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Hollander Hall

from: Adam Falk
date: Fri, May 7, 2010 at 8:30 AM
subject: Naming the North Academic Building

To the Williams Community,

As we conclude the academic year, I am delighted to announce that the North Academic Building, completed in 2008, will from here on be known as Hollander Hall, named by Richard and Jackie Hollander in honor of their sons Jordan and Adam, both members of the Class of 2010.

The Hollanders funded the building’s construction several years ago through one of the largest gifts made to The Williams Campaign, requesting at the time that their contribution remain anonymous until their sons’ graduation.

There are at least three things to celebrate here. The most immediate is the exceptional dedication and generosity represented by this gift. Richard and Jackie have said that they made it because of the effect they could see Williams having on the lives of its students, their understanding that the building resided at the center of a thoughtful plan to enhance the College’s academic facilities, and their deep admiration for the leadership of Morty Schapiro.

We celebrate also the extraordinary teaching and learning that Hollander Hall makes possible. Classrooms, language facilities, an archaeology lab, offices that can accommodate tutorials, gathering spaces that encourage spontaneous conversation—all of these advance the kind of activities that lie at the heart of our community of learning.

Our third celebration is of the College’s commitment to environmental sustainability, as Hollander Hall, along with its companion, Schapiro Hall, earned LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold status.

On behalf of the countless students, faculty, and staff whose experiences will be enhanced by this remarkable structure, I deeply thank the Hollanders for this truly transforming gift to Williams.

Best wishes,
Adam Falk

Thanks to ’10 for the heads up. I never would have guessed this name.


Photo of new Purple Pub exterior

From iBerkshires:

Thanks to JeffZ for the link.


Reopening The Log

From The Eagle:

Williams College officials are considering a student-generated proposal which would result in regular hours for the Log, a small white college-owned building on Spring Street that once functioned as a social center with a pub-like setting.

Since it closed in 2007 to coincide with the opening of the Paresky Center on the campus proper, students have regularly expressed a yearning for the Log’s reopening, saying it would fill a void in the social life of many college students.

This proposal, submitted by members of an association of students dedicated to improving the college and student life known as the Gargoyle Society, laid out limited hours and days of operation, with a short menu of beer and wine, and a limited menu of sandwiches.

Was this proposal really driven by the Gargoyles? If so, kudos.
Read more


The Once and Future Log

In what seems like a twice-per-decade occurrence, students are involved in an effort to revitalize The Log, which, apparently, has lay virtually dormant since 2007.  Sometimes these efforts will go strong for a year, but inevitably interest / enthusiasm seems to wane as the generation motivated enough to establish a new tradition (which oftentimes is quite popular) graduates.  More details, and a petition drive, can be located at the Willipedia page on point.

If President Falk wants to make an instant impact on campus, some creative thinking about how to better utilize one of the very best, if not the best, social spaces on campus would be a great place to start: in particular, some sort of mechanism to keep momentum and funding in place from year to year would be ideal … perhaps using The Log more during the early weeks of First Year, to establish its value early on in students’ tenure at Williams.  No student space has remotely the same character or history, not to mention a perfect location on Spring Street.

Fortunately, it seems like there is a lot of student enthusiasm and commitment behind this latest effort.  Maybe Ephbloggers with fond Log memories could share their thoughts on the best past uses of the The Log?  A history of what has worked, and what hasn’t, over the years at the Log might help guide current students in their efforts.  The biggest problem will, of course, always be the drinking age, which is what destroyed the Log as a central part of campus social life, to begin with.  Any viable plan for the Log HAS to feature a wide array of options that will be equally attractive whether or not alcohol is involved.

I believe that weekly Pub Trivia, mentioned in the WSO thread, is a great idea that would attract a lot of students to the Log.  In the fall, football and pizza / wings Sundays would likely be popular; so would, I imagine, a March Madness set-up.  Anyone else have thoughts for ideas that would attract those under and over 21 alike?


What About the New Library?

From College Librarian (and all around excellent guy) David Pilachowski:

A fair question is “How can we be sure that new Sawyer Library, as it will be called, will provide a long-term answer to campus library needs for 50-100 years?” With the assistance of the Bohlin Cywinski Jackson architects, and the involvement of the Stetson/Sawyer Building Committee, librarians and information technologists, and the President’s Senior Staff, the building has been designed to meet changing needs over the years ahead. In particular, the collection area will accommodate compact shelving on all levels; an off-site shelving facility can accommodate growing collections while ensuring that users are not squeezed out by books; raised floors and demountable walls in areas most impacted by technology changes will facilitate repurposing space; and standard floor to ceiling heights will allow conversion of selective collection space to such people-centric functions as classrooms and academic support should that be desired.

1) The College ought to put the plans on-line so that the rest of us can take a peak. (UPDATE: Here are some details. Thanks to Pilachowski for the link.)

2) I have a great deal of faith in Pilachowski, Professor Michael Brown and all the other folks engaged in this project. I bet that the new Stetson/Sawyer (or INSERT-YOUR-NAME-HERE) will be fantastic.

3) I still wish that the College had not engaged in this particular spending spree, but, at this point, there is no going back.

4) What is the carbon emissions impact of this new construction? Williams won’t tell you! Nor will it include that impact in its aren’t-we-special report on carbon emissions. This is the main environmental hypocrisy of Williams: We claim to be reducing carbon emissions, but then we don’t count the carbon emissions associated with new construction.

5) My main concern is with “repurposing space.” What percentage of the total floor space is devoted to books and periodicals? My prediction is that, within a decade, less than 10% of that space will be needed. Anything not online, and easily reachable via Kindle/Ipad/Android, will be invisible and unwanted. As long as most/all of that space can, easily, be turned into classrooms, meeting spaces and so on, I am satisfied.


Stetson and the Chapin Library

From Wayne G. Hammond, who is a librarian at the Chapin Library of Rare Books:

Replying to multiple comments:

Stetson was built to hold the College Library, the Chapin Library, and faculty offices, built around a central stack core. In the fifties, the stacks were extended to the east, and in the sixties an annex was added which housed the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research. When the College Library moved into the new Sawyer building in 1975, the Chapin Library and the original stacks remained intact but the stacks addition was divided into the small faculty offices Ronit mentions. It was this latter space that was the labyrinth; the original, 1923 building is relatively easy to navigate.

There are two formal facades, the one pictured on the west and another on the south, representing the two Stetson Hall libraries. The south door was the “Chapin Library entrance” as it’s nearest the grand staircase going up to the Chapin on the second floor (not the top: there are two floors more, with faculty offices and classrooms). There are inscribed names on both facades, an eclectic mix chosen by the architect.

Stetson is to be taken back to the 1923 building and generally restored, with a new Sawyer Library attached on the east: more can be read about the plans here. The upper floors will still have faculty offices and classrooms. The faculty lounge will revert to what it was designed to be, a grand reading room. The Preston Room will be dismantled and reconstructed within the new library. The Chapin Library will return to its original splendid rooms, connected to additional spaces in the new building, all shared with College Archives.

As for “opening again someday soon”, the Chapin and College Archives moved to temporary quarters in the old Southworth Schoolhouse (corner of Southworth and School streets) in July 2008 and reopened for business that September.

Wayne Hammond
Chapin Library


Law and Orders …

The Republican response to the State of the Union speech was given in the Virginia State capital building by the newly elected governor. The Virginia legislature is the oldest in the Western hemisphere (1609).

Without any comment on the response which by design does not specifically reference the State of the Union speech, I add to your enjoyment (or not) of the response with this sidebar on the setting in which it was given

Thomas Jefferson is credited with the architectural design of the new Virginia State Capital building, which was modeled after the Maison Carrée at Nîmes in southern France, an ancient Roman temple. Jefferson had the architect, Charles-Louis Clérisseau, substitute the Roman Ionic Order over the more ornate Corinthian column designs of the prototype in France. The General Assembly first met in the building in October, 1792.

Yes, bring back those memories of Whit Stoddard and drawing the orders in your notebook. And the interpretation that Doric was suggestive of strength and simplicity, Ionic of elegance and education, and Corinthian of affluence and power.

Jefferson used architecture as a subtle statement of his own style.


The Houses of Williamstown: Knitting Club (Kappa Chi) …

A special addition to the 16 part series.
KX Secret


Williams Online

Let’s just say that this little post of Williams on Twitter ballooned a bit, shall we?

Ideas on how better can this post be organized?


Williams on Facebook:



Event Information/Calendars:



Reading as an active enterprise

Photo credit Getty Images / Lonely Planet

Photo credit Getty Images / Lonely Planet

Professor Michael Lewis has an article in the WSJ about the Fisher Fine Arts library at the University of Pennsylvania. This stood out for me:

Except for our dwellings, there are few buildings we come to know intimately. A college library is one exception, a building we tend to inhabit fully, day and night. And even if critics did not respect Furness’s brooding building, its users have always loved it, as much for its tactile richness as for its generous light and space.

(h/t CHenry and Alan Cordova ’06)

Ken Thomas asks:

Anyone want to talk about Sawyer as a lived space? Or what it means to destroy a living space?


Go Green. Faster.

Do colleges and universities have a responsibility to Go Green at a faster rate than the rest of society? At least one funding body in the United Kingdom thinks so:

Launching a new consultation on how the higher education sector can reduce its carbon footprint, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) said universities should aspire to cutting emissions 50% by 2020 against 1990 levels, and 100% by 2050. The 2020 aspiration is much tougher than the government’s legally-binding target of reducing national emissions by 34% in the same time frame. The consultation also reiterates the government’s previous proposal to link universities’ funding to their greenhouse gas emissions reductions from 2011.

Diana Warwick, chief executive of Universities UK, which also worked on the proposals, said: “We support this goal. Universities, as educators, have been playing a vital role in moving the sustainability development agenda forward, and seeking a reduction in carbon emissions is key to this.”

While the study and story in question involves the UK, which has a different but hardly alien academic (and political) culture, surely the question pertains to academia generally and to Williams in the particular.

[note: comments 1, 2, 5, 6, and 12 below moved over from separate emissions discussion on Speak Up! – Ronit]


Talk Architecture To Me


One part of the Conversation I’ve always enjoyed the most, whether online or in person, has been the discussions of the architecture at Williams and in Williamstown. I desperately need a pick-me-up. Talk architecture to me. Come educate my eye. Pull up a chair. I’ll spot you to a round of virtual cold drinks.


First Impressions of Williams

By this I actually mean the campus, not the school generally (nor anything one would glean from the absurdity of recent Ephblog posts).  The previous, ahem, “discussion” about buildings and the various architectural styles, as well as running through the Facilities Property Book made me think about my first trip down Route 2 and into town.

I was coming from the Boston area and out along Route 2 in mid-late August.  Some bits of leaves were already beginning to change color, and I have to admit it was one of those picture perfect New England afternoons.  I loved the varied styles of the buildings, the (to my naive eyes) adorable quaintness of having essentially one street of business in town, the iconic Congo Church.  And as quick as anything, we were already through town and passing curving southward down toward the Clark.

I remember being charmed, intrigued, a bit surprised there weren’t more obvious “foresty” areas given that I had read about Hopkins Forest in the catalog (my recall of the campus map was less than perfect – hey, I was 16).

I forget where we stayed, but the woman recommended Hobson’s Choice for dinner; Mom & I had a  great dinner.  It remains one of my favorite Billsville restaurants.  The next morning we wandered around campus, shopped on Spring St. (had to get something from Goff’s of course), and had breakfast at the Cobble Cafe (sadly, no more).

What do any of you remember about your first trip to Williams?

Can I make this post take up any more space to move other things down the page?

Yes. ;)

** Portions of this may have appeared in an earlier comment to another post, I can’t remember.


“Silence” in Schow

From the Library Journal:

Sometimes, though, sound problems don’t get recognized until after a new building opens. The Schow Science Library’s 40′ ceilings, skylights, and surfaces of brick, glass, and plasterboard were beautiful when the $9.56 million, 30,000 square foot building opened in 2004, but they also posed a problem. The slightest noise was distracting. Intermittent activity noise (such as whispers, the opening of a book, a stapler in action, pencils dropping, or keyboarding) created acoustical startle, which occurs when an unexpected sound suddenly permeates an area, distracting patrons throughout the space.

The solution found for the problem may surprise you a bit.


Williams gains some prime Manhattan real estate

From EphNotes:

Williams Club Donates Its Building to College

The Williams Club has completed the donation of its Manhattan
headquarters to the College, which is leasing it to the Club to continue
its operations. The move benefits both sides financially.

“The College is very grateful to the Club and its leaders for the care
that has gone into the planning of this generous gift to Williams,”
Interim President Bill Wagner said. “It represents the close, fruitful
working relationship that has long existed between the College and the

The Williams Club was founded in 1913 by such noted alumni as Herbert
Lehman and Francis Lynde Stetson, and counted President Harry Garfield
as its first contributor.  The Club has operated out of its present
structure, a double brownstone at 24 East 39th Street, since 1924. The
property was recently appraised at $21 million.

“This gift fits well with the Club’s purpose, which since its founding
has been ‘to advance the interests and influence of Williams College in
New York,'” said Jeff Urdang ’89, President of the Club’s Board of
Governors. “In addition, the College has been gracious when the Club
building needed renovations. This has been a chance for the Club to
return that generosity.”

The Club will continue to operate as before, offering its members
lodging, food, beverages, programs, and reciprocal club access.

A celebration of the gift, involving senior representatives of the
College and Club, will take place at the Club on Oct. 1.

  1. Is the college charging anywhere near a market rate for the lease? If not, what is the extent of the subsidy being granted by Williams to the club and its mostly-wealthy members?
  2. Is the club’s revenue anywhere close to where it needs to be in order to afford such a prime location?
  3. What exactly is the accounting treatment of a gift like this? Does it help the endowment in any way?
  4. In the long term, this is a valuable addition to Williams’ assets regardless of what happens to the club, which probably will not survive much longer than the current generation of elderly patrons who seem to frequent the place.

Here, by the way, is the club’s location –

View Larger Map

What do you think Williams should do with the building?



The Boston Globe published a ludicrous article today about William Rawn, the architect behind the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance, aka Donald Trump’s Neon Pompadour (emphases added):

Bill Rawn talks down to you as an equal. Almost 6 feet 8, he glides through a room like an elegant giraffe. You learn when you engage him that he is a listener, not a talker. He absorbs far more than he emits.

It is this listening skill, along with great talent, that has helped make him a stunning success as an architect.

“Listening is a problem for architects,” Rawn says. “In architecture school, we do our own projects. There is no client, no budget. You’re doing it all by yourself. You find your own voice, which is good, but you don’t learn to listen to other people.”

Unlike architects with defiant signature styles, he does not design Statements.

“He is modern and contemporary, but not Frank Gehry off-the-wall,” says Winthrop Wassenar, former director of facilities at Williams College and project manager for Rawn’s ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance which opened in Williamstown in 2005.[…]

No one quite knows how to describe Rawn the architect. You hear the words “elegant” and “understated” a lot. Some call him conservative, but compared to what? He is no hidebound proponent of red brick. He prefers the word “contemporary,” and that sounds right.[…]

Today, Rawn is the go-to architect by elite colleges and universities for performance centers and dormitories. What he is most proud of are his repeat clients, such as Dartmouth, Williams, Swarthmore, and MIT.

His buildings are easy on the eye, and they wear well. He incorporates natural light whenever he can with extensive use of glass. Many of his buildings are LEED certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for environmental sustainability. In renovating an ancient swimming pool building at Bowdoin into a recital hall, he used a geothermal system to heat and cool the place.[…]

[H]e garnered high praise for his theater at Williams [Ed: from whom?] and for The Music Center at Strathmore in Bethesda, Md. the second home of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra that opened in 2005. But his range extends to a horticultural center at Mount Auburn Cemetery, a synagogue in Wellesley, a federal courthouse in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and a luminous little fire station in Columbus, Ind.

What do they have in common? Rawn is a design democrat with a small “d’’ who likes to put people from all walks of life close together, “rubbing shoulders,’’ as he puts it. Things can get tight, as in the Williams theater lobby, which is fine with him. He believes in density.[…]

And now, a retrospective of Dick Swart’s interpretation of the theatre Rawn designed:




So, Parent ’12 posted this link on “Speak Up” several days ago. And (no) thanks to her, I have been thinking about honeybuns ever since.

But I also could not help but notice, that unlike the “Cheese Bread” post, not one blogger has waxed eloquent about this supposedly irresistible Paresky delicacy.

Jeff’s “Anonymous Professor made mention of them, they are listed as one of the draws on the Reunion Schedule, they somehow played a part in one of Morty’s holiday cards, yet not a single Ephblogger has rhapsodized about the Paresky Honeybuns.

What is the story? How long have they been around? Are they as good as they look? And are they really served up “grilled”, with butter!?

(Sheesh, my heart is clenching just thinking about it.)


Tales from the Darkside

So, I attended Amherst’s Commencement this weekend … thought I’d share a few tidbits:

— Overall, like Williams, Amherst is incredibly well-run, and the school put on a memorable weekend for all involved.

— Common theme from every speaker throughout the weekend: predictably, the economy.  Kind of got depressing after awhile, actually.  I felt that, while certainly the collapse and its implications needed to be acknowledged, it was overemphasized.  The only person who achieved the proper balance in my view was the student class speaker, who noted the economy but still made his speech primarily about the Amherst experience.  (He is a tour guide, and employed a very clever framing device in which he reflected on truths and lies told on the Amherst tour.  That also yielded the best line of his speech, something to the effect of, I’ve given the Amherst spiel so many times that I could almost recite it walking backwards …).

— Speaking of which, the seniors all listened to brief auditions for class speaker prior to voting on the winning orator.  The winner was, I imagine not coincidentally, outstanding (despite noting that “Williams College is a horrible college,” a reference to a t-shirt I observed on more than one occasion on campus).  This is an idea Williams should steal.

— On the topic of stealing ideas, Amherst stole Williams’ Olmstead Awards idea (Amherst has been awarding these for 12 years, Williams for 25).  To add insult to injury, Amherst named its version of these awards for Zephenia Swift Moore.  But, if Amherst is going to steal something, this is definitely something worth stealing.

— There is, however, no outside speaker, just the college President.  That went, ummm, far less spectacularly.  (The first ten minutes of the speech involved a Cliffs-notes recap of the financial crisis, followed by the President’s opining that individual greed rather than collective responsibility was responsible — yes, it really was that platitudinous.  He officially lost the crowd about two minutes in ….).

— There is no equivalent to the student-centric Ivy Exercises, which I thought was a shame.  Like Williams, Amherst does have a Baccalaureate Service (which, as one might expect from a NESCAC school, was sufficiently politically correct and featured a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Catholic, Jewish, Christian, Orthodox, and non-believer component).

— Random senior class tradition: each senior received a wooden walking cane for graduation — which led to the odd sight of a huge number of 22 year-olds employing those canes later that afternoon, not to mention the equally odd sight of bunch of canes going through metal detectors at the airport later that evening.  Of course I am biased, but I think the watch-dropping kicks that particular tradition in the butt :) …

— Coolest thing by far at Amherst: its Museum of Natural History.  The brand new building is spectacular (not to mention the only noteworthy contemporary building on campus), and the contents are even more spectacular.  Definitely worth a visit if in the area.  On the other hand, I’d skip the art museum, which (predictably) is far, far inferior to the WCMA.

— Most impressive thing about the physical plant: the dorms.  All of the frosh dorms are newly renovated and are incredible, one in particular which used to house the prior incarnation of the Natural History Museum and resembles a ski lodge at Vail.  Any tour going through the most newly-renovated frosh dorm is sure to come away impressed.  Amherst has also recently constructed two huge, gorgeous upperclassmen dorms, both with spectacular views.

— Least impressive thing about the physical plant: everything else.  Amherst is way, WAY behind Williams in terms of its non-dorm facilities.  The Amherst student center is definitely looking worse for wear (stylistically, it reminded me of the interior and new addition to Hopkins — unsurprising considering the buildings were built at the same time — only a lot shabbier).  Paresky absolutely destroys its interior, both aesthetically and in terms of functionality, and I actually prefer the Paresky exterior as well (the Amherst exterior is not nearly as daring or ostentatious as Paresky, so some might prefer it, but it is boring and the design is not aging well at ALL).  There is, moreover, no Goodrich equivalent so far as I can tell.  The main Amherst library is in even worse shape than Sawyer, believe it or not.  The lone dining hall on campus doesn’t come close to matching Williams’ dining facilities / options.  The science complex seems to approximate Williams’ science complex prior to the construction of the Unified Science Center.  Other than the building that houses the Natural History Museum, none of the academic buildings struck me as particularly impressive.  Amherst is in the middle of a fund raising drive, which I learned will support major renovations to its science and library complexes, but Williams is definitely WAY ahead in terms of physical plant needs in all areas but for dorms (and even when it comes to dorms, Williams is in MUCH better relative shape, as Williams has recently renovated most of its dorms, just not to the spectacular degree as Amherst).  I imagine to do the job right, Amherst will have to spend nearly as much on renovating its library as Williams’ remaining obligation on the new Sawyer.  And that still leaves Amherst with massive prospective outlays on crucial student life and science facilities if it hopes to keep up with the Williamses.

(*NB: I realize some on this blog have recently opined that physical plant expenditures contribute little to the educational experience; I am not trying to argue either way here, but rather simply make an observation.  Also, I don’t think the different levels of physical plant outlays reflect a difference in philosophy between the institutions, but rather a difference in timing.  Because the new buildings Amherst has constructed / gut-renovated are just as over-the-top luxurious as the newer buildings on the Williams campus).

— It would be very, very difficult to distinguish (without the aid of t-shirt slogans) a group of 20 random Amherst students vs. 20 random Williams students.  The only SLIGHT difference I noted is that there seemed to be a bit more of a stark divide, both in appearance and socialization, between jocks and non-jocks at Amherst, while at Williams there might be a bit more of a continuum.  But perhaps that observation was influenced by my preconceived notion on that point.

— Amherst’s senior class t-shirt: I Survived Swine Flu.  Awesome.

— There is no single location on Williams’ campus that is nearly as gorgeous or memorable as Amherst’s enormous, impressive central quad.  (Although I do believe Williams’ campus will at least finally have a similar true functional and aesthetic “center” between Stetson and Paresky once the Stetston-Sawyer project is completed).  But the Williams campus feels larger and less cloistered, is more interesting / diverse in terms of architectural styles, and offers a far greater variety of  noteworthy settings (Berkshire Quad, the row houses, the science quad, Mission Park area) than Amherst, which outside of the absolutely stunning main quad area, felt sort of like a closely-clumped and randomly arranged afterthought.  Without a doubt, the difference in architectural styles mirrors the difference in mascots and school colors: the Williams campus feels open, quirky, and fun, whereas Amherst’s feels traditional, impressive, and stuffy.  On the other hand, Amherst does not have to deal with Route 2, which is a huge plus.  In terms of natural surroundings, Amherst features one jaw-droppingly gorgeous view.  Williams, of course, features such views from almost everywhere on campus …

— Back on the topic of speakers, given that Clarence Otis is a businessman, his forthcoming address is expected to — and I am sure will — hit on the economy, but I hope that he and other speakers are not AS overwhelmingly focused on present economic conditions, and also discuss broader aspects of the Williams experience and the long-term future for graduates.  The last thing everyone in attendance needs is yet another sobering reminder of just how much the graduates’ lives are about to suck.


Stetson-Sawyer Update

Professor Michael Brown kindly provided this update on the Stetson-Sawyer project.

I’d been hoping to update the Stetson-Sawyer website but decided that it made sense to wait until the 100 percent drawings are delivered by the architects and the library gets re-priced. If the new estimates come in significantly under earlier ones, that would be good news that might accelerate the project–but it’s a longshot, even given the recession-driven rollback in the cost of labor and materials. The college has definitely modeled the impact of borrowing money to move the project forward, but for obvious reasons there has got to be continued improvement in the markets before the additional principal/debt service costs can be justified.

Code changes aren’t likely to hurt us unless the delay continues for several more years. I’m more worried about the risks of leaving Stetson empty for much more than two years. Empty buildings are notoriously difficult to police for leaks, etc. So I worry about damage to historic finishes over time.

Some wildly inaccurate things were said on Ephblog about the library project in posts a while back. No, Stetson cannot be reoccupied for any purpose without millions of dollars in code compliance costs and renovations, to say nothing of dealing with the impact of asbestos removal, now completed, in the 1950s-era stacks addition. It therefore makes no sense to do anything to the building until we’re ready to build the library. The notion that going electronic saves libraries vast sums of money is a canard, or at least a gross oversimplification. There are some economies associated with going electronic with serials (journals), but the picture with reference works and monographs is more complicated, especially since publishers sometimes charge more for electronic copies than paper ones. People forget that storing mission-critical electronic records requires constant data migration, backups, and software upgrades, all of which are expensive. Then there is the question of Chapin’s rare books and the Archive’s countless documents, which will have to be stored somewhere for the foreseeable future. So the construction of the offsite shelving facility was a smart move for holding down costs; cost per square foot is, I believe, less than 40 percent of the cost of on-campus library space, although you also have to consider staffing and transport costs, etc. The library has also gone deeply into sharing books with regional institutions via its ILL program.

Sawyer is the most heavily used building at the college in terms of daily visitors. If in the future Williams needs less space for books, that will allow the college to open more space for student seating, collaborative study spaces, IT resources, and the like. The library design was intentionally made generic enough to allow for repurposing much of the building’s space in the future. In my view, the risk that the new library, as designed, is too small is still somewhat greater than the risk that it’s too big, although this is admittedly a minority opinion among those involved in the project.


1) Thanks to Professor Brown for this comprehensive update. In general, the College underestimates how much of a demand their is for more detailed information from the community of Ephs. Kudos to Professor Brown for taking the time to keep us informed. If only other Williams faculty/officials were so accommodating . . .

2) I can’t speak for all the proponents of “going electronic,” but I was not suggesting that Williams itself build and maintain an electronic repository of books and journal articles. That would be stupid! And I certainly believe Professor Brown when he claims that it would be very expensive. Instead I (and, I think, all the other Ephs pushing this “canard”) are merely recommending that Williams make use of the efforts of other institutions. There are still fees involved, but I think (corrections welcome) that these charges are orders of magnitude lower than the costs of the College doing things itself.

Consider JSTOR, the premier on-line repository of academic journals. For a school like Williams, it costs around $3,000 per year. It’s an amazing resource. There is not a reason in the world for Williams to store a hard copy issue of any journal in JSTOR. Throw it all away. (Or, if you want to be safe, stick those old issues in some warehouse off-campus.) But the whole idea that Williams needs all these physical copies in the center of campus, when only a trivial number of students would even consider looking for a hard copy when the virtual version is available, is absurd.

Consider a book like The Game of Life. Just three years ago, there was no easy way to link to the story of the 1996 ought-to-have-been-Champions Williams women’s lacrosse team. Now, there is. Does Williams need to maintain a physical copy of books that appear for free on-line? No.

Now, of course, there are a lot of messy details to work out. The Chapin rare books and College Archives will need to be maintained by Williams. But 90% (at least) of the books and journals that sit in Sawyer right now do not need to be in the middle of campus. Get rid of them.

4) From the start, I think that I have been the most public critic of the entire Stetson-Sawyer project. You can be sure that, if the College knew 4 years ago what it knows now about its actual wealth, the plans would be very different. But that is spilt milk. Given the work that has already been done, what should the College do now?

Hard to say. The current Sawyer in between Schapiro Hall and YOUR-NAME-HERE Hall is a mess. Walking between those building is like being in a big city. It sure would be nice to get rid of Sawyer. And, I think, the costs of demolishing Sawyer are not that large. (True?) If so, I would like Sawyer to go and then see the amount spent on reconstructing Stetson cut in half, mainly by not expanding its current size. Is that realistic? I have no idea. It could be that, given building codes and what not, the College has no choice but to finish the project, more or less as designed.

Yet if I were a trustee on the campus construction committee, I would want to push on that point. Just how much would it cost to tear down Sawyer and do nothing to Stetson but the minimum necessary to get it up to code? Even in its current configuration, it is easy to imagine plenty of shared and solo study space, the primary purpose of a college library in this day and age anyway. Even better, all the office space would provide room for staff/materials from buildings like Jenness, Rice and Hardy, thereby allowing those structures to be used for student (co-op) housing, an excellent idea which was mentioned by Lizzy Brickley ’10 and Mike Tcheyan ’10 in their successful campaign for the College Council co-Presidency.

5) Is the College really considering taking on more debt? That would be bad. Leverage kills and Williams, with $260 million in debt, is already leveraged enough. I could imagine issuing some new debt while retiring old borrowing, but increasing the total indebtedness in the middle of the worst recession in several generations is a bad idea. Finish Stetson-Sawyer by all means. Just pay cash.

6) Handy collection of links and background on the project here.

Thanks again to Professor Brown for taking the time and trouble to keep us posted.


A New Spring Street?

So I know the Spring Street construction projects have been discussed at length here on Ephblog, but it really sunk in for me when I walked down to Tunnel City for coffee last Saturday. Construction/demolition has started (including a gaping hole where Subway/Purple Pub used to be), and notices have been posted on a few storefronts warning of further changes. It’s a little unnerving to think that by the time I graduate, Spring Street could have a totally different feel than when I first got here. So today I went out with my (low-quality, sorry!) camera and documented a few of these changes for those who aren’t able to see for themselves.

What was formerly the Purple Pub/ A Perfect Blend/ Subway- now a pile of rubble

What was formerly the Purple Pub/ A Perfect Blend/ Subway- now a pile of rubble

The space in between Lickety Split and the George Hopkins store (formerly the Hopkins Funeral Home(?))

The space in between Lickety Split and the George Hopkins store (formerly the Hopkins Funeral Home(?))


Note the planned changes underneath the coming soon sign (sorry about the glare)



Spring Street Demolition

From the Images Cinema blog:

The Hopkins Funeral Home is being demolished today. Also on the list to be demolished this week, the former Subway / Purple Pub building. hopkins

If anyone will be taking pictures of the Purple Cow in its last days of existence or during demolition, please post in this thread.


Stetson-Sawyer delayed

It’s official:

The complicated $80 million Williams College plan to attach a new library to Stetson Hall and tear down the existing library is on hold indefinitely.

When the project begins will depend on when the economy returns to stability, college officials said.

Those interesting in more information on the building project can attend Wednesday’s CC meeting, which will include a presentation by the Stetson-Sawyer committee. I think it very important that the student body look at these plans now – future generations of Ephs will have to live with our success or failure in getting the project right.

Readers may also want to see non-current versions of the construction documents, and this watercolor rendering of campus after the new library’s completion.

In other news, “infectiously idealistic members of the Williams College outing club” discussing “the possible salvation of the world” were featured in this New York Times article on travel in New Hampshire.


Honoring President Schapiro

To the Williams Community,

I am pleased to report that, as part of the recently completed Williams
Campaign, a group of trustees, alumni, and parents have come together to
provide the funds needed to name the South Academic Building in honor of the
College’s 16th President.

It is wonderful that succeeding generations of students, faculty, and staff
will now have a permanent reminder of the many ways their lives have been
touched by Morty. As he would be the first to point out, the accomplishments
of the past nine years have resulted from the collective work of all who
have been part of the College community, so in a significant way the
building honors you all.

Schapiro Hall will be dedicated during the April Board Meeting. At Morty’s
request, this will be done with little fuss. Plans are underway, though, for
an event this spring at which you can all convey your thanks directly to
both Morty and Mimi for their extraordinary time here.

Greg Avis ’80
Chair of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees.


The Madoff Student Center?

An anonymous tipster alerts us to the fact that a “David Paresky” is listed as a victim of Bernie Madoff’s scam in this document. Could this be the same David Paresky, Class of 1960, in honor of whom the Williams student center is named? We have reason to believe that’s quite likely.


1. Can you find the names of other prominent Williams donors on the list? Please list in comments below.

2. Are there any outstanding pledges to the Williams endowment that are secured by a portfolio of Madoff-centric assets?

3. Attempt to stir up pointless controversy: Should Williams follow the lead of Brandeis and sell off the WCMA’s holdings?


The Williams Campaign – Basic Questions about Finances

In the course of the tribute to President Schapiro that the College released today, penned by Trustee (and Presidential Search Committee Head) Greg Avis ’80, Avis noted that “The Williams Campaign surpassed its $400 million goal last year and in its final weeks is approaching $500 million.”

Until the recent financial crisis, I was not following the College’s finances closely. I would appreciate it if someone would answer a few questions to help me get a stronger foundation.

1) I believe that, while the College is on a fiscal year that ends in June, its fundraising campaigns are structured as being on a  calendar year. Does the quote from Avis mean that the College has raised nearly $500 million this calendar year (the reference to “last year” has me confused)? Is that all of its fundraising for calendar year 2008, or is it for a separate capital campaign to fund construction and perhaps other special programs (such as the earlier campaign to increase the endowment to fund the expansion of the faculty and thus enable the addition of more tutorials)? If it isn’t all of the fundraising, does anyone have any idea of how much else there might be and what it might be for?

2) (This is sickening.) Is it reasonable to assume that a third or more of the $500 million (and any other money raised this calendar year) has vanished into the black hole that has devoured a third or more of the endowment? Is it reasonable to assume that a good chunk of any year-end gifts might go the same way? 

3) The quote from Avis is quite upbeat, but does anyone know how the recent financial downturn has affected the fundraising stream at Williams? Except for my local food bank and food kitchen, every non-profit I know of is reporting that its fundraising intake is down dramatically for the whole calendar year and has slowed to a trickle in recent months.

4) How much money still needs to be raised for the construction projects (principally, the demolition of the Stetson additions, the construction of the new Sawyer, and the demolition of the old Sawyer)? Is this likely to be funded in a different way than the construction of the ’62 Center and Paresky (which involved issuing a considerable amount of debt)?

5) What do you think will happen when it comes time to set tuition for 2009-2010?



I was shocked and disheartened to read this in a WSO discussion thread about the (probably mythical) “South of the Border” sandwich:

Way back in the good ‘ol days when snackbar was in Mission it was some combination of grilled chicken, ciabatta bread, avocado and some kind of cheese. From what I understand they don’t make it anymore, and I know someone who is very upset by this fact.

Kids these days.

Those who remember the real good ol’ days will probably recall the Mission snackbar as a dingy and forgettable temporary exile for the snackbar from its rightful location at the center of campus. The place had very little personality (except a tiny bit gained through the addition of the original Baxter snackbar chairs), and making the long hike out to Mission on a wintry night was a terribly depressing experience for those of us who lived on the other side of campus.

I think the class of 2007 was the only one to experience all three iterations of the snackbar during their time at Williams (Baxter -> Mission -> Paresky), and I personally am still prejudiced in favor of the first one. The Paresky snackbar might acquire some of the personality and charm of the Baxter snackbar in a decade or two (if it lasts that long).

I realize that the paragraph above makes me sound like a crotchety old man, and yes, it does feel good.

In another snackbar item, current students should note that no, you should not be paying any tax at the snackbar. We used to pay tax, but Godfrey Bakuli on College Council got it repealed – and students should be watchful for any backsliding on this issue.


’62 Center a success sez the WSJ …

Adam Cole ’03 calls readers’ attention (particularly those who were comparing the building to the hirsute preferences of Donald Trump) to this article in the WSJ yesterday:


“Surprisingly listed as a success in the Wall Street Journal.

“Timelessness does not necessarily mean glancing backward. At Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., Boston-based William Rawn Associates was commissioned to design a new center for theater and dance. While the architects of putative icons concentrate on exterior effects, Rawn was more circumspect. “We usually tell our clients that they can chose three or four special things to spend extra money on,” he says. Following consultations with the college, these “special things” turned out to be the main performance space, a dramatic glass-enclosed dance studio, and a striking wood-lined lobby facing the town’s main street. These highlights take their place in a nuanced composition of glass, brick, limestone and wood that feels vaguely Scandinavian. While iconic buildings stand apart, the Williams theater and dance center is visually connected to its surroundings, contributing to a broader sense of place.”

Adam Cole ’03


Wintry Light

As winter approaches, one of the things I remember most from my time in Williamstown is the mesmerizing, ever-changing play of the light on the campus buildings and the Purple Valley mountains.

(copyright Dread Pirate Ruth; linked to her flickr stream)



(copyright Ledges; linked to her flickr stream)


Sign on the ’62 Center (a/k/a on EB as Trump’s Pompadour)










(copyright stenz; linked to his flickr stream)

One of my favorites from the williamscollege flickr pool.


From Morty, on Economic Uncertainty

Morty just sent out an all campus e-mail listing three steps the college will take in response to the current financial crisis:

1) Postpone for a year the renovation of Weston Field and the remainder of the Stetson-Sawyer project. This will preserve capital, put off additional debt interest payments, and provide time to better understand the depth and breadth of the economic downturn.

2) Reduce spending on other facilities renewal by around $3 million. We have very little deferred maintenance, so pushing some of this work off to the future makes sense when times are tight.

3) Not fill newly open positions except those deemed most essential…

Read the whole thing after the jump. Read more


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