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The Structures of the New Government

GoRP, the most knowledgeable new commentator at EphBlog, writes about my “adamant disapproval of the structures of the new government.” My central problem with Three Pillars is precisely that they failed to create a “new government.” All they really accomplished was to destroy the old.

Don’t believe me? Believe Nicholas Goldrosen ’20, former managing editor of the Record.

The chief weakness of the plan is its creation of a separate advocacy body, the Williams Student Union, and removing the funding and appointment powers to separate bodies. Student government at the College has power to advocate for students through three main channels: money, appointments and direct advocacy. This plan undercuts the prospects of using all three by siloing them into separate organizations. In this ideal relationship, a central body can use these powers in tandem to achieve its goals. Say, for example, that student government is rightly concerned with increasing support for students of underrepresented identities on campus. It could use its funding power to increase support to Minority Coalition groups (as CC has done). It could use its appointment power to select a student chair for the committee on educational affairs who’ll advocate for course offerings that support diversity, equity and inclusion. Finally, its executive officers could serve as points of contact to advocate for these concerns to senior staff.

However, if separate bodies are supposed to advocate for student concerns, fund and appoint, no such coordinated effort could ever occur. The members of the Union would have no power to fund, no power to appoint and indeed “no executive or bureaucratic power,” per the proposed constitution. There would be no individual student leaders who could liaise with and advocate to the administration as the CC executive board could. Furthermore, I’m not sure, given the more controversial of CC’s meetings this past year, how less leadership could be seen as the correct solution.

Exactly right. To the extent that EphBlog has an ideology, its central tenet is that giving more power and responsibility to students is a good thing. CC may not have been the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body, but it was something. It had weight. The Administration felt it was a force to deal with. The Three (and, soon, Two) Pillars will be much weaker, much less important.

Goldrosen concludes:

Yet the answer to our student government not using its powers wisely and properly should not be to divest ourselves of those powers by splitting them into a decentralized structure that will ultimately fail to advocate for students.

Read the whole thing. It is the best Record op-ed in the last few years.

Entire Goldrosen article below the break.
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Weight off of My Shoulders

This Record article provides an excellent overview of Three Pillars. Kudos to reporters Jeongyoon Han and Taryn Mclaughlin! Highlights:

Cabrera-Lomelí said he was “joyful” after hearing the news. “There is a weight off of my shoulders, off of [Sherman’s] shoulders, off of the Task Force…. The power is back in the hands of students, not in a room with [select] students.”

CC President Cabrera-Lomelí comes off as fairly buffoonish in this article. Is that fair? I am comfortable with CC presidents who take their responsibilities seriously enough that they really are a weight on their shoulders. I am comfortable with CC presidents who take a less serious attitude, recognizing that this is just student government at some tiny college, and nothing really matters. I find absurd a CC president (like Cabrera-Lomelí?), who acts like the job is serious and then destroys the very institution he has taken responsibility for.

Ryan Pruss ’20 concurred, particularly about the need for increased financial transparency.

No one loves transparency more than EphBlog! But wasn’t CC already fairly transparent, with live video of the meetings on Facebook and reasonably thorough meeting notes? And, to the extent it wasn’t transparent enough, then Cabrera-Lomelí and Sherman could have easily fixed this. Nothing (?) prevented them from, for example, putting every funding decision, indeed every funding request, on-line.

The Three Pillars will replace CC, which has received public scrutiny over the past year for its lack of student participation in elections; its bylaws, which were criticized as outdated and convoluted; its hesitance to fund Black Previews, or affinity programming for black students admitted to the class of 2023; and its decision not to grant registered student organization status to the Williams Initiative for Israel.

This seems like a great one paragraph summary of how we came to be here. Is it? (Commentary welcome!)

1) A big part of this debacle is certainly the pernicious influence of woke politics. If CC had just handed Black Previews money immediately, would Three Pillars exist?

2) Note how juvenile some of these complaints are. Student participating in CC elections has been low for decades. It is low at other schools. It will be low in the future. And that is OK! Students have better things to do. But a lack of participation is a lousy reason to abolish CC.

3) I agree that the CC bylaws were convoluted and outdated. (I do not know the history here, but, again, I think this was a product of misguided student reform efforts a decade (or more) ago. Who knows this history? Roberts Rules of Order are overkill for CC.) But, again, this was easy to fix. The bylaws can be changed by CC itself. Why didn’t Cabrera-Lomelí and Sherman just fix them? Why destroy a 50+ year old organization?

4) Did the WIFI issue play a role? I (naively?) see WIFI as a case where CC did the right thing from a woke point of view. That is, if you disliked CC’s hesitation about funding Black Previews, you would have applauded their decision to not recognize WIFI. Or did opponents of CC’s decisions — even though they disagree with and/or hate each other — just decide to gang up on CC as their common enemy? I am confused.

Entire article is below the break (because the Record can not be trusted to maintain its own archives).
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College Council History: 2012

Because there’s been a great deal of recent Ephblog implication (mostly from David) that College Council’s decades-long history at Williams demands a more cautious approach to its replacement, I wanted to dive a bit more into that history.

Here’s one interesting bit: College Council changed significantly in 2012 (in a referendum amendment, with 44% of the student body participating, of which 95% voted yes*, see https://collegecouncil.williams.edu/?p=1843).

So what changes happened?  Well, they were pretty significant:

A. Composition Section A.

The College Council shall be composed of:
1. The Co-Presidents or President
2. The Five Vice Presidents
3. The Treasurer
4. The Assistant Treasurer.
5. Four class representatives elected from each class

There’s much more in the amendment itself: https://collegecouncil.williams.edu/files/2012/09/Proposed-CC-Constitution.pdf.  Suffice it to say, the College Council that existed a month ago didn’t look much like the College Council that I knew from my time at Williams.  The Three Pillars plan changes the name of College Council (which, given its current unpopularity strikes me as probably a necessary rebranding), but I’m not convinced that the resulting student government structure is much more of a radical departure from the CC of 2019 than the CC of 2019 was from the CC that I knew.  Moreover, I suspect that student governance during my time at Williams differed significantly from that which David experienced: ACE and the Neighborhoods were respectively incredibly powerful influences on student governance while I was there, neither of which existed when David was a student.

Again, this isn’t to say that the Three Pillars plan is good, or that the amendment was proper.  My point is simply that closer inspection reveals that CC is far less of an unshakeable Williams institution than it might appear from a distance.

*To the extent you’re looking for precedent, this strongly supports my earlier contention that amending the CC constitution does not require 2/3 of the entire student body to vote in support.

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Three Pillars Nonsense, 5

Let’s spend a week going through this Three Pillars nonsense, the most absurd student reform movement in a generation. Disbanding College Council is a perfect example of Chesteron’s Fence — a change should be made only by those who understand the reasons for College Council in the first place. Day 5.

Even a glance at the Three Pillar Plan FAQs demonstrates the idiocy of this plan. (Recall that FAST is the Facilitators for Allocating Student Taxes and “are responsible for ensuring that registered student organizations and non-affiliated students can access funding for events that serve the interests of the Williams community.”) Examples:

Q: Can individual students receive funding from FAST?
A: YES, absolutely. Any individual student, even if they aren’t affiliated with an RSO, can receive funding, and the funding facilitators will help them write their budgets.

A random sophomore in Carter House can go to FAST and ask for, well, anything? How about a new big screen TV, the better to host gaming activities for him and his buddies? What could possibly go wrong? If you think that these scenarios aren’t possible, even likely, then you are a naif.

Q: Is it easier to get funding approved?
A: One of the most common complaints about the FinCom funding process was that the rules were hard to understand and many budgets were denied simply because the requestor didn’t understand the rules or how to write a budget. Under the new system, funding facilitators are available to help students write budgets which should eliminate this problem. In addition, no budget may be denied without requesting an amendment first, and it takes 4 out of 5 votes to deny funding.

An EphBlog parody, right? They can’t possibly be proposing this as a process for spending $500,000 each year . . . Indeed, they are!

1) I hate the implicit slur against generations of hard-working members of FinCom. Back in the day, there was no group of students on campus who worked harder (and without pay!) and who took their responsibilities more seriously. My understanding is that that dedication continued for the last 30 years. Has anyone heard differently? Has anyone heard that FinCom was not willing to help students prepare funding requests? Check out their page. Great stuff! Could you do better? I couldn’t. Odds that FAST will do better? Approximately zero.

2) In every money-disbursing organization on Earth, requests are “denied simply because the requestor didn’t understand the rules.” This is an unavoidable result of the human condition. FAST will, inevitably, do the same.

3) If only 2 FAST members are in favor, the budget goes through? And only one member is needed if only 4 members are at a given meeting? That is madness! What is going to prevent all the money from being used up in September? There are millions of dollars of (worthwhile!) projects that Williams students would like to spend money on. FinCom, sensibly, tries to spread the spending out over the course of the academic year. How will FAST do this if the default answer to every request is Yes?

4) What is to prevent the most obvious sort of back-scratching? Consider two members of FAST who happen to be friends, or at least willing to work together. One, a rugger, encourages the team to propose full uniforms for the rugby teams, including cleats. That is not unreasonable! Why shouldn’t a club team receive as much support from Williams as a varsity team. Another FAST member encourages the BSU, of which he is a member, to request funding for a three day trip to NYC, including hotels, food and tickets to Hamilton. That is not unreasonable! More funding for BSU might do a great job of helping the College’s recruitment efforts.

Now, given FAST’s structure, as long as these two members agree to not vote against each other’s favorite proposals, nothing can stop them.

Is there any member of the EphBlog community who thinks this is a sensible way of allocating student funds?

An even larger problem is that FAST does not have the history and institutional support of College Council to fall back on. FinCom worked because it was embedded in this history and structure. Its decisions also had to be ratified by CC, thereby providing a natural check on stupidity/dishonesty. What person/process will prevent FAST from running off the rails?

UPDATE: GoRP highlights, in a comment below, that several of the claims above are incorrect/implausible. See his analysis for details. And thanks for the corrections!

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Applications for FAST and The Williams Student Union are OPEN Apply now!

Congrats again! Together we created a new government that supports students. The time has come to constitute this government with voices across campus who are dedicated to the ideals of equity, efficiency, and advocacy outlined in their charge.

Submit your self-nominations for Funding Facilitators and the Williams Student Union before Sunday (02/23) at midnight! Self-nominations should be no more than 500 words and may include a photo of your choice.

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Three Pillars Nonsense, 4

Let’s spend a week going through this Three Pillars nonsense, the most absurd student reform movement in a generation. Disbanding College Council is a perfect example Chesteron’s Fence — a change should be made only by those who understand the reasons for the College Council in the first place. Day 4.

Is any aspect of this debate influenced by the Great Awokening?

1) I don’t know. Informed commentary welcoming!

2) Seems like current CC co-presidents Ellie Sherman and Carlos Cabrera-Lomelí are, personally, fairly woke. At least I remember some commentary to that effect during the election. Not that there is anything wrong with being Woke. Au contraire, mon frère! But, traditionally, the core function of College Council — managing its own affairs/elections and distributing money to student groups< --- has been independent of partisan politics. How much money to give The Elizabethans is not a question which maps easily on to contemporary US politics.

3) Did last year’s big blow ups — Wifi, African-American visting days funding — play a causal role? Or was this change always in the works?

4) Does anyone else find it sleazy that Sherman and Cabrera-Lomelí would run for office on a fairly standard Do-a-better-job-at-CC-platform and then, once elected, blow up the institution? I do! If they had ran and won with this promise, then fine. But they didn’t. (Corrections welcome.)

5) Any forecasts for how the new institutions will work? I predict disaster — or, at best, I predict that, in a year or two, we will end up with CC all over again, with all the same strengths and weaknesses — but have not gone through the details yet.

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Three Pillars Nonsense, 3

Let’s spend a week going through this Three Pillars nonsense, the most absurd student reform movement in a generation. Disbanding College Council is a perfect example Chesteron’s Fence — a change to be made only by those who understand the reasons for College Council in the first place. Day 3.

Competent social engineers know that:

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

Is there any evidence that Three Pillars has done this? Not that I can see. (Contrary evidence welcome!) Maybe (maybe!) there were discussions about the recent performance of College Council. But I doubt that those discussions involved any testimony about CC before the arrival of these students on campus. I see no evidence that they wrote down anything that they found. Did these naifs know the first thing about the history of CC, the changes that were been made over the last 15 years, the reasons for those changes? Can they tell us about the amendments in 2016, the new constitution of 2012, the debates about CC in the decade before that? No. They are ignorant of that history.

They found a fence and they have no idea why the fence is there.

However, an ignorance of history might be (partly!) redeemed by a knowledge of the present. How much do the Three Pillars crowd know about how student government is handled at peer schools? Has Pomona gone through similar debates? Has Swarthmore made dramatic changes? How different is the current CC from student government at other NESCAC schools? Again, they had the time and the resources to display competence. They could have investigated these issues, wrote a report and educated the Williams community. They did none of that.

Laziness, incompetence and subterfuge are my three favorite explanations for these failures. What are yours?

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How to Amend the College Council Constitution

I’m sorry to post up a storm (but I’m on a roll!).  Here’s my reading of the applicable part of the CC constitution (which I’ve copied below the fold).

Article VII, Sec. B requires that any amendment be “proposed by four-fifths majority of the College Council” and “ratified by a two-thirds majority of the student body voting in a referendum.” Article VII, Sec. A then requires that, for a referenda to be valid, at least 1/3 of students must vote in it. Section A (“Referenda”) also requires that two weeks notice be given, but Section B of Article VII (“Constitutional Amendments”) modifies Section A, and Section B only requires that “College Council [] take appropriate measures to inform and educate the student body about the changes proposed.” In short, I don’t actually think that there’s a two-week notice requirement for referenda that amend the constitution.

So, to properly amend the CC constitution you need to:

(1) have a proposal supported by 4/5 majority in CC;
(2) publicize the resulting referendum to the student body in an “appropriate” way that “inform[s] and educate[s] the student body about the changes proposed”;
(3) hold a vote in which at least 1/3 of students participate;
(4) have at least 2/3 of “the student body voting in [the] referendum” support the amendment.

How did that pan out here?

(1) I don’t know what the CC support for this proposal was.  Did the CC even propose this?  I know the CC voted (11-9, I believe) to form this task force, but that’s different from supporting the task force’s proposal (and, regardless, 11-9 falls far short of the 4/5 majority required);
(2) One can argue that if two weeks of publication is the minimum required notice for normal referenda, <two weeks is not “appropriate” for something as important as a constitutional amendment abolishing CC.  But I’m not sympathetic to such a formalistic argument regarding notice, especially since the Section B requirement regarding notice is, unlike the Sec. A requirement, not so rigidly defined.  Because I haven’t heard anyone raise non-formalistic objections to the adequacy of the notice given, I’m going to assume that it was adequate and that this requirement was therefore met;
(3) There was a vote with over 1/3 student participation;
(4) Well more than 2/3 of the students who voted supported the amendment.

I see (1) as the most significant obstacle here to legitimacy.  And to be clear, I don’t think that’s a minor obstacle.  Can anyone weigh in regarding CC’s support (or lack thereof) for this proposal?

Isn’t this all a question for the CC parliamentarian?  

 

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Three Pillars Notice Problem: Just a Technicality?

I wanted to amplify a point made by PTC, because I think it deserves more attention:

So, actual notice of the plan had nine to ten days. How that and the year of general publicity leading up to the referendum meld into proper notice of two weeks is a technical matter.

Students had a lot of notice. They voted overwhelmingly to abolish the CC. The paper wrote about and endorsed this position prior to the vote as well.

I don’t think notice is a real issue. You can make a technocratic argument I suppose…

In short, from a purely formalistic standpoint, it does seem like the Three Pillars plan might not quite have complied with the CC guidelines re notice.  But the failure was minor, appears unintentional, and seems incredibly unlikely to have impacted the outcome.  And what is the desired ‘cure’ here?

In short, does a minor, technical, and almost certainly non-dispositive failure of notice invalidate the Three Pillars plan?  I lean toward ‘no,’ but I’d welcome arguments on both sides.

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Three Pillars Nonsense, 2

Let’s spend a week going through this Three Pillars nonsense, the most absurd student reform movement in a generation. Disbanding College Council is a perfect example of Chesteron’s Fence — a change should be made only by those who understand the reasons for College Council in the first place. Day 2.

The Williams Administration should ignore the results of this Referendum and continue with business as usual with the current College Council, even if some of its business don’t want to.

1) As our discussion yesterday demonstrates, Three Pillars failed to follow the rules. First, to have hold a Referendum, you must provide “two weeks of publicity.” They did not do this, so the results of the Referendum are invalid. Second, even if they did follow the rules, you can’t change/modify/abolish CC via a Referendum. Doing those things requires a Constitutional Amendment, the demands of which are (rightly!) much more onerous.

2) There are still students on College Council (I assume!) who are ready and willing to continue carrying on with their responsibilities, especially the distribution of funds. Their work should continue as normal. If the Three Pillars folks want to walk out, then let them. CC goes on regardless.

3) Students throw tantrums. Giving in to tantrums sets a bad precedent. A student vote can no more abolish an organization like College Council than it can abolish an organization like the Williams Economics Department or the Williams Ultimate Frisbee Club. Organizations have an existence independent of the opinions of the mob.

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What was to be a comment to abl…

David–having issues commenting, but thought this was relevant. Not sure what the issue is.

The referendum was presented as unconstitutional; it was stated that the vote turnout did not need to meet the requirements set out in the CC constitution; nor did the margin of victory; it was not publicized for two weeks; it was not an official amendment, etc.

That being said, the vote met the constitutional thresholds for turnout and margin of victory, and everyone knew what they were voting for or against. That leads me to an interesting question @abl and others–if the referendum was unabashedly unconstitutional, but ended up meeting the important technical requirements, should it retroactively be considered constitutional? I don’t have an answer.

Also, there is a lot wrong with the Three Pillars Plan (so many poorly thought out small problems–perhaps enough to sink the ship), but I would hesitate to go to the lengths Concernedeph has in denigrating the process and the involved students. Fundamentally there is nothing wrong with the idea (practically, there is a lot wrong) and while there were a lot of ‘leftist’ students on the Task Force, it remains to be seen how the Three Pillars benefits them in any concerted way. The Williams Student Union (the activist wing) is toothless and there will be a vote in Spring 2021 as to whether to abolish it because it is pointless–if I had to guess, it will be removed. Unsure how TABLE can become political, but without the WSU, it just might end up being the ‘activist’ wing by being very biased in committee selections…if ever more than one person applies for a committee position, which is a trend that doesn’t seem to stand a good chance of changing. And FAST will just run out of money by March next year, not selectively give money to some and not others.

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Three Pillars Nonsense, 1

Let’s spend a week going through this Three Pillars nonsense, the most absurd student reform movement in a generation. Disbanding College Council is a perfect example of Chesteron’s Fence — a change should be made only by those who understand the reasons for College Council in the first place. Day 1.

Key Question: Are the Three Pillars folks even obeying the rules? (This point was first made by Current Student.) Recall the College Council Constitution:

Seems clear that there official rules have not been followed. (Admittedly, the situation is a bit complex since Three Pillars seems to not have been competent enough to figure out what they needed to do in order to accomplish their goals, or at least to accomplish them within the guidelines of the current rules.)

UPDATE: From a comment below:

Let’s be clear. This was not reform. This was a coup by radical leftist students who tricked the campus into signing away their government. Several of the students on the Task Force are known to be on the radical left, part of the “care now” complainers from last year, and part of the boycott English group.

1) Details, please! Which Task Force members specifically were part of Care Now. Which (others?) were English Boycotters.

2) What is their motivation? I understand what Care Now and the English Boycotters want to accomplish. (I disagree but at least I know what their goals are and how they hope to achieve those goals.) What do the Three Pillar folks have to gain by abolishing CC?

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Official Results of the Three Pillars Referendum, Self-Noms open!

Perhaps the last post under the College Council tag.

To the Williams Community,

The Three Pillars Referendum Passes with 80.5% of votes in support, and 40% voter participation. Congratulations on welcoming a new era of student governance to Williams! The turnout for this election was the highest the College has seen in years, and the overwhelming support for the Referendum is a clear mandate for the Three Pillars Plan!

Forms response chart. Question title: Abolish College Council and institute the Three Pillars Plan. Number of responses: 868 responses.

The Task Force would like to thank every member of the Williams community who read the Three Pillars Plan, came to the Baxter Town Hall and voted on the Referendum. You all are the people that made this happen: you endlessly demanded structural change from an organization that hadn’t seen it in over forty years; you elected a diverse and representative group to advocate for your needs; and lastly, you voted for a radical new vision that puts equity at the forefront of governance! Thank you again, we should all be proud of what we have accomplished together.

 

As of 7:30 PM, February 14th, 2020, the Three Pillars Plan is ratified!

 

A brief timeline of what comes next:

 

Tonight: Self-nominations are now open for funding facilitators and members of the Williams Student Union. The solicitation period ends on 02/23 at 5 pm. Become a part of the Three Pillars!

 

02/24: The election period for FAST and The Williams Student Union opens. The voting period will end on 02/28.

 

02/27: Pub Night “Meet the Candidates” events. Come learn more about the students running for FAST and the Williams Student Union.

 

03/01: College Council stands Abolished. This referendum shall serve as a constitutional amendment that renders the Constitution, bylaws, and any other structural documents of the College Council null and void. Until March 1st, College Council shall be stripped of all powers and responsibilities except the oversight of FinCom.

03/01: FAST and the Williams Student Union shall begin the work of supporting the student body, and shall have all powers and responsibilities enumerated in their respective Constitutions and bylaws. Elections for TABLE will occur in late spring. Once TABLE elections have been held, the Task Force will dissolve and have no further obligations to their charge.

 

Congrats everyone!

 

Szőllősi Bálint ’22, Minority Coalition

Leo Lam Haines ’21, Community-Service Organizations

Onder Kilinc ’23, Minority Coalition

Porter Johnson ’21, College Council

Tyler Johnson ’21, Club Sports

Adam Jones ’21, At-Large

Shadae McClean ’21, Junior Advisors

Rebecca Park ’22, Faith-Based Organizations

Essence Perry ’22, Strategic Planning

True Pham ’23, College Council

William Ren ’21, At-Large

Natalie Silver ’22, Student Athletic Advisory Committee

Adly Templeton ’20, College Council

Hipólito Vázquez ’22, Minority Coalition

Nicolle Mac Williams ‘21.5, Performance Organizations

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Email: Three Pillars Plan Referendum Results

From Adly Templeton, chair of the Task Force.

Subject: “Official Results of the Three Pillars Referendum, Self-Noms open!”

To the Williams Community,

The Three Pillars Referendum Passes with 80.5% of votes in support, and 40% voter participation. Congratulations on welcoming a new era of student governance to Williams! The turnout for this election was the highest the College has seen in years, and the overwhelming support for the Referendum is a clear mandate for the Three Pillars Plan!

Forms response chart. Question title: Abolish College Council and institute the Three Pillars Plan. Number of responses: 868 responses.

The Task Force would like to thank every member of the Williams community who read the Three Pillars Plan, came to the Baxter Town Hall and voted on the Referendum. You all are the people that made this happen: you endlessly demanded structural change from an organization that hadn’t seen it in over forty years; you elected a diverse and representative group to advocate for your needs; and lastly, you voted for a radical new vision that puts equity at the forefront of governance! Thank you again, we should all be proud of what we have accomplished together.

As of 7:30 PM, February 14th, 2020, the Three Pillars Plan is ratified!

A brief timeline of what comes next:

Tonight: Self-nominations are now open for funding facilitators and members of the Williams Student Union. The solicitation period ends on 02/23 at 5 pm. Become a part of the Three Pillars!

02/24: The election period for FAST and The Williams Student Union opens. The voting period will end on 02/28.

02/27: Pub Night “Meet the Candidates” events. Come learn more about the students running for FAST and the Williams Student Union.

03/01: College Council stands Abolished. This referendum shall serve as a constitutional amendment that renders the Constitution, bylaws, and any other structural documents of the College Council null and void. Until March 1st, College Council shall be stripped of all powers and responsibilities except the oversight of FinCom.

03/01: FAST and the Williams Student Union shall begin the work of supporting the student body, and shall have all powers and responsibilities enumerated in their respective Constitutions and bylaws. Elections for TABLE will occur in late spring. Once TABLE elections have been held, the Task Force will dissolve and have no further obligations to their charge.

Congrats everyone!

Szőllősi Bálint ’22, Minority Coalition
Leo Lam Haines ’21, Community-Service Organizations
Onder Kilinc ’23, Minority Coalition
Porter Johnson ’21, College Council
Tyler Johnson ’21, Club Sports
Adam Jones ’21, At-Large
Shadae McClean ’21, Junior Advisors
Rebecca Park ’22, Faith-Based Organizations
Essence Perry ’22, Strategic Planning
True Pham ’23, College Council
William Ren ’21, At-Large
Natalie Silver ’22, Student Athletic Advisory Committee
Adly Templeton ’20, College Council
Hipólito Vázquez ’22, Minority Coalition
Nicolle Mac Williams ‘21.5, Performance Organizations

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Who’s supporting the Three Pillars plan?

From my perspective (which is an admittedly very warped one based wholly on internet communications), a lot of students.

The Three Pillars plan is, of course, the proposed replacement for College Council. In the last few days, the meme page has been full of “Vote Yes” memes, many of which seem to be from the people who were on the task force that wrote the plan. I’ve received several emails from the handful of student group listservs that I’m too sentimental to take my forwarding email off of, all of which are telling me to vote yes–these being rather large student groups that have nothing to do with student politics.

Today, in the Record, the current co-presidents of CC also endorsed the plan that would lead to the abolishment of their positions: https://williamsrecord.com/2020/02/goodbye-college-council-hello-three-pillars-moving-towards-a-better-student-government

In addition, CC as a body apparently voted to endorse the plan–though it was apparently a heavily divided vote.

In short, though the plan isn’t one that I’d previously heard anything of and seems to have come out of nowhere to some degree for me, it’s one that has all the key student players behind it, so I’m fully expecting Williams to be saying goodbye to CC very soon.

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It’s time to Abolish College Council; Voting is Open!

Additional documents provided below the break (including relevant CC minutes, which were not provided via email).

Click Here to Vote

Voting on the Three Pillars Referendum is now open! Click here to vote!

Voting will be open through 7:30PM on Friday. If you would like to learn more about the referendum, come to our Town Hall at 8:00pm Monday in Baxter Hall. We will also be tabling throughout the week in Paresky to answer questions about the Three Pillars Referendum and help people vote!

The Task Force will be hosting a Referendum Celebration in Baxter Hall this Friday at 7PM to announce the results of the campus-wide vote!

Attached to this email is the official full text of the referendum, as well as the transition plan. We’ve also attached a list of frequently asked questions about the Three Pillars Plan.

Click Here to Vote

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Hate Hoaxes: A History

A “hate hoax” is an act of hate — racist graffiti, a threatening note — which is a hoax in the sense that it was perpetrated by a member (or ally) of the class of people it purports appears to attack. See Pro Publica and Reason for discussion and examples. Let’s review some examples from Williams history:

January 1993: Three (anti-black) racist slurs posted on the door of Rice House. Perpetrator turned out to an African-American student. He was suspended for one semester.

September 2001: Female student reports that she was assaulted in her dorm room. Turns out that she made the whole thing up. I do not think that this truly qualifies as a hate hoax since her intent was probably not to stir up a campus controversy about sexual assault. See discussion below for whether or not the intent of the perp should matter for defining an event as a hate hoax.

November 2011: Racist note — All Niggers Must Die — attached to a door in Prospect House. Perpetrator was (almost certainly) an African-American/Hispanic student activist. She was not punished and, to this day, the College maintains the public fiction that this was an actual hate crime.

November 2012: Racist statement — All beaners must die — written on whiteboard in Mission. Perpetrator was of “Mexican descent.” As best I can tell, the student was not punished.

November 2016: Racist graffiti — AMKKK, “meant to signify AmeriKKKa, a spelling of America that references racism in our society” — written in red paint in Griffin Hall. Three first year female African-American students were caught, all claiming (plausibly!) to have no connection to the KKK. Students were suspended but did return to Williams.

Are there other examples I should include?

As best I can tell, there are about as many hate hoaxes at Williams as there are actual hate crimes. What do readers estimate the proportions to be?

Even the hate crimes that do not seem to be hoaxes — Williams E in 2008, Mills-Dennett 1 in 2009 and Paresky 2014 — often seem to be driven by animus whose original source has nothing directly to do with hate . . . but that is a discussion for another day.

UPDATE: A source has told me that the November 2016 perps were caught because they used paint from a college academic department, traces of which were still on their shows and clothing when Security came knocking on their door.

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Abolishing College Council and the Three Pillars Referendum

I encourage individuals to read through the email/documents and post about it. We’ll know soon enough whether the proposed changes will become reality.

Three Pillars Handout

FAST Funding Body Constitution

FAST Funding Body Bylaws

TABLE Constitution

Williams Student Union Constitution

Williams Student Union Bylaws

TL;DR

The Task Force recommends abolishing College Council and instituting the Three Pillars Plan for student governance. Vote YES on the campus-wide referendum starting this Sunday!

Over the past month, the Task Force has carefully examined the failures of College Council and how best to address them. Our recommendation to the Student Body is to abolish College Council and approve the Three Pillars Plan. The Three Pillars Plan directly addresses the years of inequitable and biased funding, lack of representation in student government, and the inability to effectively advocate for student concerns within College Council.

We acknowledge that no panel, body, or group of students could ever represent the multiplicity and range of life experiences, identities, and viewpoints Williams encompasses, but the Task Force has made huge strides in doing so. Our group of sixteen students, which span different class years, races, nationalities, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexualities, religious affiliations, and student organization affiliations understand the urgency and necessity of an efficient student government, especially at an institution like Williams. Our work has embodied the principles of accessibility, difference, tolerance, equity, and inclusion, and we hope you will support the Three Pillars Plan for the same reasons.

College Council currently has the following responsibilities: allocating funding, appointing students to student-faculty committees, and advocating for student interests. We propose that each of these responsibilities be handled as follows:

More email below the break.

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Long History of Discrimination

abl writes, in explaining the differential status of men/women in math and, therefore, the need to active efforts to ensure equal male/female representation on panels at math conferences:

[T]here’s a long history of discrimination in math against everyone who is not cis male (at essentially all levels of education).

Tell us this history! But be specific! Who, at Williams, has been discriminating against women in math? Maud Mandel has only been here at year, but maybe she has been discriminating. Maybe she has been unfairly attacking female applicants for faculty positions, insisting on hiring less qualified men. What about Professor Allison Pacelli? Has she been abusing female math majors for the last 15 years, mocking them in class and belittling them in private? Tell us those stories!

Perhaps this “long history of discrimination” goes back further and reaches higher in the Administration. Nancy Roseman was Dean of the College in the early oughts. She was probably forcing female undergraduates to switch majors out of math. Cappy Hill ’76 was Provost back in the 90s. Was she diverting funding away from female math faculty and toward male math faculty? Probably!

And no doubt other institutions were even worse. Harvard under Drew Faust was infamous for its Mock-a-Female-Mathematician events. Mount Greylock High School, with a majority female teaching staff for, oh, 100+ years or so, didn’t give math books to female students. And on and on.

Let me rewrite abl’s tendentious claim:

[T]here’s a long history of vodoo in math against everyone who is not cis male (at essentially all levels of education).

Could be true! What else could explain differential performance between men and women in math? If there is a difference — and there sure is! — voodoo (or a long history of (invisible) discrimination) must be the explanation. What else could it be!

See Slate Star Codex for further thoughts, as well as this EphBlog classic from a decade ago. Perhaps that should be an annual post . . .

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One Concern

From Math Professor Chad Topaz:

Here at QSIDE, we wake up early, drink coffee, and write these:

Hi organizers [of a one-day conference],

Thanks so much for organizing this event. I know it takes a lot of work to pull it off.

I do want to bring up one concern. If I am wrong in my assessment, please forgive me and ignore the rest of this email, but it seems all the speakers are liberal. It’s disappointing to see the many excellent not-liberals excluded from participating as speakers, and moreover, it sends a really discouraging message to any attendees who aren’t liberals.

I hope you might find a way to bring political diversity to your set of speakers. There are lots of great, effective practices for speaker selection that would result in a more politically-diverse program.

Thanks for hearing me out on this, and thanks again for the work you do to put it all together.

Cheers,
Chad

1) How wonderfully (passive) aggressive! Not that there is anything wrong with that!

2) Does Topaz send these out to colleagues organizing such conferences at Williams? Kudos to him if he does! The more thought put into panel selection, the better. EphBlog has been complaining about the lack of political diversity on panels at Williams for decades!

3) If you were a junior member of Topaz’s department, what would you think? EphBlog’s advice would be to follow Topaz’s suggestions! They are sensible (or, at least, not nonsensical) and, more importantly, he will be voting on your tenure in a few years.

4) How would you feel if you were organizing a conference at, say, Harvard and some rando from Williams sent you this e-mail? Good question! Perhaps our academic friends like dcat and sigh might opine.

5) I would chuckle, then ignore it. Does Topaz really think that I am unaware of political diversity and its importance? What wonderful arrogance from some nobody teaching at a jumped-up prep school! Putting together conferences is difficult, balancing participant priorities is hard, and even getting people to agree to come is annoying. The last thing I want to deal with is somebody who isn’t even attending the conference kvetching about his personal hobbyhorse. Of course, at the end of the conference, I will seek opinions from the attendees to see how we might improve things next year and, if others share Topaz’s (idiosyncratic?) views, I will try to adjust, subject to all the other constraints I need to deal with.

More:

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Diversity on Athletic Teams

The New York Times has an interesting article on amHerst and their efforts to increase diversity on their athletic teams. The article has a lot of good information about the recruiting process and the efforts that amHerst has made to find student-atheletes of color, especially in sports that are traditionally dominated by white students. I think the article presents a realistic and balanced look at what amHerst is doing. For example, they point out that amHerst has the resources to dedicate to this goal that other schools do not possess.

I think the article is worth the read but if you don’t have the time or the interest, here is the closing quote from the men’s soccer coach, “I want someone who makes us different. Because that’s how everybody gets better.” I believe he is talking about on the field and off and I applaud him and amHerst for this kind of thinking.

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Boycott English

Inside Higher Ed has a thorough article on the Boycott English movement at Williams.

Williams College built its reputation on the liberal arts. Now students at the college are calling for a boycott of the English department, saying the program has long had a racist underbelly. Their comments echo those made by some past and present professors of color.

“We, the undersigned students of Williams College, pledge to an indefinite boycott of all English classes that do not take seriously the matter of race — that is, those classes which do not include more than a token discussion of race and more than a token number of writers of color,” reads a boycott pledge that is a part of a detailed pro-boycott website. The names and identities of those taking the pledge are not yet public.

Entire article below the break, for the benefit of future historians. Comments:

1) I believe that EphBlog, although unmentioned in the article, is fundamentally responsible for this turning into a national story. A comment from a longtime reader about the boycott appears on November 1. This led to blog posts from John Drew and Jerry Coyne on November 3. This led to right wing coverage at places like Breitbart and the College Fix yesterday. (I could be wrong about the causative chain. Perhaps the same person who tipped us also tipped Coyne and others.) How long before this story breaks into the New York Times?

2) Do we need a controversy nickname? Depends on how long this will go on and how much we plan on covering it. Suggestions?

3) The metaphors to the French Revolution are almost too easy.

By June 1794 France had become fully weary of the mounting executions (1,300 in June alone), and Paris was alive with rumours of plots against Robespierre, member of the ruling Committee of Public Safety and leading advocate of the Terror. On 8 Thermidor (July 26) he gave a speech full of appeals and threats. The next day, the deputies in the National Convention shouted him down and decreed his arrest. He was arrested at the Hôtel de Ville, along with his brother Augustin, François Hanriot, Georges Couthon, and Louis de Saint-Just. The same guillotine that on 9 Thermidor executed 45 anti-Robespierrists executed, in the following three days, 104 Robespierrists, inaugurating a brief “White Terror” against Jacobins throughout France.

Katie Kent ’88 is almost a parody of the campus left, an activist who came of age in the 80s and who was the leading social justice warrior on campus during that time. She was the revolutionary of her era. And now the Revolution has come for her.

Should I spend a week or two going through the news in detail? Or are you, dear reader, already bored with this nonsense?

UPDATE: Corrections made. See comment thread for details.

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“Hot Takes” in the Williams Record Making a Splash on Campus

Two weeks ago, the Record released a pseudo-satirical opinion piece, a bullet point list of what are being called “Hot takes from a white guy with an annoying mix of confidence and insecurity” written by Nate Munson-Palomba ’21. The list, touching on a wide range of Williams social issues, has caused quite a stir to say the least, because it isn’t perfectly clear which points are jokes and which are serious opinions of the author. Conversations about the piece have gone around on Facebook, Instagram, and in dining halls across Williams. The full list can be seen below:

● The athlete-nonner divide is driven by nonners (insecurity).

● “The Williams Swivel” says the most about Williams social life.

● Attractive white female athletes run this school.

● White guys should try to wear clothes when they’re going out that aren’t checkered button-downs, basketball jerseys or Hawaiian shirts.

● Endurance athletes are essentially nonners.

● The lack of bars has made social life better and more inclusive.

● CC will be the comeback story of 2022.

● Comedy is the clout of nonners.

● 66 is underrated.

● About half of Williams’ problems are intractable because of geography.

● You haven’t seen Williams until you’ve been exercising in Lower Lasell when the entire football team is there.

● The phantoms are having more fun a ton of the time.

● A refrigerator door could be a housing coordinator.

● Class defines Williams.

● Adams Falk’s I am Williams poster that says, “Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you” actually defines Williams.

● If you’re doing all your reading, most Div. II majors are as hard as Div. III; the only thing is almost nobody is doing that.

● OSL is the shadow government of Williams.

● The only enemy that will unite humanity is non-human.

● Rugby is the last frat.

● Male helmet sport athletes are smarter than everyone else thinks they are and less attractive than they think they are.

● One of the worst social places to be at Williams is a short, unattractive guy who likes sports but isn’t good at them.

● Juul culture is the most communitarian Williams gets.

● The only true protest act of Williams is to unenroll.

● There’s no better way to torpedo your social clout at Williams than to write a sendy op-ed.

The following week, the Record included a second list written in response, called “Confessions from a Black Lesbian with a powerful mix of Confidence and Security” written by Rachel Porter ’21. It is a roughly line-by-line response to the points made in the earlier article:

● The athlete-nonner divide is driven by athletes who like to shout at parties something along the lines of, “If you aren’t on one of these three sports teams, or I can’t sexually objectify you because of my toxic masculinity and my inability to see women as people, then get out of this space that was formerly used as a social meeting place for a variety of people because I am insecure, sexist and enjoy bigotry.”

● “The Williams Swivel” isn’t limited to Williams. It’s called having situational awareness.

● Women/Femme-identifying people of color do the most for this miserable school and look absolutely fierce while doing so. Whether or not they fit the confining and limiting criteria of “attractive” is irrelevant to me. Because I don’t value people solely based on their physical appearance.

● Haouxsey is overrated.

● Sometimes you have to wear your worst clothes to parties when there’s a good chance of mysterious filth being spilled on you at any moment.

● My brief foray into syndicated athleticism has led me to believe that running is one of the most intellectually and physically challenging sports to participate in. You know, because it actually requires concentration and tenacity. Weird.

● The lack of bars in this town is the reason why there is a dispensary down the street. Trends follow the money.

● The College’s many bureaucratic groups fight over the definition of inclusion every day. Because apparently not being complicit in structures of oppression isn’t an easy task.

● The Williams Record will be the comeback story of never.

● Shoutout to College Council for giving us the take the money and run option.

● Houcksey is overrated.

● The Williams Record is officially the Pastiche of Williams. (If you know, you know).

● Try to lock me up for being funny. I’ll film you. You better Mirandize me first.

● Black people are underrated. Period.

● We go to school in the middle of some mountains. Ahem.

● You haven’t seen Williams until it’s 3 a.m. at “X dorm close to Mission” and “INSERT BLANK HERE” team is ready to blast Mo Bamba and scream the N-word until they get tired (they don’t really emphasize cardio at this school).

● The world and even sad little Williams can be a fun place when you have friends that you aren’t forced to hang out with. There are many people at this college that value the happiness and the pleasure of building platonic relationships that aren’t solely transactional or based on doing some particular thing. Crazy right?

● Houckxsoeuy is overrated.

● But can a refrigerator door provide emotional and even physical labor to adult children? I don’t think so.

● The definition of inclusion might also lead you to a definition of intersectionality. Take note.

● There are a lot of things that define Williams. That’s why they have those cute little posters in Schow.

● The only thing almost no one is talking about is which major is harder than the other. Because there’s a good chance they’re doing their work.

● Hockeysee is overrated.

● The gay agenda is the shadow government of Williams.

● I respect people who believe in aliens. Takes a lot of courage to admit that.

● How do you quantify being attractive, and how do you quantify being smart? Can you be both, or is it one or the other? Will I get the answers on reddit?

● One of the worst social places to be at Williams is a tall “athletic” male that is decent at sports but can’t pursue them after college because he’s not actually that good. Road ends here pal (insecurity).

● Sometimes people read books to learn how to make the world a better place.

● Sometimes they don’t have the opportunity to read as many books as they want and they still make the world a better place.

● Hiouuxseauy is overrated.

● So is poorly disguised satire that merely acts as a way for certain people to say the strangely nefarious, coded thoughts in their head they are too afraid to say out loud. Yes it’s okay to not know everything, but if you can read and you have access to the internet, you should know that there is a powerful tool called an internet search engine. Yes, you can use it to find the definition of satire AND what constitutes as offensive.

● Yes, people deserve to have their own opinion, but know some people cannot be silenced when attempting to express theirs (security). Trivializing serious matters related to race, gender, class and sexuality can result in some pushback. Know that.

Both lists provide an interesting window into the kinds of discussions taking place at Williams College in 2019.

Alumni of all ages, how many of these “hot takes” were true in your days at Williams? If at all, to what degree have things changed?

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Sensitivity vs. Academic Freedom

In honor of Halloween, I thought it might be interesting to look back on some controversies related to the holiday. The obvious Williams example is, “The Taco Six.”

However, the controversy I want to look at in more detail occurred at Yale in 2015. Here is the email from the wife of a College “Master,” that sparked the  controversy. Towards the end of the email she quotes her husband in making one of her main points:

“..if you don’t like a costume someone is wearing, look away, or tell them you are offended. Talk to each other. Free speech and the ability to tolerate offence are the hallmarks of a free and open society.”

Also, here is a link to an article on Vox.com that does a fair job summarizing the controversy and some of the immediate fall out. Here is a quote from the article that I thought was interesting,

“In the balance between sensitivity versus critical thinking and academic freedom, students are increasingly emphasizing the former over the latter.”

A good example of this is when a student at Yale says,

“I don’t want to debate. I want to talk about my pain.”

I had some preconceived notions about what happened at Yale but as I read the article, those changed and I became convinced that both sides had good points. For example, the Yale student is NOT talking about an academic setting, they are referring to interactions when they might go to the Master or his wife for support. In that setting, it seems perfectly reasonable to not “want to debate.”

My conclusion is that it is not an either/or choice. We can be sensitive (if someone feels a need to talk about their pain, listen and try to empathize, do NOT debate) and have academic freedom (if you disagree with a position, an action or a costume, engage with the person who holds that position).

What do you think? Can college communities be both sensitive and have academic freedom?

 

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Safety Dance Update

Here are the latest filings in the Safety Dance sexual assault case: 178-main, 182-main, P reply to D opposition, D opposition to P motion to file, 178-6, 178-4, 178-5, 178-2, 178-3 and 178-1.

Any comments?

I think that, over the last year, nothing has gone well for Williams. (Their lead attorney Daryl Lapp, on the other hand, has been running up the billable hours and raking in the dollars. So, some good news!) Doe’s case is getting stronger, with more support from the court. Perhaps more importantly, the overall legal landscape is changing, with major set backs for colleges in the Boston College case.

Maud: Settle this case! It is a sure loser for the College.

Williams Record: Cover this case! Your readers would find it interesting and you might even get some attention from media outside of Williamstown.

Reminder:

Why do I call this case “Safety Dance?”

And the lyrics from the song “Safety Dance”:

We can dance if we want to
We can leave your friends behind
‘Cause your friends don’t dance and if they don’t dance
Well they’re no friends of mine.

I say, we can go where we want to
A place where they will never find
And we can act like we come from out of this world
Leave the real one far behind
And we can dance

Alas, John Doe has discovered that, leaving the real world far behind, is not so easy when it comes to the sexual assault bureaucracy at Williams . . .

Key facts:

This is nuts! Does anyone disagree? Read the full document for details, but it is not disputed that Smith only complained about the alleged assault after her attempts to get Doe thrown out for a never-happened honor code violation failed.

I am honestly curious to know if there are readers who agree with the College’s decision to throw Doe out, denying him his degree even though he has completed all the requirements for graduation.

Recall my question from last year:

How many times has Maud Mandel sexually assaulted her husband since arriving at Williams?

I am 100% serious in asking this question. Consider:

The Williams College Code of Conduct requires affirmative consent for all sexual activity.

Consent means that at the time of the sexual contact, words and conduct indicate freely given approval or agreement, without coercion, by all participants in the sexual contact. Consent may not be inferred from silence or passivity.

Williams also defines “sexual activity” very broadly, as “any sexual touching, however slight, with any body part or object, by any person upon any other person . . .”

So, if Maud Mandel, without asking (and receiving!) explicit permission, has ever kissed her husband goodbye in the morning, or given him an affectionate pat on the behind as he walked out the door, or . . . anything really — then she has committed sexual assault and should, like John Doe, be kicked out of Williams.

This is, of course, nonsense. No normal person thinks that people, like Maud Mandel, in a relationship need to get permission for every single sexual activity ahead of time. But that is still the official policy at Williams, a policy which is used as a stick the ruin the lives of men — many of them poor and/or minority — much less powerful than Maud Mandel.

If John Doe deserves to be kicked out of Williams, than Maud Mandel is guilty of sexual assault.

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A Different Kind of Affirmative Action

DDF’s post on Wednesday got me thinking. I am a strong believer in the benefits that a diverse population brings to virtually any situation – from the classroom to the boardroom. I have no hesitation in extending that philosophy to include idealogical diversity in appropriate situations. This includes seeing a wealth of benefits to having a faculty with diverse political beliefs. Of course, using a “political beliefs” litmus test when hiring a professor sounds like a bad idea (and could be illegal). So, I am not sure what the remedy is to achieve a more politically diverse faculty but I know I want to get there.

Do you think it is a goal that Williams should strive for?

What would be the best way to get there?

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Republican/Conservative/Libertarian Professors at Williams

A New York Times op-ed two years ago:

Faculty members in New England are far more liberal than their counterparts anywhere else in the nation, even controlling for discipline and school type. In 1989, the number of liberals compared with conservatives on college campuses was about 2 to 1 nationwide; that figure was almost 5 to 1 for New England schools. By 2014, the national figure was 6 to 1; for those teaching in New England, the figure was 28 to 1.

I cannot say for certain why New England is so far to the left. But what I can say, based on the evidence, is that if you are looking for an ideologically balanced education, don’t put New England at the top of your list.

Who are the Republican/Conservative/Libertarian professors at Williams? The Record had an excellent article on that topic last week:

Several professors at the College, however, openly profess conservative views. Their presences in Williamstown have the potential to elucidate political dynamics at the College that may be invisible to the student body’s liberal majority.

Four professors agreed to go on the record for this article: Professor of Mathematics Steven Miller; Professor of Art Michael Lewis; Professor of Political Science Darel Paul; and Visiting Professor of American Foreign Policy Chris Gibson, who will depart the College and begin teaching at Siena College, his alma mater, at the end of the academic year.

While they all fit under the umbrella term of “conservative,” these professors hold a range of beliefs.

Read the rest for an intelligent and nuanced discussion.

According to campus gossip (and EphBlog reporting), the basic zoology of Republican/Conservative/Libertarian professors at Williams is as follows:

Republicans: Steven Miller and Michael Lewis. Lewis is perhaps the most famous “conservative” professor at Williams, known for his writing at the Wall Street Journal, Commentary and other outlets. He was a strong critic of Falk’s decision to ban Derbyshire. Are there any other faculty members that are registered Republicans? Tell us in the comments!

Libertarians: Kris Kirby and Fred Strauch. The Record ought to seek them out for a second article.

Curmudgeons: This is the category of professors who are not registered Republicans and almost certainly did not vote for Trump, but who care about ideological diversity and/or are conservative (or at least anti-leftist) in the context of the Williams faculty. James McAllister, Darel Paul and Luana Maroja come to mind. Others?

Former faculty of a similar persuasion include: Robert Jackall, George Marcus, Chris Gibson and Jane Swift. (I realize that Gibson has not left yet, but visitors shouldn’t even be part of this conversation. They are at Williams for too short a time to matter.

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Presumption of Expulsion?

Recent grad’s post last week highlighted the recent Record editorial calling for more “transparency and accountability” in cases of sexual assault on campus.  One of the statements made in the editorial was that:

[W]e believe that sexual assault should not result in mere suspension except in the rarest of cases. Rather, the College should establish expulsion as the presumptive, though not mandatory, punishment for students who are found responsible for sexual assault

You may agree or disagree with the Record’s opinion on this issue, but if the College were to make expulsion the sanction in most cases where a student has been found responsible for “sexual assualt” (I’ve put it in quotes, because the College has a specific definition of the term which I will get to in a moment),  this would raise the stakes dramatically for anyone accused of sexual assault.  While suspension from the College is a significant punishment, expulsion is life altering, in the sense that it deprives that person of a Williams degree (and probably excludes that person from the College community for life, although I’m not certain what the collateral punishments are), as well as the financial consequences.

The College provides a definition of sexual assualt:  “Sexual Assault means any non-consensual sexual intercourse or other non-consensual sexual contact” (emphasis added).  “Other non-consensual sexual contact” can mean a lot of things, including, for example, groping in a crowd at a party.  People can disagree on whether that type of activity should result in expulsion, but any student facing the possiblity of expulsion would certainly want to do everything possible to avoid that.

The procedures for investigating allegations of sexual misconduct (which includes sexual assault), are set forth here.  I will try to go through them in more detail in future posts, but for now I want to highlight one section which, as a lawyer, really jumped out at me:

Both the complainant and respondent have the right to have an advisor of their choosing present with them for all parts of the process, including any meeting with campus officials, with the hearing panel, and with the investigator.  The advisor can speak to the complainant/respondent at any time during the process but cannot speak directly to the investigator or to the hearing panel.

(emphasis added)

As I read this section, the College will allow someone being investigated for sexual misconduct to have a lawyer (or another advocate/advisor), but that person cannot interact with the investigator or the adjudication panel on behalf of the accused.  For a student facing automatic expulsion, that seems to put the accused in a very difficult spot.  While I think this section of the procedures is unfair even today, if the College were to make expulsion the default punishment, it would be even more egregious.

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Title IX and Williams

In Whitney’s post earlier this week, he suggested we look at Williams policies around sexual assault and misconduct. I decided to begin to take on that assignment. As Whitney and my college GPA can attest, my first pass at an assignment does not always produce a quality result. That being said, it seems to my laymen’s eye that the procedure’s laid out are a good attempt at trying to handle a horrible situation as best as possible. I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like to be a “complainant” or a “respondent,” however, it seems like the college is laying out a good faith effort to set up a procedure that will be fair to both parties. Of course, how things are set up is only part of the equation – the actions and motivations of those involved in execution are also very important.

What do you think of the college’s procedure?

What do you think of the people responsible for the execution of that procedure?

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Williams Record on Bae ’17 Verdict

Notwithstanding DDF’s concerns that the Record would not cover the the Bae ’17 rape verdict, the paper published a solid, if not particularly probing, story about it last week.  While many of the details reported in the Record have been reported elsewhere, I think it was useful for the Williams community to have it in the Record, as more community members are likely to see those details in the Record than elsewhere.

The paper gave a basic recap of the procedural history of the case, before giving a brief synopsis of the assault itself:

On Sept. 6, the Berkshire Superior Court convicted Yoonsang Bae ’17 on one count of rape.

Judge Michael Callan found him guilty, after a bench trial, of sexually assaulting another student while he was attending the College in 2014. His ultimate conviction was the product of several years of investigation, including his two-year suspension from the College between 2014 and 2016. Bae will be sentenced by Callan on Friday and he faces up to 20 years in prison.

In July 2014, Bae provided large quantities of alcohol to a then-19-year-old student while at a party. She became sick several times, and he ultimately led her back to his room, where she fell asleep. When she awoke, he was assaulting her, and he refused to stop despite her repeated insistence.

The Record also gave some details about the College’s procedures when investigating an allegation of sexual misconduct and/or assault.  While some of this is undoubtedly known to some EphBlog readers, I thought it interesting that the College hires an outside investigator, who then presents findings to a three-member panel of College staff (not students or faculty).  From this description, I assume anyone who is eligible to vote at faculty meetings is ineligible to serve on one of these panels, but that is not 100% clear from the article.

(Full details on the procedures are found here.  These are probably worth blogging about in the future.  Although interesting, I think it was appropriate for this Record article not to delve into the procedures, though it might make for an interesting investigative piece at some point).

Another interesting item from the Record article is the fact that Bae was offered a plea in which he ultimately could have avoided a criminal conviction.  If this is true, it was obviously a terrible mistake for him to turn that plea down.  I wonder why he did so?  Did he really feel as though he hadn’t done anything criminal, and didn’t want to admit to something he thought he hadn’t done?  Or was he sufficiently confident in his own ability to tell the story of what happened in a way favorable to him?  Or confident in the inability of the victim to tell her story persuasively?  Regardless of the reason for turning down the deal, he must be regretting that now.

Finally, the article provides this interesting quote from the District Attorney’s office about new prosecution priorities for the new Berkshire County DA:

“We did not necessarily change any formal office policies regarding sexual assault on college campuses [in the new administration],” said Andy McKeever, public information officer at the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office. “However, District Attorney Andrea Harrington has placed a priority on pursuing these cases aggressively. If a victim wants to go to trial we are going to fully support the victim and pursue justice.”

I wonder whether the DA’s office is really as passive as it sounds in making these decisions on whether (i.e. simply asking the victim “What do you want to do?”, as opposed to seeking to persuade the victim of a particular course of action in a particular case).  From my perspective, while the victim’s wishes are an important factor in whether to prosecute (and without a victim’s cooperation, prosecution may be essentially impossible), I would hope that the DA’s office will make those prosecution decisions independently, weighing all of the factors in making those choices.

UPDATE:  The Berkshire Eagle reports that Bae has been sentenced to a 3-year prison term:

 Minutes after apologizing for the pain he’d caused his victim and those around him, a former Williams College student was sentenced to three years in prison for raping a classmate in 2014…

Before the brief hearing got underway, Bae’s attorney, Charles Dolan, asked the judge if his client, in shackles and a white jumpsuit, could be uncuffed and join him at the defense table rather than the defendant’s seat.

Callan denied that request…

Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Stephanie Ilberg asked Callan to consider a prison sentence of five to seven years. Ilberg noted Bae has no prior criminal record but said he was someone the victim had trusted and considered something of a mentor or “big brother.”

“Yes, she chose to drink,” Ilberg said. “She didn’t choose to get raped.”

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