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Determined to Insult the Gods

Author Tom Wolfe passed away last month. The closest Eph connection I have seen is:

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Halberstram was awarded an honorary degree in 2004, with a speech that was less-than-original for the occasion.

But, surely, there is a closer relationship between Wolfe and the world of Ephs! Help us out . . .

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Tweedy ’42, RIP

Albert Tweedy ’42 died 76 years ago today.

twee1Albert Tweedy attended public schools in Winnetka, Ill., and Hingham, Mass., before he enrolled at Williams College, Williamstown, Mass., in the fall of 1938. In the summer of 1939, he completed Marine Corps’ Platoon Commander School at Quantico, Va., and, at the end of his sophomore year, left college to become a Marine Aviation Cadet. Following flight training at Squantum, Mass., and Pensacola, Fla., he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps Reserve on 14 October 1941 having been designated Naval Aviator #8899.

Assigned to the 2d Marine Aircraft Wing, Fleet Marine Force, he was stationed at San Diego and Hawaii before reporting for duty with Marine Scouter-Bomber Squadron (VMSB)-241 at Midway early in 1942.

Early on the morning of 4 June 1942, 2Lt. Tweedy took off from Midway in his “Dauntless” Navy dive-bomber (SBD-2). Minutes later, the Battle of Midway commenced as planes from the Japanese carriers pounded the Marine installations on Midway, and outdated American fighter planes based at Midway were bloodily dispatched by the newer and nimbler Japanese Zeros m the opening stages of the battle.

courts_of_the_missingOn that morning, 2Lt. Tweedy flew with Major Lofton Henderson’s division of VMSB-241. Although stripped of its fighter protection, this division nonetheless attempted a glide-bombing attack on Japanese carrier HIRYU. Despite a fearsome antiaircraft barrage and repeated attacks by the numerically superior enemy fighter planes, Lt. Tweedy dove his aircraft to a perilously low altitude before releasing a bomb over the enemy carrier. Japanese fighters then attacked and splashed his slow-moving bomber, killing 2Lt. Tweedy. He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his extraordinary heroism, cool courage, and conscientious devotion to duty.

The destroyer escort USS TWEEDY (DE-632) was named in his honor.

How many other Ephs have died in uniform? If we don’t remember their stories, who will?

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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 78 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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Billionaire Blue Blood Financier

When was the last time an Eph made Page Six, the New York Post‘s gossip page? Thursday!

Save Venice, but trash our $52 million Central Park co-op!

A billionaire blue blood financier let guests vandalize his fancy Upper East Side pad with graffiti while playing beer pong following a swanky society gala.

The glamorous Save Venice masquerade ball has become a hotter ticket than the Met Gala among New York’s elite.

Masked guests this year included Sienna Miller and too many princesses to count, including Maria-Olympia of Greece , Marie-Chantal of Greece and Saudi royal Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz.

But while an official Save Venice after-party was held at high-end eatery the Pool, we hear the place to be was a fun-filled bash at Wall Street investor Chase Coleman III’ s apartment at an East 66th Street co-op near Central Park, where guests were invited to vandalize the French plastered walls with cans of spray paint as they partied into the early hours.

Coleman — who’s a descendant of Peter Stuyvestant — and his wife, Stephanie, purchased the pad in 2016 for $52 million.

It is vacant, waiting to be redone by hot architect Peter Marino.

The couple will reportedly combine the 15-room abode with the two units they own a floor above.

Demolition starts this week, so they offered the walls as canvasses for the arty crowd.

“A select group migrated to this vacant apartment,” a source told Page Six. “All the lights were off, and people were spray-painting the apartment and playing beer pong all night.”

See children! The skills you learn at Williams — like petty vandalism and beer pong — will be very useful as you enter the corridors of power. Study them hard!

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Remember the Tablecloth Colors

A Record op-ed from 12 years ago:

I am frustrated by many of the ways in which the campus has changed, most particularly the sudden prominence of the well-intentioned but detrimental Office of Campus Life [OCL], which is locked in a stagnating cycle of its own design. By in effect naming itself “the decider” when it comes to student life, the campus life office has alienated the College’s best leaders. As a result of this rift, the office has become inwardly-focused, self-promotional and deeply resistant to constructive criticism. Student life is student-driven no longer.

No kidding. EphBlog has made this prediction over and over and over again. The more control that Williams students have over life at Williams, the better. The more people (intelligent and well-meaning though they may be) that are hired by the College to “help,” the less active students will be.

The main rational used by CUL (Committee on Undergraduate Life) in establishing OCL 16 years ago — All the other schools have one so it must be a good idea! — was stupid then and it is stupid now.

Writer Ainsley O’Connell 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 don’t matter. Yet you can be sure that one of the “3 Assistant Deans” at Emerson does exactly what Johnson does at Williams, although probably not as well. Third, the CUL erases all the work and commitment of people like Linda Brown and Tom McEvoy, as evoked so nicely by O’Connell.

None of this is surprising, of course. Former President Morty Schapiro decided in 2000 that there were certain things about Williams that he was going to change. By and large, he (temporarily!) changed them. He and (former) Dean of the College Nancy Roseman and (former) CUL Chair Will Dudley implemented Neighborhood Housing, the biggest change at Williams this century. It was a total failure and has now, thankfully, been removed. Schapiro, Roseman and Dudley went on, despite this disastrous own goal, to college Presidencies at Northwestern, Dickinson and Washington and Lee, promotions which doubled (even tripled) their Williams salaries.

O’Connell goes on:

I will not dispute that in 2003 Williams needed a stronger support system for students looking to launch new initiatives and throw events open to the campus. For many, extracurricular activities had become a burden, with unreasonably long hours spent planning and preparing events down to the last detail. Yet today, some of the best and most innovative groups on campus remain far-removed from campus life, driven by highly motivated and talented individuals. Take Williams Students Online, for example, or 91.9, the student radio station: Their success lies in their student leaders, who have been willing to commit their time to making sweeping changes that have transformed WSO and WCFM, respectively.

It may have been reasonable for O’Connell not to see, in 2003, how this would all work out, but she is naive in the extreme not to see now that this evolution was inevitable. How shall we explain it to her? Imagine a different paragraph.

I will not dispute that in 2003 Williams needed a stronger support system for students looking to launch new publications and manage current ones. For many, writing for and editing student publications had become a burden, with unreasonably long hours spent planning and preparing everything down to the last detail. Yet today, some of the best and most innovative groups on campus remain far-removed from the Office of Campus Publications, driven by highly motivated and talented individuals.

In other words, why isn’t it a good idea for Williams to create an Office of Campus Publications [OCP], with a Director of Campus Publications and a staff of Campus Publication Coordinators? After all, as the meltdown of the GUL in 2001 (?) and the Record‘s occasional inability to pick a single editor-in-chief demonstrates, students sometimes need help. They often make mistakes. Who could deny that having someone to “help” and “support” the Record (and GUL and Mad Cow) wouldn’t make those publications better? No one. Perhaps OCP would even have prevented the demise of Rumor and Scattershot.

But would the experience of the students writing those publications be better with a bunch of (intelligent, well-meaning) paid employees of the College hovering over them? No. That should be obvious to O’Connell. Writing for and editing the Record those last 4 years probably taught her as much about life its own self as any aspect of her Williams education. If she had had a Doug Bazuin equivalent supervising her all this time, her experience would not have been as rich, her education not as meaningful.

As always, critics will claim that I am advocating that the College provide no help or support, that we abolish the Dean’s Office. No! Some support is good, just as some social engineering is desirable. But, on the margin, the contribution of the OCL is negative.

Vibrant means “long hours spent planning and preparing events down to the last detail.” This is exactly why student institutions like WCFM, WSO and others (Trivia? Rugby? Current students should tell us more) are so vibrant. O’Connell acts as if you can have a vibrant organization or community without time and trouble, sweat and tears. In fact, you can’t.

O’Connell writes as if vibrancy appears from nowhere, that someone just sprinkles magic pixy dust on WSO and WCFM. No. Vibrancy, community, innovation and almost everything else worth having in this imperfect life require “unreasonably long hours” and “preparing everything down to the last detail.” You don’t think that Ephs like Evan Miller at WSO and Matt Piven at WCFM sweated the details? Think again.

Unfortunately, the Office of Campus Life and the Dean’s office, which oversees it, have not fostered this model. Instead, both offices have moved in the opposite direction, at times going so far as to render student involvement wholly superficial, as with the planning of this year’s Senior Week. The senior officers elected by the Class of 2006 do nothing more than choose tablecloth colors; it is assistant director of campus life Jess Gulley who runs the show. Hovering over student shoulders, the campus life staff of today is like a mother or father who wants to be your friend instead of your parent. The office should cast itself as an administrative support service, not the arbiter of cool.

Harsh! True? Current students should tell us. But note that this is not Gulley’s fault! I have no doubt that she is wonderful and hard-working, dedicated to making student life better. Each day, she wakes up and tries to figure out how to make this the best Senior Week ever. That is, after all, what the College is paying her to do. In that very act, of course, she decreases the scope of student control and involvement.

Back in the day, students handled almost all aspects of Senior Week. I still remember dancing the night away, in my dress whites, at Mount Hope Farm, the most beautiful Eph of all in my arms. No doubt this year’s seniors, 30 years younger than I, will have a fine time as well. Because of Gulley’s successor’s involvement, it may even be true that the events are better planned and organized. Yet everything that she does used to be done by students, hectically and less professionally, but still done by them.

The more that students do to run Williams, the better that Williams will be.

This is a revised version of a post from 2006.

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James Hitchcock ’15 in New York Times

James Hitchcock ’15, former president of Uncomfortable Learning, was mentioned in Ross Douthat’s column in the New York Times.

So the same trends that have made California so uniformly liberal have also encouraged Trumpism elsewhere — and not only elsewhere, since as Jason Willick and James Hitchcock pointed out in 2016 in The American Interest, Trumpism-the-ideology is very much a made-in-California affair. Not many members of the right-wing intelligentsia backed Trump, but the writers and thinkers who did — from mainstream conservatives to the alt-right fringe — were heavily Californian: the Claremont Institute’s West Coast Straussians, Michael “Flight 93 Election” Anton, Mickey Kaus, Victor Davis Hanson, Ron Unz, Steve Sailer, Scott Adams, Curtis “Mencius Moldbug” Yarvin … and of course the one and only Peter Thiel.

In perhaps not unrelated news, Hitchcock is now working as a research assistant for Douthat and David Brooks.

Career advice for Hitchcock? Right a book about the Alt-Right, with a focus on immigration. As an Eph of the right, he is well-positioned to gain access to the movement. And, as part of the establishment, he could get a major publisher to take his project seriously.

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Needham ’04 Becomes Rubio’s Chief of Staff

From the New York Times:

As chief executive of the influential conservative think tank Heritage Action for America, Michael Needham waged years of unforgiving political warfare against the Republican Party establishment, deepening the divide between party leaders and grass-roots activists that helped elevate Donald J. Trump to the presidency.

Now Mr. Needham is leaving his job there to become chief of staff for one of the Republican establishment’s favorite sons, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

Both are also quite young. Mr. Needham is 36 and Mr. Rubio is 46. And both believe that the Republican Party has not done enough to rethink its animating ideas and appeal to voters at a time when Mr. Trump remains woefully unpopular with younger Americans.

“Any fair-minded observer of the last several years would say conservatives have work to do in order to assure our principles remain relevant,” Mr. Needham said in an interview. “There was truth in candidate Trump’s declaration that this is the Republican Party, not the Conservative Party. Our challenge as conservatives is to build a movement that inspires a majority coalition of Americans.”

But beyond their shared views on the party’s need to have a better 20-year plan, the two have taken very distinct approaches to leadership. Mr. Needham has been a leading practitioner of the uncompromising, scorched-earth style of political combat that was a trademark of Tea Party-inspired politicians and activists. He frequently clashed with the Republican leadership in Congress and challenged it to drive a harder bargain on issues like defunding the Affordable Care Act, which led to a two-week government shutdown in 2013 that most Republicans came to see as ill advised.

Mr. Needham and Mr. Rubio have often had very different things to say about Mr. Trump. Given his anti-establishment sensibilities, Mr. Needham has largely lauded the president’s agenda of low taxes and a hard-line posture toward China. He has praised Mr. Trump for helping the Republican Party forge a stronger bond with Americans who feel socially and economically disconnected and who are eager to shine a light on the corruption and cronyism they believe is rampant in Washington.

Needham has also been an eloquent defender of the Trump position — or at least the Trump campaign rhetoric — on immigration. If only Nixon could go to China, perhaps only Rubio can lead the Republican Party to the promised land of serious immigration restrictions . . .

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Latest News on Marcus ’88 Nomination

Here are the latest news articles on the (stalled?) nomination of Ken Marcus ’88 to be the assistant secretary for civil rights in the Department of Education.

Kenneth Marcus, nominated for the head of the Office for Civil Rights within the U.S. Department of Education, evaded questions about racially disparate school discipline in January. The Office for Civil Rights receives complaints about racially disparate student discipline. National data shows that that students of color are often disciplined far more often and more severely than their white peers.

Marcus said, “Senator, I believe disparities of that size are grounds for concern, but my experience says that one needs to approach each complaint and compliance review with an open mind and a sense of fairness to find what out what the answers are. I have seen what appeared to be inexcusable disparities that were the result of paperwork errors. They just got the numbers wrong.”

Marcus founded the Brandeis Center in 2011. In 2012, it filed an amicus brief opposing race conscious admissions in the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case.

Should we be following this story more closely? If confirmed, Marcus would be the most senior Eph in the Trump Administration.

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Zach Wood ’18 Speaks at TED

1) Read the transcript if you want the gist. Worth going through in detail? I have some quibbles . . . not the least of which is that he does not mention Williams by name!

2) Note that this is the main TED stage, not one of the many (lower prestige) spin-off events like TEDx. Which other Ephs have spoken at TED? Congrats to Zach! How many undergraduates, from any school, have spoken at TED?

3) The perfect start to Zach’s pundit career would be for him, sometime before graduation in June, to re-invite Derbyshire to campus. I have been told that Williams would, this time, allow the talk to go forward.

4) Hat-tip to Williams (read: Jim Reische) for tweeting this out. It is important that Williams be non-partisan when it comes to student/alumni/faculty activities. We should tweet out links to all Eph TED talks, regardless of whether or not we agree with the speaker.

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Liv Østhus ’96: subject of a new documentary …

From Alumni Office to NW area alums.

Greetings from Williamstown!

The Alumni Relations Office would like to pass along information on the upcoming world premiere of a documentary film about Liv Østhus ’96.

It’s called “Thank You for Supporting the Arts”, and Liv describes it this way, “Blacktop Films followed me for four years and made a full-length feature that is smart, beautiful, and heartwarming. It’s surprisingly wholesome with its focus on Portland, family, and community. Its provocative nature comes primarily from my insistence that stripping is art (and, I guess, all the nudity)”.

I met Ms Østhus, the daughter of a Lutheran Minnesota  minister, in 2009 at the opening for her book at Powell’s Books in Portland. I now have my signed copy of Magic Gardens: The Memoirs of Viva Las Vegas that includes the familiar words “Beat Amherst”.

Liv has been featured many times in Ephblog.

Just search for ‘stripper’.

More information Read more

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Go Michigan!

imageFrom Sports Illustrated:

There was this thing that Duncan Robinson would do, four years ago, when he was a 19-year-old freshman basketball player at Williams College, a tiny, elite Division III liberal arts school, with a student population of just over 2,000, in the Berkshire Mountains of rural, northwestern Massachusetts. Williams freshmen, like D-III freshmen everywhere, are asked to help with menial support duties, and before away games, Robinson took it upon himself to carry trainer Lisa Wilk’s heavy bag of supplies from the bus to the locker room, along with his own bag. After games, he would carry it back to the bus. It was a heavy bag, about 50 pounds of tape and wrap and other supplies. Sometimes Robinson would fight off fellow freshman Dan Aronowitz to carry the bag. This muling was a small act, but something that everyone at Williams seems to recall as quintessential Robinson. When he decided to leave Williams after his one season, some of his friends made a funny, “Please Stay, Duncan” video in which they put little water droplets on Wilk’s face to make it appear as if she was weeping.

This weekend Robinson, a 6’8″ senior forward, will play for Michigan in the Final Four, first against Loyola-Chicago on Saturday evening and then, potentially, in the national championship game on Monday night. The Final Four, past and present, is a cascade of remarkable stories. Michigan’s next opponent, for one, is this year’s Cinderella. Robinson’s personal tale is well-known enough that announcers can dispense with it in four words: The Division III transfer.

But it’s more than that. Robinson is a unicorn: A player who transferred from D-III, not just to D-I, but to the highest level of D-I, a contending program in a power five conference, and with a full scholarship in hand from the beginning. He then became a starter in his first year of eligibility and has scored more than 1,000 points. When he steps on the court Saturday, he will become a subset of one—the first player to participate in both the Division I and Division III basketball Final Fours. (And he won’t just participate; he will be the first Michigan player off the bench, averaging more than 25 minutes and almost nine points a game in the tournament.)

Read the whole thing.

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Borrowed Time

From CBS News:

When Julie Yip-Williams [’97] found out she was dying of cancer, she wasn’t completely surprised.

“I’ve always felt like I was living on borrowed time,” she said.

“Why do you think that is?” asked Smith.

“Look at my life, this crazy life.”

She’s been thinking a lot about “this crazy life” lately — how it began, and how it will end.

It started 42 years ago in post-war Vietnam. Julie was born totally blind. Immediately, her grandmother intervened. “She set up a meeting between my parents and this herbalist, and had my mother and father take me to this man,” she said.

And her grandma’s intention was what? “To have me killed,” she said, “because I was blind.”

“And she just thought there was absolutely no future in that?”

“There was no future for me, nobody would ever want to marry me, I was an embarrassment to the family,” Julie said.

But instead, her life was spared. “The herbalist said, ‘I won’t participate in this kind of dirty business.’ And he walked away.”

She was three when her family fled Vietnam for the United States. They made it to California, where she says an eye surgeon changed her life. “Here’s my mother who doesn’t speak any English, okay? And she gets me to this young pediatric ophthalmologist who has never seen a case like mine before. And he tells her, ‘I don’t know how much vision I can give her, but we can try.'”

What he gave her was enough, though she is still legally blind. “I cannot drive, I can’t play tennis. Like, my dream is to play tennis!”

Read the whole thing. Julie’s blog is here. Example entry:

Dear Josh [her husband],

Sometimes, I can feel the weight of your stare as I feign sleep in those torturous minutes before I fully wake. Your grip on my hand has tightened; that’s what probably woke me in the first instance. I can feel your love. I can feel you trying desperately to save the image of my face in some special place within your soul that might be immune to the amnesiac effects of time. I can feel your fear as you unwillingly envisage a life without me – how will you comfort the girls like I can; how will plan the birthday parties and arrange the girls’ schedules; how will you fix all the things that break in our home; how will you do all this while still working your demanding job and maintaining the stellar course of your career? In turn, in my own mind’s eye, I can see you cleaning out our closets and bathroom drawers to dispose of all my things. I can see you bringing flowers to my gravesite. I can see you watching what were once “our” favorite TV shows after the girls have gone to bed, in the dark, alone, the television casting its eerie blue light on your face that seems to be permanently sculpted in sadness.

Heart-breaking stuff.

Julie died last week.

Condolences to all.

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Ambulance Update

From The Berkshire Eagle:

With necessity being the mother of invention, the regionalization of emergency responder agencies has begun in the Northern Berkshires.

Heading into the third month of the merger of Village Ambulance in Williamstown with the North Adams Ambulance Service, officials say the task of melding procedures and communications continues apace.

Village Ambulance is about the only non-profit which merits direct contributions from Williams, mainly because its services are so commonly used by students. So, I don’t mind some College involvement. I also don’t know enough about the local politics to understand the reasons behind the merger and the winners/losers associated therewith.

I always worry, however, that the local power brokers —- Williamstown town manager Jason Hoch ’95, North Adams mayor Thomas Bernard ’92 — are very smart and that they recognize two fundamental truths: Williams College has endless money and the people who run Williams are (over) eager to use (too much of) that money to improve their own lives. So, what should Hoch/Bernard do? Get the College to contribute much more to the ambulance service, especially for aspects (like coverage outside of Williamstown) that it did not contribute much to before. And what do we see?

The cost of the rebranding, as well as others costs incurred by the merger, is being covered by a contribution from Williams College and Williamstown of up to $200,000. Meanwhile, the service responded to 892 calls In January. The average for North Adams Ambulance has been about 500 in a month. At the time of the merger, Village Ambulance was averaging around 333 per month.In January, the first month of the merger, the newly combined ambulance service responded to 892 calls.

$200,000 is way too much! And I bet this is in addition to the money that Williams usually contributes.

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North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard ’92

We failed to cover this news last fall.

Thomas Bernard will be the city’s next mayor.

The political newcomer handily defeated Robert Moulton Jr., by an unofficial tally of 2,404 votes to 1,023 votes, winning all five of the city’s voting wards by 200 votes or more.

“I am humbled and grateful that we can celebrate with friends and toast to North Adams and we’re going to wake up tomorrow ready to roll up our sleeves and work,” Bernard told his supporters at the Richmond Grille Tuesday night.

The new mayor will take the helm on New Year’s Day and serve a two-year term.

Bernard, director of special projects at Smith College, was born and raised in North Adams, graduating from Drury High School and then Williams College. He later returned to the city to work at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, then worked at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

Bernard, who heavily outraised and outspent Moulton’s campaign, touted a message of economic development based on improved education and city infrastructure in the months leading up to the election.

“I want to be a mayor for everyone in North Adams, and want to hear and work to address people’s concerns as well as to encourage their aspirations,” Bernard stated.

The College (probably?) benefits from having alumni in local positions of power: Bernard ’92 as mayor of North Adams, Jason Hoch ’95 as Williamstown town manager, and maybe even Michael Wynn ’93, Pittsfield chief of police.

Any local readers have opinions on Bernard/Hoch/Wynn?

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#MeToo on Wall Street

Typically excellent article from Benthany McLean ’92 in Vanity Fair:

Our month-long training program [at Goldman Sachs, where McLean worked after graduating from Williams] felt like a continuation of college, with plenty of parties and lots of alcohol. But, of course, it wasn’t college. Unwritten rules had very real career repercussions if you broke them, and they were very different for men and for women. Even small missteps, such as making out with a person in your class, could get a woman marked, but would enhance a man’s reputation. When the real work started, almost immediately a senior man held himself to me as a mentor of sorts. I was failing at work, he told me, and I had made myself “too visible.” He alone saw something redeemable in me. But, of course, his “friendship” came with strings attached (despite the fact that he had an out-of-town girlfriend). I wasn’t sure how to say no.

I felt trapped—my parents, who were at home in Hibbing, Minnesota (population 19,000), were lovely, but very clear that any support was over. Perhaps because I was in search of a savior, I had a too public affair with a colleague my own age, which ended when another analyst pulled me aside and told me the man had a girlfriend. (Life lesson: Save yourself.) When another (married) senior vice president tried to get into my hotel room it was a soul-crushing moment, because I felt that I had set myself up.

All of this made it hard for me to have the kind of chipper, can-do attitude so prized in junior roles. I finally transitioned into a more quantitative role, which utilized my skills, and I distinctly remember a moment when I decided I was either going to quit or finish the job with my head held high. From that point on I did nothing but work, and I stuck it out for three years—I had something to prove. In retrospect, I think what bothered me most was the knowledge that, while we were all going to be judged for things besides the quality of our work, for women, extra-professional judgments accrued almost entirely to our disadvantage, whereas for men, at least the white-male sporty types, it was the opposite. It felt brutally unfair.

Read the whole thing. It is a (surprisingly?) “conservative” take on the #MeToo phenomenon. Worth spending a week on?

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New Darlingside Album – Extralife

Darlingside, today’s Ephband of note, has a new album out — and it’s deservedly getting strong reviews:

With “Extralife,” Darlingside leaps ahead of where it had been on earlier works like its 2015 album, “Birds Say.” The voices remain as strong as ever while the arrangements are more adventurous, blurring the lines between genres and giving the group access to several audiences. When I mentioned to Messrs. Mukharji and Paseltiner that I couldn’t quite figure out where they fit in the contemporary rock-and-pop landscape, they conceded, in unison, that they couldn’t either. Neither musician seemed particularly troubled by the thought.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/extralife-by-darlingside-review-folk-meets-a-cappella-1519246754?mod=searchresults&page=1&pos=1

See also https://www.npr.org/2018/02/15/585457299/first-listen-darlingside-extralife.

It’s worth noting that Darlingside’s aforementioned 2015 album, “Birds Say,” received wide critical acclaim.

For those who don’t know, Darlingside is a band now consisting of  four former members of the Williams Octet — Harris Paseltiner (09), Auyon Mukharji (07), Don Mitchell (06), and Dave Senft (07).   You can learn more about the group more in this somewhat outdated Williams feature: https://howdyougetthere.williams.edu/darlingside-the-band-06-07-09/.

If you’re interested in checking them out or in buying their album:

iTunes: http://smarturl.it/extralife-it
Apple Music: http://smarturl.it/extralife-app
Spotify: http://smarturl.it/extralife-spot
Amazon Music: http://smarturl.it/extralife-amz
The Dside Store: http://www.darlingside.com/shop

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Diversity, in All Its Forms: Conservative Society President Speaks on Claiming Williams Day

On February 1st, classes were cancelled for the tenth annual Claiming Williams Day celebration of topics related to diversity and inclusion.

Conservative Society President John DiGravio ’21 was invited by student organizers to give a speech at a Claiming Williams morning event. The presentation, titled “Diversity, in All Its Forms: Conservative Thought at Williams” was delivered to 130 students, faculty, and administrators assembled in Griffin Hall. After articulating the foundations of his personal commitment to diversity of perspective, John explained the extent to which the College is failing to ensure the intellectual diversity of the curriculum and campus community. He then described the Society’s efforts to address this issue and called upon members of the Williams community to uphold their commitment to diversity in all its forms.

John has spoken at a number of public engagements related to intellectual diversity and conservative thought at Williams. If you would like to continue the conversation initiated in this speech, or arrange for John to present at another event, please contact him at jjd6@williams.edu.

For the latest updates on the activities of the Williams College Society for Conservative Thought, please visit and bookmark our new website: https://www.wcsct.org/.
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Addiction to Your Own Prejudices

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Indeed. Should EphBlog aim for more or fewer “rage clicks” in 2018?

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Net Prices, Affordability, and Equity

Old, but interesting, 2001 article (pdf) from EphBlog favorites Cappy Hill ’76 and Gordon Winston.

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1) Should we spend more time on academic articles like this? I am slave to reader preferences.

2) Remember when I made fun of the New York Times for claiming — or, rather, stupidly buying the spin of current Williams administrators — that, in 2015, Williams had “recently been making an effort to become more” economically diverse? That was garbage because, for decades, the people who run Williams have been concerned about economic diversity, probably going all the way back to Tyler Dennett. This article is a great example of that. Cappy and Gordon were concerned about economic diversity and wanted to ensure that Williams was not pricing out poor students. (And since Cappy was Provost around this time (and Gordon was a former Provost?), they were well positioned to both understand the topic and do something about it.)

3) Isn’t it quaint how concerned they were about a tuition of $34k?!

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Society for Conservative Thought Hosts Chris Gibson

On Wednesday, January 10th, the Society for Conservative Thought held its inaugural public event featuring Chris Gibson’s presentation,“What it Means to Be a Conservative.” Dr. Gibson previously served as a U.S. Army colonel and U.S. representative, and is currently Stanley Kaplan Distinguished Visiting Professor of American Foreign Policy in the Williams leadership studies program.

Addressing the audience of 45 students, administrators, and community locals, Dr. Gibson asserted the importance of the “conservation of the founding principles” and the recognition of their enduring value in the modern world. With many references to American history and European political philosophy, he described the miracle of the American political experiment and the critical need to maintain “the spirit of Philadelphia” which conceived of it. Students then stayed for over an hour to participate in a Q&A session in which Dr. Gibson outlined concrete legislative actions to improve the American political system, drawing upon his experiences from serving in Congress.

Following the discussion, the Society offered complimentary copies of Dr. Gibson’s most recent book, Rally Point: Five Tasks to Unite the Country and Revitalize the American Dream, courtesy of the Society’s budget.

The invitation of distinguished guests to voice conservative principles on campus is essential to the mission of the Society for Conservative Thought. If you can refer such individuals who would be interested in contributing to a future event, please contact jjd6@williams.edu.

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A New Year, A New Era for Williams College

Alumni and Friends of Williams College,

I am pleased to announce that the student representatives of College Council have formally approved the incipient Society for Conservative Thought as a registered student organization. This milestone has been made possible through the tireless and earnest contributions of faculty members and many students, to all of whom I am deeply grateful.

Since my arrival at Williams as a freshman this fall, I have become increasingly alarmed by the extent of the liberal intellectual uniformity of the curriculum and campus community. Fellow students upholding all varieties of political and social beliefs have confided to me their concerns that the explicit liberal bias is inhibitive to the attainment of a well-rounded liberal arts education, and that alternative views are frequently neglected, misrepresented, and ridiculed without basis. This close-mindedness breeds a shallow and hegemonic intellectual environment in which students do not feel able to freely express non-conforming ideas. As asserted by the campus administration during the First Days presentations, it is a mission of the College to promote diversity “in all its forms.” Diversity, however, should not be restricted to classifications of racial, sexual, and socioeconomic identities—at an educational institution, it must include diversity of thought. Though the administration has openly acknowledged the problem of liberal homogeneity in the official 2005 Diversity Initiatives Self-Study, in which students described “a lack of tolerance of diversity of thought” regarding conservative philosophies (pg. 10), the College has taken no meaningful measure to improve the situation and there are no existing student organizations dedicated to the study of conservative beliefs.

The Society for Conservative Thought is the product of the current student movement to broaden the intellectual diversity of the College and establish an academic refuge where students can engage with the rich intellectual tradition of conservatism in the vein of Edmund Burke and Russell Kirk. As a non-partisan and non-activist organization, we invite students of all varieties of political and social beliefs to expand their academic horizons and study, discuss, and even challenge ideas that are underrepresented in the Williams curriculum. Unlike other student organizations which have attempted to prompt dialogue through spectacle and incendiary controversies, the Society will foster a genuine understanding and appreciation of conservative principles through group readings and discussions, debates, and invited speakers. The Society is sponsored by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a prestigious and well-endowed organization founded by William F. Buckley Jr. in 1953 for the promotion of conservative ideas on college campuses. Through ISI, the Society has access to educational resources, a bureau of distinguished speakers, and special off-campus events, all free of charge.

I understand that there is a strong contingent of alumni who are rightfully disaffected with the intellectual climate of the College. To alumni: may this message inspire you with the knowledge that there are many among the student body who share your concerns and are striving to right the situation. The Society will be a liaison between the student and alumni communities, and we look forward to hearing your advice as we forge lasting bonds of friendship in our joint effort to establish true diversity of thought at the College. Please contact me to learn more and become involved in our mission—Williams needs you.

At this moment the intellectual affairs of the College face a fateful crossroads of critical importance. By the end of this academic year, the two most prominent campus advocates for free thought will have retired and graduated, and a new president will be taking office. For over two centuries, Williams has formed the minds, hearts, and souls of generations of students who have effected incredible and outsized impacts on our nation and the world. Will the College endanger this legacy by continuing to stifle the holistic intellectual growth of its students? Perhaps, but I promise that the Society will do everything within its power to provide Williams students with a refuge for free thought and the unprejudiced study of the true, good, and beautiful.

Society activities will commence during the Winter Study period. We will read selections from William F. Buckley Jr.’s God and Man at Yale, Roger Scruton’s The Meaning of Conservatism, and Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind, as well as host a number of speakers drawn from distinguished faculty members and alumni. Those with questions or interest in our efforts may contact me at jjd6@williams.edu.

Sincerely,

John J. DiGravio ‘21

President, Williams College Society for Conservative Thought

“Veritas Vos Liberabit”

 

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Mika Questions

mika2

Article here: “Brzezinski questions Franken accuser: ‘Playboy model who goes on Hannity, voted for Trump'”

I was told that you must believe the women.

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Against The Grain

From The New Republic:

In Against the Grain, [James C.] Scott [’58] argues that we still think of our world as the fruit of a series of undeniable advances: domestication, public order, mass literacy, and prosperity. We chide the ancient Greeks for relying on enslaved labor and the Romans for their imperial wars, but our own story, as we imagine it, still starts with those ancient city-states and their precursors in the Mesopotamian Middle East (basically modern Iraq), when some clever primates first planted rows of seeds, built mud-brick walls, and scratched cuneiform on a crude tablet. In our own minds, we are the descendants of people who couldn’t wait to settle down.

The truth, Scott proposes, may be the opposite. What if early civilization was not a boon to humankind but a disaster: for health and safety, for freedom, and for the natural world? What if the first cities were, above all, vast technologies of exploitation by a small and rapacious elite? If that is where we come from, who are we now? What possibilities might we discover by tracing our origins to a different kind of ancestor?

Interesting stuff.

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Pete Farwell: Williams Man, Hall of Famer

I’d like to thank Dave for inviting me back to Ephblog to write this post.

Tonight in Phoenix, in what is arguably the highlight of the annual U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) annual convention, longtime Williams cross country and track and field coach Pete Farwell (’73) will be inducted into the USTFCCCA Hall of Fame. This is a much-deserved honor for one of the greatest coaches (and distance runners) in Williams history and a true Williams man.

Naturally to receive this kind of honor one needs an impressive collection of numbers, of championships, of wins, of trophies. And Pete has all of those on both the men’s and the women’s sides: Team National Championships in Cross Country, national runners up in Track and Field, and runners up in the All New England track meet (colloquially known as the DI New England meet), bucket-loads of NESCAC, New England Division III, ECAC, and NCAA Regional team titles in both sports, dozens and dozens of Little Three titles, and wins in myriad other meets big and small. Pete has produced individual NCAA champions, All Americans, and likely hundreds of All-Conference and All-New England athletes.

Hundreds of Coach Farwell’s former athletes will have their own reflections.  Here are mine (and I apologize for the self indulgence.) Pete was my head coach from 1989 to 1993, when I was on the track team at Williams (I was co-captain in 1992-1993, when I worked especially closely with him) and it was during this time when Williams track achieved another level of success. In the spring of 1991, my sophomore year, projections indicated that we might be in a position to repeat and win the NESCAC title the men’s team had taken for the second time in program history in 1990. Instead we lost by one point to Tufts. The meet was up at Colby and the trip back was among the longest bus rides of my life. I choked like a dog – projected to score in all three of the jumping events I got shut out, and I was not alone among my teammates in underachieving. The next week we returned to Colby for the Division III New England meet, we did not choke (I redeemed myself as well), winning our first New England DIII title. The ride back was much more pleasant than a week earlier. The men’s team would not only win NESCACs and DIII New Englands (indoors and out) for the rest of the decade, we would not lose to another DIII team outside of the national championships for years. The women’s team had similar successes. And it was during this era that Pete’s Cross Country teams became an absolutely dominant force regionally and nationally.

One of Pete’s real strengths was turning what many see as individual sports into team sports by creating a team mentality. During my time I had some exceptional teammates, Little Three and ECAC and NESCAC and New England champions (DIII and DI), All Americans. One of my teammates and friends, Ethan Brooks (’96) spent several years as an NFL player, and we had a team with lots of multi-sport athletes, especially coming from football. And while we all wanted to excel in our individual events, we also wanted our points to contribute to the team’s tally, and thus to its wins, which became increasingly dominant. Those team championships meant everything to us. And at Williams the old cliché about track teams – “a team can go up in a bus but the number of people who will score could come back in a van” – simply did not hold. Our depth of scoring was as much a strength as our quality of scoring.

Furthermore, for all of the successes that Williams track and cross country had, there was always room for performers who were not going to win individual titles, who were not even ever going to score at the Little Three meet. The men’s Cross Country team, always in the national team title chase, still had room for and indeed celebrated the so-called “Slo Boys,” guys who worked hard but were not top performers, were not going to compete in the big meets, were not ever going to win an individual title. But they were every bit a part of the team, pushed their other teammates in practice, and continued to work hard through the track season. Many of them may well have been among the top seven runners on other college cross country teams, but they were happy to be part of the Williams program, and Pete always made it clear that those championships were all of theirs, not just the guys who scored in the meets.

And on the track and cross country teams Pete coached all of those athletes equally. As head track coach he would work with the whole range of events, from the throwers to the jumpers, the sprinters to his distance runners. And when he came over to the jumping pits, he worked on technique drills with everyone – the most talented, the recruited athletes who hoped to qualify for Nationals or the DI New England meet, and the guys who had walked on and were hoping to earn a Personal Record that would not come close to qualifying them for the DIII New England meet. It didn’t matter – Pete coached them all. And occasionally he turned one of the latter into something resembling the former – because in the end, Pete was and is an exceptional coach and teacher.

A few years back I received a call on a September Monday morning from the Athletic Director of the DII university where I am a faculty member. We needed a new men’s and women’s cross country coach immediately. I had coached off and on since Williams, as a high school head track and cross country coach and as a college sprints and jumps coach at the Division I and Division II levels, had worked extensively with our athletics program ever since my arrival in a range of capacities, and had coached two club sports (including track and field) at the university. My cross country and distance training wasn’t extensive, but it was enough when coupled with my other coaching experience and the emergency needs of the program in difficult circumstances.

The first call I made was to Pete. We talked about training philosophies and specific workouts, about developing long-term plans for coaching a college season and balancing training, meets, and academics. He emailed me a range of materials that I incorporated (and sometimes flat-out stole) for my teams. Without Pete’s help, I would like to think that I would have been a perfectly adequate caretaker coach. Instead his help, and my experience on his teams, meant that the program did not suffer as much as it could have. Four of my athletes qualified for the NCAA regional meet. And I learned a whole lot about being a head coach at an NCAA-member institution. Pete has developed an impressive coaching tree at the high school and college levels and I am sure that every one of his disciples has countless stories about his influence and consider his lessons daily.

When the Williams track program honored legendary coach Dick Farley a few years back, Pete was the organizer of a massive return of Williams Track alums. Farley, a Hall of Famer in his own right for his work with the Williams football team, was also a former head coach of the Williams track teams (a position he gave up and that Pete, then head men’s cross country coach, took over when Farley got the head football job), and he and Pete had worked together for decades. Farley continued to be an assistant on the track teams. (My first interaction with him on the track team that I can recall consisted of him walking up to me early in my freshman year, saying simply, “Catsam, you’re jumping like shit,” and walking away. I came to love that man.) He and Pete would take over the track program again as co-head coaches in 2008 and 2013). I cannot possibly imagine two more different men. And yet their admiration for one another was clear. Pete’s respect for Coach Farley was obvious, as Pete was not only the chief organizer of the event honoring Farley, but also the MC of most of the weekend’s events. But on several occasions Farley made clear that he admired Pete every bit as much. How could he not?

Tonight Pete Farwell will be honored in Arizona, and rightfully so. He will be inducted in a class that includes college head coaches from Big-time DI programs (Amy Deem of Miami of Florida, Patrick Shane of BYU, Bob Kersee of UCLA and Cal-State Northridge as well as the coach of many superstars on the international scene), NAIA powers (Jack Hazan of Malone University), and the Ivy League (Fred Samara of Princeton).

I will regrettably not be able to be there, but I think I speak for hundreds of his former athletes when I say to Pete: We are proud of you. You deserve this. Thank you.

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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 eleven 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. How often do college officials mention Krissoff’s service? A swim team member I talked to yesterday knew about Nate’s sacrifice and reported that there is a photo of him at the pool and an annual swim in his memory. Kudos to Coaches Kuster and Dow for helping Nate’s memory to live on.

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 eleven 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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College Censorship Anniversary

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On or about two years ago today, Williams College began to censor historic artifacts founded by previous generations of Ephs. This mural in the log came from the World War Two generation. A war memorial that depicted Chief Hendrick Theyanoguin standing over a map being inspected by Ephraim Williams on the morning of the Bloody Morning Scout, during the battle of Lake George in 1755. Hendrick and Ephraim were both killed in combat during this joint reconnaissance mission.

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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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