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Who decides?


… many campus buildings were constructed in eras quite different from our own, at times they were decorated in ways that seem problematic in a modern context. The same is true of some of the monuments that are found on our campus. How do such forms of decoration, conceived in an earlier time, affect our capacity to be a fully inclusive community in this century? And what should be done about historical images that portray Williams as less welcoming than we are or aspire to be?




College Censorship Anniversary



On or about two years ago today, Williams College began to censor historic artifacts founded by previous generations of Ephs. This mural in the log came from the World War Two generation. A war memorial that depicted Chief Hendrick Theyanoguin standing over a map being inspected by Ephraim Williams on the morning of the Bloody Morning Scout, during the battle of Lake George in 1755. Hendrick and Ephraim were both killed in combat during this joint reconnaissance mission.


The Houses of Williamstown: Baxter Hall … (Reissue)

(This is the last post in a series of 16) This was originally posted 26 Nov, 2009. Sharp eyes may have noticed the disconnect between 14 and 16: namely Zeta Psi. The Zetes reissue was posted on May 20, 2017.


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The Houses of Williamstown: Theta Delta Chi … (Reissue)

(This is the 14th of a series of 16 posts). This was originally posted 18 Nov, 2009. Click COMMENTtto see the full article.
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The Houses of Williamstown: Sigma Phi … (Reissue)

(This is the 13th in a series of 16 posts) This was originally posted Nov 16, 2009. Click COMMENT to see the entire post


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The Houses of Williamstown: St. Anthony Hall (Delta Psi) … (Reissue)

(The 12th in a series of 16 posts)   This post was originally made Nov 12, 2009. Click COMMENT to see full post
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the Houses of Williamstown: Psi Upsilon … (Reissue)

(This is the 11th in a series of 16 posts) Originally published October 2009.   Click CONTENT to see entire post
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The Houses of Williamstown: Phi Sigma Kappa …

(This is the 10th in a series of 16 posts) … Originall published 5 November, 2009. Click COMMENT for entire post
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The Houses of Williamstown: Phi Gamma Delta …

(this is 9th of 16 posts)Phi Gam Top copy
This article continues below the fold … originally published 2 November, 2009. Click COMMENT for full post.



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The Houses of Williamstown: Phi Delta …

(this is the 8th in a series of 16 posts) … originally published 29 October, 2009. Click COMMENT to see entire post.Phi Delt Top copy
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The Houses of Williamstown: Kappa Alpha …

(this is the 7th in a series of 16 )

…in their ‘comments’, these old posts show an interest and avidity to fun as well as the darker side of Williams ongoing course.

My political jabs were also a continuing part of the blog at the time.


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The Houses of Williamstown: Delta Upsilon …

(Originally posted 22 Oct, 2009. Click COMMENTS to see the entire post).


(this is the 6th in a series of 16 posts)
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The Houses of Williamstown: Delta Phi …

(originally posted 19 Oct, 2009, Click COMMENT to see entire post)


(this is the 5th in a series of 16 posts)
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The Houses of Williamstown: Delta Kappa Epsilon 1956 …

(originally published 15 Oct, 2009. To see full post click on COMMENTS)

(The 4th in a series of 16 posts)

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The Houses of Williamstown: Chi Psi … (originally published 12 Oct 2009)

(The 3rd in a series of 16 posts) Click COMMENTS for full post
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The Houses of Williamstown: Beta Theta Pi … (Originally published 8 Oct. 2009)

(Second in a series of 16 posts) click COMMENT for whole postBeta Top copy

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The Houses of Williamstown: Alpha Delta Phi …

Alas, the top entry with architectural and  ’56 Gul insert of copy seems to be lost in time. Click on COMMENTS to get remains of the day and an example of the conversation of the day.


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The Houses of Williamstown : a series … The original teaser from October 2009

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The Houses of Williamstown: Zeta Psi … ( A Re-issue)

(This is the 15th in a series of 16 posts) This series ran in 2009 … click Comment for complete text.
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Hollander Hall Live Cam

Seems to update every few minutes. Just hit refresh.

In a few years (how many?), Williams could sprinkle dozens of cameras all around campus, each streaming live, high definition video on to the web. Will it? Should it?


An Obvious Proposal: Make Weston Residential

I read with delight that the OCC is moving from Weston and integrating with the Alumni Office.  This makes sense in and of itself (and probably warrants a post of its own), but the bigger benefit, in my view, is reopening Weston to its natural and proper use: upper class housing.   In the article discussing the future of Weston, there was no mention of turning it into housing.  Failure to do so* would be, simply, an enormous mistake for the following reasons:

  • It just makes sense, from a campus planning perspective, to have an uninterrupted row of residential row houses.  These houses represent the heart of senior (and on weekends, campus social) life.  For decades, Weston has been the outlier, remaining dark on weekends while its neighbors are teeming with life.  Why keep it as such?
  • Williams has gradually and slowly increased its enrollment in recent years, with entering classes moving from around 529 to around 550.  Over four years, that is an extra 84 people on campus (or, say, 70, accounting for study abroad and attrition).  Yet, not only has Williams not built additional housing, it has actually eliminated a few coops, and about 12 years ago it turned Bascom, which used to be the single best dorm on campus, into the Admissions Office.  What does that mean?  Fewer seniors getting prime rooms, more sophomores in doubles, and less common space in campus dorms.  Turning Weston into housing would alleviate all of those issues.

More thoughts below the break Read more


News on the Sawyer Library Project

To the Williams Community,

That loud cracking sound you may have heard over the weekend marked a longed-for thaw of the freeze on major campus construction.

Encouraged by the great educational opportunities afforded by the proposed new Sawyer Library, by the readiness of the construction plans, and by generous pledges in recent months that bring total philanthropic support for the new library to more than half of its $80 million cost, the Board of Trustees has approved my recommendation that work on the new Sawyer begin at the start of the construction season this spring.

Part of the larger Stetson-Sawyer Project, which included Hollander and Schapiro Halls, the library was put on hold when the global financial crisis hit two years ago. We will now be able to provide for the arts, humanities, and social sciences the kinds of wonderfully effective teaching and learning spaces that Schow Library affords the sciences and math. Drawings and floor plans for the project can be viewed at .

The schedule anticipates opening the new Sawyer Library, to be attached to a renovated Stetson Hall, in 2014. This will be followed by the razing of the current library building and the construction in its place of a new green space that will connect Stetson/Sawyer with the Paresky Center and the Frosh Quad.

Our thanks go to the many people, led for years by Professor of Anthropology Michael Brown and College Librarian Dave Pilachowski, whose meticulous work produced such an exciting project, and to the faculty, staff, and students who have patiently endured a postponement that had been of indefinite length until this moment. And, of course, the deep gratitude of us all goes to our donors, a number of whom wish to remain anonymous at this time, for their great generosity and for their commitment to this project and this college.

The other project postponed by the recession has been the renovation of Weston Field, which is now being thoroughly reexamined to ensure that it meets the College’s needs. We’ll report more on the details of that process as they become clear.

I can’t tell you how deeply delighted I am to have on track a project as important to Williams as construction of the new Sawyer Library.

Best wishes,
Adam Falk


What’s Really Wrong with Housing: Statistics and More

To put it simply, I believe a closer analysis of the Neighborhood Review Committee reports will give a lot of insight into the recent actions the College has taken.

First, let’s examine the claim that “The 2009 survey data on Neighborhood housing make clear that students are dissatisfied.” That is from the Interim Report of the Neighborhood Review Committee, October 2009 [1]. This report described what the NRC found in May 2009 when they surveyed the student population. First of all, only 30% of the on-campus student body took the survey. That is not a lot. The report also says that more info was taken from past surveys, etc.

The Final Report of the Neighborhood Review Committee Part Two, April 27, 2010, notes that “[student surveys] added nuance to the most vocal complaints [about the neighborhood system]: some student dissatisfaction could be attributed to factors other than the neighborhood system and a substantial proportion of students believed the overall goals of the system were worthy” (1) [3].

The report continues, “Indeed, during the public forums of the fall, the NRC did not hear as much public criticism about the Neighborhood system as some of us imagined we would hear.

The comparative lack of criticism this academic year does not necessarily mean that the dissatisfaction had gone away or that many students were suddenly pleased with the Neighborhood system as a whole or with their individual Neighborhood. But it does suggest that what had been identified as dissatisfaction with the Neighborhoods was a complicated phenomenon” (1) [3].

Let’s take a closer look at the data to get a better understanding of these nuances. The class of 2009 was the last class to be under both the free-agency system and the neighborhood system, even though they were only in free-agency for their freshmen year. (Keep in mind that this is only the 5th year the neighborhood system has been around. It was instituted 2006-2007 [2].) They got the worst of both worlds–the un-unified freshmen experience and the lack of choice from the neighborhood system. At the time, they were randomly assigned neighborhoods, and penalized for trying to switch.
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What’s Really Wrong with the Housing System: It’s the Economy, Stupid

Hi. I’d like to use the opportunity of my first real post to introduce myself. I am Brad Polsky ’12. An Art History and Practice major, I like playing jazz and eating Italian food, amongst other things.

I am writing tonight about the housing system. If you’re reading this post, you probably already know about David Kane’s Housing Plan. If not, take a look at the posts entitled “Housing Seminars.” Dave’s plan is very detailed (18 pages long) and a good read.

However, as a student currently at Williams who is interested in the outcome of the housing debate, I cannot recommend Dave’s plan. My two main points are:

1) Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke
2) What may work in theory may not work well in practice.

I will then talk about what should be done to fix the current housing issues.

Everything’s Just Fine

In Dave’s executive summary, he gives a list of assumptions we have about housing. One that he neglects to include is that he assumes the housing system now is bad/inefficient/[insert other negative adjective here]. David says there is evidence for this: “students recognize this.” Which is funny, because he says a sentence later that he doesn’t know this but he’s sure that if students were polled they would surely agree with his view.

I’m not so sure about this. I live in Currier Neighborhood. I have friends in all other neighborhoods. Almost all people seem happy with their neighborhoods and houses, or, at the very least, are not miserable (I strongly agree with Dave on one goal of housing to minimize misery). One of my biggest issues with the system had been that it really locked you into your neighborhood, and you were penalized for trying to get out.

This has changed. There are no longer penalties for switching out. I know many people who have switched, to be closer to their friends, to get (in their eyes) better housing, or for other reasons. As I said, most people seem happy with the system and their individual situations, and if they are not they can easily switch.

And despite some of the neighborhoods not really being neighborhoods (i.e., Wood), the system has its own way of working. In Currier, the housing is rather homogeneous; there are no spectacular rooms or under par rooms. Dodd is acknowledged to have the worst sophomore housing, but housing junior and senior year in that neighborhood makes up for it. Spencer has Morgan (it used to have West; I’ll get to that later), and Wood has the beautiful row houses. As a Williams student in the neighborhood system gets older each year, she has a better pick of rooms in more locations. There is a logic to this system.
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A Tour of Sage

This video is a product of Unigo, which seems to be burning through its venture capital money at an alarming rate . . .

The video claims that 60% of Williams freshmen get singles. (Mission is almost all singles.) How does that compare with peer schools?


Your next home base in the Purple Valley?

Photo by Flickr user girl_named_fred

Do you recognize these accommodations? For decades, the Wigwam Cottages and associated gift shop have sat astride Route 2, high above its famous Hairpin Turn and featuring a terrific view of North Adams, Williamstown, Pine Cobble, and the Taconics. Although most Williams students and alumni have probably driven past dozens of times, I’d wager few have ever been inside the gift shop, let alone one of the cottages. (Although I have).

For the last couple of years, however, the Wigwam has been closed. But good news is on the horizon: the site has been bought and will be refurbished — by Berkshire business mogul Nancy Fitzpatrick, owner of Stockbridge’s luxurious Red Lion Inn and MassMOCA’s Porches Inn.

On Monday, a blog post at the Porches announced:

Phew! No more keeping it a secret! We have a fun new project to share with you all – The Wigwam Cabins, located along the Mohawk Trail in North Adams, just 5 miles from Porches. These 1930s gems are ours to lovingly restore, and we can’t WAIT to get going on it!

The Transcript has more details:

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Lasell Gym

Great article on Lasell Gym, presumably written by Dick Quinn.

They don’t make them like they used to.

A scant 83 years after the first renovation to the floor in Lasell Gym, one of the nation’s oldest collegiate gymnasiums still in use for Varsity competition, will have a total floor replacement beginning Aug. 9th. It’s expected to take about a month to replace the floor, but there’s no way to replace the memories and history of the grand building that sits atop Spring Street in the heart of Williamstown.

Built in 1886, a full five years before the invention of basketball, Lasell had to be modified early in the 20th century to safely accommodate its most prominent occupant – Williams basketball. Lasell opened on May 26, 1886 with a 2:30 PM exhibition of boxing, wrestling, rings, horizontal bar, tumbling, and more.

Read the whole thing for lots of Williams history trivia.

One of my big undergraduate mistakes was to never have attended an men’s basketball game. Participating in the madness of an Amherst game there must have been something. Can any readers tell us about those games?


Creative Concept for Mount Hope Farm

Elm Tree House at Mount Hope Farm, like the Log, is a truly amazing space that has historically been underutilized by the college.  The daunting challenge it presents is its location several miles from campus, which really limits its potential, as well as its own strict useage guidelines.  So far as I am aware, it only really gets used for one senior dinner dance event per year, a few alumni events per year, plus the odd conference here or there like a leadership studies weekend.  I’ve only been there twice, and that is once more than most alums I know.  But it is a spectacular building, in a spectacular location, and a tremendous asset.

Williamstown native Sarah Sylvester created some amazing concept sketches for potential renovations / additions to the Mount Hope Farm property.  I can’t imagine the main Elm Tree House ever being so extensively modified, but I love her idea for an amazing wedding chapel on the property (see image reproduced below).  A few Williams officials commented on Sylvester’s concept:

“We’ve had a few ideas brought to us for the mansion, but nothing as well thought out as this one,” said Diana E. Prideaux-Brune, the associate vice president for facilities at Williams. …
Several Williams College officials have looked at Sylvester’s proposal, including Director of Public Affairs James Koselar.

“I’d say that it’s academically interesting, but the college has no intention to significantly renovate Elm Tree House,” Koselar said in an e-mail to “In terms of capital projects, our priorities remain construction of a new library and renovation of Weston Athletic Field.”

Prideaux-Brune said she hopes to meet with Sylvester in the near future to discuss some of her ideas.

“I think she did a great job. It’s an exciting proposal,” she said. “It’s big thinking, which I love. But with something that big, the ideas are not easy to implement.

“I suspect that something this major couldn’t happen right away, but some of her ideas could be implemented in our long-term planning.”

Chapel or no, I think it would be great if some of the use restrictions were lifted, and Elm Tree House could be used for more social functions, in particular weddings and/or events for those with a connection to either Williams or Williamstown.  It could even become a profit generator for Williams, while still being available for the paucity of annual college-related events it already hosts.  Do others have ideas for how to use this property?  Coolest off-campus dorm EVER?  Centerpiece of our effort to draw more interest from royal applicants?  Creepy Eyes Wide Shut-esque secret society clubhouse?  Wicked-awesome haunted house each Halloween?  Home base for annual Billsville Lebowskifests?  Portal to bizarro-Williams located in other dimensions?  Share  your thoughts here …


Ho Land All

An anonymous faculty member writes:

Hi Dave,

I thought you might be interested in this morning’s observed alteration of the sign above the newly christened Hollander Hall. The blue cans contained Bud Light, which is not a particularly auspicious beverage. I don’t know if an endorsement of that brand was intended.

1) Excellent question! Perhaps the seniors (?) responsible for this performance art could provide some insight . . .

2) Could some Women’s Studies experts provide commentary on the usage of “Ho” in this display?

3) Can you think of something more clever that these students could have done instead? If we are going to have performance art, we want it to be high quality.

4) By the way, this anonymous faculty member is not the same as this one, or this one or this one or this one. Five different faculty members providing scoops to EphBlog, while several others have also joined in our comment threads at various times. Pretty cool, eh?


Williams Needs a Purple Cow (Striped with Yellow Highlights)

So how do we get one of these installed at the entrance of Hopkins Hall?


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