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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

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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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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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