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Dost thou renounce Satan?

The Record Editorial Board writes:

In our June 6 statement “In solidarity with Black Lives Matter,” our editorial board expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement and called on the College, its students and its alumni to make monetary donations. We made a donation as well, giving to three organizations that support grassroots journalism and journalists of color: the Marshall Project, the National Association of Black Journalists and Unicorn Riot.

But as the board met over Zoom to belatedly discuss these issues, it became clear that we, the Record, along with many predominantly-white journalistic organizations, need to hold ourselves accountable as well. For far too long, the Record has operated under institutional values, cultures and practices that illustrate that the Record benefits from and perpetuates white supremacy.

1) The current students on the Record have done a better job than any group over the last decade at least. Indeed, they may have published more high quality reporting than all those students put together. If Wokeness helps quality, then more Wokery, please!

2) This is nuts. Don’t you think? If I wrote a parody like this a decade ago, I would be laughed off the internet as an absurd slippery-slope fearing conservative maniac. And yet here we are.

Consider a single specific. The Record claims that its institutional values — values promulgated by people like Mike Needham ’04, Bart Clareman ’05, Ainsley O’Connell ’06 and scores of other students — “perpetuates white supremacy.” Give us some details. Which values, specifically, did Ephs like Needham/Clareman/O’Connell promulgate which helped to perpetuate “white supremacy?” The whole thing is insane.

It would be one thing — still unfair but not actually nuts — to claim that Needham/Clareman/O’Connell failed to live up to their own ideals, failed to be as accurate/thorough/objective as reporters ought to be. We are all sinners in this fallen world. But the Record now argues (really???) that these neutral values are part and parcel of white supremacy.

Should I spend a week Fisking this nonsense or is the whole topic too depressing?


Oren Cass in the New York Times

Here is a link to Oren Cass’s (’05) latest piece: The New York Times

Here is one of his main points:

… “material living standards,” measured in dollars of consumption (or inches of flat-screen TV), are not the same thing as “quality of life.” They say little about relationships, dignity, agency, or life satisfaction.

I find myself agreeing with this and some of his other points, like this:

By Senator Toomey’s and Dr. Strain’s standards, the past few months were the greatest in human history to be alive. The pandemic has allowed more time than ever to enjoy air-conditioning and color televisions, computers and phones. One can joy ride for hours streaming podcasts.

However, he veers into partisanship when talking about solutions:

the left-of-center tends to dismiss their frustration as backward or racist. Candidate Barack Obama lamented people who “get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them.” Hillary Clinton placed such people in her “basket of deplorables.”

and while some of his concepts appeal to me, he does not offer any specific ideas:

America could slow, or partially reverse, elements of globalization that have most disrupted working-class lives, if that were our priority. We could reorient our education system toward serving the majority of young people who still don’t earn even a community-college degree. We could reform our system of organized labor to provide workers a genuine seat at the table and an institution in the community. We could emphasize geography when we talk about diversity, aiming to distribute talent and investment more widely.

Of course, in DDF’s classic theoretical cocktail party, I could ask Oren some questions and maybe come to understand what he means by slowing or partially reversing “elements of globalization.”


bodies and lives of Black people

From City Journal:

Conformity to a Lie

Academia’s monolithic belief in systemic racism will further erode American institutions and the principles of our civilization.

Heather Mac Donald

The lethal arrest of George Floyd in Minneapolis in late May triggered widespread riots and a torrent of contempt for America from virtually every institution in the country. Businesses large and small, the education establishment, and the press rushed to condemn the country’s purportedly endemic racism, implicitly accusing the majority of Americans of destroying “black lives.” Banks and law firms pledged that hiring and promotions would now be even more race-conscious than before. Hundreds of millions of dollars poured forth from corporate coffers into activist groups; the corporate benefactors hoped to dismantle America’s white supremacy, they announced.

Colleges and universities also promised increased diversity spending, though in amounts dwarfed by those corporate outpourings. Nevertheless, the academic response to Floyd’s death and the ensuing violence will have the greatest impact on the nation’s future. Academia was the ideological seedbed for that violence and for its elite justifications; it will prove just as critical in the accelerated transformation of the country.

Fealty to “diversity” and denunciations of white privilege have been a unifying theme in academia for decades, of course. What’s different this time is the sheer venom of the denunciations. College presidents and deans competed for the most sweeping indictment of the American polity, rooted in the claim that blacks are everywhere and at all times under threat.

“We are again reminded that this country’s 400-year history of racism continues to produce clear and present danger to the bodies and lives of Black people in every part of the United States,” wrote Ted Ruger, dean of the University of Pennsylvania law school. Amherst College president Carolyn “Biddy” Martin announced that the “virulent anti-black racism in this country has never NOT been obvious, and yet there are those who continue to deny it.” Martin was making a plea, she said, “to white people in particular, to acknowledge the reality of anti-black racism, its long history, and its current force; to recognize how embedded it is in our institutional structures, social systems, and cultural norms; and to assume our responsibility for ending it.”

Ted Ruger ’90 is probably the highest ranked Eph at an Ivy League institution. He is also Woke! He will probably be recruited for the Williams presidential search in a few years. Biddy Martin, perhaps the most Woke president among NESCAC schools, needs no introduction. (If readers disagree with these judgements, let us know! Is there a higher ranked Eph in the Ivy League? Is there a more Woke NESCAC president?)

MacDonald continues:

All such institutional self-accusations by college presidents leave out the specifics. Which faculty members do not treat black students fairly? If that unjust treatment is so obvious, why weren’t those professors already removed? What is wrong with an admissions process that lets in thousands of student bigots? In other moments, college presidents brag about the quality of their student body and faculty. Are they lying? Shouldn’t they have disclosed to black applicants that they will face “racist acts” and “systems of inequality” should they attend?

Good questions.

The prevalence of systemic racism in the U.S. is far from an established fact, however. Other credible explanations exist for ongoing racial disparities, including family structure, cultural attitudes, and individual behavior. To declare from the highest reaches of the academy that racism is the defining and all-explaining feature of American society is to adopt a political position, not to state a scientific truth.

MacDonald is a bit of a cuck, so she doesn’t even mention the most likely explanation.

Each diversity initiative, whether in academia or in business, requires pretending that it was not preceded by a long line of identical efforts. Instead, every new diversity campaign starts with penance for the alleged bias that leads schools and corporations to overlook some vast untapped pool of competitively qualified blacks and Hispanics. Now, the pressure to admit and hire on the basis of race will redouble in force, elevating even less skilled candidates to positions of power throughout society. American institutions will pay the price.

Indeed. But would that necessarily be a bad thing? There is a common elite delusion that the best way to organize the world is to centralize excellence as much as possible. The best conservative intellectuals, for example, should all be brought together in a handful of elite institutions, the better to marinate in their collective excellence. Perhaps. But might not decentralization make for a better, healthier society? I hundreds of White/Asian students are rejected from the Ivy League, they don’t just disappear. They go to Iowa State. Why is that so bad from the point of view of American society?


Cass ’05 on Biden Speech

From CNN:

Barack Obama’s legacy looms awkwardly over Joe Biden. Of course, he cannot disavow, or even really criticize, the administration he helped to lead for eight years. But, by its end, the nation was in such a state that it elected Donald Trump as President — a catastrophe, in Biden’s view. Many on the left as well as on the right now believe that the economic recovery from the Great Recession was botched.

Many on the left as well as on the right disdain the Obamacare-governed healthcare system and demand an overhaul.

The Black Lives Matter movement, we might recall, was born in the Obama years— the number of people shot dead by police each year hasn’t changed significantly since.

Biden’s acceptance speech struggled with the tension. On one hand, he made a point of pausing early to thank Obama. “You were a great president,” he said. But this came just after speaking of “all the young people who have known only an America of rising inequity and shrinking opportunity,” the Obama years presumably included. And it came just after lamenting that “more than 10 million people are going to lose their health insurance this year,” the sort of thing a successful health care overhaul might ideally prevent.

The question for the Biden campaign and a Biden administration is: what will be different? Doing the same thing and expecting a better result is, as the saying goes, the definition of insanity. Yet Biden’s agenda was, almost verbatim, a reiteration of Obama’s: “building on the Affordable Care Act” to deliver those elusive “lower premiums, deductibles, and drug prices”; an education system in which college attendance seems the only concern; vague reference to doubling down on a system of organized labor that has declined toward irrelevance; “equal pay for women”; millions of green jobs; “ending loopholes” in the tax code and making the wealthy pay “their fair share.”

None of this tackles America’s fundamental challenges or changes course from the policy mistakes of the past generation. Biden concluded on the theme that “hope and history rhyme.” The “hope” we remember; we should worry the “history” will repeat.

I doubt that Democrats worry much about addressing the issue of “What will be different?” They have a simple answer: No more Trump.


Marcus ’88 Steps Down

From the New York Times:

The Education Department’s civil rights chief has for 40 years labored to enforce civil rights protections in the nation’s schools and universities, but few in the position have attracted as much attention as Kenneth L. Marcus, who will leave the post this week after two years marked by dissension, disputes — and significant accomplishments.

Mr. Marcus, who came to the job as a fierce champion for Israel and a critic of anti-Zionist movements on college campuses, is credited with overseeing the completion of sexual misconduct rules and expanding civil rights for Jewish students amid rising anti-Semitism. In announcing his departure, he said he had restored the office’s status “as a neutral, impartial civil rights law enforcement agency that faithfully executes the laws as written and in full, no more and no less.”

1) Now that Marcus has left, who is the highest ranking Eph in the Trump Administration?

2) Ken’s successful effort to reform sexual assault investigation procedures will likely have a bigger effect on what happens at Williams, and places like it, then any other Eph effort of the last decade or more.

Should we spend a week going through the details?

Entire article below the break:

Read more


Black Supremacy and the NBA

Williams insists that we take the concept of white supremacy seriously.

What would it mean for a powerful, predominantly white, alumni community to commit to being anti-racist? How can the oldest alumni organization in the country work to dismantle white supremacy? How can Williams alumni come together to support Black lives?

OK! But, to the extent that White Supremacy is a thing in, for example, US policing, it logically follows that other kinds of supremacy hold sway in other contexts. It would hardly be surprising if, for example, Chinese Supremacy was a causal factor in, say, the domination of certain industries of the Chinese diaspora.

Might Black Supremacy play a role in the NBA? Consider the pay and performance of Duncan Robinson ’17.

Recall how poorly the basketball community judged Robinson. No offers from Division I schools coming out of high school — hence his one year stay in Williamstown. Limited playing time at Michigan, including not even starting his senior year. Undrafted, and banished to the G-League for a year. Would any of that have happened if Duncan were Black? Tough to know! Just like it is tough to know if, when a Black man is arrested by police, he would have been arrested if he had been white.

I don’t believe that either White Supremacy or Black Supremacy play a major role in individual outcomes in US society. What do you think?


Is the NBA prejudiced against white players?

From a basketball nerd:

I doubt that Duncan Robinson ’17 is really the 4th best player in the NBA. (See the thread for more discussion.) But there is no doubt that he is excellent.

Would Robinson have been undrafted if he were Black?



From The New York Times:

That’s when I discovered I had aphantasia, the inability to conjure mental images. … Aphantasia was first described by Sir Francis Galton in 1880 but remained largely neglected until Dr. Adam Zeman, a cognitive neurologist at the University of Exeter in England, began his work in the early 2000s and coined the name from the Greek word “phantasia,” which means “imagination.”

Many don’t discover that their experience is any different from that of others until their late teens or early 20s. It might be while reminiscing about the past and realizing they’re having a different experience with memory than their friends or family. It’s not that they don’t notice that they don’t visualize. They just don’t know that other people do.

Ashley Xu, a rising junior at Williams College, had this experience. A friend had come across an article about the condition and mentioned it to her in passing. “Did you know that there are some people who can’t picture things with their mind’s eye?” her friend asked.

Ms. Xu was confused. What did it mean to picture things in one’s mind? To try to explain, her friend asked her to visualize an apple.

“I couldn’t see it, but I didn’t know that was abnormal,” she explained. “In my mind, it was black, but I knew that there was a little leaf, there was a brown stem, it was a red apple, but I just couldn’t see it.”

Aphants use an array of strategies to compensate for their lack of mental imagery, but since aphantasia varies from person to person, what works for some may not work for others.

Some draw on other mental senses, such as what might be called the mind’s ear. For example, I often read my notes aloud to myself and rely on auditory recall on tests. But that won’t work for everyone: Approximately half the people who have contacted Dr. Zeman about their aphantasia also describe an inability to conjure sounds, feelings or smells in their minds.

Others take a kinesthetic approach. When studying for her pre-med classes, Ms. Xu acts out scientific concepts with a friend, gesturing with her hands to make a lesson on ligand-receptor interactions stick.

If there is a metaphor here for our current politics, I will let readers suggest it in the comments . . .


Jonathan Kravis ’99 lands on his feet

One of the highest profile Ephs in the Trump Administration legal battles is Jonathan Kravis ’99, who resigned from the Justice Department when upper management there overruled line prosecutors during the sentencing phase of Roger Stone’s trial.  According to an article in the Washington Post, Mr. Kravis, will be joining the DC office of a California-based firm, Munger, Tolles, and Olson.  According to the firm’s website:

At Munger, Tolles & Olson, Mr. Kravis will leverage his government service and courtroom experience while representing clients in complex high-stakes civil litigation and white collar work, including grand jury investigations. He brings deep white collar experience to the firm’s Washington office, which opened in 2016 with the arrival of former U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr.

Mr. Kravis appears to be a very capable and well connected attorney.  Any Eph entangled in a complicated white-collar investigation would do well to consider calling him for help (though be prepared for a big bill!)

Note – An astute reader noted that Mr. Kravis is class of ’99, so I have corrected the title of this post, as well as the text.


Hardy ’10 to the Knicks?

From the New York Post:

Another link to San Antonio is expected to interview for the Knicks coaching job – young Spurs assistant Will Hardy.

An NBA source confirmed the Spurs granted the Knicks permission to speak to Hardy, 31, who is currently a Gregg Popovich assistant coach and some believe could be his heir apparent.

Hardy, who is a Williams College graduate, is in his 10th season with the Spurs – the last four as an assistant coach. Prior, he was a video coordinator and a scout.

Good luck to Hardy!



Bethany McLean ’92 is probably the leading Eph reporter of her generation. And she is also (sort of?) a CV-19 truther!

Not that there is anything wrong with being a truther! Some of my best friends are . . .


Chap Petersen ’90 versus the Governor

My friend and classmate – Virginia State Senator Chap Petersen (D) – filed a lawsuit today on behalf of several businesses alleging that Virginia Governor Ralph Northam does not have authority to maintain the business-related restrictions for as long as he has:

Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax City, is representing two business owners in lawsuits against Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, over the governor’s COVID-19 executive orders.

Linda Park, a restaurant owner in Fredericksburg, and Jon Tigges, a wedding venue owner in Northern Virginia, are suing Northam over the restrictions he put in place in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Representing them is Petersen, a centrist Democrat and lawyer who has been outspoken against the restrictions…

The lawsuit, filed in federal court, said Northam went beyond his authority as governor and violated Tigges’ constitutional rights, specifically a clause in the Fifth Amendment that says a person shouldn’t be deprived of “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

“The governor’s action was taken under color of state law and has been enforced by officials in his administration,” the complaint says. “It is plainly unconstitutional.”

A separate lawsuit from Tigges and Park, filed with the Supreme Court of Virginia, challenges the fact that the General Assembly was not part of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Very interesting place for Chap to be, politically.  He definitely seems to be on the far right-hand edge of the Democratic party these days.



8 Can Wait

Which Eph is throwing the most shade towards BLM and associated causes? Good question! Let’s start with Jen Doleac ’03:

See Jen’s thread for more. Would any reader defend this sort of nonsense?


Out in Front

Erin Burnett ’98 putting her Williams education to work tonight with a useful discussion of the Insurrection Act. Wish I had taken more history courses!

UPDATE: This is the Williams education content we are looking for!


Once Belonged

John DiGravio ’21 writes in the Wall Street Journal:

The economic fallout from the coronavirus is forcing colleges across the U.S. to cut costs and re-evaluate priorities. With so many students already burdened by rising tuition costs and student loans, colleges should look beyond the enrollment list to find savings. They can begin by rolling back decades of costly administrative expansion and replacing it with greater levels of faculty governance and student independence.

According to a 2014 report by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, the number of nonacademic higher-education staff more than doubled between 1987 and 2012 at private nonprofit colleges, far outpacing growth in students. This has had an especially strong impact on small colleges such as my own, which have fewer students to bear the cost of retaining so many administrators.

Many of these new positions have taken over roles that once belonged to faculty and students. At Williams College, students used to gain valuable experience by managing student organizations, club sports and events. Now an office of professional staff oversees these activities. Colleges can cut costs by turning to professors—rather than expensive search committees—to fill essential senior administrative positions. Tasks like community building and management of student activities can be handed back to students. In addition to saving money, these adjustments would help restore the influence of faculty and students in running their own colleges.

Exactly right. Remember the Tablecloth Colors!

The Record — which has done an excellent job this spring — should do a series on this. How many more administrators does Williams have compared to 10 or 20 years ago? How much are they paid? EphBlog could help!


Disastrous Mistake

Jonathan Kravis ’99 writes in the Washington Post:

Three months ago, I resigned from the Justice Department after 10 years as a career prosecutor. I left a job I loved because I believed the department had abandoned its responsibility to do justice in one of my cases, United States v. Roger Stone. At the time, I thought that the handling of the Stone case, with senior officials intervening to recommend a lower sentence for a longtime ally of President Trump, was a disastrous mistake that the department would not make again.

I was wrong.

Is lying the best way to start a Washington Post op-ed? I don’t know! But surely Kravis is lying here. There is no way that he believed, three months ago, that “senior officials” — in which group he must include AG Barr — were not going to involve themselves in DoJ decisions. After all, we have an executive branch! The AG works for the President, who gets to weigh in whenever he wants. Every president in history has done so, at least when the DoJ starts doing stuff he does not like.

Last week, the department again put political patronage ahead of its commitment to the rule of law, filing a motion to dismiss the case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn — notwithstanding Flynn’s sworn guilty plea and a ruling by the court that the plea was sound.

That is a mendacious summary of the Flynn case. Read here for a contrasting view. One subtle point is that I suspect that Kravis’s buddies in the DoJ are glad that the Flynn case has been dismissed. Do you really think that they would want to try that case again, providing Flynn’s excellent lawyer Sidney Powell with the power to question them and the FBI agents who entrapped Flynn under oath? I doubt it! Yet Kravis, being a smart Eph Deep Stater, can portray a win for his side as a loss for the rule of law. Clever!

Prosecutors are trained to make their cases in the courtroom and let the results speak for themselves.

It is bad enough that we have to put up with the Deep State. Must we also parrot its lies? Must we shout that we “Love Big Brother!” Just who, exactly, has “trained” prosecutors to “let the results speak for themselves?” No one! In fact, every junior DA learns the exact opposite lesson as their boss works the press and the cameras, angling for the next step up the political ladder. When Karvis worked under the sainted Obama, did the DoJ not give press conferences?

[M]y colleagues who still serve the department are duty-bound to remain silent

I love Big Brother! I really, truly do! DoJ lawyers have never, ever talked to the press. They never leak anything. They “remain silent,” except for maybe some nasty Republicans, of course.

Last week came an equally appalling chapter: the department’s motion to drop the Flynn case. Flynn pleaded guilty to the crime of making false statements in connection with lies he told in an FBI interview about his contacts with the Russian ambassador. Flynn twice admitted under oath that he had committed this crime, and the trial judge issued a lengthy opinion upholding the plea.

And why did Flynn plead? Because you and your DoJ thug buddies threatened to jail his son for “crimes” that half of Washington is “guilty” of. Justice has been served in this case, at least.

Prosecutors must make decisions based on facts and law, not on the defendant’s political connections.

I love Big Brother! DoJ never once, in its history, did anything on the basis of “political connections,” at least until January 2016.

Perhaps that is enough of a rant for today. Justice — in the form of John Durham — is coming. With luck, Kravis will not get caught up in the carnage.


Remember the Tablecloth Colors

A Record op-ed from 14 years ago:

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

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

The main rational used by CUL (Committee on Undergraduate Life) in establishing OCL 18 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 ’06 tells a depressing tale. Anyone who cares about student life at Williams should 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 working with the JAs and First Years don’t matter. Yet you can be sure that one of the “3 Assistant Deans” at Emerson does exactly what Johnson does at Williams, although probably not as well. Third, the CUL erases all the work and commitment of people like Linda Brown and Tom McEvoy, as evoked so nicely by O’Connell.

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

O’Connell goes on:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back in the day, students handled almost all aspects of Senior Week. I still remember dancing the night away, in my dress whites, at Mount Hope Farm, the most beautiful Eph of all in my arms. I am sad that, due to CV-19, this year’s seniors, 30 years younger than I, will not have that experience. Because of Gulley’s successor’s involvement, it may even be true that the events would have been 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 run Williams, the better that Williams will be.


Mika and Joe

Mika Brzezinski ’89 is getting rave reviews for her interview of Joe Biden.

MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski was lauded on social media for her questioning of former Vice President Joe Biden about an allegation that he sexually assaulted a Senate aide in 1993.

Brzezinski questioned Biden for approximately 18 minutes on Friday, asking the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee if he assaulted former staffer Tara Reade, if he would give permission to the University of Delaware to release relevant records, and if he was guilty of hypocrisy given his statements during Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings.

What do our readers think?


Thrust More Daggers

Oren Cass ’05 is the most important policy wonk on the right, if not in all of American politics. Latest evidence:

When Oren Cass announced a new conservative organization (American Compass) to advocate what is, essentially, a neo-Hamiltonian approach to economics, Senator Pat Toomey took to the citadel of Conservatism, Inc.—the Heritage Foundation—to describe it as a “dagger thrust into the heart” of the neoliberal consensus that has dominated the American Right.

Let’s thrust more daggers into that heart. Otherwise, we may wake up in ten years to the realization that we wasted the political moment of COVID-19 because we were obsessed with distractions: reopening a broken economy and whining at the Chinese instead of reforming a system in a way that would do damage to Chinese leadership—and the American elites who profit from them.

Indeed. Cass’s main (only?) flaw is his failure to recognize how much immigration negatively effects the aspects of American society he, correctly, cares so much about. Instead of staying connected to the Marco Rubio Eph Maphia, he should reach out to folks like Ron DeSantis and Kris Kobach. They are the future of conservative politics in the US.


Dr. Megan Bruck Syal ’07 on planetary defense and liberal arts

My classmate Megan Bruck Syal works on how to defend the Earth from incoming planetary debris. In this new video, she does a backyard experiment about how the porosity of the asteroid would affect the way a projectile impacts it.

I’ve set the video to start at about the 8:30 mark, where she talks about majoring in astrophysics and mathematics in college, and also emphasizes the importance of all of the other courses — literature, history philosophy — that are an essential part of a liberal arts education.


Dr. Craig Smith ’70 in the Wall Street Journal

This is the most complimentary article about an Eph in a major publication in years.

The Pandemic’s Most Powerful Writer Is a Surgeon
Dr. Craig Smith started writing a daily update to his colleagues. They’re no longer his only readers. His emails have become essential dispatches from the front lines.

Dr. Craig Smith sits down at his computer each day in a hospital under siege and starts typing.

His note to the Columbia University department of surgery on the evening of March 20 began with the latest, grimmest statistics from the coronavirus pandemic: the positive tests, the disappearing beds, masks and ventilators, the curve too stubborn to bend. It was an email that would’ve been crushing if he’d stopped there. He didn’t.

“So what can we do?” Smith continued. “Load the sled, check the traces, feed Balto, and mush on. Our cargo must reach Nome. Remember that our families, friends, and neighbors are scared, idle, out of work, and feel impotent. Anyone working in health care still enjoys the rapture of action. It’s a privilege! We mush on.”

That last paragraph about a dog sled racing to beat another epidemic nearly a century ago is the reason his colleagues are no longer his only readers. The daily notes of this 71-year-old surgeon, which are now published on Columbia’s website and shared widely on social media, have become essential dispatches for many people in search of leadership, courage and maybe even a pep talk. Dr. Smith’s emails are Winston Churchill’s radio speeches of this war.

Read the whole thing. More on Balto.

Balto (1919 – March 14, 1933) was a Siberian Husky and sled dog who led his team on the final leg of the 1925 serum run to Nome, in which diphtheria antitoxin was transported from Anchorage, Alaska, to Nenana, Alaska, by train and then to Nome by dog sled to combat an outbreak of the disease.

Do we get to credit Smith’s Williams education for such a perfect metaphor? Back to the article.

Smith is an elegant, almost poetic writer. The chairman of the department balances sobering data with a deft literary touch, quoting sources as disparate as John Wooden and Emily Dickinson. When he delivered the presidential address for the American Association for Thoracic Surgery in 2012, he opened and closed his lecture with meditations on a Yeats poem.

In response to an interview request, he replied: “I’d rather let the written messages to my colleagues speak for themselves.”

The grandson of two physicians, Smith was a self-described lackluster student, so convinced that he was the “last student to be accepted” in his Williams College class that he didn’t buy a school T-shirt until he survived the first semester, according to a 2015 article in The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery.

EphBog readers first met Smith 16 years ago when he operated on former President Clinton.

You don’t have to be a literary critic to appreciate his style. But it doesn’t hurt if you happen to be one.

Harvard professor Stephen Greenblatt says Smith’s notes have a “certain dark fascination” that reminds him of “A Journal of the Plague Year” by Daniel Defoe, and Columbia scholar Andrew Delbanco says his writing is so evocative that he feels as if he knows him through reading him.

“Candid, clear, concrete, his sentences cut straight to the heart of the matter: the staggering scale of the emergency and the equally staggering courage of those who are rising to meet it,” Delbanco wrote in an email. “Straight talk has been as scarce as masks and ventilators lately, but Dr. Smith talks straight.”

Smith writes like a bartender. For every shot, there’s a chaser. He ended his note on Sunday, when hundreds in New York had died of this new disease, by reflecting on the explorers who traversed Africa in the 1800s and lost half of their team over the course of the journey.

“They managed to bring 108 souls home,” Smith wrote. “It would have been 105, except that 3 children were born on the journey and survived to the end.”

Once again he’d found hope in despair.

“Life,” Dr. Smith wrote, “finds a way.”

Let us pray it does.


Adam Schlesinger ’89 passes away from COVID-19

Adam Schlesinger ’89 passed away from COVID-19 on April 1st in Poughkeepsie, NY.   Schlesinger enjoyed great commercial success with Fountains of Wayne, but also played in numerous other bands, and won 3 Emmy awards and a Grammy award for songs used in television.  As written in an article reporting his death:

Schlesinger’s career extended well beyond his work in bands. He had a hand in many of the songs that populated the critically beloved TV series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and he won three Emmys — one for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and two, both with David Javerbaum, for co-writing songs performed in Tony Awards telecasts. With Javerbaum, Schlesinger was nominated for two Tonys (both for 2008’s Cry-Baby) and won a Grammy for A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!.

A versatile songwriter with a gift for straddling genres and musical eras, Schlesinger wrote frequently for film, with credits ranging from three songs in the romantic comedy Music and Lyrics to the Oscar-nominated title track to Tom Hanks’ 1996 film That Thing You Do!.

I was at Williams at the same time as Schlesinger, but I never knew him, or his Fountains of Wayne partner Chris Collingwood.  I wonder if they ever played publicly (separately or together) while they were in the Purple Valley?  Do any readers know?

Schlesinger must have been one of the better known Eph musicians/artists in recent decades, and he will be missed.  Condolences to his family and friends.


UPDATE: My friends Ellen Waggett and Tim Sullivan, both (infinitely) more musically and artistically gifted than me, have both posted on Facebook about their friendships with Schlesinger while we were all students during the late 1980’s.  This news will obviously will hit some pretty hard on a personal level.


Got the Gov

J-L Cauvin ’01 makes us laugh!


Easter Plans

Most viral Eph video of the year is probably this Trump impression from J-L Cauvin ’01.

Hilarious! Regardless of your politics . . .


Ask a Pandemic Expert: How are we doing?

Dr. Rich Besser ’81 is probably the leading Williams-affiliated voice on pandemics, having served as the acting director of the CDC during the emergence of the novel H1N1 influenza virus (often labeled “swine flu”). Dr. Besser was widely lauded for his response to H1N1 (which, fortunately, turned out to be far less serious than what was originally thought–it has a reproduction rate between 1.4-1.6 (SARS-CoV-2 looks to be around 2.2) and only a 0.02% fatality rate (SARS-CoV-2 looks like it kills between 1-5% of those infected)).

So what does he have to say about our current predicament?  In a March 5 Washington Post editorial, Dr. Besser writes:

The failures of public policy and imagination have been stalking us for years, creating haves and have-nots: parents who don’t have paid sick leave from work (only 10 states and the District of Columbia mandate it); a lack of affordable childcare or sick child care; at least 28 million Americans living without insurance and nearly one-third of the population still underinsured; health protections that are not distributed evenly from region to region; and fear among undocumented immigrants regarding access to care.

Our nation’s predicament today is both tragic, because so many people will likely suffer, and maddening, because it didn’t have to be this way. In the short term, the United States must play the hand that we’ve dealt ourselves. Indeed, there are no short-term solutions to our long-term neglects. The underlying work our nation must do to ensure all people in the United States have a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being — sick leave, universal health care, quality child care and early education, as well as fair immigration policies — must be done in moments of calm.

In the meantime, we could also consider a fund to compensate hourly workers without paid leave for their loss of income when sick; provide legal aid for those who are fired for not coming to work when ill; fund outreach to non-English speakers; ask insurers to waive co-pays for testing and treatment; supplement funding for community health centers that care for a large proportion of those without insurance; and ensure free meals are available for children when schools are closed.

This time around, things seem likely to get far worse in the U.S. before they get better.  How do you feel about our public health response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus?  Have we missed our tracking window with all of the testing mishaps of the past month?  Or have our current problems been baked in for years, not just in the 2018 disbanding of the Pandemic Response Team ( but in the policy decisions that we’ve made, or failed to make, over decades.  Or are you pretty happy with how things are going?


Miller ’06 on Coronavirus

Evan Miller ’06 is one of the smartest Ephs of his generation. If you are interested in Coronavirus, there is no better source of information. Perhaps, in his next segment, Evan could address two issues:

1) If he were the president of Williams, what would he do?

2) What does he forecast that the president of Williams, and other elite colleges, will do?

I do not have strong opinions on either question. What say our readers?



Which Eph is most associated with Covid-19? Best I can do is Rich Besser ’81, former acting director of the CDC. Recent tweet:

Other suggestions?

Off topic: I still love this Besser smackdown from a decade ago. Media critic EphBlog is the best EphBlog!

Long-time readers will not be surprised to know that the EphBlog bunker is well-prepped for pandemic mayhem. Have you replenished your supplies recently?


Ephs at the forefront of a new American conservatism

Saw this article come across my email about Ephs Mike Needham and Oren Cass launching a new group called American Compass that aims to “reorient the right.”  As explained in the article:

Running as a populist, [Donald] Trump challenged Republican orthodoxy on free trade and tapped into the disaffection of blue-collar workers in the heartland who have been left behind by the growing, but uneven, economy. For the most part, however, he said conservative elites in the think tank world have not followed suit.  “The goal, long term, is to think about what the post-Trump right-of-center is going to be,” said Cass. “One of the reasons we think this is such an important project is that, even four-plus years after Trump emerged on the scene, there really has been very little new and interesting ferment in the right of center. It’s pretty much the same set of institutions and publications and so forth. … By and large, the establishment is what it was. And it seems to be keeping its head down and sort of hoping that everything can just go back post-Trump to the way that it was pre-Trump. To the extent that the future should sound different, and certainly I think it should, now is the time to start building the institutions and efforts that are going to make that a reality.”

Cass and Needham are not particularly recent grads (’05 and ’04, I believe), but its pretty amazing to me that leading conservative intellectuals have come out of Williams in (relatively) recent years.  Are the next Cass and Needham analogs currently in the Purple Valley?  Perhaps the angst about lack of ideological diversity is somewhat overblown.  I doubt they would have time, but it would be great if one of them would come to Williams and give a talk about their new organization.


Michael Bloomberg, H ’14

Which still viable presidential candidate has the closest connection to Williams? Bloomberg!

UPDATE: For those who forget their Williams history.

Good morning, and thank you, President Falk.

Everyone has been telling me what a great job you’re doing – and I’m not surprised, because you came from another great American academic institution: Johns Hopkins University, my alma mater.

But today, I’m honored to be an “Eph!”

Friends, families, faculty – let me begin by offering a big congratulations to every member of the amazingly talented, brilliant, and distinguished class of 2014!

UPDATE: What is the official nomenclature for referring to honorary Ephs? Bloomberg was awarded an honorary degree in 2014. How about:

Student: Sarah Williams ’14
Parent: George Williams, P ’14
Honorary Degree Recipient: Michael Bloomberg, H ’14

If we use P for parents — and that is what the College officially does — then H for honorary degree recipient makes sense. But I have never seen the College do that, or otherwise indicate that someone is an honorary degree recipient.

Comments welcome.


The Culture Problem

Oren Cass ’05, the most important policy intellectual on the right (and the left?), writes in First Things:

So while liberals pursued ever-larger programs to stem the tide and continued to argue that ­redoubling their efforts would work where merely doubling them had not, conservatives arrived at different conclusions. Yes, material poverty is a problem. And certainly, the widespread racial discrimination in mid-twentieth-century America required redress. But what ultimately determines the success or failure of an individual, the strength of his family, the health of his community, comes down to people’s decisions. Dropping out of high school, dropping out of the labor force, having children outside of marriage, committing crimes, and abusing drugs and ­alcohol—those things matter much more than dollars and cents. And data show that these kinds of bad ­decisions have become more prevalent even as material well-being has improved. This leads to the conclusion that something else, something in people’s values and beliefs and thus their decision-making, must be the culprit.

Cass is of the right, and not the alt-right, because he never discusses genetics. “Committing crimes,” and almost everything else, is heavily influenced by your genes. Blood will tell. Does Cass not know about this literature? Does he really think that it all comes down to “values and beliefs?” Or does he know and disagree? Or does he agree and, yet, for reasons of prudence and cowardice, refuse to mention the role of genes in outcomes?

Perhaps mentioning the unmentionable is why we have EphBlog?!

Read the whole thing.


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