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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?

First: Start early. The reason that service in the Marine Corps begins with a 13-week boot camp is that the best time to change the perceptions of 18-year-olds is at the start of their enlistments. In boot camp, Marine recruits are cut off from the world they knew before, presented with a new set of community standards for what is best and challenged to live up to those standards. The College will have much more success in changing the values and choices of first-years in August than it ever will in altering those of juniors and seniors.

Second: Separate. Many new Ephs drank too much in high school. We want them to (want to) drink less at the College. We need to distance them from their old habits, their old friends and routines. A First Month program, starting in early August, provides just such an opportunity. The reason that Mormons, and most other religious groups, favor retreats is that a departure from the secular allows the sacred to flourish. During First Month, athletes won’t practice with their sports teams, they will play pick-up games with their classmates. The first and most important commitment that new Ephs make is to their class. They are purple first.

Consider how messed up our current system is. The 5 or so first years recruited to play women’s soccer arrive a week or more ahead of their classmates. They already know each other, and their new teammates, via the recruitment process. They spend a week with each other (and the rest of the team), all day, every day. They make friends. Is it any wonder that there is an athlete/non-athlete divide at Williams, when, from Day One, athletes are segregated from the rest of their class? The same dynamics are at work with other programs (Windows on Williams Williams College Summer Science) — well-intentioned though they may be.

Assume that you are a bad person and you want Williams student to self-segregate by astrological sign. You want all the, say, Geminis, to hang out together, take the same classes, form Gemini-only rooming groups and so on. This is hard to do because Williams students don’t like to be bossed around.

Solution: Invite all the Gemini members of the class of 2021 to five weeks of special Gemini-only activities at Williams this summer. Do not invite non-Geminis.

The natural result is that these Geminis, who may have had nothing in common besides their astrological sign, will bond. Cliques form, friendships grow and romance blooms. These Geminis will grow to like and trust each other. When school starts in September, they will already have made friends with each other. They will continue to seek each other out, share meals with each other, perhaps take classes together. It won’t be that they have anything against their non-Gemini entrymates who they are meeting for the first time. It is just that they will have already found friends to hang out with.

I am not arguing that Williams cancel the Summer Science/Humanities programs or that athletes not arrive early on campus, although perhaps we should. I just want the entire First Year class to arrive together, to be together, to do things together, before various centrifugal forces come into play.

Third: Introduce. Every student in each of the first-year dorms will have at least one meal with each resident of his dorm. All students will learn the names of at least half of their classmates by playing all the wonderfully awkward name-learning games common to religious retreats. The more that students are introduced to their classmates, slowly and repeatedly, over many hours, days and weeks, the less likely that any individual is to end up isolated from the College and detached from the Ephs around him. For most Ephs, the College community is as tight-knit as it could be. They always have someone to sit with when they go to the dining hall on their own. But for hundreds of students, often students from non-traditional backgrounds or with non-mainstream interests, the College fails. Rescuing those students, enmeshing them completely in a network of friends and friendly acquaintances, would change their experience at the College from bearable to wonderful.

Fourth: Inspire. The best way to convince teenagers that Behavior X is cool is to surround them with slightly older Ephs whom they admire and who, by word and deed, illustrate that X is cool. The fewer sports captains and Junior Advisors (JAs) who are heavy drinkers, the fewer first-years who will follow in their footsteps. During First Month, every activity is designed to model the behavior that we want to see more of among students at the College. On Day Two, everyone reads one of Plato’s dialogues and discusses it at lunch and dinner at a small table with a faculty member. On Day Six, everyone spends a day on community service – anything from cleaning up trash along the banks of the Green River to talking with residents at Sweetwood. On Day 10, everyone hikes up Pine Cobble. All of these events are led by the very best people – students, faculty, staff and local residents – at the College.

Fifth: Integrate. First-years come from many different backgrounds. The best way to make these new Ephs comfortable with each other is to have them spend as much time with each other as possible, especially in situations that make their differences less important than their commonalities. It is impossible to stereotype members of Group Z once you have shared a tent with one on a WOOLF trip. It is difficult to be snotty to your classmates when you sounded just as ridiculous as they did while all learning “The Mountains” together.

Doesn’t much of this happen during First Days already? Of course! But not nearly enough. My suggestion: Expand the current First Days to two weeks this August. If, for some reason, the change fails, then we can always revert back to the traditional format. But if the College is really serious about making its students more sober, intellectual, kind, ecumenical and charitable, then it ought to devote the month of August during their first years to that project.

[Original version here.]

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Welcome Class of 2020

Welcome to the class of 2020. The Berkshire Eagle reports (or, rather, reposts a College news release):

The 552 students who make up the Williams College Class of 2020 will arrive on campus on Aug. 29 for First Days, their official orientation to the college.

The tradition of First Days introduces first-year students to the college through meetings with academic advisers and opportunities to learn about academic departments and get to know the campus. Students will also take placement exams and the college’s mandatory swimming test. In between the scheduled events, students will settle into their dorms and get to know their classmates.

Williams really ought to change First Days to First Month. Anyone see any interesting changes in the official schedule this year?

During the second half of the week, first-year students will participate in EphVentures, a program designed to enhance students’ orientation experience, provide them with opportunities to build lasting friendships, and help them develop an appreciation for the campus and community. Students choose from among one of several programs that help develop leadership skills, give them the chance to learn about the Berkshires, experience arts and culture in the region, or explore intersections among environmental sustainability, identity, and social justice.

What is the breakdown in participation among the EphVentures activities? My sense is that WOOLF is far and away the most popular, but I can’t recall seeing any data.

Also, would Williams be better off if the only option was WOOLF and participation was required? Such everyone-goes camping trips are still a common part of the New England prep school experience. Advantages of universal WOOLF would be two-fold. First, it would encourage greater mixture among different personality types in the class. Why have the first event separate people by interest? Second, to the extent it caused some applicants to choose a school like Tufts over Williams — because they just can’t stand the idea of spending 5 nights in the woods — we might be doing them a favor. If you hate the wilderness that much, Williams might be a poor fit.

On Sunday, Sept. 4, students will return from EphVentures for a picnic dinner on Chapin Lawn. On Monday, they will participate in Williams Reads, for which each student received over the summer a copy of “The Sixth Extinction” by Elizabeth Kolbert, Class of 1946 Environmental Fellow-in-Residence. Facilitated conversations about the book provide an introduction to the intellectual life at Williams.

Very snarky! Or Straussian?! The surface reading here is that the “intellectual life” of Williams means reading/discussing quality books in the spirit of open debate. But is that really what Williams is like? Does Williams really encourage debate about climate change? I have my doubts! The Straussian reading (or Foucauldian deconstruction) is that this discussion will provide a perfect introduction to the one-sided, propaganda-like reality of intellectual life at Williams. Recall Williams Reads One Idea.

By all standard measures of academic talent, including test scores and academic performance, the Class of 2020 is impressive, selected from among 6,984 applicants. SATs for the cohort averaged 715 on critical reading, 712 on math, and 714 on writing; the ACT average was 33.

This seems similar to the scores for the class of 2015, although clearly we have some rounding issues.

scores

A special welcome to our fellow EphBlogger, Eph ’20! I hope xe (!) enjoys xer (!) four years as much as I enjoyed mine.

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Williams Reads Breakout Sessions

After the ’62 Center event during First Days, the class of 2019 broke into discussion groups. Kudos to the Eph faculty and staff who volunteered (?) to devote Labor Day to this event! The more intellectual engagement brought to First Days, the better. Recall this Record op-ed from last spring:

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; 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 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?

First: Start early. The reason that service in the Marine Corps begins with a 13-week boot camp is that the best time to change the perceptions of 18-year-olds is at the start of their enlistments. In boot camp, Marine recruits are cut off from the world they knew before, presented with a new set of community standards for what is best and challenged to live up to those standards. The College will have much more success in changing the values and choices of first-years in August than it ever will in altering those of juniors and seniors.

Second: Separate. Many new Ephs drank too much in high school. We want them to (want to) drink less at the College. We need to distance them from their old habits, their old friends and routines. A First Month program, starting in early August, provides just such an opportunity. The reason that Mormons, and most other religious groups, favor retreats is that a departure from the secular allows the sacred to flourish. During First Month, athletes won’t practice with their sports teams, they will play pick-up games with their classmates. The first and most important commitment that new Ephs make is to their class. They are purple first.

Third: Introduce. Every student in each of the first-year dorms will have at least one meal with each resident of his dorm. All students will learn the names of at least half of their classmates by playing all the wonderfully awkward name-learning games common to religious retreats. The more that students are introduced to their classmates, slowly and repeatedly, over many hours, days and weeks, the less likely that any individual is to end up isolated from the College and detached from the Ephs around him. For most Ephs, the College community is as tight-knit as it could be. They always have someone to sit with when they go to the dining hall on their own. But for hundreds of students, often students from non-traditional backgrounds or with non-mainstream interests, the College fails. Rescuing those students, enmeshing them completely in a network of friends and friendly acquaintances, would change their experience at the College from bearable to wonderful.

Fourth: Inspire. The best way to convince teenagers that Behavior X is cool is to surround them with slightly older Ephs whom they admire and who, by word and deed, illustrate that X is cool. The fewer sports captains and Junior Advisors (JAs) who are heavy drinkers, the fewer first-years who will follow in their footsteps. During First Month, every activity is designed to model the behavior that we want to see more of among students at the College. On Day Two, everyone reads one of Plato’s dialogues and discusses it at lunch and dinner at a small table with a faculty member. On Day Six, everyone spends a day on community service – anything from cleaning up trash along the banks of the Green River to talking with residents at Sweetwood. On Day 10, everyone hikes up Pine Cobble. All of these events are led by the very best people – students, faculty, staff and local residents – at the College.

Read the whole thing.

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First Days Advice from the class of 2018

Not surprisingly, social media shapes arriving at Williams College today, as Sam Alterman ’18 explained last year in the Williams Record:

If you are a first-year here at the College, there’s a very good chance that you know our names and maybe even our faces. We are the admins of the Class of 2018 Facebook group.

And now we are here, on campus, with you. You see us on the sidewalks and the quads, in Sawyer and the ’62 Center, in Driscoll and Whitman’s and Mission. You see us at soccer games, in classes and in Paresky. And you run up to us, shouting our names, taking our pictures…

For many of you, however, we are your celebrities. For months you have been seeing our names on your computer and mobile screens… Some entries are apparently playing games of who can take the most pictures of us around campus. It’s all rather flattering, to be honest.

A little different than receiving the name of your roommate and his mailing address (I think in my case, it was a P.O. Box) and a few phone calls and photocopied letters from freshmen coaches and upperclass teammates-to-be.

Alterman continues:

Facebook has a strange way of making us feel like we know people before we have met them. Because we have access to so much information about our Facebook friends… Facebook makes it so easy and so tempting that many of us just can’t resist. When entry lists were released in July, I immediately began tracking down my entrymates, poring over the past several years of their posts and pictures, pegging the nerds, the jocks, the partiers and the generally dull. On move-in day, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what my entry looked like. I thought I knew who I would like and dislike, who would be my friend and who I would merely tolerate.

Not so fast, he warns:

People I had pegged as “unfriendly jocks” turned out to be some of the most intelligent and caring people in my entry; people I had expected to be dry and dull ended up being hilarious; people I thought were just about partying were in fact some of the hardest working and most thoughtful people in my entry. An entry that I originally thought was a very mixed bag revealed itself to be my favorite group of 22 people on campus.

I urge you, my fellow classmates, to get to know each other; to not just cling to the faces you recognize from the Facebook group and instead talk to someone you have never heard of before. I know this gets repeated so much that it sounds incredibly fake, but, really, we are all here for a reason. I guarantee that everyone in this valley has a story to tell and something to teach you. So please, don’t just cling to the Dorothy Gabys and Sam B. Altermans of this campus. Instead, try introducing yourself to three new people a day. After all, you never know who may end up being your best friend.

Good advice! I hope the Class of 2019 hears it early and often.

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First Days Begin Today

IMG_2101

(Banner at First Days 2011)

Today is one of those days (like Mountain Day, Homecoming, Winter Carnival, Commencement, Reunion) that makes Ephs everywhere nostalgic for their own experiences: move-in day. If you’re like me, you may remember everything from the music playing on the ride over Petersburg Pass (Van Halen’s “Panama” — hey, it was eighty degrees, pretty much the last time we’d see that temperature until June) to the first student you met in your entry (name withheld) to the first article of gear emblazoned with “Williams College” that you purchased at Goff’s (green college logo t-shirt).

It’s easier than ever to indulge that nostalgia, thanks to social media. For the last few years, #newephs has been the hashtag to follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, capturing content from both the College’s official social media accounts and those of students, parents, and other members of the community arriving on campus. The Flickr account for Williams College has also been a great place for a peek at arriving and returning Ephs.

Here are a couple of photos of the unloading and move-in process from last year.

Move-in day 2014, via Williams College on Flickr

Move-in day 2014, via Williams College on Flickr

14879013740_a5984294dc - movein 2014

In 2013, using Storify, the College compiled many of the social media postings surrounding move-in day. Definitely worth a look.

And with Sawyer Library finally gone, nostalgic Ephs might appreciate the Libraries’ video intro created for First Days in 2012.

Welcome to all new Ephs!

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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; 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 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?

First: Start early. The reason that service in the Marine Corps begins with a 13-week boot camp is that the best time to change the perceptions of 18-year-olds is at the start of their enlistments. In boot camp, Marine recruits are cut off from the world they knew before, presented with a new set of community standards for what is best and challenged to live up to those standards. The College will have much more success in changing the values and choices of first-years in August than it ever will in altering those of juniors and seniors.

Second: Separate. Many new Ephs drank too much in high school. We want them to (want to) drink less at the College. We need to distance them from their old habits, their old friends and routines. A First Month program, starting in early August, provides just such an opportunity. The reason that Mormons, and most other religious groups, favor retreats is that a departure from the secular allows the sacred to flourish. During First Month, athletes won’t practice with their sports teams, they will play pick-up games with their classmates. The first and most important commitment that new Ephs make is to their class. They are purple first.

Third: Introduce. Every student in each of the first-year dorms will have at least one meal with each resident of his dorm. All students will learn the names of at least half of their classmates by playing all the wonderfully awkward name-learning games common to religious retreats. The more that students are introduced to their classmates, slowly and repeatedly, over many hours, days and weeks, the less likely that any individual is to end up isolated from the College and detached from the Ephs around him. For most Ephs, the College community is as tight-knit as it could be. They always have someone to sit with when they go to the dining hall on their own. But for hundreds of students, often students from non-traditional backgrounds or with non-mainstream interests, the College fails. Rescuing those students, enmeshing them completely in a network of friends and friendly acquaintances, would change their experience at the College from bearable to wonderful.

Fourth: Inspire. The best way to convince teenagers that Behavior X is cool is to surround them with slightly older Ephs whom they admire and who, by word and deed, illustrate that X is cool. The fewer sports captains and Junior Advisors (JAs) who are heavy drinkers, the fewer first-years who will follow in their footsteps. During First Month, every activity is designed to model the behavior that we want to see more of among students at the College. On Day Two, everyone reads one of Plato’s dialogues and discusses it at lunch and dinner at a small table with a faculty member. On Day Six, everyone spends a day on community service – anything from cleaning up trash along the banks of the Green River to talking with residents at Sweetwood. On Day 10, everyone hikes up Pine Cobble. All of these events are led by the very best people – students, faculty, staff and local residents – at the College.

Fifth: Integrate. First-years come from many different backgrounds. The best way to make these new Ephs comfortable with each other is to have them spend as much time with each other as possible, especially in situations that make their differences less important than their commonalities. It is impossible to stereotype members of Group Z once you have shared a tent with one on a WOOLF trip. It is difficult to be snotty to your classmates when you sounded just as ridiculous as they did while all learning “The Mountains” together.

Doesn’t much of this happen during First Days already? Of course! But not nearly enough. My suggestion: Expand the current First Days to two weeks this August. If, for some reason, the change fails, then we can always revert back to the traditional format. But if the College is really serious about making its students more sober, intellectual, kind and charitable, then it ought to devote the month of August during their first years to that project.

[Original version here.]

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First Days

The First Years arrive today. Welcome to Williams!

The 274 women and 272 men who make up the Williams College Class of 2018 will arrive on campus on August 25 for First Days, their official orientation to the college.

SATs for the cohort averaged 727 on the verbal test and 713 on math. The class is also diverse. Thirty-eight percent of students in the incoming class are U.S. students of color, and nearly 9 percent are international students. The 546 students in this year’s class come from 41 states and represent 38 foreign countries. Forty-seven percent of the class is receiving financial aid, with an average aid package of $47,285.

1) Here is the schedule.

2) Isn’t 1440 combined SAT scores a step up from the recent past? Classes of 2008 and 2009 were 1413 and 1425.

3) 9% are international. Regular readers will recall that the quota for international students is an EphBlog perennial. 9% is better than the 6% quota of 2005, but we were already at 9% in 2008, so there has been no progress over the last 6 years, despite the fact that Williams is no longer need-blind for international applicants.

4) Only 47% of the class is receiving aid. In 2008, it was 50%, but I seem to recall numbers in the low 50s a few years ago.

So, the class of 2018 is richer and smarter than . . . any Williams class in history?!

Not that there is anything wrong with that!

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Expand First Days

I believe that the major focus of Committee on Undergraduate life this year is the freshmen/entry experience. Can anyone confirm and/or provide background? From Will Slack ’11 (a CUL member) writing on WSO:

Everyone got an e-mail last night linking to a survey from the “Committee on Undergraduate Life.” This group, which six students sit on, recommends policy on all things non-academic at Williams. It’s also the group that, in 2005, recommended and shaped the Neighborhood System. This all means that the survey you got (and your responses to it) are going to be vital for whatever recommendations the CUL might make about the future of the entry system. If you have any questions about the survey, feel free to post them below. I can’t promise I’ll have computer access to answer them, but hopefully others on the CUL will see and reply.

This isn’t something to skip out on. Anecdotally, I know that many people have horrible or very difficult entry experiences, including myself. But these experiences aren’t the whole story – we also know that many people really enjoy their experiences. The six of us on the CUL do our best to represent all of you, but we can’t hope to know and express the experiences of everyone. That’s why we need you to fill out the survey, and if possible, give us some qualitative data through the free response section. Remember: your responses are confidential. I know it’s Winter Study, and I know we’re all focusing on having as much fun as possible. I’m actually in Jerusalem right now on a travel course. But please take the 5 minutes to give us your thoughts – your responses may well help to inform the first-year experiences of countless Williams frosh that will follow in your footsteps. We want to know what has or hasn’t worked.

Tell us.

1) I hope that CUL will be as transparent as the Claiming Williams folks have been and recently the full details of the survey responses. Doing so will make for a much more productive discussion.

2) Please provide a copy of the questions in the comments.

3) Improving the first year experience is easy. Just do what I recommended three years ago, in a slightly different context: Expand First Days by one week and focus that time on getting more freshmen to know more of their peers.

Imagine an extra week of First Days, a week that focuses almost completely on meeting your fellow Ephs, on learning their names, their dreams, their hopes and aspirations. Imagine a freshmen class in which every resident of Pratt knows, not just the names of everyone in her entry, but the names of every student in her dorm. Imagine a week cut off from Williams academics and Williams sports, a week spent focusing on your classmates, the students you will spend the next four years with and then stay connected with for decades thereafter.

If you want to improve “community interaction” then you need to strengthen the Williams community, and that begins by learning names and sharing meals. Such learning and sharing occurs in entries and during the school year, of course. But the more such connections are made, the stronger our community will become.

CUL ignored my wise advice on housing. Perhaps they will listen to me on this. An extra week (or more) of First Days would make many of the freshmen who currently have a miserable experience in their entries less miserable because it will make it easy for them to get to know students outside their entry but in their dorm.

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Welcome to the Class of 2014!

The class of 2014 arrives today. Welcome! As a service to future historians, here (pdf) is a permanent copy of the schedule for First Days. Notice any changes from your First Days? I am pleased to see that my classmate, Professor Katie Kent ’88, is headlining tonight’s main event about “Claiming Williams.” Perhaps she will include a few words about those Ephs among us with unusual political views . . .

Below the break is my annual letter to the JAs about teaching themselves (and all first year students) “The Mountains.” Perhaps this is the year . . .
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Five Years Out 1: “Choosing” Williams

Promoting another post to the “Reunion Top.” –93kwt

This weekend is my five year reunion. For a long time, I’ve wanted to write here a post highlighting a few of the most shining moments I remember from my days there. In one post, I could have done this: restricting myself to “moments” that can be described to people not of my inner circle and and which are purely positive would have generated a short enough list.

But as I sketched it out, I found there was more I wanted to write about. I wish I could have kept it simple, but I’m probably incapable of this. I want to give you an idea of what was important to me, and how I connected to the campus community. And I want it to include some of the good and the bad, as well as the hard and the incidental. I want to tell a story, but remind myself that I did not live four years as a story, or see a “point” or even a unified flow in my life as I was going through it: though I suspected that I would look back someday and see it that way.

Five years out, this series of posts is much of how I see what I lost and gained at Williams. This is ephblog, so the segments are far from uncut or uncensored, but they are long enough to be true. They capture what is important to me looking back, and the past I want to give homage to as I think about reuniting with my class this weekend.

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Different Move in Dates?

Anyone have background information on this item from College Confidential?

First Gen Program

Why does Williams want us to move in two days earlier? Is that all there is to it? It seems like they want us to “bond” for a day before everybody else gets there… I guess it would be nice to avoid the immense amount of traffic on the 1st. If I decide to not go on the 30th, then how early will I have to arrive on the 1st?

1) Is it true that all first generation (to go to college?) students are invited to move in two days earlier? If so, perhaps a reader could post the invitation in a comment below. We love to capture this history.

2) How long has this been going on? Are other types of students invited to arrive early as well? One subtle point is that, in order to be classified as first generation by Williams, it is not enough to have parents that did not go to college. You must also request financial aid.

3) In 1984, I think that the only students invited to come early were football players. Or perhaps other athletes?

4) Who was invited to come early when you were a freshman? Did the policy work?

5) I think that this is, probably, a bad idea. Treating Williams students differently on the basis of attribute X just encourages other students to do the same. (See previous discussion about racial discrimination in SPS/SSHS.) Why not just hang a scarlet FG around their necks? If you want attribute X to matter less, then ignore it. All the effort during First Days should be devoted to making students think that we are All Ephs First, that, whatever path we followed in coming to Williams, we all start out in the Purple Valley equal in the eyes of the College.

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Reunion Thoughts: The Armor We Wore Our Freshman Year

When I first set out on my cross country drive, culminating this weekend in my 25th Reunion, I had expected that Williams would often be on my mind and I would frequently pen posts about my thought.  But, now with the first events of our reunion fewer than 48 hours away, I find I have hardly posted on this journey, the last time just after staying with Williams friends in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Now, I’m in Boston, having followed a route similar to that I first took when my Dad drove me to college for my freshman year.  Only then time, instead of heading from the New York Thruway to Route 2, I took the MassPike into Boston.  On Thursday, I’ll take Route 2 West to Billsville.

One thought which has crossed my  mind from time to time was more  a hope than a thought, the hope that when my class assembles again, they won’t remember me as I was when first we assembled as freshmen in the Fall of 1981.  But, as I noted in a previous post, “some of the sharpest memories I have are of freshman year“.  I would dare say it’s the same for many of them.

While I came to embrace many of my lifetime passions in the Purple Valley, when I first arrived I was uncertain about the propriety of expressing any of them, more concerned about fitting in than in “finding myself” (to borrow an expression which has become a cliché).  But, then I think that many of us tried to mask our own insecurities in false identities.  And we sometimes became judgmental of those not in our circle (or our entry) to cover our own anxieties.

For most of us, that judgmental attitude melted away as we became more comfortable in our own circles more confident in our talents and more aware of our own interests.  Perhaps, it was the support of a good friend or the encouragement of a professor.  Or the inspiration of a coach (or other mentor). Read more

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First Days Calendar

Compare and contrast the schedule for First Days 2009 with that for First Days 2005. My thoughts below:

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No/Yes

The main event last night for new First Years was:

KATIE KOESTNER- “No/Yes” Chapin Hall

Katie Koestner, a Virginia State-trained peer educator and sexual assault counselor, tells her story of date-rape and speaks about sexual assault prevention.

Followed by entry discussion. Both the presentation and the discussions were mandatory. You can read much more about Koestner here. Seems like the presentation at Williams was this one:

In this emotionally gripping presentation, Katie discusses her journey from victim to survivor. Interweaving her own story with vignettes from survivors across the country, Katie offers a three-fold message of successful sexual communication, responsibility in the use of drugs and alcohol, and respect, for self and for peers. Seeing sexual assault through Katie’s eyes enables students to challenge stereotypes and confront conventional beliefs and behaviors. Her emotionally charged talk creates an environment of understanding, and helps to lay the groundwork for proactive, long-term behavioral transformation. Katie puts date rape on a level that everyone can feel, and to which anyone can relate.

All of this is extremely topical at Williams because of the Foster acquital. It appears that Foster, now ’06, is back on campus for the fall term. I wonder what his take on the presentation would be?

Certainly events like this and Take Back the Night are well and good, although I would be curious to hear reactions to Koestner’s speech. But much of this is preaching to the choir, as it were. If you want to decrease the incidence of date rape at Williams, then you need to change the attitudes and perceptions of the men, however few or many there may be, who are capable of such an act. My own suggestion on how do so is here.

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The Class of 2007 Arrival

The class of 2007 arrived yesterday. You too can relive your College years by checking out the main information site. Don’t forget the schedule of events here. Assuming that they are on track, the first class meeting has just finished and students are heading back to their entries. Note that they sang “The Mountains” — the Blog gets results! ;-)

Alas, there are still some glitches. The transportation advice is unchanged from last year, but, presumably most of the incoming students should be better informed.

Most amusing part of the site are the excerpts from the “Bell Book” — which I do not remember from 19 years ago —- on Freshmen life. My favorite entries were:

Common Room (com’on Eileen) n. a much loved and used room that will replace the old family den, living room or room that you generally hung out in before you came to college. As relaxation spaces go, it is the best. With your help, it is usually replete with your favorite curl-up-and-nap-couch, some primary-colored bean bags, an outdated TV (with SEGA and VCR attached), several outdated issues of Glamour and school-issued Lava lamp (I jest).

The Log (a rustic gathering place) n. an incredible log-cabinish space on Spring Street which is filled with old pictures, dark wood, food, and large, crackling fires (in the fireplace). Home of the “Log Lunch,” a Friday event involving soup, bread and a guest lecturer speaking on some interesting topic like “Biking up Mt. Everest Barefooted” or “Recent Trends in Rainfall at Hopkins Forest.”

But the whole thing is quite amusing.

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