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Obviously Pretextual Critiques

In July, I asked:

Could someone provide some concrete examples of “systematic racism” against Blacks at Williams College? I want something specific which is being done by a Williams person and which Maud could, presumably, fix.

Yesterday, Quick Search provided this intelligent reply:

“The Town, however, did admit to a 2014 incident in which a WPD dispatcher said the N-word while a Black Williams student was touring the police station. The statement did not deny two allegations – that a photograph of Adolf Hitler was hung in a WPD officer’s station locker, and a 2011 incident of sexual assault allegedly committed by a WPD officer – but it did dispute McGowan’s characterization of the 2011 incident.”

Town denies allegations against WPD chief, admits 2014 racial harassment incident

That’s just one of the Record’s current stories. There are no shortage of similar specific examples that have been shared over the past ~5-10 years, including on Ephblog, nor is there a shortage of students at Williams who have attested more generally to personally experiencing uncomfortable moments at Williams or in the Williamstown area as a result of their race.

I’m glad you brought up the statistics issue, too, because you’re not wrong — but you’re also not right. There have been numerous statistical analyses of these issues by people who really do know what they’re doing (who don’t make what you describe as cause-effect errors), which repeatedly find racial disparities that can’t be explained by other variables. You’re not likely going to find a sophisticated analysis like that at Williams for two reasons: (1) they’re difficult to do; and (2) you need a large study population to account for other variables, and the Williams community isn’t big enough.

If you’re just looking at the evidence with a clear eye, it’s pretty clear that there’s systemic racism — as the term is most commonly defined by the academics who study it — in the U.S. Is there systemic racism at Williams? I don’t know for sure. But a lot of signs point to yes: Williams has a lot of the same sort of macro outcome-level differences that you see in the larger studies, and Black Williams students recount a lot of the same sorts of personal experiences of discrimination that you see in communities in which the more sophisticated studies show systemic racism.

Finally, it’s worth also pointing out that the reason why there is little room for discussion about this in academia — which is unfortunate in a lot of respects — is because so much of the push back to the existence of systemic is rooted in poor and obviously pretextual critiques. There are legitimate criticisms of the research that’s been done on this subject, but most of what you see are bad attacks levied by people who don’t really know what they’re talking about. The result has been that academics have become increasingly wary of criticisms to the point that it often appears that criticism is not welcome (an attitude that has trickled down). It’s not actually entirely different from what you see in the context of global climate change, albeit with very different stakes.

1) As usual, much of the best content on EphBlog is in the comments.

2) I certainly agree that there are useful parallels between systematic racism and climate change, but perhaps for different reasons than Quick Search . . .

3) Worthwhile for me to address this point-by-point?

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Struggle for Justice

This was retweeted by the official Williams account. What could go wrong?

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Less and Less Sympathy

Anon writes:

I keep coming up with nothing compelling to suggest that there is institutional/systemic racism at places like Williams. Usually it’s the opposite — minority students are extended more resources and benefit of the doubt than white/Asian students (e.g., affirmative action).

Like I pointed out earlier, a lot of the things people provide as evidence of systemic racism — keyword systemic — are not examples of systemic racism. They make basic cause-and-effect errors. I just googled “systemic racism” and the first hit was an entire Bloomberg article making these false cause arguments over and over: https://tinyurl.com/y7bmde5o .

But in academia, most people accept it to be painfully obvious that all white people, by default, reinforce systems of racist oppression. I don’t know how far removed you are from diversity training sessions these days, but that’s pretty much exactly the vocabulary they use. And they’ll say inflammatory stuff like this with zero support.

This is counterproductive and potentially radicalizing for people like me who are on the margins. I have less and less sympathy for their demands and increasingly think they have a delusional and destructive worldview.

I get the painful legacy of racism in America, but does it mean we have to throw empiricism, logic, and reasoned debate out the window as we look towards our future?

Yes, it does.

Could someone provide some concrete examples of “systematic racism” against Blacks at Williams College? I want something specific which is being done by a Williams person and which Maud could, presumably, fix.

It is, after all, quite possible — although disputed — that there is “systematic racism” against Asian-Americans in admissions. But I am looking for a policy/behavior which affects Black students/employees.

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How to Hire Conservative/Republican/Libertarian Faculty

0xEph, a (new?) valued member of the EphBlog community asks:

I think that Williams would be a better educational institution if professors modeled thoughtful approaches to issues rooted in a wider range of intellectual and ideological traditions. How do you do this, though?

Almost any method that works with regard to racial diversity can be used to increase political diversity.

No one would ever ask you directly if you are a “Republican” just as no one now ever asks you directly if you are an “Hispanic.” They look for markers, for the emphasis you place on your ethnic heritage, for the claims you make — in your resume, your personal statement, your cover letter and your recommendation letters — about it. The same would apply for political diversity. Candidates interested in highlighting their politics would do so. Candidates who choose not to do so may safely be presumed to not be planning on being engaged in the campus conversation about politics. And that is OK! But Williams would have no more problem identifying and hiring (openly) politically diverse Ph.D.’s than it does identifying and hiring Hispanics.

Do you list political club membership on your resume? Do you volunteer to help Republican/Libertarian/Conservative non-profits? Have you spoken to such organizations? Are you a member of Heterodox Academy or the National Association of Scholars or the Federalist Society? Have you written op-eds or blog posts about your political views? Are you active, at your current university, in the conversation about political diversity? And so on.

During your campus interview, no one would ever ask something as stupid as “Are you Hispanic?” or “Are you a conservative?” That would probably be illegal and, even worse, would be rude. Instead, you will be asked open-ended questions about how you see yourself, outside of the classroom, participating in the Williams community, about how your background prepares you for that role, about what viewpoints you think might be missing. You then get to tell Williams anything you like.

Every single method which Williams has used for decades to increase racial diversity could be used to increase political diversity.

First, provide a count. You can’t fix what you don’t measure. Williams counts the number of Black faculty, and makes that number public. We could do the same for various measures of ideological diversity.

Second, create a parallel to the Bolin Fellowships — perhaps the EphBlog Fellowships — which would provide funding for conservative Ph.D. students to come to Williams, teach a class or two, and work on their research.

Third, create and nurture academic structures which would naturally hire more ideologically diverse faculty, in the same way that certain departments at Williams are much more likely to hire racially diverse faculty. Looked at a certain way, Leadership Studies, and its associated Stanley Kaplan secret funding sources, does this already.

Fourth, bribe departments. Former Faculty Dean Buell has been, for years, telling departments that, even if they aren’t authorized to hire someone this year, she would be willing to entertain “opportunity” hires of Black/Hispanic candidates. Why not do the same for candidates who increase the ideological diversity at Williams?

You can argue that political diversity is not important and that Williams should no more care about the politics of individual faculty members than it cares about their astrological sign. That is a defensible position. But the suggestion that Williams could not, if it chose to, easily increase political diversity among the faculty is just nonsense.

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Who decides?

 

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

 

 

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DEFUND WILLIAMS

I need to write a longer post along the theme of the attempt to destroy Williams from within by crushing the little platoons which make our community so wonderful. Recall the slurs against the JA system a few years ago, the cancelling of Story Time and, most recently, the destruction of College Council. Is that view too extreme? Am I being unfair to my opponents? Consider Kristina Hwang ’18:

WE ARE LOOKING FOR TRUSTEES’ CONTACT INFO (please message Kristina Hwang on fb or @psyfieri on instagram)
● GOALS
○ to force Williams College to pay their dues! open that (stolen) purse!
○ redistribute funds (that were exploited out of black students, professors, built on indigenous land, black struggle) into the BLM movements happening rn
● HOW
○ flood President Maud Mandel and Williams’ communication email inboxes
○ use the templates below (copy/paste or use them as guidance when crafting your own)
■ Make sure to demand TANGIBLE (read: monetary) ACTION
■ Call Maud out on “how she is DIRECTLY IMPLICATED in harming black students” (-isabel pena)
○ call williams out publicly on social media (facebook, instagram)
○ please reach out to your friends and classmates (need as many people as possible) (nonblack folks need to STEP UP)
○ email more than once, use the boomerang feature on google to automatically send emails every day (https://www.boomeranggmail.com/)
● TARGETS
○ msm8@williams.edu (Maud’s personal email)
○ communications@williams.edu
○ @williamspresident (insta)
○ @ephalum (insta)
○ @williamscollege (insta)
○ WE ARE LOOKING FOR TRUSTEES’ CONTACT INFO (please message Kristina Hwang on fb or @psyfieri on instagram)

Nice! These people hate Williams — just as they hated the JA system, Story Time, College Council and everything else Purple. And don’t even get them started on athletes and Republicans!

Critics might claim that my source for this information, former political science professor John Drew, is not always reliable. Perhaps! But Drew is right about this one. Here is the original Google Doc — permanent copy here — linked from Hwang’s Instagram account, and the (clever!) url: tinyurl.com/payupwilliams.

Is this just an example of “passion,” of alumni who want to have a discussion, of Ephs who see their opponents as fellow human beings, worthy of respect? No. Read the above again:

flood President Maud Mandel and Williams’ communication email inboxes

Call Maud out on “how she is DIRECTLY IMPLICATED in harming black students”

use the boomerang feature on google to automatically send emails every day

These people hate Williams. They hate Maud. They seek the institution’s destruction, piece by piece. If the Trustees announced that Williams were closing and donating all remaining funds to their cause-of-the-day, they would cheer.

How should Maud handle this challenge?

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Final FAST Updates

In other news…

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Bossong’s Monster

The latest “sexual assault” madness at Williams:

Here is the complaint (pdf). I was going to write about this when it first happened three weeks ago, but I held off in the hope that the Record was a serious paper and would soon cover the issue. And it did!

The Feb. 18 Doe v. Williams case alleges that the College’s findings that Doe “engaged in kissing and touching with another student without her affirmative consent” were based on the female student’s (pseudonymously referred to as Sally Smith) false allegations to the College, and that his subsequent suspension was wrongful and unjust.

According to the lawsuit, after Doe engaged in what the plaintiff describes as “consensual sexual contact on two occasions with a fellow foreign student,” the female student accused him of being “‘culturally insensitive’ to her conservative religious values by kissing her but then not pursuing a relationship with her” and only reported his behavior to the College months later.

Doe’s complaint features text messages Smith sent Doe after their first encounter including statements such as “the other night was amazing” and that she had been “feeling so different and liberated after it,” which, the lawsuit claims, the panel did not note in its decision.

Read the whole thing. Reporter Annie Lu is a rising star at the Record. But she should broaden the set of people she talks to. She does not quote (or interview?) a single Williams critic. Other comments:

1) This is a getting a lot of (unwanted!) national attention. See Barstool Sports and The College Fix. This story is crazy enough that it might break into the mainstream. Have fun Maud!

2) Should I spend a week on it? I find these stories depressing.

3) We have not covered this story yet.

This lawsuit is similar in nature to a complaint filed by another male former student on Jan. 28, 2018, which is now under investigation by the United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR). The 2018 complaint also claims the College violated Title IX in discriminating against a male respondent in a sexual misconduct case. However, the OCR investigation is independent of the courts and operates separately from civil suits.

Could someone provide the details for this one in the comments?

4) Naive readers may wonder how Williams can possibly still employ Allyson Kurker as an investigator. She has ruined the lives of innocent students. Read The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America’s Universities by former Williams professor KC Johnson for all the gory details. Kurker is a monster.

5) Kurker was hired by Meg Bossong, Director of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response at Williams. Kurker is paid by Meg Bossong and does whatever it takes for Meg Bossong to hire her again. Kurker may be a monster, but she is Meg Bossong’s monster. Williams gets what it pays for.

Why does Meg Bossong want to ruin the lives of male Hispanic Ephs? (Recall the John Doe of Safety Dance is also Hispanic.) I don’t know, but ruin them she does.

Entire Record article below the break. Do we need a scandal name? Perhaps “Amazing Night” or “Culturally Insensitive.”

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Three Pillars Failing

Excellent Record article about the recent Three Pillars election.

On Sunday, March 1, the Three Pillars Task Force released the results of its most recent election, which determined the members of the Williams Student Union and the Facilitators for Allocating Student Taxes (FAST). The election took place between Feb. 24 and Feb. 29, with a 26.2 percent turnout, and followed a student referendum abolishing College Council (CC) held earlier this month.

The Williams Student Union, in charge of representing the student body to the administration and serving as an advocacy body, includes three class representatives from each year. However, due to a lack of self-nominations, the junior class has only two representatives, while the senior class has one.

Three Pillars has already failed, as we predicted it would. If you can’t get enough candidates to run in the first election, when interest and excitement is at its highest, then you are an incompetent designer of new institutions.

Reporter Lucy Walker does a great job here. Is it just me, or is the average quality of Record articles much higher in the last few months? Kudos to her and/or to her editors.

Remembering chaos in CC and ineffective governing and advocacy, many students are hoping that the new structure and their role in it will help create positive change.

Future historians will want to know why CC was abolished now. Seems like controversies about Black Previews and WIFI were key. Or was there other “chaos” that we failed to cover?

Jonah Tobin ’23 emphasized the unique opportunity the Student Union presents. “Without formal power, this will be an experiment to listen to and act on the needs and interests of the student body,” Tobin said. “I hope to create tangible change for the student body and be an open sounding board to their ideas.”

“Without formal power,” the WSU will be a total failure. Is that not obvious? No wonder so few students bothered to run, or to vote.

The senior representative for the Williams Student Union is Sara Shamenek ’20, who was elected from a field of 22 write-in candidates due to a lack of applications from the senior class.

LOL!

None of the newly-elected members of FAST responded to a request for comment.

That is a good start on transparency! Say what you will about the old CC, but its members would talk to the Record.

The turnout for the election was 26.2 percent, with 571 total students voting. The student turnout rate was 13.5 percent lower than the turnout rate for the all-campus referendum to abolish CC, which had 868 total votes and a voter turnout of approximately 40 percent.

Participation in the TABLE elections later this spring will be even worse.

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Election Results for FAST and the Williams Student Union

The results came in this evening, a little later than expected. I have included a link to the election results. JS is technically correct–turnout was lower than the Fall–but not by much (it was still, very, very low). It also appears that there is significant Task Force representation in the new organizations.

DDF UPDATE: For the benefit of future historians, here is a csv of the votes and here is an html summary.

https://williamscollegemassachusetts.simplyvoting.com/index.php?mode=results&election=88884

Hello everyone,

The RESULTS are IN! We again would like to thank the many student leaders that ran for either WSU or FAST. Regardless of the results the student body thanks you for both putting yourself out there and embracing a bold vision of student government. We would also like to thank the student body for voting in yet another important election and providing overwhelming support for a student government founded by principles of equity, transparency, and accessibility.

As of March 1st, 2020, College Council is officially defunct. FAST and WSU will assume their roles.

A brief timeline of what comes next:

Tonight: The election closes and representatives for WSU and FAST are announced.

03/01: College Council stands Abolished. The referendum served as a constitutional amendment that rendered the Constitution, bylaws, and any other structural documents of the College Council null and void. 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. They will host a joint meeting this Sunday where this transition of power will occur.

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FAST and Williams Student Union self nominations, voting open!

They have not yet sent out the results of the election, which closed yesterday.

The era of our new student government has finally arrived. We again would like to thank the student body for their overwhelming endorsement and support of the plan. We would also like to thank the many student leaders who have submitted self-nominations. Regardless of the results of this election, together we are all welcoming a new era of diverse, equitable, and accessible governance.

Here are the self-nomination packets for the Williams Student Union and FAST. Please take a look through and support the candidate that you feel will best serve our campus. Your VOTE and voice are integral to helping the Three Pillars succeed where College Council has failed.

Elections will open today and will end on Saturday, January 29th at 5 pm! You will receive a personalized voting link immediately following this email.

Good luck to our candidates and thank you everyone for voting!

Submitted to the Student Body by the Task Force on Student Governance

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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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