Currently browsing posts filed under "Alumni"

Follow this category via RSS

Next Page →

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.

Facebooktwitter

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!

Facebooktwitter

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 . . .

Facebooktwitter

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.

Facebooktwitter

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.

Facebooktwitter

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.

Facebooktwitter

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

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

Wood’s testimony is excellent:

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


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

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

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

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

3) Recall Falk’s claim to Time magazine:

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

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

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

Odds of this happening? Zero.

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

Facebooktwitter

Questions from a Reader

A loyal reader writes:

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

Will do, later this week.

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

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

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

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

Facebooktwitter

Eisenson ’77 on Falk Departure

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

To the Williams Community,

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

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

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

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

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

Facebooktwitter

Senator Kennedy Calls for Adam Falk’s Resignation

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

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

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

ken1

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

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

ken2

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

Kennedy:Falk :: ?:?

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

Facebooktwitter

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

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

congress

Wood is on the left.

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

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

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

Facebooktwitter

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

 

 

.. originally published 1 October, 2008.

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

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

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

Sincerely,

 

Rechtal Turgidley, Jr

President of Ephblog

Quark Island, Maine

Facebooktwitter

Come Hither

From The Weekly Standard:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, you are, Mika.

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

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

Facebooktwitter

Swain ’01 to Southern California University

A lovely bit of trolling from our friends at EphSports:

swain

Sad to see Allison Swain ’01 leave. First, alumni coaches are better than non-alumni coaches. Second, she seems liked by her players and her teams have been more successful than any other team at Williams over the last decade. Third, I always appreciated Swain’s efforts to keep alive the memory of her Williams teammate, Lindsay Morehouse ’00. Let’s hope those efforts continue under Swain’s successor.

The “trolling” mentioned above refers, of course, to the claim that Swain is headed to “Southern California University.” In fact, she is going to the University of Southern California, i.e., USC!

Side note: Kudos to Athletic Director Lisa Melendy for selecting Swain. The more young, alumni coaches that Williams hires, the better, all the more so if the hire represents their first head coaching position.

Facebooktwitter

Morning of Comey

Wonderful poetry from Arjun Narayan ’10:

comey

Consider this your open thread for Comey-related discussion. Have at it!

Facebooktwitter

MOMA Expansion …

THUMB19461_328915

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York has completed the first phase of its major renovation programme, and unveiled its final plans for a multi-year expansion designed by architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, alongside Gensler.http

://www.cladglobal.com/news.cfm?codeid=33230

Williams trustee Glenn O. Lowry ’78 is the director of MOMA. Over the years since its beginning, Ephs have been part of the fabric of MOMA.

http://williams.imodules.com/s/1670/interior.aspx?sid=1670&gid=2&pgid=1110&cid=2503&ecid=2503&ciid=4052&crid=0

Facebooktwitter

Ephs Who Have Gone Before

foxWho is this Eph?

He is Myles Crosby Fox ’40.

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

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

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

gargoyle

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

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

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

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

Seven decades later, the pigskin is still rolling.

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

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

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

Fox’s citation for the Navy Cross reads:

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

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

Darkness, madness and death.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facebooktwitter

Stiff Beard in Lieu

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

torches

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

yancey

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

Facebooktwitter

Remember the Tablecloth Colors

A Record op-ed:

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

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

The main rational used by CUL in establishing OCL 14 years ago — All the other schools have one so it must be a good idea! — was stupid then and it is stupid now.

Writer Ainsley O’Connell tells a depressing tale. Anyone who cares about student life at Williams must read the whole thing.

When I arrived on campus, director of campus life Doug Bazuin and his staff were a distant idea, not a reality. Barb and Gail administered activities on campus, helping students schedule events from their fishbowl office at the heart of Baxter Hall. Linda Brown administered room draw, her maternal warmth and firmness easing the process. Tom McEvoy (who has since departed) and Jean Thorndike provided big-picture support and served as liaisons between students and administrators. When students were moved to champion a new policy or party idea, Tom and Jean were willing to listen, and often to lend moral and financial support. The execution fell to students, but this sense of responsibility fostered greater ownership.

Great stuff. One of the purposes of EphBlog is to capture this sort of testimony, the thanks of current students to the staff members that have done so much.

But those with long memories will note what a mockery this makes of the CUL’s discussion in 2001 of the lack of staff devoted to student life. Indeed, if there is any table which demonstrates the dishonesty/incompetence of CUL during those years it is this description Staffing at Comparable Institutions. Click on the link. Let’s take a tour. (The line for Williams (all zeroes in bold) is at the bottom.)

First, note how the JA system magically disappears. The “50 junior advisors” for Bates are listed under “Student Staff” but, at Williams, they have vanished. Second, the CUL pretends that Dean Dave Johnson ’71 does not exist. The countless hours that he spent (and spends) working with the JAs and First Years doesn’t matter. Yet you can be sure that one of the “3 Assistant Deans” at Emerson does exactly what Johnson does at Williams, although probably not as well. Third, the CUL erases all the work and commitment of people like Linda Brown and Tom McEvoy, as evoked so nicely by O’Connell.

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

O’Connell goes on:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Back in the day, students handled almost all aspects of Senior Week. I still remember dancing the night away, in my dress whites, at Mount Hope Farm, the most beautiful Eph of all in my arms. No doubt this year’s seniors, 28 years younger than I, will have a fine time as well. Because of Gulley’s involvement, it may even be true that the events are better planned and organized. Yet everything that she does used to be done by students, hectically and less professionally, but still done by them.

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


This is a revised version of a post from 2006.

Facebooktwitter

Alumni Funding Dreams

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

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

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

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

Facebooktwitter

Needham ’04 Leads Coup at Heritage Foundation

From The Atlantic:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facebooktwitter

Grounded: An Essay on the Passing of a Roommate

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

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

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

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

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

1984_Football_Program002

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Condolences to all.

Facebooktwitter

Elia Kazan’s (’30) Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Kazan further reflects on Williams’ lasting effects:

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

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

 

And what a niche it was.

 

Epilogue

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

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

Facebooktwitter

How I Became a News Anchor

From USA Today:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lesson: Network! Network! Network!

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

Facebooktwitter

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

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

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

Screenshot (25) redacted

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

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

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

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

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

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

In perhaps an even more disturbing comment…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facebooktwitter

Linked In Ephs

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

linked

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

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

Facebooktwitter

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

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

Screenshot (24) redacted

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

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

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

Questions/concerns:

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

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

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

 

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

Facebooktwitter

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

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

Screenshot (23) redacted

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

Some questions:

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

What do fellow classmates/EphBlog readers think?

Facebooktwitter

Not Bad Hombres

Sonia Nazario ’82 writes in the New York Times:

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

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

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

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

Facebooktwitter

The Comey Letter

Latest from Bethany McLean ’92:

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

Read the whole thing.

Facebooktwitter

Next Page →

Currently browsing posts filed under "Alumni"

Follow this category via RSS