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E. Williams Armigeri

sealEphraim Williams was a career soldier who died in battle. For most of its 200-year history, the College has had a comfortable relationship with the armed forces. Williams graduates and faculty served in times of peace and war. Even the College’s motto, E Liberalitate E. Williams Armigeri, makes reference to the benefit we have all derived “From the generosity of E. Williams, soldier.”

Over the last 50 years, the connection between Williams and military service has atrophied. Virtually no active member of the faculty has served in uniform. Only a handful of graduates enter the military each year. If one admits that the military plays an important role in society and that having an informed opinion concerning the use of force in international relations is a critical part of being an educated citizen, then the failure of Williams to have a substantive connection to military life and culture is troubling.

ar_1991And, unfortunately, unavoidable. Williams-caliber high school seniors are unlikely to consider serving prior to college. Williams-caliber Ph.D. recipients almost never have a military background. There is little that anyone can do about this state of affairs. But I think that we all have an obligation to be cognizant of it.

The estrangement of Williams from things military first struck me during a mini-controversy in the pages of the Alumni Review. The Summer 1991 issue featured a cover photo of a graduating senior, Jonathan Dailey, being commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. Former Professor Mark Taylor, one of the best, and most opinionated, teachers on campus was so incensed by this affront that he felt compelled to write to the editor. His letter, published in the subsequent issue, is worth quoting in full.

I was deeply disturbed by the photograph of three Marines in uniform standing besides the Declaration of Independence in Chapin Library that was on the cover of the most recent Review. Many of us at Williams have struggled throughout the year to raise the critical awareness of our students about the disturbing implications of the glorification of military power in the Gulf War. In my judgment, this photograph sends precisely the wrong message to our students and alumni. taylor_emeritusIt is little more than another example of the reactionary flag-waving mentality that has run wild in the wake of our supposed “victory” in the Gulf. Such an attitude runs directly counter to the ideals of a liberal arts education. I would have hoped that the editor of the Review would have been more thoughtful and more sensitive to the power of images to communicate cultural values.

Taylor is a great proponent and practitioner of deconstruction, of looking for the meaning behind the simple words of a text. Let us deconstruct his letter.

First, it is unclear what, precisely, has made Taylor “deeply distressed.” Is it the very existence of the Marine Corps? Or does Taylor except the need for some sort of military establishment and simply object to the tradition of clothing members of that establishment “in uniform”? Or is it the juxtaposition of these Marines and the Declaration of Independence, which, after all, contains the first claim by these United States to have “full power to levy war”? Or was Taylor distressed that this scene was chosen as the cover shot for the Review? I suspect that it was the last of these which moved Taylor to write. The military, while perhaps necessary, is a distasteful part of modern life. According to Taylor’s “cultural values,” it is worthy of neither celebration nor respect.

Second, note the reference to “students and alumni” as opposed to the more common trio of “students, faculty and alumni.” Obviously, Taylor is not concerned that faculty members will receive the “wrong message.” Presumably, they are smart enough not to be swayed. He worries, however, that the same may not be said for the rest of us.

Third, consider his concern over the “reactionary flag-waving mentality” which “runs directly counter to the ideals of a liberal arts education.” Did 2nd Lt Dailey USMCR and Williams ’91 missed out on some important lectures? Is Taylor suggesting that individuals like he and Dailey, who aspire to the liberal arts ideal, should not wave flags or that they should not do so in a reactionary manner. Perhaps lessons in progressive flag-waving are called for.

The typical comment which a former Marine (like me) should make at this point involves the irony of Taylor’s denigrating the very institution which secures his freedom to denigrate. Or perhaps I should note that Marines like Dailey stand ready to sacrifice themselves for causes, like protecting Bosnian Muslims, which Taylor might find more compelling than combating the invasion of Kuwait. But, in this case, the irony is much more delicious.

parishBefore moving to Columbia, Taylor was the Preston S. Parish ’41 Third Century Professor of Religion. In other words, an alumnus of the College, as his contribution to the Third Century Campaign, endowed a chair which Taylor now holds. And who is Preston S. Parish? Besides being a generous alumnus, he is a former officer in the United States Marine Corps and veteran of World War II. He won a bronze star for leading infantry units from the First Marine Division in combat on Guadalcanal and Peleliu.

For Marines fighting the Japanese in World War II, combat looked like this:

Not much “reactionary flag-waving” going on there . . .

In the beginning of his book Tears, Taylor reminds us of Kierkegaard’s aphorism that it is not the job of an author to make a book easy; on the contrary, it is the job of an author to make a book hard. Reading a good book, like attending a college which aspires to the ideals of the liberal arts, should be difficult. It should challenge us. Taylor was one of the best professors at Williams precisely because of his ability and inclination to challenge his students — question their preconceptions and to encourage them to question his. When my sister-in-law entered Williams in 1994, I told her that the one course that she shouldn’t miss is Religion 101 — or, better yet, 301 — with Mark Taylor. He made things hard.

It is supremely fitting, then, that Williams, via the medium of the Review has challenged — or at least “deeply distressed” — Mark Taylor. It has made him think, however fleetingly, about the worth and purpose of military preparedness in an unfriendly world. A great college, like a great book, should challenge, not just its “students and alumni” but its faculty as well. Ephraim Williams’ generosity, like that of Preston Parish ’41 and Jonathan Dailey ’91, is of money and blood and spirit. They make things hard for all of us.

—–
Originally version published in the Spring 1995 Williams Alumni Review, by David Kane ’88. Modified since then by EphBlog.

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Happy Birthday Eph Marines

Today marks the 244th birthday of the United States Marine Corps, celebrated around the world at the Marine Corps Birthday Ball. On many dimensions, the Marines are the Williams College of military organizations: elite, steeped in history, less well-known among the hoi polloi, athletic, cultish and intellectual. Or perhaps Williams College is the Marine Corps of American high education? Either way, there is a special bond among we few, we happy brothers of Williams and the USMC. Traditionally, Marines offer each other birthday greetings this day, and so, to my fellow Ephs Marines: Happy Birthday!

The earliest Eph Marine I have been able to find is Joseph Fairchild Baker, class of 1864, who attended Williams in 1860 — 1861 but never graduated. He was the son of a United States Senator and served as a lieutenant and captain. Does anyone know his story? If we don’t remember his service 150 years ago, then who will remember ours in the decades to come?

Joel Iams ’01 sent us this letter 14 years ago.

Iams_01.jpg

The roads of Fallujah were eventually cleared, but not until we lost Nate Krissoff ’03. Will those roads need clearing again? If the President calls, I am sure my Marines will be willing, with Ephs at the forefront.

Below is a list of Eph Marines. Who am I missing?

Myles Crosby Fox ’40
Preston Parish ’41
Joe Rice ’54
TB Jones ’58
David Kane ’58
Jack Platt ’58
Carl Vogt ’58
John McGonagle ’84
Brad DuPont ’86
Jerry Rizzo ’87
David Kane ’88
Tony Fuller ’89
Phil Knecht ’89
Jonathan Dailey ’91
Bunge Cooke ’98
John Bozeman ’98
Lee Kindlon ’98,
Zack Pace ’98
Ben Kamilewicz ’99
Joel Iams ’01
Rob MacDougall ’01
Nate Krissoff ’03
John Silvestro ’06
Jeff Castiglione ’07
Brad Shirley ’07
Jeff Lyon ’08
Hill Hamrick ’13
Julius Kindfuller ’19

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Yard by Yard

More than fifty years ago, Ephs took the field against Amherst.

Saturday, they do the same. And ten years from now. And one hundred. Do our Eph football players recognize their history? Do you?

TB Jones ’58 (my father’s roommate) played varsity squash at Williams. I remember seeing his picture in one of the many team photos that used to line the walls of the old gym. Walking by those old photographs each day for practice provided me with a great sense of the history that I was becoming a part of. Years later, those emotions were perfectly captured by Robin Williams in “The Dead Poet’s Society” when he takes his class to view the pictures of past students at their fictional New England prep school.

From the script:

Keating turns towards the trophy cases, filled with trophies, footballs, and team pictures.

KEATING: “Now I would like you to step forward over here and peruse some of the faces from the past. You’ve walked past them many times. I don’t think you’ve really looked at them.”

The students slowly gather round the cases and Keating moves behind them.

KEATING: “They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you. Their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because you see gentlmen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in.”

The boys lean in and Keating hovers over Cameron’s shoulder.

KEATING (whispering in a gruff voice): “Carpe.”

Cameron looks over his shoulder with an aggravated expression on his face.

KEATING: “Hear it?” (whispering again) “Carpe. Carpe Diem. Seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”

The boys stare at the faces in the cabinet in silence.

Decades from now there will be another young man at Williams who will walk down those halls on his way to practice. Perhaps he will play squash like TB Jones and I did (although I hope that he plays more like TB than like me). Whatever his future might hold, I hope that he sees our pictures and wonders about us, about where we went from Williams and how prepared we were for the journey. I hope that he realizes how fortunate he is.

Does football coach Mark Raymond remind his players of the history of those who have gone before? Does he know their names and their stories?

I hope so.

Williams may win or lose on Saturday. Did Frank Uible ’57 win or lose the games he played against Amherst more than 60 year ago? In the longer sweep of history, one game, one loss, is as dust in the corridors of memory. What matters is the day itself, and the place we each occupy within the traditions of the Williams community.

No one remembers the score of the game these men played 100 years ago. But we look in their faces and see ourselves.

I am Frank Uible ’57. Who are you?

[Thanks to EphBlog regular “nuts” and Williams Sports Information for the photos. Note that the original post in this series did not include a YouTube clip because YouTube did not exist. Old Time is still a-flying.]

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Reunion Musings

I’ve been getting emails recently about our upcoming 30-year reunion.  The people that organize the event deserve major kudos, as it can’t be easy keeping all of the trains running on time and to everyone’s satisfaction.  I remember our 15-year reunion when were based at Tyler (and boy was it hot!), and there were tons and tons of little kids, so the organizers made sure we had plenty of milk available for the kids to drink (thanks Megan!).

This will be our 6th reunion, and I’ve managed to make it to each one, except our 10-year, which conflicted with a trial I was involved in.  I make a significant effort every 5 years to go, because its the only time I can (or at least do) see many of my friends from Williams.  I am Facebook friends with many, but don’t often manage to see many of them.  It always surprises me (in a good way!) how easy it is, and how much fun I have, talking and spending time with people I haven’t spoken with in 5 years.  It seems as though we just pick up right where we left off at the last reunion, finding out what has been going on with our lives, and comparing notes as we “grow up.”

I’ve usually tried to stay on campus, though for recent reunions I’ve noticed more and more people staying elsewhere.  The rooms aren’t super comfortable (especially when its really hot out and the upper floors of the dorms feel like ovens), but I like being right there.  I’ll be curious to see how many people come this year.  I’m sure the College has statistics about average attendance for each of the years (5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, etc.), but I’m not aware that they are published anywhere.

While poking around on the Williams website, I did come across a document entitled “Reunion Code of Conduct,”  which starts off with:

Purpose

Williams College believes our community should be truly open for everyone. As such, we are committed to providing a friendly, safe, and welcoming environment for all, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, ethnicity, race, or religion.

This code of conduct outlines our expectations for participant behavior as well as the consequences for unacceptable behavior while on campus.

We invite all staff, volunteers, attendees, local community members, and other participants to help us realize a safe and positive Reunion for everyone.

The documents describes in some detail “Expected behavior,” “Unacceptable behavior,” “Consequences of Unacceptable Behavior,” as well as drug and alcohol policies.  I wonder if there was a specific incident which prompted the creation of this document.  I know there was at least one incident involving alcohol and possible sexual assault/misconduct in the past, but I don’t know if this had become a pervasive problem every year, or whether the single incident prompted creation of this document/policy.

In any event, I strongly recommend that everyone attend their reunions. You won’t regret it!

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Family Days

Family Days start tomorrow.

1) When did Freshmen Parents’ Day become Family Days? Back in the 80s, there were two family weekends each academic year. The fall event was for Freshmen. The spring (April?) event was for all families. Also, when did a single “Day” become “Days?” If EphBlog won’t keep track of this history, who will?

2) Where were you, dear reader, 65 years ago?

I know one reader who was having trouble writing essays as polished as those from the boys who had prepped at Deerfield! How do Maud’s communications with first year parents compare to those from Phinney Baxter ’14? You can be sure that she doesn’t use the word “boy” to describe male first years!

3) Will any first year entries be throwing cocktail parties for the parents? I hope so. I still remember the hard work that our JAs put into hosting a such a party, 35 years ago. I also remember how the mom of one of the students from the entry made the female students seem like little girls . . .

Stacy’s Mom by Eph band Fountains of Wayne was probably the most commercially successful song by Williams alumni during the 2000’s. (If not, what was?)

I don’t think that either Chris Collingwood ’89 and Adam Schlesinger ’89 have been awarded Bicentennial Medals yet. Consider this EphBlog’s nomination.

I will resist the urge to see if there are any current Williams students named Stacy . . .

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Happy Indigenous People’s Day

From the Berkshire Eagle two years ago:

Williams College celebrates its last Columbus Day

In ending the Columbus Day off at Williams College, it came down to accounting.

Sure enough, the current calendar makes no mention of Columbus. Would you, dear reader, have predicted that a decade or two ago? Me either! What changes will come by 2029? There is no longer a reference to either Veteran’s Day or Christmas in the calendar. I am not sure when those disappeared. “Thanksgiving” is still mentioned, but for how much longer?

The faculty voted to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a holiday for faculty, staff and students about six months ago.

How long before the #MeToo movement comes from MLK?

The human resources department determined the college would trade off another holiday — Columbus Day — rather than adding another holiday to the calendar.

“This was just a simple trade-off,” said Jim Reische, chief communications officer at Williams College. “We didn’t do anything with Columbus Day. It was just a three-day weekend.”

Could this be (just!) about holiday bookkeeping? Perhaps! The College is a business and needs to track vacation days.

Administrative staff still had the day off on Monday, but that will change come next year. Classes still met.

Administrative staff will still be allowed to take the Columbus Day off next year if they choose, but they’ll have to use a floating holiday day. There will be classes on that day.

“The major driver was — we needed to consider MLK Day a holiday,” Reische said. “There was a strong push to make that a day off, to recognize it.”

“Push” from whom? I doubt that the typical dining services worker cares which holiday she gets. If anything, I bet that the preferences run the other way. The vast majority of Williams employees (below the faculty) are white working class, many of them Italian-Americans. An enterprising Record reporter would interview them . . .

And isn’t a holiday in the Berkshires in the fall much more desirable than one in January?

More important to the college in terms of programming is Claiming Williams Day, which began in 2009 after a series of racist and sexist incidents on campus in 2008, Reische said.

Can we please get our history straight? There was one key incident that drove Claiming Williams.

Claiming Williams Day includes a full roster of programming exploring what it means to be a diverse and inclusive campus, he said.

“It’s much more about academic and community-building than anything we ever did with Columbus Day,” he said.

Well, sure. But aren’t these separate issues? Issue one: Which holidays does Williams officially recognize and give staff members a day off for? Issue two: What events does Williams schedule on which days? The former has little to do with the latter.

The town of Williamstown took a different direction on Columbus Day earlier this year.

In May, town meeting voters agreed to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.

Williamstown Elementary School labeled Monday’s holiday Indigenous Peoples Day on its website as of Monday morning.

If I were Trump, I would make a huge deal out of Columbus Day: big celebration at the White House, perhaps a speech about how Democrats consider Italian-Americans to be deplorables, an (outrageous) proposal that any town/city/state which wants federal funds must celebrate Columbus Day. There would be few better ways of motivating the voters he, and the Republicans, will need in November.

Political Science 101 at Williams taught me that, he who picks the issue to fight over, wins. In any fight between “Columbus Day” and “Indigenous Peoples Day,” Trump wins easily.

Trump reads EphBlog! Last year, two hours after this post went up, he tweeted:

How long before Democratic activists start to attack Columbus?

Or maybe Trump is saving this as a fight to have in the fall of 2020?

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Do Not Go To Law School

At least half the Ephs who attend law school are making a mistake. Their lives would be fuller, happier and, often, monetarily richer if they did something, anything else. I spent 30 minutes six years ago talking with a junior (and occasional EphBlog commentator) about why his ill-formed plans for attending law school were a bad idea. Below is a cleaned up version of what I told him. Other comments welcome.

1) The vast majority of Ephs who attend law school have little/no idea what law school or the practice of law are like. They have watched Law and Order. They know that successful corporate lawyers in big cities make a lot of money. They like thinking about constitutional issues in a class like PSCI 216: American Constitutionalism I: Structures of Power. But this knowledge provides almost no grounds for making a good decision. As Jeff notes:

The only definite advice I’d give is to figure out BEFORE law school one (or more) legal career paths that are of interest to you, and try to learn what a day in the life on those paths is truly like. Too many people pursue law school, and go into enormous debt, thinking that it will “open up doors.” 99 times out of 100, the only doors it uniquely opens are doors to traditional legal careers, typically in law firms, academia, or government.

Correct.

First, before you apply to law school, you should attend a normal (not staged for applicants) first year class in something like torts or civil procedure at Albany Law School or at a night school in your hometown over the summer. (Yes, I realize that this is a hassle. But don’t be stupid. You are about to spend $200,000 (at least) and devote three years of your life. You need to get a clue.) Find out what a real law school class is like. You will probably be shocked at how boring it is. Do you remember that annoying PHIL 102 class in which 2 or 3 dweebs prattled on endlessly about the most semantic/pointless disputes imaginable? That is what law school is like. If you do not enjoy detailed discussions about extremely minor points, you will not like law school.

Second, try reading some of the material from law school, like this set of cases about torts. Read at least 100 pages of cases and commentary before you apply. You will read thousands of pages in law school. Now is the time to find out if you want to. Just because you like the sort of readings assigned in a typical Williams class does not mean that you will like readings in the law.

Third, spend a day with a lawyer, a regular working attorney. There are several alumni in the Williamstown and Albany area who would be happy to let you shadow them for a day. Find out what their lives are like. It is not glamorous! Law jobs are varied, of course, but you owe it to yourself to learn about the profession before going into significant debt. (Note that pre-med students have much less to worry about in this regard. Their interactions with doctors growing up have been very representative of what most doctors spend most of their time doing.)

All of the above is the minimum you should do before applying to law school. Too many Williams students tell themselves some version of: “I like writing. I like reading. I like thinking. I was good at all those things before Williams and I have only gotten better at them. Lawyers seem to do a lot of writing, reading and thinking. So, I should go to law school.” This is faulty reasoning because law school (and law practice) are radically different from your Williams experience.

Even worse are the Williams students who think: “I get good grades at Williams. I like school and do well at it. I don’t really know what I want to do with my life. Getting a job doesn’t have much appeal. My parents will be happy if I go to law school. So, let’s apply!”

2) The vast majority of Ephs who attend law school have little/no idea what their likely career path in the law will be. At least 1/3 of the Williams students who apply to law school would not apply if they took the above steps. They would realize that law school and a legal career are not for them. But there are still many Ephs, even among the 2/3 who find tort law cases interesting and who were intrigued by the life of a lawyer, who are making a mistake in going to law school because they misestimate the odds of getting the law job that they want.

Consider:

It’s time those of us inside the profession did a better job of telling others outside the profession that most of us don’t earn $160,000 a year, that we can’t afford expensive suits, flashy cars, sexy apartments. We don’t lunch with rock stars or produce movies. Every year I’m surprised by the number of my students who think a J.D. degree is a ticket to fame, fortune and the envy of one’s peers — a sure ticket to the upper middle class. Even for the select few for whom it is, not many last long enough at their law firms to really enjoy it.

There’s something wrong with a system that makes a whole lot of people pay a whole lot of money for jobs that are not worth it, or that have no future. If we wanted to be honest, we would inform students that law school doesn’t keep their options open. Instead, we should say that if they work hard and do well, they can become lawyers.

Or:

Every year tens of thousands of wannabe lawyers enter law school. The majority will be extremely disappointed by their career opportunities.

Thus the title of this essay: law school is a big lie. People enter law school with the idea that a law degree is their ticket to a comfortable upper middle class lifestyle. In fact, just the opposite, law school for most is a ticket to a worse financial state than if they had not attended at all.

Read these posts. (What other links would Ephs suggest on this topic?) Now, to be fair, much of this advice is being given to students without a Williams IQ, students who are considering Tier II or Tier III law schools. Most Williams students attend highly ranked law schools. But even among the graduates of elite schools, the career paths are much more restricted then current undergraduates might suspect. The vast majority of Williams students who attend a highly ranked law school go in one of three directions. (And there is a great senior thesis to be written about the career paths and choices made by Williams students who attended law school over the last 50 years.)

First, they drop out of law altogether. Our lawyer readers can tell numerous stories about their classmates who no longer practice law. Almost none of those students go into a career that either required, or provides an advantage to those with, a legal education. They are just three years behind (and much more in debt) than the students who avoided law school. (If you and/or your family are independently wealthy, then, obviously, you can afford to spend three years in law school — or getting a Ph.D. in English Literature or sailing around the world or whatever — but almost all Williams students have money concerns.)

Second, they enter poorly paid government work. Now, there is nothing wrong with becoming a lawyer for the FDIC or HUD, but students need to be aware of the economic realities of those career paths. Most Williams students, to the extent that they want to work in government, are better off just going straight from Williams to those agencies. They will be in a position to climb the ladder faster without all the unnecessary debt.

Third, they enter BIG LAW, the elite law firms of the major cities in the US. Want to know what that is like? Read this:

Economically it represented a perfect reification of various Marxist theories. As associates we were wage slaves, members of a white-collar proletariat, objectively closer to the model described in Das Kapital than most nineteenth-century factory hands. It may seem odd to call someone a wage slave whose starting salary was $85,000 (though broken down per hour it was much less impressive). But the work of a junior associate, in reality, is being a clerk, a checker, the one whose job is on the line to make sure that the decimal points are in the right place. No one with an Ivy League education is going to perform this sort of drudgery for much less than 80 grand.

We were also faced with alienation from the products of our labor. You would work on the tiniest part of a huge transaction. You would never see the big picture, never know if your all-nighter made a difference, if your clauses appeared in the final documents, never even find out if the deal had gone through.

And this.

Biglaw women are more screwed because society expects more from mothers than “I pay the bills.” It’s BS, but it is where we still are. So on top of paying all the bills (to say nothing of actually carrying a child to term — you know, something that might get you laid off from K&L Gates), Biglaw women are also expected to invest the emotional and caretaking energy a family needs.

Which is impossible to do while billing the hours Biglaw requires. Not difficult, not challenging, it’s straight-up impossible. Biglaw women can break themselves in two and put on a cosmetically enhanced face and claim that they have the perfect job and family and life, but the only people stupid enough to buy it are younger women who want to be in Biglaw and aren’t yet able to deal with the fact that their career choices will have consequences in other areas of their lives.

What other articles about life in BIG LAW would readers recommend?

Both my parents are lawyers and both my grandfathers were lawyers. (And happy birthday Mom!) I was accepted to law school and (almost) attended. I am the sort of person who would have (and does at EphBlog!) liked arguing about minor points in endless detail. I know people who are perfect for a legal career. Yet most Williams students who apply to law school are completely uninformed about what that decision implies about their future.

Summary: Do not go to law school just because you are good at school, it will make your parents happy, and/or you don’t want to start a real job. Those may all be true, but they are bad reasons. First, learn about what law school and the legal profession are like. Second, understand what sort of career you are likely to have. At least 50% of the Williams students applying to law school from the class of 2019 are making a mistake. Avoid their error.

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Do Not Go to Graduate School

An interesting forum from back in 2010:

If you’ve considered going to graduate school in history, come to a History Graduate School Panel discussion on Tuesday at 7:00 pm in Griffin 7. Professors Dubow, Fishzon, and Kittleson will speak about their own graduate school experiences, and will answer any questions you might have.

Good stuff. Kudos to the professors involved for taking the time to participate. Comments:

1) Relevant discussion here and here. I second Professor Sam Crane’s remarks:

In fact, I tell them the academic job market is horrible, has been bad for a long, long time, and is getting worse. I tell them that getting a job like the one I have is unlikely. I tell them that they should go on for a Ph.D. only if they truly love the learning, because that is something they will be certain to have for a lifetime, regardless of what job they find themselves with. And for some of them, that is what it is about. Love of learning, regardless of whether they get an ideal academic job.

This was true in 2010 and is even more true now. It is true, not just in history and political science but in almost every academic field. If anything, areas like physics and biology are even worse, mainly because of the volume of Ph.Ds which they produce.

My only quibble with Sam’s comments might be to clarify that a love of learning is not enough of a reason to justify graduate school in history. With the internet as your oyster, you can pursue learning as much as your free time allows without going to graduate school.

2) Read Derek Catsam ’93:

[G]raduate students and those looking at entering this competitive world need to be cognizant of the realities. If you are planning to enter a field like, say, US history, it is probably incumbent upon you to know the odds. Further, it seems to me that it is pretty irresponsible of those of us with the ability to advise students if we emphasize the great aspects of intellectual life within the academy and do not point out the reality — your odds of getting the PhD are smaller than you think, your odds of getting a job are slighter still, and your odds of getting tenure at a place yet smaller, and then all of this happening at a place you would otherwise choose to live? Infinitesimal.

Also Swarthmore Professor Tim Burke:

Should I go to graduate school?

Short answer: no.

Long answer: maybe, but only if you have some glimmering of what you are about to do to yourself. Undergraduates coming out of liberal arts institutions are particularly vulnerable to ignorance in this regard. …

Just don’t try graduate school in an academic subject with the same spirit of carefree experimentation. Medical school, sure. Law school, no problem. But a Ph.D in an academic field? Forget it. If you take one step down that path, I promise you, it’ll hurt like blazes to get off, even if you’re sure that you want to quit after only one year.

Two years in, and quitting will be like gnawing your own leg off.

Past that, and you’re talking therapy and life-long bitterness.

Burke is right. I hope that the panelists back then, whether or not they agreed with Burke, made sure that students know what some historians believe. I worry that such an event might too easily have degenerated into a “You are all smart Williams students who should dream big and live large!” Nothing wrong with that advice when a student asks if she should try a difficult upper-level seminar, but Ephs need a more reality-based answer when leaving the Purple Bubble. Large numbers of students in the class of 2020 who are going to graduate school are making a mistake. Professor Sara Dubow is, no doubt, a wonderful, hard-working professor. But there is also a sense in which she won the lottery . . .

3) Key data would be a listing of all the Ephs who went to graduate school in, for example, history from 1990 through 2000. Where are they now? What happened to them along the way? If there were 50, I bet that fewer than 40 made it to Ph.D., fewer than 20 got any tenure-track jobs at all, and fewer than 5 got tenure. How many got tenure at a place that pays as well as Williams? I don’t know. In fact, I have trouble coming up with many Eph historians of that era, other than our own Derek Catsam ’93, Sara Dubow ’91 and Eiko Maruko Siniawer ’97. Pointers welcome!

4) There are some fields — like economics, statistics and computer science — in which supply/demand are more in balance. There are still nice academic jobs at places like Williams and plenty of opportunities in industry.

5) Never attend a Ph.D. program which is not fully funded.

6) The 2010 comment thread includes excellent discussion. I miss the old EphBlog!

7) Still want to get a Ph.D. even though you are fully aware of the likely outcomes? Cool! EphBlog fully supports informed decision-making. Our main point here is to encourage you to be fully informed. Graduate school in history can be fun and rewarding! Just be sure to have a back-up plan . . .

UPDATE: First version of this post went up 9 years ago. What is the academic job market like? Consider what happened to the professors who participated in the panel.

Roger Kittleson was already tenured at the time of the panel. Life at Williams is (I hope!) good. What sort of advice does he give to history students today?

Sara Dubow is now a full professor of history at Williams. She is our lottery winner.

Anna Fishzon is listed as a “Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia University in the City of New York.” But she still lists her Williams assistant professor position at the top of her profile, so it is not clear how much substance there is to the Columbia position. Even though she did great work in graduate school — which is the only way she got hired by Williams in the first place — there is no (stable) job for her in academia. Is there one for you, Dear Reader? Probably not.

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Only For A Moment

As long as there is an EphBlog, there will be a remembrance of the three Ephs who died on 9/11: Howard Kestenbaum ’67, Lindsay Morehouse ’00 and Brian Murphy ’80. Previous entries here and here.

Much of the trauma of that day lives on.

We are looking for Howard Kestenbaum. He was on the 103rd floor of the World Trade Center South Tower (the second building that was hit). If you have any information please contact me.

That link worked five years ago, a constant reminder of the turmoil of those blue September days. It has since disappeared, like so many of our memories. First years at Williams now were born the year the towers fell.

Kestenbaum_Howard1Howard Kestenbaum worked at the top of the south tower, the second to be struck. In the midst of chaos, his was a voice of calm and reason in the 78th floor sky lobby as people waited anxiously for the express elevators that were to take them to the ground floor. They could not know about United Airlines Flight 175, just minutes away from impact.

Wein and Singer joined three of their Aon colleagues: Richard Gabrielle, 50, Vijay Paramsothy, 23, and the group’s boss, Howard Kestenbaum, 56.

Two elevators in the north half of the lobby were out of service, but Wein’s group stood near one of the idle cars anyway; it was less crowded there than at the south end of the lobby.

I’ve left my purse, Wein recalls saying. I don’t want to go back up, but how will I get the bus?

“Here, take some money and go home,” Kestenbaum said.

Singer remembered something she had left at her desk.

No, Kestenbaum said. Don’t go back up. They stayed in the lobby.

Howard’s last moments were spent taking care of those around him. The College has done a fine job of memorializing Lindsay Morehouse, creating an award for the player at the New England Championship “who best displays the ideals of sportsmanship, friendliness, character, fair play, and hard work that Lindsay embodied until her untimely death 9-11-2001.”

Kestenbaum was an athlete and wrestler at Williams. The College should honor him in a similar fashion. Perhaps the class of 1967 might to do the same for Kestenbaum in conjunction with the planning for their 55th reunion. Do wrestlers at Williams today know about Kestenbaum’s bravery? Why not a Kestenbaum Award, given to the member of the wrestling team who best displays the ideals of teamwork?

And then the second plane hit.

A deafening explosion and a searing blast of heat ripped through the lobby. The air turned black with smoke. Flames burst out of elevators. Walls and the ceiling crumbled into a foot of debris on the floor. Shards of glass flew like thrown knives.

The blast threw people like dolls, tearing their bodies apart.

“Howard!” Judy Wein was yelling to Kestenbaum, her boss.

It was Vijay Paramsothy who called back: “We’re over here!”

Paramsothy was sitting up, scratched and bloody. Marble slabs had fallen onto Richard Gabrielle and broken his legs. Wein tried to move the slabs with her good arm, and he cried out.

Howard Kestenbaum lay flat and still. To Wein, he looked peaceful.

Dead and wounded covered the floor of the lobby like a battlefield after cannon fire. A ghostly dusting of plaster lay over everyone.

Wein was soon saved by Welles Crowther, one of the many heroes of that sad day.

Judy Wein of Aon Corporation had also been in the 78th floor. She too was badly injured and she too heard the voice: “Everyone who can stand now, stand now. If you can help others, do so.” He guided her and others to the stairwell.

Apparently Welles [Crowther] kept leading people down from the top floors to the lower ones, where they could make their way out. Then he’d go up to find more. No one knows how many. The fire department credits him with five saved lives.

He never made it home.

Crowther’s heroism is well-known, but there were so many other acts of courage that tragic morning.

“Vijay was trying to get Howard up,” Gran Kestenbaum said, recounting a story a witness had told her. “That was the last I heard of either of them.”

EphBlog remembers Howard and Linday and Brian. Who remembers Vijay Paramsothy, one of the thousands on hard-working immigrants who made and make NYC a city unlike any other? Who do you remember?


Howard Kestenbaum
was a Ph.D., a builder of models, a quant operating in the rarefied world of risk analysis. Yet only a modeller can know that models don’t really matter, that who we are and what we have done is much more to be found in the families we cherish than in the money we make.

From the very beginning — when he accidentally fell on her at a party in the West Village — he made her laugh. He walked her home that night but, amusing or not, she wouldn’t give him her phone number.

A few days later, however, she picked up the phone to hear someone say it was “Howie.” Not recognizing his voice, she asked: “Howie who?”

“Fine, thank you, and how are you?” Howie Kestenbaum replied.

For 31 years of marriage, Howard and Granvilette Kestenbaum of Montclair talked every day, and he always made her laugh.

All good husbands want to make their wives laugh. All of us should do as well as Howard. Gran Kestenbaum desribed her husband this way.

Howard was a really good man. That may seem an ordinary epithet, but Howard thought of himself as an ordinary man — an ordinary husband, an ordinary father and an ordinary friend… He loved and cared for his family, helped friends, visited with the homeless, lonely and infirm. His modesty and leprechaun smile belied how quiet and graceful, without fanfare, the shining spirit of an extraordinary good man can touch and transform others. He would have been surprised that anyone noticed him, for that is not what he sought. And that is why we who love him are so honored to have known him, if only for a moment.

Thirty one years of marriage and family, of trials and triumphs, does indeed seem like only a moment. May we all live our moments as well as Howard Kestenbaum lived his.

How will you be spending today? Please spare a thought for Gran, Howard’s widow.

Every year on the anniversary of Sept. 11, Gran Kestenbaum steers clear of morning memorial services, to avoid the media. Later in the day, she typically leaves roses by her husband’s name on the 9/11 memorial in Eagle Rock Reservation and in Watchung Plaza. Along with the flowers, she usually leaves a note saying something along the lines of, “We are family and we will always be family. This didn’t part us.”

Condolences to all.

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Fall 2019 Course Advice

Fall classes start tomorrow. My advice:

Your major does not matter! One of the biggest confusions among Williams students is the belief that future employers care about your major, that, for example, studying economics helps you get a job in business. It doesn’t! Major in what you love.

But future employers are often interested in two things. First, can you get the computer to do what you want it to do? Second, can you help them analyze data to make them more successful? Major in Dance (if you love dance) but take 4 or so classes in computer science and statistics. With that as background, you will be competitive with any of your Williams classmates when it comes time to apply for internships/jobs.

Take a tutorial every semester. The more tutorials you take, the better your Williams education will be. There are few plausible excuses for not taking a tutorial every semester. Although many tutorials are now filled, others are not.

Too many first years take a big intro class because they think they “should.” They shouldn’t! Even a “bad” tutorial at Williams is better than almost all intro courses. If you are a first year and you don’t take a tutorial, you are doing it wrong. Note that, even if you don’t have the official prerequisites for a class, you should still enroll. The pre-reqs almost never matter and professors will always (?) let you into a tutorial with empty spots.

By the way, where can we find data about how popular tutorials are? For example, do most/all tutorials end up filled? How many students attempted to enroll in each one? More transparency!

Take STAT 201 (if you enter Williams with Math/Reading SAT scores below 1300, you might start with STAT 101). No topic is more helpful in starting your career, no matter your area of interest, than statistics. Students who take several statistics courses are much more likely to get the best summer internships and jobs after Williams. Also, the new Statistics major is amazing.

Skip STAT 201 if you took AP Statistics. Go straight to STAT 202 instead. And don’t worry about the stupid math prerequisites that the department tries to put in your way. You don’t really need multivariate calculus for 201 or matrix algebra for the more advanced classes. Those math tricks come up in a couple of questions on a couple of problem sets. Your friends (and some Khan Academy videos) will get you through it. If challenged, just tell people you took those classes in high school.

Take CSCI 134: Diving into the Deluge of Data. Being able to get the computer to do what you want it to do is much more important, to your future career, than most things, including, for example, the ability to write well. You might consider skipping 134 and going directly to 136, but 134 seems to be a much better course than it was in the past, especially with the use of Python and the focus on data.

If a professor tries to tell you the class is full, just claim to be future major in that topic. Indeed, many students officially enroll as statistics or computer science majors sophomore year to ensure that they get into the classes they want. You can always drop a major later. Mendacity in the pursuit of quality classes is no vice.

See our previous discussions. Here are some thoughts from 12 (?) years ago about course selections for a career in finance.

What courses would you recommend? What was the best class you took at Williams?

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Eph Send-off Party

According to Maud’s Instagram (@williamspresident, if you don’t follow her), Williams’ president attended the Princeton Regional Send-Off for new Ephs. I assume this is because she has roots in the area, having grown up in Princeton and attended elementary through high school there.

Meanwhile, I attended my first Regional Send-Off, going to a sadly Maud-less party recently. I never attended one of these parties when I was actually a new Eph, though I’m fairly sure my family received an invitation. There were a good number of new Ephs there, who seemed somewhat unsure about what exactly they were there to do, and many of them clumped together and met each other. That said, most of the alumni present were incredibly eager to engage the new students and give them as much advice as possible.

Seeing on my nametag that I had just graduated, some new students specifically came up and asked me if I had advice for them. I had an unexpected amount of trouble coming up with advice when asked for it. Maybe I’m still too close to my own Williams experience; I definitely feel that I haven’t yet fully reflected and synthesized it into a few easy things to tell them. Mostly, I turned it back on them, asked what classes they had signed up for, and talked about my experiences if I was familiar with the class or professor; I gave them some idea of what to expect during first days; and I plugged my club as one they should check out when they get to the Purple Key Fair.

Most students get to campus next Monday; first-generation and international students arrive tomorrow. What advice would you give to new Ephs as they’re about to step on campus for the first time as students?

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Reading the Declaration

One of my favorite Williams summer traditions:

The Chapin Library of rare books at Williams College will host the annual July 4 reading of the Declaration of Independence by actors from the Williamstown Theatre Festival at 1:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Actors will read from the second floor outside balcony of Sawyer Library. Visitors should gather on the library quad west of Sawyer Library and between Schapiro and Hollander halls. In case of inclement weather, the event will take place inside Sawyer Library.

Since 1987, Williams College and the Williamstown Theatre Festival have made it an annual tradition to celebrate Independence Day by reading the Declaration of Independence, the British reply of September 1776, and the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution.

The annual event happens this afternoon. If you attend, send us some photos!

This year (for the first time?) the “reading will also include a selection from “What to a Slave is the Fourth of July,” a speech by Frederick Douglass.”

It is a sign of my wrong-think that this passage from Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities comes to mind. The [white] mayor of New York City is talking with Sheldon Lennart, his press flunky.

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Father’s Day

Joe Thorndike ’88 writes about his father’s book about the Atlantic seaboard.

I was present for a lot of that first-hand research, especially in Connecticut, where I grew up, and on Cape Cod, where I visited my father frequently during the last 25 years of his life. I also managed to tag along for brief trips to Maine and Florida.

But for every trip I took, there were dozens that I skipped. Occasionally, my father would ask me — in his reserved, taciturn New England way — if I wanted to come along. But like many adult children of aging parents, I found reasons to say no.

Apparently I was busy, but in retrospect, I can’t imagine with what. My father has been dead for more than a decade, but I still regret, almost daily, the many trips I didn’t take.

Take trips with your father, every chance you get.

Still looking for a Father’s Day gift? EphBlog recommends Aidan’s Way by Professor Sam Crane. Excerpts here. More from an Amazon review:

Every now and then a book comes along that wakes us out of our drab routine lives and makes us reevaluate essential questions: what is important? Am I doing something worthwhile with my life? What is life’s meaning? Trite as it may sound, “Aidan’s Way” does just that, but in a way that is subtle and avoids self-indulgent breast-beating. At its core, “Aidan’s Way” is a resounding affirmation of life. Sam and Maureen Crane are the parents of Aidan, who is profoundly retarded mentally–he cannot walk, talk or see. At every turn, they face the possibility that he may die. Pneumonia assaults his lungs and grand mal seizures force him to rely on a feeding tube for sustenance. Adversaries come in human guise as well, with the Cranes heroically combating outrageous abuses by their HMO, doctors stereotyping Aidan as “one of THOSE kids,” and a heartbreaking moment of frustration when an indecisive nurse fails to administer a drug in time to stop Aidan’s seizures from permanently damaging his already fragile brain. There are heroes, too — a doctor with cerebral palsy who doggedly probes the causes of Aidan’s condition while others write him off, a younger sister who brings hope and joy to the family, and countless therapists, journalists, and teachers. Aidan touches hundreds of people.

Indeed. Sadly, Aidan is no longer with us, except in spirit.

Happy Father’s Day to all of Eph Dad readers, including to the loyalest reader of all:

_BW15108

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Talk To Me

I will be at reunion. Want to chat with me about all things Eph? Reach out to me at daviddudleyfield at gmail and we can set something up!

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Congratulations Class of 2019

Commencement is this morning. Congratulations to all our graduating seniors!

I know that there is a livestream, but I can’t find it. Could someone please point it out?

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Ephs Who Have Gone Before

foxWho is this Eph?

He is Myles Crosby Fox ’40.

Myles will not be in Williamstown to celebrate reunion with the Old Guard in two weeks, for he has passed away. He leaves behind no wife, no children nor grandchildren. His last glimpse of Williams was on graduation day 79 years ago. Who among the sons and daughters of Ephraim even remembers his name?

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

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

gargoyle

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

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

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

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

Seven decades later, the pigskin is still rolling.

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

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

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

Fox’s citation for the Navy Cross reads:

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

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

Darkness, madness and death.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Teach First Years to Sing “The Mountains”

To the JA’s for the class of 2023:

oakleyAt the 1989 Williams graduation ceremonies, then-President Francis Oakley had a problem. Light rain showers, which had threatened all morning, started midway through the event. Thinking that he should speed things along, and realizing that virtually no one knew the words to “The Mountains,” President Oakley proposed that the traditional singing be skipped.

A cry arose from all Ephs present, myself included. Although few knew the words, all wanted to sing the damn song. Sensing rebellion, President Oakley relented and led the assembled graduates and guests through a somewhat soaked rendition of the song that has marked Williams events for more than 100 years.

Similar scenes play themselves out at Williams gatherings around the country. At some of the Williams weddings that you will attend in the future, an attempt, albeit a weak one, will be made to sing “The Mountains.” At reunions, “The Mountains” will be sung, generally with the help of handy cards supplied by the Alumni Office. It is obvious that most graduates wish that they knew the words. It is equally obvious than almost all do not.

We have a collective action problem. Everyone (undergraduates and alumni alike) wishes that everyone knew the words. It would be wonderful to sing “The Mountains” at events ranging from basketball games to Mountain Day hikes to gatherings around the world. But there is no point in me learning the words since, even if I knew them, there would be no one else who did. Since no single individual has an incentive to learn the words, no one bothers to learn them. As Provost Dukes Love would be happy to explain, we are stuck at a sub-optimal equilibrium.

mountainsFortunately, you have the power to fix this. You could learn “The Mountains” together, as a group, during your JA orientation. You could then teach all the First Years during First Days. It will no doubt make for a nice entry bonding experience. All sorts of goofy ideas come to mind. How about a singing contest at the opening dinner, judged by President Mandel, between the six different first year dorms with first prize being a pizza dinner later in the fall at the President’s House?

Unfortunately, it will not be enough to learn the song that evening. Periodically over the last dozen years, attempts have been made to teach the words at dinner or at the first class meeting in Chapin. Such efforts, worthy as they are, have always failed. My advice:

1) Learn all the words by heart at JA training. This is harder than it sounds. The song is longer and more complex than you think. Maybe sing it between every session? Maybe a contest between JAs from the 6 first year houses? If you don’t sing the song at least 20 times, you won’t know it by heart. Don’t be a Lord Jeff and settle for only the first and last verses. Learn all four.

2) Encourage the first years to learn the song before they come to Williams. There are few people more excited about all things Williams than incoming first years in August. Send them the lyrics. Send them videos of campus groups singing “The Mountains.” Tell them that, as an entry, you will be singing the song many times on that first day.

3) Carry through on that promise! Have your entry sing the song multiple times that day. Maybe the two JAs sing the song to the first student who arrives. Then, the three of you sing if for student number 2. And so on. When the last student arrives, the entire entry serenades him (and his family). Or maybe sing it as an entry before each event that first day.

4) There should be some target contest toward which this effort is nominally directed. I like the idea of a sing-off between the 6 first year dorms with President Mandel as judge. But the actual details don’t matter much. What matters is singing the song over-and-over again before their first sunset as Ephs.

Will this process be dorky and weird and awkward? Of course it will! But that is OK. Dorkiness in the pursuit of community is no vice. And you and your first years will all be dorky together.

For scores of years, Ephs of goodwill have worked to create a better community for the students of Williams. It is a hard problem. How do you bring together young men and women from so many different places, with such a diversity of backgrounds and interests? Creating common, shared experiences — however arbitrary they may be — is a good place to start. Mountain Day works, not because there is anything particularly interesting about Stone Hill, but because we all climb it together.

Until a class of JAs decide as a group to learn the words themselves (by heart) during their training and then to teach it to all the First Years before the first evening’s events, “The Mountains” will remain a relic of a Williams that time has passed by.

But that is up to you. Once a tradition like this is started, it will go on forever. And you will be responsible for that. A hundred years from now the campus will look as different from today as today looks from 1918, but, if you seize this opportunity, Williams students and alumni will still be singing “The Mountains.”

Congratulations on being selected as a JA. It is a singular honor and responsibility.

Regards,

David Kane ’88

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Change First Days to First Month

For decades, the College has sought, somewhat unsuccessfully, to mold student character and to improve the campus community. The College would prefer that students drink less (and especially less to excess); that students be more intellectual, spending more time outside of class on great books and less time on Netflix; that students be kinder to each other, especially to those most outside the mainstream of College life; that students be more diverse in their friend groups, less likely to only associate with peers that are “like” them; and that students be more involved in the community, more likely to volunteer at the local elementary school or retirement home. How can the College make its students more sober, intellectual, kind, ecumenical and charitable (than they already are)? Simple: Expand the First Days program into First Month, and focus that month on character development and community commitment.

Shaping character and nurturing community are difficult problems, so we should look for inspiration to those with a track record of success. The most relevant examples are military and religious organizations like the Marine Corps and the Mormon Church. What lessons do they have for us?
Read more

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The Purple Rubble

The College Council has removed from its Facebook account a controversial video. This video captured an example of profane, incendiary, anti-white bigotry directed at white student representatives by one of the most prominent black student leaders at Williams College on June 9, 2019.

The video featured a long, stream-of-consciousness rant saying, in part, “…to be here is like sucking white d*** every f***ing day.”

“You want a discussion and dialogue. Here’s the f***ing dialog. We don’t have dialogue, because every time we try to talk to you we get shut down by the white moderate, white liberal bull***t.”

A link to the video was published on Ephblog on April 15, 2019. A partial transcript appeared at the Anonymous Political Scientist blog on that same day. Finally, The College Fix published a link to the video on April 19, 2019. The College Fix is a national-level conservative website where student journalists write on topics in higher education.

NOTE: A heavily redacted transcript of the June 9, 2019 meeting is still available at 4_9 Minutes.

According to the Williams Record, black student activists planned a demonstration to protest their treatment by the College Council. It was canceled, however, after links to the video rant were published at various on-line sites.

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The Left Eats Its Own Café

Over at The College Fix this morning, there is an article by Rory Walsh reporting on the  shocking livestream video posted on Facebook by the College Council.

Black students explode in anger at white students in vulgarity-laced rant (VIDEO)

In his article, Walsh provides us with redacted examples of the profane language used by I.B. as he called out liberal white student representatives for the way they dealt with an earlier request by S.O. for funding for a preview event for black students.

“… It’s time for you’all to figure this sh*t out and check yourself because I’m really losing it,” he said. “We are f***ing tired of having to come and beg and suck d***. And of course when we come and do it we face problems all the f***ing time.”

“… Every time to be here is like sucking white d*** every f***ing day,” he said. “Closing our mouths every f***ing day just to be here. And if we dare ask for a little bit of time, money and space we gotta suck some more d***. … It is so frustrating. It’s so tiring … to be here. To deal with you’all.”

“We keep our heads down, it don’t work,” he said. “We try to create space for us, it don’t work. We want some money to f***ing cook some fried f***king chicken and be n*****s for once, it don’t work. I just don’t get it.”

Walsh cites comments I made at my Anonymous Political Scientist blogsite too. He notes I had observed the video “…is an excellent example of the sort of political abuse that tore down Evergreen State College.”

Walsh reports that The College Fix attempted to reach several members of the College Council as well as administration for a statement. They have yet to respond.

The comments on Walsh’s article are generally adverse to the student activists.

Another tasty serving at The Left Eats Its Own Café.

What the Alt Left doesn’t understand is that white people aren’t out to get black people; they are just exhausted with them. They are exhausted by the social pathologies, the violence, the endless complaints, the blind racial solidarity, the bottomless pit of grievances, the excuses, and the reflexive animosity.

Williams is about as left wing as a functioning college can be. Blacks need to move across the river to SUNY Albany.

You’re not trying to create a community. You’re trying to create a segregated, black racist bubble. The campus in its entirety is your community, and if you don’t like it, you can always transfer.

Just for the record: I’m not Black and I love fried chicken.

According to his biography, Rory Walsh studies industrial labor relations, American politics, and business at Cornell University. He has interned for former New York Congresswoman Claudia Tenney. After completing his undergraduate degree he plans to study law and business.

 

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Choose Williams Over Harvard

In celebration of previews, reasons why you should choose Williams.

There are several hundred high school seniors¹ who have been admitted to both Williams and Harvard (and Yale and Princeton and Stanford and . . .). Fewer than 10% of them will choose Williams over these more famous schools. Some of them are making the right choice. They will be better off at Harvard, for various reasons. But at least half of them are making the wrong choice. They (you?) would be better off at Williams. Why?

1) Your professors would know your name. The average Harvard undergraduate is known by name to only a few faculty members. Many students graduate unknown to any faculty. The typical professor at Harvard is primarily concerned with making important contributions to her field. The typical professor at Williams is primarily concerned with educating the undergraduates in her classes. Consider this post by Harvard professor Greg Mankiw, who taught EC 10a/10b, the equivalent of Williams ECON 110/120, to over 750 students each year.

Being an ec 10 section leader is one of the best teaching jobs at Harvard. You can revisit the principles of economics, mentor some of the world’s best undergraduates, and hone your speaking skills. In your section, you might even have the next Andrei Shleifer or Ben Bernanke (two well-known ec 10 alums). And believe it or not, we even pay you for this!

If you are a graduate student at Harvard or another Boston-area university and have a strong background in economics, I hope you will consider becoming a section leader in ec 10 next year. Applications are encouraged from PhD students, law students, and master’s students in business and public policy.

Take a year of Economics at Harvard, and not a single professor will know your name. Instead, you will be taught and graded by (poorly paid) graduate students, many with no more than a BA, often not even in economics! But, don’t worry, you will be doing a good deed by providing these students with a chance to “hone” their “speaking skills.”

2) You will get feedback on your work from faculty at Williams, not from inexperienced graduate students. More than 90% of the written comments (as well as the grades) on undergraduate papers at Harvard are produced by people other than tenured (or tenure track) faculty. The same is true in science labs and math classes. EC 10 is a particularly egregious example, but the vast majority of classes taken by undergraduates are similar in structure. Harvard professors are too busy to read and comment on undergraduate prose.

3) You would have the chance to do many things at Williams. At Harvard it is extremely difficult to do more than one thing in a serious fashion. If you play a sport or write for The Crimson or sing in an a capella group at Harvard, you won’t be able to do too much of anything else. At Williams, it is common — even expected — that students will have a variety of non-academic interests that they pursue passionately.

4) You would have a single room for three years at Williams. The housing situation at Harvard is horrible, at least if you care about privacy. Most sophomores and the majority of juniors do not have a single room for the entire year. Only at Harvard will you learn the joys of a “walk-through single” — a room which is theoretically a single but which another student must walk through to get to her room.

5) You would have the opportunity to be a Junior Advisor at Williams and to serve on the JA Selection Committee and to serve on the Honor Committee. No undergraduate student serves in these roles at Harvard because Harvard does not allow undergraduates to run their own affairs. Harvard does not trust its students. Williams does.

6) The President of Williams, Maud Mandel, cares about your education specifically, not just about the education of Williams undergraduates in general. The President of Harvard, Larry Bacow, has bigger fish to fry. Don’t believe me? Just e-mail both of them. Tell them about your situation and concerns. See who responds and see what they say.

Of course, there are costs to turning down Harvard. Your friends and family won’t be nearly as impressed. Your Aunt Tillie will always think that you actually go to “Williams and Mary.” You’ll be far away from a city for four years. But, all in all, a majority of the students who choose Harvard over Williams would have been better off if they had chosen otherwise.

Choose wisely.

¹The first post in this series was 15 years ago, inspired by a newspaper story about 18 year-old Julia Sendor, who was admitted to both Harvard and Williams. Julia ended up choosing Williams (at least partly “because of the snowy mountains and maple syrup”), becoming a member of the class of 2008, winning a Udall Foundation Scholarship in Environmental Studies. Best part of that post is the congratulations from her proud JA.

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Why Aren’t You Listening? – Partial Transcript

I have loaded a partial transcript of some of the most offensive and extreme comments made at the CC meeting. I created it by leveraging the Word document posted on Ephblog and then reviewing the video. It is shocking stuff. There is evidence in this video of a lot of dysfunction including the efforts of one speaker to shame student representative Tristan Whalen for seemingly not listening respectfully enough to a stream-of-consciousness tirade of anti-white bigotry.

To his credit, Whalen defended himself. He requested that he be treated in a courteous manner as he responded to the attackers. He pointed out that he had been listening and that what he was writing up were his own notes on the attacker’s comments. At any rate, I will not post the transcript here. It is quite offensive. You can access it over at my Anonymous Political Scientist blogsite here.

The only other thing I would like to add to the discussion is the manner in which the speaker, Isaiah, is permitted, without any complaints, to use the N-word, use foul language, articulate racial stereotypes, and endlessly refer to ****-sucking. In Isaiah’s view, simply being polite and following normal procedures is tantamount to working as a cheap prostitute on a busy thoroughfare. My sense is this was all an expression of his power over the group. It is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine that a white student saying the exact same things would be given such deference.

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Williams Reads One Idea

Professor Nate Kornell tweeted a link to this article:

Saying that such a dialogue was essential to the college’s academic mission, Williams College president Maud Mandel confirmed Monday that the school encourages a lively exchange of one idea. “As an institution of higher learning, we recognize that it’s inevitable that certain contentious topics will come up from time to time, and when they do, we want to create an atmosphere where both students and faculty feel comfortable voicing a single homogeneous opinion,” said Mandel, adding that no matter the subject, anyone on campus is always welcome to add their support to the accepted consensus.

This year, the one idea will center around the benefits of immigration, especially undocumented, from formerly colonized countries. The College will explore this one idea through a required reading of Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario ’82, via the Williams Reads program.

Developed by the Committee on Diversity and Community (CDC), Williams Reads is an initiative offered as an opportunity for us to explore a book together that will help us to celebrate and deepen our appreciation of diversity.

Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom noted that “Although we appreciate diversity quite deeply at Williams, we can never appreciated diversity enough. Every day, every month, every year, we must work harder to deepen our appreciation. This is all the more true in the aftermath of the recent Taco Six incident, in which 6 undergraduates failed to demonstrate sufficient depth to their appreciation of Mexican Culture.”

“Whether it’s a discussion of a national political issue or a concern here on campus, an open forum in which one argument is uniformly reinforced is crucial for maintaining the exceptional learning environment we have cultivated here,” continued Mandel. She also told reporters that counseling resources were available for any student made uncomfortable by the viewpoint.

Here at EphBlog, we have been praising Enrique’s Journey for more than a decade. Too cheap to buy the book? Nazario won the Pulitzer Prize for the newspaper articles that form the core of the story. Read them here for free.

Highly recommended.

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How to Pick a Husband

About half of the female students currently at Williams will not be married at age 32. Don’t want that to be your fate? You will never be prettier than you are right now and you will never be surrounded by as many single, high-quality men. Follow EphBlog’s advice:

1) Pick 5 Williams men you would like to go out with on a date. You are, obviously, not picking a husband at this stage, but you are selecting likely candidates. Because men are shallow creatures, select men that are about as handsome as you are pretty. If you are average, then select an average man. Even better, select a man at the 25th percentile of attractiveness. If you end up married, he will spend the rest of his life marveling at the beauty of the woman in his bed each morning and vowing to do his best not to screw up his good fortune.

2) Pick a friend to be the matchmaker. Many of your friends would jump at the chance. You need someone social, someone not afraid to approach a (possible) stranger on your behalf.

3) Have your friend approach a candidate and let him know that, if he asked you out on a dinner date, you would say, “Yes.” Assuming you have picked wisely, he will be excited! There are few things a boy likes more than knowing a girl is interested in him. And the reason he hasn’t asked you out before was, most likely, that he was afraid you would say, “No.” There is nothing a boy fears more than rejection. Since he knows ahead of time what your answer will be, you can be (mostly) certain that he will ask you out. If you want to avoid the embarrassment of rejection yourself, just allow your friend the discretion to approach the men in the order she sees fit. Then she won’t even need to tell you if candidates 1 and 2 turned down this opportunity.

4) Go out on the date. Who knows what will happen? The date may be a failure. If so, have your friend go on to another candidate. But the date is probably more likely to go well, especially if you chose your five candidates wisely, picking men that you already liked and respected, men with whom you could imagine having a longterm relationship. One date may lead to another, and then another. Perhaps you will never have a need for the other four candidates.

Does this seem like a horribly retrograde and patriarchal plan? Perhaps it is! The claim I am making is purely a statistical one. Female Eph undergraduates who follow this advice are more likely to be married at 32 than those who do not.

Happy Valentines Day! And point your date toward EphBlog’s annual advice on falling in love . . .

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Claiming Williams 2019

Today is Claiming Williams. Here is the schedule. (Copied below the break for future historians.) Comments:

1) This schedule is incompetent! Here is the committee, and the co-chairs are Tatiana McInnis and Gail Newman. Are they to blame?

The main trick to ensuring high attendance at Claiming Williams is to schedule a first event that hundreds of students will want to attend (or be cajoled into attending by their JAs). That event should feature people/items that are popular with students. Everyone loves singing groups! Invite several to perform. Everyone loves honeybuns! Serve them for free. In past years, the organizers have done exactly this, thereby getting lots of students out of bed and engaged. Once they attend the first event, it is easier to get them to go from that to another. There is nothing like that this year, nor was their last year, nor the year before that.

But this year seems especially weak! The only event before 11:00 AM is a film screening of TransMilitary. Not a topic which many students will find interesting! (Note that this is not a complaint about this film (which I have not seen), especially since it features an Eph as one of its subjects. Good stuff!) The complaint is that, if we are going to go through the trouble of cancelling classes for an entire day, we should schedule events that will engage the whole community throughout the day.

2) What a narrow selection of topics! Claiming Williams has always been (and will always be) filled with leftist sessions. Nothing wrong with that! But, in past years, other sessions, appealing to a different cross-section of the community, have generated large audiences. How about something about athletics at Williams and the athlete/non-athlete divide? What about a session on the drinking culture? A more competent committee would have created such sessions.

Again, nothing wrong with extreme leftists! Some of our closest friends are . . . But there is no excuse for not having (many!) events that come at these issues from other perspectives.

3) I love this session.

Expression at Williams

Expression and speech at Williams, and on college campuses more broadly, has come up time and time again. How do we balance constructive debate and exchange of ideas with respect and support? Speakers representing a range of campus communities are invited to engage with this question.

Good stuff! Kudos to Gargoyle for organizing it.

4) Canada Goose and Book Grants also looks interesting, and has a great title.

5) Could the Record please do a minimal amount of reporting and tell us, approximately, how many students attend at least two events? My sense (commentary welcome) is that the College likes to pretend like a large majority of students (1500?) attend more than one event. I bet that the actual number is closer to 500, and maybe as low as 300.

I interviewed 7 students last fall on a different topic. One was a first year. If we define “participation in Claiming Williams” as having attended at least two events, none of the other 6 participated. This is not a large sample and it was not randomly chosen, but, still! (On the other hand, 6 of the 7 had “participated” in Mountain Day, where participation is defined as going on at least one hike.) Mountain Day still merits cancelling classes. Does Claiming Williams?

I also asked the 6 students what their estimate was for student participation in Claiming Williams. The median estimate was 25%. If only a quarter of the students participate in Claiming Williams, then the College ought to cancel it next year.

6) If any readers attend Claiming Williams, please tell us about your experience in the comments.

Full schedule below
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Construed Against White Males

It was a sad day when Will Slack ’11, responding to this post, quit EphBlogh in 2010.

White males have nothing to do with this, and nothing about Claiming Williams was construed against white males as a group. Good grief.

Depends on who is doing the construing, doesn’t it? The key passage in my post:

This is a small example of why white males like me don’t feel welcome at events associated with faculty members like Wendy Raymond.

Will suggests (and may even believe in good faith) that Claiming Williams is a truly inclusive event, that everyone on the Williams campus feels welcome. He implies either a) that few/no white males feel unwelcome at Claiming Williams or b) that such feelings are unjustified.

Don’t think that I have a better sense than Will about what a large percentage (10%?, 50%?) of white males (and others!) think about Claiming Williams? No need to trust me. Just read WSO:

I’ll argue that I think CW this year made an effort to be unassuming and unhostile, but I agree that the general perception on campus remains that any time we talk about “diversity” we’re talking about the evils of the WMAWDs. How to change that perception, I don’t know – but I do feel that oftentimes, in an effort to find safety, security, and solidarity on campus, groups can create a feeling of “us vs. them.”

That being said, I think that the marginalization of the WMAWD is that he feels unwelcome and uncomfortable even attending and participating in these sorts of conversations. Is that “as bad” as the challenges associated with facing racism or classism on a daily basis? Perhaps not. But these types of discussions shouldn’t be about trying to decide who’s been the most oppressed – they should be about moving forward as a community

I feel like I’ve had different experiences than some of the other people posting. You may never have encountered the “I’ve had it bad, it’s kind of your fault, you bad bad white man” attitude here on campus, but I ASSURE you, I most definitely have. Whether this is as widespread as I have come to see it as, or if it is not as prevalent as I thought is a matter that I will leave others to decide. The most important thing for me is not so much the self-victimization as what is relatively undisputed: the bias against WMAWD that is pervasive on this campus.

More quotes/commentary below. Reading them now, almost a decade later, can you hear the first faint stirrings of Trumpism?

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Spring 2019 Course Advice

Spring classes start tomorrow. Our advice:

Your major does not matter! One of the biggest confusions among Williams students is the belief that future employers care about your major, that, for example, studying economics helps you get a job in business. It doesn’t! Major in what you love.

But future employers are often interested in two things. First, can you get the computer to do what you want it to do? Second, can you help them analyze data to make them more successful? Major in Dance (if you love dance) but take 4 or so classes in computer science and statistics. With that as background, you will be competitive with any of your Williams classmates when it comes time to apply for internships/jobs.

Take a tutorial every semester. The more tutorials you take, the better your Williams education will be. There are few plausible excuses for not taking a tutorial every semester. Although many tutorials are now filled, others are not.

Too many first years take a big intro class because they think they “should.” They shouldn’t! Even a “bad” tutorial at Williams is better than almost all intro courses. If you are a first year and you don’t take a tutorial, you are doing it wrong. Note that, even if you don’t have the official prerequisites for a class, you should still enroll. The pre-reqs almost never matter and professors will always (?) let you into a tutorial with empty spots.

By the way, where can we find data about how popular tutorials are? For example, do most/all tutorials end up filled? How many students attempted to enroll in each one? More transparency!

Take STAT 201 (if you enter Williams with Math/Reading SAT scores below 1300, you might start with STAT 101). No topic is more helpful in starting your career, no matter your area of interest, than statistics. Students who take several statistics courses are much more likely to get the best summer internships and jobs after Williams. Also, the new Statistics major is amazing.

Skip STAT 201 if you took AP Statistics. Go straight to STAT 202 instead. And don’t worry about the stupid math prerequisites that the department tries to put in your way. You don’t really need multivariate calculus for 201 or matrix algebra for the more advanced classes. Those math tricks come up in a couple of questions on a couple of problem sets. Your friends (and some Khan Academy videos) will get you through it. If challenged, just tell people you took those classes in high school.

Take CSCI 134: Diving into the Deluge of Data. Being able to get the computer to do what you want it to do is much more important, to your future career, than most things, including, for example, the ability to write well. You might consider skipping 134 and going directly to 136, but 134 seems to be a much better course than it was in the past, especially with the use of Python and the focus on data.

If a professor tries to tell you the class is full, just claim to be future major in that topic. Indeed, many students officially enroll as statistics or computer science majors sophomore year to ensure that they get into the classes they want. You can always drop a major later. Mendacity in the pursuit of quality classes is no vice.

See our previous discussions. Here are some thoughts from 12 (?) years ago about course selections for a career in finance.

What courses would you recommend? What was the best class you took at Williams?

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Fall in Love

What is the real purpose of Winter Study, especially for male undergraduates?

The real purpose of Winter Study is to fall in love.

You will never, ever, be surrounded by as many smart, pretty, eligible women as you are right now. Life after college is, comparatively, a wasteland. Of course, as you pass into the great beyond, you will meet other women, but they are unlikely to be as wonderful, physically and mentally, as the Eph women you are blessed to know now. More importantly, the best of them will choose mates sooner rather than latter. Exiting Williams without a serious girlfriend is not necessarily a one-way ticket to permanent bachelorhood (as several of my co-bloggers can attest), but it is not the smart way to play the odds. The odds favor love now.

It isn’t that your classes and papers, your theses and sports teams, are unimportant. But finding a soulmate to grow old with, someone to bear your children and ease your suffering, someone to give your life meaning and your work purpose — this is a much more important task than raising that GPA enough to make magna cum laude.

So, stop reading this blog and ask out that cute girl from across the quad. I did the same 31 years ago and have counted my blessings ever since.

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American Colonization Society

From Williamstown and Williams College: A History by Arthur Latham Perry:

Mills is, of course, Samuel J. Mills, he of the Haystack Prayer Meeting and Mills in Mission Park.

This book was the first interesting thing that came up from a google search of Williams College and New Year’s Day.

We need an annual post for this date. What should it be?

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Christmas Thanks

From Twitter:

xmas

Merry Christmas one and all!

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