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Nobel Peace Prize — for Education?

Wick Sloane ’76 writes:

No one has ever won a Nobel Peace Prize for education. Click here and look for yourself. I can’t be alone in finding this embarrassing for all of us in education. Here in the nation with the self-proclaimed “finest higher education system in the world,” why hasn’t the Big Ten won the Nobel Peace Prize? Or the Ivy League? Or even the Little Three. The opposite of peace would be war and conflict. Isn’t war the ultimate failure to solve a problem by other means? Isn’t our job in education to teach people to solve problems of all sizes?

Read the whole thing.


How Many Veterans Apply to Williams?

From the AEI:

Wick Sloane, a columnist for Inside Higher Education, has a provocative proposal for some of America’s most selective schools: “That Harvard, Yale and Princeton and Williams College (No. 1 liberal arts college in U.S. News) commit to enrolling by next fall as many undergraduate veterans as varsity football players.”

Sloane’s proposal stems from his second annual survey of undergraduate veteran enrollment at elite schools. The numbers are, as he says, “disgraceful.” Princeton and Williams had no veterans among their undergraduates; Yale and Harvard, only two. Dartmouth and Stanford led the pack among the elites, with 12 and 21 veteran undergrads, respectively.

Asked to comment, the universities largely ignored or dismissed Sloane’s proposal. Princeton University president Shirley Tilghman actually sent the following email in response: “You may know that the thesis of your e-mail seems based on somewhat flawed reasoning (I don’t have a diamond, so therefore I don’t like diamonds).”

I’d be curious how Tilghman would regard such reasoning from a president of, say, a Fortune 500 company with no female board members or a university sciences department with no female faculty?


1) Shirley Tilghman deserves credit for responding to Wick. Did Adam Falk?

2) The key difference is that there are many women apply to, say, science departments at Williams with, objectively, credentials that are equivalent to those of the male applicants. I doubt that the biology department, for example, provides any meaningful affirmative action for women seeking faculty positions. Moreover, there are similar numbers of men and women in the applicant pool.

But I think that the situation is very different when it comes to US veteran applicants to Williams. I think that very, very few US veterans apply to Williams and that, in general, those that do have academic credentials (mainly high school grades and standardized test scores) which are much lower than other applicants. So Williams (correctly, in my view) rejects them.

Does anyone know the details of applicants to Williams from US veterans?


Total undergraduate veteran enrollment at Princeton, Yale, Harvard, and Williams: 4


Burning the Midnight Oil

Nice video featuring Wick Sloane’s ’76 midnight class at Bunker Hill Community College. (Previous discussions (sometimes contentious!) here and here.)

UPDATE: Wick reports that the Gates Foundation makes lots of high quality films, like this one, but that nobody watches them. I don’t find that surprising. Do you?


When The Levees Broke

Wick Sloane ’76 applies for another job.

What choice do I have? I’ll hereby toss my hat into the ring for the presidency of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). Typing with just one hand, while with the other I breathe into a brown paper bag to remain calm, is slow going. Apply I must.

Have you read the job description and the presidential profile? I first thought I’d missed a keystroke and ended up in the National Archives. This, I thought, could only be the posting from, I don’t know, 1850? No, this is the current information. No mention of crisis management, of the dire situation for community colleges today. Nothing about everything that’s hitting the fan for these 1,177 campuses and 11 million students. Any mention of disaster, implosion or explosion? Nope. Or that enrollments this fall may be higher than last fall, when the levees broke.

That’s not the worst of this search.

Read the whole thing. My views are pretty much the opposite of Wick’s — we need fewer students in college, not more — but he writes much better than I do.


College Seats for 75,000

Wick Sloane ’76 has an idea:

Eureka. I need thousands of seats at four-year colleges for community college students. And the seats are right under my nose – all the undergraduate spots at the Ivies and all the seats, period, at the four-year Self Described Most Highly Selective Elites (”elites” hereafter). How? Easy, and everybody wins.

Next month, at graduation and all graduations thereafter, the top high schools – Riverdale, Brearley, Exeter, Andover, Scarsdale High School in the East, and Lafayette High School and Thacher School in California — award bachelor’s degrees. These are the students finishing high school with wheelbarrows full of Advanced Placement college credits and equivalent courses.

Keep reading here. Share with any teachers, administrators, and parents you know here.


A Semester of Midnights

Wick Sloane ’76 writes:

Foiled. At 1:45 a.m. By a pop-up window on our classroom SMART Board. “The system will shut down for routine maintenance in 180 seconds.”

I had to hurry to save our work. For my final Bunker Hill Community College Fall 2009 English 111 midnight class, I’d forgotten to ask my IT friends about system status. There went my pedagico/journalistico coup de grace — my students were going to write this column. We were going to file, photos and all, from class.

The class, 9 over the finish line out of 14 starters, was happy to leave the work to me. Forty-eight large pizzas and 32 large meatball grinders, and who knows how much coffee, since September, and we made it. The idea no one believed in — midnight classes — had worked, my English section and the Tuesday night class, Psych 101.

Colleagues had taught me to bring food to off-hours courses. You just don’t know when a community college student has eaten. One night, I went in early — 10 p.m. The food vanished. Who might be hungrier than midnight students? The overnight cleaning crew. I just went back to Harvard House of Pizza, our family local, for another order. Nasser Khan, the owner, told me that his son, now at Northeastern, had started college at BHCC.

Since the students will read this, I’d better respect what I said anyone writing anything must use — Aristotle and the rhetorical triangle. Hitting the three points, I am the author. You are the audience.

Read the whole thing. How many Ephs affected so many lives for the better in 2009? I didn’t. Did you?


Whack Essay

Fun interview (mp3) with Wick Sloane ’76 at The Story.

Community colleges are experiencing record enrollments in the recession. Some have responded by adding classes at all hours of the day. Wick Sloane teaches English at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston – at midnight.

As he tells Dick Gordon, Wick thinks students in community college are among the most energized and inspiring he’s ever met. He pointed us to Tremare James, a 19-year-old woman who has made back into the classroom despite debilitating sexual assaults. Wick and Tremare talk with Dick about the 12 a.m. to 3 a.m. class, and what they’re liking about the experience.

Highly recommended.

I never got around to answering Vicarious’s ’83 question about community college enrollment. (The census data I was looking at was both dated and tough to work with.) Fortunately, this article tells the story. Key graphic:


Basic point: Lots of people go to college, both 4-year and community. Lots more go now then have gone in the past. Whatever small up and down movements we see this year or in future years will be almost imperceptible in this chart. The interviewer in this story pushes the line on exploding enrollments. Don’t believe the hype.

Too many people go into too much debt to go to college. They would be better off doing something else. Background reading here.

Tremare James was mentioned, without being named, in our previous discussions as the “Dunkin’ Donuts cashier who wants to be a homicide detective.” What odds would you give on James achieving her dream?

Becoming a detective starts with becoming a police officer. Here is how you do so in Boston. No college degree required. Perhaps someone could let James know.


Dulce et Decorum Est

Wick Sloane ’76 wrote the following e-mail to 5 trustees:

Greg and Steve and Clayton and Paul and Bill —

The absence of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans at Williams is disgraceful. I’ve brought this to your attention before, without result. Hammering me, the messenger, is petty. I’m long dead, anyway, but fire away if that makes you feel better. There are now hundreds of thousands of veterans collecting GI Bill benefits. Williams can find a few.

Any and all of you are welcome to visit any class of mine at Bunker Hill Community College. I will give you the entire period to rebut my argument that Williams should have veterans enrolled.

I find no pleasure in this broadcast note. I’ve tried the polite way for more than a year with no luck or even credible replies.


From the column —

The Devil’s Workshop Highly Selective Veterans Day Survey

Institution Current Undergraduate Veteran Enrollment
Yale 0
Princeton 0
Williams 0
Harvard 4
Dartmouth 16
Stanford 30
Bunker Hill
Community College

(c)Inside Higher Ed

More from Wick’s column:

Cane. Short haircut. Young. Here in a community college, that means “Veteran. Wounded.” I always introduce myself to see what help they need at school. Or perhaps what help I need, because I am so ashamed of what I, the people, have put these veterans through with little result or purpose.

One cane I’ll call Tony I’ve lost altogether. He wasn’t thirty years old. An improvised explosive devise, an IED, in Iraq had caused his wounds, he told me. Brain trauma, which showed in his speech and thinking. The limp was because the IED had broken his neck. In the fog of war, no one had discovered the fracture until he was in a hospital in Germany. Just the effort of walking left him sweating in the lobby. He had his veterans benefits paperwork. A colleague and I made sure he had what he needed and knew the right lines to register. I looked two days later. Tony wasn’t registered. I telephoned. He’d been mugged on the subway. I talked with his father. I offered to drive over and pick Tony up. We couldn’t get Tony back to school. He only wanted to go to community college for job training. Another cane is still in school.

For the sake of these canes, and the coffins, too, how about an assignment for us all this week? Let’s distribute at every meeting and every class we attend this week copies of Wilfred Owen’s World War I poem, “Dulce et Decorum Est.”

The poem begins:

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

My best writing on veteran issues are here, here and here.

Happy Veteran’s Day to Ephs far and wide.


Wick Sloane, engaging at 12am

Thanks to ’12 for linking us to this article in the NY Times featuring Professor Sloane and his midnight class at Bunker Hill Community College.

Wick Sloane, who teaches the midnight writing class at Bunker Hill, tried to transport Mr. Chin and the other students from the windowless, concrete-walled classroom one recent night with an essay by Edward Abbey, the nature writer, about encountering a mountain lion in the New Mexican desert. When one student answered a question with a giant yawn around 2:15, Mr. Sloane asked, “Can everyone make it about 15 more minutes?”

For homework, he assigned an essay analyzing Calpurnia’s rhetoric in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” leading one student to ask whether Shakespeare used an alias. The room started buzzing with opinions.

“Do you want to stay and debate who Shakespeare was?” Mr. Sloane asked.

They did not, but not for lack of enthusiasm. “He’s got me engaged,” Mr. Chin said, “which is not easy at this time of night.”

Read the whole article. Not only is Wick strengthening writing abilities, it sounds like he’s building his biceps as well.


Wick Sloane ’76, After Midnight

In the same halls that served as setting for Good Will Hunting, Professor Wick Sloane burns the midnight oil teaching College Writing I, to a class of very dedicated students.

Age range? 18 to 59. Languages other than English spoken by his students? Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, and Somali. 

What’s more, he scurries home to meet his 4am deadline for Inside Higher Ed in order that we can read about it now. Judging by the results, I’d say those students are in the best of hands. Read the whole thing.


Link to Wick’s pamphlet, “Common Sense — The Bachelor’s Degree is Obsolete.”

(link added by Ronit at Wick’s request)


Wick Sloane ’76 on Building Better Communities

If you happen to be near Dartmouth, MA today, you should consider going:

Quality Education For All:
The Community’s Highest Responsibility

Education policy renegade Wick Sloane will discuss the current state of our public educaton system, and share some of his concrete ideas for reform. Currently an English professor at Bunker Hill Community College, and a regular columnist for Inside Higher Ed, Sloane has dedicated his career to helping those students who most need education to succeed in the world.

In this week’s discussion, Sloane will lead the conversation through the front lines of education reform, from the policy-makers in Washington, to the underfunded classrooms of our local community colleges, to the lonely battles on our local school boards.

A 45 minute talk will be followed by Q & A with the audience.

Where: The Apponagansett Meeting House, 850 Russells Mills Road, Dartmouth, MA
When: Thurs July 9, 7PM

If you are unfamiliar with Wick Sloane’s work, here are some of our favorite columns by him:

The Ones Who Made It to May

On Senator Kennedy’s Education Contributions

Application to be President of Williams College

Meeting With Bill and Melinda Gates


The four-year college myth

tishia_reevesThe Globe has a great article about the increasingly non-traditional four-year model of higher education that most Ephs are used to. Wick Sloane ’76 and his student Tishia Reeves are featured: Read more


Adjusting for gunshots

As the academic years comes to a close, Wick Sloane ’76 writes a powerful encomium to his students at Bunker Hill Community College. A few snippets below, but please, go read the whole thing, and share it with anyone you know fortunate enough to be a graduate:

Adjusted for gunshots, my student retention rate for this semester is 81 percent, my all-time high. I teach College Writing 1, an entry-level course. The graduating students signing up for their caps and gowns down the hall from my Bunker Hill Community College office now are two years and more ahead of my students. The national policy spotlights are always on the completion rates for community college students. Beyond “a lot more than today,” no one knows what the completion rates ought to be for this struggling, diverse, multilingual, mostly part-time population of 6.5 million, about half the undergraduates in the nation. […]

By “adjusted for gunshots,” here’s what I mean. I did not count in the starting total Cedirick Steele, who was shot and killed in Dorchester on Thursday of spring break 2007. I did count the mother this semester, who could not complete an assignment about a month ago because her son was shot.

I did count the 20-year-old man whose work and home life barely give him time to read the assignments. I spent an hour with him this morning. “I’ve had a bad weekend. Thursday, a week ago, there was a shootout in front of my house,” he said. “Then, Saturday night, one of my friends was shot in the face. I think he’s going to be eating through a tube for the rest of his life.” This student and I revised his plan for completing the semester. He and the mother agreed to complete the assignments over the summer. […]

I start each semester explaining that the national expectation is that only half of them will complete the course. The reason is the complexity of their lives, whether grueling night jobs at Logan Airport or gunshots or sick children. I give them my name and my cell phone and my e-mail. I tell them they can call any time. No one has abused that. “We’re only all going to make it if we help each other. I want you to get the name and phone number and the e-mail of the person to your left and to your right.” They do. “Now, I want you to shake hands with the person on your left and on your right and say, ‘I am committed to you being here in May (or December).’ ” I ask them to walk around and shake hands with everyone in the class, with the same commitment. The students humor me. […] Students have reported two pieces of (anecdotal) evidence, according to colleagues. The first is that I am “crazy.” The second is that they make strong new friendships in my sections. […]

Eighty-one percent made it, adjusted for gunshots. The economy may be stabilizing. Federal tax policies, which offer tens of thousands to students at the schools I attended, Williams and Yale, and nothing to Bunker Hill students, are the same. Those colleges will try to regain what they lost by taking their endowments to the dog track. My students don’t know if they will have enough money to enroll in the fall. That’s a jeremiad for another day.

The Ones Who Made It To May [Inside Higher Ed]


Book Update


Via Wick Sloane ’76, here is an update on EphBlog’s efforts to send books to Noah Smith-Drelich ’07, in his second year with Teach for America on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

We have gotten box after box of books from generous Ephs (and parents/friends of Ephs). I have to say, this is quite the impressive display of the Williams alumni network; in total I would estimate that we have received over 200 books, many of them ordered new from Amazon!

That said, my favorite part of this whole process so far has been watching my students go through the boxes. We had almost a week straight where I was getting one or more box every day, and my students started coming into class early to go through the books before class! I’ve gotten so many Sherman Alexie books that I now am able to devote an entire shelf to Sherman Alexie alone. I also now have a shelf entirely of other Native American authors, as well as a shelf entirely of Native American books by non-Native authors (before, all of my books by or about Native Americans fit on to one shelf). In fact, I am in the exciting position of needing another bookshelf for my library–six just isn’t cutting it anymore.

If you know of someone who donated books and did not receive a thank you card from me, please let me know.

As Wick notes, “200 is a great start. Let’s go for 2,000.” See here for Noah’s address.

More pictures below the break.
Read more


Appoint Sloane

Wick Sloane ’76 on NPR. Listen to the whole thing. Related post here.


Vote Sloane ’76

Looking for a bipartisan proposal that unites Ephs across the political spectrum? Wick Sloane ’76 for Secretary of Education!


Endowment Q&A

Wick Sloane ’76 writes with questions about the endowment. I have answers.

I’m sure there’s a hard way to do this. Then, there’s the easy way: Ask David.

Indeed! Questions are always welcome.

What is the asset allocation of the Williams endowment? How much bonds, equities and then the fancy stuff — hedge funds, private equities and all?

Page 3 of this pdf provides the answer.

(Thanks to reader DB for the graphic. Click for larger version.) 50% in global equities will not have generated very good returns in the last few months. 12% in bonds (fixed income) may seem low but is consistent with the advice offered in Pioneering Portfolio Management by David Swensen, CIO of the Yale endowment and far-and-away the most successful endowment manager in the world.

(PPM is required reading for anyone interested in endowment management. Alas, it is slow going. Swensen argues that fixed income investing is a bad idea for endowments. Previous comments on Swensen here. Yale has only 4% of its money in fixed income.)

Private equity, venture capital and absolute return make up 25% of the portfolio. It is tough to know whether the 12% in real assets (commodities?) and real estate is invested passively, just to get exposure to these asset classes, or in hedge funds which are trying to beat some passive index. More transparency please.

An acquaintance mentioned that Williams recently did a review of its asset allocation, perhaps in conjunction with the hiring of CIO Collette Chilton in 2006. He even mentioned the name (which I forgot) of the consultants who worked on it. It would be interesting to see a copy of the report that was produced.

Overall the asset allocation is reasonable, although still quite different from that of Yale. Is Collette Chilton smarter than David Swensen? Time will tell.

Which brings me to the questions I shall put once I have dug this up –

Since this market adjustment, has the Williams endowment gone up, stayed the same, or gone down?

The endowment has almost certainly been crushed from June 30 through today. (See here for a discussion of how one might derive a rough estimate. An ambitious student from Purple Bull ought to volunteer to work with me on making this estimate more precise and updated daily.)

The only public data we have are the results for the endowment for fiscal 2008, ending June 30, 2008. The endowment was down 5%. The members of the investment committee certainly receive (or could receive) quarterly updates. You should call the investment office and ask to see the same reports that they get. Tell us what happens!

Why, you will ask in one of your delightfully vilifying comments, am I dumb enough to ask?

Glad you asked. If an institution with no plans for substantial growth is fortunate enough to have an endowment about 18 times its operating budget, what is the appropriate risk position for the endowment? Why not put it all in inflation adjusted US Treasuries, count your blessings, and sit down on a log with a few students? Totally too conservative?

The standard answer is that the expected life of the endowment is forever, so there is no need to be “conservative.” The College would rather average 8% real return per year (with some very bad years and very good years) than 3% over the next 50 years. It is precisely the wealth of Williams that allows it to be so risk-seeking. If occasional years of down 25% are the price to be paid for this excess return, then so be it.

The trickier issue is just what risk-seeking really means in this context. Swensen has moved 29% of Yale’s endowment into real assets. (Background discussion here (pdf). Why is Williams at 6%? Perhaps Collette Chilton knows something that David Swensen does not . . .

OK, 15% in equities of varying sorts. Even I know that the amount anyone has in equities should not exceed by one cent what that person/institution can afford to lose. So, by definition, if Williams are saying this crisis has been a crisis for Williams, well, shouldn’t the trustees on the investment committee resign?

No! That is crazy talk. The Williams endowment has had down years in the past. It will have down years in the future. We can afford to take smart, long-term risks. If Williams had followed the maximum-safety approach starting 50 years ago that you seem to be recommending (90% of the money in T-bills?), the College would be much less wealth today. (How much less wealthy is left as an exercise to the reader.)

If the endowment went down enough to have everyone in a panic and, as Ephbloggers say, to end the days of new buildings, then, wasn’t too much invested in equities? Meaning, more than Williams could afford to lose.

In the context of Columbia’s endowment, Professor Ralph Bradburd is more sanguine.

In the current volatile economic climate, it is hard to peg exactly how Columbia’s endowment has fared, but Bollinger acknowledged that “we’re not doing as well as we did two or three years ago.” However, economic indicators have dropped sharply lately—last week alone, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped by 7.3 percent and the S & P 500 by 10.3 percent, the worst week in seven years.

In the short term, that doesn’t spell disaster, according to Ralph Bradburd, an economics professor at Williams College, who studies higher-education finance. That’s because universities typically spend from their endowments at a constant rate each year, which takes into account both sluggish and strong years.

“Let’s say the endowment fell by 15 percent this year—which is not outside of the question depending on how the university invested. Spending might not change much,” Bradburd said. “If you have three years [of losses], you might do something.”

Correct. It all depends on how you think the endowment will do over the next year or ten. Unfortunately, the two main sources of endowment growth (investment returns and alumni contributions) are highly correlated. If the markets are down and stay down for the next few years, returns will stink and alumni contributions will be lower than they otherwise would be. (The class agent mailings already express a great deal of nervousness.)

What happens if the Williams endowment is down 25%, and then stays down for several years? How likely is that scenario? Tough to know. I have been a bear since 1994, so don’t look to me for guidance. If I were a trustee, I would be concerned. I would give serious thought to delaying the renovation of Sawyer for at least a couple of years.

There are 100 odd educational endowments that are comparable to Williams. As far as I know, our endowment was at the very bottom in terms of performance last year. Cause for concern? Perhaps. But there is no excuse for the lack of transparency in endowment allocation and performance. Why keep secrets if you have nothing to hide?


Steal This Post

Wick Sloane ’76 writes on the financial crisis.

Do any of us really how close we are to finding even our checking accounts empty or inaccessible? The press must ask this.

Acres of press coverage of the financial crisis continue to focus only on financial risk, not operational risk. Financial risk is whether a share in Company X worth $100 today will be worth $150 or $75 tomorrow. Operational risk is whether, if we sell the share for $100 today, we will ever receive the $100. Operational risk is whether the capital markets can complete the transactions required for our employer to have cash to meet the payroll and to complete the electronic funds transfer of our paycheck so that on payday we can put our debit card into the gas pump for a few gallons of $4 gasoline on the way home.

Call this crisis, for example, Hurricane Katrina. The financial risk is the severity of the storm. The operational risk is whether the levees will hold back the water. A financial transit system of staggering complexity moves the money through the global markets to our checking account to the gas pump and back again. How is this system doing in the hurricane?

Follow Wick down the rabbit hole for more. Anyone who really wants to hedge this sort of risk ought to have a cache of emergency supplies (cash, food, water, rifle, et cetera) in his house. My take? Sounds like the sort of crazy talk that you hear at a market bottom. Then again, I never thought that Lehman would go bankrupt . . .


Right On

If Wick Sloane ’76 were to meet with Bill and Melinda gates on the topic of education, here is what he would say.

No one has done better than Gates with a plan for “The Problem Too Big To Be Seen,” the crisis of the work force and community colleges, than the February 2008 Gates Foundation paper “Post-Secondary Education+: An initiative to dramatically expand social mobility in America.” A friend at Gates sent (not leaked) the paper to me a few of weeks ago. The paper, at Gates’s now-familiar New Deal scale and ambition, offers two key conclusions.

“First, our research revealed that a high-leverage intervention point in breaking the intergenerational transmission of poverty is to focus on young people in the critical decade between ages 16 and 26, as they make the transition to adulthood and as (or before) they become parents themselves. Second, our research showed that if one were to choose the single most important lever for improving the life prospects of these young people and their children, it would be to help young adults earn educational credentials beyond a high school diploma.”

Right on, Bill and Melinda.

If you really want to know the effect of providing more schooling, you would run a randomized experiment. Take 1,000 students, randomly offer 500 of them free tuition (or income support or whatever goo-goo intervention you like) and then, a few years later, compare the 500 who received the intervention with the 500 who didn’t. Odds are, you won’t see much/any effect. But that is an empirical question that the Gates Foundation ought to investigate.


Running Scared

Another fine article on war, veterans and education from Wick Sloane ’76 writing in Inside Higher Ed. Read the whole thing, but here is the only Williams mention.

In helping a Bunker Hill Iraq veteran who will attend Dartmouth College this fall, I had communicated with James Wright, president of Dartmouth. Wright, an ex-Marine, has been visiting wounded veterans in Washington hospitals with James Selbe, another ex-Marine leading veterans’ issues for the American Council on Education. ACE last month had a two-day summit, “Serving Those Who Serve: Higher Education and America’s Veterans (see related essay). Dartmouth has wounded veterans attending.

The public institutions are in the lead. I rounded up the usual suspects from the privates, to see if any were following Jim Wright’s lead.

From Princeton: “The University has no records of current American students who are veterans of wars. While we have students who receive veterans benefits, they do so as dependents of service members, rather than as service members who served in the military. Our office of financial aid hasn’t processed any GI Bill benefits in recent memory (dating back the past two decades approximately).” Yale has not yet replied. Yale president Rick Levin and Joel Podolny, Dean of the School of Management, about a year ago, ignored my several queries asking if Yale was recognizing alumni or students who were veterans. From Williams: “As far as we know, we do not have any veterans of the Iraq war enrolled at Williams. We do have Iraq veterans working on staff — one who saw three tours of duty.”


1) In our discussion last week on the Webb GI Bill, Frank Uible ’57 wrote:

I would like to hear a McCain supporter’s version of the reason for McCain’s opposition. It appears anti-intuitive.

I am not a McCain supporter, yet I can understand his opposition to this bill. Instead of giving more money to veterans that they can only spend on education, I would rather see us give them the same amount of money that they can spend on anything at all. Not every enlisted soldier wants to go to college; not every office wants a Ph.D. (What I used my GI Bill money for.) Moreover, the extra funding should not go to veterans in general but should be focussed on those serving in the most dangerous, combated positions.

2) Unlike Wick, I am not particularly upset that Williams does not do anything to (specially) recruit veterans. Of course, I would like to see more veterans at Williams and would vote in favor of the College seeking them out. But I recognize this as special pleading on my part. Doing what Jim Wright does for Dartmouth takes time and money, both of which are always limited. It would not be hard for Williams to do more (mainly reach out to the various programs/departments which help veterans transition out of the service), but it is not unreasonable for the admissions office to devote its energies elsewhere.

3) The main change that I would like to see is to have an Eph veteran awarded a Bicentennial Medal each year for the next 5 or 10 years. You can call this quota, if you like, but there is no doubt (in my mind) that Ephs like Bunge Cooke ’98, JR Rahill ’88, Kathy Sharpe Jones ’79 and others have demonstrated “distinguished achievement” in their fields of endeavor. Williams should honor them. Write to Secretary of the Alumni Society Brooks Foehl ’88 if you agree.


Wonk Poet

An unusual poetry slam.

Educational wonkery as…poetry? Inside Higher Ed columnist Wick Sloane has accepted an invitation to read from his work 7 p.m., Friday, June 27, 2008, at La Luna Caffe, Cambridge (where else?) as part of the acclaimed City Nights Reading Series. Wick will read from his column, “The Devil’s Workshop,” including selections from Common Sense or The Bachelor’s Degree Is Obsolete?, the pamphlet published by Inside Higher Ed in May. Copies of the pamphlet are downloadable free at IHE or hardcopy at the Harvard Bookstore, where owner Frank Kramer, has confirmed that Common Sense is not only on sale but also selling.

If you go, say Hi to Wick from all his fans at EphBlog.


Parents as Graduates

Wick Sloane ’76 on community college graduations.

What’s lost in the noise around community college graduation rates is community college graduations. My first community college graduation was in 2002, at Windward Community College in Hawaii.

That evening at Windward, the graduates came up the stairs on the right side of the stage, received their degrees, walked across the stage and down the stairs on the left. At the bottom of those stairs, a little girl, eight or nine years old, was waiting. She was holding a lei. When her father came down the stairs with his diploma, he bent over to let her put the lei around his neck. He picked her up and, diploma in one hand, daughter in the other, ran to his wife who was waiting to hug them both. These upside-down scenes at community colleges, with parents as the graduates, are my favorites.

Read the rest for some nice stories.


Blown Gasket

Fun article from Wick Sloane ’76 on the role of trustees at schools like Williams. Best part is this quote from Upton Sinclair.

You take it for granted that this money is honestly and wisely used; that the students are getting the best, the “highest” education the money can buy. Suppose I were to tell you that this educational machine has been stolen? That a bandit crew have got hold of it and have set it to work, not for your benefit, nor the benefit of your sons and daughters, but for ends very far from these?

Indeed. I have it a good authority that a Williams trustee “blew a gasket” after reading this article.

A little gasket-blowing is usually good for the soul.


Common Sense

Wick Sloane’s ’76 latest column in Inside Higher Ed highlights the marvelous pamphlet (pdf) that he has written in the spirit of Thomas Paine.

Common Sense calls for an American educational revolution for the 21st century. The bachelor’s degree is obsolete and expensive. That degree started in the 14th century, before Gutenberg, when the pedagogical constraint was the shortage of books. Instead, the nation should focus federal, public funds on being sure that by twenty-one years old, everyone has the critical thinking and language and quantitative skills to pass the Advanced Placement Exams in English Language and Composition and in Statistics.

Wick and I disagree about most things, but there is little doubt that he is right about this. College is a cruel hoax for many of those convinced to attend, and tricked into large amounts of debt while doing so. The notion that even 50% of the population, much less “everyone,” should get a college degree is as ludicrous as the claim that “everyone” should get a masters. Why not require that everyone get a Ph.D.? Educational romanticism does much harm, the good intentions of those who prattle such nonsense notwithstanding.

So, every dollar that the federal government devotes to subsidizing the college should be devoted to high school. Given the power of the college industrial complex, the odds of this happening are close to zero. But I hope that Wick keeps up the fight!


A Fondness for Wahconah

Did you know that college baseball was born in Pittsfield?

It was a simple gesture, an act of kindness done to settle a dispute that over time became history.

When Amherst College challenged rival Williams to a “friendly game of ball” in the summer of 1859, the two schools couldn’t agree on a site until the Pittsfield Base Ball Club stepped up and offered its playing grounds, a field located near the intersection of Maplewood Avenue and North Street.

That is how Pittsfield came to host the first intercollegiate baseball game ever played in the United States. Next Saturday, the College Baseball Hall of Fame intends to recognize Pittsfield for that achievement.

A representative of the College Baseball Hall of Fame, former major leaguer Neal Heaton, will officially commemorate Pittsfield as the “Birthplace of College Baseball” before Williams and Amherst play each other at 1 p.m. at Wahconah Park. Admission is $5 for adults and free for children.

The Hall of Fame, which is located in Lubbock, Texas, will also make up a special sign for Wahconah Park that contains the logo “Birthplace of College Baseball.” The first known reference to the game of “base ball” in North America also occurred in Pittsfield in 1791.

Dan Duquette, who played baseball at Amherst, his cousin Jim Duquette, a former Williams baseball player, and former Williams baseball player Mike Barbera, a lobbyist in Washington, were instrumental in setting up next Saturday’s festivities. The Duquette cousins both held general manager positions in the major leagues.

Barbera, who graduated from Williams in 1989, is a lobbyist for the America Continental Group, which represents halls of fame for different college sports. Having played for Williams at Wahconah Park — “I have a fondness for Wahconah,” he said — Barbera e-mailed the College Baseball Hall of Fame to see if they were interested in the Williams-Amherst rivalry and Pittsfield’s historic ballpark.

Perhaps one of our readers will provide a report from the game . . .


Too Big To Be Seen

Latest from Wick Sloane ’76.

Community colleges, I’ve found, are the emergency rooms for those struggling for the basic critical thinking and problem solving and reading and writing and calculating skills that I have taken for granted since my time at Yale and at Williams College and even before that, at Phillips Exeter Academy, where the dining halls have dessert bars and half a floor of the library for 1,000 students dwarfs all that’s available to the 8,900 at Bunker Hill Community College.

Wick writes from the heart and is always worth reading.


Ask The Trustees

Wick Sloane ’76 writes:

Having trouble finding out who decides what percentage of the student body at any given university should be on scholarship? Or how many students will have Pell Grants? Or that tuition will rise, again? Who decides, as Williams College just did, to tear down a sound student center and to build another, with tax-deducted dollars, while raising tuition? Well, how about asking the trustees who decides?

Good stuff. I rarely bother the trustees or Morty because they are busy people with better things to do than consider my opinions. But, Record reporters have a right and obligation to bother them all the time. Although the Trustees delegate most decisions to the Administration, they are involved in all the large issues. A good example was the move to a no loans financial aid policy while simultaneously refusing to meet the generosity of competitor schools like Harvard and Princeton. Consider some comments on WSO:

Wait, so a Harvard family making $120k/yr only has to to pay $12k? That’s incredibly generous. I know a lot of kids here at Williams whose families make substantially less than that and yet still pay the full $45k or very close to it.

my brother went to dartmouth & they offered him a significantly better aid package than i receive.

i think i get a real shitty deal here compared to what harvard aid offers – – who else feels the same? this is a serious matter – if we want boyer and morty to offer a better deal to middle class families, we have to demand it!

Indeed. The Record ought to do a multiple article story on financial aid at Williams. Who gets how much and why? Do most applicants admitted to Williams get better deals from places like Harvard? And, once the Record has the facts, it ought to ask the Trustees why the policy is what it is.



Wick Sloane ’76 writes about another day in the life of a community college English professor.

“Good prose is like a windowpane,” George Orwell warned the wordy in Why I Write. In the face of a confounding situation, squirt the Windex, wipe the glass, shut up and write. This is one of those times.

Read the whole thing.



Wick Sloane ’76 despairs.

My name is Wick, and I have been a NACUBO member.

The National Association of College and University Business Officers this week nailed at least $4 million to the fall tuition bills going out to strapped families and students this month. NACUBO gathered more than 1,000 higher education business officers and 200-plus vendors at a Mardi Gras in New Orleans…. I mean, an annual meeting, “Crossroads: New Beginnings Built on Valued Traditions.” Those traditions being, for example, free food, an umbrella from Microsoft in the registration bag and a golf tournament with the Beverage Cart sponsored by Higher One, a cash-card company, I think.

I missed the meeting. I toured the meeting Web site, and I wept. I don’t think college in the U.S. will ever be anything but even more expensive. What’s exasperating is that I like the hundreds of NACUBO members I know. These are men and women who are kind, good people. The sum of the parts, though, is a black hole.

Any Eph attendees?


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