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Let’s Have Completely Blind Admissions

Williams College is currently a need-blind in its admission process for national students (not so for international students). That by itself is a good thing, but isn’t that still leaving space for the admissions office to discriminate against potential students through other factors–say, if they’re white or black, a legacy student, or from a nice family in North Adams?

I propose that Williams expand its blind admission policy to all factors that don’t immediately relate to an applicant’s academics and (certain) extracurriculars. The school wouldn’t know if the 1580 SAT score and 4.0 GPA comes from a white, upper class student from Los Angeles or a working class black student from Chicago. Whether you share a last name with a big donor of the campus goes unnoticed by the admissions office. You won an interscholastic competition? Great, that gets considered. But they won’t know or care if you’re president of the Asian students club of your high school.

Regarding international students, the policy will affect them in the same manner. All that will be known are their academics and their status as an international applicant.

This new policy has the potential to boost the already respectable academic achievement of the campus. High school GPA correlates with college GPA, and the SAT predicts for future academic success. It follows that a selecting for students who perform and score the best in high school will likely select for the students who will get the most out of college.

I leave this idea for you to entertain.

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Divest Williams Wedding

Even if you disagree with the goals of the Divest Williams effort, you have to admire their commitment and moxie.

divest

From the Record last April:

On Friday, Divest Williams staged a mock wedding between the College and the fossil fuels industry to protest the College’s investment in that industry and call for divestment from it.

The wedding, which was attended by roughly 150 students, faculty, and staff members, followed mock weddings staged over the past few years by divestment activists at Whitman College and the Universities of Washington, Montana and Oregon.

Max Harmon ’19 played the part of the bride – the College, wearing a cow costume and veil. Linda Worden ’19, dressed as President Adam Falk, escorted him down the aisle. In front of them, Phacelia Cramer ’19 scattered fake hundred dollar bills like rose petals. Lili Bierer ’19 played the groom, representing the fossil fuels industry by wearing a suit adorned with the logos of large oil and gas companies and a tall hat made of smoke stacks.

Well done! Read the whole thing. However, there was at least one sour note:

wtrThe bridesmaids included Haley Bosse ’20, MaKaila DeSano-Smith ’18 and Suiyi Tang ’19, dressed as Michael Eisenson ’77, O. Andreas Halvorsen ’86 and Martha Williamson ’77 — three members of the Board of Trustees. The Board announced in 2015 that it would not be divesting from fossil fuels. Halvorsen stated at this year’s open forum with the trustees that the matter was a closed issue.

With the ceremony over, the wedding party and many audience members sang, “We’re gonna roll, we’re gonna roll, we’re gonna roll divestment on … If trustees are in the way, we’re gonna roll it over them … If Falk gets in the way, we’re gonna roll it over him. We’re gonna roll divestment on!”

The mock wedding was one of Divest Williams’ more humorous actions, according to Worden. She said it is “important to employ different tactics throughout the year” because “different tactics appeal to different audiences. As a group, it keeps energy going to have a variety of approaches.”

Is Divest Williams really going after Martha Williamson’s ’77 daughters? That is unbelievably rude. If I were Dean of the College, I would have a few choice words for Suiyi Tang ’19 and the rest of Divest Williams. The children of fellow Ephs are off-limits — whatever the depths of your disagreements may be.

Of course, the College should (would?) never punish a student for engaging in free speech, but an education in the costs/benefits of such tactics would be useful. There is no better way to get the trustees to ignore you forevermore than to go after one of them in such a personal way.

Is there some backstory here? Did Williamson, in a previous meeting with Divest Williams, mention the race of her daughters?

Haley Bosse’s ’20 costume was also . . . edgy . . . in a way that she might not have realized or intended . . .

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Title IX Update

Useful update on Title IX from former Williams professor KC Johnson:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on September 22 formally rescinded the Obama administration’s commands that universities use unfair rules in sexual-misconduct investigations—rules that had the effect of finding more students guilty of sexual assault. And she appears also to be preparing for far more forceful due-process protections down the road.

Those follow-on regulations could require schools to presume that accused students are innocent unless proven guilty, to allow rigorous cross-examination of accusers, and perhaps also to grant the accused the unqualified right to appeal adverse decisions, and more.

Meanwhile, the modest improvements that DeVos included in the “interim guidance” of September 22 let universities know how to comply with the Education Department’s requirements during the time between the end of the Obama decrees and the final adoption of new, carefully considered regulations.

Read the whole thing.

At a recent meeting with alumni, President Falk suggested the following: First, the College had already incorporated most of the suggestions on the Obama era guidance, even before that guidance was made, so DeVos decision really doesn’t effect Williams. (Is that true? Perhaps the most important change involved the change in burden of proof standards, and I don’t remember that changing before Obama’s guidance.) Second, Falk suggested that, despite whatever DeVos might suggest, the College would continue to do what it thinks best to fight the scourge of sexual assault at Williams.

Has anyone who has gone through the details of the Safety Dance case think that Williams is on the right track? I don’t.

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Resist

Via a post to the class of 2018 Facebook Group from Emily O’brien, we find this petition, now interspersed with my comments:

It has come to our attention that last night, around 5 pm, a junior was taken into custody at CSS and then at the Williamstown Police Department. While he was in holding, CSS searched his room. After the search, said student was received drug charges from WPD and disciplinary charges from the College.

The interaction of the College with WPD is a topic we have covered on occasion, but perhaps not to the depth that we should have. I assume that there is some standard operating procedure involving room searches. I think that there is an arrest involving WPD about once per year, almost always involving drugs.

The punishment that this student may incur follows a long history of racist and classist practices in disciplinary enforcement at Williams.

True? There is a great senior thesis or Record article to be written about the history of “disciplinary enforcement at Williams.” Who will write it? My sense is that African-American males are much more likely to be caught up in these situations than other students.

The college continues to search for and accept students from low-income households and people of color who fuel their problematic “diversity” statistics without actually caring about the lives of those same students.

Harsh but fair. The College loves to brag about diversity, but refuses to discuss the fact that students in the bottom 20% of enrollees — more or less academic rating less than 4 and/or SAT less than 1300 — do much worse than other students. If such students only graduate at, say, the rate of 75%, isn’t the College doing something wrong in admitting them? Or at least in admitting them without being transparent about their odds of graduation?

How can the college claim it is a “diverse” and “inclusive” community while continuously criminalizing and punishing low-income students and students of color, specifically black students. The student who is in potential trouble is a black student from a low-income household.

Because the College doesn’t really care about them. Emily O’brien is displaying a touching degree of naivete to think otherwise. Adam Falk and Liz Creighton love to primp and preen as oh-so-virtuous, but, when the cops hit the door, it is obvious whose side they are on.

Wouldn’t this student have been better off if he had not been accepted at Williams?

This petition calls for a few things:

1) Williams College should drop the charges against said student, and provide the support necessary for said student to fight the legal charges he incurred after CSS searched his room.

Once the WPD is involved, the College can’t “drop the charges.” Only the District Attorney gets to decide who is charged and who is not. (Of course, the College, in its interactions with local power brokers has favors it can grant and call in, so they might be able to cajole the DA into not pressing charges.

Independent of the DA, Williams has little choice but to enforce its rules about drags against this student in the same way that it does against other students. I think that this generally involves a one or two semester suspension.

2) Williams College should hold a community meeting that is charged with re-thinking the disciplinary processes it utilizes to criminalize and punish those at this school that are already most marginalized.

EphBlog votes Yes! The more open discussion there is about the College’s policies, the better.

Advice to Emily: Try to get College Council or the Gargoyles or the BSU involved. They probably have the power to force a community meeting.

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Please Falk, Stop Panicking

Adam Falk has a habit of panicking at the sight of graffiti. This is an unhelpful personality tick for a Williams president to have in this day and age. The more he panics — the more all-campus e-mails, the more calls to the police, the more sturm und drang — the more graffiti incidents to come. Feeding the trolls is a bad idea, on the web or at Williams.

Consider the latest incident. Here is the photo:

Banner

Here is a close up:

kkcloseup

If just this (inconclusive!) image causes you to call the police (!), you are a fool.

First, it is not clear if this is actual graffiti! Those 3 Ks look different, as if they were written at different times, perhaps with different pens. The first two Ks seem fairly intentional. Perhaps there is a student nicknamed KK in the class of 2019? It would certainly be wise to try to find out before calling the FBI. (Not sure if Williams called the FBI on this one, but they have done so in the past.) In fact, it could be that the third K was written first (I see other faded out letters around it) and then the KK was added.

Second, even if this was written intentionally, the odds are that it was done so by a left-wing student, not by an actual supporter of the KKK. Recall that the Griffin Hall KKK vandalism last fall was created by left-wing students upset at Trump’s election. The racist graffiti in Prospect in 2011 was written by Jess Torres ’12, a minority Democratic activist.

Third, even if it was done intentionally and was not written by a left-wing student, it might have been done innocently. I realize that my Eph social justice warrior friends think that KKK is one of the worst symbols in the world and that everyone knows this. But (sadly?) that isn’t true. There are 200+ non-US citizens at Williams, many of them as clueless about American racial politics as you, dear reader, are about, say, Hindu nationalism. Recall the KKK cook-out of 2004.

fistFourth, even if it was done intentionally by someone who understood the meaning of KKK, it does not follow that punishment is a allowable (or wise) course of action. Note that the clenched fist on the poster, which seems likely (just to me?) to be a nod to the traditional symbol of Black Power. Once the College allows political symbols to be included on the banner — without any indication that this is against the rules — it would have trouble punishing someone for putting a different political symbol on the same banner. (It could forbid it and/or remove KKK. But it would have difficulty punishing a student for doing that, or at least with punishing a student willing to fight the system.

Instead of panicking, Falk should take a page out of Morty’s handbook and ignore the trolls. Students do stupid things and the bigger a deal you make of it, the more likely you are to get more of it. Now, if real damage is being done (as in Griffin) or serious (fake!) threats are being made (as in Prospect), then you do need to investigate. But for trivial stuff like this, your best bet is silence.

Recall how Morty handled Mary Jane Hitler a decade ago. Summary: This was an infinitely more serious situation with an actual Nazi on campus, putting up posters on student dorm room doors, with help from his Eph girlfriend, who Morty decided not to punish in any way.

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DeVos Speech on Due Process

Former Williams professor KC Johnson writing (with Stuart Taylor) in the Wall Street Journal:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has made clear her intention to correct one of the Obama administration’s worst excesses—its unjust rules governing sexual misconduct on college campuses. In a forceful speech Thursday at Virginia’s George Mason University, Mrs. DeVos said that “one rape is one too many”—but also that “one person denied due process is one too many.” Mrs. DeVos declared that “every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined.”

This might seem like an obvious affirmation of fundamental American principles. But such sentiments were almost wholly absent in discussions about campus sexual assault from the Obama White House and Education Department. Instead, as Mrs. DeVos noted, officials “weaponized” the department’s Office for Civil Rights, imposing policies that have “failed too many students.”

Indeed. Do any of our readers think that the John Doe of Safety Dance should be denied, forever, his Williams degree even though he has completed all his classes?

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Ending Kangaroo Courts

Latest from former Williams professor KC Johnson:

Is the Education Department preparing to dial back the Obama administration’s assault on campus due process?

Beginning in 2011, the Obama administration used Title IX—the federal law banning sex discrimination at schools that receive federal funds—to pressure colleges and universities into adopting new procedures for handling sexual-misconduct complaints. At most schools, accused students already faced secret tribunals that lacked basic due-process protections. But the Education Department mandated even more unfairness. It ordered schools to lower the standard of proof to “preponderance of the evidence” instead of the “clear and convincing evidence” standard that some schools had used. It required schools to permit accusers to appeal not-guilty findings and discouraged allowing students under investigation to cross-examine their accusers.

Does anyone know exactly what occurred at Williams and when? The above is, I think, consistent with what we have seen, especially the change in the standard of proof. Perhaps even more important was the change in venue. Back in the day (when?) sexual assault was adjudicated at Williams (in those cases with no police involvement) in the same way as any honor code violation: by a committee run and controlled by students. Now, the Honor and Discipline Committee does not hear those cases. They are handled by administrators/faculty with no student involvement.

As always, the more students are involved in activity X, the better for Williams. I have much more faith in the ability of students to judge these cases than I do in folks like Sarah Bolton.

[Trump appointee] Ms. Jackson has one of the most thankless jobs in Washington — seeking to vindicate procedural norms and basic fairness on an issue that triggers intense emotional responses. She deserves all the support she can get.

Indeed. I doubt that anyone who matters at Williams agrees . . .

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Marcus Slams Falk Over Derbyshire, 5

Last year, Professor George Marcus attacked President Adam Falk over his decision to ban John Derbyshire from speaking at Williams. Let’s spend a week discussing his argument. Today is Day 5.

Marcus concludes:

The liberal arts are the arts that make you free. And among the arts that make you free are those that enable you to learn how to deal with contentious conversation, how to inquire, speak, lead, follow and act as an autonomous citizen rather than, as the current local norm seems to have it, demand to be protected against discomfort. The norms of social, intellectual and political tolerance conflict and that adds to the complexity of being at a liberal arts college. We all need to learn to navigate between these contrary norms with practiced competence. It would behoove us all – students, faculty and administrators – to repair the self-inflicted damage and become, once again, a true liberal arts College. But that requires leadership. To that end we need an administration that understands and acts on its many obligations.

Perhaps we will get one in January?

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Marcus Slams Falk Over Derbyshire, 4

Last year, Professor George Marcus attacked President Adam Falk over his decision to ban John Derbyshire from speaking at Williams. Let’s spend a week discussing his argument. Today is Day 4.

Allowing this administration to mysteriously determine the boundaries of what “we” tolerate leaves our students unprepared to learn the practice of the liberal arts of citizenship.

Indeed it does. Falk may be giving (leftist) students what they want, but that is not what they need.

These skills of citizenship are evidently sorely lacking in the College student body.

Indeed they are. More students have written op-eds in the Record against speakers like Venker and Derbyshire than for them. Only a small handful of students — Zach Wood ’18 most prominently among them — have come out publicly in support of bringing non-mainstream speakers to Williams.

Tolerant citizens do not tolerate a regime that requires political speech, and posters are just one form of political speech, to be vetted before being allowed.

Why the reference to “posters?” Is there some controversy about this, some new rule from the Administration?

A politically tolerant student body would not tolerate an administration that proclaims it has first and final say over who can be invited to this campus to give an expressly political talk.

I disagree with Marcus’s implicit definition of “politically tolerant.” A majority of Williams students are, with regard to this debate, apolitical. They don’t care who comes to campus or who is prevented from coming to campus. They have better things to worry about!

What Williams lacks is students, like Zack Wood ’18, who are defenders of free speech, insistent on bring a variety of views to the Williams campus, even (or especially!) views they disagree with. I am not sure what the best short description of such students might be, but it certainly isn’t “politically tolerant.”

A politically tolerant citizen would not demand that this or that individual that he or she finds obnoxious be prevented from coming to this campus. A politically tolerant student would not demand that all groups be “vetted” by the administration before they are allowed to organize. A student newspaper competent in the skills and practices of a free press would not go to a senior member of the administration to examine the soundness of a decision made by the senior member of that administration and publish a story that inquired no further.

Indeed. The Record’s coverage of this controversy was sloppy, and it only got worse in their stories about Uncomfortable Learning.

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Marcus Slams Falk Over Derbyshire, 3

Last year, Professor George Marcus attacked President Adam Falk over his decision to ban John Derbyshire from speaking at Williams. Let’s spend a week discussing his argument. Today is Day 3.

The doctrine of free speech is not merely a negative principle. But political tolerance is also a positive principle. A free people become so by learning how to competently engage in public, competitive, even hostile, discourse; how to sift the stronger from the weaker; how to use conflictual disputatious citizenship to reveal hidden and corrupt motives and, in sum, how to best use the public space for contestation. But these practices are not natural. In his stance, Falk sells our students short.

Does he really? It is nice that Marcus believes that today’s Williams students are willing to “engage in public, competitive, even hostile, discourse.” But I have my doubts. Recall the official editorial position of the Williams Record:

Though Venker’s speech is legally protected, the College, as a private institution, has its own set of rules about what discourse is acceptable. In general, the College should not allow speech that challenges fundamental human rights and devalues people based on identity markers, like being a woman.

If the Record objects to Venker — someone’s whose views are positively mainstream in comparison to Derbyshire’s — then why would Marcus think that Williams students in general are ready to handle the Alt Right?

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Marcus Slams Falk Over Derbyshire, 2

Last year, Professor George Marcus attacked President Adam Falk over his decision to ban John Derbyshire from speaking at Williams. Let’s spend a week discussing his argument. Today is Day 2.

But the definition of political tolerance has long been straightforward: one supports the rights of all but precisely those we find objectionable. We measure political tolerance by seeing whether those proclaiming their tolerance are willing to uphold all political and civil rights for those they find objectionable, whether “they” can give talks, hold rallies, run for office, securely rely on the protection of the laws and more. There is no “line” beyond which we can withdraw those rights because “we” share President Adam Falk’s “outrage” (and here the “we” in Falk’s diatribe means “me, Adam Falk”). His missive exemplifies his intolerance. To that he adds the command that we respect his authority to impose his outrage, no matter how widely or narrowly shared, on the entire community.

All of this is reasonable enough. But, on the whole, Marcus’s op-ed is not nearly as good as Michael Lewis’s. (Regular readers will recall our 5 part series from last year.) If you only have time to read one faculty op-ed attacking Falk, read that one.

Falk speaks of the need to secure social tolerance. This is an essential and, especially at a residential college, vital task. People should feel secure and comfortable here, should receive – at the very least – civility, if not authentic caring and empathy. It is appropriate that the administration strengthens social tolerance where and when it should and where and when it can (in first-year orientation, on Claiming Williams Day, etc.). But social tolerance is not the only form of tolerance to be taught and protected. There are other forms of tolerance that advance conflicting norms and require different skills. They cannot be reconciled.

These two other forms of tolerance are essential if this is to be a liberal arts college. One of these is intellectual tolerance, experienced in the classroom and its other venues. It is in the circumstances of learning that we expose ourselves and our students to new and challenging ideas, ones that are both old and new, that may prove to be uncomfortable for some.

Note the key error. As soon as Marcus asserts that “People should feel secure and comfortable here,” he loses. Derbyshire (and other members of the Dissident Right) really do make people “feel” insecure. That is the whole problem! Much better to invoke the spirit of Robert Gaudino and “uncomfortable learning.”

You can’t simultaneously write “people should feel . . . comfortable” and “we [should] expose . . . our students to . . . ideas . . . that may prove to be uncomfortable . . . .”

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Marcus Slams Falk Over Derbyshire, 1

Last year, Professor George Marcus attacked President Adam Falk over his decision to ban John Derbyshire from speaking at Williams. Let’s spend a week discussing his argument. Today is Day 1.

The demise of the College: How the College fails to stay true to the ideals of a liberal arts education

I have never in my career at the College been embarrassed to be associated with it. But now I find that no longer to be true.

Did Marcus choose the title? Either way, the article (along with Professor Michael Lewis’s op-ed) is one of the strongest public attacks against a Williams president, by a faculty member, in living memory. Can anyone recall a similar incident?

My first year at the College was the last year of the long and illustrious career of Frederick L. Schuman, Woodrow Wilson Professor of Government. Years earlier in the fraught ’50s, when the “Red Scare” was in full force, some alumni of a conservative stripe demanded that the College fire “Fred the Red.” Schuman had taken progressive positions and had been called before the infamous House Committee on Un-American Activities, irking some alumni (and no doubt others). To his credit, then President James Phinney Baxter rejected that demand.

1) I thought Professor Schuman’s nickname was “Red Fred,” not “Fred the Red.” Can older alumni clarify? Perhaps it changed over time? Perhaps the students used a different one than the faculty?

2) There is a great history senior thesis to be written about this controversy. Who will write it? Isn’t it both sad and pathetic that the History department no longer (?) has a faculty member who is an expert in the history of Williams?

Now we have a president who assigns himself the role of College censor, setting “the line” wherein some can be prevented from talking to the College public. Dean Sarah Bolton tells us not to be concerned because this is only a rare event, that the line is far out there. I presume by that she means that those who espouse “our beliefs” need not worry.

Indeed. By the way, do we have any good gossip as to which member of the “senior staff” provided Falk with such lousy advice? Was it Bolton?

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Fraud Jessica Torres ’12 in the New York Times

From The New York Times:

In recent years, on campus after campus, from the University of Virginia to Columbia University, from Duke to Stanford, higher education has been roiled by high-profile cases of sexual assault accusations. Now Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is stepping into that maelstrom. On Thursday, she will meet in private with women who say they were assaulted, accused students and their families, advocates for both sides and higher education officials, the first step in a contentious effort to re-examine policies of President Barack Obama, who made expansive use of his powers to investigate the way universities and colleges handle sexual violence.

Meanwhile, groups like Know Your IX, which teaches students their rights under the federal law, have been promoting a hashtag on Twitter, #DearBetsy, and asking people to post their personal stories about sexual assault on Twitter. Jessica Torres, a 27-year-old Democratic strategist, tweeted to Ms. DeVos that she had been raped as a student at Williams College.

“My concern is we’re going back to the years when women and queer students were absolutely terrified of coming forward,” Ms. Torres said in an interview.

The tweet in question:

jt

1) Jessica Torres is a fraud. By committing the 2011 Prospect House hate hoax, she did more damage to the Williams community than any other student in the last decade.

2) Do New York Times Erica Green and Sheryl Stolberg reporters know how to use Google? If you are going to quote someone making a serious accusation, then the least you ought to do is to look into their past. Couldn’t they have found someone who isn’t a documented liar to demonstrate the point that false accusations of rape are not a major problem?

3) If Jessica Torres was raped at Williams, then I would urge her to report the crime to the Williamstown police. Law enforcement in Massachusetts takes sexual assault very seriously. Her assailant should be apprehended, charged, tried and, if found guilty, punished. However, if she made up the accusation after the Williams administration got a little to close in its investigation of the hate hoax, I would recommend that she restrict her public statements to other topics. [UPDATE: Thanks to comment below for clarifying the timing. Torres committed the hate hoax after her (false?) rape report, not before it.]

Back to the article:

Investigative processes have not been “fairly balanced between the accusing victim and the accused student,” Ms. Jackson argued, and students have been branded rapists “when the facts just don’t back that up.” In most investigations, she said, there’s “not even an accusation that these accused students overrode the will of a young woman.”

“Rather, the accusations — 90 percent of them — fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right,’” Ms. Jackson said.

This quote is causing rage among a certain segment of the Eph commentariat. And that is OK! Ephs differ in their assessments of the problem of sexual assault on campus and what to do about it.

But, as always, at EphBlog, we are interested in the data. Do 90% of the cases at Williams look like that or not? If only the College would tell us . . .

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Time Magazine Article on Falk/Derbyshire

When was the last time a sitting senator (!) called on a Williams College President to resign? In a Senate hearing?! Check out Time Magazine’s latest article on Williams, “Williams College President Rejects Claim That He Blocked Free Speech On Campus“.

Responding to Wood’s testimony, Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy on Tuesday called Falk unfit to lead the school. “If the way you described it is accurate, then he should resign,” Kennedy said. “It’s just that simple — because he needs to explain to students and have them understand that they do not have a constitutional right in life not to be offended. They’re going to be offended plenty of times in life.”

Emphasis mine.

And for that matter, when was the last time a Williams student took part in the investigations of a Senate judiciary hearing committee? Similar to the Washington Post piece from months ago, this piece reads like it was written by Falk’s worst enemies. Consider:

Williams College President Adam Falk did not attend the Senate judiciary committee hearing on Tuesday, but Williams student Zach Wood did, and Wood testified about what he sees as a lack of politically and ideologically diverse speakers at the Massachusetts private school, where he said “the administration promotes social tolerance at the expense of political tolerance.”

Is there anyone (except Falk) who still disagrees with this? I don’t!

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Falk:Derbyshire :: Hopkins:Emerson

“D” is the answer to our SAT analogy question:

FALK:DERBYSHIRE ::

A. Baxter:?
B. Chadler:?
C: Garfield:?
D. Hopkins:Emerson
E. Sawyer:?

Adam Falk banned John Derbyshire just as Mark Hopkins banned Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Ralph_Waldo_Emerson_ca1857 My first hint came from Steve Satullo’s ’69 excellent website devoted to the history of libraries at Williams.

The [Adelphic] Union also brought Ralph Waldo Emerson to Williamstown for a lecture, but he was entirely too radical for the [Mark] Hopkins administration and was not allowed to lecture on campus, but rather in the town’s Methodist church.

There is a great senior thesis to be written about the conflict between the 19th century Congregationalists who controlled Williams and the transcendentalists who scoffed at them. Who will write it it?

Mark Hopkins is, obviously, the most famous Williams president — or he is, at least, the one that most alumni can name. Satullo’s citation of the conflict between Emerson and Hopkins takes us back to Mark Hopkins and the Log by Fred Rudolph ’39. Ace College Archivist Katie Nash kindly provided these excerpts: pdf and pdf.

Will Ephs 150 years from now view Adam Falk’s decision to ban John Derbyshire from campus the same way that we view Mark Hopkin’s decision to ban Ralph Waldo Emerson?

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Falk:Derbyshire :: ?:? Part 2

Yesterday, we asked the question: When was the last time that a Williams president banned a speaker from campus? No one has given us the right (?) answer yet. Adam Falk’s decision to ban John Derbsyhire in February 2016 must have an historical parallel. What is it? Consider this SAT analogy question:

FALK:DERBYSHIRE ::

A. Baxter:?
B. Chadler:?
C: Garfield:?
D. Hopkins:?
E. Sawyer:?

I have provided some Williams presidents, in alphabetical order, as options. My reasoning:

A. Phinney Baxter ’14 was president during World War II and the worst parts of the Cold War. Might he have banned someone? Sure! But Baxter was, perhaps more than any other Williams president, a defender of free speech. From the Harvard Crimson of 1949:

“Like most if not all of my other colleagues on the Williams faculty,” Williams College President James Phinney Baxter, 3rd, wrote in an article for his school’s May, 1949, Alumni Review number, “I support the Marshall Plan, the Atlantic Pact, and the furnishing of military supplies to our fellow signatories.”

But the point of Baxter’s article was not to express his own views on foreign policy. It was to defend the right of Frederick L. Schuman, a member of the Williams faculty, to expound differing opinions.

Baxter noted that Schuman had been “severely criticized by a number of alumni for speeches critical of the current foreign policy of the United States.”

The college head wrote that Schuman had attacked the policies of both America and Russia, that he was an advocate “of a stronger form of international government than the United Nations,” and that he had “freely criticized the Communists for many years.”


For Free Debate

Baxter said Schuman should be as free to express himself as those who held the majority viewpoint.

Exactly right.

B. John Chandler was president during the dawn of the PC-era and had to contend with many racially-charged debates, including South African Divestment and affirmative action. The election of Reagan in 1980 was, from the point of view of faculty/student opinion, almost as surprising/shocking/disgusting as Trump’s election 36 years later.

C. Harry Garfield served as president from 1908 through 1934. There were non-trivial restrictions on free speech during World War I, and it would not be surprising to see this sentiment expressed at Williams.

D. Hopkins. I am cheating a bit with this one since Williams had two presidents named Hopkins: Mark and Henry (his son). They served for a combined 42 years. Surely, at some point, a proposed speaker was so offensive as to require banning from campus . . .

E. Jack Sawyer ’39 is almost uniformly regarded as the best Williams president of the last 100 years. But not everyone is perfect! He served from 1961 — 1973, the height of campus turmoil over civil rights and the Vietnam War. It sure must have been tempting to shut down debate on occasion! Sawyer, who served in the OSS — the forerunner to the CIA — during World War II must have felt some frustration at the campus snowflakes of his era . . .

Any guesses as to the correct answer?

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Falk:Derbyshire :: ?:? Part 1

Who remembers the analogy questions from the old SAT Verbal?

sat

Recall Adam Falk’s February 2016 decision to ban John Derbyshire from speaking at Williams. When was the last time that a Williams president banned someone from speaking on campus? In other words, we need the answer to the following analogy:

FALK:DERBYSHIRE :: ?:?

Any guesses from our readers? It has taken us more than a year to answer this question and, even now, I am not sure if we have it correct.

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Amended Complaint

Here is the 3rd Amended Complaint for the Safety Dance sexual assault case.

1) If you are interested in a week-long review, please let me know! As best I can tell, reader interest is lagging . . .

2) Summary: Male Williams student engages in two year long sexual relationship with female student-then-employee. In middle of that relationship, it is alleged that the two had sex without the female providing “affirmative consent.” That is, the male is not accused of a “rape” that any US prosecutor would ever pursue. The woman did not resist or say any form of “No.” Male student finishes all requirements for graduation but Williams expels him for sexual assault and refuses to give him his degree. He has sued.

It is a hard case to summarize! If anyone has a better version, leave it in the comments so that I can use it going forward.

3) I have not read the whole Complaint. (What do our readers think?) But it still seems sloppy to me, e.g.,

fulltime

It is impossible (?) to be a “full-time” student at Williams for 5 years. And there is no reason for Rossi, Doe’s attorney, to claim otherwise! Isn’t it the case that Doe was thrown out of Williams for a semester (if not a full year) because of a prior sexual assault case? And, during that time, he was not, I think, a student at Williams. (Although maybe you are still, officially, a Williams student even if you are currently away?)

4) Why won’t the College just give Doe his degree?

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Does anyone disagree? I could, perhaps, understand why the College might fight to enforce an expulsion if settlement required allowing the accused student to come back on campus. But why the Ahab-like insistence om preventing Doe from getting his degree?

5) Can anyone provide more details on educational options for students expelled from places like Williams?

restrictions

Several students (how many?) have been expelled from Williams over the last 5 years for sexual assault. What happens to them? Presumably, they still want/need a college degree? Are they allowed to transfer to other schools? Can they use their Williams credits? I don’t know . . . but surely our readers do! In case it matters, Doe is a New York State resident. Could he transfer (almost) all his credits to some SUNY school, take a class or two, and then get his degree? Or would SUNY deny his transfer application because of his expulsion from Williams?

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Rumblings on Campus?

An editorial on the subject of alumni donations published in the Williams Record this week seems to suggest that *the student body* may have found a new reason to yell at the administration.

From the editorial:

That the school chose this area to make their cuts should be warning enough, but what is truly disheartening is that seven years removed from the depths of the financial crisis with a larger than ever endowment of at least $2.3 billion, the College has made no moves to reinstate the no-loan policy. Meanwhile, it has found the funds in recent years to begin several large-scale construction projects. In the realm of financial aid, it has instead hired a dean to oversee the Offices of Financial Aid and Admission. By all appearances, the history of the no-loan policy at the College is rather straightforward: the College introduced the no-loan policy to compete with peer institutions, ditched it when it prohibited it from spending on areas it cares about more than allowing students from lower incomes the freedom to pursue post-graduate options without debt and then, after finding its prestige relatively unaffected by the whole ordeal, never looked back.

There’s also this banner hanging off the front of Pareskey:

Wishful Thinking?

And fliers in the dining hall:

How many people do they think read these?

It is currently unclear if anyone actually plans to protest this, but it seems unlikely that there will be any discussion of the merits of resurrecting such a policy.

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Safety Dance Continues III

Let’s discuss the latest Safety Dance court order (pdf). Day 3 of 3.

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Other highlights:

1) Good sign for Doe that the Court recognizes the sloppiness/malice of the Williams process. They were out to get Doe from the beginning and, in the end, they got their (former) Eph.

2) New complaint is due May 12. Let’s hope (?) that Rossi, Doe’s attorney, gets her act together and produces a better pleading.

3) Any predictions? I guess (?) that it made sense for the College to fight up until this point on the (realistic?) chance that the case might have been thrown out. But now? Settle the case! Give Doe his degree.

Do other readers think the College should fight? If so, why?

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Safety Dance Continues II

Let’s discuss the latest Safety Dance court order (pdf). Day 2 of 3.

s2

rossiThat is a fairly harsh smackdown of Doe’s attorney, Stacey Elin Rossi. Are such direct criticisms of lawyerly competence common in court decisions? Are they justified in this case? Does this sort of language provide us with any clues as to where Judge Posner’s sympathies may lie?

lapp As we have commented before, no courtroom battle between the rich (Williams College and its highly experienced lead attorney Daryl Lapp) and the poor (John Doe, the son of poor Ecuadoran immigrants) is ever fair. But Lapp has been involved in several (a score?) of cases like Safety Dance. I believe that this is Rossi’s first. (Although the way that Title IX has evolved at Williams and elsewhere, she may eventually build up a thriving business. Informed legal commentary welcome!

The decision continues:

The evidence of gender-based discrimination offered in the complaint is thin. The unusual feature of this case, however, is that Plaintiff alleges that he was himself a victim of harassment, and even a physical assault, by the party he was alleged to have victimized. His allegations include claims that his own complaints of harassment were treated with less seriousness than the alleged victim’s complaints and that responsible administrators were more solicitous of her because of her gender than of him. At this stage, these allegations are sufficient to boost the complaint over the Rule 12 threshold.

A fair reading of the documents so far would convince most people that Doe’s allegations are most likely true. Smith, while a Williams employee, did slap him. His complaints were, obviously, treated much less seriously. The College was incredible solicitous of Smith. (And we still need to figure out how she got hired by Williams in the first place.) But the College will argue that, even if all of that is true, it was not driven by anti-male bias and that, therefore, Title IX does not apply. How can Doe demonstrate otherwise? What aspects of the case would you urge him to focus on?

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Safety Dance Continues I

Let’s discuss the latest Safety Dance court order (pdf). Day 1 of 3.

This is the best one paragraph summary of where we are:

s1

Kudos to Judge Michael Ponsor (and/or his clerk).

The central issues of the case are not so much: Is John Doe a bad guy? (Answer: Probably. It is not easy to get punished by Williams twice for sexual assault.) Nor is it: Should we believe Susan Smith? (Answer: Probably not. She is the very picture of a woman scorned.) The two key issues that the court will care about are:

1) What is the nature of the (implicit and explicit) contract between Williams and an enrolled student? The College would like to maintain that this contract is so loose that it can, more or less, kick anyone out, for any reason, and following any procedure that it chooses. As former Williams professor KC Johnson has blogged about extensively, several courts have been sympathetic to this view. Unfortunately (for Williams), courts in its jurisdiction have been less willing (at Amherst and at Brandeis) to grant the colleges free reign.[1] John Doe will argue that the College, implicitly, promises to not expel its students unfairly. Since he was unfairly expelled, the College has broken the contract.

2) Is there (and how can a plaintiff demonstrate) anti-male bias in disciplinary proceedings at Williams? This is a much harder task for John Doe, with much less support in other court cases. (Read The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America’s Universities by KC Johnson and Stuart Taylor for more details.)

a) John Doe can try to provide evidence of anti-male comments/behavior at Williams, but we have not seen much of that in the exhibits so far. What we have seen is lots of anti-Doe comments and, to a lesser extent, anti-accused-students comments. But such complaints are more in the category of generic criticisms of the overall process itself. They aren’t anti-male per se.

b) Doe can try to argue anti-male bias on the basis of disparate impact:

Disparate impact in United States labor law refers to practices in employment, housing, and other areas that adversely affect one group of people of a protected characteristic more than another, even though rules applied by employers or landlords are formally neutral. Although the protected classes vary by statute, most federal civil rights laws protect based on race, color, religion, national origin, and sex as protected traits, and some laws include disability status and other traits as well.

Since all (?) the students punished by Williams for sexual assaults have been male, there is a case to be made. Of course, right-wingers like me think that disparate impact arguments are garbage, that we should no more expect an equal number of women (as men) to be expelled by Williams for sexual assault than we should expect an equal number of women (as men) to finish in the top 100 in the Boston Marathon. But there is no denying that, in other contexts, courts have used disparate impact to make findings of bias.[2]

Regardless of the above, however, Williams should settle this case. If they don’t, discovery will be a nightmare.

[1] I suspect that I am messing up terminology and other issues. Safety Dance is currently being adjudicated in a District Court. Could a lawyer-reader clarify whether Brandeis and Amherst precedents apply?)

[2] Has disparate impact ever worked as an argument in a college sexual assault case? Not that I know of.

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March Safety Dance Hearing

Latest update on Safety Dance:

Electronic Clerk’s Notes for proceedings held before Judge Michael A. Ponsor: Motion Hearing held on 3/28/2017 re [29] MOTION for Reconsideration filed by Williams College, [31] MOTION to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim filed by Williams College, [4] First MOTION for Preliminary Injunction John Doe v. Williams College filed by John Doe. Arguments heard. Court denies Motion for Reconsideration, denies Motion for Preliminary Injunction. Court takes Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss under advisement. Orders to issue. (Court Reporter: Sarah Mubarek, Philbin & Associates, 413-733-4078) (Attorneys present: Rossi, Lapp, Kelly) (Healy, Bethaney)

Can anyone interpret this?

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The Simpsons on SJWs

Apologies for the temporary absence – the semester does get busy this time of year! Before we return to our regular programming, check out this chunk of a Simpsons episode. It’s hilarious!

Granted, this Simpsons bit is about Yale, but it echoes eerily familiar sentiments here in the Purple Valley…

Funny (relevant) quote:

But we also need to hire more deans to decide which Halloween costumes are appropriate. Eight deans should do it.

Remember the Taco Six? My sides are aching! Then again, in Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom’s words, I wouldn’t want to “impinge on the fun of others“…

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Bias Incident Response Task Force Report

Before it disappears in a fit of historical memory-holing, let’s archive portions of the Bias Incident Response Task Force Report from October 2012:

On November 11, 2011, the words “All Niggers Must Die” were written on a wall on the fourth floor of Prospect Hall. This hate crime caused a large number of our Black community members to feel targeted and unsafe and, overall, placed extraordinary stress on the fabric of the campus. A variety of associated issues and concerns were exposed in subsequent open mic events, campus conversations, and related gatherings. Among the concerns that were raised by many members of the campus community were pointed criticisms of the administration’s initial response to, and early communications about, the crime.

President Falk commissioned the Bias Incident Response Task Force (BIRTF) as the central component of a detailed debriefing of both the initial incident response and related protocols.

This was written almost a year after the event, by which time it was obvious that the entire incident was a “hate hoax.” This graffiti was written by student of color Jess Torres ’12.

Perhaps most important, we affirmed the need to ensure that we’re providing immediate, meaningful, and effective support to the most affected parties, after which we should expand our support to individuals and groups as we track the impact of the incident across campus and over time. This includes the establishment of physical and virtual safe spaces for post-event processing and dialogue, as well as additional components of an institutional infrastructure of counseling and support.

The best “support” that Williams could provide is to tell people that this was a hoax, that minority students have nothing to fear from white racists wondering the hallways of Prospect.

If the Record were a better paper, it would revisit this topic next fall, call up the members of this task force and ask them some hard questions.

The “Culture of Silence”

Perhaps the most frustrating – and enabling – campus condition is what students and others have termed the “culture of silence.” In fact, the name of the student organization that developed in response to the Prospect hate crime is Students Against Silence. While we recognized the highly complex nature of this phenomenon, our conversations focused on a couple of related questions:

What prevents students, faculty, and staff from taking advantage of the reporting websites and formal support structures that exist? If people want to talk about their experiences and concerns, are there unknown barriers to using existing channels more frequently and consistently?
What is it about our campus culture that allows students to believe they can behave like this? Once they leave here for graduate school or the workplace, their behavior changes, by and large, because they know this isn’t acceptable anywhere else. Why does it feel acceptable to them here?

The students on the Task Force explained that this is such a small, interconnected place that if you do something that leads to a falling-out with your team or your close circle of friends, you have few places left to turn. The prevailing social pressure – particularly on women – is not to make waves, not to “make life harder than it needs to be.” There was a strong perception that more people would report acts of discrimination, harassment, and assault if the social backlash to reporting weren’t so strong.

This perception that Williams’ size and distinctive social interconnectedness – typically considered to be positive features – work against us in this way resonates with our perceptions of why staff and faculty also hesitate to report the incidents of discrimination that they deal with.

Or, just maybe, there are fewer instances of actual discrimination at Williams than there are almost anyplace else in the world.

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Cornel West Throws Shade at Adam Falk

Robert P. George and Cornel West have written a statement about truth and the importance of open debate. Background here. Key paragraph:

It is all-too-common these days for people to try to immunize from criticism opinions that happen to be dominant in their particular communities. Sometimes this is done by questioning the motives and thus stigmatizing those who dissent from prevailing opinions; or by disrupting their presentations; or by demanding that they be excluded from campus or, if they have already been invited, disinvited.

No one is more guilty of this sin than Adam Falk, with his absurd banning of John Derbyshire (and others?) from campus.

Professor Michael Lewis is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the only Williams faculty member to sign the statement so far. Will there be others? Would you be interested in joining a movement — including faculty/alumni/students/staff — to convince/cajole/force Falk to revisit this policy? The forces of freedom are on the march . . .

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Student Loans and Socioeconomic Diversity

I was having a conversation earlier today with a fellow classmate about socioeconomic diversity. The central question was, “Is Williams’ student body really diverse?” Doesn’t seem like it, my friend suggested. He pointed out the three (!) Tesla cars on campus that he saw in a couple of the student parking lots earlier this morning. “Mom’s Volvos,” as professors like to say.

Was my friend right? One way I thought of answering this question is by looking at the amount of loans Williams issues to students. Claim: Since Williams ended its no loan policy a decade ago and likes to say it has a more socioeconomically diverse student body, then the amount of loans owed to it by students increased over time (reasonable?).

According to the college’s financial statements (which I irritatingly spent quite a bit of time munging, since it’s only available as PDFs and (gasp) scans of printed paper) and assuming I am looking at the correct figure, it did not. Consider this plot of student loan receivables (the total amount owed to the college by students who take out loans) of every year since 2004:

Rplot

It is decreasing! Does this mean that Williams students have been taking on fewer loans despite the repeal of the no loan policy a decade ago? If so, why would students in an increasingly socioeconomically diverse campus take on fewer loans when tuition increases far faster than the rate of inflation? If the student body is really becoming more socioeconomically diverse, then maybe the terms of the Williams loan are worse than outside loans so my classmates just borrow externally (I have a number of friends who do!). OR, maybe the number is declining because most of the student body don’t need to take on debt. Why would they, if they had the money? But that would imply the college, contrary to some official claims, is not more socioeconomically diverse. What do readers think?

Also, the student loan number comes with this footnote:

Under Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 107, Disclosure about Fair Value of Financial Instruments, the College is required to disclose fair value of student loans. Management believes that it is not practicable to determine the fair value of loans receivable because they are primarily federally sponsored student loans with U.S. government mandated interest rates and repayment terms subject to significant restrictions as to their transfer or disposition. College sponsored and donor provided loans are similarly restricted as to interest rate and disposition

I don’t know what this means (informed commentary please!). Perhaps the summers I spent in banking haven’t really prepared me to plow through the college’s financial statements just yet. As with the rest of the filings and my latest problem sets, I find this quite befuddling. On top of this there are also so many accounting changes and new categories year to year that are almost never properly explained/defined and are frequently shuffled around, so much so that a skeptic would think someone somewhere is obfuscating. Maybe only PWC (who audits these for the college) understands them. Any useful pointers/corrections/whatnot welcome, especially from those who are familiar with higher education financing!

Should we spend more time on the college’s financial statements?

Don’t forget to send tips/comments/whatever to concerned.ephs@gmail.com!

UPDATE: I also looked at Bowdoin’s financial statements. Unfortunately it’s only available from 2011, but the trend is the same. Student loan receivables are also decreasing. Perhaps I am missing something? Informed commentary always welcome! Education doesn’t just end in the classroom!

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Safety Dance Affidavits

Latest filings in the Safety Dance case include: Affidavit 1, Affidavit 2 and Revised Memo in Opposition to Motion to Dismiss.

1) Why won’t the Record cover this case? I don’t think that they have provided a single update after their original article.

2) Why won’t the College settle? Just give Doe his degree and move on.

3) The longer this drags on, the worse things like for Williams. Check out those affidavits!

aff

This is from current (!) Williams employee Brian Marquis. I do not think that the Brzezinski he is referring to his Mika . . .

Settle the case!

How much of this heartburn does Adam Falk want? Consider the other affidavit, from current (!) Williams Security (!) officer Joshua Costa.

aff2

Settle the case!

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Problematic Williams History

Harvard has unveiled a summary of its involvement with slavery. I don’t know enough about this aspect of Williams history as I should. Fortunately, our readers do!

I thought it was fairly well known that Eph and other prominent Williams family members, including founding trustee Elijah Williams, owned and traded slaves. Eph left brothers Elijah and Josiah his slaves in his will, the founding document of the college.

A considerable source of Williams family wealth, including Eph’s, in Berkshire County was in land that they had systematically cheated Stockbridge Indians out of.

Amos Lawrence, the most important early benefactor to the college, made his fortune in cotton–therefore on slave labor– before the Civil War. Late in life he supported forced resettlement of enslaved African Americans to Africa as a way to solve the slavery issue. His name graces Lawrence Hall, now WCMA.

[H]ere’s a heartbreaking document of indenture binding a 6-year old girl to Elijah Williams without any consent. If she lived to 18 out in the wilds of Berkshire County, she got some clothes. But she would have been free, unlike Elijah’s black slaves.

Slavery and an active program of displacing indigenous people aside, the Williams family were in large part Loyalist. There’s no indication at all that, had he lived, Eph would have fought for the Continental Army.

Tell us more about this history!

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’69 & ’93 Hall

hall

How did last Thursday’s march on Horn Hall go? The above image was sent by a reader.
Below is an image from Divest Williams.

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1) Which faculty/staff were involved in this march? It would be fun to set up a debate with them make fun of them!

2) From the Facebook page:

On Thursday night, we gathered at a town hall discussion to assert student power and rededicate Horn Hall to two student activist movements of the past: 1969 Afro-American Society occupation of Hopkins Hall and the 1993 hunger strike for Latino/a studies.

Not bad reasoning. Few love Williams history more than EphBlog. And we certainly need someone to write a history thesis about the 1993 hunger strike. That all said, ’69 & ’93 Hall as a name for a building just does not work for me. Why not something simpler like Bolin Hall?

3) Should we be surprised at how heavily female (70%? 80%?) the march was?

hall3

I am surprised, but perhaps that just reveals my old-fashioned misogyny? Are other social movements at Williams so gender-skewed?

4) The pictures show that the Haystack Monument might be a source of controversy, as we discussed back in October. When will the Merrill Committee report on this topic?

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