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Funny Way of ‘Listening’

Zach Wood ’18 writes in the Wall Street Journal:

‘You’re a racist white supremacist!” a Williams College student shouted at Christina Hoff Sommers, after she finished a recent campus talk on feminism.

To their credit, a handful of students responded to Ms. Sommers’s talk with challenging questions and cogent criticisms. But insults, rants and meltdowns consumed the majority of the question-and-answer session. As president of Uncomfortable Learning, a student group that invites controversial speakers to campus, I did my best to moderate.

We discussed this event here. Did Williams record the event? If so, where is the video? If not, why not? From the snippets we have seen, Zach was a good moderator, especially in his attempts to guide questioners to, you know, actually asking a question instead of giving a speech.

After one student activist shouted “f— you!” at the speaker, an administrator seemed to affirm the heckler’s veto, signaling to me with a timeout gesture that it was time to end the event. In an effort to give as many students as possible a chance to engage the speaker, I approached the administrator and negotiated another 15 minutes for questions. But the remainder of the Q&A consisted mostly of bellicose rhetoric and long-winded stories of personal trauma, many of which had little to do with the topic at hand. Ms. Sommers, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and critic of third-wave feminism, endured such “questioning” for more than an hour.

Who is the unnamed “administrator?” What advice do you have for Zach/Williams for making the Q&A at the next such event more productive?

As a college senior eager to engage in lively debate, I’m disappointed in students who used this event as an opportunity to taunt and disparage a speaker who made every effort to engage in good faith. Although many student activists at Williams seem hostile to conservative ideas, I believe all of my peers are capable of disagreeing without being disagreeable.

Zach is being too generous. The videos we have seen provide ample evidence that at least some of his peers are incapable of having a meaningful Q&A with a speaker like Sommers. But whose fault is that? The Williams faculty! They have an obligation to teach students how to participate in the give-and-take of debate, especially with people whose views make them uncomfortable.

But college administrators aren’t much help. Since Ms. Sommers’s talk at Williams, my college’s president, Adam Falk, has characterized the event as a success. He wrote in the Washington Post this week that “our students listened closely, then responded with challenging questions and in some cases blunt critiques.”

That grossly misrepresents what happened. During Ms. Sommers’s talk, many students did not “listen closely.” Instead, they acted disruptively by mocking her and snickering derisively throughout her entire speech.

True. We need to see the entire video. And isn’t it embarrassing that the Record has still provided no news coverage of this event? Still not too late though! Any event mentioned in both the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal merits news coverage, even if it is belated.

For each “challenging question,” there were at least five personal attacks, directed either at her or at me for inviting her. One student started yelling aggressively, blaming me for his parents’ qualms about his sexual orientation. His rant lasted for at least five minutes. Other students stood up and exclaimed that they were better than the speaker because she was “stupid, harmful, and white supremacist.”

Is Zach exaggerating? Tough to know without better coverage from the Record.

Shortly after the event, I heard from several friends that many members of the Black Student Union want nothing to do with me or other black students associated with Uncomfortable Learning. I expect this kind of recrimination. But I can’t speak for other students who’ve told me they worry about how their interest in my group may affect their relationship with their black classmates.

Indeed. Perhaps the most disquieting part of the debate over Uncomfortable Learning is the palpable fear that non-SJW students have over being associated with, or even appearing to be sympathetic to, UL, much less to, say, Donald Trump. I had hopes that the newly created Republican Club in campus would help. Have they done anything this year?

Ignoring the attacks directed at controversial speakers and the students who invite them propagates the misconception that Williams, and other American colleges, welcomes intellectual diversity. Things won’t get any better until college administrators like Mr. Falk honestly confront the threats to open debate at the institutions they lead.

Exactly correct.

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Wilansky ’16 One Year Later

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From The New York Post:

A year ago Tuesday, Sophia Wilansky stood on a bridge just outside the Dakota Access Pipeline encampment when she was flattened by a deafening explosion.

She refused to look down at her left hand, because she could not feel it and feared it had been blown off.

It became the emblematic moment of violence in the 10-month standoff between authorities and protestors, and it is not known if the metal shrapnel that tore through Sophia’s forearm came from a cop’s concussion grenade or a protester’s propane-tank bomb.

Previous coverage here.

Four surgeries later and still under FBI suspicion, the 22-year-old activist from Riverdale spoke publicly for the first time about the horror of Nov. 21, 2016.

It was 4 a.m. and the Williams College theater grad and lawyer’s daughter was on guard duty at the Backwater Bridge near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. It was dark, and she was bundled up in a puffer jacket against the 20-degree temperature.

She had volunteered, along with three others, to hold the ground in front of the span, which the protest army had cleared of police- and pipeline-company barricades earlier in the day.

Suddenly a cop on a loudspeaker yelled, “Get away!”

Instantly she was hit by three rubber bullets, in the groin, chest and left arm. She fumbled to pick up a plastic shield, but the onslaught escalated.

“I heard a loud blast and was knocked to the ground,” said Wilansky. “I was in complete shock.”

The explosion had ripped out the radius bone, muscle, nerves and arteries of her left arm, and her hand was hanging by a few threads of flesh.

Her comrades scooped her up, carried her to their car and drove about 30 minutes to a waiting ambulance at a local casino.

“It was the most painful thing I ever felt, but it didn’t make sense in that situation to freak out,” she said. “I just kept thinking about how I would soon be in a hospital with pain meds.”

With her free hand, she texted friends and posted on Facebook.

The post has since been taken down, and in the spring the FBI applied for a warrant to search her Facebook account as the feds sought evidence of Wilansky’s possible connection to homemade explosives, according to court documents unsealed last month.

She has not been charged, and her lawyer says the probe is baseless.

“It was intended to scare her and other [protesters] from speaking out about that incident,” said Lauren Regan, who heads the Civil Liberties Defense Center.

Wilansky says she plans to sue to procure the shrapnel and clothing removed by surgeons and collected by the feds, in order to use the evidence in legal actions she will pursue against the law enforcement agencies she believes hurt her that day.

The Morton County Sheriff’s Office denies using a concussion grenade or any explosive device that day.

“Those are lethal devices and those are not even something [the department] ever had or has in its inventory,” said Morton County spokeswoman Maxine Herr. She said police fired sponge and bean-bag rounds and one stinger ball, which launches dozens of tiny rubber balls and gas.

Police claim Wilansky and three others refused orders to emerge from behind a shield. Officers said they saw someone roll metal cylinders toward the protesters and three propane canisters were found where the explosion took place, Herr said.

Wilansky’s injury was the most severe to result from the protest led by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, who feared the oil pipeline would pollute their drinking water and intrude on sacred grounds. The Obama administration temporarily halted the project, but it was completed under President Trump in June.

Wilansky, who can no longer use her left hand and has very little feeling in her arm, vows to continue the fight against climate change and for the rights of indigenous people.

“I will not let the threat of being injured or prosecuted deter me from standing up for what I believe in,” she declared.

If Wilansky were my daughter, I would be both proud of her courage and terrified for her future.

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Pell Grant, 3

Whitney Wilson ’90 points out this Washington Post article (and chart) about the rise in the percentage of Pell Grant recipients at elite schools like Williams. For background information on this topic, read this, this and our ten (!) part series from 2014. Let’s spend a week on this topic. Today is Day 3.

Here is the happy story of Vassar.

In 2007, 12 percent of freshmen entering Vassar had enough need to qualify for federal Pell Grants. Within two years, the share had climbed to 20 percent and federal data showed it has stayed above that threshold ever since. In 2015, the Pell share for Vassar was 23 percent.

Catharine Hill, president of Vassar from 2006 to 2016, said the school’s record shows it is possible to broaden the demographic base of a selective college — drawing more students from low- and moderate-income families — without compromising standards. “In most cases, if you wanted to do more, you could do more,” Hill said. “All we had to do was go looking for kids. Our academic credentials actually went up.”

EphBlog loves Cappy Hill something fierce. She aimed to increase the percentage of Pell-eligible students at Vassar and succeeded in doing so. But did she meaningfully increase socio-economic diversity at Vassar? Consider the data:

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1) There has been no meaningful change in the percentage of students who come from families in the top 1%. It was 10% 15 years ago. It around 10% now. I, obviously, have no problem with that, but the Washington Post ought to at least mention this narrative-challenging fact. Is Rob Anderson a reporter or Cappy Hill’s PR flack?

2) At the other end of the distribution, only 5.4% of Vassar students are currently from families in the bottom quintile of the income distribution. Alas, the Times does not show us the time series of that statistic, but I bet that it has been fairly steady over time. Vassar has offered plenty of students full scholarships for decades.

3) In Cappy’s defense, there has been some movement lower in between the 20th and the 90th percentile of the income distribution. In essence, she replaced a bunch of students with incomes around the 65th percentile (around $70,000) with students from families making more like $50,000. The former group are not eligible for Pell, the latter are. Is this some giant victory for the forces of social justice? I doubt it.

Private colleges face their own constraints. They rely more heavily on tuition revenue, making it essential to enroll a large number of students who pay in full. They also set aside seats for children of alumni, known as “legacies.” Like public colleges, they also hold spots for athletes and chase students with high SAT or ACT scores, despite evidence that performance on admission tests is linked to family income.

How many stupidities can Rob Anderson put into one paragraph? First, the average academic credentials of legacies at Williams are better than those of non-legacies. The same is almost certainly true at Vassar and at Princeton. Second, “performance on admission tests is linked to family income” because rich parents are, on average, smarter than poor parents, and all parents pass on their genes to their children.

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A more economically diverse student body?

Interesting article in today’s Washington Post, entitled Pell Grant Shares at Top-Ranked Colleges: a sortable chart, with a number of Williams connections.   The data is based on kids who were freshman in 2015, so its a little dated, but it reports that 22% of Williams freshman in 2015 were eligible for Pell Grants from the Federal government.  This number was up from 21% in 2010.  According to the article, Williams is one of 39 schools amongst the top 100 national universities and top 50 liberal arts colleges (according to the US News and World Report rankings) which has a freshman class with at least 20% Pell Grant eligible students.

Two former Williams faculty members are quoted in the article, representing schools with (relatively) high and low numbers of Pell Grant eligible students.  According to the article, Vassar College adopted a need-blind admissions policy in 2007 and has seen its percentage of Pell Grant eligible students jump from 12% to 23%, without any decline in the academic credentials of its incoming students:

Catharine Hill [Williams Class of 1976 1977 and former provost of Williams], president of Vassar from 2006 to 2016, said the school’s record shows it is possible to broaden the demographic base of a selective college — drawing more students from low- and moderate-income families — without compromising standards. “In most cases, if you wanted to do more, you could do more,” Hill said. “All we had to do was go looking for kids. Our academic credentials actually went up.”

On the other hand, Washington and Lee University has gone in the other direction, with its percentage of Pell Grant eligible students dropping from 11% to 6% between 2010 and 2015.  Washington and Lee wants to reverse this trend, though, at least according to its new President:

Will Dudley [Williams Class of 1989 and also a former provost of Williams], who this year became president of the private Virginia liberal arts school, said the share rose to 11 percent this fall and he wants to lift it further. Dudley said he raised the issue of socioeconomic diversity at Washington and Lee when he was interviewing for the job. Previously, he was provost at Williams College, which had a far higher Pell share in 2015 — 22 percent. “If they didn’t want to make progress, they wouldn’t have hired me,” Dudley said.

The entire article and the underlying data is interesting.  No one seems to to question that the  percentage of Pell Grant eligible students is a good proxy for socio-economic diversity.  I wonder if there are different metrics to try to measure the same thing.

Should Williams make additional efforts to recruit and admit more students who are eligible for Pell Grants?

 

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More Perfect Unions

Interesting Labor Day thoughts from Oren Cass ’05:

Organized labor is neither inherently partisan nor inherently counterproductive economically. In theory, an arrangement by which workers “bargain collectively” and offer “mutual aid,” as the NLRA establishes is their right, can be a neutral or even positive part of a flourishing market economy. Other countries have implemented labor systems sharply different from—and more effective than—the American one. Even within the U.S., examples exist of organized labor’s potential to operate more constructively. A reformed legal framework for labor could help address several critical challenges, including the plight of less skilled workers struggling in the modern economy. It’s time for a new approach.

Effective reform would have four elements. First, the NLRA must no longer have exclusive jurisdiction over relationships between employers and organizations of workers. Its definition of a covered “labor organization” must narrow from all organizations of employees whose purpose is “dealing with employers” to only those established for the purpose of using NLRA-defined rights and processes. The 8(a)(2) prohibition on nonunion collaboration between employers and workers must go. None of these changes affects the ability of a union to operate with its current model—to the extent that workers choose it.

Second, the government should formally recognize the existence of the “labor co-operative”: a nonprofit controlled by its dues-paying members for the purpose of advancing their employment and creating value, rather than merely reallocating it. Co-ops will be held to governance and financial standards appropriate to their potential roles and will be eligible to partner with government in delivering benefits. They will also have the capacity to earn recognition as the collective representative of employees in a given workplace, but their existence will not depend on such recognition.

Read the whole thing, although I doubt that my leftist Eph friends will find Cass’s argument very compelling.

A more concise version of the argument is available in the Wall Street Journal.

It is a shame that Cass was such an obnoxious Never Trumper. The Administration would benefit from his energy and ideas.

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DACA

Sound advice!

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Williams presidential search news

To the Williams Community,

I hope you are all enjoying the last days of summer, and looking forward, as I am, to the new academic year.

As you know, President Adam Falk recently announced that he will leave Williams at the end of December to become president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. In my role as chair of the college’s Board of Trustees, I have been asked by the Board to lead our search for Adam’s successor. I am writing today to inform you of our considerable progress in organizing the process, and to share with you our plan for interim college leadership beginning in January of 2018, which was approved by the Board of Trustees yesterday.

First, I am pleased to inform you that Protik (Tiku) Majumder, Barclay Jermain Professor of Natural Philosophy and Director of the Science Center, has graciously agreed to serve as interim president, starting January 1, 2018, and continuing until the new president is in place. Tiku has an outstanding record as a Williams teacher and mentor, scientist, and faculty leader, and just as importantly has earned wide trust and respect across the Williams community. Our objective was to find an interim president with a keen understanding of our institution; a love of Williams, of its students, and of its faculty; enormous patience, tact, and insight; and an ability to respond with intelligence, compassion, and calm to the inevitable challenges that will arise from time to time. Tiku has each of these qualities, and many more. He will do a superb job of keeping Williams on track, and I ask you to join me in thanking him and supporting his leadership.

Second, we have formed a Presidential Search Committee whose charge will be to present to the Board of Trustees one or more exceptional and thoroughly vetted candidates to become our next president, and to ensure that every member of the Williams community has an opportunity to give input with respect to qualities that we should be seeking, as well as to offer nominations. The Search Committee includes representatives from every sector of our community: students, staff, alumni, faculty, and trustees. Several members are also Williams parents. As their backgrounds indicate, each brings deep involvement with the College. Service on the committee will require significant time and effort, and I am personally grateful to the members for their dedication to Williams and their willingness to take on this essential task.

The members of the committee are:

Michael Eisenson ’77, Trustee and Chair of the Search Committee
O. Andreas Halvorsen ’86, Trustee
Clarence Otis, Jr. ’77, Trustee
Kate L. Queeney ’92, Trustee
Liz Robinson ’90, Trustee
Martha Williamson ’77, Trustee

Ngonidzashe Munemo, Associate Dean for Institutional Diversity and Associate Professor of Political Science
Peter Murphy, John Hawley Roberts Professor of English
Lucie Schmidt, Professor of Economics
Tom Smith ’88, Professor of Chemistry
Safa Zaki, Professor of Psychology

Chris Winters ’95, Associate Provost

Jordan G. Hampton ’87, President, Society of Alumni
Yvonne Hao ’95, alumna and Trustee Emerita

Ben Gips ’19, student representative
Sarah Hollinger ’19, student representative

Keli Gail, Secretary of the Board of Trustees and principal staff to the committee

Third, the board has retained the firm Spencer Stuart as consultant, to help manage the search process. Spencer Stuart has been involved in numerous recent and successful academic searches at the highest levels, and is very well positioned to help the committee in its work. Searches like this are complex and sensitive, and we expect to benefit greatly from their expertise, specialized resources, and pool of outstanding candidates.

The Search Committee will begin its work shortly, and we will announce opportunities for community input as these are developed. As a first step, we have created a website where you can find information and materials related to the search. We will add to the site as additional materials are available, as further process steps are scheduled, and as we have news to share. Our future email updates will link back to this site as the place of record for search news.

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to again thank the members of the Presidential Search Committee for the work they are about to do, and Tiku Majumder for his service as interim president. I also want to convey to our entire community our enthusiasm and optimism as we set out to find the 18th president of Williams College.

Sincerely,

Michael Eisenson ’77
Chair, Williams College Board of Trustees

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JCD is Right!* Hitler is a cliche …

Il Dunce

With the pardon of the sheriff, with the order to the military Re: transgenderpeople in the  service, I’d have slapped up a shot of Der Fuhrer faster than lightning. But JCD is right, I’ve been over-using Hitler as an easy allusion for Drumph and Fascism.

So here is a new simulacrum that I’ll use. It’s a little lighter with a touch of humor. Although the situations grow less and less humorous.

Thanks JCD!

          * see JCD comment, 3rd comment under ‘Very Nice People’ post **

 

**  Granted, this is a meta reference to Williams. However, one that may be familiar to constant readers.

Addenda items …

At David’s good suggestion to search harder for a Williams College reference, I am adding this more direct beat-back.

This article in the blog of Christian Thorne, Associate Professor of English on 27 February, 2017:

https://sites.williams.edu/cthorne/articles/fulfilling-the-fascist-lie/

Mussolini’s government, unlike Hitler’s, did not attempt to monopolize the entire sphere of thought and culture. Historians are keen to point out that there was no Italian Gleichschaltung—no effort to bring everyone into line. Within certain parameters, independent intellectuals continued to publish in Italy, which means not that there were still socialists or communists or liberals expressing themselves freely in Florence and Rome—those people really were shut down—but that there remained an outer circle of freelance fascists, the half-fascists or the merely unenrolled, the shirts not of black, but of charcoal and onyx and taupe,

Added by DDF:

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Freedom of Speech Is Not Enough

Zach Wood ’18 writes in the Wall Street Journal:

North Carolina last week became the latest state to enact a law protecting free speech on college campuses. The Restore Campus Free Speech Act requires schools to discipline students and faculty who substantially disrupt or interfere “with the protected free expression rights of others.”

Such legislation, sensibly enforced, should bolster efforts to increase viewpoint diversity and send a clear message that heckler’s vetoes will not be condoned. But leaders in higher education need to do more than protect free speech. Their greater challenge is to teach students how to discuss controversial topics thoughtfully and see the value of understanding those with whom they disagree.

I agree. But does the Williams faculty? Professor Sam Crane, for example, sees no value in “understanding” the views of John Derbyshire.

The need for such understanding became clear to me while serving as president of Uncomfortable Learning, a club at Williams College that tries to broaden the range of dialogue on campus by hosting controversial speakers. After I invited conservative commentator John Derbyshire in 2016 to speak about race and national identity, one student angrily told me that if the speech wasn’t canceled, Mr. Derbyshire wouldn’t make it through the door in one piece.

“What do you mean?” I asked. “You can’t be serious.”

The student paused, leaned over the table and looked me in the eye: “Whatever it takes, he will not make it through that door.”

Whoa! I would have doubted this story in the past. But, after the physical attacks on Charles Murray at Middlebury, I believe it. I certainly hope that Eph antifa are as serious and organized as Middlebury antifa!

Read more

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Very Fine People

Not all Ephs were impressed with President Trump’s press conference.

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I also disliked parts of the press conference. (Steve Bannon is definitely a very fine person!)

What did you think?

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Men and Women are Different

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The topic is this memo written by a Google engineer, who was then fired. More from Elissa Shevinsky ’01:

An internal post went viral at Google, and is now dominating the news cycle in tech / feminism. The resulting conversation has covered a lot of already familiar ground. Women and minorities continue to come forward with stories of discrimination, and white nationalists continue to complain that diversity efforts lower the bar.

If everyone who believes that men and women are biologically different — in ways that might effect job preferences — is a “white nationalists,” then . . .

Read Slate Star Codex for a thorough rebuttal.

But, as always, we need more Williams connections. How about a Record article which includes interviews with various Williams professors? I bet Nate Kornell would provide some nice crime-think on this topic!

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Beschloss ’77 on Immigration

Via Steve Sailer, this discussion about Trump immigration policy featuring Michael Beschloss ’77:

Brian Williams: “Michael, when has Truth been doubted before, the way it has been doubted under this Administration by enormous segments of society?”

Prof. Michael Bechloss: “I think never in the history of the Presidency, I think it’s pretty fair to say that. And even what we saw with Mr. Miller was an example of that. His saying that the poem doesn’t count because it was put on later, you know, it’s sort of like the Bill of Rights was ratified four years after the Constitution, so Bill of Rights isn’t very important either.”

As Sailer notes:

I guess I must have dozed through the history class when we discussed how Emma Lazarus’s poem was ratified by two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress and then by three-fourths of the states.

Me too!

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Dangers of Lead

Interesting article from Jennifer Doleac ’03 about the dangers of lead.

A recent investigation by Reuters found that lead exposure affects kids in communities across the country — not just in high-profile cities like
Flint, Michigan. This is worrisome, because elevated blood lead levels in kids have been linked to an array of developmental delays and behavioral problems. More ominously, this could also increase crime. Kevin Drum and others
have argued that lead exposure caused the high crime rates during the 1980s and early 1990s. There has been suggestive evidence of such a link for decades, though it hasn’t gained much traction in research or policy circles. But the case that lead exposure causes crime recently became much stronger.

Read the whole (scary) thing.

Although Jen is (rightly) concerned with national policy, we at EphBlog care about local issues first. Are children in Williamstown and/or the Berkshires exposed to too much lead? How does that exposure vary across the region? What might be done about it? Another great topic for a senior thesis.

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Last Hedge Fund Pit Bull

Fun article about Paul Singer P ’96 an a former member of the Williams Investment Committee.

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There is a great senior thesis to be written about Singer’s career. Who will write it?

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Also appreciate this:

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As all EphBloggers know, Hans Humes is Williams class of 1987. Note how Hans simultaneously helps out a fellow Eph and brags about his own central role in global financial negotiations. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

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Marchant ’20 in the Washington Post

Landon Marchant ’20 (hat tip to Professor Sarah Jacobson‏) writes in the Washington Post:

Growing up, no one explicitly told me military service meant respect. They didn’t have to.

American flags flew in countless yards, including my own. The Pledge of Allegiance was recited each morning. Military recruiters knew my high school classmates by name and asked us about athletics and classes. Sporting events began with the national anthem. Military veterans had gainful employment. My evangelical upbringing stressed the importance of selfless service, of setting aside personal desires for the sake of a greater cause.

I am a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. I am transgender. My story is not unique.

The U.S. military employs as many as 15,500 active duty, National Guard and National Reserve transgender troops, according to a Williams Institute study, which could make it the largest employer of transgender Americans. The research institute also estimated there are 134,000 transgender veterans. Transgender people face higher rates of homelessness, unemployment and health-care discrimination than the average civilian population, and military service can offer economic stability and a sense of purpose.

Read the whole thing.

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Seeing Like a State

From the incomparable Slate Star Codex:

Seeing Like A State is the book G.K. Chesterton would have written if he had gone into economic history instead of literature. Since he didn’t, James Scott had to write it a century later. The wait was worth it.

Scott starts with the story of “scientific forestry” in 18th century Prussia. Enlightenment rationalists noticed that peasants were just cutting down whatever trees happened to grow in the forests, like a chump. They came up with a better idea: clear all the forests and replace them by planting identical copies of Norway spruce (the highest-lumber-yield-per-unit-time tree) in an evenly-spaced rectangular grid. Then you could just walk in with an axe one day and chop down like a zillion trees an hour and have more timber than you could possibly ever want.

This went poorly. The impoverished ecosystem couldn’t support the game animals and medicinal herbs that sustained the surrounding peasant villages, and they suffered an economic collapse. The endless rows of identical trees were a perfect breeding ground for plant diseases and forest fires. And the complex ecological processes that sustained the soil stopped working, so after a generation the Norway spruces grew stunted and malnourished. Yet for some reason, everyone involved got promoted, and “scientific forestry” spread across Europe and the world.

And this pattern repeats with suspicious regularity across history, not just in biological systems but also in social ones.

Read the whole thing. James Scott ’58 is, perhaps, the most famous living Eph political scientist. (If not him, then who?)

Best introduction to Scott’s ideas is here. Highly recommended.

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Black Entrepreneurship

Former Williams trustee Steven S. Rogers ’79 is teaching at Harvard Business School:

A new course at Harvard Business School, “Black Business Leaders and Entrepreneurship,” focuses on case studies featuring black protagonists in an effort to address a “blatant absence of inclusion” in the school’s curriculum.

Steven S. Rogers, the Business School professor who started the course, said the motivation for starting the course wasn’t to discuss racial discrimination, but rather to tell the stories of successful black business executives.

“One of the things I decided to do was not make it a course that focused on problems, but a course that focused on solutions and the end product of success,” he said.

Beyond moving the Business School curriculum towards including more diverse case protagonists, Rogers said he wants to showcase examples of “black brilliance.”

Read the whole thing.

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Smack Down of Norton ’97

Most brutal smackdown of an Eph academic paper ever?

A psychology researcher sent me an email with subject line, “There’s a hell of a paper coming out in PPNAS today.” He sent me a copy of the paper, “Physical and situational inequality on airplanes predicts air rage,” by Katherine DeCelles and Michael Norton, edited by Susan Fiske, and it did not disappoint. By which I mean it exhibited the mix of forking paths and open-ended storytelling characteristic of these sorts of PPNAS or Psychological Science papers on himmicanes, power pose, ovulation and clothing, and all the rest.

There’s so much to love (by which I mean, hate) here, I hardly know where to start.

The Eph involved in Michael Norton ’97. The author is Columbia professor Andrew Gelman. Read the whole thing.

Would any reader defend Norton against this attack? Not me.

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Policy-Based Evidence Making

Latest from Oren Cass ’05:

“Evidence-based policymaking” is the latest trend in expert government. The appeal is obvious: Who, after all, could be against evidence?

Most EBP initiatives seem eminently sensible, testing a plausible policy under conditions that should provide meaningful information about its effectiveness. So it is not surprising to see bipartisan support for the general idea. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray even collaborated on the creation of an Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission that has won praise from both the Urban Institute and the Heritage Foundation.

But the perils of such an approach to lawmaking become clear in practice. Consider, for instance, the “universal basic income” campaign. Faced with the challenge of demonstrating that society will improve if government guarantees to every citizen a livable monthly stipend, basic-income proponents suggest an experiment: Give a group of people free money, give another group no money, and see what happens. Such experiments are underway from the Bay Area to Finland to Kenya to India.

No doubt many well-credentialed social scientists will be doing complex regression analysis for years, but in this case we can safely skip to the last page: People like free money better than no free money. Unfortunately, this inevitable result says next to nothing about whether the basic income is a good public policy.

The flaws most starkly apparent in the basic-income context pervade EBP generally, and its signature method of “controlled” experiments in particular. The standard critique of overreliance on pilot programs, which are difficult to replicate or scale, is relevant but only scratches the surface. Conceptually, the EBP approach typically compares an expensive new program to nothing, instead of to alternative uses of resources — in effect assuming that new resources are costless. It emphasizes immediate effects on program participants as the only relevant outcome, ignoring systemic and cultural effects as well as unintended consequences of government interventions. It places a premium on centralization at the expense of individual choice or local problem-solving.

Politics compounds the methodological shortcomings, imposing a peculiar asymmetry in which positive findings are lauded as an endorsement of government intervention while negative findings are dismissed as irrelevant — or as a basis for more aggressive intervention. Policies that reduce government, when considered at all, receive condemnation if they are anything other than totally painless. Throughout, the presence of evidence itself becomes an argument for empowering bureaucrats, as if the primary explanation for prior government failure was a lack of good information.

The common thread in these shortcomings is an implicit endorsement of the progressive view of the federal government as preferred problem-solver and a disregard for the entire range of concerns that prevent conservatives from sharing that view. Like Charlie Brown with his football, conservatives repeatedly lunge with enthusiasm at the idea that evidence will hold government accountable for results, only to be disappointed. Lauded as a tool of technocratic excellence, EBP more often offers a recipe for creeping statism.

Not that there is anything wrong with “creeping statism,” of course!

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Fraud Jessica Torres ’12 in the New York Times

From The New York Times:

In recent years, on campus after campus, from the University of Virginia to Columbia University, from Duke to Stanford, higher education has been roiled by high-profile cases of sexual assault accusations. Now Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is stepping into that maelstrom. On Thursday, she will meet in private with women who say they were assaulted, accused students and their families, advocates for both sides and higher education officials, the first step in a contentious effort to re-examine policies of President Barack Obama, who made expansive use of his powers to investigate the way universities and colleges handle sexual violence.

Meanwhile, groups like Know Your IX, which teaches students their rights under the federal law, have been promoting a hashtag on Twitter, #DearBetsy, and asking people to post their personal stories about sexual assault on Twitter. Jessica Torres, a 27-year-old Democratic strategist, tweeted to Ms. DeVos that she had been raped as a student at Williams College.

“My concern is we’re going back to the years when women and queer students were absolutely terrified of coming forward,” Ms. Torres said in an interview.

The tweet in question:

jt

1) Jessica Torres is a fraud. By committing the 2011 Prospect House hate hoax, she did more damage to the Williams community than any other student in the last decade.

2) Do New York Times Erica Green and Sheryl Stolberg reporters know how to use Google? If you are going to quote someone making a serious accusation, then the least you ought to do is to look into their past. Couldn’t they have found someone who isn’t a documented liar to demonstrate the point that false accusations of rape are not a major problem?

3) If Jessica Torres was raped at Williams, then I would urge her to report the crime to the Williamstown police. Law enforcement in Massachusetts takes sexual assault very seriously. Her assailant should be apprehended, charged, tried and, if found guilty, punished. However, if she made up the accusation after the Williams administration got a little to close in its investigation of the hate hoax, I would recommend that she restrict her public statements to other topics. [UPDATE: Thanks to comment below for clarifying the timing. Torres committed the hate hoax after her (false?) rape report, not before it.]

Back to the article:

Investigative processes have not been “fairly balanced between the accusing victim and the accused student,” Ms. Jackson argued, and students have been branded rapists “when the facts just don’t back that up.” In most investigations, she said, there’s “not even an accusation that these accused students overrode the will of a young woman.”

“Rather, the accusations — 90 percent of them — fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right,’” Ms. Jackson said.

This quote is causing rage among a certain segment of the Eph commentariat. And that is OK! Ephs differ in their assessments of the problem of sexual assault on campus and what to do about it.

But, as always, at EphBlog, we are interested in the data. Do 90% of the cases at Williams look like that or not? If only the College would tell us . . .

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Wood ’18 and Lawrence ’77 Testify to Senate, 8

Williams student Zachary Wood ’18 testified (pdf) to United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing: “Free Speech 101: The Assault on the First Amendment on College Campuses.” (Also testifying (pdf) was former Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence ’77.) Let’s spend two weeks on this topic. Today is Day 8.

What should Falk/Williams do? Let’s revisit (and revise) my advice from last year. Falk should issue the following statement:

Inspired by the impressive Senate testimony of Zachary Wood ’18 and Frederick Lawrence ’77, I have talked to many Williams faculty, students and alumni. I have now read John Derbsyhire’s book We Are Doomed, having checked it out from our own Sawyer Library. Although I profoundly disagree with Derbyshire’s views on a variety of topics, I now realize that my earlier decision was a mistake. Williams College is precisely the place where these odious opinions need to be explored, confronted and debunked. If not us, then who? If not here, then where? So, in the spirit of uncomfortable learning, I have personally invited John Derbyshire to Williams this fall, where we will stage a debate between him and some of the members of our faculty.

1) This would be a huge gift to Falk’s successor. A departing president has an opportunity to do things that make people angry and, make no mistake, lots of Ephs would be angry about am invitation to Derbyshire. The more that Falk can make the hard decisions — and take the heat associated with them — the more that the next Williams president will thank him.

2) This would close the chapter on one of the biggest mistakes of Falk’s presidency. A reasonable case can be made that, given the information available to him at the time, Falk was in the right to cancel Derbyshire’s talk. But now, with the benefit of hindsight, it is fairly clear that the cancellation was a mistake. And that is OK! We all make mistakes. But we don’t always get the chance to fix them. Falk has that chance.

3) I spoke with two former students of Robert Gaudino at a recent alumni event. Both were 100% certain that Gaudino would be strongly against the Derbyshire cancellation and in favor of more “uncomfortable learning.” But you don’t have to trust them or me on this score. Consider the words of a close student of Williams history:

Liberal education strengthens the mind and spirit so that a human being may more fully engage the world. Since Mark Hopkins’ time a string of Williams educators has further developed this idea. In the middle of the last century Professor Robert Gaudino pushed his charges to learn uncomfortably, in India, in rural America, in situations within the classroom and without that challenged the safe and familiar worlds they’d brought with them. If Mark Hopkins was the first professor to ask his students, “What do you think?” then Gaudino and others, including faculty of today, have raised the asking of that question, with all its implicit challenge, to a form of art.

Emphasis in the original. The speaker? Adam Falk.

To the extent Falk really believes in Gaudino’s legacy, in the importance of uncomfortable learning, there is no better tribute he can now pay than to invite John Derbyshire to Williams.

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Wood ’18 and Lawrence ’77 Testify to Senate, 7

Williams student Zachary Wood ’18 testified (pdf) to United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing: “Free Speech 101: The Assault on the First Amendment on College Campuses.” (Also testifying (pdf) was former Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence ’77.) Let’s spend two weeks on this topic. Today is Day 7.

More from Fred Lawrence’s testimony:

The moral response to hateful speech is to describe it as such, and to criticize it
directly. Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis famously wrote in Whitney v.
California that except in those rare cases, such as we have discussed earlier, in which the harm from speech is real and imminent, the answer to harmful or hateful speech is not “enforced silence,” but it is “more speech.”

We bind ourselves to an impoverished choice set if we believe that we can either punish speech or else we validate it. There is the middle position, Brandeis’s dictum of “more speech” that allows us to respond without punishing. In the face of hate speech, the call for more speech is not merely an option. It is a moral obligation.

Indeed.

Fred Lawrence ’77 for interim president of Williams!

1) He is too old (?) and/or has no interest in the job as a permanent position, so he is a perfect placeholder.

2) As a former trustee, he already understands most of the important issues affecting Williams.

3) His expertise in free speech issues — and his strong commitment to open debate — make him the perfect person to close the door on the Derbyshire imbroglio, the College’s worst mistake — at least from a public relations standpoint — in the last decade.

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Wood ’18 and Lawrence ’77 Testify to Senate, 6

Williams student Zachary Wood ’18 testified (pdf) to United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing: “Free Speech 101: The Assault on the First Amendment on College Campuses.” (Also testifying (pdf) was former Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence ’77.) Let’s spend two weeks on this topic. Today is Day 6.

Fred Lawrence’s ’77 testimony included this story:

The second story took place took place at Williams College, where I was a Trustee. A Jewish student complained that a faux eviction notice had been placed on her dorm room door. “If you do not vacate the premises by tomorrow at 6PM, we reserve the right to demolish your premises without delay,” the notice read. “We cannot be held responsible for property or persons remaining inside. Charges for demolition will be applied to your student account.” The student understandably felt terrible. The President wanted my opinion on what should be done to those responsible.

Let me now return to the case that occurred at Williams College involving the
faux eviction notice that had been placed on a student’s dorm room, in imitation of the notices placed on Palestinian homes that are to be demolished by Israeli authorities due to the connection between residents and acts of terrorism. The College President asked what I thought should be done to those responsible for the notice. “This,” he said to me, is not just speech – this is actual conduct. Can we sanction these students?”

We talked about Virginia v. Black and the role of intent. “But how would we
know the student’s intent?” he asked. I suggested looking into the way the notices were posted. Were only the leaders or a Jewish student organization targeted? For that matter, were only Jewish students targeted? As it turned out, every student in that dorm regardless of affiliation received one. That the complaining student honestly felt intimidated is not the issue. The issue was the actual intent of those who posted the notices – to intimidate and threaten individual Jewish students or to make a dramatic statement about their views concerning the Israel – Palestine conflict.

1) When did this occur? If it was in the last 15 years, then how did EphBlog miss it? Apologies! Was there any coverage in the Record?

2) The most similar controversy was, of course, Mary Jane Hitler. Good times! Summary: Williams student and her creepy boyfriend post signs mocking Holocaust Remembrance Day:

poster2.gif

Campus goes crazy. But then-President Morty Schapiro keeps his head, calms everyone down, and does not punish the Williams student in any way. (Contrast this excellent performance with Adam Falk’s incompetence in dealing with the Jess Torres ’12 hate hoax and John Derbyshire.) Many readers think that EphBlog’s unmasking of the creepy boyfriend was our finest moment. Ah, memories . . .

3) Might Fred Lawrence be willing to serve as an interim president? He is a former Williams trustee and former Brandeis president, so he knows the ropes.

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Wood ’18 and Lawrence ’77 Testify to Senate, 5

Williams student Zachary Wood ’18 testified (pdf) to United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing: “Free Speech 101: The Assault on the First Amendment on College Campuses.” (Also testifying (pdf) was former Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence ’77.) Let’s spend two weeks on this topic. Today is Day 5.

Wood’s testimony is excellent:

Humanity is not limited to the views and values we admire. Humanity also encompasses the thought and action we resist. To gain a deeper understanding of humanity, I have made a concerted effort to understand as thoroughly as possible the visions and convictions of those whose arguments I diametrically oppose.


Bob Gaudino
would be proud that his spirit lives on at Williams, at least among a handful of students.

I have faced considerable backlash in addition to administrative obstacles. For inviting controversial speakers to campus, I’ve been labeled “a men’s rights activist,” “a sellout,” and “anti-Black,” among other things. I’ve also been the target of implicit threats. On Facebook, one student wrote that “they need the oil and the switch to deal with him [me] in this midnight hour.” Once, I even received a hand-written letter, slipped under my door, that read: “your blood will be on the leaves.”

1) We need a scan of that hand-written letter, if only for the use of future historians.

2) Can you imagine what the reaction of the Williams Administration would be similar threats directed against a more conventionally liberal student?

3) Recall Falk’s claim to Time magazine:

“Freedom of speech is a fundamental value of society, and it’s a fundamental value on our campuses. But we also have to create conditions where that speech is civil and the dialogue that it spawns is productive.”

The best way to increase civility at Williams is to punish the incivility directed at Wood. And the best way to punish that incivility is not to go after the students who attacked Wood, as satisfying as that might be. Instead, Falk should say something like:

I stand with Zach Wood. The incivility with which he has been treated by members of the Williams community is unconscionable. But, at Williams, we do not punish speech. So, instead, the College will be funding weekly speakers, chosen in conjunction with the student leaders of Uncomfortable Learning, who disagree with the views of the students/faculty who have attacked Zach. The first two speakers will be Suzanne Venker and John Derbyshire. Until the Williams community learns to accept that Ephs differ in their views and that those differences are not grounds for incivility, we will be providing them with some “uncomfortable learning,” just as Robert Gaudino did 50 years ago.

Odds of this happening? Zero.

What advice would you have for Falk (or the interim president or the next president) about how to decrease incivility at Williams?

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Questions from a Reader

A loyal reader writes:

Be sure to spend more time on the testimony of Frederick Lawrence from the Senate hearings. It was telling that he did not contradict Sen. Kennedy in any way in the discussion of Falk’s unique approach to defending free speech (a la Ben Tre).

Will do, later this week.

Speculation regarding Falk’s departure is amusing, but the choice of the next president is a much more important issue. Some relevant questions: How does one communicate with the board of trustees, who will be on the hiring committee, etc. Is there any way Lawrence could end up on the committee? He is quite impressive.

1) The full search committee has not been announced yet, but trustee chair Michael Eisenson ’77 will be the chair. I think that I also read, but can’t find the link, that Isaacson, Miller has been hired to help, as they did in the last search. True?

2) It is unlikely that Fred Lawrence ’77 will be on the search committee, mainly because he does not live in Williamstown or Boston. A committee which draws all its members from those two locations will be much easier to manage. As I will discuss later this week, I like Lawrence for interim president. I wonder if he and Eisenson knew each other back in the day . . .

3) You will have many opportunities to communicate with the search committee. They will do a dozen or more meet-and-listens with various parts of the Williams community. They will solicit input from everyone. (How closely they will read the written comments they receive is unclear . . .)

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Eisenson ’77 on Falk Departure

At 12:53 pm yesterday, just 19 minutes after Falk’s all campus email:

To the Williams Community,

I write, on behalf of the Williams College Board of Trustees and with mixed emotion, to officially confirm that Adam Falk will leave Williams at the end of 2017 to become president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The College has flourished under Adam’s leadership. We have sustained and, indeed, enhanced our position as a national leader in liberal arts education. We have maintained our commitment to providing access to the broadest possible spectrum of exceptional students, attracting ever increasing talent and diversity to our campus. We have had great success recruiting accomplished and highly sought-after new members to join our outstanding faculty ranks and, as well, Adam has built a deep and effective senior leadership team. Our campus is undergoing an ambitious, carefully-orchestrated renewal, with superb new facilities, including the Sawyer Library and a major new center for the sciences, positioning us for the next fifty years, while reflecting a purposeful commitment to managing our carbon footprint. Our alumni and friends have set the historic Teach It Forward campaign well on the path to achieving our ambitious goals, and the College’s finances are in all ways very sound.

Adam has been an exceptionally fine president for Williams. He has demonstrated a keen ability to appreciate and retain the best of Williams traditions, while encouraging the College to grow through a genuine openness to innovation, always with the education and wellbeing of our students foremost in mind. His departure will be a loss for the College and our community, and I will personally miss his wisdom, his friendship, and his deeply thoughtful and principled leadership. At the same time, he will be leaving at a time when the College is as strong, secure and thriving as it has ever been and the Board of Trustees is completely confident that Williams will attract another exceptional talent to lead us into the next decade.

Adam’s last day at Williams will be December 31, 2017. The Board has approved the formation of a search committee, and I have been appointed as its chair. In that capacity I will be back in touch later this Summer with information about the search process. We will organize various opportunities in the Fall for the community to thank Adam for his service and wish him well. In the meantime, please join me in congratulating Adam on his exciting next adventure and in making the most of his remaining time in the Purple Valley.

Best regards,
Michael Eisenson ’77
Chair, Williams College Board of Trustees

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Senator Kennedy Calls for Adam Falk’s Resignation

Williams student Zachary Wood ’18 testified (pdf) to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing: “Free Speech 101: The Assault on the First Amendment on College Campuses.” (Also testifying (pdf) was former Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence ’77.) Let’s spend two weeks on this topic. Today is Day 2.

When was the last time a US Senator called for the resignation of the president of Williams College? Last week!

I can’t figure out how to excerpt a portion of the video, but this is the key exchange, between Zach Wood ’18 and Senator Kennedy.

ken1

I am not sure that this is fair to Suzanne Venker, or to Adam Falk. First, Venker has never argued that women “should be kept at home.” She argues that the insistence, by some feminists, that women need to work outside the home is nuts. She is “anti-feminists” in the sense that she disagrees with many of the positions that most/all feminists take, not that she disagrees with everything they say. Of course, Zach is speaking off the cuff (in the Senate!), so we should cut him some slack.

Second, Falk had nothing to do with the Venker cancellation. (Zach knows this, of course, but probably felt that he was not well-placed to correct a Senator in mid-rant.) However, given Falk’s behavior in regards to Derbyshire, I am now annoyed about the Administration’s preening about how, of course, they were sad that the students themselves cancelled Venker in the face of the Facebook mob.

ken2

Good stuff! Can anyone provide a link that goes to directly to this part of the video? Can anyone remember the last time a US Senator discussed the performance of a Williams College president? We have already determined (?) that the last Williams president to ban a speaker was Mark Hopkins preventing Ralph Waldo Emerson from coming to campus 150 years ago. Let’s play another SAT analogy game:

Kennedy:Falk :: ?:?

Also, what advice do you have for Falk on how to handle this?

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Wood ’18 and Lawrence ’77 Testify to Senate, 1

Williams student Zachary Wood ’18 testified (pdf) to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing: “Free Speech 101: The Assault on the First Amendment on College Campuses.” (Also testifying (pdf) was former Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence ’77.) Let’s spend two weeks on this topic. Today is Day 1.

congress

Wood is on the left.

1) Will the College acknowledge this event? You can be certain that if Wood/Lawrence were testifying about climate change or some other Williams-approved topic, we would be getting tweets, updates in Eph Notes and even a big spread in the next issue of the Williams Magazine. So far, however, it is internet-silence from Williams. This is petty and embarrassing. Can’t we do better than tweets about Take Your Dog to Work Day? (Not that there is anything wrong with that!) Is Williams an intellectual institution or a finishing school?

2) Who is making the decision to ignore Wood’s and Lawrence’s testimonies? I have a great deal of faith in Director of Media Relations Mary Dettloff and Chief Communications Officer Jim Reisch. I bet that they would not object to at least noting this event. Is my faith misplaced? Has someone else told them to keep silent? Or are they (mistakenly?) assuming that Adam Falk would not want Williams to, officially, acknowledge the event?

3) When was the last time a Williams student testified to Congress? When was the last time two Ephs were testifying at the same hearing? I have no idea! This search does not seem to be what I am looking for. Can Eph historians help us out?

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I’ll give you ‘Male Fantasy’ indeed! From the desk of an outraged Rechtal Turgidley, Jr … (an echo of ‘Come Hither’ below)

 

 

.. originally published 1 October, 2008.

I am outraged that in all the in-depth discussion over a Williams distaff member of the press and her photo in Vanity Fair, not one word has been spoken about the obvious exploitation of Vanity Fair columnist and member of the class of 1949, Dominick Dunne.

Certainly the ‘bedroom eyes and come-hither look’ so flagrantly manipulated for purposes too base to be mentioned, are worthy of the indignation of ephblog readers. And appearing in shirt sleeves in the Whittlesley Room of the Williams Club. Shame! Shame!

As the new president of this organization, I had planned to write a thoughtful President’s Letter in a few weeks, but I am so upset by this exploitation of a revered member of the great class of 1949 that I have no choice but to protest.

Sincerely,

 

Rechtal Turgidley, Jr

President of Ephblog

Quark Island, Maine

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Come Hither

From The Weekly Standard:

So there I am Tuesday morning, wheezing away on my exercise bike, trying to stay alert to telltale signs of the inevitable coronary thrombosis, when, for the first time in many, many years, I switch on the TV to watch Morning Joe.

And what am I greeted with? Not Morning Joe’s handsome mug (I think it was Don Imus who first noticed Morning Joe’s eerie resemblance to the banjo-playing boy in Deliverance). Not Mika’s permafrost hairdo or that come-hither body language.

No. Instead I am greeted by a video of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. They were shown at a cabinet meeting with President Trump the day before. Each of them, in brief remarks, was saying nice things about the boss. Really nice things, right in front of him.

Chao explained that when Trump visited her eyesore of an office building the week before, “hundreds and hundreds of people were just so thrilled.” Mnuchin said, “It was a great honor traveling with you … the last year and an even greater honor to be here serving in your cabinet.” Priebus laid it on with a trowel: “We thank you for the opportunity and the blessing … to serve your agenda.”

After this the camera went to Morning Joe and Mika back in the studio, sitting in what we were to take as stunned silence.

“Whoa,” said Morning Joe. “That was some sad stuff.”

“That was sick,” said Mika. “Am I allowed to say that?”

Yes, you are, Mika.

1) Do 50 year old Williams women like it or not like it if they are still perceived as having the ability to pull off a “come hither” look? Asking for a friend.

2) Read the whole article. Fake news at its finest!

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