduates, but that she would call Princeton today. She also states that the final authority rests with Dean Marlene Sandstrom.

As this post went to press, no update has arrived from the Dean’s Office.

Some questions:

  1. Is it Dean Ninah Pretto’s personal policy to not explain decisions she makes that materially affect the lives of Williams students/graduates? The comments suggest this is endemic to the whole Dean’s Office, but that is another long (but related) discussion to have.
  2. Is it not Dean Ninah Pretto’s job to check these policies ahead of time so she wouldn’t be “afraid” of doing anything? Clearly she had nothing to be “afraid” of, since Princeton was able to do this.
  3. If she were truly “afraid” of retroactively applying this policy to recent international graduates of the college, she would have checked before making such a unilateral decision on policy, which is what she did! So, why did she unilaterally reject the initial requests?
  4. To that point, does Dean Ninah Pretto have this unilateral authority? If so, what decisions can she unilaterally make for international students? Current and future international students would appreciate a list for future reference.
  5. If the students/graduates did not press Dean Pretto, would it be entirely possible that this issue would’ve just gone away and recent international graduates wouldn’t receive any fair treatment? My guess is that yes, it would’ve just been dropped, based on the experience of my peers. Thankfully, they kept pressing, or she might never have considered doing her job!
  6. In one of her latest emails to international students, Dean Ninah states: “As your International Student Advisor, I want to reiterate my commitment to serving and supporting each and every one of you. Again, this country is made up of immigrants from all over the world and they make the U.S. a unique and amazing place.” If this is truly her position, does Dean Pretto believe that recent international graduates are less deserving of her commitment to serve and support? What criteria does she use to make this determination? Again, current and future international students would certainly like to know.

What do fellow classmates/EphBlog readers think?

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Not Bad Hombres

Sonia Nazario ’82 writes in the New York Times:

But President Trump has decided to get tough on many of the 60,000 Central American children who arrive at our border each year begging for safety after fleeing some of the most dangerous places on earth. His executive orders, and memos from the Department of Homeland Security on how to interpret them, could strip this special treatment from the roughly 60 percent of unaccompanied children who have a parent already living in the United States. If Kendra and Roberto were just entering the United States now, they would fall into this group; instead they kept their protections and were eventually united with their mother, a house painter in Los Angeles.

Parents like her, the argument goes, are exploiting benefits established to help children who really are alone here. The administration has threatened to deport parents who send for their children or prosecute them for hiring smugglers.

Good. We just had an election fought over the issue of illegal immigration and Nazario’s side lost. She believes that anyone (adult or child) who is fleeing a violent country should be admitted to the United States. This is open-borders in all but name. I (and a largish majority of US citizens) disagree. We want an immigration policy much more like Japan’s.

It will be interesting to see if Trump (along with Bannon/Miller) delivers on his promises. So far, I am hopeful!

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The Comey Letter

Latest from Bethany McLean ’92:

When F.B.I. director James Comey reopened the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mails in the final days of the campaign, many saw it as a political move that cost Clinton the presidency. But some insiders suspect Comey had a more personal concern: his own legacy.

Read the whole thing.

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Repealing the ACA is Harmless

The latest from Oren Cass ’05:

The best statistical estimate for the number of lives saved each year by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is zero. Certainly, there are individuals who have benefited from various of its provisions. But attempts to claim broader effects on public health or thousands of lives saved rely upon extrapolation from past studies that focus on the value of private health insurance. The ACA, however, has expanded coverage through Medicaid, a public program that, according to several studies, has failed to improve health outcomes for recipients. In fact, public health trends since the implementation of the ACA have worsened, with 80,000 more deaths in 2015 than had mortality continued declining during 2014–15 at the rate achieved during 2000–2013.

Read the whole thing.

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Steel Yourself for This …

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Keystone pipeline exempt from “Buy American”.

http://www.fox10tv.com/story/34661703/despite-trump-promises-keystone-pipeline-wont-have-to-use-american-steel

Didn’t THE SPEECH have an applause line set-up for the assurance of “Buy American”?

 

 

At least his tie was better …

UPDATE from DDF: Dan Drezner ’90 tells a story about buying American:

Economists are just now beginning to appreciate the power of narrative in explaining how people believe the economy actually works. These narratives are not always the truth, and certainly not always the whole truth. But a compelling narrative can profoundly influence how people think the economy functions. Robert Shiller, the new president of the American Economics Association, pointed this out in his recent presidential address: “President-elect Donald J. Trump is a master of narratives.”

So sit right back and let me tell you a story about one of the hidden costs of Donald Trump’s economic motto: Buy American and Hire American.

Read the whole thing. My main takeaway is that there is a lot of fat to be cut from the US budget!

 

About the above addition to my post by Dave:

Constant Readers of Ephblog know that my posts are rarely done for intellectual discussion and/or an in-depth look at a stance or belief. They are done simply as head turners, as head-turners about the particular issue.

This is the case on “Steel Yourself”. I am pointing out the chicanery of the speech itself with its set-up applause lines.

I must add that while I have no problem with Dave’s reference to Drezner’s article, I have trouble from an editing point-of-view with adding an extension to a post obviously done for brevity. His addition is what “comments” are for.

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Wiseman ’51 Wins Oscar

Frederick Wiseman ’51 won an Oscar tonight! Admittedly, this is an “honorary” Oscar and the announcement was made last fall. Still, this is the only Williams-related news I have seen tonight. Am I missing anything?

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A New Kind of Normal

Via our friends at Williams twitter, this amazing article by Andrea Park ’10:

On August 3, 2014, I woke up in a hospital bed somewhere in San Francisco with a catheter and tubes snaking down my throat and up my nose.

I looked at my hands and noticed an IV stuck in my left forearm. The left side of my head throbbed in pain. As I attempted to sit up and understand where I was, a nurse saw that I was awake and ran over.

“Do you want your mother?” she asked. I tried to speak and choked on my breathing tube; I nodded. Soon, my mom rushed in and took my hand. She asked me if I remembered the accident.

I remembered walking down the aisle at my friend’s wedding in Sonoma, the sun beating down so hard on the ceremony that a groomsman got burned standing at the altar. I remembered giving a speech about how my friend always thought she could do better, except when it came to her husband.

I remembered going out with the wedding party in San Francisco to celebrate. We crashed an Indian wedding at the Fairmont Hotel and then guzzled down scorpion bowls full of pink tropical punch at the hotel bar. But that’s where the memories jolted to an end.

I shook my head no.

My mother explained that I had been involved in a hit-and-run car accident after a drunk driver rear-ended my cab.

The force of the impact threw me forward and I hit my head against the armrest in the front, causing my brain to bleed internally. Later, the two groomsmen who rode the cab with me told me that after hitting my head, I had mumbled, “It’s going to be okay,” before slumping over in my seat.

The official diagnosis was an acute subdural hematoma with subfalcine herniation, a traumatic brain injury.

Read the whole thing. This is the best Eph essay I have seen in 2017. The Williams Magazine should seek to re-publish it, perhaps with added details about how Park’s Eph friends helped during her recovery.

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No Fear To Be Smelled

My sense is that most Ephs would disagree with Bennett’s ’65 assessment of Trump’s performance at his press conference. For example, from Jon Lovett ’04:
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Perhaps the truth is somewhere in between . . .

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Carbon Tax

Best debates are the ones that feature Ephs on both sides. The latest proposal for a carbon tax cum dividend is an example. In favor, we have Trustee Mark Tercek ’79:

The plan has four pillars: tax the carbon in fossil fuels at $40 per ton of carbon dioxide for the emissions they will produce; rebate all of the revenue to American households in quarterly dividend payments; repeal federal regulations that will no longer be needed because carbon prices produce greater and more efficient investments in emissions reductions; and assure that the program does not damage U.S. trade by adjusting its impact on exports and imports that are energy intensive.

Against, Oren Cass ’05:

This week, a self-described “who’s-who of conservative elder statesmen” launched a new organization, the Climate Leadership Council (CLC), to make their “Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends.” Lest one be confused, the proposal is yet another carbon tax. Lest one be optimistic, it manages only to weaken an already flawed policy.

None of these objections or challenges is new. Yet, in the marketplace of ideas, the carbon tax behaves increasingly like a government-run utility. It doesn’t care about competition. It ignores complaint with impunity. Its business model depends on the strength of its political connections, not the quality of its product. Elder statesmen often sit on the boards of such entities. Rarely do they achieve positive change.

My take: The politics of this proposal don’t work, not least because of environmentalist who hate it, as you can see from all the progressive’s attacking Tercek from the left. A better plan needs to be more extreme, in order to bring along the right. I recommend a constitutional amendment that would repeal the federal income tax while simultaneously granting Congress the right to tax carbon. Conservatives would go for this because they hate the income tax. The Government’s need to spend would force a carbon tax higher than any other possible plan.

Let’s arrange for a debate at Williams between Tercek and Cass, ideally each paired with a student. Bring back the Williams College Debate Union!

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Is This What You Voted For?

A friend of EphBlog and one of my favorite alumni wrote in last week (in reference to Trump’s executive order):

Sincere question: can you support the President given these recent actions?

You betcha! Since my friend, I suspect, does not know many Trump supporters, or at least not many Trump supporters with Williams-caliber IQs, let me elaborate.

The central issue in the election (for people like me) was immigration. We want the US to have the immigration policy of a “normal” nation, a place like Japan, Israel, Finland or China. My point, here, is not to argue about whether or not such a policy is best for the future of America or the World. (Let’s have that argument elsewhere.) My point is that, if you were/are an American with this preference then Trump was the only candidate who promised this. In my opinion, without his stance on immigration, Trump would not have won the Republican primary. And, if he had moved to the center during the general election, he would have lost to Clinton. A hundred years from now, much of the day-to-day trivia of governing will have been lost. But if there is one phrase that will still be associated with Trump, it will be “Build the wall.”

Given that policy preference, Trump is doing wonderfully. Naming a justice like Gorsuch to the Supreme Court is the best way to prevent the judiciary from trying to take control of immigration policy. Putting serious immigration restrictionists like Bannon and Miller in the White House guarantees follow through. Selecting heavyweights like Kelly and Sessions for key cabinet positions will bend the bureaucracy to our goals. About the only complaint we have, at this stage, is that Kris Kobach has not been hired yet. But I like to think/hope that Trump is just “saving” Kobach for later after the easy tasks have been accomplished. Summary: if your goal is an America with an immigration policy like Japan’s, Trump has done everything you want.

Even some of the items that seem like incompetence and/or overreach and/or cruelty — like banning green card holders — may be more than they seem. Why not go “too far” at first if doing so causes the eventual compromise to be everything you wanted in the first place? Why not start all the lawsuits running on a policy, like the new version of the EO, which is almost certain to be upheld since it is so similar to past US policies?

What seems like madness to my friend may actually be quite calculated. Trump is a lewd, boorish buffoon but people like Stephen Miller are as serious as black ice on the steps of Chapin. In that regard, consider the latest letter, co-signed by Adam Falk, about Trump’s executive order:

We recognize and respect the need to protect America’s security. The vetting procedures already in place are rigorous. Improvements to them should be based on evidence, calibrated to real risks, and consistent with constitutional principle.

We just had an election fought over this very question. People like me do not think that the current procedures are “rigorous” enough. Finland is an example of a country with an immigration policy “based on evidence” and “calibrated to real risks.” That is the policy we want. You can call us bigots and racists all day long and we won’t care. If it is OK for Israel and China to allow virtually no immigrants, then it is OK for America as well.

In any event, that is my answer to my alumni friend. Trump won the presidency on immigration and, on that policy at least, he is keeping the promises he made. Contrary views welcome in the comments!

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Chris Murphy’s Re-election Plan

Democratic senators from Connecticut enjoy such safe seats that they can get away with virtue-signalling like this:

Donald Trump’s long-awaited Muslim ban became a reality today. No, you might say, it’s not actually the proposal he outlined during the campaign. True, the ban doesn’t cover every Muslim globally, just a set of Muslims from countries Trump perceives, rather arbitrarily, to be dangerous.

But today’s announcement is anchored in his campaign rhetoric, and the fact that every country on today’s list is a Muslim-majority nation confirms that he meant what he said – that Muslims are dangerous and need to be treated differently than any other set of people.

Is this the primary issue that Chris Murphy wants to fight the 2018 election over? Good luck! I am sure his Republican opponent would love that. The campaign adds write themselves:

Chris Murphy wants to re-settle millions of devout Muslims from countries like Syria and Somalia, foreigners who believe … [insert a bunch of (scary!) true facts about what Muslims in these countries believe about, say, homosexuality, female genital mutilation and the appropriate role of women in society] … Generic Republican Challenger [perhaps female, perhaps a veteran] wants to keep Connecticut safe for the Americans who live here. Who do you want representing you in the Unite States Senate?

There are not a lot of things that could lose Chris Murphy his Senate seat. Becoming the leading voice in favor of more Muslim immigration might just be one of them . . .

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Don’t Lie

“If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.”

“If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.”

Background here.

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How to Worry About Climate Change

Oren Cass ’05 argues that we — both the US Government and Williams College — worry too much about climate change.

A more dispassionate placement of climate change alongside a range of worrying problems does not mean there is nothing to worry about. But it points away from sui generis mitigation at all costs and toward an existing model for addressing problems through research, preparation, and adaptation. It suggests that analytical exercises that would never be applied to other worrying problems, like assigning a “social cost” to each marginal unit of carbon-dioxide emissions, are as inappropriate as estimating a “social cost of computing power” as it brings humanity closer to a possible singularity, or a “social cost of international travel” as it elevates the risk of a global pandemic. Taxes on any of them are closer to political statements than efficient corrections of genuine externalities, and each would be more likely to stall meaningful economic and technological progress than to achieve a meaningful reduction of risk.

Lessons might run in the other direction as well: We are not focusing as much on other challenges as we should. And perhaps, if climate change were consigned to its rightful place in the crowd, some additional attention might be available to concentrate elsewhere. If the level of research support, policy focus, and international coordination targeted toward climate change over the past eight years had gone instead toward preventing and managing pandemics, imagine the progress that could have been made. For a fraction of the cost of de-carbonizing an industrial economy, it could be hardened against cyber attacks; with a fraction of the attention corporations pay to their own purported climate vulnerability, they could make real strides in their own technological security.

A little bit of worry provides healthy motivation. Too much is a recipe for paralysis, distraction, and overreaction.

Read the whole thing. Cass’s perspective — like the perspectives of others skeptical that climate change is a major problem that requires special attention from the federal government (or the College) — is not welcome at Williams. As we discussed last summer, Williams believes that only one side of the debate should be heard on campus. Is anyone else concerned that Williams is morphing from a college into a madrassa?

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Lurking Anger

Fun Bethany McLean ’92 article:

The anger is always lurking just below the surface for David Ganek. And as the pugnacious money manager begins to recount the events that led him to lose his hedge fund business, his influence as a patron of contemporary art, his status in Manhattan society, and some of his longtime friends, it threatens to boil over.

Read the whole thing.

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Pittsfield Police Chief Wynn ’93 and the Civil Service

From The Berkshire Eagle:

The state Civil Service Commission has rejected a request to allow acting Police Chief Michael Wynn to become the city’s permanent chief.

The commission has denied the request from Mayor Linda M. Tyer, and it advised the city to offer a Civil Service exam for police chief “forthwith.”

The Civil Service process relies on competitive examination rather than political appointment to determine leadership. A mayor can then choose from the top three candidates.

While the city subscribes to the Civil Service process, its mayors long have opted to appoint acting chiefs, circumventing that process.

Wynn was a captain with the department in January 2009 when he was named acting chief by former Mayor James M. Ruberto. He retained that title under Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi, whom Tyer defeated in November 2015.

Tyer asked the commission in June to officially appoint Wynn chief based on his Civil Service exam results in June 2009 — the last time it was given — when Wynn and Lt. Jeffrey Bradford took the test. Wynn placed first; Bradford ranked second.

“I felt that it was important that we undertake this administrative appeal, to settle once and for all whether Michael Wynn had any remaining standing to be eligible for the appointment permanently as our chief of police,” Tyer told the Eagle on Thursday.

But in a five-page letter dated Dec. 8, commission Chairman Christopher C. Bowman said Wynn should have appealed to the commission on his own — and more immediately following his 2009 appointment — if he wanted to serve as more than acting chief.

The commission also cited the need to avoid the “appearance” of a conflict of interest: Wynn’s wife served on Tyer’s campaign committee. Bowman acknowledged the commission found no evidence that the request was politically or personally motivated.

The results of the 2009 tests were good through 2012, the letter stated.

Members of the police union, who had opposed Tyer’s request, applauded the commission’s ruling.

“All we asked for was a fair process,” said Pittsfield Police Sgt. Matthew Hill, who represents Local 447S, the union for department supervisors. “We really wanted to see the Civil Service process followed. We’ve been going far too long without a Civil Service chief.”

Hill said having an acting chief leaves the department in limbo and diminishes the point of Civil Service.

The union opposition “has never been about [Wynn] or how he has done the job. It has been about doing the process right,” he said.

The Civil Service exam can take two forms: a written test and what’s known as an “assessment center,” which tests police on real-life scenarios in addition to the written exam.

Historically the city has only offered the written exam.

Tyer said the city will offer another test, though she was unclear on a timetable or which version it will use.

“We are assessing what our options are,” she said. “Within the next week or so will we have a final plan for how to proceed.”

She said Wynn will remain acting chief in the interim.

Wynn directed all questions regarding the commission’s decision to the mayor; he confirmed he will remain with the department.

“I’m proud of my service with the Pittsfield Police Department, and I’m happy to continue my service in my current capacity, or any other capacity that may be requested or required,” he wrote in an email.

Regardless of the type of test, Hill said he knows of at least three officers who are interested. He did not have a time frame in mind but added, “We’d like to have something happen sooner rather than later.”

The city has had an on-again off-again relationship with Civil Service.

In 1981, after 70 years with Civil Service, the city voters opted out of the process. During the 10 years without it, the police department had three different appointed chiefs, a temporary chief and went two years without one.

Civil Service was reinstated by voters in 1991.

The city’s fire department is also led by an acting chief. Tyer said she does not plan to make changes there any time soon.

It is very hard to know what to make of this. PTC: Help us out!

Comments:

1) In the numerous Williams College puff pieces about Wynn (example here), I have never seen him referred to as an acting chief. Politeness, sloppiness or something else?

2) Does race play any role here? Wynn is African-American in a city (and department?) that is overwhelmingly white.

3) What is the deal with the Civil Service in Massachusetts? I am embarrassed to admit I know nothing about it. Does it also play a role in the governance of Williamstown and North Adams?

4) One of the many sad side effects of the destruction of the business model for regional papers is that there is so much less coverage of local events. Any Williams student with an interest in writing/journalism should start by reporting on news in the Williams region. We would be eager to provide hundreds of daily readers for her prose . . .

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Stepford Eph

Interesting Bethany McLean ’92 essay:

Earlier this fall, I was conducting a bunch of interviews at a conference. After I finished one perfectly pleasant interview, the person I was interviewing, who is a prominent business leader, turned to me and said, “You are such a Stepford Wife.” Shocked, I responded, “Well, I can assure you no one has ever said that about me before!” The person, unfazed, continued to the audience and crew, “She’s really good in bed. All women who are like that on the surface are.” I totally lack the superpower ability to deliver the perfect zinger, and I felt like it would make things worse if I made a fuss, and frankly, I didn’t know what to do. So I tried to laugh it off. The business leader walked away, shouting back to everyone, “Use protection!”

This person wasn’t a man. It was a woman who, for whatever reason, wanted to humiliate me.

Women humiliating other women is not exactly something new under the Purple Mountains. Indeed, from a distance, it always appeared that female Ephs got more grief/criticisms/meanness from other female Ephs than they ever did from male Ephs. Would readers agree?

Read the whole thing. I especially loved the ending . . .

If there’s a moment where you can be a bitch or be gracious, where you can denigrate or congratulate, where you can shoot down or lift up, for heaven’s sake, do the latter. (And if you’re the recipient, please respond in kind.) If you can’t or won’t, then don’t complain about Donald Trump’s attitudes toward women. Because that’s just hypocritical.

By the way, the woman who was so awful to me was a prominent supporter of Hillary Clinton.

Quelle surprise!

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A Deafening Silence

Since war came to the West on September 11, 2001, only a handful of Ephs have read these words. Are you among them?

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My Home Is in the Valley Amid the Hills

Each morning I watch the sunlight drifting down through the pines, scattering the clouds from the mountain sides, driving the mists from the glens.

Each night I see the purple lights as they creep up the slopes of the Dome and the shadows as they fall on wood and stream.

My home is among young men — young men who dream dreams and see visions; young men who will carry my banner out into the world and make the world better because they have lived with me in my valley amid the hills.

Among my sons who have left me, some have caught the poet’s fire, and their words have touched men’s hearts and have bought cheer to a weary world.

And some, in answer to the call of country, have gone out to battle for the common rights of men against the enemy. Some of them will not return to me, for they have given all they had, and now they rest at the foot of a simple cross or lie deep below the waves. But even as they passed, the music of the chimes was in their ears and before their eyes were visions of the quiet walks beneath the elms

Whether apart in solitude or pressing along the crowded highways, all these who have breathed my spirit and touched my hand have played their parts for the better, for

I am ALMA MATER:
I am WILLIAMS.

This 1926 eulogy, written by Professor of Rhetoric Carroll Lewis Maxey, comes from page 136 of Williams College in the World War, a beautifully arranged remembrance of those Ephs who served in freedom’s cause during the Great War. To Williams students today, World War I is as far away as the War of 1812 was to the generation that Professor Maxey sought to inspire. What will the great-grandchildren of today’s Ephs think of us? What will they remember and what will they forget?

1st Lt Nate Krissoff ’03, USMC died ten years ago today. For the first year after his death, we maintained a link at the upper right to our collection of related posts, as sad and inspiring as anything you will ever read at EphBlog. Yet that link came down. Time leaves behind the bravest of our Williams warriors and Nate’s sacrifice now passes from News to History, joining the roll call of honored heroes back to Colonel Ephraim Williams, who died in battle during the Bloody Morning Scout on September 8, 1755.

More than 250 years have marched by from Ephraim’s death to Nate’s. But the traditions of military brotherhood and sacrifice are the same as they ever were, the same as they will ever be as long as Ephs stand willing to do violence against our enemies so that my daughters and granddaughters and great-granddaughters might sleep safely in their beds at night. Consider this moving ceremony in Iraq for Nate in the week after his death.

Before there was Taps, there was the final symbolic roll-call, unanswered. “Krissoff,” intoned Sergeant Major Kenneth Pickering.

“Lt. Krissoff.”

“1st Lt. Nathan Krissoff.”

By culture and custom, the Marine Corps is given to ritual and none so important as the farewell to comrades who have fallen in battle. And so the memorial service here for 1st Lt. Nathan Krissoff, intelligence officer for the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, was both stylized and achingly intimate.

The author, Tony Perry of the Los Angeles Times, captures perfectly the ethos of the Marine Corps. During Officer Candidate School, our Platoon Sergeant, Gunnery Sergeant Anderson, sang a haunting song of blood and sacrifice. The chorus went:

Let me tell you how I feel.
Why Marines must fight and die?

I can only remember snatches now, three decades later. It was a short song, repeated slowly, with emotion. For years, I have looked for the words to that plaintive melody, the eternal warrior’s lament of pain and suffering. Gunny Anderson only sang it with our platoon a handful of times, only when he felt that we were worthy of inclusion in the brotherhood of arms.

The last of those times was near the end of our training. At OCS, the fun-filled day begins with PT (physical training) at around 0500. Our entire company (200 men) is standing at attention in the humid Virginia morning. Back in July, there had been plenty of light to start exercising that early, but, by August, the later sunrise left us all waiting in darkness.

Gunny Anderson had the “duty” that morning, so he was the only member of the staff present. The others, well aware of the timing of sunrise, would be along shortly. Gunny Andersen, recognizing that graduation day was near and that he had us all to himself, led the entire company in that song, including the other platoons who had never heard it before.

And he did it in a whisper. We all stood there — having survived almost 10 weeks of brutal training, shouting our lungs out day after day — and whispered the song with him, 200 voices joined with the spirits of the Marines who had gone before us. Nate is with those spirits now. When the next Eph Marine is marching on that same parade deck during OCS, Nate will be watching him as well.

I remember the name of my platoon sergeant from 30 years ago. My father still remembers the name of his platoon sergeant from 55 years before. Let none of us forget the sacrifices of Marines like Nate and Myles Crosby Fox ’40.

Krissoff, 25, a champion swimmer and kayaker in college, was killed Dec. 9 by a roadside bomb that also injured other Marines. Hundreds of grim-faced Marines who knew Krissoff came to the Chapel of Hope, the converted Iraqi Army auditorium, for the service.

“We have a bond here, we have a family here,” said Staff Sgt. Allan Clemons, his voice breaking as he delivered a eulogy. “Nathan was part of that family.”

There were embraces, but not in the sobbing style one might see at a civilian funeral. The Marines put arms around another and slapped each others’ backs — the sound was like repeated rifle reports in the cavernous hall. Navy Cmdr. Mark Smith, a Presbyterian chaplain, said later he has seen Marines do this at other memorials. “They need to touch each other,” he said. “I’ve heard them talk about ‘hugging it out.’ But they want to do it in a manly way.”

By all accounts, Krissoff was a charismatic leader who had impressed his superiors and earned the trust of his subordinates.

War always takes the best of my Marines.

Civilians may not recognize the meaning of the first person possessive in that last sentence, may attribute its usage to my megalomania. Indeed, to avoid that confusion, my initial instinct was to write “our Marines.”

Yet that is not the way that real Marines think about our Corps. Despite defending an independent, freedom-loving country, the Marines are fundamentally socialist in outlook. Everything belongs to every individual. This is not just my rifle or my uniform, but my tank and my obstacle course. And what is mine is yours. See the bootcamp scenes from Full Metal Jacket for an introduction to an outlook as far away from Williams College as Falluja is from Williamstown.

At OCS, the worst sin is not to be slow or stupid or weak, although all these sins are real enough. The worst sin is to be selfish, to be an “individual,” to care more about what happens to you then what happens to your squad, your platoon, your battalion or your Corps. What happens to you, as an individual, is irrelevant.

When the instructors at OCS are angry with you (and they get angry with everyone), they will scream: “What are you? A freakin’ individual? Is that what you are? A freakin’ individual?”

To get the full effect of this instruction, you need to imagine it being shouted from 5 inches away by the loudest voice you have ever heard.

When they shouted it at me, I was sorely tempted to respond:

Yes! Indeed! I am an individual! Four hundred of years of Enlightenment philosophy have demonstrated that this is true. My degree in philosophy from Williams College has taught me that I, as an individual, have value, that my needs and wants are not subservient to those of the larger society, that I have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

For once, I kept my mouth shut.

In quieter moments at OCS, I recalled Rousseau’s parable of the Spartan mother from Emile.

A Spartan mother had five sons in the army and awaited news of the battle. A Helot arrived; trembling she asked his news. “Your five sons have been killed.” “Vile slave, was that what I asked you?” “We have won the victory.” She ran to the temple to give thanks to the gods. That was a citizen.

For Rousseau, there are two ways for a man to be free. First, he can live alone, cut off from humankind but self-sufficient. He needs no one. Second, a man can be a citizen and so, like the Spartan mother, unconcerned with his own, and his family’s, well-being. All that matters is the polis.

A Marine is many things, but not a freakin’ individual.

The article continues:

He grew up in Truckee, Nev., graduated from Williams College, majoring in international relations, and hoped someday to work for the Central Intelligence Agency.

Lt. Col. William Seely, the battalion commander, talked of the silence left by death of Krissoff and other Marines. “When we depart these lands, when we deploy home, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the long silence of our friends,” he said. “Nathan…your silence will be deafening.”

If there was mourning, there was also anger that, as the chaplain said, Krissoff “was taken from us by evil men.”

This is true and false. Marines do not sympathize with the insurgents whom they battle but they do empathize with them. “Clifton Chapel” by Sir Henry Newbolt describes this duality in the oath that every warrior takes.

To set the cause above renown,
To love the game beyond the prize,
To honour, while you strike him down,
The foe that comes with fearless eyes;
To count the life of battle good,
And dear the land that gave you birth,
And dearer yet the brotherhood
That binds the brave of all the earth.

Most of those responsible for Krissoff’s death are now themselves dead, killed in battle by Krissoff’s fellow Marines. Do their families remember them with tears, as we remember Nate? Or are their memories fading along with ours? Recall how the Williams honored Nate ten years ago.

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The Ephmen of Williams Swimming and Diving dedicated their 2007 championship season to Nate when they proudly wore their conference shirts emblazoned with the simple words on the back: “Semper Athlete.” (“Semper,” obviously for the Marines, and “Athlete,” one of his favorite terms for any of his teammates.) Nate would be proud of “his boys”: each of the 24 Williams conference team members had a hand in dominating the NESCAC competition.

Yet how quickly these honors pass. I asked a swim team member a few years ago about Nate and he sadly (and unsurprisingly?) had no idea what I was talking about. Will Coaches Kuster and Dow remind the team of those Ephs who have gone before? If Nate’s coach won’t speak of his spirit and sacrifice at Williams, then who will?

Back to Tony Perry’s article:

Among the readings and quotations was the classic from World War I, “In Flanders Fields.” The poem challenges the living to continue the fight and not break faith with the dead: “Take up our quarrel with the foe/To you from failing hands we throw/The torch: be yours to hold it high….”

I did not know, when I first wrote of Nate’s death, that his fellow Marines would also be using “In Flanders Fields” as a way of memorializing his sacrifice. Who will take up the torch thrown by Nate? Are there any Williams students heading to OCS this coming summer? Are there no warriors left among the Ephs?

Williams College in the World War opens with a call for remembrance.

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The text, by Solomon Bulkley Griffin, class of 1872, begins:

The wave of full-hearted devotion that rose in the World War has receded from its crest, as must have been in times more normal. But never will there be forgetfulness of it. Memory of the glory that wave bore aloft is the priceless possession of all the colleges.

The service of Williams men enshrined in this volume is of abiding import. By it the past was made glorious, as the future will be shadowed while it is illumined. Natural it was to go forward when God quickened the souls of men to serve the need of the world, and so they held themselves fortunate.

Indeed. Yet are Griffin’s assurances that we have nothing to fear from “forgetfulness” correct? I worry, and not just because of the contempt with which faculty members like Mark Taylor treat the US military. Consider the College’s official description of the most prestigious prize at Williams, the only award presented on graduation day.

WILLIAM BRADFORD TURNER CITIZENSHIP PRIZE. From a fund established in memory of William Bradford Turner, 1914, who was killed in action in France in September, 1918, a cash prize is awarded to the member of the graduating class who, in the judgment of the faculty and of the graduating class, has best fulfilled her or his obligations to the College, to fellow students, and to self. The committee of award, appointed by the President of the College, is composed jointly of faculty members and members of the graduating class.

Was Williams Bradford Turner ’14 just a soldier who was “killed in action in France?” Does this description do justice to Turner or is it an example of the “forgetfulness” that Griffin thought unlikely? Consider:

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He led a small group of men to the attack, under terrific artillery and machinegun fire, after they had become separated from the rest of the company in the darkness. Single-handed he rushed an enemy machinegun which had suddenly opened fire on his group and killed the crew with his pistol. He then pressed forward to another machinegun post 25 yards away and had killed 1 gunner himself by the time the remainder of his detachment arrived and put the gun out of action. With the utmost bravery he continued to lead his men over 3 lines of hostile trenches, cleaning up each one as they advanced, regardless of the fact that he had been wounded 3 times, and killed several of the enemy in hand-to-hand encounters. After his pistol ammunition was exhausted, this gallant officer seized the rifle of a dead soldier, bayoneted several members of a machinegun crew, and shot the other. Upon reaching the fourth-line trench, which was his objective, 1st Lt. Turner captured it with the 9 men remaining in his group and resisted a hostile counterattack until he was finally surrounded and killed.

The most important prize awarded by Williams College is named in honor of a winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, and virtually no one at Williams knows it. If Williams today does not remember that 1st Lt William Bradford Turner ’14 won the Congressional Medal of Honor, then who will remember 1st Lt Nathanial Krissoff ’03 one hundred years from now?

Both died for us, for ALMA MATER, for Williams and the West.

Krissoff’s brothers bade him farewell in Anbar just nine years ago.

When the roll-call and Taps were finished, the Marines came single-file to the altar to kneel in front of an inverted rifle with a helmet placed on the buttstock. Each was alone in his grief.

As are we all.

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What Happened to Sophia Wilansky ’16?

From The New York Times:

Cause of Severe Injury at Pipeline Protest Becomes New Point of Dispute

Sophia Wilansky, 21, who grew up in the Bronx, rested in a Minneapolis hospital bed, her father by her side, recovering from surgery to try to save her left hand and arm after an explosion at a pipeline protest in North Dakota this week.

“From an inch below the elbow, to an inch above her wrist, the muscle is blown off,” her father, Wayne Wilansky, said from the hospital, Hennepin County Medical Center. “The radius bone, a significant amount of it, is blown away. The arteries inside her arm are blown away. The median nerve is mostly blown away.”

All the while, the protests have gone on, and the polarization between the police and protesters extended to their sharply differing explanations of how Ms. Wilansky was injured early Monday. Law enforcement accounts suggest that fellow protesters caused the explosion; the demonstrators insist the police are to blame.

Mr. Wilansky, who spoke by telephone and checked details with his daughter as he did, said the explosion had taken place around 4 a.m. Monday, when most of the protesters were gathered around a bonfire near the foot of the bridge.

His daughter and a handful of others were farther up on the bridge, he said, “playing around,” using pieces of plastic and wood as sleds to skid across icy sections of the highway, when an officer began firing foam or plastic bullets at her and another person.

“She was backing away as they were shooting her,” Mr. Wilansky said, adding that someone from the police lines then threw a device, which he called a grenade, that hit her in the forearm and exploded.

Lt. Tom Iverson of the North Dakota Highway Patrol offered a different version of the episode, which he said was being investigated by the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Around the time of the explosion, Lieutenant Iverson said, officers fired sponge and beanbag rounds at three people who had shielded themselves behind a length of plywood near a burned vehicle on the bridge. The three were thought to be acting suspiciously and refused orders to emerge, he said.

Officers saw someone roll metal cylinders to the protesters by the burned vehicle, Lieutenant Iverson said, and then heard an explosion. Afterward, he said, several protesters ran up, pulled a woman from under the vehicle and ran off. Three propane canisters were recovered from the vicinity of the explosion early Tuesday, he said.

Lieutenant Iverson said that officers did not use concussion or flash grenades at any time. Instead, officers used tear gas, pepper spray canisters and what are known as stinger balls, round grenadelike objects that spread tiny rubber pellets to try to disperse protesters, he said.

Mr. Wilansky said that doctors in Minnesota had removed fragments from his daughter’s arm that he hoped could be used to find out what caused the injury and to hold someone responsible.

Be careful what you wish for. The truth is that Wilansky was almost surely injured by an IED that the protestors (including she?) were constructing themselves. From Bearing Arms:

There were actually several 1-pound propane canisters recovered from the site of the explosion by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). You’ll note that the more severely damaged of the two canisters, shown in two different angles in the second and third photos above, seem to have coagulated blood and tissue upon them.

If testing does confirm that the material on the propane cylinder is blood and tissue, then there is clearly enough to get a DNA match to the person who left that genetic material behind.

While the ATF was cataloging the apparent components of a faulty improvised explosive device (IED, a kind of bomb) that domestic terrorists/protestors attempted to deploy against police lines, agents with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) went to the hospital to acquire Sophia Wilansky’s clothes, and they confiscated it into evidence.

A reasonable person would be forced to ask themselves a simple question: “Why would the FBI and ATF focus like a laser on the propane canisters and Sophia Wilansky, if there is plausible evidence that Wilansky was so grievously injured by a concussion grenade?”

The answer is glaringly obvious: both the ATF and FBI know precisely what less-lethal crowd-control munitions MCSO and NDHP have to deploy, and these federal agencies tasked with the investigation know that nothing that law enforcement agencies have could cause plausibly cause Sophia Wilansky’s injuries.

Exactly right.

Back to The Times:

Friends said they were not surprised that Ms. Wilansky would gravitate to the North Dakota protest.

She had also protested the construction by Spectra Energy of a natural gas pipeline in New York. In June, she locked herself to an excavator at a natural gas pipeline dig in Vermont. About three weeks later, she was arrested in Massachusetts after lying down in a trench dug for the West Roxbury Lateral pipeline.

“Every time I talked with her she was doing something new, going to a rally,” said Rebecca Berlin, 23, from Yorktown Heights, N.Y. “She was really plugged in, really passionate.”

The FBI is not impressed with rap sheets that look like this, no matter how “passionate” their creators.

We all pray for Sophia Wilansky and hope that the authorities can see that she has been punished enough.

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Vigil for Sophia Wilansky ’16

​To the Williams community,

By now, many of us have learned the dreadful news that Sophia Wilansky, class of 2016, was severely injured ​while demonstrating as a water protector ​on Sunday night ​in connection to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests in North Dakota. Sophia is now undergoing a battery of surgeries on her left arm.

We invite you to join us tonight at 7:30pm as we gather in reflection and prayer for Sophia, her family, friends, and all those affected. As we focus our thoughts and prayers on her recovery and healing, our space this evening aims to link up with the wider circle of vigils being convened elsewhere nationally for Sophia during this period of intensive surgeries.

​We will assemble at the Matt Cole Reading Room, located on the first floor of the Class of 1966 ​Environmental Center (home to the Zilkha Center and CES).

​In peace and prayer, ​


Sharif A. Rosen
Muslim Chaplain /
Asst. Dir. for Community Engagement, Center for Learning in Action (CLiA)

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